You pry out and Bend my bones, hack off my hair to Spend on whores of imagination, Toil for bread and say, “Fed!” to hollow eyes and shrunken Bellies. The sweat of my Breasts is dry, your new Words lost to me, clipped Tongue shorn of old Speech, I beseech from you some answer, some Will to less than power in this Hour of your need.
In my previous guest-poet post on The Beautiful Stuff , I said that “the absorber of a poem eavesdrops on the speaker’s liminal/threshold experience.” That is, poetry is eavesdropping on an experience of the speaker unselfconsciously being themselves, unaware of being watched/heard.
Poet and speaker are not necessarily one and the same. The poet creates a glimpse of another soul’s thought or experience. The craft of poetry is like that of any other fiction, to suspend disbelief—to so absorb the reader that the reader forgets that they’re “reading/hearing” anything but rather are sharing in an inner experience that would otherwise be inaccessible.
In short, poetry is a mutually welcomed telepathy. There’s a creepy factor to that eavesdropping but also a magik. In daily experience, we can’t read each other’s thoughts. Poetry invites us to a “sixth sense,” accessible to anyone.
We don’t need telepathic superpowers (unless, of course, poetry is that superpower). The voice of “Mother Bend” is not my own. I attempt to telepathically grasp the inner world of the speaker and reveal it to you. I’m not here going to say who that speaker is. After all, the poem must speak for itself. I invite you to join in my attempt at telepathy, to widen both our souls. As you listen/read, I ask you to frame your own questions. You can start with Who is “Mother Bend”? To whom does she speak? Why is “Mother Bend”? Enjoy finding out.
Just a quick reminder that the poetry anthology is accepting submissions until September of 2021. I’m already receiving some truly amazing work. In the next few months I will be featuring and promoting the poets who have submitted their work. I encourage you to support their work and check out their other writing endeavors. If you have something to contribute to the “Wilderness of Soul” please feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Today, I’m offering up a couple of poems in semi-celebration of this strange month of ‘love’. Enjoy the broad spectrum of heart.
Growing a scar is hard.
The wound never stops throbbing
It’s enough to keep you awake at night
And irritated during the day.
The thrashed skin, angry and red,
Prying open at the slightest provocation
So you wrap the bandage
Good and tight,
Until the rest of the limb
Distal to the wound
Throbs with its chokehold,
Gasping for blood.
But no pain either
And no dead skin,
Hanging to catch on your clothes.
At every minute
Bump against door,
Or paper turn
We were girls in tall grass
Running with scraped knees
And dry throats.
Disappearing into the past
When things were simple
When life was sunshine
And big-dipper gazing
We were the past
I can’t quite recall anymore
But the whisper of memory I hold on to
Like the edge of a cliff
What if I forget?
Will we both stop existing?
Will we snuff out
Without the constant loop playing
Over and over in my memory?
Do I keep you alive?
Or does your memory keep me?
Your bike gears were gritty with sand
and the vinyl on your seat was cracked
so you never sat.
You were never still.
You were perpetual motion
And magic kept you aloft.
How still and fallen you lay now.
The earth is tender and cruel
Around bones that once
Commanded the rotation of the skies.
Good morning poets, writers, daydreamers and those who’ve accidentally stumbled onto my blog. Welcome. Grab a seat and a cup of coffee.
I’m starting off today’s post with some poetry submissions that came in over the last two weeks. I want to commend all the poets who send me their work. On a site like mine, where no profit is made, the art I share and display is for the soul and seeks to create a connection between us all. It means a great deal to me, especially in these days of separateness, to have someone answer back from the darkness with pieces of their lives that have moved them.
The second portion of this blog will have a run down of helpful tips (f*&k yeah! another bullet list!) on submitting your poetry for publication or competitions as well as a list of respected journals, websites, and independent magazines that are currently accepting submissions.
Please enjoy the poetry first. Roll it over in your brain and let it affect you.
From a small foam couch by a wide still
morning spreads hummingbird wings
and hovers above sweet shared generosity of
green breath, fragrant openings berries rounding
toward giftable ripe.
In my hand a letter of
urgent pleas, a photo of a severed head, defaced, a supine body.
i hear the cries of the killers’ children
starved of homeland, thirsty for water
not weighted by toxic sludge, in the
mourning touches and silent vigil—those who
gather to hold the immensity of loss and betrayal
together, whose hearts beat slow and whose long
trunks touch, mourner to mourner, connecting.
In my head echoes a question the letter refuses
to ask. Who buys this ivory?
