This week, I spent some time with the wonderful residents of Litchford Falls Healthcare & Rehabilitation.  It was great to see that there’s no age limit on writing and enjoying poetry.  Many thanks to Ericka and Chris in the Activities Department for asking me to come.

Speaking of writing and enjoying poetry, I wanted to share a few of the many ways to “publish” your poetry that don’t involve traditional publishers or contest fees.  It’s never been easier to distribute information and publish your own work with the myriad of word-processing programs and online publishers and printers.  With a little creativity and work, you’ll be surprised at what you can do with your own poetry.

  • Arrange your favorite poems one to a page using a word-processing program like Word.  Create a simple cover and print out as many copies as you want.  Word can even help you arrange your poems into a booklet format.
  • Pair your poems with photos and create a calendar.  Online publishers like Lulu.com have easy-to-use templates and print-on-demand services.
  • Create your own greeting cards with pictures and lines of your poetry.  Print them out yourself or use a site like Shutterfly.com that has high print quality and many options of paper.
  • Start a blog and post your poetry online.  Solicit opinions from your friends and family.  A word of caution, though: make sure you feel comfortable with your poems being online forever and you are open to your poems being copied and commented on.
  • Have fun!

Trellis Magazine is still tied up with website re-structuring work, but in addition to the free poetry contests described in my previous blog post, here is a new opportunity to get your sonnets published.  Starting January 1, 2011, Describe Adonis Press will be accepting submissions of up to 10 sonnets from anyone interested, in English (or French), for their new sonnet anthology The Phoenix Rising from the Ashes (2012).  All sonnets submitted must have been composed from 2000 onwards; previously published sonnets are acceptable.  The deadline for submissions is July 1, 2011.  The best 200 sonnets will be published in the book.  For the exact submission guidelines, which are very specific, see the Submissions section of their website at: http://vallance22.hpage.com/.

Free Poetry Contests

We are still re-structuring our website before opening submissions for the next issue of Trellis Magazine.

While everyone is waiting for submissions to re-open, I thought it would be fun for our readers and writers to enter poetry contests currently available from other publishers.  Get out your pens, put on your thinking caps, and compose a poem to win one of the following contests!  All of these contests are free to enter, are open to the public, and the winning poems will be published in some fashion.  Many of the contests also award cash or other prizes.

Don’t forget to explore the poetry contests run by the magazines on our two lists of poetry publishers, Publishers of Poetry in Poetic Form and Publishers of Student Poetry, available on the Resources page of our website.

If you know of another poetry contest that you think our Trellis Magazine readers and writers would enjoy, send me a comment with the information and I’ll post it on my blog.

Good luck!

Poetry Contests:

Lulu Poetry has a daily, monthly, and yearly poetry contest awarding cash prizes for poetry by anyone over 18.  For details go to http://www.poetry.com/poetry-contests/.

The Academy of American Poets sponsors the University and College Poetry Prizes available for students at many state and private colleges.  For details go to http://www.poets.org/page.php/prmID/113.  Students should also explore the website of their own college to find out about other creative writing awards.

Anderbo has a poetry contest with a cash prize, but hurry because the deadline is December 15.  Details at http://www.anderbo.com/anderbo1/anderprize2010.html.

Write a poem about peace for the Peace Poetry Awards contest from the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation. No reading fee for youth 12 and under.  Divisions for all ages of writers, with cash awards.  Details at http://www.wagingpeace.org/menu/programs/awards-&-contests/bmk-contest/index.htm.

The Wergle Flomp Humor Poetry Contest gives cash awards.  But you can only enter one poem, so make it a good one!  Details at  http://www.winningwriters.com/contests/wergle/we_guidelines.php.

Want to write some poems about war and win cash?  Enter the War Poetry Contest from the Winning Writers website.  For details go to http://www.winningwriters.com/contests/war/wa_guidelines.php.

The Margaret Reid Poetry Contest for traditional verse, sponsored by Tom Howard Books, has cash prizes and a very inclusive definition of traditional verse, including free verse.  Details at http://www.winningwriters.com/contests/margaret/ma_guidelines.php.


I know the readers of Trellis Magazine are anxiously waiting for the next issue of the magazine to come out, but I have been taking a break from my duties as editor in order to work on some other projects. The magazine’s other volunteers are also taking a well-deserved summer break from magazine work.

During our break, if you have something educational and poetry-related that you want published on the Trellis website, such as an article, chart, book review, puzzle, link, or other resource for our readers, please send me an inquiry at editor@trellismagazine.com. I would especially like to encourage inquiries from teachers about publishing their class poetry projects with student poems on the Trellis website for everyone to enjoy reading!

