Poets: Don’t Fear The Traditional

by Thomas Davis, Jr.

We celebrate contemporary poetry—rightfully so. We delight in the random rhythms and streams of consciousness, the ebbs and flows of which reflect the meandering nature of our post-modern minds. This freedom from form is inspiring and enlivening, and a new generation of poets capable of pushing the genre to new heights is never far beneath the ever-expanding horizon. But what about tradition? Much like the speaker in Frost’s “Mending Wall” desires to know “what [he] was walling in or walling out,” we should pause to consider the nature of the poetic forms from which we now seek to distinguish ourselves.

Much like one cannot fully grasp the concept of ‘up’ without a notion of ‘down,’ one cannot clearly comprehend and enjoy the independence of modern, free-verse poetry unless first experiencing and attempting to negotiate the mandates of elevated form.

Could it be that we are tired of flattering those that have been, preferring instead to be flattered for our own acts of becoming? Some might say this is evidence of the current epidemic of narcissism. Others may see esprit de corps of millennial rebellion. It is important to understand that new poetic forms evolve as reactions to those coming before regardless if a poet is aware of this. Thus, while a poet may seek the freedom of free verse over perceived constraints of other forms, he or she often does so without understanding the very forms he/she purports to avoid.  I argue that adhering to form can be worth the challenge, and that it is an important rite of passage through which a developing poet should pass. Much like one cannot fully grasp the concept of ‘up’ without a notion of ‘down,’ one cannot clearly comprehend and enjoy the independence of modern, free-verse poetry unless first experiencing and attempting to negotiate the mandates of elevated form.

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Below are two sonnets that I have written with careful adherence to form. I do break from form at particular points, which, in the same vein as sonneteers of the past, alters readers to some special significance. In other words, deviations from form are done so for a particular purpose. Perhaps you’ll find mine below, and perhaps this year’s poetry contest will feature entries of a more classical flavor!

 

 Immortal verse doth eternize the words

That poets past hath scribed upon the mind,

And others seek to strike the selfsame chords

But do with kin no justice to the kind.

Vouchsafe me then for thou the courtesy

To my undeserving pen the needed might,

Allow this soul to sing the lines of thee,

Grant me faultless passage for the rite.

My love is jealous; don’t let this be a fuse,

For this sickness lives no vulnerary sound,

And often when ourselves we need abuse,

The thoughts of love art all that can be found.

With pleasure pain must be so often mixed,

That the bleeding heart need’st not be fixed.

***

 

As the great block sits upon the poet’s soul

And time makes forfeit all the infant thought,

And only then the foulest of all foul

Shed light on slanted view and twisted plot.

The pearls sought but sink to deepest root

Till inspiration strikes the pregnant ground,

Where grows the vile weed and sweetest fruit

That ever did this voice return its sound.

You, my love, ‘neath higher stalks untrimmed

Reveal’st to me the subject of my hope,

That heretofore with melancholy dimmed

Mak’st clear with love the way that Man must cope.

That wholly yours the greater man can be;

Completeness starts, flows, and ends with thee.

 

To enter the Central Pen Poetry Contest, submit your poem to thecentralpen@centralpenn.edu by April 26th.

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The Knight Writers! Central Penn College’s Creative Writing Club

Spring has sprung and Central Penn College’s creative writing club, The Knight Writers, is geared up for an exciting term filled with creative activities. Our first meeting will be held on Thursday, April 9th at 4:00 pm in Bollinger Hall. All are welcome.

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The Central Pen Poetry Contest!

 

The month of April is inspiring, not only because of the new sights, sounds and smells of Spring, but because April is National Poetry Month. This is the month we celebrate all kinds of poetry, from Shakespeare to spoken word. It is the time to come to Knight Writers’ meetings and put pen to paper (or text to phone, whatever the case may be!) In fact, this month students can submit their poetry to Thecentralpen@centralpenn.edu for The Fifth Annual Central Pen Poetry Contest. The first place winner will receive $100 and a membership in the Academy of American Poets. Poems can be of any length or subject matter, but must be the student’s original work. Hurry! Submissions are due April 26th. For more information, contact Professor Maria Thiaw.

April doesn’t hold the cornerstone on literary activity, however. On Saturday, May 2nd, Central Penn poets and Knight Writers will be performing at the Amani Festival, an annual multicultural festival held in downtown Carlisle, PA. The event will feature vendors, cultural acts and some of Central PA’s top performance poets including Dustin Nispel, Carla Christopher and Shaashawn Dial. The poetry section will be hosted by Maria (James) Thiaw and Corporate Communications major, Shonyah Hawkins. Poetry books and CDs will be on sale. The festival goes on from 10 – 4 but the Knight Writers are on at 12. Come out and show your support!

