Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Postage and the line

So it looks like the price of stamps is going up in January but the exact date hasn't been announced yet. If I send out poems now, chances are pretty good I won't hear anything back until at least January. What would y'all do (or what do y'all plan to do) -- just go ahead and put the new postage amount on the SASE and then if it happens not to go up you've just wasted a couple of cents? Put the current amount on the SASE and then if it does go up your SASE comes back to you postage-due? Or just only send to places that take submissions via email for a while?

It's the little things.

Tomorrow after work I have my first "tutoring session" with my friend who wants to get herself back to poetry. I've decided that the first thing we need to look at and talk about is the line. Not the line break, but the line itself (a perspective that, once I found it, really changed how I thought about my own work). I want to bring in a few examples of poems that use lines well -- one with short lines, one with long lines, and maybe one that uses medium-ish lines but uses them particularly well. I wish I'd thought of asking for examples here earlier -- it's now 10:30 pm and I have to get everything put together before I go to bed, since I work until 5 and we're meeting at 6. Fooey. I'm thinking maybe "The Red Wheelbarrow" for short lines, pull out something by D.A. Powell for long lines, and in a couple minutes I'll go dig through my books and find something else to bring in. Maybe a sonnet, hmmmm. We'll probably do a little on-the-spot writing exercise too -- maybe I can dig up one that's somehow related to thinking about the line.

My other plan is to get her to broaden her reading a bit, ease her into reading a wider range of contemporary stuff. I'm going to loan her a book every time we meet (we're meeting every other week) -- I think I'll start her off with Ilya Kaminsky. I have yet to find anyone who's read Dancing in Odessa and not liked it, and it should give us plenty to talk about next time. Plus I can direct her to the audio files of him reading a few of the poems over at From the Fishouse and that's always fun.

Tell you what -- if anyone has suggestions for poems that make excellent use of lines/line breaks and are available online, pass them on to me and maybe I'll get a chance to print them out at work tomorrow. I'll take other suggestions too, available online or not, but if I can't grab them online I probably won't be able to use them in tomorrow's session. But we can probably continue talking about the line a little bit into the next session too.

Next time I think we may talk about prescribed forms -- I'll find a few examples of the sonnet, the sestina, the villanelle, the ghazal, and a couple of others, and make her write a couple of those just for grins. Because everyone should be forced to write a horrible sonnet at least once in their lives. I'm also going to swipe something Cathy Bowman did in the class I took from her a couple of years ago -- she talked about how poems move across & down the page, which led to talking about short vs. long lines and short vs. long poems. (And which led to the assignment of "write a short poem" -- for which I wrote my poem "Door" that has become the little poem that could.) I might start into that tomorrow, depending on how the time goes. Man, I feel woefully unprepared for tomorrow's session.

But I'm sure it will be fun.


Erin B. said...

Try Katie Ford's 'Colloseum'.

(bare with me on the link here, did it work?)

From one tutor to another, half the job is winging it. Well, that's half of life, isn't it.

You'll do great, kid.

Yes, you're older than me & I called you 'kid'.

David Vincenti said...

Greater exposure, work up from the basic building blocks of poetry to more complex forms... you sure seem well prepared to me.

I think Gerald Stern's rambly poems make for interesting discussion about lines. I don't always understand his breaks, but his it's interesting to think about.

Lyle Daggett said...

Didn't find this post until this evening (Thursday) so I guess it will be after you've met and tutored. But in general, for what it's worth --

A couple of poets I especially like for how they use lines are James Wright (in particular in his book The Branch Will Not Break) and Olga Broumas in her book Beginning With O. (In her later books she goes off in other directions.) Gwendolyn Brooks is good with lines too.

I'm not hugely partial to poems in regulated forms, and have never been forced to write a sonnet, good bad or medium -- proof that the gods protect me ;) -- however a poet I like very much who sometimes uses standard forms in unusual and flexible ways is Thomas McGrath. (McGrath is also a good one for exploring the range of possible language in a poem, among other things.)

jenni said...

You sound prepared to me! Hope you had fun. The tutoring things sounds cool. A whole class sounds like hell, but a tutor sounds fun.

early hours of sky said...

I am curious in what line format she generally writes in, I have a friend who writes in couplets and I tend to write almost in a paragraph then do line breaks after my first draft, very rarely do I break it up on that first go around. I find it all very interesting, how we write. I might ask this as a question on my blog but right now I am in the middle of pirate jokes. A girl needs to have her priorities;)

Anne said...

Thanks for the thoughts & suggestions, all!

Erin - the link worked fine; interesting poem. I didn't bring it in as I didn't feel I knew it well enough yet to talk about it, but maybe I'll spend some more time with it & bring it in later.

David - mmm, I haven't read Stern in ages, sounds like a good excuse to go back and read him again.

Lyle - I'll definitely bring in some Broumas; I adore that book of hers and I think my "student" (hah! that sounds weird to me) would like it too. I haven't read much McGrath -- he sounds like someone I should check out though.

Jenni - it actually was fun. Don't know if it would be as much fun with someone who wasn't already a friend, but I had a good time & hopefully she did too. :)

T - she generally just uses your basic free-verse "blat it out on the page with line breaks" format, so far. Which is a perfectly good place to start but I want to get her to start being a little more aware of the formal choices she makes as she revises. Me, I usually start out in lines, although the poem I currently like best is one I first-drafted as prose/paragraph, so maybe I should try that more often.

It *is* interesting, how we write. I'm fascinated by process and am realizing ("duh," says everyone who's ever taught before) that "teaching" like this gives me a good reason to think about it more and explore it in different ways. Cool stuff.

Steven D. Schroeder said...

The postage thing stinks. I'm going to waste the extra two cents on my submissions going forward.