I am very excited to announce a new opportunity for Trellis Magazine’s writers and readers.  Lewis Turco, the author of “The Book of Forms”, is compiling a new manuscript collection entitled “The Book of Odd and Invented Forms” and he’s inviting your submissions of suggested forms and poems.  I hope our Trellis Magazine writers and readers will take advantage of this special opportunity to contribute to an interesting new book!

 Turco’s current collection of forms and poems is available at the website http://lewisturco.typepad.com/odd_and_invented_forms/.  After you have read the current collection on Turco’s website, including his submission guidelines at the beginning of the collection, you are invited to send your best contributions to Turco to add to the manuscript.  Your contribution could be:  a suggestion of an odd form to add to the collection, your own or someone else’s invented poetic form, your own or someone else’s clever variation on a standard form, your poem or someone else’s poem that is an example of one of the poetic forms in the collection, or simply your personal comment on the collection.  (Please note that Turco is not interested in nonce forms — that is, one poem written once in a particular form by one person.  For invented forms he is interested in forms that are in use by other people as well as the inventor.) 

 The forms in the manuscript so far are:  blues sonnet, bref double, carol sonnet, cento, conditionelle, confutatione, curtal sonnet, Dada prosody, Dagwood, descort, diminishing verse, dorsimbra, double dactyl, dreamsong, droighneach, Dryden roundelay, echo verse, ellanalliv, FAQ, fib, five-four, fobie, found poem, fugue or round, ghazal, ghazanelle, hypallogo, hip-hop (podics), isoverb, lira, madrigal, merismaticus, mote, movie-q, Nasher, numerics, Once (on-say), ovillejo, ovillejo-sonnetto, paradelle, paradigm, parenthetics, penta rima, pentina, progressive hendecasyllabics, quatern, rabbet, rhopalic verse, rimas dissoluta, rime couee, roundel, rubliw, sampler, samsong, sentina, shadowbox, sonnenizio, sonnetto rispetto, sonnet variations, terzanelle, textspeak, torno, triple redondilla, tritina, triversen, twiplet.  

 The manuscript is missing example poems for a number of the forms, so this is an opportunity to get your poem published as an example!  If your poem has not been previously edited for publication, then I encourage you to allow our volunteer editorial staff to help you check your example poem carefully before you send it to Turco to consider for the manuscript.  You are welcome to send your example poem to us by email at info@trellismagazine.com.

 April is National Poetry Month!  The Academy of American Poets has posted this year’s suggestions, programs, and nationwide calendar of events at http://www.poets.org/page.php/prmID/41.  I encourage you to take advantage of the emphasis this month on poetry in schools, libraries, and bookstores nationwide.  Carry a poem in your pocket, and share it with the people you meet.  You can read my suggestions in last year’s National Poetry Month posting at https://trellismagazine.wordpress.com/2009/04/02/april-is-national-poetry-month/

 This year, I have some additional suggestions for teachers.  Crayola has some interesting material at their website http://www.crayola.com/calendar/detail.cfm?event_id=145&year=2010.   You can make a bookmark of a short poem — see this author’s website for example bookmarks http://www.jpatricklewis.com/visits_bookmarks.shtml.  Explore 30 days of poetry for children at the site http://gottabook.blogspot.com/.  Use free lesson plans from this teachers’ site http://www.poetryteachers.com/poetclass/poetclass.html (I recommend these lesson plans related to poetic forms: clerihew, acrostic, similes, limerick, sick poem, haiku, and backwards poem).

Enjoy our new free booklet of romantic poetry inspired by some of the most famous love poems in English literature. The Inspired Poetry for Valentine’s Day booklet containing the wonderful winners of our Valentine’s Day Poetry Contest is now available on the Current Issue page of our website. Sonnets, rondeaus, and lyrics of love abound in this fun, fresh booklet. You can also use the booklet to write your own inspired romantic poem for someone special. Happy Valentine’s Day!

There is still time to enter our Valentine’s Day Poetry Contest!  The deadline is January 31.  See the Contest page on the Trellis Magazine website for details.

I am turning over the rest of this blog entry to our latest Young Poets Showcase author, Phoebe Nir.  I believe you will enjoy her poem which is a sestina, and her thoughts about writing the sestina.