Earnest groups patrol for poachers and
arrest sellers and confiscate poached evils, but
those with money enough to buy have
clout enough to hide or we allow them
to remain hidden behind lavish excesses
of endless kinds, hiding the sickness they carry
behind false fronts of our own contrived desires—
convinced that their perceived ease is our only goal.
In the pain of this poem is not where
i want to be this morning. In the dusty
Mara waiting for rain, waiting for humanity
to remember where we came from, where
we can again live whole and connected
among kin of all kinds who know us
as worthy of being mourned, i feel
the touch of sensitive trunk on my streaked cheek.
In my breath can i carry this song
of our truth—our birthright wealth? In my
heart can a scent of love spend the only
currency that matters? With my strong legs
i can embrace the work, celebrate the work, of
releasing our aspiration to laziness, so that
in my cupped hands, i can gather ripe fruits
to carry to all who hunger.
What I Didn’t Say
What I didn’t say
was that I was not sorry,
That you deserved
every faltering and bold moment
I loved you
What I didn’t say
was the space between notes
and the harbinger of changes
that I hadn’t heralded yet
All the words I did not speak
Still bitter on my tongue
And in their place
A thousand sorrys
I did not mean
I am not sorry
for my heart tremors
erotic night dreams
and the wicked way my hands scraped skin
I am not sorry
For falling, impetuous and blind
into the volcanic mess of you
The stifling and choking cloud
Heat of resistance
I am not sorry for sacrificing
my heart cells to the lost cause of you and yours
You can have them,
the cardiac muscle and hardest working fibers
What I didn’t say
you can take them all
You need them more than I do.
I’ve been preaching to my mind
In forced moments of stillness,
When images of you surface
Nothing really exists.
Least of all you
Least of all me.
Nothing is permanent.
To hold on is to suffer.
i am not attached.
i am not in need.
You are nothing.
As everything is nothing and
Nothing is in the everything.
So even though you may
have seemed my everything
You are, as all, just nothing.
Just Neo’s spoon.
And I know now
There is no spoon.
So it can bend and move,
Or cease to exist.
There is no you.
No words you gave
Or thoughts you implanted.
There’s nothing but the breath
And the heat within me
Forging in time,
mine of universal light
And maybe this is the way I let you go.
Because you are the
Regret of my past
The ill-placed hope of my future
And all I really have…
Is the empty now.
Thanks for reading through all of those beautiful journeys into humanity. Now, I present to you a short and sweet bulleted list of tips for submitting your work:
Do your research: There’s nothing worse than sending your erotic, atheist, non-trad poem to a Christian Journal looking for pieces to be read aloud at their yearly conference. Know the journal/mag/contest you are submitting to. Try to write or match up a poem that fits what they’re looking for or at least the general “flavor” of their publication.
Be respectful and follow the guidelines: Every submission has guidelines. Read them. Follow them. If it seems like jumping through hoops is a waste of your time, thinking of sending out 35 submissions that don’t even qualify. That’s a waste. Most guidelines can be found on the website beneath or within the “Submissions” page.
Make sure your work is complimentary and tight: If you send out a group (3-5) poems it will help to have the poems compliment one another in some way, so the tone is not too disruptive but it also shows the depth of your writing skill. Also. EDIT. I know poetry is a bit free form and we can play with spellings and words to make things interesting, but don’t play it that way if you really just didn’t feel like spell checking.
Keep a Log of your submissions: If you use Submittable (and many contests, journals and mags do), it will track who you’ve sent work to, when, and how much the fee was if applicable. This not only helps you keep on budget but it allows to see where your work is and query or move on if no responses are given with the appropriate time frame. If you don’t want to go that route, you can make a spreadsheet in Excel, or keep a notebook with the date submitted, the publisher/journal, the poem(s) sent, the expected response time, entry fee, and anything else that you feel like creating a column for.
Don’t be afraid or discouraged by rejection: I’ve known poets who submit over 700 times a year and maybe get only five to ten poems published. I’m not nearly that ambitious but it helps to know that its just part of the game, and is not necessarily a reflection of your work so much as it is a matter of odds.
Know your ownership rights: Some forums will require that they have the sole publishing rights for a certain amount of time, meaning you can’t put it on your website or shop it around, even to local or smaller works. Be sure that you are okay with their terms of publication.
Start Small: Ya’ll I’m not even joking. One of the biggest secrets to publishing is to not throw your heart into the cauldron of huge publishing factories. Not only will your work get lost in the endless entries from around the globe, but it may not get into readers’ hands in the same way you wrote it. Do yourself a favor and research local magazines, niche magazines (think Erotic Atheist Digest?), local writing groups, and small literary presses. While they can be more discerning in some respects, they also carry the torch of being outliers that appreciate the art in a more grassroots way.
