Wednesday, September 30, 2020

Weekly Scribblings #39: October Thrills

Greetings, word lovers. Magaly here, writing to you while high October-is-coming! fumes. In case you haven’t noticed, I might be more than slightly obsessed with the tenth month of the year. I could blame it all on the thought of pumpkin chili and skull cakes, or on the all-around overabundance of witchy hats. But that wouldn’t be fair or true, since the fact that I will get to delight in scary prose and creepy poetry happens to be just as guilty. 

I love my October in prose:

“I’m so glad I live in a world where there are Octobers. It would be terrible if we just skipped from September to November, wouldn’t it? Look at these maple branches. Don’t they give you a thrill--several thrills?” — Anne of Green Gables, by L. M. Montgomery

I love my October in poetry:

O hushed October morning mild,
Thy leaves have ripened to the fall;
Tomorrow’s wind, if it be wild,
Should waste them all.
— “October”, by Robert Frost

And I love, love, LOVE it when October speaks directly to us (or, um… to April *cough*):

“October knew, of course, that the action of turning a page, of ending a chapter or shutting a book, did not end the tale. Having admitted that, he would also avow that happy endings were never difficult to find: “It is simply a matter,” he explained to April, “of finding a sunny place in a garden, where the light is golden and the grass is soft; somewhere to rest, to stop reading, and to be content.” — Season of Mists (The Sandman #4), by Neil Gaiman

I could go on and on about October, but I suspect  you already tired of my autumnal cheer and stopped reading. So, I better get to our Scribblings: for today’s prompt, I wish for everyone to create new poetry or prose inspired by anything October. Think of traditions, colors, rituals, folklore, memories of events lived in that month… and then write, link, read, and share your thoughts on the contributions of others.

As always, this prompt will stay open until next Wednesday. One link per participant, please. If you choose to delight us with prose, the word count should be 369 words or fewer. Do have fun. Stay safe and healthy. And if you have a minute (or 3), tell us a bit about your favorite month.


Go ahead, our Mr. Linky loves your words—feed him, poets and storytellers!

Sunday, September 27, 2020

Writers' Pantry #39: Plums and feathers

New acquaintances: 'Oh, you're a writer. What do you write?'

Rosemary: 'Poetry, mainly.'

Them: 'What kind of poetry?' 

Me: 'Um, all kinds.' (Which I'm aware is uninformative, albeit true.)

End of that conversational topic, usually – except for those who enquire if they should have heard of me, to which the answer is no.

But sometimes they ask, 'Where do you get your inspiration?'

Of course the answer to that is equally broad and unhelpful: 'Everywhere.' Though I do add that I respond to online prompts, among other things.

I love the way the community member we know as Magical Mystical Teacher put it recently:

From the ripened plum,

from the raven’s tailfeather,
let there be stories! 

Oh yes!  

And how brilliantly those two examples suggest the whole of the natural world.

Dear wordsmiths, please share with us your poetry or prose, old or new, fictional or fact, from any and every source of inspiration, and leave us your link below.

If you're giving us prose, please keep it to 369 words max (excluding title). The prompt will stay open for a week
, which we hope is time enough for us all to come up with something, to enjoy reading what everyone else shares, and to leave them some encouraging comments.

Please add your piece (just one per person) to Mister Linky, and leave us a comment here too if you'd care to.

Advance notice:
on Wednesday Magaly will be asking us for poetry or prose inspired by anything October. Think of traditions, colors, rituals, folklore, memories of events lived in that month… and then write.

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 material may be out of copyright). Both of these photos are from Unsplash, with thanks to Daiga Ellaby for the feather and Markus Spiske for the plum.

Wednesday, September 23, 2020

Weekly Scribblings #38: A Helping String

Hello, Word Artists and Admirers! Learning the art of Japanese tea ceremony often means learning a bunch more related arts, for instance, the art of wearing kimono. You might not think kimono wearing is all that complicated a thing… but you’d be wrong. It involves a lot of knot tying as well as little details that are easy to miss if you don’t quite know what you are doing.

