Saturday, January 16, 2016

Poetry and The Word

After a few years of trying to maintain several blogs with regular posts on Blogger, I saw a need to simplify! So a new umbrella blog has been set up for The Word Center on WordPress.

Lord willing, the blog will include Bible prayers, Bible poetry, devotionals, poems, writing tips, articles on writing, biblical principles of Christian healing, and reviews of new editions or translations of the Bible.

If you're a worker of words or a minister of The Word, I pray you will Follow the blog and find what you need. If not, please leave a question, helpful comment, or suggestion for future posts.

Thanks and blessings.

Mary Harwell Sayler, © 2016


Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Using alliteration for sound echoes and for fun

In case you haven’t had a chance to experiment with alliteration, here are two types to practice in your poems or when you want to turn up the audio for emphasis or humor in other genres of writing.

Assonance – This type of alliteration with vowels is more subtle than consonance, which is more subtle than rhyme. If words end in a vowel, they might rhyme too, but assonance typically comes in the sound of vowels at the beginning of a word or inside it.

For example, read the following question aloud and listen for the repetition of the uuuu (ew,ew,ew) sound in every word but “as.”

Would you choose Hugh as true?

Consonance – The alliteration most people notice when they’re reading is consonance where two or more words in close proximity begin with the same consonantal letter of the alphabet.

Generally speaking two or three repeated consonantal sounds on one line of poetry lend musicality to a poem. As you read aloud the following, listen especially for the echoing m, r, and g.

…the murmuring sounds of morning

Like end-line and internal rhymes, consonance emphasizes word, but much more subtly. A big exception is if you use multiple words with alliteration. Then you have a tongue twister, such as Suzy sells seashells by the seashore. Try saying that aloud a few times to see how long your tongue lasts without twisting!

Now, go back, reread that last sentence above and notice the alliterative use of l’s and t’s. You can slip that type of consonance into descriptive scenes in novels or other forms of fiction to add a touch of musicality. And, you can use light alliteration in nonfiction to lighten a mood.

As you increase the volume of sound echoes with consonance, you also increase the humor to a certain point before getting just plain silly:

Susie’s sale of seashells
makes no sense to me!
Why does she sell seashells
when, on the beach,
they’re free?

by Mary Harwell Sayler, © 2016.

For more help with poetry techniques, terminology, and forms to play with, order Mary’s e-book, the Christian Poet’s Guide to Writing Poetry, based on the study course she wrote and used for years with other poets and poetry students. The guide is for almost any poet, but the poetry examples come from a Christian perspective. Hopefully, the title also lets poet-readers know that the poems used to illustrate various principles are G-rated. :)

Friday, December 18, 2015

Seasons of Poetry

Have you ever gone on a binge of writing poems then suddenly nothing? That ebb and flow of creativity mimics nature with its change of seasons or fluctuations of energy throughout the day in irregular intervals of work, play, and rest.

Like nature, too much work with too little rest or play throws off the flow. It’s like getting caught up in a flood of inventiveness, then having a long, dry spell. For a while, poetic thoughts stem from inspiration, flower with a sense of play, then wither into the work and worries of everyday life.

If that’s happened to you, I hope it helps to recognize this as part of a poet’s “norm.” Also, these dry times aren’t as unproductive as they might seem. They’re probably just parched and in need of rehydration.

For example, when poems don’t come to you as readily as you’d like, your creative self might need to find more options as you:

• Read poetry by other poets such as those reviewed in numerous posts on this site.

• Study and experiment with a variety of poetry forms and techniques as discussed in my e-book.

• Give your previously written poems additional thought and readings before you edit or revise.

• Practice your skills of observation by noting whatever your senses of touch, smell, taste, sight, and sound provide.

For instance, I’m writing this in the middle of an insomniacal night as dripping rain produces different sounds and rhythms, depending on the pitch of the roof and the density of the plants catching the life-giving water. I can attune my sense of hearing to each of those unique sounds or to the musicality they provide when heard together.

If I choose the former, I can describe the finger-drumming of the raindrops and their soft plunking sounds and varied tempo. Or, I can listen to the overall sound effect and find myself soothed, lulled, and, thankfully, ready to rest again.

by Mary Harwell Sayler, ©2015, poet-author of 27 books in all genres and a recent flood of praise poems in search of a traditional or indie book publisher

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Accidental Grace: Poetry, Prayers, and Psalms

In his new book, Accidental Grace, poet-rabbi Rami M. Shapiro transforms Psalms, Jewish prayers, and Bible poetry into fresh lines that send us thoughtfully reeling into spiritual realms.

