SunWinks! February 15, 2015: Take a Tumble

SunWinksLogoDearest hardy, intrepid SunWinkers:

I frequently badger you to read your poetry aloud, and today’s column is no exception. Writing poetry without hearing what it sounds like is like studying a piano etude without touching the keyboard. For about a year, I’ve been making the rounds of poetry open mikes here in Vancouver USA and trying to be a good citizen of the poetry community. Reading your poems to an audience is so valuable, I just can’t recommend it highly enough!

Ghost Town Poetry open mike, February 12, 2015

You get to hear it aloud, hear yourself read it, see what the audience responds to and what falls flat and what flies over their heads. It builds confidence in public speaking and in yourself as an artist. I’ve grown immensely from doing this. Here’s a sample, from January’s Ghost Town Poetry open mike:

This week, we bounce from Metaphors 201 back to considerations of rhythm and sound. Today’s topic is Tumbling Verse a.k.a. Skeltonic Verse. It’s lots of fun and it’s a great way to experiment with rhythm, pace, diction, sonority, and phonetics. Continue reading


SunWinks! January 25, 2015: Sound Decisions

SunWinksLogoBeloved SunWinkers:

He’s not one of those important figures like Miley Cyrus or Kim Kardashian, so I only just ran across the news that Mark Strand died November 29 at the age of 80. He’s been my poetry God for more than 40 years. I still have his chapbook Reasons For Moving, requested from and inscribed by my grandmother for my 20th birthday. The peripatetic Professor Strand was a Pulitzer winner and Poet Laureate, and exerted a singular and major influence on the American poetry of the latter half of the 20th century. His spare, surreal, restrained, hauntingly empty voice is distinctive and inimitable. I’m going to go have a good cry now. BRB

This week, the subject is the music of poetry, the sonority of language, the sound of the words. As Edward Hirsch says, “The sound of the words is the first primitive pleasure in poetry.” I dare say this is a singularly important aspect of not just modern but all poetry which is often neglected by beginners and casual poets. Continue reading

SunWinks! October 5, 2014: Music Without Melody

SunWinksLogo Dear SunWinkers!

In the history of art in general and poetry in particular, one of the creative giants and originals among originals is Dame Edith Sitwell. Born in 1887 into an upper-crust family and distant parents, Sitwell was encouraged by her grandmother and governess to write and express herself. From the very infancy of her poetic career, she broke the mold of stuffy, rigorous Victorian English poetry, determined to find a new language and a new approach.

Edith Sitwell. Painting by Roget Eliot Fry (1918).

Not only a pioneer, Sitwell was a celebrity on the order of Gertrude Stein, Picasso, and Dali. So I was gobsmacked to find a vintage 1949 copy of her volume The Canticle of the Rose: Poems 1919-1949 for sale at Powell’s for $3.50. It begins with an invaluable preface: Some Notes on My Own Poetry. I feel like a kid who found an antique wind-up tin soldier in his Cracker Jacks box:

At the time I began to write, a change in the direction, imagery, and rhythms in poetry had become necessary, owing to the rhythmical flaccidity, the verbal deadness, the dead and expected patterns, of some of the poetry immediately preceding us.

Continue reading