The Practice of Creativity

Posts Tagged ‘National Poetry Month

Hi creative peeps,

I’m thinking of playing with a new feature called ‘Facebook Live’, in the fall. If you’ve never taken part in Facebook Live it means that at a designated time, I’d turn on my camera and I would be talking to you in real time. (kind of like Periscope)

It means that anyone could drop in and listen. Also, anyone watching can ask questions and I can answer them in real time! I think it would be a blast for us to interact. I’d probably hang out for about 30-45 minutes. I’d love to know if there is a topic about writing (e.g. author mindset, procrastination, perfectionism, etc.), or creativity that you want to know more about or want some coaching around during the FB live session. I created a poll with some suggestions, but keep in mind you can write in an answer. Or, feel free to write in your ideas in the comments below.

Ralph Earle is passionate about poetry and language. You find that out about him very soon after meeting him. His poems have won awards from the North Carolina Poetry Society, Main Street Rag Poetry Review, and The Independent, and appeared in numerous journals and anthologies.

I often refer to myself as an ‘untutored and untrained’ poet which means that while I occasionally write poetry, I haven’t studied it as extensively as I have prose writing. For many years I had heard about Ralph’s reputation as a fantastic teacher. I heard he was especially great at creating an inclusive space for people who knew a little about poetry as well as folks who spent their lives working in the genre. Then several members of my writing group (also folks who consider themselves novelists and short story writers), began taking classes with Ralph. They raved about him and I could see a freshness and clarity in their fiction writing that was influenced from their poetry classes. I decided to do something about the gaps in my knowledge about poetry and took two poetry workshops with Ralph (‘Write Powerfully’ and ‘Revising Poems’). He is a fantastic teacher with a deep knowledge of poetry, language and grammar. He creates a space where students can ask questions, be curious and take risks. In them, I feel as if I can let go of the self-consciousness of “not knowing a lot about poetry” and just write. I thoroughly enjoyed his workshops, and like his other longtime students have asked him when there will be more.

ralph

Ralph’s poetry collection, The Way the Rain Works, won the 2015 Sable Books Chapbook Award, and he was a runner-up for the 2015 Randall Jarrell Award from the North Carolina Writers Network. I’m delighted to welcome him, in honor of National Poetry Month, to The Practice of Creativity.

 

Uncle Jack at 96

The night before my visit you fell
in the unfamiliar hall
in your new wife’s home. You lay in bed
in the sunlight and we talked
about the computer mouse
you were working out
for arthritic hands, how it could register
the change of a single pixel, how the patent
process dragged on. Last year
you showed me in your workshop
the template you cut from clear
plastic, and the tiny bearings.

We talked about the pleasure
my mother took in writing letters
in her years confined to a chair, and after,
I risked a kiss on your forehead
and held your hand, as token
of the long adulthood we have shouldered.

You said you had maybe one more year
of the clarity needed to engineer the mouse,
maybe two, or maybe it was gone already.
You explained how the software responds
to the movements of the physical parts,
the way a leg lifts and a foot sets down.

 

About this poem: Clearly, this is a poem inspired by the poignancy of a moment. I wanted to capture and convey a sense of this extraordinary man’s life and my love for him, by painting a portrait of this one moment that stood for the whole, with the economy of a few well-chosen images to convey his personality, interests, and achievements.

Ralph teaches evening poetry classes at Central Carolina Community College, and has also taught poetry at UNC-Chapel Hill and the ArtsCenter of Carrboro. His poems have appeared in many publications, including The Sun, Sufi Magazine, Tar River Poetry, Carolina Quarterly, Cairn, Wild Goose Poetry Review, and Redheaded Stepchild, as well as numerous anthologies.He holds a doctorate in English from UNC-Chapel Hill and does social media work for a large computer company.

He draws much of his inspiration and imagery from long walks in the woodlands of rural Chatham County, North Carolina, where he makes his home.

Find out more about Ralph here.

 

Judith Stanton is a historical romance author, a former college professor and scholar. She’s obsessed with horses and generally, the natural world. I know Judith as a teacher through the wonderful creative writing program offered through my local community college in Pittsboro, NC. Judith is also a former women’s studies professor and when we get together, we can talk for hours. I’m so delighted that as we come to the end of National Poetry Month, Judith is sharing one of her ‘deer poems’ that I’ve come to adore.

judith

 

The Three-legged Doe

After long drought
the white oak drops
three times as many acorns
as in a year of good rain.
Under its spreading limbs
the three-legged doe stops to feed,
her right front leg sheared off
halfway between her knee
and hoof—victim of a car?
a stump hole in the woods?
or the black rocks in the stream
she crosses to get to my yard?

