October 29, 2010

Have A Poetic Halloween

If you're headed to a party this weekend with a literary theme for Halloween, you can try some inexpensive costume ideas from poets.org.

You can dress up as Emily Dickinson with just an old-school nightgown or simple white cotton dress, a ribbon, your hair pulled back in a modest bun and carrying a small bundle of folded poems. Extra credit if you hand out plastic flies while reciting "I heard a Fly buzz—when I died..."

They also suggest and illustrate Whitman, Sappho, W.C. Williams and Poe.

October 27, 2010

Poetry Publishers Who Accept Electronic Submissions

I received two emails recently from poets who submitted poems to Poets Online and had their poem "discovered" online by another publisher who wanted to put it in print.

For example, Violet Nesdoly wrote "In Stitches" for our February 2006 prompt about being "in the moment". Recently, she heard from the editor of Vogue Patterns magazine, asking if they could publish it in an upcoming edition. I'm encouraged that a everyday publication not known for printing poetry would print one for their readers.

The Internet offers so many opportunities to share your poetry and find new audiences.
There are more and more places to put your poetry online or submit your poems online for print publication. An increasing number of established publishers now accept online publication as a first publication.

Louie Crew, Professor Emeritus at Rutgers University has been listing websites (including Poets Online) of Poetry Publishers Who Accept Electronic Submissions

October 25, 2010

Haiku 575 Twitter 140

I'm not claiming that Twitter is poetic, but -

I have read several articles online about using that 140 character posting service to share haiku.

Sun Microsystems' ex-CEO, Jonathan Schwartz, was an early company blogger and when he resigned (after the company was acquired by Oracle) he posted the news as a haiku on his Twitter feed.

The public radio show Fresh Air asked listeners once to write comments in haiku form, and tag their haiku with #publicradiohaiku on Twitter to share with others.

It has spread and "twaiku", as some call these Twitter haiku, are now online for NASCAR haiku, cat haiku, zombie haiku et cetera. Jimmy Kimmel offered tickets to his show to whoever tweeted the best haiku about the final episode of the TV show Lost.

Some haiku on Twitter to look at and follow would include http://twitter.com/issa_haiku and http://twitter.com/dengary

You can post your own Twitter haiku and tag them as #haiku for our readers to follow. 


October 23, 2010

An Autumn Haiku Lesson

The four most prominent "masters" of haiku in the Japanese tradition are Bashô (1644-94) Buson (1716-83), Issa (1763-1828) and  Shiki (1867-1902).

Here are a few by Issa on autumn to start this lesson.

autumn wind--
singing in the duckweed
how many insects?

autumn begins–
lying down, looking at
snowy mountains

sleeping mat--
the autumn gale blowing
the soles of my feet

evening cicada--
a last loud song
to autumn

Bashô, Buson and Issa worked in haikai short for haikai no renga which was a popular style of Japanese linked verse originating in the sixteenth century.

Shiki actually coined the term "haiku" which he viewed as its own poetic genre. In English, the term haiku covers both haikai and haiku.

Unfortunately, these one-breath poems of connection are often not treated in the West as "serious" poetry.

Haiku in English is written as an unrhymed three-line verse. The fragmented images are not typical of English poetry. For modern readers and writers, perhaps even the connecting of nature or the seasons to the human condition might seem foreign.

Does a haiku really need 17 syllables? Traditional Japanese haiku consists of seventeen onji) arranged in a 5-7-5 pattern. Onji is an obsolete Japanese word used in English-language discussions of Japanese poetry to mean the phonetic units or sounds counted in haiku, tanka and other such poetic forms.

Most Japanese words are polysyllabic. English has lots of one-syllable words like fall, sky, and tree, so many haiku poets writing in English don't follow the 5-7-5 syllable rule. (17 syllables could be 17 words which would not honor the sense of haiku.)

We put haiku on the page in three lines. Traditional haiku in the time of Issa was two parts with a pause in between. The juxtaposition of the two images and a sense of surprise or revelation has been compared to a good joke - setup, then the punchline

Haiku always contain nature and that includes human nature. The natural world and season might be invoked by the mention of a single word or image rather than the more typical Western telling. The haiku might mention a cherry blossom, rather than to say it was spring. In fact, the cherry blossom is more specific to a particular part of spring.