A Charming Acquisition
by Phoebe Nir
12th Grade, Fieldston School in Bronx, New York

I only wished her sullen eyes would dance
But they would not. Instead, each stubborn ball
Just sat inside its socket, slowly died,
Reflecting nothing but the words she’d read
And swallowed down her undiscerning throat.
And now her eyes were studying her shoe.
I said to her, “That’s quite a handsome shoe.”
She muttered that it hurt her while she danced,
Pinching her toes like throttling a throat
And cutting off the blood flow to the ball
Making her foot half white, half crimson red,
One half too full of life, and one of death.
Shaking her fist, as if to roll a die,
She glared at me and told me I should shoo,
But then she stopped and quivered like a reed.
I firmly grabbed her waist and said, “Let’s dance,
For after all, my dear, we’re at a ball.”
She acquiesced, but flushed around her throat.
“What is that, that so dazzles on your throat?
The thread stained with a brilliant bloody dye
And hung with that fantastic glittering ball?
Its sparkles cast a light onto your shoe
And all its little orbs appear to dance.
It’s perfect, like a fairy tale I’ve read.”
And suddenly, all I could see was red
And then my hands were closing round her throat.
The others never noticed; they just danced,
Oblivious that I would make her die.
A tear, I think, slid down and hit her shoe.
My god, how I detest it when they bawl.
But it was time for me to leave the ball.
I thanked the hostess for the wine and bread,
Despite the fact that both, I had eschewed.
I wrapped my cashmere scarf around my throat-
The cold’s enough to make a fellow die-
And walked away, fighting the urge to dance.
I made sure not to show the gorgeous ball
That danced inside my fist, wind-whipped and red.
I’ll wear it round my throat until I die.

Poetry is language stripped down, unfettered; the point is to take only the most evocative words and let them ring, without muffling their music with extraneous filler words.  Every word has a weight to it and every word counts because all words are burdened, or perhaps set free, by an infinite number of emotional associations.  Take any old word.  Wood, let’s say.  The website dictionary.com  defines it as “a hard, fibrous substance composing most of the stem and branches of a tree or shrub,” but that’s probably not what you think of when you read it.  Maybe the word conjures up for you the smell of damp soil, the cool of shade, or perhaps the smooth, shiny surface of a polished door.  Either way, the second you read it, your mind attempts to place it into some kind of familiar context.

When you put words together, that’s when it gets interesting.  Every combination of words evokes a feeling within us and generates a rapid flash of images, even when the combination doesn’t make sense. Wood duck, for example, holds a specific connotation, but so does wood hair or wood ocean.  The more linguistic layers you pile on top of one another, the richer and subtler your message becomes, but the best poets can bring an entire world to life by using only a few.

In Emily Dickinson’s “Who Robbed the Woods,” the forest is clearly personified in only a few lines. “Who robbed the woods/ the trusting woods?/ The unsuspecting trees.” Just these few adjectives set the tone of the poem and make these woods alive.

Or take the miraculous economy of language with which Robert Frost animates his wood, in “The Road Not Taken,” merely by mentioning that it is “yellow.” That yellow speaks of Autumn, speaks of opportunity and of melancholy, and it is completely indispensible.

The sestina is a centuries-old poetic form that uses six verses of six lines each ending in the same six words, before culminating in a three-line verse incorporating all of the words.  Sestinas are master classes in the characters and personalities of words and the ways in which they interplay.  In the course of 39 swift lines you will become intimately acquainted with your six teleutons (end words).  You will learn their habits, their likes and dislikes, and whether they play well with others.  You will learn whether they are morbid, or sexy, or silly, or stiff.  You will grow to love them, but also hate them a bit.  And then when you’ve finished with them, you can retire them with the comforting knowledge that you have squeezed them of every last drip of juice.

My favorite way to enter into a sestina is blindly:  I like to pick words at random, with no particular agenda, and let them weave themselves into a quilt of sorts.  I trust the words. They know the story that they have to tell.  Ernest Hemingway’s six-word novels began with a concept and ended with diction, but sestinas work backwards, if you let them.  They start with diction and end with a concept, one that can be startling in its complexity and rawness.

I wrote “A Charming Acquisition” in less than ten minutes and I was delirious from the ease with which the words crafted the story.  The words led to characters, which led to a setting, which led to a mood, which led to a twisted obsession, which led to an act of evil.  It developed just like that, in sequence.

Sestinas are practically social experiments.  Drop a bunch of words on to a piece of paper, and see how they interact with one another.  The relationships may not be obvious at first, but be patient.  They exist, because they have to.  It’s a mathematical equation:  Dance, ball, die, red, throat, plus shoe, equals one dead woman.  Aren’t sestinas fun?