In the pasture I can spot her
two hundred yards away
shoulder sinking every stride
her stump touches ground
or the lurch when she bolts
with the herd full speed.

At dusk I see her
flanked by last year’s twins
and this year’s lone fawn
its spots faded by November,
its coat like hers turned gray.
He rams her udder hard.
She watches for hunters
lurking in the woods.

About this poem: I write fiction, 7 novels and counting, so when the leader of our writers group pressed us to write a poem for our blog for National Poetry Month, I walked out grumbling, “I’m a novelist, Al. I don’t write poetry.” The next day I saw the injured doe for the umpteenth time grazing under the oak tree outside my office. I embarked on Deer Diaries, an odyssey into writing about the wildlife I see every day on our farm. Amazingly, in the four years I worked on this collection, the deer, birds, bees, snails, turtles, wild turkey hens who grace my life lined up every few days or weeks to show their lives to me in a new light.

Deer Diaries is now a chapbook forthcoming this year from Finishing Line Press. Meet Judith here at her new website and check out her Amazon page here.

 

 

 

I discovered writer and self-described ‘resource maven’, Erika Dreifus, about two years ago. And, I can say without question that my writing life is better because of her. Every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, I eagerly await her postings on ‘The Practicing Writing’ blog. Erika curates advice and information about publishing and the writing life. She also rounds up opportunities for writers that charge no fees and publications/contests that pay writers. I also subscribe to her excellent monthly newsletter. Her work is generous and sustains community.

Erika is the author of Quiet Americans: Stories (Last Light Studio), which is an ALA Sophie Brody Medal Honor Title for outstanding Jewish literature.

In honor of National Poetry Month, I’m delighted to welcome her to The Practice of Creativity.

 

Winter Haiku (2015)

By Erika Dreifus

I miss Boston lots
though as the snow falls and falls
I’m glad I’m not there.

About this poem: I go through phases—and I’m in one now—during which I try to write a new poem every day (or at least, every weekday). On some particularly frenetic days, I sometimes opt for haiku. Here’s a piece that I wrote during the winter of 2015, which you may remember as an especially harsh one for New Englanders. I used to be a New Englander myself, but I admit that I’m not sorry to have missed out on last winter in Massachusetts! Michele’s invitation to contribute to her blog happened to arrive on a day when my friends to the north were again posting snowscape scenes on social media. (Poor things!) Which reminded me of this haiku.

 To learn more about me/my work—and to subscribe to my free e-newsletter for writers—please visit http://ErikaDreifus.com.

Another poet and poem for National Poetry Month! I’m delighted to welcome Li Yun Alvarado back to The Practice of Creativity. Li Yun is a poet and scholar. She wrote an amazing guest post in January on ‘The Art of Low Stakes Daily Writing and How It Can Transform Your Year’. It’s a must read.

li-yun

A poet and scholar, her work has appeared or is forthcoming in New Madrid; Wise Latinas: Writers on Higher Education; The Acentos Review; and PMS Poemmemoirstory among others. In 2012, her work received an honorable mention for The Andrés Montoya Poetry Prize. She is currently the Senior Poetry Editor for Kweli Journal and is an alumna of VONA/Voices Writing Workshop and AROHO.

I’m honored that today she is sharing a poem with us. Her new chapbook is Words or Water from Finishing Line Press. I’ve already pre-ordered my copy and can’t wait for it to arrive.

 

His Thumb on My Belly

To the right of my belly-
button: purple-black

oval print on sun-kissed flesh.
A spirit pinching

while I sleep. Is it
him? A hint? Here,

he whispers. Singed meat.
His thumb on my

belly. Now you know.
And they (some strange,

foreign they) say there’s
comfort in the knowing.

Basements are forgotten
places where moldy lies

cling to dank walls.
On my back: the prickle

sting of inked flesh.
It knows how to burn.

Bruise. Heal. His thumb
on my belly. My aunt

lights candles, piles
pennies in corners, tells

tales of muertitos
who pinch at night. His

thumb on my belly. His
boys cloaked in black

masks. Friendship? Folly?
When they

faced him, (my thumb
on his belly), not flesh,

not lead, not prayer
could stop the blood.

 

Li Yun Alvarado is the author of Words or Water (forthcoming) and Nuyorico, CA. A poet and scholar, her work has appeared or is forthcoming in New Madrid; Wise Latinas: Writers on Higher Education; The Acentos Review; and PMS Poemmemoirstory among others. In 2012, her work received an honorable mention for The Andrés Montoya Poetry Prize. She is currently the Senior Poetry Editor for Kweli Journal and is an alumna of VONA/Voices Writing Workshop and AROHO. She holds a BA in Spanish and sociology from Yale University and an MA and PhD in English from Fordham University. Li Yun is a native New Yorker living in Long Beach, California who takes frequent trips to Salinas, Puerto Rico to visit la familia. You can learn more about Li Yun and her work on Facebook and at www.liyunalvarado.com

You can pre-order Words or Water here!

