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Thomas, Maltuin

Once a month

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9:30, go to sleep

Wake up, check the time.



7:30 blink again

10:30, day begins


Coffee In, feel the same

Wish I had some nicotine

Though I could

Getting up, not important


I'm angry

No I'm not

Pessimistic? That's not me.

Yes it is

Who am I?


Read some lit, maybe later.

Where's the wife, did she cook?

What's it mean to feel blank

This must be what I wished for

Pray for peace

Ignorant of definition

Now I don't have one.


Eat some tuna, feel the same

Don't know how to smile

Class starts soon

Get it done

Maybe I'll just sit here


Why am I angry?

I'm not.

Mad thoughts without emotion

Steady heart

Where was I?


Wish that I could be myself

What would that be anyway

Nothings right but Nothings wrong

Nicotine didn't help either.


Did the world stop

While I slept

Did I miss it

Am I black or white

What's the difference

Maybe Ill play guitar


I didn't

Maybe this

is the real me

once a month

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What I mean is I like the stream of consciousness. It's primarily in present tense, but sometimes looks ahead (maybe I'll play guitar) or back (nicotine didn't help either).


You might look into changing your capitalization, punctuation, and stanza divisions.

The big thing is being consistent. How you use punctuation and capitalization should be a clue to the reader about changes.

Stanza is Italian for "room." Think of the divisions as rooms where you're storing a set of ideas and how each room should be distinct in some way (unless the point is to have them be uncomfortably similar).

In poetry, every aspect of language should be used to convey meaning.


Here's a poem I had written for a class. This is the refined version after 4 workshops. I kept it all past tense, but it talks about events before and after the main scene and links them together.




Wet snow clung in clumps to his knees

as he shovel-scraped the drive clear.

He pitched hands of salt over the path,

gray meltwater sheeting down and pooling

along white drifts. Then he lit a cigarette

against the cold and watched the water

trickle along the curb as it snaked for the ocean 

where water starts and ends. He pulled

the smoke in and held it, rasping his tongue 

over cold-chapped lips. The salt on his fingers tasted 

like when he was four and visited his grandma 

down in Pensacola where the beach

was the kind of snow that burned 

the soles of his feet, so he would throw 

himself into the Gulf and come up with his nose 

stinging the way it did as he let out the smoke 

in slow curls that sank up into the clouds

with all the smiles and sunny afternoons

that couldn’t make it to Wisconsin that year.

Then, when he’d smoked down to his knuckles, 

he went inside and took off his mukluks, 

and his feet burned from the type of sand 

that turns toes blue--even through his thick,

waterproof boots.

Edited by foxbunny

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Interesting. I try not to think about this stuff when I post the original. Partially because these last two have been submitted via cell phone and correcting punctuation is distracting from line of thought which I want to at least start as raw. Which is why I say, we can always always edit.

I like that insight on stanza. It really clears things up.

To elaborate on the tense, it is one constant stream of thought reflecting on the day before that point but it's being stated in fragments, as they are experienced the second time or noted on. It's written in present tense because that's how it is viewed in thought. The past tense is a pause to note a fact perhaps because the actual event was skipped. "maybe I will" is future-ish because the old thought was planning. I hadn't thought about this till you mentioned it. Kinda makes things a bit more interesting.
I'm tempted to put away all capitals and go back to add them only to key words. Something that I think I noticed in your poem. Let's try something. I'll post a first edit and then tell me how the poem makes you feel and how you interpret it.


EDIT: I fixed a typo.

("Do it's written..."   DX   OH COME ON!!!) 

Edited by Thomas Maltuin

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Edited to remove quote command




go to sleep


wake up

check the time






blink again



day begins


coffee in

feel the same

wish I had some Nicotine...

though I could

getting up


Not important


i'm angry

no I'm not


that's not me

yes it is


Who am I


read some lit

maybe later

to feel (Blank)

where's the wife

did she cook


What's it mean


this must be

what I wished for

pray for Peace.


of definition


I don't have 1


eat some tuna

feel the same

don't know how to Smile?

class starts soon

get it done


Maybe I'll just sit here


why am I angry

im not

mad Thoughts

without emotion

steady heart


Where was i


wish i could be myself

what's that anyway

nothings Right

nothing's wrong



Didn't help either


did the world stop

while i slept

did i miss It.

am i black

or white


What's the difference


Maybe i'll play guitar


i didn't



is the real me

once a month

Edited by Thomas Maltuin

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Try out various things.

In the first version of Snow I had sentences for each line and the first line was "He pitched hands of salt over the path."

I rewrote it as a paragraph and divided the lines at important words and tried to make groups of related words.





The other thing I learned through workshopping snow is to use the physical and concrete over the nebulous or conceptual. Instead of being 'angry', the narrator should punch the wall or something that physically represents anger. Maybe throw something. Even just getting red faced or hot

When you are going to use concepts, though, make your concrete images as strong as possible. In other words, if you're going to have "angry", it would be helpful to have "Marlboros" in place of "nicotine" or "Folger's" in place of "coffee".


Just ideas.

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You can leave things vague or with obfuscation.

Just like punctuation, capitalization, and stanza organization add meaning, word choices do the same. It may sound obvious to say so, but consider that adding specificity to one word serves to obfuscate or obscure another.

Alternately, you can remove some words completely. It's a bit of a slog, but you can ask yourself for each word "Is this word completely necessary to say what I want to say? Would the poem be more understandable, less understandable, or the same if I removed it?" Leave a word only if it would make the poem harder to understand by removing it. You can do something similar with lines by asking if a line makes sense best where it is or if it would better convey its image elsewhere.


Think of how much easier it was to think about the idea of a Stanza when you got the image of a room. Poems build images for readers.


Consider "Metaphors" by Sylvia Plath


I'm a riddle in nine syllables,

An elephant, a ponderous house,

A melon strolling on two tendrils.

O red fruit, ivory, fine timbers!

This loaf's big with its yeasty rising.

Money's new-minted in this fat purse.

I'm a means, a stage, a cow in calf.

I've eaten a bag of green apples,

I've boarded the train there's no getting off.


What it is meant to convey is probably obvious (pregnancy), but it uses images (metaphors) to convey this concept and does so in a way that is not flattering.


Remember that the reader constructs images based on your words. If you give vague words, however, they will not form vague images. They will breathe life into the poem you likely did not anticipate.


I read the poem initially as relating to a woman's menstrual cycle. But it might also be about quitting smoking. 

Remember that you are not the narrator of your poem.

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This one was based off a real day. And I would hope readers put there images in. That's part of the goal. A kind of way to see how my feelings relate to someone else. Not done with it yet but I do want to ask. Did you notice the punctuation. How it pairs keywords?

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(Blank) and (This)

"Pessimistic?" and "don't know how to smile"


I've just found that poetry is usually better when it is more concrete and allusive than vague and elusive.

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And that's fine. I was just experimenting and wondered what you thought of that.


I'm not trying to make it impossible to define, but in keeping reference points limited, there is more room for interpretation. Allusive means to work by suggestion, I don't want to overstate.

Edited by Thomas Maltuin

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It's up to you in what you're trying to say.

The type of allusion I'm talking about points to other works or ideas. Allusion as anchor. The opening line of "The Waste Land" is an allusion to "The Canterbury Tales."


April is the cruelest month...

Alludes to

Whan that Aprill...

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