Poetry

Fall 2017 Issue is Now Available!

Fall Cover

The Fall 2017 issue is here!

Check out some amazing pieces of writing and art for free via Amazon.com. This free edition is only available as an ebook. Make sure to download the Fall 2017 issue before September 1st. Click here to get your free copy.

Print versions of the Fall 2017 issue will also be available on blurb.com for only $11! Get yours here. Hurry, this sale will only last until September 1st!

We will also be selling print issues (while supplies last) at every Writer’s Workshop Reading Series event, starting Tuesday, September 20, from 7:30-8:30 p.m., at the University of Nebraska Omaha Art Gallery or Milo Bail Student Center, depending on where the reading takes place. You can see a list of the reading series dates and locations here.

New Year, New Edition!

That’s right, folks, it’s finally here! Our 2017 Spring Edition is ripe and ready for your reading pleasure!

Head over to our issues page to get your hands on a print copy or to download the Ebook and start your year off right.

All proceeds go toward printing future issues as we are a non-profit student run and self funded organization, and as always we love and appreciate your continued support.

It’s Almost Heeeeeeeere

That’s right, the deadline for the Spring edition is right around the corner!

Submitting things can be scary, whether it’s the first or four hundredth time you do it. The staff of 13th Floor would like to remind everyone that whether or not your works ends up in the edition, you will hear from us. We won’t leave you alone in the dark for all the spooks and negative thoughts to get’cha, promise.

Send your treats to 13thfloormagazine@gmail.com by October 31st!

Whether it be photography, art, poetry, non-fiction, fiction, scripts, or ravings of a madman, we’ll gobble them all!

Guidelines for submissions and frequently asked questions can be found on our site.

Don’t fear the deadline, writers!

http://balloons.wikia.com/wiki/Balloons_Wiki

You’re Cordially Invited: Fall 2016 Issue Launch Party

Tuesday, September 20th, join us in the elegant Weber Fine Arts Gallery to celebrate our newest edition.

We really put a lot into this one and hope that it’s just the beginning to a beautiful new year of editions to come from our team. We want to celebrate the effort, not just ours, but of the people who were included, and of those who helped in the production (as well as our wonderful readers, of course).

The event will begin at 4 PM and last until 5. There will be short readings from some of the included authors and light refreshments will be served.

The party is free to enjoy but for those interested in snagging a lovely little copy of the Fall issue, they will be for sale for $15. Cash and credit are welcome. As always, all profits go to furthering production for future issues and we appreciate any contributions.

For any questions or further details on the event please visit our Facebook event page.

Bubblegum Cyber Punk

We are very excited to announce a new project from fellow editor and creative mind, Phil Brown!

Bubblegum Cyber Punk is a one-shot publication exploring consumer culture in technology and what fuels it. Phil and his team will be accepting original works of  short fiction, non-fiction, and poetry involving the theme.

Submissions should be sent to Phil directly at phil.brown.midwest@gmail.com. The deadline for submissions is September 30th.

For any further information or questions see here.

 

Poetry – Titling Your Poem

The poem floats on the page, an amalgam of your hard work, love of language, and intense feeling. You feel serene and somewhat spent, ready to share your creation with someone – almost. The poem is complete, except for one thing – the title. For many poets (including myself), this is one of the hardest parts of writing a poem. How do you choose the right title? How do you know what kind of title would work best for your poem? Here are a few kinds of titles that I always consider when I’m stuck for what to name a piece:

 

  1. A title taken from inside the poem

One simple way to title a poem is to take something from inside the poem itself. This kind of title is often thematic, in that it reflects the poem’s central image or idea. Many poems are named in this way, and examples are thick on the ground. One such poem is “Tulips” by Sylvia Plath. (You can read it here.) These kind of titles are effective and efficient – they get tie in with the poem and give the reader a taste of what is to come.

