Welcome to PoeticalCondition's Journal!
Hello guys, this is miserabel, newly in charge of the Monthly Member feature, which will pop up every second Monday of the month! If you know of a member of PoeticalCondition who could do with some more attention, then please note me about them and I'll check them out (and possibly feature them in a future blog)!
This feature is supposed to bring talented writers to your attention who haven't recently gotten a DD or DLD; in other words, the well-hidden gems of the deviantart literature community!
August's pick is:
Go check him out, folks, it's worth it! Not only is his writing definitely note-worthy, he also gave very interesting responses to my questions and some epic advice for aspiring writers further down.
hand-picked favourites out of their gallery:
Come Home: A PantoumYou'll always come back to me
when the lights in the far hills
are done searching. For, new beds
entice adventurers. Too,
when the lights in the far hills
come home, the homespun dream they
entice adventurers too,
but they can't. (Dream we're neither.
Come home.) The homespun dream they
turn pioneers to homebodies,
but they can't dream we're neither,
our wanderlust fit to turn
pioneers to homebodies.
We've always made love free, so
our wanderlust fit. To
turn ourselves towards our home
we've always made love. Free. So
when the last adventurers
turn themselves toward their homes
in faraway lands, I know,
when the last adventurers
are done searching for new beds
in faraway lands, I know
you'll always come back to me.
Tell us something (anything) about yourself!
Hi everybody, I'm Joe Girard.
I work at the Ottawa Public Library, in the outskirts of Canada's capital, I'm a certified reflexologist, and a creative consultant on numerous art projects including a TV show, a student film, and a music album set for worldwide release sometime next year. Creatively, I'm sort of a jack of all trades, my art and writing, film and music having appeared in journals across North America, in galleries, theatres, and concerts all around southern Ontario. Last year saw the publication (After five years of trying!) of my first book (with several others), In the Wings: Stories of Forgotten Women. I hosted a radio show, Saturn’s Rings, for 93.3 cfmu for two years, and I was the editor of Hamilton, Ontario’s Student Literary Association (SLA) for several years, and oversaw publication of a yearly anthology.
If that’s not enough bragging for you, I even acted for the queen of England once. Oh, and I hold several world records for different old school video games. None of these things have made me rich or famous, but hey, a boy can dream can’t he? The last, probably most interesting thing about me is that I’ve been in an open relationship for several years now, which is the subject of the first book of poetry I’m going to try for serious publication, Polygon. I’ve also somehow stumbled into being a freelance poetry lecturer at high schools and universities across Ontario. That’s mostly to do with how generally frustrated I am by the appearance (and so, the characterization) of poetry in the vast, vast majority of textbooks and poetry anthologies. After William Harmon published The Top 500 Poems, I really think we were ready to be done with any book anthologizing poems written before a hundred years ago. My focus is on poetry that’s been written since then, why it’s interesting, why it’s relevant, and why we need to explore outward even further. Oh, I should also mention that I write reviews for the hundreds of films and the hundreds of books and the dozens of albums I see, read, and hear every year, on Facebook. It’s just a hobby, really, but it’s been instrumental in my development as an artist. And people seem to dig it.
What inspires you to write?
My writing inspiration has transformed over the years.
When I’m really objective about it, I guess I started writing out of the blue around age eight/nine, though it took me until about eight years ago (when I started in creative writing college) before I considered myself a writer. The first thing I remember compelling me to write was that my best friend wrote a thirty page short story, and I so badly wanted to be able to say the same. I ended up writing a 400 page novel, but, after I finished it at age 13, it read like something a 13 year old would write, so, you know, unpublishable. It was a fantasy novel, heavily inspired by Magic: The Gathering cards and movies like Labyrinth and The Dark Crystal.
Eventually, the desire for fame was why I thought I was writing, but looking back, I can see how the plot was allowing me to work out some deep-seated issues I had with my upbringing, and the often unbearably violent household I was remanded to. So, I think there’s always been a part of my writing that’s been me working out my inner conflicts. Certainly, being polyamorous has bourne a multitude of challenges, and my poems, like Come Home, above, are starting to become examples of the same.
