Friday, January 11, 2008

entering poetry competitions

so you deicde to compete. One way to get recognition and practice standing up in front of a group reading your work, and occasionally to earn some decent money, is the poetry competition. Poet's Market lists many. The Internet is another resource.
My single most important piece of advice is to Follow the Submission Rules. Read the description carefully before you jot down anything to submit. Many of these contests will summarily disqualify anybody who does not take the time (show the respect) to read everything the organization has to say about their contest. Remeber, they are earning their money through entry fees and getting exposure for their contest sponsor so the application committees take this very seriously. If you included a sase it may come back to you without your ever having been considered...simply because you did not enclose the correct fee or did not double space, did not check your line limit, etc.
Check the demographic. If you are new to the competition world, perhaps it is not a good idea to put yourself in a contest where you go up against all the poets under the age of 32 in the United States....whereas, for example, if you live in NY state and are 40, there is a contest for NY state residents over the age of 40. This reduces the number of people you have to compete against, thus some folks would say improves your odds. You vs. 300 others rather than you vs. 1000 others.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

helpful hints for beginning poets

so you want to write poetry. Don't worry about being the next poet laureate. Just follow these few helpful hints.
What is a poem? a poem is often a combination of an emotion and an image that seem paradoxical. Here is an example. A friend of mine recently lost her mother to a long battle with Alzheimers disease. This was her first Christmas without her mom. Her husband's relatives came unexpectedly to stay and so my friend decided to decorate her house. While she was searching for packed-away Christmas decorations, she found a box of glass ornaments that had belonged to her mother back when my friend was a child. She was thrilled to find them. And saddened not to be able to sit down with her mom and say "Oh look at these! Remember them?" Instead, she hung one each in all the thresholds of the rooms of her house as she had seen her mom do long ago. The poem lies in the contrast between her joy in finding and hanging these beautiful ornaments that are each a memory of her mother and her mother's absence. Feeling grief and the image of each delicate shining ornament.
It is important to write from the gut not the head. Not to "think about " writing poetry. I sometimes recommend closing your eyes as the pen or keyboard reveals the words. You can always look at it later. Tinker with details after.
Don't end a poem all tied up nicely like a perfect predictable bow. A reader's mind likes surprise and respect. For example in keeping with my illustration of my friend's mother, suppose she paints us a wonderful word picture of her mother hanging these ornaments-- good memories as a child, and then surprises us with feeling angry because why did her mother leave her? with "what good are these glass things? when I can't ask my mom what to do about a life situation any more".."when I can touch the glass but not hug my mother." Another possible image she could use would beif she dropped an ornament and the sound and sight of the broken shards..and feelings evoked...

Friday, January 4, 2008

writing thoughts on erotica for January 4 '08

i think that sometimes words like "fuck" do work for the lust of the moment. After all even the most respectable well-brought up people occasionally want to f-k like dogs in the ditch.
I feel however as with the first novel I ever read of Tabitha King's that an author is making excuses for him or herself if I have to be shocked by curse word usage in erotic scenes in the very beginning of the book or story. I should find the story captivating enough to stay and read..not be talked down to like a rowdy adolescent. The writing itself must be lure enough to engage me. All the curse words or sexual terms in the world are not going to hide bad writing.
There are also such a limited number of those words and each is more or less 4 letters..while out there are a billion ways to describe touching a lover's breast..seems a shame to limit possibility. Certain words and terms are so overused that they lose any power they might've ever had originally.