On June 4th, you can join us for “Take A Stand,” a theatrical production celebrating the arts. More info will be out on this event very soon. To get the first scoop on all of our activities and events, be sure to join us for our meetings Thursday afternoons at 4:00 pm in Bollinger Hall, room 51 starting April 9th!

For a calendar of Central PA poetry events for National Poetry Month, visit www.thetrianglepa.com.

Don’t just be a writer. Be a Knight Writer!

 

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Celebrate Women’s History Month!

Join The Central Pen in celebrating Women’s History Month!  Since 1987, the month of March has been designated as the month where we celebrate the great achievements and struggles of our foremothers, consider the challenges and triumphs we face today, and reflect on the world we would like to pass along to our world’s future women.  Snip20140915_2

While there are many ways to celebrate, and we would like to give you some of our favorite women’s authors for a soggy spring day.   Pick them up at our library and get inspired!

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 en_GB-timeline-image-whatsnew-1349705788-nuggetJ. K. Rowling, author of the internationally best-selling Harry Potter series, gives you a world of fantasy, wizards, and monsters that will help you not only celebrate your inner Hermione!  Hermione not your style?  How about phastasmic Luna Lovegood? or the prim, proper, and perfect Minerva McGonagall?  Whether you have read the series a thousand times, just once, or not at all, you will find something new and unexpected lurking in the halls of Hogwarts.

Recommended by Dean Dave Baker

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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAGail Simone is a pioneering female writer of mainstream superhero comics such as female-tastic figures like Birds of Prey, Wonder Woman, and Batgirl.  Her fandom has praised her for breathing new life into old characters and making believable and (gasp!) relatable female figures in a genre that has not always been female-friendly. She has also worked her magic on many canonical male characters including Superman and Deadpool because of course ladies can write amazing stories about all shapes, sizes, and yes, genders, of superbeings.  Simone’s work makes all of us here at The Pen want to don our best capes and spandex and take out some henchmen.

Recommended by Professor Matthew Vickless

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VirginiaWoolfVirginia Woolf was a formidable modernist writer, theorist, activist, and intellectual.  Her fiction and non-fiction works have been widely anthologized and few have gone out of print since they were first published.  Her most important works include Mrs Dalloway (1925), To the Lighthouse (1927),  Orlando (1928), and A Room of One’s Own (1929) where she gives her readers one of the most famous pieces of literary advice: “A woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction.”  She has been hailed as early 20th century feminist.  Modern authors often cite her as an influence on their creative process. 

Recommended by Professor Thomas Davis

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RothwellMaryShelleyMary Shelley, the original Queen of Scream, is best known to modern audiences as the author of Frankenstein; or the modern Prometheus (1816), a story about a doctor who tries to tamper with nature in the most unnatural of ways.  While certainly Frankenstein deserves its place among the classics of English literature, she was also dramatist, essayist, biographer, and noted travel writer (in fact, she was on one such excursion when she first had the idea for Frankenstein.)  In all of her works, she drew upon her deep knowledge of philosophy and politics and brought to page narratives that continue to talk to us across the centuries.

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Leave your favorite female author in the comments!

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Top 10 Gifts for Writers for Valentine’s Day

Valentine’s Day is right around the corner and it’s time to buy yourself (or the writer in your life) something special to support their writing addiction habit.  Fear not!  The Central Pen editors have a top ten worth all of your hard earned candy hearts.

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Library card tote bag from Out of Print Clothing

  1. Make an embroidered notebook for all those fantastic late-night ideas.
  2. Buy a classic (and classy!) typewriter so you channel your favorite modernist writer (or you can get the high-tech version).
  3. Library card tote bag (or really anything from Out of Print Clothing) to carry all those manuscripts.
  4. Fall down the rabbit hole with up with some Alice in Wonderland sheets and into some inspiration.
  5. Use Aqua Notes to make sure that you don’t forget all those amazing shower ideas.
  6. Sign up for a subscription to the Coffee of the Month Club to keep you awake for all those late night edits (or check out some Novel Teas if you aren’t a coffee addict).
  7. Let people know that your brilliance is not to be disturbed with the Writer at Work sign.
  8. Get comfy in a writer’s chair for all those morning to night writing sessions.
  9. Make a pencil and supply holder for all those glorious pens.
  10. Make your writing space smell truly literary with some soy candles from Frostbeard they come in such wonderful scents as ‘Old Books,’ ‘The Shire,’ ‘Oxford Library,’ and ’Sherlock’s Study’ (a personal recommendation from your editor).

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The Central Pen Staff

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Four Tips for Developing Successful Blog Content

by Paul Miller

As someone who has had a successful blog for the better part of three years, I often have students show great interest in blogging.  There is one question that continuously arises:  What should I write about?  Students have an easy time understanding why blogging is so important:  It gives them a place to showcase their writing ability, their knowledge of their chosen field, and their dedication to do something not (usually) required in a college curriculum.  The issue remains:  How do you develop content?

