Friday, January 31, 2020

Wild Fridays #4: Moonlight Musings


More of a vent than a musing, this time: 

Potted Homilies

‘I’m so sick of homilies masquerading as poetry!’ I said to my friend as we browsed in a bookshop recently.

[Whilst a homily is usually thought of as having religious connotations, as in a sermon ... not necessarily. The most succinct and also general definition I can find is the Cambridge Dictionary’s: ‘A piece of spoken or written advice about how someone should behave.’]

And why should poetry not moralise or advise? No reason at all, so long as it does so in poetry! What I suddenly noticed that I’m very tired of is when the precepts are set as verse – and sold in whole books of! – but are just prosy statements chopped up into lines and stanzas. 

I didn’t think it was going to bug me so much that I’d want to vent about it here, so I didn’t save any examples of what I mean. But just think of some old platitude and you’ll get the idea. (‘Home is where the heart is.’ ‘It never rains but it pours.’) And then chop it into lines which ignore any poetic possibilities for the pauses. E.g. (making it up on the spot):
Never step / into the same / river twice.
If she / doesn’t love you / find someone / who does.
Don’t look / over / your shoulder.

(Hmmm, didn’t require much effort, I must say, to come up with those little gems.)

On the shelves I was looking at were volumes of this kind of thing in amongst the likes of Marianne Moore, Pablo Neruda, Frank O’Hara, Denise Levertov, Audre Lorde....

‘Quick, look at this. Just the first verse,’ I said to my friend, thrusting a page of Marianne Moore under her nose. We both gasped with relief at how good it was.  Wonderful language – creating wonderful pictures in our heads and tinglings in our spines!

We became reluctant to open volumes by contemporaries whose names we didn’t know! But I’m glad to say we did find some real poetry amongst them too.

So how did those other things get to be on the same shelves? And how did they even get published? I was so quick to put them back on the shelves, I didn’t look to see who the publishers were. The books were very nicely produced though, very professional-looking. Perhaps the publishers, whoever they are, take these writers on because they know such books will sell – to some non-discerning buyers.

Yet why not put them in the Self Help section instead? Perhaps because the ideas are not very original, and they wouldn’t sell unless dressed up as verse? Labelled poetry, it seems, they do sell. Otherwise they wouldn’t keep being published, you’d think. I actually saw a series by one author, which suggests that people must even be willing to buy successive volumes.


Digital too

On Instagram a few weeks ago I saw some ads for a new young woman poet who was said to be taking Instagram by storm, posting micropoetry that everyone was going crazy for. I watched her interviewed on YouTube. She was full of confidence, and the belief she’s providing a service. Well maybe she is, and good luck to her – only, PLEASE, Ms X, don’t call your little bites of potted precepts poetry! (I looked her up. I read them. They just aren’t.)

It’s doubly sad when there is so much good poetry on Instagram – much of it written by you, dear readers. Where are our hordes of admirers, as opposed to the discerning few?

Is it, perhaps, the nature of real poetry that it doesn't appeal to the lowest common denominator?


I know that members of this community quite often write in ways meant to be uplifting, or reassuring, or sharing what spiritual insights or pieces of wisdom we may have acquired. Some of us like to express particular religious points of view or share our personal epiphanies. None of that is what I’m objecting to. We all write poetry! OK, some of us also write stories some of the time – and they too are thoughtfully crafted. In verse or prose, we do our preaching (when/if we do) with some elegance and wit.

Surely, if a message is important, it deserves to be said as well as one can. Even if it’s not deeply significant but instead light-hearted and ephemeral, I think half the fun is in making something which readers will enjoy.

Neither am I talking about beginner poets who are still learning their craft, or refining it. We’ve all been there. (Perhaps we always are.) In a community like this, we see each other develop as we keep on writing. The thing is, we do develop; we do care about the words, about the way we say things. We’ve understood that if what we say matters, how we say it is vital for it to reach and move people.

I’m not referring to matters of style, either. Again, this community is a fine example of how many different styles and approaches are encompassed in contemporary poetry. We have Robin (Old Egg)’s apparently simple ditties of love and romance, meticulously yet unobtrusively crafted; Susie’s sharply succinct word-plays; Rajani’s philosophical questionings couched in superb language and apt metaphors; Sanaa’s lush sensuality and delight in the sumptuous music of words; Kim’s and Joel’s different and equally enthralling recreations of the natural world in their personal environments.... We have people using all manner of forms and techniques. When we write our prose stories, too, we give attention to the way we write them. (I was recently told that one of mine was ‘melodious’. I was thrilled – having paid much attention to its sound and rhythm.)

