Sounding Like, or Finding One’s Voice

Photo by Dmitry Ratushny on Unsplash

If there is one thing I do, it’s read a lot of poetry. I read so much that I keep the poetry section of my library in stock. At all times. I read so much that I have started quoting poets without meaning to do it. I read so much that I randomly mention poets and poems like they are friends I bump into on a regular basis. It’s gotten to the point where my mother starts rolling her eyes because I bring up random poetry all the time.

Now I’m going to preface this next part with a statement so friends who read this don’t start sending me emails and messages about how great I write.   I know I write good poetry and I am perfectly content with the bulk of it. Accolades and compliments come often enough that I don’t doubt myself, so friends, please feel free to pay attention to only this part.

If there is one thing I have found with writing and reading poetry on a regular basis, it is that I compare myself to other poets. I read poetry, and I’ll even do it with song lyrics I like, but I sit there thinking how amazing that poet said something and how in the world will I ever sound that good. Self-doubt is a lovely companion to writing. I think they go hand in hand. Almost like, if you don’t have self-doubt, you can’t honestly be a writer.

So I read poetry and wonder how I will ever be as great as some of the amazing things I read.  Currently, I have been reading a lot of poetry from Good Poems and Good Poems for Hard Times both edited and selected by Garrison Keillor. The selection comes from all those wonderful The Writer’s Almanac daily recordings. (I’m still so bummed that I can’t listen to that whenever I want these days.)  The poetry in the books is perfect for my life currently, but again, I can’t help compare myself to said poets.

I’m also reading a lot of Galway Kinnell, William Carlos Williams, Judith Viorst, e.e. cummings, and way too many others I won’t get into. Y’all know I love my poetry.

My friends and writing colleagues say I have my voice, but I don’t always hear it, and I want to ‘copy’ the greatness of these other writers. It’s not that I want to sound like them per se, but I want to have people read what I write and feel like I do when I read these other greats.  You would think that after the compliments of my friends it would be enough. And for the most part, it is. I think sometimes too, it comes from wanting one important person in my life to really appreciate what I write. And currently, I think he does. When he sees it.

I have so much that goes on in my head and I am forever trying to get it out.  I feel like I get one good poem a week out. This last week I think I got two. Which isn’t bad. I always surprise myself if I can push a few poems a week out.  I read something that Billy Collins said:  “One of the ridiculous aspects of being a poet is the huge gulf between how seriously we take ourselves and how generally we are ignored by everybody else.”

I feel that is incredibly true. I am quite serious about being a poet and what is going on, and if I can help someone with what I write, and will it matter. Will it all matter in the end. And part of that is making sure you hear me. Here what I am saying, be it in metaphor to use how you need it, or in completely plain speech. I want to say it the best way for me. The best way that you hear the ‘me’ in me. Which is why, while I would love to sound like other great poets, I still want to find my voice.

Obviously, I have enough of my own voice if other say they can see it. And this isn’t really self-doubt here so much as me just semi venting. And being totally blown away by some amazing poetry I’ve read this week. Current poems and authors that I’ve fallen in love with are: Passing Through a Small Town by David Shumate, In Paris with You by James Fenton, Wedding Poem For Schele and Phil by Bill Holm, Any prince to any princess by Adrian Henri, To A Frustrated Poet by R.J. Ellmann, A Millian Young Workmen, 1915 by Carl Sandburg, Ordinary Life by Barbara Crooker,  and lastly, Prayer by Galway Kinnell, which I will type up here because, wow….

 Prayer

Galway Kinnell

Whatever happens. Whatever
what is is is what
I want. Only that. But that.

And on that note, I shall end, because Galway says it all.

Happy writing to those starting April PAD (Poem a Day) with Writer’s Digest. I haven’t decided if I’m going to or not, but I’m thinking about it. Just to add to my general writer’s crazy. Cause I don’t have enough things to think and write about.

Writing on

Kate

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The Romance of Writing Love Poems

Photo by Thought Catalog on Unsplash
…wishing I could fly. Excerpt from the poetry collection “This Is For The Women Who Don’t Give A F*ck” by Janne Robinson. Published by Thought Catalog Books | ShopCatalog.com

I wrote the other day about how I was delving back into Foolsgold and I might find myself writing love poems.  I can’t say as I am a very good writer of those types of poems. I have to actually be in a state to write them. I did write a form of a love poem, and  I am prone to sharing those poems with the person they are for. Actually, if I write something for someone, I give it to them. What I mean by writing for someone, is that I will give the person a poem they inspired.   Lil, my coworker, got a poem that was about this brave wildflower pirate girl. Lucifer was given a poem that was to him. Mrs. Austen was given a poem years ago about tiny letters. (I think that is somewhere on this blog).