Published by Paraclete Press, who kindly sent me a copy to review, this highly recommended book brings wisdom, humor, and spiritual insights into ancient biblical truths, which the poet reveals as relevant today.

Take, for instance, Psalm 1, which many of us know in the King James Version (KJV) as beginning: “Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful.”

Notes in newer translations of the Bible often acknowledge that the word “Blessed” at the beginning of Psalm 1 is not the same Hebrew word that’s usually rendered “blessed” but, instead, is more akin to saying, “Oh, the joy!” or “How happy.”

In his smoothly written lines running roughly parallel with Psalm 1, Rabbi Shapiro wakes us up with this rendition:

“Do you want to be happy?

Ignore the counsel of the selfish;
avoid the path of the cruel;
refuse the company of nihilists.

Do you want to be happy?

Delight in life unfolding;
immerse yourself in what is as it is, from morning to night.”

In considering a Psalm that’s even better known, Rabbi Shapiro begins his poetic version of “Psalm 23” like this:

“You alone shepherd me,
lessening my needs and fulfilling them.

Lying delighted in lush green pastures,
I know You are all.”

Then he closes the poem with these thought-inducing lines:

“When I walk with You and know it is You who walks as me,
I leave only goodness and mercy in my wake,
knowing every place is Your place, and every face is Your face.”

Following the section of contemporary psalms we find a group of insightful “Poems” to welcome such as “Welcoming Angels,” which contains these lines:

“In the deeper quiet
I sense the greater Life that is my life.
I do not live only; I am lived.
I do not breathe only; I am breathed.
I am not only the one I appear to be
but also the One who appears as me.”

Another poignant poem, “I Am Loved,” begins:

“I am loved.
Too easy to say, perhaps.
Too fleeting a feeling upon which to anchor a life.
And yet it is so.
I am loved. Though not always by me.”

To give you one more example of the meditative moments that arise with each reading, I’ll print “One Without End” in full:

“Below the birth of becoming
There was the Source of Being.
When all is ended, that Source remains.
Alone without second, the One is all.
This One is my God, my redeemer, my refuge, my shelter.
This One is the cup of life from which I drink daily.
When I wake, as when I sleep, I rest in This.
One Substance in infinite manifestation,
One mind in infinite variation.
Know this and fear not.”

Amen! Then, the last section of the book, entitled “A Parable: Reenvisioning the Book of Job,” is set as a script or screenplay centered on Job’s encounter with God. Although the story ends shy of redemption, the dialogue between God and Job shows a sense of humor, which our One God and Creator of All Types and Seekers, surely has.

© 2015, Mary Harwell Sayler, reviewer of traditionally published poetry books and new editions of the Bible, is also a freelance writer in all genres and poet-author of 3 books of poems: Living in the Nature Poem, the children’s book Beach Songs and Wood Chimes, and her book of Bible-based poems, Outside Eden.

Accidental Grace, French flap paperback

Friday, September 4, 2015

Pilsen Snow by Philip Kolin

In the new chapbook Pilsen Snow by Philip C. Kolin, who kindly sent me this chapbook for review, the first verse of the first poem “Eden in Pilsen” immediately gets us grounded in what was once the second largest Czech neighborhood in the world:

“The new world they searched for in Pilsen
squeezed them onto lots,
20 by 95 feet long,
a bungalow to birth a family of nine,
a three flat close enough on hot summer nights
to reach out and touch the melting tar
on the flat roof of the building next door.”

Those lines introduce us, visually and matter-of-factly, to this community in Chicago where:

“The air moaned it had no place to go.
No place for anything green.
Here is where they looked for paradise.”

The sounds and sights bequeathed to us in this opening poem sweep across the neighborhood, while the next poem, “Speaking Czech,” gives insight into inner lives where:

“They lived in two worlds at once
but not at the same time.
Their homeland was real;
America demanded an act of the imagination.”

What a profound picture of the situation immigrants from almost any country most likely encounter! Instead of paradise, they find themselves located between memories still easy to envision and the hope but unclear picture of what might be.

