Tuesday, January 31, 2012

The Portable Poetry Workshop: Connecting Content - Triggering Words

"Spring" by Dani via Flickr

Triggering words open up new opportunities for content and direction in our writing. As Jack Myers says, these words can act as "a semantic springboard that uncoils enough upward lift to give the poem new momentum." Such words can elevate theme, create or extend a metaphor's matrix, or even determine and/or lift a plot point.

The many different elements of just one word have the power to transform a poem. Have you ever had a word or series of words act as a spring for your writing? What it the sonic or the connotative quality of the word that set your pen on the page to either write a new piece or revise and old one, or was it something else?

Let's work on one of these exercises today:

From Jack's conclusion of this section for revision: Triggering riff - Choose a detail, image, or action in your poem, and then improvise a series of associated images, details, or actions.

Triggering word - chose a word that appeals to you in your reading today and write down other images, actions, and situations that you can associate with this word. Weave a poem from what you've written and allow the poem to end with the word you've selected.

I've been attracted to the words "safety pin" and "pencil" lately. What about you?

Saturday, January 28, 2012

The Unexpected Day Off and Other Good Finds Sunday

Via Public Domain Photos on Flickr

My poem for this week is Alberto Ríos' delightful "We Dogs of a Thursday Off." What do you like to do on an unexpected day off?

Robert Lee Brewer wrote up an inspiring blog post about Twitter as fodder for our creative writing.

Speaking of generating some new writing, Diane Lockward offers an abundance of ideas for "When You Have No Ideas of Your Own." Are there other places you look to for writing inspiration?

Bethany Suckrow shares "Mingus at the Showplace" this week on her blog and reminds us that in our technology-riddled days, "radio hasn't died, and neither has poetry."

Have you heard about Findings? Reading's social side is ready to have a party.

Because I am hungry as I'm writing this blog, and also salivating while thinking of all the yummy things I'll be cooking up in the kitchen for our family night, I thought I'd include this recipe for making brownies out of cake mix. A couple of weeks back, I had a strawberry brownie I've been dreaming of ever since.

What do you have going on? Reading? Writing? Other simple pleasures?

Wishing you joy this week! Andrea

P.S. If you haven't read about the Month of Letters yet, I'd love to send you something through the mail in the month of February. I'm forgoing email for the handwritten note for 24 days.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Month of Letters and Poetry

Mailboxes, Great Island, Narragansett, RI
Via Flickr by pocius
It's rare we receive handwritten letters or postcards through the mail anymore. I try to make an effort to send out hand-written thank-you notes every chance I get. Outside of that, everything is electronic right down to the bills. But I still love the hand-written note...

Yesterday, I came across link to Mary Robinette Kowal's blog via mediabistro featuring a Month of Letters Challenge. I want to participate and invite you to join me! The rules are simple:

1. During the month of February, send one item (letter, postcard, etc.) through the mail each day it runs. (24 items total.)
2. Respond to everyone who sends you something through the mail and this can count as one of your items sent. 

I'm going to mix it up just a little. I'm going to send postcards with favorite poems and a small note in closing.

My friend Rachel Bunting raised her hand to participate and featured this same article on her blog to further the invitation along. She's also included a nice video of PJ Harvey advocating for letter writing.

Who else will I have the pleasure of sending a postcard to? Please say you. :) 

P.S. If you would like to participate, please send me your address via email to drebelle81@gmail.com.

Happy writing, Andrea

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Letter to My Writer Self

writing in the journal
Photo from Flickr - redcargurl

Back in December, I shared Jodi Picoult's essay "To My 16-year-old Self." I read it again this morning for some inspiration...mainly because I am contemplating a significant change in my life that hinges upon my writing. It got me thinking about composing a letter to my writer self, and I think I am going to make this an annual thing.


Dear Me,

Too many times you've stepped away from your writing out of fear. Even when you've had friends and an incredible mentor encouraging you. Even now you wish you could get all that time back. But you can't.

What you can do is focus on today. What can you do today? And what will you do tomorrow? Are you reading not just for fun but to improve your craft? Are you writing even when you don't feel like writing? Are you submitting even though your hand still shakes a little before finally clicking on that "send" or "submit" button? You should be. You'd better be. Because if you aren't, you already know you're going to regret it.

Remember that quote by Paulo Coelho you have etched inside all your journals? "Tell your heart that the fear of suffering is worse than the suffering itself. And that no heart has ever suffered when it goes in search of its dreams..." Yes, you've written and read it enough that it should be etched in your mind every day.

You've already done so much in a year. You can't stop now. You're barely picking up steam.

