Real Poetry

reviews, tips, and personal/local writing

Archive for the month “May, 2012”

Reading, reading, reading… and traveling as well

So I’ve been busy reading a lot of different books the past few weeks. The problem is that I don’t tend to read one book at a time so I’ve been reading at least three books at once for awhile now. Though since I finished reading The Giver
… one of the books I constantly return to… I’m going to be able to focus more of my time towards Aristotle, which I really do want to sit down and sink my teeth into.

My “to read” list is ever growing though (Transfer by Naomi Shihab Nye, The Book of Men by Dorianne Laux, A Dance with Dragons by George R.R. Martin, Alive in Necropolis by Doug Dorst… the list goes on) plus I’ve got a trip to New York coming up this weekend that will pretty much last the month of June. I’m going to try and keep up the blog posts during this time, but they may be skimpy on the content and limited in scope… since my selection of poems won’t include all of my own personal selection:

Picture of my poetry shelf

I’m going to be with family, but I am planning to work on my writing practice throughout the trip as well.  So expect some tips perhaps on how to write when surrounded by said family.

I hope everyone has a fun, safe weekend out there.  I know I’ll be busy traveling, but by next post I should be in NY.  Till then take care,

Stephen R.

“Get Up and Bar the Door”

For this week’s poem, I wanted to go back a little further than I’ve tended to in the past.  The poem “Get Up and Bar the Door” is an uncredited poem that is included in a collection of English poetry I have and was written sometime in the late 1700s.

This is a poem I first remember reading back in early high school and always makes me smile with its funny results and true relatability with modern times.  The whole tale, in all honesty, I could see as the basis for a plot in a sitcom.  I think truly great writing should function this way and be relatable and applicable to anyone, anywhere, at any time.

Anyway, I’ll keep this brief and just get to the poem.  I’m transcribing the poem here without any editing from the draft within my book since it really is easy to follow.  The photo is a painting I found depicting the events of the poem.

Get Up and Bar the Door

It fell about the Martinmas time,
And a gay time it was then,
When our good wife got puddings to make,
And shes boild them in the pan.

The Wind sae cauld blew south and north,
And blew into the floor;
Quoth our goodman to our goodwife,
“Gae out and bar the door.”

“My hand is in my hussyfskap,
Goodman, as ye may see;
An it shoud nae be barrd this hundred year,
It’s no be barrd for me.”

They made a paction tween them twa,
They made it firm and sure,
That the first word whaeer shoud speak,
Shoud rise and bar the door.

Then by there came two gentlemen,
At twelve o’clock at night,
And they could neither see house nor hall,
Nor coal nor candle-light.

“Now whether is this a rich man’s house,
Or whether is it a poor?”
Be neer a word wad ane o them speak,
For barring of the door.

And first they ate the white puddings,
And then they ate the black;
Tho muckle thought the goodwife to hersel,
Yet neer a word she spake.

Then said the one unto the other,
“Here, man, tak ye my knife;
Do ye tak aff the auld man’s beard,
And I’ll kiss the goodwife.”

“But there’s nae water in the house,
And what shall we do than?”
“What ails thee at the pudding-broo,
That boils into the pan?”

O up then started our goodman,
An angry man was he:
“Will ye kiss my wife before my een,
And scad me wi pudding-bree?”

Then up and started our goodwife,
Gied three skips on the floor:
“Goodman, you’ve spoken the foremost word,
Get up and bar the door.”

Summer Reading (Book 1) – The Nicomachean Ethics

Have you ever had those one, two, three, or hell, every book assigned for a class that in all honesty you never really sat down and read?  (Thanks Sparknotes)  This usually happened to me towards the end of a semester, when the course load was really just too much to warrant reading through another ethics or philosophy book in what little spare time I had.

What does that have to do with this particular post?  Well as you may have guessed from the title, I’m starting a new self-challenge of sorts.  Namely, I’m going to be reading a fair amount, and I want to share what I’ve read sporadically in the coming months.  My first book is one I took off the shelf recently to show my little sister how difficult the readings can be in college.  Surprise, surprise however, I found that I not only understood the random passage I turned to in Aristotle‘s The Nicomachean Ethics, but I also found it both compelling and interesting.  I decided then and there that I needed to actually sit down and read through the damn book I couldn’t have been bothered with during the class it was assigned in.

That said, I have been sporadically reading through the introduction for the book (A somewhat long but I believe necessary summary of the book as a whole), which is made a little more difficult since I’m also reading two other books at the moment.  I may post sporadic updates or interesting tidbits I find when reading through the text in the coming weeks.  For now, I just wanted to share the concept of living in the mean, as I understand it thus far.

Aristotle argues that the goal for humanity is to live a good life.  To achieve this good, man has to find happiness, which can be attained through either “sensual enjoyment, political achievement, or intellectual contemplation.”  I’m not here to start writing some formulaic essay, but I do want to say that for me the intellectual contemplation is the most easily relatable for writing.  Aristotle stresses famously the ideal of living in the mean of life in each of the areas of potential happiness, which can differ greatly from person to person.  For myself, both reading and writing are two areas of life that I sometimes struggle to hold in balance.  Maybe you can relate to some extent.

