Book Review: Making a Poem by Miller Williams

 

photo source: amazon.com

 

I recently finished reading, Making a Poem: Some Thoughts About Poetry and the People Who Write It by Miller Williams who was a former inaugural poet for the Clinton administration.

This was an interesting read in that Williams looked at writing poetry from angles I had not previously considered such as The Writer and The Editor, The Scientist and The Humanist, and Translate. These are all chapters that begin in the middle to end of the book and discuss relationships between being a writer and the editor, with personal experience from Williams in both positions. The Scientist and The Humanist is a dialogue between Williams and another on the similarities between scientific thinking and the efforts of humanism and particularly how these are mimetic to writing poetry, or what poetry tries to achieve. And lastly, the subject Translate, which is on translating poetry into English or vice versa. Translation being a critical part of the literary world that can often have detrimental effects on the work itself: a beautiful line can be altered into a wobbly ugly thing if a translation fails.

These particular topics were intriguing to me, since I had some inkling of them but have never really read any serious discussion on them. Reading Williams perceptions and responses on these topics helped me gain more insight and information from a reliable source. Overall, I would recommend this book to those interested in reading about writing Poetry in a loose manner. It is not very rigid, and it is definitely not a “how-to” manual but nevertheless, it provides valuable insight into Poetry.

Thank you for reading my work! I hope you will return in the future! 

-Alina

 

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Response to Jane Eyre and Discussion on Creating Complex Characters

 

Jane Eyre
photo source: goodreads.com

I recently finished reading for nth time Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte  (first published 1847) I find myself usually rereading this novel every winter out of habit. I love this novel for so many different reasons but the main one being that Jane is smart, witty and stands up for herself which should not be taken lightly. The novel is set in the early to mid 19th century and revolves around the story of Jane Eyre from her youth to adult years. Her life story is full of loneliness, pain, seclusion, and hardship. The main subject of the novel is the love story between Jane and Mr. Rochester, a man about twenty years her senior who hires Jane as a governess for a child he has taken into his home. Besides the love story, a plot which is full of drama and secrets, there are aspects of the novel that really stand out to me.

I am a Writer, obviously, and I do like to write in short fiction. Fiction is a genre that resounds with me on a creative level whenever I may have too many words for just poems. The issue of creating characters that are not one dimensional is one of the elements that I find myself occupied with the most. I have read multiple books with advice on how to create lifelike three-dimensional characters through writing and I found myself amazed (yet again) when reading Bronte’s writing the details and layers that she uses in making Jane Eyre and Mr. Rochester so complex. A reoccurring theme in most of the books on fiction writing that I read is that adding complexities to your character (for instance a character that hates liars but in fact lies constantly) is one of the ways in which your character can come to life. A key piece of advice that keeps popping up for me now is also, “Show, don’t tell.” Which is a part of my writing that I have struggled with from the beginning.

How do I show readers through words what my character is like as a person? How do I do this through dialogue, action, and narration without making my writing feel forced?

I know this is not a new question and it is a possibility that whoever reads this post may be dealing with the same obstacles in their own writing. If so, I would love to read some comments on how you, as a writer, try to create complex lifelike characters, what books have you read? what advice have you heard?

As for me, here are a few books that I have read (or am reading) that have been invaluable in my constant learning to write regardless if its fiction, prose, or poetry.

 

 

photo source: amazon.com

Writing Fiction: The Practical Guide from New York’s Acclaimed Creative Writing School

 

 

 

photo source: amazon.com

Writing Down the Bones: Freeing the Writer Within by Natalie Goldberg

 

 

photo source: amazon.com

Bird by Bird: Some Instruction on Writing and Life by Anne Lamott

 

On Writing: A Memoir Of The Craft by [King, Stephen]
photo source: amazon.com
On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft

 

I am constantly searching for more books about writing, how to write, and study literature. If anyone has any suggestions please leave them in a comment below! If you would like me to respond to a question about writing please also feel free to message me or leave the question in a comment below!

Thank you so much to all my readers (new and old) for taking time out of your day to read my writing! I hope you will return in the future!

-Alina

 

 

 

Reflection/Response: Wuthering Heights and Pride and Prejudice

I have most recently finished Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen and Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte. These two novels are classics of the western European literary tradition and question social status, class, and gender-related issues of 19th century England. I enjoyed both for different reasons and at the same time had my own complications with the two.

Pride and Prejudice (published 1813)

The characters are vibrant and possess a lot of stubborn vigor when it comes to family and gossip. The socio-cultural habits of middle-class and upper-class (somewhat royalty) families are the main subject of this book revolving around complicated marriages, friendships, and of course the tumultuous romance between Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy. I enjoyed reading this novel again purely because the dialogue is extremely witty and the plot is full of plenty of drama. My complication, or struggle, with this book is probably the same as anyone else’s Elizabeth and Darcy’s behavior, mainly their stubbornness and arrogance which is sometimes frustrating and painful to read. I love Elizabeth for her honest and straight-forward ‘say-it-like-it-is’ style which I think is refreshing to read and comforting. Overall it is a novel I would read again at any opportunity.

