Poetry Vs. Prose

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HATHORION

HATHORION (Photo credit: Amadeus Varadi Hellequin)

I’ve just finished reading Patrick Rothfuss’ excellent sophomore book The Wise Man’s Fear. At nearly a thousand pages, it’s a long read, but well worth your time. If you aren’t familiar with his work, get the first book in the series,  The Name Of The Wind. Once you’ve digested that, get The Wise Man’s Fear. Rinse and repeat for as many times as it takes him to put out book three.
While there are a lot of things to recommend this lovely series, what concerns us for this post are a handful of quips the main character makes about poets. Continue reading

Where I’ve been.

The short answer is that I’ve been very busy.

The long answer is that after taking eight years (with time off for an existential crisis, a stab at joining the army, drunken World of Warcraft, and making a baby) to finish a Liberal Arts degree, I have few job prospects. So in January, I went back to school. This time to become an IT Professional. If you’re not into that sort of thing, it’s pretty dull, but I like it, and it should make it easier for me to comfortably care for me and mine.

Highlights: HTML5 and Java Script are fun. Ethics in Information Technology is not so fun.

What this means for you guys: I’m still going to post, but I’m not going to have a lot of time to research, so my posts may be sporadic. I’m sorry for that, but I’d rather aspire to having high quality content you can come back to than daily posts without a lot of usable content. I think we’re up to syllabic poetry, and I’ve got some thoughts brewing over what seems to be a feud between prose and poetry writers.

Other than that, any burning questions? Topics anyone would like to see covered? Just let me know, and I’ll jump on it.

Thanks for the patience, everyone, and keep writing.

Poetry: Getting Started

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I’m going to assume for the time being that none of you have formal training in poetry. I’m also going to assume that you have enough interest in the form to have written at least a few.

Assuming those two things, I want you to throw out those old poems or at least put them off in a drawer to collect dust. We’re starting from the bottom. Beginner’s mind and all that. There’s a good reason for this, no matter how stuck-up it makes me sound. See, it doesn’t matter which meter or rhyme scheme you use, how flowery your language is, or what it looks like on the page. All of these are window dressings that build on the basic structure. What matters above all else with poetry is how it sounds. Get that one straight and the whole thing works better. Continue reading

Editing: The Dirty Underbelly

As promised, here’s the piece I did on editing, complete with all the editing I did to it made visible.

Notes on the marks I used: I don’t know all the standard editor’s marks, and a lot of them assume a physical copy anyway, so I’m substituting my own.

Text that’s been struck through is something from the original piece I decided to drop.

Brackets mark a new addition

parentheses note a change in case

Three hash marks note a new paragraph break.

I don’t have a mark yet to note the movement of a chunk from one place to another in the manuscript. Any ideas?

You’ve been writing for a while now if you’re keeping up with me. And chances are pretty good you have a finished piece. If you’ve been writing regularly along with me, you should have a finished piece by now. [Whether it's a] (p)oem, article, or short story, anyway. If you have a novel or novella, all I have to say is wow. (g)ood job[, keep up the good work]. [If you have a novella or novel, you’re a bit of a showoff, but good job to you too. You probably want to sit on,those fire a little while.

###Tell you what, everybody grab a soshort piece, let’s say[,] ten thousand words or less, that’s had a bit of time to ferment. The fermentation’s important. Creative writing needs time to age, to mellow and percolate out of your mind before you try to tinker with it. That time varies from writer to writer. Some need a week, some need a few months or even years. [,](b)ut the important thing is let it sit. Work on,something else for a while before you come back to a piece.

Now, we’re going to take that lovely bit if [of] aged work, and we’re going to tear it apart and rebuild it. Ready?

Start with a read-through. Start to finish, go through your piece and get a feel for it. Try to think of it as someone else’s piece. Does it hang together? Does anything jump out at you as being out of place or making no sense? Mark those. [Mark] (a)nything you think needs to go or be changed.