The novice kimono wearer’s best friend is a koshihimo, which is a length of long skinny fabric. It’s name means waist belt, but you use it whenever or wherever you need a part of your kimono or obi secured either for when you’re trying to keep one part still while you deal with another bit of fabric, or to keep things held down the whole time you are wearing your kimono. Koshihimo can be pretty, but they aren’t intended to be seen. Think of them more as ‘kimono support’, either hidden away or untied and removed completely once the main knots are in place.

So for today, I’d like you to think about things that act like a koshihimo—things meant only as a temporary or hidden support. Show off your newly created word offerings for this prompt by dropping your link below. Poetry and prose are welcome, as is fiction or non-fiction. Just be sure to keep it to 369 words or fewer if you opt for prose and only one entry per person please.

Sunday, September 20, 2020

Writers’ Pantry #38: Ominous Times

I’m rarely the first person to wail doom and gloom. In fact, I’m more of the sort who tries to find something good in the worst of situations. But lately, I’ve had to get extra creative in order to keep from screaming, “Why is everything so messed up!”

Seriously, have you read the news lately? I had the awful luck of glimpsing the front page of a local newspaper, and the headlines listed fires, storms, shootings, and deaths. All of that was on one half of a page. I didn’t even open the thing. After that glance, I just didn’t want the details.

End of rant. You aren’t here to hear me ramble about the ominous times we are living in. But what can I say? I’ve heard that troubled shared is troubled halved, and I’m feeling a bit selfish—also, I would hate to miss the chance to know that I’m not alone in wanting to scream.

All right, really end of rant. Let’s open the Writers’ Pantry, instead. Link your poetry or prose. Let your contributions be new or old, long or short, fiction or nonfiction… The choice is always yours. Going for prose? Please, make the word count 369 words or fewer. Mr. Linky will remain open for a week. So, we have plenty of time to share our words and read what others have shared (and maybe, if we are very lucky, cheer each other up a bit).

Do you like to plan ahead? Me too. And Rommy knows this, so for our next Weekly Scribblings, she would like us to write poetry or prose inspired by the thought of “things meant only as a temporary or hidden support.”

This image was borrowed from @newyorkercartoons. Click on it to see it clearly. Also, if you have any idea of how to sharpen images in this new (but not necessarily) improved Blogger, I would love it if you share the information. The blurriness is driving me nuts.
Edited: I figured out how to sharpen photos. In your face, Blogger goblins! I mean, thanks. 😅

Wednesday, September 16, 2020

Weekly Scribblings #37: Last Messages

Japanese Maple

Your death, near now, is of an easy sort.
So slow a fading out brings no real pain.
Breath growing short
Is just uncomfortable. You feel the drain
Of energy, but thought and sight remain:

Enhanced, in fact. When did you ever see
So much sweet beauty as when fine rain falls
On that small tree
And saturates your brick back garden walls,
So many Amber Rooms and mirror halls?

Ever more lavish as the dusk descends
This glistening illuminates the air.
It never ends.
Whenever the rain comes it will be there,
Beyond my time, but now I take my share.

My daughter’s choice, the maple tree is new.
Come autumn and its leaves will turn to flame.
What I must do
Is live to see that. That will end the game
For me, though life continues all the same:

Filling the double doors to bathe my eyes,
A final flood of colours will live on
As my mind dies,
Burned by my vision of a world that shone
So brightly at the last, and then was gone.

Clive James (1939-2019)
(From Sentenced to Life. London, Picador, 2015.) 

James wrote this in the knowledge that he was dying. But it took some years longer than he seemed to anticipate here – five more years in fact – so he assuredly did live to see the tree at its best, probably several times over. The poem was written in 2014, first published in The New Yorker, and was widely regarded as his 'farewell poem'. (Interesting that it begins in the second person, addressing himself, and then moves into first person, owning that final rejoicing in beauty, and in the fact that life goes on even if his life doesn't.)

