We brought our bad poetry

I like to connect with people online, but there’s something to be said for gathering together in one room and talking about writing. That’s what I did yesterday.  I hosted an event called bring your bad poetry. The guests ran the gamut from published writers to those just starting on their creative journey. Most of us focus on other genres, not poetry, so I thought this would be a way to get things started without being too serious or feeling too much pressure.

I read this poem to get the juices flowing:


Song of the Wrong Response  

Stephen Dobyns

The poem is bare-chested, black and

shadowboxing beneath a streetlight.

In the rest of the city it is dark.

You’re out walking your dog. Nervously,

you circle the poem. It turns toward you

and speaks of a disease of the heart,

perhaps anger. You can’t make out the words.

Never have you seen a face so ugly. Then

it steps toward you and swings. You jump.

Still it strikes you once above the heart.

On the sidewalk your dog is asleep. The poem

returns to shadowboxing. You are that exciting.

Once home, you phone the proper authorities.

Then I arrive and you describe the attack

All next day you look at mugs shots before finding

the right picture: a young man with some flowers.

This, I say, is a poem about love and

the difficulties of friendship. It is about

reaching out in dark places. The poem

touched you above the heart and you fled.

What happened in fact, you have forgotten.

What happened in memory will repeat itself and

each time you will act falsely and be afraid.

*

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Some of the participants had brought their own poetry or favorites that other had written. We read these aloud. I know how powerful listening to poetry (any story or writing, for that matter) can be, but I don’t do it often enough and I’m still always taken aback by the experience. I had chosen part of a writing exercise from Susan Goldsmith Wooldridge‘s book poemcrazy. I had a roll of raffle tickets from our local party supply store and we all submitted ten tickets with random words written on them and mixed them together in a heap. We then chose a number of tickets and used them to write for ten minutes on the topic of our real names using the following sentence starters.

My real name is…

Yesterday my name was…

Tomorrow my name will be…

In my dream my name was…

My husband/mother/son/boss/etc. thinks my name is…

There are a couple of beautiful examples in Susan’s book (p. 36) and when we completed this activity, we read the results aloud. We did this twice and it was clear that it became easier as the group became more comfortable with each other.

Here’s one of mine:

My real name is not conviction.

I have no idea where I’m going

or what I’m going to do next.

Tomorrow my name will be

yet another surprise.

I wish my name were sweeter,

like a belly full of candy

or a tree of cherry blossoms

thirsty for rain.

*

I am overwhelmed by the poetry that this group produced. It takes an incredible amount of courage to share your writing with others. I am truly honored that these people have entrusted me with their work and creative processes.

I know all of these writers personally or professionally and therefore, I am privy to bits and pieces of their lives and stories. I know the woman with two small children who works full-time. She yearns to write poetry but hasn’t done so in years because she just can’t seem to find the time. There is the woman who outwardly looks to have a perfect life, but due to the death of someone close to her, deals with grief on a daily basis. She also wants to write. Maybe she needs to write. There is a man who wrote his first book after he was seventy. I could go on.

Of the nine of us sitting in that room, not one of us makes a living from creative writing, yet we do it anyway. We know that the odds are stacked against us. We realize that becoming the next NYT bestselling author is akin to waking up and finding out that we are suddenly Beyonce. Not likely to happen. We work jobs all day long to pay the bills and then we carve out time from our busy lives to write. We wake up in the middle of the night with an incredible idea for a story, then can’t remember what it was in the morning. We love our families, but crave one more hour alone to write.

Today was the start of a monthly event and I’m looking forward to growing as a writer.  I’ll keep you posted.

Oh, by the way, there was a raffle. Rene Mullen won and will be receiving his very own copy of Velocities by Stephen Dobyns. Rene is a wonderfully talented writer and he wrote a blog post about our event todayVisit him and see for yourself. Here is a poem he wrote today:

This is That

Rene Mullen
My real name is That.

Under my husk is something other than That: This.

This is Them. This is You. This is Him and Her.

This is anything but me.

This is what muscles under That.

That, being This: my willful self,

my inside voice,

my internal sunshine.

This is That.
*

I’ll leave you with one last poem. This one is mine and was previously published at Yes, Poetry.

Egg Salad

Robin Kalinich

It’s not normal

to cry over an egg salad sandwich.

You don’t need to tell me this.

I remember watching his tattoo

as he cracked five eggs,

each shell shattering itself

again and again

on the tips of  his fingers.

He wasn’t wearing a shirt.

I had red lipstick and cleavage,

both a little too much in the bright

light of the kitchen.

We were still drunk

with the power of youth,

and didn’t even suspect

the devastation to come.

There was no way to see

the son,

the daughter,

waiting quietly beneath his skin.

There was only my awareness

of his stark beauty and the fact

that I’d never before eaten

egg salad,

which astonished him

beyond measure.

