Using Scrivener to Organize Your PoetryUsing Scrivener to Organize Your Poetry

Scrivener is well known for being a great writing tool, but most of what you read related to writing fiction or non-fiction. What can it do for you if, like me, you write poetry?


For the record, I’m not affiliated with Scrivener or Literature and Latte ( https://www.literatureandlatte.com/). I’m just a satisfied customer.


My poetry collection consists of several hundred poems and I’m continuing to write. I needed to find a way to organize my work. I wanted to separate out poems that have been published, indicate a status (first draft vs. revised, for example), and so on.


Scrivener’s ability to let you create your own labels and add new text fields for metadata came to my rescue. (Note, Scrivener 3 lets you add checkboxes, dates, and lists as well as text fields.)


You are started with a binder, which is a big folder for all your documents. There are also two dropdown fields for you to change. I decided to call one dropdown “Status” and gave it the possible values of “First Draft,” “Revised Draft,” “Done,” “Leave It,” and “Published.” “Done” means that I’m done revising and it is ready to send out. “Leave It” means I don’t think the poem is going to be up-to-snuff, so I should put it aside and expend my energy elsewhere.


I use the second dropdown to label any poem that will fit into a Collection. I’ll talk more about Collections later.


I added custom text fields to track things like the date I wrote the poem originally as well as the date of the latest revision. I also have a field to note if the poem has been workshopped. I recently added a field where I list the Open Mics where I have read the poem.


These fields are all searchable but the search doesn’t differentiate among the custom fields. In other words, I can search on the year but it won’t let me say that I want the create date versus the modified date.


The binder is also useful for the organization. Within the binder, you can create folders. When I started using Scrivener, I had a number of old poems so I put those in their own folder. I wanted to keep them for legacy purposes but wound up revising and submitting some of them.


I also created a folder for newer/current poems. I also separate published poems into their own folder. I have another folder for short biographies and other related items.


The last Scrivener goodie that I use is Collections. You can create a collection and place a document into it. The new Collection appears on a tab with the binder. When you select a Collection, the individual documents are listed. You can rearrange their order without changing the order in the binder. This allows me to keep my binder alphabetized and rearrange the order in the Collection. Since the Collection will become a chapbook, it’s important to be able to play with the order easily. The entire Collection can be printed or exported by using the Compile function.


You may notice some redundancy in my method, but there is a purpose. Marking a poem for a Collection with the dropdown doesn’t put it into the Collection, but it does mark it with a color. When I view all the documents in Scrivener’s corkboard, I can see which poems are allocated to a chapbook.


You may find other things that you want to track. For example, I list submissions in the synopsis for the document but you might want to put that information into a field. Scrivener’s flexibility allows me to organize myself so I can spend more time writing and editing.


Review of “Drowning in the Floating World” by Meg EdenReview of “Drowning in the Floating World” by Meg Eden

Meg Eden’s landscape for “Drowning in the Floating World” is the 2011 Tohoku tsunami in Japan and the following Fukushima nuclear disaster. The poems are populated by people who are fully realized in a few lines. It is through this close focus that the big picture emerges. Huge horrors cannot be processed all at once, and the small details make it all identifiable and real in a way that a camera pulled back would not be able to do.


In “Response to the Brother Who Wants to Move in After the Earthquake,” the fear is palpable. “You are contaminated; / a power plant lives in you now. / There’s already radiation in your skin, / and I can’t risk you rubbing off on me.” In “Poem for the Sneakers Washing Onshore,” Eden makes the scope of the tragedy more comprehensible in a simple way that grows on you with each line. “we are the feet of salarymen / & the feet of school girls / & the feet of tennis players / & the feet of arcade gamers…” Some poems come at you viscerally and will stick with you for a long time. These lines are from “Tsunami Girl.” “It happened quite slowly: her pale flesh rotted, / slipping from nature, from her family’s thoughts. / First, her face, then hands, and only at the very end, / her hair. Only then was she counted / collateral in a city filled with collateral.”


Nothing is wasted in this writing. I can feel that every syllable, every comma, was thought out. Beauty and horror dance together in these poems, tied together by a felt humanity. I highly recommend this book.


