Haiku Friday!

February 18, 2011 § 2 Comments

gathered ice sickles/beneath the weight of the sun/fallen down to shards


Squishy-feely, cheesy-fuzzy.

February 17, 2011 § Leave a comment

One of the earliest rejection letters I ever got for a poem said that part of the reason my work had been turned down was that it was slightly “too sentimental”. So I read through the piece again to see if I could find what sentimentality the editor was referring to, and I couldn’t find it. I assumed that it was because of my lack of experience and took his word for it–the work was too gushy, even if I didn’t really understand why.

After reviewing the poems several months later, I can see now what he meant about the work (and I’ve since taken it into revision), but the description ‘sentimental’ still sort of confuses me. I know that to be considered a sentimental writer in this day and age is mainly to become a pariah, but I don’t know that having a poem turn into a sentimental page of mush is the worst thing that a writer can do. This article, written a few years ago by Dean Blehert, seems to give my line of thought some credence. His main idea is that writers who are sentimental may not develop perfect pieces of writing every time around, but at least they’re taking risks. It’s easy to write sterile, detached pieces of poetry that your writer’s circle friends will approve of. But portraying a vulnerable, emotional experience is a journey in and of itself and if done properly, says a lot more about the writer than the detached stuff.

Of course, all writing needs work, and you should never force anyone to read a six-page, murderous diatribe about your ex if you haven’t done the legwork and revised it. Looking at my poem rejected on the basis of sentimentality showed me a lot of areas that are still game for improvement. But if all your poems start out that way, who cares? I say go with it.

What’s your experience with sentimental writing?

Poetry Forms.

February 15, 2011 § Leave a comment

Y’all may have noticed the haiku that have been creeping up on this blog from time to time of late. Something I like to do from time to time is try out new poetic forms to challenge myself to do something new. It’s easy to get in a rut, especially with free-verse writing. So right now, I’m working on haikus, which I know next to nothing about. Anyone have any good book recommendations for this form?

In the mean time, I’ll be posting my efforts on here and any feedback would be appreciated. And if you’re interested in writing some formal poems along with me (haiku or other formal types), feel free to post them on here. I’d love the inspiration.

Some resources:

Wiki’s page on haiku: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Haiku

Robert Brewer’s giant list of poetic forms: http://blog.writersdigest.com/poeticasides/2010/11/13/PoeticFormsListNovember2010.aspx

Cool site: http://www.ahapoetry.com/haiku.htm

Book vs. Movie: Face off!

February 13, 2011 § Leave a comment

Obviously books and movies are mortal enemies. If a book and a movie could get in a fight, it would probably look like this, right?

From the Boston Examiner.

I’m not so certain. Sure, we’ve all had a conversation like this at some point:

Person A: “No way, the book was way better!”

Person B: “I don’t know, I thought the book was boring. But man, that Keanu Reeves…”*

Person C: “Wait, that was based on a book? What are we talking about?”

But I don’t think every situation is cut and dried. I happen to love movies almost as much as I love books, so my preferences end up all over the place. Still, I thought it would be a cool idea to compare book-to-movie adaptations from time to time, and hopefully to incite some motivation for y’all to get out and decide for yourselves. Today’s contender?¬† Jhumpa Lahiri’s The Namesake.

Accuracy rating: how close to the book is the movie?: 8-ish. The movie remains true to the aesthetic, tone, and story line of the book, but some story lines are condensed or switched up a bit to keep the film from dragging.

What’s good about the book:

1. Jhumpa Lahiri’s writing style. She’s one of those magician-type writers who has the ability to engross you so thoroughly from page one that you don’t even notice when you’re fifty pages in and are late for a class (totally never happened to me).

2. The story. Yes, I realize how vague that is. Let me elaborate: the story jumps back and forth between the perspective of a set of parents who are first-generation Bengali-Americans and their two children, who grow up only in America and become conflicted–and sometimes strained–in their acceptance of their parents’ culture. It is effortless enough to jump back from India to America over the course of almost thirty years and never feel clunky or forced, which is saying something.

