“Re-Seeing”–The Lifeblood of Good Writing

Writing is a reflection of life, I firmly believe that.
No matter if you’re writing fiction, fantasy, biography… the way we write is always a reflection of the way we live.
And the way we live is constantly in flux.

I can’t begin to describe how many changes I have experienced in my life over the past three and a half years. I took a “life-change stress” quiz in a psychology class last week, and I scored high enough to warrant the result of a 50% chance of getting sick due to stress-related causes.

The thing is, though–I don’t see change as a bad thing.
I think it’s actually really good,
and it can mean wonderful things for our writing.

If our lives change so much, so should our writing. Change is hard, but change in writing can often mean forward progress.

This week, I had a class workshop for my full 20-page draft of the chapbook I am working on.
I love the poems I wrote. I know, it’s kind of an understood writerly thing to critique your own writing harshly, but I think these poems are the best I have ever written.
I was nervous to take them to workshop because I didn’t want to sit there while they were critiqued and pulled apart, and exposed to the harshness of possible significant change.

But I was very pleasantly surprised. I ended up with a document full of typed notes with very possible revision suggestions, one of which meant refocusing the theme of my chapbook in a direction that the poems were leaning towards but I didn’t notice it. I felt energized.

GOOD revision, is re-seeing your work from a new perspective. What can I see about my work when I don’t look at it through a lens of it being a finished work, but instead I see it as something in flux, in process, and in need of improvement?
I would dare say you can see a new, fresher work.

My watercolor painting professor always tells us that the art of watercolor is to put down the fewest strokes possible to keep the sparkle of the pigment.

Writing, I think, is the opposite.
Writing that sparkles, that seems fresh and clean, is rarely a first draft, if ever.
Writing like that takes draft after draft, but not only that–it takes re-seeing each draft in a new way so you find the proper mindset through which to view the text, the proper lens that produces the best result.

So be encouraged, you revisers of the cyber-world.
Let’s make our writing sparkle.

Abigail Joy

Snapshots of Grief–Matthew Leavitt Brown’s Glory Glory

I just completed Matthew Brown’s chapbook Glory Glory this afternoon, and I am absolutely in awe.
Don’t get me wrong, I love poetry and often find myself moved by a lovely poetic phrase, but rarely am I stunned by an entire project as I am by this one.

The entire chapbook follows one couple, and travels from remembrances of their relationship beginning to little nuances of their married life to the wife’s sickness and ends with her death and his coping.
(Sorry–spoiler.)
I don’t feel bad spoiling that a little bit though, because the beauty of this narrative poetry is not in what exactly happens. The beauty of this chapbook is how you feel exactly in the moment with the couple, often time with very brief and ordinary snapshots of their life together.

Several poems are even descriptions of photographs, which I thought was a really smart way to capture a moment…by literally describing a captured moment.
The entire chapbook is very visual in the way that photography is.
The wife is often described not by her name, but by the way her curls fall around her face in several poems.
The absence the husband feels after the wife passes away is stunningly captured in one of the poems by the way he finds bunnies while pulling weeds and “without thinking I/called your name once, almost without making a sound, then again,/louder, with my head turning back over my should towards the empty/house.”
He does not just say he misses her, he shows it in an absolutely lovely and heartbreaking way.

Another of my favorite aspects of this chapbook is the way it cycles.
Their is a poem at the beginning, before the reader knows of the wife’s illness, where the husband describes coming home to his wife. It ends as such:
” Your eyes gone wet from corners.
Our song playing in the back room.
Our roses blooming the front yard.

My hands around your belly.
Your smile a lasting penance.
I wiil find you. Always.”

It’s absolutely lovely, and promising.
One of the last poems of the chapbook is in response to this one. It ends as such:
” Your eyes, clear and wide cold blue, gone wet from the corners.
Your soft smell in the kitchen, our song playing in the back room.
A soft whistle in your breath, roses blooming the front yard.

The garden gone petal pink, my hands around your belly.
Holding true your poise, your smile a lasting promise.
When you come back, I will be waiting. Amen.”

The second is not only eerie and stunning, it is expanded, as if in death, the wife is speaking more to him than she did when she was alive.

I know I would love to write poems that converse with one another in such a way, to encapsulate a life so wonderfully.

This chapbook is crafted purposefully from image to language, to the deeply thought-out and constructed structure…all features of good writing that we should all hope to aspire to.

And it is definitely worth a read.

For more information about Matthew Brown’s work, to read samples of his poems, or to order a copy of Glory Glory, click here: matthewbrownpoetry.com

Keep capturing moments, friends. It’s one of the most beautiful things we can do as writers.
Blessings,
Abigail Joy

The Poetry’s in the Perspective

Last night, I read The Last Time I Saw Amelia Earhart by Gabrielle Calvocoressi.
And it was lovely.

I haven’t written much about my own writing on this blog, but the project that I have been working on all semester has been a series of sequence poems that all chronologically represent the past summer in my life.

I’ve struggled with the way to make 20 poems describing vastly different events flow together in the way the need to, but reading this short chapbook was definitely the help I needed.

This book is a series of poems from different historical persons’ perspectives about…you guessed it… the last time they all saw Amelia Earhart.
Her language is concise, conversational, in a way that is difficult to do in poetry without being way too simple.
She creates emotional depth that rocked me to the core with the simplest of images.

A portion of my favorite poem of the collection is:
VII: Joel Sullivan, miner

“Amelia Earhart is a dream

 

my daughter won’t give up.

Sometimes I want to shake her,

tell her what small towns are,

 

how the coal dust coats your skin

till darkness never leaves you

and the sky doesn’t matter much

 

when you’re wheezing underground.

She won’t believe that woman’s dead.

She says, I think it’s romantic

 

to disappear. I bite my tongue

to keep from telling her

she’ll get her chance in time.”

 

Her language is simple, uncomplicated. I can picture a dirty, tired miner saying these words, but at the same time, the beauty of her poetry is the imagery, the connections she makes. She makes us feel the emotions of every character in every poem by getting into their experience and telling the story from their perspective. By doing this, she gives homage and honor to one of the most well-known American heroes.

 

So be encouraged, friends. Keep telling good stories, engaging emotionally, and keeping it simple. And if you need inspiration, read The Last Time I Saw Amelia Earhart.

Keep reading,

Abigail Joy