But what about grammar? Don’t you need to fix all the grammatical errors first?
I don’t think so, for a couple of reasons. First off, you have tools for that. Ultimately[,] you’ll just be doing clean-up. Second, why fix the spelling on something you’re going to throw away? Editing for most of us is tedious, so the less time you can spend on it, the better. Of course, if the sight of a misplaced modifier drives you to distraction, go ahead and do a grammar edit first.

Alright, now that you know what you want to change story-wise, go ahead and fix that. [Make sure all your guns went off, that characters didn't disappear halfway through or changed names, etc. We can go into more detail about what can go wrong in a story another time. For now, just make sure there's nothing egregiously bad going on.] Got it? Now do a grammar check.

Read your piece forwards and backwards. Look at each sentence on it’s own as well as in context with the surrounding sentences and paragraph. Be ruthless.[]Spare no ambiguous verb. Or if you’re no good at grammar, now might be a good time to pass it off to one of your grammar nazi friends.

And we’re done.

Well, not quite. Now you need other eyes. But I think I’ll save that for another day.
For this week, try running through an edit one of your pieces. Extra points if you had to throw out more than ten percent.

Poetry: The Ises And Isn’ts

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Before we get into the nuts and bolts of poetry, let’s take a look at some of the things that separate it from prose.

First, a bit of what it isn’t.

Poetry is not prose dressed up with pretty words.

Poetry is not just a different animal, it’s a while different species. Sure, you get some cross over now and then, as with prose or free verse poems, but no amount of wishful thinking makes a mule into an ugly horse.

Poetry follows different rules, and as such, you can’t approach it the same way. More on that later.

Poetry is not rhyme and meter, though it includes those things.

Poetry is not truncated words, non-native sentence structures and archaic language, though you can use these to good effect in the right circumstances.

Lastly, poetry will not make you rich. Unless you’re lucky enough to be Ginsburg, Collins, Angelou, or a handful of others.

Have I offended anyone yet? Okay, on to what poetry is.

Poetry is almost as old as language. It predates written language by somewhere between six months and several millenia.

Poetry is out of vogue.

Poetry is everywhere.

Poetry is inclusive. If it feels like a poem, regardless of subject, chances are good that it’s a poem.

Poetry is an aural art form. It’s meant to be heard.

Poetry is musical and mathematical.

Poetry is deceptively hard to get right, but I’m going to try to help you do it anyway.

Editing redux

I’m sorry, guys, but that last post on editing will not stand. It needs to be, wait for it, edited.
So I’m going to turn this into a teachable moment and show you all exactly what changes I make. We’ll have to wait on that for now, though, as I haven’t found a good word processing app for my phone yet.

Scratch that. Now try the second one.

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Grammar policeGood lord, is it Tuesday already? I promised you lot a post today, didn’t I? Can you tell I’ve been watching Doctor Who again?

Anyway, here’s the piece on editing I promised. The funny bit? I haven’t edited it!

It’s been a long weekend, folks. Here’s your post. I’m off to bed.

