Giving Voice to Your Words

Microphone in FistThe other night I went to a concert that was part New Orleans stride and part raucous, interstellar noise. Ten musicians on the stage whittled sound from horns, strings, keys and skins, and sometimes (not often) they were quiet; other times, they surrounded us in endless vibrations.

Poems and stories make music, rhythm, and strange noises on the page, but how do you, as the writer, offer this when you read the work to others? Being truthful to the piece you’ve written is not as easy as you’d think. Line breaks, punctuation choices, dialogue… interpreting these “on-the-page” tools for the microphone takes a different skill set.

You might not know where to back off, where to push it, how to enhance your voice to give the audience what they need, or where the tone needs some modifying…

In a few weeks, I’ll be leading a brand new three-day workshop in Santa Fe called Reading to an Audience. We won’t be hollering, but I won’t let you whisper, either. Come learn the best way to make sure people hear your words. Learn how to scathe or seduce the largest or smallest audience with your language and your voice. See the sidebar at right for class dates and a link to register.

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Redacting My Thoughts

"Wedge" by Lauren Camp (rolled cotton fabric strips; rusted nails; weathered wood; 20" x 13" x 3")

“Wedge” by Lauren Camp (rolled cotton fabric strips; rusted nails; weathered wood; 20″ x 13″ x 3″)

I want to try to cohere some thoughts on “relationships.” I just realized that every single thing I write deals in such correlations — the relationship of one word to the next, of the line to what follows, of comma to phrase, of truth to what I choose to tell, of silence to action.

I remember when I figured out that my artwork was all about depth, even if it was also about jazz or the messages women carry, or even just numerous shades of gold. Looking at every piece I’ve ever made, visually, I also realize that these works are all about relationships.

And perhaps …I now think, depth and relationships are the same. Continue reading

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Are You Reading Your Work Aloud?

It is not foolish. It is IMPORTANT to read your work aloud. You have to hear the word choices and how well they fit together. You have to hear the rhythm, and the places where the rhythm you have created fails.

Read to anyone, or no one. Be a bard and announce your words to the walls of your apartment. Whisper the poem to the dog. Read to a group of avid fans. Whatever you choose, you must MUST must read aloud at various points in the revision process.

Even better, ask someone else to read your poem to you. Someone who has never seen or heard the poem before. This will help you hear the sticky places in the poem — and with this information, you can set about finding fixes for those.

That’s it — one small, easy revision tip — and my thought for the day.

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Much of Everything

Sunflowers always seem to me to be announcing themselves in a beautiful, satisfying way.

Sunflowers always seem to me to be announcing themselves in a beautiful, satisfying way.

Write, damn you! What else are you good for?—James Joyce

I find it utterly unsettling to have to announce: this is a little of me for you to look at, but that is what I will do today. Here are links to…

a review of The Dailiness by the editor of the journal Halfway Down the Stairs

a post I wrote about teaching, to accompany two of my poems in The Quotable (you can also navigate to the two poems, if you’re so inclined)

— and, between the scholarly articles in the Journal of Feminist Studies in Religion, a persona poem of mine in the voice of Jean Anouilh’s Antigone.

Now I’m going to pull my sunflower self back down, and rejoin the masses doing quiet work to make the world glow.

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Comparisons: How to Do Them Well

Midsummer stretches beside me with its cat’s yawn.
Trees with dust on their lips, cars melting down
in its furnace.
                                   —Derek Walcott, “Midsummer VI

And here it is, full-on summer, and I seem to be in that summer-sluggish mode. More hours, and what I want most is to sit and read, sit and write, sit and drink iced tea.

I learned about oppressive heat in Belize this past March. People hardly moved. I was told that the country’s motto translates to “In shade we prosper.”

But look at what Caribbean poet Derek Walcott does with heat…! Continue reading

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Summer Writing Workshops in Santa Fe

“The Emerger” by Diana Cooper (acrylic, ink, acetate, felt, paper, foam core, map pins)

As a teacher, I have ways to gently pull you out of your shell, to widen your voice (both internal and external), and to give you new writing tools. I am offering a few of these possibilities this summer.

You might be saying, who has time in the summer to write, but… I’ve figured out a way to take just a little bit of your time while the sun is up high and too hot. Join me, and some enthusiastic others, for three afternoons in July and/or three afternoons in August. Continue reading

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