Real Poetry

reviews, tips, and personal/local writing

Archive for the tag “literature”

I’m Back Baby

desk and bookshelves

My life as it is currently… cluttered and beautiful.

Hello, hello, hello, hello, hello.

Yeah, it’s been awhile. But I don’t have much time for tear filled reunions and heartfelt, compassionate storytelling of the twists and turns my life has taken in the past months. (Also I don’t want to put you to sleep.)

But the important thing to remember is, this blog has been on my mind for pretty much the entirety of my time away. The problem for me has been I’ve felt limited with the current template/format for the blog as it is. I’ve had so many different things come up that I would love to write about: short fiction pieces, random story time, essays for the sake of essays, longer serial story ideas, the list goes on.

So what is a guy to do?

Well, change the dang format I say. So that’s exactly what I’m doing. You’ll notice a few changes already. First, I’m including a separate page to list all my current/future/past reading if you are interested in knowing that information. It will include what I’m currently reading (always more than one book), a list of books I’ve already read (starting recently… I don’t have the time to dredge up every single book I’ve read in life), and lastly a section for future reading. Check out the page and feel free to make suggestions for future additions to read as well. I’m always on the lookout for more.

Most other changes at the moment will be minor switches. I want to feel the freedom to write what I want and that’s what these changes will bring about.

Anyways, expect more things to come soon. I won’t lie, I’ve missed all of your youth filled, expectant, shining, lugubrious faces. And maybe that’s an exaggeration, my imagination, or an intensification on my part. And maybe you just had to look up the word lugubrious to realize I may have used that improperly for you. But I’m back and ready.

Lets get some stuff done people,

Stephen R.

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Gary Soto – “Oranges”

This week’s poem was a suggestion from a friend of mine.  I hope you all enjoy it as much as I did.  I’m not overly familiar with the work of Gary Soto, but this has clinched my buying a collection of his work.

Hope everyone’s week is going amazingly well,
Stephen R.

A collection of oranges

Oranges

The first time I walked
With a girl, I was twelve,
Cold, and weighted down
With two oranges in my jacket.
December.  Frost cracking
Beneath my steps, my breath
Before me, then gone,
As I walked toward
Her house, the one whose
Porchlight burned yellow
Night and day, in any weather.
A dog barked at me, until
She came out pulling
At her gloves, face bright
With rouge.  I smiled,
Touched her shoulder, and led
Her down the street, across
A used car lot and a line
Of newly planted trees,
Until we were breathing
Before a drug store.  We
Entered, the tiny bell
Bringing a saleslady
Down a narrow aisle of goods.
I turned to the candies
Tiered like bleachers,
And asked what she wanted–
Light in her eyes, a smile
Starting at the corners
Of her mouth.  I fingered
A nickel in my pocket,
And when she lifted a chocolate
That cost a dime,
I didn’t say anything.
I took the nickel from
My pocket, then an orange,
And set them quietly on
The counter.  When I looked up,
The lady’s eyes met mine,
And held them, knowing
Very well what it was all
About.

Outside,
A few cars hissing past,
Fog hanging like old
Coats between the trees.
I took my girl’s hand
In mine for two blocks,
Then released it to let
Her unwrap the chocolate.
I peeled my orange
That was so bright against
The gray of December
That, from some distance,
Someone might have thought
I was making a fire in my hands.

– Gary Soto

Edna St. Vincent Millay – “What lips my lips have kissed, and where, and why”

So for my return to the poem of the week I thought it would be fitting to pick a sonnet in keeping with my new challenge.  This sonnet comes from Edna St. Vincent Millay.  This particular poem came in a selection of examples for sonnet poems in the book The Making of a Poem. Many of the sonnets in the chapter were the overly flowery verse that many of my friends assume poetry is like in all cases.  This one stood out to me though in it’s ability to instantly grip me with the flowing opening line.  I’ll let you see it for yourself.

The Kiss, a painting by Francesco Hayez

What lips my lips have kissed, and where, and why

What lips my lips have kissed, and where, and why,
I have forgotten, and what arms have lain
Under my head till morning; but the rain
Is full of ghosts tonight, that tap and sigh
Upon the glass and listen for reply,
And in my heart there stirs a quiet pain
For unremembered lads that not again
Will turn to me at midnight with a cry.
Thus in the winter stands the lonely tree,
Nor knows what birds have vanished one by one,
Yet knows its boughs more silent than before:
I cannot say what loves have come and gone,
I only know that summer sang in me
A little while, that in me sings no more.

– Edna St. Vincent Millay

The Next Writing Challenge?!?

