The Floaty Life of a Poet: Comments to a College Poetry Class

Written by RitaC on October 4th, 2018

You are a poet.

A poet may be described as floaty: f-l-o-a-t-y. It is a state of meandering, wandering, with no  particular aim in mind. Floaty is being lost in, but not lost with no way out.

In your Inspiration Phase, a phrase finds you. Perhaps you “hear” a string of words. You know you need to write something down. Something has prompted you. Sunlight filtering through a tree canopy pulsing like a butterfly on your half-closed lids; the reverse image of nature in a clear puddle–which is the real image? Spontaneous, mystical, anywhere, inspiration is everywhere.

When I enjoy what I am doing, I “hear” words. This happens a lot while walking, though gardening, cooking, paddle boarding, reading, watching a movie, hearing a snip of conversation, or puttering, with no particular aim, offers a place for words to flow as well.

If I have paper handy, and it’s all over my house in the form of Post-it notes and small notebooks, I write down the words. If I’m walking without paper, I keep the words in mind until I’m home. After a potential poem is hand-written, it goes on my desk. When I type it up it may go in a computer file called Poetic Ideas or it may have its own page with a title that is open to change.

The Crafting Phase begins at the keyboard. I may still be floating but the beginning of structure appears as words fly or crawl onto the computer screen.

This floatiness is a bit different: banks on either side; trees bending over it; a carping critic following in a kayak; a few rocks; a small waterfall; and perhaps some whitewater.

Writing, rewriting, over and over, is key. Don’t be afraid to revise your poem, once twice, five times, twenty times. The poem is coming to fruition as you listen to the sounds, read it aloud, and choose the words for what you want to say. Listen to feedback from trusted others, your class, your writing group, but know you are the author of your poem. Keep copies of your previous versions in the same computer file in a chronological fashion. As the poem comes near completion, sometimes just a word is changed or a punctuation. Finished means you have done all you can do with a poem for now.

Some of my poems have been revised 30, 40, 50 times. One poem, now four years old, is still not “finished.” I bring it out occasionally to work on it. Some poems were valuable exercises, but won’t find their way into one of my poetry books. Not everything I write will be nor needs to be published.

When the time comes to create a chapbook or a poetry collection manuscript, I sense it. By this time, I have a quantity of quality poems that are ready to be put in order. If I didn’t have a theme in mind when writing the manuscript, I need one now. At this point, a second set of eyes proves helpful. It is not the time for suggestions for individual poems. It is the time to find a flow in the manuscript. For some, a class or a trusted poetic friend is needed to help decide the order. For others, floatiness is a way to sequence the poems, placing them on the floor and intuitively finding a sequence. This kind of flow may include a number of branching rivers, erosion that smooths away the banks, or minor flooding.

When the time comes for submitting, do your homework. Stay open to all sources: check the Poets Market from Writers Digest; your teachers’ publishers; local and regional publications; online journals. Where is your friend published? Have your read a new online journal that resonates with you? Do the poems have a similar sensibility to yours? A proactive process saves a lot of time as you submit to publications that are more likely to accept your poetry.

Read, read, read. Before, during, and after crafting. Read all the time. My readings include: books of poetry, mystery, spirituality, nature, the environment, nutrition; magazines such as Poets and Writers, The Sun, National Geographic, AARP, my husband’s Scientific American. I read Wikipedia, Internet Movie Data Base, matchbooks, ingredients in foods I buy, online sources, The New Shorter Oxford English Dictionary, and Roget’s Thesaurus, to name a few.

On my kitchen table, I keep: a book of poems of Rumi, the 13th century mystic; Daily Joy, a book of photos and wisdom from National Geographic; a Dictionary of Etymology by Robert Barnhart, a thick tome. Because I love words, I want to know about them, their origins, how long they’ve been around, how they’ve changed. I want the most appropriate word for what I mean in my poetry.

For you as a busy college student or perhaps graduating soon, how can you fit in extra reading? Read on the go, snippets over a meal, or specific times for reading. Whatever works for you, do it.

I describe myself as the laziest poet I know. Sometimes, I take long breaks, especially in the summer. I write something almost every day, but it’s not always poetry. It could be a grocery or a to-do list. But when I have a self-imposed deadline, a submission deadline, a class deadline, or poems from travels, I am on fire. I journal many days a week, not necessarily every day, and have for 42 years.

What I wish for you is this: write all the time. Write poems. Write on social media. Write an email. Write a letter. Write texts using great vocabulary and fabulous grammar. Write in a group, in a circle, in a class. Cultivate writing friends. Consider what you can contribute to local, regional, even national poetic dialogue. Who would you like to read your work? Can you set up an Open Mic? Go to an Open Mic? What can you do to promote poetry?

Your truths belong not just to you but to others who are waiting to read them in your poems.

