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This week:Edited by: larryp
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1. About this Newsletter
2. A Word from our Sponsor
3. Letter from the Editor
4. Editor's Picks
5. A Word from Writing.Com
6. Ask & Answer
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But, to write well it is entirely necessary to read widely and deeply. Good poems are the best teachers. Perhaps they are the only teachers. I would go so far as to say that, if one must make a choice between reading or taking part in a workshop, one should read.
Mary Oliver, Banister Writer-in-Residence at Sweet Briar College A Poetry Handbook
In this newsletter, we will discuss writing free verse poetry and reading poetry.
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In her book A Poetry Handbook, Pulitzer Prize winning poet Mary Oliver states:
You would learn very little in this world if you were not allowed to imitate. And to repeat your imitations until some solid grounding in the skill was achieved and the slight but wonderful difference—that made you you and no one else—could assert itself. Every child is encouraged to imitate. But in the world of writing it is originality that is sought out, and praised, while imitation is the sin of sins.
Too bad. I think if imitation were encouraged much would be learned well that is now learned partially and haphazardly. Before we can be poets, we must practice; imitation is a very good way of investigating the real thing.
Mary Oliver, A Poetry Handbook (1994: Harcourt Brace and Company)
With this in mind, Mary Oliver encourages her poetry students to read as much poetry as possible, both from the past and present. By reading the styles of other poets and with ‘much practice,’ a poet slowly develops his/her personal style.
In the past, poets made use of meter and rhyming, but much of today’s poetry is what has been labeled free verse. Free verse has no distinct form, but in free verse, each poet has a different style. Mary Oliver states:
Imitating such poems is an excellent way to realize that they are not very similar after all, but contain differences that are constant, subtle, intense, and radiantly interesting.
The student of poetry does well to read the poems of other poets. Even the reading of poems by our peers at Writing.com will help us improve our poetry.
This much is certainly true: the free-verse poem, when finished, must “feel” like a poem—it must be an intended and an effective presentation… It need not rhyme in a definite pattern, but it may rhyme a little, if the poet decides to rhyme a little. It need not follow particular stanza formations, though of course it 'may' have stanzas. It need not follow any of the old rules, "necessarily." Neither does it have to avoid all of them, "necessarily."
Mary Oliver, A Poetry Handbook
By reading the free verse poems of other poets, we will notice these variations and it will aid us as we ‘imitate,’ adapting these variations into our personal styles. Personally, I like a ‘free verse’ poem that contains a slight seasoning of rhyme and alliteration, but there are many poets who prefer to stay away from rhyming. It is enough to be aware that rhyming is not ‘taboo’ in free verse poetry.
Think of free verse as "open form" and traditional verse as "closed form." When you use a closed form-- like the sonnet or haiku or villanelle-- you are following rules that others have invented. When you write in open form (free verse), you must create a new form.
Read the last sentence again, and you will see that free verse has rules! That's right, you create a form and then consistently follow the form that you created. In other words, you are following rules that you have invented for the poem. Without such unique form, there is no difference between prose and poetry.
Eliot "Myths of Poetry" – (Writing.com poet and poetry teacher)
Free verse, despite the apparent lack of restrictions, should be as carefully constructed as any formal poem. In many ways, it is more difficult to write a good free verse poem than one in a traditional form, because you must not only invent your own rules but fulfill them as well.
Read the following poem by William Carlos Williams, paying attention to how easily the poem reads. In free verse, this is often referred to as the flow of the poem. Notice that the poem has the ‘feel’ of a poem, with “an intended and an effective presentation…”
THE WIDOW'S LAMENT IN SPRINGTIME
by: William Carlos Williams (1883-1963)
Sorrow is my own yard
where the new grass
flames as it has flamed
often before but not
with the cold fire
that closes round me this year.
Thirty five years
I lived with my husband.
The plum tree is white today
with masses of flowers.
Masses of flowers
load the cherry branches
and color some bushes
yellow and some red
but the grief in my heart
is stronger than they
for though they were my joy
formerly, today I notice them
and turned away forgetting.
