Monday, June 25, 2012

Why You Should Write Even When You Don't Feel Like It

Every writer experiences writer's block at some point.  What should they do about it?  There are different ways to handle the lack of inspiration, but sticking it out (i.e., writing whether you feel inspired or not) may be better in the long run. 

Writer's Block

So, you have no inspiration to write?

Then don't, some might say.  You may simply be "empty," or need to recharge yourself.  Better to take a walk, exercise, spend time with others, or whatever it takes to address resistance, fill up emptiness, or whatever it is that impedes the writing.  

“You can't wait for inspiration. You have to go after it with a  club"

According to this quote by Jack London, it's better to write anything, anything at all -- whether it's inspired or not.  Here's why:

  • "Recharging"  While it's always good to re-energize yourself, if used to delay writing, it may simply end up being another form of avoidance.   Let’s face it, sitting down to a blank  page can be scary.  It’s tempting to wait until inspiration strikes.  Moreover, almost every writer has experienced moments of unsolicited inspiration--that feeling of knowing, of wanting to write, and one that some assume is the mark of a "real" writer (which, judging by the accounts of many renowned writers, is a myth).  
    Read, write, rewrite
  • "Inspirational" epiphanies are rare.  Each writing experience, whether it grows into a new poem, story, or novel, adds to a writer’s skill.  So less writing means there is less opportunity to mature as a writer – not to mention the relative paucity of output when it’s based on only “inspired” moments. 
  • Writing regularly begets writing.  Robert Bly's "Morning Poems" came about this way.  Each was written before the poet got out of bed every morning.  He reportedly followed an image or memory that arose and then followed wherever it led.  Writing at the same time every day is seen as an invitation to the muse to show up at that same time. 
  • Writing aimlessly is like going on a treasure hunt.   Oftentimes a writer may strike a vein that leads to something new and fresh -- that is, inspiration may come from writing itself.  Similar to the phenomenon coined by Keats, "writing into the unknown"  involves a sort of "discovery" of the writer (who did not set out to write about anything in particular).  And the writer's journey ends up being a discovery for the reader as well.  Many poems that start this way are powerful and deeply felt.  

 Don't forget the value of writing prompts

Spark Your Creativity

nother way to elicit the Muse is to experiment with writing exercises, examples of which abound 
  • Find the prompts that speak to you personally.  One you get the ball rolling, you may want to follow your own and ditch the exercise.  That's fine, since the goal is to write, and to write in a way that is unique to you. 

So what are you waiting for?  Go to your room, coffee shop, park, or wherever, and write! 

| More

Monday, January 30, 2012

"I Come Complete": Elizabeth Harrington's The Quick and the Dead

"The Quick and the Dead"
by Elizabeth Harrington

The Quick and the Dead
by Elizabeth Harrington
Grayson Books, 2010; 30 pages, $10.00
ISBN: 978-0-9785382-6-2, paper
Reviewed by Brant Lyon

When faced with life's most difficult challenges and dealing with personal tragedy, perhaps what most sets a poet apart from someone else is the ability to put into words in the most artful way the brutal, the delicate, ineffable, obvious, esoteric, or universal in human experience. Or, as that homespun and inelegant saying about life's lemons puts it: to make lemonade.  Read review

Friday, January 6, 2012

Poetry Book Review: "You are White Inside"

“A masterful accommodation”:  B.R Lyon’s You are White Inside
Three Rooms Press, 2011; 70 pages, 15.00 ISBN 978-0-9835813-2-1
by Elizabeth Harrington

B.R. Lyons’ poems travel far, covering a taboo relationship with an Egyptian partner, a clash of cultures, a brother who dies, a mother who represents “unfinished business,” and the “ticking bomb” of HIV terrorism.  
In addition to portraying the mortals in his life, Lyon invokes spiritual and ancient history, through Agrippa, Medusa, Buddha, and Jesus (who “could be that guy with his milk crate on the subway”). This book is raw with honesty, served up with lively, lyrical, intelligent language, (including “local color” snippets in Arabic), compelling metaphor and imagery, and humor and wit. 
Through the alchemy of poetry, the result is the conversion of life in all its sordid glory, into art.

Read more...January 2012 issue of Gently Read Literature, pages 11-12.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Poetry -- and All That Jazz

Jazz in the 1920's
Jazz Poetry Defined

The term "jazz poetry" can refer to writing about jazz, to mimicking the rhythms in verse, to a version of performance art, or in Kenneth Rexroth's words, “the reciting of suitable poetry with the music of a jazz band.”   At its best, jazz poetry integrates the words of a poem with jazz, as if the voice were another musical instrument.  It’s the opposite of jazz as background music.  

