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

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Micropoetry and minipoems

Thanks to Twitter and mobile phone users, poets have developed micropoetry as a poetic form with no particular rules except brevity.

To be precise, a micropoem has a maximum of 160 characters to fit a mobile phone, but the more common length maxes out at 140 characters since that’s the limit on Twitter.

Does it matter? Well, yes. Chances are, you might send a micropoem on your cell phone only to a friend, whereas a poem you tweet could potentially be seen by thousands, especially if you use a hashtag such as #micropoem or #micropoetry.

Those hashtags will also help you to find samples of micropoems with countless possibilities for subjects, tone, purpose, or style.

Other examples can be found on my previous post “Micropoetry and More” and also on The Micropoets Society website where you’ll find me under Christianpoet.

While all haiku can be classified as micropoetry, not all micropoems are traditional haiku – nature poems of three lines with a reference to a particular season and syllabic count of 5/ 7/ 5.

Many micropoems have no known form, whereas others might be classified as a traditional English couplet (two lines of metered verse with end-line rhyme) or a quatrain (four metered lines with rhyme.) Sometimes poets simply devise a poem with short lines or a set number of words that stay within the 140-character limit for tweeting.

Similar to and sometimes synonymous with micropoetry, minipoems have become increasingly popular too. These poems might go over the lines drawn by Twitter but, nevertheless, remain concise. For example, nursery rhymes, short psalms, and quatrains with no rhyme or meter might be too long to tweet but still fall into the minipoem or short poem category.

Mini or micro, the idea is to focus on brevity, beauty, and insight as you experiment, invent, or commemorate an event worth taking note and passing along to others.

Mary Harwell Sayler, © 2016

Friday, June 3, 2016

A literary journey of faith and poems

The poems in True, False, None of the Above by Marjorie Maddox take us on a unique journey of reading, writing, and encouraging literature, which the poet-author believes “is not an escape from, but rather a confrontation with reality, a reality that includes the overarching struggles of the soul.”

Anyone who has felt the influence of literature in their formative years and beyond surely appreciates the power of the written word, whether approached as teacher, writer, or reader. We enter worlds unlike our own and people unlike ourselves, who overcome conditions we’ve never experienced, yet we identify with their humanness and expand our way of viewing life from perspectives we most likely would not have seen on our own.

By broadening our experiences and engaging us in thought, literature helps us to develop empathy and understanding of others. If we also happen to be poets or writers, literature enlarges our understanding of what works well in our writings and what does not. As Maddox said in a recent interview, “I am a firm believer that writers first need to read good literature,” which, as an English professor, she certainly has -- as her own work exemplifies.

In her Preface to True, False, None of the Above, which Cascade Books kindly sent me to review, the poet-author tells us, “This is a book on the intersection of words and belief, on what it means to be a poet of faith, on how books mark and mirror our lives, and how sometimes the journey we experience on the page leads us to faith.

For most of us, that’s a slow process of growth. As the opening poem “On Defining Education” describes in its last verse:

Please, feel free to confront.
I’m not talking about who you should be
but are. Let’s start with the essence of seed
and see what sprouts from there.

Some writers might have gone on to sermonize about mustard seeds and their strong biblical connection to the growth of faith, but Maddox seems to be searching for more subtle marks of faith as we see in “Bookmark.”

Let the lines and Spirit speak for themselves without
sounding brass or tinkling cymbals.

The poems discover and demonstrate that lighter, quieter touch as shown, for example, in “Fishing for Sestinas.”

At first, there is only paper
as plain as sleep without the dream,
as flat as the sea without its waves,
no sound, no ripple, no fish
slipping in and out so
suspiciously. Ah, now write

that, not worrying about wrong or right
but only what floats up to your paper,
what your fishing pole of a pencil tugs so
deliciously toward your eyes.

Those lines illustrate beautifully what we hope to experience as we write in any genre. The last poem, “Belief and Blackboards,” does this too and, more, as it presents a classroom setting where the poet sees “flakes of manna in the unexpected snap/ of chalk” and brings the essence of reading, writing, and experiencing literature into these closing lines:

And this is all we need:
the real, the spiritual, the Real;
the thin laughter in the background;
the crescendo of the poem rising, covering each desk,
each tile: floor and ceiling.