Someone very wise once said: Write like no one is watching.

 

Poetry Reading/Book Signing/ Free Writing Workshop

Written by RitaC on September 24th, 2018

Hello Everyone!

On Tuesday, October 2, 2018,  6-8 p.m., the Yellow Springs Library, 415 Xenia Avenue, Yellow Springs, Ohio, will offer the following event, Celebrating Writing: Poetry and Prose.

This includes a poetry reading from my books, And Yet and Mystic Connections and a book signing from 6-6:30.  A free poetry/prose writing workshop follows. The hour and a half class begins with a writing prompt, writing, sharing (optional), and read-backs, the practice of writing a memorable line or two from each writer’s sharing, then speaking them aloud after all sharing is completed.

Let’s celebrate writing together!

 

Solstice Poetry Reading

Written by RitaC on December 7th, 2017

Celebrate the spoken word

as the Vernet Ecological Center

 in beautiful Glen Helen opens its doors for the

Solstice Poetry Reading

Friday, December 8, 2017, 7-9 p.m.

Yellow Springs, Ohio.

Open Mic at 8 p.m.

 

A Book Launch!

Written by RitaC on October 15th, 2017

Hello Beautiful Human Beings!

The time has arrived for a Book Launch!
The official debut of my new poetry book, And Yet, is scheduled for October 22, 1-3 p.m., at Up and Running, 6123 Far Hills. Ave., Centerville, Ohio.

This is a celebration, a time to schmooze and nosh with old friends and new. After months–sometimes years–of writing and editing–the words on my computer monitor have sprung to life on the pages of a book.

Many thanks: to Finishing Line Press, Georgetown, Kentucky for publishing And Yet; to Susie Stein of Up and Running for sponsoring this Book Launch; to readers, writers, book lovers, and  supporters; to my poetry circle for their kind attention to this book.

Oh, and there will be pie.

 

A Writer Learns to Market

Written by RitaC on July 1st, 2017

I’m a writer. I belong to the solitary craft of writing, sorting out my world and creating art in the process. Open to inspiration, I jot down ideas and lines on whatever paper is nearby. I spend hours in front of the computer, choosing from thousands of words suspended in the universe, ready to be placed in a particular order. The result is one that has never existed before.
This is my life.
Imagine my distress, when I discovered I needed to sell a predetermined number of copies for my new poetry book to be published.
My initial reluctance to advertise my work, which is myself, morphed into the need to schmooz with purpose. Multiple marketing primers from my publisher provided everything I needed to become a marketeer. I adopted the”act as if” attitude, meaning that my poetry book was now a reality. I was bolstered by the thought that if my friends could do it, I could do it.
I began advertising my work: emailing people I hadn’t been in contact with for a while who might be receptive; mailing postcards to family, friends, and writing communities; contacting newspapers and radio stations, posting and advertising on social media (hoping people wouldn’t grow sick of me on social media); asking businesses, libraries, churches, grocery stores, anyone with a storefront to post flyers and postcards; accosting people I knew with the same.
This was and is a side of me that I can “do.” But after 8 weeks, I was done, depleted, worn out, longing for “butt in the chair” time. Fortunately, a vacation afforded a 10-day respite, a sort-of reward for the challenge I had met.
Lest you think I’m anti-social, a hermit in front of a monitor, I’m definitely not. When I’m out and about, I make it a practice to smile a lot. I chat with people about anything. I mentor women in writing, in living. I care-give my two grandchildren two days a week. I attend a writing group in Cincinnati, fall, spring, and summer. I maintain fitness with yoga classes, walking, gardening. I stay current with pop culture. On the Meyers-Briggs, I’m a tad into the extrovert camp, but I love solitude, wandering on and off trails in the woods and in my mind.
I think I was born to write. It is in my nature, my inclination to pause, to absorb, to see, to welcome the current that snakes its way to my brain in introvert fashion.
With respect to all the marketeers who keep this world running, I say, “Carry on.”
As for me, I think I’ll take a walk and settle in my office chair, for another try at finding the right words in the right order.

