The Hunt

I have to say that I forgot how much I hate job hunting.

I think 90% of the reason I hate it is because I see all of these expectations that employers put out and they’re all looking for this energetic, sharp, quick, witty, funny, personable, beautiful, wizened, youthful, person who I just, am not. I can be some of those things some of the time, but I am never as fast as they want me to be, I am never as well versed in every program they expect me to know, and I never feel qualified to actually hit “apply” for anyone.

I mean, I’m no slouch. I have 2 years experience running an online news team, I’ve been in honor societies, and sororities, and graduated twice with high honors. I have a GPA of 3.94 for crying out loud, but I’m just not their level of good.

I’m not their level of engaged and committed to the type of person they want to be around for 8 hours every day for the next 50 some odd years. I suppose that’s why school is more comfortable than work. At work, you’re committed, and you’re performing for 8 hours of the day. You have to be sociable and kind and on top of it.

At school, you just have to learn. Sit your butt in a seat and learn. That’s a lot easier.

From your experience, which is easier for you? School or work? Why?


Back to Basics

I started going to school again.

That might be an event if I felt like I’d done anything in the middle, but I really don’t think I did. I think I took a few year sabbatical from life and now I’m back to it again. It’s that feeling that makes me believe I should really just commit full time and go back for a masters in English rather than bothering with the School of Management stuff.

At the same time, I know that marketing is vital to the type of activities I like to do. I need to learn how to do this stuff in order to really get good at advertising Quirni.

So it’s a two-way mountain. Either I struggle through marketing on my own and attempt to make Quirni all it can be, or I fight through school now and go back for what I love later. Right now, the latter seems more appropriate, but maybe it won’t always seem that way.

I love going to school in general, so whatever way I choose, I want to keep spending way too much money for way too little profit. Like, zero profit. That’s a problem.


Parts of a Poem

I was recently in a conversation with someone who wanted to learn how to critique poetry, and I figured, what the heck, I’ll just go over what I know. On YWS, I’ve been reviewing poetry since 2013, and I’m a poetry moderator, so I probably know quite a bit. Plus, I love helping people. This wasn’t going to be anything too difficult, right?

Well, it turned out to be a bit of a challenge to get started because poetry has so many aspects to it which are reviewable. There’s tone, structure, clarity, uniqueness, entertainment value, and even the story like plot, setting, characters, theme, and point of view. I decided to narrow it down to just those things which would be easiest to manage, and I’d like to share some of the more complicated things I discovered when posed this request with you.

Structure vs Tone

The structure of a poem, things like the punctuation, capitalization, spacing, line breaks, and so forth affects the tone of the piece. This was a new concept for my fellow reviewer, so maybe it is to you too. First thing first, the tone of a poem is the way the words sound with their meaning such as an angry tone, harsh, light, etc and it’s often made up of the connotation, denotation, stress, and meter.

The structure can affect the tone because it relates different words together that usually would not be highlighted in a poem. For instance, if a poet capitalizes certain nouns or verbs, they might create a different stress or meter than if they leave it for a talking voice to read.

Some of the ways a critiquer might determine if the structure is hurting the poem or not is by changing the poem. Take it out of the structure and try to fiddle with it to find if there’s something that works better. Do the capitals get in the way? Does adding capitals help? Usually this is advice I give poets rather than critiquers, but it can help both determine which the problem child is if one of these two is faulty.

Clarity vs Creativity

There are usually two camps in any debate, for and against. That’s the case in poetry too when it comes to the debate about whether clarity of message, or creativity of word choice and sound should reign supreme. There are some poems written just to sound good, and others which are written to give a message.

Ideally, like with any good debate, there’s compromise for a final answer. In this case, there is compromise with allowing for a poem which has a meaning, but is creatively delivered or a poem with sounds creative while delivering a message. The difference? If a poet is doing the first, they focus on a message, such as racism, war, famine, love, peace, those big ticket items, while they use poetic devices to deliver that message. A poem on racism being from the perspective of an albino zebra, that sort of thing. Meanwhile, there is also the option that a poem is just about the sounds, but they snuck in a message as well. It might be something that is still a big ticket item, or it might just be a life lesson they’ve learned.

