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Using Poetry to Reflect Upon the Civil War – Part 3: Walt Whitman

Walt Whitman (1819-1892) is known as “America’s Poet,” and for good reason. His poetry captured the spirit of a country that was growing, expanding, tearing down, and building up, while still carrying the weight of its past.

Whitman may also be known as the poet of America’s Civil War. He wrote some 71 poems about the conflict, both during the war and after. Many of these poems were incorporated into various editions of Leaves of Grass. The first edition of Leaves of Grass , published in 1855, held just 12 poems. He kept revising, editing, and adding until the final edition had more than 400 poems, including many of the ones he wrote about the Civil War.

Walt Whitman

Whitman was 41 when the war began. The Civil War began with a burst of enthusiasm on both sides (mirrored 53 years later in Europe with the outbreak of World War I). You can read that enthusiasm in Whitman’s early war poems, including “Drum Taps,” “Cavalry crossing a ford,” and “Song of the Banner at Day-Break.” These are almost poems of celebration and patriotism, and to read them today is to make one wonder, with the benefit of hindsight, whether Whitman really knew what he was writing about.

The substance and tenor of his Civil War poems changed in December 1862. His younger brother George had been wounded at the Battle of Fredericksburg that month, and Whitman headed south in a desperate search to find him. He did find him, and it turned out that George had only been lightly wounded.

He had been one of the fortunate ones. The battle had been horrific for both sides, but especially for the Union forces. Some 1,300 Union soldiers had been killed and more than 9,000 were wounded. Many of them ended up in hospitals in Washington, D.C., and it was there that Whitman traveled, after assuring himself that George was safe.

Whitman spent the next 11 years in Washington. He spent the war years visiting the wounded and dying in hospitals. It changed his view of the war completely. He could see the devastation and destruction firsthand. He watched young men and boys die. He wrote letters for the injured. His poems about the war became darker.

Some of the poems, including one of the most famous ones about the war, involve Abraham Lincoln. Whitman was a deep admirer of the president, and often saw him in his carriage on the streets of Washington. In many ways, Lincoln represented what was right about America, including his determination to preserve the Union. His assassination in April 1865 devastated Whitman. And it resulted in one of the best known and best loved poems in American history.

O Captain! My Captain! (1865)

O Captain! my Captain! our fearful trip is done,
The ship has weather’d every rack, the prize we sought is won,
The port is near, the bells I hear, the people all exulting,
While follow eyes the steady keel, the vessel grim and daring;
But O heart! heart! heart!
O the bleeding drops of red,
Where on the deck my Captain lies,
Fallen cold and dead.

O Captain! my Captain! rise up and hear the bells;
Rise up—for you the flag is flung—for you the bugle trills,
For you bouquets and ribbon’d wreaths—for you the shores a-crowding,
For you they call, the swaying mass, their eager faces turning;
Here Captain! dear father!
This arm beneath your head!
It is some dream that on the deck,
You’ve fallen cold and dead.

My Captain does not answer, his lips are pale and still,
My father does not feel my arm, he has no pulse nor will,
The ship is anchor’d safe and sound, its voyage closed and done,
From fearful trip the victor ship comes in with object won;
Exult O shores, and ring O bells!
But I with mournful tread,
Walk the deck my Captain lies,
Fallen cold and dead.

Drum Taps Walt WhitmanIn 2015, for the 150th anniversary of the end of the Civil War, a special edition of Whitman’s poems was published. Drum Taps: The Complete Civil War Poems includes all 71 poems, several short essays by Whitman, an introduction by Civil War historian James MacPherson, the original introduction to the Drum Taps collection published in 1915, and numerous photographs and artworks from the Civil War period. It’s a beautiful volume, itself an artifact of memory and remembrance.

Walt Whitman was the American everyman. His poetry celebrated the energy and drive associated with this relatively young nation, and it initially celebrated the onset of the Civil War. He embraced wild-eyed and enthusiastic patriotism and partisanship. But as the human deaths and suffering mounted, he could no longer ignore the costs. And so his poetry changed, and because it did, our understanding of the Civil War changed as well.

