Poetically Speaking with Jessica Spotswood (+ Giveaway)

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Jessica Spotswood grew up in a tiny, one-stoplight town in Pennsylvania, where she could be found swimming, playing clarinet, memorizing lines for the school play, or—most often—with her nose in a book. She now lives in Washington, DC where she can be found working as a children’s library associate for the DC Public Library, seeing theatre with her playwright husband, or—most often—with her nose in a book. Some things never change.

Jessica is the author of the critically acclaimed Cahill Witch Chronicles and the editor of A Tyranny of Petticoats, an anthology of feminist historical fiction short stories.

Her latest novel, Wild Swans, will be released May 3, 2016.

Today Jessica is here to talk about Wild Swans and the poet Edna St. Vincent Millay.

(And thanks to Jessica I’m also hosting a giveaway for a finished copy of Wild Swans! Click for details and see the end of this post for more info on the giveaway.)


WILD SWANS has changed a lot from its original conception – perhaps the most of any of my books – but the poetry of Edna St. Vincent Millay has always played a role.

Back in the fall of 2013, I’d just read April Tucholke’s brilliant BETWEEN THE DEVIL & THE DEEP BLUE SEA. I loved the creepy-gorgeous atmosphere of it and admired how the Citizen Kane, the family’s crumbling old mansion by the sea, functions almost as another character. I’ve always loved setting-heavy books, and I was in a strange place with my career, where I’d just finished my historical fantasy trilogy and wanted to write something completely different. So, I set out to write a sort of Gothic-flavored contemporary mystery. I decided that the house in my new book would be a big white farmhouse on the Eastern Shore of Maryland, right on the Chesapeake Bay.

And in the book’s early incarnation, the house was haunted. Not – as it is now – figuratively, by the weight of being a Milbourn girl. (Everyone in their small town knows what it is to be a Milbourn girl: Talented. Troubled. Cursed.) Originally, there was a ghost of a woman – a famous novelist – named Dorothea whom Ivy’s granddad had built his career studying. She’d written one Great American Novel, which had been made into a famous, award-winning film, and then – like Harper Lee – become a recluse. Only, over the course of the summer, as Ivy worked with her granddad’s cute student to archive Dorothea’s journals, they discovered a series of clues that perhaps Dorothea hadn’t written the novel after all. Perhaps she’d stolen it. Perhaps she’d murdered someone to keep that secret. And perhaps her ghost was willing to murder again to make sure it stayed secret. One of the clues that Ivy and Connor would stumble upon was the Millay poem “Dirge without Music.”

But…the thing is, I don’t actually know how to write a mystery. I am constantly surprised by TV whodunnits. I do not have a suspicious, logical, clue-parsing mind. The book, in that incarnation, was clearly not working.

An editor who read the beginning suggested that perhaps I could take the ghost and the mystery out and still have a summery, character-driven, romantic YA. It was a little more complicated than that. But Dorothea became Ivy’s grandmother, who was selfish and talented and troubled, but not murderous. And now the plot revolves around a family legacy of both artistic talent and mental illness. Ivy and Connor still work together to archive Dorothea’s journals, but now Dorothea’s a famous poet.

And Connor is a poet, too, who has tattoos of snippets of poems he loves. One of those poems – one that means so much to him that it’s tattooed right over his heart – is “A Dirge Without Music.” (I’ll let you read the book to find out why.) In early days, that was the epigraph for the book, but – well, it is not in the public domain.

My editor, searching for a title, read some Millay and came across “Wild Swans.” She suggested that as the title. And when I read it, it felt appropriate:

I looked in my heart while the wild swans went over.
And what did I see I had not seen before?
Only a question less or a question more;
Nothing to match the flight of wild birds flying.
Tiresome heart, forever living and dying,
House without air, I leave you and lock your door.
Wild swans, come over the town, come over
The town again, trailing your legs and crying!

To me, this speaks to the yearning that the Milbourn women feel. Ivy, like her mother and grandmother and great-great-grandmother, is ambitious and ambivalent about small-town life. She clings to the comfort of it even as she finds it suffocating. “House without air, I leave you and lock your door” – this line particularly resonated with me; it nails how I think Ivy’s mother feels about the house and the town and how desperate she is to escape, no matter who she hurts in the process.

