poetry in difficult times

There Are Birds here

Still, Poetry Will Rise: http://www.theatlantic.com/entertainment/archive/2016/11/still-poetry-will-rise/507266/

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Intro Fiction Stories

Faulkner Barn Burning


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Submit Work to UMD Writing Awards

Follow this link for info and submit writing in all genres for the 2016 Writing Awards. Prestige and money will be awarded for excellent writing!


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video essay links







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Fun Creative Writing Online

there are a lot of online journals for creative writing, here’s sone:





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Submit your Creative Writing to Lyceum

Greetings fellow wordsmiths,

Please encourage your students to submit their writing, visual artwork, and music to the Lyceum, our on-campus literary and fine arts journal.

The Lyceum is student-run and they publish a journal in the Fall and Winter semesters. The Winter submission deadline is 11:59 PM on Friday, February 5.

http://www.lyceumdearborn.com/ (Links to an external site.)

Queries should be sent to Angie Camilleri, Editor-in-Chief (alcamill@umich.edu).

Many thanks,

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There are many differences and similarities between Shakespeare’s poems and Berrigan’s poems in terms of form, structure, language, vocabulary and content. Some similarities found between these two poets are that they both use fourteen lines in their poems. Both poets want their audience to experience what they felt in their poems. Some of the vocabulary is also similar. Some differences between the two poets are Shakespeare’s poems all rhyme, where Berrigan’s poems do not rhyme. Berrigan uses early modern language in his poetry and Shakespeare uses old English. Shakespeare’s poems are written in same style, where Berrigan’s poems are written in different style. Berrigan’s poems are very detailed; he uses vivid words, awkward pieces, and focuses negatively of life without positive resolutions at the end. Shakespeare’s poems are very descriptive and his main focus is on love, beauty and morality and uses vivid imagery. Shakespeare is more of a heart-filled poet using negative issues of life such as death; heart break to show how there is always little good in something bad. Berrigan has a lot of issues on personal things that he has been through.

I learned many things about Sonnets from my research; I learned that a Sonnet is a poem of expressive thought or idea made up of fourteen lines using any number of formal rhyme scheme in English, and typically having ten syllables per line. In a sonnet the rhythm of each line sound like soft-loud-soft-loud, etc. Most Sonnets have Volta or turning point that begins at line nine. Sonnets are written in Iambic Pentameter, and come from Italian word meaning “Little Song”.



Shakespeare’s language while hard for us to understand because it is in Old English would become more accessible to us if we translated it into the english we use now. While Berrigan’s sonnets are in the typical english used today, speaking about people that are well known in our time. These sonnets are “set up” very differently, Shakespeare’s sonnet has twelve lines of text that tells the story and a final two that are indented that can be seen as the conclusion of the story he is trying to tell. When you read Shakespeare’s work you have to exaggerate some of the syllables with the way the words are placed.
Berrigan’s sonnet doesn’t seem to have a specific way that it is set up, it isn’t a Shakespearian sonnet because it doesn’t have the twelve lines and then two indented. It does however have fourteen lines of text. Berrigan reuses words in his sonnet where Shakespeare would rhyme them. They both use the same format for which word is used to rhyme or be reused. The first line is paired with the third, the second line with the fourth the last two words on the last two lines in each poem don’t follow this as they do not skip lines.
A sonnet is a fourteen line poem that follows a strict rhyme pattern, the Shakespearian and Italian sonnets are written with iambic pentameter. Sonnets also have ten syllables per line line. Having fourteen lines allowed the writers to build a complicated rhyming pattern that is drawn together in the last two lines.


Different from Shakespeare’s Sonnets, it seems that Berrigan’s poems have a more modern touch to the references it makes, like a reference to Twinkies and the ice cream truck’s jingle. Unfortunately it seems that Berrigan’s poems have lost its comprehensive language and rhyming, although I think its for good purpose since Berrigan’s poems are still poems. Berrigan also has a standing stone over Shakespeare, as his poems each have a different form alongside a different story, which probably fits its purpose well in each setting, like making the Ice cream poem simple to compliment simple ice cream. Shakespeare, however, has the same form of poem in each of his Sonnets, rhyme and all.

