Poetry 101

These articles were written by LB Sedlacek and originally published on her blog, Artemis at Midnight http://artemisatmidnight.blogspot.com


What’s in a Poem of your Own?

When you write your poems, what are you thinking?  Do you consider the subject, style, form, word count, spacing, verses, line count or what?

Each poem is yours individually.  It is after all your poem.

Recently, I had someone I don’t know criticize one of my published poems suggesting I rearrange everything to their liking.  Did I do that?  No, of course not.  It is my poem, after all.  The suggestion is something I considered, but the poem was already published.  Not only does the critic, who I have no idea if they actually are a writer or what, insult the poem but also insults the publisher.  The editing is best for the pre-publishing not afterwards unless the publication simply wants it to go that way.

Would I consider a re-write of my poem?  I looked at it, but I liked it the way it was.  It was based on a personal experience and thoughts I had while composing the poem.  I think as a reader of poems you can take away what you want to from a poem realizing you aren’t necessarily going to like what you read and that if it were yours you may have written it differently.

Respect the poem!  Or at least respect someone else’s work.  If you don’t like it, you certainly can move on and not read it or read it again.

If you are the poet, remember, it is after all your poem and it’s up to you if you want to get feedback on how to do it differently if you want.  I also throw out that old adage, consider the source before changing anything!


How to Sell more Poetry Books, 101

I admit I do sell an occasional poetry book to people who like to read my work.  Some I know.  Some I don’t.  I sell books and ebooks.  I sell online and in person.  I’ve sold more books in person than I have online.  Although these days it’s starting to be equal numbers when it comes to sales.

But how do you sell more poetry books?  How do you sell poetry if you don’t have your very own arts and craft or book store or booth?

I tried to think of some ways today.  I thought about peddling them from my car, always be carrying one around to sell, offer a workshop and sell them there, have a reading and sell, etc.  I’ve used online ads before offering bundles of books for a discounted price.

I suppose it helps to talk up your books everywhere and to sell them anywhere you find a reasonable place to sell them with an audience who will want to buy.  Maybe poetry events are a good place to try like a slam.

I have yet to determine the best way to sell more poetry books!  I did have an experience with a crowdfunding that raised enough money to buy several of my kid poetry books for kids.  That’s another way to go.

If you think of anything I haven’t thought of to sell your poetry books or if you have a method you use that works well, please let me know!  I think everyone should always have a poetry book in hand!  Just saying.  Poetry is life.  And books!


Reading to Write

If you want to write, you should read, right?  But how to read?  Electronically, magazines, online articles, books?

You should read how and what you want.  If you prefer one medium over the other, then choose that. There’s no right way to read.

I like to read e-books when I travel.  If I’m not driving, I still cannot read a regular book or magazine in the car without getting car sick.  But I can read an e-book for a little bit.

I still love physical books and even magazines.  I use 2 e-book readers on my phone to read e-books.  I usually stick to online for news articles.  But I will also read the newspaper.

We either trade in the books for credits at a used book store (and get more books) if we don’t keep them.  We recycle everything else.

Reading, I know, makes me a better writer.  I am amazed, and not in a good way, of those folks who won’t even listen to an audiobook much less read a book who then call themselves writers!  Is it impossible to write without reading?  I’m sure it isn’t.  But to write well, it’s good to open up your mind to someone else’s way of writing.

If I’m working on a particular type of book or article, I may stay away from reading that same thing while I write so it doesn’t influence my work.  Research, though, is the exception.  If you don’t read, how can you research?

Reading gives you a chance to see how other books are marketed.  It also gives you a chance, sometimes, to connect with the authors in a positive way.

If I’m not writing, I’m going to be reading.  I read poetry every day unless I just can’t access it for some reason or if I’m not feeling well.  I think reading poems, and reading in general makes me a better writer!


Short vs Long Poems or The Long and Short of It!

Does length really matter?  Go ahead, laugh!  It’s okay.

I find at poetry readings and/or open mics, invariably someone will comment to me on the length of my poems.  Do they say anything about how long my 3 page poem is?  No!  But they do if it’s short.

Is there something wrong with short poems?  I used to almost always write very long poems.  Later on, maybe they were somewhere in-between long and short.  Recently, I started writing some shorter poems just because I wanted to see if I could.

Some of the most famous poems can be rather short in length.  I don’t think the length or lack of length of the poem is the most important part, but rather what you are saying in it and your use of spacing, line length, verses, form or not, all sort of things.

