You’re so vain, you probably think my poems are about you.
This year I had the privilege of attending a lecture by poet Jane Hirshfield. In the span of about two hours, the poet shared with us some great insights, some stunning work, and a revision checklist that I think could help any writer with their poems. I thought I would share the notes I took from that lecture, and hopefully provide the insights I gained that might help any writer out there willing to read through them.
While artistic intent matters, it is important not to dwell too much on it, as it is up to the reader to find meaning in the work.
What else? This is the question that must drive poems that don’t abduct you. Poems are capable of carrying the poet away with inspiration.
Allow yourself to say things that aren’t 100% true 100% of the time.
Find the entrance point of an unreachable idea!
In writing collections/projects, you can approach this in different ways, either a cumulative project written in one time span, or grouping individual poems. The coherence doesn’t have to be obvious. When ordering, find the linear. Open strong and close strong. It is important to hook the reader in the first five poems.
Revision takes place from the inside and the outside.
Important for the author to know WHY the poem was written, and ask if the poem fulfills its purpose.
Outside revision requires outside readings, get assistance from workshopping it.
Read the poem wholly and assess what is found on the page. Look for grammatical unintentional errors, typos, etc.
Ask the poem these questions:
1. What does the poem actually say, as in the literal words on the page?
2. Does the poem say what it wants, or is it confused?
3. Does the poem follow its own impulse more than its original intent?
4. Does the poem go deep enough, take a risk? Can more or less be said to strengthen it?
5. Does the poem know more than before? Did it make a discovery?
6. Does it contain joy, depth, is there muscle in the music?
7. Does the poem want more music?
8. Does its rhythm, structure, etc help the piece achieve its meaning?
9. Does its visual structure support its meaning?
10. Is it true? Is it ethical? Does it feel?
11. Are there things that don’t belong? Are digressions in the poem’s best interest? Are awkward or smooth sections its best interest? Do any moments confuse the reader?
12. ARE THERE CLICHES?
13. Is the poem self-satisfied or predictable?
14. Is it precise? Precise is better than vague?
15. Does the poem allow itself to be strange, but not overtly strange?
16. Is the grammar correct where it is not intentionally unnatural?
17. Does the diction fit?
18. Is the poem in its most effective order?
19. Is the poem in the right voice?
20. Walk through the poem tediously, examining every phrase, every word. Make sure everything matters. Does every movement, every word, usher the poem forward?
21. Does this poem want to be seen, or is it merely a seed to move you to the next poem?
22. IS IT FINISHED? Time is the best editor.
These are the notes that were taken from the lecture. I hope you find them helpful. Many thanks to Vanderbilt University and to Jane Hirshfield! Get her new book: THE BEAUTY. It is fantastic.
Today I am happy to have another new poem selected and published by New Verse News. Today’s poem is a reaction to how the media and public treated the deaths of Cecil the lion and Samuel DuBose. I hope that the meaning behind my poem is clear. Please, check it out and let me know your thoughts. Big thanks to James Penha again for this opportunity.
This week my poem “Nashville, TN” was published in the August issue of Calliope Magazine. Calliope is a great local magazine run by Robert Olson here in Nashville. It is given out freely to the public. Next month I am the featured poet and they will be showcasing 8 of my poems. I owe a lot of gratitude and appreciation to Robert, who not only nurtures local poets, but helps provide venues for their voices to be heard through open mic night events. Robert does all this despite health concerns of his own that have been a challenge for him financially and personally, so thanks for everything you do, sir. You are something special.
Calliope is in the running for best magazine by the National Poetry Awards. You can vote for them at the link provided.
In other news this week, I found out my poem “Disco Ver(ses) in the key of American Hustle” was nominated for Best of the Net by Change Seven Magazine. Thanks to Sheryl Monks and staff for this honor.
This week I released my second chapbook of poetry. It’s called Confessions of a Porn Addict. It’s 30 pages of poems dealing with desire, guilt, and human relationships. This collection was initially accepted by another press, but was withdrawn due to a misunderstanding with the contracts. I could not find another publisher to take it, so it becomes the second Crow Hollow Books title. I’m proud of this book and especially love the cover art, generously supplied by Martin de Pasquale.
Since I decided to go this route, I went ahead and plunged head first into another idea I’ve been weighing the pros and cons of for a while now. I got a domain and started the groundwork for Crow Hollow Books to begin publishing other writers. It seems I am capable of making decent books, using Amazon and SPD, and so why not help other writers get work out into the world? I’m also starting a quarterly journal, called Crow Hollow 19. Every quarter I will publish 19 works of bone-splitting poetry, poetry with such honesty it blisters the eyes. Submissions for the quarterly journal open August 1st. Since the theme of the journal revolves around Crows, each issue will be called a Murder. I hope to have a reading period for chapbooks in October. Stay tuned. This train is just getting rolling.
This month I am participating in Tupelo Press’ 30/30 challenge. I, along with eight other poets, am committing to writing a poem a day for thirty days, in an effort to promote poetry and raise money for a respected press. This is a tough challenge for any writer, to write something worth sharing every day. I hope that you will follow along, and give me your support.
For the month, my concept is to take classic poems and rework them in my own voice. This is a daunting goal by itself. One never knows how people will react to taking classic literature and meddling with sacred texts. I hope people can appreciate my concept.
As an incentive, any person who donates $10 or more and mentions my name, I will send a specially made chapbook of poems to thank them for their support. Spread the word. Tupelo Press is an awesome pillar of the poetry community, and we should help them continue their good work of promoting good work and supporting poets who deserve recognition.
My poem “Five syllables” is live today at Silver Birch Press as part of their “All About My Name” series. I am grateful to have had this opportunity. Many thanks to the editor.
The new issue of Vending Machine Press contains my poem “Chalk outlines of a future self.” Many thanks to Michael Lafontaine for letting me be a part of the issue. I am thrilled to be included; the issue is full of talent. Check it out and let us hear your thoughts!
Thanks to Sarah Frances Moran for including two of my poems in the Super Hero Issue of Yellow Chair Review. My pieces “The Sniper” and “Captain Beatty as George W. Bush” are included. Check out this promising new magazine and tell them what you think!
As part of the #finalpoems project undertaken by Entropy/Enclave, I wrote a poem titled “Reduce reuse recycle.” You can find it here. An awesome project that I am happy to have been a part of. My thanks to Janice Lee and the staff at Entropy for making this possible. Browse through some of the work there. I am certain you will find something to take your breath away. Let us know your thoughts!