Compiled answers to the most frequent questions I get by email and at AskMe.
"Please send me examples of [type of poem/story/essay/speech]."First, check my poetry instruction pages at Kalliope, my fiction exercise pages at StreetWrites, my essay pages in the Unicorn Pen, or my public speaking resource pages at the Homeless Speakers Bureau.
If you do not find your examples there, then try a web search. I like to use Google or Altavista for this kind of query because I can control the search a lot more precisely than at other search engines.
For example: If I started to write a Kalliope exercise on the poetry form "sestina," I would want to find examples to point to. So I would go to altavista.com and enter the search criteria
+sestina poem "formal poetry" "poetic form"
Altavista will look for documents that may have these words, or the exact phrases in quotes, but that must have the word "sestina." The answers listed for me will be ranked in order of how many of those words are contained in the document, but they will all have the word "sestina" in them.
You can learn more about using a search engine at searchenginewatch
A search engine can only point you to webpages it has a record of. Sometimes your best results will come from pages that are linked from one of the pages you get.
Another useful resource is Bob's Byways, http://shoga.wwa.com/~rgs/glossary.html
Please analyze this poem. What is the theme? What is the poet trying to say? What are the symbols the poet uses to say this? (etcetera etcetera)
It's pretty easy to identify homework questions. I am not going to answer them for you. But I will help you do the work for yourself.
Start with reading the poem out loud to yourself. Most poems are meant to be read out loud. The impressions of the poem may be stronger for you once you hear it. (You can do this in private if you're not used to it.)
Some people learn best by seeing, some learn best by hearing, and some learn best by doing. If the poem makes no sense to you read or heard, try acting it out. (You may also want to do this in private.)
Another thing that can interfere with your understanding of a poem is words that you don't know the meaning of -- or perhaps the meaning you know is not the one the poet is using. Look back through the poem and find the place where you got confused. (It may be at the title.) Look up the words just before that (or the first word, if that's where you lost it.) There are dictionaries on line that can help.
How does the poem make you feel? What does it make you think of? For a moment, try not to worry about getting the "right" answer. The poet is trying to communicate to you, not to your teacher. Most teachers would be happier to hear you argue for your own interpretation of the poem even if it is different than anyone else's, than hear you echo the answer of a New Yorker literary critic.
Translate the poem to yourself, line by line. You will probably end up with more words than were in the poem, because poetry is condensed language.
You will get faster response, from more viewpoints, by joining the Kalliope poetry workshop or any other of the fine, free email workshops on the Net.
I have collected
a list of online poetry workshops that I have had good experiences with,
How should I write an essay on [subject]?
See the Unicorn Pen.
How many people in the world are homeless?
These and other questions on homelessness are already largely documented at http://nationalhomeless.org/
If you can't find it here ...
Try the Stumper's List - an online community of reference librarians.
Updated November 21, 2002