Poetry Review — Post Meridian, by Mary Ruefle

I picked up this book of poetry, because I read and loved A Little White Shadow, in which she took an old Victorian manuscript and whited out text to create what she calls erasure (or whiteout) poetry. It was a fascinating way to approach found poetry, which has inspired me to play with the form in my own writing.

Post Meridian is a collection of her original poetry. It is sometimes heavy as tree branches bowed under the weight of snow, though it is also often playful. Mocking in a kindly way. Poking fun at the ghosts and shadows and day to day terrors that we often take far too seriously.

I enjoyed this book of poetry, though at times there was a disjointed quality, one line encapsulating a thought process that collapses upon another. Sometimes this made it difficult to take the whole poem in as a whole. Though each line in and of itself would be captivating, the entirety of the work assembled could occasionally be somewhat baffling.

Not that poetry has to have clear meaning — being multilayered as a puzzle box is part of the enjoyment of reading poetry, though I admit that my own enjoyment comes from discovering how each piece fits into the next. The resulting imagery and meaning as perceived by me allows me to (perhaps delusionally) believe that I have tapped into the secret key of the poem and discovered a truth denied to others. Egotistical? Maybe. But I doubt I’m alone in this experience.

The poetry in Post Meridian, however, often denied me this. The pieces did not always neatly fit, and I sometimes felt as though I were standing on the edge of the poem rather than being let in to its secret chambers — a confounding experience, but not necessarily negative. Perhaps these poems open more wholly to others; perhaps I need merely return to them at another time when I can look at them from an altered perspective. Either way, this is an enjoyable collection of poems that I would definitely recommend.

[Cross-posted to my livejournal. If you feel inclined, you can comment either here or there.]

Book Review – Talking Back to Poems: A Working Guide for the Aspiring Poet, by Daniel Alderson

Reading poetry is a vital part of writing poetry. Alderson takes it a step further, however, by suggesting that poets not only read poetry, but respond to it, to talk back to poetry with poems of their own. Part I presents four short sections that briefly introduce the aspects of Sound, Image, Form, and Meaning in poetry, while Part II follows with a collection of poems, each followed with instructions to copy the poem by hand, note down what you notice about the poem, and then a prompt for writing your own poem in response to it.

There is a long history of poets writing in response to poets, and I’ve even written a few poetic responses myself. However I was not very impressed with the prompts in this book as Alderson presents them. His idea of talking back to poems is far too much like mimicry to me. In the examples of his students’ writing that he includes in the book, the students (using their own themes and ideas) echo almost exactly the form and flow of the poem being responded to. This is far too restrictive for me, especially when it comes to mimicking strict forms, such as sonnets that have tight rhyme schemes. This restriction of form often has the tendency of causing me to freeze up when I’m writing rather than opening up and becoming loose as one would hope.

My experience with writing in response to poetry involves not mimicry, but a playful dialogue. The few poetic responses I’ve written have little relation to the original poem (one example is here), but is rather reacts to the subject matter of the poem in kind of debate. Of course, this is not the only way to go about this, and Alderman’s way of talking back to poetry is equally valid. Just as there are many poets who comfortably play in rhyme and strict forms, which I do not.

The practice of handwriting out a poets previous work also did not appeal to me. Though I understand his reasoning for having a writer first copy the poem by hand (in order to get a feel for the rhythms and voice of the poem), I did not feel that it helped me gain any greater sense of the poem. Rather, I found that reading the poem out loud was a much better way to get a feel for the rhythm and sound, as well as a sense of the residual meaning.

I’m sure that there are many poets out there who would find this book very valuable and inspiring, however I am not one of them. Of the 20 or 30 poetry prompts in the book, I found myself interested in responding to only a handful of them. And when I did respond, I often found myself jumping outside of the prompts and guidelines, coloring outside the lines as it were, and responding to the poems as I damn well felt like it — which is really how it should be anyway.

[Cross-posted to my livejournal. If you feel inclined, you can comment either here or there.]

Day by Day

I haven’t posted any weekly goals for a while, and for the time being I’m taking a break from it. The practice of posting my goals for the week and reporting on them doesn’t seem to be serving my any more, as I tend to post the goals and still not complete them, which is not very beneficial.

Instead, I’m just going to keep doing what I’m doing. I’m working my way through this 30 day letter writing (and for me poetry) challenge and right now that’s my main goal — to get that done, so I can seriously look at it as a potential collection. It’s an enjoyable process of coming up with these (even though it’s taking me far longer than 30 days), and I’m enjoying what I’m learning about myself and my writing as I continue it.