There is much discussion of the translation of classical haiku into English by translators such as R.H.Blyth, Lucien Stryck, Peter Beilenson and Kenneth Rexroth. I am a fan of those done by contemporary American poet Robert Hass.

It's interesting to compare different translations of the same haiku to see the process.

Translations by Robert Hass

Two by Basho

Climb Mount Fuji,
O snail,
but slowly, slowly.

Even in Kyoto --
hearing the cuckoo's cry --
I long for Kyoto.

Six by Issa

Mosquito at my ear--
does it think
I'm deaf?

New Year's morning--
everything is in blossom!
I feel about average.

Even with insects--
some can sing,
some can't.

The snow is melting
and the village is flooded
with children.

Don't kill that fly!
Look--it's wringing its hands,
wringing its feet.

Don't worry, spiders,
I keep house

October 15, 2010

Patterns of Poetry Podcast Series

I came across this nice series of podcasts (audio files) on "Patterns of Poetry" series. They are short (about 5 minutes each) discussions of poetic techniques. It's not the "how to find them in a poem" exercise that you may have had to do in some class, but more on how to use them in your writing. (Though I suppose it also accomplishes the "how to find them" mission too.)

They are presented by the English Department of St Columba's College, Whitechurch, Dublin, Ireland on their blog site.

The first one I stumbled upon through a search is on simile, and looks at how Sylvia Plath uses it in her poem 'Morning Song'.

The series (so far):

1: Introduction
2: Titles - illustrated with 'The Fish' by Elizabeth Bishop, and 'Out, Out' by Robert Frost.
3: Alliteration - 'The Windhover' by Gerard Manley Hopkins.
4: Personification - "Shancoduff' by Patrick Kavanagh.
5: Symbols - 'The Stare's Nest by my Window' by W.B. Yeats.
6. Onomatopoeia - 'A Constable Calls' and 'Sunlight' by Seamus Heaney.
7. Cliché - Sonnet 130 by Shakespeare, and 'Valentine' by Carol Ann Duffy.
8. Simile - Morning Song' by Sylvia Plath.

They have now also put together one handy compilation of the first eight Patterns of Poetry talks, if you want all the lessons at once.

They are available for play from your browser and also available using iTunes which is useful if you want to "archive" a copy for later.

Patterns of Poetry: An Encyclopedia of Forms
Patterns in Poetry: Recognizing and Analyzing Poetic Form and Meter
Poetry Patterns & Themes (for younger readers)

October 11, 2010

Poet Phillip Schultz Reading in NJ

Philip Schultz   photo by Monica Banks
The Warren County Community College Visiting Authors Series continues this Wednesday, October 13th, with a reading by Philip Schultz, recipient of the 2008 Pulitzer Prize for Poetry.

The event is free and open to the public.

It will be held in Room 123 at WCCC and will begin at 7:00 p.m. The WCCC Chapter of Phi Theta Kappa, the international honor society for two-year colleges, will provide complimentary refreshments.

FailureOne of American poetry's longtime masters of the art, Philip Schultz is the founder/director of The Writers Studio, a private school for fiction and poetry writing based in New York City. He is the author of several collections of poetry, including Failure (Harcourt 2007), winner of the 2008 Pulitzer Prize. His other collections include The God of Loneliness: New and Selected Poems (2010), Living in the Past (2004), and The Holy Worm of Praise (2002), all published by Harcourt. He is also the author of Deep Within the Ravine (Viking 1984), recipient of The Academy of American Poets Lamont Prize; Like Wings (Viking 1978), winner of an American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters Award as well as a National Book Award nomination; and the poetry chapbook, My Guardian Angel Stein (1986).

He lives in East Hampton, New York, with his wife, sculptor Monica Banks, and their two sons, Elias and August.