Review of “In the Dark, Soft Earth” by Frank WatsonReview of “In the Dark, Soft Earth” by Frank Watson

(Disclaimer: I was given an advance reader copy PDF of this book for writing a review.)


Frank Watson’s  “In the Dark, Soft Earth” has a large scope. In general, Watson’s style is sparse and succinct. His descriptions aren’t grandiose but still encompass the entire world and time both ancient and modern. Some poems have a perspective that reaches across the centuries, like these lines from “time”: “these are the tombs / of a thousand years / grown green with the moss / of life’s decay” or from “each pulse”: “each pulse begets the night / each kiss engraves / a stone tablet that lives / for a thousand years”. Other poems cross vast distances, such as these lines from “maps”: “her breath / has blown me / across this half / of the waking world”.


Images thread their way through the poems – continents, campfires, sand, seas, jazz, and more. The collection is broken into ten books. Each book in the collection also has its own theme. Some poems are accompanied by artwork by such painters as Salvador Dali, Claude Monet, Edward Hopper, and Henri Rousseau. Book 8, called “An Entrance to the Tarot Garden” consists of artwork from tarot decks, one poem for each card of the major arcana. I found this section particularly intriguing due to my own interest in the tarot. Here is an excerpt from “high priestess”: “she is ancient / as she is young — / and while we look / she stops to listen // she carries her robes / like she has worn them / for three thousand years”. Book 9, “Across the Continents” includes poems that are translations or inspired by other poets’ works. Book 10, “Stories Before I Sleep” steps away from the spare style of the other poems and expands to include sonnets and other works that have more breathing space than the majority of the poems in the rest of the book.


Every poem seems pared down to its essential parts. Even so, there are sometimes bumps in the road. Rhyme is used occasionally and there are moments when it seems accidental. When that happens, I find it more distracting than helpful. A few of the descriptions also stopped me for a moment, such as these lines from “in the dark, soft earth”: “so still, the universe / has barely cracked / and the grass stays silent”. I found myself contemplating the sound of grass, which probably wasn’t what the author intended.


There are wonderful nuggets to be found in Watson’s poems. My favorite lines are from “secrets”: “sunlight broken / into a thousand little sins”. A few other favorite lines are from “rhythms”: “oh, what she does / to me with her / cello strings” and from “tender flesh”: “she was a doe / with tender flesh / but the only / ones she loved / were hungry wolves”.


This volume of poetry reminds me of a tree in winter. There is a primal beauty in its bareness, none of the essential parts are hidden. If s stripped-down style appeals to you, I think you will really enjoy “In the Dark, Soft Earth.”


Dream LandDream Land

Many thanks to Ariel Chart for publishing my poem Dream Land Ariel Chart adds a graphic to each poem or story they publish and I adore the picture that paired with my poem. Please check them out. You can also subscribe to their emails, which puts some wonderful writing into your mailbox each day.

Ringing the BellRinging the Bell

I am very happy to announce that Clare Songbirds Publishing House has agreed to publish my chapbook, “Ringing the Bell.” I’m very excited to be working with CSPH as they are very professional and have a reputation for caring about their authors. It will be a while before my book is available, but in the meantime do check them out and look at the wonderful books they have currently. https://www.claresongbirdspub.com/

Writing Poetry in FormsWriting Poetry in Forms

5 Reasons to write formal poetry and 5 tips for helping you do it.

For most of my writing life, my poetry has been free verse. It seems to go well with my style, which often has a conversational tone. In my poetry workshop class in college, I’d had to try some forms, including the obligatory sestina. It wasn’t my favorite experience.
More recently, I’ve tried a couple of forms and actually found some pleasure and purpose. I’ve learned a few things and thought I would share some reasons why to try forms and a few tips on how to go about it.


Reason 1. Trying to write in a form will make you more aware of the structure. Even if you don’t think your form poem is successful, look at how the line and stanza breaks affect the flow of the poem. Adapt this knowledge when you go back to free verse. I have become better at breaking my own poems into stanzas instead of a solid block of text.