Book review by Mary Harwell Sayler, © 2016

True, False, None of the Above, paperback

Friday, April 22, 2016

Picking poems for Earth Day

For Earth Day, I wanted to select a poem from my book Living in the Nature Poem published by Hiraeth Press to celebrate the occasion and also speak for year-round concerns, but that just didn’t happen! It took at least that whole book to speak and celebrate, but, eventually, I picked four poems with four perspectives, reminding me somewhat of the four corners of our round Earth.

As a Christian who believes in one Creator and Creative God, Who can do anything in any amount of time yet likes to include Creation in Creating, this poem honors that perspective.

Having the First Word

Into first being God uttered water,
broke open the night,
spilled light and water everywhere.

The earth took God’s Word
to heart,
pumping great cardiovascular
veins of rivers, oceans,

Air performed lively aerations,
breathing into plants,
boosting inhalation, waiting
to lift us, buoyed, out of the water –
wailing and gasping for breath.

by Mary Harwell Sayler, ©2012

In addition to including the poems above and below in Living in the Nature Poem, the next lines originally appeared in the April, 2012 issue of vox poetica.

The Recipe

I am made of stars, sand, rain.
My fingers flicker
my feet fins,
my head
an acorn.

If stars implode,
a black hole sucks me.
If rains wash sand,
I am moved.

This earth,
this universe
does not shelter me
a building but like
skin, bones, blood,
a single cell.

by Mary Harwell Sayler, © 2012

The above two poems come from theological and biological perspectives intended to show our oneness with one another and nature, whereas the following poem talks about the physical concerns of our present-day society and the neighborhood where I lived at the time this true incident occurred.

Also from Living in the Nature Poem, the piece first appeared in the November 2010 issue of Creekwalker – a lovely online journal that, unfortunately, ceased publication.

Pause in a Hard Week, Working

Even the early oranges were not in, nor
ripe blackberries in their thorny vines.

The loquat had dropped its oval fruit,
and, already, the wild plums’ white
blooms had gone.

The tomatoes green, the squash
in yellow blossoms, and beans
still the dream of green leaves

as the small black bear wandered in
and up an oak without one drop
of water nearby or one brown acorn....

To the hope of wild plums, he clung.

On the other side from where I stood
succumbing to his charming presence,
our neighbors animated their alarms,
and dogs barked,
and a helicopter
from television news
circled and circled
a noise of war

as I ducked beneath a shelter of still
leaves and whispered,
please wait until the dark.

by Mary Harwell Sayler, © 2010 & 2012

So, what do we do with these perspectives and the concerns we have about situations that threaten our environment – and our lives? That’s the fretful view of a tragedy in the true sense of the word since that refers to something that started out beautifully, but ended badly.

Conversely, a genuine “comedy” in literature and life has nothing to do with the jollies of a sit-com or stand-up comedian but, literarily refers to something that’s awful yet has a happy-ending or upbeat purpose in the overall scheme of things. And so, I’ll end with:

The Marvelous Comedy

Something’s wrong with me.
I cannot seem to stop myself
from seeing something good.
Everywhere you look – poverty,
despair, wars, and the stealth
of a cat burglar, stalking floods
of saltwater pearls. Can you see
how to free me from this wealth
of wonder? Even if I should
be aware of the jail-striped bee
blundering around me or the
arsonist ant’s fire-lit breath,
my thoughts drip not with death
but honey, and I cannot help
but see the choreographed crawl
of the ant or sprawling pattern of
bees in the beautiful buzz.

by Mary Harwell Sayler, © 2012

Living in the Nature Poem, paperback

Living in the Nature Poem, e-book

Monday, April 18, 2016

Charles of the Desert: A Life in Verse

In Charles of the Desert: A Life in Verse, award-winning poet and college professor William Woolfitt takes us into the life of Charles de Foucauld (1858-1916)– a Christian saint and martyr I might never have heard about were it not for the review copy Paraclete Press kindly sent me. And, if it were not for my welcoming almost any book of poems produced by Paraclete, I might never have become familiar with the exquisite work of William Woolfitt.

