Furry Writers' Guild Forum

Poetry forum suggestions

Thanks to Poetigress, we have a new forum. This means that different topics, such as formatting, language differences, or particular types of poetry can be created instead of just tacking everything onto a single thread as we were doing up until today.

Please note that actual poems written by forum members for critique or discussion should be posted to the Critique forum. Discussion of published poems by other authors can be placed here, I’d say.

If you have ideas or suggestions for how to get more out of the Poetry forum, tag them onto this topic for everyone to discuss.

Have fun and make the Poetry forum grow, folks.

I hope this suggestion is on-topic for this category. The contemporary American poet Dana Gioia has written and spoken publicly about the state of poetry in modern life. I would recommend writers consider what he has said in his essays on poetry, which you may find on his website. You might begin with this one…


This one, Can Poetry Matter? which first appeared in the magazine The Atlantic in 1991 caused a minor upheaval in the literary community. Much has changed since then but I believe his suggestions for improvement are still valid.

Do you ever read poetry, that of others, or your own, aloud? Please consider this excerpt regarding the reading of poetry from The Norton Introduction to Literature, as I have posted it on my DreamWidth journal:


Now I see that this board is over 100 views, so someone must be interested in what I’m putting up here. Here’s another author’s comments on spoken poetry. This is the next entry in my Dreamwidth journal http://shining-river.dreamwidth.org/25032.html and it comes from the book The Spoken Word Revolution Redux, edited by Mark Eleveld, 2007. This book is about contemporary poetry performance, poetry slams and related genres. It is one that I would recommend if you are looking to learn about the poetry performance scene.

Thank you for those! Reading poetry aloud is something I enjoyed doing at school, and hope some day to do with my own work, so that was interesting.

I should admit, though, that I actually prefer reading poetry in my head to hearing it out loud. I’d rather have my own idea of how the words should sound, and hearing another’s interpretation of them, or my own horrible voice trying to do the job, takes me out of the poem.

Since this is the Poetry forum suggestions board, I should make an actual suggestion from time to time. So, here is a suggestion, for you, Huskyteer.

Try reading aloud one of your own poems, or a poem by any other author, along with your choice of a piece of music, one without words, and which is approximately the performance duration as the reading of your selected poem. As you practice this, you may find it necessary to speak some sections of the poem more loudly or softly, and to adjust the phrasing of the poem to be more congruent with the tune. I hope you will develop confidence in hearing yourself read aloud. I think every author should.

Currently, my favorite blend of poetry and music is the reading of James Dickey’s For the Last Wolverine http://shining-river.dreamwidth.org/14314.html along with the tune Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness from the Smashing Pumpkins album of the same name.

Here’s another attempt at a suggestion, even though it looks more like “Another Reading Assignment from Professor River” (heavy sigh, look of dejection)

Introduction to the two books:

The Spoken Word Revolution(slam, hip hop & the poetry of a new generation), edited by Mark Eleveld, Sourcebooks MediaFusion, Napierville, Illinois, 2003

The Spoken Word Revolution Redux, edited by Mark Eleveld, Sourcebooks Media Fusion, Napierville, Illinois, 2007

Recently I have shared with readers of FWG an essay from The Spoken Word Revolution Redux. I would like to share more essays and excerpts from the two books listed above, but first let me explain what these books are about.

Many of you with an interest in poetry are aware of the events known as poetry slams. The two books of The Spoken Word Revolution are about the history of poetry slams, performance poetry, hip hop, and some other alternative ways in which poetry is publicly presented in recent times. Both books of which I speak come with a CD that has some of the poems contained in the books read by their authors.

The first book, The Spoken Word Revolution, published in 2003, contains six chapters. The prologue to the book is an introduction to poet Marc Smith, recognized as the key figure in the founding of slam poetry. There is next an essay from the prominent American poet Billy Collins, which I will share with you in my next DW journal post. The first chapter has an essay about twentieth century events such as the establishment of Poetry magazine, the New Critics, and the Beat poets, and is followed by thirteen poems. Chapter two introduces us to Hip Hop, chapter three is about Performance poetry, and chapter four is about Competitive poetry and this contains an essay appropriately entitled Poetic Pugilism.

Chapter five bring us to the Slam poetry and contains six essays, the first one by Marc Smith. Finally, chapter six introduces us to the role of poetry among teen age students and young adults. Groups of slam and performance poetry have been introduced in schools and communities all over America.

The Spoken Word Revolution Redux, published in 2007, continues the energy found in the first book, and expands on the developments in slam poetry. It begins with an introductory essay by prominent poet Ted Kooser. Part One includes the category “women take the slam”. Part Two is “Legacy: poetic influence” and includes five essays. Part Three is “Musicians meeting poets/music meeting poetry”, and Part Four is “Slam poetry”.

Part Five is “the spoken world: poetry abroad” and contains thirteen poems from poets outside the U.S. Part Six is “the young and spoken: youth poetry”, and finally Part Seven is “a hip-hop poetica”, containing three essays and twenty-eight poems.

