Co-editor Paul Weidknecht
While prose can stand a degree of dilution, poetry is concentrated. From speaking with poets at writer’s conferences, I’ve heard that word—concentrated—come up time and again. In a poem, possibly due to its brevity compared to a short story, readers roll around the ‘flavor’ of words in their minds, sort of like a literary sommelier. Word number and choice are important, as poetry readers (read: editors) don’t skim.
Poems addressing emotional issues, i.e. the tragedy of losing a loved one, are most effective when they reach out, causing the reader to reflect in a similar way, and hopefully, compelling multiple readings. A silent nod by a reader might be one of the best compliments a poet can receive.
Other items of which to be mindful: Abstract poetry is fine; its originality is refreshing—as long as you keep the interest of someone reading that abstractness. When a poem becomes too much of a puzzle, reading it becomes a chore. A poem is not a piece of flash fiction with line breaks; short stories do that better. Read the poem out loud. How does it sound? Does it stumble along under the leaden awkwardness of worn phrases or does it ascend in the inspiration of inventive language and imagery?
Perhaps the two most important rules regarding the creation of poetry, or any other piece of creative writing, are the most obvious to understand and simplest to do: keep rewriting your own work, keep reading others work.
In this issue: Our front page feature for this issue is the engaging tale by Ronald Wolff of a father’s love for his musically gifted and autistic son. BWG member Diane Sismour
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Nobody ever figured out why my son Danny couldn’t talk. He just never did. He would look at you, and his eyes would tell you there was something he wanted to say, but the words never came. Maybe his mom would have known, but I doubt it. She could barely take care of herself. She left us both when Danny was just two months old, and despite my best efforts I never heard from her again. I left a picture of her in a small black frame, sitting on an end table next to the living room couch.
The Top Ten . . .
Victor Hugo Quotations
At almost 1500 pages, Victor Hugo’s Les Miserables no longer commands the attention of the public. But its magnificent plot and exhaustive
characterizations, together with the author’s breathtaking language and astonishing observations about human nature, have inspired me to read it twice. Herewith, ten of my favorite short passages:
10. “There are people who observe the rules of honor as we observe the stars, from far off” (p. 1244).
9. “He knew how to do a little of everything–all badly” (p. 154).
8. "He was in the season of life at which the mind of thinking men is made up in nearly equal proportions of depth and simplicity” (p. 699).
7. “What a great thing, to be loved! What a greater thing still, to love!” (p. 934).
6. “With gentleness, youth has the effect on old men of sunshine without wind” (p. 689).
5. “The delight we inspire in others has this enchanting peculiarity that, far from being diminished like every other reflection, it returns to us more radiant than ever” (p. 569).
4. “What a sublime, sweet thing is hope in a child who has never known anything but its opposite” (p. 414).
3.“Though we chisel away as best we can at the mysterious block from which our life is made, the black vein of destiny continually reappears” (p. 203).
2. “The goodness of the mother is written in the gaiety of the child” (p. 151).
1. “If the soul is left in darkness, sins will be committed. The guilty one is not he who commits the sin, but the one who causes the darkness” (p. 14).
(Page numbers above refer to the Signet Classics version, copyright 1987 by Lee Fahnestock and Norman MacAfee.)