Tag Archives: creativewriting

Businesses Need Poets and They Don’t Even Know It

By: Zorina E. Frey

“Poetry and business writing are the Capulets and Montagues…”

Poetry is under appreciated by the business industry. It is not recognized as the staple of rhetoric its serves in our language. It’s overlooked as a hobby and not as the true literary artform it is.

Working as a copywriter, I can’t tell you how many interoffice pings I received from digital marketers and even C-level executives asking me to brainstorm some catch phrase for one of our clients. Being the poet I am, I didn’t hesitate to quickly ping back a list of options for them. It wasn’t until I joined a writing team for another company did I realize when writers aren’t strong poets, coming up with catchphrases doesn’t come naturally.

The Business of Writing Poetry

There is a disconnection between poetry and business writing. So many marketing agencies don’t realize they need a poet to be part of their writing team. Likewise, many poets may not realize their talents are needed outside of academia. Poetry’s carpe diems rhetoric breaks the rules of traditional business writing. On the other hand, business writing’s formal rules seem as though it quells poetry’s creative rhetoric.

Star-Crossed Rhetoric. If That Isn’t Poetry, I Don’t Know What Is.

Poetry and business writing are like two people who hate each other but are secretly in love and neither one of them wants to admit it. It’s as if these two writing artforms come from separate worlds but are essentially one in the same. Poetry and business writing are the Capulets and Montagues—star-crossed lovers destined to be together even though the world wants to keep them apart.

Are we good on the similes and metaphors?

These two literary forms can’t play nice together because of disapproving outside influences in their respected genre. Business writing has its traditional writing rules and poetry has a bohemian existence that thrives in academia. “Both academia and bohemians are perceived to live outside the economic and social systems…” (Gioia 107). However, every television commercial, radio podcast, company social media post, ecommerce product, and even electoral slogans signify a poetic voice.

There is a give and take on both sides. The poet must conform his or her work to traditional styles of writing and business writers need to make room in their rhetoric for the bohemian artform. The payoff—especially for the poet will result in a broader spectrum of professional writing options while businesses benefit from more insightful and rich content that can better appeal to a person’s senses.

Infomercial: Got Poetry?

When I worked as the lead copywriter for a digital marketing agency in Miami, our staff met twice a week for client updates and to discuss creative ideas. In a nutshell, the ideas involved searching for the right string of words to convey a client’s message that had to be clear, concise, and witty. What they were asking for is poetry.

When I worked as a content writer for a restaurant supply company, the team would spend up to 45 minutes agreeing on the right type of wording for an Instagram post. When it came to writing product descriptions for the company’s website and Amazon, the type of verbiage we were expected to produce had to complement the visually appealing product photo. This is also poetry.

When You Find That Writer, You’ll Know

Wouldn’t it then, make sense for employers to take a second look at their writing team, recognize the poets and give them the credit they deserve? Not every writer is a trained poet, and not every poet is a trained writer. There are writers whose skillset is strong with grammar. Another writer might be good at monologue and scriptwriting. Another writer may be strong at research, collecting facts, and reporting them. Then you have the poet who is pretty damn good at descriptive storytelling. For businesses that are lucky enough to have a writer who’s good at all these things, hold on to that writer. Hold on to that writer tight, and never let that person go.

 

Works Cited

Gioia, Dana Gioia. Ways of Living. Can Poetry Matter? Graywolf Press, 1992

 

 

Zorina E. Frey

Zorina Frey is an MFA candidate at Converse College from Miami, Florida. She’s published in the forthcoming Chicken Soup for the Soul: I’m Speaking Now, Shondaland, Writing Class Radio, Filter, and Michiana Monologues. Zorina holds a BA in Journalism and a certificate in web design from Indiana University. She also has a literary publishing certificate from Emerson College.

Zoom

Writers’ Conferences in the Age of Zoom

By: Russell Carr

“The online conference surpassed my expectations.”

