Reading Poetry Aloud

 So you have just had a poem published in a good journal or even had a book manuscript accepted by a publisher. You feel you have accomplished something, and you should. But now you have to read your poetry to an audience. If you’re published, you need to get your work out into the world. This is not my favorite activity either.  I just finished a reading this week with seven other poets, and felt my inadequacies. 

Poetry is one of the hardest genres to read aloud. Every poem has its own rhythm, can contain rhyme, and often uses fragments or phrases to form lines. This is drastically different from the complete sentences which we are all used to.  Figuring out how to read a line of poetry is unique from interpreting how to read a line of prose. If you don’t read well, you’ll often lose people in your audience.

I do know that people who have done many readings get better at it.  It’s a simple act of “practice makes perfect.”  I’m on my second collection of poetry and I know that reading your poetry aloud will elicit interest.  I’ve had people listen to me read and buy my book. I’ve also read on the radio, and this also elicits interest.  My recently published book, Touch My Head Softly, can be viewed here:

https://www.finishinglinepress.com/product/touch-my-head-softly-by-eileen-kennedy/

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“There are dozens of unfinished or aborted projects in my files, but I can only assume they don’t get done because they’re not robust enough to struggle through the birth process.” – Grant Morrison

I have many unfinished poems. Billy Collins says five or six poems wind up in his trash bin before he gets one that’s a keeper.

The concept of being complete is an interesting one. If you are complete, you don’t have to strive to do anything else. You don’t have to reinvent yourself.

We can change as we develop new skills, new experiences, new outlooks. That’s what makes the writing interesting. We adapt to new circumstances and overcome limitations. This affects our writing.

I wrote a book that was just published by Finishing Line Press:

https://www.finishinglinepress.com/product/touch-my-head-softly-by-eileen-kennedy/

After it was published, I floundered for awhile, trying to write different things, but not really liking any of the new work. Then I started on a new longer poem about the drowning earth. Here’s an excerpt:

The Boat

“Cuando sale la luna, el mar cubre la tierra

When the moon rises, water covers the earth”

                        –Federico García Lorca

I want to begin with the boat.  It was a thing of beauty.

Can one be seduced by a boat? I was.

This project intrigued me and I continue to work on it today. How do you stay engaged with your writing?

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Creating a Rough Draft

When I taught writing, I always had my students to a rough draft before the actual paper. A rough draft should include a clear direction in your paper. When you are required to submit a rough draft, it doesn’t need to be perfect, but it should be complete. That means, you shouldn’t be missing any of the major parts of the paper. 

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You should begin with a draft. Write a draft and then walk away and return again. Your second and third draft will probably be better.

When I wrote my recent poetry collection, Touch My Head Softly (Finishing Line Press, 2021,) I didn’t have a draft. The poems came slowly through the years. If I did have the rough draft of what I wanted the collection to look like, it would have gone much more quickly. It was five years in the making.

My new book can be viewed at:

https://www.finishinglinepress.com/product/touch-my-head-softly-by-eileen-kennedy/

This is the link to my book on Goodreads

https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/3609820860https://www.finishinglinepress.com/product/touch-my-head-softly-by-eileen-kennedy/

How Does Weather Affect Your Writing?

Weather can be a major factor in a story or poem. If you look out your window, you can be inspired. I live in Western Massachusetts, where they say “If you don’t like the weather, just wait.” It changes rapidly from beautiful sunny days, to mist, to rain, to snow, sometimes in the same day. I usually spend some time in Costa Rica in the winter, where I am now, where there are many ecosystems in a little country, including temperate, dry, tropical, sub-tropical. There is a dry and a rainy season, and the winds, called Papagayo, blow across the Cordillera del Talamanca.

Think of all the climates in novels. British author J. Ballard in The Wind from Nowhere, creates a dystopia in which hurricane-force winds dominate the climate. Mother of Storms by John Barnes describes a catastrophic weather change caused by a nuclear explosion. Margaret Atwood’s Oryx and Crake, where the world is divided into gated communities and pleeblands where the working class lives in unsafe, populous and polluted communities. Weather in a book an be a plot motivator or scene setter.

And where would we be without nature poems. Think of William Wordsworth, “I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud,”

I wandered lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o’er vales and hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host, of golden daffodils;
Beside the lake, beneath the trees,
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.

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March 2021

March has brought unusually beautiful weather Costa Rica, with sunny skies, and wind blowing cooling breezes through the mountains.   I hear the Northeast has been engaged in “glorious spring” with temperatures largely in the 60’s Fahrenheit.

Storms really are unpredictable. They can add an interesting plot twist to a novel, or line to a poem. And they can move from dangerous, unpredictable weather, to rainbows and sunshine. How does this affect your plot?

In my latest book of poetry, Touch My Head Softly, the story involves my lover who had dementia. While I see an “unrelenting grey,” my partner, in his altered state, sees “white lilies surviving frost.”