Tip 1. Find modern poems written in your chosen form and then read and re-read them. We all cut our teeth reading sonnets by William Shakespeare and Elizabeth Barrett Browning. They wrote in eras when “thee” and “thou” were commonplace. Don’t mistake the vocabulary for the form. Don’t throw archaic language into your sonnet unless you are trying to make a point.
Find poems by writers whose sonnets live in today, such as Billy Collins, Adrienne Rich, or Jay Hall Carpenter. Try Tracy K. Smith or Alicia Ostriker for a ghazal.


Reason 2. Trying to fill a line with the correct number of syllables, rhyme scheme, etc. will make you take a more intense look at each line in your poem. While writing a sonnet, for example, I needed more syllables and yet didn’t want “filler.” It made me find a way to say what I wanted at a deeper level. Instead of trying to tighten my line to as few words as possible to say what I wanted, I breathed into the line’s constraints and said more.


Tip 2. If you aren’t used to looking for the feet in a line and are out of practice looking for the beats, it can be difficult to meet a form’s requirements. I found some practice was useful. Check out this tool by the University of Virginia’s Department of English: https://prosody.lib.virginia.edu/ . It gives you interactive practice in determining the meter and feet. This will help brush up your comfort with iamb (da DUM) vs trochee (DUM da) and all the rest.


Reason 3. Writing in a form that imposes some type of rhythm will make your poem flow. There’s a reason nursery rhymes and songs can stick with us. Our ears like things that have a rhythm to them. You don’t want to go too far and make your poem sing-songy. That leads to my next tip.


Tip 3. If you analyze one of those sonnets we were taught, you’ll find that strict iambic pentameter isn’t used 100% of the time. Every now and then, a meter will be trochee or anapest (da da DUM) instead of iambic. Not every rhyme will be exact. The occasional near rhyme or switched up meter keeps the reader or listener interested. Unlike a drummer keeping time for the band, it’s okay to be a little bit off now and then. It is a good idea, and switching the beat intentionally in a specific place can add emphasis to your words.


Reason 4. Doing research on what forms are out there can open you up to a new world of poetry. We tend to hear about sonnets and sestinas and haiku, but what about pantoum (Malaysian), ovillejo (Spanish), clogyrnach (Welsh), or rubyaiyat (Persian)? Love of interesting language is universal and this is a cool way to get exposed to something new.


Tip 4. Unless you are trying to get your poem published in a form-specific journal, don’t sweat it. There are literary journals that state they accept poetry in forms (like “Rattle” and “Blue Unicorn”) as well as journals dedicated to specific forms, such as haiku (“Haiku Journal” published by Prolific Press).


Almost any form has its subtleties. For example, haiku is not only about syllable count. There are other requirements, like having a nature reference, having a turn, and so on. There are a ton of people who will gladly tell you where you’ve gone wrong. Take them with a grain of salt but learn from their feedback.


If your goal is to write a good poem, then write the best poem you can, using the constraints of the form as closely as you can. If your turn comes in the wrong line, so be it. You might not fair well with a journal dedicated to that specific form (but you never know until you try). Other venues might be happy to see that poem.


Reason 5. This one is also partly a tip. Did you know there is something called a “nonce” form? Basically, you as the poet creates a form that you use. It could be for one poem or you might do multiple using it. You’ve probably already done this without calling it a form. Ever decide that your poem fits better in three stanzas of specific lengths? Create your own rhyme scheme, just because it seems to work? Who knows, you might create a form and have it catch on.


Tip 5. Have fun. Stretch your writing wings. Give yourself a challenge and see what happens. Not every poem in a form will succeed, but not everything in free verse does either. Experiment and enjoy the process.

For ToniFor Toni

My poem, “For Toni,” is in the current issue of Poetry Quarterly. Thanks once again to the good folks at Prolific Press for like my work. Please check it out: https://prolificpress.com/bookstore/poetry-quarterly-c-1/poetry-quarterly-fall-2019-p-316.html. This poem was written for a friend of mine who passed away a few years ago. I’m glad to see such a quality publisher include it.

Writing Poetry: Purging vs. Crafting and Why Both are WorthwhileWriting Poetry: Purging vs. Crafting and Why Both are Worthwhile

Sometimes when I meet new people, it comes up in conversation that I write poetry. The odds are good that the other person will say “I’ve written some poems” or “I wrote some poetry in high school.” If I ask whether they are still writing or why they stopped, the typical answers are “I never showed them to anyone,” “I wasn’t very good,” or “It was just high school.”