Both of these writers have different forms of writing, but I’ve always believed that Shakespeare’s form of writing was the very definition of poems: Simple paragraphs, rhyming in every sentence, using sophisticated language and alliteration. However, once again have I been proved wrong thanks to Berrigans Sonnets, which have proven to be still enjoyable, regardless of not following Shakespeare’s poem ‘formation’. Thus, I should be focusing on how to improve my poem writing outside of Shakespeare’s works. In doing so, I can make enjoyable poems just like Berrigans… although not to say Shakespeare’s Sonnets weren’t enjoyable, of course!

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Blood Dazzler

In “Ethel’s Sestina,” Smith conveys emotions of both hopelessness and hopefulness. She places us directly “into the shoes” of the speaker of the poem, Ethel Freeman, by using colloquial diction; consequently, readers can more fully feel what it must have been like tobe Ethel. In the second stanza of the poem, Smith writes, “It’s the sun / foolin’ them, shining much too loud for sleep, / making us hear engines, wheels. Not yet. Wait.” Certainly, the sun does not make sound, and, thus, it could never be “too loud.” However, this use of metaphor communicates to readers the hope Ethel must have experienced when she mistook the sun for a bus, as well as thehopelessness that must have arisen when she realized the sun was not a way home, after all. In addition, Smith’s repetition of the words “wait” and “come” further evoke Ethel’s senses of hopelessness and hopefulness, respectively.

The poem “Buried” is filled with a father’s heartache over the loss of his son and the horrific task of having to personally bury him. Smith “sets the tone” of the poem by opening with a quote from Ed Mazoue; Mazoue talks about the burial of loved ones so matter-of-factly (and coldly) that one cannot help but hurt for the families who, like the speaker of the poem, had no choice but to bury their own. Smith’s use of line breaks (such as where the poem reads, “Progress is slow,” and “like they know”) creates the effect of physical “blows”; each statement that is set apart from the others is rather short, yet powerful, like a punch. Imagery is also prevalent in this poem; the vivid descriptions of the father’s memories of his son— the “white bread and purple jelly” and “Snoopys, Blues, and Scoobys”—enable readers to truly feel the father’s sorrow, as it is clear that not another memory will be made.

In her poem “34,” Patricia Smith uses a variety of different tactics to convey emotions ranging from hope to despair based on the lengths of each stanza, the word choice used, and the structure of each, essentially making each of the 34 a poem in themselves. For instance, 24 adopts a bargaining tone when speaking to God: “those wacky miracles/you do/for no reason at all” (Smith 55)? Many of the nursing home residents express faith as their final thoughts but they all had some measure of dignity. For 24, she uses “wacky” as a means of taking the majesty and power of those miracles away, much like someone claiming to ask for a small favor but, in retrospect, are asking a big favor so they don’t sound pleading. This can be accurately applied to 24 as it adds a bargaining tone to the voice, as if the narrator knows the situation is dire but is not yet ready to beg in the obvious sense. This idea of a subtle attempt at begging is emphasized with the last line “for no reason at all,” broken from the line before which is the shortest line in the dialogue. By breaking the lines apart, Smith is not only placing fate in God’s hands (as he performs miracles, not 24) but adding further triviality by claiming God performs miracles without an agenda, a contradiction to traditional Christian thinking. As a result, 24 further weakens the idea that saving lives is very difficult for God: he performs miracles all the time, saving 34 nursing home residents shouldn’t be an issue for him. As a result, 24 is expressing faith in the divine as well as the gravity of the situation but attempting to remain dignified, not quite desperate enough to beg but getting there as the water rises.

