Thursday, January 14, 2016

Favorite Poetry Resources

 We're about halfway through the month and so far the hour-a-day committed to poetry resolution, and so far there have been some ups and downs. There are days when words just flow and other days when I stare at a blank piece of paper until I'm cross-eyed. On those latter days, I usually end up spending a bigger portion of my time reading and bookmarking poetry resources. These have been really helpful, not only in teaching me more about the art & practice of poetry, but also in providing sources of inspiration when the words don't come as easily. I thought I'd share a few today.

1// A Poetry Handbook by Mary Oliver. This is like my poetry bible. Literally everything you need to know about learning to write poetry is condensed into 122 pages. If I could only have one poetry resource book, it would be this one.

2// The Practice of Poetry by Robin Behn & Chase Twichell. This is a veritable gold mine of poetry exercises, covering everything from subject to rhythm to revision. What was that I was saying about writer's block again?

3// Writing Toward Home by Georgia Heard. There's a lot of advice and a few exercises in this book, but those haven't been the most valuable parts that I've dug out. What most resonated with me was the variety of experiences that it contains. From moving to New York to stories that her friends told, the way that Heard writes about her life grabbed me more than anything. Her thoughts and feelings just get me sometimes. Like this line: "There are many times when I've felt that there was no poetry inside me, that I had nothing valuable to say. That the real writers were other people."

4// On Writing by Stephen King. This is more of a general writing book (and memoir)--not poetry specific. (Does Stephen King even write poetry?) There are still lots of good gems in here though. "If you want to be a writer, you must do two things: read a  lot and write a lot" and "If there's no joy in it, it's just no good" were two of my favorites.

5// Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott. This is another general writing book, but Anne is my spirit animal. I truly believe that Anne and I will take daily strolls together in heaven, because that is my idea of heaven you guys. Even if you have no interest in writing poetry (or even writing at all) you should read this book anyway. It's that good, and it's filled with wonderful, witty writing--for example, the line, "You can safely assume you've created God in your own image when it turns out that God hates all the same people you do," and an entire chapter titled, "Shitty First Drafts."

6// Journals. A never-ending source of (sometimes cringeworthy) inspiration. Sometimes there are memories that surface when I'm re-reading old entries that I realize would make for some great writing material. I've also realized over the years that my poems are better when I'm in a, let's say...heightened emotional state. And really, that can be any extreme whether happy, sad, angry, what have you. Sometimes if I'm stuck, re-reading old journal entries can stir up some old emotions associated with the events I wrote about (stop psychoanalyzing me) or just allow me to better remember what it was like to feel the way I did. I've been journaling since third grade, so there's plenty of material there.

7// Poetry books. I think this goes back to the first Stephen King quote in  #4. I absolutely believe that reading makes me a better writer, and the more different styles, the better. I'll be posting a list of some of my favorite poems soon!

8// Poetry magazine. This goes right along with #7. What I love about Poetry is that there's a rotation of new poets every issue, so there's always a new voice to discover.

9// #poetry on Instagram. This requires a little bit of sifting, but I've found some really incredible snippets on Instagram. This is one of those things that makes me really love social media. I'm compiling a list of my favorite accounts to share!

Where do you find creative inspiration?

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