Sunday, November 29, 2020

Writers’ Pantry #48: Words, Words, Words

Don’t we love them! They are our most basic tools of trade. Perhaps, dear wordsmiths, the most wonderful thing about them is that there are so many different ways we can use them. 

The town of Murwillumbah where I live (in New South Wales, Australia) is home to Poets Out Loud, a series of performance opportunities initiated and managed by poet Sarah Temporal (whom I’ve featured  in our previous incarnation at Poets United). One of its initiatives is the Youth Slam, where Sarah and others coach school-age poets in how to present their work live, culminating in a competition.
Because of the pandemic, they’ve been held on video this year. The 2020 winner, 18-year-old Pancho Symes, is a young man who clearly loves to have fun with words elaborate and fantastical. He recites his humorous, almost nonsensical poem, The Confederacy of Ants, as if it were utterly serious – which is part of the charm. It’s full of multi-syllable words, intricate phrases and marvellous rhymes, and it tells a story too.

If you’re on facebook, do find the Poets Out Loud page (at this link) and then find the video introducing Pancho. Or if you’ve an hour to spare, enjoy the whole Youth Slam here at the Poets Out Loud website. I promise you, it’s a joy and a revelation. Or you can find individual entrants on YouTube.

I’m also impressed by the runner-up, 16-year-old Georgia Smith, who presented, with gut-wrenching fervour, a powerful piece on relationship violence. The vivid originality is here also, and the clever rhymes – but these words are direct, strong, and mostly one-syllable. Two terrific poems, so very different, each suiting the words to the theme. And, if you decide to enjoy the whole hour, there’s a variety of other poetic choices in just this one small geographical area and one brief space of time.

This is what I love about our P&SU community, too: always such a rich variety of styles, moods, forms, subject matter … so many different ways, not only of using language but of exploring it to find its utmost expressive possibilities.

I’m primarily a poet so I tend to focus on poetry, but the limitless ways of using words apply as much to prose – from the powerfully spare sentences of Hemingway to the richly complex style of Lawrence Durrell, from the careful details of plot, personality and social observation in Austen to the wide-open Joycean ‘stream of consciousness’.

If there are limits, we – the whole collective of poets and storytellers all over the world, throughout all of human time – haven’t found them yet. We keep on finding ways to 'make it new'.

Exciting, eh?

Feel free to excite us (or soothe, inspire, amaze, arouse, agitate, alarm, delight, surprise, chill or warm, etc.) with your writings – old or new, poetry or prose, in any style, on any topic. If it’s prose, please keep it within 369 words, excluding title. Then share it with the rest of us via Mr Linky, which will stay open for a week. Happy reading, folks! And don’t forget to check back for participants linking towards the end of the week.

Meanwhile, next Wednesday, Magaly will invite us to write new poetry or prose where the central theme revolves around one or more of the following five words: 1. Allyship (n. active support for the rights of a minority or marginalized group without being a member of it), 2. Blursday (n. a day of the week that is indistinguishable from any other), 3. Covidiot (n. a person who disobeys guidelines designed to prevent the spread of Covid-19), 4. Doomscrolling (n. the action of compulsively scrolling through social media or news feeds which relate bad news), 5. Virtue-signalling (n.  the public expression of opinions or sentiments intended to demonstrate one’s good character or the moral correctness of one’s position on a particular issue).

Wednesday, November 25, 2020

Weekly Scribblings #47: Meme Madness

Hello, Word Artists and Admirers! Most of the time I get a good laugh out of memes, but every now and then I’ll run across something that really gets me thinking, like this one:

My love of tricksters comes from my dad reading me a kids’ version of the Odyssey, as well as bonding over old Bugs Bunny cartoons. I first heard of Dr. Who from a friend in elementary school. An old boy friend is responsible for my love of classic rock. My husband made me better appreciate folk and indie music. One of my best friends got me to lean into more whimsically femme clothing styles. And on, and on, and on…

So for today, I’d like you to think about the things you learned to love because you loved someone else. You can approach this prompt from your actual experiences or write from the perspective of a fictional character. Both new poetry and prose are welcome, but be sure to keep prose offerings to 369 or fewer.


Sunday, November 22, 2020

Writers’ Pantry #47: Breathe in the Words

I am exhausted. I know that is a terrible way to start a post, but it doesn’t keep it from being true. It’s good exhausted though. You know, the kind of fatigue that comes after completing a necessary task (or 7,000) successfully? So, I shan’t complain too much. I will get a good night sleep (I’m scheduling this rather late), and then I will delight in your words after breakfast. Reading what others spill into being can be so very soothing.

So, my beloved poets and storytellers, share your poetry or prose. Let your contribution be new or old, short or long(ish), deliciously bright or intriguingly gloomy. One entry per participant, please. And if you go for prose, let the word count be 369 words or fewer. As always, Mr. Linky will remain open for a week. Bring on the yummy words.

