What a delight this morning reading “Teaching William Zinsser to Write Poetry” in The New Yorker. Being such a fan of William Zinsser’s and given this unflinching view into a student/teacher relationship is a poignant reminder of how curiosity and learning is inherent to fulfilling the human quest for why.
I studied with Diana Goetsch at DDOA Writer’s retreat/workshop in 2016. It was one of the best experiences I’ve had. Diana encourages you to twist your brain sideways to get at the core of thought by using such powerful, varied prompting tools. Somehow she shakes lose what has been rattling around because of the unexpected connections she places before you. She helps you pick out or pick up the threads running through the scattered minefield of dislodged thought with this new perspective.
May we all remain students until our dying day. May we all run into teachers who expand our capacity to capture what it is like to be alive. Some things will allude us. Other ideas will take on new meaning.
Study with the best you can. Now go read this article and go write!
I’m finding that getting unreal in the real world turns cyber notes into another form of cursiveness albeit an illusion one. As an artist I have a tendency to doodle. In Notes, one of the many apps available on the phones these days, I sometimes use the small note screen to scratch a drawing.
I sketch figures in lose abstract form with a hint or two of heart, the representative soul of the matter. Jotting down short form poetry works well in this format as well as sometimes an actual notebook is not handy.
Still there is something strange about the intangibleness of the cyber real world. The unwholeness of the work. The inability to hold the whole and concrete thingness of the thing.
In real reality, there is no drawing, no word scratched on pulp. But flying off this incidental piece of thought goes into an unknown space… breathing a life of its own among the zeros and ones of an inner world of math and technology far removed from thoughts inspired by a muse on a windy, stormy night.
in the dark
we are air
we are light
Four lines, a cursive note, and sketch made more concrete in the nothingingness of virtual space. For now, I say–keep the tangible notebook.
I rest my case. Have a creative day or as in this case, night.
I forget too much.
Poets I’ve read. Lines I can’t recall. Words written only to rewrite and unwrite and rewrite again and yet again.
Each time almost
remembering something maybe important that got lost. Jack Gilbert
Jack Gilbert is one of those poets I didn’t read that much when I swore off reading old white guys for a period of about 5 years. That period of time when enough was enough or so it seemed. Sometime after Robert Bly declared that men were people, too, I think it was. Whatever the reason, a man’s eye view was not something I wished to embrace.
All I’m certain of is that I wanted words from women–emerged myself in the mythology or truths of the second wave or third wave. Women’s work was where I felt I needed to bury myself deep if I was to ever understand the me-ness of me.
I’m still on that quest. Trying to give or find or assure meaning to this life as it approaches it’s seventieth year. Why are there still more questions than answers?
Today, another blogger, Austin Kleon, mentioned this article about Gilbert which I now mention to you. I’m writing short-form poetry this month and am also shared a short poem thought on memory in the photo. You are welcome to share your thoughts or poems here as well.
Hope you will read these few poems by Gilbert, write a few thoughts of your own on your memories, and go out and save the world! Or at least help the kids out there who are trying.
Peace my plea.
Happy Valentine’s Day.
Inspiration in the form of old valentines is a great way to create a special handwritten poem for your favorite valentine.
Today would be the perfect day to go analog and give thoughts from the heart in handwritten form. The collection at the Huntington Library is awe-inspiring.
Each time a singer/songwriter dies, the barrage of tributes and words begin to flow. Recent stories, recent interviews, recent photos of the newly departed clog the arteries of every feed and choke us with the recounting and re-recounting of past days.
And so it was with Tom Petty. The soundtracks playing over frantic riffs of praise and remembrance caught my eye in a Rolling Stone article about his last tour.
I penned fleeting thoughts in a sunny spot on a crisp fall day. Winter isn’t far away…always closer than it seems.
“I’d be lying
If I didn’t say
I was thinking
This might be
The last one…”
I wasn’t thinking
About this fall day
How the light dims…
A slight chipping away
Of warm days here
In this dreamy light.