I guess you could look at poems to friends as a form of a love poem. One of the ladies in my writing group has two poems in my rejected manuscript. Actually, they aren’t so much as love poems, but inspired poems. That lady can inspire poems that are super incredible. At least to me.

Going back to reading Foolsgold, the heading for a chapter had a part of a Hafiz poem that just hit me hard.  The line was:

Tired of Speaking Sweetly
 
Love wants to reach out and manhandle us,
Break all our teacup talk of God.
Isn’t that so incredible?  I love the manhandle part. I’ll post the rest of the poem at the bottom, but the thought of how love grabs a hold of us and rattles us to the core… Oooh, wait, I needed that line right there for the poem it inspired. Hold on. I’ll be back………..
Okay, I’m back.
So we’ve been wrecked and grabbed, rattled, thrust away, pulled back. Sometimes love has that ability to turn us black and blue and breaking things. I love finding poetry that hits me so hard that I have to start writing myself. The feelings contained inside are too much and I just wish I could hug the poet and say ‘thank you’ for saying what I’m feeling. Or what I needed to feel.

Galway Kinnell

Last week…. no wait almost two weeks ago, I was at a used book store and found a Galway Kinnell poetry book. I believe, though I can’t remember, I first heard his poetry on an episode of Poetry Off the Shelf podcast, but either way, oh does his poetry hit hard. It hits you right in the gut; right in the heart and mind. While I can only read small doses of his poems, I am in love. It’s beautiful.

 I don’t often find poems that are really good love poems in my readings. I’m very selective, as I don’t want just a lovey-dovey type poem. I want something that destroys you inside. Leaves you raw and trembling because you totally understand it. That is how I feel about this Hafiz poem.

Tired of Speaking Sweetly

Love wants to reach out and manhandle us,
Break all our teacup talk of God.

If you had the courage and
Could give the Beloved His choice, some nights,
He would just drag you around the room
By your hair,
Ripping from your grip all those toys in the world
That bring you no joy.

Love sometimes gets tired of speaking sweetly
And wants to rip to shreds
All your erroneous notions of truth

That make you fight within yourself, dear one,
And with others,

Causing the world to weep
On too many fine days.

God wants to manhandle us,
Lock us inside of a tiny room with Himself
And practice His dropkick.

The Beloved sometimes wants
To do us a great favor:

Hold us upside down
And shake all the nonsense out.

But when we hear
He is in such a “playful drunken mood”
Most everyone I know
Quickly packs their bags and hightails it
Out of town.

From: ‘The Gift’
Translated by Daniel Ladinsky

Currently I have the complete works of e.e. cummings headed my direction via the library. He had the ability to write some of the most provocative, erotic love poems. They have the ability to make you want to grab someone and kiss them desperately, they are that raw. I actually want to print them off, type them up, and hand them to people to make their heart race. To feel.

Even Shakespeare had that ability to thrust you into love wow. Oberon’s love of Titania is in my opinion, epic. Though currently I can’t find what I’m looking for in the darn play to post it here.

Love poems come in many forms. Sometimes, we even need to write love poems to ourselves. One I wrote this last Saturday, titled “You Can Be A Good Girl and Wear A Black Lace Bra” is a love poem to myself about how sometimes what you see isn’t what’s hiding beneath the surface, but it’s all intermingling with the outside to make you (or in this case, me) who I am. Thanks again goes to Mel for the title, though I added the ‘lace’ part because I want to emphasize the fact that there is total girly girl lace going on here.

So, how about anyone else. Do you write and share love poems? Have you read any good ones lately? I’d love to know about both, yours and other poet’s love poems.

Kate

Metaphors Seemingly Abound

Recently, and much to my annoyance, chagrin, and well, I’m going to go with annoyance, Sampson, my sous chef, told me I write in a lot of metaphor. I had just gotten done handing him a poem that is riddled with metaphor, I get it, but it irked me. He, on the other hand, writes quite literally.  Okay, not always; he did just use Othello in one of his raps he shared, and it was a metaphor.

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The poem I wrote was filled with metaphor because I hadn’t wanted to state the obvious. The obvious is feeling like I’m in the middle of an ego war between my chef and sous chef. Do you honestly think I am going to spit that out as common knowledge? So metaphor is the only way to deal with it if I’m going to share it. Sure, using two chess kings and a queen make for a really good simile. Maybe because I feel like I’m on this playing field that is very much like a game at times. I’m the queen, by the way. I wrote the poem, read it off to my lovely writing group, but I did explain it to them. They got it.

