Learning About Poetry in an Anti-Poetry World

Even way back when I was in school, they didn’t teach poetry very well. I don’t remember learning much about poetry at all. I know my 6th grade English book had a short poem at the beginning of each chapter, which the teacher ignored. Some were by e. e. cummings, which was a major influence on the absolute lack of capital letters in my early poetry.

I know we had an assignment to write haiku in 6th grade, but I do not remember us ever being asked to READ any haiku in translation. It was more a syllable-counting exercise. I doubt any of us wrote anything that a real haiku poet would recognize as haiku. 

In high school, I had a teacher who gave us mimeographed pages with the words to Beatles songs in lieu of poetry. At the time I didn’t care much for Beatles songs— the Beatles were so OVER. I liked the Carpenters, Frankie Yankovic, and the Monkees instead. 

I also liked real poetry. My mom had a book called ‘The Best Loved Poems of the American People’ and I did read in it— at least the short poems, and the funny ones. 

Used to be some people thought that all poetry had to have rhyme and meter. Later, some people turned up their noses at poetry like that, calling it ‘greeting card verse.’ It IS hard to write rhymed-and-metered poetry without sounding trite, but some people can do it. Louis L’Amour, the famed Western writer, published a volume of poetry with many sonnets as his first book. I could no more write a sonnet than I could flap my arms and fly to Chicago.

Reading poetry, ideally from an early age, is the key to writing poetry. Think of it this way— poetry is another language, like German or Volapük. You learn a new language better if you start it before age 12— and if you don’t learn ANY language before age 12, as in the case of feral children, you likely will never learn to be a language user.

If you are older and haven’t much experience with poetry, you may never become a full ‘native speaker’ of the language of poetry. You may end up speaking the poetry language with a prose accent. But even if you are age 99, reading widely in poetry is a good step, for cultural literacy reasons even if you don’t plan on expressing yourself in poetic ways. 

What is YOUR history in reading poetry and learning about poetry? Share in a comment!

Poetic days to you,

Nissa Annakindt

 

Author-bloggers! My new FB group about author-blogs needs more victims (members.) Join at: https://www.facebook.com/groups/310331253293318/

becoming a dragonfly

Here is a poem I wrote two years ago, which should make it just ripe. Shared on Poets United’s Poetry Pantry.

becoming a dragonfly

and this is my life
since becoming a dragonfly i float
in the windows of the nobles to steal
their jewels
which i give to the old priest
who feeds the poor
and gives them rosaries
made with his old bent hands
and Job’s tears

over all of this the emperor
watches and smiles
fearing only the assassination attempts
made by the moon
that is his life
which shines and sparkles
but cannot fly
or find solitude

(c) 2016 Nissa Annakindt

This poem was written from the keywords ‘dragonfly, jewels, emperor, moon’ which I got from the book ‘Writing Poetry from the inside out’ by Sandford Lyne. This is one of the better ‘how to write poetry’ books I have, and I have written several poems from the long lists of keywords in the back of the book.

One expression that younger people may be unfamiliar with in the poem is ‘Job’s tears.’ Job’s tears is a plant with large seeds that are strung on threads to make rosaries. Job, on the other hand, is the main figure in one of the longest and most poetic books of the Old Testament.


I recently bought a book on the Romantic Poets, in the Ignatius Critical Edition series. It was the only book I found in the series that dealt with poetry and not prose. The series is edited by Joseph Pearce, who is not only an ‘acclaimed literary biographer,’ but he did some lectures on Shakespeare on the television channel EWTN.


Teaching Children to hate poetry

One way children are taught to hate poetry in the schools is when teachers put out signals that poetry is far too horrible and difficult for children, and that children’s exposure to the awful stuff must be limited. I had an English teacher in high school that was like that. To save us from the horror of reading an actual poem, he gave us lessons where he handed out sheets with Beatles song lyrics on them, which we were supposed to treat as if they were from the pen of Emily Dickinson.

The teacher thought he was being ‘cool.’ But while he, a rather young teacher, could remember Beatlemania as if it were yesterday, the children in his classroom thought of the Beatles as something that happened in the old days, like Kennedy’s assassination or Johnson lifting up his dog by the ears. I tended to look on Beatles lyrics only for their influence on Charles Manson and his followers— I was already a true crime geek.

So the upshot was we weren’t to read a great poet of the past, or even some contemporary poetry, but just song lyrics. Song lyrics may have poetry in them, but the main thing is song lyrics can be sung, the songs recorded, and sold for money. Lots of money if they make it to the top of the charts. The teacher had taught us that we didn’t have to read poetry, we could just listen to popular song lyrics instead. I think though if he had handed us a sheet with Emily Dickinson’s ‘I’m nobody, who are you? Are you nobody, too,’ we might have coped with the horror of POETRY and even enjoyed it.


