Poetry Friday: Constancy…and some inconsistency

Welcome to the newly waxed, buffed, and polished Radio, Rhythm & Rhyme!

poetryfridaybutton-fulllAfter 256 posts, 29,560 views and 3,953 comments over the past 3 years, I felt a little remodeling of “Triple-R” was in order. Hard to believe, but it was exactly 3 years ago in 2012 that I began this blog – something I’d wanted to do for quite awhile – and today it has grown from one follower (Jen, my wife!) to 383 followers!

Now granted, that may not seem like a huge number of people compared to some of the tremendous blogs out there, but I’m happy to see it getting close to the 500 mark…and when it does, I plan on having a little celebration! So if you know anyone who might appreciate this blog, please let them know about it.

I have a number of cool things planned for upcoming posts, including an interview with poet/author Rebecca Kai Dottlich, another edition of Poetry Cubed, and big news about my forthcoming debut picture book, Flashlight Night (2017, Boyd’s Mills Press), so be sure to subscribe so you don’t miss any of it!

So the blog has gone through a transformation – it’s clean, contemporary, and more professional-looking. There’s the inconsistency for you. As for the constancy…well, as you may know, I share the following poem every August around this time because my wedding anniversary is coming up this weekend, and it was part of my wedding vows.
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Matt&Jen - WeddingIt was actually my very first poetry post on this blog, and only my second post ever, following my introduction. This is a traditional Elizabethan sonnet and no, it doesn’t read as a contemporary poem; it was deliberately written in a sort of old-fashioned, classic sort of style. Looking back on it, there are things I would have changed, edited, or revised – but I was under a deadline – the wedding date wasn’t going to change!

Unlike my other poems, “Constancy” will never be put through revisions.  These were the words I spoke to my wife on August 10, 2008 as part of my vows, and are as unalterable as my love and gratitude for her.

Constancy
For Jennifer

How many have, before me, tried in vain
To capture beauty, constancy, and love
Through fluent phrase, in happiness and pain,
And simile of summer, star, or dove?
Their words so eloquent, imagery lush –
In perfect imperfection testify,
For seasons change, the steadfast heavens rush
To swirl about themselves, and doves will die.
How best to show the one whom I adore
The fullness of my amorosity?
I fail to find a finer metaphor
Than that true love which you have shown to me.
The poets fail! Their thoughts do not dismiss;
‘Tis better they compare their love to this.

© 2008, Matt Forrest Esenwine, all rights reserved

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Tabatha is hosting Poetry Friday today at The Opposite of Indifference, so be sure to visit her blog for all of today’s links!

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Did you like this post? Find something interesting elsewhere in this blog? I really won’t mind at all if you feel compelled to share it with your friends and followers!
SCVBWI_Member-badge (5 years)To keep abreast of all my posts, please consider subscribing via the links up there on the right!  (I usually only post twice a week – on Tues. and Fri. – so you won’t be inundated with emails every day)
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Also feel free to visit my voiceover website HERE, and you can also follow me via Twitter FacebookPinterest, and SoundCloud!

Poetry Friday: Student poetry inspired by mine!

Poetry_Friday logoYou’ve got to love how inspiration breeds inspiration.

Back in February, my friend and fellow Poet’s Garage member Michelle H. Barnes interviewed children’s author/poet David Elliott and shared his poem, “Dear Orangutan” from his book, In the Wild (Candlewick, 2013). Following the interview, David challenged Michelle’s readers to write a “letter poem;” that is, a poem written like a letter to someone (or something).

Several such poems were submitted, including this one by Yours Truly:

Dear Dad,

I’m having trouble fitting in.
I feel unhappy in my skin.
The kids at school all call me names;
they carry torches bright with flames.
Teachers chase me through the rooms
with pitchforks, clubs, and wooden brooms.
When I say, “Hi,” the parents flee.
It’s almost like they’re scared of me.
Sorry, I don’t mean to whine.

Love,
your son,
Jack Frankenstein

– © 2015, Matt Forrest Esenwine

Well…imagine my surprise when I received an email from fellow writer/blogger Tabatha Yeatts, who informed me that students at her daughter’s middle school had a National Poetry Month project where kids could “respond” to poems that were posted in the halls (my poem being one of them). She shared with me two of the poems she thought were the best, and so – with parental permission – I’m sharing them here!