Now, I don’t want to discuss this concept at length without first reading more of the text.  I just wanted to share what I’ve learned so far.  I know that this will be very applicable to my writing practices by the time I’ve finished, at least I hope this winds up being worthwhile.  We’ll find out.

Hope you all are happy and healthy,

Stephen R.

Dorianne Laux – “Moon in the Window”

Hello everyone,

I’m feeling a little nostalgic as I’m writing up this post.  The poet Dorianne Laux is someone I’ve read for the past couple years and always enjoy.  I currently own two collections of hers: Facts About the Moon and The Book of Men.  This week’s poem comes out of the former.  As the title suggests, the moon is a subject that pervades a majority of the poems.  This poem in particular though really harkens back to when I was younger.

I hope you enjoy this poem as much as I do, and perhaps some of you can relate to it as well.

Stephen R.

Moon in the Window

I wish I could say I was the kind of child
who watched the moon from her window,
would turn toward it and wonder.
I never wondered.  I read.  Dark signs
that crawled towards the edge of the page.
It took me years to grow a heart
from paper and glue.  All I had
was a flashlight, bright as the moon,
a white hole blazing beneath the sheets.

– Dorianne Laux

Steve’s Poetry Tips – Revision

Hey everyone,

I felt like writing a brief poetry tip for this Thursday, so here you go.

If there’s anything I learned from my experiences working on my Honors Thesis this past semester, it’s been to place more emphasis on revising my poems.  The most difficult part of revision, for me, has always been the sitting down and looking at what needs work.  Once I’m sitting, I can usually get at least some small modicum of work accomplished, but getting myself to approach that area and start work is difficult.  That’s why I have a few small pieces of advice to share to those interested.

First, create a space for your revision to take place.  This doesn’t necessarily have to be a “created” space mind you.  This could be a coffee shop, a library, the kitchen table, a park bench, or (as it is for me) a clean desk.

Bookshelves surrounding a desk.

Second, have all your writing accessible to you.  For me, I have a handy filing bin with all my poems, fiction stories, plays, and even academic research papers sitting right next to my desk.  I suggest having them all printed out and in front of you for a few reasons:

  1. It’s easier to revise something on paper.  I’ve never felt differently about that, even with the advent of tablet technology.
  2. If you get stuck or can’t think of the line you really want in a poem, sometimes it’s good to just move along onto another poem and come back to it.  I will sometimes just sit and read through several random poems until something jumps out at me or I’m struck with how terrible the draft is and feel like I have to fix it.
  3. I don’t know about you, but sometimes it just feels good to physically see how many poems I’ve been working on.  Helps to stop feeling discouraged when a poem just isn’t coming along well or fast enough.

Finally, the last bit of advice I have to share is to give yourself a set time of day (every day if you can manage) to sit down and revise.  To help with this, I suggest setting an alarm.  I’ve had an alarm set for 10:00 am every day for the past couple months and it really does help to keep the practice in mind, while also adding a sense of guilt when I decide I don’t have time to revise on that day.

As a brief disclaimer I feel I should say that no one I’ve ever heard from has ever really revised in the same exact manner.  I know some poets that revise when they feel that “inner inspiration” that tells them exactly what to do.  In my writing this epiphany rarely if ever happens, so I started using the methods I outlined above.

Hope you all have a wonderful end to the week,

Stephen Recker

p.s.  It’s also a nice practice to have a favorite book or two on the craft of poetry around.  I have quite a few that I turn to, but the two that stand out would be Writing the Australian Crawl and The Poet’s Companion.  Both have great words of wisdom on poetry and the latter also contains exercises that help produce material as well.

Philip Levine – “Animals Are Passing From Our Lives”

Greetings Poetry Lovers,

So this particular poem from Philip Levine, the United States Poet Laureate, has been on my mind a lot lately.  I’m not 100% why, but I feel as though it could have something to do with having graduated from college and beginning to face the real world out there.  The poem is one of those seemingly lighthearted, joking poems that waits until the very end to basically slap you across the face with a surprisingly heart-wrenching ending.  The ending in this poem in particular is where the title of the collection of poetry it comes out of is derived.

As I’ve mentioned before, I’m now officially graduated from college.  So now, when I’m not searching for a job, I can dedicate more of my time to updating this blog.  I’ve got a few ideas in mind to both diversify and narrow in various aspects of the blog, and those changes will be coming into effect soon.  For now, enjoy the poem.  I’ll be back with more soon.

Stephen Recker

Picture of a pig

Animals Are Passing From Our Lives

It’s wonderful how I jog
on four honed-down ivory toes
my massive buttocks slipping
like oiled parts with each light step.

I’m to market.  I can smell
the sour, grooved block, I can smell
the blade that opens the hole
and the pudgy white fingers

that shake out the intestines
like a hankie.  In my dreams
the snouts drool on the marble,
suffering children, suffering flies,

suffering the consumers
who won’t meet their steady eyes
for fear they could see.  The boy
who drives me along believes

that any moment I’ll fall
on my side and drum my toes
like a typewriter or squeal
and shit like a new housewife

discovering television,
or that I’ll turn like a beast
cleverly to hook his teeth
with my teeth.  No.  Not this pig.

— Philip Levine

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