Don't let this be something you relate to later on in life: "An unfulfilled vocation drains the color from a man's existence." - Honore de Balzac.

Write, write, then write some more. Read, edit, read, edit, and then write some more. You can do it. One word at a time. With everyone believing in you, you can't not believe in yourself.


What would you tell your writer self?

Monday, January 23, 2012

Poem Share and Other Good Finds Sunday/Monday

The poem I've selected for this week is Francisco X. Alarcón's "To Those Who Have Lost Everything" and I'm pairing it with the article below.

"Artists React to Mexico's Drug War With Music and Poetry" by Betty Arcos in NPR. Growing up and now again living in a border city, I feel the issues discussed in this article touch upon a familiar reality: violence on the border remains a mute point in today's media. I'm with Lili Downs in hoping "No evil can last a hundred years."

I posted Perpetual Follies' 2012 Pushcart Prize Rankings last week. Here is an article in Luna Park from Travis Kurowski that offers a different perspective: "Is Something Missing from the Pushcart Prize?" What are your thoughts?

Diane Lockward guides us in deciphering when a poem is ready to send out into the world. When do you feel your writing is ready to submit?

If you read anything this week, please read this touching story about stories "passing back through the heart" by Natalia Sylvester on her blog: "The Difference Between Recording and Remembering."

Come across any good reading this past week? What's on your desk for this week?

Wishing you a week full of wonder, Andrea

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Four Comforts After My Husband's Surgery

My husband underwent surgery yesterday morning that will hopefully result in our beginning a family soon. The day was nerve-wracking and I don't know what I was thinking not taking the day off work (you know how Murphy's Law goes) but it ended with my being grateful for many things. Four stand out from the crowd:

1. We always know at some point in our lives, we tend to take the small things for granted. I try not to do this but the demands of work and life in general somehow sometimes overshadow the importance of these small yet essential things. Like how much time you enjoy spending with your husband on a daily basis. And how much he really helps around the house. Quiet time is nice, but too much quiet time, well, it's lonely, and I can't wait to have my husband back to his normal, jovial self.

2. Someone taking the time to come and sit with you at the hospital helps so much. Even though you pack a book or your laptop with you, these activities don't really distract you all that much when trying not to worry. Having someone to talk to, to wait out time with you, and help after surgery means more than most of us realize until we have it happen to us. I promise I will pay it forward. I'm blessed to have Tim's mom as my mother-in-law. The surprise of her face in the waiting room was and always will be a welcome one.

3. Chicken noodle soup is a staple after surgery. For the patient and for the caretaker. Even though I was beyond tired, I didn't want to leave Tim at the house by himself, and thank goodness I go a little crazy with vegetables at the grocery store and always have a surplus of chicken stock, pasta, and wine, because I had just what I needed to make my very first pot of chicken noodle soup. Yes, it was delicious. Tim lapped it up and was happy. I was even happier because after a stressful day, I felt as if I was seven again, sitting at my Grandma's kitchen table, enjoying a steaming hot bowl of feel good without a worry in the world.

4. A book is always a nice little escape from reality. I lost myself in The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins last night. It was past my bedtime, but all I wanted to do was read one chapter. Just one. And then another flew by, and then this paragraph:

In late summer, I was wasting up in a pond when I noticed the plants growing around me. Tall with leaves like arrowheads. Blossoms with three white petals. I knelt down in the water, my fingers digging into the soft mud, and I pulled up handfuls of the roots...

What comforts does today bring you? What small things are your grateful for today?

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

The Portable Poetry Workshop: Connecting Content - Syntactical Transitions

In this section, Jack Myers presents the poet as architect and illustrates the various methods one can employ in making connections and "building" a poem. There is hypotaxis, in which "the ordering of content proceeds through conventional forms of logic and the conventions of syntax, grammar, and language as a medium, and there is parataxis (or juxtaposition), which is "based more on the unconscious, associative kinds of connections."

More important than the technical descriptions and examples presented in this section is Myers' asking the reader to imagine a sign over the writer's "workshop" engraved with the timeless quote, "Writing is 99% perspiration and 1% inspiration." He then offers a competing quote of John Keats', "If poetry comes not as naturally as leaves to the tree then it had better not come at all."

Instead of focusing on the architecture of a poem in this post, I want to focus on the inspiration behind the architect. What does the sign hanging over your "workshop" read? Does a poem/story/work of art build itself in your workshop or do you build it?

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Poem Share and Other Good Finds Sunday

I love mail! New reading material...