It’s what’s in the poem that counts!  Your poem will speak to you … and then you decide while writing how the long and short of it!


What’s in a Review?

One of the ways it’s said that books sell is to have reviews.  Lots and lots of reviews!  Of course, you probably want good reviews to sell your books.

But how do you get them?  You can do what I do with some authors – it’s called a review swap!  It’s where we swap books and review them for each other.  Hopefully if you try this you will have a positive experience with it.

It’s a great way to read books in genres you wouldn’t normally read.  Plus you will make some nifty author connections as well.

It’s probably no surprise that as a writer, I also like to read.  My favorite genres to read are poetry, mysteries, sci fi, adventure and non-fiction.  I find out about books I like to read from reviews usually in articles, email book clubs or updates from bookstores, or in magazines.

I started thinking, though, about all the books these places must come across or receive for review.  How can anyone review that many books?

Many times the blurbs in a magazine sound really good, but when I get the book to read I don’t like it at all.  It’s like a movie tag line or an elevator pitch – you may not like the product as a whole or in this case book as a whole, but then again you may love it.

Now, I’m sort of an unconventional writer and poet.  I work in sales and marketing in my day job and I simply do things differently.  I do the same thing with my writing as I don’t really seek to get my books reviewed, and I know I’m not selling them so much based reviews.  I don’t truly worry about it.  It’s nice if someone gives my book a 4 star or 5 star review but it’s okay if they don’t!

What’s in a review?  A review is something you have to read with an open mind (as hopefully the reviewer did as well) and realize the reviewer might love, like, or hate the book and you as a reader might not feel the same way at all.

So by all means, go after those reviews or review swaps if you want, but don’t worry if you don’t.  I have had great success with my e-book and book sales with reviews and without!

It’s the writing that is important after all, and if your piece is meant to be read, it will be!


Always carry a notepad

Why carry a notepad?  That’s so old fashioned these days, right?  Wrong!  Of course, a smart phone is useful and can be used for notes and/or writing.  I use mine all the time.

There’s something to be said for a pad and pen vs a screen!  When I use a screen, I write differently.  When I use pad and paper, I write differently.  For shorter forms, I like paper and pen.  For longer forms, I usually like using a computer.  My smartphone, I use that for surfing for ideas, making reminders and making notes for writing.

I guess I like the way ink looks on paper.  It’s fun to doodle.  It’s a very real experience to write in pen and while you’re writing to cross out a word, scribble out a sentence and start from scratch.  Not quite the same as deleting text. I supposed this is my editing process.

Still, it’s good to be free from dependency on the screen or at least give yourself another creative option.  Have a good idea and your smart phone battery is dead or dying?  If you carry a notepad then you can use that pen, use that paper!  Your idea won’t be lost because you forgot to plug in or your smart phone ran out of juice.

A writer always writes – even if you don’t write something anyone else will ever read.  Make sure you have the means to keep writing … always!


It’s all in the word, a little about the dash, and white space!

Recently I was critiquing a few manuscripts (I also do manuscript critiquing) for some new clients, and I was really surprised at their use of the dash.  This – or — or — if you would like a proper visual of it.

One dash here or there is not such a big deal.  When dashes are all over, though, it makes one ignore the words, the poem, the manuscript and just think about the lines at the beginnings, ends, or in the middle of a line.

—!

Not trying to be funny or anything, but it is like a Yellow Light!  That’s a caution light here in the states.  For most, it means okay better slow down, get ready to stop.  For some it means, oh the light’s turning red so hit the gas and fly on through.  Not exactly a safe way to drive.

So why put a dash in your poem?  To me, a dash is like taking a pause or a breath when speaking.  You know those people that pause all the time when they talk, and those that never do.

I admit it.  I’m a pauser.  I am thinking of what to say next.  When I’m writing, the words and sentences fly out of me so fast I can hardly get them down.  When talking, not so much.  Talking is a struggle for me most of the time … unless I’m talking about poetry.

The white space, white lines, a space between words in a poem is another pause, another way to shift focus in the poem.  It can be a powerful move using white spaces within the line, between lines, or all the way down the page.

Down
the

page.

Like that–!

Now for the words themselves.  A writer, a poet, most likely is in love with words and/or reading like me.  I read everything, even those stupid ads they put on restaurant tables. I still enjoy reading a newspaper, billboards, ads and reading the dictionary or words of the day for fun.  Word choices will guide your poem, make your poem and be your poem.  Pick words you are familiar with and don’t use too many words that most readers won’t know or they will likely not finish reading the whole poem.