I’m so happy that this poem is in the public domain, so I can share it here and as the book’s epigraph!

Thank you again to Jessica for this wonderful post. Remember to stop by Rafflecopter to enter the giveaway to win a finished copy of Wild Swans. Giveaway will run from today through May 3. US only. Winner will be notified on May 4 via email. If I don’t hear from them by May 5 I will pick a new winner. You can enter the giveaway here: http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/ccfb7e5a23

If you’d like to learn more about Jessica and her books, be sure to visit her website: http://jessicaspotswood.com

You can also read my review of Born Wicked here on the blog.

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Poetically Speaking with Lindsey Krabbenhoft

poeticallyspeaking2Lindsey Krabbenhoft is a children’s librarian in Canada and one half of the duo behind the ever-popular Jbrary. When she isn’t working in the library or sharing insights at Jbrary, Lindsey can often be found sharing poetry on Twitter with #flashpoetry and Poetry DeathMatch or matching readers with poems at her site A Poem for a Feeling.

I’ve been lucky enough to get to know Lindsey through Twitter in the past year and as I began planning for Poetically Speaking 2016, she was one of the first people I knew I wanted to feature as a contributor.

Lindsey is talking about when she developed a love of poetry (especially love poems) and what she does to share poetry with the world.

Poetry’s been with me my whole life.  My mom tells me that when I was a child I would sit and listen to nursery rhymes and children’s poetry for as long as she would read.  Always one to encourage a love of reading, she bought me a copy of Where the Sidewalk Ends by Shel Silverstein when I was 8, and I fell in love right then and there.  By age 9 I was parading around the house reciting “Sarah Cynthia Sylvia Stout” and enlisting the listening ears of my younger sister.

By the time high school hit, I was one of the few people who didn’t let out a groan when we read poems in our Language Arts courses.  Though there was a fair amount of what I call “beating the love of poetry out of people by asking them what a poem means,” it didn’t deter me.  Instead, I focused on poems I liked even if I had no clue what they meant. In fact, it was during high school that I created a poetry journal. Filled with my favourite poems, songs, and a few writings of my own, I decorated the pages with pressed flowers and pictures from magazines. When I was 18 the journal completely filled up and it was no surprise to anyone that I decided to major in English Literature when I headed to university that fall.

I fell in love with love poetry my junior year at college when I took a course called Love and Desire in Contemporary American Poetry.  We studied male and female portraits of desire, erotic poetry, romantic poetry, LGBTQ poetry, and love poems in translation. I was pleasantly shocked by the honesty in the poems I read.  More than that, I learned things from those poems – about people’s lived experiences and observations. One of my favourite poems I read in that class is homage to my hips by Lucille Clifton:

these hips are big hips

they need space to

move around in.

they don’t fit into little

petty places. these hips

are free hips.

they don’t like to be held back.

these hips have never been enslaved,

they go where they want to go

they do what they want to do.

these hips are mighty hips.

these hips are magic hips.

i have known them

to put a spell on a man and

spin him like a top!

To this day, I’m an avid reader of poetry, love poetry in particular, though I think of love as multidimensional. There’s desire, romance, that giddiness of new love – but there’s also loss, heartbreak, and surprise. We love suddenly, tentatively, nearly, passionately, incurably, regretfully.  Poems provide the best expression of these feelings. If you’re looking for an outstanding collection of love poems I highly recommend Penguin’s Poems for Love selected by Laura Barber and She Walks in Beauty: A Woman’s Journey Through Poems selected by Caroline Kennedy.

Recently, I’ve started to share poems via social media.  It began when I created something on Twitter called #flashpoetry.  If you favourite one of my tweets within a given time period then I’ll send you a poem.  The goal is to give people a poetry boost during the day when they might least expect it. Periodically I also run #poetrydeathmatch which pits two poems against each other, letting my Twitter friends vote for their favourite one.  This is a fun experiment for me because not only do I have to search for two poems on a common theme, but I also love seeing which one people favour. Lastly, I created a website called A Poem for a Feeling. Enter a feeling and I’ll send you a poem based on that feeling. My friends call me their Poetry Fairy Godmother and it’s a title I cherish.

