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I started my writing life as a poet, published a few pieces in University reviews, and then embarked on my life as a professional liar -- which is to say, a writer of fiction.

Every so often, however, I have the same compulsion that used to drive me into the corners of crowded rooms, with scraps of paper and a pen I stole from some bewildered stranger, and I write poetry.

KP and I were discussing poetry tonight. Or rather, we were discussing a collection of poetry which I thought should have been severely edited before it saw print -- because had it been, I would have loved it. I know that poetry is hard to edit -- but oddly enough, while I would not touch a single word of the same writer's -prose- (or most prose, really, as I'm not a line-editor for other's work), I would fiddle all over the place with other's poetry, if allowed.

I'm not sure why. In fact, I'm not sure why I write the poetry, because there is not only no intent to have it published, there is an active intent to have it buried.

Anyone else?


( 22 comments — Leave a comment )
Jun. 18th, 2004 08:43 pm (UTC)
welcome to lj!
Hi Michelle- you don't know me, but I'm a filk friend of Debbie's. Live in California, have three year old twin boys, have known Deb about 10 years or so. Hope you don't mind my friending you, but I have great respect for your writing and of course, such a long time and good friend of Debbie's just has to be one of the most interesting people ever! So, anyway, no problem if you don't friend back or want me to remove you or any of that. :)
Jun. 18th, 2004 09:05 pm (UTC)
Re: welcome to lj!
To mms: Beckett is an AMAZING artist (she did our last two CD covers) and one of the nicest people I know.
Jun. 19th, 2004 07:45 am (UTC)
Re: welcome to lj!
you can ask Debbie -- I'm not so much interesting as, well, it occurs to me that I'm commiting suicide here; don't ask Debbie.

On the other hand, she rarely says someone is one of the nicest people she knows without being literal. The fact that she -can- say this, when you've survived three year old twins (I remember when our first was born - he was a bit on the fussy side - and all either I or my husband could think was "how do people survive twins?"), is a testament . I'm going to go off and google your art now; although I have, in fact, seen your CD covers for Urban Tapestry, I have the visual memory of one of those eyeless fishes that live in the dark.
Jun. 20th, 2004 10:03 am (UTC)
Re: welcome to lj!
Hee! Not interesting... *snort* And modest, too! Of course some of the most interesting ones are the quiet ones who say things only when they really have something to say.

Nice-- Hrm. Wish that were half as true as Deb says! She sees the good side, because it's so rare that we get to hang out, and I'm always really happy to see her. :)

Twins-- I think one ends up survivng with twins because there's really no alternative! Things are slowly getting easier, though god knows it was really difficult in the beginning. We were so sleep deprived I really think I've lost my memory in places for good. Also aged about ten years in the last three, probably. And god knows I haven't gotten much art done in the last three years... How have you managed to have kids _and_ keep writing?
Jun. 20th, 2004 06:26 pm (UTC)
Re: welcome to lj!
There is no putting me -and- quiet together in the same sentence in real life, but oddly enough, I tend toward that on-line much more. And yes, it's very hard not to be happy to see Debbie. Although it's true that if she kept the camera away from her face, we would see more of her...

How have you managed to have kids _and_ keep writing?

Truly? Because we needed the money. Had there been any way at all that I could have avoided writing for the first year and a half of my son's life, I would have avoided it. He was a very, very fussy child, and he couldn't be put down until he could crawl -- unless, you know, you liked being deaf. He slept poorly for a long time; did not, in fact, sleep through the night until he had all his teeth. BUT there was a block of time between 2 and 5 every morning in which he could be depended on to sleep.

So I'd write then.

I was a wreck, though, and don't recommend it; it doesn't make for happy parents, and the lack of sleep really does make you -- as you probably know much better than I -- a bit crazy.

Also: consider. I can get up from the keyboard at any time. If the flow of the work is broken -- and it often was -- it's heartbreaking, but it doesn't destroy the book. Get up at the wrong place in a water-colour wash and you can lose everything.
Jun. 18th, 2004 09:16 pm (UTC)
<raises hand>

The past five years, I've devoted most of my (non-day-job) writing to poetry — largely narrative verse. I have a collection doing the rounds (somewhat desultorily at the moment; Arizona summers do sap one's energy), and am working on a cycle of linked stories I hope will eventually become a fix-up verse novel. Some, I've manged to sell to fiction markets as short stories (The First Heroes, just out, has one) and am trying to market myself as an anthology whore willing to spin out on demand fluffy tales with line breaks. So far I haven't cracked the print genre magazines; I probably need to write more explicitly skiffy stuff for that.

Why? Because, at least right now, I'm better at poetry than prose. Narrative verse plays to my strengths as a writer, and diminishes my weaknesses. And, to be honest, it's plain fun to write. Especially Greek myth sex farces.

Jun. 18th, 2004 10:07 pm (UTC)
Narrative verse seems, to me, different from compulsion. Adrienne Rich is my favourite living poet; Elliot is my favourite dead poet. Nothing earlier (except for Emily Bronte) really speaks to me in the same way.

I think of narrative verse as a kind of prose, but more precise, more constrained in form. I don't write it though; do you write much blank verse?

It's funny. Toronto has, on its subway trains, Poetry On The Way (among the various ads the TTC sells). I love to read them, and have missed stops because I do. But at a distance, I can tell whether the author was male or female, and I've never been wrong; it's kind of like a game. My husband can't tell; we've debated my call a couple of times, and he finds it bemusing. But he doesn't write.

