Sunday, September 27, 2009

Poetry Anthologies, and Various Reflections on Our Work Thus Far...

We don't have a text in this course -- because what I think works best is for writers to discover texts individually, and (as I am doing via the Internet) in relation to specific exercises, or challenges in form and craft.

These are related impulses, although they might sound contradictory. Every writer's path is unique, and yet there are patterns, and writers are a community: influencing, critiquing, competing, reading, envying, disparaging, supporting...dysfunctional at times, but a community.

What are you reading, besides the samples I'm providing? It is important for writers to read voraciously; that's how you discover possibilities -- or at least, it is the best way to discover them: to see what writers before you have already done. Usually, they've done there work in part by borrowing/stealing from writers before them.

If you read a lot, even pushing through on poems and stories that confuse or bother you, you will absorb much; after a while, you'll write as if regurgitating. It will lead you to write some things that are too much in the voice or style of other poets (try reading a lot of Walt Whitman, then try not to write in long anaphoric lines!), but it will also help you build a repertoire of your own: a series of gestures, sounds, patterns, etc. that are your own, but which connect you to the commuity of writers.

One of the things most often missing in the poems I''m seeing on the Workshop is a good sense of cadence or rhythm in the lines; or, an effort at working within a cohesive set of sounds, what is sometimes called "phonetic symbolism" -- vowel and consonant patterns that somehow fit together and create interesting textures that are as important to the poem as the meaning -- or more so.

If you read a lot, you'll have a better ear for cadence, and for the particular rhythms that are your own. But stop, everyone, aiming only for end-rhyme! That's not the be-all and end-all of a poem; it's not the one thing that makes verse verse. It's not bad, and in fact it can be very pleasing; but aim first for a strong line, with or without end-rhyme.

Also, rhyme can be more than couplet-rhyme: again, if you read a lot, you'll see that there are more patterns of rhyme, and often, a more distant relationship between rhyming words can be far more pleasing than the often too-close couplet rhyme.

Anyway, this post was to be about anthologies: I have found two good lists already on the Web. I recommend that you find a couple of these, and keep them around for a while: pick them up, browse, read, and if you really like a certain poet, then buy/borrow some of his/her full-length collections. Do you have a Houston Public or Harris County Public Library card? Also, HCCS campuses all have good libraries; also, if you go to an HCCS library and request a Texshare card, you can check books out at UH, TSU, and other area academic libraries. But those, along with Rice, will let you in; it's just that to check books out, you need the Texshare card (up to four books at a time; and Rice isn't part of Texshare -- it's for public institutions).

Also, besides Brazos Bookstore, Barnes & Noble, Borders, and other bookstores, thre are used bookstores -- Half Price is the dominant one these days, with several stores in the area.

Here is a list of anthologies at the site:

...and at the ever-useful Wikipedia site:

I'll do a post on fiction antholiogies next.


  1. This course is very interesting, yet refreshing for those that may want to write. The different styles and textures are very stimulating. I've written a couple of pieces and was told they didn't rhyme and I should redo the work. With the knowledge we're being taught,its seems as if the rules in writing are being pushed to the limits and there are no boundaries. I'm learning to stay on track with certain styles and not mix them up. It reminds me of fashion, its okay to use different fabrics and textures, just know what style you want to display. I'm getting the hang of writing... somewhat.

  2. I have alway found much inspiration for stle and rythm in my work from other authors like Robert Frost, William Shakespear, Sylvia Plath and Edgar Allen Poe. Sometimes I have attempted to follow their patterns and subject matters. This has lent itself well to me creating my own styles as well. I think we must be influenced to some degree by writers before us and our peers to remain connected in some way so that the poetry lives on in time.

  3. I have enjoyed all of the different material that I have read on the discussion board. I have been incredibly inspired to tap into the "writer" within. I've always written in journals, but this has been truly refreshing. I know that personally, I try to work on "phonetic symbolism" when I'm writing poetry. However, I find myself getting stumped more on finding words that "fit" rather than being able to clearly state what I mean exactly.

  4. You are right that if you read alot you will find yourself absorbing alot from other writers. As I read through a some of the post on the workshop it gave me Ideas of how tho form some of my poems or how to complete a thought. Reading others work allows you to get into the mind of that person and analyze their thinking. I have enjoyed the reading that you have posted