Tag Archives: poetry

The Hardest Part of Writing

This past Thursday I began the annual October Poetry Writing Month Challenge (OctPoWriMo). CJ got me started on it last year and I couldn’t wait for it to begin this year. And boy, did it ever start. I’ve already had two challenges that gave me pause. One was to write cinematically and the other was to write a shape poem on the subject of showing up. And BOOM, baby! I knew what to use as my subject for today’s post here.

Writing is hard. Don’t let anyone tell you anything different. To sit down in a chair and write for a set period of time is not natural, and the inclination is to procrastinate. To find anything else other than what you should be doing, i.e. writing. So, the hardest part of writing is showing up.

What I mean is to be focused on what you are doing. It’s relatively easy to become distracted. Let’s see, there’s Facebook, or Twitter, or, oh yeah, what was that thing on Amazon you were looking at? Or maybe there’s some housework that needs to be done, or you really should take that walk you’re supposed to be taking. Guess what…you aren’t showing up. In fact, there’s nothing being written because other things have taken your time and attention.

Now, I’m not talking about those things that really need taking care of, e.g. kids needing to be fed, dogs needing to be walked, the tire changed on the car. Obviously, family (and laundry) is important. But, I’m fairly certain that you can do without all the drama on Facebook for at least thirty minutes.

This is why I like doing writing challenges. They force me to show up, and that, in turn, sharpens my skills and strengthens my weaknesses. Especially when I’m doing an online blog challenge. I get immediate feedback from different readers and their viewpoints are invaluable. In minutes I can tell if I need to change POV or if I’ve missed something. Is the poem I wrote subpar or should I consider adding it to a future collection folder? What needs tweaking and what did I do right?

The two prompts that I was especially challenged by nearly had me stumped. Writing cinematically was a prompt where we had to view our favorite movie, scene, or video, mute it, and view it without sound. We then had to write a poem in such a way as to express the way the scene came across to us. Well, I don’t have a particularly favorite movie or video so I chose a scene from Sir Ian McKellen’s 2008 performance of King Lear. The scene itself had moved me to torrential sobbing. Sir Ian is like a grandfather figure to me and so the end scene is heart-wrenching. I didn’t much like the poem I wrote (read here), but I was surprised by how many people were moved by my words. I showed up and put a lot of thought and focus into it, even using two phrases from the play to emphasize Lear’s frame of mind. (By the by, this is an excellent exercise to utilize sensory perception-take away all sound and write only what you see.)

The other prompt was difficult only because I really do not like writing shape poetry. That’s where you write a poem whose form is a visual shape on the page. Think Shel Silverstein:

shel

The day I was supposed to write for this prompt ended up being incredibly busy, but I still pushed it off for as long as I could. I REALLY don’t like writing shape poetry (probably because my illustrative skills suck-Joe, feel like giving me some lessons?). But still, I showed up and completed the challenge:

Uncomfortably Numb 10-3-2015

Yes, I wanted to make you cross-eyed. No, not really. The spiral itself is central to the idea/theme of the poem. Here is the actual poem:

Uncomfortably Numb

By Jesi Scott

 

Those eternal days of not being enough

not having it all together

lost hopeless

small cry-yourself-to-sleep days

when even your heart doesn’t show up but hides

in the endless pit of hell on earth-

What brimstone scorches worse than this black hole named despair?

Sucked dry and spit back out into chaos where

the best you can do is show up but

your best isn’t good enough

and so you spiral down and down and down…but still, you show up.

The poem itself can stand alone but is definitely more impactful when utilizing the shape (spiral). It gives the sense I wanted to convey of falling in and spinning out of control.

I wouldn’t have come up with either of these poems if I hadn’t shown up. You have to make the time to write. You have to give it your complete attention.

Showing up is half the battle.

Have a great week!

Jesi

 

 

The Problem With Poetry

“Hang there, my verse, in witness of my love.”

~Shakespeare, As You Like It

I love poetry. Everyone who knows me can tell you that, and those who don’t know me, well, they learn that fact quickly. The ironic thing is that I don’t go around quoting it or throwing lines around like they’re party favors. For me, poetry is something I hold gently inside to ponder in awe at its beauty, then release back into the world in my own way. I try my best not to force it on those who don’t appreciate it as much as I do. But oh, how my heart beats wildly when I meet someone who “gets it.”