Nowadays, the majority of my actual writing is life writing, poetry and lyrics for the band Ben Caplan and the Casual Smokers and for my own music and a project called KILL Radio, which is a fake radio station I do all the voices for. My life writing keeps me putting words on the page, which is a good habit to have if you’re planning, like I am, to complete longer-form fiction down the road, but what inspires it is the desire to have a record of my life that my children could have access to, to remember me by. It’s function is to keep my friends and family in the loop, but that’s my ulterior motive. In all likelihood, it’s a motive in vain, since my children will be too busy with their flying cars and interstellar travel and sex simulators to want to dig into the mental recesses of an old timer. And a frequently boring one at that!
My poetry I write because I can’t help myself: it’s just how I think. Those get written provided that the kernel of a good idea pops into my head, and that I can overcome my self-imposed laziness, which serves to kill five out of ten of my ideas. But the inspiration to write a poem is almost pure pleasure. I love writing a poem. It combines the writer in me with the puzzlemaster in me (oh, several of my game records belong to the game Tetris). I love crafting just the right sentence, just the right idea. Most people agree I’m one of the weirdest people they know, so there comes a deep satisfaction knowing I’ve transliterated a part of that weirdness, that kooky strangeness into something others can relate to. I guess that’s the most profound part of my inspiration: the desire to be known. If I thought others could fathom my inner life, maybe I could die happy. Cuz generally I feel like a monkey in a zoo, doing tricks, to be honest. The last thing I want to say about that is to echo what Neil Gaiman said: writing comes from a confluence of forces. For me, it’s combining just the right elements. Writing comes like a recipe. I need to know a poem is going to combine enough interesting ideas, and the right, complementary ideas, before I can even start imagining the first line. Sometimes a line does pop into my head, but those usually become songs. A poem is both an organic and an artificial process for me, and I’m okay with that. I’m happy to be both artist and craftsman. Some writers aren’t and that’s fine, just try to remember that if you’re only the one, the other side has legit reasons for being their way.
What advice would you give to your fellow writers of dA?
Try to realize that there’s a demographic for pretty much everything. Whatever’s in you to write, someone’s out there waiting to read, though you’ll have to take your craft pretty fucking seriously to play in the actual writing market, instead of just kicking around on fan fiction sites, or reading your poems at the local pub, or writing reviews on Facebook, or blogging away in obscurity.
Editors are not scary monsters who want to keep you from ever being published. In all likelihood you’ll get published by the first one you meet and get to know. As for them, do whatever they say, unless you absolutely can’t bear the change. The editor probably knows better than you. Honestly. They can be objective about your work and you can’t. They aren’t trying to sabotage you. You’re relationship is mutually beneficial. I’ve never had trouble working with them, or being one, but I know a lot of writers are not so easy on their helpers. Learning to trust someone to help you with your art may be the biggest strength you ever develop.
I’m just gonna do point form now.
1) Read what you wanna write. If you wanna write poems about sports, don’t read historical non-fic about war. Unless you want bats to become cannons and pucks to become land mines in your work. If you wanna write epic sci-fi, reading just the newspaper and blogs about science will make your grammar pedestrian and informal. So whatever you’re writing, read as much other examples of that as humanly, timely possible. What you read becomes what you write, believe me.
2) Make time to read. Stephen King said if you don’t have time to read you won’t have the time or the tools to write. I’ve heard a lot of students disagree. They’re wrong.
3) Read Strunk and White’s The Elements of Style and Aristotle’s Poetics (and I quite enjoy Stephen King’s On Writing, but it isn’t essential, and non-King fans will probably begrudge him on certain points). The Elements of Style will inform you on how to sound like a writer without going through writing school, and Poetics will tell you everything you need to know about good drama. And make no mistake, drama is crucial to every form of writing. There’s even drama in instruction manuals. When it warns you not to shower with your iPod, there’s the image of some idiot showering with their iPod, and there’s also the dramatic, legal intent that Apple has towards its customer, you. In a poem the most common drama is between the author, you, and the person you’re writing about, most commonly a loved one. I basically never write anything without considering how the audience to my work is part of the drama, which makes me a very Meta kind of writer, but it’s only as essential as knowing that your work is ultimately for the world, and not for yourself alone. Also, I wanna say that I’ve talked to a lot of students who don’t get what capital d “Drama” is. That’s okay. Do yourself a favour and look into it. It’s too subtle and expansive a thing for me to capture here, but it’s basically the only thing that makes writing readable. If you have doubts about what it is, maybe don’t write so much right away. Figure that out, then write.
