Where Inspiration Comes Sliding Through – notes on a talk given by Carolyn Martin

Where Inspiration Comes Sliding Through – notes on a talk given by Carolyn Martin

How do you start a poem (or a story)?

  • Put pen to paper?
  • Put finger to keyboard?
  • Write and/or change the first line of something you remember, then see where it goes.

How do you include yourself in a poem (or a story)?

  • You don’t have to say “I.” You can stand back and be objective and still be you.
  • Details/observations reflect the observer’s eye.
  • Allusions imply the observer’s interests and knowledge.

How do you include the reader in a poem (of a story)?

  • End with a question
    • Invites the reader to respond
    • Avoids tying things up with a bow. Let the reader work too.
  • Allude to things the reader might empathize with –
    • not fitting in,
    • achievement not matching the dream, etc.

What kind of thing can you write/include in your poem?

  • Lists – images add to the aura
  • Other writers – allusions add weight. Look for someone whose work fits your context
  • Sensory detail – makes the observer/speaker/character real.

What voice will you write in?

  • Can write in your own voice
  • Or find inspiration in a character from fairytale, the Bible, the woman next to you on the plane…
  • Wear someone else’s mask – humanize them with a surprise twist on the known
  • Can write in more than one voice – mother and child?

How will you use your words?

  • Repetition
    • with altered meanings – lie/deceit, lie/resting place
    • with unexpressed emotion – beyond … beyond
    • with surprise – coach and coached
  • Rhyme
    • Traditionally lines of poetry ended in rhyming patterns
    • Now we’re more like to use internal rhyme
    • Rhymes don’t have to be obvious to be effective – chandelier and silks that sear.

How will you choose your message?

  • Your character probably has something to say. Then make it global
    • No happy-ever-afters if Cinderella’s not wearing her shoe
    • No quick road to success if the inn-keeper didn’t let Mary and Joseph stay
    • Desire for connection is universal theme
    • As are wicked stepmothers
    • And love – but a love poem really doesn’t have to use the word.
  • Doesn’t have to be unambiguous.
    • Your reader may see something more than you thought you’d put there, and that’s good.
    • Poetry makes the reader slow down – it’s okay of they have to read it more than once – perhaps it’s even better.
    • Lots of things are said (or read) in the space in between. Poetry is about spaces.
  • Get the reader involved in the desire/need of the author.

At the end of the session—which was filled with lively discussion (did you know the brothers Grimm invented wicked stepmothers because wicked mothers sounded too unpleasant?) we had four sources of inspiration to think about:

  1. Inspiration all around us
  2. Other voices (fictional, fairytale, neighbor, friend…)
  3. Travel (where you’ve been, where you’d like to go, where you might have been…)
  4. Relationships

We also had several ways to enhance our reading of poetry

  1. Read more than once
  2. Underline what strikes you
  3. Look for repetition, rhyme, unexpected images
  4. Sink into the question at the end.

Finally, Carolyn invited us to WRITE for 10 minutes. If you missed the meeting, you can do it now and create an entry for the next contest!

  1. Write your few words about inspiration
  2. Select a character from literature, fairytale, myth, history or current events and speak in his/her voice.
  3. Think of a place you particularly love. Write about the details and experiences there that inspire you.
  4. What can you say in public about a private relationship?

Thank you Carolyn!

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