Poetry and The Fiction Writer

Pictures of books I recently read as a poetry study

Discovering The Art Of series and further study

The collection of books pictured above was inspired by discovering The Art of series at my local library. The Art of discusses different aspects of writing with examples from a great variety of texts. I wanted to learn more about the authors who wrote the series, so I picked up their poetry and essays as well. I’m glad I did. This group of books :intelligent discussion, imparted wisdom and beautiful poetry.

But I’m a fiction writer, why spend time with poetry and poets?

Words are a writer’s tools and poets have to use words in the most efficient manner for maximum emotional effect.

Ellen Bryant Voigt

The Art of Syntax: Rhythm of Thought, Rhythm of Song

Rhythm is what makes Ms. Voigt’s poems so amazing. Her contribution to The Art Of series is my favorite of the bunch. I learned some interesting vocabulary specific to the rhythm of words:

enjambment – the running on of the thought from one line, couplet, or stanza to the next without a syntactical break.

trochee – a foot of two syllables, a long followed by a short in quantitative meter, or a stressed followed by an unstressed in accentual meter.

caesura –

1. Prosody. a break, especially a sense pause, usually near the middle of a verse, and marked in scansion by a double vertical line, as in know then thyself presume not God to scan.
2. Classical Prosody. a division made by the ending of a word within a foot, or sometimes at the end of a foot, especially in certain recognized places near the middle of a verse.
3. any break, pause, or interruption.

fricative

palimpsest – a parchment or the like from which writing has been partially or completely erased to make room for another text.

Headwaters: Poems

I loved these poems. Though completely lacking in punctuation, the message is never lost and the rhythm is clear. Her word choice is beautiful. These poems felt like a magical discovery.

Mark Doty

The Art of Description: World into Word

I enjoyed the idea of “the sensorium”–finding the places of sensory overlap and allowing the senses their complexly interactive life.

I also noted that I should read :

Middlemarch by George Eliot and
Resurrection Update: Collected Poems, 1975-1997 by James Galvin

Deep Lane: Poems

These poems take you on walks with the dog and inspections of the garden. They take you there through lovely description and word choice.

Charles Baxter

Charles Baxter is the editor of The Art of series.

The Art of Subtext: Beyond Plot

Full of examples of how subtext is used in fiction.

Burning Down the House: Essays on Fiction

Mr. Baxter’s essays get into his thought process. They let the reader into the flow of a writer mind.

Here I also learned a new word: Pusillanimous – lacking courage and resolution

Brenda Ueland

If You Want to Write: A Book about Art, Independence and Spirit

It felt like serendipity when Charles Baxter started talking about Brenda Ueland’s book because I already had it on my bookshelf. It’s a great book for those times you need a cheerleader, which, as writers, we often do.

I just opened to a random page and found this bit of fun:

Now Blake thought that this creative power should be kept alive in all people for all of their lives. And so do I. Why? Because it is life itself. It is the Spirit. In fact it is the only important thing about us. The rest of us is legs and stomach, materialistic cravings and fears.   –Brenda Ueland

Excited to fill up on some poetry?

Here are some links to poetry sites I enjoy, so you can get your fill while you wait for the books you just ordered from Amazon to arrive  🙂

Poetry Foundation

Poets and Writers

Eunoia Review

Tweetspeak Poetry

Are You Thrilled

Joy Write

Happy Reading and Writing

Don’t be pusillanimous. Get out there and explore!

Who is your favorite poet?

What is your favorite poetry book?

What is your favorite poetry website?

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Why would a writer or a reader not want to learn new words?

The pages of a dictionary partially in shadow

Learning new words can be like discovering a new tool that makes a tedious task simple, or tasting a delicious flavor never sampled before.

I love to learn new words. When I come across a new word I enjoy or relate to, I collect it in my writing notebook in One Note and when I update my website, mbercreations.com, I include a new word on my inspiration page. I follow a couple of great word blogs here on wordpress.Sesquiotica by James Harbeck and WordBowl by Ms. Charlie Schroder.

A new vocabulary writing exercise:

A while back, when I was reading House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski, I collected many words and brought my finds to my writing group. We decided to do a writing exercise in which we incorporated our favorite new words from my list into a short piece of fiction. I had been mulling around an idea for a sci-fi story for a while and decided to use it for this exercise. Just for fun, I used all of the words from the list that I could and found some more to create a short beginning to that story. I really enjoyed the exercise, but my piece was most definitely over the top and I put it aside while working on other things.

Revision: Deciding what to keep and what to change.

Recently, I decided to revisit this story for a class assignment hoping to continue to develop it, perhaps finish it, during the class. I expected to simply go through the less familiar words and replace them, but a number of them turned out to be the strongest choice. I didn’t find better words than tessellated and protean to describe parts of my monster rising from the sea and tenebrific truly describes the quality of its shadow. So some of the words I learned from the exercise stayed, and in my opinion began to define the voice of the narrator.

Disappointing feedback gets me thinking.

Imagine my disappointment when the feedback from my peers (three reviews) came to one consensus: they did not appreciate my word choice. The most complimentary said the words were too “technical” and another stated he did not like to look things up in a dictionary while reading. If not while reading, when?

The course is online. The readers are online while reading. How hard is it to split-screen with dictionary.com? Learning new words is easier than ever and people taking a writing class acted as if using a word that was unknown to them was some sort of personal affront. Pareidolia is a great word. If I saw it for the first time, I would be excited to look it up.

The words I used are not archaic or abandoned. They have unique meanings that clearly state what I mean to say.  Should a writer be expected to limit her vocabulary? Why shouldn’t she expect her readers to rise to the challenge? Why would a writer limit his joy of language in fear that his reader doesn’t know the same words he does and won’t pick up a dictionary?

How could anyone who wants to write fiction not want to explore every word and its many uses? Isn’t limiting one’s vocabulary to fit an imagined understanding, condemning readers to a  truncated experience? Isn’t it wiser to assume a love of language and use all of the tools and weapons at hand?