If you get stuck, think of your favorite words (you know you have some) and write a poem.  Use the words at the beginning, the middle, the end or use one or two in each verse and see what you come up with.

The proper use of the dash, white space thrown in with the right words can really set your poems on fire!  Sizzle            on–      my poet    friends!


Your Poem Editing Process

 Okay, so you’ve written a poem.  So, what’s next?  Do you immediately type it up and mail it out or upload it for submission?  Or do you take it to a writers group for feedback?  Do you print it out and frame it on your wall, or give it to someone as a gift?  Once the poem is written, what exactly do you do with it?

For me, unless I’ve written a poem for hire or I’ve written it to enter in a contest or to meet a publication deadline, I let it sit.  Yes, sit!  It sits in my notebook if it’s hand written or it sits on my computer if I typed it.  I then move on to something else.  

It may be months or even years before I get back to that particular poem again.  Yes, really!  I suppose I love to write (almost as much as I like to swim) so I write a lot.  Once I get back to the poem again, that’s when I edit it for typos, subject, line spaces, line breaks, word count, form, style and so on.  I dissect it, I suppose, at that point.  After that, I polish it up and then and only then is it ready to send out into the world if I find a place where I want to send it or a book I want to include it in.

There really is a process to writing poems.  It’s more than just jotting lines down on a napkin or memorizing verses!

How do you work up your poems?  What’s your poetry editing process?


The Tools for Writing

What is in your writer’s tool box?  You do have one, right?

You don’t literally have to have a tool or tackle box for this, but then again you always could.  It depends on if you write full time while on the go, or maybe you write only at home or at a desk or you rent studio space (or maybe you simply utilize a table at your favorite coffee or dining spot.)

It’s probably good if you have a routine of sorts when writing, so that you know exactly what you need to do so.  Also, a certain time of day or days when you plan to write would also help.

Here is the ideal writing tools I’d have (or have) when writing at home or on the road:

1) flat surface like a desk

2) pen and paper

3) notebook

4) small note book

5) scrap paper

6) self-stick notes

7) tablet

8) laptop, smart phone

9)Thesaurus 

10) paper clips, envelopes, stamps

11) stapler, stapler remover, staples

12) self-address stamp with ink

13) printer

14) blue light glasses

15) back scratcher

That’s pretty much it!  Of course you can see I use a mixture of off computer means to write as well as on computer.  I prefer to submit by email or online these days but some places still prefer mail.  To me, being a writer means you need to be versatile in your work, and of course to always be prepared to get that idea down by any means possible so you don’t forget it!


How To Buy a Poetry Book as Easy as POETRY!

 If you’re a poet, you read poetry, right?  Of course, no matter where you get your poetry books there are quite a number of them.  

First of all, you should probably know the difference between a Chapbook and a Poetry Book and even a Poem Novel, a Poetry Booklet and a Broadside  A Chapbook is a shorter book of poetry, often produced by the Poet themselves and contains probably around 20 poems or more.  A Booklet of Poems would probably contain around 8 or so poems and be a smaller version of a Chapbook.  A Broadside is a one sheet of one poem and can be artistically presented or simply just have the poem only on it.  A Poetry Book is going to be your longer book of poems with at least 70 or so pages or more.  A Poem Novel is a fiction like tale told via the way of verse.

Does length of the book truly matter?  It depends on what kind of poems you wish to read and how much time you have to spend reading it and also who the author is.  You also won’t find too many Chapbooks for sale in a bookstore.  You will find a number of any of the above for sale online.

Here’s a simple way to pick out your book or chapbook, etc:  P (personal interest), O (originality), E (eagerness to read), T (time you have to read), R (reading preferences such as style, form, author, etc.) and Y (You, why do you want to read it).  Price too might matter!

Have fun selecting your next book of poems.  Happy reading!


Living the Poetical Life aka What is Poetical Success

Hi, I’m LB Sedlacek.  I’ve been publishing “The Poetry Market Ezine” for the past 20 years!  I just decided to end it after 20 years because I need to have more time for other things that have come into my life.  “The Poetry Market Ezine” was a monthly online email subscription newsletter just for poets with poetry markets, contests, and news.  Usually, I would review a poetry book or chapbook too.  I always signed off here and there with “Here’s wishing you poetical success.”  