  1. An explanatory/contextual title

A title like this can be extremely useful, particularly if you fear that the poem itself could use a bit of context. Try for a title that can give the reader some insight into how they should read and understand your poem. Consider Geoffrey Hill’s poem “In Memory of Jane Fraser.” (You can read it here.) Jane’s name is nowhere inside the poem, but by giving it that title the reader is aware not only that it is an elegy, but that it is an elegy to a specific person. An explanatory title can be a great way to add just a touch of much-needed context without having to add it into the poem itself. It needn’t be overly explicit or too informative, of course,

  1. A lead-in title

Sometimes, you have a title, but it feels like a brick, sitting heavy on top of your poem. Other times, you can’t find a title that doesn’t interfere with the musicality or lessen the impact of the first line(s). In these instances, a lead-in title may be just the thing, because they let you get to the heart of the matter right off the bat. A good example of a lead-in title is Robert Duncan’s poem “Often I Am Permitted to Return to a Meadow.” (Read the poem here.) The title sets the scene, but also pulls you right into the body of the poem. There is no disconnect or space between title and poem, which creates an immediacy that serves the piece well.

  1. A refrain title

If your poem has a refrain, you may consider that for a possible title. Though you want to be careful about overdoing it, just as you have to be careful when using refrains inside the poem, a refrain title can be the best topper for a musical poem. For a good example of the refrain title, check out Walt Whitman’s famous poem, “O Captain, My Captain.” (You can view the poem here.)

  1. A sensory title

Sometimes, you don’t want to use language that is in the body of the poem, nor do you want to try something that explains too much. Perhaps your poem doesn’t need any extra context, but it needs something before you dive into the body of the piece. In these cases, you may consider an image or association that can grab the reader’s attention without exposing too much of the poem’s intent right off the bat. Look at Audre Lorde’s poem, “Coal.” (You can read it here.) In this poem, the title is a concrete image that ties in with the poem, but isn’t necessarily directly related to it. Rather, it adds to the visual detail of the piece, and brings with it the connotative weight of the word to bear on the reader’s interpretation of the poem.

  1. The dreaded “Untitled”

There are times when a title of any kind feels like a streak of spray paint on the Mona Lisa. Of course, many writing professors won’t allow an untitled poem in the classroom, but when you are writing your own work, you may decide to ditch the title altogether. Untitled poems can be effective if the non-titledness fits with the poem’s atmosphere (unless you happen to be Emily Dickinson , in which case you need never title anything). Tracy K. Smith eschews the title to great effect in her Terza Rima which begins “What happens when the body goes slack?” In this poem (which unfortunately isn’t available to view online but can be found in her collection Life on Mars, available here.), the lack of title adds to the sorrow and confusion of the poem, which deals with death and the yawning gap of loss. A title on such a poem would be too pat, too solid. The words need to drift, much as the speaker of the poem does. If you have a poem where a title would only hurt the piece, you may consider simply leaving it off.

 

Hopefully these ideas will get the gears churning when you’re confronted with that blank space above your piece. If you need more inspiration, here are some other articles that might help:

http://magmapoetry.com/archive/magma-51/articles/working-titles/

http://www.poetryfoundation.org/features/articles/detail/69116

http://canuwrite.com/article_titles_poems.php

Poetry: Abstracts versus Concretes

I remember the day in my very first college-level poetry class when my instructor (a wonderful poet and teacher by the name of Neal Kirchner) asked us the difference between concrete and abstract language. When we had given up on our half-hearted attempts to articulate our understanding of the concept, he showed us the distinction in a way that has stuck with me.

First, he put up a slide with the word “WAR” typed in black on a white background. Next, he showed another slide, this time with an image of the painting “Guernica” by Pablo Picasso. We started talking about the difference between the two slides, and the impact they each had on us. Looking at “Guernica” produced an almost visceral reaction. The woman screaming over the body of her baby, the terror on the face of the horse – these images produced a deep effect in the viewer. The word “War,” however, required so much interpretation, had so many possibilities, that we couldn’t agree what it represented – it became our vision of war, rather than the author’s. Though the medium was an image, rather than words, I felt a glimmer of understanding beginning to kindle in my mind.