The point is that in a critique, it is the reviewer’s job to determine if either the creativity or the message are lost to the other. Did they sacrifice their message too much and lose it entirely? Is there no point to read the poem? Or is the poem too explanation oriented and there’s no challenge to reading it? Is it a boring thing to read? These questions all help a poet determine which way they need to sway their balance because it really is a balancing act.

 How To Analyze a Poem

While we were working, I discovered that they didn’t feel comfortable analyzing poetry. To me, this is something I can do, but I do less than I want to. In the end, I explained it like this.

There are a few ways to do it, but basically it boils down to asking questions about the poem to discover new understandings. Mostly, focus on what the poet’s intentions were. Ask yourself why they might do something versus something else, look for figurative language, punctuation marks in weird spots, capitalization in weird spots, and basically, be curious!

To get them started, I set out some basic questions.

  • What is the poem about?
  • How do you know what the poem is about?
  • What is your paraphrase of the poem?
  • Does anything sound odd? If so, what sounds odd and what do you expect?

Sometimes these questions can be pretty complex, so let’s break it down just a little bit. It’s okay to take them in any order. There’s no reason to jump right into ‘what’s it mean’ when we can paraphrase it to get that meaning. For now, let’s look at ways to break down the questions and make them manageable.

What is the poem about?

This question is here for two reasons, a broad sweeping statement of theme, and any personal observations afterwards. Really, I answer this question twice, once when I begin to write a review, and the next time when I finish writing a review.

If someone is completely stuck with analyzing what a poem is about just in general, I suggest looking for key words, jumping down to the paraphrase, finding figurative language (metaphor, simile, allusion, alliteration, idiom, etc.), or looking at the tone to figure out if the language is negative, positive, or something else. The more someone works with a poem, the more they’ll understand it’s complexities.

How do you know what the poem is about?

This is a probing question to get the analysis done. What makes me as a reviewer think that this is the message of the poet? This can help because if I already have a sweeping message written down, I can clarify it and make sure it’s right.

If someone doesn’t know how they know, I suggest they do all the things from looking at what the poem is about. Paraphrase. Underline figurative language. Analyze tone. Reread it. Underline key words. If none of that works, ask “Where does it say anything about [meaning of the poem]?” If that’s too broad, look for the specific parts. Use quotes. Whenever using a quote, make sure there is a paraphrase of the quote attached to it so that someone coming by afterwards can read the paraphrase and see what the reviewer sees.

What is your paraphrase of the poem?

This is a call to action, not a question. Basically, I write a paraphrase of the poem somewhere so that I have it on hand if I need to use it to interpret any of the lines or see where my interpretation falls short.

Does anything sound odd? If so, what sounds odd and what do you expect?

This final question leads back to the question about what is the poem about because if I find something that sounds odd, I know that I need to potentially rethink my meaning. Usually if I find something odd, it’s because I haven’t read something close enough.

Oftentimes when paraphrasing, something won’t quite stick. Something feels like the message is lost or that there is a dead line [a line with no meaning]. Sometimes this is because of poor poetry writing [I work with emerging poets], but sometimes it is because I didn’t spend enough time with a poem. This tells me if that’s the case and it has saved my criticism from many an angry retort.


Poetry is interconnected so what affects one thing will change how another feels. Play around with the poems you want to edit or review until you find what you want. If you are reviewing or analyzing a poem, try to discover the mindset of the writer to determine why they might have done things a certain way.

Ask yourself questions about the poem to help you analyze the meaning and why they used certain phrases, structures, or sounds.

Have a question about poetry or see something you disagree with? Ask and tell me! I would love to hear from you guys!

Poetry in Schools

With all of the recent school shootings such as Florida and Maryland, I thought it was time to talk about what I do. I work in a school building M-F with kids who are usually none to happy to see me, struggling to find the best ways to communicate in the short time I have with each student.

