Sunday, March 29, 2020

Writers' Pantry #13: April, here we come!

Avocado and Egg Toast, Joseph Gonzalez, Unsplash
"April is the cruelest month, breeding lilacs out of the dead land, mixing memory and desire, stirring dull roots with spring rain." — T.S Eliot.

Greetings everyone! Hope you are safe and well! This is Sanaa and I am back with another exciting Writers' Pantry this Sunday.

Here we are, in this changing canvass of global turmoil. Perhaps for the first time the entire world is under lock-down. Which makes April ever the more welcome as we plunge into Poem-a-day challenge. Lets take this as an opportunity to band together and make use of our time by doing what makes us happy. Eat healthy, catch up on sleep, live, love and laugh (lots of it) the days will fly by and before we know it, we will have eclipsed COVID-19.

Announcements and Reminders:

The topic for next Weekly Scribblings is "All The Small Things." There are times when we seem to notice the small things more. The tiny blessings we are grateful for, the little things whose absence hits us harder than we expected. Which is why Rommy would like us to create a new piece of poetry or prose that incorporates the idea of  "small things."

Rosemary delighted us with "Wild Fridays #12: Roving the Web," where she shares and discusses topics close to our hearts. Do scroll back and check it out in case you have missed it! This one is an absolute treat!

Remember, you have one entire week to participate in prompts now. Just keep in mind that some people may have moved on to their next project after a couple of days, so entries posted later might not receive many visitors.

For now, I invite you to share your entry as Poets and Storytellers United welcomes both poetry and prose (i.e. stories, essays, articles) feel free to link anything old or new and relish in the work of others. Also, if you opt to share prose then please keep it to 369 words or fewer.
Pierre Bamin, Unsplash
And now, without further ado, let us dive into the Pantry! Looking forward to grabbing a cup of coffee and reading you all! See you on the trail! 💝

Friday, March 27, 2020

Wild Fridays #12: Roving the Web

Saying it with pictures

How many of us search the net for images to put with our poems? It makes a post more interesting, doesn’t it? I’m always amazed how our masters of romance, Robin and Sanaa, always manage to find the perfect image for every poem – albeit their styles, and hence the illustrations also, are very different.

Others (like me, when possible) use their own photos. The ones that spring most immediately to mind are those our Magical Mystery Teacher regales us with. I’m always blown away by their skill and beauty. (Me, I live in such a beautiful part of the world that I don’t need to do much more than point and click, and maybe the occasional bit of digital editing.)

But sometimes I don’t have anything suitable in my own photo library, and have to go hunting. Many of the supposedly free picture sites aren’t really all that free – there may well be a copyright fee. However, that’s usually small enough to afford easily. 

[A potential trap is that the fee may cover only a limited period of time. I once thought I was paying to use an image forever, only to find it slapped with a nasty sticker right across it after a month. The owner had not made it obvious – it was in VERY fine print – but apparently I was supposed to keep renewing the payment. No thanks! You think I’m made of money??? I found one of my own photos after all.]

All this preamble is leading to the welcome news that ‘Paris Musées, a collection of 14 museums in Paris, recently made high-res digital copies of 100,000 artworks freely available to the public on their collections website. Artists with works in the archive include Rembrandt, Monet, Picasso, Cézanne, and thousands of others.’

What a treasure trove, eh? The one pictured here is Monet’s Sunset on the Seine at Lavacourt, Winter Effect, held at the Petit Palais.

(If any of you know great picture sites that you’d care to share with us all, please feel free to do so in the comments.)

Other people's poems to love
(and where to love them)

chocolate is a verb

I subscribe to One Sentence Poems, receiving one per day in my email inbox. Which led me to further explore the poetry of someone whose words I particularly liked: J. I. Kleinberg, whose website is endearingly entitled chocolate is a verb.

Oh, the treats I found there! 

I'm particularly enraptured by the cut-up found poems (reminiscent of our Magaly's). Look at this one (very topical) called the monastery

And then go and look at some more! You'll find lots of them by scrolling down the home page.

This is far from the only kind of writing you'll find. It's simply a lovely start in exploring the work. (I want to call it the play.)

I got in touch with J.I. Kleinberg for permission to reproduce her poem. She also allows me to quote her bio:

Twice nominated for Pushcart and Best of the Net awards, J.I. Kleinberg is an artist, poet, and freelance writer. Her poems have been published in numerous print and online journals worldwide. She lives in Bellingham, Washington, USA, where she tears up magazines and posts frequently at and and occasionally on Instagram @jikleinberg.

