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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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/

“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.

How do you revise?

You have a poem that has some interesting ideas or rhythms, but it’s just not making it? Here are some things I do when I revise a poem to work:

Take some of your lines, split them down the middle, and regroup them e.g.:

Here are the shelves of unread books

An immigrant who stands on the edge of the forest

becomes: Here are the shelves on the edge of the forest

An immigrant who stands on unread books.

Or try to take a poem and erase words, e.g.

In first grade

We learned the names of dandelions and birch trees?

Forgot them & relearned them. 

They didn’t make much sense to us,

because we were in New York City

where there weren’t many flowers or trees.

becomes:

Trilliums, sweetgum trees,

forgetting, relearning.

No sense,

New York City,

No flowers or trees.

Try rewriting your poem from a different viewpoint:

Two brothers planted a sequoia in the orchard one afternoon

becomes: All afternoon my brother and I worked in the orchard planting a sequoia.

When I wrote my new book, Touch My Head Softly, I went through many revises:

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

What do you do to revise?

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

My new poetry collection can be viewed here:

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/

“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.

Journaling as a Source of Inspiration

A piece of writing begins with a germ of an idea, an inspiration, a straw dog. Some people use their journals to spark ideas.

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I have been journaling for many years. I used to use pen and a notebook. Now I journal on my Microsoft Word App on my iPhone. I just find that while I may not always have my notebook, I tend to always have my phone. I journal snippets of ideas that I may later develop into a writing piece or poem. Do you journal? When? How?

I have a new collection of poetry out that started with my journal. It will be out soon from Finishing Line Press:

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

Or you can find it on Goodreads:

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

I’m Grateful that Straw Dog Writers Guild is Featuring Me on Their Facebook Page

Straw Dog Writers Guild, the largest group of writers in the Pioneer Valley, has featured my new book, Touch My Head Softly, on their Facebook Page. Take a look:

https://www.facebook.com/strawdogwriters/

The book will be out shortly from Finishing Line Press:

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

“’Speaking onto the page’ (is) letting our fingers be guided by the mental process we use effortlessly in everyday speaking.” –Peter Elbow, Vernacular Eloquence (Oxford, 2012)

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For any of you who have practiced Elbow’s freewriting technique, “speaking onto the page,” is it a useful method?  Whenever I get stuck, I do this.  I’ve done it in writing groups, speaking into a recorder, or just reading aloud for myself.  It seldom fails to produce some piece of writing.  The writing may not be my best, or may wind up unused, but it’s a way of getting started and perhaps generating something that eventually will be used.

Elbow also recommends this for editing, for writing that winds up ‘correct.’ You can do this while keeping those virtues of natural speech, and getting rid of what’s not suitable for the genre you’re writing in.  This can also add a new infusion to your old writing, by speaking it onto the page, reading it out loud, and hearing what sounds easy. Sometimes when you hear it, it just sounds different than when you read it.  I used this technique in developing my new collection of poetry, Touch My Head Softly.

This is the link to my new collection at Finishing Line Press:

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

This is the link to my new collection on Goodreads:

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