Affirmations-366Days#94: I practice developing strong powers of observation to support my writing.

For new readers, here’s why I’m committing to writing affirmations, about the creative process, during the next 366 days.

National Poetry Month is here! All throughout the month, I will feature writers sharing poems and insights into the craft of poetry. I’m delighted to kickoff this segment with Alice Osborn. Alice is a poet, editor and popular writing coach.

Several years ago, I attended one of her workshops on promotion for writers. I loved the way she engaged the audience and how she pushed us to be vulnerable and authentic in how we communicate with the public. I still have those notes and often find myself putting into practice her advice. Over the years, I have followed her career, inspired by all that she does and how generous she is in supporting emerging writers.

Alice is a prolific writer. Heroes without Capes is her most recent collection of poetry. Previous collections are After the Steaming Stops and Unfinished Projects. Alice is also the editor of the anthologies Tattoos and Creatures of Habitat, both from Main Street Rag. A North Carolina Writers’ Network board member and a Pushcart Prize nominee, her work has appeared in the News and Observer, The Broad River Review, The Pedestal MagazineSoundings Review and in numerous journals and anthologies.

 I’m delighted to welcome Alice Osborn to The Practice of Creativity.

What was the first poem you’ve ever read?

 All of the Mother Goose nursery rhymes were my favorites when I was a preschooler and when I became school age, I loved hearing the pounding hoof beats in Robert Louis Stevenson’s poems,—his Child’s Garden of Verses especially. I’m an auditory learner, I loved his rhythms and rhymes, plus there was usually strong conflict in his work. I also couldn’t get enough of Walt Whitman’s extended metaphor about Lincoln’s assassination in “O, Captain! My Captain!” I, too, wanted to express something grand and meaningful. I first got my chance my sophomore year of high school when I won second place in the annual poetry contest. I wrote a three page poem about the epic fight between King Arthur and Sir Mordred. After trying the next year and not winning any more awards, I stopped writing poetry until my mid-twenties when a friend invited me to an open mic. I felt that what I wrote could have been better, but I didn’t know what I needed to do get better.

Alice Osborn profile

 How has poetry influenced you as a person? Or as a writer?

 Now fast forward to nine years ago when I first started sending my short stories and essays out to various publication markets. I didn’t get any takers for these pieces and I was getting tired of all of the rejections. Then one of my writing teachers suggested reading and writing poetry to become a stronger fiction or memoir writer. I could do this! After all, I had written poetry before. The third poem I wrote after my nineteen year hiatus won honorable mention in NC State’s annual poetry contest. Wow! Maybe I needed to keep doing this poetry thing. It was called “Ghostcards” and it was about the dual hanging deaths of two 14-year-old African American boys in Shubuta, Mississippi in 1942. Langston Hughes had portrayed the boys’ fate in “Bitter River” and I wanted to present my own version using the color gray throughout the poem. One night, the name “Ghostcards” came to me in a dream and wouldn’t let me go until I had written the poem. Many of my poems emerge from dreams, while others come from the newspaper, random encounters, personal experiences or strange family behaviors.

Heroes without Capes cover

My most recent book of poems is Heroes with Capes, my first full length collection that features many dramatic monologues and narrative poems from famous and infamous speakers from history, myth and pop culture who show varying degrees of heroism and loneliness. From the Star Wars saga, we have the bounty hunter Boba Fett who is a recovering alcoholic working hard at changing the script of his past. “Holding the door for an old man in a Braves hat, /I keep my eye out for movement among the parking lot pines/and mutter a tiny prayer while backing out by the Drive-Thru. /And an even bigger one when I take a bite/to drive east into the sun. /Telling myself this ketchup on my armor is real, /even if the past isn’t.”

While all the Predator (from the 1987 hit movie) wants to do is buy beef at Walmart. “Ring butcher bell, and Charlie comes right away./What wonderful service! And fills up cart. /Few ground chucks spill out and hit feet. /Ouch, I have tender feet like bananas.” Also featured are the Devil, Ellen Ripley from Aliens, the Virgin Mary, LBJ, Darth Vader, Benedict Arnold, Captain Bligh, Princess Leia, Dick Cheney, the Road Runner and many others. You’ll also meet Nolan, the split foyer house who is under tremendous stress and Dina the Delta jet who wishes her passengers possessed more taste. My favorite characters are the B-men: Boba Fett, Benedict Arnold and Captain Bligh because they are all heroes, but they are also flawed and these flaws get in their own way—I really identify with these guys!