The art is well worth a look too. I personally was delighted by the many amazing crochet creations – but, again, that's far from her only form of expression.

Vandal Poem of the Day

Australian poet Amanda Joy recently posted on her facebook page this blog publication of this wonderful poem by (Australian poet) Robert Adamson. After I enjoyed it, I thought, 'What is this Vandal Poem of the Day?' (the name of the website). At the About page, I found out that: 

Vandal Poem of the Day (VPOD) is a public poetry project, which brings relevant contemporary poetry to the University of Idaho and the broader Idaho community. A new poem is published on this website every day during the academic year.

They also say:
VPOD encourages people waiting for buses, eating lunch, or otherwise going about their lives, to read a new poem each day on the VPOD website. Further, we hope the poems featured on this site will encourages public conversations about contemporary and enduring topics since the poems are quickly readable, but resonant enough for readers to re-read, think about, and comment on or share using the links at the bottom of each poem.
We operate with these famous lines in mind:
It is difficult
to get the news from poems
yet men die miserably every day
for lack
of what is found there.
-from “Asphodel, That Greeny Flower”
by William Carlos Williams

Oh good, you don't have to be attending the University of Idaho in order to enjoy these poems. But can you get them, or at least a reminder, in your inbox each day? I couldn't see a way, but there is somewhere to direct questions. I didn't do that, however, because I found it was easy to follow the site with Bloglovin'. All the Vandal Poems that I've looked at so far, I find utterly fascinating and thrilling.

Publications by our community members

Aw, no-one (well, almost no-one) took up my kind offer to publicise them for you. Is that because they are already clearly visible at your blogs, with links to where to buy them?

I asked Rommy (whose book I already had) to start the ball rolling, and she obliged. Here is the link to her book of stories at Amazon, available in both paperback and Kindle. (And here's a picture of it to whet your appetite.)

I'll jump on the bandwagon and tell you about mine too – because there's a sale on at Smashwords right now, until 20th April, where you'll find something of mine, something of my late husband Andrew Wade's, and a collaboration between me and my poet friends Jennie Fraine and Helen Patrice – all here

To get the discount price, you have to scroll down and click on the book you want. (All these are ebooks only.) 

I also have an
Amazon page you're very welcome to browse and buy from, but no discount happening there at present – though the chapbooks are very cheap. (If you would like to get the paperback of Secret Leopard, you'd do better to ask me, not Amazon, where it's currently unavailable. Or you could get it from Abe Books, at this link.)

So that's how it works, if you'd like to share information about your own books. Simple and straightforward! Just email me the details.

Material shared here is presented for study and review. Poems, photos, and other writings and images remain the property of the copyright owners, usually the authors.

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Weekly Scribblings #12: Nevertheless, She Persisted

“She was warned. She was given an explanation. Nevertheless, she persisted.

Three short lines, fired over social media in response to questions of why Senator Elizabeth Warren was silenced on the floor of the United States Senate, for daring to read aloud the words of Coretta Scott King. As this message was transmitted across the globe, it has become a galvanizing cry for people of all genders in recognition of the struggles that women have faced throughout history.

Three short lines, which read as if they are the opening passage to an epic and ageless tale.”

I borrowed the quote from the description of Nevertheless, She Persisted, a flash fiction collection published by, in celebration of International Women’s Day. The free e-book includes stories by Seanan McGuire, Jo Walton, Catherynne M. Valente and other Science Fiction/Fantasy writers. Each story uses the three sentences quoted at the beginning of this post.

For today’s prompt, I invite everyone to write new poetry or prose which includes the words, “She was warned. She was given an explanation. Nevertheless, she persisted.” Use the sentences at the beginning, in the middle, or at the end of your entry. Use them consecutively or in separate paragraphs or stanzas. All forms and genres are welcomed. If you choose prose, let your story or article or letter… be 369 words or fewer.  

Please add the direct link to your contribution to Mr. Linky. This prompt will remain open until next Wednesday. Visit other poets and storytellers. See what their muses brewed out of the iconic pronouncement. Share your thoughts about their inked feels.

Follow this link, or click the cover below, to download the free e-book.

