First, here are photos of me doing some readings. (Sorry about the layout here. Oh, it’s better at the bottom. I’ll leave those there instead. Duh. )
Honing my craft as a poet was always important, since my English class in first year Dental Hygiene at the University of Toronto. I had submitted a (probably pathetic) ballad-style poem to her (no one seems to remember her name) and she gave me this advice.
POEM FOR MY ENGLISH PROFESSOR WHO SAID, WHEN YOU WRITE POETRY, ASK EVERY WORD WHAT IT’S DOING THERE; IF IT DOESN’T HAVE A DAMNED GOOD REASON, LEAVE IT OUT!
This is one of my shortest poems, and definitely my longest title. With it, I came 4th in the 1st round of a Poetry Slam at Café Deux Soleils on June 7, 2010 (Mom’s birthday). In the 2nd round, I maintained my 4th place with “THE THREE Rs OF POETRY”. Got a prize. There is/was a Poetic Justice/Facebook/YouTube video of me/this poem, also one at LitFest, along with other tiny poems.
There I am, still preferring to “shout” my titles. In full capital letters, bolded even. Almost all of them. Do other poets vary how they create their titles? I know it might depend on the publication’s guidelines. I’d like for my titles to be different from the texts of the poems, in some ways. Maybe my titles have been distracting or annoying for some judges or editors. How best not to distract or annoy? I’ll stop bolding them.
I still like Arial font, for its simplicity. Why use a serif, when a non-serif letter will do? Well, Calvin Wharton told me why, and he was a typesetter. If you type the word “ill”, for example, with a capital “I” – “Ill” is hard to read. (Is that first letter really wider?)
These days, while I’m rewriting, I’m asking lots of punctuation what it’s doing there.
For decades I was not using periods in my poems. Now I’m still embracing a “new kind of narrative”, which I see/hear is popular. Who’d have thought that I might find periods “refreshing”, along with some capital where appropriate?
Incredibly, while at Douglas College studying poetry (Introduction in 2011 with Liz Bachinsky, Advanced in 2015 with Calvin Wharton) I did not question their “GPS” (Grammar, Punctuation and Spelling) rule as applied to poetry. Perhaps my sarcasm (or subtle passive-aggressiveness) was not recognized when I produced my Perfectly Punctuated Poetry Portfolio as a chapbook at the end of the first course. Such a publication was not required till the end of the second course. It was halfway through that term that I realized that they meant to have different “rules” for poetry. Perhaps that syllabus has been rewritten.
These days I’m not banning periods. But I am removing many ellipses, some of which have been used improperly, I confess. They are “three periods” each.
I’m also deleting many of my “long, sexy em dashes”, of which I have been quite fond.
After all, I am not Emily Dickinson, though I admire her work greatly. Her very long (hand-written) dashes went sometimes up and other times down. She was light years ahead of her time and maybe even ahead of us now. We still don’t have symbols on our keyboards for her dashes. “Forward slash” and backward slash” just won’t do.
Yes, I’m removing exclamation marks, those “screamers”. Thank you, my friends.
And I’ve been removing lots of white space, where I’ve had three or five spaces. Most times I’m adding a comma instead. Horrors? I do resist having commas dangle on the ends of lines. That use of white space seems to be enough. Commas? (We poets do still need to sweat over those?)
What about self-publications? Our little chapbooks. I’ve made quite a few. I plan to purchase one of those long staplers so I can do more myself. Or maybe I’ll let Bryan at Royal City Mail do more of the work. Or maybe I’ll never ever self-publish again. There were so few copies made, perhaps they shouldn’t count at all. Perhaps I’ll consider those to be early drafts of submissions to publishers, and rethink them a lot.
I give publishing credits on the same pages as my single poems, as a way of tracking. Also, this year, I have started a spreadsheet. (Oh, Franci, Don’t forget that spreadsheet. I need to learn how to add more lines and columns, as insertions.) But, with these little works with manuscripts made and a few given away or sold, how to be honest about whether these have been self-“published”, and where? Should I search for each poem title, before making a submission? Perhaps I should consult with my mentors at Douglas College about that.
What do you think? Have you written about your own style of poetics and how it might be changing? When you make a submission, do you consider the style of the poetry judge, or the editor? It seems that many poems could be adapted to other styles. Would you say something about the style in the keywords?
Do you use keywords? I have always signed my single poem files with my name, my email address, and the date the poem was typed in. One summer I started adding keywords to all my poems. That took months. Another ruse to avoid submissions? I did claim to have submission-phobia. Friends expressed surprise and were supportive. That helped for a while.
Also I’ve claimed to have my-own-blog-phobia. But, here we are again, just not as soon as planned. This post is in aid of, or in homage to, Poetry Month – April. It is likely that I’ve mentioned poetry every day this month on Facebook.
Facebook is my blah, blah, blog? What do you think?