Dear Jack
by Emily Sologuren, 8th grade
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Dear Jack,
You’re not the only one who knows that feeling
when everyone sees you as unappealing —
I too went through that, you know
Other kids pointing at me wherever I go
Because I was different with an outlandish plan
When they saw my experiment, they just snickered and ran
Yet I continued my experiment, while also being shunned
And created you, Jack, my wonderful son
So be who you are and don’t be so sad.
With all my love, your scientist Dad
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Dear Son
by Emily F., 8th grade
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Dear Son,
Don’t let those mean kids get you down,
Don’t let them chase you through the town.
The fact that you don’t look the same,
Serves them no right to call you names.
If you just embrace who you really are,
Then trust me kid, you will go far.
There will be someone who loves your persona,
After all, Shrek found his Fiona.
And if kids make fun, I recommend
That they don’t deserve to be your friend.
So if the times get real bad,
And you’re feeling real sad,
Just remember that you are beautiful no matter what they say,
Because baby, you were born that way.
After all, you are my son, and you are mine.
Your creator, your father, your friend,
Dr. Frankenstein
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Pretty darned good, I’d say! Wow, these kids have some talent. I’m so honoured and humbled that something I wrote provided inspiration for someone. It is my sincere hope that someone reading these students’ poems will likewise be inspired, and keep the circle intact!

By the way, Poetry Friday is being hosted by Diane Mayr at Random Noodling this week, so make sure you head on over for all the poetry, links and…inspiration, of course!

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Did you like this post? Find something interesting elsewhere in this blog? I really won’t mind at all if you feel compelled to share it with your friends and followers!
PoetsGarage-badgeTo keep abreast of all my posts, please consider subscribing via the links up there on the right!  (I usually only post twice a week – on Tues. and Fri. – so you won’t be inundated with emails every day)  Also feel free to visit my voiceover website HERE, and you can also follow me via Twitter FacebookPinterest, and SoundCloud!

Poetry Friday: So much poetry to go around!

(Warm up your pointer finger; there’s a lot of clicking ahead…!)

I usually share a different poem here each week, but I realized yesterday that I’ve been sharing so many poems on other folks’ blogs lately that perhaps I should share their links, instead!

Poetry_Friday logoSo that’s what I’m doing today.
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A question that children’s writers often discuss is the value of writing prompts; that is, suggestions or tidbits of inspiration offered to writers in order to help spur their creativity. Some people aren’t a big fan of prompts, and prefer to write based on their own personal inspiration.
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I, on the other hand, enjoy prompts, even if I don’t often have time for them. I don’t need the inspiration, really – I have 4 different book ideas I’m trying to juggle right now along with several poems I need to write – but prompts force me to try something new.
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Perhaps it’s writing in a poetic form with which I’m unfamiliar. Maybe it’s coming up with a poem about a subject about which I know very little. Sometimes it’s just a fun challenge.
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But ultimately, prompts make a writer think on his/her feet – sort of like Whose Line Is It, Anyway? for the literary crowd. I’ve learned that one of the things that sets amateur writers apart from professionals is that amateurs wait for inspiration to strike, while professionals make their own inspiration.
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While I used to be in the former category, I have enough publishing credits under my belt to feel comfortable placing myself in the newbie section of the latter. I also am growing adept at being able to write a solid, publishable poem within a day or so of being given a topic – which for me, was a huge leap. I’ve still got a long way to go, but I couldn’t have gotten to this point without prompts.
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That said, it’s been a busy week for me! Just this past Wednesday on her blog, Michelle H. Barnes shared a poem of mine based on a writing challenge from author/poet David Elliott. Based on his poem, “Dear Orangutan,” readers were challenged to write a poem based on the construct of a letter…and suffice it to say, I took an unusual path.
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Elsewhere around the interwebs…
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–  I found myself writing a short little poem on Laura Purdie Salas’ blog yesterday; she shared a photo with a poem she wrote about it and asked her readers to do the same, in 15 Words Or Less (a fun weekly feature on her blog).
–  Jane Yolen and I shared “candle” poems on David L. Harrison’s blog this past Monday, as part of his “Word of the Month” challenge. (You can read all of this month’s poems, written by some very talented folks, HERE)
–  Two days later on David’s blog, a number of us joined in a little poetry game and shared poems based on a single vowel sound.
–  And going back to last Poetry Friday, Feb. 6, educator/poet Laura Shovan shared one of my poems on her blog – a rather short one, I admit – as part of her month-long Sound Poem Project. Each day during February, she offers a different sound clip as inspiration, and since I had suggested the sound of a theremin, I felt writing a couple lines about one was the least I could do! You can read my poem along with many others HERE.
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Cybils-Logo-2014-Rnd2As I said, I’ve been kinda busy.
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But wait, there’s more! Cathy Mere is celebrating Poetry Friday by handling the hostess duties today – so please check out her blog, Merely Day by Day, for all of today’s pre-Valentine links and hi-jinx! Have a good weekend, and stay tuned for news about the CYBILS Awards winners…coming soon!
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Did you like this post? Find something interesting elsewhere in this blog? I really won’t mind at all if you feel compelled to share it with your friends and followers!
PoetsGarage-badgeTo keep abreast of all my posts, please consider subscribing via the links up there on the right!  (I usually only post twice a week – on Tues. and Fri. – so you won’t be inundated with emails every day)  Also feel free to visit my voiceover website HERE, and you can also follow me via Twitter FacebookPinterest, and SoundCloud!

