Thursday, November 20, 2008

Naughty Nuns and Bad Habits: If They're not yours, they're even more fun

I just found the Ploughshare blog. Ploughshares has long been one of my favorite literary magazines; I've been unsuccessfully submitting there, the Indiana Review, and Mid-American since college because I just LOVE them, and the editors were nice to me when they read in my bio that I was trying to get into an MFA program.

I like the blog because it's more than just an addition to the magazine; it discusses poetics and criticism. A recent blog post focuses on bad habits that writers/poets discover in their writing. We've all had that moment, looking over poems when we realize (or have pointed out in workshop) that we do the same thing routinely. For some of us it's a word, (I used "stone," in about twelve poems before someone in my workshop finally had enough)but sometimes it's a movement when we run out of other ideas, a default.

It's not that these are necessarily BAD habits, just that they're bad for us because, well, they're habits, and you can't really be new and fresh if you do the same thing every time.

My idea is that the next time I find myself following in my old ways, I'll use SOME ONE ELSE's bad habit instead. So I try to end all poems with a neat bow by throwing in some unrelated abstraction paired with at least two concrete details and hard consonants. When it comes off just too pat, maybe I'll try a slant rhymed couplet instead! At least it's not what I usually do, and isn't that the interesting and helpful thing about form anyway?

Here's a link to the blog for more ideas, and if you have bad habits of your own, you can post them in the blog comments :)

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