Monday, April 27, 2009

Imagist Thoughts

I’ve always considered myself an Imagist poet. You’ve probably heard about the movement that started with the noted poet Ezra Pound.

I’m certainly not saying I’m in his rank, but I do believe in plain speaking and striving to use only the exact words that contribute to the poem.

You’ve seen poems that fill pages leading you on and on without relief, and when you’re finished you need to read it over to remember how it started. You’ve also see masterpieces that touched your heart, told a wonderful story, and didn’t go over 30 lines.
And what about the beautiful simplicity of haiku and tanka? (We’ll talk about them another day)

You can tell when a Thesaurus Junkie has been at work, and you know if they had just taken a few minutes to step back and look at what words were really needed, the poem would have been truly memorable.

Here’s what I do. I finish a draft poem, get it from the pen on paper stage to the first draft on the computer, then print it out and hide it in a file I won’t touch for a week or so. After a week, or at least a few days if I just can’t stand the suspense, I take it out and read it over. Many times I walk out on the porch and read it to the birds and bears, and where I stumble in my reading I mark that, and where a word just doesn’t work, I mark that, make a draft number two, then hide it away again. If the critique group is going to meet I’ll take it there, and if not I’ll e-mail a friend to meet me at the coffee shop for sharing. Don’t read it to the dog or cat. You just can’t trust their comments.

You’ll get your own process going, and if you are alone and need some comments, I’m always here on the porch.

Have a wonderful day, and keep writing. How about a poem about the local bears.

The Meeting

The bears know the ancient ways
of hierarchy. The ways taught
to them by their fathers and fathers
back to the beginning of their tribe.

They remember when they were the rulers.
When all others bowed as they hunted
silently through the woodland.

Then we came and pushed them further
into the forest, further into the shadows
with our stone and steel hands.

When he comes near I call him brother
speaking the ancient language between us.
He knows his tribe will never rule again,
and he will not face me, will not stand
as he draws near - turns his eyes away.

And I am ashamed.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Writer's Day?

When writers are asked what they do on a daily basis, they usually say things that you’ve heard before. “I get up early and write until noon before I take a break.” Yes, I’m alone in my little corner and the words just flow onto the paper.”

I’m lucky that I am able to write just about every day, but some days are better than others. Here’s how my week has gone so far.

I came home from a retreat in the mountains, just south of here, and I had filled pages with ideas, and really needed to get them onto paper for a first draft. Hold on a minute! There are just a few things to do first.

That oak tree needs to be removed before it falls on the cabin, and takes out the porch. Friends are coming next weekend, so that faucet in the shower needs fixing, and YOUR bathroom needs cleaning. When were those towels changed? Remember those shelves you promised to build? Better get the wood shop cleaned and ready. Oh, by the way, the tire is flat on the jeep.
Good Grief!

I managed to sail through most of the chores, and even sang along with the radio while traveling the 12 miles to the tire dealer. And now it’s Thursday, and I pulled out a poem I had fermenting in the folder marked first drafts, and realized it was writer’s group night, so I grabbed what I needed and headed to Blue Ridge. We meet in the old courthouse, and when I arrived one of our members was there with a visitor. With the fantastic weather we have been having in the southern mountains, I suspected we might be the only ones to attend. By six o’clock we had eight writers around the table, and I felt energized. We did introductions for the visitors, discussed some books and magazines that had good articles on writing, and an opportunity to read at the local theater. Then we went around the table for the critique session.

Julia started us off with a short piece from her book, and described a wonderful southern judge, and the children who were able to spend time in his library reading books on plants. He reminded me of Burl Ives.

One of the visitors read from her story about a piece of furniture that smelled like smoke, and I had better let it go there. I don’t want to give away the story. Another visitor introduced us to some characters, and we commented about each one, asking questions and giving gentle critique. A great start, we all thought. Kathy read her piece on local history, and Ed read a beautiful poem called, “Oh Really.”

Pete read a poem about drilling for water in Australia, and I pulled out my first draft. The comments on my poem helped me fix something that I didn’t even know was a problem, and reinforced the fact that every writer needs fresh eyes now and then.

Soon we had filled two hours and I handed out the assignment for the next meeting. Take seven random words and write a short piece or a poem using them. Just something to do if we get stuck for ideas.

What a great group, and this morning I was ready to put words on paper. There’s nothing like sharing with other writers. If you’re not a member of a group, or have a writer friend that will give you honest critique, what are you waiting for?

Have a great day.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Words and Phrases

I carry a reporter’s notebook with me at all times. I am always on the search for words and phrases I can use. You never know when they will grow into a poem. I hear them from people in the coffee shop. I see them as I read poetry by authors I admire, and sometimes if I pay attention, they come to me in other ways.

I had a dream one night that I was climbing a hill overlooking the ocean. There were others around me, but they appeared as brightly colored ghosts in the air. We were all moving toward a desk that sat on the ridge. When I got there it was full of pigeonholes that contained pieces of paper. I took one and it had a phrase on it. I could see that the others were taking one also, but some were letting them go, and they fluttered over the edge into the ocean.

Today, look for a word or phrase that you like, and see where it takes you. If you can’t think of one, call a friend. Once you have one, don’t let it go. It just might be lost forever.

Here’s a poem using a phrase from my notebook.

Speaking in Tongues
for Kristy

Once I heard the pure sound of prayer.
When a man’s voice could not hold
the exultation from spilling, like cream
soda erupting from a shaken bottle.

It was as ancient, as a holy wind
moving in primordial canyons,
over earth consecrated by God.
The sound was not of that place,

not of any people, could not be claimed.
Could not be corrupted by man.
It was a mystery to me like looking into
a well in the middle of a moonless night.

Until the day my first child was born.
Then I knew there were some joys
that could not be uttered by man,
without the language of angels.

Robert W. Kimsey

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Welcome to the Mountains

A few weeks ago I attended a writer’s conference not far from my home in the Blue Ridge Mountains. We had a good attendance, for a rainy Saturday, with writers from three states.

One of my duties that morning was to speak for a few minutes on writer’s groups, and to invite local writers to come and see what we are doing in the Blue Ridge Poets and Writers. We meet at the Blue Ridge Mountain Arts Association in Blue Ridge Georgia once a month. With a membership of 15 writers we are doing pretty good. It is always a treat to hear new poems or a new chapter to a growing novel. The critique is gentle, and the help is valuable to those that want to tell their stories in poetry or prose.

Back to the conference. If I believed everything I had read, or comments I had heard recently, my talk that morning would have been very different. I would have said something like, “everybody that is over 50, forget about writing, go home, and have a great day.”

But, I know better. Looking around the room I could have named thirty people that have been writing most of their lives, and are published on a regular basis. My small group is made up of mature writers that win contests, speak in the schools, and write quietly on poetry collections or their next novel.

So, this blog is for everybody that wants to write, no matter what the age. I hope you will join me in sharing your joys and secrets about what you did when it didn’t go so well, and the words just wouldn’t materialize. I will share those things about my writing struggles, and those wonderful times when it all came together. It’s not about age. It’s about wanting to tell the stories.