Poetry Writing Style

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I was around 21 when I showed a friend some of the poetry I had written up to that point.  We were planning on attending a poetry reading group and I wanted some feedback on my work before going “public”with it.  It was a huge deal for me, as before this I had never shown anyone my poetry.

This friend was very focused and silent, whilst she looked through my notebook of handwritten poems…mostly in neat print which at times became cursive.  After what seemed like an eon, she looked up at me and said “you write like Sylvia Plath” to which I replied “Who?“, as I had no idea who Sylvia Plath was at the time.

Like I’ve mentioned before – I wasn’t exposed to the best English literature at the working class public schools I attended growing up.  For the most part and if I am speaking frankly, I don’t ever recall being taught anything about poetry or poets for that matter.  The poets I had been exposed to were the ones I found on my own.  These tended to be poets from the Romantic era  like Byron, Shelley, Keats and Poe, as I had developed an obsession with the Victorian period as a teen.

Soon after, I found myself borrowing my friends copy of her collection of Sylvia Plath’s work and realized that my poetry did resemble her style.  This was completely unintentional and worried me so much I stopped writing for a while.  I was so fearful about not emulating that it made me stop creating any work at all!

Then, I finally read “The Bell Jar”.  I completely resonated and understood where the protagonist was coming from.  Something inside clicked.   I released the expectation and worry I had placed upon myself.

I went back to writing poetry and I write the way I am compelled to.  Whether it be free or rhyme, flowing or constructed, personal or observational –  I don’t care what I sound like. As long as I am getting my feelings out and expressing myself as I feel compelled to, I feel good about it.

Syliva’s style was autobiographical and so is mine and we deal with the same subject matter of depression, disturbances and death.  The older I get the more comfortable I get with my poetry and as long as I personally feel something when I write it, I will keep at it.

If you would like to read some of my work, here are a few poems I have written in the last year:

Poetry by Tina Altman

 

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(Image: Sylvia Plath)

“Wear your heart on your skin in this life.”
Sylvia Plath

(c) T. Altman 2017

What Inspires Me: Anne Sexton

A writers life can be a solitary undertaking but it doesn’t mean you are alone…

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A Witch’s Life

When I was a child
there was an old woman in our neighborhood whom we called The Witch.
All day she peered from her second story
window
from behind the wrinkled curtains
and sometimes she would open the window
and yell: Get out of my life!
She had hair like kelp
and a voice like a boulder.

I think of her sometimes now
and wonder if I am becoming her.
My shoes turn up like a jester’s.
Clumps of my hair, as I write this,
curl up individually like toes.
I am shoveling the children out,
scoop after scoop.
Only my books anoint me,
and a few friends,
those who reach into my veins.
Maybe I am becoming a hermit,
opening the door for only
a few special animals?
Maybe my skull is too crowded
and it has no opening through which
to feed it soup?
Maybe I have plugged up my sockets
to keep the gods in?
Maybe, although my heart
is a kitten of butter,
I am blowing it up like a zeppelin.
Yes. It is the witch’s life,
climbing the primordial climb,
a dream within a dream,
then sitting here
holding a basket of fire.

 

 

Go Read Something…

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Other than my mother who greatly influenced my love of reading, growing up – I was surrounded by people who didn’t read for pleasure or personal growth.   I, however spent a significant amount of time reading for the love and knowledge.

I know people who say they haven’t read a book since they were forced to in school and that boggles my mind because I couldn’t imagine that myself.  A couple of these same people have then gone out and read the Twilight or 50 Shades trilogies due to the hype in the media and think its the best literary creations they have ever come across (simply because they haven’t exposed themselves to reading anything else).  I completely disagree but the way I look at it is that at least they are reading SOMETHING!

I personally believe you need to exercise your brain and reading does that.

Regardless of the book being good or not according to best seller lists, reviews, recommendations or the like – just do it – read a book and expand your mind as its never too late to do that!

 

 

Just Write

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I have met so many writers of late who don’t write.

Some are too worried about criticism, whilst others feel that they are not good enough to write.

My advice: Ignore what people think and just write!

Write for the pleasure, write for the practice and most importantly just write for yourself…whether it be fiction or non-fiction, regardless of the subject matter – just do it!