Well, I’ve made it back from New York… tired and worn out, but I had a good time with family. I’ve spent the past week recuperating and considering just what the title says: I need a new writing challenge. But first, I want to share this picture from my flight:

Picture taken above the clouds while flying.

I don’t care for flying overall, but I do love a view like that.

So for anyone who’s been following the blog or just checked out past posts, you may remember a segment I did simply entitled the Aphorism Challenge. For five weeks I wrote an aphorism every day and then selected the best of the bunch and put it up for all to see.

The main goal for that challenge was to get myself writing and, as of right now, I haven’t been pushing myself to write like I should. So to fix that I’ve decided to set myself up a brand-spanking-new challenge to force myself in front of my desk with pen and paper (or fingers and keyboard as the need arises). This time, however, I want to work in another form of poetry than the aphorism, which, though challenging in its own ways, was a simpler way of writing.

For now, I want to stick with a form I’m at least a little familiar with, so for my first new set of challenges I’ve decided on Sonnets. They typically come in two major forms, the petrarchan and Shakespearean. I’ll go into more detail next week with the first development of this Sonnet Challenge.

Anyone who knows me well will also know how averse I’ve been to writing in form poetry over the past few years. It’s a different mindset for writing, and thus I find it harder to do and only really possess a cursory knowledge of a few of the major forms out there. So I have an added request for anyone reading this post:

Is there a type of form poetry that you are particularly fond of? One that would make for a good challenge to practice writing with? If so, feel free to comment and share. I would love to hear more about different forms.

I will hopefully have some ok work-in-progress Sonnets to share in the coming weeks. Till then, I hope you all have had a fun and safe time since my last post.

Stephen R.

 

Summer Reading (Book 2) – Walt Whitman’s America

So as I talked about before, I went to check out Walt Whitman‘s birthplace on Long Island last week.  The house itself was cool to see, but I found the small exhibit concerning the nine different iterations of Leaves of Grass the most interesting portion of the tour/visit.  So much so, in fact, that I bought myself a biography to start reading for this summer.

A Statue of Walt Whitman admiring a butterfly

I’ve never read a biography before, so this is a new type of reading, but so far it has really held my interest.  I’ll openly admit both before reading what I’ve read so far and visiting his birthplace, I really had little knowledge of Whitman or his writing.  For those who don’t know already, I’ve learned that Whitman was not only a poet but also worked with newspapers and for a few years was a school teacher around Long Island.

I’ll save more of my discussion of this book for after I finish it this summer and write up a review.  I hope everyone out there is doing well and enjoying their summer.  Stay cool everyone whose around a heatwave like myself today.

Stephen R.

Alfred, Lord Tennyson – “In the Garden at Swainston”

This week’s poem comes from a collection of Alfred, Lord Tennyson’s poetry my grandmother gave me to add to my collection of old books during my visit to New York.  The book itself I have only glanced through, but one poem in particular stood out from the other’s I’ve read.  The short, three stanza poem contains some very powerful images and I’ve returned to the poem several times during my stay.

Tennyson's Poems, Alta Edition

The poem conveys a strong sense of loss from someone truly meaningful to the speaker of the poem.  What stands out to me though, is that this is not a poem about the one person this speaker loved but rather the three people he has loved separately but in some way equally.  The only defining difference is that the person lamented in this poem is the “last of the three.”

In the Garden at Swainston

Nightingales warbled without,
Within was weeping for thee;
Shadows of three dead men
Walk’d in the walks with me,
Shadows of three dead men, and thou wast one of the three.

Nightingales sang in the woods;
The Master was far away;
Nightingales warbled and sang
Of a passion that lasts but a day;
Still in the house in his coffin the Prince of courtesy lay.

Two dead men have I known
In courtesy like to thee:
Two dead men have I loved
With a love that ever will be:
Three dead men have I loved, and thou art last of the three.

-Alfred, Lord Tennyson

“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.”

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.

Quick Quotes from Reading

So I’ve been reading some William Stafford, as I mentioned recently. Most notably, in his book Writing the Australian Crawl, there were a few quotes that really stood out to me both as a reader and writer of poetry.

“There are things, you know, human things, that depend on commitment; poetry is one of those things.”

“A reader is a person who picks up signals and enters a world in language under the guidance of an earlier entry made by a writer.”

and my favorite quote from the book so far:

“What one has written is not to be defended or valued, but abandoned: others must decide significance and value.”

Other than that I had an exciting purchase for myself recently; I finally got something for filing my poems and other creative writing.  I’ve got it pictured below with the William Stafford book resting against it.

Hope everyone is having a pretty nice week.  I’ve got some interesting poetry I’ve been working on the past few days that I’m excited to share some of on Thursday.

Combat Steve

 

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