nichepoetryandprose

poetry and prose about place

Posts Tagged ‘poetry

organizing writing files – ordering a manuscript of poems

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Last month I started a big project – to find and organize all the poems I have written during the last forty years. For a glimpse of my approach see here.

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After four weeks of effort, I now have a file of poems I would like to assemble into a book. The title will be ‘niche’ and the book will include poems about the ecological spaces plants and animals (including humans) occupy.

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niche \ ‘nich\ n (F, fr. MF, fr. nicher to nest, fr. (assumed) VL nidicare, from L nidus nest) 1 a : a recess in a wall, especially for a statue. b : something that resembles a niche. 2 a : a place, employment, or activity for which a person is best fitted. b : a habitat supplying the factors necessary for the existence of an organism or species. c : the ecological role of an organism in a community especially in regard to food consumption.

– Webster’s New Collegiate Dictionary, 1979

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I have identified 66 poems for ‘niche,’ taking up about 110 pages. Although I could just toss the poems into the book in random order, I like to think about how I want the reader to encounter the poems. I organize the poems in the book following these steps.

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1. List the ideas in the poems:

After I find all the poems to fit the ‘niche’ category, I arrange them roughly into a manuscript. Then I print the Table of Contents and write a list of ideas associated with each poem.  Examples for ‘niche’ include: needs, predation, reproduction, invasion of other spaces, seasons, nutrition, competition, and so on. I also start to get a feel for poems that do not fit.

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2. Develop a progression of ideas:

Once I have identified these ideas, I decide how I want to group them and how I want them to progress for the reader. In the case of ‘niche,’  I want the poems to first define niche, then consider the strategies plants and animals use to stay in their niche, then explore the discomfort or danger created when a niche is occupied, consider the spaces I have occupied in my own life, consider the problems you have to overcome to occupy your own niche, and conclude with an idea of the ideal space. Then, I reorder the poems so they fit the progression of ideas.

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3. Sort the poems roughly into groups:

Once I have decided on a progression of ideas, I put poems into sections to portray those ideas.  I choose the title for the section from a poem in the section. It is at this point that I decide which poems do not belong in the collection and remove them.  For ‘niche’ the following are the sections (for now):

occupation of space – needs of an organism for food, water, air, physical space, and so on.

strategy – ways plants and animals protect their niche and solidify their position

praying for rain – dangers and discomforts of occupying a niche

mapping the labyrinth – places I have occupied, a bit of memoir

not touching the land – ways a niche is changed when it is occupied

forgetting to move – getting comfortable in your own niche

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4. Order and fine tune:

Now the fine-tuning. To create a readable book of poetry, I think poems should not only be consistent in theme, but also segue from one to the other. This may be as simple as grouping poems of one season together, or grouping poems about plant species. It also means allowing the language and rhythm to flow from one poem to another.

The intensive way to do this is to print all the poems and lay them out on a surface, ordering and reordering until they feel ‘right.’

I hate to waste the paper, and I like to have all materials within one view, so I use an abbreviated method.  I prepare pages showing just the section titles, the poem titles and a line about the poem. I cut these out so they can easily be moved around on a table. If I want to check detailed poem content structure, I have my i-pad near at hand.

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The process is sometimes tedious. Taking a break helps since after a while the poems you know so well begin to blur in meaning and the relationships between poems become nebulous. However, like many editorial-type tasks, the end product is worth the effort.

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All my best,

staying at home,

Jane

 

 

 

Written by jane tims

April 3, 2020 at 2:25 pm

Posted in writing

Tagged with , , , ,

organizing writing files – what to do with scores of poems

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Lately I have been doing a lot of thinking about the poetry I have written over the years. I have two traditionally published books of poetry and will publish, independently, a small volume later this month. But scattered in the memory of my computer are hundreds of other poems, written over the course of forty years. Quality varies, but they are all mine, an expression of what it is like to be ‘me.’ Someday, when I am dust on the wind, someone is going to scan my computer and push delete. My son would not do this, but if I leave them in this state, they will become part of the clutter of his life.

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So, if I have had success at publishing my own work, and have the skills, why shouldn’t I ‘save’ the poems it took four decades to write.

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My approach has been to find the poems and assign them to one of five files. Each of the files will be the contents of a book of poetry, independently published and produced in a few copies. I have no intention of marketing these books. I may give them to family or friends, perhaps submit them to a few contests and just enjoy them myself.

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The five files will be:

1. ‘niche’ – poems about the spaces occupied by plants and animals

2. ‘myth and mystery’ – poems about strange occurrences in life

3. ‘lakes’ – poems about lakes and rivers in New Brunswick

4. ‘my grandfather’s farm’ – poems about my memories of the farm

5. ‘journal poems’ – poems about specific times in my life

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This is a slow process. First, there are multiple copies of some poems. Second, I have not been consistent with the naming of files. One outcome of this project will be a tidier computer.

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When I have the files in folders, then I will work to organize the poems, revise them, format the manuscript and produce a book.  A huge task, but as with all things, I will see the project through in stages, working on one part at a time.

