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Author Topic: To Write or Not to Write Poetry
Crystal Stevens
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Some time back I started writing poems for fun and posting them on my favorite horse forum. They all involve my experiences with horses, have been fun to do, and are well liked by my horse friends. A fellow horse enthusiast friend of mine, who just happens to be a good cowboy poet, put me on to www.cowboypoetry.com . I looked the site over and submitted what I considered my best poem to date. It was accepted and published on the site.

I thought, "Gee, this is easy and fun to do." So far I've written 7 or 8 poems and picked another one to submit. It bombed. First, they said it didn't fit their criteria that covers modern day cowboys, ranching, and rural life. Then they pointed out I had too many words that didn't rhyme and the meter varied too much when counting the syllables in each line.

I went back and checked my published poem. It, too, had some "close-rhymes" and not all the lines fit a perfect meter. Now I'm wondering if it barely passed for publication?

I enjoy writing my poems but really don't have time for editing them with a fine toothed comb. I'd like to see more published on this site, but now wonder if it's worth my time, since my main focus is on writing stories. Poetry writing is what I consider a sideline. Maybe I ought to go back over some of my poems and see if I can make them better? <<sigh>> I really don't know.

[This message has been edited by Crystal Stevens (edited January 20, 2011).]


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MAP
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Crystal,

If you like writing poetry, then write it.

And don't think because you got one rejection (or 100 for that matter) that you are not good at it.

My personal belief about poetry is that it is far more subjective than prose. It either hits an emotional cord with the reader or it doesn't, and just because it failed to with one editor doesn't mean it won't with another.

Keep writing it if you enjoy it, it will only make you a better writer.


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Kathleen Dalton Woodbury
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Amen to what MAP said about writing poetry helping to make you a better writer. Poetry requires very careful word choice, among other things, and learning how to do it well can only help with your prose.
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tchernabyelo
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There's no such thing as "barely passed" for publiciation. Work is either accepted or rejected.

I note you yourself said that the one you submitted first was your best.

It's possible to learn a lot from writing poetry, as noted above. However it is even harder to make money from poetry than from prose, so from that perspective you should do it if you truly enjoy it, and avoid it like the proverbial plague if you don't.


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Wordcaster
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I've picked up commentaries on ts eliot, yeats, and the like in an effort to better understand poetry and its construction and my appreciation for it. I've tried to write some myself and I have learned I do not have the gift.

It sounds like you have a passion and some abilities for writing poetry, which I suspect is rare. If you enjoy it, embrace it!


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LDWriter2
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I'm another one that agrees with MAP. I say go for it. I have written a couple of poems. I seriously considered sending one in but never did. And I hope to write some more. It goes with what title I will give myself if I ever sell another story and get business cards.

But you should go for it. You may not have time to fine turn them right now but if you get inspired go for it anyway. You're get even better.


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Reziac
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Crystal, where's your work on Cowboy Poetry? Couldn't find it. That's a great site with some terrific talent; congrats on being accepted there!

Larry Maurice (who has been awarded "Cowboy Poet of the Year") and Dave Stamey (multi-awarded himself -- http://www.davestamey.com/biography.html !!) give free concerts here occasionally, and ... it's not just the words, it's the delivery that makes it cowboy poetry and not something else. How it's written has to generate that delivery or it won't work for that market. Kinda like writing SF that sounds like romance to the ear isn't going to sell to Asimov's.

When I was in school, English class meant mostly studying (ie. thoroughly deconstructing) poetry. We all learned the subject in great detail, like it or not. And that was a good thing, I think -- studying prosody (the makeup of poetry -- beat, rhythm, flow) gives you an enhanced appreciation for wordfeel that is useful in writing prose as well. To pull the relevant bit from Wikipedia,

quote:
In linguistics, prosody is the rhythm, stress, and intonation of speech. Prosody may reflect various features of the speaker or the utterance: the emotional state of a speaker; whether an utterance is a statement, a question, or a command; whether the speaker is being ironic or sarcastic; emphasis, contrast, and focus; or other elements of language that may not be encoded by grammar or choice of vocabulary.

You can immediately see how what's applicable to poetry is also useful in dialog, in setting tone and mood, etc. without having to describe (tell) that tone and mood.

(I've written poetry too, and had a few pieces published, decades ago.)


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Robert Nowall
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I may have said this before, but I found, when I went through my own poetry period, I found I was more careful of the choice of words I made in my prose work. Writing poetry improved my writing in general.

*****

quote:
There's no such thing as "barely passed" for publiciation.

I wouldn't say that as an absolute. There's "we've gotta have something to fill these blank pages, and this thing here is the least awful thing to come in this week." The writer might never know about it, but the editors certainly will...


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Crystal Stevens
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Reziac; Not many know that Crystal Stevens isn't my real name. I thought about using it as a pen name and then never did. Crystal Stevens was my alter ego when I was a kid playing make-believe with my brothers and friends. My real name is Ginger Karns, and you can find "The Bluff" listed under that name.

I want to thank you, and everyone else, for the encouraging words to keep going for it. I actually thought my rejection was the better poem that I call "Second Thoughts" and is about when I sold my first horse and then discovered I never should've done it. I ended up buying her back and keeping her the rest of her days. "The Bluff" is about this very same horse and how she fooled me big time one hot summer day.

I'm going back over a poem now that I call "Wintertime Romp". It's about me chasing a heifer (young female cow) all over a frozen snow-covered field while riding bareback on the best cowpony I ever swung a leg over. It's lengthy but should fit the criteria. I'm tweaking it to make the meter fit better and checking my rhyming words. So far my rhymes are fine. We'll see.

