Tag Archives: work

Workin’ For It — a Poem in Response

Yes, twice in a day, for those receiving this in their inboxes. Must be the drawing near of summer vacation, although do I get a vacation? If I don’t have a ‘job,’ do I get to vacate?

Bartender Stuart McPherson serves up a rather controversial topic, one entirely suitable for discussing while leaning on a bar with a good ale close by, preferably in my hands.

If you haven’t been by the local yet, stop in. Stuart gives us many appetisers to enjoy with our drink[s]. My poem, while short and quick, concerns a subject that niggles, often.

On Meeting the People at My Husband’s Workplace

What do you do?
I hear you are retired from teaching.
Do you work?

Do I work?
I stay home all day,
I clean the house (more or less),
I prepare supper —  time + effort = enjoyment + a meal —
I write. Mostly, I write. That’s it:

I write.

Oh. What do you write?


Oh. So you don’t work?

Work: mental or physical effort
done in order to achieve a purpose or result

This is an interactive poem. Audience: do we work?


Thank you Stuart. I shall mingle for a while. Can I have more crisps?


Posted by on 02/06/2012 in exercises, poetry, writing


Tags: , , , ,

Thrsday Thoughts Part 2: More Questions Than Answers

9:28 am, Thursday, 20 January, 2011 – Atlanta

I have my coffee by me and have reread what I wrote last week, to make sure I follow roughly the same track. For those who have not read it, or who are a little fuzzy about what I said, you can go here. The curious serendipity that is life occurred again, as over the past week I came across an interview, a poem, and a couple of posts on the same question: Do I submit my poetry, or not? Part 2 is going back to that question, because I ended the week with more questions than answers. If I haven’t spent too long with the topic, I will go on to talk about resources, but that may become a part 3.

The topic has been a hot topic for a while. A few months ago Robert Lee Brewer, of Writer’s Digest, and a number of other members of the poetry community discussed the topic on twitter [#poettalk] with no real conclusion reached, but a lot of questions raised and a lot of confused writers, who, like me, want to know what the rules are now. And, therein lies the problem. In the pre-internet days, writers either wrote for themselves, or they wrote for themselves and for their work to be published, so that the truths their poetry told could reach others.

The internet has been a great leveler, which, in itself, raises questions and problems.  Anyone who writes, bad or good, can put their poems out there. I have, as I read through many, many blogs over the past four months come across some bad writing, but I have also come across poetry  that I find stunning, that moves me, that speaks a truth to me, and that I may not have ever seen if not for blogs.  So, posting in blogs, allows more opportunity for people to post their writing, no matter the quality and that’s wonderful for them, and allows more readers to read good poetry they might otherwise never have discovered.

Then why not have us all post, get our truths out there and be happy? That might be a place we reach some day, but it’s not where we are yet. I know that I submit because I want affirmation from the people who should know good poetry [publishers and editors], and their audiences, who become my audiences, if I am published. I want to work to a standard that requires me to hone and craft and continually [continuously?] work and rework my poems. That becomes another question. With posting, and even with all the ezines that have sprung up, because anyone can start an ezine if they wish, who sets the standards? Do we need standards set? Who says what a good poem is and what a bad, or weak, poem is? Do we need that?

For those who wish to post and submit, there is the dicey question of which poems to post. Of every poem I write, especially in response to the many wonderful prompts around, I ask myself whether it might be a poem I want to submit. I don’t like that I have to struggle with that question, but I am posting more. Magazines and journals seem more and more crystallized on the point that if a poem has been on a blog and been read, it, in effect, has had its first publication. And, I do see the editors’ and publishers’ point: when they publish a poem, they want to be the first to let readers see it. However, I also think that more and more writers will self-publish, and that the stigma that used to attach to that is lessening in some quarters.

There’s another question. Is having self-publishing made easy by the internet a good thing? I have two chapbooks that say yes. I would not have read them if they weren’t published at all. With the sheer volume of poetry being submitted now, there are many more poets, who might have been published in the days of snail mail, who find it much harder now to get their work out to an audience.

