I have never been too adept at mastering new technologies, but some of what you can find and do on the Internet is really pretty cool. My latest find comes from the website of The Poetry Foundation, which is related to the magazine of the same name, of course. They have apparently been doing regular podcasts focusing on themes or authors, and the entire archive is available on line. What a treasure trove! I’m planning on having my students listen to several before we begin studying a poet like Gwendolyn Brooks or Walt Whitman, and I may even use some in class.
Claire Zulkey is a prolific blogger and critic in Chicago who reviews for the LA Times and many other fine publications. I enjoy almost everything she writes, and on her website, she’s got a treasure trove of interviews with writers, from Steve Almond to the Go Fug Yourself Girls to Nick Hornby. The interviews are lighthearted and witty, and ever so often a nugget of information pops up, but also it’s just pleasant to read interviews that sound like conversations. Check them out, why don’t you?
I went out today and bought a stack of “collected works” of poets like Langston Hughes and Nikki Giovanni to start prepping for the poetry I’ll teach this year. I like the idea of being able to dig deep into a poet’s work, and going beyond the poems that are most anthologized (though I will still probably teach “Theme for English B” because I love it). My good old Norton Anthologies will come into the classroom too, but it’s nice to have alternatives.
One of the collected works I picked up today was W.H. Auden, whose work is pretty unfamiliar to me because I’m an Americanist but is on the suggested list for my eleventh graders. The older gentleman behind the cash register went through my Rita Dove and Walt Whitman without comment, but stopped when he got to Auden and said, “Now there’s a real poet!” It struck me as funny, because Auden’s most recent popular streak came after one of his poems was featured in Four Weddings and a Funeral– wonder what my poetry friend thought of that?
One of my post categories on this blog is “goals,” and that’s because setting and keeping goals has been one of the strategies I have found most useful while trying to develop myself as a professional writer.
One of the advantages of goal-setting is that it keeps you thinking about what kind of writer you want to be, and what kind of progress you’re making towards that definition.When you’re writing outside of academia, without grades or the academic calendar or even degree requirements, it’s really up to you to figure out what kind of writer you want to be. What are your strengths? What types of writing would you like to do better? What kind of markets do you want to be a part of, and how do you work towards those? These are all crucial questions to keep asking yourself as you build a reputation and/or career, and setting periodic goals will help you answer them.
I like to make both immediate, short-term and long-term writing goals for myself. Once I set up this website, for example, I crossed off several items on my long-term list, including having a writer’s site and also having one central place where as many of my clips as possible are organized and labeled. Right now my immediate list includes revising two poems I’ve just gotten comments on from my writing buddy, and my short-term list includes sending those poems out as submissions. My long-term list includes publishing a short story, having enough polished poems to form a manuscript and going through my notebooks and reviving old beginnings.
What are your writing goals? Post any lists or thoughts in comments!