Friday, January 30, 2009

Poetry Tips: Interpreting a Poem for the Timid

When I was in school there was always that moment in the classroom where my English teachers would say “What do you think this poem means? There are no wrong answers!” and of course when I’d raise my hand to give my opinion I was always told “no, that’s not what it’s about…” I have never understood this trait in English teachers.

So for those of you who are new to interpreting poetry let me tell you this much: If you enjoy a poem, be happy with it.

After that, it is a matter of figuring out what the poet is trying to say by means of their language or references. Some poets say exactly what they mean, others reference great literature or moments in history. Short of utilizing a dictionary or searching your shelves for former literary greats you may find better luck using on-line resources such as The Poetry Foundation or for insight into poems you find difficult to understand—if they have the particular poet within their collection. These sites feature essays on poets and can break down the poem into what the poet was referring to. Then there is also the plethora of books presenting criticism of particular poets who can help you understand a poet whose work you enjoy but don’t always “get.” These are often available in the library and if not, you can always ask the library staff if they can order some for you.

Then there are poets who throw in words from other languages within the frame of their poem and you may need to use an on-line dictionary to translate those words into English. If you don’t have regular use of the internet there is always your local library which should have various dictionaries that translate other languages into English.

The bottom line is to try to understand a poem you find interesting and difficult or frustrating. It doesn’t mean you have to know the literary greats, be able to speak French, etc., all it means is that you liked the poem enough to want to figure it out. The more you figure out, the wider your repertoire in poetry can become.

I, myself, enjoy Pablo Neruda because his poems are presented in both English and Spanish so that I can try to read the original, beautiful language but then read it in English for a full understanding.

For any regular readers who have any particular resources they know of that I haven’t mentioned specifically, please add them in the comments section for the benefit of all, and thanks.

Thanks for stopping by, please visit again on Monday for another featured site…

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Cafe Review Open Submissions

You may send three poems along with a $1.00 Submission fee which goes towards the production of the publication along with a Self-Addressed Stamped Envelope to:
The Café Reviewc/o Yes Books589 Congress StPortland, ME 04101

To inquire about dead-lines you may send an e-mail to: cafereveiweditors[at]mailcity[dot]com
*Note that no submissions are taken on-line and please use the link below to explore their wonderful site and get a feel for what they publish.

Good Luck to all who try, and thanks for dropping in! Please stop in tomorrow for more Poetry Tips...

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Poems Found by Poet Hound
“Night” by Dana Roeser
“The Orange” by Wendy Cope

Thanks for clicking in, please stop by tomorrow for more Open Submissions…

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Donald Revell's A Thief of Strings

Donald Revell was born in 1954 and has ten collections of poetry thus far and has won many prizes for his poems such as the PEN Center USA Award and the Gertrude Stein Award. I picked up his most recent collection A Thief of Strings, published by Alice James Books in 2007, at the local library. I have links at the end for you all to learn more about Mr. Revell, it is a shame that the poems I want to share with you aren’t also available on these sites but at least there are plenty of poems to read through and enjoy.

One of the first poems I enjoyed in this collection is “Storks.” Obviously this poem is centered around storks but it also has the recurring theme of healing the sick or the broken-hearted. “Reading,/I find myself/Praying for animals/One hundred years gone/” leads me to reminisce about the characters of my own beloved books who I wish were living or were still alive. “Choirs of children/Gather to sing to heal/The white storks ailing in the steeples,” is a stanza I just love. Can’t you picture a large church and choir singing to storks, or any other bird, as they roost in the steeple? “The children’s song is human/But unconcerned with the affairs of men.” Throughout the poem there is also the mention of advocacy and charming and finally at the end you learn more about the real theme of the poem when Mr. Revell reveals “I was reading when my father died/Who could not read,” and goes on to say “I prayed and listened./I prayed and hear/Nothing concerned with men, including my father./He wanted nothing to do with them either./” The very last two lines are the most beautiful: “Once he said/My eyes and my sister’s eyes were brown like those of deer.” While the title is “Storks” it could just as easily be titled “Souls” since this seems to be what he is essentially referring to and the poem is just beautiful if you get a chance to read it yourself. I cannot do it justice.

Another poem I enjoyed was “Just in the Morning, In Memory of Robert Creeley, 1926-2005.” This is another beautiful poem for which I cannot do justice but I shall share some lovely lines with you: “There are no clouds./Pink or purple, in a terrible wind…But the ground dark somehow, as though clouds were passing./Absent or present, death slips beneath.” Then Mr. Revell reminisces about Creeley’s afterlife with the lines “Who’s to say there is no one/Already building a fire in the cabin…On the mountaintop beside one tree?/The wind seems not to reach that high./Smoke from the chimney goes straight up.” I think this is a wonderfully tender way to picture Creeley’s home in the afterlife, a soul content in a cabin whose sign of life is the smoke rising from the top.

There are many poems I enjoy and I believe you will not be disappointed if you happen to pick up his collection. As mentioned earlier, I have links you can click below to learn more about Donald Revell and read his poems.
Thanks always for reading, please click in tomorrow for more Poems Found by Poet Hound…

Monday, January 26, 2009

Blackbird On-line Journal

Brought to you by the Department of English at Virginia Commonwealth University, this is a site full of wonderful poems and stories. Please check it out at:

Thanks for dropping in, please drop by tomorrow for another featured poet…