The emotions here are despair and resent told with brutal honestly and descriptive vocabulary and images. In “Katrina” Smith wrote, “…gut dragging and bulging with ball lightening, slush / broke through branches, steel / I was bitch-monikered, hipped, I hefted / a whip rain, a swirling sheet of grit.” She often writes in 1st person from the perspective of the storm itself, giving it a voice and a personality and a reason while adding to it’s power. In “What to Tweak” Smith gives death a smell as if it’s common object,  “Death has an insistent iron smell, oversweet rot / loud enough to wither certain woods.” and puts a hopeless, depressing image in the readers mind, “and up on roofs of tombs, / sinking mothers claw the sky, / pray the rising river away from their scream.” In this poem, Smith explicitly reveals to the readers what the media isn’t telling them/doesn’t know. In “Tankas” Smith wrote, “I have three children, / but only two arms. he falls / and barely splashes, / that’s how incredibly light / he is–was. How death whispers,” and “Here is what drowning / feels like–gods hands smothering / your heart. and the thumps / grow slower, slower, until / he takes back your name. Lifts you.” These, to me, were the two most moving stanzas in the entire book. They display the most despair and the utmost reality of the events of Hurricane Katrina while describing horrific events of death that most people can’t even fathom.

The emotions are also shown by different forms such as line breaks, space on the page, and quotes. Smith incorporates quotes into her poems, not always starting the with quotes, like in “What to Tweak.” The poem is split up by Bahamonde’s list of the generalized problems occurring in New Orleans at the time (from an email sent to his boss) and Smith’s respective in-depth truth about the problems. The form in “Tankas” is quite different from the rest; the poem is made up of small stanzas organized in zig-zag shapes, with the mood changing drastically from the left to right side as you move down as two different stories are told. Throughout the book, Smith often uses line breaks to express emotion. In one of the earliest poems, “5 p.m. Tuesday, August 23, 2005,” she writes, “…How dare / the water belittle my thirst, treat me as just / another / small / disturbance“. Those last three words are separated in three different lines to emphasize their meaning and irony; Hurricane Katrina, especially to those who experienced it, was no small disturbance. As Smith shows, that’s all it was to the rest of the country though.

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The two major types of sonnets throughout literary history are the Petrarchan and Shakespearean sonnets. While both use 14 lines with various rhyme schemes in order to write poetry, the specifics, both in form and content, can be very different.

Petrarchan sonnets develop before those of Shakespeare, in Italy during the 13th and 14th century, as imitations of classical ovidian poetry by the “Father of Humanism”, Petrarch. He adapted these poems into what is known today as Petrarchan or Italian sonnets. In them, there were two parts that made up the 14 lines which were meant to be spoken aloud using a form of stress on the words called iambic pentameter. The first 8 lines, known as the octave, would have its own rhyme scheme in which they would set up a problem for the poet. The poem would then use a volta, or turn, to shift to the sestet, which would signal a change in tone and would often resolve the poets problem. Subject matter for the poems was usually the description of a loved one for the poet, comparing her to something found in nature through the use of metaphysical conceits.

Shakespearean sonnets, on the other hand, while they shared the 14 lines and spoken nature of Petrarchan Poetry, had a difference in general rhyme scheme and also in form. Shakespeare used three quatrains instead of an octet to set up the main part of the point he was trying to get across as a poet, finishing with a rhyming couplet that solved the problem or concluded the poem. Shakespeare and other English poets felt that the traditions of Petrarch were admirable but were overused and idealistic, with subject not changing. Shakespeare did use some of these forms, like in the intro to Romeo and Juliet, but he and other poets of his time like Wyatt and Surrey wrote about topics other than romantic love, such as life in the city of London itself.

After reading both the Shakespearean and Berrigan sonnets, I noticed that the structure was somewhat similar. Both sonnets contained 14 lines, which is typically a characteristic of all sonnets. However, the Berrigan sonnets were not consistent in terms of syllables per line. The Shakespearean sonnets all contained 10 syllables per line. The two types of sonnets were different in terms of form. In the Shakespearean sonnets, the last two lines were indented to the right and contained an explanation that wraps the sonnet up. The Berrigan sonnets did not end with two lines that follow this format. I found that in the Shakespearean sonnets, it followed a rhyming pattern, but the Berrigan sonnet did not. Also, the Berrigan sonnets continued thoughts and sentences on the following line. I felt like the Shakespearean sonnets were easier to follow because each line was one complete idea/sentence. The Berrigan sonnets threw me off because the first word of every line was capitalized, however, some of these lines were not new sentences. Most of them were a continuation of the last line. The language and vocabulary in both types of sonnets were also different. I did not need to know that Shakespeare wrote the sonnets because the language was very much like Shakespeare’s language. It was Old English, and contained certain vocabulary words that you would typically find in Shakespeare’s work. The Berrigan sonnets contained a mixture of different types of words and did not have too many vocabulary words that were unfamiliar. Before conducting this research on sonnets and reading through these poems, I was unfamiliar with this type of poetry. I remember touching on it in grade school, but I did not remember enough about it to recognize a sonnet without me being told that it is a sonnet. I now know how to distinguish a Shakespearean sonnet from a different type of sonnet because Shakespearean sonnets have specific characteristics that make them Shakespearean sonnets. It was interesting to learn that certain lines are grouped together and how most all sonnets are structured a certain way.

