At first I was not too sure I wanted to put my poetry up on the soup, but I have got to tell you guys and gals that you have made it a wonderful experience for me so far. The comments you have left on some of my work has left me stunned and awed to the point where I could not find the words for a good a reply and I got to tell you leaving me speechless is a damn near impossible task. Some of you have directly or indirectly asked me questions and I do not mind answering most questions, but it is difficult to do in the space of a comment box. Some of those questions were related to me personally, others were more about my writing process and why I so often write in Free Verse.
First, let me clear up one thing for you all. I may be listed on PoetrySoup as a new poet, but I am not new to poetry at all. Poetry is my first love and I have been writing poetry for more than twenty years. I have two awards on my wall that I received years ago from national contests that others have told me you cannot win anything from. One award I received for "Outward Bound" and the other one was for either "Seasonal Changes," or "Natural Seduction" and these poems have been published in poetry anthologies along with a few others. I have had five or six different poems published in various versions of these collection type books. My poem "Outward Bound" was actually published twice and I am even more proud of where it went the second time. It was published in 1997 in a college literary magazine called "Mobius" put out by a college I was attending at the time called Pasco-Hernando Community College. I had to give a speech on it at the college as well and I was never more petrified to speak publically, but it went well and I enjoyed the experience. I have kept my minor successes to myself because I have never been big on sharing this with others , so until now I have hardly ever spoke a word to anyone about any of this stuff, except family. I never even told the people I have worked with for eleven years any of this until they recently began reading my work on Poetry Soup through my Facebook link and started asking me all sorts of questions. What some people call self promotion I call tooting your own horn and for the life of me I cannot distinguish the difference. If I could, I would not suck so bad at promoting myself. However, the soup has made all this a bit easier because I feel just a little more comfortable talking about these things now.
The second thing here is my process and this is difficult because in some respects my process constantly evolves. However, I have always been a good one for writing ideas, thoughts, phrases, even just words down during those inspirational moments that can just come on you at anytime or anyplace. The younger me would jot notes down on anything I found at hand cardboard, matchbooks, sticky notes and during my drinking days bar napkins. Unfortunately, my handwriting is awful when I am sober, so any notes I wrote on bar napkins after having a few were in "drunkenese" and impossible to read the next day, but that still never stopped me from writing them. As I grew older, I began to carry pen and paper with me everywhere I went for these moments and to this day I have a clip board or folder with a legal pad always nearby. Not all, but many of the things I jot down will wind up being the theme, vehicle, or part of a poem or something else I might write in the future. When my notes reveal something to me for a piece of poetry, I create what I can only describe as a word and phrase map. It is definitely not what you would call a outline in any sense of the word because at a glance it looks more like something someone in a insane asylum would draw with crayons than something a writer might use. In the center of the page of one of these things I write and circle what is likely to be the theme or vehicle of a poem and from there going in every direction connected with lines I write random words and phrases that are connected to what I have circled and I continue the process by writing words or phrases connected to all the words I have just written and I continue to do this until the page is full or until I can see a direction I want to take or a few potential poetic lines. If the inspiration for what I am writing about is directly tangible to me like my poems "The Teacher" and "Dear Rosebud," I already know what I am going to write about, so this map then winds up being a tool for figuring out the language, and poetic device that winds up in the poem. Quite often in these situations my word map helps me create the vehicle that drives the piece. As you can see, nothing I write just simply comes off the top of my head. I have never written anything that way and as I have gotten older my development of a poem or anything I write has become more of painstaking process. I may start two or three pieces at the same time, but it has taken me anywhere from one week to a month to complete one. My poem "Unknowing Hearts" took under two weeks to complete and my poem "Dear Rosebud" took almost a month to complete, but they were both started at nearly the same time. I would say that I am the most fussy about word selection and poetic line construction because my driving goal is to immerse my reader into what I have written and take them on a journey that will touch them both emotionally and thoughtfully. In my opinion, a poet is conducting a symphony of words and language. The harmony obtained from them will depend on how the he or she arranges and uses them.
Why Free Verse you ask? Well I enjoy reading a good metered or rhyming piece, but I personally often find it creatively constipating to write in, but, at the same time, as one souper aptly put it Free Verse if written badly can be "diarreahish." However, the truth is Free verse can be just as challenging a form to write in as the other forms if you begin with the right mindset. In my mind, writing Free Verse is kind of like walking a tightrope free of tether and without a net. A poet desiring to write Free Verse must first realize that they do not have meter and rhyme to fall back on, so knowing that you do not have your safety devices at hand means you must go all in everywhere else possible. In a sense, the freedom of Free Verse comes with a price because it demands careful word selection, artful line construction, and powerful use of symbolism and other poetic device otherwise you will not achieve a good result. Free Verse must be thoughtful, provocative, emotionally intense, and soul stirring in some sense because you are writing without constraints, so there is no excuse for it not to be. The only thing worse than a poorly metered piece of poetry is a piece of Free Verse that is anemic or devoid of the ingredients mentioned above.