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areyoucontagious
Jun 13, 2007

Hell is other people.



Do you want to turn your dumb feelings into beautiful poetry? Do you want to take something as mundane as a plastic bag floating on the wind and turn it into a Nobel Prize in Literature? Do you often find yourself using the phrase “ere”? Then do we have a fun project for you!

There is a popular poetry workbook written by the famous poet Steve Kowit titled “In the Palm of Your Hand”. I’ve been really enjoying it, and I think it’s helped me develop some of my poetry writing ability.

You don’t need to buy the book! With mod approval, I will be summarizing content and posting smaller quotes to help describe the books content and the exercises.

The plan I have in my head for this thread is to go through one chapter’s worth of concept each week, with participants discussing the ideas and then executing the associated two to three exercises. Generally this involves analyzing other poems and writing a poem or two of your own. Obviously these are lofty goals but I think if we can get a few people together each week we’ll get some good discussion and critique going.

This is not intended to be a huge commitment. You do not have to participate in each week. Please feel free to come and go as you please.

This first post is to sort of judge interest and I’ll post the first week’s concepts and exercises this weekend sometime. At the very least I plan to go through the book and post my work here, even if no one joins me.

As a bit of a warning, Kowit does ask the reader to embrace difficult content, both in terms l of remembering things from the reader’s past (possibly traumatic) and in the poems of other writers. Kowit believes that engaging with these memories/content can help the reader work through their own feelings and generate powerful poems.

I hope some of you will join me! Look for a new post soon.

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areyoucontagious
Jun 13, 2007

Hell is other people.


Section 1: Speak, Memory

Chapter 1: I Couldn't Stop Watching

One of the central themes to this section, as evidenced by the title, is the power and emotion that memory can hold for the poet. These memories don't necessarily have to be dramatic ones (although one could certainly argue, as Kowit does, that the more intense the emotion, the stronger the poem), and in fact Kowit opens the section with a poem by the Spanish poet Antonio Machado:

Memory from Childhood

A chilly and overcast afternoon
of winter. The students
are studying. Steady boredom
of raindrops across the windowpanes.

It is the schoolroom. In a poster
Cain is shown running
away, and Abel dead,
not far from a red spot.

The teacher, with a voice husky and hollow,
is thundering. He is an old man badly dressed,
withered and dried up,
who is holding a book in his hand.

And the whole child's choir
is singing its lesson:
one thousand times one hundred is one hundred thousand,
one thousand times one thousand is one million.

A chilly and overcast afternoon
of winter. The students
are studying. Steady boredom
of raindrops across the windowpanes.
-----

We can see that this poem is not one about true love or furious anger but instead it draws on the monotony of a dreary schoolroom. What's great about this poem is a combination of its simplicity and its vivid, descriptive language. Kowit highlights these, stating Machado "evokes not just the dullness of his childhood classroom, but something too of the magic in which even unpleasant memories of the past are likely to be draped."

The specificity of the language is what helps bring Machado's classroom to life. It's not just a poster of a Bible story, it's specifically Cain running from the spot where he murdered his brother. It's not just an old teacher, but one who is badly dressed and appears to have lost all the joy he might have once taken in teaching. By avoiding generalization (e.g. "boredom of raindrops" vs. "bad weather", listing out the choir's chant instead of just saying "reciting times tables") Machado transports us into the classroom.

The simple nature of the poem, which avoids flowery language and overwrought description, adds to the impact of the poem. The structure of the sentences is not complex, nor does Machado waste space with words he pulled from the thesaurus. The efficiency of the poem gives it power. Kowit tells us "If you had imagined that poetry required exotic and dramatic subject matter, this poem should convince you that the most commonplace experiences can be transformed into powerful writing."

Our takeaways from this example are thus that poetry does not require exotic language or overly complex structures, but that it does require us to paint as specific a picture as possible. This isn't to say that metaphor (which Kowit covers later) should be avoided; rather it's that our metaphors should be specific ones.

A second example, "Power" by Corrine Hales, describes a train as "A hundred iron wheels tearing like time". This is a metaphor for a train, calling into our minds' eye the physical train itself but also the immense power of its motion, which is as inevitable as the progress of time. Hales does not simply say "a train", which would be simple and direct, but uses a specific language to have the reader imagine a train.

Some other themes from this section:

Narrative: Getting the Story Told

For the poem's author, one of the main purposes of the writing is to give the reader an experience. Regardless of what your poem might be about, its going to depend at least partially on the author's ability to tell a story. As with most creative writing, "show, don't tell" is an important concept. Telling your story by implying emotion though physical description rather than telling the reader what is being felt is an important concept and one that will make your writing more effective.

Narrator and Author

... don't necessarily have to be the same. Even if you have a memory ("I remember when Kyle jumped off that cliff into the lake and we all thought he was dead"), you don't necessarily have to be truthful in your conveyance. You might want to write that poem from Kyle's perspective, telling it as if you experienced the jump yourself. That's well within your creative license as the author.

Conflict and Suspense

A poem does not need to be narrative-driven. Machado's poem does not necessarily have conflict or suspense, but it's still an effective poem that can give the reader a vivid experience. "Power" is Hale's story about two siblings that manage to get a train to stop by setting up a dummy on the tracks, is absolutely full of conflict and suspense. As the train obliterates the dummy, and the conductor comes out onto the tracks at first angry and then drops to his knees, weeping, the reader is swept up into the narrative.

The Power is in the Details

As covered above, effective writing has specific imagery and does not rely on generalizations. "My brother and I put a fake person on the train tracks and the train hit it and a guy got out and was really mad" is not an effective sentence.

Compare that to "the man was falling, sobbing, to his knees, and I couldn't stop watching. My brother lay next to me, his hands covering his ears, his face pressed tight to the ground."

One is certainly better than the other.

The Gentle Art of Lying / Theme and Point of View

You don't need to be truthful with your poem's details. As touched on above, playing with the details of your memory (or someone else's memory) can make a poem more effective. Likewise, your memories don't have built-in meanings. Your experience of when your mother yelled at your brother for coming home after curfew might be pretty funny to you, but could have been traumatic for your brother. Your poem about the experience could be from either perspective. Furthermore, what was funny in the moment might actually be interpreted differently by forty-year-old you, who realizes that your mother was actually very abusive toward your brother and that memory was just one example of many. Kowit tells us that "We understand events in different ways at different times."

When you set out to write a poem, you might not know where you're headed or what the poem's meaning is "supposed" to be. Discovering how you feel about the material in the moment can help build a poem into something great.

areyoucontagious
Jun 13, 2007

Hell is other people.


Exercises for Week 1

Exercise 1: Recovering Memories

Let's draw out some stuff from our pasts to write about! Jot down a phrase or two describing a memory for the following questions. The goal of this exercise is to drum up some potential content for our first poem. (If you're playing along at home, you do not need to post these)

1. Recall a pleasant experience.
2. Recall a home you once lived in.
3. Recall a secret you once held.
4. Recall a person you remember fondly.
5. Recall an incident that you dreaded.
6. Recall something dangerous or dumb you did as a kid.
7. Recall something you did that was bad.
8. Recall something that happened at school or on the playground.
9. Recall your first crush.
10. Recall something hilarious that happened to you.

Exercise 2: Taking Notes for the First Poem

Choose one of the incidents that has the following properties: the experience is narrative-driven, the experience calls up strong emotions when you remember it, and the experience is one for which you can conjure detail.

Go through the memory in your mind and write down as many specific details as you can recall. Remember Machado's poem, with its vivid detail and lack of generalities. You may have to go through the memory several times to capture all the details.

Exercise 3: The First Poem

Kowit recommends to use one of the following three formats for your first poem.

1. A Childhood Memory

Tell your story in 35 lines or fewer, as effectually as you can. Make sure the incident is held to one scene - one physical location - and if your memory has more than one location pick the one that will give you the strongest narrative. Do not use end-rhyme in this poem. Instead of trying to increase the complexity of your poem through structure or exotic language, focus on "the compression precision, and clarity of your phrasing".