I guess my question is, when is it too much metaphor? If I wrote it so that not everyone, unless I explained it, would know what I was talking about, but also anyone could read it and use it how they wanted, is that unreasonable? To me, no, but maybe I am going to metaphorical at times. I read Ada Limon and half the time I don’t know what she’s talking about, unless it’s a literal poem. I read many other poets that use metaphor all the time, or I don’t know if they are using metaphor because well, gosh darn it, I don’t know the poet. But do you think things can be too metaphorical at time?

I find it hard to always express myself in literal terms because it means being vulnerable if someone reads exactly what you are saying. So metaphor is a reliable tool when you want to say something, but don’t want to show your hand. Which is a lot of my life. That being said, I have used metaphor as just a way to express something more emphatically than if I was just stating it literally.

Maybe it’s me, maybe it’s Sampson. Maybe it was the day, or my mood or his mood, which was feisty, and I was irritated with him already because he left me hanging in a conversation and never answered. He still hasn’t answered.  I’m sitting there on a ledge, dangling off or waiting for that push from behind and the push isn’t coming. See, there’s my form of metaphor.

Below is a sample part of a poem I’m still debating on how to title. Basically , I was in the car with someone and he said something that literally shut me up and had me flushed super red. Trust me when I say it was really kind of sexy and the car got very hot, but at the same time it was good.  This is the metaphor that came out of it. Is it too ridiculous? I have another friend on the other hand, that said I have a gift. So basically Sampson is making me second guess myself. And now I’m back to being annoyed. But readers, what say you?

Want and need are two very different things here
in this game being played out with nothing more
than just a few words tossed onto the playing field.
It's a glance, thrown back and forth; a tennis volley.
I can see he's waiting for me to center
my lady and take what he's offering; a parlay;
what's mine for the asking, as he drives nearly
every thought out of my head; watching, reveling
in every glance tossed my way, filling the spaces
in between with tension so thick
it would take more than just a simple move,
it's no mere pawn stepping into arrows flying
back and forth in the small places between the attack.

So maybe I’m just trying to figure out my voice. I don’t think second guessing myself is a bad thing. How do we become strong writers if we don’t take criticism with grace? Compliments are all well and good, but we need criticism as well to survive. The bitter with the sweet. (bitter of course is the criticism) We can’t spend our whole lives eating sugar, we need some bitters to digest it all.

That being said, Sampson has irked me.  And all metaphor aside, I could lovingly stab him with my knife. (pardon the kitchen gallows humor)

Kate

Listening To Bob Dylan

American folk and rock singer Bob Dylan, who was born on the 24th of may in 1941 in Duluth, Minnesota. — Image by © 91040/dpa/Corbis

Recently I have taken to liking Bob Dylan and his music. Not all of it, but a select few. I find it funny since I used to inwardly scoff at his music. Possibly because he was popular during the Vietnam War. Why that should make any difference at all doesn’t make any sense since I particularly like music from the 60s and 70s. Maybe it’s because I can actually appreciate the story being told in one of his many songs, whereas before, I was more interested in the beat. I didn’t know how connected to stories in songs I would get over the years of writing.

The first song I remember being introduced to was ‘Lay, Lady, Lay‘, and at the time I didn’t even know it was Dylan. But I fell in love with it. Over the years I’ve slowly added to my small collection of his songs. The stories in all of them are magical and as a writer, I can appreciate the condensed tale told.  I actually wonder if contemporary folk music appeals to the writer in us due to the story being told? I can honestly say that country music that has a story, I do have to quantify it, appeals to me. I like songs without a story, in fact, most of what I listen to wouldn’t qualify as much of a story and more of a ‘feeling’.  But if I start really thinking about songs that grab and hold me, they tell a story.

Thinking about Bob Dylan always reminds me of something I read in Poemcrazy where Susan Wooldridge was talking about him carrying around an armload of words. Turns out, it wasn’t Bob Dylan she was talking about, but Dylan Thomas, the poet. While I have a book of his poetry, I’m not as familiar with his works, so somehow I thought it was  Bob Dylan. While I had the person wrong, I still picture Bob Dylan carrying around armloads of words, racing to get to his black typewriter, up winding stairs in a small garret at an Irish inn on dreary, wet Irish days.

The actual quote about Dylan Thomas from Poemcrazy is as follows:

Dylan Thomas loved the words he heard and saw around him in Wales. “When I experience anything,” he once said, “I experience it as a thing and a word at the same time, both equally amazing.” Writing one ballad, he said, was like carrying around an armload of words to a table upstairs and wondering if he’d get there in time.

