Category Archives: Resources

Epigram: ‘Bit with Bite’

I think I’ve blinked
At what you write:
Edgy, succinct–
A bit with bite.

This is in the spirit of a homage to The Asses of Parnassus, in which the poem found a home. Editor Brooke Clark has created a tumblr account that for the past few years has been posting “Short, witty, formal poems” on an occasional (i.e. erratic) basis, much in the spirit of Latin and Greek epigrams (and often translations of them, or modern retellings).

This poem itself is not particularly noteworthy – but I enjoyed rhyming ‘blinked’ with ‘succinct’, as well as the ‘think/blink’ and ‘bit/bite’ pairings. Wordplay is at the heart of poetry, from Anglo-Saxon alliteration to modern rap, from nursery rhymes to Shakespearean sonnets. Wordplay is memorable, and sharpens the pain of an epigrammatic jab. Use it, if you want your barbs to be effective.

Review: ‘A Child’s Introduction to Poetry’ by Michael Driscoll

This book, “A Child’s Introduction to Poetry” by Michael Driscoll, illustrated by Meredith Hamilton, is the single best introduction to poetry that I have ever seen. It is part of a series of books aimed at 8 to 10-year-olds, and is divided into two parts: ‘The Rhymes and Their Reasons’, with two to four large pages on topics as diverse as Nonsense Rhymes, The Villanelle, Free Verse and Poems Peculiar; and ‘Poetry’s Greats’ with a couple of pages each on 21 poets such as Homer, Wordsworth, Dickinson, Belloc, Auden, Paz and Angelou. The book is richly illustrated on every page, and is packed with bits of biography, commentary, prosody, explanation and definition. Purely as a book, it is superb.

But wait! There’s more! The original edition came with a CD of all the poems, and the Revised and Updated edition comes with downloadable audio and a poster. These audio aspects are not as brilliant as the book, for two reasons: first, the poems are read “professionally” which unfortunately means without the joy, excitement, teasing, energy or naturalness that I listened for. They are clear, flat and boring, with unnecessarily exaggerated pauses between lines. I listened to the first three poems, and quit. Secondly, the CD version (which is what I have) may have been obsoleted, but the major item of comment in the Amazon reviews is that there are no explanations for downloading the audio, and that it was difficult for reviewers to figure out how to do it.

Ignore the audio, then. If you already have an interest in poetry you will probably do a better job than the unfortunate “professionals” in reading aloud from the book, and your child will have a richer experience anyway from your personal involvement and introduction. The book will soon enough be one for the child to dip into and skip back and forth in, moving from biographies to poems to illustrations to factoids as the mood takes them.

In terms of the variety of poetry–forms, moods, eras, nationalities–I have never seen anything so rich and satisfying for a good young reader as this Introduction. I wish all English-speaking children everywhere could have a copy.

Resources: Formal-friendly magazines for unknown poets

Some of the best-known and longest-established poetry magazines have either changed (often under a new editor) from being receptive to being hostile towards formal verse; others are receptive, but only to already well known poets. So it can be difficult for an unknown formalist to break into publication. For what it’s worth, here is a list of places where I have been able to publish my own uneven and very varied pieces, with some comments about what is appropriate for where.