2. Working With Structure

Take one of your recollections and write a poem in the style of Machado's "Memory from Childhood". Capture the mood of a place and time by focusing on just a few details. This poem might be less narrative-driven, but can bring to life a memory of an event that was repetitive, or that happened over a long period of time. There isn't any inherent drama or conflict.

Gather four distinct sets of details about the occasion and use one in each of four stanzas. If it works with your poem, use the same graceful repetition of the first stanza in the last stanza. Do your best to convey the mood of the moment to the reader efficiently.

3. Family Secrets

This poem might focus on a series of scenes to capture an entire period of your life. Do not try to give the reader an exhaustive list of details but rather pick a few that will effectively capture the general tone of your experience.

Exercise 4: Revising the First Poem

After you've completed your first poem, re-read it to yourself a few times to see if you've managed to capture what you meant to glean from your memory. Kowit writes "inexperienced writers [often] find it hard to separate what they know about an incident from what they have told the reader, with the consequence that crucial information never gets conveyed."

Be sure to realize that what excites you about the poem (which is about you or your memory) might not excite the reader. Sometimes by revising your poem you might realize a different detail or two that would be more effective in the telling. Take a day or two between writing and revising in order to look at your poem with fresh eyes.

For people posting their poems, write your revised poem into a second post so we can see the changes between drafts one and two.

-----
FOR OUR VIEWERS AT HOME

Okay, if you've read this far then maybe you're interested in writing some poems! Due date for these exercises is Saturday, April 7th. I'll post my own work sometime between now and then. Chapter 2 will be up (hopefully) later that evening.

lofi
Apr 2, 2018



OK, I'm in. Thanks for the inspiration, here's what I've got pre-revision:

I'm walking.
City drone fading out behind me.
First buildings,
Then cars,
Then fear.

I'm still walking,
Bare feet in earthen trough.
Heavy boots bounce on my pack,
Slosh of drink,
Rattle of pencilcase.

I'm just walking,
Generous September sun.
The path endlessly straight,
Massive cows,
Blue sea of cabbage.

I'm walking,
And finally,
My mind is still.


Lots I'm not happy with, but I wanted to post before I convince myself not to.

areyoucontagious
Jun 13, 2007

Hell is other people.


Thank you for being brave! It’s really hard to post my work too. You just have to realize that we’re in this journey together and getting better is a common goal.

Here is my pre-revision poem.

Blankets

I was six
and you were losing weight.
We sat on our back patio
watching your tulips bloom,
curled under your patchwork quilt
that was green like the grass
Dad wouldn’t stop fertilizing
until it burned brown.

I was eight
and you had stopped sleeping.
Our first trip to the bay
that I spent with grandma
watching the gray whales
you spent at the research center.
Beneath a fuzzy 49ers bedspread
we listened to grandma cry.

I was nine
on the day you died.
Packed into the gym
I watched them stop the candy sale
fundraiser and call my name.
Dad and I parked in the back
of the Fred Meyer lot and sobbed
under the blanket of a blue spring sky.

I am thirty
and you are gone.
My daughter shrieks and giggles
running through Stella Park
on too-long legs in too-small shoes.
I tuck her in under your green quilt,
now rough and frayed,
stitched with my memories of you.

areyoucontagious
Jun 13, 2007

Hell is other people.


Here is your crit. Also for other readers I promise to critique every poem that gets posted.

lofi posted:


I'm walking.
City drone fading out behind me.
First buildings,
Then cars,
Then fear.
Give us more! Be more specific with the drone- not just the drone of the city, but the buzzing drone of five PM traffic. Not just buildings, but glass towers, etc.

Fear is this context is a little confusing. Fear of what? If you’re scared of something, show us through a physical action. Also show us what you’re scared of!



I'm still walking,
Bare feet in earthen trough.
Heavy boots bounce on my pack,
Slosh of drink,
Rattle of pencilcase.
I like this stanza a lot. You’ve given us some great details to chew on. I have a great mental picture of some bohemian artist getting away from the city.

I'm just walking,
Generous September sun.
The path endlessly straight,
Massive cows,
Blue sea of cabbage.
Another good stanza. There’s a lot of room to flesh out details here, expounding on what the path looks like (are there mountains? Is it flat? Bare earth? Corn?) and maybe some more details on the cows beyond “they’re big”. Blue sea of cabbage is vivid though, as is the generous sun.

You could also just end the poem here. I think it’s a more powerful point than your last stanza, which just fizzles out. “My mind is still” is vague and telling, rather than showing. Your first stanzas already do a better job of capturing a person going out into the country to avoid the city drone and get some clarity. Give the reader some credit to pick out your message.


I'm walking,
And finally,
My mind is still.


I like it. You’ve got good bones here about a person embracing nature to clear their head. The repetition of “walking” is a good anchor. You’ve got places to get more specific, more show-y, but you’ve also got places where you’ve painted a picture to draw the reader in.

lofi
Apr 2, 2018



Thanks for the crit! The comment in Exercise about struggling to seperate what you know and what you've said is bang on, it's something I always struggle with - I think I'm being subtle, I'm actually being opaque. In this case, the non-sequiter of 'then fear [fades out]' - referring to my goon-bingo-card agoraphobia. Which went away in a field, of all places. Editing time!

I think yours is strong, to put it mildly. (I'm trying to avoid saying 'powerful', always feels like a default response.) I like the simple clarity of it, I think anything more ornate would just end up getting in the way. 'You were losing weight' is such a brutal line, says so much so quickly. I'd like to go more in-depth, give it a proper response, but I'm not really sure how - I don't know if a line-by-line would be any use on a poem that works through cumulative effect. How do you go about taking a poem apart?

areyoucontagious
Jun 13, 2007

Hell is other people.


lofi posted:

Thanks for the crit! The comment in Exercise about struggling to seperate what you know and what you've said is bang on, it's something I always struggle with - I think I'm being subtle, I'm actually being opaque. In this case, the non-sequiter of 'then fear [fades out]' - referring to my goon-bingo-card agoraphobia. Which went away in a field, of all places. Editing time!

I think yours is strong, to put it mildly. (I'm trying to avoid saying 'powerful', always feels like a default response.) I like the simple clarity of it, I think anything more ornate would just end up getting in the way. 'You were losing weight' is such a brutal line, says so much so quickly. I'd like to go more in-depth, give it a proper response, but I'm not really sure how - I don't know if a line-by-line would be any use on a poem that works through cumulative effect. How do you go about taking a poem apart?

Thank for the nice words

When I crit poems (and keep in mind I don’t have years of experience doing this) I’ll read it, wait, read it again to make sure I have the message, and then critique it.

I like to do a line by line, judging each image or stanza on its own, and then comment on the end on how the piece fits together. Honestly just throw out what you think works and what doesn’t- there’s no wrong answers here. There’s a bunch of online resources too for learning how to critique poetry.

lofi
Apr 2, 2018



Sorry teach, lifestuff has come up, so I'll be a day late on my revision. Took a poke at it this morning, but my rewrite put a weird tonal clash in there that I want to resolve before I post it.

areyoucontagious
Jun 13, 2007

Hell is other people.


lofi posted:

Sorry teach, lifestuff has come up, so I'll be a day late on my revision. Took a poke at it this morning, but my rewrite put a weird tonal clash in there that I want to resolve before I post it.

No hard limits dude- I’ll throw up my revision today and the next part today or tomorrow . Doesn’t mean we’re leaving your poem behind. Don’t try to force anything!

areyoucontagious
Jun 13, 2007

Hell is other people.


Here is my revised poem, including title:

Patchwork

I was six
and you were losing weight.
We sat on the back patio
watching your tulips bloom,
curled under your patchwork quilt.
It was green like the grass
Dad wouldn’t stop fertilizing
until it burned brown.