You’ve been writing for a while now if you’re keeping up with me. And chances are pretty good you have a finished piece. Poem, article, or short story, anyway. If you have a novel or novella, all I have to say is wow. Good job. You probably want to sit on,those fire a little while. Tell you what, everybody grab a soshort piece, let’s say ten thousand words or less, that’s had a bit of time to ferment. The fermentation’s important. Creative writing needs time to age, to mellow and percolate out of your mind before you try to tinker with it. That time varies from writer to wYou’ve been writing for a while now if you’re keeping up with me. And chances are pretty good you have a finished piece. Poem, article, or short story, anyway. If you have a novel or novella, all I have to say is wow. Good job. You probably want to sit on,those fire a little while. Tell you what, everybody grab a soshort piece, let’s say ten thousand words or less, that’s had a bit of time to ferment. The fermentation’s important. Creative writing needs time to age, to mellow and percolate out of your mind before you try to tinker with it. That time varies from writer to writer. Some need a week, some need a few months or even years. But the important thing is let it sit. Work on,something else for a while before you come back to a piece.
Now, we’re going to take that lovely bit if aged work, and we’re going to tear it apart and rebuild it. Ready?
Start with a read-through. Start to finish, go through your piece and get a feel for it. Try to think of it as someone else’s piece. Does it hang together? Does anything jump out at you as being out of place or making no sense? Mark those. Anything you think needs to go or be changed.
But what about grammar? Don’t you need to fix all the grammatical errors first?
I don’t think so, for a couple of reasons. First off, you have tools for that. Ultimately you’ll just be doing clean-up. Second, why fix the spelling on something you’re going to throw away? Editing for most of us is tedious, so the less time you can spend on it, the better. Of course, if the sight of a misplaced modifier drives you to distraction, go ahead and do a grammar edit first.
Alright, now that you know what you want to change story-wise, go ahead and fix that. Got it? Now do a grammar check. Read your piece forwards and backwards. Look at each sentence on it’s own as well as in context with the surrounding sentences and paragraph. Be ruthless.Spare no ambiguous verb. Or if you’re no good at grammar, now might be a good time to pass it off to one of your grammar nazi friends.
And we’re done.
Well, not quite.
Now you need other eyes. But I think I’ll save that for another day.
For this week, try running through an edit one of your pieces. Extra points if you had to throw out more than ten percent.riter. Some need a week, some need a few months or even years. But the important thing is let it sit. Work on,something else for a while before you come back to a piece.
Now, we’re going to take that lovely bit if aged work, and we’re going to tear it apart and rebuild it. Ready?
Start with a read-through. Start to finish, go through your piece and get a feel for it. Try to think of it as someone else’s piece. Does it hang together? Does anything jump out at you as being out of place or making no sense? Mark those. Anything you think needs to go or be changed.
But what about grammar? Don’t you need to fix all the grammatical errors first?
I don’t think so, for a couple of reasons. First off, you have tools for that. Ultimately you’ll just be doing clean-up. Second, why fix the spelling on something you’re going to throw away? Editing for most of us is tedious, so the less time you can spend on it, the better. Of course, if the sight of a misplaced modifier drives you to distraction, go ahead and do a grammar edit first.
Alright, now that you know what you want to change story-wise, go ahead and fix that. Got it? Now do a grammar check. Read your piece forwards and backwards. Look at each sentence on it’s own as well as in context with the surrounding sentences and paragraph. Be ruthless.Spare no ambiguous verb. Or if you’re no good at grammar, now might be a good time to pass it off to one of your grammar nazi friends.
And we’re done.
Well, not quite.
Now you need other eyes. But I think I’ll save that for another day.
For this week, try running through an edit one of your pieces. Extra points if you had to throw out more than ten percent.

Still A Good Time For Egg Nog

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Merry Christmas, happy Hanukkah, snazzy Kwanza, joyous Festivus, fuzzy Solstice, lucrative Boxing Day, and/or the adjective and holiday of your choosing dear readers. I’mma going to sleep, ’cause there’s festivities to be had in the morning. Post on editation come tuesday.

Poetry: An Introduction

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I’ve seen it time and again from magazines and quarterlies. We don’t take poetry, please don’t send us your poems. Dear god, but we hate poems and if you send us one we’ll track you down and slash your tires. They’re maligned in movies, lampooned in sketches, and satirized in audio fiction. Poems are the whipping boy for most of the creative writing world. They’re the kids standing off in the corner smoking while everybody else dances, and I don’t think that’s fair.
So over the next couple of weeks, I’m going to try to convince you to go talk to those crazy misanthropes, ’cause you might find they have some interesting things to say.
Now before you unfollow me, I’d like to assure you that I will be covering other topics unrelated to poetry, so if rhyme and meter really turn your stomach, there will be other things to read. However, I do intend to focus primarily on poetry for a while.
Ready?

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