Follow me on Twitter or GAB: @nissalovescats  (Same on both services.)

Learning to promote a poetry book

This is the cover of one of my poetry books, Where the Opium Cactus Grows. It contains most of my earlier poetic output. I used to think my poems were humorous because some of them make me laugh like a loon, but this book made my mother cry. So I don’t really know how to evaluate it.

When I came out with this book I didn’t know much about how any self-published book could be promoted, much less how to do it with a poetry book. I’ve read a lot of how-to-promote-books info since then. But I’ve been shy about applying it to my poetry, because, well, it’s poetry. And as I put the books together myself, I can see all the things I should have done better.

One of the problems is that I need to gain some fans for my blog and social media accounts who like poetry. On Twitter I have been following accounts that tweet haikus and other short poetry. I also have changed the title of my account there to “Nissa Annakindt, poet, Aspie and cat person.” Which is also the title of my Facebook author page.

One thing I have learned that the self-published authors who gain readers don’t publish just one book and wait for it to sell. You have to keep producing. To that end I am determined to come out with my next poetry book, Waiting for the Poison Shot, sometime this year. To make my life really impossible, I also seem to be committed to a book of found poetry created from the speeches of annoying Left-wing people. I think this will be an anthology with other conservative poets involved.

The main think I believe is that we shouldn’t be ashamed of the fact that our poetry books are— poetry. Yeah, some people don’t like poetry. There are also some people that hate romance novels, but that doesn’t stop romance writers from promoting their books. Be brave and find your ‘tribe’— a group of people who actually appreciates your work.

eggs in a cool place

This is another post in Poets United’s Poetry Pantry. Go to their site to read more.

eggs in a cool place

A stale egg rises in water
fresh eggs are heavy
and sink to the bottom
farewell I gladly bid thee

Eggs should be well covered
and kept in a cool place
wash eggs just before using
thy life is vain and sinful

Eggs should never be boiled
as that renders them tough
they should be cooked
just under the boiling point
I long to be in heaven

In the early spring or fall
when eggs are plentiful at at their best,
pack them away for future use
where they will be rewarded.

1-4-18 (c) Nissa Annakindt

This is an example of found poetry inspired by a poetry book I have just purchased, ‘Mornings Like This’ by Annie Dillard.
My main source was an old cookbook of mine, ‘The Settlement Cook Book’ by Mrs Simon Kander, 1947 edition. The last line in each stanza was from a hymn, Farewell I Gladly Give Thee, (Valet will ich dir geben) written by Valerius Herberger, 1613, translated by Catherine Winkworth, 1863.

Since this is a very newly written poem, some things are uncertain. I don’t really know what I am going to do about capitalizations and punctuations, for example. I don’t really know whether this poem is more than temporary amusement for me. I like to let a poem ‘cook’ for a while before I make final revisions. A lot of hard work ahead, like putting a comma in and then later taking it out. 😉

Buying Poetry Books:

I believe every poet would do well to buy books by other poets— or poetry magazines or anthologies— on a regular basis. We learn more from each poem we write. I bought the Annie Dillard book ‘Mornings Like This’ because it is found poetry, and because I am working on a major poetic project based on found poetry. I didn’t expect much and was quite pleased I was more inspired by it than I ever thought possible.

Future blog post project

I am planning a future blog post with a title ‘How to teach students to hate poetry.’ My contention is that school poetry lessons in most schools do a lot to make students hate poetry, rather than like it or read it. Since I suspect today’s blog post may be visited by a number of poets and poetry lovers, I would welcome your opinions on the teaching of poetry.

Ethics and Political Found Poetry

Recently I bought a book which was titled ‘The Beautiful Poetry of Donald Trump’ which was, according to the book cover, ‘created by Rob Sears.’ According to the inside flap, Rob Sears lives in Great Britain and has written fiction and comedy. Not poetry, evidently.

Creating poems from other people’s words is called found poetry. I haven’t done much pure found poetry, but I have mixed in a lot of found words and phrases from various sources into my poems.

Political found poetry seems to be a form of political mockery mostly. There was a ‘poet’ who created found poetry from the words of Donald Rumsfeld. He won a court case which found his work was his own creation and not just ripping off Donald Rumsfeld’s words.

One good thing Rob Sears did was document the source of every line from the utterances of Donald Trump. Sadly, most of these sources were tweets. Usually very well publicised tweets. One alleged haiku had 4 different sources. Four sources for a three lined poem? Sears adds TITLES to his ‘haiku’, and they also have their own sources.