Poetry for me is about feeling. How different people take words and arrange them in a way that makes my heart beat faster. How seeing a particular phrase makes tears spring to my eyes. It is the utter joy of the unexpected in language that reels me in time and again.

Thank you Miss Print for letting me share my love of poetry with others!

Thank you to Lindsey for this fabulous post! I hope you all try her Poem for a Feeling site!

If you want to hear more from Lindsey you can find her on:

Poetically Speaking with Karuna Riazi

poeticallyspeaking1Karuna Riazi is fond of tea, Korean dramas and writing about tough girls who forge their own paths toward their destinies. Besides pursuing a Bachelors in English Literature, she is an online diversity advocate and blogger. Her debut MG, The Gauntlet of Blood and Sand, will be released in 2017 under Simon and Schuster’s new Salaam Reads imprint.

Today Karuna is talking about finding her own path to poetry.

—-

My Path to Poetry

I am in love with the idea of poetry. I have little verses tucked away, like strands of hair behind an ear: written in the margins of a long abandoned school notebook, trailing down a peeled off Post-It note that previously graced the sacred insides of a library book.

I grew up engrossed in Walt Whitman’s “When I Heard the Learned Astronomer” and felt a tangible tingle down my spine observing Emily Dickinson’s “A Narrow Fellow in the Grass.”

My world grew colorful, in sharp bursts of realization and sunlight, as I became exposed to Rita Dove and Gwendolyn Brooks and glorious, full-voiced Maya Angelou. The words glittered and jostled each other and I strung them up my arms and layered them about my neck like they were jewels.

I wanted to be able to do that, too. I wanted to be able to pluck out perfectly faceted phrases that made you shudder, made you want to shout and fling yourself back in the grass and stare up at the balmy sky and cotton-clump clouds and feel utterly alive in every sparking, seething vein of your body because someone has put every feeling down into words that you didn’t even think of parsing out so finely.

I nudge words together like magnets, seeing which will snap together with the admirable alliteration I particularly enjoy – and which will disappointingly, laughably press back, offended at the idea that they could possibly have anything in common.

I haven’t been able to find the gift yet that I so admire in others. I feel like there is more to it than experimentation and liking some words more than others (in the best occurrence of favoritism there might be).

At least, I’ve reached the point where I understand that poetry can be for me.

My domain is novels. I’ll never be able to devote as much time to individual poems as I will into entirely shaped books with outline-spines of romance and adventure and intrigue, and that is entirely okay.

My main fear is a lack of beauty. If there is anything I hunger to see in my words, it is a lush, tangible aesthetic: a visual rendering of the feelings that teem through me and that I always associate with the turbulence of being an adolescent. So I try and experiment and like some words more than others and sometimes wonder if I’m going about all of this the right way.

What helps me carry on is the fact that I’ve seen how the beauty of the poem can seep into the density of prose. Nova Ren Suma is a master of it, as are Laini Taylor, Shveta Thakrar, Sarah McCarry, Holly Black, Roshani Chokshi, Anna-Marie McLemore and so many other glorious writers bringing a jewel-like charm and well spun beauty to stories that already glisten and gleam.

Their words reach down into my chest and wrench. They show me that it can be done, it should be done, that there are people out there who know how to balance the sublime meter of poetry into the often unfettered extents of prose.

It can be done. It should be done. It is just a matter of finding the right way to string the words together and the right amount of heart to mete out between my fingers and offer up for the magic to happen. Perhaps this is the awkward stage where I need to want, very, very badly, and watch the masters I so admire at work on their craft, and stare up at the balmy sky at some point and feel utterly alive in every sparking, seething vein of my body and hunger for a way to let all of that spill out on paper.

This is my path to poetry. It unravels with every new voice I stumble upon that lingers in the corners of my mind and tugs the corners of my lips up. It sprawls against my feet and nudges, insistently, when I’m turning the pages of a book that embodies everything I want to be – and want to continuously, constantly indulge myself in no matter what form of media I’m currently consuming.

Perhaps one day, it will unfurl to the point that I will be able to say, too, with appropriate charm and a little twinkle in my eye, “I am a poet. And I know it.”