James, at a gnarled oak, says, in a comment on last Thursday’s post: This is something I go round and round with. I’ve also been in several categories. Lately, I’ve been developing a philosophy of submitting. Anymore, I am unlikely to submit to a journal/zine/site that does not a) take electronic submissions, b) publish online or at least have some kind of useful web presence, c) take simultaneous submissions, and d) allow submissions that have previously been posted on a personal site. I generally prefer to publish on my site. I enjoy the immediacy of it (even if the poem has been in revision for months or years) and I like the fact that people read my stuff and I (sometimes) get feedback. Occasionally, I’ve had to ask myself if my best stuff should appear first on my site where my readers can enjoy it or is it best to go elsewhere. Perhaps a balance is best and that’s why I do submit, but I focus submissions toward venues whose submission policies align with my idea of how submissions should be done.

You see, I knew once I got going this would be long and it has raised more questions than given answers. I am going to go give my poor brain more coffee. Let me finish with a point made by the writer over at The Rag Tree. I am going to give you his last point, but go on over and visit, because he has six other points worth reading. 7) A writer has only two obligations: to write as well as he or she can and to tell the truth. If you believe this, then you are writing for your community, whether it be the one that surrounds you, sympathetic souls on the other side of the world, or people who won’t be born for a thousand years. You may be published or not (or only in a minor way), but what counts are your words (not you) and the healing they bring. Many good people have died as a result of telling the truth as they see it.

I look forward to comments on this entry and will continue next Thursday with wrapping up if it looks like something needs wrapping and then, resources. Yes, I did mention a poem on the topic. Next week I will give you the link.

Tomorrow is Friday’s weekly roundup. See you there.

Leave a comment

Posted by on 20/01/2011 in poetry, writing


Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Monday Mayhem Mini: Found Poetry

St. Augustine writing, revising, and re-writin...

Image via Wikipedia: Botticelli's St. Augustine writing, revising, rewriting

1:23 pm, Monday, 15 November, 2010 – Atlanta

The mayhem is because it is Monday: laundry and get the house ready for the week day. Therefore the post will be mini, or that’s the plan. I already made the decision to put off talking about my maple until tomorrow, while being aware I have not kept track of it as closely as I had planned. I do look at it every day, but that doesn’t do much for my collecting images of my tree for a future poem, if I am not writing about it. Because I worried I would forget exactly how I am seeing the changes, I started, yesterday, jotting notes on a piece of vermilion cube paper. I’m taking notes for my notes.

If you have been following me, you know you had homework: During the weekend, when you read the newspaper [or computer], or read someone’s blog, or as you are reading a magazine, keep your eye out for a story that is a little quirky, a little off the wall, a touch bizarre. Should you not read anything odd you can find stories on the net easily enough. Ideally, you want something between 70 and 90 words. Remember to make note of the source.

1. Affix the clipping to a page in your notebook so that you will have a record of your starting point for this exercise. Remember to include bibliographical information [author, title of article, title of article’s source, date].

2. COPY THE PASSAGE WORD FOR WORD FROM THE ARTICLE BY HAND INTO YOUR NOTEBOOK [now you know why the word limit]. This may seem like an odd instruction, but is based on what is known about how the brain works. When you write by hand your brain absorbs what you are writing, with the physical movements of the hand. It doesn’t work in the same way when we word process. Your brain is already making connections as you write.

3. Reread what you copied. The more times we read something, the more we see, the more connections are made.

4. In the belief that any piece of writing is always a step toward a better piece of writing, reread the passage one more time… but… as you do, put a stroke ( / ) wherever you think or hear or feel that, were this passage a poem, a poetic line should end.


A poetic line does NOT equal a sentence. Keep in mind that when a reader sees a full stop, they stop. If you want them to move through without stopping you won’t put a full stop at the end of a line until you want them to stop.

Key positions: Last words in lines …first words in lines.

