2005 Articles are found here.
“My Poetry: The What, Why, When, Where and How of It”
a personal essay by Larry D. Thomas, Guest Editor
I write poetry and occasional reviews of books of poetry and fiction, and find the short story particularly beneficial to the writing of poetry as a result of its brevity and intensity. I consider it the “poetry” of literary prose.
I never made a conscious decision to become a poet. A little over a year after I received my B.A. degree in English literature, I was mysteriously compelled to write a poem about “a dusk sky studded with cotton candy clouds where myriads of birds, swift in flight, race a fleeting sun toward infinity,” and I have written poetry regularly ever since. It’s as if I were “called” to be a poet, strange as that may sound.
From 1972 until 1998, while I was employed in the criminal justice system of Harris County, I wrote only on weekends. Since 1998 when I retired from my employment with the criminal justice system, I have written poetry on a full time basis, generally four days each week. The majority of the poems which I write are composed in free verse, but I sometimes write in form, generally rhymed couplets, tercets or quatrains.
I normally begin writing around 10:00 a.m. on my writing days, and finish at two or three in the afternoon. I always write in what I call my studio, which was once an efficiency garage apartment located at the back of my home. It is a relatively quiet place with no telephone or door bell. This is the place where I expect poems to occur, so it helps me get in a “compositional” frame of mind and concentrate on my writing.
For over twenty-five years, I’ve written to the music of Beethoven, which I play at a rather loud but not uncomfortable volume. His music assists me with the rhythms and unity of my work. I play pretty much his entire recorded oeuvre, in an often random manner. I have become quite familiar with all of his work, so one Beethoven composition works as well for me as another.
I always sit in a primitive oaken rocker, which does not have a cushion. I find that this slight discomfort gives me an “edge” which would otherwise be missing, and enhances my concentration. Concentration is absolutely essential to effective writing, and when I write I think of myself as a concert pianist performing a demanding musical score for an audience. I write with a fountain pen and clipboard of discarded computer paper which has one clean side. I enjoy the tactile quality of writing by hand, and the flow of ink into the page. This enhances the “organic” aspect of writing which for me is essential to the unity of my compositions.
When I sit down to write, I rarely have any idea of what I will write about. I just sit until something comes along, often an image around which I build my poem. As Emily Dickinson so successfully revealed, a universe is abundant in a single room and the poet needs only vision to tap the room’s fathomless offerings.
I first attempt a rather free-flowing draft of a complete poem, without much regard to shaping my lines or stanzas. After I complete a draft from which I think I can work, I start shaping it into lines and then into stanzas. Lines should not be arbitrarily grouped into stanzas. A strong stanza should have integrity as a unit distinct from the other stanzas, while at the same time serving the organic unity of the poem as a whole.
In my opinion, the major difference between poetry and prose is what I call the integrity of line. In prose, line length is determined arbitrarily by the margin. Not so in poetry. Each line must be consciously shaped by the poet, and, at least in her/his own mind, justified, whether by syllabics, rhythmic pattern, rhyme, or whatever technique works best for the individual poet. Much of the free verse poetry written today is but prose arbitrarily divided into lines to look like poetry.
Finally, I start “carving the fat” from the poem. I try to be especially careful with adjectives and adverbs, eliminating them altogether whenever possible. I’ve found that the use of strong nouns and verbs often obviates the use of modifiers. I revise my poem as I compose it, often fifteen to twenty times during each writing session. Although I attempt to “finish” a poem in a sitting of four to five hours, revising the poem as many times as necessary to get it where I want it, I often revisit the poem a day or so later for final polishing.
LARRY D. THOMAS, born and raised in West Texas, currently resides in
Houston and Galveston. His most recent book is Where Skulls Speak Wind,
nominated for the 2004 Violet Crown Book Award. His three previous
poetry collections received several prizes and awards: Amazing Grace,
the 2001 Texas Review Poetry Prize, the 2003 Western Heritage Award for
the Outstanding Poetry Book of 2002, and a 2002 Spur Award Finalist citation
(Western Writers of America); The Woodlanders, a 2002 Violet Crown
Book Award Special Citation (Writers' League of Texas); and The Lighthouse
Keeper, a Small Press Review "pick-of-the-issue." Among the numerous
national journals that have published his poetry and reviews are International
Poetry Review, Louisiana Literature, Poet Lore, Puerto del Sol, Southwest
Review, The Texas Observer, and The Texas Review. His poems
have been anthologized in the Anthology of Magazine Verse & Yearbook
of American Poetry (1997 edition), The Big Roundup, New Texas
(2001, 2002 and 2003), and Texas in Poetry 2.
“The Grammar of a Few Archaic Words”
by Mary Margaret Carlisle, Managing Editor
Although Sol Magazine does not accept competition poems with archaic words, if you do use them in your work, why not use them in a grammatically correct way?
— Thou is second person singular when used as a subject.
“Thou wilt not sing tonight.”
— The -est ending on a verb is also second person singular.
“Wherever thou goest, thou hearest or bringest trouble.”
— Be (are) and has (have) are irregular.
“Thou art a bird.” “Thou hast a bird.”
— The -eth ending is third person singular.
“They goeth, but he stayeth, while she hath not yet made up her mind.”
— Thee is the equivalent of me or him,
used as a direct or indirect object.
“I love thee beyond words.” “I curse thee and thy dog’s droppings.”
— Thy is a possessive.
“Take off thy coat and stay awhile.”
— Thine is also a possessive.
“That glove is thine and this is mine.”
— Like mine, thine can be used as a possessive adjective.
“Thine eyes are the bluest I have seen.”
"A Brief Haiku Primer"
by SuzAnne C. Cole, Guest Editor
Through poetry, we share feelings about our experiences; the Japanese poetry form, the haiku, a seventeen or fewer syllable poem in three lines, usually short-long-short, provides a concise means for doing so. Like visual art, haiku convey feelings by describing the images that evoke them rather than naming the feelings themselves; haiku do not interpret or judge. Rather, they capture the essence of a single moment by presenting the concrete images that make that experience special to the writer. Haiku also call upon our senses, joining two or more elements of sight, sound, taste, touch, smell, and movement in such a way that we can recreate the moment and feel its reverberations.
bleached of green
SuzAnne C. Cole, Houston, TX, USA
Many haiku practitioners believe English haiku should follow the Japanese form: three lines of 5, 7, 5 syllables. However, because of language differences, following this pattern can produce English haiku crowded with too many images. Thus, many poets writing in English use fewer than seventeen syllables, while maintaining the three-line structure.
vase of stems
SuzAnne C. Cole, Houston, TX, USA
In both forms, haiku break into two parts, one longer, one shorter, each containing an image which contrasts with the other. The break comes at the end of the first or second line. The shorter part usually does not use articles or prepositions; the longer section may. Adverbs and most adjectives are omitted throughout. Haiku usually have no punctuation, although dashes to mark the break and question marks seem acceptable in some schools. Haiku are never titled and are written in the present tense because they recreate the present moment.
Traditionally, haiku include images from nature, especially images evoking particular seasons. Poets writing in English may also use seasonal words and images to describe when and where the haiku moment occurs, as well as what is being experienced. But English haiku often do not include seasonal words because the Japanese tradition is not our tradition, because English is written in many different geographical locations (the moon doesn't necessarily signify autumn in Houston), and because many contemporary writers predominantly live in urban environments. On the issue of whether or not to include humanity in haiku, the poet must decide if he or she considers people part of nature.
old woman slumps
against blooming pear tree
hands hiding her face
SuzAnne C. Cole, Houston, TX, USA
To practice writing haiku, poets have only to sit and observe the natural world for a few moments-or remember a significant moment associated with a particular place. Then they describe something in the natural scene or the remembered scene. Next, they express the object or experience in three short lines, trying to structure it with two different sensory impressions. Poets consider contrasts and try to keep their language simple and concrete. Finally, after checking the syllable count, they consider alternatives for each word, and, if a word is not contributing anything, they leave it out. As a final step, poets move the lines around, sharpening the picture and making every word work hard.
on bare wooden table
chairs pushed away
SuzAnne C. Cole, Houston, TX, USA
A few books that may prove helpful:
Reichhold, Jane, Writing and Enjoying Haiku: A Hands-On Guide, Kodansha, 2002. [The author also maintains a fine website: www.ahapoetry.com.]