But that day is not today. At least, though – at the very least – I know that I want to reach that day. I want to be able to unfold stories over my lap and point to the fire, glowing threads that make up their intricately crafted tapestries.

And for now, I continue to bask in the sunlight glow of poetry’s hope and beauty and occasional brisk blue sorrows. I continue to be reminded of how important it is to be so utterly alive, in every sparking, seething vein of my body, and hungry to become more and express more and know that there are others who feel the very same way.


Thank you Karuna for this thoughtful post!

If you want to learn more about Karuna be sure to follow her on Twitter: @karunariazi

Poetically Speaking with Me (Miss Print) about a poem I wrote about traveling

poeticallyspeaking2For today’s Poetically Speaking post I’m taking over to talk about a poem I wrote about traveling (which is ironic because I have zero wanderlust).

Baedecker Love Song
London is burning
Venice is sinking
New York is dirty
Oslo is cold
We booked all the wrong tours
We missed our connections
We bought the wrong gifts
from all the wrong shops
We saw all the wrong places
with all the wrong people
We made all the wrong choices
I’d make them again
given the chance
to make them again
with you

In my senior year of high school I took AP Literature. We had a new-to-the-school teacher who was all of twenty-three at the time. He started growing a beard halfway through the school year to try and look older. He prepared us for the AP Literature test but he also was working with basically no syllabus often asking his classes what we would want to read.

One book that he did assign, because it was a favorite of his, was A Room With a View by E. M. Forster. People talk a lot more about Howard’s End as one of Forster’s major works with it’s theme to “only connect” and the disastrous consequences of the characters’ attempts to do just that. But since reading it in high school, A Room With a View has had my heart and remains, I think, one of the sweeter classics I’ve read.

I’m not mentioning this to rehash Lucy Honeychurch’s stunning and dramatic romance with George Emerson. I won’t even share the two poems I wrote about Lucy and George, or my intense opinions on the movie adaptation.

Instead I start here because this book (and probably a few other classics I read as a teen) introduced me to the idea of Baedecker travel guides. I don’t know much about these books beyond the fact that they did exist and were the travel books for their time. But it’s one of those things that stuck in my mind. How strange to have a book you could reference as the Baedecker and everyone would know what you meant. How bizarre that it is completely obsolete by now.

This poem started with the idea of dozens of things going wrong. In particular “We saw all the wrong places / with all the wrong people” kept bouncing around in my head as I tried to figure out what kind of poem would fit that phrase.

Eventually I realized something about travel was the exact right topic. I went through a few different cities and disasters to start the poem before setting on the ones that made it in here. Similarly it took a while to pinpoint what, exactly, went wrong. In fact, the only thing I knew immediately after decided I wanted a travel poem was the title.

I’m still not sure if this poem is finished. It feels like there could be more to say or a better way to say what’s here. But for now I’m calling this poem finished. My own riff on travel and how even the worst trips can make for the best memories.

Note: This poem is an original work by me. If you are so inclined you can share it but please do so by crediting me (Emma Carbone not Miss Print) and linking back to this post.

Talk to me about your favorite poems or poetic context in the comments and be sure to check back every day this April for more poetry-related posts and guest posts.

Poetically Speaking with Me (Miss Print) about a poem I wrote about unrequited love

poeticallyspeaking2For today’s Poetically Speaking post I’m taking over to talk about another love song poem I wrote.

Unrequited Love Song

 

i want so much from you it hurts

 

until i understand
all the things i want

 

are all the things you can’t give

This poem comes from a lot of places and, I hope, means a lot of things for different people. Interestingly, when I wrote the poem I didn’t picture myself as the one doing the wanting. I wrote this poem after a friendship that I valued started to deteriorate because my friend had a crush on me and didn’t seem to know how to separate friendship from desires for something more–something I was incapable of providing. It also was a bit inspired by the main character in The Best Night of Your (Pathetic) Life by Tara Altebrando who is also the object of some (unwanted) unrequited love.

I wrote this poem without capitals and without punctuation because I always think of unrequited love as unfinished. There usually isn’t any kind of closure (no period at the end of the sentence, if you will) because someone is always left wanting. Initially I had imagined this as a much longer poem but then I realized I didn’t need to say more because these lines already said what I wanted and the central point of the poem was already distilled in these lines.