His sources for lines in each individual found poem can be decades apart and on differing topics. This bothers me. He is basically asserting that Trump said certain things about one topic while he actually said them about another. If you are going that route, you might as well take words from various subjects one at a time and you can make your subject say any stupid thing you like. But then it isn’t truly a found poem. It’s a concocted poem which falsely represents your subject-person.

Ethical rule: no matter how much a found poet may dislike his subject, the poet must not intentionally misrepresent that subject’s real stated viewpoints and ideas. You cannot turn Donald Trump into a hard-core anti-semite, for example, because of all the Jewish relatives he has. You cannot turn Elizabeth Warren into someone who hates American Indians, because she claims to be one.

Another ethical rule: Write found political poems about the leaders of your own country, if you please. It’s kind of dirty pool if you write about a foreign leader when you don’t fully understand both sides of the political equation in that country. It’s also just cruel to the citizens of your target nation. Making fun of their politics is another way to make fun of THEM. Mocking people for coming from a different nation than yours is a form of prejudice. You have the freedom of speech to utter prejudiced thoughts— but I have the freedom not to read them.

I am writing some political found poems myself lately— most of them derived from the speeches of Nancy Pelosi. I disagree with Miss Pelosi on many issues, and I’m appalled she considers herself Catholic. But I don’t feel that I can, as a Christian, hate her or any of her supporters. When I write a poem based on her speeches I take 1 speech, and I don’t introduce any opinions of my own intentionally. I’m trying to write about what she really says, not what I think she should have said.

 

Here is a short poem, called a Collom or Collom lune, taken from a Nancy Pelosi speech. It is from a gun control speech. I don’t agree with her speech. But I don’t wish to distort anything she says, either. (Colloms really shouldn’t have titles, so I just repeat the first line. I use the titles for filing purposes, mainly. I handle haiku the same way.)

Commonsense Gun Violence

Commonsense gun violence
Legislation – all over the country
Every single day

Source:
Nancy Pelosi speech
07-14-16

You can look up the full text of the speech on Pelosi’s official web page.

Cement Shrouds

CONTENT WARNING: POETRY

I used to share a poem on this blog on Sundays, but haven’t done it for ages. Today that will change. Since I’ve been sorting through my old poems in the process of assembling my third poetry book, I’ve been more conscious of my lack of poetry postings. I know poetry seems to offend so many people— I lost a Twitter follower over it. At least, one that I know about who actually told me to quit Tweeting poetry as if I’m going to shape my Twitter life to fit him, ONE follower.

I have been writing quite a bit of minimalist poetry in recent years. Haiku, of course. And Collom lunes. There are two kinds of lunes, both more suitable for school children’s poem writing projects than the haiku, which has a long history and a lot of rules— a haiku is not just counting syllables.

The Collom lune counts words, not syllables, in an 3-5-3 pattern. Learn more about regular lunes and Collom lunes here: http://www.writersdigest.com/editor-blogs/poetic-asides/poets/poetic-form-lune

This seems like a lot of introduction for a tiny little poem, doesn’t it? Anyway, here it is. Duck!

Cement Shrouds

the teacher uses
cement shrouds to keep us
lined up proper

 

Shared on Poets United

How to write like uber-popular author Louis L’Amour

Louis L’Amour was born in 1908 and died in 1988. The heyday of his writing career was in the 1950s and 1960s. But— a few weeks ago I went into WalMart in the book section to find a Louis L’Amour book still available.

What is the secret of Louis L’Amour’s fiction-writing power? Why is he, a writer known for writing Westerns, not the most popular genre today, still on the WalMart buyer’s mind as someone to keep in stock? It may be in the nature of the very first book Louis L’Amour published.  A book of his poetry called Smoke from this Altar.

You see, here is the difference between writing a novel and writing poetry. In a novel there are thousands of words, and a writer who worries overmuch about whether word 27322 is exactly the most powerful and best word for that position doesn’t finish many novels. Words and sentences in a novel can be bland or dull, so long as the action in the novel keeps coming and you find ways to make readers identify with the characters.

In a poem, every word counts. A novel can have unnecessary words, sentences and even paragraphs so long as they don’t interfere with the flow of the story. A poem must not have a single word that does not serve the poetic purpose. The words in a poem must be powerful and evocative. Even the sounds and rhythms of words must be considered in a poem.

So what happens when a poet, or someone who loves and reads poetry, writes a novel? The language gifts of the poet may find their way into the prose, making it more powerful. Here is an example taken from L’Amour’s ‘The Sackett Brand.’

