Get on the Soapbox

bulletIf you have a gripe about the poetry scene, the poetry situation, the circumstances surrounding poets -- here is the open mike where you can spout off, get it off your chest, inform the world how you feel.
bulletIf you can get your emotions on an electronic file which you can attach to an email message, send it to As quickly as we can we will flip your hot potato into the laps of others.

bulletCheck in here occasionally to see what bothers others and compare your blood pressure -- or answer them back. Keep it clean and above the belt.

The rant list now contains:

Garry Somers answers Shirley Short.

Shirley Short "Where has all the poetry gone?"

Bill Fisher's reply to Christopher Wolf "A Plea for Poetry"

Sonya Simpson's RE: Carole Heffley's article from Feelings as printed under "Publishing your Poetry" here on AHA!POETRY

Ranthrock i've noticed that very often these days
Bei-Yin "Reading all these Haiku"

Jane Reichhold "Haiku Ending in a Verb"

Jane Reichhold "Non-Nurturing Publications "

The latest rants are:

Garry Somers's beautiful answer:

The poetry is out there, on steno pads stuffed in kitchen drawers, on little blank-books given as supportive gifts, on copier paper folded into briefcases, in "My Document" files on C drives. Americans don't want to admit it, but we love poetry. We feel it, but we have a hard time telling anyone about it. We're not Russians, who elevate their poets to hero status. We're not the French, who love their language so much they have a national bureau to protect it. We're not Japanese, who measure the perfection of written form. We're Americans, and we don't express our feelings to just anyone. But we love poetry. We love the tug of the heart that the poetry of "When in the course of human events" or "...dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal." or "The only thing we have to fear is fear itself" or "I have a dream!" have given us. We love the poetry that has come before, and consider it ours. We read it in school. We hear it in our music.  Possibly, because it is ours, we don't seem to treat it carefully enough. The "American" language is tossed around, dinged like the quarter-panel of the family car in a supermarket parking lot. So, much published work goes unread, unheard. We wait until we are pushed to the edge by disaster or fear or touched by personal pain before the poetry comes out of us. At our most vulnerable, we suddenly hear other people and their poetry and are moved. And it rejoins us. 

Shirley Short "Where has all the poetry gone?"

More contemporary poetry is being published in the 90's than ever before, according to the poetry publishing guru Peter Finch, yet contemporary poetry lists are reported to be dwindling, even our oldest most respected academic publishing house, Oxford University Press has abandoned it's contemporary poetry list. If this is so what kind of poetry is being selected for publishing in an ever-narrowing market? If more poetry is being produced but less is being published by Publishing Houses which poetry is succeeding and Why? What (new) criteria or standards are used to determine the publishable merits of a piece of poetry?

I am concerned with the role editors ((eg. of publishing houses), awarding agencies (eg. Whitbread prize, Bridgeport Prize etc.) and English Departments and Curriculum advisors have in the production of literary texts. Which contemporary poets are considered worthy of a place on a school syllabus, which poems are winning prizes? and which poets are being published. Are the conventions of contemporary poetry still defined by canonical issues (i.e traditional subject matter, form, use of technical devices etc) or are we truly living in a radical age?

Send your views either directly to me (Shirley, third year English Studies student at the University of Huddersfield, ENGLAND Via E-Mail at: or post it on the board, safe in the knowledge that your opinions are contributing to topical discussion in the third year dissertation of a revolutionary!!!)