  

WAR

guernica

 

 

 

 

 

That class is where I first came to understand that abstract language (with which my poems to that point had been positively riddled) may have an unintended effect: it can garble and even dissolve its own meaning. I swore then and there to make sure my own poems would be full of concrete language, that they would aspire to the same impact that “Guernica” had achieved.

This was a lofty goal, particularly because I, like many others in my class, still wasn’t completely sure how the distinction worked, and how it produced the effect that it did. Today, we’ll dig in and try to show the difference in another way. By rewriting a passage from a famous poem without any of the concrete language that it uses, we can see how much concrete language affects a poem’s meaning and its power.

Let’s use a few lines from Sylvia Plath’s well-known poem, “Daddy.” In lines 57-63, the speaker talks about her difficulty in dealing with her father’s death, and her subsequent mental illness:

“I was ten when they buried you.
At twenty I tried to die
And get back, back, back to you.
I thought even the bones would do.

But they pulled me out of the sack,
And they stuck me together with glue.”

 

Now imagine that same section told in more abstract language:

“I was ten when you died.
At twenty I tried to kill myself
Because I missed you.
I wanted to share something, even death, with you.

But I got professional help,
Though I don’t feel like I’m really healed.”

The second (and I admit, poorly translated) version feels flat and lifeless compared to the emotive power of Plath’s words. It’s difficult to even say that the same sentiment is conveyed, because we can’t really feel any emotion behind the second version. There’s no concrete language to ground us, to give a sense of reality and physicality. We don’t connect with the speaker in the second version the same way we do with the speaker in the first version. We understand the words on an intellectual level, but they don’t have the power to move us in the same way. The physicality of the words “bones,” “glue,” and “sack” all provide sensory detail that gives us textile and visual imagery, as well as bringing their own connotative weight to bear on the poem.

The phrase “I was ten when they buried you” has more power than the translation of “I was ten when you died,” because “died” is an abstract term, whereas “buried” is a concrete one – it provides an image of a funeral, of a burial, and, in context, of a ten-year-old girl standing at her father’s graveside. There is too much room in the concept of “died” for us to form those images with any confidence. The concept described in the lines “But they pulled me out of the sack / And they stuck me together with glue” demonstrates so clearly the way that the speaker felt about her treatment for illness. She felt it was a patch-job, that it was a mere cosmetic fix. She’s merely “stuck” in her form, not truly healed. This isn’t conveyed so clearly in the abstract version, for all that it says essentially the same thing. In this brief analysis of only a few lines, it’s clear how powerful a tool concrete language can be in a poem.

To be fair, abstract language isn’t something you can’t or shouldn’t employ. Nor is concrete language a magical key that will make your poem or story automatically great. However, understanding the difference can help you to make conscious choices about how you want to convey meaning in your poem. There’s no “right” or “wrong” way to write, and many famous and talented poets have and do use abstract language wonderfully in their work. The power of concrete language is that it can make your poem’s meaning more clear, more beautiful, more surprising, and more effective. Also, concrete language has become something of a gold standard in contemporary poetry – you will hear about it again and again in workshops and from instructors. Don’t be afraid of the discussion, or of using either abstract or concrete language, but rather use your understanding of the differences to push each poem to its most powerful incarnation: a rich, sensory ride from which the reader will never really recover.

 

Want to understand more about concrete versus abstract language? Try these sites and pages:

http://www.quickanddirtytips.com/education/grammar/nouns-concrete-abstract-collective-and-compound

http://grammar.ccc.commnet.edu/grammar/composition/abstract.htm

http://www2.isu.edu/success/writing/handouts/concrete.pdf

Poetry: Using Poetic Devices

poet_package_by_eirian_stock

“Ah, shall I metonymy or synecdoche?”

