Friday, May 3, 2013

Guest Laurel Garver answers Why Read Poetry? and Celebrate the Small Things

Please give a warm welcome to Laurel Garver, author and poet!

Why read poetry?

By Laurel Garver, author of Muddy-Fingered Midnights

If you want to write more stylishly, one of the best places to learn about writing craft is in a book of poems. Poetry is by nature condensed and intense. Every word matters. Beyond craft considerations, reading poetry can also expand your understanding of where moments of change happen, and how to navigate the deep seas of human emotion.

(Yes it does!)
Like fiction, poetry also has sub-genres: lyric (descriptive), narrative (story), formal (following rhythm and rhyme patterns), concrete (artistically shaped lines), found (“stolen” words and lines combined artistically), spoken word, Flarf (avant garde combos of pop culture), and many more. There’s a little something in verse for everyone—even fans of “pulp fiction,” romance, SciFi or horror. (For an extensive list of magazines with poetry, see Poets & Writers database here.
I fell hard for poetry while taking a contemporary poetry course as an undergrad. The prof began the class by lining us around the perimeter of the room and having us shout random portions of Allen Ginsberg’s “Howl” at one another. This was a universe away from the precious ponderings of Wordsworth and a game changer for me creatively. Many scenarios I would’ve previously thought unpoetical became grist for the mill--my janitorial work-study job, memories of Dad slaughtering chickens, a weedy patch in a slum--because truth is beautiful, no matter where you find it. That, in turn, helped me think more broadly about what warrants description in fiction, and what evokes our deepest feelings.
(I love Laurel's thought that "truth is beautiful, no matter where you find it.")

Taking courses in poetry also pushed me hard to develop my vocabulary, to delve deep into the world of words. A poet must look not only at a word’s definition, but also its connotations and connections. A poet must hear the tones and feel the textures of words. Studying poetry has made me especially aware of the power of sound devices: alliteration (repeated initial sounds), assonance (repeated vowel sounds within a word), and consonance (repeated consonant sounds with a word).

I believe these devices can make anyone’s writing more musical. The thinking behind sound devices is often onomatopoetic; the sound and meaning are linked. If you want to convey a sense of something sliding, for example, you’d choose hissing, sibilant words containing “s”, “sh” and “sw.” For example, “In her rush, she slipped sidelong, smearing grease along one sleeve.”

I like to quietly work these devices into my fiction during revision to undergird the texture and emotion. Of course, like any technique it can be overdone, so I’m careful to use vocabulary that’s natural to the character and save the effects for important moments. Watching poets do it well was an important first step.

National Poetry Month may have come and gone, but for writers building their skills, every day should have a little poetry in it.

(I completely agree, Laurel!)

Laurel Garver is a magazine editor, poet, and writer of faith-based fiction. She enjoys quirky independent films, British TV, and geeking out about Harry Potter and Dr. Who. She lives in Philadelphia with her husband and daughter.


About Muddy-Fingered Midnights

This thirty-poem collection is an eclectic mix of light and dark, playful and spiritual, lyric and narrative free verse. In an intricate dance of sound play, it explores how our perceptions shape our interactions with the world. Here child heroes emerge on playgrounds and in chicken coops, teens grapple with grief and taste first love, adults waver between isolation and engaged connection. It is a book about creative life, our capacity to wound and heal, and the unlikely places we find love, beauty, and grace.

Buy Links: $1.99 e-book Kindle  / Nook  / iTunes all other e-readers  $6.50paperback

 Thank you for bringing some poetry to my day, Laurel!
1. I climbed the hill (see Wednesday).
2. The National Day of Prayer.
3. The Premier showing of my daughters' performing arts class film, "The Lady of the Earrings." - We had a red carpet evening!
4. Laurel's Guest Post today! Thank you Laurel!
5. Time for writing.
6. An awesome critique partner.
7. Ironing . . . this would take an entire post to explain all of why I'm thankful for this, but in short, I get some imagination time in while ironing.
Thank you VikLit for this time to celebrate and give thanks for the small things.
The scripture verse that I'm praying over today is: 1 Thessalonians 15: "Rejoice always" - two words, big meaning.


Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Now I'm curious about the ironing thing.
I know many writers who create works that flow like poetry. I'm not much of a poet, but I'm sure learning a little would probably help my writing.

L. Diane Wolfe said...

I wrote poems/song lyrics when I was younger, but it's been years.

Thank you again for helping me with the A to Z list.

Tyrean Martinson said...

Alex - You're just going to have be curious . . .although I'll probably write a post about it soon since it's on my mind now.

Diane - Song lyrics and poetry go together in wonderful harmony.

and helping with the A to Z was fun!

jaybird said...

In my younger days (BK) before kids, I used to read a poem a day. I try to keep up writing and reading it now, but life gets in the way. I think how she described poetry is wonderful. And truth is beautiful- I absolutely love that!

Rejoice Always! Something I need to be praying on and thinking about today too. Thanks for that reminder Tyrean.

Suzanne Furness said...

I think we can learn a lot from poetry. Congrats on all you are celebrating this week, particularly the ironing! I always feel better when I reach the bottom of the pile.

quietspirit said...

I wrote poetry at different times in my life. The thing I didn't realize them what the fact that words had to be very strong.

