Sunday, August 30, 2020
Writers’ Pantry #35: Change Happens (for the Better, Let’s Hope)
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.
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?
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.
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.
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
Friday, August 21, 2020
Wild Fridays #33: The Living Dead
You chew my shoes and eat my socks:
Wednesday, August 19, 2020
Weekly Scribblings #33: “swallow screams for dinner”
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?
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
To submit haiku, haiga, or other short poetry, use the form here: https://tinywords.com/submit/
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.
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.
Wednesday, August 12, 2020
Weekly Scribblings #32: I Am Explaining A Few Things
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.
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!
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,
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)
Sunday, August 9, 2020
Writers’ Pantry #32: From Case Studies to Plague Poetry
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.
- 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.
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
– 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 – logic 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 précis 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.