Tag Archives: poetry

Why I Write

My grandfather passed away on Saturday. He turned eighty-eight at midnight and left this world thirty minutes later. He was ready to go, which always makes things easier.

Over the years, I’ve been honored with penning poems for funeral programs. I’ve also had the joy of nudging marriages along with a handful of words. Each time, I write with the individuals in mind. Each poem or piece a testament to a specific person. A specific purpose.

My grandfather was a quiet man. Midwestern stoic. A hard worker. A provider. A practical man. He was the kind to show his care for others through actions, not words. And  yet, deep within this practical exterior was a soul of whimsy.

A welder by trade, he pieced together bits and scraps in his free time. Nails. Pop bottle tops. Cast iron skillets. In his work-worn hands, these every day items came together as miniature works of art.

The refrigerator magnets of my childhood were pop top skillets with two painted eggs frying inside. A beautiful nail rocking chair adorned my mom’s bookshelf, while tiny windmills captured the attention of guests. Just yesterday, a skillet clock passed hands from my mom to my little sister. All these and more were gifts from a quiet, unassuming man.

He took his business motto seriously: “We weld everything but broken hearts and the crack of dawn.”

In life, he created. In honor of his life, I write.

 

WELDED BY LOVE

Love is not a parade of roses.

It’s a rocking chair,

thoughtfully presented

to relieve your weary load.

 

Love is not fancy dinners

celebrated on commercial holidays

rich with chocolate, wine and flawless diamonds.

It’s breakfast—two eggs, over easy—in a beat up frying pan.

 

Love is the breath of the wind,

spinning through windmill blades,

full of energy, passion and power.

 

It’s raw and untainted,

a hodgepodge of little things

not meant to woo,

but to comfort the soul

 

It’s a rough beard

and rougher hands

work-worn

and blackened.

 

Love is not fixing what is broken;

It’s never breaking it in the first place.

 

We weld everything

but broken hearts

and the crack of dawn.

 

Father,

Grandfather,

Grandpa,

Pops.

 

You welded more than you will ever know.

I write to give breath to that which may be forgotten. I write to teach, not preach. To soothe the soul with a balm of words made of hope and compassion. I write to give voice to those who cannot.

Why do you write?

Curious minds want to know.

Do you know who you write for?

Kids can teach us a lot about our writing.

In honor of National Poetry Month, my Dear Daughter is in the midst of her poetry unit for English.  She has to create a poetry book consisting of selected poems from different authors with different themes. 

I pointed her in the direction of Lewis Carroll.  She immediately loved the ease of copying The Crocodile’s eight sentences.  She waffled over the Jabberwocky, and in the end, refused to write it down. 

“It’s too long.” 

Instead, she flipped through Shel Silverstein’s Where the Sidewalk Ends and found the poems with the shortest lines.  Literally the least amount of words.  Yet she handwrote several monster sized poems with thirty plus lines each.  Those were on friendship.

The patriotic poems were each four sentences long (the shortest number of lines possible for this project).  She used up both  her short poems on these, with another four needing at least eight lines and the remaining having to be ten or more.

The moral of this project is actually pretty simple.  Know thy audience. 

Shel’s whimsy was no longer important enough for her to copy more than a handful of his words.  Patriotism (which I used to think she had in abundance) was relegated the lowliest of positions. 

The monster poems?  Friendship and love. 

Those were the themes that had her scouring poem after poem and book after book in search of the perfect stanza. 

Know thy audience (and their tastes). 

Without me paying attention, she somehow moved past the middle grade novels with bullies and mysteries and wry humor, and is firmly entrenched in relationships.  She is the quintessential YA reader, regardless of my perception that she’s still waaaay to young to fall in that category. 

Writer, know thy audience. 

It is a deadly trap to assume that what we started writing about–and who we started writing for–are still one and the same.  Trends change.  Tastes change.  Certainly, novel writing as a whole has changed. 

Manuscript length, content and stye are not constants in the publishing arena.  Even genres are fluid and reflect the nuances of society.

If we are to survive in this new environment, we must embrace these changes as readily as a mother watching her kids grow. 

