Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Why Read Poetry?

Most of the people I bother talking to are readers. Honestly, I have a hard time relating to people who aren't. But even among my reader-friends, very few seem to read poetry.

For a lot of folks, this stems from a negative experience in their schooling, a time when they were asked to read a poem written in archaic language and somehow pull out of it the esoteric thing the teacher wanted. It gives people the impression that poetry is difficult, purposefully obtuse, and assuredly not for them. Experiences like that make a person feel stupid or resentful, which can turn them off an entire art form, which is a shame, since poetry can be a light in the darkness.

Appreciating poetry, moreso than other types of writing, does lend itself to discussion of technique, style, and the tools used to convey the feelings, establish tone, and elicit emotional response. Much like visual art, though, none of that is a requirement. You don't have to understand fully everything an artist (or poet) is doing to feel something about a piece (or poem).

So, here's a few reasons why I read poetry, and think that you should, too:

1. Brevity: Even a long poem is far shorter than a short story, novella, novel, or even some blog posts. You can fit a bit of art into your day with only a few minutes for reading.

2.  Me Too!: Poetry is often intensely personal, a person laying bare the happenings and feelings of their lives for all to see. But it is also intensely universal. When a poem really speaks to me it's usually because I feel a resonance with the experience or feelings captured in the verse. It can be such a relief and a comfort to find that someone else thinks or feels what you do, and enlightening to find it expressed more articulately than you might be able to do for yourself.

3. Word Nerd: I'm in love with language. A beautiful turn of phrase or unusual description can set my head spinning in the most lovely way, like being expertly kissed on the dance floor.

4. A New Way of Thinking: Poets describe things differently than other writers (though the best of prose writing pulls from poetic imagery as well). So many poems have opened my eyes in a new way, had me thinking of something differently than I ever have before.

I'll be writing about 26 of my favorite poets and their work in April. My all-time favorite poet is Emily Dickinson. Do you have one? I'd love to hear about them in the comments below. 

Monday, March 19, 2018

AtoZ Challenge Theme Reveal: P is for Poetry

It's only a couple of weeks until April, which means it's almost time for the AtoZ Blogging Challenge. I've played along for a few years now. The idea is that you pick a theme and write 26 blog posts about it (one for each letter of the alphabet) posting them in April every day except Sundays (which amounts to 26 days!). 

And now, for 2018, I am going to write about: my favorite poets!

I like to take on something new each year, a little thing I promise myself I will do every day, and in 2017, that was my poem-a-day project. Not a project where I wrote poems, but in which I read a poem every day and posted about what it meant to me. The collection is still up, and I'm adding to it when the mood strikes me or when I find a poem I really have something to say about.  (This year's 365 project is #dailylight in which I post about one good thing in my life every day). 

I really enjoyed getting poetry back into my life, and having remembered how much I love it, I'll be talking about 26 of my favorite poets for the A to Z Blogging Challenge. (Plus April is National Poetry Month, so it's just kind of perfect!)

Here's my tentative list of poets, though I reserve the right to change my mind should I think of another one I'd rather explore here on my blog. I'm cheating a little bit by letting myself use the letter for *either* the poet's first or last name. That really helped, as there were some pile-ups on certain letters!

Adrienne Rich
Bishop, Elizabeth
Clifton, Lucille
Dove, Rita
Emily Dickinson
Ferlinghetti, Lawrence
Gluck, Louise
Hughes, Langston
Irwin, Mark
John Donne
Kumin, Maxine
Li-Young Lee
Michelle Boisseau
Neruda, Pablo
Oliver, Mary
Poe, Edgar Allan
Qabbani, Nizar
Robert Browning
St. Vincent-Millay, Edna
Teasdale, Sara
Unamuno, Miguel de
Vallejo, Cesar
Walt Whitman
XJ Kennedy
Yusef Komanyakaa
Zaran, Lisa

So, here's hoping you'll join me in exploring some great poets and their words, as well as checking out some of the other wonderful themed collections in this challenge.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Iterations of Frankenstein

When eighteen year old Mary Shelley had a bad dream that turned into a book, she couldn't have imagined the cultural phenomenon that would emerge from her pages. She created an entire genre: science fiction. The ripples that she started are still spinning out two hundred years later.

Frankenstein is one of those stories that everyone just *knows*, even if they've never read it. It's been adapted in hundreds of way, re-imagined, used in homage, served as inspiration for so many pieces of art of one kind or another. Clearly, we're not done with this story yet.

My first introduction to the story probably came through the celebration of Halloween and all the masks and television specials featuring some version of the monster. The version of the monster enacted by Boris Karloff was already imprinted on the world well before I was born: square head, visible black stitching, metal bolts on the neck, greenish flesh, stiff walk and all. I can't remember when I didn't know that iconic image.

I eventually saw all the old movie versions on cable television: Karloff's, Chaney's, Lugosi's, Lee's. I drank in Young Frankenstein and the monster's romp with Abbott and Costello. I loved Lurch, Herman Munster, and all the cartoon versions of the monster from Scooby Doo to the Groovieee Goolies. The monster has been played for horror, for pathos, and for laughs, and he's effective in all those roles. If a story is riffing on Frankenstein in some way, I'm sure to give it a try.

I was in college before I read the original book, and like many a reader, I was astonished at the difference between the monster Mary Shelley wrote and the one we know from popular culture. The more sensitive and articulate creature has been making a resurgence. I recently watched the Penny Dreadful television series and The Frankenstein Chronicles, both of which give the monster voice.

I've read it a couple of times since.

I'm still not sure what it is about this storyline that draws me in so. Is it the mad science elements? The abandonment pathos? The misunderstood nature of the creature itself? Maybe it's something deeper, something I feel at a more symbolic level, something about motherhood or the nature of creation or the boundary between life and death.

Any other fans out there? What's your favorite version of the story?

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

IWSG: Celebration Time

It's the first Wednesday again, which means it's time for the Insecure Writer's Support Group blog hop. The March 7 question - How do you celebrate when you achieve a writing goal/ finish a story?

Be sure to check out our awesome hosts after you see what I have to say:  Mary Aalgaard, Bish Denham,Jennifer Hawes, Diane Burton, and Gwen Gardner!

So, this is one I'm kind of bad at. 

My to-do list is always excessively long, and that can mean that I don't take time to celebrate what I've finished. Instead, I just turn left and pick up the next item on my list. 

But I do go back and reflect from time to time, and it can be a real boost to see what I've actually done, especially if I was too busy to appreciate it while it was happening. For example, I was feeling like I hadn't been productive as an author in 2017, until I wrote my end of year reflection and realized I'd done quite a lot, actually!

In fact, it's one of my goals for 2018 to celebrate more, to pat myself on the back for a job well done. That's part of what's so great about this blog hop. The commenters are always so supportive and kind, coming with a heart to help and encourage. There's not enough of that in the world, maybe especially in the writing world, where the work can be solitary. 

A few ideas for celebrating accomplishments: posting a happy dance video about the good thing, going out with someone you love for your favorite gastronomic treat, letting yourself write your play project as a rewarding for having the discipline to stick with and finish your other project, calling your sister (work for me, anyway), giving yourself a little non productive time to goof off completely. 

How about you? How do you celebrate the good things in your writing life or other creative endeavors?