Well…holy smokes this might be one of my longest posts but, I did also promise you some good starting points for sending out your work. So, big breath in, you’re in the home stretch.
Ghost City Review
Little Death Lit
Don’t forget to search local college/university literary journals, local publishing companies or poetry groups, and independent journals. Don’t be afraid to, every once in a while, send your stuff to bigger places too. The Harvard Review and Poetry Magazine as well as The New Yorker usually also accept submissions.
First, apologies for missing last week. I started my Thursday morning at 2 am, driving to the trailhead of my first 14er. It was a beautiful cool day up on the mountain and I was pretty tired upon returning home.
In addition to that, and on the same day, we welcomed a new family member into our home.
So I’ve literally been climbing mountains and raising babies for the last few days and am now safely locked in my office for an hour of dedicated writing time.
Without wasting any time, let’s get into the basics of poetry.
Some of us are born with the inclination towards alliteration, symbolism, personification and all the intrinsic elements of powerful poetry. For the rest of us, becoming a better poet (progress not perfection) can be accomplished by learning the dynamics of poetry form and function.
Now, I’ve heard a lot of degrading comments on poetry that rhymes. First of all, Poetry is Poetry. It doesn’t have to fit into some MFA or Beatnik/Hipster trend to be worthwhile.
“She walks in beauty, like the night
Of cloudless climes and starry skies,
And all that’s best of dark and bright
Meet in her aspect and her eyes;
Thus mellowed to that tender light
Which heavy to gaudy day denies”
Or one of my other favorites:
“When I am dead, my dearest,
Sing no sad songs for me;
Plant thou no roses at my head,
Nor shady cypress-tree;
Be the green grass above me
With showers and dewdrops wet;
And if thou wilt, remember
And if thou wilt, forget.”
Christina G. Rossetti
“There’s too many kids in this tub
There’s too many bodies to scrub
I scrubbed a behind
And it sure wasn’t mine.
There’s too many kids in this tub.”
Many a talented writer use rhyming and alliteration to build a beautiful rhythm that lends well to spoken recitation, which is one the most important foundation of Poetry. We’ll get into that a little later.
Do you need to rhyme your lines for it to be “poetic” or presentable? Of course not, as I mentioned last week, Poetry’s main function is to tell a story in the thickest, boiled down way. I do think it’s important to play with the concept of rhyming poetry, even if it’s only as a practice. It will not only help you to build your vocabulary, but it teaches you the essential dynamics of beat, and syllabic flow.
When considering how to help other writer’s have a good starting point for their experimentation into poetry I thought of the things that have helped me to grow and thrive in my poetry.
And I even put it into a bullet list because…bitches love bulleted lists.
Attend Poetry Readings (as social distancing permits–you can find online forum as well): The beauty of poetry, as I mentioned above, the ability for it to translate into the spoken art. Performance poetry will move you in ways that simply reading it cannot. By listening to poets read their poetry, you can catch a lot about word use, syllabic stress, alliteration, rhythm, tempo, and personification. Plus, the emotion of poetry is so much more present when someone is telling it to you.
Start Small: You don’t have to write The Iliad. Start with a haiku (5-7-5) or even put a 25 word limit on your poem.
There is Poetry in Every Thing: You can write a poem about a ball of yarn, a flower, the death of a loved one. Every object, feeling, action, or person can be inspiration. I once wrote a poem about a katydid I found being eaten by a wasp. I’ve written a poem about tripping. There is a poem in every thing. Find it.
Don’t Obsess Over First Lines or Titles: Just like pausing to edit your novel or story can interrupt the flow of creativity, worrying about creating the ‘perfect’ first line will staunch the ideas. Just start from somewhere. Like any writing, poems will undergo different rounds of changes and editing. Sometimes I don’t have a title until the final edit. Sometimes I don’t ever have a title. Don’t let that stop you from trying.
Tell a Story/ Express Big Ideas: One of my favorite things about poetry is that in a single stanza we can learn a world. Poets that are magnificent at this are: Maya Angelou, E.E. Cummings, Edna St. Vincent Millay, Sylvia Plath, Chuck Bukowski, Pablo Neruda, and Mary Oliver.
Use Tools: It probably sounds silly to remember your thesaurus but when we are working with an economy of words the difference between the right word and the almost right word is, as Twain said, the difference between lightening and a lightening bug. My favorite function in Word might be the “synonym” checker. Just make sure that it still conveys the flavor and tone you are aiming for.