In the concluding epilogue, poet and writer Victor D. Infante writes, “The success of spoken word came from its appeal to nontraditional poetry audiences, people looking for something beyond the “poetry establishment” . . . These are soul-searching times, demanding of maverick poets that they speak to the issues of the day, not to big houses in the country. . . . As it stands, slam holds a great well of untapped potential. . . One hopes that the poets would remain the same, screaming at darkness whether anyone listens or not…”

Here is another reading assignment for you class, aren’t you excited! I thought it could have gone into The Library board as a review but it isn’t so much a review as it is an recommendation.

The Poetry Home Repair Manual, Practical Advice for Beginning Poets, Ted Kooser, University of Nebraska Press, Lincoln and Lindon, 2005

Ted Kooser was Poet Laureate Consultant to the Library of Congress from 2004 to 2006. Among his literary work he has written ten collections of poetry.

I believe I have found the best book I’ve ever read on the writing of poetry. Just by the second page, in Chapter One, I came across this statement, “I believe with all my heart that it’s a virtue to show our appreciation for readers by writing with kindness, generosity, and humility toward them.” On page five we read, “By writing poetry, even those poems that fail and fail miserably, we honor and affirm life. We say, "We loved the earth but could not stay.” " On page seven, get this, Furs, he writes, “Though it can be a lovely experience to write a poem that pleases and delights its author, to write something that touches a reader is just about as good as it gets. The finest compliment I’ve ever received came from a woman who had read a little poem of mine called “Spring Plowing” in which I describe a family of mice moving their nests out of a field to avoid a farmer’s plow. The poem presents a playful, Walt Disney-like scene, with the mice carrying tiny lanterns, and the oldest among them loudly lamenting their arduous journey. This woman wrote to me and said that she would never again pass a freshly plowed field in spring without thinking about those mice. I’d given her something that changed the way she saw the world, and she was thankful for that. I was deeply honored.” *

In chapter two, “Writing for Others”, Ted writes about the need for our poetry to be accessible and relevant to our reader. He writes, “A poem is the invited guest of its reader. As readers we open the door of the book or magazine, look into the face of the poem and decide whether or not to invite it into our lives. . . In the real world, people know they don’t have to understand the hidden meaning of your poem. . . If your poem doesn’t grab them at once, they’re turning the page.

Through twelve chapters, Ted instructs and comments upon many aspects of writing poetry, always doing so in a style that is easily understood. Subsequent chapters cover the subjects of “Writing about Feelings” (chapter 6), “Working with Detail” (chapter 9), "Controlling Effects through Careful Choices (chapter 10), and “Fine Tuning Metaphors and Similes” (chapter 11). Finally in chapter twelve, “Relax and Wait”, he tells us, “A poem must be equipped to thrive by itself in a largely indifferent world. You can’t be there with it, like its parent, offering explanations. . .” He makes some good points about the process of revision and rewriting, about having others read your work before submitting for publication, about writing groups, and finally about the submission process itself. He ends saying thus, “Remember that the greatest pleasures of writing are to be found in the process itself. Enjoy paying attention to the world, relish the quiet hours at your desk, delight in the headiness of writing well and the pleasure of having done something as well as you can.

  • Made me wonder if he had seen “The Secret of NIMH” before he wrote that poem. I must find this poem.

Those are lovely quotes, and a great title. I’ll look out for this one!

Thanks for the recommendation. Haven’t seen that one but I’ll get hold of a copy pronto.

And yes, I think he must have stolen that field mouse idea either from the film or from the book on which the film was based, Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH by Robert C. O’Brien. The book was published in 1971. If you find the poem, see when that was published.

Poem is here:


Listed as being published in 1985, but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t written earlier than that. To me, it’s really not close enough of an image to feel stolen. Could have been inspired by the book or film, but certainly anyone with any sort of farming background could have also come up with such an image independently, and it’s just coincidence that it matches up.

Yes, my use of the word “stolen” was a bit flippant, I agree. Given the widespread exposure the film received though, anything after the film seems likely to have been at least influenced by that imagery.

Reviewers of Kooser’s book on poetry writing rate it highly, though they do note a heavy slant toward free verse, in case that matters to anyone. My library system does not have the book. I ordered a copy from ABEBooks.com, where there are plenty available, both hardcover and paperback.

Two previous posts of mine on this board have been about spoken word poetry and performance poetry. I would like to recommend to you one more essay about spoken word poetry. This essay by poet Billy Collins is found in the book The Spoken Word Revolution, (slam, hip hop & the poetry of a new generation), edited by Mark Eleveld, Sourcebooks MediaFusion, Napierville, Illinois, 2003. Here are a few excerpts from it and you may read the whole essay on my Dreamwidth journal http://shining-river.dreamwidth.org/25372.html

"[i]In recent decades, the phenomenon of the poetry reading has become as much a regular part of our cultural menu as the chamber music recital or the film festi­val. Readings are taking place at colleges and libraries, bars and coffee shops, bookstores, galleries, and at least one Laundromat that I’ve heard of. . .