Check out my book at:

https://www.finishinglinepress.com/product/touch-my-head-softly-by-eileen-kennedy/

Or view it on Goodreads at:

https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/3609820860https://www.finishinglinepress.com/product/touch-my-head-softly-by-eileen-kennedy/

Esterillos Este Sunset. Photo by Eileen P. Kennedy

Is Writing Religion or Profession?

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For me, writing is both. I have been writing since I was eight years old and can’t seem to stop. But I’ve also published three books, derived income from my publishing, which in some circles would make me a professional writer. You just have to write to make it work. It doesn’t have to be brilliant or inspired, it just has to be. You keep going.

You might do many other things besides writing to support yourself, but you still write through it. Stephen King was a high school English teacher. During this time, he wrote his first novel, Tabitha. He kept going despite his busy job.

You are the only one capable of writing your story. It is unique. It belongs to you. Even if you find similarities in the work of other authors who you read, your story is still your story.

I wrote a book of poems about my experiences with my partner dying of Alzheimer’s Disease in his sixties. I even donated part of the proceeds from the book to the Alzheimer’s Association to find a cure.

You can find my book at:

https://www.finishinglinepress.com/product/touch-my-head-softly-by-eileen-kennedy/

You can find my book on Goodreads at:

https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/3609820860https://www.finishinglinepress.com/product/touch-my-head-softly-by-eileen-kennedy/

“So many things are possible just as long as you don’t know they’re impossible.” ― Norton Juster, The Phantom Tollbooth

I like this positive quote by Norton Juster. Possibility/Probability theory is a mathematical concept that Zadeh (1978) put forth as a possibility/probability consistency theory. I consider it more as an optimistic outlook. The Oxford dictionary defines it as a thing that may happen or be the case.

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If you have possibilities, you are optimistic about the future. When my ex-partner died of Alzheimer’s Disease in his sixties, I felt pessimistic. My possibilities seemed limited. Then I wrote a book of poems about the experiences. This was recently published in a collection called, “Touch My Head Softly,” by Finishing Line Press. I opened up many possibilities for me, as well as giving me closure on much of my grieving.

Here is the link to my book at Finishing Line Press:

https://www.finishinglinepress.com/product/touch-my-head-softly-by-eileen-kennedy/

Here is the link to my book on Goodreads:

https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/3609820860https://www.finishinglinepress.com/product/touch-my-head-softly-by-eileen-kennedy/

I will be posting on Thursdays, and on Tuesdays, if I have an announcement.

Zadeh L.A. (1978) Fuzzy sets as a basis for a theory of possibility. Fuzzy Sets and Systems, 1, 3–28.

“…we had longer ways to go. But no matter, the road is life,” Jack Kerouac, On the Road

I find myself having writerly thoughts as I am driving, walking, swimming. I pull over and blog on my iPhone if I get a good thought. I used to have a notebook in my car, by my bed stand, but it often disappeared when I needed it. I find I have by IPhone more regularly.

I’ve got a book, Touch My Head Softly, coming out soon from Finishing Line Press. There is always work around a new book, with readings and interviews, but I find myself looking toward my new work eagerly. I haven’t really decided on the next collection, but some new ideas are germinating.

Do you think about your writing as you go through your day? Do you write the thoughts down and write from them later?

Here’s the link to my new book on Finishing Line Press:

https://www.finishinglinepress.com/product/touch-my-head-softly-by-eileen-kennedy/

Here’s the link to my new book on Goodreads:

https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/3609820860https://www.finishinglinepress.com/product/touch-my-head-softly-by-eileen-kennedy/

I’ll be posting regularly on Thursdays, and on Tuesdays if I have announcements.

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“Poetry is a naked woman, a naked man, and the distance between them.” ― Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Poetry as Insurgent Art

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Lawrence Ferlinghetti, author of A Coney Island of the Mind, Love in the Days of Rage, and Pictures of the Gone World, died at age 101. He identified as a philosophical anarchist and was part of the beat movement, including Allen Ginsberg and Jack Kerouac. He co-founded City Lights Booksellers & Publishers in San Francisco. He was also a fine artist who painted for many years.

He gained notoriety when he published Allen Ginsberg’s “Howl,” and was indicted for selling obscene material. This led to a famous censorship case, the People v. Ferlinghetti, that forwarded the cause of stopping convictions for selling books. The failed attempt at prosecuting him led him to joke that “the police took over the advertising account and did a much better job.”

He was a rebellious poet, a courageous publisher, and bookseller who would not be intimidated about selling books. He was a major literary figure and force who will be missed.

My new book of poems, Touch My Head Softly, is just out from Finishing Line Press. Check it out:

https://www.finishinglinepress.com/product/touch-my-head-softly-by-eileen-kennedy/

I will blog on Thursdays, and Tuesdays when I have announcements.