Connect With Other Poets: Your local writing groups or if you follow social media, will have groups that can help you learn more, have safe places to share, and provide opportunities to submit.
Well, that was a lot of information. On Thursday I will be featuring some poems that came in last week (one from my absolute favorite fellow Wyomingites, sid sibo, is among them) There’s still plenty of time to contribute so send your experiments my way.
Until then, good luck. Delve into reading some new poetry and exploring your own abilities in the field.
I’m not immune to the fact that this blog has tripped around in the dark a bit lately. Let’s be honest, all of us are probably tripping in the dark. We’re in unprecedented times, facing stresses and noise that we’ve never dealt with before. It’s easy, in the dissonance, to lose our path.
So for the next three to four weeks I’ll be getting organized and coming back to the basics. No, I’m not going to make you deconstruct your sentences into diagrams, circling your subject, double scoring your gerunds, slashing through your adverbs (or will I? Could be a fun practice in the lost art of sentence diagramming AND tortuous. I’m a girl who likes it a little rough).
First, we’ll be taking a few weeks to explore the basics of each type of the most prevalent submissions for authors: poetry, flash fiction, short story, and novel.
Following that, and into the fall, I’ll start breaking it down further into genre work, dialogue, plot building, scene construct, story structure and the basics of good editing.
That’s not to say I won’t occasionally throw in a “stop being assholes to each other” rant. I like to keep it exciting after all.
It’s been a while since we dabbled in the lighter word count and heavier hand of poetry so I thought…why not start there?
(Hold on to your asses, she’s about to ADULT over here!)
Poetry used to be the sole conveyer of great stories, epic tales, and the meat and potatoes of religious creed. The first believed poem, author unknown, was called The Epic of Gilgamesh. Besides this epic, there was Rig Vedas of Hinduism, and The Song of The Harper from Egypt. Centuries before we first heard a Greek throw down an ode to an urn, people were writing poems.
Poetry was borne in the heart of burgeoning cultures and empires. As we move west across the world, we have The Iliad, Beowulf, 154 shout outs to Will Shakespeare’s best girl(s), and eventually, on to the new world with works like The Song of Hiawatha.
From these epic and structured beginnings, poetry has evolved and moved, like a river around obstacles, constant but ever-changing. One of the reasons I love poetry is its ability to capture the heartbeat of time-periods through the use of its language and form, as well as the ideas that it holds.
Poetry records history. From the simplest nursery rhymes (“Mary, Mary Quite Contrary” was actually based on Queen Mary I, aka Bloody Mary, who tortured and killed hundreds of protestants. Silver Bells and Cockle Shells aren’t perennials, they’re torture devices.) to Walt Whitman’s descriptions of the horror and decimation from America’s Civil War (“O Captain, My Captain” was written about the assassination of Lincoln just before the close of the ‘storm’ of war) poetry is a powerful conveyer of humankind’s journey through time.
Poetry connects. It’s visceral and often uncomfortable. It paints pictures with the deepest hues of language. Poetry is vital to song writing, memory retention, and a host of other deep-seated neural mechanisms humans use to survive. (the ABC song, “Thirty days hath September…”, “I before E except after C–and about a dozen other exceptions because the English language is a bastardized torture device for anyone learning it”)
So how do you write a poem?
Well, that’s the beautiful thing. We are no longer shackled to the 15 line iambic pentameter, nor are we beholden to ends that rhyme. Poetry can be written in just about any form you can conceive. You can write it, you can rap it, you can sing it, you can paint it across a street in bold letters. There are no rules but one.
Poetry should be true to your soul.
It should never be half-way. It should fling open the shutters of your close-held heart and expose it to the light. Poetry should reflect the thoughts and the feelings, the commiseration and worry, the anger and peace, the joy or the sadness that fills your head and your community.
When I think of poetry, I think of catharsis and a means to work through big and hard emotions (a girl’s favorite kind?) I think of finding meaning and perspective, shrinking down the large imposing impossibilities to moments I can do something with. To feelings I can direct towards change.
To write a poem is to be truthful about what hurts most in that moment.
I’m sure you can guess this week’s exercise. Write some poetry. In any form you want. Send it to me, let me know if you want it to have a little spot here on The Beautiful Stuff, or if you rather just share it with another soul. I don’t have a preference for form or length. Just get to the darkness, poke around in there, tickle the tender underbelly of what drives your biggest emotions and tug it out into the light.