Sunday, August 30, 2020

Writers’ Pantry #35: Change Happens (for the Better, Let’s Hope)

Let me start today’s Pantry by saying that our Rosemary isn’t leaving us.

If you’ve no idea what that first sentence is about, please follow this link to the last Wild Fridays. Yep, Rosemary will no longer offer Friday features, but she will start hosting the Writers’ Pantry and Weekly Scribblings with Rommy and me. As you might have already deduced, this means that Poets and Storytellers United is going from 3 weekly posts to 2.

But worry not, my beloved poets and storytellers, many of our prompts—especially the ones on Wednesdays—will share a lot of the wonderful information Rosemary used to delight us with on her Wild Fridays. With that in mind, we hope that most of us will not only link our contributions to Mr. Linky but also share our thoughts about the posts in the comment section.


Announcements and Reminders (summary and reminders might be more accurate today):

- if you’ve yet to read Rosemary’s last Wild Fridays, please follow the link and take a look-see. The post is full of heartfelt reflections. The same is true about the comments.

- for our next Weekly Scribblings, Rommy would like us “to get to work on writing about rest”. I dont know about you, but Im looking forward to writing and reading new poetry and prose about taking a break (or 3) in what seems to be an eternally busy world.


Now, let’s open today’s Pantry! Link poetry or prose (stories, letters, articles, reviews…). Let your contribution be new or old, fiction or nonfiction, short or long (prose should be 369 words or fewer). This pantry will remain open for a week—time to share, read, and comment.

quote by Rumi, moon image by Jordan

Friday, August 28, 2020

Wild Fridays #34: Moonlight Musings





A Change of Scene

Dear friends, this is my last Friday post; after, amazingly, nearly nine years of them. But don’t worry, I’m not retiring from the team. I’ll be popping up to (hopefully) entertain and inspire you at other times, in other ways, with a bit more – much-needed – space between commitments. [This is not a result of Sanaa leaving us; we worked out the new system before she resigned. I like to think it may have given her the freedom to make that decision, knowing it wouldn’t now create burdens on the rest of us.]





The Value of Community

At this point I find myself reflecting on these years in which I went from a shy, awkward newcomer  – which I hope I managed to conceal fairly well – to a long-term member of this administrative team and this broader community.

I began, like everyone else, as one who enjoyed the prompts. Then the ‘I Wish I’d Written This’ spot became vacant, coinciding with my thought that many fine Aussie poets deserved wider recognition. Robb (our founder) let me give it a go. Gradually I included other poets (even dead ones, as in ‘The Living Dead’) and then other topics. 

Some poems I didn’t exactly wish I’d written, because I wouldn’t have wanted to be in the place they came from, but I was enthusiastic about them anyway and keen to share them, so the ‘Thought Provokers’ segment was born. Recently it occurred to me that things which interest me when I’m ‘Roving the Web’ would interest other writers too. ‘Words from Our Community’ came from a wish to acknowledge what wonderful poetry happens right here amongst ourselves.

Mutual understanding

Fellow team members have always been happy to let me rave on about anything I cared to. When I decided to do just that, airing my thoughts on various matters to do with poetry, or with writing in general, in the form of my so-called ‘Moonlight Musings’ (which tended to happen late at night) I was pleasantly surprised to find that those posts quickly became everyone’s favourites. When I was writing them, I often feared that no-one would find my ramblings the least bit interesting, but after all it became apparent that writers do very much share the same preoccupations. I guess that in itself is one aspect of the value of community, perhaps the greatest value. Who else can we talk to about all that stuff, and receive complete understanding, but others of our kind?

Discussion

I’ve run a number of writing workshops offline over the years, and still preside over a couple – though lately they’ve had to happen by video. I like to keep things fairly relaxed, with lots of laughter. (And sometimes tears, as people find their writing taking them to emotional places.) Writing happens at these events, and in between them. People find ways to improve particular pieces, and their writing in general grows and develops. Many go on to publication. Yet they all say that what they treasure most about our meetings are the conversations, which often range far and wide, and the friendships consequently formed.