 

Greene County poet writes new book, And Yet

 

Last Call for And Yet

Written by RitaC on June 15th, 2017

Beautiful Human Beings,
This is the last week I will be a marketer for my new poetry book, And Yet. On Saturday, I will turn my attention, once again, to writing poetry and memoir rather than ads.
The poetry publishing business is made up of many small presses, university presses, and commercial presses. Because of a number of factors–the esoteric nature of poetry and its reputation as inscrutable–poetry books are not best sellers. Publishers, especially small presses who operate with minimal funds, may offer basic marketing and many marketing tools. However, the poet whose book is to be published, by a small press, needs to market by email, on social media, and with every person with whom she interacts. This is necessary for both the poet and the publisher. If the minimum number of books is not sold in the pre-sale period, the book is not published. It is a matter of left-brain business, at which many right-brain poets are not strongly suited.
Since I have no idea how many pre-orders have been transacted, I offer this last call. If you wish to support the art and the business of poetry–because they are intertwined–you may order And Yet through Friday, June 16. The online address for my publisher is www.finishinglinepress.com. Click Bookstore. Search Rita Coleman or And Yet. The cost is $14.98 for each copy plus $2.98 for shipping.
The beautiful cover design by Leah Maines features a photograph I shot in Colorado between Gunnison and Crested Butte. After the pre-sales period ends and I have sold enough books to warrant a press run, I will receive the names of all the book-buyers, At random, I will choose one name and gift a 16″ x 20″ canvas print of the photo to that person.
No poet ever enters the field of poetry with the thought of becoming rich. Most of us keep a day job, unless by some stroke of fortune we win the lottery, inherit funds, or have the support of a spouse, partner, or family. Perhaps,we experience propitious circumstances that are undefinable.
Poets are naturally inclined toward what they do: pay attention and write it down, revising over and over and over. It is a choice to pursue this inherent gift.
I am glad I do.

Yours in words,
Rita

 

The Grace of PR

Written by RitaC on June 12th, 2017

Here’s a link to learn about this poet’s writing process:

 

http://www.mydaytondailynews.com/entertainment/books–literature/local-poet-enjoys-publication-debut-poetry-collection-and-yet/loVm26jDrNZP55A5twm24J/

 

Alvin, A Mostly-Beagle, and the Eleven Things I Learned from Him

Written by RitaC on June 7th, 2017

When I first met Alvin, he was sitting in the middle of a country road near my house. He wasn’t a puppy, nor was he full-grown. I pulled over, and he ran toward the woods. I sweet-talked him until he lost his fear. He came to me, tentatively. I led him to my car and boosted him into the front seat.
I sensed that Alvin might have come from the house that sat off the road down a long lane. None of us in the rural neighborhood knew anything about the people who lived there, except for what we could see: broken down cars and strewn trash. Much later my pet-sitter told me she had seen others dogs there that resembled Alvin. By that time I knew he had been ill-treated. I would never take him back.
Alvin disliked men in uniforms, children, and all but three adults besides our three family members. He loved us intensely, and we loved him the same way. He walked with me daily on what would become a bike path. Then, it was a train track with a gravel bed, unused for years. Sometimes, Alvin ran off-leash and I would hear his yodel-bark when he had treed something. Once I got between him and a groundhog with a tall, flimsy stalk to separate the two before the groundhog scurried away.
He barked at hot-air balloons and five-gallon water jugs I rolled into the house. When he looked out the windows, he growled and barked at anyone walking on our road up to a half- mile away in either direction.
Alvin was my walking buddy and my writing buddy, napping nearby as I wrote. He was a protector, a job he was born to do.
As dog stories go, he gave us many years of dog love before he succumbed to cancer. His paw prints are imprinted not only on a garden tile but in our hearts.
Here is what he taught me.

Eleven Things I Learned From Alvin, A Mostly-Beagle

1. Sometimes no matter who’s calling, you have to keep
on going the other way.
2. Proceed with an action only after you’ve truly decided
it’s okay with you.
3. Accept and celebrate diversity.
4. Protect those you love.
5. Walk everyday.
6. Live in the moment.
7. Love unconditionally.
8. Break the rules, sometimes.
9. Lie in the sun.
10. Have fun.
11. Take naps.

 

“In Praise of Children Who Don’t Listen”

Written by RitaC on May 16th, 2017

As Finishing Line Press’s Chapbook of the Day, I offer you a poem from my forthcoming poetry book, And Yet.

In Praise of Children Who Don’t Listen
Rita Coleman

When asked why, they say Sometimes I don’t want to listen.
Fair enough you think.
You remember what it’s like
Filling every waffle hole with syrup
Pondering the swirling bathtub drain
Feathertouching a cicada shell, brown, brittle, cramped
Gazing out of focus, losing what self you have in dreaminess
While people taller and older interrupt your world.

But you say I need you to listen
Because saying it twice or even three times demands
more words for your tired mouth
That squirrel could bite
No running on the couch
That is not stable
Over and over day after day, alert, you repeat
Because your job is keep little bodies safe.

Yet you long to uphold the right to not listen,
To silence those damnable interruptions for a
A glint off a golden dome
A mockingbird’s tumblesong
A green bite of parsley from the earth
Sensations, colors, shapes, gaining admittance–or not.
Now that you’re older you can. But do you?
Or do the conspirators have all your attention?