Do. The. Work!

As I’ve mentioned previously here, it’s been a challenging couple of months for us at home, so I’ve only been able to post sporadically here. I’m hoping that when the new year arrives, things will settle down. But for now, I just wanted to share a thought with you. that thought is:

If you want to do something, the only way you can accomplish it is by actually DOING IT.

I left my position as production director for a 5-station radio group in the Concord, NH area (and the  steady paycheck that went with it) 2 1/2 years ago to work from home as a voice artist and be a stay-at-home dad. I also wanted to spend time developing my children’s writing.

Lullabye cover
The first children’s book in which I’ll see my name! Many thanks to Lee Bennett Hopkins for having the faith in me to ask if I would be willing to write a poem for this.

Well, as of today, I have 8 children’s poems set to be published next year in 6 different publications: 7 poems in 5 different children’s anthologies and one poem in “Highlights” magazine.

These aren’t vanity books or unpaid literary journals, mind you – not that there’s anything wrong with those – I’m getting paid for these things. Children’s writing may be a passion, a talent, and a creative outlet for me…but I plan on making it a career.

I share this news not to boast, but to encourage anyone who has debated whether or not to pursue a dream for fear of failure. I can tell you with 100% assurance that you’ll definitely fail if you don’t try.

Author/poet Jane Yolen and former U.S. Children’s Poet Laureate J. Patrick Lewis claim the best way to become successful is by following what they call the “BIC” rule: Butt In Chair. In other words, DO THE WORK! Don’t wait for something to happen. Don’t complain nothing’s happening. Don’t expect inspiration, coincidence, or luck to suddenly appear out of nowhere and help you achieve your goals.

To be honest, I really can’t say any success I’ve had has been due to luck. As I think about it, “luck” hasn’t played any part in this, as far as I can tell. What has played a big part is mostly just perseverance. And practice.

And more perseverance.

I still have not sold a book manuscript yet, although I continue sending them out. I’ve written several, and I continue writing them. I continue doing the work.

If you can’t count on luck, you’re going to need to count on yourself.

So do the work. Take the chances. Get busy – and don’t let yourself down!

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Cybils-Logo-2014-Rnd2Did you like this post? Find something interesting elsewhere in this blog? I really won’t mind at all if you feel compelled to share it with your friends and followers!

PoetsGarage-badgeTo keep abreast of all my posts, please consider subscribing via the links up there on the right!  (I usually only post twice a week – on Tues. and Fri. – so you won’t be inundated with emails every day)  Also feel free to visit my voiceover website HERE, and you can also follow me via Twitter FacebookPinterest, and SoundCloud!

Poetry Friday: “Black Sheep”

poetryfridaybutton-fulllI didn’t plan on writing about animals for the 3rd week in a row; it just sort of happened that way. Perhaps I’ve had creatures on my mind because I just spent all of last weekend working at the local state fair…and as I mentioned a few days ago, it was once again a big learning experience!

