Art of Spoken Word

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How much do you like poetry?  I’m a so-so reader, meaning no respect to the many people I know who write poetry.  But recently I  become aware of a new word–“spoken word” which is poetry being recited aloud.

A triple dozen years ago when I was in junior high level, I recited a poem in the region’s consolidated school communications contest.  It was something about a crooked man, etc.  Anyway I stood straight and tall in front of a microphone (for the first time) and recited my poem. My tone changed here and there as I spoke, and the whole presentation was called a “dramatic reading.”  I didn’t win but I remember the experience of hearing other contestants really becoming dramatic.

Today, many people are reciting their poetry in the spoken word’s dramatic style, not in the low “Robert Frost” fashion of old.  They are dramatic, spontaneous and use many changes to their tone of voice.  Recently  Ken Brown, a Baltimore poet, talked to the Baltimore Chapter of Maryland Writers.  He read several of his poems in the spoken word style.  “It’s not hip hop or rap” he explained, “There’s really no definition of spoken word, its the reading of it that  makes the quantitative deference..”

When delivered  or recited as Mr. Brown did, it became a rhythmic presentation, a recital of words  unaccompanied by music as hip hop is.  You might say that delivery  is the most up front difference.  A good deal of body movement is also added and the speaker may move around the stage using arm movements, etc. It really becomes a “dramatic reading” more than the one I delivered.  Poet Brown also explained that many  spoken word poets  write of wars and civil unrest, which are good themes for dramatic verbiage.

Just after meeting Ken Brown I learned it was National Poetry Month and read that Thomas C.Foster had published the book “How to Read Poetry Like a Professor” Harper perennial  ISBN 9780062113788.  A review of his book quotes him as saying he is a big advocate of reading poetry aloud  and encourages us to set aside any self conscious apprehensions we may have about doing so.” In speaking it and hearing it we learn to feel poetry,”he writes/  He also writes that  poems are “occasions to explore the divinity of experience and the miracle of imagination.”

According to Brown, poets begin writing as poets and then they begin changing as many large umbrella become available to them.  Change is good, they say.






Nursery Rhyme Themes

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A thought for the day and more….

I’m sorry to say that I don’t read poetry often.  However, recently I read  a poetry book written by an acquaintance.  Each poem was a take-off about a nursery rhyme or fairy tale character.  Did you ever wonder what might have happened to any of your favorite characters when they grew up?   I never did.

For example, what did Miss Muffitt do after she had eaten her curds and why.  Did she go off to school or shopping?  Another poem talked about Cinderella’s shoes.  Could you imagine that she started a shoe store .  Then there were a couple of other characters such as Pinocchio and Tom Tom the piper’s son who grew up to become politicians.   That actually didn’t surprise me.  I think I caught Pinocchio appearing once in a Geico commercial.

Something else that I learned was that poems don’t necessarily rhyme anymore.  21st Century poetry sometimes is long running prose that does say something, but may not have rhyming words in it.

That was the day too that I read that  people are more and more writing memoirs that contain fiction to help dress up their memory.  Is that legal?  Probably so unless someone can correct the writer.

After learning all of these interesting writing facts, I decided  I may be going crazy.  Or, maybe that is why my own writing has not been selling like hotcakes!    I can always find an excuse.

News by Opinion

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Do you watch news programs?  There are many today, and they are all beginning to look and sound the same.  A long time ago a news program would have one featured anchor (shall we say) and they would interview a person or two for several minutes.  Today we seem to get our news in 30 or 60 second bites. No one is usually permitted to go further into the topic or bring up history or background.

Our news also is given to us by “panels” of people giving their opinion –generally based on their political situation or past position or the author of a new book or a topic they have talked or written about in the past.  Then there are past government officials with past administrations.  Everyone has an opinion!

For example, a question could be “should the President have fired a missile?”   Then we bring in three, five, seven people to give their viewpoint.  Maybe one of those will be a Congressperson, or a former Congressperson or upon occasion, a man from the street\ will be brought in and permitted to  give his opinion.  Appearing on a news program seems to me to be how a someone such as a writer  or the manager of an institute or a college professor can become a Somebody.

I recall when I was working as a public relations person I had a list of employees or teachers that were experts (or knowledgeable) in certain topics.  When an event occurred I would whip out an email telling the local news folks that Mr. Someone  or Dr. Somebody  taught that topic or had a working background in that specific topic and was available for an interview. Economists were always a good fit.  It also helped that that particular person gained visibility with his/her peers.  You still see that form of interview on local news programs.  But for the most part, the national news has moved to the panel program format.