The WCCC Visiting Authors Series is supported by a grant from the Warren County Cultural and Heritage Commission. All facilities comply with ADA regulations and are fully accessible.

After Mr. Schultz’s reading, there will be a brief Q & A with the audience and a book signing. Books will be available for purchase at the event.

For directions to the college or to find out about WCCC’s Creative Writing degree program, please call (908) 835-9222 or visit www.warren.edu.

October 10, 2010


I heard Garrison Keillor read a poem recently on his Writer's Almanac program and knew that I read it myself once. It was from a book I bought back in 1987.

The poem was "Clara: In the Post Office" by Linda Hasselstrom who is a poet and essayist - and also a working ranch woman.

She is a writer of the High Plains whose work is rooted in the landscape. Her land is southwestern South Dakota around Hermosa where she lives. She writes, ranches, conducts writing retreats, and tends a botanic garden on the land homesteaded by her grandfather in 1899.

She was dubbed a “prairie philosopher” by Booklist magazine and is the winner of the Western American Writer award.

Her books include No Place Like Home: Notes from a Western Life , Between Grass and Sky: Where I Live and Work , Bitter Creek Junction,and Feels Like Far: A Rancher's Life on the Great Plains .

The poem surprised me then and it still surprises me.  That's always a compliment for a poem.

In the poem, she redefines the word "feminist."

I keep telling you, I'm not a feminist.
I grew up an only child on a ranch,
so I drove tractors, learned to ride.
When the truck wouldn't start, I went to town
for parts. The man behind the counter
told me I couldn't rebuild a carburetor.
I could: every carburetor on the place. That's
necessity, not feminism.
I think about all the words that might be used to define me - teacher, poet, writer, father, son, husband and others. For most, if not all of them, I would want to redefine the usual definition which doesn't quite fit me.

Hasselstrom doesn't define with a definition, but as we often do in life, she defines by example.

It's not
that I don't like men; I love them - when I can.
But I've stopped counting on them
to change my flats or open my doors.
That's not feminism; that's just good sense.

"Clara: In the Post Office" is from her book Roadkill which appears to be out of print right now. That's too bad. So, I'm happy to give it another chance this month on our October prompt page on the main site.

We ask you this month to write a poem that redefines a word. You might choose one that describes you but doesn't describe you. But you can also just redefine a word that you'd assume we all know by now.

October 7, 2010

Live Webcast From The Dodge Poetry Festival

Can't make it to the Dodge Poetry Festival this week?  There will be two free live webcasts done by NJN.

Thursday, October 7, 2010 7:30 - 10:30 (EST)
Opening Night "Poetry Sampler" featuring: Amiri Baraka, Tara Betts, Jericho Brown, Michael Cirelli, Billy Collins, Kwame Dawes, Matthew Dickman, Rita Dove, Martín Espada, Rigoberto González, Rachel Hadas, Bob Hicok, Tyehimba Jess, Galway Kinnell, Dorianne Laux, Dunya Mikhail, Nancy Morejón, Joseph Millar, Malena Mörling, Aimee Nezhukumatathil, Sharon Olds, Marie Ponsot, Claudia Rankine, Kay Ryan

Sunday, October 10, 2010, Noon - 1 pm (EST)
U.S. Poets Laureates read: Billy Collins, Rita Dove, Kay Ryan, Mark Strand

Geraldine R. Dodge Festival Begins Today

The 4-day Geraldine R. Dodge Poetry Festival begins tonight.

Now in it's 24th year, the biennial festival - the largest poetry event in North America - will be held for the first time in Newark, New Jersey, the state's largest city.

A Poetry Sampler reading on Thursday evening, October 7th, features 24 poets and launches the Festival.

Friday is High School Student Day.

The full Festival schedule is online as a printable pdf document, and a list of festival poets with biographies is also online.

Events will be held in venues accommodating anywhere from 100 to over 2,700 people. The evening programs will be held in NJPAC’s Prudential Hall - a world-class performance space.There are single and multi-day ticket options.

The Festival is accessible via Newark's mass-transit hubs, including an international airport, major bus lines, a light-rail system and PATH service from Manhattan.