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Discussing Epics - The Wordsmith's Forge
The Writing & Other Projects of Elizabeth Barrette
ysabetwordsmith
ysabetwordsmith
Discussing Epics
The Poetry Fishbowl project continues to develop, sprouting new options as participants make requests or say things that give me ideas.

One of the new features to emerge over the last several months is the increased access to epic poems, those over 60 lines. I used to mark them "custom pricing" and leave them for the small handful of sponsors who can afford to make a big donation all at once. Then folks asked if they could team up to sponsor poems together, and the cosponsor option was born, notably presenting you with "Where Have All the Heroes Gone?/Different Gifts." So I began calculating the price and posting that. And then people started getting interested in the really long ones that might not get sponsored all in one day.

This was partly initiated by "The Sky-Eyes and the Earth-Hearts," a science fiction poem that emerged outside of the fishbowl context and got several folks all excited and clamoring to read it. So I put it up for sale, and it was microfunded over a period of about two months, with me posting each verse as it was funded. One long-term fishbowl epic has since been fully sponsored, "The Cuckoo's Song," and another has just been started, "The Transformations of Terror."

I'd like to discuss with you, my audience, the various practical and creative aspects of this stuff because in the world of cyberfunded creativity, you're the gatekeepers. I want to find ways of delivering experiences that you will really enjoy. Some of the things crossing my mind include ...

Long poems rarely hit print. The Science Fiction Poetry Association has a Rhysling Award "long poem" category for poems of 50+ lines. However, few markets accept poems that long. Length limits of 20-30 lines are common. (That cap spans my two medium-length categories, by the way.) I can still find a few places to submit them, but not a lot. So when you folks choose to sponsor one of my epic poems, chances are you're having a big impact, publishing something that otherwise probably wouldn't see the light of print for a long time, if ever.

Microfunding, where I'm posting verses one at a time as they are funded, means that small donations have a big impact. If all you can spare is $1-2 and that's how much it costs for the next verse, then you've just made a difference by revealing that verse. It's like a scratch-off ticket where you always win a prize. This process of posting verses one at a time was kind of a casual, whimsical idea when I first started with it. I thought it could be like a poetic version of a movie serial, and by happy coincidence, sometimes the donation breaks have landed on lovely cliffhangers. I was also surprised to discover that it's fun for me to watch the poem slowly being revealed to the audience, even though I know the whole thing already. I enjoy the reactions; I enjoy hearing that people are eager for the next installment. So, what do you think about the verse-by-verse microfunding technique? Have you donated to one of these poems? Would you donate if you had money, or if I hit a topic you love? Does it not grab you for some reason?

When the epics first started catching on, I had it in my head to present them one at a time. When you finished funding one epic, another could be chosen. My intent with that was to avoid spreading out the donations over too large an area. However, my partner Doug pointed out that people who liked one epic might or might not like another. Frex, the first overlap was a short one, but involved "The Cuckoo's Gift" (fantasy humor, ballad) and "The Transformations of Terror" (science fiction horror, free verse); pretty much opposite ends of the spectrum. I suspect there would be some overlap, because most of my fans have rather broad tastes and like a lot of my poems -- but I don't know exactly how much overlap, large or small. Another aspect is that the poetry fishbowl puts most of my monthly income in one day (and the following several); an ongoing epic helps spread that out a little more, which can be beneficial. Several epics on a rotating cycle would even it out better, if there was enough interest to keep them going. I don't know whether it would be better to limit the number of epics currently open for sponsorship, thus limiting competition; or to leave it unconstrained, thus giving people wider choice. What do you think? Which would you prefer? Are there any other pros or cons you'd like to raise?

Another recent change is that I started offering the current epic as a choice in generally sponsored poetry polls. Both times, the epic won. So we finished off "The Cuckoo's Song" and got a good start on "The Transformations of Terror." Among other things, this gives people a chance to support a poem by voting for it, even if they can't make a donation personally. Plus it lets you keep pursuing a poem you already like, if none of the new ones really grab you. On the other hoof, it does somewhat reduce the number of poems you get to see. Do you like having the option of voting general donations toward verses of an epic? What did you think of the way I handled it? This is necessarily going to be more complicated than a flat-price poem because you might want to devote just a little to the epic -- or a lot. Discuss.