Higginson, William J. (with Penny Harter), The Haiku Handbook: How to Write, Share and Teach Haiku, Kodansha, l989.
Hass, Robert, ed., The Essential Haiku: Versions of Basho, Buson, & Issa, Ecco, 1994.
Higginson, William J., The Haiku Seasons: Poetry of the Natural World, Kodansha, l996.
SuzAnne C. Cole is this year’s Sol Magazine’s Poet Laureate. To
see more of her poetry, visit the 2004 Poet
Laureate feature article.
"Poet Laureate of the United States, 2003-2004:
an essay by Mary Burlingame, Assistant Editor
Better known as the Poet Laureate of the United States, the most recent Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress is Louise Glück (pronounced Glick). Appointed to this post by the Librarian of Congress, her service lasts one year, includes an office at the Library of Congress, a salary of $35,000, and the obligation to both give and organize poetry readings.
Born in New York in 1943, Glück grew up on Long Island, attended Columbia University, Sarah Lawrence College, and received a Law degree from Williams College. She taught at Williams College for 20 years, but recently accepted a teaching position at Yale.
In 2001, Yale awarded Glück the Bollingen Prize in Poetry, a biennial award for poet's lifetime achievement. She has published 9 books of poetry. While her earliest books are traditional collections of poems, later books are narratives running along a theme. She has received numerous awards for her works. The Triumph of Achilles, (1985) won the National Book Critics Circle Award, the Boston Globe Literary Press Award, and the Poetry Society of America's Melville Kane Award.
Ararat (1990) won the Library of Congress' Rebekah Johnson Bobbitt National Prize for Poetry. Wild Iris (1993), about the passing of the season in a New England garden, won the Pulitzer Prize and Poetry Society of America's William Carlos Williams Award. Vita Nova (1999), won New Yorker magazine's Book Award in Poetry. Proofs and Theories: Essays on Poetry (1994), won the PEN/Martha Albrand Award for Nonfiction.
Glück’s earlier books had themes of rejection, loss, and isolation, often written in an angry first person. Her later works range from examination of historic and mythic figures, to archetypal subjects of fairy tales and the Bible, to honest examination of the family and the self.
Glück says her poems are "more brutal, more disturbing, less readily accessible and charming." She became an anorexic as a girl around the time she began to write. She got help from psychoanalyst and later said, "Psychoanalysis was one of the great experiences of my life. It helps me live and it taught me to think." Billy Collins said her poetry is "the release of accumulated misery." *
Glück says, "I never have the faintest idea when I'm going to be writing. I sometimes write in seizures. I wrote three of my books very, very rapidly." When it comes to language, she prefers the simple to the ornate: "From the beginning I preferred the simplest vocabulary. What fascinated me were the possibilities of context. What I responded to…was the way a poem could liberate…that word's full and surprising range of meaning. It seemed to me that simple language best suited this enterprise; such language, in being generic, is likely to contain the greatest and most dramatic variety of meaning within individual words. I liked scale, but I liked it invisible." **
Click to read The Wild Iris and The Red Poppy at www.artstomp.com
To read more of Louise Glück’s work, visit
* Quotes from an article by Linton Weeks, Washington Post Staff Writer, Aug 29, 2003
** Quotes from Education of the Poet, Proofs & Theories: Essays on Poetry (New York: Ecco, 1994) 4-5. © 1994, Louise Glück.
"Thoughts on Billy Collins"
by Sharon Rothenfluch Cooper, Guest Editor
Who is Billy Collins? One succinct answer would be that Billy Collins was Poet Laureate of the United States of America before the current Poet Laureate, Louise Glück.
But while we rush through our days and miss so much simplicity and complexity around us, not so with Billy Collins. This distinguished poet and professor of English at Lehman College has taught for the past thirty years.
Some peers remark that he is “…smart, his strings tuned and resonant, his wonderful eye looping over the things…playful, warm-voiced, easy to love,” and “…limpid, gently and consistently startling, more serious than they seem…”
Others have said that Billy Collins is a metaphysical poet with a funny bone and a sly questioning intelligence, and that his poems are both witty and playful, and they “bump up against the deepest human mysteries.”
The work of Billy Collins can be read in anthologies, textbooks, and a variety of periodicals and poetic volumes. Heaped with awards for his work over the years, the crown of Poet Laureate was well deserved.
No need to miss the world around us. Let us sit a moment with one of Billy Collins’ books and renew ourselves.
To read more about Billy Collins, visit the following websites:
"What is Haiku"
by Craig Tigerman, Special Projects Manager
This unique literary expression draws many into the quest of mastering Haiku’s form. Must its syllables be exactly 5-7-5? Must each be about nature? Here are three sites from the many hundreds of sites on the web that try to answer these questions.
For an in-depth look, Sol Magazine's Haiku guidelines (see http://www.sol-magazine.org under POETRY FORMS) include an excellent summary of Haiku technique from the viewpoint of content.
Haiku.Com is another good place for the serious Haiku student, for it lists sites to explore such as anthology sites, individual poets, articles and essays, societies and clubs, and also gives information about events. http://www.haiku.com
Also recommended is The Definition of Haiku, by Alexey Andreyev.
This writer gives a thoughtful and interesting discussion of what makes
for good Haiku. Look for “Other Sources of Haiku,” which shows links
to other Haiku sites.
Read, then put your hand to the task, and see what haiku expressions can flow from your imagination!
flakes fall silently
on barren rotting tree limbs
Craig Tigerman, Rock Island, IL, USA
"Lilibonelle vs. Retourne"
an essay by Roy Schwartzman, Sol Magazine’s Forms Investigator
This is a discussion of two similar yet distinct forms, the Lilibonelle and the Retourne. The two forms operate in the same manner, with lines of subsequent stanzas generated from lines of the first stanza. Typically both forms begin with a Quatrain, with each line of the first Quatrain becoming the first line of a subsequent Quatrain. Thus the Lilibonelle and the Retourne look alike at this point, as the Sol Magazine encyclopedia of poetry forms indicates:
Stanza 1 line 1
Stanza 1 line 2
Stanza 1 line 3
Stanza 1 line 4
Stanza 2 line 1 repeats Stanza 1 line 2
Stanza 2 line 2
Stanza 2 line 3
Stanza 2 line 4
Stanza 3 line 1 repeats Stanza 1 line 3
Stanza 3 line 2
Stanza 3 line 3
Stanza 3 line 4
Stanza 4 line 1 repeats Stanza 1 line 4
Stanza 4 line 2
Stanza 4 line 3
Stanza 4 line 4
The Retourne, as the name indicates, is a French form. The Lilibonelle, however, allows many more variations than the Retourne. A Lilibonelle has no metrical restriction, but each line of a Retourne is in tetrameter, eight syllables per line. Furthermore, a Lilibonelle may consist of stanzas that contain any number of lines as long all stanzas have the same number of lines and the lines of the first stanza are repeated according to the specified pattern. The stanzas of Retournes are Quatrains, so a Retourne will have sixteen lines. The Retourne is a more restrictive form, both metrically and in length. Neither form requires a specific rhyme scheme.