Writers need community. We read each other’s work, give feedback, and help each other grow. It’s also nice to know there’s someone else out there struggling alone at a desk, holding you in mind. Many people find such communities at writers’ conferences, so much so that there are hundreds throughout the country. I enjoy them because I usually receive the best feedback on my short stories and personal essays within conference workshops, and I also gain friendships with fellow writers. Even though I’m usually shy around people I don’t know, I always enjoy mingling with a crowd of writers. They get what I love to do. Conferences also give me the opportunity to hear lectures from leading writers and educators. By the end of a long weekend or week, I leave tired but motivated. At the beginning of 2020, I planned to attend at least two writers’ conferences during the upcoming year. But by late February, COVID-19 changed my plans. I’d like to share my experiences with a few conferences, without naming names, during this time of social distancing and cancelled gatherings, and offer some lessons learned that might help you decide whether to attend one in the age of Zoom.

In the before times, 2019, one of my friends attended a writers’ conference and loved it. She encouraged all of our mutual writer friends to apply for the conference in 2020. Most, if not all, of us who applied were accepted into it. We joked about a conference takeover, but our goals were really so see each other in person again and to learn from other writers.

Then the pandemic hit. The conference was to be in the May. In March, the organizers held out hope to still have it, but soon many states were shutting down. They cancelled the conference, with the plan to return in 2021. Of course, we were all disappointed, but understood. At that same time, schools that had shut down were scrambling to figure out how to continue. Zoom was just beginning to be used for classes. Understandably, the conference didn’t want to enter that experiment so soon after the pandemic struck. We all hoped to attend next year.

I’d also signed up for a summer writers’ conference separate from the one with my friends. I’d discovered it the prior summer. Then, it had been a nice adventure.  It was about an eight-hour drive from my home, so that meant ten days without the usual work and home responsibilities, which my wife supported (Thanks again, Liza!). Being there without any friends meant I made many new ones. There were the conference regulars, some of them having attended ten or more summers and joked that it was their adult summer camp. There were other first-timers like myself and those in between. And then there were the faculty and staff who were very friendly and approachable. What I liked about it was just how laid back everyone who attended or taught at it was. I ate with different people every day. I stayed in a dorm, single room, and within a few days, I was having scotch every evening with a new friend there. During the day, I attended great lectures and readings, discussed them with new friends, and received great feedback on my own writing in workshops. By the end of the ten days, I knew I would return for more in 2020.

After the first conference I’d planned to attend with my friends was cancelled, I feared my summer plans were lost also. But even as the early struggles with transitioning to online meetings and school continued across the country, the summer conference organizers announced that they wanted to try an online version. Watching the troubles my son was having with online school, I was skeptical. But I decided it was worth trying, at least to get the workshop experience and lectures. I was nervous as the first day it approached. I didn’t like the idea of my experience depending upon my technology skills or the whims of my broadband.

The online conference surpassed my expectations, but it wasn’t the same as in person. The organizers did a great job getting the technology set up and sending out explanations about accessing each activity. My workshop was outstanding, among the best I’ve participated in. All of us did accidentally interrupt each other at times, but we were sensitive to that risk with Zoom and allowed for it. Occasionally, connections froze, but that didn’t stop the overall momentum that the workshop leader established and continued through hours of discussion. She told us that she’d led a workshop with Zoom through an MFA program’s summer residency a few weeks earlier, and her experience showed. The lectures were also great, and there was the added perk that I could turn off my camera. Then I could stand up, walk around, check my phone, but still listen and not distract anyone.

But there were some limits that no one could change. The conference tried to encourage participants and staff to hang out after hours in Zoom meeting rooms. People did, but, with the limits of online technology, only one person could speak at a time. If there was someone I wanted to talk with individually, I could reach out through private chat, or leave the group meeting room and call him or her directly. Also, I missed the meals with random participants and instructors. So, outside of workshop, it was difficult to make new friends. And because of limited ability to have individual conversations, I don’t know nearly as much about the people I did meet: their opinions they won’t share in a group, how they stand while they talk, what they like to drink or eat, or even their heights. All the body language. We connected, but didn’t.

As the pandemic continues, we all have to take what we can get when it comes to social interactions. Fortunately, everyone is learning more about using online opportunities and how to adapt them to our expectations and needs. I encourage you to continue to seek out connections through those writers’ conferences that are still happening, even if you don’t leave your desk to attend them. Online conferences also offer new opportunities. With so many of them moving to an online format, this can be an excellent time to attend ones that have been too far away, such as overseas or ones on the opposite coast of America from you. Their online versions are also cheaper, since they don’t have to include room and board.