. . .What is the draw? Why insist on being in the presence of an author when we have already met him at his best? Why not sub­mit to our print culture and stay home with a cup of tea—or a few inches of whiskey—and open a book? . . .

. . .What the live reading and the recorded reading provide, then, is voice. Surely, we hear an inner voice when we hold a book of poetry in our hands and read in silence, but it is not the voice of the poet. Rather, it is our own internal voice that claims the poem. . ."[/i]

And while I have your attention, please consider viewing this brief performance by poet Sarah Kay, a prominent advocate of spoken word poetry *, as presented this past week on PBS Newshour, in their new video series “Brief But Spectacular”. http://video.pbs.org/video/2365512303/

Here is my transcript of the video’s dialogue.

PBS Newshour anchor Gwen Iffel speaking :

“Today we launch a new series on Facebook and we’re calling it “Brief But Spectacular”. These are interviews conducted by producer Steve Goldbloom featuring personal insights from artists, authors, leaders and thinkers telling us briefly what they are passionate about. Look for them every Thursday on Newshour’s Facebook page and often right here. We kicked off the series with a message of gratitude from poet Sarah Kay.” (Music, sound effect)

Poet Sarah Kay speaking :

"I tell people that spoken word poetry is a type of poetry that doesn’t just want to live on paper, that something about it demands to be heard out loud and witnessed in person. It’s a very immediate art form, you get to see visibly on people’s faces and hear out loud if and when they are responding. There’s alot of people who have been led to believe that poetry is not for them or that they don’t get poetry. And that always makes me sad because a big part of what I try to do in my work, not only in my art but also in my work in classrooms, is try to make poetry feel a little bit more accessible. Sometimes I’m in an audience where it is helpful to give them time to realize that a poem is going to happen. And other times it actually more effective to not warn people. . .

(she immediately begins poem)

When I’m inside writing
all I can think about
is how I should be outside
When I’m outside living
all I can do is notice
all there is to write about.
When I read about love I think
I should be out loving!
When I love I think
I need to read more.
I’m stumbling in pursuit of grace
I hunt patience with a vengeance
On mornings when my brother’s tired muscles held to the pillow
My father used to tell him
For every moment you aren’t playing basketball
Someone else is on the court practicing.
I spend most of my time wondering if I should be somewhere else
So, instead,
I have learned to shape the words “Thank you”
with my first breath each morning
my last breath each night
When the very last breath comes
at least I will know I was grateful
for all the places I was so sure I was not supposed to be
All the places I made it to
All the loves I held
All the words I wrote
And even if it is just for one moment I know I will be exactly
where I’m supposed to be.

Most of my previous posts to this board have been about spoken word poetry and my goal was to share this subject with members of Furry Writers Group who have an interest in poetry and who might not have given the subject much attention. I did so in the hope that you would be drawn toward the idea that interest in poetry in the furry community could be expanded if writers would share their poetry with that kind of enthusiasm and energy that we see in so many other furry activities. I like to imagine writers who would spontaneously read aloud or recite their poems at furry events, writers who would choreograph performance of their work with the aid of others, and maybe even poets who would have the confidence to engage in friendly furry poetry slams. The rest of the worldwide poetry community has been doing this for over two decades. What might the future be like if we tried it too?

I have a busy summer ahead of me, with some other projects which need my attention, so here is one last suggested reading from old professor River. Please take a look at this story about a class in “graphic poetry” at Dartmouth College in Hanover, New Hampshire.


Excerpts from the story.

[i]Growing up in Cleveland, Ohio, (Dartmouth College) Associate Professor of English Michael Chaney was a comic book fan-boy. . .

For the past decade Chaney, who specializes in 19th-century American and African American literature and culture in addition to being an accomplished artist, has taught “English 53: The Graphic Novel.” The course combines a rigorous analytical approach to reading visual texts—from Art Spiegelman’s Maus and Alison Bechdel’s Fun Home to the work of MFA students and faculty at the Center for Cartoon Studies in White River Junction, Vt.[/i] (www.cartoonstudies.org/) —with creative assignments in which undergraduates, many of whom have never drawn before, make their own comics. . .

. . .(student) Sarah Rutter ’13, an English major from North Andover, Mass., whose graphic poem “Cedar Shingles” appeared in the Nashville Review in April, says, “The imagery of poetic language can be richly enhanced when put into dialogue with visual imagery.” She made “Cedar Shingles” as her final class project, using plywood and laser cutters, which she had learned to use in an architecture class. “The process was rewarding and extremely fun.”. . .

. . .(student) [i]Julie Fiveash ’13, a studio art major from Yuma, Ariz., whose graphic poem “That House” appears in Drunken Boat, took Chaney’s class during her first-year spring, and returned as a teaching assistant her senior year. “The fact that Dartmouth was offering a class on comics as literature just blew me away,” she says. . .

. . . students make two graphic assignments inspired by their readings, at the beginning and the end of the term. Many students are anxious about their ability to draw at first. “I tell them, ‘If you can draw a stick figure with googly eyes, you can make a comic. . .[/i]