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Write Forevermore

If you’re like me, you’ve probably already listened to Taylor Swift’s new album, evermore, multiple times this morning. Or maybe you’re a normal person who didn’t wake up and immediately play the new album and lay in bed reading the lyrics as you listened. Either way, I would encourage you to use evermore (or your favorite album from your favorite artist that came out recently) as writing inspiration!

I find that I get my inspiration from the oddest places at times, but something that almost always can serve as inspiration is music. Music is essentially poetry put to instruments. Lyricists rely on words to tell a story through their music just like writers use words to create other worlds. Words are the foundation upon which we stand, so why not take inspiration from the words of others?

evermore is an album made up of stories. Taylor Swift created people–some imaginary, some based on real-life–to write these songs about. Some of them are characters from her folklore album released earlier this year, some have tragic storylines, some wind up with their true love at the end. But they are all stories.

So today, if you are looking for inspiration or somewhere to start with your writing, I’d encourage you to pick a song from evermore (or another story-driven album) and write the backstory, what happens next, or the other character’s perspective. Turn your writing into a response song, or a poem, or a short story. I’m sure you could even find enough inspiration to write a novel if you tried!

As always, we are eager to see what you come up with. Share in the comments below or, if you are so inclined, submit it to the journal for consideration!

S3 Episode 5: Writing and the Holidays

On this episode–our last of 2020–Addey and the other borrowed solace editors, Amber and Nicole, talk about the holidays. What does writing have to do with Christmas? Have any of the editors written stories about the holidays? What does December look like this year? Tune in to find out!

Happy Thanksgiving!

From all of us at borrowed solace to all of you. While this year has been one full of tragedy, difficulty, and strife, we always have something to be thankful for, and for all of us, that most definitely includes you!

I am thankful for my healthy family and friends. Especially, my dogs who keep me sane and calm during the holidays. I hope to all the writers and readers, you have a safe thanksgiving!

-Nicole

I’m thankful that all of my family, including my fellow editors, are doing well–and doing the best that they can–during the chaotic mess that has been this year. I’m also thankful that our readers have stuck with us and that we can continue our journey to provide them with solace.

-Amber

I am thankful for continued reminders throughout this terrible year that life is truly incredible! From friends, family, and our borrowed solace community…

-Addey

Have a fantastic Thanksgiving, borrowed solace family!

S3 Episode 4: Resources

In season three, episode four of the podcast, Addey was joined by Nicole to talk about her graduate program in publishing.

For more information on the Master of Professional Studies in Publishing at George Washington University, click here.

For more information on Harlequin (the publisher Addey went on a tangent about) click here.

And, of course, we want to hear from you! Imagine we are chatting on the phone about our Thanksgiving prep and the coming holiday week when the conversation turns to this week’s podcast. What did you think? Comment down below!

“Sit down. Take a deep breath. Let’s talk punctuation in poetry.”

There is nothing better than chatting about poetry—that is until we get to “grammar.” In hushed tones, “Do poems NEED grammar? Is it required? What about semi-colons? What about…?”

Hush. This is a very common question. I’m not saying it’s easy to know which punctuation mark, if any you want for your line—but let me explain the options.

First. No, you do not need punctuation. Second. Maybe you want punctuation? This is the traditional and most chosen option.

“But what does it DO?” It all depends on sound. Poems are meant to be read out loud. For thousands of years, longer, we have spoken in rhyme, sung melodies and stories, OUT LOUD. Yes, before there was written language, but also, because of the sound of words. So, punctuation, or lack of it, is all about when to breathe and how a word gets accented at the end of the line.

So—no punctuation and perhaps no capitalization creates a mad rush of sound. A WHOOSH. I would sail right down the page no pausing even if punctuation might be grammatically correct and you would hear passion and lack of air. And if that mad dash and fast pace is what you want terrific! Lucille Clifton is an amazing example. In “the garden of delight” she does not use punctuation or capitalization. Her first stanza:

for some
it is stone
bare smooth
as a buttock
rounding
into the crevasse
of the world

When I read it is a passionate downward rush. There is nothing wrong with lingering from word to word—but that varies by individual. Usually, punctuation shows someone else how to read your poem.

Punctuation in poetry comes down to three techniques. One: no punctuation and no pause. Two: Slight pause and continuation to the next line. Three: End-Stop which halts the line and creates a complete pause.

So, Scenario One, we basically covered. No pause. That means the line is enjambed and the first line is read without breath to the next line. This builds speed. You still want to end an enjambed line on a strong word though. Our minds are tricky and they will pick up if you end on a weak word like “a” or “an.” If it is vital for your poem do it! If it is not—refrain.

An example of enjambment would be several lines in Rainer Maria Rilke’s “Love Song.” This is a translation from German, but the enjambment is fairly accurate from the German

How shall I hold my soul, that it may not
be touching yours? How shall I lift it then
above you to where other things are waiting?
Ah, gladly would I lodge it, all forgot,
with some lost thing the dark is isolating
on some remote and silent spot that, when
your depths vibrate, is not itself vibrating.
After great pain, a formal feeling comes –
The Nerves sit ceremonious, like Tombs –
The stiff Heart questions ‘was it He, that bore,’
And ‘Yesterday, or Centuries before’?


Where there is no punctuation, it is enjambed. Having lines that alternate create a mild tone and cadence.