Today my son told me
that in the meadows,
at the edge of the heavy woods
in the distance, he saw
trees of white flowers.
I feel that I would like
to go there
and fall into those flowers
and sink into the marsh near them.
Writing free verse properly requires much practice and we gain instruction by reading and imitating other poets.
(Note: In this edition, I introduced Eliot . In the August 29th edition of the Poetry Newsletter, I will feature Eliot and his poetry. Along with being a talented poet, Eliot also teaches poetry. In upcoming issues, I will feature other talented poets in the Writing.com community.)
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Confronting a common myth about free verse poetry.
Some free verse poems from around the site. (As you read these poems, pay close attention to some of the poetry devices employed in the poems, such as alliteration and onomatopoeia.)
In response to last week's newsletter, this poem was created to explain why one poet writes.
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Hello KP. To be the "new kid on the block," you did a fine job on your first newsletter. Congratulations on being a new editor here.
Have a faerie nice day!
Thank you Elizabeth. I appreciate the encouragement. Let me know if there are any topics you would like to see covered in the newsletter.
From Feeona Green
I find myself in particular agreement with your third reason for writing poetry. Because I was schooled in journalism, I like to write tight (in most cases). Poetry appeals to 'both sides' of my brain, as it were -- the part that wants to create and the part that needs to be as concise as possible within that creativity. Poetry for me is both a release from rational constraints of expression and a challenge to exercise the utmost control of language.
I look forward to reading more of your newsletters!
Thank you Fee. "a challenge to exercise the utmost control of language." I love this phrase. I learn so much about the language of English by writing poetry. I find that constantly consult the dictionary and thesaurus. The words are what we paint with.
Larry-Wonderful newsletter! I enjoyed it a lot & look forward to many more.
Now to answer the question you posed-what are reasons I write poetry & what do I enjoy most... I think I write poetry because it is a way to express what I'm feeling in a succinct, yet emotional & passionate way. My poetry is a piece of my heart. I think the thing I enjoy most about writing poetry is when someone reads it & it has moved them, or touched them in a profound way. And personally, I enjoy that I can go back & read one of my poems & feel exactly the same way I felt when I wrote it. It's just like a journal.
Best of luck in your role as editor!
Thank you for sharing your views on why you write poetry, Fleckgirl. Poetry is a very personal thing. One of the myths that Eliot confronts (in his article featured above) is that poetry is biographical, as some contend it is not.
Thanks a lot for your wonderful newsletter! Your newsletter was very informative and helped me a lot.
I've just begun to write poetry, so finishing a verse is like a big challenge to me as I often tend to get stuck with the words.
Hi Pooja. Welcome to the wonderful word of poetry. I hope that you become a student of poetry, for it a fantastic avenue of expression and there is much one may learn.
For one, a definition of poetry that I have found useful for myself and in
teaching poetry: "Poetry makes the truth a little more disturbing," that is, we
don't often learn new truths in poetry, but good poetry presents truths in ways
that make us more attentive, make us contemplate them.
I love that Eliot. What a fine definiton. I have also heard it stated that we don't so much learn new truths, but we gain experience through reading and writing poetry. I really like your thoughts here.
From D. Cavanaugh
I write other things, short stories, fiction, novels. However, I find poetry my favorite. I feel it gives me an opportunity to quickly and effectively write about pain, love, loss, and morals. I am able to express my thoughts on so many issues in a way that helps people to realize it and appreciate it when I write poetry.
I hope that you too may become a student of poetry, D. Poulin. It has been my experience that poety, in some ways, enhances inner healing. Keep writing and keep improving in your poetry endeavors.
Great newsletter Larry, enjoyed reading about your feeling on poetry. I am 67 won my first contest and was published in the New England Homestead when I was 7
Thank you for the encouragement Monty. I always enjoy reading your poetry. 60 years of writing poetry! Awesome!