3. The honesty. I’ve read a lot of Lahiri’s other work, so I can say with a fair amount of confidence that she doesn’t sugar-coat things in her stories–and it adds to the suspense and the accessibility of the story immensely. Sometimes books, even good ones, fall into certain patterns so that it’s pretty easy to predict how it’s going to end. I really had no idea what was going to happen until it happened, which is a feat in and of itself but especially in contemporary literary fiction.

What’s good about the movie:

1. The visuals. Not that Lahiri needs any help bringing her book to life, but the way the movie looked onscreen really brought out the essence of the book. The way the camera catches light an angles really keeps all eyes on the screen. The visuals emanate the feel of the book very well. And it’s just so colorful! Just look at the DVD box!

2. The score. There’s a real hodgepodge of music in this film, and it totally works. Anybody who’s a music lover will appreciate the way the filmmakers didn’t just go for the obvious here–there’s real creativity and meaning behind each song that’s chosen.

3. Kal Penn. Okay, I’ve never seen “Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle”, so maybe my image of him isn’t tainted, but I find him positively dreamy in this movie. And I only half mean that in the gushing-teenage-girl way. The other half is because I really think the character Penn plays in this movie, Gogol, is kind of dreamy, cloudy guy in his own way, and Penn really captures that.

So, book or movie? I really think it’s a draw in this case. I equally enjoyed the book and the movie because the film makers did a good job of making their product a compliment to the book instead of trying to railroad it or recoiling from it. I’d recommend them both, but read the book first because I want you to get hooked on Jhumpa Lahiri.

*First actor that popped into my head. Random, yes?

Haiku Time!

February 12, 2011 § 2 Comments

the man with fingers/black as sooty chimney stacks/always leaves good tips


What’s your haiku for the day?


February 10, 2011 § Leave a comment

I’ve always tended to be a perfectionist. After I’m done eating in a fast food restaurant, I take my wrappers and fold them into perfect squares, then pile them with rest of the trash in the center of the tray–largest items, like the flat wrappers and obnoxiously large soda cups, stacked first. Then the leftover napkins and plastic sporks inside of that. What can I say? I like things to have an order. I like it when I can get things to seem “right”.

Which, of course, is a ludicrous pursuit, in fast-food throwaways and in writing. Yes, the ability to pay attention to details in our own writing is important. Yes, first drafts don’t get any better until we notice what’s wrong and fix it. Yes, yes. But I find that if I turn on this handy little perfection switch too often, it’s paralyzing. There have been years when the switch got stuck in the ‘ON’ position for months and I found myself so skittish about the possibility of making a mistake that I just didn’t try. Or when I did try I was convinced it was terrible.

Now, I know I’m not the first writer to put forth the confession that my obsessive attitude to be a perfect is actually counterproductive. The reason I’m writing this is because I’m convinced that every other writer out there goes through this, too. But most other advice I’ve read runs a long the lines of ‘just stop being a perfectionist’. Which is good advice, for people who can take it. But I know myself, and I’m a fast-food-trash-folder for life.

So what am I (and other fellow perfectionists) to do? What I’m (slowly) learning is to try and cultivate my perfectionist streak for when it’s really needed, and let the little things go. Details are important in writing, but getting hung up on all of them usually gets me nowhere. So now, after I scan a car wreck of a first draft that makes me feel like I might as well just quit, I take a deep breath and find one–one–problem to focus my perfectionist energies on and just deal with that for awhile. And you know what? It’s working.

It’s all about balance, I guess. But I’ve got to go: there’s a pen on my desk that’s not positioned at a ninety-degree angle.

Poet of the Moment

February 8, 2011 § Leave a comment

Aaaaaaaaaand today’s poet is: Lucille Clifton!

Pic from pbs.org

As soon as I read her, I was hooked. And I’ve been reading a lot of her lately. Her style is really simple, and even though she doesn’t use a lot of words, she manages to say a lot with the words she does. Here’s an example of one of her poems:

“adam thinking”

stolen from my bone
is it any wonder
i hunger to tunnel back
inside   desperate
to reconnect the rib and clay
and to be whole again

some need is in me
struggling to roar through my
mouth into a name
this creation is so fierce
i would rather have been born

If you’re looking to integrate more poetry into your life, she’s a great one to start with. Because a lot of her poems are short and straightforward, you can read one in a minute or two and be poetically fulfilled for the day. Here are a few links where her work can be found:



Let me know what you think!

  • wordpress com stats