As Editor of The Southern Quarterly and “Distinguished Professor in the College of Arts and Letters at the University of Southern Mississippi,” poet Philip C. Kolin has certainly distinguished himself in his work and many books, showing that, eventually, a peoples’ hopes and dreams may be fulfilled. He might not like my pointing that out, though, as his poems reveal a highly observant eye and mind not given to focusing on the self. He’s more apt to think about saints, politicians, mothers dressing their infants in Czech flags, or boys in mischief.

In “First Confessions,” for instance, the poet brings to life the “curtained box/ in the far corner of the church, closest/ to the vestibule where the ushers lingered,/ smelling of cigarettes and Vitalis before mass” as boys speculated on rumors:

“Another was sure it was God’s private elevator –
the green light on the top meant anyone in there
at the time was going straight to heaven –
as fast as God could call the angels
to pick him up and fly him out of there
before anyone knew he’d gone missing.”

Among the missing, albeit alive, was the beautiful, talented mid-twentieth century movie star from the poet's hometown, Kim Novak, to whom he wrote:

“You disappeared early into stardom
shaped by what the studio wanted to showcase.
On screen, you laughed.
Off, you cried.
You were not cut out for Hollywood.”

Eventually missing, too, was the first voice of Pilsen, where residents might be more inclined now to speak Spanish, and yet, in the closing poem, “Czech Hieroglyphics,” we see remnants of “some boy’s initials from the 1940’s/ squint underneath” a re-lacquered pew and learn:

“The sunlight no longer speaks
with a Slavic accent in Pilsen,
but it still highlights the buildings
where the Czechs left behind
their future plans in hieroglyphs.”

Etchings on school lintels and names fading on mailboxes leave hieroglyphs, reminders of a passing time and former neighbors who now live together only in the proximity of these poignant pages published by Finishing Line Press.

©2015, Mary Harwell Sayler, poet-writer in all genres

Pilsen Snow, paperback chapbook

Friday, August 21, 2015

Resources for poets and writers

A couple of years ago, I posted a list of poetry resources on this page, so this time, I’ll add hotlinks that weren’t included.

If other resources have helped you with your research, writing, revising, marketing, or publishing, feel free to add those in the Comments section below, preferably with the full URL included.

Also, please save this page as a Fav, so you'll be able to find it again as each hotlink will whisk you away from this site.

Online Poetry and Writing Resources

B-rhymes give you word pairs that almost rhyme, but not quite.

Beginner’s Guide to Successful Blogging shows you how to start a blog to post poems, writings, reviews, or discussions about poetry.

Christian Poet’s Guide to Writing Poetry is the e-book version of the poetry course I wrote and used for years with poets from diverse age groups, backgrounds, and levels of skill.

Dictionary search and reverse dictionary site on helps you search for phrases that begin with key words of interest.

English Grammar website gives you grammar rules, online exercises, and writing tips. Similar sites can be found, but I found this one to be especially clear and easy to navigate.

EServer Poetry Collection provides poems by well-known poets writing in English.

New Pages site guides you to literary markets to read, study, and send your batch of poems.

Open Culture has over 1,000 free online courses, including literature.

Poetry 180, sponsored by the Library of Congress, offers a poem for each day of the school year but to be read anytime too.

Poetry and Literature page, also sponsored by the Library of Congress, gives histories of poetry, interviews with poets, archives of poetry, upcoming events, Poet Laureate bio's, and more.

Poetry development of your poems or a poetry critique with my one-on-one feedback is available for a minimal fee. Having done this for 30 years, I assure you, I'll be encouraging but honest and helpful.

Poetry Dictionary For Children and For Fun e-book covers poetry forms and terminology, from A to Z, in what may be the only poetry dictionary for children. I recommend it for classrooms and poets of all ages because it’s a fun way to learn and because I wrote it.

Project Gutenberg brings you the full texts of over 49,000 classical books, including poetry, online at no charge.

Rhyme Zone helps you find definitions of words as well as true rhymes, slant rhymes, and synonyms.

Writing Resources on my website include those mentioned here and in the previous post. If you know of others, I’m eager to find out what helped you to improve your work or what might help other poets to learn about poetry. Thanks.

©2015, Mary Harwell Sayler, writer and reviewer, has 3 books of poems in print: Living in the Nature Poem published by Hiraeth Press and Beach Songs & Wood Chimes (for children) and Outside Eden, published by Kelsay Books.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Multitudinous Heart: Selected Poems by Carlos Drummond de Andrade

In his home country of Brazil, Carlos Drummond de Andrade was considered a great poet in his own lifetime (1902-1987) with his poems going beyond borders, thanks first to John Nist then such well-known American poets as Elizabeth Bishop and, later, Mark Strand, who translated his work from Portuguese into English. Now, Richard Zenith has translated poems in a new bilingual edition Multitudinous Heart, published by Farrar Straus Giroux, who kindly sent me a copy to review for which I’m grateful. Without this highly recommended book, I might never have discovered a new-for-me poet whose work I look forward to experiencing and reading again.

