23 February 2020

Why I Don't Write Political Poetry

Sometimes I think too much. That is my main excuse for not writing political poetry. I'm an after thinker. I'm non-confrontational. By the time I've absorbed the daily news cycle and thought about its background and implications, weeks have passed. 

I'm not timely.  

In today's fast-moving poetic world some people can write a poem on the current news by the end of the day. I envy that. Of course, some are well versed in politics and can fire out opinions with a brain full of background on the issue. As a sporadic reader of news, I can't make the leap between today's story and one that came out two weeks ago. It all seems the same to me. Dumpster fires, train wrecks, and slow-motion car crashes abound, cleverly disguised as news.
The current hype of the day is easily missed when you don't watch television or get the daily paper. 

I scan headlines, maybe read the first paragraph. I get the gist that way if the writer is any good at all. How do you turn gist into a poem? Maybe a mashup of gists in one rage-fueled epic?
Continual outrage is tiring. Reading the news makes me outraged. Politics as usual, makes me outraged. I can't write on a diet of calculated fury. Some poets can channel their wrath into biting poems addressing the issue of the day. 

I don't think I received that poetry gene. 

Maybe it's because poetry is my safe space to explore more leisurely issues. To wax philosophical about things of importance to me. To hide in my blanket fort. 

With the way things are going today, I want to come out of my shell and sling some of the smoldering indignation into a poem. But I'm not sure how. Snarling and gnashed teeth poetry is not my favorite and I can't see writing it. I leave that to those who are good at it, and there are some very good poets out there demanding we look at the issues. With the way things are going today, I need to express my discomfort and fears. Poetry is the vehicle for that. 

What am I afraid of? Spilling my guts in a blood-soaked mess on the page. But maybe, just maybe, I need to confront my writing (writhing) nest of guts. Scribble it out. There is no poetry police. I don't have to show my work to anyone if I don't want to. 

So I have a notebook just for gut spilling. Politics. Things that piss me off to the point of apoplexy. Sentences with more four-letter words than a sentence can carry. And you know what? It's a good feeling to put the pen to paper and spew. Sometimes in magic marker. I highly recommend it. 

You probably won't see many, if any political poems from me. Don't think I don't care. I care too much. My notebook knows all about it. For those of you that tackle political poetry, kudos. I'll be reading. 

Do you write political poetry? How do you handle the red hot topics? If you don't write it, do you want to? Should we be tacking it to telephone poles on hot pink paper?

23 January 2020


(Thank you, 60's Batman, for the onomatopoeia.)

Why does the answer to everything seem to be violence?

Books, movies, real life. Blood, gore, guns. Maybe I'm too much a wuss for this. I don't believe every problem needs to be solved by punching, shooting, blowing up, or some form of superhero power liberally applied.

It's inescapable. In my first fantasy novel, I gave one of the heroes a sword. He refused to use it again after seeing the aftermath of his warmongering. He gave it away. In my new WIP, one of the protagonists refuses to carry a gun, although almost everyone in his world does. He knows his refusal will not change a damn thing but it aligns with his values.  Which probably align with mine, since every character, at its core, is me or evil me or pissed off me or head in the sand me.

The Folly of Youth


When I was younger and in the Army as an engineer, I took great glee in blowing up things like bridges, tossing hand grenades with abandon, and shooting my rifle at targets, never connecting that if I went to war, I would be required to apply these methods to people.

Then I learned to use words. Words are molasses poured over the violence urge, or gasoline tossed on the pyre. Used judiciously they support and defend. Used viciously, they flay. I do believe they have power over the sword if only to blunt the edge. Unfortunately, people are moving away from the written word, the spoken word, the lovingly crafted word toward a society of shouty words and half-baked memes standing in for a thoughtful conversation.

That's a shame.

All you poets and writers keep on doing what you do. Society needs you now, more than ever. Fight the good fight. Maybe it's your words that will change the world for the better, or at least plant a seed.

27 December 2019

The Kindle Dilemma

My bookshelves are crowded. Really crowded. They have been for years so when Kindle became a thing, I got one. It didn't stop me from buying books. I just became more judicious about my paper choices. Most non-fiction is a hardcopy purchase. Almost all fiction is a Kindle purchase, unless I know I'm going to reread it over and over, like LOTR and Dune. Poetry is hardcopy because poetry often doesn't transfer well to Kindle. When I formatted Piccola Poesie for Kindle, I spent an inordinate amount of time making sure the poems looked right in the electronic version.