Nor how bright the light
Pierces this dying day.
Each, every year, and
I’d be lying if
I didn’t say,
For each bitter chill.
Quote from Tom Petty in Rolling Stone about his last tour. RIP.
What thoughts cross your mind as you reflect on a recent death or tragedy. Winter is the perfect metaphor even though it hints of triteness, even though we know it blankets many in deep, deep snow.
One, two, three. Write.
All works copyright 2017 ntaylorcollins
My life has been the poem I would have writ. Henry David Thoreau
The dichotomy of doing and being.
Whitman seems to have accomplished a major feat by recording in fragments his life in a free form of poetic fragments. Kerouac mastered similar accomplishment when he hit the road and recorded a memorable record of his inner and outer journey.
Pick a favorite line from either of these three writers. Be the poem as you cross between reality and metaphor. Describe something without naming the thing. The fading redness of a withering begonia without using red or fading or withering or begonia. Tell us what you see in the poem of you. Sculpt the story of the space where the flower lives. Breathe life into this dying thing.
Be the poet. Write.
I’m addicted to handwritten notations whether it be in music or in personal notes and letters. For years, eight in total if memory serves, I took piano from Miss Edmonds, a matronly spinster who lived in a grand Victorian with her sister also dwelling in spinsterdom. Their house bulged with big rooms and overgrown gardens and a long spindled staircase where would-be-virtuoso’s could sit and have a balcony-esque view of the June recitals which we prepared for all year.
In those days there were no public school programs for music so teachers like Miss Edmonds would come to our school and teach us for a monthly fee of $9. In retrospect, I think my parents got what they paid for in the 3 or 4 lessons per week for the nine-month school year.
We learned to practice, to almost fully memorize our recital pieces, and to show up and perform. Our parents must have thought we were all musical as so many of us took lessons. Musical theory and critical elements like counting and such? Well… that was not much a part of our curriculum. In fact, in a recent discussion with a dear friend, it seems neither of us learned to count or learned theory at all.
In discussions with her as discussions usually go, we shared thoughts about our experience and mine led to “adagio.” That word triggered a memory of when I was reading The Bridges of Madison County when it first came out.
Somewhere, inside of the breathing, music sounds, and the curious spiral dance begins then, with a meter all its own that tempers the ice-man with spear and matted hair. And slowly— rolling and turning in adagio, in adagio always—ice-man falls… from Dimension Z… and into her.
When originally reading these passages from The Bridges of Madison County the word ‘adagio’ immediately triggered an image of Miss Edmonds and my music lessons. I am transported to Accomac Elementary, and it is fourth grade. From Dimension Z and always adagio — I flop into Counting Purgatory on a tinny-sounding upright. Memory, at that moment, seemed to think I needed to remember Miss Edmonds? Memory, I think I problably thought, needed to get a life!
I hadn’t thought of that book or my short-lived music career in years. But having a discussion with my friend triggered this complete sequence of thought again. The link to the full passage from the book is a must read for further inspiration as the love-letter portion is poignant. I’m still annoyed, however, that one of my most beloved literary letter’s segments is marred by images of dear Miss Edmonds looming large as the irony of the crescendoed interlude picked up this unlikely interloper.
What memories do you have from childhood that may have popped up at in inopportune time? What did you study as a child that recently came to the forefront, triggered perhaps by a word, a song, or conversation with an old friend?
I’ll share some fragments soon as I’m sure I can marry Miss Edmonds to Dimension Z in some meaningful way. My hope is you develop a draft or completed work as well. I’m working on a poetry workshop for April and will post links here of interest. Stay tuned.
April is National Poetry Month
Post A Daily Poem
A few years ago I enjoyed tweeting a short poem each morning on Twitter during April. It gave me the opportunity to interact with many poets and venues that participated in the fray that is the hallmark of the Twitter realm. I still have cherished contacts there. Twitter is a great way to hashtag your way into community interaction with other like-minded individuals, so if you haven’t tried it, you may want to.