Zenith’s Introduction presents a brief biography of this fascinating poet, who, as a child of 10 or so, begged his father for a 24-volume set of Western literature to study, “beginning with Homer, as well as many selections from nineteenth-century British and American authors now more or less forgotten. This hodgepodge of poetry, essays, fiction, and theater became the literary foundation for the little boy,” whose readings as an adult “would continue to be a mixed bag of irreproachable classics and recent literature of uneven quality.”

Reading those words from the Introduction made me wonder if a poet’s academic study of literature today has been impoverished by a lack of poorly written poems and stories! Conversely, a self-taught poet, such as Carlos who initiated his own studies at an early age, might be apt to come up with an eclectic mix of writings, whose inconsistencies could help a poet discern the characteristics of well-written works on one hand and provide a list of “Things Not To Do” on the other.

No doubt Carlos’ background as a lifelong lover of literature and his adult employment as a government bureaucrat helped to shape his view of himself and the world as revealed, for example, in the opening piece entitled “Seven-Sided Poem.”

“When I was born, one of those twisted
angels who live in the shadows said:
‘Carlos, get ready to be a misfit in life!’”

The poem “Elegy 1938” gives us another glimpse of that ongoing push-pull between a literary life and the everydayness of the working world, beginning with “You work without joy for a worn-out world/ whose forms and actions set no example.”

Then midway in the poem, these sad but insightful lines appear:

“You love the night for its power to annihilate
and you know, when you sleep, the problems stop requiring you to die.
But you fatally wake up to the Great Machine existing,
and once more you stand, minuscule, next to inscrutable palms.

“You walk among dead people and with them you talk
about things of the future and matters of the spirit.
Literature has ruined your best hours of love.”

The intrusion of literary arts goes “Hand In Hand” with the resolutions put forth in these lines:

“I won’t be the singer of some woman, some tale.
I won’t evoke the sighs at dusk, the scene outside the window.
I won’t distribute drugs or suicide letters.
I won’t flee to the islands or be carried off by seraphim.
Time is my matter, present time, present people,
the present life.”

That life spent “In Search Of Poetry” finds what works in poems and what does not. For example:

“Don’t write poems about what happened.
Birth and death don’t exist for poetry.”

Also, “In Search Of Poetry”

“Don’t sing about your city, leave it in peace.
Poetry’s song is not the clacking of machines or the secrets of houses.
It’s not music heard in passing, nor the rumble of ocean on streets
near the breaking foam.
Its song is not nature
or humans in society.
Rain and night, fatigue and hope, mean nothing to it.
Poetry (don’t extract poetry from things)
elides subject and object.”

Despite the negatives "In Search Of Poetry," the poem "I'm Making A Song" acknowledges that...

“My life, our lives,
form a single diamond.
I’ve learned new words
and made others more beautiful.”

The title poem “Multitudinous Heart” also reflects the connections poetry brings to us through other people or places, for instance, where

“The sea was beating in my chest, no longer against the wharf.
The street ended, where did the trees go? the city is me
the city is me
I am the city
my love.”

Connecting the self with the city hints at the “Truth” found in the poem by that name:

“The door of truth was open
but would only let in half
a person at a time.

And so it wasn’t possible to have the whole truth,
since the half person who entered
returned with the picture of a half truth.
And the person’s other half
likewise brought back a half picture.
And the two halves didn’t line up.”

We need our full selves and one another to see a whole truth, which, like any subject for poetry, often eludes us. Therefore, “Truth” tells:

“.... And so each person chose
according to his whim, his illusion, his myopia.”

The truth in that statement gives us a subtle truth about poetry in general as we search for ways to encounter new experiences through the written word while connecting our own experiences with ones richly provided in insightful poems such as these.

©2015, Mary Harwell Sayler, writer and reviewer, has 3 books of poems in print: Living in the Nature Poem published by Hiraeth Press and Beach Songs & Wood Chimes (for children) and Outside Eden, published by Kelsay Books.

Multitudinous Heart: Selected Poems, hardcover