I was eight
and you weren’t sleeping.
Our first trip to the bay,
that I spent with grandma
watching the gray whales,
you spent at the research center.
Under a fuzzy 49ers afghan
grandma cried in the bedroom.

I was nine
on the day you died.
Packed into the gym
I watched them halt the D.A.R.E.
fundraiser and call my name.
Dad and I parked in the back
of the Fred Meyer lot and sobbed
under the blanket of a blue spring sky.

I am thirty
and you’re still gone.
My daughter shrieks and giggles,
running through Stella Park
on too-long legs in too-small shoes.
I tuck her in under your green quilt,
now rough and frayed,
stitched with my memories of you.

lofi
Apr 2, 2018




I'm walking.
City drone fading behind me;
practical yellow-brick cubes,
howl of the ring road,
chitter of my mind.

I'm still walking.
Bare feet in earthen trough,
heavy boots bounce on my pack.
Slosh of drink.
Rattle of pencil case.

I'm just walking.
Generous September sun,
Monolith cows,
Blue seas of cabbage,
and the path endlessly straight ahead.


I decided to keep the changes fairly minor eventually. There was a whole verse that got added and cut, focusing on why I was there, my mind, but that brought in a tonal shift I didn't like, so it went again.

As I said before, I really like yours. The weakest parts for me are cultural things with no connection to me (britgoon) - 49ers, Fred Meyer, D.A.R.E. I can see why you've used them, but to someone less familiar with them they're a bit jarring, especially the acronym. I'm not sure if that'd be possible to resolve without losing some of the relevance of the poem, though. The first verse is my favourite, every line is really on-target and adds a facet to the story.

areyoucontagious
Jun 13, 2007

Hell is other people.


Section 1: Speak, Memory

Chapter 2: Little Poems in Prose

pre:
Something must have been bugging my father the day I asked him for
fifty cents in the upstairs kitchen, because although he was always a sweet
and gently man and gave me most everything I asked for, this time he
turns aroudn from the sink where he is washing dishes and starts swing-
ing at me fronthand and backhand, again and again, his face contorted
with a rage I never saw before or again. I shrivelled into the chair by the
kitchen window sobbing and begging this stranger to stop. Eventually he
does, and the silence of the rest of our lives swallows the moment forever.
-Fred Moramarco

While prose generally brings to mind a short story, or novella, or even a novel, it can be a very powerful tool in writing poetry as well. Here, the poet gives a view into a moment that completely changed his relationship with his father. Pay close attention that even though the format of the poem is missing what we might expect, the language of the poem is still full of specific (and figurative) language. Kowit writes that poems such as these were popularized in the mid-nineteenth century by the poet Charles Baudelaire, who penned his "Petits poemes en prose". Poems such as these almost resemble short stories, and in some cases might be indistinguishable.

Obviously this style is still driven by the same things that make other poems successful: specificity and telling through action. "There is no hard and fast boundary between [prose poems and short stories]" writes Kowit and that prose poems will generally focus on a single event or moment, while short stories tend to follow a series of moments. You could possibly consider prose poems to be flash fiction, or "short-short stories". Just like examples from our previous section, prose poems can be both narrative or descriptive. Consider the following example:

Considering the Accordion


The idea of it is distasteful at best. Awkward box of wind, diminutive,
misplaced piano on one side, raised Braille buttons on the other. The
bellows, like some parody of breathing, like some medical apparatus from a
Victorian sick-ward. A grotesque poem in three dimensions, a rococo
thing-a-me-bob. I once strapped an accordion on my chest and right away I
had to lean back on my heels, my chin in the air, my back arched like a
bullfighter or flamenco dancer. I became an unheard of contradiction: a
gypsy in graduate school. Ah, but for all that, we find evidence of the
soul in the most unlikely places. Once in a Czech restaurant in Long
Beach, an ancient accordionist came to our table and played the old
favorites: "Lady of Spain," " The Saber Dance," "Dark Eyes," and through
all the clichés his spirit sang clearly. It seemed like the accordion
floated in air, and he swayed weightlessly behind it, eyes closed, back in
Prague or some lost village of his childhood. For a moment we all
floated--the whole restaurant: the patrons, the knives and forks, the
wine, the sacrificed fish on plates. Everything was pure and eternal,
fragilely suspended like a stained-glass window in the one remaining wall of
a bombed out church.

-Al Zolynas

With this poem Zolynas paints a vivid picture of the accordion, which he initially mocks with "parody of breathing" and "grotesque poem in three directions". And yet at the end of the poem he shows us a moment in which the grotesque becomes "the agent of ... illumination". Kowit tells us that this "epiphanic moment" is one where the reader (or even poet!) is given a revelation. It shows us a world where things are more beautiful, or meaningful, or sublime. Zolynas's poem juxtaposes the ridiculous accordion with a master player and how the combination of the two gives the patrons an experience that showed a world more magical and transcendent than they thought possible.

Writing Prose Paragraphs

Your effectiveness in writing a poem in prose will depend on the same skills as other poetry. Even though your structure is different, your language must still be precise. Writing in prose can be useful for beginning poets, as there is less to worry about with regards to structure, allowing one to focus exclusively on writing a graceful paragraph.

Write, re-write, and polish short prose descriptions until your ability to craft the language is honed and you feel comfortable enough to move on to playing with structure. Beginning with something simple, like describing objects around you, can be good practice.

Exercises for Week 2

Exercise 1: Uncover more memories

Again, jot down a few notes for the following prompts. Maybe some memories are too difficult right now, and that’s okay. Set them aside and move on. As you repeat this process with new memories, uncovering and working on through traumatic events will become easier.

1. Recall an incident you wouldn’t want to share with others
2. Recall an incident involving a parent or guardian that still angers you today
3. Recall an incident in which you felt betrayed
4. Recall an incident in which you were humiliated
5. Jot down a memory that popped into your mind but suppressed while working on this exercise
6. Recall an incident that made you joyful.

Exercise 2: The Three- or Four-sentence Prose Poem

Pick a memory that can be condensed down into three or four sentences. You might start with far more than that, but use that initial material to pare down to an effective subset of details. Your sentences might be long, which is fine, but don’t overburden them with too many images. Write and re-write until your story is told effectively and powerfully.

If you find this prose exercise stimulates your mind, write another, this time five to eight sentences long.

Exercise 3: The Object Poem

Write a poem in the style of “Consider the Accordion”. Pick an object from your house or home and write down five imaginative comparisons about it. It can be that these comparisons are fanciful or not. The object may be one that holds great sentimentality or just one to which you don’t pay much attention. Hold the object; contemplate it completely.

Use the comparisons you’ve written to bring the object to life for the reader.

Revising your poems

When looking for a critic to help you revise your poems, find someone who will give you honest feedback that can help you improve. Do not tell your critic the meaning of the poem beforehand. Let the reader find their own way, as this will be an effective measure of how well you communicated with your poem. Listen to feedback, as it can help you recognize where your poem is weak or strong. At the same time, be confident in your writing ! If you feel you’re happy with how a particular line has been handled, don’t change it because a critic told you so.

———-

For those of you playing at home:

let’s have a due date of Monday, April 16 for these poems.

areyoucontagious
Jun 13, 2007

Hell is other people.


lofi posted:


I'm walking.
City drone fading behind me;
practical yellow-brick cubes,
howl of the ring road,
chitter of my mind.
This stanza suffers from a little bit of mismatch between your imagery and description. I don’t see a road “howling” and so your line falls a bit flat. Yellow-brick cubes is another line that misses the mark for me. You should go into more detail, maybe flesh out the whole poem- give me more details about the crowded, noisy city that you’re juxtaposing with the country.


I'm still walking.
Bare feet in earthen trough,
heavy boots bounce on my pack.
Slosh of drink.
Rattle of pencil case.

Still a great stanza.


I'm just walking.
Generous September sun,
Monolith cows,
Word choice. Monolith is not what I think of when I imagine cows.
Blue seas of cabbage,
and the path endlessly straight ahead.