Wuthering Heights (published 1847)

This is a much darker more tragic novel than Pride and Prejudice, it is not a happy romance. Lockwood rents a home from Heathcliff and what results is a long story told to  Lockwood by Nelly, a housekeeper about the complicated history of Heathcliff and Catherine’s love and the generation after. Illness, madness (mental illness), rage, and abuse are consistent throughout. There are mysterious elements in this novel such as ghost stories and apparitions, and I believe this could be considered a Gothic Novel. My complication with this story was the role of Nelly, she is the narrator and ultimately a complete meddler in people’s affairs but she has no family, few friends, and is a life-long servant to the two main households in the story making Nelly, in my opinion, an equally complex character to that of Heathcliff and Catherine. I found this novel interesting and heart-wrenching but I gradually became more curious about the possible inspiration or reasons that Emily Bronte would write such a book. Overall I am impressed by this novel and I have been struggling to think of anything I’ve ever read that could be similar to it that is from the same century.

I wanted to give brief reflections on these two novels, to keep it short and sweet. Usually, I would include a little background info on Emily Bronte and Jane Austen but I am thinking about posting a small summary of the lives of Emily and Charlotte Bronte as well as Jane Austen sometime soon. I am currently reading Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte for the nth time (it is one of my all-time favorites) I have no idea how many times I have read this novel but it is incredible and I love it, do expect a reflection/response post to this novel as well!

Thank you for reading my reflections and writing, I hope that you will return in the future! 

-Alina 

 

 

Reflection: Singing School by Robert Pinsky

(photo: amazon.com)

This is a short reflection of Singing School by Robert Pinsky  which was one of the poetry books on My Summer Poetry Reading List. It has taken me a while to finish it since I’ve been neck deep in reading the Harry Potter books among many others.

I admit I had some assumptions about what this book would be when I picked it up. I thought it would be thorough and detailed writing advice from Pinsky. What I really found was a miniature anthology of poems picked out by Pinsky that are presented as examples and inspiration to poets. This was a slight disappointment to me since I have more than enough anthologies of poems and I was looking for more of a detailed guide books/manual with great advice. Still, the infectious reader in me had to finish what she started, so I read on. By the end I realized that these specific poems that Pinsky chose were more than just good examples but living, breathing pieces that were solid in form, approach, style and technique (they are of course written by ‘the masters‘). Quite a few of the poems I recognized from taking previous Poetry courses up at the University of Utah but there were a few that I did read for the first time. I realized that these pieces picked out by Pinsky showed his extraordinary talent and abilities when it comes to poetry. Simply stated: He knows what he’s talking about! Of Course!

The poems are sectioned off into different chapters that have specific themes such as, ‘Freedom‘, and ‘Listening‘. At the beginning of each chapter Pinsky introduces his selected poems by explaining a certain element of poetry. His detailed analysis paired with tying in examples from the poems to be read, create a vivid but short lesson. I found the ‘Listening‘ chapter and ‘Dreaming Things Up‘ to be my favorites.

Overall I wish there was more to this book. I feel that it is a brief introduction to Poetry and Poetry’s key elements for beginners. Since I’ve been reading, studying and writing Poetry for a few years now, I crave something more complex and challenging to learn from. I would recommend this book to any Pinsky readers or newbies to Poetry since it is nevertheless a fantastic book!

 

Thank you for taking time out of your day to read my writing!

I hope that you will return in the future!

 

-Alina

Reflection: Complete Poems of Ernest Hemingway

(image: amazon.com)

The Complete Poems of Ernest Hemingway

I found this book at my beloved Sam Weller’s here in Salt Lake City. Their poetry section is large and impressive. Needless to say thanks to them I find amazing poetry books regularly. Thank you Wellers! 

This collection of poems brings amazing insight into how Hemingway developed into the extraordinary writer he was. Among the prolific writers, artists and musicians of the Jazz Age, Hemingway brings his own attitude and style to the era. This collection spans from 1912-1956, from Hemingway as a young man to an older experienced one, the poetry that he wrote explored technique, style, form and subject matter. It is amazing to see and read the poetry of Hemingway evolve as he honed his skills.

The introduction mentions that because of Hemingway’s use of expletives and frank raunchy subject matter, many readers seek out the collection on purpose. I had no idea that because of these elements readers (maybe specifically Hemingway readers) would purposefully seek out this book since the reason I got it was because I love Hemingway and love poetry (simple enough). But I was not surprised that his poems contained this questionable material, since Hemingway’s style emphasizes on ‘telling it the way it is’, he did not seek to leave out the private details of intimate life nor the language that people use in any of his writing.

