Poetry Friday: Throwback Summer takes a 180 turn…

…into Not-Quite-So-Bad Land.

As you might have heard, I’m sharing some of my old high school poetry each Friday this summer – and yes, most of it has been painfully horrendous.

poetryfridaybutton-fulllBut as we’re coming to the final stretch of this series (I anticipate wrapping up this trip back in time the first week of September), I’m now sharing a couple of poems I wrote in college. And although they are not the best poems ever written, they are nowhere near as vomit-inducing as most of the previous ones I’ve subjected you to.

(In other words, if you were expecting another “Ode to a Dishrag,” prepare to be disappointed)

Today’s poem was one of the first free verse poems I ever wrote. (The very first one was actually published!) It was written for my college Creative Writing class with Dr. Joyce Thomas, at Castleton State College, Vermont. I recall revising it a number of times, so I think  this was the final version. If you don’t mind mixed metaphors, verbose lines, and obvious connections, read on…

The Performance

Houselights down:
the sky grows increasingly dark
pinholes of stars shrouded
by clouds fully drenched with water;
giant sponges
floating in the otherwise barren atmosphere,
waiting to be squeezed by some giant hand.
A burst of light, center stage –
a short flash of lightning illuminates the earth below,
the black, India-ink sky turns to a dull gray.
The celestial sphere appears as an oyster shell.
Two more bolts spotlight the event;
……….Act I, Scene 1.
Hesitant only for a split second
lightning’s comrade enters stage right,
jarring the thoughts of those already attentive.
The deep baritone voice of the leading man
echoes throughout the auditorium;
more loud rolls of thunder echo each other,
flowing over grassy hills that provide proper acoustics.
the curtain of soaking rain
drops from the proscenium
to a captive audience lost
in bewilderment.

The show begins.

– Matt Forrest Esenwine, 10-20-88, Class: ENG465

This is one of those poems that I’d really like to shave down and rewrite…but I have so many other more pressing things to do I’m sure it’ll never happen! The one thing I like best about this is the fact that I was able to combine a narrative with some poetic imagery and internal rhyme, even if it was quite amateurish and clunky.

My professor (a published poet), knowing how bad most of my poetry had been up to this point, seemed genuinely impressed that I had somehow knocked this out onto paper. With her encouragement, I soldiered on and wrote many, many more truly horrible poems in-between a handful of publishable ones. I like to think that I have now turned that ratio on its head…but that might just be me being delusional.

Ready for some more poetry? Much better poetry? Then please visit Doraine Bennett at Dori Reads for today’s complete Poetry Friday Roundup!

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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!
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Poetry Friday: The worst poem ever used as a writing workshop example (yes, Throwback Summer continues!)

journals - high schoolI have been amazed – in both good ways and bad – at the amount of poetry I’ve come across while poring over my old high school journals, which were discovered earlier this summer in my folks’ attic.

Most of it was horrendously bad – but at least I was writing, and that practice helped hone my poetry skills, vocabulary, and my sense of humor. This is why I encourage people to #WriteLikeNoOneIsReading – if we’re all supposed to dance like no one’s watching, with carefree abandon, we should apply the same principle to writing, yes?

So today, I’m sharing a poem I wrote in April 1985, and although I didn’t plan to use it as an example during my free verse poetry workshop at the New England SCBWI conference this past spring…that’s exactly what happened.

I was explaining different types of poetic “voice” (Lyrical, Narrative, Dramatic) and made mention of two types of dramatic voice: mask and apostrophe. Mask voice is when the poet speaks from the point-of-view of an inanimate object or animal; apostrophe, on the other hand, is when the poet is speaking to an inanimate object or animal.

(Speaking to a specific person might be considered apostrophe, but would most likely be deemed lyrical voice as opposed to dramatic voice, since lyrical poems are spoken in the first person…it’s a bunch of technical, poetic mumbo-jumbo that only academicians fret over, so don’t worry if you’ve already forgotten what we were talking about.)

Anyhoo…I was explaining apostrophe (the poetic voice, not the punctuation mark) and the following poem suddenly popped in my head – and this was before I even discovered it hidden away between old, empty jelly jars and a dust-covered Air Hockey table at my parents’ place. Yes, it’s a rhyming poem, but it uses apostrophe in a most ridiculously overblown way, elevating a kitchen cleaning product to Shakespearean heights.