It’s easy to imagine pining–we’ve all been there. But it was harder when I was first writing this poem to think about it from the other side. What does it mean to know someone wants so much from you? What do you do when you know you can’t give them what they want?

In my case it was really painful and frustrating and put a major strain on this friendship. Eventually it became easier to just not talk to this guy than to worry about whether I was accidentally leading him on or wondering exactly how blunt I had to be before he could take the hint. Eventually the friendship ran its course and we lost touch. Whether it’s fair or not, I’ve realized nothing about our dynamic, such as it was, was the foundation of a healthy of meaningful friendship. It just took a while to admit that.

So that was my mental state when I was writing this poem. But then things shifted and I started thinking about it from the other side after dealing with a particularly devastating crush and realizing it was never going to be anything more. Which hurt. A lot. But it also made me a better person because I am braver and (I hope) stronger as a result.

Since then I’ve started thinking of this little poem of mine more and more when I think about interacting with people. Because any interaction with a person has some kind of want attached whether that’s a desire for them to see you in a certain way or even just a conversation. When I wind up not getting what I want from a given interaction (for whatever reason) I remember the sentiment behind this poem and I remind myself that sometimes you end up wanting more than a person can give and you have to deal with that and make peace with whatever you do get.

Note: This poem is an original work by me. If you are so inclined you can share it but please do so by crediting me (Emma Carbone not Miss Print) and linking back to this post.

Talk to me about your favorite poems or poetic context in the comments and be sure to check back every day this April for more poetry-related posts and guest posts.

Poetically Speaking with Lesléa Newman

poeticallyspeaking2Lesléa Newman is the author of seventy books including poetry collections Still Life with Buddy and October Mourning: A Song for Matthew Shepard (novel-in-verse). She is also the author of the groundbreaking children’s book, Heather Has Two Mommies. Her latest works include the children’s books, Ketzel, The Cat Who Composed, and the poetry collection, I Carry My Mother, whose title poem has just been nominated for a Pushcart Prize. 

Today Lesléa is talking about imitation in writing poetry and how she used that as a starting point for several poems in her latest collection I Carry My Mother.

STEALING AWAY

by Lesléa Newman

“Good writers borrow. Great writers steal.”

I can’t remember who I stole that quote from. Which doesn’t make me a great writer necessarily. I am, however, a pretty good thief.

I started my career as a crook back in the 1980’s when I was attending the Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics at Naropa Institute. I was studying with such literary luminaries as Allen Ginsberg, Anne Waldman, Ted Berrigan, and Alice Notley, and one of them put a life-changing book into my hands: Rose: Where Did You Get That Red? The author, Kenneth Koch is often credited for being the granddaddy of the “poetry in the schools” movement, for he was one of the first poets to go into the public schools and teach children how to read and write poetry. How did he do it? He read the children great poems and had them write their own poems modeled on and inspired by the poems they heard. In effect, he taught the children how to “steal.”

And so I decided to give it a try. I am the kind of writer whose process consists of, as the writer Gene Fowler says, “sitting at the typewriter until three drops of blood appear on your forehead.” In other words, ideas for poems do not come easily to me. Once I do have an idea, I can work for hours, days, weeks, even years, to get the poem right. But more often than not, coming up with an idea involves a lot of blood, sweat, and tears.

And so I turned to Koch’s book eagerly. Why invent the wheel when it has been invented before, and so beautifully? Why not use the already invented forms of beloved poems as a container to pour my own words into? I have found this way of writing especially useful when writing poems of grief, as I did in my most recent poetry collection, I Carry My Mother, which explores my journey through my mother’s illness and death and how I have carried on without her. My mother loved poetry, and this seemed like a fitting way to pay tribute to her. And when I sat down to write poems about my mother and how I mourned for her, my emotions were so unwieldy, I found it enormously helpful and comforting to have an already established structure to work with and make my own. The structures I “stole” not only held the poems together, they held me together as well. Perhaps this was because the poems I chose were so familiar to me, they were like old friends. And what better tonic for healing is there than to surround oneself with friends who have known you for the better part of your life?