Why do readers keep accepting that other stuff? It’s not even that it’s bad advice, as a rule. On the contrary, most of it reiterates current insights into behaviour, which have become popular because they do contain some truth (if little depth). Fine – but why do publishers, readers, and the authors themselves accept it as poetry?

The Instagram sensation makes her posts look pretty with flowers and fancy calligraphy, but that doesn’t disguise the banality of her words. Yet people must be lapping them up. Is it the greeting card school of poetry? No – such verses at least rhyme and have metre. Perhaps it is BECAUSE they don't require much from the reader, who can then move rapidly to the next momentary distraction from life.

Or has nothing really changed?  Was it ever thus? Is it simply that we never get to see the bad poetry of earlier eras because it hasn’t lasted?

Hard to imagine, isn’t it (for us) that someone would crave fame as a poet, with so little understanding of the necessary work required? Even harder to imagine they’d want to churn out so-called poems with none of the qualities of poetry! But it seems the poetasters have always been around.

['Poetaster' is an old word, invented for a reason. ‘A derogatory term applied to bad or inferior poets. Specifically, poetaster has implications of unwarranted pretensions to artistic value. The word was coined in Latin by Erasmus in 1521.’ – Wikipedia.]

It’s alarming to think the words of the current ones may last a lot longer, due to being digitally preserved!

This whole issue was annoying me so much that I needed to let off steam. Thanks for your indulgence! But now what? (I might even say, ‘So what?’) We can’t legislate against bad taste, or even ignorance.

The only thing we can do, I suppose, is continue to write our own words as well as we possibly can, and share them as widely as we may. E.g. blogging; spoken word performances; videos; journals and anthologies, digital or paper ... yes, all the things we already do. Hopefully the market for good poetry, even if smaller, will last longer.

If you have any suggestions –
or just opinions – I’d love you to share your thoughts. Please use the comments.)

Material shared in this post is presented for study and review. Poems, photos, and other writings and images remain the property of the copyright owners, usually the authors. The moon photo is my own. The bookshelf photo is a free download from Pixabay, in the Public Domain (didn't think to take any of my own in the bookshop).

Wednesday, January 29, 2020

Weekly Scribblings #4: New Tricks

Hello word artists and admirers! Did any of you make new year’s resolutions? How are they going? It can be hard to make them stick sometimes. That might be why the phrase “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks” is such a common one. Though I find that if you can find the right trick, and make it suitably enticing, even old dogs will pick them up.

So for this prompt, I’d like you to consider that phrase (“you can’t teach an old dog new tricks”) and express any thoughts you had on it in either poetry or prose form. You can choose to go with either fiction or non-fiction, but any prose submissions should be no longer than 369 words. Mr. Linky awaits your new words and will be open until 11 a.m. EST Friday. Happy writing!

Sunday, January 26, 2020

Writers’ Pantry #4: Let Poetry and Prose Be Our Break from Catastrophe

I started this post thinking, Don’t you dare start talking about fires and pandemics! Then, my local news reported something about two people in New York being kept under observation due to the Coronavirus. Soon after that, a friend who lives in Australia told me about how heart-sick and physically ill she is as a result of the fires. So, here I am thinking about fires and pandemics, wondering how these events are affecting your bit of the world, hoping the world can breathe through these terrible times (without choking on humanity’s recklessness), wishing we can do something—truly do something—to remedy all the devastation we’ve caused.

But… in the words of Neal Stephenson, “The mind [can’t] think about the End of the World all the time. It [needs] the occasional break.” I say, let writing and reading poetry and prose be our break on this day (even if what we write is inspired by that which we are taking a break from).

Announcements and Reminders:

- the topic for our upcoming Weekly Scribblings is “New Tricks”. Rommy would like us to consider the phrase “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks”, and express any thoughts we might have on it in either poetry or prose form.

- did you miss Rosemary’s latest Wild Fridays? If yes, take a moment to visit the post and read “Orphan in the Forest”, a thought-provoking poem that stays with you (well, it stayed with me).