I’m not a teacher, I’m an in-class tutor. That means I don’t teach class, but I do teach kids. I help kids who are not understanding lessons, or just have a difficult time not getting distracted. A lot of the times, I feel like a parole officer, and if I do get to teach kids during the day, it’s for a very short time, maybe a few minutes. Our system at my school isn’t perfect. There are other schools which have better systems for tutoring kids in need, but our system works for us, despite the hassle.

So how does this relate to Poetry Talking?

Well, April is coming up and for those of you who don’t know, that means National Poetry Month. I’m in two English classes. The problem? Neither one of them was planning anything for Poetry Month!

Why? Well, there is a huge variety of reasons but the main one was testing took up too much time, and they didn’t feel as though they had time to handle poetry. I think that’s a load of bull since poetry doesn’t need to be “dealt with” it just needs to be read, enjoyed, and move on.

Last year, I saw a young man writing poetry and while he called it “rap” that was just because poetry wasn’t considered ‘cool’ because it was totally a poem. People can be excited about poetry, and I know when I teach kids in April, I will be doing things with poetry to encourage understanding!

Poetry can help with so many critical thinking skills. In a single poem we can have at least two types of patterns to identify [rhyme and rhythm] and there are so many figures of speech!

I am happy to say that both classes have read poems once this year, but once is not much. So, this Poetry Month if you’re in the schools, I challenge you to “deal with” poetry just for a few minutes at the beginning or end of class. Read them something cool and fun that they would be interested in! There are emerging poets all the time who write on unique topics, and develop new messages, so poetry is just as likely to be over something as an article or a short story is.

Don’t cut it out of your curriculum just because you don’t think they’ll get it. Assume they’ll get it because it’s already in their day to day lives with every song they sing.

If you work in the schools, what are your plans for Poetry Month?

Punctuation in Poetry

I mentioned during my segments on capitalization in poetry that I would go over punctuation in poetry in a similar manner. Well, the time has come so let’s dive in with getting an overview of all of the different types of punctuation I’ve seen in poetry. If you’ve seen more, please comment and write your post about your style of punctuation you’ve seen, and I’ll link it in this post! I’d love for this to be collaborative.

The types of punctuation I see most in poetry are what I’m going to call Line Punctuation, Sentence Punctuation, Breath Punctuation, or No Punctuation. This is not an exhaustive list so I’ll add in ‘Alternative’ Punctuation as a final catch-all category to show you some of the author specific methods. I will go over each one briefly but this article is mostly for naming and explaining what they all are. In later articles I’ll go over each one individually and those links will be edited into this article once those articles are posted.

Line Punctuation

First up is the traditional. Line Punctuation is for when a poem has end punctuation, or very standard punctuation for the syncopation of the poem.

The blue buds bloomed,
beneath the spring sun —
little heads peeking, slowly,
a tentative reach for warmth,
after the long winter.

They calmed into the nippy day,
as it warmed, their green shoots;
unprepared for night, they frosted.

The important thing to note is that not all lines end in just commas. Sometimes they get jumbled up with other punctuation types, but each and every line has punctuation at the end and the beat for each line is typically the same, or at least similar. This is most commonly seen in older styles of poetry.

Today some people see this end punctuation structure as naive because it can break up the flow of the poem, and hinder any real distance of a breath. You’re not reading through the lines to keep the reader interested in these poems, but pausing to contemplate each one. That takes longer as a reader, and sometimes it can lose interest.

The best place for this is when you’re trying to mimic a slower style of poetry, or an older style. If you’re using spoken word and you want each line to be impactful, it’s often a good thing to use as well because you don’t want your readers reading through the end of the line if the end of your lines are your important loud sounds.

Sentence Punctuation

This type of punctuation is based on the idea that poems are made up of sentences and it often pairs with Sentence Capitalization. Basically, if you would punctuate it in a paragraph, you punctuate it in the poem like that.

The blue buds bloomed beneath
the spring sun. Little heads peeking
slowly, a tentative reach for warmth
after the long winter.

They calmed into the nippy day as it warmed
their green shoots. Unprepared for night,
they frosted.

