Bad poetry = better prose?

I’ve been doing a lot of writing since the kidlets started school. Of course, not all of it is good (or even passable) writing.

If you’re a writer, you have probably heard the oft-repeated idea of getting your “shitty first draft” committed to paper (or tablet or phone or whatever means you use to write). There’s a lot of merit to that, as writing well, for most of us, requires quite a bit of mucking through the mental swamp-fog and pasting up more than a few cruddy turns of phrase, mixed metaphors, or inane plots.

So, in addition to being involved in the GreatWashington_Crossing_the_Delaware_by_Emanuel_Leutze,_MMA-NYC,_1851 SinusInfluColdergy of September 2015—a personal battle, to be sure—I have been producing some bad poetry and reading some much more interesting stuff. There again, I am hoping that mucky, funky poetry is the gateway to better (badder?) prose.

Although I am way behind in reading blogs, and I miss them “somethin tur’ble” as some of my relatives are ‘like’ to say, I also have had the great pleasure to beta-read a friend’s fantasy novel. I will be excited to unveil that, I’m hoping, in the next few months.

What about you? Would you like to share what you’ve been reading (or writing, for that matter)?

Lastly, in my readings whilst slumped in bed with a ton of tissues, I’ve also been dipping into literary short stories, in a collection called Contemporary West Coast [of the United States] Stories. I have to say, several are “razors pain you” good; in my estimation, those are at the forefront of the book, by Richard Ford, Joyce Carol Oates, Tobias Wolff, and Amy Tan. (You know, the usual suspects!) I’ve not read all the stories in this collection, but several of the others left me underwhelmed with their tepid endings.

Speaking of the opposite of winning, let’s round this out with some amateur poetry (#amwriting). After all, it’s a Tuesday. (And it’s five o’clock somewhere!)

Living in borrowed bones

Begrudge the birds

their unmarrowed bones,

unmoored, not holding onto

words—that way you insert ‘n’ in smattering

or songs—“Reveries of a Girl”—

all that “in”-ness.

Lost to light, loft.

Moments grounded

then gone.

Perhaps we are not

so different.

Each in borrowed


Mortality ribbed

with tines:

Here is the church

Here is the steeple

Open up the doors

Here’re all the people.

Each heart, a hand:

a wing


Push through the bars

sealed by goodbyes,

slough off lacings

of regret and love.

Buoyed by light threads



12 thoughts on “Bad poetry = better prose?

  1. As an analogy, that poem made me feel like a falcon that was jessed and then set free to soar high. I love your choice of words.
    And thank you for the little mention, re beta-reading. I’m so very grateful for your eagle-eyed edits and the time you gave up to do such a thorough job.

    • Nah, you’ve a published poetry book, Joe (and are brave enough to read it aloud for friends and strangers alike). You are too harsh a critic on yourself, but I thank you for the vote of confidence! 🙂

  2. I have begun to think that the story you want to tell chooses the medium by which it wants to be told – and so what we call prose and poetry are zones on a spectrum of writing. Your story will feel right somewhere on that spectrum, and it may not be somewhere that is clearly definable as one or the other, but somewhere in between. The first step is to tell the story. Whether you tell it well is a question of skill, craft, perseverance, mood, current wind speed around the red spot on Jupiter and whether Molly had eggs for breakfast.

    • “Whether you tell it well is a question of skill, craft, perseverance, mood, current wind speed around the red spot on Jupiter and whether Molly had eggs for breakfast.” Huzzah, brother-writer Ali!

  3. This is why I love reading your stuff, Leigh. It always inspires me to do great things. You have an attachment to your work that is evident in every word you write. From my perspective, you’re doing fine. Sometimes you have to spend the time on the writing and allow yourself to get lost in it at the expense of other things. I do that and it’s worth it.

    Enjoy the moment!

  4. If that is an example of bad writing I shall have to throw my laptop away directly after completing this message. I hope you are feeling better soon and my advice is to be kind to yourself. Wow you have talent!

  5. I started writing lyrics to music when I was young but i lost my singing voice about 15 years ago – too much vocal cord abuse – so now i just write music – BUT – instead of writing lyrics I now write prose. Something to be read when the music is being heard. Sometimes I think it is awful because the words don’t seem to be right but if I wait to read it for a couple days I often find that it really does say what I wanted to say. I think the key is to not try so hard to make it work. Know in your heart what you want to say and the words will be the right words. We shouldn’t be so hard on ourselves or try to write something people will like. Just let it flow

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