Me, Myself & I; or on Using First Person in Lyric Poetry & Novel Writing

Girls in the Grass Arranging a Bouquet (Fillette couchée sur l'herbe et jeune fille arrangeant un bouquet)

  • In response to an interview question “Is there a poem you are a little embarrassed to like?” Kathleen Flenniken, formerly Poet Laureate of Washington State, said:

“Not so much a particular poem, but I feel defensive about one genre of poems that still speaks to me—the first person lyric grounded in everyday experience. It’s unfashionable, but it’s what brought me to writing.”

Poet Judy Kronenfeld knows the feeling,

“I admit to a similar impulse, at times, to the instinctive or deliberate use of “you,” “she,” “they,” or even “we,” as opposed to “I,” or the avoidance of pronouns altogether. I also admit to related impulses such as connecting the personal to history and politics, or writing by means of the portrayal of objects, without persons at all—which can make a poem feel, well, more “objective.” These impulses stem—at least in part—from an unease similar to the one that seems to lie behind Kathleen Flenniken’s statement.”

“…when a gatekeeper encounters a first-person manuscript, it goes without saying that a little red light goes on (from his/her past experiences) that chances are pretty good this mss came from a… less seasoned writer. And, it’s just a fact of life and the business of writing that the newer the writer, the less likely the mss will be of publishable quality.”

However, the good news is that

“If it’s a book that should have been written in first rather than third, and it’s written well and is of publishable quality, no problem. Any good editor or agent will be able to tell within a couple of pages if it’s written well or not, no matter what POV stance the author has elected.”

  • Do you use first person in your writing? Do you opt for third person because of the notion that it makes your writing “more objective”? Are you fond of reading/writing lyric poetry “grounded in everyday experience”?

Share in the comments. And if you’ve enjoyed the post, press “like” and “share” buttons — thank you.

Image: Pierre-Auguste Renoir. Girls in the Grass Arranging a Bouquet (Fillette couchée sur l’herbe et jeune fille arrangeant un bouquet), c. 1890. Oil on canvas, Overall: 12 13/16 x 16 9/16 in. (32.5 x 42 cm). BF155. Public Domain.

 

The “Catcher Cult”, or the Ambiguity of a Familiar Quote

Children Playing Ball (Enfants jouant à la balle)

“Anyway, I keep picturing all these little kids playing some game in this big field of rye and all. Thousands of little kids, and nobody’s around – nobody big, I mean – except me. And I’m standing on the edge of some crazy cliff. What I have to do, I have to catch everybody if they start to go over the cliff – I mean if they’re running and they don’t look where they’re going I have to come out from somewhere and catch them. That’s all I do all day. I’d just be the catcher in the rye and all. I know it’s crazy, but that’s the only thing I’d really like to be.”
― J.D. Salinger, The Catcher in the Rye

These great lines pull you in, and you cannot help thinking: Holden really knows something, maybe even the meaning of it all, and yes, wouldn’t it be nice to be like him, to be the catcher in the rye?

Perhaps, we already are like Holden, even if we don’t fully realize it.

“Brad Gooch, the author of Flannery: A Life of Flannery O’Connor, argues that O’Connor’s issue with Holden Caulfield is “the naiveté of his savior complex.” … Holden is at the center of his own world, and everything revolves around him. … Under the edgy surface of his coolness, Holden is a selfish boy who can’t see himself as he really is.”

So, what is the iconic quote from “The Catcher” about?

  • A selfless desire to serve others?
  • Man’s selfish refusal to acknowledge his own brokenness?
  • The dangers of human beings positioning themselves as saviors?

All of the above?

What does Salinger say to you?

Share in the comments. And if you’ve enjoyed the post, do press “like” and “share” buttons — thank you.

 

Image: Pierre-Auguste Renoir. Children Playing Ball (Enfants jouant à la balle), c. 1900. Lithograph in color on laid paper, Overall: 28 7/8 x 24 in. (73.3 x 60.9 cm)Image: 23 5/8 x 20 1/16 in. (60 x 51 cm). BF493. Public Domain.

