Post-weekend Poetry 113: Before the Sacrifice by Phillip A Ellis

PhillipWelcome to Post-weekend Poetry and the one hundred and thirteenth poem in this series. This week’s piece sees the return of Phillip Ellis.

Before the Sacrifice

Satellites, aflame, have fallen
as a star calling, with light torn away,
as cattle alighting a trail
towards the endless ocean,
lowing with fear in their breath
at that which draws nigh,
that senseless shedding of blood
that bewilders,
a glacier that momentarily eclipses
the fire that dwelt,
was felt in their lives.
O fellow pyres,
you are alive still
in mine own fennel heart and words,
forevermore caught in flesh and air,
the fire.

*

I asked Phillip what prompted this piece and he said…

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Post-weekend Poetry 094: Kenneth Rexroth Has a Posse by Phillip Ellis

Welcome to Post-weekend Poetry and the ninety-third poem in this series. This week’s piece is by freelance critic, poet and scholar Phillip A Ellis.

Kenneth Rexroth Has a Posse

Kenneth Rexroth has a posse:

no decent, law-breaking hoodlum is safe

from a drive-by dramatic monologue

or assault-and-poetry in the alleyways.

Look out, cool cats, he’s striking a pose

of ineffable worldweariness and ennui

while scratching a sestina with a match

on the bonnet of a cop-car. How droll!

And, with a much-practiced sneer,

as the good sergeant steps up with night-stick,

he stoops to conquer with a well-aimed blow

from a lethal-looking villanelle or rispetto.

*

I asked Phillip what prompted this piece and he said…

Continue reading

Post-weekend Poetry 014: Phillip Ellis’ review of 101 Ways to Make Poems Sell

Welcome to Post-weekend Poetry and this week, rather than bring you a poem, freelance critic, poet, scholar and interviewee Phillip A Ellis reviews Chris Hamilton-Emery’s book ‘101 Ways to Make Poems Sell: The Salt Guide to Getting and Staying Published’.

There is a profitable business in how-to books about writing. Most of these are about the mechanics of writing, but a smaller subset deals with marketing one’s work as books or collections. Few of the latter subset deal exclusively with poetry, since many assume that you are writing prose nonfiction, or, even more narrowly, how-to books. This is what makes 101 Ways to Make Poems Sell an almost unique proposition. It is a how-to book about marketing poetry, with an emphasis upon collections, whether books or chapbooks. And it has been written by a poet and publisher, which helps make it even more authoritative. The end result is, as I hope to demonstrate, a book useful for poets wanting to take that step into seeing a collection of their work published.

There is a real need for books that concentrate on practical advice for poets at all levels of their careers. 101 Ways to Make Poems Sell fulfils that need, and it does so admirably. While it is a relatively slim book, at just under 140 pages, it is divided into four chapters, and an index. The chapters will be discussed in some detail shortly. But first, it helps to understand the central purpose of the book: it is a guide to marketing poetry, and poetry publications, so that your career as a poet can grow and develop. As a result, each chapter, and each of the 101 ways, is focussed on a specific, practical method of doing so. Since almost every chapter contains these ways, there are broad themes among them, and rough similarities.

Chapter one of 101 Ways to Make Poems Sell is the only chapter not to contain any of the ways. With the title “Making Poetry Submissions”, it covers the groundwork of preparing for a poetry book or chapbook. As a result, it concentrates upon the submission of individual poems, to magazines, as a necessary first step. And it also contains a list of 50 dos and don’ts, sound, almost aphoristic advice on getting those poems accepted by magazines and other markets. In a sense it is essential reading for novice poets, although its points are just as useful for established poets. 101 Ways to Make Poems Sell, since it is meant for the range of poets, from beginners to established poets, needs this chapter, and it leads into the following chapters as a matter of course.