“The trouble was, when I walked out on that point my mind went a-rambling like wild geese down a western sky.

What I looked upon was a sight of lovely country. Right at my feet was the river, a-churning and a-thrashing at least six hundred feet below me, with here and there a deep blue pool. Across the river, and clean to the horizon to the north and east of me, was the finest stand of pine timber this side of the Smokies.

Knobs of craggy rock thrust up, with occasional ridges showing bare spines to the westward where the timber thinned out and the country finally became desert. In front of me, but miles away, a gigantic wall reared up. That wall was at least a thousand feet higher than where I now stood, though this was high ground.”

Lest you think the above example was too descriptive, rest assured that someone gets shot by the end of the page. It still is an action-packed western. It’s just that L’Amour knew how to use language very well, as a result of his work as a poet. So he could through in a good bit of description that could bring the West to life.

If you are curious about the poems of L’Mour, his book ‘Smoke on the Water’ is available and so you can see for yourself. But until you get so far, here is an example poem that tells a Western story.

I have three friends, three faithful friends,
more faithful could not be-
and every night, by the dim firelight,
they come to sit with me.

the first of these is tall and thin
with hollow cheeks, and a toothless grin,
a ghastly tare, and scraggly hair,
and an ugly lump for a chin.

the second of these is short and fat
with beady eyes, like a starving rat-
he was soaked in sin to his oily skin,
and verminous, at that

the crouching one is of ape-like plan,
formed like a beast that resembled man:
a freakish thing, with arms a-swing,
and he was the third of that gruesome clan.

the first I stabbed with a Chinese knife,
and left on the white beach sand,
with his ghastly stare, and blood-soaked hair,
and an out-flung, claw-like hand;

the fat one stole a crumbling crust,
that he wolfed in his swinish way-
so i left him there, with eyes a-glare,
and his head cut of half-way.

we fought to kill, the brute and i,
that the one that lived might eat,
so i killed him too, and made a stew,
and dined on human meat.

and so these three come to visit me,
when without the night winds howl-
the one with the leer, the one with a sneer,
and and one with a brutish scowl;

their lips are dumb, but the three dead come
and cough by the hollow great-
the man that i stabbed, the man that i cut,
and the gruesome thing that i ate.

their lips are sealed, with blood congealed,
but they will not let me be,
and so they haunt, grim, ghastly, and gaunt,
till death shall set me free.

i have three friends, three faithful friends,
more faithful could not be-
and every night, by the dim firelight,
they come to sit with me.

#Micropoetry should be Tweeted

Poetry is dead? No, not really. Not on Twitter, anyway. There is a brave gang of us brave fools who share our shortest poems there— #micropoetry. There are a lot of #haiku. Some of them are actual haiku and others are more #senryu or other short poems.

Micropoetry is a great fit for our age when we have no attention spans and are trained by the FakeNews media to think in slogans and soundbites. Just as the longer poems were a fit for the Victorian age when local newspapers printed poems regularly and people read them.

Asian short poetic forms are a good fit for Twitter poetry and micropoetry. The sijo poem is too long to fit into a Tweet, but some have shared them in graphic form as Twitter poetry. Haiku is a natural. I often do Collom lunes, a poetic form of 3-5-3 words. I checked the hashtag #CollomLune and found others besides myself had used it, especially an antisemitic pro-palestinian fellow who is very persistent in his use of the hashtag.

I have been neglecting my poetic life for a few months and work up determined to do something about that. I looked up Collom lune online again so I could read a few and be inspired. Then I walked into the kitchen and saw a mother cat with a baby. Not actually HER baby, but a baby. And memorialized it in a Collom lune.

Cat Mama

cat sits on

small box. kitten is nursing

from her anyway.

 

Of course, Tweeting my poem, submitting it on Micropoetry.com, and posting it in this blog post mean that I can’t submit the poem to most poetry markets. But since poetry markets don’t pay, and most are aggressively unfriendly to conservative voices, I’m not worried about that. I can always include them in my next poetry book. Which I ought to start writing one of these days now.

Where the Opium Cactus Grows: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0557939135/

Poets market: Eastern Structures

One of the most significant moments of my writing life happened in 1989. After having written poetry intensely for about a year, I finally dared submit my poems to a couple of markets— I had purchased Writer’s Digest’s ‘Poets Market’— and one of them, Struggle: A Magazine of Proletarian Revolutionary Literature, accepted some poems. (I was in my Youthful Marxist Phase at the time.)