 

Does “Write What You Want to Read” Equal “Never Get Published”?

Cup of Chocolate (La Tasse de chocolat)

  • We’ve heard “Write what you know.” We’ve also heard: “Write what you want to read.” Whichever path you follow, the idea is that it will (may, might) lead you to publication. So, it’s publishing advice. Or is it?

“We need books we can sell, not just books we love.” — Janet Reid, NYC literary agent

  • Is it worth it to write something “not you” but sellable?

Sometimes it may be a long but successful road to publishing “the book of your heart.” Here’s what Janet Reid says about Jeff Somers and his book CHUM:

“What Jeff did was smart: he kept writing. He got published. He waited for his agent to get the book into the right hands, at the right time.”

  • You might choose to write “domestic suspense” (or whatever is the go-to category at the moment) for the sake of (some distant day) publishing your “not high-concept enough” novel. But will you have peace along the way?

“I always figured the ‘write what you want to read’ isn’t publishing advice, it was writing advice. Getting published would be a dream, but that’s not the reason I write. I write because I want to tell a story — a story that, yes, is one I would want to read,” says Bethany Elizabeth, technical writer/editor, blogger

What say you? Share in the comments.

If you enjoyed the post, press “like” and “share” buttons — thank you.

Image: Pierre-Auguste Renoir. Cup of Chocolate (La Tasse de chocolat), c. 1914. Oil on canvas, Overall: 22 15/16 x 19 7/16 in. (58.3 x 49.4 cm). BF40. Public Domain.

 

Poetry Business: Free Poetic Challenges & the Hidden Value of Comments

Autumn Landscape (Paysage d'automne)

In the Mind’s Eye

Sometimes we see
Things that will be —
A memory
Of tomorrow

Sometimes we find
It warm and kind
Sometimes our mind
Fills with sorrow

So some sweet day
In June or May
Bathed in sunrays
We remember

How you and I
Share burnt good-byes
Beneath the skies
Of November

Sasha A. Palmer

  • The above poem’s written in response to WD rhupunt challenge. There’s still time to enter: Deadline 11:59 p.m. (Atlanta, GA time) on February 28, 2018. WD Poetic Form challenges are free, and the winning poems (sometimes including a runner-up or two) are featured in Writer’s Digest magazine as part of the Poetic Asides column.

It often pays off to read comments to posts. Thinking of submitting your poetry to journals? Not crazy about submission fees? Check out this list of “younger, hungrier” journals provided by Joe Cottonwood in a comment thread on The Passive Voice site:

  • “Allegro, Ink Sweat & Tears, Literary Nest, MOON magazine, Nature Writing, Peacock Journal, Plum Tree Tavern, Poetry Breakfast, Rat’s A** Review, Red Eft Review, Roanoke Review, Snapdragon, Third Wednesday, Verse Virtual, San Pedro River Review, Pure Slush, Freshwater, Stoneboat, Muddy River Poetry Review, Red River Review, Gyroscope, Uppagus, Halfway Down the Stairs, Forage, Potomac Review, Slipstream, Picaroon… All these journals require no submission fee; all have some excellent undiscovered poets (and a few clunkers, but then so does the New Yorker).”

Got a name or two to add to this list? Share in the comments.

Happy writing, submitting, and getting published.

If you enjoyed this post, do press “like” and “share” buttons — thank you.

Image: Pierre-Auguste Renoir. Autumn Landscape (Paysage d’automne), c. 1884. Oil on canvas (later mounted to fiberboard), Painting: 25 9/16 x 21 1/4 in. (65 x 54 cm) Overall (with secondary support): 26 1/4 x 22 3/8 in. (66.7 x 56.8 cm). BF933. Public Domain.

