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…

Continue reading

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 023: Review of Writing the Life Poetic by Sage Cohen by Phillip Ellis

Welcome to Post-weekend Poetry and a slight detour from the poetry in this series. This week Phillip Ellis returns with another review.

Review: Writing the Life Poetic by Sage Cohen

‘Writing the Life Poetic’ may seem yet another writing handbook, one more guide by a practising poet, one more book to read and leave behind. It is, however, more than just these. Writing the Life Poetic seeks to inspire poets to create, and this, despite its flaws, is what such books can do best. Yes, there is a place for handbooks of prosody, but Writing the Life Poetic does not concern itself with the minutiae of technique. Rather, in assuming the poet knows what a poem can start as, it seeks to open up the poet to techniques of exploring creativity, rather than counting syllables and marking stresses. The end result is a book that inspires the poet to write and live the life poetic.

One of the main reasons, and arguably the primary reason, for reading Writing the Life Poetic is to inspire poets to read and write poetry. It does so by presenting a number of brief chapters, each with their own focus. Going through these, the poet is ideally inspired to write. And the chapters, although varying in emphases and directions, focus on writing poetry, and on the life of a poet as one who writes and submits poetry. If the book contained only these texts, then it would be worth looking into as a series of prompts to consider writing, but there is more to Writing the Life Poetic than just these. There are, for example, a series of exercises that can be completed and worked upon.

The exercises tie in with their chapters, and remain relevant to the heart of the book. They are prompts, rather than assignments; they are designed to stimulate creativity and thought about what poetry is and can do. This means that Writing the Life Poetic is less of a textbook than it is a starting point for practical thought. Since being a poet involves the writing of poetry, the best way that Writing the Life Poetic can inspire poetry is to encourage active, practical steps of writing it. There is a tendency to assume that the reader can know what forms a poem takes. With one exception, a single chapter of poetic forms, there is no deeper, involved discussion on the forms a poem takes, for example the use of lines, stanzas and strophes and so forth.

Further, though it is possible to read the book without working through the exercises, the best results are gained by writing through them. Doing so allows poets to learn from Writing the Life Poetic by doing more than just reading the chapters. It enables them to develop practical skills, as well as the opportunity to reflect on the texts via their own poetic practice. This does mean that the results of the exercises can tend towards being written to order, a failing common to many workshop poems. There are chapters, however, that argue that imitation and freewriting are steps towards escaping this, the former by allowing the poet to see poetry’s possibilities, the latter by allowing significant themes and images to arise more spontaneously.

A further element, in addition to the exercises, are the poems and excerpts of poems scattered through the book. They emphasise, as does Sage elsewhere in Writing the Life Poetic, the importance of reading poetry as part of a life as a poet. As a result, the poems may not suit everyone’s taste in poetry. I found most of them of a uniform quality, with few that stood out; this does not mean the poems were either bad or poorly chosen. The poems, to me, were examples of what poems could be and do, more than examples o what the best poems can achieve. They are better yardsticks as a result, more surpassable if I may say so. This is not to say Writing the Life Poetic is flawless.

One of the chief failings involves further reading. With rare exceptions, references to books and websites are embedded in the text of the chapters, forcing the reader to hunt through the text in order to locate them. How this is a problem is that Writing the Life Poetic could easily have added a list of recommended reading and resources at the end of either chapters or the book. Doing so would help the reader and poet. Further, with the exception of URLs, only minimal details are given. The publication details, and ISBNs, of the books would be welcome and useful. Fortunately, here and there there are bulleted lists of web resources, making this aspect of Writing the Life Poetic useful.

There is a further failing, one that has greater effects on the usefulness of the book. While Writing the Life Poetic has been designed to be dipped into, the lack of an overarching sense of order or direction limits the attractiveness of reading straight through the book. Further, such an order would facilitate the brief index, making it more useful. The unorganised structure of Writing the Life Poetic makes it difficult to sense a trajectory that can apply to a beginning poetic career. It makes, that is, one’s development as a poet seem less structurable, more chaotic than it can be, and a degree of organisation is essential to a poet seeking any degree of professionalism.

Writing the Life Poetic seeks to inspire poets. It seeks to get them writing, and to get them living the life poetic; and it succeeds. Each of its chapters covers a facet of such a life, and it adds to these exercises more as stepping stones than assignments. Further, it includes poems that aspiring poets can measure against; achievable poems, not unsurpassable ones. Yet it is not flawless. It tends to hide references to further reading, and it eschews many details needed to locate them. And its lack of overarching structure to the chapters hinders any sense of order, given the need for some degree of order necessary if one is to be more professional as a poet. Writing the Life Poetic, however, succeeds in its aims, and this is, really, the least that can be asked of it. It inspires, and it continues to inspire.

Sage Cohen’s Writing the Life Poetic: an Invitation to Read & Write Poetry (Cincinnati : Writers’ Digest Books, 2009) ISBN:978-1-58297-557-3 US$18.99. Available from the usual places including Amazon.co.uk.

That was really interesting, 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 science-fiction / fantasy author Paul Fox – the three hundred and eighty-fourth 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 sign up to receive these blog posts daily or weekly so you don’t miss anything… and follow me on Twitter where each new posting is automatically announced. You can also read / download my eBooks and free eShorts at SmashwordsSony Reader StoreBarnes & NobleiTunes BookstoreKobo and Amazon, with more to follow. I have a new forum and you can follow me on Twitter, friend me on Facebook, like me on Facebook, connect with me on LinkedIn, find me on Tumblr, complete my website’s Contact me page or plain and simple, email me.  I also now have a new blog creation service especially for, but not limited to, writers.

Unfortunately, as I post an interview a day (amongst other things) I can’t review books but I have a feature called ‘Short Story Saturdays’ where I review stories of up to 2,500 words. Alternatively if you have a short story or self-contained novel extract / short chapter (ideally up to 1000 words) that you’d like critiqued and don’t mind me reading it / talking about and critiquing it (I send you the transcription afterwards so you can use the comments or ignore them) 🙂 on my ‘Bailey’s Writing Tips’ podcast, then do email me. They are weekly episodes, usually released Monday mornings UK time, interweaving the recordings between the red pen sessions with the hints & tips episodes. I am now also looking for flash fiction (<1000 words) for Flash Fiction Fridays.

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. 🙂