Scenario Two—the slight pause. This is slightly dramatic, gives a breath. I would say that the punctation to do this (and there will be some discussion and disagreement) is the m-dash. That is the double—line that is two hyphens. It works beautifully to merge end-stop and no punctuation. When reading, there is a lingering on the word and then a quick enjambment. This is the true in-between. The other, which I feel would be more controversial in-between is the ellipses. That’s the dramatic… Yes—it can be end-stop. But I think in the middle of the poem in provides a slight pause that leads into the next line, much like the m-dash. The colon and semi-colon are also argued about. They create a larger pause—but cause a continuation. Emily Dickinson’s “After great pain, a formal feeling comes – (372)” is a terrific example. The dashes can be read as end-stops or as I read them, slight pauses.

After great pain, a formal feeling comes –
The Nerves sit ceremonious, like Tombs –
The stiff Heart questions ‘was it He, that bore,’
And ‘Yesterday, or Centuries before’?

Scenario Three: The End-Stop. Okay then—what does that do? It stops your line. Of course, right? But, when you read out loud, it creates a place to breathe. A real pause. The comma is arguably end-stop. There is a breath—a long one, but not as long as if a period or question mark was there. So, before we get confused, these are the end-stop punctuations: the period, the question mark, arguably as mentioned the semi-colon and colon, the ampersand sign, parenthesis (arguably), slashes, brackets []. and what seem to be also called brackets or less and greater signs < >. Of course, there are more, but these are the main ones. All these punctation marks create a huge LINE ENDING pause.

So, you want to end on a very, very strong word. It will resonate and be emphasized. “Are you the new person drawn toward me?” by Walt Whitman is made up of entirely end-stop lines.

Are you the new person drawn toward me?
To begin with, take warning, I am surely far different from what you suppose;
Do you suppose you will find in me your ideal?

Try reading a poem you’ve written out loud. You’ll hear natural breaks and rhythms. You can choose to go with these, or you can break the sound with any of the scenarios above. Make sure you are CHOOSING though—there are happy accidents, but it’s best to know why you are breaking or not breaking your line.

Now go forth! To enjamb or not enjamb—that is no longer the question!

What Makes a Good Poem?

When you think of poetry, your mind might go to the classics. Perhaps to Homer’s The Odyssey or to Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales — both epic stories told in meter and reflected in the tropes of modern storytelling still used today.

Or maybe when you think of poetry your mind travels to the sonnets of Shakespeare and the religiosity of Donne’s work.

Perhaps you are like many who only recently discovered the beauty of poetry on Instagram, seeing the blaring white background of a poem in a picture, the black typewritten words of Rupi Kaur or Nikita Gill sitting on the screen.

Poetry has always provoked emotion. It pricks at the corners of our minds that long to feel. It wakes up sentiments in our hearts that have long been hiding under a pillow, attempting to ignore the alarm clock screeching to wake them up.

But what makes poetry work this way?

What makes ancient Italian sonnets as heart wringing as modern free verse? What brings readers back again to read the words of Emily Dickinson for the one hundredth time and elicits an audible gasp when hearing spoken word read aloud?

As the poetry editor of borrowed solace: a journal of literary ramblings, I have read a lot of poems. Each reading period, we receive hundreds of unsolicited poetry submissions for consideration. Much of the poetry is good. It fits the form of what a poem should be and uses intricate language, leaning on literary devices to create a vivid image. But not all of the poems we receive are great — we have about a 5% acceptance rate when all is said and done (which is quite high considering how few prose pieces are accepted.)

So what catapults a poem from the slush pile to the accepted pile with a note slapped on the side it’s a favorite of the bunch?

More often than not it’s what isn’t said.

With poetry, less is more.

Being able to evoke strong images and bring out even the most buried of emotions in the reader is a feature that I believe poetry excels at. That blaring white background is where the real work in poetry takes place. There’s more reading between the lines than ever in a poem — the actual words on the page are few and far between.

The poems that do not make it into the journal are the ones trying to tell a fiction or nonfiction story in poem form.

I don’t need the whole sordid tale to be included in a poem, I need the moments that make the heartbreak clear, the milliseconds of elated joy that leave the speaker speechless. I don’t need the whole story, I need the best (or worst) parts.

As someone who also writes poetry as well as prose, this can be hard. It’s often so much easier to spell everything out, to leave the “he saids” and the “she looked” in a poem that is trying to tell a story from start to finish. If you struggle with this, maybe the experience or topic you’re jittering to write about isn’t meant to be a poem. Maybe it wants to be a short story. Maybe it needs to be a personal essay.

Poets who succeed today at writing the best poems are not the ones writing epics in iambic pentameter. Maybe that’s an experiment worth attempting, but it’s not what will capture a reader’s spirit upon reading a sparse few stanzas.

Learn how to utilize what’s not said. Learn how to capture the moments and images that beg to be captured and leave the rest behind. Find the essence of what you want to record and record that essence, but leave behind the rest.

That is what makes for a good poem.

Previously published in Bookishly.

S3 Episode 3: Resources

This week on borrowed solace: the podcast, Addey was joined by fiction editor, Amber, to talk about writers and how they are portrayed in pop culture. This was a fun episode with not too many serious resources discussed, but here are just some of the TV shows and books we discussed in the episode:

Gilmore Girls

Murder She Wrote

Criminal Minds

Council of Dads

Gossip Girl

Little Women by Louisa May Alcott

Secret Window by Stephen King

Misery by Stephen King

The Bold Type

So what did you think about this week’s episode? Do you think writer’s are portrayed accurately in pop culture, or not so much? Pretend we are having a socially distanced writer’s night and talking about the episode. Leave your thoughts (or some more examples) down in the comments below!