Nite-Writer's International Literary Arts Journal

The Question of Poetry

Sister Lou Ella Hickman, I.W.B.S. - Corpus Christi, Tx. 


Recently I read an article on how to begin to rewrite a poem. Nice. It was really nice. It covered imagery, rhythm, rhyme; you know all that iambic pentameter stuff. Yet I still get that same gut reaction as if I were reading the article again for the first time. This guy left so much out. I laugh as well. When I was in high school eons ago, I believed my senior English teacher's admonition, "Rewrite, rewrite, rewrite," did not apply to me. At least it didn't apply to my poetry. However, senior English was another matter. Years later, experience has proven her right.

Writing is as much a skill as learning to drive a car.

Writing is as much a skill as learning to drive a car. That was the authors’ point. Like all skills one does need to know how to start, whether with a set of keys or a set of grammar rules. Rules help the flow of traffic as well as the flow of words. They are the checkpoints for both beginners and the pros. Yet one thing was definitely missing in that article. The author left out the questions. Poetry is an art of questions as well the skillful use of rules.

Do I really believe my writing is a craft that needs constant work, practice, and commitment?

Question number one: Do I really believe my writing is a craft that needs constant work, practice, and commitment? This is the question which separates verse and poetry. The author's stance began with the assumption that a writer is aware of the need to improve but just doesn't know where or how to begin. I believe much of what is written is verse because the poet wrote with the same attitude I had in high school. It is verse because the poet is unaware. Verse and poetry are as different as a two year old playing on a basketball court and a high school senior practicing for state competition. Neither is right or wrong. Writing begins with awareness. It comes alive from commitment.

What am I willing to do then to make my writing better?

Question number one raises other questions. What am I willing to do then to make my writing better? What am I willing to do to touch my audience? Who is my audience? Is my focus like that of a successful CEO? Is writing work or merely an outlet for my feelings? What is odds the result. Hard work makes the piece look easy. Many people love to watch figure skating for just that reason - it looks so effortless.

Do I believe in the rules of possibilities and impossibilities as the rule of iambic pentameter?

"It's only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye." So spoke the fox to the Little Prince. Do I believe that as a writer? Do I look? Do I really listen? Do I believe in rules of possibilities and impossibilities as well as the rule of iambic pentameter? Then can I cut the poem in half? (A good place to start for beginners.) What am I willing to risk? The power of poetry is risk.

Before starting with rules, maybe one needs to back up. As a writer, can I ask myself the hard question? As a writer, do I want more or am I willing to settle for less? If I am writing to settle for even really nice that's all my writing will be - just really nice. If poetry is just nice, it isn't poetry at all. It will be verse, nice verse but still verse. Just like my article. Nice. No question about it.


A Bold New Chapter In My Life

 Fan Smith - West Bend, Wi.


At age sixty-four, I did it! The years of doubt, low self-esteem, and lack of confidence that had gripped me and persuaded me not to attempt putting my words on paper were now vanquished.

While teaching reading to remedial students part time in a middle school, I started writing as a weekend hobby. As the years rolled by, my children asked questions about their ancestry when making a family tree for a school assignment. Having limited information, I asked my father for information. My dream of writing an autobiography surfaced. Later, when a brother and sister were seriously ill, my other brothers and sisters urged me to do a written history of our family before something happened. I knew then it was time to put my doubts about writing aside.

In 1990, I retired and started work on my book. A daily stint on my word processor became my number one priority. Within the next two years, I completed my first book: "The Little People On The Hill," a story of both the happy and sad events that happened to my family in the 1930's, 1940's and 1950's.

Many things needed to be done before my book was published. I spent hours peering through family albums, reading old letters written to and by my parents, and grandparents. I interviewed my seven brothers and sisters. Long distant calls were made and letters written to those out-of-state to verify the accuracy of facts. I also enrolled in writing and computer classes to update my skills. After completing the first draft, I had the manuscript critiqued by a published author.

Contacting a graphic artist, I learned firsthand the work entailed in printing a book. This included; proof reading, drawing an appropriate cover design, picking out a color, selecting the size of the book, as well as the size of the print, weight of paper and type of binding to use. Next I had to choose the correct size photo and match them to incident and space allotted at the end of each chapter. The final step in making the manuscript camera-ready was processing the story on a desktop publishing program.

Then, with manuscript in hand, I was introduced to the business world of publication. What an enlightening experience. I had meetings with publishers, print shops, book sellers and book stores, all of whom were extremely helpful, offering tips and encouragement.

One bookstore chain reviewed my autobiography and placed copies in twenty of its stores. Another bookstore, in the city where I lived before my marriage, arranged a book signing for me and put a review in the newspaper. The local bookstore in the city where I now reside did the same thing.

While promoting my book, I sent out personal notes to classmates prior to class reunions. As a result, I had heard from former classmates and friends I had lost contact with and was introduced to a host of new acquaintances. In addition, I contacted schools, writer’s groups, church organizations and women’s clubs. Now I enjoy a network of pen pals from all over the United States.

With the sale of my first 1000 books, my self-esteem rose and a feeling of accomplishment engulfed me. My brothers and sisters praise me for compiling the first written family history. It gave each of us a clearer picture of the dreams, hopes and struggles that our family experienced during the Great Depression.

Writing an autobiography may not be for everyone. It takes time, patience, persistence and hard work. But the benefits are many. Today, I get paid for speaking to schools, women’s clubs and church organizations. Donating boks to local libraries, retirement centers and the historical museum gives me a feeling of belonging and contributing to my community. I gain self-esteem from giving my siblings, my children and grandchildren a family treasure. By expressing my love to them and retelling incidents in my own life, it is an easy, effective way to transmit values from one generation to the next.

In addition, it is a valuable, intellectual experience as well as opening the door to new business ventures and expanding personal growth. To complete a goal and live a dream is a satisfying and rewarding feeling.

Tips for Writing an Autobiography

1. Interview parents, Grandparents, Siblings, Relatives.

2. Look at family albums, read old letters, visit cemeteries for correct dates.

3. Check if any relative has genealogy booklets or albums.

4. Take writing and computer classes.

5. Ask hometown businesses or bookstores if they’d sponsor you or give help in promoting your book.

6. Learn about publishing and printing procedures.