A Place for Poets discussion

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message 1: by Melissa (last edited Aug 25, 2016 11:24AM) (new)

Melissa Sawatsky | 5 comments Mod
I'm so thrilled that people are joining this group! Just out of curiosity ... how many of you write poetry? Is anyone interested in discussing the pleasures and pitfalls of manuscript development? I'll throw out a few questions, just in case ...

- When developing a manuscript, how does one effectively go about identifying a "theme" or narrative arch in the work?

- Occasional poems vs. series? Pros and cons?

Nice to "virtually" meet you all!

~ Melissa

message 2: by Andy (last edited Aug 25, 2016 11:25AM) (new)

Andy | 1 comments Howdy, M.

Unless you’re one of those perverse folk who can control where the poem/voice/whatever is going during the first draft, isn’t a manuscript mostly a collection of poems roughly written around the same time? (Of course, cull the ones that don’t quite fit into how the majority of the poems work together.)

How far are you into your m’script?

message 3: by Shannon (last edited Aug 25, 2016 11:26AM) (new)

Shannon (shanannigans) | 2 comments Nice to meet ya too.I write alot of poetry---I have added all my poetry here so ya'll can read some if ya want and let me know what you think.Later!

message 4: by [deleted user] (new)

Hi Melissa.

I usually find a theme by accident. There's a question I have, something I'm curious about, and I try to answer that question with a poem --but one answer usually isn't enough, because there's often so much more to the question than I realize at first, so I try another answer and another from different angles, and then I realize I've got twenty pages, fifty pages, a manuscript.

Maybe this isn't effective, but that's what I do.


message 5: by Bekki (last edited Aug 25, 2016 11:35AM) (new)

Bekki | 1 comments Unfortunately I have never been able to keep focussed enough to make a manuscript, nor to edit or change any of my poems in a significant way. Is this a lack of courage? hm.

I have posted some of my poems on my profile so anyone can take a look if they want. I also have a poetry blog... musingsofadilettante.blogspot.com

Looking forward to being challenged here...


message 6: by Kat (last edited Aug 25, 2016 11:35AM) (new)

Kat | 4 comments Hi Melissa et al,

Nice to find "a place for poets." I am currently working on a manuscript, my first, for my MFA thesis at Goddard College.

At the moment I'm stuck. I won't use the scapegoat of writer's block, it's more like intense indecision.

All I've been able to do in the past are occassional poems, but this time I want to go for more of a theme, yet am not sure how to approach it. It feels forced.

Has anyone around here written a themed manuscript? I'm interested in hearing others' approaches to writing a book of poems as opposed to "just" one poem at a time.

message 7: by David (last edited Aug 25, 2016 11:36AM) (new)

David | 3 comments These are great questions!

The most important thing to me is to write what feels urgent, which is a different thing than setting out with a theme and trying to generate poems around that. But maybe there's some vast topic that could be powerful and productive for the writer and also act as a theme for the reader. I recently read Mary Jo Bang's _Apology for Want_ and it was all centered around the fairly broad and intense topic of desire. Or there's Stuart Dybek's _Streets in their own Ink_, which is all about Chicago. There are lots of examples like that -- broad but coherent theme.

Of course, a lot of that happens in retrospect, right? When I was pulling my short story collection together, I didn't realize I had a theme until I sat down and looked at all my stories. When one person writes lots of pieces, the theme of the writer's personality tends to show, I think. I'm hoping the same thing will happen with my poetry when I sit down with it.

Kat -- how do you like Goddard? I did Vermont College and liked it a lot.

message 8: by Melissa (last edited Aug 25, 2016 11:37AM) (new)

Melissa Sawatsky | 5 comments Mod
What wonderful and varied feedback! Yes, I do believe that theme is perhaps something to be stumbled upon after the fact. In trying to identify or write towards it too early, I do seem to lose that urgency that David mentioned.

One of my creative writing teachers had a lot to say about manuscript development and a couple of things she kept repeating were ...

What does the narrative require?

When your pen gets on a scent, stay on it.

Hope that helps Kat! Those of you that have posted some poetry here, I look forward to reading them!

message 9: by Kat (last edited Aug 25, 2016 11:38AM) (new)

Kat | 4 comments David & Melissa,

Thanks for the replies. I think it's true that I need to let my theme appear over the next few months. One of my professors, Elena Georgieu, talks about writing her obsessions. I suppose I do have a few of those! It's more like, my current obsessions make me uncomfortable, so I want to shrink away from them and write something easier... but I know that the best work comes from the deepest feelings- hence the perennial spiritual struggles of the poet!

I will let my pen follow its nose.

I love Goddard. The low residency model is a great format for me. I've unfortunately had three advisors in three semesters so I'm lacking in consistency, but the connections I'm making are invaluable. In a year, I will have those MFA letters and a poetry thesis to show for it.

