Sophomore year of high school was when future award-winning author and poet Roger Martin knew that he was destined for a career in writing, as Martin admired the blending of painting and poetry within his new literature book. While a Millersville University student, his role as an editor of the George Street Carnival aimed him toward a serious career in writing, having now been published in numerous anthologies, journals and books. One such book is written in the context of the Battle of Gettysburg, showing use of syllables as a form of music to retell the bloodshed upon Little Round Top.
Martin shared some of his experiences, recitation and advice to students April 1, within the Reading Room of the McNairy Library. Martin began his recitation by singing his translation of a poem “written” by his dog Barley on April 1, 2015. Transitioning into poetry focusing on wolf extinction, the author interspersed his perspective between poetry readings, offering students advice in a career of professional writing.
“It doesn’t matter what you say or how you say it,” Martin said. “Record it. Someone will see it, even if it is an archaeologist 2,000 years later. Clothes and technology may change but humans emotions-those are the same.”
Delving into the importance of recording information, Martin gave the example of Pliny the Younger, an author from 79 A.D who recorded the sacrifices of his father. Admiral Pliny stayed behind with people stranded in Pompeii while his seamen evacuated others during the eruption of Mount Vesuvius. Relating this to those who assisted civilians on Sept. 11, 2001, Martin emphasized the universal responses of mankind over vast time spans.
On discussing his personal writing processes, Martin specified some aspects of poetry as a form of journalism, versus the role of journalism as a whole.
“Journalism is a way to write feelings down on paper in a coherent active voice,” Martin stated. “You are writing for the community. You owe it to them to be as clear and accurate as possible so the community can react properly.”
Unlike journalism, poetry often has different limitations in language use as well as deadline requirements. Martin spoke of how the deadlines differ for the two mediums, but he feels that “Poetry is the use of language on a different plane,” as a form of journalism.
Questions asked by students also included the process of publication and writing. Martin acknowledged how nine out of ten manuscripts will be rejected; that does not mean one is a bad writer, but rather one of many good writers. In self-publishing, there is a lack of editing needed for true objective progression and growth in writing. Martin reassured that even editing is writing, as it is essential in the progress of a work.
“Read it aloud and don’t feel self-conscious about your paper,” said Martin, encouraging students. “Your ear will hear if something is wrong. Let your ear say that it is right.”
Accenting the importance in editing one’s writing, Martin tested out a relatively new piece of writing which he has been working on, entitled “Long Range Forecast.” Reading variations on the work allowed him to engage the response of audience members, pointing out to him ideas and explanations within the work to be altered.
Martin made remarks on his pre-writing ritual, reassuring students that it takes time to develop their own. Only recently aware of his ritual, Martin shared that he wakes early for a bowl of cereal, some hot tea and an orange, peering through his emails and news before switching to personal writing. Martin finalized his visit by advocating students to share their writing through local outlets, online publications, zines and journals.
“If you have a good toolbox of language, you can get your responses and opinion in writing with the right words at the right place at the right time,” Martin assured students.