Source: tweetspeakpoetry.com

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15 Marketplaces to Publish Your Poetry

Since there are hundreds of publications in the US and abroad that publish poetry, finding the perfect fit for your verses may seem a bit overwhelming. If you’ve been writing and submitting for a while now, then you already have a list of publications on-hand. If you’re yet to publish your first poem or collection of poems, then you’ll want to start conducting targeted market research.

While you may want to aim for your favorite professional-level publication, sometimes it may take a while to get into its print – or cyber – pages. It’s important to remain positive and continue to focus on your craft by attending workshops, reading articles, creating – or joining – a critique group, and so forth.

The 15 Top Marketplaces to Publish Your Poetry


5 Markets for Mainstream Literary Poetry

5 Markets for Minimalist Poetry

5 Markets for Science and Speculative Fiction Poetry

What to Do Before Submitting

In general, many submission guidelines encourage you to send three-to-five poems at a time. So, once you have a completed file of poems to submit, here are just a few questions to ask before submitting your work:

  • Do you know the type of poetry this publication tends to publish?
  • Are you familiar with the editors’ likes, dislikes, and pet peeves?
  • Have you checked, double- checked, and triple-checked the guidelines and followed them to the letter?
  • Have you proofed and edited your poems? Read them out loud?
  • Have you workshopped the poems, and do they represent your “best” work?

If you responded, “yes,” to the questions above, then submit your poems with a nice cover letter, when requested, and be sure to note the guidelines for these as well.

Keeping Track of Your Submissions

One way to maintain awareness of your progress and success is to create a submissions log. If you’re a prolific poet that submits work on a weekly basis, for example, then a log is a valuable tool. If you’re new to being published, then you have a visual and interactive display to note the cumulative results of your actions.

Here are just a few reasons why it’s a good to keep track:

  • You are aware of which poems are being considered and by whom.
  • You know when they’ve been submitted, which is particularly important when noting how long you need to wait before querying.
  • You don’t inadvertently simsub (i.e., submit simultaneous submissions).
  • You don’t resubmit a revised poem(s) to a publication that indicates not to do this unless invited.
  • You will be able to note which publications you’ve considered for your work, thus determining if it’s a good market fit.

While some people may use Excel or another type of software, I create tables in a Word doc. Here are the categories in my current submissions log:

  • Date submitted
  • Publication and poem titles
  • Date accepted and specific issue
  • Date rejected
  • Payment amount

Since I set up my tables to allow for additional information, I also make note of the editors’ names, website URLs, and other information, such as editor comments, which are always appreciated. In addition to my regular submissions log, I also have a month-to-month table where I track the total number of submissions, rejections, and payment.

Visualize Success

One of my favorite motivational sayings is this: “What we focus on, grows.” I keep this in mind when writing, and yes, when opening my email to an acceptance or thank-you-for-submitting-but-it’s-not-a-good-fit-for-us letter. It’s also important to stay focused when, or if, those rejection notes seem to pile up. One of my early writing mentors told me that while I may be a good writer, it would be my dedication to craft and persistence that would make a significant difference. He was right.

Here’s to your success as a poet or with any other form of writing in which you choose to engage.

Source: freelancewriting.com

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Poetry: Making Music with Words

Most writers are primarily concerned with the meaning of the words they choose. Is the language precise and accurate? Do the words provide the best connotation for what the writer is trying to communicate? Does the language show, rather than tell?

But poets take language a step further and push it into the realm of music. Poets care about meaning, precision, and accuracy as well as connotation and imagery. But they also care about how words sound, because musicality is a fundamental feature of poetry.

Poets use various elements of music to compose a poem. But because the written word is read and not heard, some elements of music aren’t available, like pitch and timbre.