Chapter Two of 101 Ways to Make Poems Sell follows on from the first chapter, as do the following chapters, by focusing on ways, as it were, of fleshing out the marketing plan that poets are encouraged to develop, in number six of those fifty dos and don’ts. The emphasis of this chapter is upon building relationships with your potential audience, and your fellow poets. While none of the ways are strictly applicable only to poetry, 101 Ways to Make Poems Sell emphasises the ways in which they aid and assist poets in their efforts, even if, in some of them, there is little that is overtly concerning poetry. In addition, there is a strong emphasis upon both new and old media, such as blogs, newsletters, and journals accepting book reviews. The end result is a chapter that emphasises the need to develop audiences by a variety of ways, not just solely through submitting to poetry journals.

Chapter three of 101 Ways to Make Poems Sell, in contrast, emphasises sorting your book, preparing it for publication. In this way it assumes that you have had a manuscript accepted, and ready for publication. The fourteen ways (making this the smallest of the four chapters) concentrate on aspects of the prepublication process. They also focus on elements of the final, published product that the author can assist the publisher with, so that there is a stronger consensus on the books (and chapbooks) and their potential for sales.  The ways covered are essential to the development of a strong sales strategy, and while they can be skimped (so to speak) by the poet, they really deserve the poet’s input as a means of getting the final product as attractive and saleworthy as is possible.

The final chapter of 101 Ways to Make Poems Sell covers selling your book. There is more to being a poet than getting books published, and doing nothing to sell them. This is because the current publishing climate requires the poets to assume most of the effort of publicity and promotion, so that there is a requirement on their part to work towards making the books a success. As has been required for most poets since time immemorial. Most of the ways covered in this chapter should be familiar from other publications about marketing books, yet it helps to have them together, and in a concentrated practical set of tips. As a result, this chapter is the longest, covering almost half of the 101 ways, and it is essential reading before you have started preparing a poetry manuscript.

This synopsis of the main points of each chapter leaves out some very important considerations about 101 Ways to Make Poems Sell. What of the tone, and the style of the book? Are both consonant with the avowed purpose of the book, and how do they aid it in its efforts? Essentially, the book is written in a fluid, conversational style that conveys a sense of the professionalism needed of a poet. As I say, it doesn’t matter how you write a poem, so long as you are a professional when it comes time to sell it. There are few overt colloquialisms, and this lends a sense of the book as an accessible and authoritative text on the subject. While the book aims at assisting the variety of poets, from newcomers to experts, the style caters for poets of all degrees of professionalism. It does not, that is, assume either too much or too little, and its tenor is perfectly suited for its individual audiences.

The mark of a good how-to book is the degree to which it sets out its aims, and in assisting us to achieve them. 101 Ways to Make Poems Sell sets out to demonstrate how we can sell books and chapbooks of our own poetry, in becoming, that is, established poets in the wider community of poets. And it does so by presenting fifty dos and don’ts, and 101 ways to sell poems, divided into four chapters of varying sizes. While the tone is fluid and conversational, it is consonant with its avowed aims, and its focus on assisting poets whose careers range from newcomers to experts. The end result is an excellent example of its genre, and an indispensible book for poets, one that should be read and annotated by every poet wanting to expand their career.

That’s brilliant, thank you Phillip.

Phillip A. Ellis is a freelance critic, poet and scholar, and his poetry collection, The Flayed Man, has been published by Gothic Press. Gothic Press will also edit a collection of essays on Ramsey Campbell, that he is editing with Gary William Crawford.

Phillip is working on a collection to appear through Diminuendo Press and another collection has been accepted by Hippocampus Press, which has also published his concordance to the poetry of Donald Wandrei.

Phillip is the editor of Melaleuca and furthermore has recently had Symptoms Positive and Negative, a chapbook of poetry about his experiences with schizophrenia, published by Picaro Press.

He can be found at The Cruellest Month and Symptoms Positive and Negative.

If you’d like to submit your poem (40 lines max) for consideration for Post-weekend Poetry take a look here.