Why might a poet select either or both these forms? The repetition
of lines from the initial stanza allows a single theme to be developed
throughout the poem. Since the lines appear in different stanzas,
the same idea can emerge in different senses as the poem develops.
These forms also hold the potential for the ideas in each line of the first
stanza to be extended later, gradually adding depth and complexity to the
"Simply Get Your Poems Published - A Checklist for
by Mary Margaret Carlisle, Managing Editor
ORDER YOUR WORK: Put your poems in order, perhaps grouped by category, for there are different markets for different types of poetry. Put the five best poems at the top of each stack.
BUY A COPY OF POET’S MARKET: A new edition of Poet's Market is published annually by Writer's Diget Books in Cincinnati, Ohio. Buy the latest edition. Read it end to end. Pick out a few places for each of your categories. Purchase a huge box of envelopes and a roll of stamps.
TRACK EXPENSES: Set aside a shoe box for expenses, and toss in all your receipts. Once a month enter any new expenses into a notebook, and clearly mark what was spent for what. Put the now old receipts into a baggie, and use a sharpie to label it with the month and year. Toss new receipts on top until the next month. Repeat. When you sell your first book, this will come in handy for reporting to the IRS.
READ SUBMISSION GUIDELINES: Never query a magazine unless you have already read that magazine. Never write to a publisher until you know what they publish. Then read Submission Guidelines before you ask questions or send in anything. Follow those guidelines. Exactly. Make a checklist and put a tic next to each required element as you go along. Most places want three to five poems at a time. Remember to include a SASE each time you send out a query.
TRACK POEMS: Always track what has been sent where and when! Create a sheet for each poem, and list each publisher to whom a poem has been sent. Put the sheet into a binder. Create a sheet for each publisher and list the poems each has been sent. Put these into another binder. At the top of each publisher sheet, put the date sent. If you've not heard back in six weeks to six months, send the same publisher new poems, or send a query about the five you already sent, or put a NO RESPONSE AS OF THIS DATE (fill in the date) in red ink next to the “sent” date. Or you may wish to send poems to a new publisher. When a poem is accepted somewhere, place the acceptance letter behind the poem in the binder. Then send a withdrawal of that poem to the other publishers to whom it has been sent unless a particular publisher does not require first rights of publication. When you publish your first book of poems, you will have a ready-made list of all the places the poem has previously been published, so noting acknowledgments will be simple.
TOO MUCH TROUBLE: Does this simple prep work seem like too much trouble? Then make your own plan!
GET STARTED: Getting published without a plan is difficult.
Getting published without getting started is impossible. Get going!
And good luck!
When poets enter poetry contests, most know they take a great risk their work may be rejected. However, poets may be unaware of other, more hidden risks. Some poetry contests or publishers will publish anything received; all poets have to do is pay a fee to see their work in print.
Scammers take advantage of writers in various ways. Some scams have the look of legitimate contests. The organizers fool poets into thinking they want quality poems when the real objective is simply to collect money. Other contests specialize in scamming students, and even take advantage of tragedies like 9/11.
Many writers have been caught up in these scams, but a few have fought back by unleashing their wit in a heroic but failed attempt to write poems bad enough to get rejected by these presses. The result is an array of parody poems and even a parody poem contest.
In the end, take heart. There are many legitimate, honorable contests. Just remember, the best way to avoid a scam is to research all contests before entering. Once you have found a good one, enter, for you have the opportunity to not only see your name in print, but also to establish a reputation as a poet of quality and craftsmanship, and to gain the respect of other poets.
Have you been scammed? Would you like to share your story? Write to Mary Burlingame, firstname.lastname@example.org and we may use your letter.
SCAM EXPOSING LINKS (clicking on links will open a new window)
The Worst Poetry Contests
Big Money in Poetry http://www.windpub.com/literary.scams/bigmoney.htm
Before you Write that Check - Test kit for scams http://www.writer.org/scamkit.htm
Getting the Scoop on Poetry Contest Scams
Spot a scam
Dave Barry Speaks
Rip Offs & Horror Stories http://www.windpub.com/literary.scams/scams.htm
Poems of Shame: “Dawn of a New Eve”
Wergleflomp Poetry Contest: The best of the worst Poetry
Poetry Contests: Acclaim or Scam?
The most asked question at Sol Magazine is, Why so many rules? Sol has set membership requirements, submission guidelines, publication policies, and even gives individual contest notes to follow. Those are a lot of complex rules!
Our language rule was set because Sol is a family magazine open to people of all ages and backgrounds. We will not publish sexually suggestive or explicit words, graphic language, expletives, or ethnic slurs. And because we wish Sol to be a place where everyone feels welcome, we do not publish religious or political work.
We don’t have an unlimited amount of storage space on our computer, and consequently limit the number of lines per poem so we have room to publish more. And insisting on a standardized entry format helps us spend as little time as possible with each entry so we can handle the large number of submissions that come our way each month.
But beyond making things easier for our volunteers, we also want to make things better for our poets. Our complex set of guidelines offers good practice in looking at everything. You'd be surprised at how few writers pay attention to small details, but those details are the first things an editor looks for.
You may feel that paying attention to a lot of rules may not help you
write with more clarity and detail, or give you a better understanding
of the poetic tools. But note that if you can get past the gatekeeper
here to have your work published, you will most probably be well on the
road to having your work accepted elsewhere.
September 2003 Poetry Works is on a separate web page
Using the second person in poetry can add intensity and immediacy to a narration, but a common point of confusion can occur when this voice is used to address a "you" who never is identified or explained. For instance:
Oh, may your silhouette never dissolve on the beach;This beautiful poem describes the speaker's feelings, but who or what does this poem address? What is the background of the relationship?
may your eyelids never flutter into the empty distance.
Don't leave me for a second, my dearest . . .
(Excerpted from the poem "XLV," by Pablo Neruda, published in 100 Love Sonnets, University of Texas, 1986.)
Expressing intense emotions without furnishing concrete details can raise many questions when using the second person, especially in love poetry. In the preceding excerpt, the reader may safely assume that "you" is the beloved, but a lack of description leaves "you" open to be anything with eyelids and a silhouette.
An example of good detail work and background:
When we are older, just us aloneAs in the first example, the details here describe the feelings of the narrator, but we know much more about this "you." We know he is the husband of the speaker, how he treats his wife, how this treatment has "pacified" her, and made her "voiceless." We clearly see and feel how this women has given up her dreams, how the wildness of her spirit has been tamed and caged.
You will be handsome in age and I
Famous. We will hand a legacy to our children,
Contented, wealthy. All of our struggling will have ceased
And the clock will tick softly on
My heart will have been tamed, will strike itself
Gently against weak rib cage. I shall be all smiles and flowers
This rage quite dismantled.
I will sit voiceless, accepting
Seasonal gifts from
Children and grandchildren.
I will sit rocking on
Armchair dismayed and pink of gum, aware of
Weak fingers, old dreams and the feelings
I knew I could have felt. I will sit knitting and pacified
Making quilts to hand down the
Generations and look up from time to time
With humility and fondness to your
(Excerpted from "Old Tiger," by Caroline A. Ross, published in Houston Poetry Fest 2000 Anthology, 2000.)
Using second person in poetry can intensify a voice and expand a viewpoint,
but also can lead to the "you" being unknown, so when speaking directly
to a particular "you," do not assume an audience will recognize all the
characteristics necessary to understand the story. Instead, use both
details and background to show the emotion so a reader will clearly understand
what is happening and why, and be able to recognize the "you" in your poetry.
Sol Magazine's Judges may receive three poems to judge, or they may
be inundated with thirty plus entries in one contest. How can you
make your own entry stand out? It may stand a better chance of receiving
an award if you keep in mind the following tips.