This astonishment explains why

we two left the party,

boiled water in a stranger’s kitchen,

then spent the next seven years

loving each other almost to pieces.

In case you’re wondering –

no, it wouldn’t work out.

But every time I have egg salad

I see him there,

and cry over those five dead chickens.

*

The art in my blog posts is usually that of an Ink & Alchemy Featured Artist. Today is different. This is my art. I’ve been allowing myself loads of creative freedom in my studio and the idea of that – stretching and pushing creatively – seems to fit perfectly with the my hopes for this new writing adventure. I hope you like it.
Have a beautiful week!  Stop by and visit when you can.

You’re a weird one, Jarod Kintz. (But thanks for the free books!)

Jarod Kintz is…well, unique. Stop right now and read his bio and you’ll catch a glimpse of what I mean. I recently had the honor of reading his latest book, The Mandrake Hotel and Resort (to violence if necessary). My first thought?  

 
Hmmm…this is weird. 
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Then I realized that while it was, without a doubt, odd, it was in a completely charming, witty, gotta-read-more way. He is now a Featured Writer atMore Ink and was kind enough to agree to an interview.  Let’s see what he has to say about writing backwards, what it takes to be funny, and why he gets no love.
When did you first know you wanted to become a writer?I first knew I wanted to be a writer when I was 19. I was on a plane back from Denver, thinking about where my life was headed. And other than Jacksonville International Airport, I had no idea.

I thought I was a funny guy, and it would be terrific if I could write for SNL like Jack Handey. So on the plane I started scribbling down my random thoughts, similar to Handey’s Deep Thoughts.

It turns out that I wasn’t a funny guy, at least not consistently. I was a terrible writer, and most of my musings were not amusing at all. Looking back on them makes me cringe, but slowly I started getting better.

Back then if I wrote down ten things, only one would be funny. Now my writing has significantly improved, and for every ten things I write down, two things will be good. Well, maybe that’s an overstatement.

Are you a writer because you can’t breathe without writing? Do you feel that you’d actually die if you couldn’t write? Or do you just do it because you can’t think of anything else to do?

I write compulsively. I write while I drive, while I eat, and yes, even while I sleep. I always have a pen and paper on my person so that as soon as a random idea hits me, I can scribble it down.

My handwriting is so sloppy because I have to write insanely fast to catch the phrasing exactly as it flashes in my mind. Just to make things interesting, I sometimes write backwards, so my writing can only be read in a mirror. Also to spice it up I switch my writing hands, with the superstitious belief that I’ll jog a different side of my brain and tap into a new part of my subconscious that I have yet to explore.

Then at the end of the day I take all these folded up pieces of paper and I type them all out, meticulously making sure what I typed is exactly what I wrote out by hand. Then I go through all my thoughts one by one to make sure no thought was overlooked or skipped. Then I edit it, save it in both a Word format and a PDF format, and email the PDF document to myself at two different email accounts. Then I check what I emailed to what I have saved on my computer, and then again check that with what I have written on my scraps of paper. Then after a few weeks I do a copyright order and I print out a copy and check each and every thought against what I have saved just to make sure there is no glitch in the system. You can imagine how time consuming it is to be so neurotic, but if I didn’t do this my OCD would keep me awake at night. Not that it would matter because my writing already wakes me up at night, as I can groggily scribble down nonsensical dream dialogues as they occur to me during REM.

Are there certain writers or books that have primarily influenced you as writer?

I have been influenced by many books and many writers. It is a long list. I think everything I read influences me in one way or another. Some things I read I love, and that impacts me positively. Some things I read I hate, and that impacts me negatively. Either way, as I grow in wisdom, my writing is always maturing in different ways.

Where in the world did you come up with the name Dark Jar Tin Zoo? (I want you to know that I have displayed great restraint in waiting to pose this question. It has been burning in my mind since I began reading Mandrake).Dark Jar Tin Zoo is an anagram of my name that I contrived because it sounds both sinister and concretely poetic. I knew I needed a villain for The Mandrake series, and I also knew that bad guys have all the fun. So I thought, I’ll just make myself the bad guy. Dark Jar Tin Zoo is a pseudonym, just like Dora J. Arod, but I am playing around with the idea of hiding in the open. Through Dark Jar Tin Zoo I get to be both visible and invisible at the same time.
jarod-kintz-477Do you believe in love at first sight? How about love after forty years – still love or just a certain type of apathy?

To be honest, I am not sure exactly how I feel about love. This may seem very absurd when you consider that one of my favorite things to write are love quotes. Love is a central theme in The Mandrake, and in the next book I am going to introduce Dora J. Arod and have her also publish a book of love quotes. I’m working on those right now. I believe there are many types of love: Parent to child, lover to lover, person to passion/hobby, etc, but even though my love quotes tend to be absurd and nonsensical, I am not a cynic about love. I guess I do believe in love at first sight, but I also think that love can grow and mature as those two people develop and their lives intertwine with age.