If you’re just breaking into the world of poetry writing, or if you, like me, wrote for years without much instruction or guidance, you may be wondering about some of the poetic terms that you see/hear tossed around in literary journals, classrooms, and conversations. What’s the difference between a metonymy and a synecdoche? What on earth is a kenning? An iamb? A trochee? More importantly, however, is understanding what these things can do for your poem. One easy way to explore their power is to experiment. With that in mind, here are three prompts that incorporate poetic devices:

 

 

 

 

  1. Write a poem that incorporates either a metonymy or a synecdoche. Metonymy is a device where something is signified by something closely linked to itself. For example, one of the most common is the representation of the American government by the term “the White House,” or the representation of police officers by the term “badge.” Synecdoche, on the other hand, is a specific form of metonymy where the signifier is an actual part of the signified, such as the synecdoche of “hand” to represent a person: “all hands on deck,” or “wheels” to represent a whole car, or “sails” to represent a ship. Metonymy and synecdoche can be valuable in a poem in a few ways. It can improve your poem’s imagery by using a smaller, more concrete stand-in for a complex idea. This also makes it a powerful tool for cutting unnecessary words. When used well, metonymy and synecdoche also forge new pathways in the reader’s mind, making them think about your subject in new ways. For your poem, try to be inventive – think of new ways to relate things, new parts that can stand in for wholes.

 

  1. Write a poem that uses a refrain. A refrain, or repeating section of a poem, can be a very useful literary device. A refrain can be as short as a few words, like Poe’s famous phrase: “Quoth the Raven, “Nevermore,” it can be a full line, like the final two lines in Robert Frost’s famous poem, “Stopping by the Woods on a Snowy Evening”: “And miles to go before I sleep / And miles to go before I sleep.” Or, a refrain can be a whole stanza, the term for which is a burden. Refrains can be used to heighten the focus of the word/phrase/line/stanza, but it’s important to remember that this comes with great expectations. The refrain should be strong enough to bear repetition. Try for a refrain where the repetition not only strengthens the impact of the word(s), but also deepens the meaning, presenting alternate or further interpretation.

 

  1. Last but not least, for this prompt, put a kenning into a poem. A kenning is a compound noun that is used in place of a third noun. It’s a literary device that traces roots back to Old Norse and Old English poetry. There are lots of examples to be found in poems like Beowulf: “wound-sea” for blood, “sea-farer” for sailor. Kennings are a powerful because they make the reader (and the poet!) think about things in new ways, often expressing emotive associations. In “wound-sea,” for example, the simple noun, blood, is given weight (a sea, something unstoppable and vast) and cause (a wound, representing combat and war). In order to find a kenning, think about your object from new angles (as you’ve probably noticed, this is sort of a theme among these devices). Compare it to things, make new connections and most of all, stretch your imagination.

 

If you were already familiar with these devices, pick a new one you didn’t know already (there’s a good online reference here). If not a new device, then a new form you’ve never encountered (here’s a good list to start with). The key to this prompt is to push your understanding of the craft.

Want more poetic devices and terms? Check out the list of sources:

The Poetry Foundation. An excellent online source for everything poetry. Read craft essays, poems, explore the searchable learning lab.

http://www.poetryfoundation.org/

Project Gutenberg’s online annotated version of Beowulf.

Mary Kinzie’s A Poet’s Guide to Poetry. An in-depth look at the mechanics and craft of poetry. http://www.press.uchicago.edu/ucp/books/book/chicago/P/bo15586305.html

 

 

Event: New Voices Poetry and Fiction Reading

joslyn.

Image Credit: Joslyn Art Museum

Join us tonight, the 7th of April at 7pm, in the Abbott Lecture Hall at the Joslyn Art Museum for a wonderful series of poetry and fictional readings by local college students. Hosted by UNO and Creighton’s Writer’s Workshop, four students will be reading their own creative works, two authors from each university. Admission is free of charge. The venue is beautiful and very large, so do not be afraid to sit up front to support each reader.

New Voices will showcase some of Omaha’s greatest artistic talents performing for each and everyone of you. Two of the writers performing, Kellie Hayden and Kristin Pothast, currently work for the 13th Floor team. We are very excited to see them perform and hope you can join us!

For more information, contact us via our Facebook page.