Now, the 4th Writers’ Pantry is open. Bring on the words! This is an unprompted event, so please share a poem or a story or a letter or an article or… you get the point. Your contribution can be old or new. If you choose to link prose, it should be 369 words or fewer. Go ahead, add the link to your poetry or prose to Mr. Linky. The Writers’ Pantry will remain open until Tuesday night.   

“We Are All Connected”, by MagicLoveCrow

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Friday, January 24, 2020

Wild Fridays #3: Thought Provokers

Orphan in the Forest 
Laos 2005

Abandoned on his search, the venturer
stumbles into some village where
children are playing with a tiger.
Found five years before, a lamb-
like cub bleating with hunger
her mother killed by poachers.

Most of the time she forgets she's a tiger
and pretends to be a cat.
She won't be naughty while we're here.
Don't touch. She's not used to strangers.

Taking the children at their word
he kneels and faces the carnivore
surprised by her soft pink nose
vulnerable like a toy.
Then the head snares him –
planetary huge with black stripes.

Most of the time she forgets she's a tiger
and pretends to be a cat.
She won't be naughty while we're here.
Don't touch. She's not used to strangers. 

Waves of symmetry pulse from
her eyes, a force field into which
he sinks as the world dissolves.
How long does he hang there before
being snatched from the depths by
a parent dwelling on the forest's edge?

Most of the time she forgets she's a tiger
and pretends to be a cat.
She won't be naughty while we're here.
Don't touch. She's not used to strangers.

By Tony Page
from Back to Earth
(Melbourne, Hybrid Publishers, 2019)

I've known Tony since the early days of the Poets Union in Melbourne and we've had a long friendship (as I described a few years ago at Poets United). But until a couple of Sundays ago we hadn't seen each other for 18 years! He lived and worked overseas a long time, and since being back in Australia has continued to do a lot of travelling – was back from Ethiopia only a few days before we met up – while I live in a smallish country town in another State. But I came to Melbourne for extended Christmas-New Year holidays to reunion with family and old friends, and we managed to make it happen.

We met at noon and talked almost non-stop until 4.30, through lunch at one cafe and afternoon tea at another, plus a trip to the State Library of Victoria. I spent a lot of time in this library in the past, but it's recently been renovated – very beautifully! –  and Tony thought, correctly, that I'd love to see it. This photo of him was taken in the main reading room. (It was hard to get him to smile for the camera instead of clowning, but I finally captured him looking amused at my efforts.)

He gave me a copy of his last book, the one from which I've taken this lovely piece. It's a book of traveller's tales, with acute observations of places and peoples, and interesting reflections. This poem is my favourite. You can see the photo of the actual tiger near the middle of the book cover. Yes, it's a true story and it was Tony himself it happened to. He is still amazed and enraptured that the animal allowed him so close.

But why is this post sub-titled ‘Thought Provokers’ rather than ‘I Wish I’d Written this’? (I do wish it!) Well, there’s a bit of a sub-text, isn’t there? While it can be read literally and works that way, it also raises questions about such things as the safety of the unknown, the reaction to strangers, etc. ... particularly in that little chorus, so sweet and then suddenly unsettling.

Knowing the poet, I’m sure any such inferences were raised intentionally, but I haven’t discussed the possible interpretations with him. I don’t think one need be too specific, but rather entertain various possibilities as, well, sub-text. Meanwhile, I hope you enjoy the poem.

Wild Fridays don’t usually involve prompts (though it has been known to happen, and could again) so usually there is no Mister Linky on Fridays. We do, however, welcome discussion. Please use the Comments if you would like to share your views, ideas and reactions.

Material shared in this post is presented for study and review. Poems, photos, and other writings and images remain the property of the copyright owners, usually the authors. I used my own photos in this article.

Wednesday, January 22, 2020

Weekly Scribblings #3: Salt-water poems

“I felt once more how simple and frugal a thing is happiness: a glass of wine, a roast chestnut, a wretched little brazier, the sound of the sea. Nothing else.”― Nikos Kazantzakis, Zorba the Greek

Welcome to Weekly Scribblings! The sea is emotion made manifest. I believe its voice speaks to the soul and in return evokes memories. Observe as the white spume rushes into the darkness, come lets give ourselves a moment to reflect; the sea is everything. 

Your challenge today is to write inspired by the sea. Feel free to explore its depths. Use it as a simile, or a metaphor, with the help of figurative language or even as a contrast.