In other areas, I still have quite a few things that I want to accomplish, but for them I’m going to day-by-day it. If I make progress, great, if I don’t, it’s probably because I’ve been doing something else enjoyable, so that’s great, too.

I’m sure at some point I’ll want to lasso myself back into seriously attacking all these personal projects with more concrete goals (probably in the new year), and at that point I may go back to weekly updates or maybe some other form of goal creation that suites me.

But for now, I’m going to allow myself the mental break of saying, “It is what it is,” and just enjoy what each day gives me.

[Cross-posted to my livejournal. If you feel inclined, you can comment either here of there.]

One Word…

I saw this on [info]ying_ko_4‘s blog, and thought I’d do it, too.

One Word for 2010? I’m going to go with growth, or perhaps development.

I suppose I say this mostly in relation to the second half of the year. My memory seems to be confined to shorter terms (i.e. within the past few months) or to specific events which are vivid, but loose all but a vague sense of when it actually happened. I’m really having a hard time remembering at the moment what “important events” happened from January to June.

However, I do feel that I’ve grown this year. I’ve made several leaps and bounds in my personal life that I’m rather proud of — paid off my car loan, earned enough money to start lowering my debt, moved into my first apartment. I also traveled to Germany on my own and enjoyed being lonely in a foreign country. And (shhhh) the big shocker, I’ve met a guy that I would actually consider dating (don’t know yet what’s going to happen with this one, maybe nothing, but it’s fun to imagine).

In my creative life, my progress has been a little slower. Novel and fiction writing has not gone so well, but I’ve kind of decided that that’s okay. There’s been a lot of other things going on. I’ve been a busy, busy girl, so I’m going to let it go. I could have also submitted more work this year, and that one, too, I’m going easy on myself with.

Jumping back into art, sketching and drawing, has been fun and beneficial for me. I don’t do it daily like I should (but then, I don’t do anything except getting dress and brushing my teeth daily like I should), but I can already feel how it’s slightly easier than before to create pictures that please me. I have tons more learning to do in order to get where I want to get with this, but for the moment it’s a fun pastime.

Where I’m really pleased creatively is in my poetry, however, and I really feel like it’s going well. I’ve written a lot of poetry this year — some of it’s bad, some of its okay, and some of it I’m proud to have written. Discovering blackout poetry was a great boon for me. It combined art with words into a meditative process that helped focus me into a writerly frame of mine and helped to inspire me with my original poetry.

The 30 Day Letter challenge, even though I’m not nearly done with it after several months, has also been a great thing. For a while I’ve thought my poetry too disjointed in subject matter and style to be able to pool it together into a collection. Silly writer, indeed. But this challenge has helped me through that by not only keeping me writing, but also with the knowledge that when I finish all 30 prompts I’ll have enough poems to attempt to publish as a chapbook. How awesome in that.

I hope my one word for 2011 will be thrive. Like a vine that’s continually growing and climbing up the wall, I want to thrive in heath and joy — to live each day fully. I want to continue to be abundant in money and love, and heck yeah, abundant in sex, too. Why not.

I want my words to flow like Niagara falls. I want the patience to sit and plan a novel and work through a draft from beginning to end. I want the courage to submit my work for publishing. I want to be paid for my words.

So many wants, and all within the realm of possibility.

Thriving doesn’t mean that the days will be without challenges, of course. There will always be challenges and long days in which I wish I had just stayed in bed. It just means that I take it all in and live it. That I weather the storms and if all goes well come out a little beat up, but also a little stronger after wards. Oh, yes, I want to thrive.

[Cross-posted to my livejournal. If you feel inclined, you may comment either here or there.]

Books Read in November

Books Read:
1. The Walking Dead: The Heart’s Desire, by Robert Kirkman
2. The Walking Dead: The Best Defense, by Robert Kirkman
3. The Walking Dead: This Sorrowful Life, by Robert Kirkman
4. The Eyre Affair, by Jasper Fforde
5. Fables: War and Pieces, by Bill Willingham
6. Fables: The Dark Ages, by Bill Willingham
7. Scott Pilgrim’s Precious Little Life, by Brian Lee O’Malley
8. Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, by Brian Lee O’Malley
9. Scott Pilgrim and the Infinite Sadness, by Brian Lee O’Malley
10. The Surrender Tree: Poems of Cuba’s Struggle for Freedom, by Margarita Engle
11. Girl, Interrupted, by Susanna Kaysen
12. The Neverending Story, by Michael Ende
13. Under the Volcano (audio book), by Malcolm Lowry

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