I will admit that the rejection hit me harder than I thought it would. I'm learning when it comes to things like that, and, if anything else, maybe this will help me endure my rejections when I actually start submitting my stories .


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tchernabyelo
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Robert - that's entirely possible, but I'm not sure it matters.

Stories are either accepted or not accepted; one can't be "more accepted" than another. Yes, editors may well feel one piece is better than another (just as writers do), and no doubt readers too have their preferences, and everyone's will be different. But I don't offhand know of any market that published stories and tells its writers or readers "we loved this piece and think it's fantastic! But this other one we just bought to fill up the pages!".

Trying to second-guess whether something was "barely" accepted or not is counter-productive.


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Robert Nowall
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quote:
...we loved this piece and think it's fantastic! But this other one we just bought to fill up the pages!...

Reminds me of why Lincoln didn't replace his generals more often. "You say anybody will do. I cannot have anybody. I must have somebody." (Quoted from memory, subject to possible correction.) I cannot help but see that some of the stuff I see published is just there to fill up pages that would otherwise be blank.


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Reziac
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Aha! Unmasked at last Here y'all go:
http://www.cowboypoetry.com/gingerkarns.htm#Bluff

I can easily hear this one in Larry Maurice's voice and cadence, which tells me it has that "somethin' cowboy" -- the little 'imperfections' of rhyme and meter are actually part of that cadence, the feel of being recited around the campfire (rather than at the podium) -- mind you irregular doesn't mean haphazard or broken; in this case, more the feel of the mare plodding down the trail. -- Plus it made me smile and then laugh. And laugh a second time when I reread the end. Those little gotchas at the end are a hallmark of cowboy poetry.

The site has a collection of articles that might be useful to other writers too -- look about 2/3rds down on
http://www.cowboypoetry.com/submissions.htm

I note especially
http://www.cowboypoetry.com/dontsayit.htm
This goes right along with 'show, don't tell' -- trusting your readers to fill in all those little spaces where you didn't say something.

And here's one that goes along with my rant over yonder about "Keeping your voice" -- ie. not filing all the unique edges off your work:
http://www.cowboypoetry.com/finelines.htm

[This message has been edited by Reziac (edited January 16, 2011).]


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Pyre Dynasty
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Different editors care about different things, you might have one who doesn't even notice meter and cares only about content, or you might have one who doesn't care what the words are as long as they fit pristinely into a certain standard.

Write your poetry, if you think it needs work, work on it, learn what you want to know about the kind of poetry you want to write, and send it out, again and again.


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JamieFord
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I love poetry. I'm terrible at writing it but absolutely adore it. If it's in you to write poetry--do it. And I especially love the spoken word variety. Check out Taylor Mali and Anis Mojgani on YouTube...they...are...amazing.
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Reziac
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tchernabyelo says
quote:
But I don't offhand know of any market that published stories and tells its writers or readers "we loved this piece and think it's fantastic! But this other one we just bought to fill up the pages!".

Actually, I was just reading an anthology editor's blog a couple weeks ago where they talked about the selection process, and how sometimes it boils down to picking that second or third choice that just happens to fit the space available, or the issue theme, or the budget, or doesn't too nearly duplicate the lead story or something else too-recently published. And then there's chasing down the story you had declined but now find you need cuz something else got changed and the available space is now different, or a last-minute rewrite changed a wordcount and now you've got budget either needing to be cut or going to waste. Not that any of this gets an outright reject pubbed, but rather that it can make or break whether a given story is accepted *at this time*. So that something might get "barely accepted" -- well, apparently it happens.


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LDWriter2
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quote:

tchernabyelo says
[quote]
But I don't offhand know of any market that published stories and tells its writers or readers "we loved this piece and think it's fantastic! But this other one we just bought to fill up the pages!".


Actually, I was just reading an anthology editor's blog a couple weeks ago where they talked about the selection process, and how sometimes it boils down to picking that second or third choice that just happens to fit the space available, or the issue theme, or the budget, or doesn't too nearly duplicate the lead story or something else too-recently published
[/quote]

I have heard of that happening also. I add and that is one reason why an editor buys a story but doesn't use it for a year or more.

This isn't quite that but one of my stories made it to the last pick, and I was told it was finally rejected because they liked the other stories better. That was one of the smaller online markets.


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Crystal Stevens
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I went back to www.cowboypoetry.com and read a bunch of those essays on poetry writing. It's not near as easy to write as I thought. Just like prose, it takes some polishing before it's done right.

I decided to leave "Second Thoughts" alone for right now and did some editing to "Wintertime Romp" instead. Quite a few lines were off meter by one sylable (I hope I spelled that right.), and I had to rewrite the line and still get my point across. I also had several slant rhymes and near rhymes that had to be changed. WR is a lengthy poem. It took 3 days (4 or 5 hours) to edit everything. Then I read the whole thing out loud. What a difference! And all for the better.

Then, for a comparison I read my latest poem I'd written over the Christmas holiday weekend. At the time, I thought it perfect. But now that I've learned to tighten my meter and make my rhymes actually rhyme, this newest poem sounds terrible to my newly educated ears. Reminds me of how my earlier writing projects read poorly too when compared to how I write prose now.

I'll be submitting "Wintertime Romp" in the next day or two. But in the meantime, I gotta get back to editing my next WotF entry. I'd like to submit it for Q2 if possible. Just wish I had more time to write and get everything else done around here too .


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Smiley
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Tell me about it. We just moved in to a house that needs so much work that I can't seem to finish one thing without my wife finding something else that broke down or needs replacing. And now my Mother-in-law is coming for a three week visit at the end of the month. AAAAHHH!!!!!! When will it all end?

But I did read your poem and it made me miss my horse riding days in Oklahoma. You are so blessed to still be able to ride. Keep up the great poetry.


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