Throughout this biography in verse, the “I” of each poem comes to life in Woolfitt, the poems, and us as though we’re inside Charles’ head, experiencing, observing, sensing, enduring.

In the opening poem, for example, Woolfitt envisions the very young Charles as seeing “My Father as Weather Formation” – a man who adversely affects those around him, and “Then his whims enslave him. He stuffs his valise/ with jars and papers, flees to the city….” Nevertheless, memories of the absent parent linger in a “Man of fidgets/ and glances, soon to appear in the clouds as beasts/ for me to name, and fall on his woods like snow.

Subsequently, in “My Mother as Harp Seal, as Sacristan,” we learn that young Charles and his mother “had knelt that morning/ to give daisies and asters, to kiss the feet/ of the pale, poor eggshell man who hung/ on the church wall, his weight webbing/ cracks through the plaster….”

Orphaned by school age, the boy arrived in “The House of Bones,” where “Grandfather filled in as my father./ We lived in a repository of Roman coins,/ pinned beetles, leather-bound books/ that crumbled if touched” and where an assortment of visiting “officers, scholars, priests” admired the grandfather’s “cases of animal skulls.”

Within those first few insightful poems, Woolfitt gives us a clear picture of an other-than-normal childhood, which, the “Chronology” in the back of the book tells us eventually led to “a reputation for gluttony, drunkenness, and seducing women.”

Before his thirtieth birthday, however, the well-to-do Charles became aware of “The Pangs of Wanting” where he longed to “explore unmapped lands; meditate on deep truths;/ argue with shrewd, brilliant men; make love to a woman/ versed in the pieties of faith and the pleasures of the earth;/ try celibacy; father able sons….” However, Charles gave his soldier’s uniform and other costumes to his nephews to “serve as their playthings.” Then, “I deliver my body to the church….

Adventures and hardships continuing, Charles served as the gardener of a convent in Nazareth where, according to the “Chronology,” in 1897, “The mother superior encourages him to become a priest….

In another beautiful biographical poem, “Dust and Oil,” Woolfitt gives us a glimpse of that ordination, which occurred in 1901 in Viviers, France:

Like a spruce hit by wind and lightning,
the bishop sways, crackles before me.
He charges me with the volts of his hands

clamped on my head, the singe of peace
he kisses to my brow…

Discarding a hermit’s life that lives “as dust that drifts into corners, cracks,/ ditches and ruts,” the young priest then began to wear a robe with a “crimson heart over my breast./ May I take the sacraments to the heart/ of the Sahara, the unknown, the uttermost;/ where there are no priests, may I offer/ fraternal love to the soldiers of France,/ may I prepare a feast for peasants,// nomads, and slaves.”

In 1902 Algeria, “For Three Hundred Francs,” the poem by that title tells us, “I bought a slave boy this morning,” while the next poem “We Hide Our Faces from the Wind” clarifies that, as soon as some hoped-for funds arrived, “I will ransom more slaves.”

Moving among the nomadic Tuareg in Hoggar, Algeria, Charles began to learn the language, write a Tuareg dictionary, and live as the Tuareg people did. In “Consider the Ant,” for example, he would “sometimes find miracles/ of food: acacia pods I can pound into edible meal,” and “once, a snarl of bees/ flitting from the mouth of a dead jackal,// and inside the carcass’s dark cave, enough honey,/ sweet and glistening, to fill the bowl of my hands.”

In one highly visual narrative after another, Woolfitt presents his totally credible persona of Charles through diverse conditions until finally, during a 1916 uprising, “Someone Knocks” and “my neighbors" – raiders – "slam me against/ the wall ransack my little fort unbind/ and fling/ my Tuareg dictionary/ my sheaves of Tuareg poetry/” and “tear the cross the heart from my robe….” To end those final moments and this highly recommended book, William Woolfitt enables us to “feel the breath and the burn/ as my lips form the word I choose/ and my pages scatter in the wind.”

Mary Harwell Sayler, poet-author and reviewer

Charles of the Desert: A Life in Verse, French fold paperback