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UPDATE: I now have the files organized! It has taken about a month of work, off and on. I am now working on the poems for ‘niche.’  There are 66 poems, taking about 110 pages. Next post, I will write about organizing the poems into a readable manuscript.

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All my best,

and staying home,

Jane

Written by jane tims

April 2, 2020 at 11:56 am

blue shadows

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blue shadows

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crawl across the snow

reflect trunks and branches

tufts of lichen

curves of bracket fungi

curls of bark

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blue shadows

nuanced in ultramarine

and pthalo

a dab of violet

but never grey

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sinuous, diagonal

gaps of light

slow alteration

with angle of sun

no flicker of foliage

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All my best,

Jane

Written by jane tims

March 30, 2020 at 7:00 am

crystal ball

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During these incredible days of isolation, our writing group has begun a series of prompts to help stimulate writing. One of our members suggested ‘weird phrases’ as the prompt category. So far we have had ‘ear hair,’ ‘under the fridge,’ ‘spider web’ and ‘crystal ball.’

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I have two ‘crystal balls,’ both small and both more properly called ‘glass spheres.’ But they are as close to a crystal ball as I will ever have. I am certain neither sees the ‘future’ but both show an interesting ‘present’ and both remind me of the ‘past.’

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clairvoyance

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my crystal ball

is a glass sphere

from a claw-footed

piano stool I sat on

to practice my scales

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chipped, it never

snags the sun

will not scry or clarify

occludes

forecasting fog

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it has a past

Chopin’s Butterfly Étude

in half-time

and a furry

Für Elise

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but gaze

though I may

it never resonates

with a note

about tomorrow

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although it has

guessed, after

damaging percussion,

I will never play

Carnegie Hall

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All my best,

Jane

Written by jane tims

March 25, 2020 at 7:00 am

spider web

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My writing group has been sharing writing prompts in this time of isolation.

The most recent prompt was ‘spider web.’

Took me an hour to find a spider photo since I am spider-averse.

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spider web

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web enlarges spider

her domain, her coefficient of creep

extends her occupation of space

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trap for unwary

blue-bottle flies

beetles on the wing

and gnats, nattering

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all of the cobwebs

I have brushed from my face

would not weigh a gram

but they take up

a fair chunk

of brainscape

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just as the spider

is sensitive to vibration

my skin notices

the sub-threshold of touch

the tiniest occupant

of my domain

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All my best,

Jane

Written by jane tims

March 23, 2020 at 5:39 pm

Ball’s Bridge’

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In southern Ontario, the Maitland River winds through fields and woodlands before it empties into Lake Huron at Goderich.

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When we visited the area two summers ago, we discovered the Ball’s Bridge on the Little Lakes Road.

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Ball’s bridge was built over the Maitland River in 1885. It is a rare example of a two-span pin-connected Pratt through-truss iron bridge and one of the oldest wrought-iron Pratt bridges in the US and Canada. The bridge was built at a time when horse-drawn carriages and carts were its only traffic. In 2006 the bridge was declared unsafe for the weight of modern vehicles. In 2008, the bridge was saved from further deterioration and eventual destruction by the Friends of Ball’s Bridge.

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The poem below tries to capture the interplay of light and shadow as we crossed Ball’s Bridge and drove the local roads.

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Ball’s Bridge, Maitland River

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on the first day of fall

landscape is criss-crossed

in lattice and wire

spider web and the flight paths

of pigeon-flutter

to the high lines

of the iron bridge

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rays of light

find solar panels

and the backs of turtles

sunning on river logs

the inter-lacing

of dark water and light

the shadows of metal and truss

intercepting wire

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cornfields

and winter wheat

embedded rows

a river and its valley

and a hawk follows

panels of air, first frost

and meltwater collects

on oval lily pads

yellowed leaves

rusted wire

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This is the second metal bridge we have visited in Ontario. A few years ago we photographed the South Nation River Bridge, in Glengarry County, not far from Cornwall. That bridge has been removed, another loss from our built landscape. For the story of our visit to the South Nation River metal bridge click here

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All my best,

Jane Tims

 

 

Written by jane tims

March 16, 2020 at 7:00 am

wings of angels

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As part of my at-home-writers-retreat, I had a ‘break’ day yesterday. I had my hair cut (always relaxing) and went with my husband for a drive to our cabin. We read our book aloud (a Philip R. Craig Martha’s Vineyard Mystery) and took lots of photos. This evening I wrote a poem, based on today’s photos. Most are blurry, because of the relentless wind.

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wings of angels

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I don’t believe in angels,

though I catch their whisper

between stems of Poa,

meadow grasses and blue.

Discover feather fall,

seed tufts of goldenrod,

Solidago. Wing tips

disguised as autumn leaves,

staghorn sumac or oak.

Glimpsed along low ditches,

silken hairs of rabbitsfoot

Trifolium arvense.

Find feathers aloft, on air,

cirrus or stratus clouds,

or wind-smoothed cotton-grass,

tassels of Eriophorum.

Catch scent—Dennstaedtia

hayscented fern, or cedar,

sets cones for another year.

I think of angel wings

and refuse to believe.

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Copyright Jane Tims 2019

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All my best,

Jane

 

Written by jane tims

October 11, 2019 at 7:00 am

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