But I have an issue with you self-acclaimed poetry dislikers. Stop apologizing to me for not liking it. I don’t expect you to get it. We live in an age where poetry is not looked upon kindly. The majority of people do their very best to avoid it if they can. So I don’t expect you to like my poetry, and I don’t expect you to change your attitude about it. I do, however, expect you to respect that poetry is writing, and not something separate and vile and “not real writing.”

Poetry gets a terrible rap because most poetry that we’re taught in school uses outdated language that’s hard to understand in our society. Who wants to try and figure out what hidden meanings might lie behind all those “thee’s” and “thou’s”? Why can’t it be written in plain English?

Because it isn’t prose, poetry seems to fall into the same category as, say, finger painting compared to Van Gogh’s The Starry Night. Okay, so maybe I’m exaggerating. Nah…it really does seem to be pushed off into that comparison sometimes. Ask a perfect stranger on the street what the last poem was that they read then pay close attention to the look that crosses their face. Was that a look of horror, or perhaps they were bemused? Wait, did they actually laugh out loud?

Not all poetry is hard to read. In fact, some can be rather fun. A lady in my writing group wrote a poem about coffee. I myself have written one about a sore throat. Some poetry does contain meanings, both abstract and concrete, but most comtemporary poetry isn’t hard to understand anymore. For example, read We Real Cool by Gwendolyn Brooks. Better yet…listen to it. Today, Amanda made a statement today in group that poetry is like Shakespeare in that it wasn’t made, really, to be read but to be seen and heard. That’s a fairly accurate statement. Poetry was not usually written down but memorized and performed then passed down verbally. Most was accompanied by music. Which is why I find it incredibly amusing when people tell me they don’t like poetry. What do you think songs are? They are poems set to music. Granted, they are not all that great but what do you make of these lyrics?

There are places I remember
All my life though some have changed
Some forever not for better
Some have gone and some remain
All these places have their moments
With lovers and friends I still can recall
Some are dead and some are living
In my life I’ve loved them all

But of all these friends and lovers
There is no one compares with you
And these memories lose their meaning
When I think of love as something new
Though I know I’ll never lose affection
For people and things that went before
I know I’ll often stop and think about them
In my life I love you more

Though I know I’ll never lose affection
For people and things that went before
I know I’ll often stop and think about them
In my life I love you more

In my life I love you more

This is poetry. And I bet you didn’t make it through it without the music chiming in your brain.

And the idea that poetry is dead amuses me to no end because poetry was never on its deathbed. It hasn’t breathed its last yet. It sits quietly in the background, patient and observant. Its disciples seek it out, and, sometimes, it sneaks up on you when you least expect it. Sometimes it hits you with the force of a sledgehammer, while other people are led to it through the love of something, or someone, else. But it isn’t dead.

So stop apologizing to me for not liking poetry. If it doesn’t speak to you then I’m okay with that. But do not make the mistake of telling me it isn’t “real writing.” Because I will take up the gauntlet you throw down.

Jesi

Writing As Therapy

In Amanda’s last post, she wrote about 9/11 and an online thread she’d seen about whether or not world events shape our writing. She then went on to talk about the events of 9/11 and how they affected her, and how she hoped it had changed the way her characters react. Last Monday, I missed my post here at Twisted Writers. I’m sorry. I apologize sincerely. Unfortunately, there was no way I was able to write that day. I did not write on my home blog, nor did I get on Facebook except once to check in with my brother. In fact, I stayed away from the computer and most things electronic. Not because it was Labor Day, but because it was the second anniversary of my father’s 64th birthday-the last one I ever spent with him. While it may not have been a world event, for me my dad’s passing shook my world to its core.

November 23, 2013 my father succumbed to the pancreatic cancer he was diagnosed with in August that same year. On his birthday, a few weeks after he was diagnosed, I packed my kids into a rented Jeep Compass and made the six to seven hour trip from Dallas to Amarillo to surprise him. He didn’t know I was coming. And I’ll never forget the way his face lit up when he saw me. We stayed for a few days then came back home only to make one more trip a few weeks later, the last time I ever saw my dad.