Trust your eye and ear.

Don’t do anything else to the passage except stroke it–although if you see or hear any words/phrases that jar your eyes or ears, you may lightly cross them out. The reason I say lightly, and this goes for any time you go through and revise, is that you may later decide you want a word or phrase back in. If you have scratched something out so it is unrecognizable, your brain will not hold onto it, and it is gone as a possibility.

Trust your senses–all six–to guide you. They will determine what’s right and wrong.

5. Guided by your strokes and lines, recopy the poem so that it looks, as well as sounds, like a poem. As you move along, feel free to make any other changes. And since you are now the master of this passage, if you care to change the line endings from the way you first stroked them, do so.

This is basic found poetry. Tomorrow we will talk about raising the bar and moving it forward, so it becomes your poem, rather than the original author’s piece. Do not lose the source. We will talk about attribution when we talk about revision.



Posted by on 15/11/2010 in poetry, writing


Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

Thursday Thoughts: Wrapping it Up

11:00 am, Thursday, 11 November, 2010 – Atlanta

I have spent the last couple of hours lost in pages of ghazals, a form I have long wanted to attempt and long kept at bay. I did the same with pantoums. My brain told me they were too scary. When I finally wrote my first pantoum it became, and remains, my favourite form. I have tried several forms in the last few years, but the ghazal blocks my mind. Not sure why, but I think I am growing closer to attempting one. If you write free verse, while there are many structural aspects you may not be aware of considering, it seems easier than something with a clear structure and set of rules. In fact, rules can make poetry easier to write and if you like puzzles, working out a structure is fun. Along with carrying pen and paper and  reading poetry, remember that rules are there to be broken, once you have followed them. Your poem will often dictate a path that breaks whatever structure you are following. Go with the poem.

To wrap up the last two days: I first gave you a list of 15 words, told you to pick 7 and use them in a poem. Some of you liked the seven words I picked from another list and wrote poems with those words. Not a problem. While the whole exercise won’t tie together as neatly, the main point is if you have poems, you’re golden. The next part asked you to describe a particular painting, Brueghel’s Landscape with the Fall of Icarus. Then, taking words, phrases, and images you liked, writing a poem. When I did this exercise, the painting I worked from was Vermeer’s Young Woman with a Water Pitcher. I said yesterday I would show you the poem I wrote in response, but I don’t want to distract from the exercise at hand, so I will push that to tomorrow.

The connection between the 15 words I gave you and the painting is that I picked the words from the poem, “Landscape with the Fall of Icarus,” by William Carlos Williams:

According to Brueghel
when Icarus fell
it was spring

a farmer was ploughing
his field
the whole pageantry

of the year was
awake tingling

the edge of the sea
with itself

sweating in the sun
that melted
the wings’ wax

off the coast
there was

a splash quite unnoticed
it was
Icarus drowning.

He wrote the poem after the painting by Brueghel, an ekphrastic poem. If you successfully created a poem from the painting, then you have written an ekphrastic poem. Your poem may have stayed on the painting’s focus, or the painting as a form, or gone off a path you found in a detail of the painting. there is no wrong way. The 15 words I pulled from Williams’ poem allowed you to find a poem from a set of words with no context to distract your mind. Writing on the painting and then looking at Williams’ poem allows you to find your own poem in the painting, but also see what another poet has written.

This can be a fun exercise to do with a group, as it gives everyone a chance to read each other’s work. When I did this, we did both the poem from selected words, and the poem from the painting in the space of two hours. I still find it amazing the power of setting a time limit to what you produce. The brain jumps when that happens.

