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

Don’t Tell Me That–Creative Edition

As a writer one thing I want -aside from being paid to write- is for people to read what I write. When I publish something, or on the rare occasion when someone else publishes something I write, I naturally tell people about it because I’m excited. Something of mine is available to be read by your eyeballs! You should do that! I encourage it!

So, the last thing I want to hear when I tell you that something I’ve written is ready to be consumed is all of the reasons why you’re not going to read it.

Don’t tell me that.

I don’t need to hear how you won’t read my story because it’s not what you usually read or that you don’t like the genre or that you don’t have the time or that you don’t really read. I don’t need your excuses about why you’re not going to read my work. Just tell me “That’s great!” and we’ll all move on with our day. It saves a lot of awkwardness of me smiling and reassuring you that’s it’s all good while inside I’m dying of embarrassment.

I know why people do this. They’re worried that I’m going to later ask if they’ve read it. They’re worried I’m going to ask what they thought of it. They don’t want to get caught out later by having not done their homework. However, I’m not looking for a book report. There will be no quiz. This is not for a grade.

This is simply an announcement.

Like I said, as I a writer, what I want most is for people to read what I write. But I don’t expect it. I’m not going to insist that you read one of my stories just because we’re friends or family or acquaintances or I simply know of your existence. I would prefer that you read what I write because you want to, not because you think you have to. Nothing good comes of that.

Because that’s something else I don’t want you to tell me. How much you loved something I wrote when you didn’t actually like it. Or even want to read it. Yes, I do like to receive feedback on my stories, especially positive feedback. My ego loves to be fed. But I don’t need false praise. I’ve been rejected enough. My writer’s skin is pretty thick. It’s okay if you don’t like something I write.

Just don’t tell me that.

Even if you tell me that you’re going to read something I wrote, I’m not going to follow up with that. I’m not going to ask you if you got around to reading it or not, and I’m not going to ask you what you thought of it. In this case, I’m not going to hold you to your word about reading something you said you would. As far as I’m concerned, that’s up to you. And what you think about what I wrote is none of my business unless you choose to make it so. It’s not a requirement.

So, if you don’t like it, I’d rather you keep it to yourself. There’s no need to pretend that you did, nor tell me that you didn’t.

This is our get out of awkwardness free card.

I won’t ask, so you don’t have to tell me that.

I’m Starting the New Year the Same Way I Ended the Old One–Softly

I think it was my cousin Alex who posted a meme in her Instagram stories about why we go on about ending the year strong when we should be ending the year softly -resting, recuperating, relaxing. I’m paraphrasing it badly, but it still spoke to my soul.

When I saw this I was in the homestretch of a brutal marathon of projects. I was doing Book ’em, Danno, Here, Watch This with Shann, and covering three shows on Eventually Supertrain with Dan. I also had Five Minutes to do for Patreon. I was finishing up the prep for my program that I’ll be giving later this month at work. I was also working on a couple of library podcast episodes so I could have the comp time to cover my traditional birthday week vacation. And then there was NaNo, the page-a-day, the Sunday story, and blogging. Full disclosure: I did this to myself and I regret none of it. I could have said “no” to most of these things, but I chose to say “yes” and I’m glad I did. It’s just that I once again overestimated myself and as a result their were consequences.

I burned myself out. Oops.

By the time I saw this random message, I was more than ready to embrace it.

I decided to end 2022 as softly as I could.

Deadlines and schedules being what they were, there was only so much I could control. I made the executive decision not to do any blog posts for the month of December. That gave me a little less stress and a little more time to do other things. I also finished as much of my audio work as I could before December. Another thing that freed up some time and lowered the stress levels.

After that, it was all about scheduling, balancing work with rest, which to be honest, is something I suck at and should be doing anyway.

For my part, I think I did well. Even with the Grinchmas shopping, crafting, shipping, and baking, I did not end the year feeling frazzled, completely bereft of energy, patience, and will to live. I ended the year somewhat softly and it made a huge difference in how I entered 2023.

I chose to enter the new year softly as well.

I tend to ease into January anyway. After all, I’m usually exhausted and dragging myself into a new calendar. This year I’m purposely going in softly. I am continuing my practice of being mindful about my schedule. I’m taking it easy, but being productive. What are my deadlines? What is my schedule? What can I control? Where can I be soft?