The night before he died I got the call that I should come and say goodbye but it was impossible. My personal circumstances prevented me from being able to leave. I was heartbroken. The next 24 hours were hell. I tried every means open to me to find some way to go but there was nothing. So I turned to poetry. I opened up books and tried to drown my heartache in words. But I didn’t write.

Truth be told, I hadn’t written anything besides my signature for three years. Not one blessed thing. But I could read, and I could listen, and I did. I listened to beautifully trained voices reading the same feelings I was having, experiencing the same anguish I was going through, and it helped to a degree. And then the thought occurred to me that my dad didn’t even know I wrote. I never told, never let him read one word. How sad is that? It wasn’t that I didn’t love my dad or even that I thought he’d hate it. It just never occurred to me that he would want to know. Now he was dying and would never know. I couldn’t live with that. And so, I wrote the first poem I’d written in three years. Five minutes after I posted it to Facebook, my father breathed his last breath. He may not have read it but my family did, and I know it meant something to them to know how much I loved him.

Little did I know it would be the poem that led me to being here, writing for you.

The last two years have been hard. My personal life has been going through upheaval and change. It still is, but my writing is what is getting me through it. Writing is therapy. I know it firsthand. Writing is what got me through the days after my dad passed away and what gets me through even now. No, I didn’t write on his birthday. Instead, I read and spent time with my kids. So, I hope you’ll forgive the lapse and remember that when life gets to be too much to handle, write it down. Those emotions will make you a better writer in the end.

So how has this affected my writing? Apparently, I’m very good with anguish. 😉

Jesi

My Heart Hurts

by Jesi Scott

 

My heart hurts.

 

The cold, the wind, the rain:

The weather of my soul.

 

You lie there, unaware

Of my pain, my misery.

 

My heart hurts

More as the night goes on,

And with every passing moment,

Every second you grow weaker,

I grow weaker too.

 

When you are gone my heart will cry,

the pain may fade,

but my love will not die.

Pictures Worth a Thousand Words?

Is a picture worth more than 1000 words?  Do words carry more impact than a picture? Perhaps it depends on the words, and the picture, but the question is an intriguing one.

I recently watched a movie called Words&Pictures with Clive Owen and Juliette Binoche that brought this question up in an interesting way, as both Owen and Binoche play teachers at a private high school where a “war” arises between the Honors English students (lead by Owen’s English teacher and struggling author) and the Honors Art students (championed by Binoche’s artist and art teacher). There are installations of both words and of pictures set up by each side making a case for each. There is also ultimately a challenge where the artist presents one painting that the author will then meet with a thousand words in challenge. Which wins? Sadly the movie is really just average and has a rather lame rom-com type scenario where the two verbally spar and then fall in love, then there is a conflict. Blah blah blah as Binoche’s character says at one point, but the concept of  a war between words and pictures was a good one.

Since my majors in college were English and Speech Communication, you can imagine my tendency to rule in favor of words being the most powerful. However, I can concede the overwhelming power of a photograph, a drawing or a painting. We writers frequently use pictures as jumping off points for our writing and we certainly can come up with at least 1000 words, good and probably not so good, or more stemming from our reaction to that inspiration. Many artists, too, find inspiration in the great works of literature or other powerful words. While I liked the idea of a challenge pitting words against pictures, it would be impossible to rule in favor of one over the other. All art has power to affect and inspire, in ways we seldom ever could realize.

Having recently fallen for the art of poetry, I think it a lovely combination of both words and pictures. Plutarch said:

Painting is silent poetry, and poetry is painting that speaks.

How perfect is his description? I find poems often evoke a stronger more immediate response, like seeing a painting in a museum might, than a longer work such as a novel might. I, of course, love a novel, but the elegance and power of a poem seem most like viewing a picture. Both seem to let the reader/viewer fill in what is left to imagine. What do they make you feel? It’s a beautiful thing.

What about you? Do you think a picture is worth a thousand words? Is that preposterous, words obviously win that war? Or does it just depend? What words and pictures do you think of that make you lean one way or the other?  I’d love to hear about it in the comments. 🙂

Have a great week!