The example above is the same words, I just changed the punctuation to show you something fun you can do with sentence punctuation: enjambment. Because you aren’t constrained by having to end with punctuation, you can make different styles of liens and get a more varied experience with a poem using Sentence Punctuation.

This style is the most commonly used today for punctuation in poetry that I’ve seen due to the versatile nature and the general acceptance of grammar guidelines for any other form of writing applying. If you need a comma as a paragraph, you need a comma for a poem. Oftentimes this makes it easier for readers who are more unfamiliar with poetry to accept and read the poem as well due to the familiar nature.

Sentence Punctuation works best with poems that aren’t trying to rebel against anything, or show anything off aside from their words. If you want the punctuation to be in the background, this is a good choice.

Breath Punctuation

This is one of the less traditional methods of punctuation. Basically anywhere you pause while reading your poem, put a comma, anywhere you stop, put a period, and anywhere you feel like it, put whatever other type of punctuation you want. You need to be consistent with what you’re using the punctuation for, but after that, it doesn’t much matter.

The blue buds, bloomed, beneath
the spring sun. Little heads, peeking
slowly, a tentative reach, for warmth
after the long, winter.

They calmed, into the nippy day, as it warmed
their green shoots. Unprepared for night,
they frosted.

This style can be used for more dramatic readings and as a reminder if you’re reading spoken poem where you want your pauses to be. Oftentimes this type of punctuation will get comments that you’re using punctuation wrong however, if you’re on a poetry reviewing site. This could also be why I am slowly beginning to see more of it accepted into poetry magazines. It’s harder to see that the writer isn’t just using punctuation wrong, but the general guideline of it is very straightforward. Read it how the poet wrote it. Use the punctuation as guideposts as they are meant to be.

This is paired best with Sentence Capitalization or Breath Capitalization surprisingly enough because if you’re using either one, the punctuation pretty much falls together with the style. No Capitalization also works nicely with this, especially if you want to add just a touch of structure to your lack of capitalization.

No Punctuation

This style is one of the easiest to edit into a poem. Basically, any punctuation you use, take it out. There is some debate about leaving things like apostrophes and other spelling punctuation, so that is up to the poet.

The blue buds bloomed
beneath the spring sun
little heads peeking slowly
a tentative reach for warmth
after the long winter

They calmed into the nippy day
as it warmed their green shoots
unprepared for night they frosted

As you can see I went back to the line punctuation version of this poem to show you the effects and how this works. Without punctuation, our brains will automatically decide where we want to stop and start sentences, so naturally it’s a little easier to see the sentences if we have clear chunks that don’t have enjambment. Because of that, this style lends itself well to shorter lines which are usually just verb/noun/etc. phrases.

The effect on the reader can range depending on the style of capitalization you choose to pair with this particular style of punctuation, so this one is worth exploring. I’ve often found that it works best with dark or brooding poems, or poems that are showing some form of rebellion because we’re stripping away the societal norm of guidelines for how to read something, and imposing the reader’s choice. It can create multiple different ways to read a single poem and a lot of younger poets really love that aspect of this style. You can allow the reader to explore and really just step back into the audience as the poet.

Alternative Punctuation

Some more styles of punctuation that some people use are:

  • Ellipsis Punctuation: Putting . . . at the end of each line for dramatic effect.
  • Dash Punctuation: Look up Emily Dickinson.
  • Meter Punctuation: Do the same thing as breath, but for the meter strictly.
  • Image Punctuation: e. e. cummings style

And any more that you can find. These other styles are often specialized to a particular group of writer, so their presence really tells us that punctuation is fair game to play with in poetry. If we want to get published in a magazine, it might be smart to see what types of punctuation and capitalization they accept before we try to send in our poems, but as long as we have a purpose for our madness, it’s really no holds barred.

Applications in Poetry

When you’re trying to figure out what type of punctuation you want to use in a poem, the best thing to really do is try them out. Just like capitalization, if you don’t know how something will change things, write a poem, apply it to the poem, and re-read it once you have some fresh eyes. The change might be something you love, or it could be something you hate. It’s up to what type of mood and design you want to create on your page.