Upon looking at the four sonnets of Shakespeare, and the two sonnets of Berrigan, one could immediately deduce that Berrigan was heavily influenced by Shakespeare’s work. The style of these Shakespearian sonnets are quick, romantic, and almost musical in a sense. Heaviness is a word that would describe Shakespeare’s use of vocabulary compared to the light and almost airy use of Berrigan’s. Time could play a bit of a factor in this language difference. Even though Shakespeare’s use of language is heavy, he manipulates the flow of the language in a certain way to make it seem as if it is faster than Berrigan’s airy words. Whenever I think of the name “Shakespeare”, I associate it with love and all of its forbidden glory and beautiful charm, but also the dark side of love. Shakespeare captures this content with his specific language. Whereas Berrigan seems to take a more satirical or a daunting approach, with crude, harsh language.

As I researched the sonnets of Shakespeare and Berrigan, I learned that, in order for a poem to be considered a “sonnet,” it does not necessarily have to follow a certain pattern or style; even within this specific branch of poetry, there is much variety in terms of form, structure, content, language, and vocabulary.

Shakespeare’s sonnets are written in iambic pentameter; this means that each line consists of ten syllables, and these syllables are divided into five pairs, or “iambs.” (Each iamb consists of one unstressed syllable followed by one stressed syllable.) There are fourteen lines in a Shakespearean sonnet. The first twelve lines are divided into three stanzas, or “quatrains”; this leaves two lines at the end, and they form what is known as a “couplet.” Within each quatrain, every other line rhymes, and the two lines of the couplet (at the end) rhyme. In terms of content, the theme or problem of the poem is established in the three quatrains, and this theme or problem is then concluded or resolved in the couplet. Shakespeare’s sonnets include many literary devices (such as alliteration, personification, oxymoron, synecdoche, and metonymy), as well as puns and double entendres. His sonnets are written in Early Modern English; words such as “thou” and “thy” are used. Shakespeare’s word choice can be described as “rich and colorful,” and, in fact, some of the words used in his sonnets are ones he “invented” himself.

I learned about Berrigan sonnets by reading a transcript of a talk he gave at the Poetry Project on February 27, 1979. Berrigan said, unlike Shakespeare, he “could not handle iambic pentameter naturally” because “[he] could not put [his] emotions into those rhythms.” Thus, his form is much “looser” than Shakespeare’s in that it is not quite as “predictable.” He decided that his sonnets would also be fourteen lines long, but, unlike Shakespeare’s, his sonnets would not be guided by a “set rhyme scheme.” Additionally, each line of his sonnets can “stand alone”; they are complete thoughts, or, as he calls them, “separate units.” In the first eight lines of his sonnets, Berrigan “notates what [is] going on at [the] … time.” Then, in the last six lines, he “move[s] to the inside” and writes about “the main things … on [his] mind.” If his sonnets were to be divided into three quatrains and a couplet, like Shakespeare’s, the first quatrain would serve as an “attempt to get something said,” the second quatrain would “bring in some new things or make a total digression,” the third quatrain would “start turning [what has already been said] around,” and the couplet would simply be a “statement”—perhaps a “melodramatic statement.” Berrigan’s sonnets are written in Modern English; words such as “thou” and “thy” are not included. Berrigan’s vocabulary varies, as, on many occasions, he “didn’t always … know” what he was “going to come up with” before he began writing. One observation I made, though, is he tends to use very descriptive words that create imagery. For example, in Sonnet XVI, he writes, “Vast seas of doom and mud spread across the lake.”

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