Many of us wrote those “purging” poems in our teen years. There is so much going on during that time when everything in our lives feels huge, and we know that we need to wrangle our emotions or burst from the seams. Some take up a form of physical expression or release, playing sports or taking up dance. Some grab a guitar or sit behind a drum kit. Some of us take up pen and paper (or keyboard) and contain our explosions in print.


Some folks use that catharsis and take it further, learning to craft their work. They take a step back and use a more detached view. They edit it and find better ways to communicate those emotions. Eventually, they may be brave enough to show their poetry to the world at large.


While this kind of crafting may seem evolutionary, it doesn’t replace purging. In my experience, poems come into being in several different ways.


  • •There is a problem or concept that needs to be worked out
  • •Some event of my life makes me think and I need to process it
  • •A writing prompt catches my attention.
  • •Some event in my life or the world at large generates a strong emotion

In those first three cases, words come out on paper with a certain amount of step by step logic. The process of finding the exact word makes the writer think at a deeper level of granularity. We are forced to do the analysis that we may not do otherwise.


In the last case, my emotional teacup gets filled to the brim. The best way to keep from over-flowing is still to put pen to paper and release some of the pent-up energy. I take that anger or grief and break it down to ink marks on a page. I can be as aggressive or snarky as I want on paper, without letting it out in public. Again, the process of getting the right words helps analysis of the situation.


Some of these “purge” poems will get edited, crafted, improved on, and eventually shared. Some of these poems will stay just as they are. Both results are valid, both useful to the poet.


As much as our teen years can be filled with the angst of painful growth, adults also have many things that fill our days with love, anxiety, pain, passion, grief, or hope. When we are fit to burst, we can still put pen to paper, purge our souls for good or ill. We can decide later if the poem will stay-as-purged or craft it and ready it for the world.


If we want to craft our poetry, we can learn to improve our skills by taking a class at the local community college, finding a class online, or joining a local critique group. In any case, both purging and crafting are worthwhile approaches to writing poetry and neither of them needs to be relegated to the past.


SynchronicitySynchronicity

Synchronicity is a wonderful thing. Two things popped into my email today that relate to creative people working in a community, and they came from two very different sources.


The first was my Daily Stoic email (from dailystoic.com). Today it discussed how we are all part of a team, whether we know it or not. The example was about comedian Marc Maron asking stand-up comedians and actors about “who were your crew?” Almost everyone has an answer. Individuals who were working with and around each other and who encouraged and challenged each other. I immediately thought of the band of local poets that I see again and again at open mics in the area and also of my poetry critique group.


Then I opened my daily LitHub email and found an article on “The Imposter Poets of Iceland.” These six women take their name from the Imposter Syndrome feeling we all have/have had/will have. It’s an interesting story on how they kicked that feeling to the curb. I find it inspirational. Check it out: https://lithub.com/the-impostor-poets-of-iceland-issue-a-m…/


Bay to OceanBay to Ocean

I’ve fallen a little behind in updating my publications here, but that doesn’t mean I haven’t been working. My most recent publication is the poem “Body Blows” in the 2019 Bay to Ocean Anthology. This anthology is put out by the good people at the Eastern Shore Writers Association. I was introduced to the ESWA this year when I attended my first Bay to Ocean Conference in March. I was really impressed with the conference’s organization and the quality of the workshops. Part of the cost of the conference was for a year’s membership. Each year, as a follow-on to the conference, the produce an anthology with submissions open to ESWA members. I was very happy to have them publish “Body Blows.” If you are anywhere near the eastern shore of Maryland, you should try to get to their conference. It is well worth it.

“Showboat” by Grace Cavalieri – Review“Showboat” by Grace Cavalieri – Review

Showboat by Grace Cavalieri is available on Amazon

Showboat can be seen as one long poem or as a series of short poems, but either way, it can also be viewed as a lovely necklace with pearls and nuggets of gold. As she describes the life of a Naval wife, and of those she met along the way, we are given small portraits and long arcs. Showboat is elegant in the way it melds simplicity and depth.


