Friday, June 24, 2011

How To Edit Poetry

It seems like only other people's blogs or message boards move me to write about poetry these days. This is something I posted on a message board frequented by both writers and editors:

There are several ways to edit poetry correctly, and it depends on the form that is being used. Metrical verse requires different set of gloves because the syllabic nature of the line, plus modern metrical poetry use of "substitutions." Plus, it also changes with the type of “form” that has been written. You wouldn’t edit a sonnet the same way you would a villanelle or sestina. Free verse is rather different construction altogether. However, lets just run with that, since it’s most of what people write these days.

The biggest misnomer about Free Verse is that is formless and anything goes. That is far from the truth. However, when you are confronted with editing free verse, there are a couple of fundamental things to look for.

1. Wordiness. How can the poem be edited or rephrased for more economical uses of language. This is roughly the same when you're editing fiction and non-fiction prose. Consider:

The sun is a bleeding in the sky.


The sun bleeds in the sky.

Both are saying the same thing, but the second option is more concise. Since poetry is a language medium, you do have to consider the sonic qualities at work. The second option is a valid edit because it keeps the sibilant "s" sounds as the first.

2. Noun and verb choice. Even if you're a sprawling poet like Allen Ginsberg or Walt Whitman, poetry is still mode of writing where language is highly compressed. If you're looking at free verse poetry document, pay special attention word choice. "Sprint" as opposed to "run." And so forth. The key to descriptive writing in poetry and prose usually comes down to good nouns and verbs.

3. Look for adverbs and adjectives to cut. Unlike marketing writing and "why buy" language" adverbs and adjectives stand out as "extra-fluffy" in poetry. You can largely red line most of it out, while going back to trying to strengthen nouns and verbs.

4. Make punctuation and grammar consistent. Creative uses of grammar are frowned upon by nearly every poetry editor I know or have worked with. Look beyond the line and how lines fit together as grammatically correct sentences. This is considered the norm in poetry editing. However, there are notable exceptions out there. Usually, it consists of pulling out the punctuation completely. Some poets, influenced by Asian formalism, sometimes will only use a dash, or a comma -- whatever it is they're doing, it has to be consistent. In most cases, an eye to normal grammar will suffice.

5. Discourage the poet away from the little first person "i." Poetry editors HATE that and reject it with relish. EE Cummings could get away with it, but not every body is EE Cummings.

6. Try to help the poet either write better metaphors or find a way to cut them out completely. The most common of these are anything that compares sometime to the moon or flowers. It's so overdone, they've become poetic cliches. And, they've been poetic cliches for such a long time, Shakespeare even made fun of them in Romeo and Juliet. Writing metaphors can be tricky prospect. Anything that sounds silly on a first read is usually a bad sign.

7. Look for ways to make the imagery as vivid and concrete as possible. Free Verse, thanks to poets like William Carlos Williams, is often a way of writing by using the language of imagery. As mentioned earlier, imagery is always best rendered through specific nouns and verbs, not adjectives.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

I More Than Likely Will Not Be Attending Convergence.

Well, the depressing professional fallout continues. A scheduling snafu kept me from Stoker Weekend in Long Island, where I was slated to speak on a few panels. Now, I'm coming to the sinking realization that I will not be attending Convergence in Minnesota, either, where I was scheduled to give a reading and speak on a few panels.

Basically, the economy sucks. Freelance writing isn't paying the bills anymore (I have made $30 this this week,) and I literally cannot afford the plane ticket due to the current snail pace of freelancing. No quality work, no quality pay. It's all part of the reason why I seen no choice but to return to the retail rat race.

Not to mention, my mother keeps on getting worse. In the time I was out of the country, she seems to keep getting frailer. She's now a body with emaciated limbs. That shouldn't be surprising. I spent the day with her today, and she mostly slept. All she had to eat was one bowl of cereal.

I do not believe in God in the traditional sense. However, I'm starting to take the impossibility of going to Minnesota as the world/nature telling that it's a positively bad time to go. My mom may not have a whole lot of time left. This will likely be her last July 4th. Never mind that recently she couldn't remember my name. I should also count myself lucky for two other reasons. I was able to go to Bermuda, recently. And my mother didn't pass while my wife and I were out of the country.

