Sunday, April 20, 2014

Poets have it going on


As prose writers we carefully craft our characters, plots, settings, scenes, and our sentences. We can learn from poets about the importance of selecting each word, too, for its meaning and its sound, its resonance in our hearts and our ears.

I experienced a lovely lesson from some amazing poets at a recent celebratory reading, hosted by Everett Poetry Nite. Our occasion was the publication of the art and literature journal Randomly Accessed Poetics Issue Four (Heart Splatters Into Significance), the first to be released by publisher-editor-poet William Lindberg in hard copy. Thirteen of us, all contributors, gathered to read pieces to an appreciative audience of Everett Poetry Nite regulars.

Contributors to "Heart Splatters Into Significance" at our celebratory reading
at Cafe Zippy, home of Everett Poetry Nite.
Back row: Larry Crist, Purple Mark Wirth, Carla Blaschka, William Lindberg, Brandon Pitts, Andy Wilson, Duane Kirby Jensen
Middle row: Raul Sanchez, Christine Marie Clark, Chris Jarmick
Front row: Annette Kluth, me, Sharon Meixsell
As those thirteen contributors read their work, I couldn't help but be reminded of the time poets invest in making sure each word in a poem pulls its weight. Each word adds to the one before it, or jars the listener into a new image. When I'm writing a novel length work it's not easy to stay focused on the importance of each word. But listening to these word-artists read their work out loud inspired me to bring more attention to the imagery and rhythm of the words I choose for the most important moments in a story, at least.

Every time I read my own work to an audience, my writing gets better. An audience's reactions can tell me where to cut, what phrases work well, whether the humor or sadness or fear or other emotion I want to communicate is coming through. And, my ear picks up awkward elements such as word repetitions and sentences that go on too long.

So I'm grateful to be a contributor to William's journal, to hold company with such a great group of writers; and I'm grateful for the lessons their words taught me.

Do you ever consider poetry as inspiration for your writing? Do you read it out loud? I'd love to hear from you.

Elizabeth Fountain is the author of An Alien's Guide to World Domination, in e-book and paperback. Her next novel embraces the power of stories to create havoc and romance in You, Jane, due to be released in June. You can find more of her work at her blog, Point No Point, and her Amazon author page. 


Julie Eberhart Painter said...

I love poetry, words, grammar, and imagery. I started my writing career in poetry with a poem about bridge, published in NEW ZEALAND BRIDGE.

Yesterday I was reading I FORGOT TO REMEMBER, about a divesting kind of amnesia. More than 25 years after a traumatic brain injury, Su Meck was able to describe her Main Line family thus: "I thought I'd do well on the grammar test because in my family, grammar is a blood sport."

Great image.

Liz Fountain said...

What a great line - "in my family, grammar is a blood sport." I love it! Thanks, Julie.

J.S.Watts said...

I really identify with what you have said. Poetry does make you analyse every word to give it its due weight. And yes, I read my poems out aloud - to myself as I write them and to others (of course) when I perform them

Big Mike said...

Poetic require a true love of the muse. You focus, your attention is rhythm flavored thought provoking works that move the spirit to new levels, yet little money.

Michael Davis (
Author of the Year (2008 and 2009)
Award of Excellence (2012)

Liz Fountain said...

Thanks, BM and J.S. I wonder if there will ever come a time again when poetry is popular to sell? Short stories seem to be making a comeback.


Ute Carbone said...

Like Julie, I started my writing journey as a poet and it's a wonderful place to learn about things like precision of language ( I remember critique group arguments over whether or not sigh was the right word to describe the sound a gull's wings make) and also rhythm and sound.

Liz Fountain said...

Thanks, Ute. I'd feel quite blessed to have (or give myself) the time to consider every word in a book-length project. Getting feedback from a critique group or willing readers can be a huge help.


William James said...

Thanks for the kind words Liz. However, I think it might be possible that the average reader thinks poetry is more measured than prose and thusly spend more time troubling over each word.

I have one poem, in the 20 years that i have been writing, with serious intent, that was perfect on the first draft. I wrote the poem while I was working, graveyard, at a production bakery. It was four o'clock in the morning when the inspiration took me. I scribbled it down on a slip of paper and went back to tending the machine.