Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Remembering Softly: a life in poems

In this age of slung mud and cynicism, what a joy to receive the refreshing book, Remembering Softly: a life in poems by Catherine Lawton, published by Cladach Publishing, who kindly sent me a copy for review.

The back of the softly colorful cover let me know that Catherine and I began writing poetry about the same age, which makes me suspect she also loves the play of sounds and words. More important, her poetry comes from the spirit with a heart for life and the Divine.

As her opening quote from Romans 12:1 suggests, she writes “With eyes wide open to the mercies of God.” Then, in the Introduction, the poet gives a glimpse of her writing process, which I recognize and highly recommend. She says:

“Admittedly, I am not a disciplined poet. I can compose meter and rhyme on demand; but mostly I wait for that elusive and mysterious inspiration. The important thing is to capture on paper the phrases, images, and insights as they come; to sit with them, savor them, polish them like agates; and if they pass the test of holding together and ringing true, to share them.”

…which reminds me to say that a major aspect of writing poetry is being hospitable! i.e., As a line, image, or musical phrase comes, the immediate task is to give that opening full attention. Then the rest of the poem will often follow.

That sense of hospitality and keen awareness of the present moment develops in reverse order, chronologically, as the book begins with current times and goes back to earlier poems. Even then, an appreciation of life apparently began in childhood as the last poem in the book nicely demonstrates.

In “It’s a Beautiful Day,” the child-poet wrote:

"The robins sing.
And the roosters crow.
The rising sun warms
The valley below.

With the same time of day and observant eye but greater complexity, the poet begins the book with “In the Cleft of a Cold, White Rock,” written earlier this year:

“As in the close space
between dawn and dusk
of a January day when
hoar-frosted trees
have their feet in snow
and their branches
raised against a white,
weighty sky, a crevice
of blue breaks and
frosted arms sparkle;
I find myself pressed between granite slabs….”

The press between the visual and the spiritual continues in “Snow on Good Friday” where flakes fall “like manna fallen from Heaven” while, in “God’s Anvil”…

“the church
to purity

Oh, what a blessing that would be!

The hopes and prayers of a life given to love come through strongly in this book, but fresh scenes also draw us back to the visual. In “Autumn Walk Along the Poudre River,” for example:

“I see kingfisher, yellow-legs, bright magpie;
hear squirrels chatter, red-tails scream,
and splashing fish in sparkling stream.”

Besides noting designs in nature, the poet included the light and lively artwork of her granddaughters Isabelle Lawton and Breanna Slike, bringing yet another lovely touch to this book.

Review by Mary Harwell Sayler, poet-writer reviewer, © 2016

Remembering Softly: a life in poems, paperback

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Micropoetry by Mary Sayler - The Micropoets Society

If you write haiku, senryu, aahcoo, or other minipoems, is a fun place to post your micropoetry in one place, and it's free. My page will show you what I mean.

Micropoetry by Mary Sayler - The Micropoets Society

Saturday, August 27, 2016

A poem is a poem is a poem

What is a poem? Answers will vary, depending on whom you ask, but basically, a poem is a poem because the poet calls it a poem or because someone recognizes some sort of poetic quality in it.

Occasionally poets have called scrambled lines or incoherent phrases a poem without fear of having their poetic license revoked. However, if you want your poems to be appealing to you and other readers too, think of the characteristics that long-cherished poems often have in common:

EMOTION-APPEAL – Stirring poems address a topic or situation you care about – one with which most people can identify. In other words, your subject matter matters – not only to you but others as well.

MIND-APPEAL – A memorable poem clarifies a concept, often using a comparison to bring an abstract subject into clearer view or sharper focus. You make the unknown better known – to yourself and to your readers.

EAR-APPEAL – A well-tuned poem composes syllables and word plays to sound and resound with echoes and rhythmic beat. As maestro, you set the pace and call the tune to which many others sway.

EYE-APPEAL – A well-formed poem uses words, punctuates thoughts, and breaks lines to clarify a picture or to spotlight something you want to stress. With fine-tipped artistry, you show precisely what you intend to communicate or reveal.

SPIRIT-APPEAL – A lasting poem speaks truths that ring true and stay true. Your reception of love, justice, empathy, and forgiveness provide real wisdom and unbiased truths for you to compare, contrast, or re-present.

Memorable poems have timeless connections to the spiritual, emotional, mental, and physical natures people experience themselves or encounter in others. Such lines, drawn from common interests and concerns, bring fresh insights or conclusions you easily could have missed without the poem to coax you toward a longer, deeper, closer look.

