In Defense of Poetry

Yes, I know. National Poetry Month is over and you’ve had all of my terrible poetry you can handle. That’s fair. But this isn’t about my poetry, nor will I subject you to any more of it (at least not until next April). This is about poetry in general and how I think that for the general public, it doesn’t get a fair evaluation.

Obviously, there’s no harm if you don’t like poetry. It’s just that I don’t think people get a chance to like poetry.

Think about it. When are most people introduced to poetry? In school. Grade school, junior high, high school. And in that context, the agenda behind the introduction is to teach us the different kinds of poems and the various kinds of poetic devices, and the poetry we consume in the classroom is all for the purpose of learning these things. And that’s fine. There’s nothing wrong with learning the parts of the body that you’re looking at. Even if you never use that knowledge beyond the classroom, you’re still developing critical thinking skills and developing those important neural pathways that you will (hopefully) use later.

But at no point are you taught to experience and enjoy poetry (I could make this same argument about literature and reading for enjoyment). Instead, you’re trying to parse the implied meanings of a poet whose been dead for a hundred years for a grade. You’re not asked to understand what that poem means to you or explain how it makes you feel or how you experience. Yes, I’m coming from a very “I don’t know art, but I know what I like” kind of place.

Here’s kind of what I mean.

When I was a sophomore in high school, my honors English class was studying poetry and one of our assignments was to submit a poem to a poetry/art contest. So this was for a grade as well as for glory. The contest had a theme, I can’t remember exactly what it was. Something about robots taking people’s jobs or some such shit. Anyway, when I submitted the first draft of my poem, my teacher returned it with the critique that it didn’t have enough poetic devices.

Even as a 15 year old know-nothing, I thought to myself, “That’s not how poetry works.” Emily Dickinson never looked at one of her poems and said, “Needs more devices” like she was spiking a punch. And I’m not comparing myself to Emily Dickinson at all. It’s well established that she was brilliant and I’m terrible. I’m just saying that I don’t think that’s the thought process behind crafting a poem. I would think there’s more focus of the utilization of the poetic devices to help convey the meaning and feeling of the poem, not the number of devices used. Of course, I could be wrong. Maybe that’s why the greats are so great. They were carefully measuring the poetic devices that they put into their poems.

In my case, I capitalized the last line of the poem to satisfy my teacher’s poetic devices requirement and ended up winning second in both county and state.

Was it that capitalized line that pushed me onto the victory podium? Did the judges look at my poem and count the number of devices and decided I’d inserted a sufficient number of them to be worthy of a prize? I have no idea and I’ll never know. I don’t think I’ve capitalized an entire line in a poem since then, though. Maybe that’s why I’ve never won anything else.

I’ve always liked writing poetry even if I’m not very good at it and don’t use enough devices, but I wasn’t always fond of reading it. I liked some of it, but it seemed like the poetry I was supposed to read and like (much like the literature I was supposed to read and like) wasn’t my cup of tea and I struggled to get into it. I never gave up on reading it, but it took me a long time to finally find my groove. As it turns out, I like free verse best. It speaks to me, as it were. It also seems that I like current poets rather than poets of the past. José Olivarez, Britteney Black Rose Kapri, E’Mon Lauren, Aja Monet, and Kevin Coval are a few of the poets I’ve read recently and I dug their work.

Did I notice their use of poetic devices? Well, as a terrible poem writer always looking to learn how to be less terrible, yeah. I made note of things that they did that caught my attention. But mostly I read for the experience. Because for me, poetry is an experience. Is it supposed to be? I don’t know. That’s just how I prefer to process it. I just absorb the piece, the feeling, the emotion, the meaning and message, intentional and interpreted. I find the most enjoyment in poetry by letting the poem speak for itself.

What I’m saying is that I wasn’t ruined by learning the ins and outs of poetry, but I had to learn for myself how to enjoy it. I was never given that option when I was reading and writing for a grade. I guess you can’t score a good time. Which is a damn shame. Reading for enjoyment is a life skill.

And if after reading all of this you think you still wouldn’t or don’t like poetry, read Shel Silverstein.

If you still don’t like poetry after Where the Sidewalk Ends or A Light in the Attic, then yeah, you don’t like poetry.

The end.

Poem–“Get Ready With Me”

It’s the last week of National Poetry Month. You did it! You made it! The last terrible poem you have to read!

Until next year.

Get Ready With Me

She lets her coffee cool as
she puts together her face
puts together her day
puts together her life
one coat of mascara at a time

Poem–“My Soul’s Meat Vehicle”

Hang in there. National Poetry Month and the terrible poetry is almost over. Just one more week after this.

