Friday, October 19, 2007

POETRY FRIDAY: Advice for Writers Starting Out

I read Ron Koertge’s poem “Do You Have Any Advice for Those of Us Just Starting Out?” Wednesday night. I liked his poem. It inspired me to pen my own poem with advice for beginning poets. What do you think about Koertge’s advice for writers who are just starting out? How do you feel about his poem?

“Do You Have Any Advice For Those of Us Just Starting Out?"
by Ron Koertge

Give up sitting dutifully at your desk. Leave
your house or apartment. Go out into the world.

It's all right to carry a notebook but a cheap
one is best, with pages the color of weak tea
and on the front a kitten or a space ship.

Avoid any enclosed space where more than
three people are wearing turtlenecks. Beware
any snow-covered chalet with deer tracks
across the muffled tennis courts.

Not surprisingly, libraries are a good place to write.
And the perfect place in a library is near an aisle
where a child a year or two old is playing as his
mother browses the ranks of the dead.

You can read the rest of the poem here at Poetry 180.

Here is my poem in a rough draft stage —a place where it will probably remain forever. I can’t seem to get the ending right. I know the poem needs work--but I'll throw it out there because I know the Poetry Friday crowd is an understanding bunch of people.

(A Not-Yet-Ready-for-Prime-Time-Poem)
by Elaine Magliaro

Write. Write. Write.
Write all the time.
Write what you know.
Write to explore the unknown.
Write from your heart.
Listen to your inner voice.
Skip the adjectives.
Use strong verbs.
Write with abandon. Forget punctuation!

Write in the morning,
a cup of coffee steaming
at your side.
Write after midnight
when the house is still
and fills with soft sounds that creep out after dark.
Write with a pencil on a composition pad,
marveling as your words glide across
icy blue lines like Olympic figure skaters.
Write on a computer with Fred Astaire fingers
tap-dancing on the keyboard.

Don’t be afraid to experiment.
Write on a frosted windowpane with your finger.
Feel your thoughts cold to your touch.
Write with your toes in wet sand.
Watch an incoming wave
capture your words
and carry them off to sea.
Write on the sidewalk with rainbow-colored chalk…
or on a wall…
on any blank surface that beckons to you.

Write about anger and angst.
Write about loss.
Write about laughter and love and longing…
about languid summer days spent lazing in the sun.
Write about anything.
Write about everything.
Write about nothing.
And when you’re finished doing that…
Write. Write. Write.

At Wild Rose Reader, I have brief reviews of two poetry collections with poems great to share with kids at Halloween time and an original witch poem I wrote many years ago.

Kelly Fineman has the Poetry Friday Roundup this week.


Anonymous said...

I like both poems.

I am not much of a writer but I write.

I write to see.

tanita✿davis said...

I just LOVE Ron Koertge. I also love the imagery of writing on frosted windowpanes. On mirrors and shower doors works as well!

Elaine Magliaro said...

Thanks, Kim! I was never much of a writer until I got stung by the children's poetry bug.


I like Koertge's work, too. Have you read his book SHAKESPEARE BATS CLEANUP?

alvinaling said...

Your poem is great--there are times when it feels a tiny bit preachy, though, maybe tone that down a bit? The middle two stanzas are my favorite.

Elaine Magliaro said...

Thanks, Alvina! I appreciate the advice. I knew the poem needed some work. It's good to get guidance. I usually let the early drafts of poems sit on the shelf for some time before I revisit them.

I think I can probably eliminate most of the first and last stanzas. What do you think?

John Mutford said...

Both offer a lot of good advice, and I like the humorous tone of the first. They only advice I'd add to either is to take some apart, then revisit one another. That perfect poem might only reveal its flaws 3 months from now.

Sara said...

LOL about avoiding any place with more than three people wearing turtlenecks. I know what he means, but what if it's winter??

And bravo to you for putting a poem you're working on out there. I find I start with a lot of stuff, and then pare down to just what I need. Sounds like you're about to do that too. Let us see what happens!

John Mutford said...

I meant to say "take some time apart" not "Take some apart"- though that could almost work, too.

Anonymous said...

Hi Elaine, I love your stanza that begins, "Don't be afraid to experiment." The temporariness of writing on frosted windowpanes and beach sand really made the thought of writing for the joy of writing and to see what comes out (as opposed to writing for publication/posterity/pay) come to vivid life for me!

I also love the Fred Astaire fingers. Nice!

Elaine Magliaro said...

Laura, John, and Sara,

Thanks for commenting. I sometimes find the final draft of a poem shows little resemblance to my first draft. Sometimes it's more than paring down the poem. There are times the whole poem changes its focus. I think reworking a poem helps me to clarify what I'm really thinking in my own mind--and what I'm really trying to say. It's like writing to understand your innermost thoughts and beliefs.

Mary Lee said...

Your draft sometimes seems to be sound bites from my classroom during writing workshop!

Libby Koponen said...

I like your poem much better than his! My favorite part of yours are the lines about writing on the frosted window panes.

Yours sounds like you just love writing -- I like the energy.

Anonymous said...

I needed this post this week in a big way, Elaine. Thank you, thank you, for the encouragement it brings.

Elaine Magliaro said...

Mary Lee,

I guess you can take the teacher out of teaching--but you can take the teaching out of a retired teacher!


Sometimes I do love writing! There are days I feel inspired and I get ideas and the words seem to flow like water down a mountainside. Then there are days when I struggle for every word.


So glad I could give a writer some encouragement!