Alabama Literary Review – US, lyrical, positive; only takes snailmail submissions (unless you have a genuine need for email)
Allegro – UK, contemporary, looking for more formal submissions than they receive
Amsterdam Quarterly – Netherlands, English-language, must address the issue’s theme
Asses of Parnassus – Canada, short, witty, formal poems, snarky is fine, hosted on Tumblr.
Better Than Starbucks – US/Canada, large magazine with many departments including formal; children’s; experimental; etc.
Bewildering Stories – Canada/UK/US, speculative and science fiction pieces
Bosphorus Review of Books – Turkey, English language
Brazen Head – UK, ideas-rich
Chained Muse – US, prefers classical themes
Libretto – Nigeria, prefers African/Afro-American/Afro-European/post-colonial pieces
Light – US, large biannual issue, also the home of weekly topical light verse
Lighten Up Online (LUPO) – UK, light formal verse, quarterly
Lyric – US, “Founded in 1921, The Lyric is the oldest magazine in North America in continuous publication devoted to traditional poetry.” Lyrical, positive… flowers and countryside.
Metverse Muse – India, publishes simple traditional verse. No website. The email for editor Dr. Tulsi is metverse_muse@yahoo.com
Obsessed With Pipework – UK, “strangeness and charm… prefers dreams to deathbeds”
Orchards Poetry Journal – US, more rural than urban
Penwood Review – US, religious streak
Poetry Porch – US, lyrical
Pulsebeat Poetry Journal – US, new; more urban than rural
Rat’s Ass Review – US, irreligious streak; whatever appeals to the editor, including things you can’t get published elsewhere.
Road Not Taken: The Journal of Formal Poetry – US, hard to find online because of its name, but a good small publication for formal and semi-formal verse.
Shot Glass Journal – US, max 16 lines, lots of international poets
Snakeskin – UK, probably the longest-established poetry zine in the world; has no interest in submission bios, only in the poems; likes work that begins light and becomes heavier.
Star*Line – US, Science Fiction poetry
The HyperTexts (THT) – US, an enormous assemblage of verse from all times and places; the editor’s preference for formal and leftist verse doesn’t rule out Walt Whitman or Ronald Reagan! The works are mostly republications, but if you have a body of strong work the editor may be interested in creating a page for you.
Verse-Virtual – US, a monthly publication for a caring community of poets
Visions International – US – I’m not sure what the status is of this magazine these days, or who is editing it…

This list doesn’t include magazines not relevant for me (like Mezzo Cammin: An Online Journal of Formalist Poetry by Women), or that moved away from formalism (like Ambit), or that have unfortunately folded (14 by 14, The Rotary Dial, Unsplendid). And there must be a lot more worthy magazines that I simply haven’t run across – I would be very glad of your recommendations about others to list.

And of course, as ever, don’t just fire off a handful of poems at random – read some samples online, determine the magazine’s orientation and moods, check whether the editor wants anything particular, note whether they love or loathe attachments, etc…

Good luck!

Magazines” by theseanster93 is marked with CC BY-SA 2.0.

Experimental Poem: ‘Pointillist’

(Note: this poem is so named because if you look at it closely you may not find as much meaning as if you step back, let it flow past you, and see an outline of a story.)

Awake
Anew
Awhile
Askew;
Afoot
Among
Amass
Along;
Abet
Aback
Ado
Alack;
Alas!

Abroad
Again
Astride
Amain;
Atop
Alight
Aglow
Afright;
Afar
Ahead
Aloft
Abed;
Alone!

Aware
Amused
Affair
Accused;
Away
Aboard
Affray
Abhorred;
Aground
Alive
Abound
Arrive;
Ahoy!

Array
Await
Assay
Abate;
Appraise
Accord
Amaze
Adored;
Apprise
Appoint
Arise
Anoint;
Adieu!

This poem started (if I remember correctly) as four or five of the early words coming into my head with a sense of rhyme and rhythm when I was on the point of falling asleep. I roused myself enough to write the words down, doing what I consider an essential part of the communication I long for with my unconscious, my Muse–acknowledge the Muse by writing whatever is offered to you, whether or not it is complete or makes sense.

The next day I wrote more, keeping to iambic monometer and words of Anglo-Saxon derivation beginning with A. As a hint of a story took shape, I kept writing. After the first two stanzas I moved over into words of Latin derivation and went for more intense rhyme. Long lists of words were involved. After four days I had the whole poem.

As for the story itself… I see a hero setting out, failing, trying again, under threat, escaping by boat, shipwrecked, and finally rewarded. Are they male or female, and of what age? Did they have a love affair? Did they end up at home or in foreign lands? If you look at the poem sideways you may find an answer that suits you. Or (of course) not.