In 2011, I tweeted a portion of a poem everyday, the April 20 segment on NPR’s Tell Me More program is when they aired my tweet. The link includes the whole month so you can get a flavor for their project.
Whatever platform you use on a regular basis, pick one or two and concentrate on poetry- related content. Share new or older works…whatever you feel comfortable with. I usually include fragments or drafts in my postings, and it’s usually something that does not have enough potential to becoming published otherwise. Keep in mind that anything you post could wind up being misappropriated so you must decide for yourself whether you want to share at all and how much of your work you want out there in this way.
Take a Workshop or Signup for a Poetry Class
There are lots of offerings at local libraries, bookstores, or schools throughout the month. Look for individuals that you know have a strong reputation for imparting their love of poetry and craft. For those who may be in the mid-Delaware region, I offer an eight-session workshop on Tuesday and Thursday evenings. If you check your local area, you will find lots of events as well.
Attend a Poetry Reading or Sponsor One
During the month of April there are more poetry readings than usual. Check your local papers and see what is available in your area. If you can’t find one, then consider hosting one at your local library or a coffee shop or bookstore. You could hold a contest and invite poets to read. Now might be the time to think outside the box. Poetry opens the lines of communication in many ways. Decide which way works for you and get involved in bringing an awareness to the public. An on-line option is the Poem-In-Your-Pocket project. It’s an easy way to make a difference aad will be held on April 17 this year. The site also offers tips.
Whatever you decide to do, enjoy. Take pen in hand and write or join in the month long celebration.
Part of the difficult portion of writing poetry is revising fragments of thought into a coherent whole. My work arrives as tattered pieces which often clutter the page and are anything but a cohesive unit. A recent poem got its roots from a broken tree which suffered major damage during a storm..
This tree an elm,
as if on tiptoe in a jazz improv
performs a dance leaning this way and that
in a fluid retching of
arms reaching skyward
aware of a gapping scar
poised in silent scream
an emotionless flail
unable to escape
the tangled masses of
shredded at its feet — anchored
in the dance of unmoving feet
In revision, the words take on new meaning in a shuffle and reshuffle. The tangled masses of bramble from the recent storm leads me to question how trees withstand their plight. Their movement in the wind seems a logical outlet to express what they silently absorb. The revising resulted in this:
Performs a jazz improv.
In dance, leans this way,
A fluid wrenching, arms
Expose a gapping scar
Posed in silent scream-
In masses of broken bones
Cracked at its feet–
Anchored in this dance,
Rooted, immovable feet.
Writing is not easy. If you strive for honesty, you risk exposing a nerve or two. I watch in disbelief much of what I see and hear in the various media outlets I visit. My eyes and ears ache from the onslaught.
In January I was invited to participate in a reading here in my home town. The National Writer’s Resistance was planned for the following day, and since I could not attend, one of my poems was dedicated to them in a show of solidarity.
What causes do you have opinions on? What views do you want to vent? A writing prompt for today is to pick any headline and begin a rant.
I gathered some thoughts as I tried to make sense of the nonsensical. I have always had the perfect health care plan as I worked for the government. It’s an affordable plan all of us should have. It is beyond my comprehension why this plan, the same plan our congressmen enjoy, could not be the plan for all of us.
Today as debates rage, I choose to revisit the health care issue. You are welcome to share my poem.
From my vantage, I do not comprehend why life and death matters require some of our representatives to unscrew their heads and flay open their chests. It seems pointless for them to prove they have minds and hearts when facts seem to determine otherwise. I no longer seek absolute truths. I seek wisdom.
Writing is one path to explore the unknown. Let your thoughts flow and discover what you think about what you may be thinking about. What do you know about what you think you know?
Repeal of Affordable Care as Doom Looms in a Five-Letter Word
From my bird’s eye view
In my elevated stand
Clad in my single
The drama unfolds.
Reviews will agree with mine.
Repeal will be