Spoken word and performance (or slam) poetry are exceptions, because these works are designed to be heard and can incorporate musical elements that aren’t available to authors who write to be read. But most poets rely on a variety of literary devices and techniques to bring music to their work. Foremost among these are meter, sound, rhyme, repetition, and structure.

Meter (Rhythm)

In poetry, meter is a syllabic pattern, which is determined by stressed and unstressed syllables. We’ll use bold to denote stressed syllables in the first line of “What Kind of Times Are These” by Adrienne Rich:

There’s a place between two stands of trees where the grass grows uphill

Let’s see what happens when we strip away the language, so we can see the raw meter of the line:

da-da-DUM da-DUM da-DUM da-DUM da-da DUM DUM da-DUM

As you can see, the meter gives the poem rhythm, an underlying drumbeat. This demonstration shows why it’s important to review the syllables in the lines of your poetry to check the meter.

Sound (Melody)

A song’s melody is determined by the sequence and length of notes played or sung by musicians. In poetry, melody is driven by the vowel and consonant sounds within the words of the poem. Consider this simple tune: la de-da, la de-da, la-la-la. 

Now compare it to this: doo-da, doo-da, doo-de-da.

We don’t know the exact notes or melody just from reading these sounds, but there is an implied tune when we read them aloud. We can bring a little rhythm to the sounds as well by placing stress on select syllables:

LA de-da, LA de-da, LA-LA-LA. 

DOO-da, DOO-da, DOO-de-DA.

So how do we put it all together? By choosing words that match the melody and meter that we’re aiming for:

LA de-da, LA de-da, LA-LA-LA. 
On the dock, six o’clock, stomp on rock

DOO-da, DOO-da, DOO-de-DA.
Stooping, drooping, boorish king

You’ll notice that in addition to rhythm and meter, we introduced some rhymes.


The most common rhymes are perfect end rhymes–words that appear at the end of lines in poetry and that rhyme perfectly. Here’s an example from Dr. Seuss’s The Lorax:

Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot
Nothing is going to get better, it’s not.

The words lot and not rhyme perfectly and are placed at the end of the first two lines, respectively. The placement of rhyme in a poem, coupled with its meter, can give the lines a sing-song quality. We can use different meters, sounds, and rhyme placements to pull different musical qualities into our poetry. Here’s an excerpt from “Spelling” by Margaret Atwood, which shows internal rhymes:

At the point where language falls away
from the hot bones, at the point
where the rock breaks open and darkness
flows out of it like blood, at
the melting point of granite

Try reading these lines aloud to hear the inherent music contained within. Notice that the lines do not use a metrical pattern, but the layered internal rhymes give it rhythm:

  • away and breaks
  • hot and rock
  • bones, open, and flows
  • The word point appears three times in these five lines, but the repetition of this word is barely noticeable.

It’s worth noting that some poems don’t rhyme at all. Rhyme is important in poetry, but it’s actually a subset of a broader and even more important poetic device that is essential in both poetry and music: repetition. After all, rhyme is just repetition of sounds.


Repetition is the technique that really sums up how we make music out of words in poetry. All of the techniques mentioned above ultimately use repetition:

  • We create a pattern of stressed and unstressed syllables — and a pattern is really just repetition.
  • We choose words and arrange them in such a way that they create a pseudo melody, which is achieved primarily by patterning (or repeating) certain sounds.
  • And we use rhyme — maybe end rhymes that ring like cymbals or internal rhymes that jingle like a tambourine. Rhymes are, by nature, repetition.

Layering the repetitions of these elements creates greater musical dynamics in a poem.

As you can see, a poem’s musicality really comes from the repetition of various elements within the lines and stanzas. And there are more elements that we can repeat. Alliteration is the repetition of consonant sounds in close proximity: prickly pears. Assonance is the repetition of vowel sounds in close proximity: hat rack.

Some poems even use repetition in their very structure.


A poem’s music also comes from its structure — the length of lines and stanzas, placement of line and stanza breaks, punctuation, and spacing. All of these elements contribute to the poem’s structural sounds and therefore contribute to its musicality.

