Friday Surprise: How To Be A Young Writer

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This is my desk. I blame the elves.

This year,  I gave myself a birthday present: the time to read all I want this month. I promised myself that I wouldn’t get mad if the dishes are not “done” every evening or the tax forms languish. Admittedly, it looks like my desk was attacked by demented elves, but I refuse to worry about it until February.

I have read all the poems that have been posted in the Brighter Light contest so far. And then I started thinking about other poems by writers under the age of 20 – young writers. I read through copies of “Stone Soup” and Highlights for Children.” I found more kids’ poetry in collections from the library and our books at home.

What struck me was the originality of these poems. I found myself saying, Wow I would never have thought of that, over and over. Take this poem:

Cheetah

A cheetah has metal girder teeth
it goes hurling down through the jungle
throwing out its fear*

Panthera leo -zoo -yawning-8aNow, I have heard cat’s teeth compared to many things: lions teeth to daggers, tigers’ to sabers, kittens’ teeth to needles. But cheetahs’ teeth and metal building girders! How wonderful to think of that!

Or take this stanza from Sylviya’s poem (she’s the young writer in the Yellow Ninja team) about hair:

Black is shiny like the blouse
my mommy never wears.
Shiny, glossy, smooth
like our kitten’s fur
when I squeeze her
to get some kisses.

I have all the usual associations with black: knights, stallions, nighttime, sadness. Sylvi on the other hand thinks of an unworn blouse – this says so much, so specifically, about how she feels about her mother, and their relationship, and beauty, that feel as if I am standing with her as she sees her mother’s hair.

5984380533_2816ee14a5_bAdult writers spend a lot of time trying to peek around the edges of all the rules we’ve learned and ways we’ve been taught to think. We have heard the overused metaphors, memorized the tens of thousands of rules of plotting, and tried every poetic form…until we have forgotten what the world looks like to us.  Adults envy young writers, I think; we are so used to comparing happiness to a warm puppy that we forget that happiness can also be a new Band-Aid, or a herd of manta rays, or a battered leather jacket with a broken zipper.

Don’t get me wrong – I don’t mean that poets shouldn’t read other poets, that essayists should never read novels, or that fiction writers should live in huts in the woods with no windows or visitors. We can learn a lot about how language works, how form works, what structures can work for stories, by reading and experiencing many things. But how do we do this and still keep our fresh perspective – our own voices?

What we can do is…write. A lot.

Ggb in soap bubble 1If you’re a younger writer, writing now means that you’ve started a thread that will connect you to the writer you will be as an adult. For an adult, writing a lot gets the “junk” out of our systems, so we can uncover the pure shimmering connections to our former selves. We can write ourselves into to the world in which it’s fun to pop glass bubbles, where spiders’s legs are as fine as spun glass and tap dance skitter-skatter, where there’s beauty in wearing our helmets and where bicycles have invisible wings, where birdhouses are farms or fairy homes or as safe as warmth, and where dragons love rocks and pebbles make our planet, where we are both ourselves and baby turtles,and where adults and children are connected by words, and birds, and love.**

So, I say, go to it.  Go, you yourself, and write ~ ina

*by Darren Coyles, aged 7, first published in Children as Writers:21st Year 1979, republished in Beauty of the Beast, ed. Jack Prelutsky, Knopf, 1997

**All of these images came from the Brighter Light challenge entries. There are many more than I could list and each one is as wonderful.

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A little Friday surprise: Talk to me

Pierre-Auguste Renoir - Confidences

Last month  I was looking for a particular ee cummings poem. And in the middle of the search, I ran across an archive of cummings reading his own work. Like this: love is thicker than forget. Since then, I’ve searched all over for poets reading their own works. I particularly love Fishouse Poems, which archives recordings of emerging poets. There’s an amazing poem by Amaud Johnson which you have to hear. Turns out there are archives all over the net of people reading amazing works. Of their own. Wow.

A poet we’ve interviewed on this very blog, Jay Sizemore, has posted some recordings of his poems on youtube. It’s an amazing experience listening to them – it’s not that the poems are better spoken, but different. I get different things out of using my ears than my eyes. I think we all do. I want to do a search sometime soon for youtube videos of people signing poems in ASL (which I don’t know much of, but a tiny bit) – I think I will learn a lot.

Charles Dickens, public reading, 1867It is good to read one’s draft poems aloud. It’s like getting several months away from them, it’s that fresh. All the slightly wrong notes are obvious; all the truly “on” moments stand out in great beauty.

If you find that you like reading your poems, there are not only open mics where you can speak your word in public but there are journals that will publish your works…in audio. These venues range from the multicultural spoken word standard, Visions With Voices, to the multi-media-friendly new magazines like shuf that include audio works. I’m thinking sometime that IOBs might want to try publishing audio works too.

So my thought for Friday? Let’s talk. 

Monday Twinings Tea

Sitting somewhere and enjoying a proper cup of tea? Coffee? Well, whatever you have and wherever you are, we’re here, and just now, I’m here, Andrea speaking.