I decided to keep the changes fairly minor eventually. There was a whole verse that got added and cut, focusing on why I was there, my mind, but that brought in a tonal shift I didn't like, so it went again.

Overall you’ve definitely add more concrete imagery, but the descriptions still need a little work. Keep working on it! Maybe put it aside for a few days and plug at it with fresh eyes.

quote:

As I said before, I really like yours. The weakest parts for me are cultural things with no connection to me (britgoon) - 49ers, Fred Meyer, D.A.R.E. I can see why you've used them, but to someone less familiar with them they're a bit jarring, especially the acronym. I'm not sure if that'd be possible to resolve without losing some of the relevance of the poem, though. The first verse is my favourite, every line is really on-target and adds a facet to the story.
Thank you! The specific references are certainly relevant to me but I can easily see it losing power for an unfamiliar audience. I might try to make the references more vague, but I’m worried about losing power.

lofi
Apr 2, 2018



I'm a city kid, irl cows are plenty monolithic to me - I didn't know beef was that big! :P

This weeks' memory prompts are tough, took me ages just to do the first part. I've not really come across prose poems before, it's one of those ideas that's obvious the minute you see it done but just wouldn't occur to you. My first shot at the shorter one:

I stare down at the fish and the fish. The real one smog-yellow and glistening, and
my fumbling pencil copy, the whole so much less than its excruciatingly detailed parts.
"Not very good" was all the dismissal it earned, and my jaw hurts from my silence
at this teacher who won't.


Still angry at that rear end in a top hat, can't remember his name. Can remember that loving fish better than his face.

More soon!

areyoucontagious
Jun 13, 2007

Hell is other people.


lofi posted:

I'm a city kid, irl cows are plenty monolithic to me - I didn't know beef was that big! :P

This weeks' memory prompts are tough, took me ages just to do the first part. I've not really come across prose poems before, it's one of those ideas that's obvious the minute you see it done but just wouldn't occur to you. My first shot at the shorter one:

I stare down at the fish and the fish. The real one smog-yellow and glistening, and
my fumbling pencil copy, the whole so much less than its excruciatingly detailed parts.
"Not very good" was all the dismissal it earned, and my jaw hurts from my silence
at this teacher who won't.


Still angry at that rear end in a top hat, can't remember his name. Can remember that loving fish better than his face.

More soon!

Keep in mind Kowit points out that it’s totally okay to tell your critic to stuff it. If you think a line is good, don’t screw with it. You know your poem best.

I really like your prose poem! It’s definitely capturing a disappointing moment; i can easily parse out how you are feeling. A few suggestions:

1. “At the fish and the fish” is a little clunky. Try to avoid forcing a “poetic” description, as it usually sabotages your poem. “I looked at one fish, and then the other.” Is one potential way- it sets the reader’s expectations and then subverts them when you talk about how one is real and the other not.

2. Lines 3 & 4 are awesome. Simple and effective.

3. Your last line falls flat. Your jaw clenched from avoiding an outburst is there and well-described, but I’m maybe missing the point of the last line.

Good poem, I liked it a lot!

areyoucontagious
Jun 13, 2007

Hell is other people.


I’m just gonna post it before I decide to trash it. I don’t like this poem; I’m not happy with it largely because it’s cliche (daddy issues) and the imagery is disjointed (shepherds sling vs space stuff?).

——

I considered sending my father’s call to voicemail; one more digitized copy of “hey, bud” tossed on the already stale pile cluttering up my memory. On this Thursday however — my thirty-first birthday — I took the call and the quiet pain of my father’s voice was a shepherd’s sling against my iron heart. The stuttered snips of conversation stretched out as if gravity pulled extra hard that day on just us two, until the universe finally saw fit to pull our orbits apart. On the next Thursday, and for all the Thursdays thereafter, there were no more calls.

lofi
Apr 2, 2018



Second one, the object poem. I really struggled with this, because generally when I get descriptive about something I jump straight into weird structures and not-prose. It feels like it's not one thing or the other in a really awkward way.

Imagine a very serious man. An engineer, with a thick moustache and a set square. The pencil that man would use
is clipped inside his shirt pocket. A mechanical pencil, heavy brushed steel, solid, dependable. Reliable. This is a tool,
one designed by precise people for precise people with precise needs.

Just picking it up is an exercise in quiet satisfaction, a weight that reassures, knurled metal grip with rubber dimples,
belt-buckle and braces. Lead hardness indicator. Refillable eraser under metal cap.

A good weight to slide the bolt mechanism home, deploy the half-millimetre graphite from its housing with a sensible click. Metric
system, impeccably rational. Colour-coded markings scratched from everyday labour but still legible at a glance.

An infinitesimal nod, appreciation of quality craftsmanship, and work can proceed.


e: Oh hey, you posted while I was editing!

areyoucontagious posted:

I considered sending my father’s call to voicemail; one more digitized copy of “hey, bud” tossed on the already stale pile cluttering up my memory. I really like that image, the greeting being less valued than storage space. On this Thursday however — my thirty-first birthday — I took the call and the quiet pain of my father’s voice was a shepherd’s sling against my iron heart. Yeah, as you said, the imagery here is a bit shotgun - is it biblical? The stuttered snips Not sold on this - the alliteration sets a rhythm the rest of the sentence doesn't follow of conversation stretched out as if gravity pulled extra hard that day on just us two, until the universe finally saw fit to pull our orbits apart. I don't think the gravity similie works here, because gravity makes me think 'pulling together'. On the next Thursday, and for all the Thursdays thereafter, there were no more calls. Simple, effective.

I think the middle section, stuttered snips to orbits apart, pulls the piece down. It feels over-worked to me, too much in it, and it ends up distracting from what you're saying.

lofi fucked around with this message at Apr 12, 2018 around 16:45

areyoucontagious
Jun 13, 2007

Hell is other people.


lofi posted:


I think the middle section, stuttered snips to orbits apart, pulls the piece down. It feels over-worked to me, too much in it, and it ends up distracting from what you're saying.

I think so too! I really like the idea of time dilating due to extra gravity as a metaphor, but I think it really doesn’t work here. The shepherd’s sling was just a nice phrase I liked, but the point was basically “a stone against a tank” - I’m wondering if there isn’t a less “biblical” reference.

The object poem is proving difficult for me too. Still working on it...

areyoucontagious
Jun 13, 2007

Hell is other people.


I cannot write this object poem. It’s just not coming. I liked your poem a fair bit.

lofi posted:


Imagine a very serious man. An engineer, with a thick moustache and a set square. The pencil that man would use
is clipped inside his shirt pocket. A mechanical pencil, heavy brushed steel, solid, dependable. Reliable. This is a tool,
one designed by precise people for precise people with precise needs. I liked this stanza. It weighs down a bit with the “heavy brushed... Reliable”. Reliable is a synonym of dependable so it’s a bit repetitive.


Just picking it up is an exercise in quiet satisfaction, a weight that reassures, knurled metal grip with rubber dimples,
belt-buckle and braces. Lead hardness indicator. Refillable eraser under metal cap. Nice. I can easily visualize the pencil. It’s not quite as metaphorical as the example poem, but at the very least your descriptions are very specific.

A good weight to slide the bolt mechanism home, deploy the half-millimetre graphite from its housing with a sensible click. Metric
system, impeccably rational. Colour-coded markings scratched from everyday labour but still legible at a glance.

An infinitesimal nod, appreciation of quality craftsmanship, and work can proceed.


It was a good exercise. You captured the spirit of the pencil, and the preciseness of your language was a fun complement to the preciseness of the pencil itself. In that sense your poem was a success! I don’t think it needs colorful metaphors if you don’t- this poem works as it is.

lofi
Apr 2, 2018



I dunno. I feel like I struck close enough to the brutally functional design of the pencil that I wrote a brutally functional piece. It works as a thematic description, if it was part of a bigger piece I'd be happy, but by itself it feels heavy, dull. A good exercise, I guess, but I much prefer the fish one I posted before.