After doing so much audio last year, I plan to scale back this year. I still have projects with deadlines that will get done, but it’s a matter of not letting my schedule become so overwhelmed with it. I need to pace myself better and this means saying “no” or “not right now” sometimes, even if it’s something I really want to do. I need to let myself be booked sometimes.

It was in the latter portion of 2022 that I realized how much I miss writing. After years of creativity and productivity issues, I hit a sweet spot last year that I haven’t experienced in a long time and my schedule was so crowded that I felt like I had no time to indulge in it.

This month, my birthday vacation is also going to be a writing vacation. No library work and no audio projects. Just me and writing words. No deadlines or productivity goals. Just me writing.

And if it goes the way I think it will go, that is to say well, then I play to making writing vacations a thing for the year. Find those weeks were I can just write without expectation or interruption.

I’m hoping that ending the old year and beginning the new year softly will teach me something about how I approach my scheduling and my projects and maybe help me figure out a better work/rest balance.

Let this not be one of the times I insist on learning the hard way.

2022 NaNo Winner!

Number 19 officially went into the books on November 23rd and that’s when the story was finished, too. I pushed a little to get it finished before Thanksgiving, but for the most part, kept a constant 2,000 words a day word count. I tended to make the most productive progress doing 500 word sprints in between playing rounds of a puzzle game. It just seemed easier to write that way when I was giving my brain little breaks rather than trying to push straight through. It’s not the first time I’ve used this distraction/sprinting technique. I do whatever I need to do in order to make the words happen.

Thanks to me being less than smart with my scheduling, I ended up writing most often after work. Or at work, in some cases. I’m a dedicated employee. Anyway. That was different from previous years as my goal was always to get as much, if not all, of my writing before my shift. But since I had a few other projects going on, I had to rearrange my priorities. I will readily admit that this was one of the more stressful Novembers I’ve had in a while. I got through it, but I’m in no hurry to do something like that again.

The final first draft of Leave Well Enough Alone is something of a mess, naturally. Maybe it wouldn’t be if I’d done a slightly more solid outline. And by slightly more, I mean anything better than the vague game plan I went in with. But that’s not how I live my life.

I realized about two-thirds of the way into the first draft that I borked my timeline. Not long afterwards, I realized that I probably should have written the story differently. As I mentioned, I wrote alternating timelines. I think I might have been better off writing the 1976 timeline first in its entirety and then tailored the present day timeline to better fit it. Also, neither timeline turned out the way I thought it would, but that tends to happen when I don’t have a more robust and solid outline.

It was also about the time I realized I borked my timeline that I realized that Trix and Miggy should have had different jobs and objectives, but whatever. That’s what revisions and rewrites are for.

And when I get around to them, there will be a lot. Most likely starting with writing the 1976 timeline out in full so I know better how to make the present day timeline work.

But that’s future me’s problem.

Right now, present me is savoring yet another NaNo victory.

The Muses

I wrote ages ago about muses and how I didn’t have one. However, I recently realized that I do have a muse. I have several of them, in fact. It’s just they’re not what I thought they’d be.

A muse, according to the dictionary, is “a person or personified force who is the source of inspiration for a creative artist”. I have always interpreted this to be more of the figurative meaning, an imaginary being that sprinkles creative dust on my head, which infiltrates my brain and gives me ideas. And in that respect, I never had a muse. I was never blessed in such a fashion.

As it turns out, though, I have been blessed with multiple muses over the years. I just didn’t realize it at the time. I was looking for fairies when what I got was people, places, and things.

My muses are concrete nouns.

For example, there’s a tree across the street in my neighbor’s yard. I don’t know what kind it is. It’s just big and it’s been there for years and it’s very pretty in the fall, but the wind strips its leaves pretty quickly. It’s usually bare by Halloween.

That tree has been in several of my stories and at least two of those stories came from ideas I got from that tree, from wanting to write about it. It was a muse.

There are places that I’ve used the same way. The library I work at has popped up in my stories long before I started working there. I wouldn’t be writing Defending The L right now if the library hadn’t inspired the story. The local lake, the house across the street, the zombie car wash, all inspired stories. They were muses.

And, yes, there are people who’ve served as muses. People who I think would make excellent characters so I build stories around them. People I want to give starring roles. People who I will absolutely not name here nor will I name of any of the stories they inspired. But they were all muses.