Answering this question is something that took me quite some time to develop an understanding for.  At first, I had the same quandary.  I started my blog after an influential moment in my life, the first time I attended Harrisburg University’s Social Media Summit.  I took great notes on each panel and decided that I would write my commentary about what I learned to share with my network.  The problem arose after I wrote about each session, accomplishing my initial goal:  Now what do I write about?  The tips that I discuss are ways that I’ve managed to keep my blog going strong over the past few years and I believe these tips can help any blogger for both the short and long terms.blogging

Tip #1 – Develop a frequency of posts and stick to it

When I first began blogging, I felt that a weekly blog piece was the direction that I wanted to pursue.  After about two months, I felt that this was a goal that was very difficult to achieve.  I wasn’t because I didn’t like to write or that I had trouble finding inspiration; it was that I was working multiple jobs.  Making sure I was doing my job to the utmost of my ability superseded the need for a weekly blog.  Since then, I have vowed to have at least one blog per month.  While I’ll admit that some months I didn’t have the opportunity to write, I’ve averaged about 10 blogs per year.

For those starting a new blog, my advice would be to start with what you are comfortable with.  Don’t be unrealistic and think that you’ll be able to blog daily, or even weekly.  If you love to write and have plenty of ideas at your disposal, make an idea bank with potential topics.  That way, if something doesn’t strike you between entries, you always have ideas to fall back on.  Secondly, don’t write just to write.  Be inspired about your topic.  Show that it is relevant to your career path or at least of interest to you.  The worst blogs are those that show no passion, as if the writer is just going through the motions.

Tip #2 – Follow Influencers on Social Media/Reach out for comments/interviews

Social Media has been a communications revolution unlike any the world has witnessed in the modern era.  The world has totally changed the way we as humans communicate with one another.  This also allows us amazing access to those that influence our field of choice.  One strategy that I’ve employed is to look at the field that I’m involved in and find those that are on the cutting edge.

I continuously read and interact with these individuals so I can be in the know of current and important topics.  This has been one of my largest inspirations when it comes to writing my blog.  Also, reach out to your network and ask them questions.  I’ve never had one person turn me down for a three question email interview when I told them I was writing a blog piece.  People want to help you and you shouldn’t feel intimidated to contact them.

Tip #3 – Read articles related to your field

Beyond following people that are influential in your field, it’s important to constantly read anything you can find about these topics.  To be successful in the modern age, one must love what they do.  You have to be able be immersed in the topic on a daily basis.  Read at least two articles a day about your field of study and understand the current problems or issues that go along with it.  This will help you become educated and more importantly, well-rounded in discussion.  You can then use this knowledge in interviews with potential employers.

Tip #4 – Develop an informed opinion

This tip is the most important of all with regards to developing content; you must form your own opinion.  No one wants to read a blog that conforms to the status quo; people want to read viewpoints that differ from the norm.  This is where your knowledge of your field can truly come in handy.  Show your audience that you know what you are talking about and (more importantly) have something of value to say!In the modern day, audiences have more content at their fingertips than they could read in a 24-hour period.  If you don’t provide some sort of value to them, you risk losing them forever.

I encourage you to give blogging a try.  I cannot explain enough the value of a blog to your potential long-term career goals.  I give this example every time I speak on this subject:  Most college students are acquaintances or even friends with others in their major.  What these people really represent is competition for every job that we seek.  Stellar grade point averages are expected now from college students in the open market, so every available job is like a chess match.  With things equal, who gets the job:  Someone that has demonstrated great knowledge of their field via a blog or someone who doesn’t have one?

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About the author.

Paul Miller, paulmiller@centralpenn.edu, teaches courses in communications, business, and writing at Central Penn College.  He has blogged for The Pen before about How To Blog Effectively in Today’s Landscape and teaching courses on writing for social media and business.  You can find Professor Miller at his LinkedIn page.

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Why We Need Creativity In Higher Education

When President Barack Obama launched Educate to Innovate in 2009 and shifted the conversation in education towards science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM), higher education interpreted the administration’s new initiative as a clear, distinct, and in some circles, long overdue, headshot to the liberal arts. Such concerns were perhaps only intensified when President Obama made an off-the-cuff remark about the lack of value in art history degrees when compared to skilled manufacturing jobs. While the President did indeed apologize for an ill-considered comment, the sentiment it conveys represents an increasingly popular belief that in the modern global economy, the need for technical instruction trumps the need for creative expression. Perhaps this is my own liberal art bias talking, but the name of the initiative itself—Educate to Innovate—certainly begs the question: how do we become the ‘innovators’ of this new century without teaching, practicing, valuing, and rewarding creativity?

