Irene Latham is a fellow Poetry Friday blogger. You might call her writing habit the Golden Rule for writers: Read more than you write.
I read an interview with recent Pen/Malamud Award winner Edith Pearlman, who writes short fiction. She reports a ratio of 50:6 -- reading as many as 50 books but writing only about six stories each year.
Here's Irene: Read one book of poetry for every poem you write.
|On my night table now, one book by a local poet...
|and one nationally known poet. This book won a prize
from the press Irene mentions. (LS)
I first heard this piece of advice Colrain Poetry Manuscript Conference in 2010, from the lips of Jeffrey Levine, editor at Tupelo Press.
At the time, I was like, wow, really? It seemed impossible -- I mean, during those mad times (like National Poetry Month) when I'm writing a poem a day, that's like 60 poems a day. And, I thought, (add eye roll here) the advice just might be a bit self-serving, as it was coming from someone who would very much like for me to purchase books from his press.
And that's when I realized I had been really good about making middle grade fiction a priority on my reading list, but my tendency with poetry was to return again and again to the same favorite volumes.
So I decided to actually try it. I started off by ordering Tupelo Press's fantastic subscription series (nearly a book a month for just $99!), and then started making volumes of poetry for children a priority. Talk about win-win: I read these books, keep some, gift A LOT of them. New babies? Give them poetry. Kid birthday? Give them poetry. Friend birthday? Give them poetry.
And here's the best part: I really can tell a difference in my writing. I've been exposed to ideas and inspiration and forms I never would have thought of. It's really opened me up, and also helped to refine my poetic voice.
Try it! Even if you initially roll your eyes like I did, I bet you'll end up finding it a new and valuable part of your (not just writing) life.
Irene Latham is the award-winning author of two volumes of poetry THE COLOR OF LOST ROOMS and WHAT CAME BEFORE and two novels for children LEAVING GEE’S BEND and DON’T FEED THE BOY (coming October 16!)
Family legend has it that since she was four years old she’s been writing love poems – to her mother. To find out more about Irene, visit her at www.irenelatham.com.