Christopher Wolf "A Plea for Poetry"

As I read the scores of poems which come through this site, I am surprised that so few poets use clear rhythm on a regular basis. Free verse has its place; I've used it myself, but there's something about a good rhythm that gives poetry a rich flavor. Perhaps it helps the words to 'dance in your mind'. It also occurs to me that constant unmetered writing may be the work of a sloppy poet, but perhaps that isn't always the case. Another thing that amazes me: the subjects many poets choose. Poetry is used as an emotional outlet; they write about life as they see it. Poetry can also be used to explore ideas (both new and old)! Life is seldom fair to anyone; poems don't have to constantly bewail this fact. For me, poetry is used to celebrate language and life, not complain about it. Too many subjects have been beaten to deal with poetry that complains and whines about them write a humorous, upbeat poem about it, or at least they could use a fresh viewpoint. Personally, I don't normally like using poetry as a means of gushing my 'warm fuzzies' (or cold stones) all over the place. Life's too short for that sort of thing. Anyone wanting to take these issues and beat me upside the head with them may contact me: Thanks -CASW-.

Chris Wolfe's comment on the state of poetry was not unexpected. I have personally found that real, real, real, amateur poets think they have to rhyme all of the time. I learned many years ago, writing song lyrics, that it is usually more important to "rhythm than to rhyme".

I also have observed that the real, real, real, amateur poets who don't think they are amateur feel compelled to make their poems, um, arcane or "deep". Quickly embracing what they think is "free form" they ramble on until they produce some ditty that looks like it was carved into a renaissance festival mug but has meaning only for them (and possibly their mother).

I'm not trying to be critical because I'm kind of a beginner at serious poetry myself. I do both free form and metered. Generally I try and go for descriptivity, if that's a real word. I probably have been guilty of using an "anon" on occasion myself.

I guess what I'm really trying to say is that I understand Mr. Wolfe's frustration at wading through line after line of "...i not needing whateverness in the fetoid dim of neon time..." etc. etc., but I don't think it's intentional or even unintentional sloppiness on the part of the poets.

But far be it from me to ramble.

Bill Fischer.


RE: Carole Heffley's article from Feelings as printed under "Publishing your Poetry" here on AHA!POETRY


My name is Sonya Simpson, and I would like to call myself a poet too. I read the letter from Carole concerning a submission and the bottom line was the almighty dollar! Her response was all too true. Writing is my passion, especially poetry. I would love to get something published. I'd like to tell you a story and I'll make it brief.

My only child, a daughter, was married in Feb. of 96 (excuse the abbreviations, but you know) I found myself in the back seat of the emotional roller coaster. This was my baby and she was leaving!

Needing an outlet to vent these feelings of turmoil and wanting to do something special for her, I authored a poem and knowing that I couldn't read it without crying, I recorded it and played the recording to her on rehearsal night. Everyone had the teary-eye syndrome and my feedback was positive.

Others have read and heard it since that time and have encouraged me to try for publication. I suppose that's the reason I was led to your page.

What Carole said about "heart and soul" into a writing is so true. As I was writing it, I cried. After I wrote it, I cried. After I listened to the recording, I cried. It had turned out just the way I planned and it WAS GREAT!

After the death of Princess Diana, I, like millions of others around the world, was in a state of bewilderment. I wrote a poem in her honor and oneof our local radio stations read it on air. The DJ called first, as I requested, to tell me he knew he would not do it justice, but he was going to attempt to read it the way he imagined I intended.

When I heard his voice on the radio, reading my words, my heart was poundingout of my body. I cried, again! But I agree with Carole 100%. Sure, we would love to have a portion of our heart and soul to be beneficial monetarily, but it's knowing that you made a difference somehow, I suppose, that really counts in the end.

So, Good, Going, Girl. You tell 'em. Thanks for your time. I enjoyed my end of the conversation! Sonya

Reading all these Haiku

Reading all these Haiku
sophisticated silly words
I start to get angry

Thousands of poems
written in traditional way
filling megabytes of space

True, each one is an individual
and personal expression
needing to show oneself

To show what?
The most artistic way
to hide ones feelings?

Not allowing to go beyond
old frogs perspective
finding wide inner horizons?

Hundreds of years
of high culture in not showing
finding substitutes in nature?

Symbols standing for emotions
so the smile on ones face
may stay untouched?