Closely related to the voting issue is overflow. Sometimes I have these little bits of general donation left over, like when somebody gives less than $5 or they put in foreign money and it comes out in dollars and cents. Other times, people send donations just for me doing what I'm doing, not really aimed at sponsoring poems. What I did for a while was essentially pocket those as contributions towards my wordsmithing that people enjoy; I post all kinds of stuff for free. What I've done more recently is route at least the general donation overflow, and sometimes the outside donations, into funding the epics. It varies. If somebody specifies what a donation is for, that's where it goes; but if they don't, I've got leeway. Thoughts?

I've been tracking donors, so that everyone who contributes toward a poem gets listed as a cosponsor. What about votes in a poll? Should I just say "audience," "acclaim," "voters" or something else generic like that? Should I list the people who actually voted in a poll to put money towards a poem? Something else?

Just in case you were wondering whether your prompts and donations and votes make a difference: they do. I write a lot of poems -- and sometimes even stories -- that I probably would never have discovered all by myself. When you sponsor poems, individually or collectively, you are directly affecting which literature the world gets to see and enjoy. I write poetry fast; you folks are doing a better job of keeping up with me than the mass of poetry editors at magazines and other conventional venues. That's not just funding me and amusing you; it's also entertaining other folks in the audience who appreciate the selections made available by sponsors. We had a couple comments to that effect this month, so I wanted to highlight it as a benefit. Some of you are discovering what I consider one of the greatest joys of editing: being able to turn to your friends and say, "Look at this cool piece of writing I just bought!" When I was working the magazine industry, I turned a few friends on to editing; I hadn't expected that to happen here, but I am enjoying it just as much.

So anyhow, those are some of the ideas and issues I've been mulling over. I want to be able to share my poetry, including the epics, with my audience in a way that's convenient for you and productive for me. I would like to hear your thoughts on this topic.

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(Deleted comment)
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: October 22nd, 2009 06:28 pm (UTC) (Link)

Thoughts

>>My choices may be quite limited.<<

Yeah, that's true. I look around for places that don't have a stated length limit for poems (or a high one, like 100 lines) and preferably allow batch submissions. Then I can put one or two multi-page poems in with the shorter ones, and hope something sells. But most editors will buy a short poem instead of a long one.

>>Even though I've written a plethora of small poems, I'm beginning to find the 20-30 line limits of many venues to be rather restrictive, especially when trying to tell a complex narrative through verse.<<

I hit that in the fishbowls if people give me complex prompts. If the topic is familiar, I can do it in a short poem; if I'm trying to tell a story, it takes more space. So I can totally sympathize with your dilemma.

>>It makes it hard to justify the time composing such pieces when you think they may never see publication.<<

I can see how that would happen. For me, writing is a necessity, so I write what I need to write. I prefer to write things that could sell, because this is how I put beans on the table. It helps that I write fast; even an epic may only take me an hour or few. Most people seem to take a lot longer to write poetry.

>> One might as well write it in prose form, which would annoy the poetry muse to no end.<<

I actually have some tales written out both in poetic and fictional modes. At least two of those stories have sold: "Peacock Hour" and "Goldenthread." A previous fishbowl poem, "Pawsoldier," inspired a related story (and other poetry); one from this month, "The Souls on the Wheel," may wind up getting reworked into a story (it's already 1000+ words).

>>I'm starting to think poets get shortchanged in more ways than one.<<

Many more ways, sad to say. Poetry is not widely respected these days, partly because people have spent some decades trying to tell schoolchildren that bad poetry is good. Poetry isn't considered a professional form of writing by the SFWA. Even the Science Fiction Poetry Association isn't as good at promoting poetry as it could be; they won't accept crowdfunded poems for the Rhysling Award and their promotion of poetry at conventions is patchy. Not a lot of markets will publish poetry; most of those that do, don't pay, and most of the ones that pay have really cheap rates. The most common payment for poetry above the fractional-cent "token" range is a flat $5 regardless of length.