“Curious Wonder” vs. “Critical Judgement”, or Ways to Read Poetry

Reading (La Lecture)

  • Emily Dickinson is nobody’s business but my own. I will not share her with anyone. I would no more tell you about my relationship with her poems than I would tell you about a love affair. If she is yours, I hope you feel the same way.” —  from Mary Ruefle’s essay “My Emily Dickinson” quoted in The Paris Review
  • “Some are surprised that the rigorous analytical approach PG learned to apply to poetry has served him quite well in analyzing contracts and other legal documents.” — from the Passive Guy’s post on The Passive Voice blog

How do you read poetry? Do you as a reader note, for instance, prosody — the patterns of rhythm and sound? In your opinion, should poetry be analyzed? Simply enjoyed? Both? Do share in the comments.

  • Just one more thing (as Columbo would say): head over to Indies Unlimited to vote for your favorite flash fiction entry (will it be mine?). Hurry: the voting closes at 5 pm Pacific time today. Thank you.
  • For some strange technical reason when I post the link to the voting page, it doesn’t open properly: it shows the results, and doesn’t give you an option to vote. So, if you really really want to vote for your favorite entry, please go to Indies Unlimited, open the post ‘Which “Ocean of Sand” Flash Fiction Story Gets Your Vote?’, and vote from there. This should work. Thank you.

And if you enjoyed this post, press those “like” and “share” buttons. Thank you again.

Image credit: Pierre-Auguste Renoir. Reading (La Lecture), c. 1891. Oil on canvas, Overall: 18 1/8 x 22 1/16 in. (46 x 56 cm). BF107. Public Domain.

 

To Pay, or Not To Pay; or the Pros & Cons of Submission Fees in Poetry (& Other Kinds of) Publishing

Child Reading (Enfant lisant)

What’s your take on submission fees? Do you keep track of what you spend on submissions? Are you planning to pay-to-play in 2018? Share in the comments.

In case you’re leaning toward fee-free options, Erica Verrillo regularly posts lists of free contests, as well as lists of paying markets, for all genres.

Image credit: Pierre-Auguste Renoir. Child Reading (Enfant lisant), early 1890s. Oil on canvas, Overall: 12 13/16 x 16 1/4 in. (32.6 x 41.3 cm). BF51. Public Domain.

On Author Bios, Writers of the Future, & 30 Poetry Prompts

Writing Lesson (La Leçon d'écriture)

To include, or not to include in the bio: that is the question. Find your answer in this post from Robert Lee Brewer, revisit Anne R. Allen’s post on author bios, and write a bio that will help you, and do justice to you, and your work.

Attention, new/amateur writers of sci-fi/fantasy short stories/novelettes. Ron Hubbard’s Writers & Illustrators of the Future is holding a Free Writer Contest with big prizes. Submit your work now. Deadline December 31, 2017. Don’t miss out.

Missed WD November Poem-A-Day (PAD) Chapbook Challenge? Robert Lee Brewer has collected all of his prompts for this year’s November PAD. Write your chapbook now.

 

Image: Pierre-Auguste Renoir. Writing Lesson (La Leçon d’écriture), c. 1905. Oil on canvas, Overall: 21 7/16 x 25 13/16 in. (54.5 x 65.5 cm). BF150. Public Domain.

On Poem Sequences , Poetic Xenia, & “Laughter & Smile”

 

Girl with Pink Bonnet (Jeune fille au chapeau rose)

Attention, poets! Have you written, and published, poems that form a sequence when brought together? You might be eligible for the $20,000 Four Quartets Prize. No entry fee. Deadline: December 22, 2017. Submit.

“…poetry is and has been, from its beginnings, not about being cool or mysterious or sad or “deep,” but about the health of the human spirit, which cannot be healthy without xenia (hospitality), cannot be healthy when it denies the inner life, or the outer life, cannot be healthy when it denies the past, or the present, or the future, when it denies life, or death, the visible, or the invisible. The healthy soul, like the gracious host, must welcome every stranger.” — Read Ryan Wilson’s “How To Think Like a Poet”

A free monthly photo contest from childphotocompetition.com. This month’s theme is “Laughter & Smile” — submit your black and white, and color photos, and win!

 

Image: Pierre-Auguste Renoir. Girl with Pink Bonnet (Jeune fille au chapeau rose), 1894. Oil on canvas, Overall: 16 5/16 x 13 in. (41.5 x 33 cm). BF118. Public Domain.