by Nicole | Jan 8, 2014 | Reflections, Writer Wednesday, Writing
Is a poem ever complete? This question is one I have struggled with through most of my years of writing poetry. As much as I love revision, it’s worth locking things away or sending them off as complete, because I might go back in and change things again. I have works I considered final at one point or another, only to find myself revising it yet again, years after the fact. I learned that it is okay to do that with poetry; however, we must come to a point where we feel it is time to share with peers and colleagues. Most of the poems I have posted here are considered complete – but I cannot guarantee that a year or ten from now that will still be the case.
A few years ago, I began to assemble a tool a toolkit of sorts that is comprised of tips, tricks, and suggestions from poets I have read over the course of my education, to help my poetry become more complete. In this toolkit, aside from revision techniques, I have added ways to draw more substance with my words, by way of freshening language and creating vivid, tangible images for my readers.
Now that I have the basics for this toolkit, I can take a better look at my work after the fact to see if I created a better poem by following the advice of my peers and the experts. A mantra I use when composing poetry goes like this: “Create. Freshen. Revise. Repeat.” It gets me through the process from start to finish. (more…)
by Nicole | Sep 2, 2013 | Journals, Life, Personal, Reflections, Teaching Composition, Writer Wednesday, Writing
I have written for years. If I had to state an age, I would say I started writing seriously when I was in middle school, writing hopelessly romantic sappy poems to the silly crushes I had then. I remember keeping a journal and writing about how in love I was with boy number 1, 2, 3, and so forth. Ah, to be twelve again. When high school came, I decided to take a creative writing class. I also started to learn the research writing process for a U.S. History course, and found that I really enjoyed the work.
Fast forward to college years, and my writing has improved drastically in many areas. I even discovered that I started developing my own process. As I type that sentence, I think to myself… wow – my own personal writing process. Well, to tell you the truth, we have never thought about it until we started discussing it during a graduate course I completed last year. I have always been one to write a thought that I have passing through my brain, and sometimes I find it difficult to keep them all together. I am the proud owner of many journals and online blog postings, both on my own blog and other websites. I sometimes cannot stand how my thoughts are scattered into so many areas, but I also find comfort in knowing that my work is spread out. It leaves me with room to reorganize as I go. Refining the thoughts in the attic of my mind is a task I find I do daily, but I suppose that is a writer’s life.
My personal writing process always starts the same way – freewriting. (more…)
by Nicole | Apr 24, 2013 | Poetry, Writer Wednesday, Writing
A Hot Mess
You see, she used to be popular.
We used to envy Barbie, but now
they call her ‘B’ on the streets,
and she chases that dirty dragon
through grunge of the City of Angels.
Her hair, once wispy platinum
and soft is now dry and broken,
smelling of stale cigarettes… her skin
once had a certain sun-kissed glow,
but now it’s cracked
and peppered with blemishes,
bruises, tracks, and scars.
Her scaly hands clutch
the pack of Marlboros
as if it was all she had left.
We heard her custom convertible
ended up in a mangled pink mess
after a 48-hour binge… she destroyed
that exquisite dream house
in Malibu, and her designer threads
now rest on the bodies
of drug lords and their whores.
I guess she sold them
to pay her debts, to set
her veins on fire, to cloud
her mind – all in an attempt
to escape the pain
of the plastic life she
so carefully crafted.
by Nicole | Apr 1, 2013 | Poetry, Writer Wednesday, Writing
For this week’s Writer Wednesday, I want to share with you an ekphrastic poem I composed a few months ago that I have recently refined.
First, let’s define ekphrastic poetry.
Definition of ekphrasis: a literary description of or commentary on a visual work of art.
ekphrasis [Gk ‘description’]: a literary work of art that seeks to describe or recreate in language a visual work of art (painting, photograph, architecture, sculpture, blown glass, etc.)
The visual arts serve as great inspiration for poets. For the following poem, I derived my inspiration from the famous Norman Rockwell piece, The Love Song, which is on display at the Indianapolis Museum of Art.
The Love Song, by Norman Rockwell.
Oil on Canvas, 1926.
The Love Song (after Norman Rockwell)
Mr. Jameson and his friend
were about to rehearse –
my favorite part
of the morning.
The metronome counts.
past nine –
right on time.
I had eleven
minutes to fantasize,
and I intended
to use each one
before the coo of the clock
brought me back to my broom
and the sink full of dishes.
Even though the house
was never clean
enough for the missus,
and I was behind schedule,
I welcomed the break.
The charming notes
fashioned by the flute
carried me across
the room, sashaying my body
to the window, where I could
I rest my head against
the cool, plaster-covered
The men and their music, they
drenched me in a melody
strangely familiar, but I don’t mind.
I adore their eager, genuine effort
to compose their notes like
they worked parallel to the Gershwins.
Every Thursday morning,
at nineteen minutes past nine,
the jazz takes me
back to that moment…
I clutched my broom
tight to my heart,
into my usual reverie.
We were sitting on the edge
of the granite fountain
in the middle
of the park, when he first
asked me to dance.
He held me tight
against his chest,
cheek to cheek, and
invited me to trace
his steps, so delicately,
as we swayed…
the love song he wrote for me
into my ear. For that brief moment,
I was his…
until the decrescendo
of the flute and
the clarinet’s swelling rest
allowed the little wooden bird’s
final coo to rush
me back to my broom.
by Nicole | Jan 16, 2013 | Poetry, Writer Wednesday, Writing
Tankas have become a form I enjoy, and the following poem is a tanka (or a series) of awkward moments. We’ve all had them, so why not make them poetic?
Well, That Was Awkward…
“Great first date,” he said.
Her eyes shone bright in the moon’s
light. She leaned up and
pouted her cherry red lips…
but he grabbed her hand instead.
