Why Write Poetry in the 21st Century?

The following is a guest post by Keith Welch, whose poetry appeared in Issue 16 of Typehouse

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In so many ways, the first decades of this century have disappointed: No flying cars, no condos on the moon, no reliable political system. War, poverty, and ignorance continue unabated. Depression would appear to be the order of the day. Yet poets continue to turn out poems full of insight, joy, wit, and even optimism.

It’s a technological age, and there are many intriguing distractions from life: television; films; the internet; video games. Writing and reading poetry require quiet introspection, which is the enemy of the modern distraction industries. Making time, and sitting down to write, to read, can be difficult.

I began writing poems to amuse myself and friends – simple rhymes about animals and politics. I saw poetry as a diverting word game to keep me occupied during slow periods. Later, when I began reading the work of modern poets, I decided to make the game more interesting by turning my hand to ‘serious‘ topics.

I fell into a trap. Poetry requires the writer to confront who they are, what they really feel, and, if they want to be published, to reveal themselves to a mostly uncaring world. Poetry can be an exercise in self-discovery, and the exposure can be frightening. Soon after I began writing I was plumbing the memories of my childhood, only to realize how fragile those memories are – am I a reliable narrator? How much of what I remember is the truth? How do they explain who I am now? Do I dare let my words out into the world?

Poetry can be art. It can be a game. It can be a trigger for self-discovery. In a world lit by computer screens and televisions, sitting alone with a pen and notebook seems more important then ever. Poems can be a gateway to greater empathy for both the writer and the reader.

At this time, I am far from being the poet that I want to be. I am still a young poet. I read the poets I admire and compare my words to theirs and sometimes despair. I keep writing because when I write, I’m forced to peel back layers of self-delusion to find truth about myself. And in my opinion, it’s still the best word game around.

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Keith Welch lives in Bloomington, Indiana where he works at the Indiana University Herman B Wells library. He has poems published in The Tipton Poetry Journal, Open: Journal of Arts & Letters, Dime Show Review, and Literary Orphans, among others. He enjoys complicated board games, baking, talking to his cat, Alice, and meeting other poets. His website is https://librarymole.wixsite.com/keithwelchpoetry.

OMG, an Update!

Hello! Well, we’ve been quiet for a while, but we are still around for sure. Issue 14 had a couple of setbacks, but it has been at the printer’s for a week, and we should have the new issue in our hands soon. When we receive the physical copies, the .PDF issue will go up on the website as well. We are so excited for you to see it.

Some announcements: We are actively reading for issue 15. Right now that is just feedback submissions, but we will open to regular submissions on June 21st. This is where we hit the big exciting news – we will now be a paying market! Not a lot right now, but something. Contributors will receive $7 each, and if we do ok by the time we go to print we will raise it to $10. This is a little bit of an experiment, so if you’d like to help us out, consider making a feedback submission, (where you get feedback from one of our talented editors,) or tossing a couple of dollars in the tip jar on the sidebar.

As always, with the changing of reading periods, we have some editor movement. Thank you to Abigail Rabishaw, Rose Wunrow and David Midkiff for your work on Typehouse, and welcome back to Lily Blackburn! We are also looking for a couple more prose and poetry editors. The time commitment will be through this reading period, culminating in preparing the magazine for publication in September, with the option to continue for future reading periods. If you are interested, email typehouse@typehousemagazine.com for a position description. Right now it is a for the love of it position, although Val will be willing to provide letters of recommendation, work with college requirements for credit, etc..

This is exciting movement for us, and we are glad you are along for the ride!

Val & the Typehouse Team

Notes on Note-Taking

The following is a guest post by Jim Naremore, whose short story “The Bleeder” appeared in Issue 12 of Typehouse.

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I’m a compulsive note taker. I think all writers should develop that as a habit. When I get into that wonderful place of creativity, it can feel like I’m a kid again, running through backyards on those never-ending summer evenings, chasing ideas and observations like fireflies, and a trip to get coffee can be like a trip to the Paris flower market for inspiration: a line of dialog, a character, a setting, a mood, a description, whatever. The novel I’m currently wrestling with came from piecing together three of those random single-sentence thoughts I jotted down at different times.

I try to carry around a notebook. I say “try” because Inspiration seems to get bored and gets its jollies by sneaking up on me when it sees I’m unable to write something down easily. Because of this, my notebooks also tend to be stuffed with random bits of paper torn from things or folded bank deposit slips or some such scrap of ephemera, with cryptic messages scribbled in the margins. I’m currently working on three of them, small pocket-sized things. What goes into them is usually no more than a single sentence or a fragment, sometimes just a single word (I run across some really killer words). My novel takes most of the ink, but I have ideas for new short stories and bits of potential poems and even character names scribbled in those notebooks.

Sometimes I’m forced to carry the idea in my head until I can get someplace and do something with it. This is like carrying water in your hands across a busy street. I cannot tell you the number of fantastic ideas I’ve had that I’ve lost. I know I had them. I have no idea at all what they were. In fact, I remember distinctly having the last line for my novel drop from the sky on me one day in the car. It was exquisite, but I have no idea what it was now.

Then there is the note that is now meaningless to me. As an example: written on the bottom corner of a page full of plot outlines and other good thoughts is a small note: “HIT IN THE CHEST WITH A JELLY DOUGHNUT!!!!”

That’s all it says.

I try to go all Sherlock Holmes on it and deduce the meaning by looking at the other notes I wrote around it with the same pen (pens are like flirtations in a crowded bar… they come and they go…), but nothing around it in that blue ink makes it any clearer. It’s got four exclamation marks. Obviously at the moment I wrote it down I thought this was genius. But now, I’ve got nothing.

I cast my mind through the great mental rolodex of characters I have created, searching for one who either would find being hit in the chest with a jelly doughnut to be a moment of great personal transformation or growth… or who at least deserves it. I get nothing. Taken from the other end; who have I written that does doughnuts? Who is the potential lobber of said doughnut? No one comes to mind.

A different angle perhaps? Was I thinking of doing memoir? I do recall being hit in the chest with a tuna sandwich once. Here, I am certain, is the naissance of the note. But a tuna sandwich is not a jelly doughnut. It doesn’t take much postmodern literary criticism and deconstruction to see that the underlying essential artistic gestalt of a jelly doughnut is not that of a tuna sandwich. Its like orangutans and goats.

So, there it sits: the jelly doughnut note. I run across it periodically when I’m going back over my notes, combing for good ideas when I’m stuck or looking for a new direction to take, or just the right line or phrase. I’ve never come to a point where I’ve said: “Eureka! Lay that doughnut upside his chest!” It’s like a needle in a haystack I keep finding, over and over again. Normally I’m pretty possessive of my ideas, most writers are I think but you need someone to be hit with a jelly doughnut? Be my guest.