As a science fiction writer, one of my favorite motifs is language and communication between different races. If I needed to convey the concept of poetry to a visitor from another planet, I wouldn’t explain it. I would demonstrate it. Let’s assume that this weird new “poetry” thing fascinates a visiting alien, and that we have a language in common: he has already learned mine, or I’ve learned his. It might go like this…
I would begin by reading poetry to my new friend. If he spoke English, I would start with some favorite poems of mine and some by other authors I admire. I’d present a wide range of forms, styles, and topics from different time periods. I would carefully observe to see what worked and what didn’t, then expand on whatever seemed to intrigue him. I might invite him to try reading a few poems to me, too.
Once we had enough material in our mutual experience, I would move into discussing the poems. I might talk about what poetry means to humans, how it has influenced our history, the many ways in which different cultures define poetry, and the wonderful techniques that poets use to evoke a response from their audience. I’d talk about the individual poems, why this one touched me, what line I love best in that one, what motifs and methods I enjoy. I would have to do it this way, because poetry can’t really be explained; it can only be explored.
Gradually I would work my way into the theory of poetry, not just the techniques, but also the meaning behind it all. The tricky thing is … poetry doesn’t have meaning, poetry is meaning. It’s language taken apart and put back together again upside down. It’s the intersection between words and art. It’s communication made not through logic but through intuition. Poetry is what we get when we abandon the ordinary purpose of writing and leave only the import. We can add rules, or take them all away and put a message entirely between the lines to be read by that part of our brains that mysteriously fills in the gaps.
The concept of poetry is holographic: the whole world represented in the tiniest part. It is not a report, not an account, but rather an experience; direct revelation. Conversation tells. A good story shows. Poetry takes you by the hand – or by the heart – and leads you through the thing itself. This is why I had to start by reading poetry and wandering through interesting places with my friend. Poetry is meaning so pure, and concept so basic, that it goes straight past all the barriers erected to filter everyday forms of expression. It connects your eyes or your ears right to your emotions. It distills normal communication down to the innermost essence. If you’re just talking about rules, you’re not talking about poetry yet. You have to talk about feelings. That’s what the meaning and the concept come down to.
Next I would show poetry in progress to my friend. I’d take one or two good ideas and flesh them out. Let him see me count syllables on my fingers, let him listen to me muttering lines under my breath, let him watch the poem take form as I compose and revise it. I would take him to places where I often find poems: forests and museums and street fairs. I’d go through the process of choosing a form and tone suited to my message, and take the time to play with language a whole lot before settling on final phrases. I’d show him how I spin the loose fiber of ideas into a strong, finished yarn.
Finally I would encourage him to try writing some poetry himself.
An alien curious enough to visit a peculiar planet like Earth and hang
out with a human poet might very well have the makings of a good poet himself.
We’d go out on an excursion, and I’d get him talking, and then I’d pick
out the best phrases he used and say, “You know, that would make a good
poem. You should write it down.” I’d tempt him with pen and
paper. I’d tease him with thought-provoking questions. I’d
seduce him with interesting experiences. I’d suggest possible forms
and motifs for him to try. Then we would read each other what we’d
written. Maybe we’d exchange poems, and he’d read mine to me, and
I’d read his back to him. Who knows, he could become the first poet
of his race!
Elizabeth Barrette is Sol Magazine’s Poet Laureate 2003. To read more of her ideas about poetry and writing, visit “Seeing The World Sideways," an interview by Paula Marie Bentley, Features Editor.
Gerunds Don't Dance:
"ing" Endings in Poetry
an editorial by Mary Margaret Carlisle, Managing Editor
Many teachers train beginning poets to use gerunds as an easy way to achieve a simple internal or external rhyme. Although fine for light or romantic poetry, problems abound when gerunds are used more than a few times in any poem.
An "ing" ending adds no real meaning; "ing" is a weak modifier, an addendum that turns an active verb into a passive gerund. An adjective that was once a verb is not as vital or strong as the verb itself. Too much modification does not help writing of any kind, and in poetry may encourage a drift into flowery language.
In addition, a heavy reliance on gerunds turns attention away from meaning and inadvertently puts more emphasis on how the words sound. This dependence can dilute a voice so much that it becomes like a gentle wind in the trees--soft and lovely as it passes, but the meaning can quickly fade away.
An active voice that is crisp, vivid and unique becomes passive with an overuse of gerunds. And just as using a "southern drawl" in dialogue slows action to a crawl, remember that gerunds don't dance, they walk.
Clip most "ing" endings from your work. Instead, choose words
imbued with power and strength that stand on their own without modification,
and your work will move in a more memorable and meaningful way.
"Journaling our Influences"
by Mary Margaret Carlisle, Managing Editor
When we faithfully track our influences, we keep faith with two of the Poetic Muse's demands: to record history as it progresses around us, and to remain true to our beliefs not only in how we live, but also in how we write.
No idea is entirely original, but with careful craftsmanship we can restate something that is important to us in a fresh and original way, using our own words, our own style and form, thus putting to peace the notion that we're only repeating what someone else has already said.
Why not try to journal your thoughts? Keep track of ideas and phrases from books and television. Listen carefully to people with a mind to later writing down what you've heard.
And don't think you need a fancy book to record thoughts, for a simple notebook is quite equal to a velvet-covered journal when it comes to writing. Some wonderful poetry and even scientific breakthroughs have been made on paper napkins in coffeehouses or fast food restaurants.
So take the advice of an inveterate journal keeper…invest a dollar or
two and start tracking your own ideas today. You’ll thank yourself
for it later when you discern that noting the source of your ideas keeps
fresh the same sense of discovery that moved to you write them down in
the first place.
"Witness: Watch and Write"
by John E. Rice, Guest Editor.
Forty years ago in Galveston, a young man witnessed a miracle: an animal lay anesthetized on an operating room table. Its chest was opened, its beating heart was removed, a valve was surgically repaired, the heart was stitched back into place and restarted. Throughout the operation, the animal never stopped breathing. Its blood continued to circulate at normal pressure. The next morning, the animal wagged its tail in greeting when the young man brought fresh food and water.
I was that young man, a laboratory technical assistant at the Medical School. I had witnessed, not knowing so at the time, Dr. Denton Cooley's surgical research team in the early stages of developing their heart-lung machine, the device which paved the way for all the cardio-pulmonary procedures we take almost for granted today.
As do physicians and surgeons, poets have duties and responsibilities, as well. Among them is to present ordinary or extraordinary events from a different perspective. We dredge our minds, stir the layers of life experience waiting there. We imagine, we shape words into phrases, we create new views and reveal those things which may have been right there underfoot, unseen, as in the following poem.
ValentinesDoctors Cooley and Debakey once shared a student/mentor relationship. When I wrote the Cinquain, I imagined the two doctors at a table in a diner having a burger and a Coke. As they sketched hearts on paper napkins, I imagined they discussed this procedure and how best to use their new machine. The rest is history.
once sketched paper hearts on
a napkin. Now, think of all those
John Rice, Houston, TX, USA
Fortunately for us all, in my imagined scenario, neither one spilled
Two articles for November 2002
by Paula Marie Bentley, Features Editor
Why Write? The magic of art, poetry, music, sculpture is their ability to provide a tangible proof of the intangible; to take some small part of what one has never experienced and to place it in tangible form in front of us so we, in some immutable way, can attempt to understand a tremulous iota of that experience. (Yet, at the same time, it does also remind us that we can never truly, fully understand.)
It is a dichotomy of sorts, really. To feel compelled to tell, to warn - to live on - for what is art but man's continuing quest for immortality? When "the current of feeling" fails, Auden says one becomes ones' admirers.* The thrill lies there - the desperate clutch for some small piece of oneself to be left in the world, even if, as Auden said, "If not a poem had been written, not a picture painted, not a bar of music composed, the history of man would be materially unchanged." (Who truly believes this?)
