George Gordon Byron, 6th Baron ByronIn 1985, a British Romantic Period Literature class changed my life. The poetry of Byron, Shelley, and Keats wakened in me a passion for writing. I determined to somehow make a career of it—and somehow feed my children.

Since then I’ve worked exclusively in publishing, first for game companies, now in education. I also continue to write, study, and promote poetry. It’s my opinion that poetry used to belong to the people, until academics stole it. It’s high time to steal it back from them.

Why a Novel in Sonnets (and how you can help)

Lester : August 19, 2016 9:00 pm : Announcements, Fiction, Poetry, Popcorn Press

Bucket - Aaron Strout
“Shall I compare thee to a metal pail?” (“Bucket” photo by Aaron Strout, CC by 2.0)
I have a bucket list. It isn’t like most: I’ve already gone many places, seen wondrous things, met amazing people, found my true love, raised a family with her, owned a motorcycle, rode it through the Rockies, held multiple occupations (factories, nursing, military, game design, education), presidented the WI Fellowship of Poets, won some game-design and poetry awards, and so on.

My bucket list is to write a handful of novels that have been hanging fire while I did those other things.

Now, one great way to master novel writing is to write copies of what masterful novelists have written. Steven Pressfield (The Legend of Bagger Vance) typed out passages of Hemingway for practice. Jack London hand wrote copies of Kipling. Robert Louis Stephenson and Benjamin Franklin copied authors they admired.

I’m trying something different: In my first novel, I’ve been applying poetry skills to write chapters as sonnets, and aggregating those slowly but surely into an overarching plot. The result is The Pastime Machine, an irreverent mashup of Dante and Wells. It’s roughly half done at the time of this post.

After completing this first novel, I’ll tackle the next ones in prose. Before I die, I hope to finish at least Van Helsing’s Confession (an iconoclastic take on Dracula), L’Académie des Arcanes (an adventure story of modern-day magical police, based on the D6xD6 setting), and Suzie-Q Suzuki (which may well end up as a series). I’m sure other titles will come.

In our social-media world, many artists, musicians, filmmakers, and even game designers are supported in their work by a community of patrons. To fund my own creative dreams, I’ve set up a page at Patreon.com.

So, if you’re a friend, or a fan; if I’ve touched your life in some positive way in the past; please consider pledging $1/mo. at Patreon.com/LesterSmith to help make these things a reality. I promise to do my level best to make the rewards well worth your while. Thank you.

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Life Lune

Lester : July 23, 2016 12:49 pm : Poetry

Life’s a miracle
Flip the coin
Death’s an act of God

~Lester Smith
#micropoetry #lune

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How Poets Measure Stress

Lester : December 11, 2015 11:16 am : Announcements, Poetry

"All in one .." by #L98, CC by 2.0
“All in one ..” by #L98, CC by 2.0
This week in “The Pastime Machine,” chapter XIV force-feeds more Poetic Edda structure (Icelandic oral poetry of Norse mythology) to traditional sonnet form. The result is intentionally jarring—a matter of competing “feet” and “stress,” what poets call “measure.” (Hence the post title here.)

You may remember from high school English class that sonnets are traditionally iambic pentameter. That means five “feet” to a line, each “foot” an “iamb.” Sometimes teachers express this pattern of stressed and unstressed syllables as “daDUM daDUM daDUM daDUM daDUM.”

In this chapter, “Thor set me down, with care to be less rough,” is a good example.

The Poetic Edda is instead trochaic tetrameter. That means four “feet” to a line, each “foot” a “trochee.” I doubt any high school teacher ever bothered defining that for you, but if they did, it would be “DUMda DUMda DUMda DUMda.”

In my chapter, “Stranger! Welcome! I hight Odin.” is a good example.

(For what it’s worth, Poetic Edda structure apparently also likes a conceptual split in the exact middle of each line. I think I’ve managed that, as well.)

So … whenever I have Thor or Odin speak in this section of the novel, I switch to trochaic tetrameter. Everywhere else, I preserve iambic pentameter. (It’s all part of the service.)

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