Time to . . . catch up

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My blog is now four years and two months old. A long time actually, but a short time in my lifespan of seventy-one years. The past four years of writing poetry have been some of the most happy and satisfying times of my life. I’ve become an active part in a small community of writers–people like me who, for all kinds of reasons–simply find expression in verse to be an important part of who they are.

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I named this blog, “A Poet in Time” because I realized I was just another small cog in the wheel that is written expression and that is humanity. We exist for a brief time on this world, and each of our lives is unique. Every one of us is completely different from all others that have lived or will live. There is such magic in that idea. 

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After blogging here for fifty months, I wonder how this blog will evolve. It began as a way for me to push myself into writing something each week. It then became a venue to share poems that were published. I continued to write free verse poetry, but the past two years have seen a switch to the writing of Japanese short-form poems such as haiku, senryu and tanka. I’ve also fallen in love with creating haiga and tankart, both of which have pushed me into working with visual images and linking them with poems, letting picture and words complete one another in a unique way. 

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The poetry community in the Japanese short-form poems world is a welcoming one. I’ve made friends with and received incredible guidance and mentoring from other writers. Some of those friends I have never met since they live on the other side of the world. Others I have met here in the states and in the UK. I consider all of these friendships to be a blessing and a gift. People make such connections and on occasion these become collaborators in writing. I love writing with other poets. Collaborative or responsive writing is an exercise in trust and openness. Two minds create one piece. Two poets enter into it, not knowing what the end product will be, but the process is the best part (for me, at least). Giving and sharing ideas–taking someone’s verse and linking to it and writing a response that works with the whole thing–well, it’s an experience that is unlike other writing experiences, even regular poetry workshops.

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I was invited to give a talk on Collaborative Writing in April, 2018 at “Haiku Holiday,” a full day devoted to haiku related writing. This is an annual event of the North Carolina Haiku Society (of which I am an active member). It was an honor to do this, and I shared my experiences, most of which were in responsive tanka writing. The two forms are related. Tanka has been written for over 1300 years. Later, Renga with its Hokku came into being in the 14th century, and in the 16th century, Haiku evolved from the Hokku verse of renga. It was a long and fascinating evolution. If you are interested in the history of these forms, I recommend an article written by Tanka Poet and editor,Amelia Fielden:  

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http://www.tankaonline.com/About%20Tanka%20and%20Its%20History.htm

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In the Japanese courts, people wrote tanka responsively, and it was also a simple communication between lovers. Collaborative writing has a long, long history that continues today.

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My sister recently asked me if I ever write “long” poems any more, and I had to pause and think. I’ve been working so hard at trying to write passable short form poems that my practice in longer (aka free verse) poetry has dwindled down to very little.

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Perhaps a goal for my fifth year of blogging will be to find a balance between short and longer poems. Who knows? Maybe something else will happen. That’s the fun of writing–it evolves as we evolve and grow.

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I’ll be posting a bunch of poems that have been published in recent months–I fell behind because real life called (as it does now and then). 

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For those of you who have followed my blog over the past four years, thank you. I hope you will continue to do so.

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With all best wishes,
Mary

 

Note: The article I refer to is About Tanka and Its History by Amelia Fielden. It appeared in Tanka Online.

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Photograph (c) Kristin Sanderson

 

One Year of Blogging…Some Thoughts

Clock Room in the Musée d'Orsay, Paris, France

Clock Room in the Musée d’Orsay, Paris, France

This week marks the one year anniversary of this blog, A Poet in Time. I began it at the end of July 2014 after much thought. My goal at the time was very simple. I wanted a way to discipline my writer’s mind into producing a passable poem each week. They could be brand new, reworked lines shaped into a new incarnation, or experiments in new forms for me. Yes, I hoped someone would read them, otherwise, why use a blog? I’ve never had expectations that many people would read my writing. I’ve been too reluctant to submit many of my poems for submission. I’m too thin-skinned to deal with the rejections that come with the publishing game, so I’ve just gone about with writing on my own terms and in my own way. A blog seemed like fun. I like writing in general. A blog could showcase a poem, but it could also help me move in the direction of a community of poets who, like me, liked reading poetry.

Now that I’ve made it through a year of blogging, I guess I need to decide if it was worth it. Did it meet my goals? Did I discipline myself enough to post a poem a week? Did I meet other writers? Find other interesting blogs?

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I discovered right away that the world of blogging is immense. On Word Press alone, there are hundreds of thousands of blogs. Poets all over the place! I’ve spent a lot of time reading many of the blogs. Some held little interest for me. A few really intrigued me and I readily subscribed to those. I learned the proper blog etiquette:  it’s always polite to acknowledge when someone comments on a posting. If someone follows you, you should at least go and visit their blog, read through a good number of their postings and perhaps leave a comment or two. Following another blogger is harmless enough. It doesn’t obligate you to anything. I quickly learned that some people “follow” you simple to get you to follow them back. I guess I was too old not to realize that the world of young bloggers is a competitive one where numbers count. I read a few postings on why this was important, and then I went back to my quiet ways of reading blogs I felt had excellent writing and ideas.