It is humbling to realize one can quietly melt into the earth and history spins on just the same - yet, the small comfort of leaving inspiration behind quite quenches this humility. Indeed, it rather stokes it into a roaring fire of glorious, immortal, egoistic hope.
The dichotomy continues, within and without itself. We all have different visions of heaven and hell. Yoked together, we complete the picture.
Words from W.C. Auden:
He disappeared in the dead of winter:
Far from his illness
But for him it was his last afternoon as himself,
Now he is scattered among a hundred cities
But in the importance and noise of to-morrow
What instruments we have agree
*Part I, above, is excerpted from "In Memory of W. B. Yeats, " by W. H. Auden, published in "Another Time," by W. H. Auden, published by Random House. Copyright © 1940 W. H. Auden, renewed by The Estate of W. H. Auden.
To read the entire poem, visit this poetry exhibit on the website of The Academy of American Poets: http://www.poets.org/poems/poems.cfm?prmID=1390
The Academy of American Poets is a 501 (c) 3 nonprofit organization
founded in 1934 to support American poets at all stages of their careers
and to foster the appreciation of contemporary poetry. They are supported
primarily through the contributions of members, although they also receive
grants from private and public foundations, as well as corporate sponsorship.
Please consider making a donation today to support the Academy and its
many programs. Visit their website at http://www.poets.org
What a Sol Editor Looks For "On the Web"
by Craig Tigerman, Editor-in-Chief
While this editor does not wish to intimidate by citing what he looks for when considering a website for review, there are some pretty obvious problems that can quickly cause a site to be dropped from the list of places recommended to visit. So, while I do not wish to sound like Andy Rooney, please bear with me while I whine a bit.
What is it with those web sites that have a whole lot of nothing on their home pages, and a little "enter" link buried two-thirds of the way down? And why do they play that syrupy keyboard music that seems straight from la-la land, so loud that I can hear even when I turn my volume all the way down?
I look for a home page that attracts instead of distracts the visitor, a home page that tells the visitor what lies ahead and how to get there. Website designers improve their chances of being reviewed by cleaning up and leaving off some of the messy stuff that gets in the way of enabling the visitor to interact with knowledgeable enjoyment.
Back to whining...
Why are some home pages so obnoxiously overbearing? Do I always have to be greeted by a pop-up window trying to sell me something? And why bother with a "professionally" designed background with flowery fancy graphics, if it's totally covered over by text?
Keep it simple. A soft background color, easy-to-read fonts, and clear organization invite this visitor to explore further.
A real challenge comes when a lot of information needs to be made available on a web page. I have seen pages that caused my eyeballs to cross involuntarily as I tried to figure out where to begin reading.
Create a series of pages when presenting such material, rather than attempting to cram it all onto one page. Place an easy-to-read index at the top of the page, or else post a warning: "This Page Causes Headaches. Please Take Aspirin Before Proceeding."
I hope these suggestions give website designers a clearer idea of what might make their sites better candidates for an "On the Web" type of review. If not, you can bet that I'll keep on passing by, shaking my head, while reaching for the aspirin bottle.
Several hundred people, including many college students, gathered on Saturday, October 19, 2002, at the beautiful Capitol Theater in Davenport, Iowa, to see and hear the current United States Poet Laureate, Billy Collins. No one left disappointed.
"His interest in poetry began as a teenager, when his father brought home unread copies of Poetry Magazine from his Wall Street office, and he read them and discovered a voice," said Dick Stahl, Quad-Cities Poet Laureate, in introducing Billy Collins.
A native of Somers, NY, now in his second year of appointment as U.S. Poet Laureate, Mr. Collins presented a reading of about thirty of his poems interspersed with insightful and usually humorous remarks; a question and answer period followed. His style was subdued, unpretentious and unassuming, yet instantly engaging via his subtle wit and wonderfully accessible poems.
"When I write, I feel like I'm in the company of an unknown listener, and sometimes I write just to make contact with this reader," Mr. Collins said.
Mr. Collins has a particular talent for taking an everyday, even mundane, detail, and injecting color, movement, irony, humor, dignity and new life into what was formerly thought to be commonplace. His strength seems to flow from his ability to think clearly about something and to articulate his thoughts lucidly at length, drawing the listener into his world through shared experience.
Many poems served as fine examples of that strength, judging from the audience's reactions. "Genius" tells of him walking his dog and trying to count the swans on the reservoir, as Yeats had done long ago. Mr. Collins pointed out the each Bible printed on Gutenberg's press required the skins of 300 sheep, so his poem "Flock" presented a view of one such pen full of sheep waiting behind the printing press building. "Lanyard" drew waves of laughter as he read about how much his mother had done for him over the years and how he thought he "evened the score" with his humble gift of a lanyard necklace he made at summer camp. "More Than A Woman" describes having a "bad song" stuck in his head despite futile attempts to replace it with a "good song."
Mr. Collins captivated the audience with his intimate portrait of his dog "Dharma" who goes outdoors without shoes, a hat, money, or anything else except a wet nose and a wagging tail, always faithfully devoted to her master. Perhaps the most hilarious poem was "Litany" which parodied poetry's overuse of metaphor ("You are the wine and the goblet.") A close second was "Nostalgia" which began with a wistful remembrance of the 1340's when the Black Plague ravaged Europe. In "The Country," Mr. Collins imagined a mouse carrying a self-striking matchstick in its teeth "like a little Druid" and burning down the home of his friend whom he was visiting. One after another, his poems delighted all who had gathered in the venerable theater to see him.
During the question and answer period that followed, Mr. Collins was asked to comment on his poem, "The Names." He said he was receiving requests to write something about September 11, but that he tried doing everything he could to avoid it. The role of Poet Laureate in this country differs from that of the Poet Laureate in England, who is expected to write poetry about national events. Finally, three weeks before Congress was to convene at Ground Zero, Mr. Collins was called upon to appear at that event and read something. So he wrote an elegy to the victims, going down through the alphabet and noting "The Names" of many who had died there.
Mr. Collins' special project as Poet Laureate is "Poetry 180," a collection of very recent poems by many different authors which he is asking the nation's high schools to read over P.A. systems as part of the morning announcements, one poem for each of the 180 days of the school year. The purpose is to "keep the poetry fires burning," he said, by enabling young people to gain appreciation for modern poetry without feeling the traditional classroom drudgery of having to memorize or write a report about it. "Poetry 180," which receives a million hits per month, is available at his Library of Congress web site: http://www.loc.gov/poetry/180/
Now Distinguished Professor of English at Lehman College of the City
University of New York and a visiting writer at Sarah Lawrence College,
Billy Collins has published six volumes of poetry and a CD. His newest
books are "Sailing Alone Around the Room" and "Nine Horses."
Babette Deutsch's Poetry Handbook* tells us that Alliteration is the echo of the first sound of several words in a line. It appears early on in old Anglo-Saxon verse. Such diverse poets as Blake, John Donne, Langland, Robert Lowell and Gerard Manly Hopkins used it regularly. as have American heroes such as Thomas Paine in his famous patriotic, poetic phrase "These are the times that try men's souls ..." Appropriate even for today. William Zinsser, in his book "On Writing Well", goes so far as to say "...such matters as rhythm and alliteration are vital to every sentence."
I admit I'm a shameless "alliteratist" and who am I to disagree with the likes of Mr. Zinsser - but overuse can get you into trouble, as I found out. I had been warned time and time again. I tried to control it, to no avail. I found myself under arrest, standing surpressed before a melancholy magistrate, baffled, bedraggled but believing in the rightness of my writing.
