Tag Archives: Writer’s Digest

Poem Tryouts: Content = Form

8:18 a.m. — San Antonio

listening to a vociferous mourning dove

Hello, all. Surviving? I hope you enjoyed reading the poems posted this past week. I loved reading both the familiar and the new. We might have to have another reading day sometime.

One item of interest, which some of you will have seen on my Facebook wall: Many of you know Sasha Palmer, aka The Happy Amateur. Sasha has just written and submitted to a competition, a short story ‘Born’. The competition is based on fan votes and Sasha is in 1st place. Consider checking the story out and if you enjoy it, rate it.

First go to: [you do not have to sign up, or log in]
Then enter: hughhoweyfanfic in the search box

Sasha’s story is in the top line, Ist, ‘Born’. She also created the sound track. Enjoy!

Now, let me give you something to tussle with and distract you from any summer woes. Today, I want you to try a form you have never written in. I know, but it’s good for you. It’s good for your poetry, too. At its best, form enhances content.

Last week, I gave you two places to look: The Academy of American Poets and Robert Lee Brewer’s list at Writer’s Digest. You may have your own site — in which case, do let us have the link.

Where to start? Pick your topic and then read over some of the forms you haven’t tried to find one whose technique suits your theme. Or, find the form you have been meaning to conquer and figure out a topic that will work well with it. Then, tussle. That’s the fun part.

See you next Tuesday when we shall write a blazon, a form that fascinates me, thus appears each summer. It’s a form I think we can play with beyond its original intention.

I look forward to seeing the forms you choose.

Happy writing, everyone.



Posted by on 22/07/2014 in exercises, poetry, Summer


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Thrsday Thoughts Part 2: More Questions Than Answers

9:28 am, Thursday, 20 January, 2011 – Atlanta

I have my coffee by me and have reread what I wrote last week, to make sure I follow roughly the same track. For those who have not read it, or who are a little fuzzy about what I said, you can go here. The curious serendipity that is life occurred again, as over the past week I came across an interview, a poem, and a couple of posts on the same question: Do I submit my poetry, or not? Part 2 is going back to that question, because I ended the week with more questions than answers. If I haven’t spent too long with the topic, I will go on to talk about resources, but that may become a part 3.

The topic has been a hot topic for a while. A few months ago Robert Lee Brewer, of Writer’s Digest, and a number of other members of the poetry community discussed the topic on twitter [#poettalk] with no real conclusion reached, but a lot of questions raised and a lot of confused writers, who, like me, want to know what the rules are now. And, therein lies the problem. In the pre-internet days, writers either wrote for themselves, or they wrote for themselves and for their work to be published, so that the truths their poetry told could reach others.

The internet has been a great leveler, which, in itself, raises questions and problems.  Anyone who writes, bad or good, can put their poems out there. I have, as I read through many, many blogs over the past four months come across some bad writing, but I have also come across poetry  that I find stunning, that moves me, that speaks a truth to me, and that I may not have ever seen if not for blogs.  So, posting in blogs, allows more opportunity for people to post their writing, no matter the quality and that’s wonderful for them, and allows more readers to read good poetry they might otherwise never have discovered.

Then why not have us all post, get our truths out there and be happy? That might be a place we reach some day, but it’s not where we are yet. I know that I submit because I want affirmation from the people who should know good poetry [publishers and editors], and their audiences, who become my audiences, if I am published. I want to work to a standard that requires me to hone and craft and continually [continuously?] work and rework my poems. That becomes another question. With posting, and even with all the ezines that have sprung up, because anyone can start an ezine if they wish, who sets the standards? Do we need standards set? Who says what a good poem is and what a bad, or weak, poem is? Do we need that?

For those who wish to post and submit, there is the dicey question of which poems to post. Of every poem I write, especially in response to the many wonderful prompts around, I ask myself whether it might be a poem I want to submit. I don’t like that I have to struggle with that question, but I am posting more. Magazines and journals seem more and more crystallized on the point that if a poem has been on a blog and been read, it, in effect, has had its first publication. And, I do see the editors’ and publishers’ point: when they publish a poem, they want to be the first to let readers see it. However, I also think that more and more writers will self-publish, and that the stigma that used to attach to that is lessening in some quarters.

There’s another question. Is having self-publishing made easy by the internet a good thing? I have two chapbooks that say yes. I would not have read them if they weren’t published at all. With the sheer volume of poetry being submitted now, there are many more poets, who might have been published in the days of snail mail, who find it much harder now to get their work out to an audience.

James, at a gnarled oak, says, in a comment on last Thursday’s post: This is something I go round and round with. I’ve also been in several categories. Lately, I’ve been developing a philosophy of submitting. Anymore, I am unlikely to submit to a journal/zine/site that does not a) take electronic submissions, b) publish online or at least have some kind of useful web presence, c) take simultaneous submissions, and d) allow submissions that have previously been posted on a personal site. I generally prefer to publish on my site. I enjoy the immediacy of it (even if the poem has been in revision for months or years) and I like the fact that people read my stuff and I (sometimes) get feedback. Occasionally, I’ve had to ask myself if my best stuff should appear first on my site where my readers can enjoy it or is it best to go elsewhere. Perhaps a balance is best and that’s why I do submit, but I focus submissions toward venues whose submission policies align with my idea of how submissions should be done.