Early Morning at Bagnegrole (Photo by Yolanda Litton)

Early Morning at Bagnegrole, France  (Photo by Yolanda Litton)

I also discovered the world of art here in WordPress. The number of artists and photographers is also very large. Excellence is there, and I fell in love with a number of photography sites. I found early on that a beautiful photograph was not just great art in itself, but some seemed to inspire poems. It happened quite spontaneously and it began with a professional photographer on WP who always kindly gives me permission to use his breathtaking black and white photographs to a wildlife photographer on FaceBook who is equally generous at letting me use his work. Then, it moved to people I know. I’d see friends’ photographs on FaceBook and very quickly I could see who posted pictures I found irresistible. That was an unexpected bonus. Some were people I knew well. Others were people I worked with but never got to know. It made me realize how complex people are. Everyone has gifts that are there, but often they aren’t visible. I began to really enjoy FaceBook simply because it now gave me much more insight into people I’m acquainted with.

Old home in Eland, North Carolina, photograph by Gary Brichford (c) 2015

Old home in Efland, North Carolina,  Photograph by Gary Brichford (c) 2015

I also discovered that FaceBook has its own private poetry world. There are hundreds of poetry related sites, most of which never interested me. I’d subscribe for a while and then get overwhelmed by the sheer volume of work that just didn’t do much for me. Everyone is different of course. My work isn’t flavor of the month for many people. (Even that metaphor would turn off many poets who only live on the ‘edge.’) But gradually I found there were private FaceBook writing sites that were full of excellent poets all of whom have the same purpose of learning to write better. Prompts are frequently presented and people respond in posts. You can ask for advice or guidance and you get it. I fell in love with three such sites all focused on small poems and English versions of Japanese forms of poetry such as haiku and tanka. I then found a number of the poets had their own blogs, which I follow whenever I can. I did learn that most poets who have made their names in the published poetry world use blogging more as a vehicle for presenting what has already been published. No one seems to use it as I do, but that’s ok.

Now, as the one year anniversary is here, I’ve been trying to rethink my goals and how I’d like to continue on from here–or whether or not I even wanted to blog. I looked at all my postings. I certainly did meet my quota of a poem a week. Sometimes more than a week would pass and then I’d post several poems. That was fine in my book.

I took a lot of the narrative around a poem out as I went on. I felt I didn’t need to tell my readers what a specific form was unless it really was something my closer friends (who aren’t writers) might like to know. The poems generally speak for themselves, as they should do.

I’ve toyed with putting some separate pages on the blog, separating poems by genre where it applies. Right now I lack the technical know how about the best way to do this.  Obviously, I have some homework to do.

I’ve also toyed with the idea of a separate page on which to post poems by other people that I’m reading and whose work I absolutely love. I’m not sure about this–it might wander too far away from my simple blog.

As for followers, I have gotten exactly 7,600 views as of today. I know those aren’t all ME, so I guess people are reading. I don’t have a huge following, but I never expected to have that. I quickly learned that the majority of visitors never leave comments or even hit a ‘like’ button. Perhaps they visited and didn’t find anything they liked. Perhaps they just never bother with ‘likes.’ No matter. I’m just glad people do wander around and read things here and there. Perhaps my only regret is that new visitors tend to only read the latest postings. They rarely wander back a year. I loved my first poem I posted about a trip to Edinburgh and the Scottlish Highlands I’d just returned from. But those early poems only have three or four likes at most.

Occasionally someone will repost a poem and then I’ll get a slew of visitors on a period of a few days. That’s always a surprise that makes me smile. A few become followers.

Of the people who leave comments, it tends for the most part to be the same people, but those are all people i love. I love their blogs. I love their thinking. I appreciate the time they take to make a comment. Who doesn’t love knowing your words speak to someone on some level? I do love it…a lot!

I will, for now, continue as I began. The need for a poem a week is no longer needed. I write a lot now. I choose only to post what I feel is my best.

Chapbook 2

In the past year, I published a chapbook with Finishing Line Press. It is called ERASING THE DOUBT, and the whole experience has been very satisfying and exciting for me. Working with professional editors, seeing the typed poems be turned into a very pretty book–and then there is the cover, the beautiful picture by Christine Ellger, a photographer from Dresden who let me use her picture just like that! Amazing how kind people can be. It was such joy to send her a copy of the completed and published book.

Time-Can-Wait

So, where do I go from here? i’ve come up with a few goals to carry me through the next year.

  1.  Post poems I feel are my best work that I want to share with others.
  2. Perhaps separate poems by genre (if I can figure out the way to do this).

  3. Get a few more followers who genuinely like poetry.

  4. Be a good fellow blogger and visit other blogs consistently and leave them some feedback.

  5. Hope that my friends and family will venture over to my blog now and then.

  6. Sharing posts–add some postings that aren’t poems. These will be my ideas about writing or something I’m reading, etc.

  7. Continue to use photography and art in my blog. I would be thrilled to have someone submit a picture to me to use as an inspiration. Will that day ever come?

  8. Continue to be inspired by just about everything in life.

If you’ve read this far, you are probably either a close friend, my husband or me. Thanks for taking time to read this posting today. I hope you’ll come back again soon to browse around.

Mary

Dove photo by Merlune

Dove photo by Merlune