It’s similar here, I think, in this loosely-structured yet close-knit online community. Over time we get to know each other – often quite quickly, but certainly over the long haul. Our writing reveals us to each other; it's not a place we can hide.

Revelation

But what is revealed; what is it we can’t hide? I think perhaps the soul. Aspects of our personalities don’t necessarily show. Well, some do – we know who loves their gardens or their God, who is appalled by a certain political figure, who adores cats and who prefers dogs, who’s in love and who is disenchanted … but we only know what details people choose to write. Behind all that, reading someone’s work repeatedly over time, we get a sense of the person beyond those details: the flavour of them, if you like.

Interaction

This sense of the person can happen to some extent with any writing one reads. It happens so much more in a community such as ours, based on interaction with each other: regularly reading and commenting on each other's work. Those who 'link and run' (which I understand happens in some online forums) would miss out on benefits to themselves and their writing – not only because, if they made a habit of it, people would probably stop reading them anyway, but also because there is so much to be gained by exposure to a variety of other writers. It adds to our repertoire and broadens our scope. (Even exposure to bad writing can be incredibly useful, lol. Not that we have any of that here, of course.) When I was running poetry workshops in prison many years ago, I made a point of bringing in a variety of guest poets to work with the participants.  They couldn't get that kind of exposure unless I provided it, and they told me they found it very valuable in expanding their range as poets. They said it opened up vistas. We are fortunate enough to have such vistas readily available. Don't underestimate what you do for others by linking your writing here!

A shared passion

Writing is, as we know, an essentially solitary activity in the actual doing – just oneself, alone with the words. A strange compulsion,  really, to first find the words and then get them as near as we can to perfect. When we’re lucky they come easily, as if given to us, but often we wrestle with them. We have to at least get a first draft down before we can begin to share them with anyone else. And we’re lucky if our nearest and dearest understand either the impulse or the result. Even when they like what we write, can they comprehend the passion for writing itself, why we do it even if it’s unlikely to make us rich or famous – why we not only do it but give it so much of our time and focus? If you’re married to another writer, as I had the good fortune to be – or probably to any kind of artist – that helps. Or if there's someone in your birth family (my Dad scribbled a bit). But otherwise, I don’t like the chances.

A community of writers with whom we interact repeatedly over time not only fills a need but starts to feel like a group of friends, or even a family. I think it’s greatly to be cherished. The fact that we learn from each other – can’t help doing so through our interactions – is a bonus. Then, too, in this international community the wide diversity of backgrounds, interests, lifestyles, and approaches to writing enriches us all.

And the fact that I’ve stayed up much too late – again! – chasing after the Muse? Well I guess that’s a price I’m happy to pay.





 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. (Older poems may be out of copyright). For the photo of the map-reader, found on Unsplash, I thank Leio McLaren.

Wednesday, August 26, 2020

Weekly Scribblings #34: Foundation

Hello Word Artists and Admirers! Today I am asking you to consider the word foundation and use that to build up your words. You can use any of the Merriam-Webster definitions given here. Both new poetry and new prose are welcome, as are both fiction and non-fiction. Just remember, one entry per person and if you are going with prose, please keep your words to 369 or fewer. Thanks and happy writing!


Sunday, August 23, 2020

Writers’ Pantry #34: Writing Is Easy

How do you feel about quotes and adages that are a dance between silliness, humor, and truth-sprinkled sarcasm? I just love them. I pin them to my mental cork board and chant them to myself in the same way some people do affirmations. I enjoy the grins they bring to my heart. And yes, the ones about writing and reading are usually my favorite kinds. What about you, my dearest poets and storytellers, do you have a favorite sort of quote?


Announcements and Reminders:

- for our next Weekly Scribblings, Rommy asks us to consider the word foundation and use that to build up our poetry or prose. We can use any of these definitions.

- in her latest Wild Fridays, our Rosemary shared “My Dog”, a poem by Jack Davis. The piece is a brewer of smiles (well, it is for me). If you’ve yet to read it, I suggest you give it a go. Also, the feature ends with a wee note that changes the shape of our team.