Be that as it may, I present a short little ditty today that wasn’t even written about the fair – but with the animal references, I figured this time of year would be as good as any! It was originally just an exercise, me tossing around some ideas and seeing what I could create…and when it came together, I rather liked it. Hope you do, too!

For more of today’s Poetry Friday offerings, please be sure to visit Laura Shovan at Author Amok!

Black Sheep

Break from the herd.
Take that leap.
Play the dark horse.
Be the black sheep.

© 2014, Matt Forrest Esenwine

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Did you like this post? Find something interesting elsewhere in this blog? I really won’t mind at all if you feel compelled to share it with your friends and followers!

PoetsGarage-badgeTo keep abreast of all my posts, please consider subscribing via the links up there on the right!  (I usually only post twice a week – on Tues. and Fri. – so you won’t be inundated with emails every day)  Also feel free to visit my voiceover website HERE, and you can also follow me via Twitter FacebookPinterest, and SoundCloud!

Creating creativity: what to do when you lose the muse

"What if...Matt really DID know what he was talking about?"?"Writers deal with it all the time. So do artists, artisans, poets, and all sorts of creative types.

What to do when the inspiration won’t come.

I used to wonder this myself, when I was still learning about writing children’s poetry and picture books. When I was younger, I would write about whatever hit me at the moment, and not write anything else until I was inspired again. And it worked fairly well, except for the fact that if one is going to be a professional writer, one usually doesn’t have the luxury of being able to wait around for his or her muse to offer up an idea.

If you’re going to write, you need to write. NOW. You need to find the ideas, work with the words, and get something on paper or on the computer screen whether your muse is available or not. While there are plenty of ways to jumpstart your writing, today I’m sharing five practices that help me.

1) Expose yourself

That is, expose yourself to news and information you wouldn’t normally find interesting. (Although if you really do expose yourself, that probably would open a vast array of new experiences, as well) Next time you’re at the doctor’s office and see a copy of “Popular Phlebotomy” magazine, pick it up and peruse the pages. Who knows what you may learn or be inspired by? If you come across a political website or Facebook page that might promote views opposite to those you hold, read through it and try to see things from another perspective. You might discover a new way of approaching a subject.

You see, these types of things afford us writers a glimpse into lives, worlds, and realities with which we are unfamiliar. Never let an unexpected point of view go to waste!

2) Brainstorm

Yes, I know, you’ve heard this one before, but it really does work – especially if you brainstorm the way I do. Most folks will tell you to pick a subject and write down all the words or phrases you associate with that subject. I’ll do that sometimes, but I prefer going a step beyond.

Image courtesy of KROMKRATHOG / FreeDigitalPhotos.netI’ll pick a subject, then try to come up with as many phrases, ideas, or words that I don’t think have ever been associated with it. Why? Because I want to find unique associations – connections no one has considered before. This is especially useful in writing poetry for adults (as opposed to children’s poetry), where associative leaps are almost de rigueur, an expected element of the poem.

3) Don’t settle

Don’t settle for the first idea that pops in your head. Or the second or third. I’ve written at length about this before, but a big trick to writing creatively and uniquely is by being aware that what you’re writing probably isn’t creative or unique. Chances are, when given the opportunity to write about a subject (whether it’s a story, poem, commercial script, or Facebook comment) the first idea that popped into your head is probably the same first idea that popped into nearly everyone else’s heads.

Never going with your first instinct is a golden rule of comedy writing; it should be one of your rules, as well.

4) Ask yourself, “What if?”

I’ve written at length about this topic, as well, and it bears repeating here because of the power those two words wield. Next time you’re stumped for ideas, consider a variety of “what if” questions:

“What if…peas tasted like chocolate?”

“What if…chocolate tasted like Brussels sprouts?”

“What if…humans are actually domesticated farm animals for aliens?”

“What if…Jesus had children and one of them became president?”

5) Don’t be afraid!

Of what? To create something terrible. To try something different. To walk away. If you end up creating something you dislike, you’ll learn from it; at least it was good practice, right? If you try something different, you’re stretching yourself. And I can’t tell you the power that comes from stepping away from a project for awhile.