‘Pointillist’ was the second of five poems recently published in the Poetry section of The Brazen Head.

Pointillistically abstracted” by readerwalker is marked with CC BY-NC-SA 2.0.

Sonnet: ‘Exiled Leader’

I’ve few wants on my planet, fewer needs –
I like seas, trees, exploring what I’ve made,
Prospecting for the transgalactic trade,
Composing music while collecting seeds.
I like green islands, but won’t interfere
If eco climate needs a waste of ice
Or rock-filled deserts simply are the price
Of balancing the seas and atmosphere.
I’m rarely lonely, happy to create:
Atonal opera, atoning for
Those antisocial acts that led to war,
Jailed on the planet that I populate.
So I plant trees, make insects, have a swim,
Watch, read, compose… my life’s an endless whim.

This sonnet is one of four I wrote after Maryann Corbett commented on the bleakness of my future visions. I suppose this doesn’t really contradict that comment… we’ll have good news and bad news: the good news is, obnoxious leaders will still (occasionally) be deposed, jailed, or exiled to play golf; the bad news is, transgalactic warfare will be pretty awful. But to me, the future’s not bleak if humans keep on developing, changing, growing, exploring, discovering, creating. I think that’s the most likely scenario, that we move out into the galaxy as transhumans and then as post-humans. Though when I say “we” I don’t mean to suggest that includes me! Neither moon nor Mars excite me. I like woods and gardens by the sea.

This poem was published in Star*Line, the official print journal of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Poetry Association (thanks, Jean-Paul Garnier). Its poetry includes the full range of styles from formal to free. And the SFPA has another, online, journal called Eye To The Telescope. For reasons unknown my poems haven’t found lodging in ETTT yet.

“The Little Prince” by manfred majer is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

New magazine’s Call For Submissions – Pulsebeat Poetry Journal

Poet (and engineer) David Stephenson contacted me recently with the message “I am starting a new journal, Pulsebeat Poetry Journal, for poems with a strong musical element, especially poems in meter and rhyme. I don’t think there are enough venues for rhyming poetry.” He is putting out a general Call for Submissions on his web page https://pulsebeatpoetry.com/guidelines/

“Poems full of music, using meter and rhyme or other means, previously unpublished… Theme should be the human condition… Submissions by December 31, 2021, for the first issue to be posted in January, 2022.” More submission details are at that link above.

David Stephenson has published in The Formalist, The Lyric, etc. His ‘Rhythm and Blues‘ won the Richard Wilbur Award in 2007, which puts him in excellent company. On the Masthead page of his web site you can find links to more recent poems of his, published in Autumn Sky Poetry and Avatar Review.

I look forward to reading the Pulsebeat Poetry Journal, and wish David Stephenson good luck with the venture.

Resources: Goodreads

Goodreads’ stated mission is to help people find and share books they love, and to improve the process of reading and learning throughout the world. (That was crafted before they were bought by Amazon, so their mission may have a somewhat more mercenary aspect these days.) Founder Otis Chandler got the idea when looking at a friend’s bookshelf, and wishing there was a way to share discoveries and opinions of books online. Launched in January of 2007, by December it had 650,000 members–clearly it was on to something! And by the end of 2019 (i.e. pre-Covid) it had 90 million members, a number that can only have grown since then.

It’s a place where you can spend your time in a variety of ways: making shelves of the books you’ve read, sorting them by topic, giving them 1 to 5 stars, writing reviews of them… Developing a list of friends to follow or to share reviews with, joining a group with topics that you like, using the site to find books you are likely to enjoy… Setting a goal of how many books to read in the coming year, and having Goodreads track your progress, praising you or nagging you depending on whether you’re ahead of schedule or behind.

More completely, “Goodreads,” says Wikipedia, “is an American social cataloging website that allows individuals to search its database of books, annotations, quotes, and reviews. Users can sign up and register books to generate library catalogs and reading lists. They can also create their own groups of book suggestions, surveys, polls, blogs, and discussions.”