~CJS

So You Want To Be A Writer One Day?

 

 

london bus

Shoulda, woulda, coulda.

If…someday…one day…when I get around to it.

If there’s one thing death teaches us, it’s that there’s not enough time. And yet, we let the opportunities pass us by because we think we’re immortal. Even when we’re staring at a corpse lying in a coffin proving otherwise. The lucky ones are those who realize that anything can happen at any moment and decide to not let their fears stop them.

Today, it’s personal.

Two years ago, I lost my father to pancreatic cancer, the one that by the time the symptoms appear, it’s too late. He lived for three months before he succumbed to it. I had three months to prepare, but it still hit like driving 60 mph and hitting a brick wall. I knew, if I let it, it would drive me straight into a black hole of depression. So, why didn’t I? I had every right to grieve. I lost my dad, one of the only two reasons for my existence on earth, my second true love. (My mom is my first.) How do you NOT let yourself fall into a pit when you lose one of the most important people in your life?

Well, to begin with, I turned to poetry. The musical lines and words were a balm. They kept me from going under. I don’t know how many times I listened to John Hannah’s reading of Funeral Blues from Four Weddings and A Funeral, or read it myself. Desiderata also played an important part in keeping me from losing it. Two lines stood out from that one:

“Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself.”

And

“You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars;
you have a right to be here.”

I can’t tell you the number of times I repeated those lines to myself. Especially the part “you have a right to be here.”

With that line, something began vibrating inside me. I felt as if someone had begun to tighten my strings, oil my gears, and bring me back into the light of the world. I have a right to be here. And so began my second life.

I took a good hard look at myself and I realized, I was unhappy. I hadn’t accomplished anything, or so I felt. What had I done other than produce offspring? What contribution to society, what impact, had I made? What legacy would I be leaving behind, and is that the one I wanted to be known by?

(I have a right to be here.)

I can be one determined woman when pushed. And so, I pushed. That’s right. I pushed myself. I became my own personal trainer/life coach/cheerleading squad. I forced myself to lose over 40 pounds because I deserved to feel good about myself again, which I hadn’t for a very long time. I began thinking positively and trying to eliminate as much negativity as possible. And I began writing again. Yeah, I stopped writing. For three years. The “why” isn’t important. It was life taking a reckoning and making a point, I suppose. But, now, I began writing in earnest. I knew this was my calling. So, I listened, and let the Muse take control. Do you know what happened then?

Things began changing and rearranging, and Opportunity began throwing doors in my path. All I had to do was open them. And I did.

(I have a right to be here.)

One of those opportunities came in a form I least expected. A friend who I hadn’t seen in months asked me to go to a writing group meeting at a local library, and I said I’d go with her. I joined, she didn’t. She was more of an artist, not a writer. To be honest, I’m not really sure why she had wanted to go in the first place. But, ours is not to reason why. If I hadn’t gone with her, you wouldn’t be reading this. (There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio.)

Writing saved me. I turned to it when I had nowhere else to go. When I was angry, I wrote, and it showed me how to deal constructively with that anger. When I was sad, I would write, and I could leave people with tears in their eyes and saying how good it was. Writing has been my salvation. But let’s be honest here. I was the one who made the choice to write. I saved myself. I have a right to be here.

I want you to pretend you are waiting on a bus. It’s taking forever to get to your stop and you’re already late. You check the time. The clouds look like they might open up any minute and drop buckets of rain on you, and of course, there’s no cover and you forgot your umbrella. You tap your foot. You pace. You check your cell phone. Finally, you realize the bus isn’t coming, so you call someone to come help. Just when your ride arrives, the bus shows up, too. Of course it does. What do you do? Do you get on the bus, or do you take the ride you called? The choice is completely yours.

By the way, did you catch a glimpse of the destination sign on the bus? It reads: One Day (and it’s totally being driven by AJ which is why it’s late.)

Here’s the thing. Every time I turn around I hear “I need to do that. One day I will.” One day. One day. I hate those two words. Guess what…one day never comes if you don’t take action. So you want to be a writer? Begin writing. Oh! You want to be a PUBLISHED writer. Do it. Stop sitting on your laurels (oh, how that’s not a strong enough word but I’m trying to keep it PG) and just. do. it. You will never get there by waiting and saying “one day.”