Joining me today is how it begins. If there are four persons, sometimes there is never enough time to get but one nod of the head or a sentence from all the folks. Thank you for joining us today.


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Reviews always make a writer/author feel good.  Ir’s a compliment you like to hear.  Recently an acquaintance of mine from the Perry Hall Book Club read my book “Escape to Freedom” and added a five star review to my Amazon listing. In fact, here it it.

Top Customer Reviews from Amazon

on April 7, 2017
Format: Kindle Edition
A book that both adults and young people will enjoy. The adventure begins with a very determined fifteen-year old named Adrian Morgan. Adrian becomes an indentured servant in order to reach a new life n America. A hurricane interferes with her plans, but she eventually reaches shore in this new country. Fearing for her life, she realizes that she needs a partner to balances the skills needed for success. She find a that in Daniel Dunn another young indentured servant. Together they make their way west despite the many obstacles thrown in their path.
The author, Frances Altman, does a superb job of combining historical facts with many suspenseful adventures. This was a delightful read.
Thank you Mrs. White.  Again, follow down to February on the Archive and you may read an excerpt.  

Adding an Archive

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Just added an archive which I hope will help readers.  Readers where are you?

Anyway, you will find those excerpts from “Escape to Freedom” appear in the January and February archives.  or just scroll down and you will run into them.  As anyone can see, I am still learning the blog business.  Never too old to learn, they say.

Recently I was listening to a webinar from a group of editors.  They were discussing the usage of description words such as “he said” and “she pointed” and similar words that follow a quotation.  One editor said he never read those words and just skips over them.  Another editor said he never used “said” but usually used a description such as “he frowned” or he smiled, etc.

As a reader, what do you do when you come to “he said” in a book?   Personally, I like a little of both and then sometimes not at all.  Just let the dialogue run.

Telling Everybody!

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Getting the word out about my latest effort is not a fast task.  It is instead rather like a “whisper in the wind!”

If you are looking for excerpts from Escape to Freedom — keep scrolling down. There are two. 

Have you ever looked for books to read on a website called  .AuthorsDen?  It lists books that are available–thousands of them.  Of course, I’m working on my latest–Escape to Freedom–but there is also  Spirit Dog and Mister Umbrella Man  that needs pushing too. I have listed these two books for 3 to 5 grade readers with  This site is a resource site for At Home Teaching parents.  I have written Teacher’s Discussion guides for these two which I would be happy to share with interested parents.  And so you see, getting the word out leaves not so much time for writing.

Right now Escape to Freedom is listed on Goodreads and I am trying to give away a few copies, but must not be reading the instructions correctly.  So we will keep trying.

Wow!  It just dawned on me the other day that it is time to reissue my very  first book–Reggie the Goat.  Time really passes fast!   You will find Reggie listed on Amazon as a used book.  Also now reissued as an ebook on Nook with a new cover.  There are a couple of other titles on Amazon from the old days, but that publisher folded when the Bush administration cut the subsidy to school libraries.  So guess what might happen next?  Until another day!    





Where are the feature stories?

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What has happened to magazines?  Moons ago when I was doing interviews and writing feature stories the magazines used to have numerous feature stories about famous people. The cover usually contained a famous face and inside their story–about their home life and family, success and missed steps. Two of the magazines I recently received had lovely couches on the cover.  Another had Valentine cookies and another had a beautiful boutique of flowers.  People were never mentioned inside except when commenting that the interior decorations were put together by such and such interior decorator.

I remember even stealing a comment or two from one of those magazines. I was writing a story about putting together a mosaic and how Jane Mansfield had a pool shaped like a heart with mosaic at the bottom or maybe it was a piano shaped pool with a mosaic by another artist.  That reminds me that there aren’t many movie magazines around anymore either where you could tear out the pictures and stick them up on your bedroom wall.

Sports Illustrated, Time and GQ still have faces usually.  People, of course.  But Better Homes, Good Housekeeping. Woman’s  now talk about cosmetics, interior design, compare vegetables or nutrition, exercises–they almost all sound/read alike.  Now as an AARP person I receive many subscription invoices for ridiculous prices for these magazines. However, I am beyond the age of needing what they write about.  It does get perplexing!

Who likes to read?  For those people who like to read excerpts from new books, I have discovered AuthorDen.  This is something like a Goodreads.  And, I have found it to be more interesting than Facebook.   All of this is entertainment. 

Scroll on down and read an excerpt from my new book: “Escape to Freedom