Well who knew about Goodreads?

Hi everyone,

I’ve only now paused to look into Goodreads. To some this may seem like the epitome of techno-ignorance, but for me it has been a case of just not wanting to add one more thing to my list of sites to worry about. Guess I’ll start paying more attention. Turns out a lot of people have rated and reviewed books of mine that I knew nothing about.

I ran across a summary that says my average rating is 3.86 based on 1,838 ratings. There are 390 reviews scattered over 92 of my books. I had no clue. I owe thanks to many readers for past compliments and reviews. I’ve wondered lately why the number of reader ratings seemed to have fallen off, and now I think I know why. From now on I promise to pay more attention and start checking Goodreads instead of blowing it off.

Golden oldies

Hi everyone,

In POETRY TIP #4 I made a statement that our society tends to value new over old. Yesterday’s poetry isn’t quoted enough in today’s journals and articles. For the fun of it, as well as to recognize some poems that have remained with you, I invite you to join me today by posting (with all appropriate credits), the opening lines of one of your favorite poems published more than ten years ago. I look forward to reading your choices.

My Word of the Month poem as a long ballad

Hi everyone,

I hadn’t written my Word of the Month poem for July yet so I decided to try it in a long ballad form that I described two days ago. Here goes.

Coming Home

Elbows flying, eyes ahead,
Some shove forward, rude, loud.
To others forward means instead
A race to win, to wow a crowd.

Forward means to think, to be,
To trip, to stumble, lean, or view,
But darling what it means to me
Is looking forward to seeing you.

(c) 2020 David L. Harrison, all rights reserved

Poetry Tip #4: Visual Elements

Hi everyone,

I realize that some of the sources and examples I mention in these poetry tips could be replaced with others with newer copyrights, but I choose to stay with these originals because they serve my purpose quite well. I’m not writing an article here where “newness” might be required. I’m offering tips about writing poems and because a poem was written more than a decade ago hardly makes it obsolete. An unfortunate result of today’s burgeoning market is the insatiable appetite for new titles at the expense of those that were themselves so recently new. So on we go.

In POETRY TIP #4 I want to point out some options a poet has to use visual presentation help convey his/her meaning. How we shape our poem may lend a visual dimension to how our reader experiences the words. In some cases the poet may arrange lines to create a spatial effect that provides the reader/viewer with clues to the mood or premise of the message. Georgia Heard helps us “see” the flight of her hummingbird in this poem from Creatures of Earth, Sea, and Sky (Boyds Mills Press, 1992). In the book, each line is arranged on the page to give the impression of flight. Alas, I can’t duplicate the arrangement here. You need to see the real thing.

HUMMINGBIRD

Ruby-throated hummingbird

zig-

zags

from morning glories
to honeysuckle

sipping

honey

from a straw

all day long.

In Paint Me a Poem (Boyds Mills Press, 2005), Justine Rowdon arranges her lines, screened colors, and even the sizes of her words to add a sense of galloping urgency to her poem about George Washington, which begins like this:

Why, of course, it’s George
Riding toward Valley forge.

faster, Faster, FASTER!

Trotting into surrounded towns,

faster, Faster, FASTER!

In more obvious cases of line arrangement and shapes (concrete poems), the poet intentionally forms a picture with his/her words in a recognizable shape. I lack the tools and skills to present samples here of concrete poems but there are plenty available if you search the Internet.

More commonly poets use line breaks, punctuation, and capitalization to add visual effects to what they write. Paul Muldoon is a Pulitzer winning poet and one-time professor of poetry at the University of Oxford. In his rhyming verse poem, “You Gotta Take Out Milt (Peotry, The Humor Issue; July/August 2006, pp 293-294) Muldoon divides 46 lines into five stanzas and three refrains without punctuation but for a single question mark and not even a period at the end. Why?

For one thing, it’s a funny poem and gets funnier if you read it aloud the way a guy might sound given his discovery that his wife’s out to get him. Who would break for commas under such circumstances?

On the other hand, each and every line begins with a capital letter, a reminder to the reader that this is indeed a poem and the poet is aware that he’s breaking rules at one end of the line but is observing traditional etiquette at the other. Somehow the effect of starting each line with a straight face enhances the surprising antics of the lines themselves.

In “An Earl Martyr,” (William Carlos Williams Selected Poems, A New Directions Book, 1985, page 89) the poet begins the first word in every other line with a capital letter whether it needs it or not and even though the poem is told in free verse, which normally doesn’t require capitals except to start a new sentence or stanza.

Rather than permit him
to testify in court
Giving reasons
why he stole from
Exclusive stores

Why? In my case as a reader, this tactic makes me slow down in reading to examine each line and consider why the poet chose to alternate capitalization while ignoring most punctuation.

You can find many other examples of poets who choose to punctuate, arrange, and capitalize their work to gain a certain desired effect. Here’s Constance Levy in A Crack in the Clouds (McElderry Books, 1998) with her poem, “Seagull Tricks.”

You may think
he’s not thinking
about your sandwich
because he is looking
the other way.

You may think
he’s not scheming
because he is dreaming
and stands like an innocent
statue in gray.

Notice how Connie arranges her lines and chooses her capitalization. These stanzas end in rhyme: way/gray, yet her lines all run over into the next (enjambment lines) so she begins them all with lower case letters to allow the reader freedom to keep moving.

In Music of their Hooves (Boyds Mills Press, 1994), Nancy Springer’s title poem is told in two 4-line stanzas. She chooses iambic and anapestic meters to echo the thundering hooves of galloping horses but also omits punctuation, capitalization, and even standard borders to free our spirits to run with the horse:

The earth is a drum
their hooves pound the beat
the cantering cantering
rhythm of their feet

My heart is a drum
every beat of it loves
the galloping galloping
music of their hooves

I hope these tips and reminders are useful to some of you. Please let me know if you have questions, comments, or suggestions.

RUM PUM PUM

Hi everyone,

Yesterday Jane Yolen and I received a copy of the first review of our upcoming picture book, RUM PUM PUM, a lovely review from Kirkus, which will be published July 14. The title is now set for a September 15 release date and is already available online for advance orders.
British artist Anjan Sarkar illustrated our book and the reviewers love his work as much as we do. For more information about Anjan, here’s a link. https://childrensillustrators.com/AnjanSarkar/portfolio

I’m especially happy with this book and one reason is because it began spontaneously here on my blog. Some of you may recall the day when Jane responded to something I posted, I answered, she answered, and we went offline to complete the book we’d accidentally begun. Every book has a back story but this one is unique in that it has many godmothers and godfathers who watched its public conception.