I was also accepted to Vermont College but chose Goddard because it requires a teaching practicum. I'm designing a workshop that will run once a week for September-October this year.

message 10: by Oliver (last edited Aug 25, 2016 11:38AM) (new)

Oliver (oliver_delapaz) Ah, the thematic manuscript! The thematic manuscript is something I do see a lot of these days. I like what David and Melissa say about the process. Write with urgency. If you're on a trail, follow the trail.

Have you ever read books by David Lee (not our friend, David Dodd Lee, but David Lee)? He writes deeply thematic narrative poems. His book, The Porcine Canticles is ENTIRELY about pigs. There's an interesting book by Zbigniew Herbert entitled Mr Cogito which centers around a character named, of course, Mr. Cogito. Both of the books are character driven, which may not help you with what you're doing.

Have you put all the pages on the floor and spread them out? That helps me when I'm organizing. A lot of times, I see word loops . . . I end with a phrase in one poem and see it pop up at the beginning of another. Another thing to try is to perform a word search in your manuscript using your word processor. Pick out words that you use frequently throughout the book and determine whether you want the poems spaced closely or further apart.

Anyway, g'luck! I know what you mean about that moment of "intense indecision" when you get to that "near-completion" point in your manuscript. I've been there!

message 11: by [deleted user] (new)

My approach is less focused, because I want to investigate the landscape of a poem. I try to remember than an idea is three dimensional, so I try to generate writing located in the areas that become exposed when the 3D idea is manipulated: what is the shadow it casts? What is beHind the 3D idea? Inside? Etc.

This may not be practical, but what I find is quite varied, and gets me out of tight locations that cease to be productive because of forcing the gaze there.

Anyway,. I've been influenced quite a bit by Limited Fork Poetics which offers a way of making many forms of poetry through condsidering interactions; poetry as a dynamic system.

This can lead to more experimental outcomes, of course, but if you don't mind more tools of making, then you could investigate the possibilities of the fork.

If you want to know more about Limited Fork, you can visit three blogs about it:
Tine Times (http://tinetimes.blogspot.com/)
Tine Times cyber workshop (http://www.tinetimescyberworkshop.blo...)
and Tine Times 2 (http://limitedfork.wordpress.com/)

Thanks for the info about your poetry bkog, Bekki; I'm going to take a look at it.

message 12: by John (last edited Aug 25, 2016 11:41AM) (new)

John "Intense indecision," indeed. I've found that decisions are never really final anyway, regarding a manuscript (or most else for that matter), so I'm of the "just throw it together" school. It'll cohere because you wrote it.

Even saying that, though, means there must be some way to throw it together. A poet told me once that her strategy is to put the very "best" poem first, the "second best" last, the third best second, and in that manner work one's way to the center. I would think that would make for a very sloppy center, but it seems to work for her.

I prefer to think of manuscripts as worlds. So there's an interoduction of some sort, and then a way for the poems to lead one through the landscape toward some, well, not "goal" or "thesis," really, but around some vista, some idea that traces through . . . some poetry beyond simply "poems."

Either that, or just hand the whole thing to someone else, and ask them to do it. That also works!

message 13: by David (last edited Aug 25, 2016 11:41AM) (new)

David | 4 comments The times I've tried to collect poems into a book, I've mostly grouped them into themed sections of 3 to 10 poems, and then I saw how those sections fit together. Sometimes, taken in the right sequence, the sections have a ghost of a narrative structure--something vague like peace, dissolution, descent, destruction, contemplation in the ashes, building anew, and back to peace. Or something like that.

Lately, I've been writing more fiction, and one of the things I've been experimenting with is finding out, once in a while, what kind of poems the characters in my fiction would write. A few years back, I got a series of poems by a space traveling mystic published in a "shared-world" anthology. In the current novel in progress, I'm finding that the main protagonist is writing song lyrics that are only a little more sophisticated than you'd find on the radio, but there's another singer-songwriter in the book who's been experimenting with ghazals, and doing some really haunting work.

I'm hesitant to post any of these here before they get published, but there is a previously published poem of mine on Good Reads. I guess one could argue that I was experimenting with characters even then, though actually taking on a character's point of view would be some time later.

message 14: by ♀☻ஆ(¸.•'´Pal2aSt0o `'•.¸) (last edited Aug 25, 2016 11:41AM) (new)

♀☻ஆ(¸.•'´Pal2aSt0o `'•.¸) | 22 comments my english not very well.but i'm glad 2 meet all of u.i'm not a poem but love poems.i wish to have the best times here 2gether.it most b funny i can write some poems 2.ilove all of u dears.

message 15: by William F. (last edited Aug 25, 2016 11:42AM) (new)

William F. DeVault | 1 comments I was recently called upon to be one of the judges for the chapbook contest for a major writer's conference. One of the criteria we were asked to judge was the thematic cohesiveness of the manuscript.

About half of the stack had a thematic core, the others seemed just unified by the fact they were written by the same author. Some were the worse for the theme, as they obviously had a few good poems on the topic, then padded, padded, padded.