Just like Capitalization in Poetry provides the backbone of the emotion in a poem, the punctuation can drastically affect the muscular structure. Some poems use more complex language and sentence structure than others, and those poems could get confusing to read with less punctuation, or with a different style of punctuation than they were originally written. Likewise, some poems are written with clearer meanings without punctuation at all due to the variety of interpretations a reader can receive from the absence.

As a rule of thumb, and an easily broken one, if the poem has complex sentences, stick with a more complex punctuation strategy. If you need to legally use parentheses in your sentence, for instance, chances are you’re never going to be able to get rid of them without jimmying the lines.

Punctuation can be expressed through capitalization, lines, and stanzas however. Oftentimes without punctuation, a gap, such as a stanza break, is read as a full stop, and a comma is the end of the line until after the first readthrough. The same can be true when punctuation is available. Some readers can never get over reading a comma at the end of a line, and some will always stop for a pause between stanzas.

If you look at the examples I created, you can see that the punctuation makes you linger in the poem the most with Breath Punctuation and Line Punctuation. The poem reads the fastest with Sentence Punctuation and No Punctuation. This is because the punctuation forces the reader to pause and breathe which lets the words linger longer. Sometimes that’s good, sometimes that’s bad. It’s up to you to figure out what type of effect you want to create using the different styles you can see here.

And lastly, I’m no expert, so I’ll offer this. I’ve had years of playing with poetry, and I’ve had a few published, but if you see something counter to what I’m saying, let me know. I’d love to talk about it with you and edit this or link to your explanations if you’ve written one of these yourselves.

Here are some parting questions. I eagerly await your responses.

  1. Did this article help you see a different type of punctuation opportunity?
  2. Do you see something that’s different from your experience?
  3. What’s your favorite style of punctuation?
  4. What style do you want to see in more detail first?

Metaphorical Discussions

Hey guys, today I thought I’d look at metaphor since it’s something that is so heavily laced not only in poetry but in writing in general. Metaphors are something that are around us all day every day, but we never really pay them much mind. For instance, most idioms started out as metaphors. “The squeaky wheel gets the grease” comes from people having squeaky wheels on wagons. “Don’t rock the boat” comes from a time when fishing and boating was more prevalent.

So here are some things that school wouldn’t have taught you:

Metaphors are not always nouns related to one another. For instance “the truck washed through the traffic” is using a verb ‘washed’ for the metaphor. The truck can’t literally wash through anything, and washing out something is usually reserved for a river or a a washing machine of some sort. It still works as a metaphor because it’s descriptive and relatable. We often wouldn’t even qualify it as a metaphor because it’s so commonplace to use phrases like that. They often end up classified as personification too.

Metaphors are best used when relating very common situations. Think about one of the primary uses of metaphors, describing emotions, and consider some of your favorite. “My heart is a racehorse whenever I see her” is a good example of a metaphor with something abstract like love and something common like racehorses. Even if you’ve never actually been to the horse races, you know what they’re like. We’ve all seen them recreated on TV and in movies. We all know that concept. That’s what makes it a strong metaphor.

An entire poem can be a metaphor. Sometimes when writing a descriptive poem I find it fun to create a metaphor and stick with it for the entire poem. There is one I did recently about dust where I used the dust as a metaphor for my speaker throughout the poem. These can be enlightening because they give people a common object to look at and a complex object to relate it to.

Metaphors don’t always have to be bread and butter. By that metaphor I mean they don’t have to match perfectly every time. If I’m writing a longer metaphor, like the poem about dust, I like to work through the metaphor and lead the train of thought down the paths I need rather than the paths that don’t work. It’s all about finding a way to create an expectation away from notions that don’t fit with the metaphor.

You don’t have to use them! Even in poetry using metaphors is optional. If you don’t like them, you have their cousin similes which are just as useful as metaphors, although they don’t always pack the same punch. For example if we were writing a metaphor of someone’s life becoming horrible and saying it was like getting ripped apart by wolves, it’s a very different experience to literally have a man eaten by wolves, and to have his boss eat him like a wolf for a tension in a story.