One of the classic poems that Koch employed in his book and his teaching, is Wallace Stevens’ classic “Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird”

which can be found here:

http://www.poetryfoundation.org/poem/174503

What is Wallace doing in the poem? He is taking something ordinary—a blackbird—and making it into something extraordinary by describing it in thirteen different ways. He looks closely at the blackbird, observing a tiny part of it in the first stanza: “Among twenty mountains,/The only moving thing/Was the eye of the blackbird.” He multiplies the blackbird and imagines three of them in the second stanza: “I was of three minds/Like a tree/In which there are three blackbirds.” He imagines the blackbird moving as part of a performance or pantomime in the third stanza. And so on. And in these various explorations, he not only observes the blackbird, he observes himself observing the blackbird. And thus he observes many things about life itself.

Here is something anyone can do, whether a novice or experienced poet. Simply put, the poem is a list of keen observations filtered through the poetic eye and imagination. The idea is to see something familiar as if one has never seen it before. One observes the familiar object as if seeing it for the first time. You can also use this form of poetry to observe a person, as I did:

THIRTEEN WAYS OF LOOKING AT MY MOTHER

1

Among seven silent rooms

in the middle of the night

the only moving thing

is a swirl of smoke

rising from the lit tip

of my mother’s cigarette

 

2

My mother was of three minds

like the three sorry children

she would someday come to bear

 

 

3

My mother whirled through the kitchen

slamming drawers, banging dishes

clanging pots and pans

She was a noisy part of the pantomime

 

4

My mother and her mother

are one

My mother and her mother and her daughter

are one

 

5

I do not know which I dread more

arriving at my mother’s house

or leaving it

The pain of being with her

or the pain of being without her

 

6

Knitting needles click and clack

as something wooly grows

My mother stares at her creation

Her mood is indecipherable

 

7

Oh skinny blonde airbrushed models

staring up at my mother as she flips

through glossy magazines,

Why must you torture her so?

 

8

I know how to make matzo balls

big as fists

and how to live on nothing

but cottage cheese, cigarettes, and air

but I know, too

that my mother is involved

in everything I know

 

9

When my mother moved

from Brooklyn to Long Island

she marked the edge

of one of many circles

 

10

At the sight of my mother

staring back at me

at three in the morning

from the unforgiving bathroom mirror

I cry out sharply

 

11

I rode home on the train

and fear pierced me

in that I mistook

the phlegmy hacking cough

coming from three rows back

for the sound of my mother

 

12

The ventilator is on

My mother must be breathing

 

13

It was twilight all day

and all night long

she was breathing

and she was trying to breath

my mother lay in the ICU

her hand in mine

holding on for dear life

Another poem that Koch used very successfully in the classroom is “This Is Just To Say” by William Carlos Williams which has also become a classic and a favorite poem of English teachers everywhere. (There is even an entire book of parodies of this poem written by Gail Carson Levine entitled Forgive Me, I Meant To Do It). The poem, told in very simple language, is an apology. But the beauty of the poem is that the speaker is apologizing for something he really isn’t sorry he has done. In fact, it appears he is rather delighted with himself. Children (of all ages) love this poem, for who among us hasn’t apologized for something we do not regret in the least? The poem can be found here:

http://www.poetryfoundation.org/poem/245576

In this poem, the narrator has eaten some plums that “you were probably/saving” and then asks to be forgiven. The speaker then describes the plums as “so sweet/and so cold” implying that the plums were greatly enjoyed and the speaker really isn’t sorry for eating them at all.

For an imitation of this poem, I chose to write a note of apology in my mother’s voice and have her apologize to me. Was she sorry for leaving me? Yes…..and no.

LETTER FROM MOM, POSTMARKED HEAVEN

 

This is just to say

I’m sorry

I left

you

bereft

and alone

 

Forgive me

for being a daughter

like you

I always rush off

when my mother calls

come home

There are several more imitations in I Carry My Mother. I “stole” from poets both my mom and I adore including Dr. Seuss, Emily Dickinson, Christina Rossetti, and Robert Frost. I also “stole” from contemporary writers that my mother was not familiar with, including Molly Peacock and Meg Kearney. Since I know these writers personally, I contacted them to see if they felt okay about my thievery.