Sunday, March 22, 2020

Writers' Pantry #12: You Gotta Know When to Hold 'Em

Hello word artists and admirers! I just want to take a moment honor the memory of the recently departed Kenny Rodgers. His songs often felt like combinations of poetry and storytelling, especially his most famous one. When I read about his passing earlier this weekend, I thought about the way they moved me when I was a kid and influenced me in ways I hadn't thought of.

Before we play our cards this week, let's take care of a bit of housekeeping:

- Rosemary has collected some savory samplings of poetry around the idea of Addressing the Darkness in her latest Wild Fridays: Words from the Community post. Stop by, drink in the word offerings, and share a wild word or two of your own in the comments section.

- This coming Wednesday, Magaly invites us to write new poetry or prose which includes the words, “She was warned. She was given an explanation. Nevertheless, she persisted.” Use the sentences at the beginning, in the middle, or at the end of your entry. Use them consecutively or in separate paragraphs or stanzas. All forms and genres are welcomed. 

So my fellow word enthusiasts, it's time to set out your bits of poetry or prose on the table. Please show us your hand--both old and new, fiction and non-fiction pieces are welcome, one per person. But if you are adding prose to the pot, please keep it to 369 words or fewer.

Friday, March 20, 2020

Wild Fridays #11: Words from Our Community

Addressing Darkness – How?

What 'interesting times' we do live in! No sooner do we finally put out raging fires, experience some small relief from drought, deal with severe floods in various countries ... than we get hit by a global pandemic and its resulting fear and divisiveness. As well as trauma, hardship and death, it will no doubt result in some powerful new writing*. 

Meanwhile, many of us have already been struggling with how to address, in our writing, the evils and traumas of the world we inhabit – the wars, disease, environmental disasters … not to mention more personal things such as grief, depression, poverty. Do we take issue with them in our writing? Do we vent the emotions that arise from them? Do we turn away from them to more uplifting subjects? Do we let them paralyse our writing hands (and minds) altogether? Can we transform them into something beautiful in our art – and if so, should we?

Perhaps the world has always been a mixture of the beautiful and the terrible, but it does seem these days that the worst things are writ large – in the media in particular. As recipients of these messages, I think we all try to make choices between, on the one hand, staying informed and responsible, and on the other, allowing the intrusion of too much negativity into our consciousness to influence us for the worse. It’s never an easy choice! Where is the balance? Is there some sane middle point, somewhere between putting one's head in the sand and succumbing to panic?

And, as poets, with our own messages to convey...?

We also have options. The best thing is that we’re not limited to only one option forever; we are free to take different approaches at different times. Here are some of my favourites from our online community, illustrating various possibilities.

Bearing Witness

One way – and a powerful way it can be – is simply to record what we observe and let those facts speak for themselves. That often means focusing on the particular rather than the world-wide, as in this piece by the poet we know as dsnake1 (aka Cheong Lee San or Lawrence Cheong; I call him Lee San) who blogs at urban poems and i write too.

the stories are a bit grim 

It's tough when you have almost nothing. No water. No electricity. Just a hut. And your wits. 

In the morning the sun brushes our squatter huts
           with loving fingers of gold.

The politicians thump chests and assure us
      that our squatter village is safe.

An old man lives in an abandoned pill box
      and sells candy by day.

Aunt goes early to the market to pick
           discarded vegetables to make achar.

Little Brother is playing with the mothballs again,
           oh please not the mouth!

Some out-of-towners lost their way
           but we do not speak English well.

Me and cousins raid the pill box for candy,
           find only old books and blades.

The kind fisherman gives me and sister
           a big catch of wrasses, all for 30 cents.

Dad comes back from work and says
           someone is shipping missiles to Cuba.

Some nights, the groans and noises from 
           the neighbours' thin walls are too loud

We get very paranoid when the police come visiting,
           it has to be something big.

Surely, we are not having pigeon soup 
           with wolfberries again, it's awful!

Mother says go back to sleep but the neighbours
           are fighting like wild cats.

Little Sister is out in the yard playing
           with the chicks, squeezing them.

Some shore-leave sailors lost their way
           and pretend to take pictures of us.

Uncle asks how does a man flies three times
           around the world, folding his paper.

For a week the cops come, plain-clothes,
           shoving mugshots into our faces.

We are expecting something better 
           for dinner tonight other than missiles.

Government officials come and tell us
           that our huts have to make way for a port.