The American Raymond Carver (1938-1988) also kept writing after he knew he was dying. Two short poems from those final months might be seen as his farewell statements: 


No other word will do. For that’s what it was. Gravy.
Gravy, these past ten years.
Alive, sober, working, loving and
being loved by a good woman. Eleven years
ago he was told he had six months to live
at the rate he was going. And he was going
nowhere but down. So he changed his ways
somehow. He quit drinking! And the rest?
After that it was all gravy, every minute
of it, up to and including when he was told about,
well, some things that were breaking down and
building up inside his head. “Don’t weep for me,”
he said to his friends. “I’m a lucky man.
I’ve had ten years longer than I or anyone
expected. Pure gravy. And don’t forget it.”

Late Fragment

And did you get what
you wanted from this life, even so?
I did.
And what did you want?
To call myself beloved, to feel myself
beloved on the earth.

I wonder how much the positive statements from both these men – one dying old and the other relatively young – were intended to comfort the loved ones they left behind. They ring true in any case, but that could very well have been an additional motivation.

In East Asia (Japan, China, Korea) there is a long tradition of death poems called jisei, reflecting on one's own death and/or death in general. They are supposed to be written on the death-bed, or at least when death seems imminent, but they could be written earlier. In form they usually resemble haiku or tanka. This is a jisei by a famous female haiku poet, Chiyo-ni (1703-1775):

having gazed at the moon
I depart from this life
with a blessing

(I've written a couple myself in the past; you can find them here.)


So, dear wordsmiths, what would be your final message to the world?

Not meaning to be unduly morbid (as you see, the poets I've quoted weren't) today I ask you to write your own death-bed reflections – way ahead of time, we trust! I'd like a new piece of writing, please, in prose or poetry.

If poetry, you might like to base it on the form James uses, or copy Carver's self-questioning, or you might even attempt a jisei – but these are only suggestions; any kind of poetry is fine. If prose, we only ask that you keep it to 369 words or fewer (excluding title). Though you might like to emulate the jisei in prose and make a much shorter statement; not necessarily three lines but maybe a paragraph? Up to you!

Please link to your contribution in Mister Linky, and we'd love it if you'd link back to this post from your blog.

The prompt will remain open for a week. I'm looking forward to reading what you come up with, and also any comments you may care to leave here about these rather joyous death poems.

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). Thanks to Ian Matyssik at Unsplash for the maple leaves.

Sunday, September 13, 2020

Writers' Pantry #37: Rise of the Stink Bugs

Hello, Word Artists and Admirers! The signs of fall are making themselves evident in my corner of the world. The cherry tree near my house is trying out some orange highlights. My kids are blearily navigating earlier morning wake-up times for remote schooling. And stink bugs in Pennsylvania are finishing up whatever stink bugs do in the summer and starting to look for places to crash for the winter. I am told they don’t mate or lay eggs during this time (thank goodness). The fact that they are more visible means that we are moving towards milder weather, one way or the other (the other time of year I see them is as winter is changing over to spring, when they are leaving their winter digs). 

As someone who loves to notice the cycles of nature around me, and tries to find the beauty of every season, I try to think of it less as “argh… that’s the 9th stink bug I’ve thrown out of the house this morning” and more “ah, well, I guess the cooler weather is here to stay, so I can dig out my favorite sweaters and enjoy chai tea”. At least that’s my goal. What seasonal things do you look forward to?

Knowing that the stink bugs will go away
makes me look forward to winter.

So for our peek into next week, Rosemary will be asking us to consider “last words” or what would we like to be our final message to the world—with the expectation that the day we’d have to consider them is still quite far away! (Of course, any stink bugs reading this over my shoulder should start making preparations sooner.) 

The pantry is now open to your words… poetry or prose, old or new, fiction or non-fiction. Just be sure to keep all prose offerings to 369 words or fewer.

Wednesday, September 9, 2020

Weekly Scribblings #36: “a phoenix first must burn”

How do you react when you make small mistakes? Do you scream? Do you sigh? Do you kick something while laughing hysterically? Sometimes, my reaction to committing error on the first-degree involves all of the above… all at once. But not today. This morning—I guess that it’ll be yesterday morning by the time you read this—when I noticed that last Sunday, we (and by “we” I mean “me”) announced the wrong Weekly Scribblings topic, I just nodded at the universe.