I know it’s hard. I know it’s scary. I know words are easy to say and actions hard to perform. But you regret those opportunities you let pass you by. And who am I to tell you these things? I’m you. I used to say the same exact things. I used to think exactly the same way. But, I am doing it. I will be a published writer. I had to make the decision to ignore my fears. Oh, they’re still there, believe me, but I am not going to let them rule me.

You have a right to be here. You have to save yourself.

So, do it.

Jesi

P.S. This post was inspired by two people: our very own AJ Prince and my ex Sister-in-Heart who passed away last week. She was doing it. I don’t think she regretted it.

(Also, thanks to our Joe who drew the bus for me. It’s awesome, and I love it!)

 

 

The Road Not Taken

By Robert Frost

 

 

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,

And sorry I could not travel both

And be one traveler, long I stood

And looked down one as far as I could

To where it bent in the undergrowth;

 

Then took the other, as just as fair,

And having perhaps the better claim,

Because it was grassy and wanted wear;

Though as for that the passing there

Had worn them really about the same,

 

And both that morning equally lay

In leaves no step had trodden black.

Oh, I kept the first for another day!

Yet knowing how way leads on to way,

I doubted if I should ever come back.

 

I shall be telling this with a sigh

Somewhere ages and ages hence:

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—

I took the one less traveled by,

And that has made all the difference.

Better Late Than Never

Due to an unexpected train crash happening inside my head over the weekend, I have apparently forgotten my responsibilities. I apologize for neglecting to post an article today, and I assure you that I will not be forgetting again.

Rest assured all is (relatively) well though I am still recovering from the massive headache that hit unexpectedly. For now, I will leave you with a poem, one I wrote during April’s poetry challenge. We had to write an aubade. (Click on the word to see the description.)

The visual form of the poem was purposeful. It represents the beginning of the day leading to a mid-point and then fading into night, an echo of the feeling of the poem, or so I hope. Please enjoy.

Jesi

Evanesce

By Jessica Scott

 

So let it be,

This repetition of life.

Each day starts fresh and new

despite my futile attempts to hold it back,

to remain young and beautiful, to keep the day from aging

once more. Once more into the breach, dear friends, the breach of life continuing.

 

Why can’t the day stay young? Why can’t we stay frozen in perfect moments till we are ready

to move on? Why slowly vanish until we are nothing, till we disappear? Why,

cruel nature, keep us bound to you and remind us of our mortality

with the rising of each new morning? And I’m so weary

of wearing my chains, this burden I bear.

And still I fade, like the mist.

So, let it be.

So let it be.

 

Tools of the Trade

In any job, you have certain tools that are required to be able to do your job properly. Writing is no different. In general, writing requires some sort of writing implement consisting of either a computer with word processing software or ye olde pen and paper. Of course, it also helps to have a fairly decent understanding of the language you are writing in, and a good vocabulary helps as well as basic grammar. Then, of course you need an idea. But is that all you need?

Within the last year, I have met all kinds of writers: pansters, plotters, plotting pansters, natural storytellers, experienced authors, etc. But the one thing that stands out among everyone I’ve met is that the successful writers have empathy. You can write the most gorgeous scene to ever be written, but if your characters are lacking in emotion, you will be lacking in readers. If you can’t understand what it’s like being your character, then no one will be drawn in to your book to find out more. They won’t care enough about your characters to want to learn about them.

It sounds odd to have empathy for imaginary people who only live in your head but think about it. When you go to a movie that catches you up in it, what has drawn you? What is it that hooked you in the first place? What made you care enough to involve yourself emotionally? What about your favorite book? My guess is there was at least one character that grabbed you and held on. You got involved with an imaginary character. Why? Because you were able to empathize with them. And that is because the writer got inside that character and was able to understand him/her and write from their point of view.