Dad says we are moving to the city core 
           but the stories there are a bit grim.

I asked Lee San (pictured on his recent visit to Japan) for more details.

Me: Would you like to say a bit about how you came to write that poem, the impetus for it and/or the back story? I'm also interested that you describe it, on your blog, as a 'variant of a ghazal'; would you care to elaborate on that?

Lee San: Yes, I do believe that a poet is in a way, a witness to events that move or excite him or her, as a painter or photographer might be too.

Actually, I spent many nights fine-tuning this poem. It started when I wanted to write about the tough, but also innocent and carefree times of my childhood. When I was a kid, I lived in a squatter colony, and followed my father to some political rallies, not that I know or care what the politicians were shouting about. Later we moved to an apartment in the city core, a notorious part of town. And came to hear about the horror stories of the place. (There was a lot of exaggeration but it really was a hotbed of gangland activity). I can't remember what triggered the response, perhaps some online news or article, that's how sometimes my mind meanders.

Anyway, it started out as 4-line verses, and I found the imagery a little mixed up and muddled. So to tidy it up, I chopped them into a ghazal-like form, to let the reader focus easier on the images. It is not a true traditional ghazal because there are no repeating words, but there are recurring themes or images in the different lines. For example, Little Brother/Little Sister playing, going to the market, the police, the neighbours, and so on. So I called it a variant of a ghazal, for want of a better name.  I think I have earlier posted another poem with this same form, "every morning the sun looks in". I have started to fall in love with this "form".  :)

Me: I too love to try variants of the ghazal, and sometimes even the more traditional version. It's a form I fell in love with too.

Lee San: I find the variants of the ghazal allow me the flexibility and freedom to write imagery otherwise only possible with long prose. I have some poems in progress that are of these variants.

I for one will be looking out for those!

Imagining the Future (1: Elegaic)

Others, looking at the larger picture, may use imagination to project a possible future. Lately, a number of us have been postulating dystopian scenarios – based very much on the present global problems we are forced to confront. Some of these projections are horrifying, and/or filled with grief. Some are resigned, as if our doom is assured. Some also offer a glimmer of hope, a tiny light in the surrounding darkness – such as this by the poet we know as Brendan, of the blog Oran’s Well, who says that Brendan is ‘my online name; in real life I go by David’.

Nearer My God 

The future arrives just as water
survives our exhaustion, wells empty,
seas full. A conveyance drowned.
Get used to it. Become that glass
that matters even as it buries
in silt. Grow wings for harrowing smoke.
Sing where no marrow remains
for voices once dearly invoked.
I think of the string ensemble
bowing the old cheer while the
Titanic sank, sowing comfort while
not enough lifeboats were boarded.
Offering distant glints of Paradise,
something still to be richly said,
daring a sort of welcome into
the waters’ icy rise. Such is the path
to the stars 
they played as they drowned.
Nearer, my God, to Thee. A music
for history. Dark waters and starlight
and voices gone vast undersea.

This seems to me an uncompromising poem, looking squarely at what we have done to our only home. The final lines are unutterably sad, elegaic. And yet the poet urges us to ‘Become the glass that matters … grow wings … sing….’ Even if we cannot escape the doom, he suggests, we can defiantly assert that we lived. Yes, it’s one way to deal with impending doom – and not only in poetry.

In the past Brendan has shared his poetry at imaginary garden with real toads, dVerse and (our previous incarnation, still accessible) Poets United.

Oran’s Well is his personal blog. This year he has also created earthweal* as primarily a place where poets may share their responses to the current state of the planet, but inclusive of other topics too.

I asked Brendan: ‘Is there anything you'd like to say about the poem – its genesis, its crafting, anything?’

He replied: For the past several years, most of my poetry has been increasingly shadowed by our rapidly changing Earth. The poetic vantage ranges from fleeting hope to political rage, humorous aside to deep despair. “Nearer My God” is of the most latter ilk. Yet there is strange serenity in such surrender. A voice drifts in from Rilke’s Sonnets to Orpheus II, 13 (eg. “be the glass that shattered even as it rang”) and points to the quintet of musicians who played on while the Titanic sank. To me it’s an apt expression of comfort in despair: The ship is going down, there’s no stopping that; but there are songs which can ease the transition.  