If you think upon the great, classic collections by the giants...msot of them were not thematic. Before "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band" the notion of a theme pop album was not even really on the map, now a large portion have a thematic element, some even obviously ripping off Messrs Lennon and McCartney. Curiously, if you strip away the theme of that album, it is really just a coillection of disparate songs, the them almost being ladelled atop, like gravy.

I have published both thematically and not, based on what the manuscript called for (tough to do "The Compleat Panther Cycles" and not confess to a theme). Theme for the sake of theme is like page count for the sake of page count...it can lead to inferior quality works to pad out the pagecount or theme.

message 16: by David (last edited Aug 25, 2016 11:42AM) (new)

David | 3 comments I love that idea, John, of just handing over the whole manuscript to someone else. Doesn't there come a point where you just look at your writing and say, "I don't know what the hell I'm even looking at"? The idea of sitting down yourself, half-blind from all the work of revision, and trying to collect and arrange a few dozen poems...yikes.

But like you say, you'll probably get some meaningful whole even if you just throw it together.


message 17: by [deleted user] (new)

Hi all!

I play it by ear. My background is economics, but I dabble a lot with poetry. One thing about not having studied it in college, I am not bound by any structures or school of thought or system, and this somehow frees me to consider things as they are, and incorporate it in my writing. Also, when it comes to themes, the recurring ones in most of my poems are about the current issues happening in my own country, and I try to play with metaphors I pick out from the cultures and traditions indigenous in the Philippines, particularly here in the northern Luzon area.

Speaking of influences, The Communist Manifesto, the Book of Ecclesiastes, Pablo Neruda and W.H.Auden are a huge influence in most of my work. May I ask, what about you guys?

message 18: by Meghan (last edited Aug 25, 2016 11:53AM) (new)

Meghan | 1 comments Hello,

Good god I can't even begin to think of how many times I've looked down at something I've written and been utterly bewildered by it. In light of a recent class I took I've realized that I'm more or less concerned with/fixated on notions of obsolescence in literature and writing (the class was called Obsolescence and Sentimentality). Since then it has become quite easy to arrange the things I write, though, sadly, no easier to write them. In fact, I think it may have gotten harder now that I have a better idea of what it is that I'm trying to tackle. Anyway, my point was that had it not been for the class I never would have seen the thematic channel in my writings. I would have been stuck looking for something much more concrete and material and never thought to search in the quite so ludicrously abstract.

On another note: T. S. Eliot, William Carlos Williams, Stein, Pound, and modernist poetry - any thoughts


message 19: by David (last edited Aug 25, 2016 11:55AM) (new)

David | 4 comments Hi Meghan.

Liked your poem on the writers' site. The "snot-green" bit seemed a little derivative of Eliot's "patient etherised upon a table," but the attempt to catch another's breath was very well done.

Re: On another note: Like Eliot, like Williams, haven't read Stein, can't stand Pound. Even if it weren't for Pound's known anti-Semitism (and I must admit I don't think I'd like Eliot much if I met him personally), I find his work tediously abstract and preachy.

Of course, your post here talks a bit about embracing (?) the abstract in your work--which is why I checked out the poem you posted on the writers' site; I wanted to find out more about what you meant, but I get the impression that's not the best example of what you were trying to say. I'd love to hear more if you would care to clarify.

Back from the tangent, my favorite modern poets are Wallace Stevens and e.e. cummings. Least favorite, Robert Lowell. Among currently living poets, I like Albert Goldbarth and Sharon Olds, though I've been reading more fiction lately and haven't kept up.

I read today that Charles Simic just became Poet Laureate of the U.S. It was on someone else's newspaper on the subway, but then that's the beauty of the Internet, you can stop in the middle of typing and fact-check something.

message 20: by Kat (last edited Aug 25, 2016 12:14PM) (new)

Kat | 4 comments Hi all,

Answering my own question about writing around a theme... in the past couple months I have found that working on several different projects at once is key to giving my themed poems time to happen, without forcing myself to write about the same two characters every time I sit down.

Sometimes I write poems from childhood, sometimes about lost love, and sometimes about the mother-daughter pair of my themed manuscript. I even did a freelance article which helped me take a break from working on poetry without stopping writing.

I think that variety, space, and time are all helping my poems breathe and not get too forced.


message 21: by Ashley (last edited Aug 25, 2016 01:29PM) (new)

Ashley (samuraigurl91) | 3 comments hey everybody,

yeah i do write poems a lot. mostly very emo poems. haha! xD especially when i'm bored or in a middle of some teenage crisis thing. Lmao!

i'm really impressed with this group because everyone speaks perfect English and i rarely get that in other places so..wow. hahaha! ppl can actually learn a lot of things from this group.

i think poetry is amazing and deep although not many ppl are over the moon abt it. and its really easy to write especially when you're in the 'zone' or the 'moment'. Lol!

well nice to meet you guys. peace out y'all! xD

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