In music, a rest is an interval of silence. In poetry, these intervals are indicated by line breaks, stanza breaks, punctuation, and spacing. Rests are similar to the concept of white space in art.

For example, punctuation provides indicators for pausing (or resting) with commas and periods or inflections for questions and exclamations.

Do You Make Music with Poetry?

Plenty of excellent works of poetry aren’t especially musical. But musicality is an important aspect of poetry.

How do you infuse your poetry with music?

By Melissa Donovan
Source: writingforward.com

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Poetry Prompts for Ranting and Raving

It’s easy to think of poetry as soft, flowery, and convoluted. It’s the stuff of Shakespeare, greeting cards, and children’s books. It’s precious, sweet, and erudite.

But some of the most exciting modern poetry defies all those stereotypes, and you need look no further than the slam poetry and spoken word communities to see how poetry can be infused with rage, passion, and humor.

These poets have mastered the art of ranting and raving with passion via performance poetry. It’s no wonder that during live recordings of some of their most impassioned poems, the crowd can be heard hooting and hollering.

Today’s poetry prompts encourage you to write a poem that unleashes your passion.

Poetry Prompts

You can use these poetry prompts to write any kind of poem you want. But for some reason, poems that rant and rave work exceptionally well in performance poetry. These pieces have luster on the page, but they explode when read aloud, so I recommend working on a poem that is meant to be performed. There is a list of links to some excellent recordings of performance poetry at the end of this post.

How to use these poetry prompts:

Choose one of the lists below and write a poem using all of the words in the list. You can also write a poem mixing and matching words from these lists or using all of the words from all of the lists.

Social Consciousness Personal Affronts Road Rage & Pet Peeves

Explore Performance Poetry

Need some ideas to help you get started with these poetry prompts? Below are links to a few examples of performed poems that are beautifully executed — well written and brilliantly performed. Once you follow the link, you’ll need to click the pod icon to listen to the performances.

WARNING: some of these poems may contain offensive language. But they show the breadth of subject matter that a performance poem can tackle. Some are full of anger, others are imbibed with grace, and a couple are sprinkled with humor. Enjoy!

All these poems and many more can be found on IndieFeed Performance Poetry, one of my favorite podcasts that is unfortunately no longer active; but the archives remain online for all to enjoy. I highly recommend checking it out (you can also access it via iTunes).

By Melissa Donovan

Source: writingforward.com

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How to Construe and Convey Tone in Poetry

In literature, tone is the mood, attitude, or emotional sensibility of a written work. In poetry, tone expresses the narrator’s disposition toward the poem’s subject, the reader, or the narrative itself.

We might describe a poem’s tone as irreverent, relaxed, sarcastic, solemn, jubilant, or desperate. Tone can be any emotion or state of mind, and a single poem can include a combination of tones.

When we’re speaking, our tone is expressed through inflection. We use pitch and stress to communicate the attitude behind the words we’re saying. If I say, “Get out of here!” the tone of my voice will let you know whether I’m literally telling you to leave the room or whether I’m figuratively saying, “You’ve got to be kidding.”

In writing, we must approach tone with care, because it is often and easily misinterpreted. For example, sarcasm is commonly misread in text messaging and on social media. Someone types a sarcastic statement in jest, but the recipient takes it literally and may get offended or confused. Some people mark sarcastic remarks with to ensure clarity for this reason.

If communicating tone is so difficult, how can we interpret and communicate it effectively in poetry?

Tone in Poetry

Tone is conveyed through every aspect of a poem: imagery, connotation, even rhythm.

Consider two poems about death. One poem might use an image of a sunset while another uses dried flowers. The image of a sunset is warm, restful, even relaxing. But the dried flowers are brittle and lifeless. The image that the poet chooses will determine whether the poem’s tone is comforting or despairing.

Connotation is similarly crucial in poetry. Think about the difference between the word bum and the word pauper. Although these two words might be used to describe the same person or situation, they have strikingly different connotations. In a poem about poverty, the word choice will tint the meaning and reveal the poem’s attitude about the poor.