If you're struggling to write, I find hard limits help me - too much choice is a paralytic. Close your eyes, point at something, and give yourself an hour to write. If it's poo poo, c'est la vie, it's at least better than nothing.

lofi fucked around with this message at Apr 15, 2018 around 02:22

areyoucontagious
Jun 13, 2007

Hell is other people.


This has been a stressful week at home and work and as such I think my creativity has suffered. That said I’m happy with the bones of this- I welcome any suggestions on fleshing it out (feels abridged) and improving the cohesion.

Cook’s Knife

The knife has been handed down from father to son, junior to third to fourth, like old money or old myths. The ebony handle, hand-carved from an African blackwood imported from the base of Kilimanjaro, imbues the sweet sweat of its creator into every tear-dropped onion and hothouse tomato. Every day the blade, already sharp like mother’s tongue, is honed by the master’s touch, bringing the knife forward into purpose-driven life like the touch of God on Eden’s living clay. Alone, in the rack, it is simply inert wood and dead steel; but in the chef’s hand it flashes like the teeth of wolves in the darkness, transforming flesh of fruit, vegetable, and protein alike into the building blocks of culinary divinity.

areyoucontagious
Jun 13, 2007

Hell is other people.


Section 1: Speak, Memory

Chapter 3: Shards of Memory

Some memories that we choose to write about are life-changing, big, unforgettable events, driven by strong passion. These events are deep-seated within us and are often a core part of who we are, making them excellent mines for poem content. But Kowit states that “...many others are likely to be those vagrant, momentary encounters that are memorable for no apparent reason: experiences that are part of the fabric of our ordinary daily lives but that for some reason remain significant enough to be remembered.” Take the following poem: it gives us scattered, non-chronological snapshots of the poet’s life, and in doing so offers charm to the reader in both the content and structure of the poem.

How I Knew Harold

Around 1981 we run into your old girlfriend on an elevator. She's wearing black leather
pants and a tank top. She asks how I like New York. We are all sweating bullets.
I want to say it sucks, but the doors open and she's gone. We miss our floor.

Around 1953 Mom tells the family she's pregnant. My brother bounces around the living
room with a pillow on his head wailing "it will change our whole lives!" This story
is recounted each year around my birthday.

Around 1978 I leave home to move in with Jack. Dad and I are standing in the driveway.
They don't want me to go. He's Jewish. Mom packs ham sandwiches and slips
me two twenties. I move back in three months.

Around 1979 my friend Sandy plays taps at a funeral gig, so I go along. I walk up to the
casket in my boots and fur jacket. I'm checking out the deceased when a woman
grabs my elbow. She wants to know how I knew Harold.

Around 1972 my sister tells me and my parents she's gay. Dad says it's unnatural and they
start arguing. I keep quiet. Mom goes into the kitchen to make sundaes.

Around 1962 my brother feels like scaring the hell out of me and chases me around the
house with a butcher knife. I hide behind Dad's suits. It smells like Old Spice.

Around 1969 I tell my parents over dinner that I'd live with a man before I'd marry him.
Dad says it's unnatural. I tell him to get his own dessert.

Around 1963 Grandma gives me ten bucks for learning the times tables.

Around 1957 Dad and I sing My Darlin' Clementine every morning on the way to school.

Around 1968 Patty Bryant and I run out on the check at Woolworth's.

Around 1964 Mom colors her hair–starts wearing eye shadow and mascara. She's
standing over a steaming sink in a pale green mohair singing "Edelweiss." She
looks absolutely radiant.

- Deborah Harding

Here we see strong parallelism with each stanza, the repetition of “Around” giving an anchor throughout the poem. The style of the poem is less dramatic than others, with an almost conversational, chatty tone. Kowit writes that “this is very much a family album with quick but telling portraits...” We are able to see how the poet relates to her father, mother, siblings, and how she sees herself in the telling. Playing with the structure of the poem gives the poet freedom to add herself into not only the content but the very form of the poem itself. Kowit gives another example of this structural creativity in “People Who Died” by poet Ted Berrigan.

Pat Dugan……..my grandfather……..throat cancer……..1947.

Ed Berrigan……..my dad……..heart attack……..1958.

Dickie Budlong……..my best friend Brucie’s big brother, when we were
five to eight……..killed in Korea, 1953.

Red O’Sullivan……..hockey star & cross-country runner
who sat at my lunch table
in High School……car crash…...1954.

Jimmy “Wah” Tiernan……..my friend, in High School,
Football & Hockey All-State……car crash….1959.

Cisco Houston……..died of cancer……..1961.

Freddy Herko, dancer….jumped out of a Greenwich Village window
in 1963.

Anne Kepler….my girl….killed by smoke-poisoning while playing
the flute at the Yonkers Children’s Hospital
during a fire set by a 16 year old arsonist….1965.

Frank……Frank O’Hara……hit by a car on Fire Island, 1966.

Woody Guthrie……dead of Huntington’s Chorea in 1968.

Neal……Neal Cassady……died of exposure, sleeping all night
in the rain by the RR tracks of Mexico….1969.

Franny Winston……just a girl….totalled her car on the Detroit-Ann Arbor
Freeway, returning from the dentist….Sept. 1969.

Jack……Jack Kerouac……died of drink & angry sickness….in 1969.

My friends whose deaths have slowed my heart stay with me now.

---
We can see immediately that this does not look like other poems we’ve read so far. This is a simple, brutal list and in it we can see how each death weighs on the poet’s mind. Kowit calls it “...an authentic, disarmingly moving elegy” and he is right.

Exercises for Week 3

Exercise 1: A Process for Recovering Fugitive Memories

1. Jot down a list of some of the places you’ve lived.
2. Jot down a list of some of the jobs you’ve had. Include the weirder ones or ones that ended badly.
3. Joy down a list of old friends, people you don’t see much anymore.
4. Jot down two embarrassing things you’ve done and a lie you once told.
5. Jot down a list of remembered kisses.
6. Describe a piece of clothing you once loved, a piece of music you still love, and two old movies you remember.

Exercise 2: Shards of Memory

Write a poem with the same structure as “How I Knew Harold”. Begin each line with the phrase “Around 19-” or some variation on it (for contemporaneous memories). Plug in a few items from the memory recovery, sketched with vivid, well-chosen details. If you recall other related things, add them to your poem for the first draft. Jumble the chronology so that the memories don’t move in a clear progression. Make sure as well to connect two or three of the memories to give your poem internal structure. The idea of this poem is capture the mix of memories together to give a global snapshot of you- do not give a chronological, carefully linked set of memories. Find the order that feels right to you. Keep a light tone, avoiding excessively “poetic” language or eloquence. However just because the tone is light does not mean the sentences can run without polish. Choose your lines and details carefully to keep the reader engaged. The end goal is a set of autobiographical anecdotes about your life.

Exercise 3: A List Poem

Write a poem based on “Those Who Died” - it could be “..Kissed” or “People I’ve Hurt”. Keep each line item sparse, but make sure that the content is varied to avoid sounding monotonous. Try to keep the list format, but feel free to vary the details (include dates or no dates, etc.).

A First Principle

When working on these or any poems, remember that “...there is only one essential rule for writing: it must be interesting to read!”

—-


For those of you playing at home: due date for these poems is Monday, April 23rd. See you then!

lofi
Apr 2, 2018



I do not get this type of poem. Like, both those example ones seem terrible to me, I had to catch myself from skipping over lines as I was reading. I guess that's the point of learning, though, trying new stuff out. Well, here's my memory slurry:

In '88, I'm sick on the way back from the bathroom.
Mart tries to scrub it from the carpet while Eddie tries to eat it.

In '96 I'm arrested. Tea is takeout pizza.

In '16, I'm more proud of my Art Foundation distinction than I am of
my degree, and it's not even close. I've never worked harder at anything.