One reason I find cyberfunded creativity so gratifying is that it allows me to connect with dozens of people who do love poetry and are willing to support it. This allows all of us to do an end-run around the barriers created by people who don't want, or don't believe in, poetry as a viable professional art form.
(Deleted comment)
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: October 23rd, 2009 03:36 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: Thoughts

>>That fact does bother me sometimes, but I think the pathetic pay rate poetry often receives may have a lot to do with it. So much seems to revolve around pay-rate, which is in no way a true indicator of quality.<<

True. Americans have a bad habit of thinking money is everything.

>>Even the poetry requirements for active HWA membership are a bit hard to reach, considering how many markets pay less than 25 cents a line, or less than $5. And I think fewer markets take horror poetry anyway. <<

Hmm ... I didn't know that HWA membership had a poetry option. I write and read only a little horror, but my taste for it gradually growing. Any idea where I could find their parameters? And do you know if they explicitly rule out crowdfunded projects?

>>And what about those of us who write more than just horror poetry?<<

Well, the Science Fiction Poetry Association is open to writers and readers of any type of speculative poetry. They're very cosmopolitan in that regard; no publication required for membership, just the annual fee (which gets you a subscription to Star*Line and a copy of the Rhysling Anthology).

>>I was actually excited when I was paid $10 each for my poems in the Sorcerous Signals anthologies. That's much better than what I usually receive for my efforts (nothing to a mere pittance).<<

Woohoo! There are a decent number of markets that pay $10-20 for poetry. By the time you get to $50 and up, though, there are very few.

>>Now, how do we go about changing that?<<

Refuse to acknowledge the nonsensical claim that poetry is irrelevant or inferior as a form of art. Treat it as important and fascinating, professional and competent. Practice it. Spread it all over everywhere. Make money at it whenever you can, but if necessary, plaster it on the walls for free. Draw attention to it. Get young people involved in it. Attach it to things people already like. Gather together groups of people who love poetry, then encourage them to bring in their friends. Use poetry to reach people who are otherwise hard to reach, and to discuss topics that are too slippery for prose.

>> Can we make such changes, or is it too late? Has poetry lost any chance of regaining the respect it once had? <<

Oh, it's never too late. Fashion runs in cycles, and literature is no exception to that. Once, poets ate with rich men and danced with queens. Right now, nobody cares about poets. But there are still a few of us whose words are as sharp as swords and as powerful as time. Sooner or later, people will notice that and be impressed again, and rediscover a century or few of genius poets who died in obscurity. If I can flog them awake in my lifetime, terrific. If not ... *shrug* it wouldn't be the first time.
siege From: siege Date: October 24th, 2009 11:49 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: Thoughts

When people say "chapter and verse"
They do not realize --
The Old Testament was written
From the songs the lore-keepers made
To remember the stories and truths of their people;
The New Testament was structured
So that line ran to line as in a song,
Each concept given its own line,
Line breaks creating new verse.

Epics, those poems whose length
Is a tale of its own, those mighty tales
Whose telling requires the memory
Of Bards and Sages and Judges
Whose form is designed for chanting,
For sing-song, for building patterns
Enabling the rememberer to remember better
Its lines and words, its concepts and patterns,
Those songs of heroes and gods
Those yarns of considerable length:
Hear us, you people!
Hear us, we say!
We tell the tales of our people to yours
No matter how long in the telling!
For length is no matter
So long as the singer remembers the tale.

Now let us begin with the oldest law:
To kill another without cause is wrong.


(I should note that the section on bible content is entirely without reference and may actually be wrong; but the muse said that the point needed to be examined, and poetic license allows for exaggerations at least, and false claims if they are known to be false or unreferenced.)
valdary From: valdary Date: October 22nd, 2009 10:14 am (UTC) (Link)
Will we not leave behind epic poems of our generation.
.
Where is our Canterbury tales?
Where is our Scholar Gypsy?

Perhaps we should ask Carol Ann Duffy to head a campaign

I like the long poems,

I've been having problems sorting out my email (house move issues) with my ISP and paypal won't accept free email accounts like hotmail.

I would like to sponsor Call of the Cwn Annwn and Hareshotton at some point when I have it sorted. Maybe I could send you something from UK not available in US?
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: October 23rd, 2009 06:25 am (UTC) (Link)

Thoughts

>>Will we not leave behind epic poems of our generation.<<

Perhaps not. Then again, if cyberfunded creativity catches on as the next great business model ... *grin* ... maybe you folks are funding them right now! The early examples of any literary movement are necessarily classics.