Seeing into that, even celebrating it, goes back to the Rilke’s sonnet, which begins,   

Be ahead of all parting, as though it already were
behind you, like the winter that has just gone by.
For among these winters there is one so endlessly winter
that only by wintering through it all will your heart survive.

(Steven Mitchell translation)

Maybe the comfort really belongs to the world, to see humanity sink in its tide. 

Ah, what can one add to that? It's hard not to think the planet and its other life forms might be better off without us.

Imagining the Future (2: Explosive) 

Chrissa Sandlin, of the blog Moon Pools and Mermaids, also gets imaginative in the following poem. Her vision (or dream) is quite personal.

Some Other Light 

I almost get the picture but my brain and thumb
Are out of synch, one dreaming, the other balancing stuff.
It's an old dream in a new-ish city, oil leaking skylights
Across the entire dome of tomorrow until we see
The universe and the blue sky in the same puddle;
Until the flight that carries and the flight that punctures
Are the same thing, explosions and ribbons
Ripping and lacing the sky open and whole simultaneously.
We are dreaming in gloves and calipers, only a little
Star stuff and gunpowder before the colors rend
Our sight from darkness and give us light.
Daydreaming in the city already smothered
By creeks and bayous and rivers dreaming of salt depths,
Of the deep darkness where islands are born,
Some other current, some other light
One facing the heart, one facing the heights.

Chrissa says: Re-reading the poem, I'm pretty sure the impetus was (as it's been for a while) the way that Houston begins in the very swamp and reaches out until the last vestige of mud seems to be gone...only to discover that we're always going to carry that vestige in ourselves and it's always going to provide a spillway for whatever flood of humanity (good or bad) we open ourselves to while trying to refine ourselves. It was composed sitting at my desk, window to my right, feet curled beneath me to leave space for a dog to dream under my desk. 

We know what Chrissa looks like, from seeing her smiling at us in the profile photo on her blog. Here instead is Arthur under Chrissa’s desk – a homey image in contrast to the wild scenarios of her futuristic poem. Yet there's a touch of the fantastical even so. She says, ‘We picked the name Arthur because our oldest dog is Merlin.’ (I love that!)

Accentuating the Positive

Finally, a poem of triumph, joy, hope fulfilled. Many turn to the beauty and restorative power of nature in troubled times. Jae Rose’s ‘Howl’, from her Jae Rose blog, is a lovely example of that – even though I always read Jae’s poems, including this one, as metaphorical. It works either way, or both. 


A million years howl
When voices whisper among the trees
We are on the forest floor
Looking up
The leaves are crisp and brown
Spidery veins patterned from root to tip
We collect them up
They are like ancient paper in our hands
Stories unfolding
Wishes scattered
Our feet ache from the wooded path
We imagine taking off our shoes and socks
Let the moss cushion our steps
The damp ground moisten our blisters
But we decide to keep walking
Following the path
Listening to the trees
It is as if it has always been
And will continue to be
An owl hoots in the distance
We would like to see his wings unfold
As he flies off to the moon
But he is too quick for us
All we can feel is his song
The trees are full of life
They breathe and dance
They have borne witness to many a traveller
And dreamer
They are a guide and a light
They understand the whispers
Absorb up all the howls
We are glad to tread this path
It will lead us to morning
And carry us home.

I asked Jae, too, for her comments on the poem I chose.

Jae: I can’t remember how Howl evolved. I like the physical sensations – the moss and wetness.

I like the sense of journeying, particularly with Alice [Jae’s familiar companion in her poems]. This feels like a night time adventure and a sense of looking both outside and inside. Noticing the world around us – be it real or imagined 

I always like the sense of ending with home. It feels like a cycle – a comforting pattern. Home is a feeling not just a roof over your head. And home wouldn’t be home without Alice. She is a faithful companion.

Many of Jae’s poems have dealt with struggle and despair – not shirking the truth of that, yet managing to make the poetry beautiful even so. I was happy to see one that feels more positive. She also sent me this beautiful photo illustrative of that mood, and of her trees 'full of life'.


I wasn't sure where this exploration would end up when I began it. Now that I've had a closer look at these pieces, it seems evident that all possible responses to trouble and evil are valid in poetry – and I think all these examples demonstrate that we can make art out of any subject matter, without destroying or diluting the truth of our messages. Perhaps that is all that we can hope to do. It certainly seems to be what we are called to do.