"And just how do you plead now?" He blinked his bushy brow.
I couldn't control it, even before this masterful, melancholy magistrate: "Sire, I stand stooped in supplication, a simple, serious scribe, as all surely see."
He stuttered and spluttered
I'm not at all pleased.
Why, you must be diseased!
Why not simply speak in rhyme?
I find I do it all the time.
For want of something more eponymous,
you're sentenced to time at Alliteratists Anonymous.
For a year or maybe two,
you must write only tanka and American haiku."
"NO O O O. . ." I screamed myself awake. I lay in the dark, calming my pounding heart while watching wonderful words in my mind alliteratively assembled, arranged and aligned.
For more from John Rice, visit September's
Art & Sol, and Poetry +.
* "Poetry Handbook, A Dictionary of Terms," by Babette
Deutsch, published by Funk & Wagnalls, Harper Perrenial, and by Barnes
& Noble Books. The Fourth Edition was copyrighted in 1981.
Look for the current edition in major bookstores everywhere.
More reasons why your work will not win one of our contests:
1) You won’t include a keyword in your subject header.
2) You will use stationery or a background in your entry.
3) You won't follow the form posted on our Poetry Forms page.
4) You will ignore our contest rules.
5) You won’t become a member before you enter.
6) You will use archaic language in your entry.
7) You won't use simple e-mail for your entry.
8) You will use special characters in your poem.
9) You won't follow our submission guidelines.
How to win? Read and follow the rules. Enter.
NOTE: This month’s Poetry Works essay was written by longtime Sol Magazine member, Ron Blanton. Ron served as a panel judge for April’s poetry competitions.
“The Artist Cries Foul”
by Ron Blanton, Guest Editor
I enjoy judging poetry because the challenges make me grow. When I look at the work of others in this light I have to push beyond where I have been comfortable. I approach the job like eating brussel sprouts with a meal I otherwise enjoy. I handle the unpleasant chore of looking at the technical points first. Then I re-read for enjoyment’s sake.
I can't help but get the nagging feeling each of these poems deserves much more attention than I am able to give. I find at times I like a poem more than others, but it may fall short on one of the several stipulations given for a particular contest, so it falls in technical points. The artist in me cries foul, the editor cries, "read the instructions." In the end, I give voice to the editor.
I imagine that weighing technical merit along with artistic content and style is a challenge faced by all who judge poetry. Writing is so dynamic and subtle that what may be taken one way by me may be meant entirely differently by the writer. The editor’s eyes given me are uniquely mine and tend to bend what is seen according to my own disposition. However, I grant myself the right to my experienced opinion while at the same time express gratitude for the insights of the other judges serving with me so that I may not, in the end, have to hang alone.
PANEL JUDGE: An individual serving on a panel or in a group to judge a competition.
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"Antarctica Journey 2002: Excerpts from Journal Entries"
by Claiborne Walsh, guest editor
Here I am sailing around Cape Horn headed for the infamous Drake Passage. Hard to imagine I am headed for sapphire treachery where old sailing ships loaded with frightened and desperate men sank in swells that often reached forty feet, but this time the place where the two largest oceans meet was sweeter and far more calm; the tops of her twenty foot swells sheared and penetrated by small storm petrels. I must remind myself to overcome this overwhelming excitement and sit each night before I go to bed and transpose my notes.
Our first glimpse of land after a day and a half at sea is Deception Island, an ancient caldera. The waters here are still and warm, heated by magma remaining beneath its surface. Swimming surrounded by frost, ice and crystal, snow laden mountains, I laugh at the thought of those who would never believe this. I wonder about fire in a land of ice.
This IS a land of ice and honey. Sounds strange, doesn't it? But the purity of the place, the immensity, the peace, all lend themselves to my feeling about four and holding my mother's hand as I enter a large cathedral for the very first time. Days on the aft deck seeing as well as feeling the beginnings of the Andes, the spouting of pairs of whales, the sea spray rouging my cheeks or snow swirling about me made me a part of it. In a world where the word awesome has lost real meaning, it finds new importance. The word incredible escapes my lips again and again like a whispered mantra even when only speaking to myself.
I make mental notes, sketches, photos, journals at end of day to take me back, but nothing I write can seem to capture this psychological, visual feast. It has to sink yet still be visible like rounded rocks deep in the clear, aqua water here, but there are times to soak it all in while being satisfied to merely sit in the sun and think.
How do I explain an innocence of ice? Or leopard seals partnered on floes watching me as the oddity here; or penguins who do not know man as a killer but only as friend. There is a sweet hugeness here like a filling of complete joy in my chest, but then again, description defies this. It is a dichotomy: empty yet full; small but large; warm and cold; peaceful as well as treacherous.
Going ashore each day, touching thousand year old icebergs (even bringing one back to use in my drink), seeing porpoising penguins, seals, whales, dolphins, is nothing less than wondrous. I am at the bottom of the earth and crunching around on it as well. How amazing!
And I know all this will filter into my life. In time the way I look at things will change and parts of complexity will give way to some of simplicity. Austerity is often not as one believes it to be. This I know. This I find here.Claiborne Walsh, Antarctica, January 2002
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"Clarity, Respect, Devotion: Advice for Editors and Lead Editors"
by Mary Margaret Carlisle, Managing Editor
How does one become an editor? Simply by helping others become more successful writers. An interest in writing and in working with writers, and having a good working knowledge of grammar and style, topped off with a classical liberal arts education, puts one well on the road. Here are a few suggestions I've found useful in this craft.
Clarity of language shows clarity of thought. Practice recognizing hyperbole not only when you see it, but also when you use it. Delete it on the spot. Editors must be clear minded, able to cut their own work to the bone, then flesh it out again in succinct, precise language before they are able to usefully alter the work of others.
Lead Editors must also be clear when giving directions to other editors and writers on any project. They need to treat the ideas and thoughts of all writers with respect.
Never interject your own ideas into someone else's work unless absolutely and completely necessary, and get permission from the writer before you do so. Do not use a "looming deadline" as an excuse to totally re-write someone else's marginal work, even when it is needed immediately. Gently request, instead, a better job of writing. If you need to re-order or re-organize a piece you are editing, do not hesitate, as long as the basic idea remains intact. If you feel an idea is lousy, suggest another approach, or even, as a last resort, another topic. It will allow your writer to save face, and you to gently lead in a direction where she may succeed instead of fail.
Offer possible solutions to perceived project difficulties up front. If you set a seemingly unrealistic deadline for a writer, smooth the way by making suggestions on how to complete a complex job within a specific timeframe. It is the Lead Editor's, not the writer's, responsibility to make sure the task is finished on time.
When you are put in charge of a project, answer each query as soon as you can, but when working on complex projects you cannot hold every writer's hand. Your task as Lead Editor is to help as many people accomplish as much work as possible in the shortest time available. Expect each writer is responsible enough to do the assignment without excessive nudging, and do not ask for tangible results unless you are at your wit's end. If a particular writer misses a deadline twice in a row, ask yourself what YOU have done to permit such a problem to go unresolved.
And do not let a writer working with you force a premature answer about the completion of a project. Reserve enough time necessary to review work for possible revision instead of rushing to publication.
If you are a Lead Editor, the work of each writer on every project must become important to you. Offer help even when you know it's not needed. Don't let this daunting task overwhelm you. Admit when you need help, too, for that simple act will allow others to see you as a person, and not expect you to be a superhero, capable of finishing everything by yourself.
There are few things more rewarding than seeing another writer do well with a project in which you have participated. I recommend the job of editor to anyone with a talent for words and an interest in writing. However, if you are lucky enought to be made Lead Editor, remember you are there to help others, not to help yourself. If you cannot devote yourself totally to this satisfying task, consider finding something else less taxing to occupy your mind and time.