Readers don’t have to understand or notice every metaphor. Not all readers are engaging with a story as something to analyze and that’s okay. Some of them just like to enjoy the pretty pictures. I know I do. That doesn’t mean you have to stop putting them in, it just means that you don’t have to be upset if they don’t see them. Also, sometimes metaphors come so naturally to a reader they won’t even notice you wrote it in. Those are the good ones.

It’s not necessary to only use real life things as metaphors. One of my favorite things to write are metaphors where the emotion or object we’re somewhat familiar with is actually describing an unknown new book specific thing in what feels like a reverse metaphor. For instance “His twisting mind was a jarraquin eating her lunch.” tells us more information about what “jarraquin” might be or mean rather than how his mind twisted. We know from personal experience what a “twisting mind” might look like and since we have a little context of “eating her lunch” we know this is probably an animal or a living thing of some sort. With “twisting” paired with it we can assume that it’s something that bends awkwardly and twists. This is one way we can clue in our readers using context clues in a very short description. We could even go on to say “his vivacious emotions are bright jarraquin plumage on his face” to add to a description of them using more vibrant words.

The last thing school might not have taught you about metaphor is that they’re great for arguments. If you want to argue with someone about something and you bring up a solid metaphor, oftentimes you can use it to support your argument through a wide variety of examples from the metaphor’s object and it will actually work until they realize they can say “yeah, but the man wasn’t eaten by wolves” to get out of it.

Do you have any tips for writing metaphors?
Do you have any metaphors you love to use?
Have you used a metaphor in a poem recently and you want to share?

Comment! I’d love to hear from you.

NaPo Day 3-5

Where am i?

Rest on borrowed pillows
beneath gifted blankets
in a house which is too expensive,
behind windows with broken seals
and with nothing to own but
that which is given freely.

An employee of the system
self-promotion, negotiation
a debt which negates wages
any wages
what wages can you spare?
Not begging, but taking anything
nothing, a ten, a twenty,
it always seems too much

This is the existence in which i live.
Last in the syntactic order
above only shame as somehow
there is a positive face i steal.


Break fast across my tempting plate
a moment too soon for my stomach
to be ruled by my brain. A second
later and the guilt guts me like a fish.

The melting, gooey, sweet, liquefying satisfaction
bites at my desire and satiates it. Yes, this is guilty making.

Thanks a lot Easter.

In the Barn

I was working with this little filly, a sweet-heart if every I knew one
and this day she just did not want to work.
I had to use the lunge whip and a plastic bag just to get her moving
then she was constantly turning in and trying to spook.

I think she finally talked to the bullheaded gelding next door
because she was trying to buck the saddle off like he’d done yesterday.
She doesn’t quite have his lung capacity though
and the martingale made it harder on her.

Now she’s acting more like a warm blooded than her typical self
but I’m sure she’ll get over it after a couple half passes
as long as I can keep her on the vertical.
I’m going to have fun today.

Was it Something I Said

One of my professors asked me if I was walking in graduation. I’m graduating this May. I replied with this:

I actually feel really attached to that sort of ceremony because it just finalizes things for me and makes me feel more like, united with the world. I don’t know if that seems odd, but it makes me feel good to know that I’m not alone, that I’m a face in the collection and we did it together, even if we didn’t do it literally together, but like, we all managed to get through this journey together in our own unique ways, sort of like going into a dark forest, sometimes spying silhouettes of our neighbors who walk not ten feet away, but we rarely see their faces. Sometimes we grasp hands, sometimes we have leaders or paths paved, but a lot of it is unmarked, overgrown, and we might just have thickets to contend with. Coming out the other side, walking with everyone, seeing all the faces that were in that forest with you, it really fills me with relief. Especially since I can walk with honors. To me that just adds an element of justification, like what I did, I did well, and doing it well matters. So often you hear that it doesn’t matter how good your grades were in school once you get a job, but there, walking, it does. I didn’t just come out the other side, but for my wounds and scrapes, I achieved too.

I’m saving it because she liked it.