The blog interviews will return as normal tomorrow with historical novelist Cynthia Haggard – the three hundred and twenty-first of my blog interviews with novelists, poets, short story authors, bloggers, biographers, agents, publishers and more. A list of interviewees (blogged and scheduled) can be found here. If you like what you read, please do go and investigate further. And I enjoy hearing from readers of my blog; do either leave a comment on the relevant interview (the interviewees love to hear from you too!) and / or email me. You can also read / download my eBooks and free eShorts at Smashwords, Sony Reader Store, Barnes & Noble, iTunes Bookstore and Kobo. And I have a new forum at http://morgenbailey.freeforums.org.

Post-weekend Poetry 009: ‘When Time Is an Ocean: an Experiment’ by Phillip A Ellis

Welcome to Post-weekend Poetry and the ninth poem in this series. This week’s piece is by freelance critic, poet and scholar Phillip A Ellis.

When Time Is an Ocean: an Experiment

When time is an ocean, its tide will flow
and ebb in the ways that the tides have done
since time was a sea, and the lands were close,
but continents part, and they grind away,
and grow as estranged, and the ocean floors
are young and are growing, and seem to stretch
like dreamers on waking, in morning time.

Yet time is a continent, worn as gneiss,
or karst by its rivers that wend their way
to oceans and seas, and the lower state
as entropy calls them to rest at last,
and down in the water it sinks, it sinks,
and down in the water it sinks, to fall
forever a memory lost and gone.

I asked Phillip what prompted this piece and he said…
“Time Is an Ocean” is an experiment in meter, since, this year, I am concentrating on metrical poetry sans rhyme for the most part, and since I feel it is (in terms of technique) a signature poetry style that I enjoy writing. It is also a familiar topic. With familiar motifs: time, oceans, entropy. I have heard it said that the title of one’s first publication gives a clue to the trajectory of one’s writing career. In this case, the first poem I wrote, about the ruin of civilisation, has perhaps marked my most common idea: entropy, or the reduction of order to disorder.

Thank you, again, Phillip – look forward to seeing you next month with your poetry review. 🙂

Phillip A. Ellis is a freelance critic, poet and scholar, and his poetry collection, The Flayed Man, has been published by Gothic Press; Gothic Press will also edit a collection of essays on Ramsey Campbell, that he is editing with Gary William Crawford. He is working on another collection, to appear through Diminuendo Press. Another collection has been accepted by Hippocampus Press, which has also published his concordance to the poetry of Donald Wandrei. He is the editor of Melaleuca. He has recently had Symptoms Positive and Negative, a chapbook of poetry about his experiences with schizophrenia, published by Picaro Press.

He can be found at…
The Cruellest Month: http://the-cruellest-month.blogspot.com
Symptoms Positive and Negative: https://sites.google.com/site/symptomspositiveandnegative.

If you’d like to submit your poem (40 lines max) for consideration for Post-weekend Poetry take a look here.

The blog interviews will return as normal tomorrow with crime author Shelly Frome – the two hundred and eighty-sixth of my blog interviews with novelists, poets, short story authors, bloggers, biographers, agents, publishers and more. A list of interviewees (blogged and scheduled) can be found here. If you like what you read, please do go and investigate further. And I enjoy hearing from readers of my blog; do either leave a comment on the relevant interview (the interviewees love to hear from you too!) and / or email me. You can also read / download my eBooks and free eShorts at Smashwords.  And, very exciting, I have a new forum at http://morgenbailey.freeforums.org. 🙂

Guest post: ‘Technique Is Part of a Poet’s Voice’ by poet Phillip A Ellis

Tonight’s guest blog post, an extra to the normal three a week schedule, on the topic of poetry techniques is brought to you by poet and interviewee no.55 Phillip A Ellis.

