It has been a year since I decided to re-enter the world of poetry writing. Changing genres has been an eye-opening experience. Giving myself permission to abandon complete sentences and paragraphs in favor of singular words and short phrases to convey my thoughts (and I don’t mean that in a Facebook status/Twitter sort of way) has been an exciting challenge, albeit involving far more frequent trips to the thesaurus in search of well-chosen words. The relative brevity of poetry where less is often more challenges the writer to be deeply intentional in the choice of words.
One of the things that I like best about this genre jump is that it is far less frenzied than the 24/7 world of blogging/writing about current events. Poetry allows the luxury of time to contemplate and consider that you often don’t have when addressing fast moving news items. And there is space for fine-tuning and revision that you don’t have when your publishing turn around time is 10 minutes. It has also radically enlarged the subject matter that I consider to be grist for the pen (or keyboard). I’ve spent far more time writing about what I see in my immediate universe and am much more prone to personal observation and the sharing of emotion than in my longer form writing.
In this time I’ve been only minimally involved in political work although I am still a junkie when it comes to reading about issues. And you know what? I don’t miss it. Well maybe a little. I am ecstatic that sexual violence in the military (a topic I have written about countless times over the years) is finally getting the way overdue attention it needs and I am glad to see the health impact of military pollution (something I wrote about almost 10 years ago) getting attention too, and ongoing coverage of numerous other issues that I’ve touched upon over the years as well. But I am also okay not continuing to write about these topics, at least not with every new twist and turn of an issue and I am much more cognizant of the wear and tear that comes with writing about such things year in and year out.
I am also enjoying (and learning from) opportunities to read my work out loud (thank you to The Writer’s Center for the always supportive atmosphere of their open mic readings). It is interesting to explore the ways words work when spoken aloud rather than only silently read. For years, I used to tell my kids that the best way to proof-read their school work was to read it aloud. But this goes beyond that and becomes an additional way of developing a poem’s cadence and flow. And of course being a visual artist as well, I don’t hesitate to explore the visual presentation of the poem on the page.
The publishing side of the poetry world is still a conundrum to me. With the advent of the internet, turn around time for publishing pieces about current news topics is sometimes almost instant, certainly in blogging and more than a few times, I’ve had editors at various publications post my work within minutes of my submitting it.
Not so the poetry world where some publications still demand that you send your work with a self-addressed stamped envelope so that it can be returned within the 6 months they demand to consider its worthiness for their august publication. And they will not consider work that has been published elsewhere. And bloggers, if you think you are underpaid, believe me, compared to poetry, you are sitting pretty. There are numerous publications that charge fees to read work. IMHO, the poetry business model needs some serious updating, it is self-defeating and limiting to the detriment of us all.
And while Creative Commons is often used in the world of internet publishing, it is almost invisible in the poetry world. As a writer I have sometimes thought Creative Commons is overused and often abused, but it does have its place; in the poetry world however, most copyright discussion is as old-school as the snail mail submission policies.
That said, I am cautiously submitting work to various publications and am very pleased that the first piece that got accepted was a meditation about how we react to environmental disasters that will appear in the winter issue of Isle.
I wrote a poem recently about going on a hike and then coming home to the stillness of the night where there was space to create and conclude as needed. And indeed, observing and honoring the path and dwelling in the spaces that we find leads us to the poetry of life.