Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Auden and Appreciating Others' Work

Gordon Stamper, Jr.

During this National Poetry Month, I thought about some of my favorite poems.  One of them is Auden’s “Musee des Beaux Arts,” impressions and inspirations the poet had after viewing The Fall of Icarus by Pieter Brueghel.  It is partly a profound meditation on how life goes on, even after the events that are of the greatest personal importance to us.
In the concluding stanza, Auden reflects on the ploughman who may have heard and seen Icarus’ fall:  “. . .the ploughman may/Have heard the splash, the forsaken cry,/But for him it was not an important failure.” 
As a poet, you may write something that is extremely significant for you, but unfortunately very few others ever read.  Many poets are guilty of the same thing:  they don’t read other poems, especially those of contemporary poets, their peers, or don’t make much of an effort to do so. 
If you’re guilty of this, your practical and selfish concern is that if you want to be published (and not only self-published), you should read the poetry of the markets where you send it.  When I was a staff editor for a literary magazine, I saw how many people missed the mark when it came to submissions.  For poetry, we received poems with forced rhymes and sing-song rhythm for a publication that generally published cutting edge and mostly free, unrhymed verse.  So please, read your intended markets!
Another more altruistic and intrinsic reason for reading poetry is to soak in poets’ artistry and insights, and then share them with others.  Appreciate the effort of crafting the phrase, layering their messages, using powerful imagery to impress their words into your psyche.
Poets, please keep flying, and also appreciate the efforts of the fellow flyers around you.
Gordon Stamper, Jr. is a poet, co-moderator of Highland Writers Group, and a founding member of Indiana Writers’ Consortium.  He currently teaches English composition and research writing at Ivy Tech Community College and Purdue University Northwest.
The picture at the head of this post shows The Fall of Icarus, a 1500’s painting attributed to Pieter Brueghel. The picture is in the public domain because of its age.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Use Music to Find Refreshing Approaches to Poetry

Julio Casares
It is hard for me to really separate the approach to writing poetry from the approach to writing music. When I say this, I don’t mean writing lyrics, but rather the chord progression and melody, both vocal and instrumental. Both music and poetry are compact forms of expression that often condense the emotion of a long period of time or observe with fine detail small and intimate moments.
More importantly, music that connects with you connects with who you are as a writer. Art that we love in some way identifies pieces of our artistic ideals. In the composition of songs you love, you can discover more of yourself as an artist, writer, and poet. The beauty of it is that your response to music is completely natural; you do little past keeping your ears open and you have fallen in love with some combination of rhythm and melody. Regardless if it is whimsical or utterly somber, in liking a song you have identified an organization of emotion and expression that resonates with you genuinely. Langston Hughes’ Po’ Boy Blues,, is a classic and direct example of the use of music as a reference for the form of a poem.
So whip out the iPod, CD, or laptop and put on a song that you love. Compose a poem that replicates its pace, its rhythm, its balance between instruments, and its melodies, but with your own story or moment. It’s less of a technical exercise, but more of a way to better understand the functions of art you respect.

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

The Original Hoosier Poet

Kathryn Page Camp
How many poets do you know whose works inspired comic strips and doll names? I can think of one: James Whitcomb Riley.
Born October 7, 1849 in Greenfield, Indiana, Riley was known for writing poetry using a Hoosier dialect. He was called the Hoosier Poet based on poems about country living in Indiana, such as “The Old Swimmin’ Hole” and “When the Frost Is on the Punkin.” He was also known as the Children’s Poet for poems such as “Little Orphant Annie,” whose first verse goes like this:
Little Orphant Annie’s come to our house to stay,
An’ wash the cups an’ saucers up, an’ brush the crumbs away,
An’ shoo the chickens off the porch, an’ dust the hearth, an’ sweep,
An’ make the fire, an’ bake the bread, an’ earn her board-an’-keep,
An’ all us other children, when the supper-things is done,
We set around the kitchen fire an’ has the mostest fun
A-list’nin’ to the witch-tales ‘at Annie tells about,
An’ the Gobble-uns ‘at gits you
Ef you
This poem became part of the inspiration for the comic strip “Little Orphan Annie,” which was created by Harold Gray. It also inspired the name Raggedy Ann, given to a character created by writer Johnny Gruelle. Raggedy Ann combined the Anne from “Little Orphant Annie” with the “Raggedy Man” title from another Riley poem.
If you want to read more of Riley’s poems for children, go to the library or your bookstore and get his Rhymes of Childhood. Look for the version illustrated by Howard Chandler Christy.
This April we commemorate both poetry month and Indiana’s 200th birthday. Why not celebrate with the original Hoosier Poet?
The picture of James Whitcomb Riley was taken around 1913. Although it was once copyrighted by Moffett, Chicago, it is now in the public domain because of its age.
Kathryn Page Camp is a licensed attorney and full-time writer. Writers in Wonderland: Keeping Your Words Legal was a Kirkus’ Indie Books of the Month Selection for April 2014. The second edition of Kathryn’s first book, In God We Trust: How the Supreme Court’s First Amendment Decisions Affect Organized Religion, was released on September 30, 2015. You can learn more about Kathryn at