As you know, CJ Stuart and I have been doing challenges ths month. We’re both doing the Blogging A to Z Challenge, and I’ve been doing a poetry challenge. Yesterday, the poetry challenge required me to write a persona poem. This is a poem written from a different perspective than my own. There were some really good ones. The best told a story from a fountain pen’s point of view. My blog friend, Lizzi Rogers, wrote from a statue’s perspective. And I wrote from an old woman’s view. (I have included my poem at the end of this post.)

All of us had to be able to consider what it was like to see through another’s eyes, even if those “eyes” happened to be inanimate objects. What makes a story compelling isn’t just a good plot. You also have to have believable characters who get you emotionally involved with them. Mark Twain said, “write what you know.” He was talking about emotions. It isn’t enough to create an imaginary world people want to live in. You must also create people that others want to empathize with. We all want to know that others are going through the same things we do. We want someone to cheer for.

This week I challenge you to write with empathy. See the world from a different perspective than your own. Go out and think about what someone else might be experiencing and try to understand life from their point of view. Or maybe, see things from a new angle. I wonder what the tree in my backyard is thinking…

Have a great Monday!

Jesi

Advice from Atropos*

By Jesi Scott

 

Look at me.

Look at me and dread the day you

look like me,

skin creasing, folding in on itself,

hair greying, thinning, turning white

as age gnaws on my bones.

 

With age comes wisdom,

or so they say.

Let me tell you what I have learned

in this lifetime.

Life is hard and unfair;

it is ugly and messy and so full of disappointment.

It leaves you scarred, your body marked,

and, sometimes your soul, for all eternity.

 

You will cry and beat your fists in rage;

it’s how we come into this world,

and how some of us go out, still fighting

the current that draws us inexorably

toward the waterfall without a paddle;

we all go over, willing or not.

 

But there are moments…

Oh, such moments!

Such sweet, pleasurable, blood-racing,

breath-holding, firework moments…

the touch of someone’s hand on

your’s, the sound of a baby’s first laugh,

the scent of fresh spring rain,

the silk of his or her lips on your lips.

Oh, how I will miss the simple

pleasure of a kiss.

 

So, look at me.

Look at me and remember these days of your youth,

for they will not come again.

Remember the hard days, and the good;

relish every heart-stopping, goose-pimple, champagne-bubble moment,

because these are what get us through,

and make life worth living.

 

*Atropos is one of the three Greek goddesses known as Fate. She represents one of the three ages of woman known as The Crone.

Counting Your Words

Writing can come in many different forms; novels, novellas, short stories, poetry, flash fiction, nonfiction, children stories, or articles. It all has to be written to be read. 

I personally am a novel writer; I like big stories with backgrounds and lots of words. On occasion, I like to practice with flash fiction. I find it helps me tighten up my writing and getting the story across in a matter of fewer words.

How do you know what category your writing falls under?

Word counts.

It all boils down to the amount of words used in your precious blood, sweat and tears. There are guidelines that determine what constitutes as a novel verses a novella, or flash fiction versus a short story. Even in poetry, there are certain types of poems that require certain counts – a number of syllables, a number of lines in a stanza. In all of these words, numbers matter.

It can be a bit overwhelming if you are new to the writing circus. Hell, it can be overwhelming no matter how long you’ve been honing your writing tricks. Making sure that your manuscript fits into the right sized word box can be difficult, no matter how long you have been writing.

Let’s take a look at the breakdown…

Novel: 50,000 words and higher – Depending on the genre that you are writing in will greatly determine the word length.

Novella: 15,000- 50,000 – Your story can be written under any given genre, but at this length, it will be considered a novella or novelette.

Short Stories: 1,000 to 10,000 – When submitting to contest, there will usually be a word count listed.

Flash Fiction: 100 to 500 – This seems small, because it is. Flash Fiction is considered such because it is just a flash of a story.

Picture Books: 500 to 700.

Once the breakdown is written down in front of you, it isn’t quite as daunting. It even seems manageable. Some days. What I believe really matters at the end of the day is… do your words count?

Not in the idea of numbers. Who cares if you can’t fit your piece inside the box? Just write what flows out of you and worry about the little stuff, like word counting, for a later date. If what you are writing means something to you, then that is what you should concentrate on. That is what actually counts.

Till next time,

~AJP

P.s. Check back at a later date for the breakdown of genre word guidelines for novels.