Now, the Pantry is open! We want new or old prose or poetry, short or long(ish) written yumminess, heart ripping or soul lifting thoughts; the Pantry wants words. Choosing to share prose? Then please let the count be 369 words or fewer. One entry per participant. Add your contribution to Mr. Linky. As usual, the Pantry will stay open for a week. After sharing your link, do visit others and share your feels about their own sharings.

This is one of my favorite quotes about writing and editing and such:
via

Friday, August 21, 2020

Wild Fridays #33: The Living Dead

 
My Dog

You foolish creature charging in
To flop in my chair with your lop-sided grin,
You chew my shoes and eat my socks:
I’m sure your head is made of rocks.
I plant, you dig my flowers and lawn,
You bark when the roosters crow at dawn.
You chase the baker, you bit the rector,
But you seem to adore the bill-collector.
Chaos comes with you through the door–
You are a clown and not much more.

But when I sit by the fire at night
And the world is mostly sleeping,
My thoughts caught up in fancied flight,
Then gently you come creeping.

You sit and stare at me above you,
Your tongue tip soft as a feather,
And I stretch my hand to prove I love you–
A man and his dog together.

Jack Davis (1917-2000)
from The First-born and Other Poems. 
(Melbourne, J. M. Dent Pty. Limited, 1983.)



Some light relief after all the serious stuff I've been dishing up lately. Yes it has been pointed out that not everyone wants light relief and some welcome the more nitty-gritty offerings  – still, I think most of us respond to animal poems in any circumstances.

As many of you know, I'm a cat person really, but that doesn't mean I don't like dogs too. It's just that I like really big dogs, and it wouldn't be practical for me to have one of them now, though I have in the past. (Not enough funds or space any more.)

But if I can't have a dog, I can enjoy reading about other people's. And middle-sized dogs are nice too. I picture the one in Davis's poem as being middle-sized – maybe a Blue Heeler or a Labrador ... but most probably a bitzer. Heelers and Labs aren't quite as silly as this endearingly troublesome fellow.

I love the deceptive simplicity of Davis's poetry and his mastery of rhyme and rhythm. In this poem I like the way he changes both the rhythm and the rhyme scheme in the middle, reflecting the change in both mood and substance from the rollicking first verse to something more relaxed and thoughtful. 

He was an Aboriginal Australian who lived in Perth (Western Australia) and was even better known as  a playwright. You can read the details of his life and career at the Wikipedia link on his name (above). Or read the concise version here on the back cover of this book.