Even now, I look back on this and chuckle…it wasn’t the greatest poem ever written, but I’ve read a lot of poems that were worse, written by adults who should know better:

Ode to a Dishrag

O limpy piece of terrycloth,
Stained from last night’s chicken broth,
How I love to hold you, thus –
I clean pans and you don’t fuss.
And tho’ you soak in many a sud,
Ne’er do you complain of the crud.
You don’t mind the soggy bread,
Burnt-on Spam of which I dread),
Bits of egg and moldy cheese…
You put up with all of these.
Coffee grinds, potato skins,
Parts of fish – like eyes and fins –
And then, of course, there’s pots and pans
That always seem to stick to hands.
All these things you clean with care;
You touch things I wouldn’t dare.
So if I never let you know,
Dishrag, how I love you so!

– Matt Forrest Esenwine, April 11, 1985

I’m honestly not sure what kind of “poetry” I’ll be sharing next week, but I only have one or two more weeks left of my Throwback Summer – so your brain can rest easy knowing that by the time the kids are back in school, (slightly) more tolerable poetry will be coming your way here at the ol’ Triple-R blog.

poetryfridaybutton-fulllSpeaking of back-to-school, Julieanne at To Read To Write To Be has today’s Poetry Friday roundup, and is as excited as a person can be as she prepares to venture forth in the new academic year. So head on over and check out all the poetry links and fun!

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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!
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Poetry Friday: The poem that killed William Shakespeare, as Throwback Summer continues

Before we get to my very first attempt at iambic pentameter (or at least, the first documented attempt), I want to take a quick moment to encourage you to check out my astounding news from this past Tuesday!

As for today’s post, yes, it is another “lost classic” from my high school English journals…and it’s poems like this one that prove some things need to remain lost.

poetryfridaybutton-fulllAs I have mentioned before, I am sharing some choice entries from my early years as a way to a) show you what a geek I was; b) test your stamina for reading bad poetry; and c) show how far one can go in his/her writing career, even when the start of that career is inauspicious, to say the least. Heck, if I can get published, anyone can get published!

This is a poem to which I have previously alluded, but wasn’t sure if I could even find! It’s one of those poems that I remembered writing, but didn’t know if would show up in one these journals. As it turned out…it did!

Now, before you read this, you need to understand a few things:

  • I had an odd but very healthy sense of humour.
  • I wanted to write something in iambic pentameter, but didn’t want to write about anything typical.
  • If I was going to write about something ridiculous in iambic pentameter, I would need to write as loftily (is that a word?) as possible, for the fullest humourous effect.
  • I added to the preposterousness of this poem – and made fun of my past poems, as well – by providing a study guide. Because that’s what high school English classes do, don’t they??

Less than one month before graduation, I was writing stuff like this… (click to enlarge)

Journal - Ode to a Stool
It is generally accepted that Shakespeare died of a fever after drinking too much. However, scholars now believe it was actually this poem that did it.

My angst-ridden, love-addled classmates had nothing on me when it came to elevating the most mundane subjects into soaring, metrical verse. Somehow, I’ve managed to maintain my sense of humour while actually making a living reading, writing, and speaking. Go figure!

That’s why I say it’s important to write – no matter what it is. It may only be for your eyes, but it’s working your brain, it’s connecting synapses that hadn’t existed before, and it’s ultimately helping you develop your craft. #WriteLikeNoOneIsReading!

By the way, I’ve still got a few more “gems” I’ll be sharing before the end of the month, so consider yourself warned. If you’re still in the mood for poetry – and I apologize if you need a moment to compose yourself – you can check out today’s complete Poetry Friday roundup at A Teaching Life with Tara Smith!

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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!
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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!

Another big announcement: another book!

boyds logoIt was 4 years ago today that I began this little blog, to help promote my voiceover business and children’s writing career. And it was just a little over a year ago, one day when I was hosting Poetry Friday, that I announced I had just signed my very first book deal for a full-length picture book, Flashlight Night. Scheduled for release in Fall 2017, the book is to be published by Boyd’s Mills Press and illustrated by Fred Koehler.

Today, I’m proud to announce I’ve just signed my SECOND book deal!

Co-authored with children’s writer Deb Bruss, my friend and critique group partner, Don’t Ask a Dinosaur was just picked up by editor Jordan Nielsen and the Pow logogood folks at Pow! Kids Books, a subsidiary of Powerhouse Books of New York City.

Don’t Ask a Dinosaur is also scheduled for a Fall 2017 release – which means I’ll have TWO debut books coming out at the same time!

I have to admit, I’m as shocked as anyone to learn about this news. I’ve been writing all my life, but only decided to make a concerted effort to become published in the field of children’s literature about 7 years ago, in 2009.

One Minute cover
(click link to pre-order!)