In '02 I come out. Too nervous to say it out loud, I down another
can of Fosters as Mart reads the short letter I wrote.

In '04, Illiterate Steve and his nightshift clan imaginatively nickname
me Pinky at work for my neon pink hair. I despise them all.

In '01 me and Rach buy a How to Draw Manga book,
and a wood chip wrapped in clingfilm sold to us as hash.
We try to smoke it just to be certain.

In '98 me and Rach sit under the bridge for hours every
night, smoking and making out.

In '06 I visit Maxie in Oxford. I give my month's notice to work on the
train home, and live in Oxford six weeks later.

In '10 I arrange the contents of the lounge into concentric circles
orbiting my seat on the floor in front of the computer.

spectres of autism
Feb 12, 2011




these are both a little short

shards of memory:

around 2014 i shaved my head for the first time

around 2017 i stopped wearing my choose your own adventure t-shirt.

around 2016 i watched the video for machine girl's ginger claps. ginger snaps was my sister's favourite movie. i showed her the album and she said she listened to it but i don't think she did.

around 2013 i lost the key to my dorm room. i climbed in through the window, saw my room-mate sleeping with his girlfriend, and ran to our door. i ran like the flames of hell were licking at my feet. my hand couldn't clutch the doorknob fast enough.

around 2015 i lived in a run down place on a run down street. a bear shade on our front porch. a giant rat with buck teeth running around. my cat body slammed it and left a blood stain. black mold in my roommate's room. a kicked down door.

around 2014 i kissed a girl named hannah. she used to wear dreadlocks. we were watching a Jet Li wuxia movie. i told her my favourite pokemon was bulbasaur.

around 2013 i was caught loving myself

around 2013 i lied about being schizophrenic

list poem:

people who've hugged me

girls leaving social events
a goon, both times ive seen him in real life
my girlfriend during shared psychoses
a girl at my first mosh pit
an ex-lover who rested her head on my shoulder during a plane trip
a girl who loved me. i told her she was like a sister to me.

some people could have hugged me if they could and,
i bet some people regret hugging me

areyoucontagious
Jun 13, 2007

Hell is other people.


Sorry for the subject matter but it’s just what was on my mind. Married ten years in July!

Edit: I changed the title to be less crude and give an implication. If I were to submit this somewhere I’d change it back depending on how edgy the journal was.

Places We’ve Been

... in the sun on the sand in Lincoln City. I was shivering from adrenaline, not the cold.

... in your mom’s van on that side street by the park.

... in the car, driving back from St. Louis. You kept popping back up, bright red, every time a semi passed us.

... in that shed, the one on your dad’s farm that stunk of hay. It was one hundred degrees that day.

... in the hammock at midnight, where your skin shone like body-warmed pearls.

... in the beach house. Everyone was on the deck watching fireworks. We stood in front of the window so we could both watch too.

... in our second apartment, up against the front door. I had just picked you up from the airport.

Ten years of carnal tourism that’s gone by like the lightning bolt that hit me when I first saw you.

areyoucontagious fucked around with this message at Apr 19, 2018 around 16:48

areyoucontagious
Jun 13, 2007

Hell is other people.


Sorry for the double post, I’ll get some critiques up later.

areyoucontagious
Jun 13, 2007

Hell is other people.


lofi posted:

I do not get this type of poem. Like, both those example ones seem terrible to me, I had to catch myself from skipping over lines as I was reading. I guess that's the point of learning, though, trying new stuff out. Well, here's my memory slurry:

In '88, I'm sick on the way back from the bathroom.
Mart tries to scrub it from the carpet while Eddie tries to eat it.

In '96 I'm arrested. Tea is takeout pizza.

In '16, I'm more proud of my Art Foundation distinction than I am of
my degree, and it's not even close. I've never worked harder at anything.


In '02 I come out. Too nervous to say it out loud, I down another
can of Fosters as Mart reads the short letter I wrote.

In '04, Illiterate Steve and his nightshift clan imaginatively nickname
me Pinky at work for my neon pink hair. I despise them all.

In '01 me and Rach buy a How to Draw Manga book,
and a wood chip wrapped in clingfilm sold to us as hash.
We try to smoke it just to be certain.
I like this stanza a lot. It’s got that light, almost flippant quality. It’s good.

In '98 me and Rach sit under the bridge for hours every
night, smoking and making out.
another good stanza, especially in conjunction with the coming out stanza above.

In '06 I visit Maxie in Oxford. I give my month's notice to work on the
train home, and live in Oxford six weeks later.

In '10 I arrange the contents of the lounge into concentric circles
orbiting my seat on the floor in front of the computer.

This one is a bit weaker. I don’t get any information about your life and it kind of falls flat.


I liked it. You’ve got a strong couple of stanzas there that give us a really great look into your life. The last stanza feels out of place.

I also don’t get this style of poem. It’s a bit lost on me. You did a good job though. I’ll take a crack at mine shortly.

areyoucontagious
Jun 13, 2007

Hell is other people.


spectres of autism posted:


list poem:

people who've hugged me

girls leaving social events

a goon, both times ive seen him in real life
Cut this line. I don’t think it fits well with the rest of your narrative

my girlfriend during shared psychoses
”shared psychoses” needs some work. It really drags things down with its lack of musicality

a girl at my first mosh pit
an ex-lover who rested her head on my shoulder during a plane trip

a girl who loved me. i told her she was like a sister to me.
this line is a little clunky, possibly due to repetition of “me”

some people could have hugged me if they could and,
i bet some people regret hugging me
great ending line. You can just feel the weight of it.

You’ve got good bones there. Focus in on the narrative concerning your relationships.

lofi
Apr 2, 2018



areyoucontagious posted:

The last stanza feels out of place.
...
I also don’t get this style of poem. It’s a bit lost on me.

Rereading it, you're totally right - again, it's the 'what you know vs. what you've told' thing.
Such a great bit of advice. I got the bones of my list figured out today, and I think I get it
now - the list is just a vehicle for snapshots of a whole - it's like cubism in words, showing
a thing from a bunch of different (contradictory/different times) angles to make up a whole image.
I'm still not totally sold on it, but I think with some pruning I might be able to make something work. Or
I've just had too much beer, one of the two.

spectres of autism posted:

these are both a little short

shards of memory:

around 2014 i shaved my head for the first time

around 2017 i stopped wearing my choose your own adventure t-shirt.

around 2016 i watched the video for machine girl's ginger claps. ginger snaps was my sister's
favourite movie. i showed her the album and she said she listened to it but i don't think she did.

around 2013 i lost the key to my dorm room. i climbed in through the window, saw my room-mate
sleeping with his girlfriend, and ran to our door. i ran like the flames of hell were licking at
my feet. my hand couldn't clutch the doorknob fast enough.

around 2015 i lived in a run down place on a run down street. a bear shade on our front porch. a

giant rat with buck teeth running around. my cat body slammed it and left a blood stain. black
mold in my roommate's room. a kicked down door.

around 2014 i kissed a girl named hannah. she used to wear dreadlocks. we were watching a Jet Li

wuxia movie. i told her my favourite pokemon was bulbasaur.

around 2013 i was caught loving myself

around 2013 i lied about being schizophrenic

list poem:

people who've hugged me

girls leaving social events
a goon, both times ive seen him in real life
my girlfriend during shared psychoses
a girl at my first mosh pit
an ex-lover who rested her head on my shoulder during a plane trip
a girl who loved me. i told her she was like a sister to me.

some people could have hugged me if they could and,
i bet some people regret hugging me

Sorry, my net just ate the effortpost crit I did, so you get the abridged version. I don't mean to be terse. 1) spellcheck. when I'm noticing errors, I'm not noticing your words. 2) the 'a girl' lines could be expanded a little. What girl? 3)I disagree with AYC, I like the goon line, the awkwardness implied by 'both times' and the dissonance it causes in the poem. 4)Love the last line. 5) I like your shards a lot more for spending time rereading it. The longer lines in particular have nice offbeat details, and say a lot by what they leave out. The poem could do with a theme, something to link the shards a little.

areyoucontagious posted:

I changed the title to be less crude and give an implication. If I were to submit this somewhere
I’d change it back depending on how edgy the journal was.

