Earl Gray

Earl Gray
"You can argue with me but, in the end, you'll have to face that fact that you're arguing with a squirrel." - Earl Gray

Monday, December 30, 2013

12 Things Poets Get Backwards - Part IX

   "You're crying with a loaf of bread under your arm."  - old Yiddish saying.

Earl the Squirrel's Rule #81
      A buddy of mine was whining at length about writer's block.

     "Wait a minute," I interjected, "don't you keep a pocket notebook or file of bon mots you're thought up on your own or have adopted or adapted from your reading?"

     "Sure," he said.  "Doesn't everyone?"

     "And now you're complaining about a lack of motivating thoughts, right?"

     My friend is normally quick-witted and perceptive but, on this occasion, I needed to reiterate and rephrase my two questions eight times before he clued in and exclaimed:  "Ah, I see what you're saying.  I have a whole book of ideas!"


Tip #1:

     Most poets record their brilliancies for future use in this manner and then move on with their lives.  Consider another approach:  Before you run out of steam and leave it, make a complete poem, using that phrase and whatever other relevant ones you find in your Quips Booklet.  Overall quality isn't the issue yet.  It's okay if the rest of the piece is mere outline or filler.  Give it a separate file or page.

     How does this help?  There may be many times when you will have sufficient energy to edit a poem but not enough to finish and then edit an as-yet-incomplete work.  At worst, you will be giving posthumous anthologists more to work with.

Tip #2:

     Most literature courses concentrate on the interpretive.  Creative writing courses and seminars tend to overemphasis the importance of inspiration.  It seems that almost no one is teaching or learning the elements of the art form.  Apparently, these cart-before-the-horse individuals and institutions believe there is a dire shortage of bad poetry in the world.

     If you think WCW's "The Red Wheelbarrow" is free verse, that AnaCrusis is a Mexican Country and Western singer or that this poem:

Time has stopped.
A minute is still a minute.
An hour is still an hour.
And yet,
The past and the future
Hang in perfect balance.
All focused on the present.
A sweet flow of excitement
Warms me.
You are near.

    ...and this one:

Beyond this arid pit is life, lived
incognito. Dreams resist
our beckoning. Just coax the one
that's closest: I can see
my wife. A rose
corsage adorns her wrist; her iris
catches the voyeur sun.

I see her neckline, hem and slit
unfurl then gather like geese
in flight. At dusk we dance and turn
to tell the termagant wind
to end its fit. Two shadows
move at the speed of night
along the shadeless halls
of hell.

    ...are close in quality, let me suggest that the only inspiration you should seek is that which leads to assimilation of the basics of versification.  Understanding them can, itself, help you avoid dry spells.

     How so?  The curgination and enjambment in the latter poem might inspire variations on these themes among observant poets but, of course, only if they know what curginas and enjambments are.


  1. 12 Things Poets Get Backwards - Part I

  2. 12 Things Poets Get Backwards - Part II

  3. 12 Things Poets Get Backwards - Part III

  4. 12 Things Poets Get Backwards - Part IV

  5. 12 Things Poets Get Backwards - Part V

  6. 12 Things Poets Get Backwards - Part VI

  7. 12 Things Poets Get Backwards - Part VII

  8. 12 Things Poets Get Backwards - Part VIII

  9. 12 Things Poets Get Backwards - Part IX

  10. 12 Things Poets Get Backwards - Part X

  11. 12 Things Poets Get Backwards - Part XI

  12. 12 Things Poets Get Backwards - Part XII

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Earl Gray, Esquirrel

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