Monday, September 27, 2010

24th Geraldine R. Dodge Poetry Festival

The Geraldine R. Dodge Poetry Festival will take place from October 7-10 in Newark, NJ. This biennial festival is the largest poetry event in North America. Completely unique, the Dodge Festival has been called a “poetry heaven” by former U.S. Poet Laureate Robert Hass. I’ve attended twenty of the festivals and was honored to be a featured poet one year. The Dodge Festival is a celebration of (and for) poetry, poets, and poetry lovers. It's definitely the place to be!

Be Sure to Order Your Tickets in Advance!

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Poetry Prompt #24 – Autumn

As we begin this autumn season, I think about clear, crisp air, the scent of woodsmoke, leaves changing color, the sound of migrating geese, and the taste of apple cider. There is something magical in autumn that fills the senses. When I was a child autumn fascinated me with its sweet sadness. My mom taught me how to read and write when I was four, and one of my earliest poems (my mom saved them all, bless her) was titled “Autumn” (see below and check out the spelling of “chrysanthemum”).

From The Kite & Other Poems from Childhood 

Okay, by now you will have guessed that this prompt deals with autumn imagery, themes, and moods. Before you look at the prompt suggestions and begin writing, be sure to read a few autumn poems. There are, of course, many dozens by some of the greatest poets. Following are a few of my favorites, and you will find more at Famous Autumn Poems.

Now, the writing …

1. How does autumn touch your senses? Write a poem that captures autumn's essence in sights, sounds, scents, touches, and tastes (think in terms of colorful leaves, bonfires, cornhusks, pumpkins, acorns, blue skies, crisp air, and crunchy ripe apples).

2. Have you ever thought about autumn as a symbol for human life? What other autumn symbolisms have you considered? Write a poem in which autumn is a metaphor for a particular time in human life.

3. Has something memorable happened to you in autumn? Write a poem about your best or worst autumn memory.

4. What does autumn mean to you? Write a poem titled “Autumn Is” in which you combine descriptive autumn elements with personal meanings.

5. What mood does autumn typically evoke? What “atmosphere” does it suggest to you? Write a poem in which you create an autumn mood.

6. Does anything in one of the following quotations resonate for you? If so, write a poem based on the quote (you may want to use the quote as an epigraph). 

"Autumn is a second spring when every leaf is a flower." (Albert Camus)

I saw old autumn in the misty morn / Stand shadowless like silence, listening / To silence(Thomas Hood)

There is a harmony / In autumn, and a lustre in its sky, / Which through the summer is not heard or seen,  / As if it could not be, as if it had not been! (Percy Bysshe Shelley)

7. Do you know anyone whose personality reminds you of autumn? Try writing a poem in which autumn characteristics represent personality traits. 

Happy Autumn – I wish you a rich harvest of poetry and peace!

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Poetry Prompt #23 – Submission Etiquette

This week, instead of a prompt to encourage writing, here’s a “prompt” to encourage submitting your poems for possible publication. 

Whatever your publishing experience, researching the market is always important. Many poetry magazines now have a web presence, so the easiest and least expensive way to conduct your “market research” is via the Internet. You’ll usually find submission guidelines and information about editorial tastes; and many magazines post sample poems on their websites. Click Here for Info on Numerous Journals

You may also want to research e-zines (online journals). Here are a few of my favorites.

Electronic Submissions

Many print journals now accept electronic submissions. Be sure to read the guidelines carefully, and follow them (protocols may be the same as those for snail mail submissions). Some journals will accept submissions in attachment form; some require that the poems be copied and pasted into the body of an email. If a journal uses an electronic program like Submissions Manager, simply follow the directions.

Snail Mail Submissions

1. Always present your work in typescript (never hand-written). Use a simple 12-point font like Arial, Times, or Courier. Fancy fonts will not impress editors. On the contrary, they may suggest that the sender is a novice writer.

2. Poetry should be single-spaced with the title at the top and your name, address, phone number, and email address in the upper left or right hand corner. Setting name, address, etc. into clever text boxes at the top or bottom of the page isn’t necessary and can look amateurish. Formatting the poem with titles in larger fonts and in bold suggests that you’re doing the designer’s job. Go for a clean, no-flourishes appearance.

3. Type one poem to a page. For poems longer than one page, paperclip (don’t staple) the pages together. 

4. If you include a cover letter, it should be short, sweet, and under a page in length (it should include your name, contact details, and titles of poems submitted). Most editors would rather read your poems than your life story, but listing a very few credits is fine. Click Here for Sample Cover Letters.

5. Be careful not to over-submit. Journal editors are usually more dismayed than pleased when they receive large numbers of poems from a single poet. As an editor myself, I can testify to that. Send no more than four or five poems, and DON’T follow up with another batch during the same reading period. 

6. Use a plain #10 envelope and always include a self-addressed, stamped envelope (s.a.s.e.) for the editor’s reply. This is a basic courtesy – most journals won’t reply to a submission if an s.a.s.e. is not included. If you are submitting material to a magazine outside of the US, include an I.R.C. (International Reply Coupon) with an unstamped s.a.s.e. 

7. Simultaneous submissions (submitting the same poems to more than one journal at a time) may or may not be encouraged by individual journals; be sure to check the guidelines. Be aware that response times vary, and your poems may be “away from home” for many months before you know if they’ve been accepted or rejected. 

8. Be sure to retain a copy of any material you send.  Most editors receive hundreds of submissions, and it is possible for submissions to go missing.