We at Poets and Storytellers United accept both poems and prose pieces (i.e. stories, essays, articles) you may contribute more than one entry but remember to link before Friday 11 am as Mr.Linky closes at that time. Also, if you opt to write prose then please keep it to 369 words or fewer.

Dover Beach
by Matthew Arnold  

The sea is calm tonight.
The tide is full, the moon lies fair
Upon the straits; on the French coast the light
Gleams and is gone; the cliffs of England stand,
Glimmering and vast, out in the tranquil bay.
Come to the window, sweet is the night-air!
Only, from the long line of spray
Where the sea meets the moon-blanched land,
Listen! you hear the grating roar
Of pebbles which the waves draw back, and fling ...

The Sea Is History 
by Derek Walcott

Sir, it is locked in them sea sands
out there past the reef's moiling shelf,
where the men-o'-war floated down;
strop on these goggles,
I'll guide you there myself.
It's all subtle and submarine,
through colonnades of coral,
past the gothic windows of sea fans
to where the crusty grouper, onyx-eyed,
blinks, weighted by its jewels ...

Good luck composing your masterpieces. I look forward to reading what you come up with. Also, enjoy this music video by Christina Perri. Have fun!๐Ÿ’

Sunday, January 19, 2020

Writers’ Pantry #3: Be Warm

Greetings, poets and storytellers, I hope January is being good to you. Things are quiet around these parts—New York City is feeling frosty (which is quite all right, since I have a cup of hot coffee and the thought of your words to warm up the mood).

Here we go…

If you’ve yet to read Rosemary’s last Wild Fridays: Roving the Web, you should definitely give it a go. Not just because we get to hear (and see) her read, but also because she shares details about her video poetry experience. Also, the comments are very interesting and informative.

Wondering about Wednesday? Well, wonder no more: the topic for Sanaa’s upcoming Weekly Scribblings is “Salt-Water Poems”, she wishes for our muses to write while inspired by the sea.

Today, for our 3rd Writers’ Pantry, I invite you to link a poem, or a story, or a slice of life, or a letter… Let your contribution be new or old, short or longish—the word choice is yours (if you are linking prose, however, please choose to make it 369 words or fewer). So… let us feed Mr. Linky. He shall stay hungry until Tuesday night.

Be well. Be wild (if you like). Be warm (if you love).

And yes, I do understand that I might have a parenthesis problem (cough).


Friday, January 17, 2020

Wild Fridays #2: Roving the Web

Video Poetry 

This particular roving wasn’t random, but guided. While I was staying a few days with my old friend Linda Stevenson, she introduced me to another friend of hers, Michael Mavracic. One of the things he does is make videos, and he had the idea of making one of Linda and me speaking our poetry. We arranged a time. Then I read her my latest, a sombre piece on the Australian fires. She generously said it deserved to be the sole subject of the video.

Because of the nature of the poem, she suggested, the visual should just be me reading it, no embellishment. On the day, Michael tried some other possibilities too, but the final decision was to go with what she, with her artist’s eye, had envisioned. So that happened: my grim old face in close-up somehow suiting the theme. I was reading from a text that was out of view. ’Should I have looked at the camera sometimes?’ I asked my son later, when I showed him. To my relief, he thought not. Already, in that one small project, I've had a taste of the variety of ways to go and decisions to make.

Yes, you may see it: here. But that was just the start of a discussion with Linda about the possibilities of videoing poetry. She lives in a capital city, and is friendly with poets who do that. I had no idea what a big thing it is these days. It’s such a big thing that there are now competitions in this art form. She explained that there are many different approaches. Some people make whole movies to illustrate a poem, or as background to the reading of it. Others blend just a few elements – e.g. the poem (of course), visuals and music. It works best, she feels, when the poem remains the primary focus. All this was fascinating to the country bumpkin I have become!

Some to look at

Linda showed me some examples online to illustrate her points. She mentioned the work of Australians Ian Gibbins and Brendan Bonsack. I've linked you to those sections of their extensive websites. Neither of them videos every poem they write, by any means. It seems to be a thing that suits shorter poems best. I was interested to see how Brendan in particular, as performance poet, singer-songwriter and photographer, uses a number of different approaches to videoing his work.

I, in turn, showed Linda the YouTube video of Nimbin (Australia) poet Christine Strelan, which I shared late last year in ‘I Wish I’d Written This’. She was enraptured – with the poem itself, and with the way all aspects of the video – the background images, directly related to the words, and the expressive voice – combine to bring it to life but don't overwhelm it: the poem is still the thing.