*Note: In the current weekly challenge at the new 'earthweal' site, we're invited to share some of our writing on, and/or read how others have been addressing, the pandemic. I'm particularly struck by pieces from Sarah Connor, grapeling and Misky – whose work (along with that of others there) is known to many in this community.

Material shared here is presented for study and review. Poems, photos, and other writings and images remain the property of their copyright owners, usually the authors.

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Weekly Scribblings #11: Hypophora and all that

Coffee Notes by Nathan Dumlao, Unsplash
"How many hours are there in a mile? Is yellow square or round? Probably half the questions we ask-half our great theological and metaphysical problems-are like that." ― C.S. Lewis

Hello everyone and welcome to another round of Weekly Scribblings! I thought it befitting to explore the function of  "Hypophora," this week while stumbling upon a wonderful poem by Pablo Neruda. It's a thing of beauty and deserves much consideration. But first, let us discuss what Hypophora actually is and does:

Hypophora: Meaning, Use and Function

Hypophora is a figure of speech in which a writer raises a question and then immediately provides an answer to it. The major purpose of using hypophora is to create curiosity among the readers, while a well-timed pause produces a heightened effect in turn rousing interest.

Hypophora is similar to a rhetorical question. The difference is that when a speaker poses a rhetorical question, he does not answer it.

The answer to a rhetorical question is implied by the way and context in which the question is asked. The question or questions in a hypophora will often be used to set up a long answer, which is basically a point that the speaker wishes to make. For instance:

A Christmas Memory 
 (by Truman Capote)

"Thirty-one cakes, dampened with whiskey, bask on window sills and shelves.

Who are they for?

Friends. Not necessarily neighbor friends: indeed, the larger share is intended for persons we’ve met maybe once, perhaps not at all. People who’ve struck our fancy. Like President Roosevelt."

 by Pablo Neruda


Tell me, is the rose naked
or is that her only dress?

Why do trees conceal
the splendor of their roots?

Who hears the regrets
of the thieving automobile?

Is there anything in the world sadder
than a train standing in the rain?

Your Challenge today is to write using the literary device "Hypophora." Feel free to address the current world situation, offer your own thoughts on it, delve deep into the universe and ponder upon its intricacies, romanticize or if you'd rather then philosophize. The possibilities are endless.

We at Poets and Storytellers United accept both poems and prose pieces (i.e. stories, essays, articles) you may contribute more than one entry. Also, if you opt to write prose then please keep it to 369 words or fewer. The Prompt will remain open until next Wednesday!

Good luck composing your masterpieces. I look forward to reading what you come up with. Please do visit others and remember to comment on their work. Also, enjoy this musical inspiration by Tina Turner. Have fun! 🍱🍣

Sunday, March 15, 2020

Writers’ Pantry #11: Words Can Be Rather Nutritious

Greetings, dear poets and storytellers. I hope you are having the best day you can have. I hope you find a reason (or three) to smile. I hope your smiles are answered in kind. And since March is National Nutrition Month (in the USA), I also hope we all find healthy ways to nourish our guts and spirits.

“One cannot think well, love well, sleep well, if one has not dined well.” — Virginia Woolf

“You make us cry without hurting us.
I have praised everything that exists,
but to me, onion, you are
more beautiful than a bird
of dazzling feathers”
— Pablo Neruda

“Laughter is brightest, in the place where the food is.” — Irish proverb

Announcements and Reminders:

- if you’ve yet to read Wild Fridays #10: Thought Provokers, I recommend you follow the link and give the feature a go.  Our Rosemary shared “In a Time of Peace”, by Ilya Kaminsky, a poem that left me gasping with knowing, with remembering. I wonder what it would do for you.

- this coming Wednesday, for the 11th Weekly Scribblings: “Hypophora and all that”, Sanaa invites us “to write using the literary device ‘Hypophora’” (a figure of speech in which the speaker poses a question and then answers the question *follow this link for more*).

The Writers’ Pantry is an open link event. So, let your contribution be poetry or prose, fiction or nonfiction, old or new, short or long(ish)… If you choose to write prose, it should be 369 words or fewer. One entry per participant, please. Let us taste each other’s words (words can be rather nutritious, I’ve been told *cough, cough… cough*). Mr. Linky will stay hungry until next Sunday.