The poem for this week is "Changing Genres" and comes from a book I am about to start reading, Dean Young's Fall Higher. I thought the mail would never arrive! There are other poems from his book included at this link. Which one is your favorite?

The Washington Post brimmed with great stuff this week. "Is poetry dead? Or, in the age of the Internet, does it offer us what nothing else can?" The photo gallery heading this post is a must-see. What does poetry bring to your life?

Clifford Garstang's 2012 Pushcart Prize Rankings for Poetry are out. He also compiles rankings on fiction and non-fiction.

An eloquent essay on poetry and its shifts of focus in life is Roya Hakakian's "A Revolution On The Page: Finding Identity in Poetry" and includes "My Papa's Waltz" by Theodore Roethke.

There is a new eBook Anthology of Contemporary Women's Poetry out. Read about Fire on Her Tongue  on Diane Lockward's blog.

And last but not least, give yourself two minutes of joy by watching this video: The Joy of Books. What book would you want to see dancing along the shelves in this video?

Oh, and one last thing, the Winter issue of Rose & Thorn Journal came out this morning! I'm humbled to have two poems "Affair" and "Flying Ant" in their line up along with my friend Jill Klein's wonderful pair of poems "Migraine" and "Midnight Music."

Wishing you happiness in your week, Andrea

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Penelope's Corner: Cheers to Rain and Turtles

Penelope and her Red Umbrella

My Goddaughter Penelope is the source of inspiration for today's post. Children are the truest reflection of the world and they fill it with hope, wonder, and spirit. Three things I learned from Penelope this week:

1. Don't be afraid to go out in the rain. That's why umbrellas exist. Rain takes on many forms in life and it's just like death and taxes in that you can always count on it coming around at some time or another.

2. There is always time to say, "Cheers." Raise your glass and say it as much and with as many as you can. You don't need a special occasion for it. The moment you're in is the special occasion. Cheers!

3. This one needs a preface: Nicole (Penelope's beautiful mother) and I took a trip to Hobby Lobby the other night because she wanted to buy some beads and other accessories to make Penelope a bracelet for Valentine's Day. While we waited to check out, Nicole eyed a little turtle you could "grow" in water and decided she wanted one for Penelope. Penelope named the turtle "Shrek" and curiously eyed him as Nicole placed him in a bowl of water while explaining to Penelope that "Shrek" was now sleeping and would grow to full-size over the next couple of days. You could sense her anticipation. Throughout the evening, she kept asking to see the turtle. The next day, Nicole told me Penelope kept wanting to see "Shrek" all night long. The moral I gleaned from this story: Too often we are so busy with our lives, we forget the importance of watching life grow and the joy that can come witnessing the every day.

What or who has inspired you this week?

A poem for you today: "April Rain Song" by Langston Hughes

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Achieving Depth

In a profile of Jack Gilbert, "The Ghost Inside," Sarah Manguso asks the poet what he feels is "the most important thing a poet must seek" to which he replied, "Depth and warmth."

Do you agree with Gilbert, and if so, how do you go about trying to seek these and hope they follow through in your writing?

Is there something else you feel is vital for a poet or writer to seek as well?

I'll close this post with one of my favorite poems from Gilbert, Failing and Flying.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Poem Share and Other Good Finds Sunday

The poem I've selected for the week is "Poppies" by Jennifer Grotz. I came across the link to this poem along with a nice introduction by Ta-Nehisi Coates in The Paris Review. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did. My favorite lines in the poem are:

when the moths perch on the white walls,
tiny as a fingernail to large as a Gerbera daisy
and take turns agitating around the light.

What does this poem say to you? Any favorite lines?

Other good finds of note this week are:

Today is Elvis Presley's birthday! Happy birthday, Elvis! Are You Lonesome Tonight?  I'll keep you company. ;)

I'm a big fan of The New York Times' "Poetry Pairing" series. This week Jill Alexander Essbaum's poem "Precipice" is paired with a philosophy blog and a painting about time. Is there anything else you can think to pair with it?

A friend of mine, Jill Klein, has a lovely poem out in the new issue of Grey Sparrow: "My Breasts are A-okay." I love the sound in this poem!

Goodreads is holding a 2012 Reading Challenge. How many books will you pledge to read this year? I'm shooting for 64.

A funny comic for the week shared by Richard Fenwick via his Twitter account: Chicken Poetry by Doug Savage

How does your week look? Wishing you an inspiring one!

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Grandma on Family, Excess, and House Work

Grandma (in her favorite color) and Me
I'm happy to revisit my lunch observations/Grandma's advice posts this year. My grandmother is in her eighties now and I realize how precious this time I have with her is. All the years I've had her in my life have been a blessing, only now I am able to fully appreciate them how I should. And being in her eighties, she is a little spitfire and not afraid to speak her mind to anyone but she's also the sweetest woman I know. (Well, my mom and her are tied.)