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POETRY WORKSback to top of pageNovember 2001
"Not Published Here"
by Mary Margaret Carlisle, Managing Editor
Occasionally I read trade magazine competition results to find an exceptional contemporary poem has been given a second place in favor of a fairly well-written "neoclassical" poem, and my teeth gently grind in response. Sol Magazine has always chosen to celebrate beautifully done modern work, not classically imitative poems.
The early Roman era found artists decorating beautifully carved marble statues with bright and even garish colors. Over time, the paint wore away, and with it the artists' intent to bring attention to particular deities. This left behind white marble statues which many Renaissance artists mistakenly imitated as being exact duplicates of the originals.
The best classical poems of previous centuries were also layered with a richly applied pigment. Particular rhythms, cadences, forms and language rose out of and freshly defined those eras. However, many current "white marble" imitations of this style lack the brilliant color and verve of the original work. Most modern poets do not properly research the poets they wish to emulate. They apply arcane poetic forms and a few archaic words, then utilize modern rhythms, cadences, syntax and grammar. This mixed approach pales in comparison to the bright spirit of the original.
With a respectful bow to the Society for Creative Anachronism, who really do their research, be warned, "Ye Olde English" is NOT published here.
The popular "Thesaurus of Alternatives to Worn-Out Words and Phrases," by Robert Hartwell Fiske (1994, Writer's Digest books, Cincinnati, Ohio) points out many synonyms that may be used in place of the tired phrases or words that pepper our writing.
I know we all have at least one favorite phrase or metaphor we enjoy using. It's like a good coat we bought years ago and wear every year because we like it so well. While we may brush off our coat before use, we seldom examine our favorite phrases, so when we finally do, we may be surprised to see how worn-out they have become.
For example, I have a friend who likes to use "old as dirt" whenever her husband's latest birthday is mentioned. Now while Ann still finds the phrase humorous, Bill no longer does. The Thesaurus of Alternatives offers these words instead: aged; aging; ancient; antediluvian; antique; archaic; elderly; hoary; old; patriarchal; prehistoric; seasoned; superannuated; venerable. So, Ann, maybe Bill would appreciate it if you'd use "venerable" or "seasoned," instead.
"Read (her) the riot act," is a metaphor I'm really tired of seeing in print. Look at all these alternatives: admonish; animadvert; berate; castigate; censure; chasten; chastise; chide; condemn; criticize; denounce; denunciate; discipline; excoriate; fulminate against; imprecate; impugn; inveigh against; objurgate; punish; rebuke; remonstrate; reprehend; reprimand; reproach; reprobate; reprove; revile; scold; swear at; upbraid; vituperate; warn. Rebuked! Now that has character and strength.
Let's all consider giving the "brush-off" to our favorite phrases, and browse through this handy and interesting book for alternatives. Your friends will thank you for it, and so will your favorite editor.
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Poetry is an art of words. Often, we refer to this art's quality or spirit. We say poetry has "life," "vitality," "livingness."
For any work of art to exhibit a "living form," it must express feeling. When we talk of people, places, events, experiences, or the conditions of life, etc, we are expressing this feeling of life.
A feeling of life need not correspond actual persons, places, things. We can find this feeling in ballet, sculpture, paintings. Even in the work of the quilter, where the artist analyzes and produces art using stitchery to create with colors and shapes, designs and patterns in a unique relationship to each other, we find the feeling of life.
But the materials of its work were there before it existed. What we see is the result of a quilter's creation using these materials. The essential creation in the quilt is not the actual materials, but the quilt's finished appearance.
Language is the material of poetry. If it is a good poetic work, it expresses elements like the quilt's colors, textures, lights and shadows. Through the use of tonal vibrations, vowels, consonants, words, images, language helps craft an endless variety of elements all in a unique relationship to each other.
What a poet creates, like the quilter, has an appearance, something like a portrait, or vision, using words. Yes, these words were there before the poem existed. But the essential creation in the poem is the way the poet chooses combinations of words and then layers levels of language to finish the work. And from this art of language, the illusion of "Life" is made.
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On July 31, 2000, Librarian of Congress, James H. Billington announced the appointment of Stanley Kunitz to be the library's tenth Poet Laureate.
Kunitz, born in Worcester, Massachusetts in 1905, graduated summa cum laude from Harvard University. He published his first volume of poetry, "Intellectual Things" in 1930. His many books include The Collected Poems of Stanley Kunitz (W. W. Norton, 2000); Passing Through: The Later Poems, New and Selected (1995), which won the National Book Award; Next-to-Last Things: New Poems and Essays (1985); The Poems of Stanley Kunitz, 1928-1978, which won the Lenore Marshall Poetry Prize; Passport to the War (1940); Selected Poems, 1928-1958, which won the Pulitzer Prize; The Testing-Tree (1971); and Intellectual Things (1930). He also co-translated Orchard Lamps by Ivan Drach (1978), Story Under Full Sail by Andrei Voznesensky (1974), and Poems of Akhmatova (1973), and edited The Essential Blake (1987), Poems of John Keats (1964), and The Yale Series of Younger Poets (1969-77).
Although his book, "Selected Poems: 1928-1958," was rejected by seven publishers, it eventually won him the Pulitzer Prize in 1959. His numerous awards and prizes include the Bollingen Prize, a Ford Foundation grant, a Guggenheim Foundation fellowship, Harvard's Centennial Medal, the Levinson Prize, the Harriet Monroe Poetry Award, a senior fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts, the National Medal of the Arts, and the Shelley Memorial Award.
This is not the first time Kunitz has occupied the Chair of Poetry at the Library of Congress. From 1974-1977, before the title changed to Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry, Kunitz held this same honor.
In 1984 the National Endowment for the Arts honored Kunitz with a Senior Fellowship "for his inordinate generosity in working with younger writers" and "his contribution to the world of letters...a living and lasting influence."
Appointed annually, each Poet Laureate brings to the position a different emphasis. Of his appointment for 2000-2001, Kunitz said, "The reason I decided to accept this honor is that I want to do something for the young in this country," and "I also want to stress the diversity of poetry in this country, in the 'nation of nations,' as Whitman said."
In an interview on Thursday, September 28, 2000, with Lisa Lipman, of The Associated Press, Kunitz said he plans to try to improve poetry lesson plans in public schools and to extend the poetry reading program at the Library of Congress, although the poet laureate is paid only $35,000 a year, and the responsibilities are limited. Kunitz also said that writing poetry has been life-sustaining, and has given him a sense of inner strength. He has never considered stopping. However, until Kunitz got the call from the Library of Congress that he had been named the new poet laureate, he had thought that his days of being honored for his poetry were behind him.
In the same interview, Kunitz said he is still inspired by William Blake, John Donne, and John Keats -- the same poets who inspired him in his youth. Yet he insists on keeping in touch with the younger generation of poets, partly because almost all of his contemporaries are gone and partly because it keeps his mind agile. "The self goes through changes," Kunitz said. "If one doesn't change at different stages of life, the self begins to get tired of itself, and is no longer a creative phenomenon."
David Barber, writing for a review for The Atlantic Monthly, June 1996, said that "Kunitz doesn't once seem to be posing for a marble bust or auditioning for the anthologies. Instead one enters the presence of an indomitable elder spirit writing with alertness, tenacity, and finesse, still immersed in the life of the senses and persisting in the search for fugitive essences. Neither resigned nor becalmed, Kunitz's newest poems [at the age of 93] are by turns contemplative, confiding, mythic, and elegiac. If they have the measured and worldly tone that befits an old master, they also have the ardent and questing air of one whose capacity for artless wonder seems inexhaustible."
