Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Defining the inner life through poetry

Marvin Bell is gray haired and bearded. The 70 year old is Iowa's first Poet Laureate. In the mid 1960's Bell was an army officer so it is perhaps not at all surprising that he has written on the subject of war extensively. Of his 17 published books of poetry, many deal with war.

In a recent Des Moines Register interview I was particularly struck by his response to the question, "What is the role of art in war time?" Bell's response seems particularly relevant to writing in a broader prospective about any social concern, not just war. He said, "Poets talk about current events, just as everyone does, but some of us also embed it in our art. Poetry doesn't change minds. However, it becomes part of the consensus. It finds words for what it feels like during wartime. That said, there is no one way to write and no right way to write. A poet is perfectly within his or her right to graph the inner life without reference to outer events."

It seems that poets have long been charged with defining moments in the use of language. It is the utilization of individual words and phrases that bring "feeling" into better focus. This not only gives greater clarity to the feelings but the words themselves. I've had times and I am sure I am not alone, when I have felt some way that I was not able to adequately describe. That ability to graph the inner life is one measure of exceptionally good poetry.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Come to think of it

Ever wonder about the initial spark of an idea in your mind? What if it could be broken down into frames like a slide show? If we could see the moment of creation- And would two new thoughts look alike or different at their moment of conception?

Equally curious to me is where do thoughts go when we forget them? Are they sidetracked on some back neurological alley like off our mental grid map?

Do these things suggest too much time on my hands?

Sunday, October 14, 2007

enriching our poetry

Reading the work of other poets is especially critical to the succesful growth of any poet.

It is not about being like any other poet but about developing an ear for other's voice. About awareness to sounds and textures in words. And about the color of language.

Sometimes it is about learning what a message is when silence is all that is playing in the wind.

These things not only enrich our work, but our lives as well.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

My Mood is Upbeat...

As I left work this today the sky was full of sun, the air has a fresh autumn feel and it's one of those kind of late afternoons you want to capture in a jar as though it were a firefly to admire. This no doubt has contributed to an upbeat mood.

Also on a positive note I had a spark of creative energy while driving today that has found its way to paper, a start for a rough draft. I'm hopeful that I can pull more out of it yet this evening, but I will not force it. It's best that way.

I had a new poem accepted this week for publication in The Flask Review. The year has been good for my work. I want to keep focused on the fact that there remains time still to commit to even more quality work and more submissions. It's not a time for rest, rather for persistence.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Reviewing the year so far

Just days away from the end of the 3rd quarter of the year, I look back and think about my production of work this year and to what degree of satisfaction I have with my efforts. This is a good place for contemplation of such things because there is still a fourth of the year remaining for a final push- if that is what I feel I must do.

I can't really say how much work I have actually produced this year, but it seems like a more prolific one then past. I do have a better idea about numbers where submission and publication are concerned and those numbers give me some cause for satisfaction.

Over the last 12 months, I've submitted 29 works for publication. Of those, seven remain pending. My acceptance rate is just under 18.52% and that is higher than the average reported on Duotrope's site among others who use their tracking services. This month I have submitted 4 poems, and I plan to resubmit some today or tomorrow.

I still have a number of pieces that are finished and can be sent out. This has allowed me to work and rework on some new material without feeling pressure. This plus these results, make it easier not to rush material and give it plenty of time to make sure it is ready.

I do believe the final three months of the year I can substantially increase the amount of material I have out in circulation, and I intend to give it a good push towards making this an even better year. In addition to this, I believe I can successfully have the File Folder chapbook ready for circulation by years end.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Regional flavor in poetry

This past week, I've explored in my mind the concept of local in poetry. Since I have been in the Phoenix area this week, I've considered at length the contracting environment with Missouri and thought about those poets to whom their work greatly reflects their region. I can't say that mine does.

Perhaps it is to a great extent the absence of nature in my work. I'm trying to recall a number of my poems off the of my head. I just don't think that it has been a beg factor. Certainly gives me more to think about.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Seeing the value in abstract poetry

If abstraction works well within the confines of painting or photo art, ( and I believe it does) then why should we not find similar benefit from the application of it to literary art?

Lucian Freud, grandson of Sigmund, seemed to recognize a value in processing abstract views in the mind, "The longer you look at an object, the more abstract it becomes, and, ironically, the more real. So why not the same with word phrases?

Ah! And all along you thought surreal art was throwing crap together with no rhyme or reason.
If in fact I give you a stanza of pretty straight up and down verse, it probably is not going to challenge you to do much more than quickly read through it and you are convinced that you know all there is to know about it.

It seems completely valid to me that Lucian's argument above is like looking at art initially from a broad or distant view, bringing it into focus and finally discovering more that you ever thought you could. That is the challenge that I often want to evoke with my poetry. So for those who believe such poetry is only about "word salad" or that it is the product of lazy writers who are not willing to take the time to craft something like a "Ted Kooser" poem, don't be so short sighted. There really can be more at work than meets the eye on initial glance.