April 25, 2016

A Contest and Some Inspiration

Narrative magazine's Eighth Annual Poetry Contest opens May 18, and to get you in the mood, every day leading up to the contest they are featuring a superlative poem, by a master or an emerging writer. Here are 30 poems to inspire you.

And here's a look at last year's winners.

April 18, 2016

Keep a Poem in Your Pocket This Week

This Thursday (April 21) is Poem in Your Pocket Day as part of National Poetry Month,sponsored by the Academy of American Poets and supported by the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) and ReadWriteThink.org.

The basic idea is simple - carry a favorite poem in your pocket and share it with others that day.  The Academy offers a printable list of suggestions and some poems for the day at poets.org

Here are a few other ideas.
  • Post pocket-sized verses in public places. Use the aptly named poem, “Keep a Pocket in Your Poem“.
  • Memorize a poem. and speaking poetry
  • Post lines from your favorite poem on your Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, or Tumblr. You might want to turn your original poetry into digital form using something like Animoto.
  • Send a poem to a friend.

April 15, 2016

Self-Published Poets

Okay, every poet I know would be very happy to get poems in Poetry or The New Yorker and have their manuscript published and promoted by a major publisher. But the reality is that the vast majority of poets will not be published by any of those.

For some poets, self-publishing is the best alternative. When I was in college, publishers who focused on writers who wanted to publish their own work were known as "vanity presses." But that has changed in the more recent decades.

Actually, there have always been self-published writers. If you're considering self-publishing, maybe you should consider the club you're joining/ You may know that Walt Whitman self-published Leaves of Grass.

For many writers, self-publishing that first book is the way to get your name and work infront of readers - and publishers.

Carl Sandburg self-published poems and essays with money from his college professor and later he began selling to Poetry magazine.

Here are some others:
  • T.S. Eliot paid for the publication of his first book.
  • Oscar Wilde self-published a book of poetry in 1881.
  • British poet Alexander Pope ("The Rape of the Lock") also paid for the publication of his first book.
  • Edgar Allen Poe self-published some of his writings.
  • Another poet who paid for his first book to be published is English poet Percy Bysshe Shelley.
  • Elizabeth Barrett Browning put up the money for her first book.

I like that E. E. Cummings self-published his volume of poetry titled No Thanks.

His mother gave him the money to have it published.

On the half-title page, he listed the 13 publishers that had rejected the book.

So there!

April 5, 2016

Prompt: In your next letter,

A Lady Writing by Johannes Vermeer, 1665
The Latin “epistula,” for “letter," led to epistolary poems, which are poems that read as letters.

They can be to an internal or external audience, to a named or an unnamed recipient or to the world at large, intimate or not, to abstract concepts or real people. The epistles can use any form or free verse. It's a type of poem with much freedom.

Elizabeth Bishop’s “Letter to N.Y.," uses rhyming quatrains and begins:
In your next letter I wish you’d say
where you are going and what you are doing;
how are the plays, and after the plays
what other pleasures you’re pursuing:

Bishop's poem came back to me when I read "In your next letter," from Cause for Concern (Able Muse Press, 2015) by Carrie Shipers when it was featured recently on The Writer's Almanac.

Shipers poem uses Bishop's opening for its title and then goes on to say:
                                             please describe
the weather in great detail. If possible,
enclose a fist of snow or mud,

everything you know about the soil,
how tomato leaves rub green against
your skin and make you itch, how slow

the corn is growing on the hill.
Thank you for the photographs
of where the chicken coop once stood,

clouds that did not become tornadoes.

This month we'll be writing epistles, which date back to verse letters of the Roman Empire, and was refined and popularized by Horace and Ovid.

You may want to use the conventions of a letter, as Langston Hughes does in his “Letter," which begins:
Dear Mama
Time I pay rent and get my food
and laundry I don’t have much left
but here is five dollars for you.

You can certainly be creative in your use or abuse of letter writing forms and conventions.

Submissions to this prompt are due: Sunday, May 1, 2016

More on Carrie Shipers at www.carrieshipers.com

April 1, 2016

April Is

In "The Waste Land," T.S. Eliot wrote:
April is the cruellest month, breeding
Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing
Memory and desire, stirring
Dull roots with spring rain.
But I think you should think of April as National Humor Month as well as being National Poetry Month.

Why not save get your dull roots out of the spring pain and rain and save time by combining both of those celebrations by reading (or listening) to some humorous poetry. You might want to start with some  Billy Collins.