Technique Is Part of a Poet’s Voice

When you hear that every writer must, at some point, develop their own voice, you may be wondering what that means, and what it entails. There are a fair few elements to a writer’s voice, and to a poet’s voice, and I am going to talk about one of them: technique.

A poet’s technique is, at its simplest, the poet’s command of their poetry’s technical aspects. That is, all the nuts and bolts that work to make a poem a poem. Rhythm is one. The ways a metaphor is structured, but not what the metaphor says, is another. As is the degree to which the metaphor integrates with others.

A poem’s sense of musicality is another element of technique. The degree to which it aspires to the condition of music, partly through rhythm, partly through patterns of sound, is part of the element of technique.

In a sense technique is the technical elements of a poem, what can be learnt and practised, and what can more easily be mastered than can diction, or tone, or narrative distance. But knowing what is covered by technique is one aspect of the matter.

The techniques of poetry can vary from poet to poet, and from poem to poem. The best poets tend to vary their technique. So that their best poems tend to be ones where technique works in concord with the other elements. So that there is, as it were, a sense of harmony even when the poem is not harmonious.

For example, the technique used by T. S. Eliot in The Waste Land is in harmony with the sense that the poem consists of a mélange of disconnected voices. That there is chaos in the world, and that the world has lost its meaning and unity. Compare this poem with his Four Quartets and you can see shifts in the technique employed, so that the latter poems are, on the whole, more unified, helping to convey their religious worldview.

As a result, particularly when it comes time to revise your poetry, you need to develop and exercise your technique. Some poets I know argue that what a poem is saying is paramount, so that they tend to focus on that, rather than technique, and it shows in the sparsity of their voice, and a tendency towards a less-developed technicality. Others, such as myself, see the need for both elements such as voice and images, and the technical aspects to work more harmoniously. As a result, in my best poems, there is the illusion of a transparency that reveals, on analysis, a greater sense of the poem’s sense of technique.

I would like to quote some of my work, to reveal this, but I invite you to look elsewhere online. Searching for “Phillip A. Ellis” is easiest, since it is my preferred name, but you will see that I write rhyming verse, free verse, and formal unrhymed verse among others. Having this variety is part of my emphasis on technique, after all, since I want to excel in as many poetic forms as is possible.

Yet, given that technique is part of a poet’s voice, and given that it can be learnt from practice and example, it should be easy to realise that there are aspects of being a poet that make poetry a craft, something that can be learnt, as well as an art, something requiring a degree of talent. And if you can master enough technique to write passable verse, you have the start of a gift, a gift that can bring joy to friends and family.

So, if you’re thinking of becoming a poet, or becoming a better poet, look towards practising your technique. You can do so by reading poetry, and writing poetry, and it means you’ll become a better writer in the long run.

Wow. Thank you Phillip!

Phillip A. Ellis is a freelance critic and scholar, and his poetry collection, ‘The Flayed Man’, has been published by Gothic Press. Gothic Press will also edit a collection of essays on Ramsey Campbell, that he is editing with Gary William Crawford. He is working on another collection, to appear through Diminuendo Press. Another collection has been accepted by Hippocampus Press, which has also published his concordance to the poetry of Donald Wandrei. He is the editor of Australian Reader, Melaleuca and Breaking Light Poetry Magazine.

If you would like to write a writing-related guest post for my blog then feel free to email me with an outline of what you would like to write about. If it’s writing-related then it’s highly likely I’d email back and say “yes please” (while quietly bouncing up and down in my seat with joy!).

The blog interviews return as normal tomorrow morning with Pete Morin – the two hundred and second of my blog interviews with novelists, poets, short story authors, bloggers, autobiographers and more. A list of interviewees (blogged and scheduled) can be found here. If you like what you read, please do go and investigate further. And I enjoy hearing from readers of my blog; do either leave a comment on the relevant interview (the interviewees love to hear from you too!) and / or email me. You can also read / download my eBooks and free eShorts at Smashwords.