So then I went exploring, and found a different kind of video poetry at Moving Poems, subtitled 'the best poetry videos on the web'. Though again the approaches are very varied, overall these are more ambitious and experimental, with as much  emphasis on the filmic qualities as the text. Here, video poetry becomes a new art form in its own right.


This kind of thing is not altogether new. I think of the theatrical production of Ntozake Shange's For colored girls who have considered suicide / when the rainbow is enuf, a brilliant piece written to be a theatre perfomance (which I was lucky enough to see when it came to Melbourne) and later filmed – though it was also published as a book and works wonderfully as plain text too. (I haven't had time to check the many items to see at this link, but it looks as if you could access the movie.)

What is new (or newish, anyway; new to me) is the use of video, which is no doubt more readily available to more people now that we can all make videos on our phones. Creating a work of art takes a bit more than that, but still....

 What's in it for you?

I thought all this might be of interest, not only for your viewing pleasure, although there is plenty of that to be had, but also for the possibilities which you too might like to consider for sharing your work. Perhaps you are already doing this? But probably not, or else I think I'd be more aware of it when visiting your blogs.

Obviously, we're writers. The words are what we love, and getting them to do as we desire can be challenge enough. Yet plenty of us like to illustrate our poems with photos or pieces of artwork; and some of us put our words on Soundcloud as well as supplying the written text. Video takes things just another step further. 

Don't get me wrong; I still love to read the written word, on page or screen. That can happen with the visual medium too: some videos incorporate the written text. So there are many possibilities one might play with; hopefully not to eclipse but enhance the poems.

(Can you put videos on Instagram? Yes; Google gives instructions. But the maximum length is only 60 seconds! Never mind, there’s always YouTube.)

To be truthful, I probably won't be doing any more in the near future. But it might be different if I lived closer to someone with the requisite skills, or troubled to acquire them myself. Um, well, come to think of it, maybe I do know someone....

Image in Public Domain.

Wednesday, January 15, 2020

Weekly Scribblings #2: Myth-placed

Hello word artists and admirers! I am delighted to make my debut on this spiffy new site. For my first time hosting Weekly Scribblings, I'm going to keep things close to my wheelhouse and go with a favorite topic of mine, mythology.

Today I'd like you to craft your pieces around the idea of a mythological time or place. This challenge is open to both poetry and prose pieces (fiction or non-fiction), but if you choose to go with prose please keep it to 369 words or fewer. Mr. Linky will be open until 11am Friday. I look forward to seeing what you come up with.

Sunday, January 12, 2020

Writers’ Pantry #2: Storms and Stones and Warmth

Welcome to the second Writers’ Pantry of the year, dear poets and storytellers. I hope you are doing as well as it is possible. I know the world seems to be in constant turmoil these days, but like our Rosemary (and Thich Nhat Hanh) have been so kind to remind us in “Wild Fridays #1: I Wish I’d Written This”, even storms and stones can be used to build a “corner of warm space”.

Speaking of storms, we are still having technical difficulties. Not one member of the Poets and Storytellers United staff can share links from this blog or from Poets United on Facebook. Whenever we try, we get this message: “Your post couldn’t be shared, because this link goes against our Community Standards.” We’ve been reporting the problem for two weeks now, and nothing has happened yet. So, we’ve decided to unpublish our Facebook page, in order to address the issue privately.

What else? Oh, yes… the topic for Rommy’s upcoming Weekly Scribblings (on Wednesday) is Myth-Placed. She wants our muses to dance “around the idea of a mythological time or place.” I am quite excited about this one.

Don’t run yet! We have a request. If you have a moment, would you please look around Poets United and let us know what you can see/access? i.e. Can you see the latest reminder and access the links on the post? Can you see and access the Prompts and Features Archive? Can you see and access the Search box and the Blog Archive? These things are working for us, but we want to make sure that they are working for you too. All right, enough housekeeping (for today *sigh*).

Now, I invite you to add the direct link to a poem or story or article (new or old or in-between). Prose contributions should be 369 words or fewer. Visit other poets and storytellers… And have fun with words.

I can’t say that NYC trains are the nicest of places, but the sight of this heart always brews a warm smile out of me. Hope it works for you, too.