Unknown said...

I can always tell when writers have a poetic background; the writing sings. Even if I never get good at it, I love trying my hand at it (privately, of course)because it forces me to think about the cadence and sound of words--- blending rhythms to create beauty in language.

SK Anthony said...

Poetry really does teach us a great deal. I used to enjoy writing it in college and honestly I'm not sure why I stopped :(

Al Diaz said...

I'm not good with poetry, but I can't be perfect. :)
Show with red carpet? That must have been special! I love all of your list. Mostly the prize winning closing line. Have a wonderful weekend, Tyrean.

Laurel Garver said...

Alex: What we read retrains our brains. Try reading a little poetry and you'll be surprised what it can do for your creatively.

Diane: It can be a lot of fun to rekindle an old love. Just sayin'...

Laurel Garver said...

Jaybird: The brevity of poetry makes it far easier to squeeze into a busy life than other kinds of reading. If all else fails, keeping a few collections for bathroom reads will get you back in the habit. Thanks for coming by!

Suzanne: Indeed we can. I am working on a series of posts "stolen from poets" that shows how to use poetic techniques in prose.

Laurel Garver said...

Quietspirit: every poet has to start somewhere. And if you look at children's poetry, you'll find it can be powerful with simple words.

Julie: well said. The longer you keep at it, the more your confidence should grow. Hope you'll someday start submitting pieces to journals. It's a huge morale boost to get an acceptance.

Julie Flanders said...

In the past I hardly ever read poetry, but that's something else I've learned to appreciate more because of meeting so many great poets in the blogosphere. Enjoyed Laurel's post and I just love the title Muddy Fingered Midnights. The title alone makes me want to read the collection.

Have a great weekend, Tyrean!

Laurel Garver said...

S.K.: I've had poem-less periods too. It was usually through reading that my interest was rekindled.

Al: You don't have to be a poet yourself to read and enjoy poetry and glean ideas for your prose.

Laurel Garver said...

Julie: Thanks so much. Glad to hear the title caught your ear. :-)

Golden Eagle said...

Great guest post!

I kind of like ironing. It's nice to watch something wrinkly go to perfectly smooth. Though it's infuriating to watch clothes wrinkle up again as soon as someone puts them on. :P

Nate Wilson said...

You're right, Laurel, I should do more with poetry. Writing it has never really been my thing, unless it's haiku or somewhat Seussian in nature (I go more for rhythm and rhyme than imagery). But it could definitely lend more of a needed lyrical quality to my writing. Thanks for the advice!

M Pax said...

Congrats to Laurel!

Glad you had a good week, Tyrean. Ironing will never make my list. lol Can I send you mine?

Jeff Hargett said...

I love me some poetic prose. For some, the story isn't "the all" of it, but the skeleton upon which beauty is built. Combine a brilliant storyteller and a brilliant writer and you've got me hooked.

VikLit said...

Ironing is an unusual celebration! But imagination time is good ;)

Unknown said...

I totally get the ironing thing! I love those mindless tasks, like driving somewhere, when you can kind of space off and think about different ideas, WIP scenes, etc.

Actual time for writing is also always appreciated :)

Tyrean Martinson said...

jaybird - You're welcome! I hope you get to read a poem a day again soon - maybe some Shel Silverstein?

Suzanne - There's a bottom of the ironing pile? I don't think I've seen it, or at least not for more than a day.

quietspirit - I think the act of writing poetry is one of strength, no matter what the words are

Julie - I'm never sure if I've gotten that singing quality, but I still managed to get some of my poems published . . . so you never know how good your work is until you send it out there.

Al - the red carpet show was great! Thanks Al!

Julie - it is a wonderful title!

Golden - glad you liked Laurel's post!

Nate - Seussian poems and haiku are still awesome!

M Pax - ok, well, I must confess that although there are good moments about ironing, I never finish the pile, ever, so I can't take yours too. :)

Jeff - poetic prose is beautiful! I keep trying to go for that, but I haven't gotten there yet. Someday, I hope.

Viklit - yes, imagination time is good!

JA - yes, actual time for writing is really good!

Anonymous said...

Reading poetry can definitely improve our prose. I wish I could follow in Bradbury's footsteps!

Tyrean Martinson said...

Laurel - Thank you for making this guest post so wonderful, and thank you for your comments and discussion!

Tyrean Martinson said...

Milo - Wouldn't we all?

Misha Gerrick said...

I love poetry for the same reasons as Laurel. There's more to it than just making words rhyme.

Every now and then, I find myself wanting to go back to writing poems. Used to do it often before I started writing novels. Now novels take up too much space in my mind.


Laurel Garver said...

Nate: other genres have lots to teach fiction writers. If you want great dialogue, for example, study plays. And nothing wrong with haiku and Seussian style kidlit. A little variety in the writing routine can grow you creatively.

Jeff: It really is a treat to find work that is both gripping and artistically written. Thanks for stopping by.

Laurel Garver said...

Milo: Yes, Bradbury sure could write a gripping story in beautiful language.

Tyrean: You're welcome. Nice to meet so many engaged blog readers!

Misha: I often flee to poetry when I'm stuck with a piece of fiction. It creatively recharges me.