My Soul’s Meat Vehicle

Sometimes I think I’m just stardust
With delusions of grandeur
Living a whole life
That I made no plan for

That I’m nothing more than mediocre
A dull, used old soul
Inhabiting a blob of skin
That does little to keep out the cold

Most times, though, I feel rather bold
And insist on my space
My spirit roars into the room
Scattering folks with haste

It’s true, I am not to everyone’s taste
The gallons I get to the mile
How I customized my ride
They can’t dig my outward style

Just like them, I here for a while
Stardust looking for a miracle
Cruising along with the top down
In my soul’s meat vehicle

Poem–“John’s Last Phone Booth”

National Poetry Month continues and so does the terrible poetry.

John’s Last Phone Booth

I’d like to get lost
for a little while
look for the last
phone booth

put in some change
dial a number
and talk to no one
in particular

I’d like to get lost
for a little while
walk cracked roads
to nowhere

see no faces
that I know
or no faces
at all

I’d like to get lost
for a little while
lose myself once
or twice

find my way
back again
the same but
someone else


April is National Poetry Month and in honor of that, instead of a weekly blog post, you’ll be subjected to a weekly poem. Will they be good? No. Like my tiny terribly art, I do this for my own enjoyment. Being good has nothing to do with it.

Even if I did win second place in a state poetry contest my sophomore year of high school.

But I digress.

Gird your loins.


Colorful and dark
I’ll bring the blues
and greens and pinks
and whites
I’ll always bring the white
the too bright washout
the Browns and the Blacks
and the Yellows and the Reds
I’ll bring the beige
The purples we talk about
and the greys we don’t
The oranges we swallow
and the truths we won’t
I’ll bring the indigo, the violet
the night
the rainbow
I’ll bring the colors
smeared on the dark
A painting
A still life

May Writing Projects

Since I managed to write a few decent poems last month, and since I also found some even more decent poems that I’d written previously, I’m going to submit those to the Annual Writer’s Digest Contest. I don’t expect anything to come of it, but I’m in the mood to waste some entry fees.

In addition to this questionable decision, I’m going to go back to the Outskirts Universe and do another revision on The End of the (Werewolf) Curse. In theory, I would like to be done with all three of the Outskirts novels one day and the only way I can do that is if I actually revise them. To Tell The (Conjurer’s) Truth needs a heavy rewrite and I should do it first, but quite frankly, I’m procrastinating on it because I know the amount of work it needs and I don’t feel like it. So, I’ll do this one first and then see how I feel.

I’m also ruminating over what to do with my Patreon after Murderville ends. Do I want to do anything with it? It’s kind of nice having a dedicated project that I get paid for, but at this point in my existence, I’m not sure what I’d want that new project to be. Another writing project? Something more in line with podcasting? I don’t have the answers to any of these questions at this point. But I’m thinking about them.

I’m also thinking about Episode 5 of So Long, Neighbor, which goes live on May 11th. Become a patron now just in time to bid farewell to Murderville. $1 an episode lets you read, $2 an episode lets you read and gets you a sweet bonus every other month. It’s not too late to see how it all ends.

Episode 24 of Book ’em, Danno will go live at the end of the month, but you can pass the time by listening to an extra long Episode 23. Dan Budnik joined me to talk about “Cry, Lie” and “Most Likely to Murder” and I can assure you that there’s enough fashion discussion and facial hair talk for everyone. Give it a listen and then go give Dan a listen over at Eventually Supertrain, which contains all of his wonderful podcasts.

April Writing Projects

Last month I managed to finish the sixth (?) revision of (Vampires) Made in America. In a perfect world, I’ll be done with this manuscript and I’ll be able to send it out to agents. But I don’t reside in perfection, so. It’s entirely possible that I am done with it. I just don’t know what I’m going to do with it. I should probably try researching agents again, but that’s another struggle. One I’m not in the mood for at present.

Instead, since it’s April, I’m going to be working on some poetry. Not a poem a day, like I’ve done before, but there are some poems that I’ve been wanting to work on and I’ve been putting them off because I’ve had other things to do.

I like writing poetry even though I’m not good at it (as my poor $2 patrons well know). It’s a nice creative exercise for me, using words in a different way. I don’t know that it’s helped my prose, but it’s a nice break from it.

The big Writer’s Digest Writing Competition is looming again. I’ve placed tenth in genre fiction and fifth in scripts. I’m really thinking about entering something again. Maybe a couple of poems. I’m always seeking to recapture my second place in state glory. Maybe something else. I know there’s not a lot of time before the deadline, but I’ve done that before. Granted, I’ve never done it while completely lethargic and lacking motivation, but hey, what’s a little challenge, right?

And how about the challenge of the last season of Murderville? Episode four of So Long, Neighbor goes live on April 13th, so become a patron now. $1 an episode lets you read. $2 an episode gets you a sweet bonus every other month, like the one going live on April 27th. Yeah, it’ll probably be a poem. Sorry.

Episode 22 of Book ’em, Danno just went live at the end of March and Episode 23 will happen at the end of this month. A special guest will be joining me. So, while you wait in trembling anticipation, give a listen and then do all the things -like, subscribe, rate, review, share, follow, whatever- to show a little love.