Kindle has become my bookshelf in more ways than one. Now I have so many books on it I can't find things if I want to reread them. It doesn't happen often. Usually, I read then delete off the Kindle to save space. It stays on my Amazon account if I need to download it again. By the last check, I have over 900 books available in my account for my Kindle. Gulp. Then I went and signed up for Kindle Unlimited so I have even more books to choose from. I may have a problem. 

Can You See Me Now?

I know people practically get in fistfights over paper vs. electronic. I like both. I read a lot more on the Kindle than I do paper. It's hell to get old and not be able to read the tiny print in a paperback very easily. My appearances at used book stores have dwindled because of that. On the electronic reader, I can up the type for my crappy old eyes. 

Another advantage is when I put the Kindle app on my iPad and phone I can have my book available almost anytime, anywhere. It helps me read a lot. 2-4 books a week (fiction). It's not as many as it sounds, I also read really fast and always have. I read at dinner. Read at lunch. I read in downtime waiting for appointments. Books are easier to do that with than knitting, although I have been known to carry an in-progress sock around to kill time when I have to think about MY writing. 

I recently swiped my way back through the Kindle carousel. And swiped, and swiped. There are a lot of partially read books on there. 37%, 52%, some even abandoned at the 89% mark. I buy books and I download a lot of free books. I quit worrying about it and if the book doesn't live up to my expectations of a good story, I abandon it. Even at 89%. If it's lost my interest, it's lost my interest. 

My biggest pet peeve is the character, told not to do something, immediately does what she was told not to do. Surely there is a better way to move your plot forward? Willful stupidity makes me toss the book. Used to be when I bought a physical book I felt obligated to see it through to the end. That feeling is going away. 


Time is short. Not just because of the workday but because life itself is careening to a close. (Damn birthdays for making me feel that.) So much to read and enjoy. The mountain of books getting published every year is daunting. But I'm doing my best to make a dent in the To Be Read pile. If it topples over and buries me (physically or electronically) I'll die happy.

How do you tackle your reading material? Physical, electronic, cuneiform?

24 November 2019

Staying Afloat in a Writing Ocean

Message in a bottle

What's true with the rest of life/hobbies/interests is true with writing. So many facts and details to keep
track of. I really want to keep up with what's going on in the writing industry, so I read blog posts and 
tweets and articles and books and newsletters. You know what? It's too much information to absorb. 
You can read too much about how to do things and it can be paralyzing as all the advice you read rolls
through your head when primarily there should be the story, or poem up there. 
Or at least that's how I want it to be. The information also paralyzes by raising doubts. Do I have story 
beats, plot structure, character arcs, action, a catchy opening? That can lead to obsession and 
reworking things over and over again until the piece is informationed into a hot mess. Then you say 
Argh, I can't do this, I'm going to take up knitting. (Knitting is a lovely hobby. Highly recommend.)

Social Media Overload

It's also intimidating to read breezy posts about how someone tweeted something and had an agent the
next day. Or has 20,000 followers and aren't even published yet. It's exhausting to think of social media
and the time sink of promoting yourself. It doesn't stop me from gritting my teeth and posting cheery
—okay, okay, mostly sarcastic—stuff. Maybe I'm too old for social media. But it's probably because
I'm way too private a person to hang my laundry out for the world to see. I was told cultivated glimpses
were the answer to that. A thought worth exploring. I think I can do that and still be my sarcastic self. 
That's definitely me, too. 
Reading agent blogs/websites/tweets is a whirl of conflicting information. Query like this, no, like this. 
Start your novel like this, no, like this. Same with writer's forums. So much chaff to sift through to get 
to the nuggets. The time sink can swallow you whole. Of course, what it all comes down to is, do the 
best you can. If it's not good enough for one person/publication, shrug and move on to the next. 
I gave up taking it personally a long time ago. I have skin of mithril. It leaves bruises, 
but they heal quickly. 
And what's up with all these contests? The lists to find places to submit have more contests than 
regular spots. I just want to submit some poems or a book/chapbook, not pay $20-30 for the privilege 
of doing so each and every time. It's like The Hunger Games of writing, but the odds are never in your 
favor. The slow grind of society is monetizing everything and offering shortcuts, advice, and 
motivation—for a price. I need to be able to afford yarn and dog food also. 

Throw Me a Rope

There are so many places to send poems and novels it's overwhelming. Research can cut the odds 
considerably but suspiciously feels like sending a message out in a bottle—the same time frame for 
a response also. The writing industry is an ocean and I'm out there on a paddleboard. But I really like 
the ocean so I stay and play. Information can be your life preserver or boots filled with water. It's up 
to you to choose your own adventure.
What do you do to combat the tsunami of writing advice?