One word that kept coming up in my recent mentoring discussion with Angela Carr was 'balance' and it's a word I use a lot in my creative writing teaching as well. We as writers struggle to achieve balance in so many different ways.
A poem or story hangs on many fine threads; imagery, background information, action, language, emotion, and the author attempts to keep them all balanced between what the reader needs to understand the piece and what the author themselves desires of their work. If the language is too difficult to follow or the emotion not well-presented or if the writers tells too much, breaking the threads, the connection to the reader can be lost.
A balance between what is presented on the page and what the reader sculpts from the words in their own mind. A balance between what the author wants the reader to see and what they can lay out with words. All these things carry the weight of the writing and relying too heavily on one or not giving enough attention to another can throw off the poem or story.
Once I get past the initial rush to lay out images or the plot, I love the fine tuning, the balancing of all the finer points of writing, playing with the language, weighting words by their placement, drawing out imagery. I try to keep the reader in my mind, what they need, how much I want to lead them and how much I want them to run off on their own with my words. But also giving precedence to what I want the poem to do and say. It's a delicate act of balance above the poem while stepping within it.
Sometimes it works and sometimes I focus too much on what I want, the 'thing' I'm trying to make the poem do that I force it into shape and it shows in its reluctance. This is when I need mentors, writing group companions and other readers to step up and tell me something isn't working. I find it so helpful to have these dialogues because I am mired deeper within my own writing than another reader and often I cannot see where the problem is, even though I may have a sense of their being one.
So even though criticism can be hard to take, it ultimately can help you achieve that balance your writing needs. But it's never easy.
In other news, three online magazines have featured my work recently The Stockholm Review of Literature which I just stumbled upon, ink, sweat and tears and The Honest Ulsterman. The latter two I've been trying to get into for a while, so was overjoyed when they found something they liked. I'm still wandering through the issues and there is a wide variety of authors and styles to choose from, so I hope you find something you enjoy. Thanks to the hard-working editors and their staff for offering such great opportunities to get writers' work out into the world and for accepting my poems.
Just a reminder that GloPoWriMo - Global (or National if you're in the US) Poetry Writing Month starts April First and runs the entire month. One of the challenges is to write a poem a day which until this autumn I never thought I could (see links for my thoughts on this two years ago) so I'm going to step up to the challenge, but because I'm an idiot I've signed up for two online writing courses in April - one with Angela Carr and one with Wendy Pratt, both of whom I've mentioned here before as I've done several courses with them.
Both courses have limited places and are filling up. There is no pressure with either tutor to write a poem a day or to share them on their private Facebook pages (visible only to the writers on the course and the tutor) but they are guaranteed to have a good positive atmosphere and the daily writing prompts are a good way of getting your writing brain working. They both have a small fee, check out the links.
I have no preconceptions that I'll be writing two poems a day, but I figured between the two daily prompts I should come up with at least one good first draft daily. And anything I don't manage during the month, I can use to keep myself writing afterwards. I hope you think about joining one of the courses or get involved with other GloPoWriMo events, check out the website listed above for activities, prompts and local events.