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 enrolled in a poetry workshop at SSU, reading some of the poets whose work David Lehman emulates and pays homage to.

A workshop is 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

Musings: Dusk Sky and Geese

From my Nature Writing Journal…

sunset on the river

As I gazed out from my desk at the vista before me, I could see that just across the road to the waters of Merrimack river where I live. The sky was striped with soft pink and slate blue stripes. A flock of Canada Geese was flying just above the tree line. They were heading west with the sun announcing their presence with their loud call that sounded somewhat like an old car horn… “honk, honk, honk.”

Even as the sun was setting and geese were flying overhead, their call trumpeted through the still. Soon it would be dusk. The colors of the sky transmuted to darker hues that transfixed me. I sat on my porch bench and watched the sky dark until the blue hour had settled in. Another flock of geese could be heard off in the distance, or perhaps it was the same flock, flying back my way.

What message were they conveying to each other, I wondered. What message were they conveying to me? Stop, sit, and listen. Be in the still. Soak in the moments when there is nothing but sheer silence surrounding your presence. In that silence is where you find the answers to your deepest questions. In that silence is where you find peace. In that silence, is where inspiration soars like the geese winding their way along the river.

Musings: The Golden Hour

From my nature writing journal, Fall 2015

I was sitting on the front porch reading and watching the half dozen crows that were making a raucous in the trees across the road. The crows cawed loudly. The squirrels scurried about. A blue jay screeched its name, “Jay, Jay,” in the distance. Fall was quietly descending a little every day. I could see a tinge of golden brown in the grasses on the other shore across the river. Gazing with a squint to better my focus my eyes, I realized there was a great blue heron slowly moving in the river grass along the shore, looking for its evening meal.

All of a sudden there was a riotous and rowdy clambering in the trees coming from the crows and then a crash followed by a great fluttering of black wings. It was late afternoon. “Surely, those crows were up to no good,” I thought to myself. Continue reading