Friday, January 10, 2020

Wild Fridays #1: I Wish I'd Written This

I Am Back to Open the Old Pages

Suddenly I welcome myself back.
The reference point is no longer seen,
and last night’s dream is full of illusory images.
The walls that help stop the winds and the rain
have formed a corner of warm space.
The flickering candles
evoke the incense perfume of a New Year’s Eve.
It rains.
Inside the house, dinner is served.
A few leaves of coriander
bring back the forms of the homeland.
Suddenly all frontiers are removed
just because of the midday storm,
and everything is revealed.
Isn’t today’s sun the same as yesterday’s?

Birds seen against the color of the purple evening.
The two ends of time join
and tenderly push me
into a new opening.
The curtains of the evening,
destined to catch space,
suddenly become weeping willows.
Clouds are calling each other
to meet at the mountain’s summit.

I am back. I find myself opening the old pages.
The blazing sunset has burned up all certificates.
Wordy mantras have proven to be powerless.
The wind is blowing hard.
Out there at the end of the sky,
the flapping wings of some strange bird.
Where am I?
The point of concentration is remembrance.
The real home is childhood with its grassy hills.
The violet tia to leaves
contain an Autumn that is fully ripe.
Your small feet treading the path
are like drops of dew on young leaves.
My letters sent to you
are like the church bells.
A golden sky of flowers is contained in a mustard seed.
I join my palms
and let
a flower bloom
wonderfully in my heart.

By Thich Nhat Hanh

from Call Me by My True Names: The Collected Poems. 

This poet would be a well-known name to many of you, I think – though best known as a Buddhist priest and teacher.

(I have it on good authority that his name is pronounced as in the English spelling Tick Nah Tarn, with the first and third syllables stressed.)

Plum Village, the website of his ‘mindfulness practice centre’ of the same name in the south of France, says of him:

Zen Master Thich Nat Hanh is a global spiritual leader, poet and peace activist, revered around the world for his pioneering teachings on mindfulness, global ethics and peace.

The section on his life story quotes him as saying, ‘Our own life has to be our message’ and adds:

Ordained as monk aged 16 in Vietnam, Thich Nhat Hanh soon envisioned a kind of engaged Buddhism that could respond directly to the needs of society.
He was a prominent teacher and social activist in his home country before finding himself exiled for calling for peace.
In the West he played a key role in introducing mindfulness and created mindful communities (sanghas) around the world. His teachings have impacted politicians, business leaders, activists, teachers and countless others.

Wikipedia tells us that in the sixties he taught courses, at different times, at Princeton, Columbia and Cornell Universities.

In 1967 Martin Luther King nominated him for the Nobel Peace Prize (but some of the conditions for nomination were breached and the prize was not awarded that year).

We are told that Thich Nat Hanh has published over 100 books, including The Miracle of Mindfulness and Peace is Every Step, which are described as classics. 

This book (the ebook version) was a Christmas present to myself. I read the title poem somewhere and decided I wanted more. The title poem is wonderful, but I suspect it is well-known. I know that if you Google it you’ll find it easily, whereas this one isn’t so easily found and may be new to you.

And it seems to me that, although Thich Nat Hanh is Buddhist – a Buddhist monk, in fact – the reflections and reminiscences in this poem would resemble what many of us have experienced recently with family gatherings for Christmas or Hannukah. I expect that, whatever our spiritual traditions, we are all conscious of New Year’s Eve, which he mentions. I’m sure many will also relate to his nostalgia for the childhood home.

He suggests that things in the present are perhaps not so great:

‘Wordy mantras have proven to be powerless.
The wind is blowing hard.’

We can relate to that too! There are the personal losses and traumas which many of us have suffered. Grief is a very individual journey. At least we have poetry and stories to help us through – the catharsis of our own and the comfort of others’. Good friendships help too, not least the online bonds we forge through groups such as this. Then there are the ongoing global crises of various kinds, the apparent inadequacies of governments to address them well, and the deep anxieties they cause. I admit that I personally have been writing some unusually (for me) despairing poems lately.

Yet also there are scientists and activists working constantly for solutions to our unprecedented problems; activists, educators and journalists working hard to make people aware of the desperate needs and how to address them; and already some particular solutions to particular parts of the mess are being implemented. It’s hard to avoid despair, but I believe we must resist feeling helpless. I think it’s important to find what oases of joy and peace we can, not only as urgent respite, but to give us the strength to go on.