>>I like the long poems,<<

Yay! Thanks for letting me know.

>>I would like to sponsor Call of the Cwn Annwn and Hareshotton at some point when I have it sorted. Maybe I could send you something from UK not available in US?<<

If you can't get PayPal to work, then yes, I'd be open to barter. It would have to be something durable though; I've seen what happens to packages mailed from overseas. Two things leap readily to mind: Celtic knotwork pendants, and books. Small publishers often put out lovely books about local attractions that can't be found elsewhere -- stone circles and other historic features, local heroes, etc. Or bilingual poetry in languages I don't have a lot of, like Welsh/English or Irish/English. anything sound promising, or should I keep fishing?
valdary From: valdary Date: October 23rd, 2009 07:03 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: Thoughts

I don't know off the top of my head, we don't have a lot of independent booksellers in my area but I do know some local writers and poets, if I tap into the network they may well have suggestions.

Living in Marcher lands I may well be able to find some Welsh.

Local heroes, Mathew Webb first man to swim the English Channel comes to mind, he drowned in an attempt swim through the whirlpool rapids below Niagra Falls. I know they sell local books on him through the library. Is he someone that would interest you?

Our most notable local landmark is the Ironbridge, Is industrial Revolution a bit more recent than you were thinking of?

http://www.bbc.co.uk/shropshire/content/articles/2005/10/10/george_evans_feature.shtml might interest you Our local market charter is over 800 years old.

jenny_evergreen From: jenny_evergreen Date: October 22nd, 2009 12:19 pm (UTC) (Link)
I do like the option to fund the longer poems. I think having a large number going at once would be too overwhelming. Personally, I prefer one at a time, but I think 3 or 4 would be a reasonable limit. I haven't funded yet, but I will when there's one I'm interested in.

While it may be particularly frustrating to be outvoted repeatedly for a poem I'm not really interested in, I do think the epics should be up as an option for the voters. It would be too painful for those who can't typically contribute to do otherwise, imo. I think routing odd-amount overflow to the epic poems is a good idea, and having it standard would make the voting a bit less complicated. I would just say "voters" in terms of credit, or leave it off altogether as implied, since it would probably always be there to one degree or another.

As always, I am impressed and grateful at the way you handle these things. :) Thank you!
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: October 22nd, 2009 05:36 pm (UTC) (Link)

Thank you!

>>I do like the option to fund the longer poems.<<

Okay, great.

>> I think having a large number going at once would be too overwhelming. Personally, I prefer one at a time, but I think 3 or 4 would be a reasonable limit. I haven't funded yet, but I will when there's one I'm interested in.<<

Hmm ... with those numbers, we might not actually hit the limit, unless adding more epics makes the fulfillment take a lot longer. I usually don't write very many epics per fishbowl, so there are fewer to choose from -- unless we hit an epic-prone topic like fantasy or folk tales. Right now it's taking about two months to fund an epic (based on a small sample). If we added one per month, the older ones would finish before the new ones stacked up too much. But if they were added faster or took longer, then it could build up.

The rest of your comments make sense too. Thanks for the feedback!
miintikwa From: miintikwa Date: October 22nd, 2009 07:56 pm (UTC) (Link)
I would contribute if I could, but of late my finances have been greatly restricted. I enjoy the epic poems a lot, myself. :)
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: October 22nd, 2009 08:04 pm (UTC) (Link)

Thank you!

I appreciate the feedback, and your prompts. I hope your financial situation gets better. So many of my friends are broke these days. :(
miintikwa From: miintikwa Date: October 22nd, 2009 08:06 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: Thank you!

Yeah, it sucks. :( I'm hoping it will improve once the situation with C's dad gets a bit better.
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: October 22nd, 2009 08:36 pm (UTC) (Link)

*hugs*

Family dynamics can make life challenging too. I wish you all the best.
miintikwa From: miintikwa Date: October 22nd, 2009 08:36 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: *hugs*

Thank you! *hug*
shadowsculptor From: shadowsculptor Date: October 22nd, 2009 08:03 pm (UTC) (Link)
I'm glad to find this blog; it's been immensely inspiring to see another who has delved into the world of cyber-funded creativity and found some measure of success. I love the idea of piece-by-piece donations towards epic poems. I would donate towards the unfolding of an epic poem or a story, more likely a story, especially if I found it of great interest.