I bought my copy of The First-born when it was first published, and still enjoy re-reading it. The book includes many fine poems of mourning and protest about the post-colonial fate of black Australians, but I'll leave them for another day. (Sadly, decades after these writings, the issue doesn't look like being solved awhile yet.) 


~~~~~~~~~~~~


A Change

"All is flux, nothing stays still." 
Plato

Sanaa, who has graced us for a year and more with her thoughtful and inspiring prompts, tells us she needs to bow out from the team for personal reasons. She's got a lot going on at present and feels she can no longer be as useful to the group as she'd like. I'm sure we'll still see her and her poetry around the traps. Meanwhile we thank her for her contributions to us all and to our writing, and we wish her very well.

"Nothing is lost. . .Everything is transformed."
― Michael Ende, The Neverending Story


Material shared in 'The Living Dead' is presented for study and review. Poems, photos and other writings and images remain the property of the copyright owners, where applicable (older poems may be out of copyright).

Wednesday, August 19, 2020

Weekly Scribblings #33: “swallow screams for dinner”

Greetings, word lovers. Are you having a decent week? My week has been… interesting. There has been a considerable amount of unpleasantness: I had a COVID-19 scare. But there has been a lot of good, too: I didn’t have to wait too long to find out that I was negative for the virus, and the fever and coughing that began the whole mess are almost gone. Also, I just watched a female woodpecker deal with a blue jay that has been terrorizing any bird that even glances at my bird feeder. The jay hasn’t fully stopped its bullying tactics, but at least it’s being behaving itself when the woodpecker is near (and she doesn’t seem to be leaving any time soon). All blessings start small, right?

Speaking of awesome birds, today’s prompt came to mind after I read C. Sandlin’s poem, “Telling Stories”, which was inspired by a photo of a woman and an owl. I remember reading “I swallow screams for dinner”, and thinking, I bet that line can hatch all sorts of word-yumminess. So, for our Weekly Scribblings #33, I invite you to write new poetry or prose which includes the phrase “swallow screams for dinner”. Feel free to change the verb’s tense, but the rest of the phrase should remain intact.

Please, add the direct link to your new poetry or prose to Mr. Linky. One entry per participant. If you go with prose, do keep the count to 369 words or fewer. This prompt shall remain open for a week. So, we have time to share and to delight in each other’s work. We are using Chrissa’s line with her permission (Thank you bunches, Chrissa!). So, let’s not forget to giver her proper credit.


Sunday, August 16, 2020

Writers' Pantry #33: Gotta Love the Classics

Hello, Word Artists and Admirers! It took me a bit, but I think I finally have a little tighter handle on my schedule in this strange new COVID-19 world. That means I’ve had more time and energy to put into bigger writing projects that I put on hold. And that I’m listening to a lot more classical music as I do. It will be a while before I have anything near a finished project to show, but I’m rediscovering some classic music playlists on Spotify as I go. What do you consider a classic? And what are some of your favorites?

How about a little Rhapsody In Blue?

So onto a bit of housekeeping:

  • Rosemary shares news about all sorts of opportunities for reading and writing this week in her Roving the Web feature.
  • For our next Weekly Scribblings, Magaly would like us to write new poetry or prose which includes the phrase “swallow screams for dinner”. Feel free to change the verb’s tense, but the rest of the phrase should remain intact. 

The floor is now open to your poetry and prose, new or old, fiction or non-fiction. One submission per person please. And for those who opt for prose please keep your works to 369 words or fewer.

Friday, August 14, 2020

Wild Fridays #32: Roving the Web

Opportunities


Via my inbox (from Tinywords):

Hello tinywords readers and poets! We are now accepting submissions, through the end of August, for our 20th anniversary issue.
To submit haiku, haiga, or other short poetry, use the form here: https://tinywords.com/submit/   
The Editors


On a friend’s Facebook page:












Full details here.


I Wish I'd Written This

But I think it would be overkill to feature Caitlin Johnstone again so very soon, even if Consent Rescinded is a white-hot, brilliant manifesto. And besides I wouldn't be able to find anything illuminating to say about it, as in this she says it all. So you may have a look for yourselves at the link on the title of her piece, above.


Haiku Havens













Those who love haiku and related forms will no doubt already be well aware of the colourful CARPE DIEM HAIKU KAI website, created by the indefatigable 'Chevrefeuille'. I know several people in this community respond to his prompts, as I do myself from time to time. It's also a great source of education about haiku, renga, tanka, etc. etc., imparted in a very readable, easy style. And you can find a number of free downloadable ebooks there too. (Some are by Chevrefeuille's friend and mentor, the noted haiku scholar and haijin, the late Jane Reichhold.) All the links at the top of the page and in the side columns are very interesting to follow. One of them leads to a blog featuring works by the great Basho, and Chevrefeuille's own writings inspired by them.




