Saturday, June 10, 2006

What I learned on Friday

I spent a couple of very worthwhile hours with a poetry editor for a literary mag on Friday giving me an intense “poetry 101” experience. Here are the main points I took away:

• Identify prosaic bits of verse and work on them.
• Aim for fewer words. Check each word and phrase to make sure it is making an essential contribution.
• Preachy and pedantic is not poetry.
• Greatly curtail the use of ‘the’ and ‘of’
• Use active voice.
• Use particularity. Show, don’t tell.
• Put line breaks only where meaningful. Follow the natural rhythm of language: iambic pentameter, unless you deliberately don’t use it for effect.
• Starting lines with a capital letter is a generally disused convention.
• Poetry editors receive a huge number of submissions and among them quite a lot of poems about writing a poem.

I have decided to, even more than before, regard the poems already posted on this blog as works in progress and continue to rework them. I have done this to a few already. It also means that I will probably not be posting 3 times a week as I was before. Maybe once or twice.


Cath said...

Sounds an exciting day! Ron Pretty's 'Creating Poetry' is a great read on these ideas too!

ish said...

Thanks Cath,
I'll look out for that one.
I have been working through the Teach Yourself series title, Writing Poetry (Matthew Sweeney) and it has been helpful. Marion spent some time last evening on the net seaching out, culling and ordering a couple of other such titles for me. They sound sensational and will post titles when they arrive if they prove to be as good as the promise. Among all the other help its a good inspirational/motivational touch stone to have such books about.
The time with the editor was "awesome" and currently his advice is most applied to the Identity poem. I plan to rework all the others also.

CraigS said...

Thanks for listing these comments Steve. I've also taken a recent interest in iambic meter - it is relevant for prose writing as well.

ish said...

Working on some prose, Craig? Marion pointed out from her search for resources that one author typically does 40 drafts. Thats a committed look at the material!

CraigS said...

Oh yeah, I always have a few little projects in various stages of completion.

If a sentence doesn't scan right these days, I'll look at where the accents are falling - sure enough, if you can make it iambic, it will read better...

ish said...

Please give a signal, Craig, when you're ready to publish some of the current writing. It will be something I look forward to.
It is lamentable that so little artful writing (or other art)emerges from among evangelical Christians. The possible reasons for that are worthy of some thought. Luther apparently said that he would plant a tree today if he knew Christ was coming back tomorrow. That seems relevant.