I also like the thought of general donations.

As I was reading this post, I wondered if you had ever considered the option of collecting certain of your works into a volume, and offering it/them through a print-on-demand service?

I'm sorry I haven't answered in more depth; I'm in a public place and it's very distracting! lol...
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: October 22nd, 2009 09:19 pm (UTC) (Link)

Yay!

>>I'm glad to find this blog; it's been immensely inspiring to see another who has delved into the world of cyber-funded creativity and found some measure of success.<<

I'm glad too. Mutual support helps a lot -- I also frequent the blogs of several friends who are into cyberfunded creativity.

>>I love the idea of piece-by-piece donations towards epic poems. I would donate towards the unfolding of an epic poem or a story, more likely a story, especially if I found it of great interest.<<

That's encouraging. Let's see, epic themes so far have included gender balance in fantasy, fairy tale fantasy humor, xenoentomology, and now dark science fiction space monsters. Next month's fishbowl will be November 3 with the theme languages and ways of writing. What are some of your favorite topics?

>>I also like the thought of general donations.<<

That seems to be an effective way of getting more people involved, because any fishbowl poem could wind up in the poll, depending on how the donations add up -- and everyone is welcome to vote. (People without LJ accounts can vote in comments, you just need to specify who you are in case more than one "Anonymous Guest" votes.)

>>As I was reading this post, I wondered if you had ever considered the option of collecting certain of your works into a volume, and offering it/them through a print-on-demand service?<<

I have thought about that. Right now, I actually have two poetry books under contract with a publisher, and I'm working on the supporting materials for those. So it would be a little while before I'd want to start another big poetry project. I have several batches of poetry that would make good chapbooks, such as the Welsh form and Welsh language poems I wrote for the Left Coast Eisteddfod 2009. There are certainly enough poems coming through the Poetry Fishbowls to make an annual collection, if people were sufficiently interested.

One possibility would be to turn these into ebooks. That's likely to be more affordable, and would allow illustrations. However, it lacks the handheld delight of print books, and some folks don't want to read ebooks because that's hard on their eyes. I would probably need someone to help with the layout and design; I'd need a cover; and I'd need someone to do the actual ebook file creation (as PDF or whatever) because I don't have software for that.

Another possibility would be to look for a POD company. Some of them put out lovely books, but it's more expensive, both in terms of up-front publishing fees and cover price. Again, I'd probably need help with the technical aspects. I'd also have to do a fundraiser for whatever the publisher fees wound up being.

A third possibility, which is a tradition in poetry more than other fields, would simply be to ask local copyshops what they would charge for running off a booklet. Poetry chapbooks are often no larger than pamphlet size. I could fit the Welsh stuff in that, maybe even Vampires of the World. The annual fishbowl output? Eh, maybe; that would depend on the page count.

I have considered, and largely discarded, the idea of running off poetry collections on my home printer. They'd be too big for anything more than one-of-a-kind production.

So a poetry collection, or several, would be possible but it would require a substantial investment of time, energy, skills, and some funding. That's going to depend on audience interest.

>>I'm sorry I haven't answered in more depth; I'm in a public place and it's very distracting! lol...<<

That's okay; if you think of something else, you can always add it later.
From: minor_architect Date: October 25th, 2009 10:00 am (UTC) (Link)
One possibility would be to turn these into ebooks. . .I'd need someone to do the actual ebook file creation (as PDF or whatever) because I don't have software for that.

Well, if you're still interested in learning how to convert files of poetry into .pdf documents for e-books, you might look into this: http://createpdf.adobe.com/ The online version is only $10 a month and there's even a free trial! (Click on "Get a trial subscription" in the right-hand sidebar to create an account with Adobe that will give you access to it. :)
nhpeacenik From: nhpeacenik Date: October 22nd, 2009 10:03 pm (UTC) (Link)
I'm very positive about this method of funding and about long poems in general, and I will definitely help fund such a poem again. I tend not to be able to pay attention to more than one such project at a time, so I haven't been following the two current projects (yet...)

