When we begin to explore formal poetry, we step into the sticky muck of tradition and rule following. Very briefly, I will give you my thoughts on that: Do what you want; follow the rules or break the rules. It’s your choice. Continue reading
Here are the assignments for poems and revision that we will follow this semester. A guideline or two: let’s start out this semester by producing new work. Please do not send in an old poem–one that you wrote last month, last year, etc. Let’s start out with new poems, poems that grow from the prompts, or poems that you develop because of other events in your life. Next, let’s not rhyme in obvious ways. Why? because rhyming is distracting for the beginning writer. For the most part, let’s try to avoid song lyric type poetry. Why? again, it is a distraction from the skills of writing poetry. Historically, song and poetry have a close relationship, but in the last hundred years that relationship has grown tenuous. Besides, most song lyrics do not stand up as spoken (and read) poetry. Think of it this way, this is a class based on the tradition of the American free verse poem. If you want to write other kinds of poetry, I applaud you, but let’s begin focusing on building skills in writing poetry. We can do that with American free verse. Then later in the semester we will get to rhyme and set forms. Continue reading
On this page, I have added poetry prompts that you can use to for writing exercises in your writing notebook. I have stolen some of these prompts from various books on writing poetry. If you have some favorite prompts, send them to me in an email and I will add them to our list for all students to enjoy. Continue reading
Soon or later, poets and other writers have to confront or avoid a series of decision moments. They have to admit that they are not the first and only poets to have ever lived. With this admission comes the relation that everything they write has a historical precedent, whether they know it or not. Therefore, when a reader or listener meets their work, each reader will bring his or her own knowledge of these precedents. The more that writers know of these precedents the better equipped to make informed decisions about what kind of poet they want to be, and what kind of poetry they want to write. And, therefore, the better equipped they will be to welcome or thwart the expectations of their readers. Continue reading
A student has asked me a very good question: What is enjambment for? I want to first say, that here is an example of why I think distance learning/on-line classes are a bit troubling—in a traditional face to face class, we could just stop for a few minutes, talk about it, and move on. In an on-line class, we kind of have to wait until everyone has found the time—the entire week—to read a post, think about, write something, and consider the responses. Continue reading
The world offers us a great number of ways of getting from A to B, in our lives, so to speak. These are opportunities in the daily run of life. I view it as just sitting down and doing our job of living. Filling out the job application, paying the bill, responding to the email you do or don’t want to respond to, getting the children to the gymnastics class, remembering the flowers for the anniversary. These are the tasks that if we do them and do them with intent and focus and care will build up and take us where we need or what to go. Continue reading
I made some evaluative comments about a few poets in the previous commentary. I wrote:
- [Leonard Doughty] is still very much unknown and perhaps that is just.
- Heine is a great poet by anyone’s standards and continues to find new translators in every generation.
- A. E. Housman is also a wonderful, if perhaps minor, poet.
Looking back, I believe it was with this poem that I first began being a different kind of poet. Shall I name this being “a serious poet”? A “self-aware poet?” I have already said that I began writing poems about 1968, as a sophomore in Temple High School. By the time I wrote this poem, I had graduated from the University of Texas, and then in June 1975, I took off to Texas A&M for graduate school. I had written hundreds of poems in high school and in my senior year at UT; I had written a year’s worth of material in notebooks, and I had pieced together poems for special projects in government and education classes. Now that I think about it, these special projects were in my senior year. Continue reading
This poem is another of my senior year at the university notebook poems. In the house that I shared with Claud and Neal I had the bedroom in back corner with windows on two sides, facing South and West. My single bed was along the South window and the desk faced out the West window toward the back yard and a creek that most often was dry. The three of us were pretty focused on our school work. Claud was a chemistry major and would spend long nights at the university in the lab doing whatever chemistry students do, and then he would appear without warning in the middle of the afternoon, make a couple of sandwiches put on a stack of Joni Mitchell albums on the stereo, move the speakers into his room, close the door, and fall asleep. We would or wouldn’t see him the next day. Continue reading