4. July 1997, 2:35am


I accept the limitation of 5+7+5 syllables, this helps me to work on my expression. But I refuse to stay just with nature elements not being allowed to express through abstract words. Tradition has its value, without doubt. Just it should not keep us in a cage so that we can't go beyond behavior patterns. Or is repressing ones feelings not a pattern? The result in japanese modern life is obvious and slowly a few people starting to get out of it. This is a hard job because tradition holds them back, as well people who are holding on are clinging on their tradition. With all respect, but I am not going to join this game. I will write how I feel that I need to express myself - and of sure my feelings are included! So even I will stay with certain rules of Haiku, I might not be allowed to call these poems Haiku, but I don't care. I am expressing myself and I will try to share this with other people how like this way... If there is anybody who would like to discuss this subject with me,

please email me.




i've noticed that very often these days

i've noticed that very often these days, people dont like to rhyme i think that its a travesty to poets of old, especially considering the willingness of most americans to accept forced rhymes and slang in the body

of a poem. this bothers me because i consider it one of the great challenges of the world to put together a coherant story or message within the frameworks of rhyme.

I think the problem started in the fifties. the beatnicks started to experiment more widely with free verse, and shied away from rhyme except in coy expressions. thsi ended hundreds of years of English influence upon the American poetry scene. Gone were the influences of shakespear and byron, and

in whisked walt whitman.anyway, thats what i think.

oh and there should be more latin phrases in poetry, its cool.

Ranthrock, Destroyer of Nations.

Haiku Ending in a Verb

Jane Reichhold

While looking over the stack of haiku materials I noticed there seem to be a rash of haiku ending with a verb.

According to the old-time renga rule for the hokku, it should always end with a noun. The same holds true for all the renga links except the third or daisan which alone uses the verb to link its action to #4.

Also there is the old idea that a haiku used three images: two to either compare or contrast and the third to make clear or explain the relationship.

When the haiku ends with a verb then written as the third line it seems it has been dropped and really belongs at the end of line #2 leaving space and place for the third, and in my mind, missing link.I don't know if haiku writers are getting too lazy to think up a third element for the poem or if, with the desire to be modern and brief, it is easier to leave off the last line than to compact the whole work.

Don't misunderstand me. Some haiku have a third line that is a complete image and ends with a verb such as "the owl hoots" which I feel are acceptable occasionally. I refer to such a haiku: wine bottle/the bug/floating.

One has to be aware that how poets write haiku determines what it becomes (according to H.G. Henderson) and this could be a totally acceptable change or it could be an aspect to watch and test. Rewrite some of these new haiku. See what you feel is best.


"Non-Nurturing Publications "

Jane Reichhold

To go through life with certain feelings, elevated to beliefs; feelings that have no words for them is like going through a day with your shoestrings untied. One feels something is not right, something should be looped into a neat little bow and that undefined something can, and often will, be the cause of falling on one's confident smiling face. Thus it has been with my involvement in the so-called "battle of the sexes."

Seeing the two sides of the one coin with these names has made clear to me some aspects that have bothered me for so long within the haiku/renga/poetry scene (and a great many other larger scenarios; it is only that just now this world is my focus, so I'm looking most closely at it).

It's true; between writers there is no rape, murder or physical violence. Yet there are areas and instances where we are hurting each other.

If one categorizes different activities in this work with words as being either nurturing or dominating, new light is shone on certain accepted (now), traditional practices.

. The major attribute of domination is ranking. Things, events, and people are ranked in descending order. First, second, third and either runner-up or honorable mention (or felt if one had hoped to place - horrible mention). Above first place is the judge. When we enter contests we willingly place ourselves under the domination of one person (or at most three persons) to whom we assign superiority. For the slim chance of winning, we open ourselves and often even pay money for the greater chance of being a loser. By advertising someone or their work because they won a contest, we further this whole network of domination and the falsehood of ranking. I've done it and do it. The greater question is if I choose to continue to play along with a game I feel is against my better judgement.

