April 19, 2014

Getting the Daily News from Poems

It is difficult
to get the news from poems
yet men die miserably every day
for lack
of what is found there.

   —  William Carlos Williams


I am still writing my poem a day for 2014, and some people have taken on a poem a day for National Poetry Month. But if you don't feel you can write every day, you can certainly read a poem a day. And reading poetry is an important part of becoming a poet too.

Some people use the daily poem at The Writers Almanac or at Poetry Daily.

The Academy of American Poets is another source. They have a new design for their Poem-a-Day and they will now be syndicating Poem-a-Day. This means that the new, previously unpublished poems we are publishing during the week will be available to editors at a wide range of newspapers, news websites, and magazines.

Get out the news in poems!

You might also want to celebrate the month with a donation to Poem-A-Day or help support Poetry Daily or support the Writers Almanac.


April 12, 2014

Billy Collins on poetry

Some thoughts by Billy Collins on poetry
  • The mind can be trained to relieve itself on paper.
  • You come by your style by learning what to leave out. At first you tend to overwrite—embellishment instead of insight. You either continue to write puerile bilge, or you change.
  • In the process of simplifying oneself, one often discovers the thing called voice.
  • High school is the place where poetry goes to die.
  • A sentence starts out like a lone traveller heading into a blizzard at midnight, tilting into the wind, one arm shielding his face, the tails of his thin coat flapping behind him.
  • Poetry is my cheap means of transportation. By the end of the poem the reader should be in a different place from where he started. I would like him to be slightly disoriented at the end, like I drove him outside of town at night and dropped him off in a cornfield.
  • The first line is the DNA of the poem; the rest of the poem is constructed out of that first line.
  • A lot of it has to do with tone because tone is the key signature for the poem. The basis of trust for a reader used to be meter and end-rhyme.
  • A motto I’ve adopted is, if at first you don’t succeed, hide all evidence that you ever tried.
via writers-write-creative-blog.posthaven.com



April 3, 2014

National Poetry Writing Month #NatPWriMo



National Poetry Writing Month is an annual project during National Poetry Month that encourages participants to write a poem each day in April.  

Abbreviated as NaPoWriMo, you can find it on Twitter and other social networks with the hashtag #NaPoWriMo. 
NaPoWriMo founder Maureen Thorson will post daily prompts on the NaPoWriMo site through the month and there are also prompts at The Daily Post.
If you’re sharing your poems online, you can submit your site to the NaPoWriMo showcase and allow other participants can find you. Also tag your posts with #NaPoWriMo on Wordpress.

March 16, 2014

A Poetry Prompt from Kurt Vonnegut

In this reply to a high school class, Kurt Vonnegut gives a poetry prompt that you might want to try. It's not one that would work well for Poets Online, but it makes a fine point for us as poets.

Dear Xavier High School, and Ms. Lockwood, and Messrs Perin, McFeely, Batten, Maurer and Congiusta:

I thank you for your friendly letters. You sure know how to cheer up a really old geezer (84) in his sunset years. I don't make public appearances any more because I now resemble nothing so much as an iguana.

What I had to say to you, moreover, would not take long, to wit: Practice any art, music, singing, dancing, acting, drawing, painting, sculpting, poetry, fiction, essays, reportage, no matter how well or badly, not to get money and fame, but to experience becoming, to find out what's inside you, to make your soul grow.

Seriously! I mean starting right now, do art and do it for the rest of your lives. Draw a funny or nice picture of Ms. Lockwood, and give it to her. Dance home after school, and sing in the shower and on and on. Make a face in your mashed potatoes. Pretend you're Count Dracula.

Here's an assignment for tonight, and I hope Ms. Lockwood will flunk you if you don't do it: Write a six line poem, about anything, but rhymed. No fair tennis without a net. Make it as good as you possibly can. But don't tell anybody what you're doing. Don't show it or recite it to anybody, not even your girlfriend or parents or whatever, or Ms. Lockwood. OK?

Tear it up into teeny-weeny pieces, and discard them into widely separated trash recepticals [sic]. You will find that you have already been gloriously rewarded for your poem. You have experienced becoming, learned a lot more about what's inside you, and you have made your soul grow.

God bless you all!
Kurt Vonnegut



via  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/03/14/kurt-vonnegut-xavier-letter_n_4964532.html

Weekend Poetry Retreat with Maria Gillan and Laura Boss



Do you need a poetry retreat that will give you the space and time to focus totally on your writing? Does having that time in a serene and beautiful setting away from the pressures and distractions of daily life and in the company of like-minded others sound inspiring?

