Poetry Isn’t

The thing about 


is that it is not

a bunch of prose

***like a diary entry***

written all strung out in poetic lines.

Most of us got quite a few bum steers about poetry from school. Often they never ask us to read poetry and one day they hand us an assignment to write a haiku or free verse or whatever. The assignment sheet often included a few poem attempts written by other school children to keep us down to that level. The teachers would elicit the kind of poetry they wanted— in ghettoized minority-group schools, kids were expected to write about their poor, miserable lives to make readers feel racial guilt— the kids mustn’t be allowed to let their spirits soar or anything. Kids had to write environmental crap and pollution and how people must quit having children since kids are just another form of pollution— for reasons of indoctrination, rather then any intention of letting kids write actual poetry with actual poetic values.

School poems were praised for political reasons or just because every creative thing had to be praised to the skies to raise ‘self-esteem.’ And so we have teenagers or twenty-somethings who pull out their self-concerned, whiny, prosy diary entries and write them in poetic lines and expect to be praised somehow. 

Poetry is not just prose in poetic lines! Poems are full of meanings and images and sounds and rhythms and are more like condensed prose than prose-in-poetic-lines.

The way to learn poetry is this: READ poems of all sorts, good and bad, rhymed/metered and not. Avoid poetry from university poetry mags which can be heavy on dreck. Read poetry for YEARS, find some favorite poets and if they are people like Robert Service, so be it. Read your favorite poems over and over until you can recite them.

Then, when your poetic brain has ripened, start throwing words against the wall. Don’t revise them or plan them or make much of them. Just compose, write it down, and file the poems. Write on the computer or legal pads or a bathroom wall. By the time you’ve written a hundred or so poems, there are probably some good ones in the collection. If desired, get ‘Poet’s Market’ from Writer’s Digest Books and find some places to submit your poems to. In time you will get published. If you get published in more than one ‘zine, perhaps you are a Real Poet and can self-publish your poems in book or ebook form. Or perhaps you aren’t. Who knows?

And this is the One True Way to write poetry and become a poet. Or that’s what I’m claiming today, anyway.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~


cats are melting

into the blue tiled floor

heat wave

(c) 2016

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/

Celebrate: Poem published!

Snapshot_20160304 (2)Today I’m celebrating an unexpected poetry publication. Many moons ago, I sent off a group of poems to the periodical Scifaikuest, a zine of sci-fi related haiku and other minimalist forms. I’d forgotten about it and assumed I’d been rejected until I got an envelope in the mail with the February edition of Scifaikuest. One of my poems was in it.

More than that, not only did I get a contributor’s copy of the magazine, but they enclosed PAYMENT!!! OK, it was a dollar. But it’s only been the second time I’ve gotten money for a poem of mine.

Check out the web site ‘Sciefaikuest’ for more information on subscribing to the zine, or on how to submit your own poems to Scifaikuest.

This is a blog post in the Celebrate the Small Things blog hop. Go to: http://lexacain.blogspot.com/2016/03/celebrate-200k-page-views-giveaways.html   to read the other posts in the blog hop, join the hop yourself, or find your missing pink sock.

Celebrate blog hop

Writing a haiku for Scifaikuest

Step One: subscribe to Scifaikuest and read it faithfully. Or, if you have no money, read their abbreviated online version at their web site.

Step Two: read a few books of traditional haiku. Copy out some of your favorites.

Step Three: Start writing haiku of your own. Write two or three a day. Expect most of them to be bad.

Step Four: Make lists of keywords. One list should be your ordinary list of words. The other should have science fiction related words in it.

Step Five: start writing haiku using the sci-fi keywords (along with some from your other list. Write one every day. Expect most to be bad.

Step Six: After a few months, pick out the very best haiku you have written and revise and rewrite them as needed. Put them aside and then revise again. After this, select a small number of your very best haiku with sci-fi themes for your submission.

Step Seven: Submit. Be sure you have read the current policy of Scifaikuest on submissions, and have followed the instructions exactly.

Step Eight: When rejected, go through the steps again until you are published.