Since then, I have had 8 children’s poems published in 5 different books, plus I’ll have another one in Kenn Nesbitt’s upcoming anthology, One Minute Till Bedtime (Little, Brown for Young Readers, Nov. 2016), two poems in “Highlights for Kids” magazine, and three others in a soon-to-be-published anthology coming out this fall, courtesy of poet/blogger Michelle H. Barnes.

And for more great news: I’ll also have another poem in an upcoming new Lee Bennett Hopkins anthology!

This comes out to a total of 15 poems and two full-length books in just 7 years…which is what is so shocking to me. I know people who have been trying to get published for 20 years or more and are still struggling, so I kind of feel bad! I don’t want to be”jumping ahead” in the line, you know??

But if there’s any lesson to be learned, I suppose it is that one needs to buckle down and get serious about the craft: write something everyday; try to learn something new about the craft everyday; surround yourself with people who are better than you (either via social media, the SCBWI, critique groups, or some other form of networking); and never, ever, ever let a negative comment, a criticism, or a rejection letter slow you down.

I’ve heard stories about how some writers hold onto their rejection slips as motivation. Some writers look at a rejection letter as a badge of honor. Me? I throw them out as soon as I read them – I figure I don’t need the negativity in my life!

Now, granted, some are actually quite nice as far as rejection letters go, and some can be quite positive and even helpful – so I may hold onto those now and then. But generally speaking, the rejection letters hit the circular file before the mailman has even pulled away from the curb.

So I just had to share the news about the new book…Deb and I are so excited to know that our little Don’t Ask a Dinosaur manuscript has finally found a home, after 18 revisions and almost as many rejections!

I’ll be sharing more news about both books as we get closer to publication date. Until then, I’ve got at least 10 other manuscripts I’m submitting around the publishing world – and I won’t take “no” for an answer!

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School will be starting in just a few weeks…if you’d like me to come to your school (or Skype!) and help students learn about creative writing, poetry, and using the imagination, just click the link for more info!

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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!
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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: Monarchy memorization, as Throwback Summer stumbles along

As I scan through the pages of my final senior English class journal, I am met with all sorts of strange writings: word puzzles, short essays on why I was so different from everyone (ya think?), and even long treatises on how bored I was about having to write in a journal.

(The treasure trove of history and nostalgia that I came across at my parents’ house earlier this summer has been eye-opening, to say the least; you can read more about what I discovered and why I’m featuring my high school writings HERE.)

Today it’s a little rhyming (more or less) history lesson. In my journal, I admit the poem is crude – but even now, I have to give myself credit for even thinking this thing up. If you’ve ever wanted to memorize the kings and queens of England, look no further…

Homework

1660, the Stuarts came;
2nd Charles and 2nd James,
Billy 3rd and Mary 2,
finally Anne was the last of the Stu’s.

Then the house of Hanover:
1st four Georges did come over.
William 4 was next in line,
Vicky lasted for some time.

Just two kings for Saxon-Coburg:
Ed the 7th and 5th of George.

Then the House of Windsor came.
George the 5th (same man, new name),
Ed the 8th one year was in,
then George the 6th, and Beth’s still in.

– Matt Forrest Esenwine, 5-1-85

Just over a month away from graduating high school, and while all the girls were writing poems about love, lovers, love lost, love regained, love unrequited, love, love,  love, blabbedy-love…here I was with my English monarch ditty. If you wonder how popular I was in school, this should leave no doubt.

For more poetry (and much better poetry, I might add), I encourage you to visit Margaret Simon’s home on the web, Reflections on the Teche, for today’s Poetry Friday roundup!

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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!
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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: “Ode to Lint,” a Throwback Summer lost classic

poetryfridaybutton-fulllYes, this poem had been lost for a long time…and had I not stumbled upon it in my parents’ attic, we all would have probably been better off.

If you have somehow not heard, I am sharing bits and pieces of my high school journals this summer, having come across a huge stash of old schoolwork while cleaning out my folks’ house, in preparation for its sale.

Back in June, I wrote about the initial discovery, and just this past Tuesday I explained why it was inevitable that I ended up in careers involving writing and advertising. Today, I’m sharing another one of the chestnuts I wrote in my English journal during senior year…and although it’s far from stellar-quality, it is probably the best-written poem I’ve shared from my journals so far.

You be the judge…

“Ode to Lint, II”

What is this, that I do see
floating past, in front of me?
Small dust speck, or puff of hair?
What is that thing flying there?
I reach out, it comes to me,
hardly larger than a flea;
I look close, I analyze.
Staring hard, I scrutinize
and attempt (as best I can)
to discern this work of Man.
Oh, too hard to contemplate!
Leaves my hand to impend fate.
What is that, that I do see
floating past, in front of me?
Small dust speck, or puff of hair?
What is that thing flying there??