My image is certainly fanciful at best in regards to Bob Dylan. Who knows if he used a typewriter or wrote his music in Ireland.  I know I’m probably completely wrong, but if you listen to his words you feel the lyrical quality, and I can’t help but imagine the songwriter is this way. In Ireland. Go figure.

I carry boatloads of words in my head constantly. I have lost countless poems or starts of poems by not having paper at hand when I need it. I have a small pocket journal I have just for this reason, but like my camera when I don’t have it I need it and when I do have it I don’t need it, my writing is the same way. I never write when I have paper at hand. I write when I am scrambling frantically for any scrap piece of paper at hand. Netflix flyers, bill envelopes, receipts, margins of something and various other odd places. I have a folder/envelope of scraps of paper with the starts of poems. I have been meaning to transcribe them onto a document, or into one notebook, but I have yet to sit down and do anything with it. The question of, ‘Will I ever really use that and do I need to compile it all down?’ frequently hits my mind.

There is a panic that starts when I can’t find paper. I try to repeat the lines over and over in my head in the hopes that I will remember it for the next five minutes till I find paper, but inevitably I am asked a question, interrupted or just don’t have a moment to grab a paper and pencil.  It’s aggravating like that itch you can’t scratch. Knowing that the lines were just there. If only there was a way to scoop all those words up in a bucket that holds onto them until you can come back to collect them.

I try to make sure I keep a notebook, journal or index card with me whenever I go out. Of course, because I have that ready, I rarely write out in public.

In no particular order, Bob Dylan songs I currently love are, Lay, Lady, Lay, The Girl From The North Country, Mr. Tamborine Man, To Fall in Love With You, and Shelter From The Storm.

My one Dylan Thomas poem I currently keep rereading due to a friend’s young wife having cancer and is recovering from a stroke, is Do Not Go Gentle into That Good Night.

 

The Old Pirate – Poem

The Old Pirate

Under the old clock towers on a full moon night
and the asphalt and cobblestones are wet with a shine
he clomps and staggers in cracked leather boots.
He once was a pirate by trade
sailing off to adventures a many
looting and pillaging and carousing around
letting the gold slip and tumble through his fingers
as easily as the rum slipped down his throat
so full of life was he, till it came back to bite.
A rabid dog bite of a drunken haze.
He’s a cloak of invisibility of old man now
worn and tired and rather gray
aged and fat and a little more drunk
ancient adventures lost in delusional bursts
brandishing half empty bottles and shouting
the insanity creeping insidiously in
slumped on the cold stone steps.
He’s less than half the man of long ago
when he was a dashing charming sort.
Now all that’s left is this sad old man
sailing off in memories long forgotten
growing colder under the towers of time
till time eventually stops and he’s frozen
no longer anything but a once told tale
when the morning comes and they heave him so
up into a cart and tossed not into the sea
but to earth interned never to sail again.

 

I was feeling uninspired by the prompts I pulled for writing at my writing group this morning. So Sera graciously offered to pull some for me. I should have requested a random pulling instead of specifically looking for ones…. I know what you did, Sera…., but she pulled ‘full moon, clock towers, he was a pirate, grey silk, adventure, cloak of invisibility.’  I added in my one ‘wet asphalt’ and suddenly I was picturing the ‘wish realm’ version of Captain Hook that was featured recently on Once Upon a Time. But then I thought, what would this old pirate look like in the real world and would he drink himself to death….? Apparently he became that way, though there were some that didn’t realize I killed off this pirate. Hopefully it’s clear.  Enjoy this very random piece of poetry, and very open verse as well.

Kate

Writing Down Dat Dem Poetry

Ah PAD, not my strong suit this year. I thought I would have poetry flying out of my ears, but I seem to be a tad too emotional as of late for some of the topics to really come out in a good poem. Or one that is a decent poem right off the bat. Most of them are needing some serious reworking and editing.

I had started off rhyming in my head in a partial iambic pentameter, but then I would get stuck writing sonnets that weren’t going well. At all.  But it dawned on me the other day that I needed to stop trying to write sonnets. Just write. Write whatever comes to mind with the prompt, from spirit animal to wire (I liked wire), and just let it flow. Then if I want to take whatever I wrote and turn it into a sonnet with the ideas from the poetry just written, okay fine.  And it’s going better. If I don’t feel inclined to write a sonnet, I don’t have to. But if I want to dabble something out, I can. Which I have done.

It’s actually kind of helpful to have all of the poem written out with all of the ideas there, then to rework it into the sonnet. Now, I’m not saying the sonnets are good, and I only have one mostly done, but  it’s still there.