The blues and negro folksong make up a part of jazz, but modern jazz goes beyond those forms in terms of language and scope of experience.   According to Rexroth, “poetry gives jazz a richer verbal content  material of the greatest flexibility.”

A Brief History

In the 20’s, the blues and jazz introduced a whole new era of poetry.  It all started when poets such as Langston Hughes, Kenneth Rexroth, and Maxwell Bodenheim recited poetry to jazz.  From there, jazz poetry grew and developed, through the Harlem Renaissance, the Beat movement, and the Black Arts Movement.  These days, poets in the "jazz tradition" include the likes of Amiri Braka, Hayden Carruth, Yusef Komunyaaka, Mina Loy, Kenneth Roxroth, and others.

Poetry as Entertainment
Jazz Poetry’s Impact   
Along with other types of performance poetry, jazz poetry has re-infused poetry with entertainment value, similar to poetry’s roots as an oral tradition.  As such, it exposes many more people to poetry—some whose only experience with poetry has been in school, and not necessarily an inspiring experience, at that.    

Poetry Reading

Writing Exercise:  Try Your Hand at Jazz Poetry

Jazz poetry doesn’t mean taking a poem you’ve written and hoping jazz artists will meld the music to your work.  Many do it this way, and may have serendipitous results.  But a little planning can give you a head start.  See the steps in How to create your own jazz song poem, and see where your own music, rhythm, and imagination take you!  The last step, of course, should be to perform it on stage—the “home” of all performance poetry.

As for performance poetry in general, some feel the revitalization of poetry as entertainment is more likely to engage larger audiences, so it must be better.  But, as discussed in "What kind of poet are you -- stage or page?," both uniquely enrich the art of poetry.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

What Kind of Poet are You -- Page or Stage?

Page, or Stage – What’s the Difference?

Published Poets
Page poets generally come from the academic side, who, according to a blog by Nic Sabastian, "tend to be better writers, in that they tend to be better read and more aware of the tradition they’re working in." (The Best American Poetry).  Their goal is to be published in journals, magazines, anthologies,  and other print media.  Not all who write for the page are good at reciting or performing their poetry.  In fact, some are awful at it!

Performance poets, on the other hand, write or compose poetry for the purpose of performing in front of a live audience -- at poetry readings, open mikes, slams and other types of venues.   But performance poets are challenged, too.  Their work is compromised when rhythm and repetition predominate over substance, or in jazz poetry, for example, when the music fights with the poem instead of being an integral part of it.
Slam Poetry
But Some Poets Can Do Both.

As noted in Sabastian's blog, there are some poets who forcefully deliver their poems whether written for performance or not.  He cites a poem by Carolyn Forche that is recited, and another one that he describes as a “wonderful reading, in which she is straight reading and doesn’t even look up from the page.”   He uses Patti Smith’s work (recitation, reading) to make a similar comparison.

Truth is, Both Types of Poet Can Learn From Each Other.   

Those who write for publication would do well to read their poetry aloud, if only to themselves.  Hearing it aloud can uncover awkward phrasing, slack lines, or other elements that are a drag on the poem.  Page poets should not be intimidated by performance poets.  Even a quieter intimate poem can be compelling.  Poems that lose something by being read loudly or boisterously still work if read with the help of a microphone.

Poetry Reading

Similarly, performance poets can enrich their poems by paying attention to the richness of the language in addition to repetition, rhythm, and various word plays.  If a poem goes thud! on the page, it won't have the same integrity as a poem that does.  And a poem that's more about sound than sense wears thin pretty quickly.

All of this is encouraging, since it may challenge poets in new ways creatively, as well as provide them with another way to hone their craft.  Anyway, that's how I see it.  I'd love to hear what you have to say about it!

Friday, July 29, 2011

Afraid to Send Out Your Poems? Tips on How to Start Publishing

If you feel overwhelmed by the thought of putting your work out there, you're not alone.  But it's easier than you think.  And wouldn't you love to see your work in print?

See how to prepare your work, how and where to submit it,
strategies for increasing your chances of being
accepted, and other important tips that will help
your work get the recognition it deserves!  
How to Start Publishing Your Poetry

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Suffering From Writer's Block? You Don't Have To!

Hotblack Poetry and Writer's Block
Knowledge is power, and that includes knowing how to overcome fear of the blank page. The important thing is to learn what makes something frightening and how to whittle away at that fear.

In poetry, not feeling "qualified" as a poet, being too critical of first attempts, feeling "stuck," and other negative feelings are among the barriers experienced by poets.

The article below cites seven common sources of fear and how to overcome them, or at least learn to minimize their power.  Read this article to find out how:

The Secret to Overcoming Writer's Block


| More