As you see, GRACEGUTS is the website of Michael Dylan Welch. Unlike Carpe Diem it's not interactive, but here too you can find a wealth of material on haiku and related forms, by Welch himself and others. It's all very detailed and scholarly, and it takes account of the modern 'English language haiku' and such, whereas Chevrefeuille is more traditional in his approach.

I find Carpe Diem a delightful place to play, while Graceguts is endlessly (and to me fascinatingly) informative and includes many excellent examples of haiku.



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, August 12, 2020

Weekly Scribblings #32: I Am Explaining A Few Things



Hello and welcome to another exciting round of Weekly Scribblings. Can you believe it's August already? The rain has been falling steadily without letup since the last few days. Outside the leaves and flowers droop under the weight of the droplets. My heart is heavy but persistent, and around this time of the year I am reminded of poems by Neruda.

Pablo Neruda was born on 12th July,1904, in Parral, Chile. His poems can be described as subtle and elegant, as well as being vigorous and original which brings focus upon themes such as nature, love, politics, and human condition. As I was browsing online, I came across one that completely blew me away:

I Am Explaining A Few Things

You are going to ask: and where are the lilacs?
and the poppy-petalled metaphysics?
and the rain repeatedly spattering
its words and drilling them full
of apertures and birds?
I'll tell you all the news.

I lived in a suburb,
a suburb of Madrid, with bells,
and clocks, and trees.

From there you could look out
over Castille's dry face:
a leather ocean.
My house was called
the house of flowers, because in every cranny
geraniums burst: it was
a good-looking house
with its dogs and children.
Remember, Raul?
Eh, Rafel? Federico, do you remember
from under the ground
my balconies on which
the light of June drowned flowers in your mouth?
Brother, my brother!
Everything
loud with big voices, the salt of merchandises,
pile-ups of palpitating bread,
the stalls of my suburb of Arguelles with its statue
like a drained inkwell in a swirl of hake:
oil flowed into spoons,
a deep baying
of feet and hands swelled in the streets,
metres, litres, the sharp
measure of life,
stacked-up fish,
the texture of roofs with a cold sun in which
the weather vane falters,
the fine, frenzied ivory of potatoes,
wave on wave of tomatoes rolling down the sea.. (Read more here)


Your Challenge today is to write inspired by the title of Neruda's poem. Feel free to address the current world situation, or perhaps delve into a memory of your own. Challenge the reader, surprise us with humor and wit, go solemn and dark or perhaps tender and romantic. The possibilities are endless!

We at Poets and Storytellers United offer the chance to share both poetry and prose (i.e. stories, essays, articles) the prompt will remain open until next Wednesday. Also, if you opt to write prose then please keep it to 369 words or fewer.


Good luck composing your masterpieces! I look forward to reading what you come up with. And lastly, please visit and comment on your fellow writers. Have fun!💘

Sunday, August 9, 2020

Writers’ Pantry #32: From Case Studies to Plague Poetry

How does one respond to a stranger who asks, “Can you recommend a good pandemic book?” In my case, I just sort of stare a lot. I’m certain the asker is wondering about the glassy-eyed look on my face. Is she ignoring me? They might think. In fact, that question often brews a gazillion more questions in my skull: What do you mean by “pandemic book” (a book where a bunch of people die horribly before the protagonist finds a cure? Or, a book set in pandemic times? Or, a book about how to escape a pandemic? Or… by the way, what sort of books do you enjoy reading? And, when you say “pandemic”, are you talking COVID-19, H1N1 influenza, lying politicians gone viral? Do explain…)
 
Anyway, someone asked me that (yelled, actually, since we were standing six feet apart waiting to go into surgery). A nurse came and got me while I was still on the glassy-eyed look stage, so I didn’t have time to respond. But I got the person’s email address—I never lose a chance to do some bookish indoctrination recommendation. After a couple of days exchanging messages, I found out that the person in question hated long books, hated books set in places she knew little about, hated books that were too political, hated books that didn’t have happy endings, and… well, you can get the picture. I ended up sending her links to USA Today’s “The top 25 escapist books to read in quarantine, per Goodreads” (and recommended Buy Yourself the F*cking Lilies: And Other Rituals to Fix Your Life, by Tara Schuster); O, The Oprah Magazine (and recommended Nevers, by Megan Martin); and to “Publishers Snap Up Corona Books, From Case Studies to Plague Poetry”, an article by The New York Times (and recommended Together in a Sudden Strangeness: America’s Poets Respond to the Pandemic, edited by Alice Quinn).

I ended the email with this note: “I have no idea if you are going to like these books, but I plan to read them. So, we can yell at each other about one or all of them when we go back to get rid of our stitches.” Her emoji reply might’ve looked glassy-eyed.