Your writing (of all types) is prolific and touches a lot of topics I'm interested in, but I tend not to feel I have time and organization enough to comment coherently on most postings. This is not for lack of interest. I have not voted in the polls, proposed topics or otherwise participated in the fishbowls yet; I find the process a bit confusing .. it seems like it would take a lot of time and attention to figure the process out, is there some kind of a time limit, what commitment am I making by voting, etc.?

I was completely pulled in to "The Sky-Eyes and the Earth-Hearts" by a set of seeming coincidences that kept bringing the poem back to my attention. There seemed to be references to symbiotic butterflies everywhere I turned; it was eerie!

I guess I hadn't thought about the fact that there are so few commercial markets for long poems these days. That might mean that poems over 60 lines long would be more similar (as a commodity) to short stories, but that they would take more effort to write.

I didn't think of "The Sky-Eyes and the Earth-Hearts" as an epic, but as an extended formal dialogue, like Yeats' "A Dialogue Between Self and Soul". When I think of epic poems, I think of mythic storytelling in the third person, such as the Icelandic epic "Voluspa" or William Morris's version of the Volsunga Saga.They are usually much longer than that one. A monologue such as Coleridge's "Rime of the Ancient Mariner" might also be an epic in that sense

I appreciate the scope that a long poem gives for elaborating ideas and telling stories; they're sort of the inverse of aphorisms and haiku. The fact that they have some formal structure and rhythm means they have a bodily effect that bypasses the intellect in a way a short story might not.

Anyway, I think the scheme of microfunding the poem from start to finish can make the storytelling better: the emphasis on "what happens next" forces the unfolding of the narrative to come in sequential steps, like tiny chapters in a serialized novel. When you wrote that poem, you apparently did not take the impliocations of the microfunding process into account, but you may in the future.

Thanks for asking! I hope this helps.
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: October 23rd, 2009 02:26 am (UTC) (Link)

Yay!

>>I'm very positive about this method of funding and about long poems in general, and I will definitely help fund such a poem again.<<

I'm glad to hear that.

>>I tend not to be able to pay attention to more than one such project at a time, so I haven't been following the two current projects (yet...) <<

That's okay.

>>Your writing (of all types) is prolific and touches a lot of topics I'm interested in, but I tend not to feel I have time and organization enough to comment coherently on most postings.<<

My writing is like a river, ever-flowing, ever-changing, and you can never step into the same part of it twice. Even re-reading an old favorite, it will be colored by your recent experiences. Whenever the time is right, something will catch your eye and pull you in.

>>I have not voted in the polls, proposed topics or otherwise participated in the fishbowls yet; I find the process a bit confusing .. it seems like it would take a lot of time and attention to figure the process out,<<

Well, fooey, that's not what I want at all! I want the audience end of things to be clear, and not hard. Please ask any and all questions on your mind, point out whatever is unclear, and make any suggestions for improvement that you can think of. (Assuming you have the time and inclination to do so; I don't want to be a pest.)

>> is there some kind of a time limit,<<

Each fishbowl lasts as long as my energy lasts, usually between 9-12 hours. A typical fishbowl begins around noon and wraps up a little before midnight. I make an "open" post to hold the prompts and the poem descriptions, then at the end of the session I close it with a comment (and if my brain isn't totally asleep, sometimes I remember to put "EDIT: closed" in the main message).

The polls ... vary. Until recently I hadn't noticed that they could be closed; I've started trying to remember to do that. I usually don't put a specific time limit on them. Part of that is because I forget, but part is because I'll keep an eye on the poll to see if it's tied or not; I don't want to close it when it's tied.

Would it help if I put more effort into defining how long the polls will be open, and closing them after that point?

>> what commitment am I making by voting, etc.?<<

None that I can think of. Voting is just a way of measuring audience interest. The generally sponsored poetry polls are essentially collective shopping trips with a budget set by the donations. I've already been paid; voters are deciding what goodies they want out of that.

There is also no commitment with posting a prompt. You don't have to buy anything or make a donation or link to the page, although I appreciate it when people do any of those things.