Heads-up #1: Don’t query editors about the status of your work (online or snail mail submissions). Once you send your poems, wait for a reply. A status query might be a turn-off to an over-worked editor who simply hasn’t gotten to your submission yet. Nor is it a good idea to include self-addressed, stamped postcards that you wish an editor to send back to let you know that your submission has been received. This means extra work, and most editors are just too busy. Many journals will indicate response time in their guidelines – if that time has long passed, then (and only then) might you query. 

Heads-up #2: Remember that editors are not critiquers, and you should not expect them to make individual comments on your poems, accepted or not. Editors simply choose the poems they wish to publish. Occasionally, an editor will suggest edits required for publication. It’s up to you to decide whether or not you agree to the changes.

Heads-up #3: Important caveat – beware of vanity publishing in which you pay a fee for your poems to be published. There are unscrupulous people out there who will happily fleece you. Don’t be fooled by their flatteries. If you have to pay to be published, think again. (This, by the way, is not the same as paying an entry fee for a contest, which is credible and often necessary to fund the prize monies.) You can learn more about vanity publishing at the following website: Click Here for Vanity Publishing Info .

So … if you have some poems you feel are ready to submit, send them out this week. Remember that editors are not the ultimate arbiters of what is and isn’t good work. Selection is largely a subjective process; if your poems are rejected, don’t take it personally. Move on. Send the poems elsewhere. In Thoreau’s words, “Go confidently in the direction of your dreams.”

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Poetry Prompt #22 – Making the Myth

Many of us learned about Greek and Roman mythology as school children and, perhaps, some of us learned about other mythologies of the world. Myths have been part of culture and civilization from the time of the ancients and have offered "religious" explanations for humankind's being. Most myths were originally created and disseminated through an oral poetic tradition. For this prompt, you will use mythological characters, references, or allusions to create a poem. Now, think of a myth or mythological character that you can “connect” to your own life (any myth or character, from any source). Use elements of that myth, such as people, places, settings, conflicts, etc. to explore your identity, your personality, and the way you and others think about you. Alternatively, you may experiment and "create your own myth." Be sure to read the examples before you start writing.


And, by way of sharing, here's my "mythology" poem.

by Adele Kenny

Imagine Icarus before the air let go,
before the sea lunged up. Imagine the 

downward pitch, the boy wing-tipped
and sticky. Of course he failed, we all 

fail. Things come unglued. And not 
surprising – this mutability of mutable 

things. The way Breughel painted it, 
life goes on: ploughman, shepherd, 

oblivious sheep. Life goes on: the 
garden passes its shadow to the fence; 

birds murmur and settle their wings 
like prayers spoken in hopeless places. 

The earth curves into place. Water. Silt. 
Sky. The moon rises and keeps on rising.

(First Published in Tiferet, Issue 5 (2007). Reprinted by Permission.)

A collection of poems that "meshes" with this prompt 
(a book I wholeheartedly recommend) 
is Renée Ashley's The Revisionist's Dream.

Also of interest: the Greek Muse of Poetry was Erato. Since the Renaissance, Erato is usually depicted with a wreath of myrtle and roses, and holding a lyre or a small Kithara (a musical instrument invented by Erato or Apollo). Other depictions show Erato holding a golden arrow; at times she is accompanied by Eros and is holding a torch.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Poetry Prompt #21 – Music & Poetry

“Music resembles poetry: in each are nameless graces…”
                                                              – Alexander Pope (“Essay on Criticism”)
Music and poetry have been linked for centuries; in fact, poetry predates written forms and was originally recited aloud or sung rather than read. Poetry, even free verse, has maintained a musical quality in rhythms, meters, rhymes, articulation, and phonetic timbre. In poetry, as in music, texture is often achieved through contrasting smooth lyrical sounds and staccato or discordant sounds; in poetry, alliteration and assonance, internal and external rhyme, imagery, and mood all add to a poem's “sonic texture.” 

Interestingly, while poetry is often inspired by music, music is also inspired by poetry.  One of the best examples is Stéphane Mallarmé's poem “L'Après-midi d'un Faune” (“The Afternoon of a Faun”), written in 1876. This poem inspired Debussy’s tone poem of the same title. Debussy completed the work in 1894; in 1912, it was choreographed by Nijinsky and premiered by Diaghilev's Ballets Russes at the Théâtre du Chatelet, Paris (with Nijinsky as the Faun).  
1. For this prompt, let’s use music to inspire a poem. 
2. Select a piece of music that you haven’t listened to in a long time (or music that you’ve never heard before). 
3. Before you listen to your music and begin to write, consider how other poets have used music to inspire their poems. Here are a few examples.

4. Now, relax and listen to the music you’ve chosen. 
5. How does the music speak to you? 
6. How do the tempo, rhythms, and meters of the music make you feel? 
7. What images does the music invoke? 
8. Does the music cause you to recall a particular time or experience? A person? 
9. Does the music create an atmosphere of discovery that you can translate into written language? 
10. What story emerges from the music? 

Remember, you needn’t write about the music but, rather, what the music suggests to you. 

Alternatively, you might try writing a poem about what music in general means to you; or you may write about a piece of music that has a special meaning for you. Sample opening phrases: 

They were playing our song…
I never hear that song without remembering...
But, then, I heard the music…
Nothing but sound and…
Where the music was…

Another “musical” possibility for this prompt is to write new lyrics for an old song. Oh, and if you’re musically inclined, how about writing a poem and setting it to your own music?