– © 1985, Matt Forrest Esenwine, 4-4-85

Now, you have not known this until now, but I’ve done you the great service of not sharing most of the horrible poetry I wrote back then. Yes, yes…hard to believe, considering the subterranean level of quality of most of it. But true.

I had a penchant for trying to elevate the most mundane, ridiculous objects into flowery, verbose poems – so consider yourself fortunate that I have not shared my “Ode to a Stool,” “Ode to a Desk,” “Ode to Crust,” “Ode to Dropping Socks,” “Ode to Slippery Shoes,” “Ode to a Deep Thought,” or – what just might be the worst of all – my “Ode to Lint, I.” That’s right, I wasn’t happy with just one poem about lint; I apparently felt the subject was worthy of two, at least.

For today’s complete Poetry Friday roundup, head on over to Books 4 Learning. And be prepared…there’s a whole lot more mediocrity coming your way next week, right here!

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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!
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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!

Throwback Summer continues: “The Inevitability of Advertising”

As I mentioned at the beginning of summer, I recently came upon several boxes of my old schoolwork, hidden away at my parents’ attic which I’m cleaning out in advance of its sale.

While it’s nostalgic to look back at these journals, projects, and tests – and a bit disheartening, knowing my childhood home is going to be sold – it has been enlightening for me, as well. I have been able to read so many things I’d forgotten about, that I can now look back on and realize how they played a role in me developing into…well, me.

Scan_20160718 (4)
Wow, what happened? Before the contacts, before the braces, before the male pattern baldness…I was a high school senior 3 1/2 months away from graduation. This photo was taken by Mrs. Jencks, my English teacher, in Feb. 1985. Considering how straight-laced I was, I have no idea why I look so stoned.

Since I have been spending my Fridays sharing some of the >ahem< “poetry” that I was writing in my journals back then, I thought I would share something that foreshadowed my other career: advertising.

I began working in radio right after my college freshman year, and I’ve been writing, voicing, and producing commercials ever since. It’s no wonder I do voiceover work for a living! (If you’d like to learn more about that aspect of my life these days, or would like to know how I might be able to help you with your advertising, please click HERE.)

I loved writing and acting before I had even entered high school, and in addition to poetry and short stories, I developed a fondness for advertising. I owe this to the genius of Stan Freberg, whose old radio shows and commercials I had grown up listening to, thanks to my dad.

Scan_20160718
(click to enlarge. But why would you??)

By the time I was in high school, I was writing and voicing (and sometimes pre-recording) the morning announcements and living the dream in drama club. Reading a steady diet of Mad Magazine, Cracked, and The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy while watching British comedies like Monty Python and the under-appreciated The Goodies carved my sense of humor into what it is today.

Looking back on all this now, I completely understand why I made up fake advertisements for some of my journal entries, like this…

And since I made reference to “Loc-Tite” doorknobs, I figured I’d resurrect the product for what I think was a Creative Writing class project. I didn’t fool around, either – this thing was poster-sized:

Scan_20160718 (3)
(click to enlarge. Again, I have no idea why you would)

That’s right, kids – we didn’t have Photoshop, we didn’t have scanners, we didn’t have selfies. This selfie, in fact, was probably taken by one of my parents on my old 110 camera, which was then brought to a Fotomat and developed in time for me to cut it out and paste it, and — whoa, hold on. I think I just hit old age. Pass me the Geritol.

Scan_20160718 (2)
(click to enlarge. But you should really know better by now)

Anyway, even though I can tell I was trying too hard to be funny, I can completely appreciate where this style of humor came from. Like I said, too many issues of Cracked magazine and too many episodes of Fawlty Towers.

And a big, big influence from Stan Freberg, who I referenced earlier. He still influences my copy writing to this day.

Oh, and then there was this masterpiece journal entry from Feb. 1985, just a few days after that horrible photo of me was taken…

And yes, these were journal entries.

While some teens were pouring their hearts out in belabored free verse and others were writing about partying over the weekend, I was there making up fake advertisements, ridiculous rhyming poetry, and concocting word puzzles.

Somehow, I graduated as valedictorian. So the moral of the story is, if I can do it, anyone can!

(Stay tuned…more dubious-quality poetry coming up this Friday, when I feature “Ode to Lint!” And yes, I’m totally serious!)

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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)
 .
Also feel free to visit my voiceover website HERE, and you can also follow me via Twitter FacebookPinterest, and SoundCloud!