The only thing I ask is that, if I send a poem marked "for your private enjoyment" -- which I try to do at least once for each person who sends me a prompt that month -- it stays private and doesn't get shown to other people, unless it gets sponsored (by the prompter or anyone else). The reason for that is, my audience gets first choice of the fishbowl poems, but after that they go into my archive for magazine submission, which I can't do if somebody posts them.


ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: October 23rd, 2009 02:28 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: Yay!

>> I was completely pulled in to "The Sky-Eyes and the Earth-Hearts" by a set of seeming coincidences that kept bringing the poem back to my attention. There seemed to be references to symbiotic butterflies everywhere I turned; it was eerie! <<

*smile* That's synchronicity in action. I'm enough in tune with the Universe that sometimes it speaks through me. It's not rare for one of my poems to decide that it wants to go "visiting" -- I'll be reading my email and suddenly take it into my head that I should send somebody a particular poem, and it will have relevance for them right then. So if you see multiple appearances of a particular image or idea, it probably has meaning for you. And this has happened with the fishbowls a few times, when people have mentioned that a particular poem seemed to come alive for them with a message that was more than just the surface of the words. It's kind of like the way Tarot cards can show an image that makes you think of something that reveals some kind of insight. Or to look at it another way, whatever the Universe is thinking about at the time is likely to come pouring out of my mouth or my hands. The difference is that a Tarot reading comes and goes, but a poem lasts as long as its language -- like a snapshot of the moment.

>>I didn't think of "The Sky-Eyes and the Earth-Hearts" as an epic, but as an extended formal dialogue, like Yeats' "A Dialogue Between Self and Soul". When I think of epic poems, I think of mythic storytelling in the third person,<<

In a technical sense, you're right. Classical epics are very long (often book-length) poems of heroic or mythic style. The term "epic" has subsequently come to mean "big" or "important" and it's the looser sense I'm using here. Is that going to get confusing? Should I think about finding another name for this category?

>>I appreciate the scope that a long poem gives for elaborating ideas and telling stories; they're sort of the inverse of aphorisms and haiku. The fact that they have some formal structure and rhythm means they have a bodily effect that bypasses the intellect in a way a short story might not.<<

Yes ... at the high end, the boundary between prose and poetry can blur. Not so much in a ballad, with rhythm and rhyme to nail it down; but in a free-verse poem, there is less to distinguish it as poetry. What usually happens in long free-verse poems is that I take the subtler techniques -- repetition, alliteration and assonance, imagery, etc. -- and pack them together a lot. So that often gives the poem a kind of mythic flavor and cadence, particularly combined with line breaks. You could take one of those and read it aloud, and the styling would tell you how it should sound. I have to pay extra attention to that in a long free-verse poem so that it does that, and sounds like a poem, instead of being prose with funny line breaks.

ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: October 23rd, 2009 02:28 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: Yay!


>>Anyway, I think the scheme of microfunding the poem from start to finish can make the storytelling better: the emphasis on "what happens next" forces the unfolding of the narrative to come in sequential steps, like tiny chapters in a serialized novel. When you wrote that poem, you apparently did not take the impliocations of the microfunding process into account, but you may in the future. <<

I think this has potential. You're right in that I haven't been paying close attention to the stanza breaks as relating to potential cliffhangers through microfunding. I may indeed try that, although it's a challenge; in a fishbowl, I don't have much time for revision because I'm trying to cover at least one prompt by everyone, and the longer poems tend to wring me out.

However, there was one project I did, back in my school days -- junior high or early high school, this would have been. I had decided to practice poetry by writing one a day on weekdays, and I was showing them to some classmates. Eventually I started working on a poem that didn't wrap itself up quickly, a fantasy ballad about a quest for some magical gemstones. I was handing it around one page at a time, and people got rather keen on seeing the next installment -- and I was paying attention to the breaks so they would build tension. I think there were four or five verses per page, and it was 100 pages long.

Hm, I might keep in mind the idea of subdividing an epic into verse batches instead of individual verses, if I get one that lends itself to good breaks every few verses. I could've done that with "The Cuckoo's Song," for instance.

Thanks for getting me thinking along these lines.
From: minor_architect Date: October 25th, 2009 02:08 am (UTC) (Link)
Lots to think about here! I'll tackle a few of your questions in the order you posed them:

So, what do you think about the verse-by-verse microfunding technique?