Because my main reading these days is formal poetry (of course–though leavened with Simenon, Le Guin and thick works of history) I have been looking to see what kind of poetry groups operate in Goodreads. I only found one of formal verse, with half a dozen members, and dormant for over a year. So I have started a new one called ‘Formal Verse – Mostly’. If you, reading this, are interested in reading, writing or discussing formal poetry, old or new, your own or that of others, then consider joining us.

But even if you don’t want to be that active, don’t want to join a group, Goodreads still offers a range of benefits for all readers. I’ve been reading more each year for the last few years, largely thanks to the Reading Challenge and being nagged when (as now) I’m behind schedule.

Photo: “My Books” by Jennerally is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Poem: ‘Ex-Rover’

I was a rover, footloose treasure-trover,
Bahamian, Brit, Dane, Aussie, Canadian,
Easily settling, never for very long,
Followed the sun and the moon with a song.

Now roving is over, Death’s raving and raging,
The threatening madman, waving a knife.
Even my babies have babies, are ageing –
Aren’t there any more decades left in my life?

I was a rover – no grass
Grew under my feet as I’d pass.
Now grass grows and I cut it.
And it grows, and I cut it.
I was wired, now I’m tired;
Fired up, now I’m mired.
And the grass grows again… I give up.

Let me sleep in the sun, and sleep slow.
Let me sleep deep.
When was that rover me?
Let the grass grow.
Let the moon be the stone over me.

This poem has just been published in The Orchards Poetry Journal, where it immediately follows the poem I posted here a couple of days ago, ‘Roughing It In Europe‘. It makes a nice, somewhat sardonic, pairing. Appropriately, this one was written several years after the more enthusiastic earlier one. (From the Orchards link above you can download the Journal as a pdf for free, or buy the very lovely finished product.)

‘Ex-Rover’ is one of those poems that stretches the meaning of the word “formal”. But it has enough rhythm and rhyme to make it relatively easy to learn word for word, and that is a lot of the point of poetry in any language. I feel barely any shame in putting it into the world in this ragged form. The ragged form suits the mood of the piece, after all.

“wanderer” by Cornelia Kopp is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Potcake Poet’s Choice: Kathryn Jacobs, ‘The Innocent’

They trust us, and they shouldn’t: butterflies
and earnestly pursuing preschoolers
careen among us, prone to accidents,
disasters in the making. Both of them

incapable of short-cuts, see-sawing
oblivious among the negligent,
convinced that we know best, who disregard
how short their legs and lives are.

Some of them
(the lucky and unswatted) mobilize
their stubby forces to stay out of reach,

But most of them launch headlong, more afraid
of being left behind or swallowed, than

of damaged wings and feelings, wedged against
rude curb-stops or cupped hands –

Kathryn Jacobs writes: “I am choosing The Innocent because it reminds me of what I’ve lost: of my son Raymond in particular (though he is not in the poem overtly). Ray died at 18. I am sending a photo of Ray with his twin: it’s a photo that reminds me of more Innocent days.”

Kathryn Jacobs is a professor at Texas A&M-C and editor of The Road Not Taken. Her fifth book of poetry (Wedged Elephant) appeared in Kelsay Books. Her poems have appeared in Measure, The New Formalist, Southern Poetry Anthology, Mezzo Cammin, etc. Currently she is working on a book of Dan.
http://journalformalpoetry.com/

Short Poem: ‘The Logophile Picks a Fight’

By the spots of shame with which your life is spattered,
Your position, sir, is grossly overmattered –
Overmattered, sir, or greatly undermined;
And I cannot help but find
That the lot of humankind
Would be bettered, not embittered, were you battered!

After having kicked around for years, this short piece–which has no purpose other than wordplay–finally got an explanatory title (instead of just the first few words) and was published in this month’s Lighten-Up Online in the section ‘Words, Words, Words’. Thanks, Jerome Betts!

Photo: “Picking a fight for net neutrality #ind12” by Kalexanderson is licensed under CC BY 2.0. Photo has been cropped.