Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Anybody want a peanut?

"Can contemporary poetry still rhyme?"

I am currently working on my Master's degree in Creative Writing, and this was the question asked in one of my classes.

I'll openly admit poetry is not my strong suit. Most of the time I don't get it. So, you can imagine how much fun it is for me to try to decipher other poems--especially "contemporary" poetry. How do I answer the original question posted above?
Here is my answer:

To rhyme or not to rhyme? That’s a question, but is it the question? If asked to make up a poem when I was a child, it would certainly rhyme. After all, Cat in the Hat and Green Eggs and Ham rhymed. So did Jack and Jill. But of course, as we grow up, we learn that such things are juvenile, and aren’t serious enough for serious poets. After all, isn’t a good poem one that seems to break all the rules—with the number one rule being: a poem shall rhyme!  

W. D. Snodgrass’s poem A Locked House rhymes. Or does it? Yes, the poem is set up in the ab ab format with each a rhyming with each b. Yet, the lines vary in length and often the rhyming word is not at the end of the sentence.


Barns, house, furniture    
We two are stronger than we were    
Apart; we’ve grown Together.
Everything we own    
Can burn… (242-243)

Clearly this is considered a contemporary poem. How do I know? Because it comes from a book called The Vintage Book of Contemporary American Poetry. It rhymes, but almost in a mocking sort of way. It’s as if the poet is saying, “See! I can write a contemporary poem that rhymes.”

But, from my experience, rhyming seems to be the exception, and not the rule. When looking for a contemporary poem that rhymes, at first, I came across ten that didn’t. Going back now, it took me seven more tries to find one that rhymed.

Is it okay to rhyme? Why, yes, I believe it is. Rhyming can set the tone of a poem. It can be playful. It can be a driving force. It can be a device that helps the poet convey their message. Rhyming can be magical. Tell any fan of The Princess Bride, “No more rhymes now, I mean it!” and I’ll bet you the mortgage they will reply, “Anybody want a peanut?”

And now I have to wonder. If at one time poets seemed to universally agree that to make good poetry they needed to break the rules—and one of the rules now is not to rhyme—does that mean new, contemporary poets should rhyme?

Works Cited

Snodgrass, W. D. "A Locked House". A Vintage Book of Contemporary American Poetry. Ed. McClatchy, J. D. Vintage Books, 2003. 242-243. Print.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Port-A-Potty is set on fire!

It’s here! My new anthology, The Night the Port-A-Potty Burned Down and Other Stories is now available in both print and ebook formats!

The book includes 80 (that’s right 80!) short stories, insights and observations.

Some of them are humorous.

Some of them are thought provoking.

Some are downright strange.

I’m so sure you’ll like the book, it comes it with a double your money back guarantee—as described in the last entry.

Click here to order the print version.

Click here to order the ebook version.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Like books? Thank an author.

An author friend of mine, who I think is an amazing writer, recently stated that sometimes he felt like he was performing inside an empty music hall. Many other authors responded that they felt the same way at one time or another.

The fact is that being an author is a fairly lonely process. Hours upon hours are spent imagining, writing, re-writing, editing, and then proofing their work before they send it off into the world.

There are outlets for authors to get feedback, like Goodreads, Amazon and when the author does events like signings and such—yet I believe those avenues aren’t an accurate representation of what people in general think about a particular book.

I’ll admit that at times I’ve wondered, “Is anyone even reading my work? Would anyone care if I never published anything ever again?” And then there are those magical moments that make it all worth it.

I was recently at a school and I introduced myself. A student raised his hand and asked, “Did you write The Hidden Sun?” I answered that I had—wondering how he’d heard of it. He then said, “I loved that book! When’s the next one coming out?” When I told him it was already out—and had been since May, he freaked. “Really? No way! I soooo need that book!”

When I got a chance to ask him later about where he’d heard about The Hidden Sun, he said, “My cousin read it and told us it was really good. I’ve told my friends. They are going to be excited to learn the next one is out!”

So, yes, this is somewhat self-serving, but if you’ve enjoyed a book—let the author know somehow—like visiting their website and leaving a note, or posting a nice review on one of the many book sites out there.

A little positive feedback given to an author goes a long way.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

The Night the Port-A-Potty Burned Down and Other Stories

Here is the cover for my next published work! If all goes according to plan (when does that ever happen?) this will be available on December 1st. More details to follow.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Thankful for Books Giveaway

Whoo hoo! Another give-a-way!

I’ll be giving away the winner’s choice of one of the following:

(Click on the link to find out more information about the books)

I have a short story in this anthology

The book will be personalized and autographed by yours truly.

To enter, simply put your email information in the comment section below.

Oh, and while you’re at it, please “follow” this blog. I contribute to it regularly with humorous, thought provoking and / or emotional posts.

Good luck on the contest!

Monday, November 5, 2012

Happiness Survey

On the eve of this election, let’s play a game.

You are the mayor of Anytown, USA. The US government wants to know how people really feel. To do so, it asks people to take a voluntary, anonymous survey.

This survey would consist of many types of questions like, “Do you enjoy life in the USA?” “Do you feel that your opinion matters?” “Are you given the resources and training you need to be successful?” “Are you able to do what you do best every day?” and so on.

The surveys would be administered at the local level—each mayor would be responsible to give out the surveys and “invite” people to take it—remember, it’s voluntary, and anonymous.

Sounds like a good idea, doesn’t it? After all, how can the government know what to fix if we don’t tell them?

But then things start to turn strange. The governors start to compete to see which state has the highest percentage of citizens take the voluntary survey. Because they want to look good to the federal government, the governors put pressure on the mayors to “strongly encourage” their residents to do the survey.

Although the survey is anonymous, in order to track results each mayor is told how many (but not specifically who) of the people in their town haven’t taken the survey. As mayor, you know of several people who have told you that they don’t believe the survey is truly anonymous, so they don’t want to take it. They point out that because you, as the mayor, know people haven’t taken they survey proves that it’s not truly anonymous.

Finally, the time to take the survey ends. The results are tabulated, and then broken down to the local level. As mayor, you are given the results for your town, and how it compares to the rest of the nation.

And what does the US government then do with the information? It tells the mayors to “make an 'action plan' to fix any issues that their citizens scored low on.”

Does this seem as silly to you as it does to me? So, why did I make this up?

Confession time: this is actually quite a common way corporations handle employee feedback.

The US government is the corporation, the governors are the district or regional managers and the mayors are the department managers.

I’ve been the “mayor” in this scenario for three different companies. I thought it was one of the most ridiculous things I’ve been a part of.

When I raised my concerns about this process, I was told, “It’s your job as a manager to make your employees ‘buy in’ to whatever the company decides.” That would include cutting paid time off, reduced or eliminated raises and higher demands on productivity without an increase in resources.

After all, if the employees aren’t happy, it certainly can’t be the fault of the corporation.