• Poems are meant to be seen. They're meant to create mental pictures and re-create physical scenes.

• Poems are meant to be heard. They're meant to be read aloud – in public or in private.

• Poems are meant to be felt – to have a strong impact on emotions, mind, senses, and spirit.

Unfortunately, some feelings erupt from misunderstandings. Some sounds merely make noise. Some sights are not worth seeing. However, when you have a single theme and a clear purpose in mind as you edit or revise, your poem will be more apt to become a cohesive, artistic unit.

by Mary Harwell Sayler, (c)2016, 2012, 2005, 1983 from poetry course now as the Kindle e-book, the Christian Poet's Guide to Writing Poetry

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Haiku and Senryu: A Simple Guide for All

In the book, Haiku and Senryu: A Simple Guide for All, which was kindly sent to me to review, the poet-author-teacher Charlotte Digregorio conversationally discusses these two favored forms as one who avidly reads, writes, and teaches other poets and poetry students. One chapter even addresses “Teaching Haiku and Senryu” with practical suggestions and checklists non-teachers will also welcome.

While most of us might not be leading classes on syllabic verse, this book gives us a deeper appreciation of two minimalistic yet highly expressive and impressive forms. In the first chapter, for example, we learn:

“Haiku are from the heart, and they can touch the reader by evoking any type of emotion, from sadness to happiness. Effective haiku is thoughtful, insightful and intuitive, and it captures the moment.” To do this, “it must be written in the present tense.”

The present helps us to “show, not tell,” thereby engaging the senses as we write, so our readers can experience the moment with some of the wonder we felt or the beauty we noted in as few words as possible.

Traditionally, haiku has three lines with 5/7/5 syllables per line, respectively, which some poets and I still prefer as a unique challenge for combining imagery and musicality. However, many other American poets use a 4/6/4 syllabic count or 3/5/3, which “may yield more lightness and flow to the poem.”

Reading each draft of your poem will help you to hear which you prefer. Also, omitting “words that reveal too much of the meaning,” deleting adjectives, and cutting unnecessary articles such as “the” or “an” may reduce the size of your poem while compressing content.

The same principles work well for senyru too, which focuses on human nature rather than the seasonal elements and natural environments of haiku. Both forms can amuse, but “Senryu should always be light and playful humor – not insulting or offensive. It can even be satirical.” For example:

“Season’s Greetings” …
braggart’s annual letter
fuels the yule log

Charlotte Digregorio

Senryu and haiku rely on strong verbs and nouns with “a reason for each word that is used.” Nothing abstract or redundant works in poems where every character counts. This compression, along with an “understated element, which is typical of senryu and haiku, makes the poem powerful.”

If, though, you prefer more lines to express an insight or retain a fleeting moment, the chapter on “Haiku and Senryu Sequences” offers these tips:

“A haiku or senryu sequence is a series with a certain theme or tone. You can take a theme and look at it from various perspectives. While individual haiku and senryu have no titles, sequences do.”

The poems in a sequence can build on one another or follow “a chronology of moments that you have captured. The poem should, of course, move forward smoothly and effectively through its imagery” as do the examples presented throughout this highly recommended book.

Mary Harwell Sayler, poet, author, reviewer, © 2016

Haiku and Senryu: A Simple Guide for All, paperback

Friday, July 15, 2016

Excellent resources for poets ready to excel

This newly updated list of resources can help you enhance the writing, revising, and submitting of your poems to appropriate poetry journals, anthologies, and e-zines. Once you have placed a number of poems with editors of print or online publications, you'll be better prepared to approach a publisher of poetry chapbooks or books of poems.

American Academy of Poets – Searchable archives on poets and poetry

American Verse Project – A to Z listing of poets with hotlinks to classical poems to read aloud and study

Children’s Poetry – Famous poems and poets of interest to children

Christian Poet's Guide to Writing Poetry - e-book version of poet-friendly home study course on scansion, poetry forms, free verse, terminology, and techniques

Christian Poets and Writers - Group on Facebook with posts relevant to Christians who write in all genres

Christian Writer's Guide - e-book on researching, writing, revising, querying, and submitting all genres of manuscripts to editors of periodicals or book publishing companies in a professional manner

Copyright information – Directly from the U.S. Copyright Office

Duotrope’s Digest – Numerous poetry markets open to your poems

Electronic Poetry Center – Archives of international poets – Archives of classical English poetry and bios of poets