Nope, no, nu-uh. Yuk! I hate coyness, if you're writing about sex, own it.

Places We’ve Been
... in the sun on the sand in Lincoln City. I was shivering from adrenaline, not the cold.
... in your mom’s van on that side street by the park.
... in the car, driving back from St. Louis. You kept popping back up, bright red, every time a
semi passed us.
... in that shed, the one on your dad’s farm that stunk of hay. It was one hundred degrees that
day.
... in the hammock at midnight, where your skin shone like body-warmed pearls.
... in the beach house. Everyone was on the deck watching fireworks. We stood in front of the
window so we could both watch too.
... in our second apartment, up against the front door. I had just picked you up from the airport.

Ten years of carnal tourism that’s gone by like the lightning bolt that hit me when I first saw
you.

I think this is one of your weaker ones, honestly. You don't really describe anything internal
for the most part - the 'what' is much less interesting than the 'why' for this. The Lincoln City
and Beach House lines are really nice, though, and I think the basic concept is solid. But the list
(if I'm understanding this right) is just a vehicle for describing states of mind, reasons and
feelings.
Your conclusion is... The 'carnal tourism' is good, it works well with the concept, but the lightning bolt bit feels... Impersonal. Lacks specificity.

lofi fucked around with this message at Apr 20, 2018 around 01:04

areyoucontagious
Jun 13, 2007

Hell is other people.


I think I’m having the same issue. What I’m showing the reader versus what I know. Thanks for the crit!

lofi
Apr 2, 2018



Things made of metal.

- A dozen steel choke chains, heavy on the right hip of ripped black jeans.
- Chrome Zippo with embossed Jack Daniels logo, rusted shut from contact with resin catalyst.
- Stainless steel barbell, worn in tongue.
- High carbon steel pocketknife blade. Kept sharp enough to shave arm hairs.
- Rusty bike chain on a rusty bicycle.
- Steel hobby knife handle, the memento I keep from my dead granddad.
- Tarnished silver rings on every finger of the left hand.
- Aluminium fountain pen, black, with carbon black permanent ink, medium nib.
- Steel cog, worn as dreadlock bead, removed once for surgery.
- Brass bracelet, handmade on art course.
- Pewter finger ring that cost far too much and needed modification to fit.
- Four dusty nickel strings on a black Ibanez bass guitar.
- Iron scramasax, a viking shortsword used before a night's clubbing.

Dense, heavy, permanent in a way my memories can never be. Anchors to stop me drifting away.

areyoucontagious
Jun 13, 2007

Hell is other people.


Around 1993, my dad took me to see Jurassic park in the theater. I was seven and have never had a movie theater experience that lives up to it since.



Around 2014 I spend my sixth anniversary away from my wife. We try to see Edge of Tomorrow at the same time in different states. I find out later she got the times wrong and didn’t go.



Around 1995 I see Toy story with some friends for a birthday party. It’s the first movie I’ve seen since my mom died. I cry at the part when Buzz loses an arm.



Around 2003 I see Kill Bill in the theater with my friend Nick. It rivals Jurassic Park. This is the last time I speak to Nick for the rest of my life.



Around 2018 I watch Inside Out with my four-year-old daughter. We both cry at the end, for different reasons.



Around 2008 I watch Red Dragon and drink Big Gulps with my wife in our fancy honeymoon suite. We bought it off a rack in the 7-11 near the hotel; me in my tux, her in her dress.



Around 2001 I see Fellowship of the Ring with my youth group. Everyone is dressed up but me. I start skipping out on Sundays.



Around 2017 I watch Get Out by myself. I live-text my reactions to Morgan, who’s home watching our daughter so I can get a break. We laugh about it afterward.

areyoucontagious
Jun 13, 2007

Hell is other people.


lofi posted:

Things made of metal.

- A dozen steel choke chains, heavy on the right hip of ripped black jeans.
Great consonance

- Chrome Zippo with embossed Jack Daniels logo, rusted shut from contact with resin catalyst.
- Stainless steel barbell, worn in tongue.
- High carbon steel pocketknife blade. Kept sharp enough to shave arm hairs.

- Rusty bike chain on a rusty bicycle.
A little vague. Loses some impact compared to the rest of your lines.

- Steel hobby knife handle, the memento I keep from my dead granddad.
- Tarnished silver rings on every finger of the left hand.
- Aluminium fountain pen, black, with carbon black permanent ink, medium nib.
- Steel cog, worn as dreadlock bead, removed once for surgery.

- Brass bracelet, handmade on art course.
Another line that doesn’t do it for me. I think again due to lack of specific details. Art course is kind of meaningless

- Pewter finger ring that cost far too much and needed modification to fit.
Modification to fit is a bit clumsy

- Four dusty nickel strings on a black Ibanez bass guitar.
Dusty is great and conveys a lot of meaning. Very efficient

- Iron scramasax, a viking shortsword used before a night's clubbing.
Where the gently caress did this come from??

Dense, heavy, permanent in a way my memories can never be. Anchors to stop me drifting away.



I liked it. Very descriptive. A few lines that fall flat but otherwise very good.

lofi
Apr 2, 2018



areyoucontagious posted:

Around 1993, my dad took me to see Jurassic park in the theater. I was seven and have never had a movie theater experience that lives up to it since.

Around 2014 I spend my sixth anniversary away from my wife. We try to see Edge of Tomorrow at the same time in different states. I find out later she got the times wrong and didn’t go.

Around 1995 I see Toy story with some friends for a birthday party. It’s the first movie I’ve seen since my mom died. I cry at the part when Buzz loses an arm.

Around 2003 I see Kill Bill in the theater with my friend Nick. It rivals Jurassic Park. This is the last time I speak to Nick for the rest of my life.

Around 2018 I watch Inside Out with my four-year-old daughter. We both cry at the end, for different reasons.

Around 2008 I watch Red Dragon and drink Big Gulps with my wife in our fancy honeymoon suite. We bought it off a rack in the 7-11 near the hotel; me in my tux, her in her dress.

Around 2001 I see Fellowship of the Ring with my youth group. Everyone is dressed up but me. I start skipping out on Sundays.

Around 2017 I watch Get Out by myself. I live-text my reactions to Morgan, who’s home watching our daughter so I can get a break. We laugh about it afterward.

Niiice, there aren't any lines that don't add anything, and some of them (2014,1995) are great. The only bit I didn't totally like was the 2003 - your first line was 'nothing rivalled jurrasic park', then 2003 has 'kill bill rivalled jurassic park'. Aside from the fact you're wrong, it's a bit of a mixed message that makes my mental gears crunch. The rest of the line is good, though.

I'm not certain you need the 'around xxxx', thinking on it - the films themselves might be enough to establish times, since they're such classics.

Thanks for the crit on mine, and yeah, the shortsword line maybe needed a little more context I guess. One day I'll remember to do a 'what am I saying explicitly, and will it make sense in context' pass. I mean, I looked over it, but somehow didn't spot it. Lack of experience, I guess.

lofi fucked around with this message at Apr 21, 2018 around 01:44

areyoucontagious
Jun 13, 2007

Hell is other people.


Thanks! I think I meant to write that I didn’t think anything would beat it at the time- and then juxtapose that with “kill bill almost beat it” later, but that missed the mark a bit. I can see your problem though, it does read contrary.

Spectres, I have not forgotten about you! Crit up soon.