The fence is wired with rusty barbs and nails
And tangles tight to hold and grip the ties
The baling wire and hooks cling without fail
To posts that once held rails for trains that fly
~Katie Lyn Branson (Wired)

That is the start to the wired poem. Not great, but not bad. All about fence posts on the plains that are faded and held together with wire.

Who knew you could take such an ordinary thing and write a sonnet out of it. But I’m trying to get out of my head, which is harder to do than you think, and just let it come out. I think another part is I’m inspired by certain music I’m listening to, specifically the Strumbellas with their songs of  “Spirits” and “Wild Sun”, and the Lumineers “Stubborn Love”, which is a personal favorite song. I think the folksy aspect of it.

jackie-and-ryan-2014-movie-posterAnother inspiration is the film Jackie and Ryan, with Katherine Heigl and Ben Barnes. I can’t explain how much this movie hit me (I was nearly crying at the end). But the music and the story line and the lyrical quality of it all. If you are a writer, or a musical lyricist, I recommend it. Best part, it is based on a true story of a man,  Nick Hans, who was playing at SXSW, if I remember the story correctly. So that is really cool.

So, is anyone else hard at work on PAD? I’d love to know.

Kate

October 27th – Write 31 Days – Red Oak

red-oakSometimes a picture comes out more spectacular than I think it will. Today’s picture of a red oak leaf looks like the leaf is right on the glass!  It’s kind of amazing how things turn out so perfect and you aren’t even trying, or well, you just don’t think it will be that way.

The colors on the trees has been so spectacular this year, but I have failed to capture enough of it, waiting till it is nearly twilight to take pictures, which does not help. Nor have I been inclined to take my camera out with me that much. But the black oaks are now turning on the hills and there is this fluffy, nubbly carpet of yellow ochres, and yellow browns, tans and various shades of yellow from them. It’s a warm feel.

This oak in the picture turns a lovely red…. then the leaves turn brown and hang on the tree half the winter. It’s rather nasty looking, but the red is especially stunning.

 

I robbed the Woods-
The trusting Woods.
The unsuspecting Trees
Brought out their Burs and mosses
My fantasy to please.
I scanned their trinkets curious-
I grasped-I bore away-
What will the solemn Hemlock-
What will the Oak tree say?
~Emily Dickinson

Kate

October 25th – Write 31 Days – Golden Mornings

golden-morningsIn fall, it’s common to wake up to lots of clouds with the threat of rain. I’m typing this on the 24th where the prediction of rain is at 100%…. It’s currently raining.  I could have sworn there was only a 30% chance, but that is so far from what it’s doing now.

But some mornings there is this thick blanket of clouds, the mountains shrouded with mist and the cold wind blowing; yet in the east, there is this break, right over the mountains. Just enough of a break for the sun to come up a shining, dazzling diamond. Breaking through the mist, shining so bright through the pines, giving everything a golden glow to the otherwise cold morning.

Morning that comes but once,
Considers coming twice-
Two Dawns upon a single Morn,
Make Life a sudden price.
~Emily Dickinson

Kate

October 16th – Write 31 Days – A Water Runs Through It

Rain. It means the start of winter. The start of cold, and damp, and wet.  It also means the creek is running again. That might not sound like much, but for those in California, we know it means water. A life force that we cannot go without, but have been without in many places. For us where we live, it means our main water source is alive and running and no longer a concern as to how much water we can use. There is no restriction when all the water is running down our creek.

Today (or yesterday, I’m not sure, but since it rained an inch and a half yesterday… it might have been then) the creek is running. Full force and full of life. It’s a good day.

I come from haunts of coot and hern,
I make a sudden sally,
And sparkle out among the fern,
To bicker down a valley.     ,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,……

I murmur under moon and stars
In brambly wildernesses;
I linger by my shingly bars;
I loiter round my cresses;

And out again I curve and flow
To join the brimming river,
For men may come and men may go,
But I go on for ever.

The Brook ~ Alfred, Lord Tennyson

Kate

October 14th – Write 31 Days – Sunny Sunflower

sunny-sunflowerThe sunflowers are nearly over, mostly having given up their seeds to the titmice, nuthatches, blue jays and Stellar’s Jays, but sometimes there is an odd flower or two. Currently it is really raining now, so this picture came from last week when the weather was more cooperative to taking pictures. I also felt the need to post this for Mrs. Austen who is missing her husband while he is overseas for a business trip.  She loves Sunflowers. I must oblige.

But on the hill the goldenrod, and the aster in the wood,
And the yellow sunflower by the brook in autumn beauty stood,
Till fell the frost from the clear cold heaven, as falls the plague on men,
And the brightness of their smile was gone, from upland, glade, and glen.

The Death of the Flowers ~ William Cullen Bryant