Wednesday, April 24, 2019

April is Poetry Month, Part 3

Disclaimer: I am not a poet. I do not write poetry, except sometimes accidentally.

Disclaimer: As a person closer to fuddy-duddy fogeydom than hipster up-and-coming-hood, I have great respect for the traditions in which I was born. Namely:
* immersion in the work that came before now, this moment when my fingers are on the keyboard
* development of skill (through education) in traditions and rules
* devotion to and respect for reflection, time, and care in expression

Disclaimer: I am not here to trash or demean "insta-poets" or "is this poetry" or "how can these young whippersnappers make millions from poetry" or whatever conversation of the moment is happening around social media and poetry. Equally, I am not here to say "we should all do this."

I'm just here to share what I enjoy. April is Poetry Month.

Last week I talked a little about my Instagram feed and the pleasures it brings. Among the images of journals, fabrics, and colourful illustrations, I enjoy an account that provides food for thought. Last week I shared Today Calls.

Today, it's nayyirah.waheed. Yes, I'm late to the party (fogey). She self-published poetry books five and six years ago. As others have, and others will. I enjoy her Instagram posts.

Again, it's a way to stumble upon poetry at random times (thanks, Instagram algorithm) throughout the day. I enjoy the experience. Maybe you would too, if you tried it.
Wednesday, April 17, 2019

April is Poetry Month, Part 2

Social media is...interesting. I appreciate its ability to connect people and try to manage its ability to exacerbate disagreements.

My (current) favourite is Instagram, where my presence is newest. I have curated what I see there carefully, so that my feed is mostly images from arts and artists, with a smattering of books, bags, and boots (none of which I am currently buying) (except within certain rules).

So, poetry. One of my favourite accounts is Today Calls, a product of artist Christof Migone. The visual is black (itself an interesting addition to what I see, given that most of my feed is so colourful), with a recording of three voices. The text each voice reads is below that day's entry.

The commentary within and among prompts is interesting. All the voices are interesting. The events that they use as prompts are interesting.

It's a really fun way to experience poetry, especially in the form of a daily moment. I haven't seen anything like it on Instagram or elsewhere. I highly recommend checking it out!

Here's a link to the project page on Christof's website. Here's a link to the project's own website.
Wednesday, April 10, 2019

April is Poetry Month, Part 1

Of all the forms writing can take, poetry still mystifies me the most. 

Prose, whether fiction or nonfiction, makes me think of lines--roads, maybe, or sidewalks, or even deertracks through grass. These lines don't have to be straight. They can backtrack or meander, they can be short or long. The lines don't even have to be connected. They can look like ||| or =. Just--they're lines. 

Maybe.

In contrast, poetry may be more like experiencing a park by sitting on a bench under one tree in that park. On one hand, you're there in that moment experiencing that bench under that particular tree. On many other hands, you're experiencing that same place in different times, different weather. You're also looking at other parts of the park, observing the blades of grass or the rocks or the cacti or the demonstrators--even if the poem doesn't direct you to look at them, they're there. All without the poet specifying those things.

Maybe. 

Maybe it's simpler than that. Maybe it's just the word count. Through the years of writing as work, creating captions--for photos or objects in museums and galleries--challenged me the  most. I prefer to tease out nuances (more and more and more words, like in this parenthetical), not distill to the "most important" points.

Regardless, April brings attention to poetry, and that's a good thing. Here are some of my favourite ways to experience it.

1. Academy of American Poets, Poets.org. They share a poem a day. You can browse poets. You can read about poets. 

2. Poetry Foundation features content from Poetry magazine, as well as poems and information about poetry and poets.

3. Vicki Ziegler, @bookgaga on Instagram and Twitter, is a Canadian social media manager and reader--and originator of one of the best ideas EVER, the Silent Book Club. She shares #todayspoem on Twitter. She's great. I can count on the #todayspoem tweets to be a bright spot in my feeds.

However you feel about poetry, why not make a point of looking for it, in one of its iterations, in April? It's a way to pass the time while spring has her weather tantrums.
Wednesday, April 3, 2019

Truth, Fact, Memoir, Fiction, History, Journalism

As I've mentioned, this Thursday evening is "Ask an Author," a panel discussion in Thunder Bay in which four writers with different backgrounds and publishing experiences answer questions.

On Saturday, participant Jeannette Lynes is presenting two workshops, sponsored by NOWW: one about novel basics, and another about historical research and writing. Fun times ahead!

Also recently, the Association of Writers & Writing Programs held its conference. If you've seen mention of "AWP 19" in the writerly social media world, that's what it refers to.

The most recent issue of Assay, a journal of nonfiction, has lots of interesting articles about nonfiction, what it is, and ways to teach it.

All of which is to say, many recent conversations (both aloud and in my head) have turned over the differences and similarities between truth and facts, creative nonfiction and journalism, historical fiction and history, memoir and memory. For starters.

As I paired and re-paired ideas, I remembered reading this recent essay about memoir at LitHub (a great place to visit when you want to read something good): "Against Catharsis: Writing is Not Therapy," by T Kira Madden. In it she describes an incident she experienced, and looks at the way her memory and her own experiences colored her description of the incident. It's a fascinating look at the strengths and purposes of memoir, especially the importance of reflection and analysis to making writing meaningful from raw events. She discusses the two composite characters in her own memoir and their roles--who they are and who they are not.

It could all seem a little too meta, too much writing tangled up in writing about writing. Unless, of course, you also write memoir or personal essays or some other form of creative nonfiction, and you wonder on the daily how that is different from journalism and historical documents and historical fiction. And why someone might base a story on real events in a real setting, but call it fiction.

Or why, in a book club of people who are mostly readers instead of writers, people are so fascinated by "did this really happen?" in the context of novels, and how they feel about the work based on that question's answer.

My favourite part of these discussions is that there aren't concrete answers. Different people have different standards. For me, it comes down to this: a writer can't squander a reader's trust. So, as in the subtitle of Madden's essay, show your wires. Be frank with the reader about what you're doing. And let the discussions continue.