I wrote a lot more poems that had ranty Marxist topics and I got published a few more times in Struggle. And I think that I learned a lesson about getting poetry published— try to find a poetry ‘zine you are in synch with and submit regularly.

Currently I discovered a new poetic market in a Facebook group about sijo poetry. It’s called Eastern Structures, and publishes 3 poetic forms: ghazals, sijo and haiku. The editor of Eastern Structures, R. W. Watkins, was seeking out some submissions of sijo for his next edition. The web page of Eastern Structures is: https://sites.google.com/site/nocturnalirispublications/eastern-structures

The ghazal form is explained on the website. ES publishes only 5-7-5 syllable haiku (& senryu)— they are quite firm about that. But they don’t insist on a season word in the haiku, or the strict division between haiku and senryu in the subject matter.

In the Sijo Poetry Facebook group, (https://www.facebook.com/groups/21083466365/), I asked the editor if he had any preferences for sijo in the matter of the number of lines. All the sijo in Eastern Structures #2 were written in 3 long lines, instead of breaking each long line into 2 half lines, leaving what looked like a six line poem.

R. W. Watkins replied: ” I prefer the original three-line version. The six-line version has a tendency to become a six-line thing in itself. I wrote an article on this subject almost two decades ago. Certain people hated me for it; it was an ‘inconvenient truth’.”

So— if you are a sijo poet, I would suggest you submit your sijo to Eastern Structures as poems of 3 long lines. If you have written sijo of 6 lines where the two line-pairs don’t work well as one line, the editor will probably reject it.

If you are new to submitting your poems to a market, here are some tips useful for submitting anywhere:

  • buy a sample copy or two of the ‘zine and read what has been accepted.
  • review descriptions of ghazals, sijo or haiku and see if your poems qualify as these forms.
  • write many, many ghazals, sijo or haiku before submitting, so you can pick the best of many.
  • after completing the first draft, let each poem ‘age’ a month or two before working on the final version.
  • if you think a market is a good fit for your work, don’t take rejection badly. Many poetic markets get hundreds more submissions than they can use. Submit your best new work at a future date.

Have you ever submitted your poems or prose to a publisher? How did it work out for you? Are you still submitting?


Other Post of Interest:

Celebrate: Poem Published! https://myantimatterlife.wordpress.com/2016/03/04/celebrate-poem-published/

Poem Stories: The Cosmos by Han Yongun; Celebrate

Celebrate blog hopThe Cosmos

The cosmos is swaying
in the autumn wind.
Are your petals wings
or wings your petals?
Your soul is a butterfly —
as far as I can see.

The Korean poet Han Yongun (1879-1944) was a Buddhist monk, and also one of the 33 who signed a historic document in 1919 declaring the independence of Korean from Japanese rule.

This poem is a sijo. A sijo is a traditional Korean type of poem, just as haiku and tanka are traditional Japanese types of poems.

How do you understand this poem or other poems? Forget all the English class nonsense where there were ‘right’ answers about the hidden stuff that was in a poem that only an English teacher could work out. A poem is more like an ink-blot test, and there are no right and wrong answers when it comes to what you see in a poem and what you think it means.

Here are some things the poem awoke in me:
I wondered about the word ‘cosmos.’ I looked it up in the dictionary. It can mean an orderly universe. Or it can mean a variety of flower. Is the ‘cosmos’ in this poem the universe, the flower or both? (It makes me wonder what the original word was in the Korean and if it had these two meanings.)

I wonder who the Speaker of the poem is talking to that either has wings or petals. Or both. Are the wings/petals literally. And the soul is a butterfly thing— ‘as far as I can see….’ Interesting.

So, now, your turn. What does the poem mean to you? If you had one question for the poet Han Yongun about the poem, what would it be? Post it in a comment!


This is  a post in the Celebrate the Small Things blog hop.

What am I celebrating? Well, it’s kind of hard these days. I’ve been sick and it’s been very hot and uncomfortable by me. And then I heard the word about the terrorist attack in France killing 77 (Eternal rest grant unto them O Lord.)

But I wrote a good poem last night after I studied the sijo poem above, so that’s something to celebrate. Can’t come out with a new poetry book if I don’t generate enough new material.

And on Lexa Cain’s blog, my friend Robert Mullin’s novella Blood Song was featured on a list of ‘freebies.’ I liked the book so much that I hope some more people will download and read the book.


My email list:

I’ve temporarily taken down the pop-up for my email list. I was hoping to put up a less annoying one but the one I wanted was not compatible with WordPress.com, just WordPress.org. If you want to join my email list without a popup to prompt you, the form is at: http://eepurl.com/FN2hr