For the first time in 24 years, I’m writing poems. Back in 1990 when Appalachian Heritage magazine published one of my poems, I thought I’d won the lottery. But the vein I opened to write those verses dried up when my relationship with another writer went sour. Bitterness does not make good poems, at least for me.
My new verses are not like the ones I used to write. The 2014 poems are raw and extremely personal. Are they good? I have no idea. I do know they nudge me awake at four am; they invade my brain while I’m mowing the grass or painting in the studio. Words and images climb from my gut to my head. They buzz around inside my brain until I scribble them onto a sheet of paper. You might say I write to get rid of the buzzing.
“Why now?” I asked myself. During the past few weeks several events have come together in synchronicity:
- I recently edited a marvelous book by Gin Getz called The Color of the Wild. Gin’s book includes samples of the amazing poems she writes about her life in the mountains. She inspires me.
- I sent a poem to my 46 year old son and discovered it was one of his favorites, though my choice seemed random at the time. Now I find he’s writing poems again, as he did in high school. I’m going to help him put together a book. He inspires me.
- I included a section on dialogue poetry in my new book Dialogue for Writers. Researching poems for the book opened a new line of thought for me. Poems have come a long way since 1990.
- I read a poem in the Sunday paper by Andrea Hollander about relationships, and it sounded like me. I said, “I can do this!”
Now I’m studying poetry, thinking poetry, and writing poetry. My favorite reference book is The Poetry Home Repair Manual by Ted Kooser, a U.S. poet laureate. These are nuggets of information I’ve gleaned from his book so far:
- “In poetry, the only rules worth thinking about are the standards of perfection you set for yourself.” What a relief! This makes writing poetry SO much more fun.
- Poets who use a clear, accessible voice won’t be popular with critics, but they can be of use to everyday readers. More good news.
- Writing something that touches a reader is just about as good as it gets, according to Kooser.
- “Extensive revision is the key to transforming a mediocre poem into a work that can touch and even alter a reader’s heart.” I know Kooser is right about this, but at some point editing can squeeze the lifeblood from a poem. Knowing when to stop making changes is an art in itself.
When you write poetry, do you create the poems for yourself only? Do you write with a sense of “somebody out there” who will read your work? Kooser says, “Poetry’s purpose is to reach other people and to touch their hearts.”
When I read poetry, I find some poems don’t interest me, while others hold intellectual value—I admire a perfect turn of phrase, a word placed exactly where it should be, or a tricky rhyme. But the poems I fall in love with are those that touch my emotions and make me smile, weep, or laugh. Those poems make me want to be a poet.
In Dialogue for Writers, you’ll find a section on adding dialogue to poetry.
I’ve been slow to learn about GoodReads. Two of our authors urged me to get involved several years ago, but I didn’t think I had time: Too busy publishing books.
Now I’m a believer. We just did a give-away on GoodReads for Gin Getz’s wonderful book The Color of the Wild: An Intimate Look at Life in an Untamed Land. Over four hundred people asked to receive a free copy (we were only giving away ten books). We’re ready to mail those ten copies tomorrow morning, but in addition I received names and page links for the 393 people who lost this lottery. Today I spent time looking at their profiles – and I want to be friends with ALL of them.
Scrolling through the titles of books these men and women have read simply boggles my mind. Some of them list thousands of books. Good books, not junk. This touches my heart. And they write thoughtful reviews.
I guarantee we’ll be giving away more books on GoodReads, and I’ll be a regular visitor and reviewer. Better late than never!
Spring is arriving in southern Indiana after a long, harsh winter. Our snow pack melted this week, letting the creeks and rivers run free and leave their banks. The ground feels squishy underfoot. Rivulets of fresh water trickle across the roads. Everything is moist and dripping.
The birds I feed every day are suddenly busy elsewhere, looking for tasty seeds and berries left over from last fall. Our prissy hens won’t venture out when snow covers the ground, but today they’re swooping across the yard with their winds spread like children playing Superman. Egg production is down, but that’s okay. The term cooped up obviously came from someone who keeps chickens, because my flock was literally cooped up for several weeks.
NorLightsPress author Gin Getz is writing about spring from her home at 10,000 feet in the San Juan Mountains of Colorado. Read her amazing nature writing and view stunning wilderness photos at www.gingetz.com .
We’re proud of this new book, The Color of the Wild: An Intimate Look at Life in an Untamed Land. An Amazon.com review by Preston Hathaway caught our attention this week:
The Color of the Wild provides readers a glimpse and feel of what living on a ranch in the wilderness, far away and cut off from neighbors, is like. It is rough and challenging. But the healing, peace, and solitude within is met with unexpected seasonal rewards; such as the songs of frogs in a mountain pond.
As a boy and young man I grew up in the San Luis Valley, in the long shadows of the San Juan mountains where Gin works, lives, and loves. The sun went to bed there. Water, white gold to farmers there and elsewhere along the Rio Grande, came from the mountains. Violent summer hail storms brought random ruin. The constant green coupled with an ever changing palette of red, yellow and gold marked the passing seasons.
Gin Getz has created a multilayered artwork as timeless as the mighty Rio Grande that flows from the Great Divide. Like the river giving life on its journey, Gin’s work gives a voice to mountains that cannot speak for themselves as she shares the wounds, healing, and love of her journey. A must read for anyone that needs to step away from the busyness of life into the healing solitude of the wilderness.
If you’re looking for a book to savor in front of a warm fire; a book you’ll read twice and then order for your friends, try The Color of the Wild. You won’t be sorry.