Join poets Laura Boss and Maria Mazzioti Gillan on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday May 23, 24, and 25, 2014 (Friday dinner through Sunday lunch) at the St. Marguerite's Retreat House in Mendham, NJ for a poetry intensive weekend.

Participants arrive before 6 PM on Friday evening, have dinner, settle into their rooms, and begin to retreat from the distractions of the world.That evening, participants will be led into creating new work. After each workshop, each participant will have the opportunity to read their work in the group.

After Saturday breakfast, participants will move into two groups for morning workshops, followed by free time for socializing and exploring the grounds. After lunch, writing workshops will take place, followed by time to write. Each participant will have a chance to sign up in advance with Maria or Laura for one-on-one help with revision.

After dinner on Saturday evening, participants will be invited to read their poems to the groups, and the faculty will lead another workshop session on how to get published.

After Sunday breakfast, a final writing workshop and concluding reading by participants will serve as the “closing ceremony” to this inspiring and productive weekend and lunch provides a final opportunity for socializing.

The leaders envision this weekend as a retreat from the noise and bustle of daily life and see this retreat as a spiritual and creative break from our usual lives. The setting certainly allows us to take some time to look at life in a new light, to listen for our own voices, and to create in stillness, in quiet, and in community. These are times of contemplation and welcoming the muse.

The workshops will concentrate on "writing your way home" and the way writing can save us, save our stories and our lives. Participants should bring papers, pens, and the willingness to take some risks. Please also bring previously-written work for one-on-one sessions and for the readings.


St. Marguerite's Retreat House in Mendham, New Jersey is an English manor house situated on 93 acres of wooded land with pathways that lend themselves to the serene contemplation of nature and nurturing of your creative spirit. The Retreat House is located at the convent of Saint John the Baptist, 82 West Main Street in Mendham, NJ.

Fee Schedule:  $425 fee includes room, all meals, and all workshops.
Deposit by April 5, 2014 of $300
Balance due by April 19, 2014 $125
Early Bird Discount: Deduct $25 if paid in full by April 5, 2014
Full refund will be given prior to April 29, 2014.

For further information and to register, contact mariagillan@verizon.net or call  973-684-6554.




Selected Books by the Poets


LAURA BOSS: Arms: New and Selected Poems and Flashlight






MARIA GILLAN: What We Pass On: Collected Poems: 1980-2009 and The Place I Call Home



March 8, 2014

Prompt: First Lines with Emily

Vincent Van Gogh


A word is dead
when it is said,
some say,
I say it just
begins to live
that day.

Emily Dickinson


This month's prompt began in reading an article, "Where Shall I Begin?," by Jessica Greenbaum about being inspired by first lines.

"Like poetry itself, a secret channel exists between the first line and the mind. What forces are at play may never show themselves fully, and some resounding openings attach to memory by more mysterious motives. Ever since Howard Moss handed my undergraduate class a copy of Randall Jarrell’s “The Woman at the Washington Zoo” in 1979, the poem’s first line has captained the troops of first lines, reminding me that observation, cadence, rhyme, and lyricism all prime the poem. “The saris go by me from the embassies,” begins the speaker, “Cloth from the moon. Cloth from another planet.” Where are we? What’s happening?

Bread crumbs. Eat, birds. Help me start."

Back in 1999, I wrote a rather crude program that would generate a random line for a poem and used it as a prompt. My first line generator is still online and I did a second generation line generator
because it was popular. Now it seems rather crude and limited (though fun).

But there are plenty of lists of poetry first lines in anthologies and online.

For this month's prompt, I have chosen the first lines of Emily Dickinson as our starting place. That's a lot of first lines to choose from!

I tried it myself. I was struck by her first line "How dare the robins sing."  I think it was the coming spring, lack of robins in my backyard and the audacity I heard in that line that made me choose it.

I wrote my poem WITHOUT looking at the rest of Emily's poem. I suggest you do the same so as not to be influenced by her. When you finish the first draft, take a look at her poem. It might suggest some revision to your own poem. (In my case, I was pleasantly surprised that Emily and I were walking down the same spring path.)

Go to the index of Emily Dickinson's first lines and pick a line or two to start. The only requirements of this prompt are that you use that line as your first line (or start for a first line - you can lengthen it), and that when you title your poem, include the number assigned to Emily's poem (She didn't use titles.) so that others can see your inspiration.

My poem would begin:
AUDACITY   XCIV (or 94)
How dare the robins sing...