Guide to Grammar & Writing – Interactive articles, definitions, parts of speech, and English grammar guides

Haiku Society of America - Nonprofit membership organization dedicated to excellence in haiku

International Writing Contest – Annual competition for poetry (which I’ve chaired for many years) and all genres of writing

Library of Congress – Poetry page

Nobel Prize in Literature – Prestigious poetry prize

Online Resources for Writers – Articles, hotlinks, and full texts for classical works on writing

Poetry Daily – Featuring a poem, poet, and journal each day

Poetry Editor -Professional feedback for a minimal fee on your poems, chapbook, or book of poetry written in free verse or traditional forms on almost any subject told with clean language and respect

Poetry Foundation - Poems, resources, and Poetry magazine – Resources for poets, terminology about poetry

Poetry Society of America – Articles and awards

Poetry Society of America, Poetry for Children – Links to resources

Poets House – National poetry center and library

Poets & Writers – Archives and articles on all aspects of poetry

Poets & Writers – Classified ads from journals, e-zines, anthologies

Poets & Writers – Grants, Awards, and Contests

Poets & Writers – List of literary publications open to poetry

Poets & Writers – Small book publishers of poetry

Publishers Weekly – Updates on all genres in the publishing industry

Pulitzer Prize – List of previous winners of this highly prestigious award in poetry, which also gives you an immediate list of poets to study

Rhyme Zone – Rhymes, synonyms, and word search

Resources provided by Mary Harwell Sayler, poet, poetry editor, and writer in all genres.


Friday, July 1, 2016

How to write an aahcoo

In the last post, we discussed “Micropoetry and Minipoems,” which led me to look for short forms devoted to devotional poetry. I thought maybe the senyru would do, but the more I studied that syllabic verse form, the more I realized it has its own niche as does haiku. To explain:

. Both haiku and senyru involve three lines with 5/7/5 syllables respectively. That’s assuming, of course, you want to adhere to the traditional haiku form. Both also work well with humor or surprise.

. However, haiku focuses on a seasonal look at nature, and senyru focuses on human nature, typically with a touch of irony.

Since I often see minipoems by members of Christian Poets & Writers on Facebook, I knew that many poets have begun to use the standard haiku structure to focus on God or an inspired look at our spiritual nature. Consequently, it seemed to me that we needed a more pliable syllabic verse or unique short poem form to let readers know what to expect, and so the aahcoo was born.

As explained in my post “What’s New? Aahcoo” the name came from the familiar sound of awe and wonder – aah, whereas the coo came from the sound of a dove, often used to symbolize the Holy Spirit. Put them together, and you have aahcoo, which sounds similar to haiku but never, never the sneeze of achoo!

. Aah + coo = aahcoo, a God-centered poem of a spiritual nature

Writing an aahcoo is simple but has options:

1. You can write an aahcoo with a 5/7/5 syllabic count on three lines, respectively, so aahcoo looks like haiku.

For example:

Wind and water shape
the magnificent mountains.
Air and spirit rise!

by Mary Harwell Sayler, © 2016


2. You can write a praise poem, mini-devotional, psalm, prayer, or spiritual insight in three to seven syllables on three to seven lines.

Why those numbers for a minimum to maximum count? Lord willing, they'll be easy to recall!

Three reminds us of the Trinity.

Seven symbolizes the weekly Sabbath Rest God wants us to have as a minimum.

To give you an example of the longer possibilities to experiment with as you write or revise, this aahcoo maxes out the number of syllables and lines with an optional touch of humor:

Who reads instructions
before priming old walls
to paint or paper? Who reads
rules before assembling
something new? Thank You,
Lord, for giving us Your Word
on living beyond the pew.

by Mary Harwell Sayler, © 2016

If you look over the micropoetry you have written, you might find you were already writing aahcoo instead of haiku as supposed, or perhaps you’ve been writing minipoems that could easily fit the flexible aahcoo form with a little tweaking of the number of syllables.

Regardless, when you post an aahcoo on Twitter, Facebook, or your own blog, be sure to add a hashtag, and your #aahcoo will appear in an Internet search of this new, tailor-made-for-you form.

Saturday, June 25, 2016

What’s new? Aahcoo! | Mary Harwell Sayler

Christian poets have asked for a poetry form devoted exclusively to God, but I couldn’t find one, so I just invented the aahcoo – a versatile syllabic form for your God-centered praise, devotional, or epiphany. May your Christian writing life be filled with #aahcoo!

What’s new? Aahcoo! | Mary Harwell Sayler