A poem’s rhythm can also contribute to its tone. As mentioned, when we speak, our inflections help listeners determine the attitude behind the words we’re saying. Rhythm is used similarly in poetry to affect tone. Short snappy lines could make a poem feel frantic or excited. Lengthy lines with a lot of long vowels can give a poem a relaxed or haughty tone.

These are just a few examples of elements that convey tone in poetry. Can you identify any other literary devices that are common in poetry and explain how they might be used to convey tone?

Studying Tone in Poetry

Consider the confident, sassy attitude of Maya Angelou’s “Phenomenal Woman” contrasted with the sorrowful yet playful tone of “anyone lived in a pretty how town” by E.E. Cummings. Or contrast the tone of Robert Frost’s “The Road Not Taken” with the tone of Emily Dickinson’s “Because I Could Not Stop for Death.” How do these poems differ in tone? How did the poets convey tone? And how does the tone of each poem affect the reader?

Select two poems from the literary canon and for each one, choose one to three words that describe its tone. Then look for the elements within each poem that convey its tone (metaphor, imagery, etc.) and note those as well, pulling lines, phrases, and words from the poem to support your interpretation. Finally, write a short essay of about one page comparing and contrasting the tones of the two poems and explaining how each poem communicates its tone.

How Do You Tone?

When you review your work, do you check for tone? Have you ever made revisions because the language in a poem wasn’t conveying the right tone? Share your thoughts on tone in poetry by leaving a comment, and keep writing poems!

By Melissa Donovan

Source: writingforward.com

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Poe’s Ten Saddest Moments #FED_ebooks #writer #author

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Having a bad day? Check out the top ten miseries of Edgar Allen Poe.

Poe’s Ten Saddest Moments

Edgar Allen Poe was a living tragedy. And his work – in all its brutal, incarnadine-motifed morbidity – reflected that fact. For every poem about a dead young lover or gravestone polished by a widower’s tears, there is a horrible justified sadness lurking just at the other end of the quill, cursing unjust fate. Poe’s life was a string of unfortunate events, which may have inspired some of his greatest gothic/romantic/anti-transcendental writings. So while we owe a debt of gratitude to his brilliantly impassioned body of work, we must also keep in mind what torture was endured to make his pages truly bleed and moan. Here are ten of the saddest moments in Edgar Allen Poe’s life:

10 Orphan

 Edgar Allan Poe Sm

Straight out the gate, Edgar Allen Poe had it rough, as if he were literally born into misfortune. Born in 1809 (the middle child of three), his birth parents, Elizabeth and David Poe were both actors. In 1810, his father abandoned the family. In 1811, his mother died of consumption, also known as pulmonary tuberculosis; Poe was effectively orphaned. Little did he know, this would be the start of a cruel sort of tradition in his life.

9 Under-Supported


While Poe was living with the Allens, patriarch of the family John Allen – a well-off Scottish merchant – neglected Poe in all sorts of ways, emotionally and fiscally. Poe was never even formally adopted. Meanwhile, Poe’s foster brother was spoiled fat in plain sight. When Poe finally went off to school, his foster father didn’t give him enough money or supplies, and soon Poe resorted to gambling. Also, Allen had received a large inheritance from his deceased uncle, zero of which Poe benefited from. While Allen did send some money and clothes after Poe pleaded via a series of desperate letters, there was still a surmounting debt in Poe’s name (not to mention a lack of the basic wherewithal to get by). Thus, Poe was forced to join the military to make ends meet. He did, all the while, continue to write here and there and for various publications and newspapers. But ultimately, and far too often, he did find himself the quintessence of a starving writer.

