Word Clouds, Revising Predator’s Tongue, and Signs

Sandy Longhorn posted a picture of a “word cloud” she got from uploading her poetry manuscript onto Worldle. What I was struck by in hers is how it really showcased her word and image obsessions.

Below is a word cloud generated from my manuscript, Predator’s Tongue.

After submitting my manuscript to one contest back in July, I really haven’t touched it. I sent it out into the world, and I really just wanted to see what would happen. Maybe it’d be a semifinalist or finalist; maybe it’d get rejected immediately. I wanted something to really push my inner editor.

Through my own word cloud, I discovered some interesting things about my manuscript:

  • For one, look at the size of “like.” Probably using too many similes. Yeah…Need to change that.
  • The size of eyes, hands, and hair are also pretty big, so I definitely focus a lot on physicality. With all my talk on here about how much I mentioned mouths or other types of oral language in this manuscript, I’m surprised to see that they weren’t repeated all that much (or at least the same words weren’t repeated multiple times). Maybe my title and focus need to change.
  • Then there’s mother and father. A whole section of my book is about parent/child relationships, so that makes sense, but I’m wondering if those poems really fit in with the physicality of the rest of them. (Notice the placement of husband and father? Think that says something about me psychologically? Probably.)

My thesis adviser has suggested to me that I think about counterpointing more, offsetting my heavier, deeper poems with lighter ones. I don’t entirely agree with this because some poets, like Traci Brimhall, are incredibly successful in putting together a whole manuscript of “darker” poems. Brimhall does vary her form a lot, so I might think about following a poem with couplets with a prose poem to create some discontinuity. I also really might think about putting in “filler” poems (poems that don’t stand alone as well, but work to propel the arc of the narrative. These could be some “lighter” ones). I’ve always shied away from them, but they might be something to think about, since I don’t want this manuscript to sink to the bottom of the slush pile.

Have any of you used “filler” poems? Or how have you addressed/felt like you didn’t need to address the “weight” of your overall manuscript?


In other news, I’ve received three personalized rejections in the last five days. I’ve been taking these harder than I normally would, probably because, since I’ve graduated, I’m looking at them as some sort of sign as to whether I should continue writing, submitting, etc. While a personalized rejection would, in the past, send me over the moon (because it would mean I’m on the right track, just not there yet), now I’m just seeing them as omens that it’s all an uphill battle and it’ll keep being that way, so why keep going? (Of course, the fact that they’re personalized could also be a sign that I should keep going because something great is in store! Though, I’m not feeling this way at the moment.)

I will say that I haven’t acted on these thoughts. I’ve still woken up and kept at my reading/writing ritual. After receiving the rejections, I re-submitted to one of the journals who had specifically requested I send new work as soon as I could and submitted to other journals whose submission period had just opened (check out the amazingly wonderful Duotrope for info on submission period openings! Plus check out their awesome new layout! And donate to them!). Right now, I’m just performing the actions and maybe the feelings of “This is what I’m supposed to be doing! I love this!” will come back to me.

8 thoughts on “Word Clouds, Revising Predator’s Tongue, and Signs

  1. Wow. I had never imagined my poetry in a word cloud before. I’ll have to try that one day when I have something resembling a manuscript. I’m guessing the word cloud automatically tosses words like a, an and the. Or else you’re really good at not using them ; )

    I don’t think you should be discouraged by the personalized rejections. I just got a form rejection from five poems yesterday. Yeah, I was reaching kind of high with that journal, so I expected a rejection, but was disappointed by the lack of a personalized rejection!

    Anyway, if you still enjoy writing, you shouldn’t give up on it. Maybe you’re expecting too much to change right away?

    1. I use articles all the time, so I’m thinking it chucks those.

      It’s good you’re sending out to bigger journals! I always try to do that. The little glimmer of hope helps, but I’ve always been disappointed so far.

      You’re probably right about the change. I graduated! Shouldn’t things be super different now! (Eh, probably not.)

  2. maybe try focusing on the less tangible benefits of writing–the feeling of getting a poem just right, of having a non-editor-person read a poem and enjoy it, etc.

    as for filler poems, i’m not sure…i’ve read books that have used them successfully and some that haven’t. i personally don’t have any in my book though i have considered adding some. maybe i should.

    1. Those are some good suggestions.

      I’m not sure about filler poems either…I’ve always liked the idea of every poem being able to stand alone. I don’t know though. What are some books that you’ve read that have used them successfully?

      1. I just finished reading Velocity by Nancy Krygowski, part of the pitt poetry series (i think)–she had these filler poems that were these kind of stream-of-consciousness recaps of the event of her sister dying. I felt they tied things together well, but I don’t see how they would’ve stood on their own.

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