Obviously, I'm for it; I wouldn't have chipped in towards "The Sky-Eyes and the Earth-Hearts" if I wasn't! The success of this micro-funding technique gave us a little more poetry than we'd normally have in a month, so I was pleased by that.

I don't know whether it would be better to limit the number of epics currently open for sponsorship, thus limiting competition; or to leave it unconstrained, thus giving people wider choice.

I don't think there must be a limit on the number of epics available for funding as long as your readers show sufficient interest in them. Use the comments posted in response to particular ones as your guide; if several people point to a longer Fishbowl poem and say, "I'd love to see that one sometime," throw it open for sponsorship.

Which leads me to...

Another recent change is that I started offering the current epic as a choice in generally sponsored poetry polls.

I have absolutely no problem with including epics in these polls. This makes me happy for two reasons: 1) we get to choose between more options and; 2) more people get to participate. (The "Poetry Mall" is a lot more fun when other shoppers are involved. ;) However, I can also see how including the epics would make the polls harder to manage. So if you think you'll be able to do it without going to a lot of extra trouble, I say go for it. Otherwise, using whatever non-specified donations you receive to fund the longer poems is a nice alternative.

I hope this helps! :)
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: October 25th, 2009 06:26 am (UTC) (Link)

Thank you!

>>The success of this micro-funding technique gave us a little more poetry than we'd normally have in a month, so I was pleased by that.<<

Okay, great. *ponder* In addition to spreading out my poetry income, it also spreads out the audience's access to my poetry, over the month.

>>I don't think there must be a limit on the number of epics available for funding as long as your readers show sufficient interest in them.<<

Hmm, good point.

>> Use the comments posted in response to particular ones as your guide; if several people point to a longer Fishbowl poem and say, "I'd love to see that one sometime," throw it open for sponsorship.<<

Anything I post as a thumbnail poem description during a fishbowl is open for sponsorship. An epic gets "activated" and goes into cosponsored mode if someone sends me money "toward" it that is less than the total price.

>>However, I can also see how including the epics would make the polls harder to manage. So if you think you'll be able to do it without going to a lot of extra trouble, I say go for it. <<

I think I can handle it, but it might not always be the same way. If there's a shallow pool, like $10, I might just add the current epic as two options, a $5 and a $10, with the rest of the slots going to $5-10 poems. But if there's more money, I might do the epic as a separate poll first, the way I did with the end of "The Cuckoo's Song." There's a limit to how many items can fit into a poll question, so sometimes I have to break stuff down into sections.
From: minor_architect Date: October 25th, 2009 09:13 am (UTC) (Link)
Anything I post as a thumbnail poem description during a fishbowl is open for sponsorship. An epic gets "activated" and goes into cosponsored mode if someone sends me money "toward" it that is less than the total price.

Ah, right. *raps forehead with knuckles* Thank you for the reminder!

I think I can handle it, but it might not always be the same way. If there's a shallow pool, like $10, I might just add the current epic as two options, a $5 and a $10, with the rest of the slots going to $5-10 poems. But if there's more money, I might do the epic as a separate poll first, the way I did with the end of "The Cuckoo's Song." There's a limit to how many items can fit into a poll question, so sometimes I have to break stuff down into sections.

Then I look forward to seeing more epics in the post-Fishbowl polls! :) It's actually handy to know that you're still willing to make this micro-funding option available. Now I can budget for shorter poems that I can afford to pay for all at once and parts of epics that, until now, I had little hope of seeing in print. Nice!
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: October 25th, 2009 02:42 pm (UTC) (Link)

Yes...

>>Then I look forward to seeing more epics in the post-Fishbowl polls! :) It's actually handy to know that you're still willing to make this micro-funding option available. Now I can budget for shorter poems that I can afford to pay for all at once and parts of epics that, until now, I had little hope of seeing in print. Nice!<<

It's fun to watch the Poetry Fishbowl project evolve over time. I've been doing this for about two years now (although November-December 2007 didn't have sponsorship options) and new features keep sprouting. Sometimes an idea pops into my head, like "Hey, I could put the epic into the general poll" and other times it's an audience request like "Can I get a nice hardcopy of this poem?"

I'm glad that you find the expanding options helpful for budgeting!
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