More on Formatting in Poetry

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Concrete poetry is the practice of making a poem look, on the page, like its topic. In the days of the typewriter, this took a lot of time, but when published, it has great appeal. On the interwebs, where everything has to be left justified, concrete poetry is pretty much just a silhouette. But there are ways to get around that, if all you are going for is the idea of the topic rather than an actual illustration. Here is one from a group of poems I am trying to put together about the dailiness of my life.

7:40 a.m.

BASE   BASE

color    color

liner    liner

lashes lashes

 

 

BOTH

LIPS

 

coffee coffee coffee

coffee

 

coffee

Should You Capitalize?

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Unless you are e. e. cummings, the odds are quite good that you usually use capital letters for many things in your writing, but my question is how do you feel about the first letter of each line in a poem? Dropping the first letter to lowercase makes it feel to me as if you are simply talking as you would in a paragraph, and especially if you are rhyming (which as you know I normally avoid like the plague) hopefully keeps your readers from reading each line on its own, as if it had no grammatical connection the line that came before or the one after.

That is all well and good, but has anybody explained this to Microsoft Word? If you don’t want every line after a return to start with a capital, you have to go into some toolbar menu and unclick the default. And of course, with each new (usually worse, less convenient) version of Word, the Byzantine lengths to which you must go to achieve this get more annoying. For this reason, among others, I have been being lazy, and capitalizing.

Thoughts?

Maybe I Need an Art Buddy. Maybe I Just Need Backup.

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Well, here I am back in the Writer’s Block, which kind of sounds like something you would find in a Communist prison. Yes, they really used to confiscate writers’ typewriters in the USSR and Poland. It was cost-effective. You don’t need to feed typewriters and they don’t bleed when you beat them up.

Here in the more or less democratic US of A, where we have Freedom of Font and also a whole lot more options for putting our ideas down and spreading them around, the problem tends not to be so much Tyranny that is rearing its ugly head as it is Woeful Lack of Imagination.

Part of this, I suspect, is because a blog is not exactly a Project in the same sense that a novel or, for want of a better example, a few hundred pages of poetry about a 1990s TV show are. There isn’t the compulsive pull of a few well-chosen characters whose voices need to be explored. There isn’t the narrative tension of a plot to resolve or of subplots to weave in artfully. On the flipside, there are more opportunities to use pictures of cats to make my points.

Sometimes, when procrastination takes the form of Radically Empty Brain Syndrome (REBS), I stare at the wall, vainly hoping for something to show up. But remember that “radical” comes from the Latin, radix, meaning “root.” If there is nothing at the root of the brain, there won’t be much to grow out of it. So maybe the solution is to find another brain to work with.

If I were an Igor in a Terry Pratchett Discworld novel, I suppose I would mean that literally: find a brain, go up to the top of a tall MIT building and wait for lightning to strike. Then do an evil maniacal laugh, etc. Problem solved.

Tempting…

Failing that, I suppose I need to find another brain the less old-fashioned way, by actually finding a writing buddy, a collaborator, or possibly some badass with a big gun or maybe a Frisbee. Some writing buddies each write their own work separately and then read each other’s work. This is different from collaborators who work on the same project. Personally, I was thinking more along the lines of someone to come to my rescue with a whole lotta firepower, or possibly an Iron Frisbee of Doom.

Then maybe I’ll get writing again.

A Writer and Her Tools Are Not Soon Upgraded

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Having been born in the twentieth century, I will admit that I only ever used a pen-and-ink-on-parchment recreationally (and no, I did not inhale; as a rule, it is better not to). As a writer I have been fond of Zebra pens and colored felt tip Bic markers, although as I age, or rather, as my hands have been aging, I am being dragged kicking and screaming into the century of the fruitbat and am increasingly doing my first drafts on my iMac. Having said that, I will admit that my iMac is 7 1/2 years old, just six months younger than my cat, who has not yet started slowing down, freezing or losing files, although from time to time, he will knock them off my desk to test if gravity is still working.

Note: it is. Phew. Thanks, Musashi!

My computer, alas, is not so spry. Last night I dreamed that a friend reminded me that this weekend would be Massachusetts Tax-free Weekend, which means no tax on purchases of $2500 or less: perfect timing for Back To School folks to buy computers and still be able to afford, for example, Apple Care Protection. (And for those of you who have ever read comics.com while drinking your breakfast coffee, you know how useful that can be. Keyboards are less expensive than they used to be, but still.)

So yes, I am breaking down and getting a new computer before I am in the middle of finals and lose everything. Did that before. Don’t recommend it.

And then there are people even more clueless than me.