Submissions are open until March 31, 2014


March 5, 2014

Two Sylvias Press Chapbook Prize Open


Manuscripts being accepted for the first Two Sylvias Press Chapbook Prize.

The winner has his or her chapbook published as both print and eBook and receives twenty copies of the print version, a $250 prize and - rather wonderfully - an amethyst depression-glass trophy cup (circa 1930's).

Electronic submissions only of 17-24 pages of poetry.

The judge is Aimee Nezhukumatathil.

Full details athttp://twosylviaspress.com/chapbook-prize.html


February 23, 2014

Tiferet Writing Contest


Enter the 2014 Tiferet Writing Contest and submit to possibly win $400 for best poem, story or essay. $1,200 will be awarded in prizes.

This year's judges are Alfred Corn for Poetry, Jacqueline Sheehan for Fiction, and Charles Euchner for Nonfiction.

Tiferet editors will select ten finalists to be sent to the judges. One winner and three honorable mentions will be selected by the judges in each category. Results will be announced this coming fall.

All submissions are considered for publication in the journal and your $15 contest entry fee brings you digital copies of a full year's subscription to Tiferet (a $24.95 value).

They are accepting submissions until June 1, 2014

Submit your entry here

February 8, 2014

Writing the Day



Writing the Day was the name I chose for a new daily practice I started for 2014. It wasn't a New Year Resolution, and it wasn't totally original.  I want to write a poem each day.

William Stafford is the poet who inspired this daily practice the for me. Stafford wrote every day of his life from 1950 to 1993. He left us 20,000 pages of daily writings that include early morning meditations, dream records, aphorisms, and other “visits to the unconscious.”

It’s not that I don’t already write every day. I teach and writing is part of the job. I do social media as a job and for myself. I work on my poetry. I have other blogs. But none of them is a daily practice or devoted to writing poems.

When Stafford was asked how he was able to produce a poem every morning and what he did when it didn’t meet his standards, he replied, “I lower my standards.”

I like that answer, but I know that phrase “lowering standards” has a real negative connotation. I think Stafford meant that he allows himself some bad poems and some non-poems, knowing that with daily writing there will be eventually be some good work.

I wanted to impose some form on myself each day. I love haiku, tanka and other short forms, but I decided to create my own form for this project.



I call the form ronka – a somewhat egotistical play on the tanka form.

And that will be our short prompt for this short month.

These poems are meant to be one observation on the day. It might come upon waking. It might come during an afternoon walk, or when you are alone in the night.The poems should come come from paying close attention to the outside world from earth to sky or from inside – inside a building or inside you.

People know haiku as three lines of 5-7-5 syllables. But that’s an English version, since Japanese doesn’t have syllables.

The tanka form consists of five units (often treated as separate lines when Romanized or translated) usually with the following pattern of 5-7-5-7-7.

For my invented ronka form, there are 5 lines, each having 7 words without concern for syllables. Like traditional tanka and haiku, my form has no rhyme. You want to show rather than tell. You want to use seasonal words - cherry blossoms, rather than “spring.”

It's hard for Western writers to stay out of their poems - lots of "I" - but ronka have fewer people walking about in the poem.

The poems are just 5 lines, but you can certainly write several on a single theme and chain them together renga style.

For examples, there are some on our main site and all my ronka poems so far are on the Writing the Day website. I look forward to you outdoing me at my own form.

Submission deadline: February 28, 2014




January 29, 2014

Walt Whitman 2014


Walt is all around us lately.

Did you take note of the Apple television ad for the iPad Air? It quotes Whitman's “O Me! O Life!” to promote the idea of creating and uses Robin Williams from his English teacher role in Dead Poets Society.


“That the powerful play goes on,
and you may contribute a verse.”




Walt is also on the new poster designed by the Academy of American Poets for this year's  National Poetry Month.  You can request a copy online.

The poster uses the closing lines of “Song of Myself,”




“Failing to fetch me at first, keep encouraged;
Missing me one place, search another;
I stop somewhere, waiting for you.”

If you want to go deeply into Walt Whitman's "Song of Myself," you can enroll in a free course offered online by the University of Iowa. This course - known as a MOOC (Massive Open Online Course) - will be open to thousands of people at no cost (and for no credit).

Every Atom: Walt Whitman’s Song of Myself" will take a collective approach to a close reading of America’s democratic verse epic, first published without a title in the 1855 edition of Leaves of Grass and later titled "Song of Myself" in the 1881 edition.