Book Review: Poems in the Manner Of

As a lover of poetry and a graduate student in the English – Writing program at Salem State University, I have not only found Poems in the Manner Of, to be fun and interesting to read; I have also found it useful for my class.

I am currently working on my M.A. in English – Writing at Salem State University, and I am revisiting my own connection to reading and writing poetry after many years away from the genre. That said, I really enjoyed reading some of the poets whose work David Lehman emulates and pays homage to in his book.

A Lehman’s book offers poetry writers a great opportunity to explore different styles and be inspired by the works of others, to sometimes create a piece based on another poet’s topics, ideas and styles and make it all our own.

Given this, Lehman provides plenty of inspiration as well as insight to the poets, which is invaluable to the student of poetry.

Emily Dickinson, Robert Frost, Shakespeare, W.B. Yeats, Rilke, William Carlos Williams, Wordsworth, Neruda, Virginia Woolf, W.H. Auden, and Charles Bukowski are among the poets who are featured in Lehman’s Poems in the Manner Of

This is a great volume for poetry lovers, poetry students and people just starting to appreciate the vast world of poetry.

On Writing: Why Prewriting Matters

deskIn the past, my writing style typically leaves out the all important first stage of writing—pre-writing.  When I write, I tend to write and then rewrite but rarely ever do I engage in pre-writing.

Needless to say, when I started taking creative writing classes at UMass Amherst UWW, I learned that I was cutting out an integral part of the writing process. Jumping right into the writing phase works if you know what you are going to write about, but when you’re stuck pre-writing frees up space and opens up the creative channels.

Reading Chapter 1 of Connie Griffin’s text, To Tell The Truth in my Magazine Writing class gave me a keener understanding of how to use pre-writing as a strategy to break free from writer’s block. The creative process needs the freedom to be expressive, and pre-writing can be seen as a fun exercise in letting go, while also trusting one’s subconscious in a “nonjudgmental and forgiving” way. (p. 5)

The Getting Started (p. 6 – 7) section in Chapter 1, helped me to understand that pre-writing is comparable to a dancer warming up with exercise and practice, or a painter sketching in a rough outline on his canvas in preparation for creating his painting using the tools of his craft. When seen in that light, I suddenly found how pre-writing should and could fit into my process. Continue reading

Writers on Writing: Jane Bernstein

Reading Jane Bernstein’s essay “How and Why” brought to mind my own very speculative mind and spirit that is in constant query as to the how and why’s of things. As a writer, my speculative mind and spirit causes me to look deeper into my own heart and mind, and I feel that it also grants me a strong intuitive mind that understands what is deep within other minds, connecting me to depths of humanity and life itself.  Reading “How and Why,” I could identify with Bernstein’s running, in that I walk, to clear my mind and “mull” things over. (Griffin p. 11)

When I am walking outside in nature, I lose myself into the landscape that envelops me as though I am one with it. When I am walking outside in nature, I tune out any extraneous real world soundtrack and tune into the concerto of bird song or the rustle of the leaves or marsh grasses whispering in the soft breeze or perchance keening in the wicked wind. My mind becomes clear, empty in that process of immersing myself in nature and it is then that I mull, as Bernstein does when she is running. There is a space in a clear mind that creates from a point deeper, more connected to the soul, which is a vital point of connection needed to write in the first person about one’s self and life.

Jane Bernstein’s essay “How and Why” is available in Connie Griffin’s book “To Tell the Truth: Practice and Craft in Narrative Nonfiction.” This book has been my go to book throughout the past two years studying Creative Writing at UMass Amherst University Without Walls. It has also served as textbook and reference book for four classes I have taken with Connie Griffin, including two core classes, Frameworks of Understanding and Writing for Experience, as well as Magazine Writing and Creative Non-fiction. 

The practice of reading other writers on their struggles with their craft is so helpful. All writers struggle with finding their voice, creating the right space to work in, shutting out their inner critic and getting past self-doubt. Those are just a few of the issues that writers face. As I continue to work through my own issues with writing and work to shape my first memoir, look for more posts here on Writers on Writing.

Quote of the Day: Joan Didion

Writing has always been a part of me. Thoughts I could not express in verbally came easier to the page. Yet I still struggled to understand that writing was part of the integral path in my life that cried out for me to follow. I follow that path now, struggling sometimes to force the words to the page, and hoping that those words resonate with others. Sometimes it feels like I looking for something hidden deep within a haystack. I persevere. I draw inspiration from memoirist’s like Joan Didion as I work on my own memoir.

I knew that I was no legitimate resident in any world of ideas. I knew I couldn’t think. All I knew then was what I couldn’t do. All I knew was what I wasn’t, and it took me some years to discover what I was. Which was a writer.  ~ Joan Didion

haystack