Study hall… silent –
you could hear a pin drop.
That’s when my belly
rumbles, louder than a
diesel truck engine starting.
Walking back to the
bar, heads turn – I must look great!
Glance behind, notice
people staring… the breeze breaks
the bad news – my skirt: tucked in.
He raised his hand in
class – ready, proud to answer
the question… he wins
a prize from teacher. “Thanks, Mom.”
Face flushed with embarrassment.
Ran into colleague.
Never close. “Nice to see you.”
“You too!” We part ways,
say goodbye and leave… only
to walk the same direction.
by Nicole | Mar 25, 2012 | Journals, Life, Past Blog, Personal, Writer Wednesday, Writing
Freewriting, to me, is the ultimate way to begin any piece of composition. It prompts the writer to get their thoughts out and on to the paper. Freewriting helps the writer to organize their thoughts before starting the final draft. The key to freewriting is to not stop writing – no matter what. Why is it when I write… why do I always want to stop, contemplate, and revise what I’m writing.
Peter Elbow tells us in his book Writing Without Teachers that I shouldn’t revise myself as I’m writing. Goodness, I believe that is my biggest problem. (Wow, see, I just did it with that sentence, editing it as go.) I have to stop the madness sometime if I’m going to expect my future students to understand and work with a freewrite method/model. If I can’t make attempts to break my habit, how can I in turn 1) teach the model when I am not perfect and 2) help others learn the model and break their own bad writing habits?
I want to write about my writing habits for a while. I have found that revising as I go is not effective when trying to compose a piece of writing. I often get frustrated, find myself staring off into space while I try to think of a clever way to reword a sentence, and I don’t make progress within a small period of time, versus where I could end up if I would just write off the cuff and not worry so much about the revision process. I think that’s the editor in me, and the drive to write a document once and only have to lightly edit it. It is hard for me to turn that off, but when I do, I can plainly see the success. I notice I get further, I have more written down to potentially draw additional ideas from, and I don’t have to do as much work.
So I must ask myself… why do you work harder instead of smarter in this case? Come on! The answer at first is obvious – I’m an editor. But I need to dig deeper than that. Why do I enjoy editing? Refining a rough draft to get closer to a finished piece gives me a great sense of accomplishment. So, why won’t I just get closer to the finished piece to start, and then go from there, revising as I need to once the first draft is complete?
Once I do have a draft together, I usually print it out, read through it once, and then cut up the paragraphs if I feel there isn’t a solid flow throughout the entire piece. I have a rough time getting to that step, though, unless it’s personal writing. Writing for my undergraduate degree (the first few years, that is), I would often procrastinate and turn documents in as is, and hope for the best. More times than not I would get the grade I desired, which would lead me to believe I was okay doing this process, and could keep going. I’ve learned in my last year of my undergraduate degree, I needed to take more time to develop my writing. Perhaps this is because I began tutoring in my last year of my undergrad degree, but either way, it helped me achieve a better result: a good grade and satisfaction. Before, I would just turn something in and hope for the best, but at the end of my senior year, I knew I was turning in something quality and would deserve the best.
What changed? What did I do different? I spent more time on a project. I was organized from the beginning. I still struggled to stop revising as I wrote a paper, but would have my fellow writing tutors or my boyfriend proofread for me. By the way, he’s an excellent writer, although he won’t admit it often enough. I enjoy reading his work – he’s very intelligent when it comes to tech-centered ideas and video games. He always manages to put a creative spin on things. I sit here and wonder to myself, does he freewrite when composing his blog posts, and at the end of the piece, revise then and only then, or does he revise as he goes along? I know he has me proofread and edit for him on occasion, but I have never asked him this. I do wonder what his process is… and now that I sit here and think about it, I’m kind of mad at myself for not asking him this sooner. I suppose we will have to have a discussion when I get home this evening!
Anyway, back to revising as I go… how do I turn it off? How do I stop the urge to edit while composing a document? I need help with this. Maybe Elbow’s practices will stick with me. I particularly enjoy the concept of allowing four hours to work on a piece and breaking up the first three hours into two sections: the first 45 minutes and the final 15 minutes. This might actually help me concentrate more on getting the writing done versus making it perfect. I need to remind myself that this comes later, not first. I bet I’d be more productive with this approach, and then in turn, I could teach my future students this model and get their feedback. Does it work for everyone? I’d imagine it doesn’t, just as there is no one standard way to write. But I do believe that following Elbow’s suggestion will help writers, both struggling and expert, improve their craft.
I love both revising and editing – sometimes I have to remind myself they are two very different elements of the craft. Revision – re-seeing a document and making changes as necessary to fulfill requirements, whether it be substance or flow. Editing is different. And there are different types. Copy editing, editing for grammar and spelling and punctuation, editing to add a creative spin, and more. This is the part of writing I really enjoy.
Write, write, and write. I hardly spend time writing for pleasure anymore, and I really should, as it is my form of therapy. The fact of the matter is, I always find something else to do, or something else that needs to be done. I’m making time for reading more fiction, so why can’t I stick to my proposed daily writing schedule? How I wish there were more hours in a day, to accomplish everything I want… but by the end of the day, I end up giving up because I’m tired, work has worn me out, my eyes can’t bear to read another word, let alone paragraph or page. This must stop. I remember I used to tell myself “you make time for the things you want to do.” I should start telling myself that again. I have many things I want to do, and writing at least for an hour, or even 30 minutes a day is one of them.
Does the above help me gain clarity about freewriting and my own habits? I do believe so. It has helped me to point out what I believe is a top flaw in my own writing: revising as I go, editing before a document is complete, etc. Sure, I rambled a bit, but I think I was finally getting somewhere regarding revision. Is this a breakthrough? Quite possibly.