One example is the following stanza:

That august a plane crashed
It was Donna’s pilot          we went there
Her tan arms          her white linen dress
The knock on the door
Thank God          her door          was not our door
         Don’t say that out loud
Blonde Donna who never thought
         anything bad
Now she’s as human as it gets


There is a lovely succinctness to these words. Volumes are compressed into a few lines and we’re taken on a journey of decades within a few pages. I heartily recommend you spend some time and enjoy the ride.

Flutter Press shutting downFlutter Press shutting down

I was sad to hear that Flutter Press, the publisher of my chapbook, “Ghosts of My Own Choosing,” will be shutting down as of October 5th. I wish Sandy Benitez good luck in her future projects. She was great to work with, always willing to answer my questions.

As a result, my book will be available on Amazon through the 5th. After that, if anyone is interested in purchasing a copy, please email me (terri @ terrispad.com – without the spaces). I have a small stock for sale and you can pay me through Paypal.

Summer Reading Pile – PoetrySummer Reading Pile – Poetry

As a follow-up to my Summer Reading Pile – Fiction post, here is my list of poetry-related work that I’ve been reading and some from my TBR pile. Again, not full on reviews, but some comments and suggestions.


I recently finished “In the Palm of Your Hand” by Steve Kowit. This is a great book on writing poetry. I think my favorite thing about this book is the section on writing experimental poetry. He gives several exercises for loosening up one’s writing style and I’m working on a couple of poems based on some of his exercises. I highly recommend this book.


I also recently read Jane H. Fitzgerald’s “Notes from the Undaunted” which is a book of poems and photographs lovingly encompassing Jane’s husband’s fight with cancer. Jane and I recently met at a poetry open mic and wound up exchanging copies of our books when she found out that I am a cancer survivor.


The other day, I had to wait for a tire to be delivered for some work to get done on my car. I took the time to stop at the nearby Books-a-Million, which is always bad for my budget and good for my bookshelf. Several volumes of poetry came home with me. The first one, “Take Me With You” by Andrea Gibson is a quick and glorious read. Andrea’s poems are short and insightful. The book has three sections, On Love, On the World, and On Becoming. There are many poems in this collection that made me go “oooooh” in recognition and appreciation.


Next up in my TBR is “Wild Embers” by Nikita Gill. Just starting this and already love it.


After that is the brilliantly titled “The Witch Doesn’t Burn in This One” by Amanda Lovelace. I’ve been meaning to pick up Amanda’s “The Princess Saves Herself in This One” but there was only one copy of the Witch left on the shelf and I couldn’t pass it by.


Also in the TBR is “Not Without Our Laughter,” an anthology from the Black Ladies Brunch Collective and “The Smallest Talk” by Michael McFee.


What are you reading? What would you recommend?


Summer Reading Pile – FictionSummer Reading Pile – Fiction

As many of us are in the midst of our Summer Reading Piles, I thought I’d talk about mine and make some other suggestions. I’m going to break this up into a list for fiction and a list for poetry. These aren’t full-on reviews, especially as some are still in my TBR pile.


The first book is Hard Time by Sara Paretsky. Over the years I’ve gone on “mysteries with female protagonists written by women” binges. Forgive me that I am way out of date on some of them. V. I. Warshawski is the protagonist of my favorites series. “Hard Time” is the 9th in the series and came out in 1999. As always, the story is great and V.I. is right on target. The series is still going strong and the newest book will be out in October (“Shell Game”)


Last weekend, I read Silence Fallen by Patricia Briggs. This is book 10 in the Mercy Thompson series and is awesome. I describe Patricia Briggs’ urban fantasies as gourmet popcorn. When I get one, I just want to curl up on the couch with it until I’m done. Mercy is the queen of snark and I love the depth of the world that Briggs has built.


Etched in BoneI’m in the midst of Etched in Bone by Anne Bishop. This is the fifth book in the Others series. This alternate vision of our world, in which human beings are far from being the top predator, is marvelous. This world is detailed and the characters intriguing.


On my TBR list, I have several books that I found on lists on Unbound Worlds. Unbound Worlds is a great site for anyone interested in fantasy and/or science fiction. They have a batch of suggested books for different sub-genres. The books in my pile are “House of Stairs” by William Sleator, “The Rook” by Daniel O’Malley , and “Gardens of the Moon” by Steven Erikson.