I’ve written some of my best poems during the course of a week when I’ve had millions of things to do. I’d write a couple lines, get stuck, and then go have to change a baby or record a commercial. Then I’d go back to it, contemplate some more, and have to step away to do something else. Understand, I’m not implying that you should not be disciplined and focus on your work. I’m a firm believer in the “BIC” Rule (“Butt In Chair,” aka “Do the work!”), espoused by great writers such as Jane Yolen and J. Patrick Lewis.

Rather, taking a break from what you’re writing can allow you to distance yourself from it and come back with a new set of eyes, a new perspective. In fact, I went through at least 4 titles for this blog post (like, “When the muse is out of town,” “When the muse is AWOL,” and a few others) before I settled on the internal rhyme-riddled one you see at the top of this page. Getting unstuck from your writer’s block might take a few minutes, a few hours, or even a few years – but it’ll be well worth it.

There’s more where that came from

There are plenty of other ways to kick start some ideas and get the creativity flowing. These are just the five that seem, to me, to be the most effective. What do you do? Are there any tips you employ to help get you started, or get yourself out of a mental rut? I’d love to hear them! Leave your thoughts in the comments section, and I’ll share them in a separate blog post all their own at a future date – with proper attribution and due credit, of course!

Happy writing!

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Did you like this post? Find something interesting elsewhere in this blog? I really won’t mind at all if you feel compelled to share it with your friends and followers!

PoetsGarage-badgeTo keep abreast of all my posts, please consider subscribing via the links up there on the right!  (I usually only post twice a week – on Tues. and Fri. – so you won’t be inundated with emails every day)  Also feel free to visit my voiceover website HERE, and you can also follow me via Twitter FacebookPinterest, and SoundCloud!

Interview with poet and anthologist Lee Bennett Hopkins

I don’t know how they do it. I have so many writer friends who somehow find the time to not only write stories and poetry, but update their blog every other day, maintain a family, run errands, and do all the other stuff that life requires…and yet for me, it’s always a struggle. I really don’t know how they keep it all together! Myself, I’m taking care of the kids, trying to keep on top of my voiceover business, keeping the house and yard from looking too shabby, trying to be a good hubby, AND find time to get all my writing in. And invariably, every day ends with me wondering where the hours all went.

That said, I’m reposting this interview with Lee Bennett Hopkins today. I’ve been out straight lately with commercial production work and writing children’s poems to submit to a few select publications, and since this interview was first shared in the fall of 2012 (Nov. 13, to be exact), I thought it remained on the shelf long enough and deserved a second posting! I hope you like it…

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Lee Bennett Hopkins’ name is synonymous with children’s literature. He has written and edited numerous award-winning books; he’s worked with a veritable who’s-who of authors, from Dr. Seuss to Madeleine L’Engle; and he has even been an elementary school educator.  In addition to the numerous awards he’s received over the years, he was recognized by Guinness World Records in 2011 as the world’s most prolific anthologist of poetry for children:  at the time, he had edited 113 different titles. and he’s not slowing down.

I recently wrapped up an interview with Lee for Poetry Advocates for Children and Young Adults (PACYA), which we just finished editing and formatting yesterday….you can find the interview HERE.

PACYA is featuring all the recipients of the prestigious National Council of Teachers of English Award for Excellence in Poetry for Children; in addition to Lee, you can read biographies and interviews with poets like Karla Kuskin, X.J. Kennedy, Myra Cohn Livingston, Nikki Grimes, and more.  (I had the honour of interviewing U.S. Children’s Poet Laureate J. Patrick Lewis a few weeks ago, and that interview will be posted in a couple weeks.)  See the complete list of all the featured poets along with links to their pages HERE.

My thanks to PACYA for helping to promote children’s poetry, and for giving me the opportunity to help them in their efforts!

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Did you like this post? Find something interesting elsewhere in this blog? I really won’t mind at all if you feel compelled to share it with your friends and followers!

PoetsGarage-badgeTo keep abreast of all my posts, please consider subscribing via the links up there on the right!  (I usually only post twice a week – on Tues. and Fri. – so you won’t be inundated with emails every day)  Also feel free to visit my voiceover website HERE, and you can also follow me via Twitter FacebookPinterest, and SoundCloud!