8 First Love Marries Another

  Sara Elmira Royster

Before Poe went to school, he became smitten with a girl named Sarah Elmira Royster, but when he went off to study at the University of Virginia, she – with the prodding of her meddling father (who destroyed all of Poe’s letters to her) – married a wealthy man who could provide her a future, of which Poe seemed incapable. They had two children (and lost two more at birth), but in 1844 he died, leaving the family an estate worth $100,000, on the condition that she didn’t remarry. She and Poe did become engaged again later on, to the reluctance of her children, and the two never ended up tying the knot prior to Poe’s death.

7  Foster Mother Died


During a time when Poe was enduring strict radio silence from his foster father – who had been ignoring his letters – Poe’s foster mother Frances Allen had become ill and died in 1829. Poe had received no news of this fact, nor of the burial arrangements, as he learned the fact the day after when he came to visit. At this point, Poe was devoid of all mother figures, not to mention a proper father figure.

6 Disowned by Foster Family


John Allen eventually remarried, and continued to be an asshole to Poe. When his wife discovered Allen had children out of affairs, the conflict led to the disowning of Poe, who was never actually legally adopted to begin with. One last middle finger: when Allen eventually died, the inheritance money went to his illegitimate children, not a dime left to Poe.

5 Brother Died of Alcoholism


After Poe was disowned, he sought a home once more, and found it with his natural aunt, cousin, and older brother Henry. Henry, unfortunately, had a drinking problem (as did Poe, who lost a number of jobs over it), and ended up dying from it in 1831. After this, Poe tried to clean up his act and start writing with intent.

4 First Wife Died of Tuberculosis

 G225610 U75009 Thomas Sully Virginia Clemm Poe

While staying with his relatives, Poe fell in love with his 13 year-old cousin Virginia Clemm. In Baltimore, they married in secret, and they lied about her age on the marriage certificate (alleging she was 21). Poe, at the time, was 26. Eventually they did have a public ceremony, after Poe found some literary success. But one day while she was singing and playing piano, she coughed up blood, which was a symptom of tuberculosis, or the Red Death, which Poe felt to be a tangible pursuer. After her death on January 30, 1847, he never really recovered from his depression, which he drowned in alcohol, despair, and late night visits to her frozen-over grave site.

3 Failed Romances

 Detail  1869 By John Nelson Arnold  Sarah Helen Whitman (1803-1878)  Brown Portrait Collection, Brown University  Providence, Ri

With the loss of Virginia and virtually every good female presence in his life, he had a void in need of filling (one which alcohol couldn’t effectively satiate). He became engaged to poet Sarah Helen Whitman, which ultimately ended due to Poe’s drinking (with some help from Whitman’s disapproving mother). After that didn’t work out, he looked his ex-fiancée Sarah Elmira Royster up in Baltimore, who was widowed at the time, and planned to marry her. Fate had other plans…

2 Poe Died of Mysterious Causes


The cause of Poe’s death is uncertain, and death certificates no longer exist, but there has been wild speculation over the years, including: rabies, syphilis, epilepsy, and brain swelling related to alcoholism. He was found in Baltimore, deranged and disoriented (and not in his original clothing), and was taken to a hospital by a man who found him in the streets. His last word were said to have been, though he hardly lucid in the hours prior to his demise, “Lord help my poor soul.” His last cry for help in a life cloaked in utter tragedy.

1  Defamed by Literary Rival


As if his death and life-long suffering weren’t enough, his literary rival Rufus Griswold – who had an axe to grind ever since Poe wrote some bad criticisms about him – decided to sully his name after death. Penning Poe’s obituary and first biography, and filling them with lies and all sorts of disinformation – like that Poe was a drunk and a drug addict and a womanizer and had no friends or morals (using Poe’s own personal letters against him) – Griswold was dismissed by Poe’s friends who knew better. Griswold’s efforts backfired as his biography actually helped sell Poe’s work, and Griswold is known only today as a petty grudge-bearer and for being Poe’s first biographer and obituary writer (however inaccurate). So this story – that of Poe’s life, that is – begins incredibly sad and ends slightly happy, one minor victory bookending a thoroughly defeated life.

Source: listverse.com By Ryan Thomas
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