I think you’re hilarious, in both in your book, The Mandrake Hotel & Resort (to violence if necessary), and on your website. Have you always been this funny? Has it helped with the ladies?

The funny thing about being funny is that in real life, I’m not all that funny. I’m rather serious and thoughtful. I am quiet and have no problem sitting in silence. Recently I tried stand-up comedy, and though my material was solid, I bombed miserably. I have a rather unapproachable look, and being funny in person has a lot to do with how likeable you are. I’m unfortunately not very fun to look at, and I’m not particularly animated with my body language, so I think I’m going to stick to writing humor, rather than performing comedy. As to the women, it is my understanding that the ladies love comedians. And now I’m aware why I get no love. If I were invisible I’d get more looks from females than I do now.

Tell me about your writing process. Are you a planner? Do you have a schedule? 

Other than my daily grind of writing all my good thoughts down, and then a writing session at the end of the day where I try to crank out some fun stuff, I don’t really have a schedule. But then again when your life is tyrannically ruled by writing, and it consumes all your time, your schedule is perpetually full. I don’t know what I’m doing tomorrow, but I know that I’ll get a lot of writing done. Sometimes I wish I could just shut my brain off and take a break for five or ten minutes.

How do you define success as a writer? Are you there yet?

Success is a constantly shifting target, and what I view as success right now may change in a few years when I dwarf my current goals. I don’t view writing success in terms of total books sold, which is great for me because as an anti-bestseller, I’d sure be depressed if I thought only of Amazon rankings.

That being said, I am extremely jealous of wealthy authors, and I wish they’d all slowly get dementia and lose their ability to write so my reading demographic could grow exponentially.

Just kidding. That sounded a little crazy. What I meant to say is I wish they’d all get dementia immediately, so the transfer of wealth could be abrupt and complete.

You are a self-published author. Please tell us what your biggest hurdles have been along the way. Do you have any words of wisdom for new writers? What do you love about self-publishing?

I wish I had publishing wisdom to impart to new writers, but the truth is, I don’t know what to say. Self-publishing is great, because it’s opened the path to any aspiring writer with absolutely no gates to unlock.

However, the number of books being written and published is astonishingly large, and rapidly increasing, so the questions are how to differentiate yourself and how to direct attention to your work.

Those are the questions every author is trying to answer, whether you are a first-time writer or you are an established author. It’s really a marketing issue, and I think the best advice I could give is to one, write something you’d like to read, and two, become as visible as possible. This means making yourself accessible to as many people as you possibly can.

And if you can figure out how to get people interested in your work, then I’d be interested in seeing you develop amnesia and lose your ability to write.

But seriously, the thing is to write interesting stuff, and then get it out there to as many people as possible. You can be the best writer in the world, but if nobody is reading your work, then there is no difference between your masterpiece and what doesn’t even exist because it hasn’t been written.

The author’s work doesn’t stop when the book is finished. That’s where the real story begins. So you wrote a book, that’s great. Now comes the hard part. Now you have to market it and make people want to read it. And obviously since I am not a bestseller, I am not qualified to tell you how to go about doing that.

Describe your audience.

I don’t really know my demographic. I used to think it was only women. But then I realized that that’s only because women are proportionally larger readers than men. Men also enjoy my work, when one of them actually stops playing videogames long enough to read a few sentences.

I think all ages seem to like my work, so honestly I have no idea who my demographic is, other than people not suffering from dementia.

Then again, maybe all my book sales are coming from one guy with amnesia who keeps buying my books and forgetting that he has already bought them many times before.

 
Thank you, Jarod, for sharing with us today. I wish you the boatloads of success in your writing career, and can’t wait to see what you come up with next. My dear readers, please take a moment to visit Jarod’s site or his Facebook page and if you’re so inclined, read some of his books. What the hell, read them all!  And if you do, don’t forget to show him some smoochy love by posting a quick review at AmazonGoodreads,  Barnes and Noble, or anywhere else you can think of. If you love his books so much that you decide to engage a billboard on the side of the freeway or graffiti it on an enormous building, so be it. I like your enthusiasm.

Jarod will be awarding 80 copies of The Mandrake Hotel. Enter to win in the upper right corner of this page. You can also visit the Facebook page for this event – he’s giving away 15 more copies there!

 
I should mention that this post is part of a Virtual Writers Blog Tour and you are cordially invited to visit the other participants. I’ve read Jarod’s book and I thoroughly enjoyed it. I’ll be posting reviews on Amazon and GoodReads later today. If you read it, please do the same!
 
As always, you’ll find exciting things at my website – resourcespodcastsdetails on features, and free pizza!*
 
*Please note that there is, in actuality, no free pizza at my site. This was an unscrupulous ploy to get you to pay me a visit. I’m lonely! Hit me up.