How To Be An Artist–from Jerry Saltz

Lesson 18: All Art Is Identity Art!
This is because it is made by somebody.
And don’t worry about being “political” enough: Kazimir Malevich painted squares during World War I; Mark Rothko made fuzzy squares during World War II; Agnes Martin drew grids on canvas during the Vietnam War. All art is a confession, more or less oblique.
Artists who claim that art is supposed to be good for us need also to see that there are as many ways of art being “good for us” as there are works of art.

I love all the advice–check it out.

Streets of NOLA, photo by Rich Feldman. He asked if he could take a pic and they said yes, but please harsh tag: #antifa

Truthiness in Haiku by Miriam Sagan

Truthiness in Haiku

I recently wrote that haiku should be “genuine.” I had more than one reader point out that haiku doesn’t need to be autobiographically accurate. That is a useful observation, although I was using genuine in the emotional/psychological sense.
So perhaps I’ll amend that to “experienced.” In this, haiku is like any other kind of poetry. It should come from what Keats called the “objective correlative”—the experience the poet had that inspired the poem.
Is haiku poetry? This may seem like an odd question, but I’ve heard writers of haiku say it isn’t poetry. To me, it most decidedly is. If poetry is human feeling expressed in condensed or structured language, then it most certainly is. Poetry of course is a lot of other things, but this might serve as a minimal definition.
“Write what you know” is an annoying truism but I always add a second part: “So know a lot.” Accuracy of report is for journalism, not for poetry or even memoir. I’ve had many students tortured by trying to be “true” in their autobiographical writing. However,

1. We can rarely know what “true” is. (To start a family fight, see if your version of events is agreed upon by everyone!)
2. Poetry and memoir are primarily Literature with a capital L. They aim at deepest truths through craft, not factual accuracy.

Here, however, is a marvelous synthesis between the accurate and the felt. From Mann Library’s Daily Haiku:

the morning glory vine:
39 blossoms
on this last day

Elizabeth Searle Lamb

I knew Elizabeth very well, and I’m quite sure she counted those blossoms. She was very fond of morning glories, which flourished under the green thumb of her husband forester and entho-botanist Bruce Lamb. Actually much of the charm of the first two lines is that the poet took the time and care to count—to count and to enjoy. I’m not sure exactly what the last line refers to—but I assume it is about moving away or moving house—the last day of seeing the vine. The blooming is a kind of farewell, although the flowers will continue, if unseen. It is a farewell to the relationship.
I don’t usually think of haiku as memoir, but I’m seeing that it can be. Most importantly, it is Literature. Which Kafka said is “an ax for the frozen sea within us.”
Something to aspire to.

Can You Fake Haiku by Miriam Sagan

Can You Fake Haiku?

The writing of haiku seems to increase every time I look at international websites and magazines. It’s wonderful to see so many people practicing poetry, and investigating this special form. Yet much of the work posted—often asking for feedback—is much weaker than it needs to be. It is possible to build a better first draft.
The most obvious advice—and the advice most often given and presumably taken is to learn what haiku is, and to follow its rules, byways, and ethos. This is a good starting place. Learning about season words and syllabic counts and everything else that defines the genre is the necessary first step.
The second, also obvious, step, is to practice. However, as in any practice from singing to weight lifting to writing there are better and worse ways to do something—and haiku is no exception.
In my experience, genuine haiku needs to come from genuine experience. Like all poetry, it can’t be written out of superficial emotions, sentimentality, shallow wit, a desire to show off, or to look good.
Haiku in particular is based on moments of perception expressed in language.
The proliferation of cell phone haiga tends to dilute this. A picture of an iris and a three line poem about pretty purple flowers doesn’t really express much either poetically or visually. Haiku can seem easy to write—or close to impossible—depending on your level of practice.
Traditionally haiku can come from a sense of deep feeling, connection, loneliness, poverty, the ephemeral, a rush of passing scene, and more. Can you imitate such haiku and learn from them? It does seem possible. And that is because you may be passing through haiku moments without even realizing or noting them.
However, don’t make a fetish of the work of haiku masters. That person’s vision or intimacy is attainable by you as a writer—just that it has to now be yours.
Here is an example from Haiku of the day by my friend Elizabeth S. Lamb at Mann Library 11-25-18

the first fall of snow
even quieter, inside
the small adobe

Deep Crit

The closer I am to a piece of writing, the easier it is for me to give critique.

Decades of teaching have shown me a sad truth: most people want to be either
1. Told they are good writers
2. Told they are bad writers

But I couldn’t grade dozens of stories and poems, sometimes weekly, with this model. Besides, it doesn’t mean much to me. I wouldn’t grade kittens or flower bulbs that way. Basically I need to ask:

1. What is this piece of writing—its form, its themes, its concerns?
2. What is getting in the way of its full expression?

A few years ago I had a young student come up to me at a party and complain that I wasn’t giving her work hard enough crit. (Full disclosure—this student is an invented composite, but you can take it as a warning). My initial assessment was that she couldn’t handle any “negative” feedback, but I tried a middle ground—I just gave her a technical suggestion, but forcefully. Predictably, she flipped out. It was too hard…it was impossible! What did I learn? What I already knew—resistance takes many forms and a good editor should not play into that.

Still, I personally do not like to revise. It makes me anxious. I often have trouble keeping all the elements clear—which is why I need to revise in the first place. I will revise, though, if it means an editor may accept a manuscript. My steps are:

1. What does the editor really want? This can take some deconstruction, as often editorial notes are contradictory. (One notable editorial suggest: cut down on the dead husband. The book was about being widowed. Eventually I figured out that the problem was with the chronological arrangement—and indeed the book was published).

2. Take any edit that doesn’t truly violate my intention. But save the earlier draft, of course.

I just finished a pretty tricky revision of a novella. I’m pleased with it—more that I’d expected. Somehow I was able to get back inside. The structure was clear—so were the holes. Wish me luck!