The thing about these muses, the real thing that I think tripped me up in seeing them for what they were, is that I thought of muses as more of something permanent. The fairy that was always there, flitting about with their creativity dust. As it turns out, muses are more impermanent than I previously thought. I don’t think that they’re always supposed to stick around. They serve their creative purpose and then they return to being the nouns they’ve always been.

Of course, muses, like inspiration and creativity and all of those other intangibles, are highly individual. I’m sure some people have muses that stick around forever. Maybe one day I’ll be lucky enough to have that happen.

And I’m sure there are some people who are lucky enough to have the fairy kind of muse, sprinkling creativity all over them. I know that I’ll never be lucky enough to have that.

I’ll have to settle for the nouns that happen to catch my attention.

Page-A-Day and Sunday

As I mentioned, I’m currently writing a page-a-day novel as well as something I’ve come to think of as my Sunday novel. I’ve been doing them both for a few months now, long enough that I’m ready to talk a little bit about each project, but more importantly talk about how different the processes have been for me, particularly in light of working on a NaNo novel at the same time.

NaNo, of course, is NaNo. I’ve finished it in 12 days, I’ve finished it in 30 days, I’ve totally failed it. My goal is to write 50,000-60,000 words in a month, about 2,000 words a day. After years of this, I’ve found a happy medium between outlining and pantsing, giving myself a basic blueprint of the story with room to wild out and surprise myself. It’s been a winning formula for quite some time (when I’m not cheating, obviously). The resulting first drafts vary from needing a lot of rewrites to just needing a few rounds of revisions.

Blasting out that first draft as fast as possible has been my way of writing for a majority of my writing career and it’s how I’ve done most of my projects.

Defending The L is not my first page-a-day project. A few years ago, I decided to shake up my creativity by writing one page a day every day for a year because as the adage goes, if you write a page a day, by the end of the year, you have a 365 page novel. At the time, I was looking for some kind of creative productivity boost. I had a general idea of the story, a few scenes I knew I was writing towards, and I just sort of let it unfold, day by day, page by page.

My current page-a-day is a little different. I started writing Defending The L this way because I wanted to write this story, but didn’t have time to devote to it to do it NaNo-style, nor did I want to wait until NaNo. I also don’t have the goal of writing a page a day for a year, just until the story is done. As of this post, it’s right around NaNo length of about 50,000 words and into the third act of the story, which takes a bit of a horror turn.

Defending The L also has the dual purpose of being a bit of a catharsis piece. It’s set in a library, so I’ve been able to vent some of my frustrations with the job through the story.

Like the previous page-a-day (which still doesn’t have a title and I haven’t looked at since I wrote it) and much of my NaNo work, this one is going to need some revising, but more than likely not any heavy re-writing. Of course, I’m not finished yet, so fingers crossed.

My Sunday story, That’s Punk, is an entirely different beast and honestly, it’s a little scary.

First of all, there’s nothing horror or fantasy or otherwise genre about it. It’s straight contemporary fiction, which for me is way out of my comfort zone.

Second of all, instead of writing this first draft as fast as I possibly can and getting it all out in one hunk I can shape through rewrites and/or revising, I’ve only been able to work on this story on Sundays. And when I do work on it, I go back and re-read what I wrote the previous week, revising anything I’ve decided needed changing while it’s simmered in my brain since the last time I looked at it, and then I add new material. There’s also no goal before I call my day on That’s Punk done. No word or page counts. Once I do my rewind and revise, I decide how much I want to get done that day. Usually, it’s a scene, or maybe not even that. I stop where it feels good. I’ve been working on this story since the end of August and I’ve only got about thirty pages written.

It’s so weird on so many levels for me. I’m writing something I don’t normally write in a way I don’t normally write. And you know what? I think I like it. There’s something indulgent about being able to take my time with a story, revise it as I go, and keep my goals fluid. There’s something luxurious about having this dedicated time to work on something on a day with no other expectations. I’m not rushing to get anything done because I have to go to work or I have errands to run or dinner to make. I don’t do anything on Sundays by design. Writing this story on my lazy day has turned into a form of relaxation for me, as strange as that sounds.

November has been an interesting writing month for me for years thanks to NaNo and the challenge of writing a 50,000 word novel around daily life. But this November, writing three different novels, three different ways…it’s been eye-opening.

One thing about being a writer…I never get bored exploring and developing my craft.