Quinoa Salad in Papaya Bowl, by @akemiyosawa

Friday, March 13, 2020

Wild Fridays #10: Thought Provokers

In a Time of Peace

Inhabitant of earth for fortysomething years I once found myself in a peaceful country. I watch neighbors open 
their phones to watch a cop demanding a man’s driver’s license. When a man reaches for his wallet, the cop shoots. Into the car window. Shoots. 
It is a peaceful country. 
We pocket our phones and go. To the dentist, to pick up the kids from school, to buy shampoo and basil. 
Ours is a country in which a boy shot by police lies on the pavement for hours. 
We see in his open mouth the nakedness of the whole nation. 
We watch. Watch others watch. 
The body of a boy lies on the pavement exactly like the body of a boy—
It is a peaceful country.
And it clips our citizens’ bodies effortlessly, the way the President’s wife trims her toenails. 
All of us still have to do the hard work of dentist appointments, of remembering to make a summer salad: basil, tomatoes, it is a joy, tomatoes, add a little salt. 
This is a time of peace.
I do not hear gunshots, but watch birds splash over the back yards of the suburbs. How bright is the sky as the avenue spins on its axis. How bright is the sky (forgive me) how bright.

– Ilya Kaminsky 
(from Deaf Republic. Minneapolis, Graywolf Press, 2019.)

During a recent conversation I had with another poet, he mentioned that he was reading Kaminsky's Deaf Republic, published a year ago. That was exciting to hear. I once met Kaminsky, when we were both featured readers at the Austin International Poetry Festival, Texas, in 2006 (but he was a much bigger star than me). I got an autographed copy of his prize-winning first book, Dancing in Odessa. Excuse me for skiting, but look!

So of course I hunted up Deaf Republic, which is only his second book – though he's been busy in the meantime with translations, editing anthologies, and academic life.

'You can find some of the Deaf Republic poems at Poetry Foundation,' said my friend. And so I did, and others too. Here's the link. The poem I've shared with you I found in a New Yorker article published shortly before the release of the book. The book tells a story that the author describes as 'a fable'. The article brilliantly excerpts the book and includes illustrations from it, of hands making signs.

Kaminsky himself (born in 1977) has been deaf from early childhood. Poetry Foundation gives us the following bio:

Poet Ilya Kaminsky was born in the former Soviet Union city of Odessa. He lost most of his hearing at the age of four after a doctor misdiagnosed mumps as a cold, and his family was granted political asylum by the United States in 1993, settling in Rochester, New York. After his father’s death in 1994, Kaminsky began to write poems in English. He explained in an interview with the Adirondack Review, “I chose English because no one in my family or friends knew it—no one I spoke to could read what I wrote. I myself did not know the language. It was a parallel reality, an insanely beautiful freedom. It still is.”

When I met him he seemed a shy, intense young man. I've now found a YouTube reading that includes some of the Deaf Republic poems (apparently in earlier versions). He appears much more relaxed and confident these days, but his unique way of reading hasn't changed: startlingly declamatory and sing-song. He is asked about it at the end of the session and explains that, in order not to be bored by reading the same material over and over, he tries to make it as if he's writing the poem anew. There are other YouTube options for getting better acquainted with his work, and this one is longish (including a substantial – and to me fascinating – intro by someone else); but I like it for that reason, and also because it shows the text of each poem while he reads it.

I recommend that you check out both this YouTube reading and the New Yorker feature.

As for the poem I've shared, which is the final one in the book, I think it speaks for itself. I'll refrain from comment, except to say that it seems to me to refer not only to the Russia he once knew. 

But of course, it doesn't even refer to that place/time literally, does it – let alone any other? Not only is it fictional; he calls it a fable. 


I'm interested to hear what you think!

Material shared here is presented for study and review. Poems, photos, and other writings and images remain the property of the copyright owners, usually the authors.

Wednesday, March 11, 2020

Weekly Scribblings #10: Early Bird or Night Owl?

Hello word artists and admirers! With Daylight Saving Time in the US messing with everyone’s sleep schedule it had me thinking about so-called early birds and night owls. I’m an early bird, at home with rising with the sun while my husband is 100% night owl. Sometimes we switch up our preferences to grab a bit of extra time together, but it often involves grogginess, strategic ingestion of extra caffeine, and perhaps a nap if possible.

Today I’d like you to shape your work around the idea of early birds, night owls, or both. New poetry and prose are welcome, as are fiction or non-fiction. Just remember that if you opt to work with prose, keep your word count to 369 or fewer. Happy Writing!