May Writing Projects

April was sort of a wacky month. I took a break from the To Do List to do a couple of things on my wishlist and ended up getting nothing done that I intended, but things did get done.

I was supposed to put together a poetry chapbook and do some research on one of the TV books I want to write one day. What I ended up doing was writing a poem a day (like I usually do in April for National Poetry Month) because I felt like I didn’t have the poems I needed/wanted for a chapbook, working on Book ’em, Danno (it’s still a mess, but getting better), writing one short story to submit for an anthology, and two pieces of hint fiction for a contest.

Wild how that happens, huh?

This month I’m getting back to the To Do List. I’m going to revise Murderville Season 4. Yes, that’s it. I’m dealing with some personal shit right now, so I’m trying to play it with a loose hat, as they say. I need the room to be flexible and committing to only one project this month will let me do that.

Besides, we’ve seen what happens when I give myself a little room. Who knows what I might end up talking myself into doing because I have the time?

However, Murderville: Rounds of Luck is running out of time. Only three more episodes left! Episode 5 goes live on May 14th. Become a patron for only $1 or $2 an episode and enjoy the fun. There’s always plenty of time for that.

October Writing Projects

September was the the month of organization. I cleared a few ideas out of my head so I have more room to think as well as cleared a couple of things off of the To Do List of Doom.

The final blueprint of The Star Reader is done. It took a lot longer than I anticipated as it turned out to be much more involved than I thought it would be. It’s going to be interesting to see how this blueprint holds up when I write the first draft.

I also outlined The Coop Run and The Fate of the Immortal’s Assistant. The outlines are pretty basic compared to the blueprint I did for The Star Reader because these stories are a little more straightforward and a little simpler. At least in my mind.

The intended outline for The Stories of Us After Them is still undone, though. This story is much more ambitious than anything else I’ve ever done which explains why I thought something that would be easily done…isn’t. I will keep futzing with it. Eventually, it will all come together. Meanwhile, I did revise and post the related story “The Zookeepers Liberation” on Prose.

I also submitted a poem called “Il N’est Pas Mon Mari” that I’ve been working for weeks to a contest and wrote the first draft of a story called “The Fog of a Future Forgotten”, which I plan to revise and submit. It’s an idea I’ve had for a while, but only finding a possible fit for it gave me the motivation to write it.

So, this month, I plan on revising, polishing, and submitting “The Fog of a Future Forgotten” before I go to Seattle next week and polishing Murderville Season 2 so I can get it all scheduled and ready to go for next year after I get back.

And I’ll work on something while I’m in Seattle.

Okay, yes, that doesn’t sound very definitive. But, I haven’t decided what project would be best suited to work on during the trip. It’s a given that I will be snapping pictures and taking in as much of the vibe as possible as stories always need settings (and I’ll also be doing some non-writing related work as well), but it might be a good time to work on a smaller, easier project.

I mean, yeah, I could also just not write, but what fun is that?

And finally, I’ll nail down what I’m doing for NaNoWriMo. It’ll either be The Coop Run or The Fate of the Immortal’s Assistant. But not both.

I mean it, self. Not both.

If you’re a Murderville patron, look out for a paid teaser episode going live on October 10th. It’s a preview for Season 2. Also, if you’re not a patron, now is the time to become one. Not only will you get to read the first season, The Last Joke, and the upcoming new season, but we’re only a few bucks away from hitting the $25 goal, which means a Murderville Mini-Mystery! Only $1 per episode gets you in on the fun. $2 per episode also gets you bonus material. It’s a killer deal.

January Writing Projects

Snowflower2016 has been put to bed (finally and thankfully) and 2017 has begun. I have a general schedule of what I want/need to get done this year in terms of writing. As of right now, I have a lot of free months, but that is just an illusion. Those blank spaces will fill up quickly as I get this ball rolling.

And of course, this ball starts its rolling in January.

My plan this month is to revise (Vampires) Made in America. This is part of my ultimate 2017 goal of getting this novel to the point of ultimate doneness. I’ve got three of these Outskirts novels just sitting there like lumps. Maybe if I do one, then the other two will follow. It’s a thought.

I’m also going to write a poem a day. I know it’s not National Poetry Month and I know that I ended up a big loser in the poetry contest I entered (I guess my Honors English teacher was right about capitalizing that last line after all), but I still have it in my head that poetry is something I can and should do, even if just for myself. Ideally, I’d like to put it to good use (by that I mean publish it in some form), but I feel that just to play with words in that medium will be largely beneficial overall.

As a side project this month, I’m finishing up a script outline that I started in December. Again, it’s an exercise in a different medium, outlining and writing scripts, but the ideas translate well to novels/novellas. So I count it as time well spent even if the movie would never be made and the script itself never even shopped.

And, of course, Murderville: The Last Joke starts next week, so don’t forget to get in on that.

I think this will be a good way for me to kick off 2017.