This poem is from the Together in a Sudden Strangeness anthology,
and I totally had to share it:

 Announcements and Reminders:

- in her latest Wild Fridays, Rosemary shared “Do Not Let Them Train You”, a poem by Caitlin Johnstone. If you’ve yet to read the piece, do give it a go. And if you have a minute, dive into the comments—they add quite a bit to the conversation.

- next Wednesday, for our Weekly Scribblings #32: I Am Explaining A Few Things, Sanaa invites us to write inspired by the phrase “I am explaining a few things”, the title of a poem by Pablo Neruda, which you can find if you follow this link.  
 

But on Pantry day, you have to follow no prompt. Share poetry or prose that is old or new, words that are bright like the sun or dark like the times. Let your pieces be short or long (if you go for prose, please make your word count 369 words or fewer). One link per participant. The Writers’ Pantry will remain open for a week. As always, take a moment to visit other poets and storytellers, and let them know that their words did for you.

Friday, August 7, 2020

Wild Fridays #31: I Wish I'd Written This


Do  Not Let Them Train You


Do not let the news man train you how to see.

Do not let the pundit train you how to feel.

Do not let the teacher train you how to think.

Do not let the preacher train you how to love.

Do not let the banker train you how to value.

Do not let Hollywood train you how to be.

Don't let them train you.

They were appointed by the powerful to teach you how to live
in a world that is small, too small for wild humans.


Too small for humans who haven't been house trained,
groomed, spayed and neutered,
and taught parlor tricks
like how to ignore life's intrinsic breathtaking majesty.


Too small for humans who perceive their own boundlessness,
their own vast unpredictable inner wildernesses,
their own beauty,
their own holiness,
their own worthiness,
their own innate equality
with those holding their leash.


So they train us.

They train us to believe the world fits neatly
into flat, finite conceptual boxes.


That life is predictable, that our nature is well-mapped.

That we live in a 2-D colorless cage
from which there can be no escape
and about which everything is known.


As though narrative could even touch this blazing cacophony,
let alone encapsulate it.


They are lying to you, my beloved.

They are lying each and every time they open their pixelated mouths.

This life is so much more than they will ever allow you to believe.

So very immense.

So very unexplored.

So very unpredictable.

So very juicy.

So very sexy.

So very, very, very beautiful.

The unknown unknowns dwarf the known unknowns,
and the known unknowns dwarf the knowns.


But they will never let you know this.

So don't ask their permission.

Take off that leash, wild apeling.

Unblinker those eyes and unshackle those legs.

Those chains are not there to protect you from the world, my beloved.

They are there to protect your trainers

from you.

Caitlin Johnstone






– Yes, her again. Told you I was pretty impressed.

I had been thinking that after all the heavy, serious stuff I've been dishing out of late, you might be due for some relief.  Something sweet and lovely, I thought, as counter-balance to all the stressful and horrifying things we face. Then I saw this. I couldn't not share it. (And after all, we've recently had Sanaa reminding us not to overthink and Rommy inviting us to focus on what makes us smile, so it hasn't been unrelievedly serious around here.)

To be truthful, while I think Caitlin Johnstone is a brilliant journalist, I don't think she's all that wonderful as a poet (though she's not all that bad either). But her journalism has taught her how to make her points powerfully. And oh boy, the things she says! That's what I wish I'd written. 


I think that we poets and storytellers, because our writing teaches us to analyse words and meanings, are probably better than many others at resisting being told how to think and feel. 

The training is insidious, though. When we're bombarded with certain viewpoints over and over, particularly the ones we get from all sides all our lives, do we even realise they're not necessarily (a) correct and true, (b) intrinsic to our human nature, or even (c) arrived at by our own mental processes?

So how do we not let 'them' train us? Perhaps the first step is to be vigilant in noticing when and how they are. We can pay attention to what's entering our heads.

When I was at primary school, we were taught a subject called Clear Thinking Рlogic for children, applied particularly to the news media. We were taught how to notice the hooks in a headline, or the way an advertisement appealed to the emotions. We learned how to pr̩cis a news article to get to the guts of what it was really saying, without all the fluff around that. We learned to recognise when something was presented in 'coloured language', slanted a certain way rather than being told straight. It was very useful stuff!

But it's a long time ago that I was in primary school. It's pretty clear that kids aren't now being taught to read critically like that. Perhaps we need to hone our own critical skills and teach them to our children and grandchildren.

I'll leave you to mull it all over.

I'd be interested to read your thoughts in the comments.


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. Thanks to Chaz McGregor on Unsplash for the picture of the chained tiger.