But what does it mean to be poetical?  What does success in poetry really look like?

I have a friend who used to talk about someone she knew who was an artist and who believed in living your life through art to express art.  Okay, what does that mean?  I believe it indicated supporting other artists and also attending arts events of all kinds – theatre, art shows, poetry readings, concerts, etc.

Wouldn’t you as an artist prefer to be surrounding yourself with other art related activities along with your own?  Yep, there she goes talking about inspiration … again.

But I digress (and this isn’t a post about inspiration).  I believe in experiences.  I studied acting while living in Washington, DC – I went to a theatre school in Georgetown of all places.  Later on I went to graduate school in theatre and communications.  When studying acting, you learn several techniques.  One is method where the actor believes in really experiencing what the character goes through to play the part.

Experiences to me are key to my life as a poet.  I am inspired daily (not just by gazing off into the sunsets which I often do … one of the benefits of living in the mountains is that you can see distance for miles hence very pretty skies, stars) by life itself from things I observe to conversations I have to things I read and even by some of my dreams (I have had some vivid dreams!).   I also have other interests, responsibilities and jobs so I am doing many other things besides thinking about poetry all day.  It brings me into contact with other  possibilities that I wouldn’t have without them.

Traveling and Swimming, besides reading, are two of my favorite things to do (can’t do much of either right now with the pandemic, but before that I did them both all the time) and from there I wrote many place poems.  Same with my love of taking pictures and then writing about them (see @poetryinla on Facebook or Instagram) which is pretty much my own version of ekphrastic poetry.

I like to listen to music, too.  I like to draw.  I enjoy the theatre.  It’s all a good blend, it really is.

Your success as a Poet is what you make it.  You have to grow, not be afraid, fly, have writing rituals, envision succeeding, say yes to opportunities, get out an experience art and life, and take off on your second, third or fifth act.  

I may not be publishing my poetry ezine any more, but I will continuing to provide Poem Critiques and I will keep writing.  I’m simply ready to take off in a new direction.  I’m simply ready to find success in a different way.


The Wandering Poet

If you’re a poet, do you look at things differently?  Or do you tend to stay in one place?  Or do you sometimes wonder or wander?

I have always enjoyed traveling whether it’s a day trip or a few days, a long weekend, etc.  But, like most everyone else traveling went by the wayside last year.  This means staying closer to home.  You can still wander, though, if you like. (And, of course wonder, too.)

I’m not a hiker.  I do like walking in the woods, or walking in general but the steep treacherous paths especially in the mountains are not for me.  Yesterday, I was attending an outdoor gathering by a river.  As the sun went down, it started to reflect on the water.  

I decided to take a short walk further into the woods to see what I could see.  I wasn’t going to get in or go through the water — too cold!  

The ground was damp and mushy even with my boots on (these are more like winter or hiking boots and not fashion boots).  The ground dipped in places and there were several steep drop offs.  I made my way slowly and carefully.  

Finally I came to a sort of clearing and I could see the sunset in an orange and red colorful glory.  It made the water seem as if it was on fire almost it was so bright.  

I was glad I took the chance and wandered off.  I was glad to see such a unusual but beautiful sight.

It’s always good to do something different, and the same goes for writing poetry.  Imagine all the poems about rivers, sunsets and walking in the woods.  Then think of how they could be different!

Where will you wander to next?


Readers Are Writers

I am a bookaholic.  I enjoy reading and have since I was very young.  I could read at an advanced reading level at age 4.  Yes, I started that early!  I had special assignments in school above my grade levels because of it and I could check out any books I wanted no matter what grade level they were intended for at the time.  

My childhood consisted of weekly trips to the public library, and I would check out as many books as I could.  I also climbed trees and would sit their for hours reading my books!

I still love books and reading.  It goes without saying that I have a thing for bookstores, too!  Any time I go out of town for a business or personal trip, I look for a local bookstore to visit.  

This past weekend I went to one of my favorite bookstores in Asheville.  I like this bookstore (Mr. K’s) a lot because it has an excellent Poetry section – even better than the ones at the “big box” stores.  I found plenty of other books I wanted to read too – short stories, sci fi, fiction, new thrillers, etc.  

To do anything well it helps to practice – I know I see an improvement in my guitar and ukulele playing from this.  That’s what makes reading so important for writers.  I see many authors I follow on Insta posting about books they are reading as well.  

Do you read?  What books are you reading?


What’s in a Book Signing?