Also I’ll have the next section up this weekend. Thanks for participating! I’m really enjoying this

areyoucontagious
Jun 13, 2007

Hell is other people.


spectres of autism posted:

these are both a little short

shards of memory:

around 2014 i shaved my head for the first time

around 2017 i stopped wearing my choose your own adventure t-shirt.

around 2016 i watched the video for machine girl's ginger claps. ginger snaps was my sister's favourite movie. i showed her the album and she said she listened to it but i don't think she did.
This line is a little bit confusing for me. I think that ginger claps is a song/album? Either way the sentiment is good (not listening to an album but saying she did, paints a good picture of your relationship) but the rest falls flat.

around 2013 i lost the key to my dorm room. i climbed in through the window, saw my room-mate sleeping with his girlfriend, and ran to our door. i ran like the flames of hell were licking at my feet. my hand couldn't clutch the doorknob fast enough.
The last two lines of this stanza are really weak- a lot more tell than show. The first lines are interesting, though.


around 2015 i lived in a run down place on a run down street. a bear shade on our front porch. a giant rat with buck teeth running around. my cat body slammed it and left a blood stain. black mold in my roommate's room. a kicked down door.


around 2014 i kissed a girl named hannah. she used to wear dreadlocks. we were watching a Jet Li wuxia movie. i told her my favourite pokemon was bulbasaur.
This line is really random and off-putting to me. Focus down on the interconnected details, not the random ones.

around 2013 i was caught loving myself
This line plays coy and we need more detail for it to be interesting.

around 2013 i lied about being schizophrenic

This one needs some work. It’s missing some detail to flesh out your snapshots. It’s got some language issues- your descriptions are more tell than show. Be careful with picking the memories you choose. We aren’t able to get an idea of who you are because your memories are not specific and they cause me to lose interest.

areyoucontagious
Jun 13, 2007

Hell is other people.


Gimme an extra day dudes sorry next chapter is a long one

lofi
Apr 2, 2018



No worries.

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areyoucontagious
Jun 13, 2007

Hell is other people.


Part 2: The Secret of Writing

Chapter 4: Awful Poems

The Missing of You Hurts

O you who were there all the time
to show how much you truly cared,
so that I knew you’d evermore be true,
and gladden my heart like the sun-kissed clime

But left me like the tide that goes out
and we can never stop it or get it repaired,
You are the only one I care so much about
and yet where is to be found another like you

when I look within myself or even out?
I often cry thinking of you know who,
and your last goodbye
and yet it is indeed to me a huge question mark why

you left me here to feel this way
like I am dead inside
making it the one and only happy day
where I can see your sweet hazel eyes and face.


Pretty terrible, right? There’s a ton of issues with this poem, from the language choice to the fact that this could easily be written in prose. It’s a perfect example of show, don’t tell. To make things worse, all of the sentiments are conveyed in “dull, commonplace language”.

Take in some of these examples:

“You truly cared”
“you’d evermore be true”
“sun-kissed clime”

When you combine all of this with the overly complex structure of the lines themselves - “When I look within myself or even out” - you’ve got a ton of awkwardness in one poem. Kowit writes “awkward writing is awkward writing whether in prose or verse.

Avoiding Trite Language

In our example poem, the author is solely using cliches, which is a surefire way to convince your reader that you think superficially and your poem is unlikely to reveal true emotions and experiences. Poems written in cliché also tend to lack originality, because you’re using language that is common. Your poem will drag when you fill it with this type of writing.

Rhyme at Any Cost
Another problem with this poem is the forced rhyme. In our example poem, the author forces a rhyme, which leads to the use of a ton of ridiculous and nonsensical language. “Abandoning all sense for the sake of a rhyme is a sure sign of a poet who imagines that poetry is a lot of foolish nothings that sound pretty”. Rhyme can be absolutely fatal to a poem when its sloppily used.

Avoiding Archaic Words and Poetic Inversions

Archaic language, even though some phrases were very common in older poetry, can kill a poem just as easily as badly forced rhyme. In our example poem, the poet might have thought that such words gave a more “poetic” feel to the poem, when the reality is that it made the lines stilted and detracted from the meaning the poet intended to assign them. Poetic inversions is when the order of a phrase is flipped from its normal scan into a more complicated structure. “Within myself or even out” is one example from our awful poem. Inversions like this often sound comical to more experienced readers and often have the opposite effect of what the poet meant: insincerity when the poet meant to express a genuine feeling. Kowit writes “the poet has chosen an easy, soppy, prettified language of the sort that people (who don’t read poetry) sometimes imagine is quintessentially poetic”. The message here is don’t try to sound poetic, just write what you feel. Simple is often best.

Sentimentality: Emotional Slither

Self-pity, disgustingly saccharine displays of affection, and overly dramatic expressions of morbidity are probably going to turn even the most dedicated depressive, romantic, or gothic reader off. If you consider our example poem, the author seems to be unable to tell us anything genuine about the loss of his loved one, whether it is his emotional response to them leaving or how badly he wants them back. Vagueness is rife throughout the entire poem, leaving the reader without any sort of real idea about how the poet feels. “The less you talk about emotions in general terms, the better. The more you describe events that convey emotions, the more effective your writing will be” writes Kowit.

“When my wife left me I was depressed for days” is far less interesting and less effective than something like “My wife left me. I spent the next week in greasy sweatpants, binging on ice cream and Meg Ryan rom-coms” (your mileage may vary- there’s plenty of cliché in that second line too). But it’s the showing here that’s the important bit. SHOW us, DON’T TELL us. There’s a reason it is a fundamental rule of creative writing.

Adjectivitis

There is nothing wrong with using adjectives. Let’s state that first. It’s the overuse that leads to problems. When a poet uses too many adjectives, they lose some immediacy to their poem and phrases become weaker instead of strong. Dusty paintings, darkened alleys, cobwebbed attics- pick and choose where to put that adjective in to make it the most effective.

Inappropriate Imagery

In another example poem (not published here), a poet inserts the phrase “a boatless winter lake”. On its own, without context, you might expect that line to be effective in conveying a sense of isolation, or sadness. It’s too bad that the rest of the poem isn’t about water, or boats, or winter, or really anything tangentially related to any of those things. Boat imagery might be appropriate in a poem about a fishing village or rain, or a sailor lost at sea, but in a poem about your mother’s garden they are out of place.

The Misuse of Allusions and Mythology

Somewhat related to the inappropriate imagery, don’t go throwing around Greek and Roman references in your poem about hooking up with your Tinder date in the back of your Lyft. I don’t want to hear about her “Venus-like beauty” or the Lyft’s Hermetic speed. Kowit puts it best: “Let those poor old retired gods rest in peace.”

That said, if your poem is centered on mythology, go crazy. It’s fine to use mythological references if that’s the conceit of your poem.

Clarity, Simplicity, and Directness

Stick to the core of what you want your poem to mean. There’s a really good creative writing exercise where you are told to write a story in 50 words- then 100, then 500, then 1000, etc. etc. It teaches you to be efficient with your language. Likewise, start simple. Write your poem with directness and see how much power it has. You can always go back and flesh out things later. Consider the following example:

The Portrait
Stanley Kunitz, 1905 - 2006

My mother never forgave my father
for killing himself,
especially at such an awkward time
and in a public park,
that spring
when I was waiting to be born.
She locked his name
in her deepest cabinet
and would not let him out,
though I could hear him thumping.
When I came down from the attic
with the pastel portrait in my hand
of a long-lipped stranger
with a brave moustache
and deep brown level eyes,
she ripped it into shreds
without a single word
and slapped me hard.
In my sixty-fourth year
I can feel my cheek
still burning.
Kunitz’s poem has power in the simplicity (and brutality) of its word choices. There’s no attempts to drop in “poetic” language or to obscure what he’s trying to convey. The figurative language that is present is appropriate to the rest of the content.

Ego

“Poetry that is self-aggrandizing usually has the same effect as people who are self-aggrandizing – an unpleasant one.” Be careful with the thesaurus, and avoid trying to impress people with your erudition, as it’s likely to backfire.

areyoucontagious fucked around with this message at Apr 24, 2018 around 03:55

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