It seems almost natural for us to behave in this pattern because our society and the societies before us since the overthrow of the goddess religions and matriarchy have been based on the suppression of most by the selection of one as in a male god-figure/religion, king-dictator/government, pope/church, husband-head-of-the-household/family.

The other side of the ball of wax called living together is the concept of nurturing. The idea that no one is better, greater, wiser or stronger but that we are all different and at different levels of progress in very different aspects of life. As part of nurturing is the concept of linking. The sure knowledge that not only are we, as people, all linked together with the same strings of life, but knowing that our human realm is linked to the animal, mineral and plant world, and that world is eminently linked to the universe. When this linkage is understood, accepted and actions are decided upon using this measure, one determines to do, act, or make only those responses that nurture all links and to avoid harm to any part of the whole.Over the years we have made progress into nurturing or linking with parliments/government, stockholders-corporations/business and families where males and females share responsibility for support, caring and loving.

Now let's look at poetry magazines built on the premise that one person (editor) has the right to reject or accept work to be published. That is ranking. That is domination. Everyone pays for some printed pages so one person can multiply their own taste/choice/ideals. Think about the rejection letters this system generates. Think about the rejection letters you have received. When one considers how many carefully conceived, thought-out, written and rewritten haiku/renga/poems per quarter are rejected one sees how much negativeness ranking causes in the mild micro-climate of poetry.

Suddenly it is clear to me why men, and it has been mostly men who have said they don't want to be a part of subscriber-produced magazines on a participation basis. They want either to write the articles telling others what to think, write, or do, or they want an editor to decide what and which of their work is worthy of publication. Even some women have written that they will include in their self-published book only material that has been accepted by an editor for a magazine. I can now understand that this action of these women is the result of a lifetime in a society built on domination and ranking, and she is only confident of her work when staying within this framework.

It is tempting to put sexist labels on behavior, beliefs, and life patterns but we could avoid this by using the concepts of linking to define activities conducive to the progress and growth of persons, ideas, and enrichment of the genre as opposed to ranking which involves putting one another down, greasing the rungs of the ladder behind us with demeaning and unfair book reviews or the ignoring of other's achievements.

Some could say, "Well, changing things in the poetry scene is long way from solving world problems." That's ranking thinking. Linking thinking says, "Changing behavior in the smallest area of one's life is making a change in the whole universe - eventually."

Maybe as a poet you feel you don't have the platform from which to address nuclear disarmament, destruction of rain forests or women's right for their own bodies, but, man or woman, you can decide in each encounter with a friend/writer whether to offer nurturing (which is love given to yourself through the giving of love to others - where have we heard this before?) or the temptation to dominate or impose your will on others.

Each of us, especially in non-threatening areas, have the opportunity of deciding whether to put ourselves in subservient positions by granting superiority to others by entering contests, submitting to editors and accepting the words of anyone who says there is only one way to write.I believe that we as humans know what is right for ourselves. We have an obligation to choose action which is best for the whole when we do what we need to do to manifest our lives and our work. With this freedom comes the responsibility to educate ourselves to the best of our ability in the fields of our endeavor while nurturing and caring for others who are also seeking. We have a responsibility to avoid putting ourselves into situations of being dominated or ranked in so far as we can.

We take as obligation to look at all situations to see if they are linking or ranking and to encourage ourselves and others to choose that which is best for the growth of everyone. The advantage of the idea that we are all one, all together, and that hurting one hurts, in the long view, all of us, is the greater joy that together we are All and no one person, thing or activity can be raised above that. Even that which is most high, the Force or Spirit that created us and permits us to be is within us and beyond us, so there is no above or below, greater or lesser. It/we/all are one word, the one sound, the ring of life.

Copyright © AHA Books 1995

I think I missed an opportunity to rant. Take me back to the beginning of the SOAPBOX .