I Have Peed in a Cup

Which means, I took the drug screen, signed the tax forms, and go back to work at WalMart starting Saturday.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Blight Review / The Perils of Kindle

I should be upfront. As everybody knows, there are certain perils that come with self publishing. Only four years ago, obvious POD books could be a kiss of death to an author. However, with the rise of eBooks a newfound credibility has cropped up. Blight and Johhny Comes Lately were my two cracks at doing the Kindle thing by myself. Turns out, no matter how hard you work, you still need at least the services of a good proofreader.

Blight has some typos. Lesson learned. Hire a freelance editor (which I'm in the process of doing). For example, Jerrod Balzer gives the story a good review, before pointing out the blatantly obvious....

Back From Bermuda

For me, returning to Bermuda was a strange experience. I felt a little bit of nostalgia, but not terribly much. First, I only spent three years there in the 1980's, and second, it had been so long, I hardly recognized the place. Sure, the geography and the climate were the same, but most of what I knew was gone. The house I lived in was still standing, but much of the naval base was bulldozed. So, the place seemed familiar, but only slightly. I'll likely expound on this later, as I upload some photos.

It also gave me a lot to think about. Next month, or in August, KHP/Skullvines Press will be releasing my 80,000 word short story collection about Bermuda. I haven't written about the place in years. New seems like a good time to generate a new collection of novellas/novellettes about the place. I'm also thinking of perhaps starting a flash fiction blog, as a way to use a lot of the photos I took.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Oh, Well.

As it turns out, I was scheduled to be part of two panels at Stoker Weekend in Long Island. A scheduling snafu has it conflicting with my trip to Bermuda. So, I'll will not even be in the country. It sucks ... because, well, the two panels were on poetry. If I could reschedule the trip to Bermuda, I would. However, it was paid for by somebody else as a way to celebrate my wife's entrance into a Fordham's PhD program. And, the reservation cannot be altered. So... one of the biggest horror conventions of the year, or sub-tropical sun with my wife? There's an easy answer to that....

Saturday, June 4, 2011

And I Will Be Returning To Wal-Mart

Sucks. Sometimes, in the name of being married, you have to do certain things you absolutely do not want to. For me, that means returning to WalMart. When I left, I thought I was onto the next big thing in my life: freelance writing. However, certain realities change, and change rather quick. The nature of freelancing is unstable, but even more -- there's the issue of health insurance. When I first left, my wife was working for a University, and we had great benefits. Circumstances change, however. My wife is going into a PhD program in the fall. We don't have health insurance ... and, thus, I go back to WalMart. I don't now what round two will entail.

The first time I worked there, I took the job to get out of the grind of adjunct college instruction. The two years that followed consisted of trying to play the "Climb The Ladder" game. This time, there's none of that. It's not about a retail career -- it's all about health benefits and steady cash that can be supplemented by freelance writing, and nothing much more than that.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Blight -- Soundtrack

So, because Blight ended up being an unmarketable length of 15k (so what is new in my world?) I have uploaded it to Kindle and Smashwords with Nook to follow soon. Waiting for the uploads to process. For fun, here is that story's soundtrack -- music I listened to while writing it:

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

We Are Not Health Care Professionals

So, when you have a relative -- in my case, a parent -- in hospice, the tendency is to think, "OMG! She's about to die!" All. The. Time. I think it's just human nature. So, just a week ago, my mom was talking in a very scrambled, non-linear way, often referencing people who were not on the room, but pointing and laughing at these non-existent people anyway. Not to mention: her phlegm-coughs were scary sounding by themselves.

Well, oxygen was brought in. And finally, for the first time this year, the air conditioner was turned on. So, things have calmed down a little bit. The irritability and delusions have quieted a bit. The point is ... when you don't know what the hell you're talking about half the time, everything always seems much more dire than it possibly may be. Of course, what do I know? Not a whole lot when it comes to these matters.