William paxton2
No New York here, no cafés, no places to hang out, no corner for me to sit building up audiences of casual guests looking at me and thinking that I am something special. But oh, I’d love it – sitting somewhere being special – I could drink lots of coffees, I’m sure, but as it is, I like to admit that I also drink tea.

I sit in my kitchen, looking straight into my microwave oven, that is if I look up, and cafés: there is the grocer’s which is DagliBrugsen where I live. And just now, it’s tea and you out there. How I love to be connected.

So here I sit in my quiet kitchen and see Ina got something published somewhere. My fellow blogger or to be honest, the head blogger here, made it through!

Poem at Right Hand Pointing

Ina writes about breast cancer and this wonderful medical development that makes it so true to use a metaphor with koi and a frog.

But I sit a little quiet, thinking about my friend, Neser, who didn’t make it. And thinking about Neser, I always end up laughing, though now it is so many years ago. I also know that she likely would have loved Ina’s poem.

I put in another lump of sugar in my tea. It’s cold outside – please see Sidse’s picture from today:

SidsesColdWorld

I feel so lucky that the internet is working today which means Amanda down in Brisbane can announce her recipes for me and for the citizens of Sejer Island.

Amanda, we’re ready. We can’t wait for the lamingtons because they look so good on the pictures. I hope I can squeeze in some more details here though I know that these details might not be in our books – only this blog kind of taught me that maybe they should.

But what is our blog post for today?

Ina and I are running a blog about writing. And we want to introduce a poetry challenge for you:

An Adult-Kid poeming month in January 2013.

  1. You must have an agreement with someone on writing 16 poems for January 2013. You, being the poet, and this other someone, a kid, must create a poem according to the prompts that Ina and I will put here on the blog during January.
  2. You must enter a name – “the rocking tigers” or something like it. You must come up with a name for your team and you must submit this to us along with a short description of who you are.
  3. And I’m sorry but the poems must be in English.
  4. Ina and I will be ready with awards.

Tea tins in kitchen, mostly TwiningsThe prompts will be about describing the world. So we’ll just say, for instance, “England.” Then you will have to come up with a poem about England and then we might say “Bulgaria” and so on.

So here with my Monday tea, I hope I have inspired you all to set off
for yet another challenge.

Please tell us what you think.

A poll: how do you remain true?

Hello, dear readers. A knotty problem today, waiting for your thoughts.

A blog I follow has a post about a problem that many writers I know (and many more that I’ve only read about in biographies) seem to run into (in Western cultures particularly – some day we’ll have to talk about why there’s so much variation in attitude between cultures). The author describes the problem like this:

You see, friends, my immediate family simply doesn’t understand me.  They don’t know why I like to do what I do.  They don’t have any interest in things that I love.  They just barely fall short of making fun of me for doing what I am so passionate about..It’s all about being true to oneself, isn’t it?  Rarely an easy thing to do, but made even more difficult when those immediately around you will not lovingly accept it.

The trope of the Misunderstood Writer has a long and venerable history. But behind the trope is a truth that many writers live and struggle with every day. It’s a little annoying when The distrest poetyou’re confronted by a relative stranger at a party or a school meeting who comes out with:  “You’re a writer. How do you pay the bills?” or “I don’t remember hearing your name – are you any good?” But it’s just plain hard when this vibe comes from someone you care  about, or love and trust, or someone to whom you’ve devoted your own life.

I want to dispel a potential misunderstanding here: the author of the blog, Cooper Robbins*, is not a whiny wanna-be (“If I only had a supportive family, I’d be a best-seller, but no, I’m so beat by the end of the day I’d rather watch re-runs”); this is an author whose creative life includes a novel, a screenplay, and a fair amount of “&c,” on top of maintaining a home and taking care of young ones. Her post (and this post) aren’t about people who want to be writers but don’t write…this is about how we as writers keep writing in the face of resistance from those whose opinions we most value.

Nerr0795 - Flickr - NOAA Photo Library

Camouflage, demonstrated by the Graceful Kelp Crab

Robbins does this in part by developing and participating in supportive writing communities – in a way, that’s what her blog is about.  Some people (and I include myself here) have a sort of damn-the-torpedoes approach, which generally involves shutting certain people out of the creative part of one’s life. Other people hermit (to hermit: to isolate one’s self, creating a shell, and then decorating it with camouflaging materials, such as PTA meetings or banker’s three-piece suits, as needed).

So here’s my question. What do you do? What advice would you give to Cooper Robbins about how to cope with being surrounded by people who are either baffled  or skeptics? NOTE: The poll should let you vote for as many choices as you want – if it doesn’t let you, tell me and I’ll go give it a strong talking to 🙂 [IOB: ina]

*unsurprisingly, this is a nom de plume – sometimes everyone needs a place to vent.  I happen to have a venting blog too, and no, I don’t link it to my name and, no, I haven’t and won’t link it to this blog. Which probably says something, don’t you think?