Hopefully the pleasures of family, home, tradition and nostalgia – or at least our fond memories thereof – can fortify us against whatever trials we face in the coming year.

Let’s read the poem one more time, and return a moment longer to that ‘corner of warm space’.


After preparing this post well ahead of time, I visited Sherry’s last prompt for 'imaginary garden with real toads' and found her making similar points very strongly, with a particular focus on the planetary crisis we face, and pointing us to some powerful possibilities for continuing to address it. If you haven’t read that yet, please do.

Material shared in this post is presented for study and review. Poems, photos, and other writings and images remain the property of the copyright owners, usually the authors. The picture of the book cover is used according to Fair Use. The photo of Thich Nhat Hanh is shared under Creative Commons Licence: CC BY-SA 2.0

Wednesday, January 8, 2020

Weekly Scribblings #1: January is here, with winds that blow kisses ~

Winter Windows Snow, Pinterest
And it yellow’d the strings of thy tangled hair,
                That shook in the wind of night.
The moon made thy lips pale, beloved;
         The wind made thy bosom chill;
                The night did shed
                On thy dear head
Its frozen dew, and thou didst lie
Where the bitter breath of the naked sky
                Might visit thee at will.
-from Lines: The Cold Earth Slept Below by Percy Bysshe Shelley
(read the full poem here)

Welcome to Weekly Scribblings! Starting today, we will be dedicating Wednesdays to words that inspire prose and poetry. As January sets in, I am reminded of poems by Shelley which reflect passion, beauty, imagination, love, creativity, political liberty and nature.

I thought it befitting to carry forth a bit of Toad culture, which we all love so much! After having a heartfelt conversation with our beloved Kerry O'Connor and seeking her blessings, it has been decided that once, after every few months, I, Sanaa Rizvi, your kind hostess will bring you a word list to tease the senses. 

The rules are simple. For this Weekly Scribblings edition, I want you to pick any three words from the given word list that fit the mood/theme of your prose or poem and write on a topic of your choice. Also, if you opt to write prose, (i.e. stories, essays, articles) then please keep it to 369 words or fewer.

amaryllis                  somewhat                percussion                darkness                  grapefruit
deep                           cast                         warmth                       blood                          touch
gravel                        twilight                    lips                              sky                             sleep
bedside                      scones                     fervour                      harbinger                 cogitation

Good luck composing your masterpieces. I look forward to reading what you come up with. Also, enjoy this music video "This is what you came for," by Calvin Harris ft. Rihanna. Have fun! ๐Ÿ’

Sunday, January 5, 2020

Writers’ Pantry #1: Home Is People

Welcome to Poets and Storytellers United! If you are reading this, my beloved poets and storytellers, then you already noticed that we have moved and our name has grown. We made the decision just a few days ago, after spending way too much time trying unsuccessfully to fix the bugs on our old blog. But don’t despair, for we have taken a page out of the Imaginary Garden with Real Toads’ book and have turned the Poets United blog into an archive. So, we’ll always have access to the features we have loved.

Poets and Storytellers United aims to hold on to all the good things from the archived blog while letting go of the not so good ones. For instance, we’ll continue to offer 3 features per week: Writers’ Pantry (open link) on Sundays, Weekly Scribblings (a prompt) on Wednesdays, and our Fridays will stay wild with, um… Wild Fridays (delightfully random features for word lovers). We left behind the overcrowded sidebars and the blog roll.

In fact, we deleted the blog roll and have no plans to revive it. It was full of dead links. Worse, some of the links (which I’m sure had legitimate beginnings) led to terrible places (everything from extremist groups to pornographic sites). Keeping an eye on the status of thousands of sites would be a nightmare. So, after some thought, we decided that we won’t have a blog roll of any kind.  

Since we have united poets and storytellers in our name, it felt right to fully open our doors to prose. Yep, starting today, both our Sunday and Wednesday features will accept poems and stories and articles and… we’ll just love words all around. If you wish to know more, visit our “About this Community” and “Prompts and Features” pages. Better yet, join us every week. ๐Ÿ˜‰

Now, I better stop babbling… and invite you to add your direct link to a poem or story or article (new or old) of your choosing. As always, prose contributions should be 369 words or fewer. Don’t forget to visit other poets and storytellers. Let them know what their words do for you… Also, please know that we all understand relocation isn’t easy. But, like Jodi Picoult so eloquently suggests, home is people. Let’s be people together.