Some things to look for, in my opinion, are how the organizers plan to conduct online workshops and lectures. Will the groups for workshops be smaller than their prior in person ones, for instance, so all participants can talk more easily in them? Do the organizers have experience with online programs, such as also participating in MFA programs? Lectures can still happen in large groups, but beware of ones that are described as large discussion groups, panels, or question and answer sessions. Those can prove very difficult to participate in. Will the times fit with your schedule, including a difference in time zones? The conference might start late or early to accommodate time zone differences. Will there be breaks between events? I found that I needed more time away from the computer screen than I needed between in-person sessions. If the conferences is still meeting in person, which I don’t recommend, how do they plan to implement safety precautions? How does that change room and board for the conference?

While we all wait as the vaccines are being distributed, I hope to meet you at an online conference!

 

Russell Carr

Russell Carr is a psychiatrist and psychoanalyst in private practice in Maryland. He has a BA in Russian Literature from UNC at Chapel Hill, an MD from the University of Tennessee, and an MFA from Converse College. He recently retired from the United States Navy after twenty years of service. He was the review editor for South 85 Journal for two years, and currently serves as the journal’s fiction editor.

Terms of Endearment: Emotive Diction in Poetry

By Mel Sherrer

 

What makes a poem captivating? Creating concrete imagery using descriptive language can decidedly make a poem beautiful, but for poetry to be captivating it must do more than make the reader see through the eyes of the poet, it must also manipulate the reader to feel as the poet intends them to feel.  Essentially, the question is how can a poem be written to not only entertain, but to affect a reader? The answer lies in diction.

Word choice amplifies descriptive language by adding emotional connotation and context for the imagery presented in a poem.  For example, a writer can present the image of a rose to the reader in a poem, which is typically a pleasant image, evoking pleasant sensory experiences, like the sight or smell of roses. A writer can also make choices about the context built around an image using emotive diction. The poet could call it a putrid rose, a woeful rose, or a haunted rose, consequently altering the connotation of a widely recognized symbol.

One notable progression toward emotive diction in poetry happened during the Romantic period of literature, during which poets sought new ways to intrigue both scholars and laymen. Romantics rejected the use of lofty language in poetry, because it created too much distance between the poet and reader for the poems to be relatable and understandable. The solution was to attach human emotions to everyday images. An image or symbol may be singular to a specific place, society, or culture; however, emotions are universal. Crafting poems with careful word choice can bridge the gap between concrete images and emotional experiences.

So how does one go about making a poem both relatable and captivating? The construction of awe, or captivation, evolves from constructing relatable emotional circumstances. As a human race, we may not have concrete experiences in common, but it can be assumed that we have the range of human emotions in common, which is a fount of relatable content.

A great example lies in Wordsworth’s “I wandered lonely as a cloud” in which the image of a cloud is paired with the emotional context of loneliness. Imagery that includes clouds may typically represent symbols such as, sky, lightness, freedom, and tranquility, but with the addition of the adjective “lonely” a cloud becomes a vehicle for more complex emotional representations, in this way a poet can reinvent meaning for images and symbols which have become trite or cliché.

Emotive diction is a safe tactic for the poet to indulge in abstractions in ways that do not risk convoluting the meaning of a poem for the reader. Word choice, rather than imagery, might also be safe a method for poets to experiment with rhetoric, without inadvertently writing a piece that is lofty, or pretentious. Poets can play with phrases like, a miserable sunrise, or a gleeful dumpster, and rely on the emotional connotations of the words misery and glee to ensure the poem is still comprehensible on some level, to the reader.

Every word counts! The extra effort put towards connotation and context is the fundamental difference between a poem which is meant to be spectacle, as with a painting, and a poem which is meant to be experienced. A beautiful poem can transport a reader to a destination, but a captivating poem can make them celebrate, mourn, laugh, weep, or scream upon arrival.

 

Suggested writing exercise:

Try writing a poem that uses emotive diction to make a concrete image emotionally provocative.

 

Sources:

“I wandered lonely as a cloud.” The Norton Anthology of English Literature. Ed. M. H. Abrams. Vol. 2. New York: W. W. Norton & Company. 186-187.