You see, I knew once I got going this would be long and it has raised more questions than given answers. I am going to go give my poor brain more coffee. Let me finish with a point made by the writer over at The Rag Tree. I am going to give you his last point, but go on over and visit, because he has six other points worth reading. 7) A writer has only two obligations: to write as well as he or she can and to tell the truth. If you believe this, then you are writing for your community, whether it be the one that surrounds you, sympathetic souls on the other side of the world, or people who won’t be born for a thousand years. You may be published or not (or only in a minor way), but what counts are your words (not you) and the healing they bring. Many good people have died as a result of telling the truth as they see it.

I look forward to comments on this entry and will continue next Thursday with wrapping up if it looks like something needs wrapping and then, resources. Yes, I did mention a poem on the topic. Next week I will give you the link.

Tomorrow is Friday’s weekly roundup. See you there.

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Posted by on 20/01/2011 in poetry, writing


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Thursday Takeout

12:00 pm, Thursday, 16 December, 2010 –  Atlanta

For those who did not read yesterday’s post, I will be traveling tomorrow and so am giving you Fridays’ Freeforall today. If I have a chance tomorrow I will post a Wordle or list of words for the weekend.



First a mention for a Writer’s Digest challenge, in case you have not seen it, and if you have, to encourage you to try your hand at it. The challenge is to write a form of poem called a sevenling. It’s a restrictive form but sometimes that makes it easier. I submitted mine yesterday and if you are curious to read some example sevenlings, I have given you a link to Robert Lee Brewer’s page. You can also check the comments for that page, as that is where people are posting their poems. I would be wary of using those as examples as they are not all clear sevenlings. The deadline is January 15, 2011.



We Write Poems which will post your poems next Wednesday has a prompt that asks: so tell us this week “what you want”. Another simple concept standing under the tree, words in hand. Let your thoughts drift onto this, explore, something more perhaps than that “doggie in the window” or a new pair of shoes. Head to their site to read more. I love the different possibilities and thoughtfulness of their prompts.

Writer’s Island has a simple word prompt but I’ll let you discover it if you wish, because it’s fun to visit the island.

Sunday Scribblings asks us to think about our limits: Coming up to the change of year it always feels like there is a lot of pressure to make a new start.  To promise yourself things or to seek to change yourself in some way seems to be the order of most January beginnings.  I think that before we leap into another year of resolutions, it would not hurt to look at what our limits are. Head to their site for the accompanying questions they ask to get our brains moving.

If you have not visited Cafe Writing–The Bistro, wander over there. They have an incredible prompt that involves six or seven different options [Try them all. You never know from where a poem will arrive]. They are due to change over today, but if you get in now, you can get last month’s and then revisit them this weekend and see if they have posted next month’s. You’ll know if they haven’t shifted if the prompt still focuses on magic. Their prompts are up for a month.

Big Tent Poetry‘s Monday offering is an intriguing prompt that will work for some of you and won’t for others, but check it out: I may have been the only person in the poetry universe who didn’t know Marvin Bell and his Dead Man Poetry. Until quite recently that is, when I was introduced to the form by a fellow poetry student. She work-shopped a marvelous version of her Dead Woman Poem and it inspired me to bring the form to you as a prompt. For an explanation of Dead Man Poetry visit the site.

Jingle Poetry‘s Monday potluck focuses on hobbies and passions and pasttimes and entertainment.

If you like picture prompts, go on over to Magpie Tales. they have a stained glass image.

Carry on Tuesday has an interesting phrase taken from the title of a Stevie Smith poem: Not waving but drowning. For the text of the poem, or to hear it read, visit the site. They also expand on the possibilities for what you might do. I suggest you not read, or listen to, the poem until your own idea is down on paper.

And last, Fiona Robyn of the River of Stones project coming in January asked those of us who know about it to post this link: . If you want to see the original post, I have a link on my sidebar.

If I do not get to my blog tomorrow, have a good weekend and I will be back Monday with a short, scaled back post.


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Posted by on 16/12/2010 in exercises, poetry, writing


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Submission Adrenaline

Wednesday,  2:20 pm, 20 October, 2010 – Atlanta

There is nothing quite like getting caught up in the rush of prepping poems for submission. When I’m in the throes, everything goes by the wayside. The vacuuming I meant to do two days ago? Not done. The research on Google to find a good pizza with tomato sauce in Atlanta? Still waiting. The mail? Filling up the box.

Yesterday I submitted a poem to A Writer’s Digest poetic form challenge I used to be afraid of structured form. My first few years of writing poetry were free verse. Then I tried my first pantoum and I was hooked. While I still write free verse as my default style, I love playing with a structured form. The poetic form challenge asked us to write in a form I hadn’t come across before: a cascade poem, where each line of the first stanza becomes the last line of subsequent stanzas: first line–>last line second stanza; second line–>last line second stanza; third line–>last line third stanza. Number of stanzas depends on how many lines are in the first stanza.

Today I decided to submit poems to Referential Magazine Usually they want poems that refer, in some way, to other things they have published, but a couple of times a year they have an open submission featuring a genre. This month poetry is featured. I would like to try the referring aspect but that will take some reading on my part and can happen any time.

It has been a long time since I submitted my work. It feels good to be back in the game.

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Posted by on 20/10/2010 in poetry, writing


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