Jun. 19th, 2004 08:16 am (UTC)
Oh, I do lyrics too, often because I have to. Though the ones that sell are almost all epigrams and other light verse. That Auden is my favorite recently dead poet fits this, I think. (Other favored deads are Ovid and Ariosto; same consonance.) Favored live is Richard Wilbur.

I used to write mostly in blank verse, until I (finally!) learned how to rhyme a few years ago. Since then, I've mostly been working in stanzas — as much, now, because I'm still teaching myself how to use them well — or couplets. A couple of stories I have in mind for down the road will likely be blank verse (won't know for sure, of course, until I try them and see).

I am curious, btw, what collection you were talking about.

Jun. 19th, 2004 08:48 am (UTC)
Re: rhyming
You know how some people won't listen to any music with loud percussion?

I'm sort of like that with formal or classical structures (except Saxon poetry, whose two-beat two-beat is somehow subtle enough to fall below my radar); I lose the -words- to the rhythm. The moment I become conscious of the rhythm, there goes the poem; after that moment, it's all about measured beat. I find it overwhelming, and always have.

If it can be slipped to me in a way that I'm not aware of, I can read whole it, but almost only then :/.

But... I have a feeling that if it weren't for the rhyming, I would probably be able to read the actual syllabic work, if that makes sense; the rhyming is a big signal for my subconscious reader that things are about the get -loud-.

Jun. 19th, 2004 09:18 am (UTC)
Re: rhyming
<nods> That's the hard part about rhyming well.

Jun. 19th, 2004 10:35 am (UTC)
Re: rhyming
Actually, Larry, unless you think Shakespeare stinks (don't ask me), I -can't- read his sonnets for the reasons stated above; I can't comment on the quality of his poetry, for that reason, although -if- it's read aloud, it will sometimes move me in way that it can't on the page; my own internal rhyming-response gets in the way.

Jun. 19th, 2004 12:21 pm (UTC)
Re: rhyming

Jun. 19th, 2004 01:08 pm (UTC)
Re: rhyming
I consider it an unfortunate character flaw, but any attempts to alleviate it have always failed...
Jun. 19th, 2004 01:32 pm (UTC)
Re: rhyming
If that's how you're wired, I find it hard to call it a character flaw. It's ... how you're wired, that's all.

Jun. 19th, 2004 08:15 am (UTC)
it occurs to me
that I should also point out that you're writing your poetry for publication; I'm writing mine for... still not sure, to be honest. Narrative verse is something I can't imagine writing without an intention to find an audience. Actually, -any- narrative, seems to me, to want an audience.

I think, when I started my first novel (the one that became the second book) I was without question a better poet -- in the modern, blank verse sense -- than I was a prose writer. There are a lot of conventions in modern poetry that I had difficulty shifting away from (in particular, the use of description -as- description, as something that refers to an object, or in fact, the use of any description at all).
Jun. 19th, 2004 08:23 am (UTC)
Re: it occurs to me
Agreed about narrative and audience. I write to tell stories. My roots as a fiction writer were not with crabbed notebooks in my preteens, but as an oral storyteller to other kids. It's not a coincidence that my only prose fiction sales are fairy tales, because they are, among forms of fiction, the most closely identified with a storyteller's voice.

One thing I like about narrative verse is that, in addition to description and language being concentrated, so is the voice.

Jun. 18th, 2004 09:19 pm (UTC)
You write poetry for the same reason I read it. It is soul food.
Sometimes you don't what it means to you. Like abstract art.
Jun. 20th, 2004 05:26 am (UTC)
Hey, Michelle -- welcome to LJ!! Sorry we missed you on our trip to Toronto.

I don't particularly consider myself a good poetry writer, but every once in a rare while, I get an urge to write something in verse. To me, poetry is a emotional snapshot, a way to freeze a moment or a thought or a feeling.
Jun. 20th, 2004 09:11 am (UTC)
I'm sorry you missed me, too... among other things, it's one of the most certain ways to remember what the weekend is -- you and Denise come by the store.

I'm not sure I consider myself a good poetry writer -- I was a better poet than a prose writer when I started my first published novel, but then again, how many of us can read with joy our first published novel? (Tanya doesn't count, if she's reading this :P) But I kept working on refining the novel form, and worked far less often on the poetry over the interveniing years.

And yes!! to the emotional snapshot; to me poetry is both an emotional snapshot and a way of getting at something emotional that simply won't let go -- which is to say, yes, it's an emotional snapshot, but it's sort of like sticking a camera into the eye of a Tornado and watching the debris fly past without losing your arm. Metaphorically speaking.

And I've been writing nothing but for the last few days, and I have real deadlines, and other work :/.

Okay, couldn't get to sleep until 5:00 a.m., so metaphors should -probably- be taken away from me, along with anything sharp or anything without caffeine...
Jun. 20th, 2004 01:26 pm (UTC)
Re: hey!
"Ma'am, please put down that imagery and back away slowly ... "

Jun. 22nd, 2004 05:58 am (UTC)
It's me! (kith) Mostly I lurk in the background as well, until Tanya yells at me for not posting enough, then I ramble about stuff no one cares about. *g*

Welcome to LJ. :)
Jun. 22nd, 2004 08:33 am (UTC)

Tanya's just making sure that you keep in touch because she worries. She's actually pretty good at that...
( 22 comments — Leave a comment )