These are few of the poems that I loved the most from this complete collection,

(italicized years are not part of the poem title)

[Blank Verse] 1916

Killed Piave-July 8-1918

[“Blood is thicker than water…”] 1922

To Good Guys Dead 1922

The Lady Poets with Foot Notes 1924

[Little drops of grain alcohol] 1926

Poem, 1928

Defense of Luxembourg 1945

(bracketed titles are taken from the first line of the poem)

In many of these poems Hemingway critiques his critics, he also explores his experiences in war and his attitude towards politics and government. Of course, there is also a lot of references to drinking and women but there is also critique from Hemingway on maybe a certain female poet (or general types of female poets, I am not sure) in ‘The Lady Poets with Foot Notes’, which I found to be both amusing and fascinating. Many of his early poems have a rhyme scheme, or appear to mimic various traditional forms, as he gets older it appears that Hemingway chisels his words more effectively and dabbles in writing his poetry in freer forms (maybe the influence of key modernist poets such as T.S. Eliot and Ezra Pound?) I believe the introduction mentions these poets among others that were involved in the writers community of the Jazz Age in Europe. Overall, I would recommend this book to any poet that loves the works of Hemingway since I find it instructive and inspirational. If anything reading this complete collections of poems has made me appreciate more the daily hard work that goes into writing whenever and wherever you can (on vacation or the battlefront). I admire Hemingway among thousands of other writers for his attitude and style of writing. There is something bare and true about his words that echoes with readers souls still.

What I love about this collection: It contains pictures of Hemingway throughout his life as well as pictures of the original poems and drafts. I love it when poetry/fiction books add these items because it brings the writer so much closer to the reader; to see his handwriting right next to the final printed word on the next page is incredible.

What I wish it had more of: The introduction gives sufficient background into the early writings of Hemingway (specifically his poetry). I am one of those book nuts that loves lengthy Introductions that delve deep into the subject matter of the book, if this one was just a little longer (it is only 15 pages) or double the size I feel that I could have learned more.


 

If you are reading this Thank You for taking time out of your day to read my writing!

I hope that you return in the future!

-Alina

 

p.s. I have decided to wait until I finish the last Harry Potter book to write a reflection on the entire series. Many people have written about Harry Potter and J.K. Rowling I know, but I want to specifically focus on the evolving writing in the series and character development. As a cornerstone series that every child should read, I think it is crucial to analyze Rowling’s technique and approach to her controversial subject matter, to better understand how such influential writers write. 

Currently Reading: After the Quake by Haruki Murakami

WARNING: SPOILERS

photo source: amazon.com

I thought I would begin posting short reflections on what I am currently reading since I have extra time this summer to focus on my blog. I am thinking that I will do one of these posts once a week, since I have an ever shuffling stack of books that I am always reading.

This week I began reading Haruki Murakami’s ‘After the Quake‘ after a suggestion from my boyfriend who is currently reading multiple Murakami works. After reading a couple of the stories I found myself pulled into Murakami’s world, intrigued by his unique style of writing and the subject matter.

The stories revolve around an earthquake that took place in Kobe, Japan in 1995. Each story has some connection to the Kobe earthquake but is flexible and malleable in the way that it explores the characters personal responses to the earthquake. The stories also emphasize on loneliness and death which strengthen further the connection between the earthquake and people. How do people cope with loss and fear amidst a natural disaster that affects an entire nation? I think a more important question is, How does a writer cope with the loss and fear that surrounds such an event?

I love the way in which Murakami uses detail and emotions to build his stories. The essence that is built up as the stories progress portray the feelings of loneliness, loss, and death in multiple ways.

My favorite stories in the collection:

Landscape with Flatiron

Thailand

Super-Frog Saves Tokyo

Landscape with Flatiron, explores friendship and a connection with nature through bonfires and alcohol. The end result a suicide pact that has unknown results.

Thailand, emphasizes on loneliness and aging while dealing with personal conflicts and moving on with ones life.

Super-Frog saves Tokyo, a hallucination? or a dream? A giant frog implores help from a lonely middle-aged man to help save Tokyo from a possible earthquake caused by an angry subterranean worm.

 

Overall I enjoyed reading each short story and plan on reading more of Murakami’s work. I would recommend his work highly to readers that enjoy modern short fiction.


If you are reading this Thank You for taking time out of your day to read my writing! I hope you return in the future!

-Alina

Book Lists: Sample My Favorite Fiction

Here are some of my favorite fiction books…just a taste.


 

Ulysses by James Joyce

Steppenwolf by Herman Hesse

Orlando by Virginia Woolf

Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov

The Color Purple by Alice Walker

Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte

A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway

Frankenstein by Mary Shelley

This Side of Paradise by F.Scott Fitzgerald

Their Eyes were watching God by Zora Neale Hurston

Crime and Punishment by Dostoevsky

Dracula by Bram Stoker

The Fall by Albert Camus

Drive by James Sallis

Fight Club by Chuck Palahniuk

Interview with a Vampire by Anne Rice

American Psycho by Bret Easton Ellis

A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess

Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson

Carmilla by Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu

 


I will be posting more lists soon. Expect a Summer 2017 Book List which will include books I want to read this summer with a follow up at the end of the summer on which books I read and my reflection on them.

If you are reading this Thank You for taking time out of your day to read my writing! I hope you return in the future!

-Alina