You see, today’s prompt was supposed to be about metaphors gone wild. But it seems that I had some of Octavia Butler’s words dancing around my skull, so a bit from one of her quotes leaked into our prompt; either that, or my subconscious took the opportunity to remind me not to lose it—things have been extra tough lately. And when the whole world seems to be on fire, I think most of us try to find ways to make sense of the madness. The thought that every now and again, things must get horrid before they get cool, makes a lot of sense to me—and gives me hope, too.

So, my dear poets and storytellers, for today’s prompt, I invite you to birth new poetry or prose inspired by the phrase “a phoenix first must burn”. Go literally or figuratively. The choice is always yours. If you choose to go with prose, please let your count be 369 words or fewer. One entry per participant. Mr. Linky will remain open for a week.

Let’s write. Let’s read. Let’s share thoughts.

While searching for a fiery background to display Octavia Butler’s quote: “In order to rise from its own ashes, a Phoenix first must burn”, I ran into this cover. I haven’t read the anthology yet, but I fell in total love with the title, the cover, and the premise, the moment I saw the book.

Sunday, September 6, 2020

Writers' Pantry #36: Change of Season

Hello wordsmiths, this is Rosemary.  And we're in September already – so soon! Here, it's the beginning of Spring. For most of you it's the start of Autumn – or Fall, if you live in the USA. (We can't call Autumn 'Fall' in Australia. Most of our native trees are evergreen and don't shed their leaves.)

So we're right at the point of change.

It's that for me personally, too. I get to join in the prompting now, for the first time – whether devising some of the specific topics for our Weekly Scribblings, or hosting the Writers' Pantry where you yourselves decide the actual subject matter. I'm excited! And I hope to still give you a little flavour of the old Friday posts while I'm at it.

Meanwhile I'd rather not look too far ahead yet, to Summer or Winter as the case may be, but focus on the gentler seasons just beginning. At least I hope they'll turn out to be gentle for us all.

Here's one person who has quite a gritty take on it – but he's thinking of the extremes. I'm fascinated to find that Shel Silverstein was a poet too, and even a maker of songs; I only knew him as a fiction writer. It's quite a persona he adopts here, to make a case for change itself.

Changing Of The Seasons

Oh the changing of the seasons it's a pretty thing to see
And though I find this balmy weather pleasin'
There's the wind come from tomorrow and I hear it callin' me
And I'm bound for the changing of the seasons
Oh it's blowin' in Chicago and it's snowin' up in Maine
And the Islands to the south are warm and sunny
And I've got to feel the earth shake and I gotta feel the rain
And I've got to know a taste of more than honey

So don't ask me where I'm goin' or how long I'm gonna be away
Don't make me give you all the hollow reasons
I'll think of you like summer and I might be back some day
When my heart miss the changing of the seasons
Oh it's blowin' in Chicago...
[ guitar ]

Oh it's nothing that you said and it ain't nothing that you done
And I wish I could explain you why I'm leavin'
But there's some men need the winter and there's some men need the sun
And there's some men need the changing of the seasons
Yeah it's blowin' in Chicago...

– Shel Silverstein (1930-1999)



For next Wednesday, Magaly invites us to scribble poetry or prose inspired by the phrase “a phoenix first must burn”. Go literally or figuratively. The choice is always yours.

And now:

Dear wordsmiths, please regale us with prose or poetry, old or new, on any topic of your choice. If it's prose – which can be fiction or non-fiction – please keep it to 369 words or even fewer, not including title. (Sometimes I think that's going to be impossible, but I always find that when I pare something back I improve it.) Link to your post – just one, please – on Mister Linky, and enjoy each other's offerings.

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). The photo of windy Chicago is from Unsplash; with thanks to  Max Bender.

Wednesday, September 2, 2020

Weekly Scribblings #35: The Joy of Rest

Hello, word artists and admirers! In today’s over-busy world, we sometimes forget the importance of taking a break. So for today’s prompt I’d like you to get to work on writing about rest. As always, poetry or prose is welcome, fiction or non-fiction. But please keep those prose pieces to 369 words or under and one entry per person.