Leave a comment

Posted by on 11/11/2010 in poetry, writing


Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Wednesday Writing: Finding poetry, part 2

3:47 pm, Wednesday, 10 November, 2010 – Atlanta

Not a good day. First I start the blog about an hour and a half ago and, when trying to save an image to use, managed to close the whole browser, thereby losing what I had written so far. One can never recreate the exact piece again, ever. Sidenote: this is why you should always write down anything that comes to your mind re poetry. Trust me here. Second, but first chronologically, I got lost in the computer again. I do remember I started the blog: OMG! because for the second time this week I became so engrossed with what I was doing and discovering that when I came up for air, it was 2:30 and I hadn’t eaten since early breakfast. Monday it was writing and research; today I took a huge step and entered the world of twitter. At least, I am standing on the edge. It took me several hours of reading and navigating around to feel I might, might, have a grasp…a sort of hanging by my fingernails grasp. We’ll see what happens.

Of course, I also became sidetracked and discovered a couple more places to add to my sidebar: Magpie Tales which uses images to inspire poetry; Poetry Daily, which is an easy read new poems every day, because aside from always carrying paper and pen, reading poetry is the other must; Three Word Wednesday, which gives prompts a slight twist by giving three words to be used in a poem;and one I am very excited about because of all the possibilities: Poets United, a site designed for poets to have a community.

Now, part 2 of yesterday’s exercise which called for you to choose seven words from a list of 15, and create a poem.

landscape with the fall of Icarus

I think I have the painting linked but if I don’t you can find it here. I want you to look at the painting and then look closer. Look away and write down everything you can remember. Try to write specifically: nouns and sensory images. Even in a painting you can smell, feel, hear, sometimes taste… as well as see. Look at the painting and add anything you have missed. When you have written down every possible thing you can about the painting, look at what you have jotted down and circle, or underline, images, phrases, words that seem, to you, to be connected. Pull them out and rewrite them. Then order them in a way that sounds like, is ordered like and makes sense as a poem.

Rather than give you mine and have your brain fettered by what I see, I’ll give you one I wrote in response to another painting, but I will do that tomorrow. You have enough to digest with this post. I will also share with you the source of the 15 words.


Posted by on 10/11/2010 in poetry, writing


Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Tuesday Takeaway


3:00 pm, Tuesday, 2 November, 2010 – Atlanta

At the moment my writing poetry, and blogging and facebooking, and research all require my computer, so I read, write, drink my coffee, and think, while sitting in my large brown leather office chair, at my computer in the corner of the living room where I have set up my work nook.

A number of things to check today. While at the computer, I have become adept at checking my facebook app, Market Street, and my email, and Googling a question I have regarding a topic for writing, and looking at poems for submissions and discovering new sites. All at the same time. I am waiting for my brain to explode or implode, but it seems to thrive.

Yesterday, I started two different poetry challenges.  Robert Lee Brewer, of Poetic Asides, has a create a poem a day challenge for the month of November. You can find the guidelines here.  Then, on a new site [new to me as I go careening through blogs trying to swallow/envelop all that I have been missing], belonging to Diane Lockwood of  Blogaliscious [how can one resist?!], I found a link to Molly Fisk [it’s rather like the maze at Knossos, following the string so as not to get lost, and no minotaur at the end], who is also offering a poem a day challenge during November. The prompts are given by poet Lisa Cihlar and you can write to Molly at if you wish to join in.

She wrote me a lovely letter, in which she says, “If you write 30 poems in 30 days, you’ll feel like an Olympic athlete. If you write 2 poems in 30 days, you’ll be glad you got two new poems. Even if you don’t write a thing because your life takes a left turn and you just occasionally read other peoples’ poems, it will help your own writing down the line to be with us and part of the family of poets. Please don’t be mean to yourself about productiveness, that is not what I’m about and I encourage you to let go of it too. Write if you can and keep breathing. Have fun!” Again, hard to resist.

I receive a poetry newsletter from Diane Lockwood and I liked her prompt to follow the structure of Anthony Hecht’s poem “Despair”. So, that’s in my notebook, along with a prompt from Confident Writing, to write about blogging…along with several submission requests from the group I follow…but that’s for another blog. This is a lot for you to read and digest and check out.


Posted by on 02/11/2010 in poetry, writing


Tags: , , , , , , , ,

  • creative commons license