I write poetry as an alternative to journaling - as a means of expressing some of my deepest thoughts and emotions. Oddly enough, though, I don't write free verse. I love rhyming verse. I also write poetry from an imaginative point-of-view, but generally I only write from personal experience. I also write stories and am working on a novel, but poetry is what I write the most of. I love writing poetry because it is so emotional and when writing poetry somehow I always find a way to say those things I can't say just in a normal sentence.
Most of my poems are rhyming poems also. Journaling is a good device for inspiration for poetry also. Keep writing and keep improving. Thanks for sharing your views on writing poetry
I really enjoyed what you said about "just-right words". I could remember a quote about it, but I couldn't remember the comparison, so I was pleasantly surprised to see Mark Twain quoted further down the page. I personally write poetry because I sometimes get lines moving through my head that I can't get rid of, so I trap them on paper instead .
Thanks for the great newsletter,
Keep trapping those lines on paper! For in your head, only you can see them.
From Suzin Marie
Poetry is an escape to me. When I'm writing, nothing in the world matters at that moment except what I'm feeling. In poetry I'm able to pour my whole heart out and my heart becomes words.
"my heart becomes words." - I like that. Poetry is an escape for me also. With it, I can to faraway places.
Hi Larry. I knew I would like the newsletter when I saw your name. :) I love poetry but fear I'll never be a great one. I do not understand 'iambic pentameter' and a lot of the technical stuff. I write it and read it for content, for feeling, emotion, to stretch the mind. Being criticized for improper 'rhythm' dampens but doesn't destroy my love of poetry. Nice issue!
Hi Ivy Rose. Thanks for the encouragement.I have read some of your poetry and I must say that you are a good poet. I locked myself in my basement every evening for about a month, reading and reading and reading before I finally began to understand iambic meter - and I am still only in the beginning stages of writing true meter. Never let anything or anyone destroy your love for poetry! Keep writing poems my friend.
Welcome aboard the newsletter ship. I have to agree that researching makes your writing stronger and more believable. And writers are usually the bigggest liars around (next to actors), so every little bit helps
Thanks Bill. I once heard an old cowboy poet say that 'poetic liberty' is the permission to "lie like the devil."
Larry, what a wonderful surprise to wake and find such a gifted talent heading this issue
of the Poetry Newsletter....Congratulations and I loved this weeks topic...
Thank you Marlena. Your support is always rewarding.
From Vivian: publisher, author
Good editorial, Larry. I understand the need to write poetry. I've often said I think in poetry and then translate to prose. Poetry is my therapy, my stability, my vent, and my power. Although I write other types of work, poetry will always be an important part of my writing life. ~~ Viv
I probably think in poetry too, Viv. I drive my wife crazy, because I even try to make a poem from the menu in restaurants. Thanks for your comments and support.
From Savannah Lynn<3
I loved reading this newsletter! For being the new kid on the block you certainly are one of the best! As to your questions, I like writing poetry because it helps me escape my crazy life. I mainly write about lost loves, I like being able to be okay with it by the time it's in words. I enjoy people's reactions the most when I write poetry. I'm a 12 year old girl and people don't usually expect a lot out of me, but I usually give them a good reaction.
I can't wait to read your next newsletter!
Hi Savannah, my young poet friend. I like your attitude. Don't live by what others expect, but by what you expect of yourself. There is something about putting it down on paper that makes it better. What a joy to receive these comments from you.
I write poetry to realise my own emotions and discover my fears. I feel that its only with ink, paper, and verse, that I can delve into the forbidden places of my mind and show them to the world.
- Great newsletter
Thanks you Lunar Dreamer. Keep delving into those forbidden places, much awaits discovery!
I write poetry as a concert pianist does finger exercises to warm up before a performance,I use the writing of the poem to set the mood I want to capture sometimes it works,sometimes it doesnt,but I always feel that I have learnt something about me when I do.
What a nice analogy, Stan. In the world of poetry, learning is what it is all about. Keep writing those poems!
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