We may not like it.  We may wish to slow time down for our own ease and comfort.  But in the end, we simply cannot continue to write statically.  If we try, we may find ourselves relegated to the lowliest category possible.  The place that garners no more than four lines’ worth of a reader’s time.

I used to think of myself as being an astute writer in terms of audience.  In light of DD’s project I may have to revisit the idea.  Because, like it or not, the element that changes the most in the publishing industry is readership. 

Do you feel like you have a handle on your intended audience?  How do you keep up with their changing tastes/maturity/interests and the fluctuating lines that define the genre you write in?  Do you have any stellar tips to share to help the rest of stay ahead of the game?

As always, your input and commentary are as much a part of my blog as my own posts.  I appreciate hearing from each of you and learning from your experiences.

Poetry Lessons: yours not mine

I need your help.  Last year for my in-law’s 40th wedding anniversary, I wrote a book.  Literally.  It was a personalized, leather bound devotional (260 pages worth) to commemorate their lives.  This year, my DD gets confirmed.

Apparently I’m a better DIL than a mom, because DD gets nothing so fancy.  Instead, I’m working on a poem for her.  My hope is that it will be timeless as she grows.  Lessons to live by, if you will.  Without being preachy.

My problem is that I don’t write poetry. 

Not as a general rule.  Only when the mood moves me.  Like for weddings or funeral programs.  For Mother’s Day.  For inspiration.  For climbing out of a black hole.  For children.  Mostly for the moment.

This is different.  This is forever.  A gift now to be cherished in years to come.  Or so I can hope. 

This is my daughter.  The child of my heart.  The one I am supposed to shape and mold into something spectacular.  Her future is my success, as well as the culmination of my failures.  That’s a lot of pressure for someone who doesn’t write poetry!

Fiction is easy.  Fiction is imagination.  Poetry is the soul.  Just thinking about it sends shivers of fear down my spine.

Like many good college students, I took a poetry class.  I didn’t take to it.  Or rather, it didn’t take to me. 

So now I am seeking your expert advice. 

Please leave your best poetry tip(s) in a comment.  I will compile them into a list for other budding poets.  Together, we will learn everything we forgot or never knew in the first place. 

What makes a good poem?  And how in the heck do you write one?   

POETRY 101

  1. Think in images as you write.
  2. Rhyming is optional. Unless its a limerick!
  3. Poetry tip one: heart.  Poetry tip two: soul.  That’s all there is.
  4. Don’t overthink the poem, go with your gut and write.
  5. Throw down the bones first and then fill in the rest later.  No editing until it’s all down, rather write until there are no words left to say.
  6. It’s all in your heart, get out of your head. 
  7. Focus on how you feel, and always be genuine. 
  8. Don’t be afraid to cry.  It likely means you’ve hit a nerve.
  9. Do not compare your results with anyone else’s.
  10. Jot down reminder words or thoughts and build your poem around them.
  11. Play with it, squish it, squeeze out the dross until you find the pure silver. Then pound out the extra words until you’ve created a work of filigree.
  12. Start with free verse. Don’t try to force your feelings and ideas into a rhyme or iambic pentameter. Only use a specific poetic form if it serves your words.

Wow, twelve wonderful tips.  It’s like an AA meeting for Hopeless Poets!  You guys and gals rock my socks off.

Short Fiction Sunday

Two things have shaped the post today.  One–the continued state of destruction and devestation in Haiti.  Two–my DH’s best friend since diaperhood.  BF’s mother is in her last weeks after battling cancer.  My heart goes out to all those who are suffering at this time and I hope this poem can bring a little peace to those who are left behind.

DON’T CRY FOR ME

Ashes to ashes

dust to dust

My soul soars to the waiting heavens

   Mother Earth embraces my body

     In the everlasting circle of life

 

Show no sorrow for me when I’m gone

  Rather, lift thine eyes to the rose-tinted dawn

And know that I am there

Watching

Waiting

Patiently, lovingly

For you

 

Breathe the succulent scent

Of every spring bloom

And know that I am there

            Each blossom a reminder of my serenity and peace

          Hear my voice in the songbird’s melodies

       Quench your thirst on the falling rain

      And know that I am there

 

Ashes to ashes

Dust to dust

Life to life

And love everlasting