Last Saturday, I had a general book signing.  My local bookstore partners with local authors and is very supportive of them all.  

Why have a book signing?  As a reader, I really enjoy getting signed copies of books, especially if it’s a book I really end up liking!  I also like finding bargain books, usually poetry, that are signed – those are the best finds!

I am a poet and writer, so I have poetry books, mysteries, literary fiction, non-fiction, short stories and romance to offer.  Many of my books are locally set.  Several of my poetry books are place poetry books – place poems define place.  I have written one cookbook with my dog!  Actually, I did the writing and he posed for the pictures.  

It’s good to have a book signing so you can connect with your readers.  I find that I have loyal readers who like to read a variety of my offerings.  It’s also good to have a book signing to connect with your local literary community.  While I was at my signing and because of my signing, I made a few useful literary connections as well.

Like most writers, I am most comfortable simply writing, publishing or submitting and pretty much keeping to myself.  But it is good to do online open mics, online literary events or in person lit events (as you are able) so you can really talk to your readers.  It’s like those review snippets in magazine pages or ones written on index cards and pasted to bookshelves in your favorite bookstore – you can talk about your stories or poems and let people know what you’d recommend of yours for them to read!


When is a Poet Not a Poet?

I didn’t start out as a Poet.  I started out writing stories.  Later on, I wrote plays, articles, and worked in business writing.  For the past several years, I spent the majority of my writing time on writing poems.  Lately, though, I have gone back to writing more fiction than poetry.

I have several ideas churning around and they take shape as a story more often than a poem.  It’s fun for me to write fiction as there are several ways to write it.  I can even include poetry here and there in my stories as well.  

Many years ago when I was a kid, I was browsing the local bookstore at the time.  Sadly, it closed but we do have a new one back in town now.  Way back then, I came across a book on writing that talked about knowing what form to put your idea in:  song, poem, story, article, script, play, and so on.  That always stuck with me.  

Sometimes, if you’re watching a movie or TV show or reading a book, do you ever think it’s too long, there are too many characters, the setting seems off and so on?  It’s probably because the form doesn’t fit the actual writing idea.

I am a poet and writer.  How about you?


Reflections and Perspectives

I love the water.  I love to look at reflections in the water.  Everything looks different depending on where you’re looking, your angle.

Angles are important with writing.  What perspective do you use when you write a poem or short story?  Over the years, I’ve read that it’s a no-no to use “I” in a poem, yet it happens all the time and yes I’ve written some “I” poems myself.  Using I in your poem doesn’t necessarily mean you’re writing about yourself.  Sometimes, I think readers of stories, poems see or read stuff into them that may not be what the author intended as writing is and should be creative, not necessarily a confessional.  

I like to take pictures of the water and sunsets.  I will walk around or move around to get different views.  It’s really worth it.  I think with writing it’s good to read other poets and authors to see their points of views.

It’s always good to consider the scenery and what’s reflected in it – same goes for characters in a story or a narrator in a poem.  Like with painting, it’s good to think about the perspective in all angles.


Take Time to Look

Do you use a smart phone or electronic devices?  Most likely, you do.  So do I.  And I have to admit many times I might be so intently staring into my phone checking emails or whatever that I don’t pay any attention to what’s going on around me.  Bet you’ve heard that before, too.  Yesterday, I sat through an all day class and found myself looking at my phone on breaks to escape for a few minutes as it was too cold to walk outside on breaks and the breaks were too short anyway.  

Fortunately, I did take the time to ignore my phone except to use it as a camera on the country drives I’ve been on the past few days.  I wasn’t driving so I could safely use my phone!

There’s so much to see whether you’re driving, walking, etc.  But is the view different up close than it is far away?

Of course it is.  Up close when I walk in the woods, I see different things in the trees than I do when I’m just glancing at them from a distance.  You know that saying!  Same thing, when driving along a country road, in my opinions the views are much better from farther away.  It all depends on how you see things vs how they really are.  How easy it is these days to turn something into what it is or isn’t!  I’m currently reading a book about a photographer (fiction) doing exactly that with photo manipulation.

I love to read and often read a variety of books.  And, I write in many genres.  One I don’t write much of is non-fiction or creative non-fiction.  I’d rather fictionalize a story rather than write about a real one unless it has to do with writing poetry because I have written a few books about that subject.  It’s good to take time to look around and see what you can see whether you write about it or not.  Happy gazing!

How do you look at things?  How does it affect your writing?