Stanley Kunitz, 95, and his wife, Elise Asher, who is an artist, make their home in New York City's Greenwich Village and in Provincetown, Massachusetts. In 1993, the National Medal of Arts was presented to him by President Clinton at the White House.
Outside View -- June 2001
by John E. Rice
Poet Laureate 1999-2000, June's Guest Editor
A poet's most important tool, the anvil upon which a poem is hammered out, is "word selection". Everything evolves from it: rhyme, metre, alliteration, simile, metaphor, a poem's very message and its impact on the reader or listener owes all to word selection. Consider this from Shelley's "The Cloud":
I am the daughter of Earth and Water
Look at line three. Shelley could have described the evaporation of water in scientific terms - and he did - but, read the line, his careful word selection has endowed that line with metre, alliteration, metaphor and internal rhyme. It has set the scene for us and concisely described the first step in cloud formation. Other lines, because of that same careful word selection, do the same and complete the entire cloud/rain/evaporation/cloud cycle.
Our duty as poets, as writers, is to develop as broad a vocabulary as is possible. Words are our tools; they should be there, sharp and ready, when we step up to the anvil.
To see a photograph of John Rice, click here.
Outside View -- May 2001
A guest editorial by Jennifer Gadd
Sol Magazine's May Judge
Poetry scares people. Teenagers and adults alike approach poetic verse with trepidation. They are intimidated by its presumed inaccessibility. They fear that they cannot understand it. More than anything else, they dread reading it aloud. What is an absolute joy of cadence and language for young children (and a lucky few older folks) becomes shrouded in arcane mystery, starting at about middle school.
Learning to read poetry aloud can be an effective first step in fostering an appreciation, even a love, of poetry. Most students read poetry, especially traditional verse, in a sing-song manner that robs a poem of its beauty and power. There's just something about the end of a line of verse that brings out an end-stop in the inexperienced reader!
One technique I use with students in the classroom is to have them rewrite the verse into prose form. They are then better able to read the words in a more natural manner and rhythm. I then tell them to read the versified form in exactly the same way. What an easy way to take the fear and intimidation out of poetry!
There is an added bonus for experienced writers, in that the same easy technique can help locate the "bumps" in our own written works. When a poet rewrites and reads a work-in-progress in prose form, many undesirable instances of sing-song rhyme, predictable rhythm, wrenched syntax or syllabification, and even archaic or trite word choices become easier to identify and rewrite. When reshaping the poem back into verse, an astute writer can also gain insights on creative and effective line breaks. Proofreading one's own work can be particularly difficult, and this versatile technique can help both novices and experienced writers and readers approach poetics with ease and confidence.
Souvenirs by Jennifer Gadd
Ever since I can remember,
Vigil by Jennifer Gadd
It's only now the weeping finds a face,
The most important thing to remember when writing poetry is to keep with the truth. I don’t mean by this “factual truths,” as they may not exist, and so much of that kind of truth is a matter of perspective. No, I am referring to the truth that is you, things that resonate within you. This is as broad and as multifaceted as each individual. It may only seem true for you, but if you stay with that, write that, and of course rewrite it, edit it, refine it and all the other technical things that others can tell you more about than I, then I think you cannot go wrong.
There are lots of forms and techniques to poetry, and everyone should try their hand at all of them. That is one of the ways we grow as artists. But all the techniques and forms even when mastered do not make for good poetry. Write about what you know and dream, say what is true for you, and stick with that. For each of us who write, the truth changes over time, as it should.
When I read poetry from a young person, it can take me back to when I was young, reading the works of older writers. That taught me, not just about the art, but about the person, and how as we age we can gain new perspectives and new insights.
Writing helps you to become a better writer and a better person, but only if you write your truth, no matter how bitter or sad, happy or frivolous it might seem. It is in writing that we emerge as a larger, more knowledgeable spirits and come to better know ourselves, our world and others.
Poems by Michael Cooper:
A Simple Request
Oh my friend
what do you ask of me
when I was young
I would have sung
all my songs for free
I am more cautious now
sometimes too afraid
to admit I know how
should I venture to express
my feelings within this art
it must be
as the making of a nest
slowly and with great care
to hold what I hold most dear
a finely woven fabric that does not tear.
© 2001 by Michael Cooper
I would not
if it were my choice
change my lot
though I might change me
or change what I was
sooner than I did
Now, poised in a delicate balance
I move in patterns
I only vaguely perceive
perhaps it is a dance
that can only be seen
from a distance
or through an altered sense of time
But the music
the music is so compelling
there is little we can do
but continue the dance
Until the music is through
© 2001 by Michael Cooper
Michael Cooper says he has been writing longer than he has not been writing. He lives in California in the mountains above Sacramento with his very special friend, lover and wife of twenty-four years, Yvonne, who he claims is the real artist in the family. He also indulges in prize winning photography and occasionally creates in stained glass. He does have to work for a living, and does so as a Human Resource and IT Director for a local government agency. Mostly he spends time with two dogs (Caeli, a Golden Retriever, and Flynn, a Australian Shepherd, and their big cousins, Cirri and Clancy, both Arabian horses.) It doesn't leave enough time for writing, but he manages to peck out a line or two once in a while. He has published and is thinking of writing a book of poetry. He has read his poetry on the radio in both Alaska and California and loves the access the internet has given him to other writers and their work.
|POETRY WORKS from July 2000
An editorial by Mary Margaret Carlisle, Managing Editor
|Competition poetry - what is it all about? It is about writing the
very best poem possible, with no grammar or spelling errors, rules followed,
and a deadline (time limit) met.
Sometimes this means writing to set forms and themes. If you are asked to write a cinquain, do not turn in a quatrain or a haiku.
If asked for a title, do not use the topic as an easy out. Titles that grab the reader may be given a second look by a judge.
When requested to use a certain topic, do not give weight to any other subject unless comparing or contrasting. If asked to speak of the moon, why bring up the beauty of the ocean, unless to explain how that body of water showcases the moon's glory?
|POETRY WORKS (from April 2000)
April's Judge Speaks
Working as a poetry judge can be very exacting. First, look to see that the author has carefully followed all instructions. Line limits, word limits, syllable counts and rhyme specifications must all be followed. Next, look for advanced use of poetic devices. Alliteration, consonance and assonance add to the flow of a poem. Metaphors and similes lend interesting comparisons. If rhyme is used, natural and unforced is to be preferred. Attention to detail shows a poet has studied the craft and is serious about writing. The final step is narrowing down the remaining poems to those that best exemplify the given topic. A fresh, unique, comical or original approach to a theme can make any entry a standout and a clear cut winner.
More from Kathy Kehrli, Contributing Editor Suite 101's "Books You May Have Missed," at http://www.suite101.com/welcome.cfm/books_missed
"Make your Poetry Stand Out,"
an editorial by Craig Tigerman
If you ask a Sol Magazine editor what criteria is used to choose one "Stand Out" poem among many, you may get the following questions as your answer:
1. Is the poem true-to-topic?
These are only a few criteria our editors may use when seeking a "Stand Out" poem. Whether you have served as a judge or not, we invite you to send us any other tips you may have for writing a winning poem.
by Mary Margaret Carlisle, Managing Editor
What is a Conjunction? In some languages, a conjunction is one of the parts of speech comprised of words such as "and," "but," "because," "as," that connect other words, phrases, clauses, or sentences.
Some reasons why your work will not win one of our contests:
1) You will leave your name or mailing address off your entry.
2) You won't follow the line limitations.
3) You won't write to the topic.
4) You won't title your poem.
5) You will title your Haiku.
6) You will borrow from Shakespeare but forget to give him credit.
7) You won't check for grammar or spelling errors.
8) You will send your entry in after the deadline.
9) You won't enter.
How to win? Read and follow the rules. Enter.
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