 

First Poetry Collection, Mystic Connections

Written by RitaC on May 2nd, 2017

A celebration of my second poetry collection, And Yet, available now at https://www.finishinglinepress.com/product/and-yet-by-rita-coleman/until June 18, would not be complete without celebrating my first-born collection, Mystic Connections. Available at Amazon, Mystic  Connections, was published in 2009.

Here is what poets have said about my debut chapbook.
Mystic Connections is crafted like a sacred circular hoop, and by the end, it has returned to the ethereal state with which it began. There is something for every one who seeks the spiritual in the sensual world.” Ed Davis, author of The Psalms of Israel Jones and Time of Light. 
“The clear language and evocative imagery of Rita Coleman’s poems helps the reader see deeply into the nature of the universe and the self. In her poetry she crystallizes moments into wholeness and peace.” Gary
Pacernick, author of Something is Happening.

Below is a favorite poem of fellow poet Ed Davis and my friend Jean Evans, from Mystic Connections.

Once Upon A Time Rita Coleman

Running, running, running, his lungs burning with the fire of freedom,
an escaped slave jumps off a limestone cliff into cold Massie’s Creek and turns to stone.
Red hounds bay and wheel in confusion and black-hatted trackers halt,
cursing their misfortune.
The man of stone brushes past ragged beards of algae and
stirs a benign cloud of silt,
sinking like the rock he has become.
His frantic mouth gapes in dumbfounded terror and
his black eyes glitter with panic.
He lies between half-sunken boulders, his head the lip of a new waterfall.
In rock consciousness, he cries out, “How did this happen? My wife, my children,
what will happen to them?”
Tears of desperation roll from his stone eyes,
swept away in a simultaneous wash by creekwater spilling over his chiseled face.
A low moan rides the water,
ascending the limestone cliffs past ferns and red spiders,
rising into ashen clouds that hover near the earth.

Hundreds of miles away, his wife feels a sorrow so fierce it breaks her heart.
She keeps cutting tobacco while the high sun bakes the red clay at her feet
and the foreman on his roan circles the field.

As the ears of corn turn down, the run of Massie’s Creek becomes a trickle
with mudcats searching the bottom downstream.
Leaves yellow and redden and torrents of rain obliterate the man of stone.
A leaf drifts onto his eyes, shielding him from the pain of separation.
When the breath of winter blows, he freezes in a curtain of ice.
He lives in the circle of seasons, first losing granules from his stony face,
then small chips of rock.
Lambent moonlight, full and soft, rolls over his features still frozen in fear.
Generations of water creatures flow by on their journey through time,
and the power of water softens his face.

Hundreds of miles away, his wife and his four children ride North in a wagon that jounces over ruts and cuts through gaps in the old mountains where, on the far side, the soil is brown.

Millions of gallons of water flow over the man of stone as hope
rises each morning and isolation cloaks his small world at dusk.
At first, a small chunk of his brow loosens.
Next, part of his lower lip flows out to the calm pool downstream.
In a spring flood, most of his nose falls off and is lost to the roiling water.
But his eyes, intact and searching, scour the cliffs, the maple, ash and oak
that spring from its surface, for something.
No one notices. Who could see an African man turned to stone,
his head wedged between pocked boulders, the rest of his broken body underwater
where crayfish dart from beneath him to another rock.

A few miles away, his wife, gray and gnarled, thinks of her husband and her breath quickens. His body, muscled and glistening, his voice, rich and gentle. Their three children that live bear his wide forehead and her simple nose.

Water burbles, glides, and surges past the man of stone.
His right cheek breaks off.
His eyes begin to fade as memories of his life as a man slip away.
“Here I lie,” his rock consciousness thinks, “Here I die, here I change.”
Sun dapples warm him as shading trees filter light.
Night wind cools him from heat that slows the creek to a thin ribbon.
Iridescent-winged dragonflies dip into the water to sip.
Blue herons, wait, still in the shallows, to spear a wriggling blue gill.
Snow swirls and melts on his face and into his water.
A cascade of ice freezes the waterfall the man of stone has become.
Melded into all that is around him, he senses, rather than sees the gradual change
as vernal breezes coax nascent leaves into unfurling greenness.
Again and again, the seasons heave and fall, circling over and under him
like blankets of mist and surprise until he is merely a suggestion.

2009

A young woman with glistening cocoa skin clambers onto a jutting rock.
With one hand on the cliff face beside her,
she steps cautiously over large pocks to a mossy overhang.
With a sigh, she settles on a natural depression in the limestone
and wipes trail sweat off her forehead.
She gazes at the waterfall, dreaming of nothing,
her legs swinging over the edge.
Her green eyes widen as she thinks she sees
a man’s face in the stone under the smooth fall of Massie’s Creek.
She tugs in her pocket for a small, red notebook, certain of a story in the treasure she has found, collective and personal, a remnant
of a past remembered.