4) Writing school, like any art school, is best for the contacts. You can learn just as much about writing by reading any of the aforementioned books, but being with your peers, learning from a teacher who has almost certainly been published, is a great way to see that writing is really possible. It’s an expensive way to reach that conclusion, but it was worth it for me. The editor of my first book was a teacher I had at college. It also gives you permission to write, which opens up your floodgates a lot. That’s a feeling you won’t know until you know it, and it’s a wild stallion that must be tamed if you’re going to succeed as a writer.
5) Depending on what kind of writer you want to be, write regularly. If you only write for an hour a week, write for an hour a week, but make sure you do it. It’s not bad to fluctuate, or to alter your base minimum, but make sure you have a base minimum. And even if you’re just sitting with pen and paper, or staring at the blinking cursor, do it. You have to do it.
6) Don’t be afraid of getting a ‘real’ job. I’ve found that a job, especially a manual labour job, is the best for having the time to think of ideas. If you can keep a notepad on you, great. If not, you can text yourself ideas, or, like me, see if you remember your idea at the end of your shift. If you do, it’s probably worth cultivating.
7) Own a journal. Especially if you’re a poet. A computer is great, but it’s ultimately a public tool and a distracting tool. Your family could access it, or your friends or your partner, and so there’ll always be an element of ‘invasion of privacy’ about it that could hinder your true voice. A journal, while not foolproof to invasion, will restrict your purpose to the writing you do in it. Even if it’s just a receptacle for ideas and sketches. My journals are packed with half-finished poems. Some pages are just single lines I liked, for use later. I keep an ‘Idea’ file on the computer for anything I seriously mean to come back to. Treat your journal like anything’s possible in it, don’t get superstitious about it. You can draw, you can be silly, you can be horrific, you can play hangman. It’s yours.
8) Start to create a ‘reel’. In the film world, a reel used to be an actual reel of film containing your best of moments as a journalist, a reporter, a director, an editor, whatever. Well, we should all have them. If you want to be a film reviewer, start reviewing the movies you watch, and start collecting your best work. That way, when the local free paper has an ad for a movie reviewer, you’ll be ready with guns blazing. Also, learning to catalogue your best work will help you to see where your strengths lay, and help you to chart your course through the journey of your writing. Who knows? You might, like me, start out writing epic fantasy, and wind up a songwriter for a Klezmer band. You might start out writing love odes and wind up a sex columnist. You never know, but you won’t know unless you gain perspective.
9) Write honestly. That doesn’t mean don’t steal from your favourite authors and poets, please do. But keep it honest. A work that’s all craft won’t have a pulse. And remember, if some writer or singer or whatever is your principal inspiration, and you’re worried others will notice, well, they probably will, but as long as you stay honest, it won’t matter. Your favourite artist had their favourite artist (mine is Tom Waits, who gushed over Bob Dylan) and even though their roots will show, you still think of them as their own deal. They are, because they (eventually) found their honest voice, and made that their life’s work. That said, don’t be afraid to try new things. I was aware of dozens of poetic forms years before I tried writing some of them. I regret the lost time, but, you know, you write what you have time to write. And while it’s true that you should omit needless words, sometimes (especially if you’re like me) you just gotta say what you gotta say. You might bore some people to tears. But that is what an editor is for! Stephen King says to imagine the ideal reader (IR) when you’re writing, and that’s probably good advice. I’ve found that a hard thing to tap into. I’m kind of my own IR. I write to entertain myself. I know how that sounds, but it’s actually true.
Okay, I’m sure there’s more I could say, but I feel those are the basics. The last thing I’ll say is this: get your work out there as much and as often as possible. Look for sites like www.placesforwriters.com/ where you’ll find regularly updated calls for particular writing, and submit as often as you can. That site in particular is also just a really good writing prompt since much of what’s being asked for probably isn’t something you have in your backlog or your reel. As soon as you see how easy it can be to get published, you’ll start to build your raison d’etre, and you’ll find the confidence, inspiration, and, most importantly, audience, you’re looking for.
Thanks to sandzen for his cooperation and thank you for reading! Feel free to leave a comment on how you liked this feature, or whether you have any suggestions to make it better (sparkles? more bouncing emoticons?).
Reminder: if you know someone you think is worthy to be Poet of the Month, note miserabel.