Both poets reacted in the same way. “What an honor!” wrote Molly Peacock when I sent her my poem, “At Night” which was inspired by her poem, “Of Night” which appears in her marvelous book, The Second Blush. And by the same token, when I sent Meg Kearney my poem “Wish List” which was inspired by her poem “Empty List Poem” from her fantastic novel in poems, The Secret of Me, Meg wrote, “I’m flattered,” and then went on to say, “‘Great poets steal,’ right?” I was pleased, and I admit, also relieved, that these poets whom I greatly admire felt, as I do, that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.

And so, I will continue to “steal” from poets whose work I admire. And who knows? Maybe someday, someone will honor and flatter me by “stealing” a poem from me.

“Thirteen Ways of Looking at My Mother” and “Letter from Mom, Postmarked Heaven” copyright ©2015 by Lesléa Newman, from I Carry My Mother published by Headmistress Press, Sequim, WA. Reprinted by permission of the author.

Thank you again to Lesléa for this beautiful post.

If you’d like to learn more about Lesléa and her books, be sure to visit her website: http://www.lesleanewman.com

Poetically Speaking with Me (Miss Print) about a love song poem I wrote about space

poeticallyspeaking2For today’s Poetically Speaking post I’m taking over to talk about a poem I wrote called “Space Opera Love Song.”

Something I return to on and off when I’m writing poems is something I call my “love song” series. The poems aren’t actual songs–they aren’t lyrics and they don’t have music–but I think of them as a kind of story with a kind of theme which is something I associate with a lot of love songs.

These love song poems are necessarily based on something that happened to me or something I felt. But most of them are just stories I want to tell. For these particular poems I often start with the title because that tells me what kind of story I want to tell and, by extension, what kind of poem I want to write.

Eventually I’ll branch out more but where I started with these poems is with genres that have some familiar tropes. The one I’m sharing today was written when I was on a sci-fi kick so, of course, it’s a space opera.

Space Opera Love Song
there are scars on the moon
craters as big as canyons
maybe there used to be aliens too
everything changes
distances made malleable
with elliptical orbits and light speed
they tell me I can reach you in twenty years
long enough to grow old even though I won’t feel it
long enough for everyone I leave behind to forget me
long enough for you to live a life without me
you say you’ll wait
you say you’ll be there to meet me
twenty years from now
when my ship completes its elliptical orbit to you
but there are scars on the moon
craters as big as canyons
maybe there used to be aliens waiting there too

This one was inspired by a few things. First by one of the stories in The Ghosts of Heaven in which a ship makes a spiral shaped (elliptical) orbit across space. Next I kept thinking about when Logan gave Rory that stupid model rocket in an episode of Gilmore Girls and it took her forever to figure out its significance. That, of course, led to thinking about the Twilight Zone episode “The Long Morrow” that prompted Logan’s gift in the first place.

So when I sat down to write the first draft of this poem I knew I wanted it to say “Space!” which meant there should be a spaceship. Then I knew I didn’t want this to be a perfect love poem because space operas are usually messy, sprawling things. So starcrossed lovers made more sense here which led me to thinking about the characters who essentially miss each other in a very literal sense in “The Long Morrow.”

I don’t remember where a lot of the original imagery came from. I have a feeling the scars on the moon and craters might have been from a documentary I watched with my mom. And aliens feature because, well, why wouldn’t I have aliens in a poem called “Space Opera Love Song.”

As I played with stanzas and line structure I also wound up making the poem circle back on itself the way that the ship’s elliptical orbit might. Unsurprisingly (since I wrote it) this poem is in my favorite kind of style with straightforward lines and a simple structure. I might even go so far as to call it deceptive because a lot of the meaning doesn’t come from reading the poem closely line by line by from reading it as a whole.

Is this poem how I actually feel about love or Space!? It’s hard to say. Sometimes it probably is. But sometimes it isn’t. All I can say for sure is that I like the idea of little green aliens pining on the moon waiting for their own loves to return until the only trace left were scars and craters.

Note: This poem is an original work by me. If you are so inclined you can share it but please do so by crediting me (Emma Carbone not Miss Print) and linking back to this post.