 In your opinion, what makes a poorly written poem?

A lot of crappy poems are written because they don’t care about the reader; they’re so insular and specific to the author, the reader can’t find a way in. Many poems also don’t have any layering, they are filled with clichés (especially love poems talking about soul mates) and poems that don’t have any grounding. What I mean by grounding is that the poem is only concerned about the abstract and they’re nothing to concrete to make a reader relate to it. Some poems also have a lot of “throat-clearing,” meaning the author takes a long time to get to the meat of the poem. Most of all I sincerely dislike poems that don’t trust the reader’s intelligence—they are expository and pander to the audience like a weak network sitcom.

 How would you persuade a non-reader to read poetry?

 Attend as many poetry readings/literary open mics as you can so you can experience the poem and the poet in the same space. If you can’t make it out to readings, watch poets read their work on YouTube and The Poetry Foundation. And while you’re at a reading, support the poets by buying their work. If you want to get really crazy and accelerate your poetry craft learning, review all of the poetry books you buy on GoodReads.com and Amazon. Even if you’re not a writer, I encourage you to read poetry to discover a fresh insight into an old idea or see how a poet performs acrobatics with his words. You just might learn something cool about yourself or the fellow drinking black coffee two tables over at the Panera.

Is poetry useful?

No question about it. Poetry teaches us how to live. Poetry is like the Windex on a grubby car window—it bares open the vulnerabilities of human beings so we can all relate to each other a little better.

“Chorus: The Hero of Acheron,” published in the Kakalak 2014 Anthology of Carolina Poets

Chorus: The Hero of Acheron

Against our constant warnings,
You have five minutes to evacuate!
she descends in the elevator,
shedding her blue jacket, shedding her mind-killers—
always watchful with her duct-taped
pulse rifle and flame thrower to rescue
the girl, her Persephone from
the Queen of the Eggs.
This Demeter is something of an immortal—
while in cryo-sleep she outlived her Earth daughter
and once returned to her planet, chose
a space station’s safe orbit, refusing
to walk barefoot in the prairie grass
or view stars burning with death.

She brings her own star justice to the Queen’s eggs,
dripping with mucous as one hatches…
saving the girl before the pomegranates eat her.
Angels hum to the sulfured air.
The two rise to the unstable surface,
what was rage in her descent is now fear.
You have two minutes to evacuate!
This wounded goddess could lose everything;
she’s fighting gods with their own agendas—
before it was only her and her vengeance.
You have 30 seconds to evacuate!
The android Hermes flies
to mother and daughter before enfolding them
aboard the Sulaco as the dead world explodes.
The humans and near human flinch
to shock waves rising higher and higher
in the moon’s atmosphere.
But all we know Hades won’t let
Persephone ever truly leave
the underworld.

Alice Osborn’ s past educational (MA in English, NCSU and BS in Finance, VA Tech) and work experience (Belk, waitress, tutor) is unusually varied, and it now feeds her work as a poet, editor-for-hire and popular writing coach. Alice’s business, Write from the Inside Out, is now a decade old and in that time, she has taught scores of writing workshops and has edited manuscripts locally and all around the globe. Heroes without Capes is her most recent collection of poetry. Previous collections are After the Steaming Stops and Unfinished Projects. Alice is also the editor of the anthologies Tattoos and Creatures of Habitat, both from Main Street RagA North Carolina Writers’ Network board member and a Pushcart Prize nominee, her work has appeared in the News and Observer, The Broad River Review, The Pedestal MagazineSoundings Review and in numerous journals and anthologies. When she’s not editing or writing, Alice is an Irish dancer who plays guitar and violin. She lives in Raleigh, North Carolina, with her husband, two children, four loud birds and Mr. Nibbles, a carrot-chomping guinea pig. Visit Alice’s website at www.aliceosborn.com.

Connect with Alice:

Pinterest: http://pinterest.com/aliceosborn
Google Plus: https://plus.google.com/+AliceOsborn
Linkedin: http://www.linkedin.com/in/aliceosborn
Facebook: http://facebook.com/alicevosborn
Twitter: http://twitter.com/alice_osborn
YouTube: http://youtube.com/avosborn

Find out more about her here: http://aliceosborn.com/blog

 

 

 

 

 

 


Michele Tracy Berger

Michele Tracy Berger

Author, Academic, Creativity Expert I'm an award winning writer.

View Full Profile →

Follow me on Twitter

Follow The Practice of Creativity on WordPress.com