You don’t have to show anyone if you don’t want to…BUT:

To be a writer you must actually write!

Weirdo Writer

I’ve been called a weirdo a lot during my life because I have a twisted sense of humor, have eclectic tastes and don’t fall in line with what is considered “normal” by societal standards.

When people say this to me its not meant as a compliment but I take it as one because truth be told, I’d rather be a weirdo than a dullard.

Think about and consider who tends to do extraordinary things in this world, whether they are known to you or not – people who are considered normal or those who are labelled weirdos?

Lastly, like someone I respect who teaches children says to their students “it would be boring if we were all the same”.

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What Inspires Me: Gloria Steinem

13256008_10155004641479762_5445005361616120898_nI went and saw Gloria Steinem speak last month about her autobiographical new book “My Life on the Road” and she was phenomenally inspirational!

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Gloria is someone I aspire to live my life like (speaking up and living her life according to her own rules) and these were some of her quotes which resonated with me that night:

“WE are the women our parents warned us about.”

“Not everyone has to live the same way. Imagine that.”

“We are not crazy. The system is crazy.”

“Racism and sexism might both be supremacist crimes, because you get nothing out of it but dominance.”

“The single greatest failing of feminism is that we’ve been too nice.”

Gloria Steinem – May 16th 2016, Melbourne Australia

 

What Inspires Me: So You Want To Be A Writer – Poem by Charles Bukowski

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if it doesn’t come bursting out of you
in spite of everything,
don’t do it.
unless it comes unasked out of your
heart and your mind and your mouth
and your gut,
don’t do it.
if you have to sit for hours
staring at your computer screen
or hunched over your
typewriter
searching for words,
don’t do it.
if you’re doing it for money or
fame,
don’t do it.
if you’re doing it because you want
women in your bed,
don’t do it.
if you have to sit there and
rewrite it again and again,
don’t do it.
if it’s hard work just thinking about doing it,
don’t do it.
if you’re trying to write like somebody
else,
forget about it.
if you have to wait for it to roar out of
you,
then wait patiently.
if it never does roar out of you,
do something else.

if you first have to read it to your wife
or your girlfriend or your boyfriend
or your parents or to anybody at all,
you’re not ready.

don’t be like so many writers,
don’t be like so many thousands of
people who call themselves writers,
don’t be dull and boring and
pretentious, don’t be consumed with self-
love.
the libraries of the world have
yawned themselves to
sleep
over your kind.
don’t add to that.
don’t do it.
unless it comes out of
your soul like a rocket,
unless being still would
drive you to madness or
suicide or murder,
don’t do it.
unless the sun inside you is
burning your gut,
don’t do it.

when it is truly time,
and if you have been chosen,
it will do it by
itself and it will keep on doing it
until you die or it dies in you.

there is no other way.

and there never was.

What Inspires Me: Poem by Maya Angelou

One of the first female poets I came across as a teen whom I connected with deeply was Maya Angelou.  Her words spoke to me then and they speak to me now….

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Still I Rise 

You may write me down in history
With your bitter, twisted lies,
You may tread me in the very dirt
But still, like dust, I’ll rise.

Does my sassiness upset you?
Why are you beset with gloom?
‘Cause I walk like I’ve got oil wells
Pumping in my living room.

Just like moons and like suns,
With the certainty of tides,
Just like hopes springing high,
Still I’ll rise.

Did you want to see me broken?
Bowed head and lowered eyes?
Shoulders falling down like teardrops.
Weakened by my soulful cries.

Does my haughtiness offend you?
Don’t you take it awful hard
‘Cause I laugh like I’ve got gold mines
Diggin’ in my own back yard.

You may shoot me with your words,
You may cut me with your eyes,
You may kill me with your hatefulness,
But still, like air, I’ll rise.

Does my sexiness upset you?
Does it come as a surprise
That I dance like I’ve got diamonds
At the meeting of my thighs?

Out of the huts of history’s shame
I rise
Up from a past that’s rooted in pain
I rise
I’m a black ocean, leaping and wide,
Welling and swelling I bear in the tide.
Leaving behind nights of terror and fear
I rise
Into a daybreak that’s wondrously clear
I rise
Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave,
I am the dream and the hope of the slave.
I rise
I rise
I rise.

by Maya Angelou