She wanted a Whataburger Jr. (a Texas staple) for lunch today. She always says she doesn't want fries but I know she secretly hopes I order some because almost on every occasion, she finishes mine...Now, on to the advice, and in her words:

1. I don't care who it is that ever asks you if you get along with such and such family member, be it in-laws or your own family, even if you don't care one bit for them, you always lie and say, "Yes." Except for your own family, and then you can admit it if you trust them. (I got a good chuckle out of this one!)

2. Too much is just too much. OF ANYTHING. And only YOU can know when that is. Right? You KNOW. (This also made me laugh, as we were talking about all the traffic on the roads and somehow this made her think about other things she didn't mention, and I think it is applicable to too many things.)

3. A woman needs someone to help her around the house. I don't care what anyone says. You can't do it all by yourself and if your husband doesn't want to help you, then you don't feed him. That will shape him up.

Whose advice do you look forward to and cherish in your life? What is the most memorable piece of advice you've ever received? In my case, Grandma's second rule for the day doesn't apply when it comes to her advice.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

The Portable Poetry Workshop: Connecting Content - Cinematic Techniques

"Poetry is everywhere; it just needs editing." - James Tate

In this section, Jack Myers uses film as a metaphor for poetry, and through identification and explanation of various cinematic techniques such as cuts, visual transitions, alternate views, angles, and movements, one can see how a poem can be a film in its own right and in accordance with Tate's quote above.

I recently read "Jasper, 1998," a trilogy of poems by Saeed Jones. The poems employs a staggering of views from low-angle to bird's eye then returning to low-angle. The movement of these poems are that of a moving shot, "creating a sense of action to, through, and away from a scene." Hear Jones read this poignant and heart-breaking collection of poems.  (And I highly recommend purchasing his chapbook When the Only Light is Fire at that same link. It was an incredible read, one still haunting me days after I've read it and I'm sure will continue throughout the year.)

Jack concludes the section by stating that poetry is "one of the most eclectic forms of art since it contains many aspects of the other arts..." What other art do you see most in poetry? What are your favorite techniques to employ?

In closing, here is one of the exercises offered at the end of this section, and since I am heavy into revisions lately, I am going to try this myself tonight:

"Cut shot - Crosscut technique: Next to an event in a poem of yours, juxtapose a simultaneous event that parallels or enhances the original event."

Happy writing! Andrea

P.S. If you like what you've heard from Saeed Jones, please read Jonterri Gadson's interview with him for Eclectica Magazine.

Monday, January 2, 2012

If Every Teardrop is a Waterfall...

Lots of people are sharing their resolutions on their blogs, which is a great thing and I love reading them, but just in case everyone's resolutions are either spreading you a little thin in the blogosphere, I intend to keep mine short and sweet.

Yes, I make resolutions/goals at the start of the year. They act as my compass throughout the fleeting twelve months. I make two sets: three personal and three professional. This year, I'm adding another set for my writing (poetry) as well as my blog and they seem to go hand-in-hand.

For my writing:

  1. Bring it into FULL focus. Attend a writing workshop in May. Take another online class at some point. Keep researching MFA programs and possibilities. Keep connecting with other writers and continue building my writing community.
  2.  Dedicate one hour to writing and one to reading each day. #52poetry will live on in 2012 and I'm adding one novel per month to the mix.
  3. Strengthen my blog, which leads us to...
For my blog:

  1. Blog three times each week. Sundays will be dedicated to a poem for the week along with various reading and writing notes/resources. Tuesdays will be for talking/learning/exploring craft and I will continue to sprinkle in bits of Jack Myers' The Portable Poetry Workshop. Thursday posts will be a tad more personal in nature and will include advice from Grandma/lunch with Grandma and will bring back lunch observations.
  2. Increase readership of other blogs and engage more in conversation. I've found a good handful of blogs I enjoy reading for diverse reasons, but they are all central to writing or poetry in some form or another. I want to keep building upon this community and with you.
  3. This is still up in the air but the wheels in my head are still turning about including a video reading once a month from a fellow poet/writer if they are willing. I've met some incredibly talented people and want to share the writing that inspires/moves me with the rest of you. (Fingers crossed.)
And last but not least, I always pick a song as my motto for the year, so without further ado, I bring you Coldplay's "Every Teardrop is a Waterfall." What are your resolutions and what song would you chose as your motto?