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Saturday, August 12, 2017

A Fresh Perspective

As you can see, I've not posted anything new recently. I have decided that my energies are better spent concentrating on my poetry. I miss doing the blog but can't do everything. My priority is the poetry.

I've been lucky to have found a writer's group, published a little, won writing competitions, completed a writing mentorship. I am nearly finished my first poetry manuscript. 

I want to complete the work I've begun and do it well. That requires commitment and self discipline. It requires focus and settling down to what it most important. Poetry.

Thanks for reading my blogs and following my journey. Wish me luck with the next steps.

Monday, May 29, 2017

The Late Season

This poem, "The Late Season" is about aging, the journey we each make. It was published in the December 2014 issue of Galleon III, and a slightly different version of this poem was the winner in the 2014 Writers' Federation of New Brunswick's Individual Poem Competition.

The Late Season

At the edge of the field,
wild asters wither.
Goldenrod and
yellowed grasses
bend seed heads
to the soil.

Brazen colours burst
reveal brown silhouettes.
Darkness shrivels the days.

The chickadee flits
to the feeder,
takes one seed
at a time.

I've been told that words like "darkness" are to be avoided in poems, as they are overused and too vague to convey concrete images. It is better to "show" than to "tell"; something I constantly struggle with. A writer must trust the reader to make meaning from the poem. I tend to over explain, wanting to ensure the reader gets what I'm saying.  Less explaining, more trusting, better crafting. It's good to learn from my poems and to receive feedback.

The competition judge for this poem was Sean Wiebe of Prince Edward Island. He had this to say about "The Late Season":

'Carol Steel's poem has an Impressionistic quality to it. Her simple and direct language is judiciously chosen, without literary effect getting in the way. Here is a good example of straightforward language used to maximum effectiveness. The painting of rural scene offers a picture of the edge of a field "bending" toward the remaining years. The delicate juxtaposition of "goldenrod and / yellowed grasses" with "the chickadee flits" is Impressionist pigment in words.' 

The task of learning to write poetry is a hard work, and it is gratifying to receive pointers, questions, suggestions about what works and what could be written in more effective ways. I appreciate the balance of both.

How else will I learn?

Monday, April 25, 2016


One of the methods I've used to learn more about writing poetry is to copy a poem by someone else, then study how that poet created the images and made the poem work. It sounds simple, but isn't.

I copy the poem longhand and leave every second line blank. Then I make several photocopies and use the pages as study work sheets. I begin by going over the poem line by line and making my own notes in the blank spaces about what happens and how in the poem; what metaphors are used and how they are working together; how the sounds of the words echo each other and echo the sense of the line, and any additional ideas this study process creates. This is a messy but fruitful project. I end up with many pages of notes.

Sometimes I learn something new about how to write, the importance of enjambment for example, the uniqueness of where the poetic line ends, or keeps hanging until the next line.

Sometimes this process leads me to a poem of my own. This poem "Brother" is loosely based on Ted Kooser's poem "Mother" from Delights and Shadows.

(after Ted Kooser's poem "Mother" from Delights and Shadows)

Late August already, and the mountain ash
sways, weighted with fruit, clusters of orange.
Colour so bright, it stops my breath.

You have been gone thirty years today
and have missed my two marriages and one long
divorce. I sat in that smothering house,
restrained inside my own ribs, until the memory
of your words pulled me out

Late goldfinches exchange ragged feathers
for fearless wings. Hydrangeas bloom.
Sturdy white blossoms deepen dusky pink.
This season bursts into the one coming
and the air is delicious.

This poem was published in The Nashwaak Review, Volume 34/35, the Summer/ Fall Issue of 2015. Thanks to TNR for this opportunity and permission to share.

For additional information on Ted Kooser, click here. For a copy of Delights and Shadows, click on the title.

The photos and poems on my blog are copyright 2014-2016 Carol Steel, unless otherwise noted.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

My Interview by Quest

I am delighted to have been interviewed by Quest, The Prayer Bench newsletter.

Here is a link to the interview, in which I respond to questions about my poetry and which includes two of my poems: The Late Season (published by Galleon III) and The Orb Weaver (published by The Nashwaak Review).

Thank you to Janice MacLean for asking me to be part of this month's communication to the followers of The Prayer Bench. To find out more about The Prayer Bench, click here.

All work by Janice is copyright to her; my poems and photos are copyright to me. The photo of me reading at the Attic Owl Reading Series, which is included in Quest, was taken by George Griffin, used with his permission.

Monday, April 18, 2016

Common Mergansers

Hello again.

I'll share some poems on my blog from now on, but only ones which have been previously published by literary journals. The reason? Most journals consider posting on a blog to be "publishing" and will not accept anything which they consider to have been previously published.

This poem was included in the Summer 2015 Volume 46, No. 182 of The Antigonish Review. I am happy that TAR accepted one of my poems and thank them for that opportunity.

Common Mergansers

We heard them coming,
              notes out of tune,
                           flying low and straight,

racing their shadows
              over the water.
                            They splashed down

to drift and to fish,
              in front of the cottage.
                           "There's something about

these ducks," you said,
             "they take every damn trout.
                           Fishing isn't as good

as it used to be.
              Nothing is."
                            I felt the mud

cold sludge
              between my toes,
                           the strike of your hook.

A friend told me that fisher folk hate Common Merganser ducks as they are capable of cleaning out entire fishing holes with their hooked bills and efficient diving tactics.

I hope you enjoy this poem. I think it captures those moments in relationships when we each say unkind things to one another. Because we know each other so well, we know where to sink the hook.

You can find out more about The Antigonish Review literary journal by clicking on this link. Thank you to TAR for publishing my poem.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

I've Been Absent


I've been absent from my blog for some weeks. Life has squeezed my writing out of the way for a short period. I'll be back very soon.

Thanks for your patience.


Sunday, January 24, 2016

Attic Owl Reading Series, January 28, 2016

January 28, 2016, I will be one of the readers at the Attic Owl Reading Series in Moncton at Café C'est la Vie. On the Attic Owl site, there is a link to my blog in order for people to learn a bit more about me. That is a problem for those searching out my poems.

Because poetry which has been shared on a blog is deemed to have been published, I don't put my poems on my blog. That way, they are eligible for consideration by literary journals. I have just started to submit my poems to publishers in the past fifteen months. Six have been published in Galleon III and IV, in the Nashwaak Review and The Antigonish Review.

I began writing poetry after I retired early from a career in mental health education and promotion, and following two serious illnesses. Epiphanies. Now or never moments. Write, right now or else....

While visitors to my blog won't see poetry, they will discover my love of photography and the natural world, plus my lifelong fascination with how relationships work, or don't.

I will read some of my poems at the Attic Owl Reading Series this Thursday, 6 pm at Café C'est La Vie in Moncton. Come listen. Enjoy the work of botanist, novelist, artist and poet, Jane Tims. There will be music. The Café is licensed, serves great meals and will be full of lively folks interested in the arts. 

There will be a donation box to accept your coins and bills which help defray the costs incurred by Lee D.Thompson, who does such a great job of promoting and organizing these events.

I hope you will come and enjoy the evening.

Words in colour will take you to another site with more information, if you click on them.