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Need some help to get inspired?

Slide1Winter is an excellent time to get your creative juices flowing, since few of us are going to brave the cold, wind, and wet that waits beyond our doors and windows.  But even on these inspiring early evening, we all could use a little inspiration to pick up our pens or to put our fingers on the keys.  Lucky for us, creative writers have always been willing to pay it forward and offer us advice and support to get us in the writing mood.  Many of them offer practical advice about getting started and getting published, but they all talk about their personal relationships with writing, and why they continue to write and talk about writing years after their careers first began.

Here are our top ten favorite books about writing by writers:

  1. On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King
  2. Earnest Hemingway On Writing edited by Larry W. Phillips
  3. Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life by Anne Lamont
  4. The Writing Life by Annie Dillard
  5. On Writing by Eudora Welty
  6. Conversations with Kurt Vonnegut edited by William Rodney Allen
  7. Why I Write by George Orwell
  8. Make Good Art by Neil Gaiman
  9. First We Read, Then We Write: Emerson on the Creative Process edited by Robert D. Richardson
  10. Inventing the Truth: The Art and Craft of Memoir by William Zinsser

Pick up one of these books today, and maybe someday, we’ll be adding you to our top ten list!

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Photography Submission: Dr. Melissa Wehler

At The Central Pen, we are committed to all types of art and artists, including the visual arts.  We believe that creative expression, no matter the medium, has an important place in our education and in our lives.   With that said, please enjoy the following submission by a member of our creative community.


About the artist.

Dr. Melissa Wehler is the Dean of the School of Humanities and Sciences at Central Penn College.  When she is not teaching writing, literature, film, or cultural anthropology, she is an avid photographer and fiction writer, including the co-editor for The Central Pen.


Falling Creek; Little Buffalo State Park

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Autumn’s Last; Little Buffalo State Park

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Spokes; Little Buffalo State Park

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by | December 6, 2014 · 8:14 pm

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie: The Danger of a Single Story

You might know Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie if you have ever listened to Beyonce’s song “Flawless,” where the Beyonce sampled a portion of the author’s famous TEDTalk: “We should all be feminists” from April 2013.  The sample portion contains the most quoted part of the speech: “We teach girls to shrink themselves, to make themselves smaller. We say to girls ‘You can have ambition, but not too much’.”

Adichie is no stranger to tackling the tough issues when it comes to writing and politics.  In her July 2009 talk at TEDGlobal, Adichie talks about what she calls ‘the danger of a single story.’  Growing up, Adichie had only read books by British authors, and while she credits them with stirring her imagination and passion for reading and writing, they did not represent her or her native surroundings in Nigeria.  Eventually, she comes to find African literature (she names Chinua Achebe and Camara Laye as examples) that featured ‘girls with skin the color of chocolate, whose kinky hair could not form ponytails.’

Slide16However, while these narratives helped to reinforce what she knew to be true—Nigeria and Africa were places of rich diversity, complexity, culture, and history—that another, more simplified and problematic narrative about Africa and Africans was the one told around the world.  Through multiple experiences in the west, she learns about the ‘single story of Africa’ as a place of violence, poverty, hunger, and despair—images, she claims, comes from western literature and its colonial roots.

Listen and watch as Adichie creates her own narrative about the roles of reading and writing in personal and professional life and how they form narratives about peoples and places that shape our understanding of our global community.

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Find Your Inspiration at Nathaniel Gadsden’s Writers’ Wordshop

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Former Harrisburg Poet Laureate, Iya Isoke, poses with nationally acclaimed Black Arts poet & activist, Sonia Sanchez, performance poet Maria James-Thiaw and Wordshop founder, Nathaniel Gadsden, also a former Harrisburg Poet Laureate.

WWlogoLovingly known as “The Wordshop” to local poets, Nathaniel Gadsden’s Writer’s Wordshop is celebrating its 37th year as a hub for poetic expression in the Harrisburg area. Many published authors can look back to what they experienced at The Wordshop as being transformative and instrumental to their success. The Wordshop invites all budding writers and spoken word artists to join them Friday nights at 7 on the Second Stage at the Midtown Scholar Bookstore (1302 N 3rd Street, Harrisburg, PA)  for Cafe Word. These open readings and educational workshops are free and open to the public. Here is what you can expect in December:

Friday, December 5th

“A Poetic Kwanzaa Celebration” with Harrisburg Poet Laureate Emeritus,

Dr. Nathaniel Gadsden

 

Friday, December 12th

“Poetic Interaction” with York City

Poet Laureate, Christine Lincoln

For more information about Nathaniel Gadsden’s Writer’s Wordshop, contact Wordshop advisory board member and poet, Maria James-Thiaw at events@mariathepoet.com.

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by | November 18, 2014 · 9:06 pm