- for our next Weekly Scribblings, Rommy would like us to write new poetry or prose while thinking about “things [we] learned to love because [we] loved someone else.”  

(and I suspect that for many of us, the same is true about what we read here,
so let us read and breathe and such…) 

Wednesday, November 18, 2020

Weekly Scribblings #46: Let's Celebrate!


So I had a birthday. Did I what! Which, dear wordsmiths, many of you already know from having seen it on facebook and showering me with good wishes.

That made me pause to realise, gratefully, how many friendships poetry has brought me over the years. Not all my fb friends and well-wishers are poets, but the majority are.

It has sometimes been said that one can only have a limited number of ‘real friends’, and that therefore most of one’s facebook friends can’t possibly be ‘real’. But poetry, as I have found through conducting writing workshops for many years, is a recipe for instant intimacy. We get to see into each other’s souls. Furthermore, many of my poet friends, whether encountered first online or known in the so-called real world too, have been in my life for years already. Your loving wishes are very treasured!

I’m not much for big parties (are all poets introverts?) but my lovely hairdresser, who is also a pal, decided she MUST make me a cake, even though far too busy herself to share it with me. So I hastily phoned an old friend who lives nearby to come and help me with the eating.

Old friend turned up with presents and more foodie treats. I had decided to dress up a bit, and put on a bright garment which the same old friend gave me last birthday. I posed for her in my kitchen, just for fun, holding out my skirts. She said, ‘Stay like that! I must get a photo.’ So I did, grinning. She said, ‘Oh, you look so happy’ – and yes, this is the photo.  

Like many others, I’ve become – er – very well-rounded during the pandemic isolation. But heck, I’m 81 now; I don’t have to look like any fashionable ideal (not that I ever did). So I posted the photo on facebook and Instagram, just because it’s so happy and colourful. I was plump as a little kid, with a mop of white-blonde curls, and often a big grin. This photo reminds me of the happiest snaps of me when I was little. (‘Second childhood’ takes on a new meaning!)

[People loved seeing the photo, and told me I looked beautiful. Take that, Inner Critic!]

I always seem to end up having extended birthdays. This year I took left-over birthday cake next day to a women writers’ group I mentor – and they gave me another one! At a different writers’ group the day after that I was given more pressies. The good wishes kept coming in, on the social media and by phone. I've been feeling delightfully spoilt.

So let’s continue the party mood here! I invite you to write something celebratory. Or else to tell us about a particular celebration, real or imagined. New writing please, one per person, poetry or prose. Prose – a maximum of 369 words excluding title – may be fiction or non-.

Please post your piece on your blog and add your link below. We’ll love it if you also find time to leave us a comment, link to this P&SU post at your blog, and read and comment on some of the other participants’ offerings. (Yes, we know you know all this, but we need to keep repeating it for the newcomers who show up every so often.)

Have fun!

Sunday, November 15, 2020

Writers' Pantry 46: Playing Catch Up

Hello, Word Artists and Admirers! The last few weeks had me hyper-focusing on certain things *cough* to the exclusion of others. While I am super glad that my work (and the work of many, many others) paid off, I now need to, among other things, wrangle dust bunnies into submission (do you know how much corgis shed?) and switch out the summer clothes for winter clothes. I’m enjoying catching up on favorite podcasts and playlists as I go along. Do you like to have something playing in the background while cleaning too?


I'm listening to a fair bit of Hamilton lately.

On to the business of words. Later this week, Rosemary will ask us to write something celebratory, or to tell us about a particular celebration, real or imagined (heh, I may have some ideas). But for today, I am taking words both old and new, fiction or non-fiction, poetry or prose. One entry per person please, and if you choose prose, please keep it to 369 words or fewer.

Wednesday, November 11, 2020

Weekly Scribblings #45: Artistic Interpretation

Warmest Wednesday greetings, beloved poets and storytellers. If you see or hear or feel a ginormous smile in my introductory words, then you are obviously very perceptive. Because I am smiling from spirit to flesh, and I hope you have a chance (or 3) to do the same. I know the world remains in chaos. I know too many people continue to be affected by COVID-19. But the results of the recent US elections give me (and my ink) some hope. Again, I hope this feeling is true for you, too. 

For today’s prompt, I invite you to write new poetry or prose inspired by one (or all) of the paintings below. If the visual art doesn’t quite get your ink flowing, you can choose to use one (or all) of the quotes accompanying the paintings as inspiration. Do let us know which painting(s) and/or quote(s) inspired your contribution.

Beautiful, YOU Are, by Magic Love Crow

“You are imperfect, permanently and inevitably flawed. And you are beautiful.”
~ Amy Bloom ~


Delightful Donkey, by Gina Morley

“I am here, come closer,” the old donkey said with her eyes. “I will mother you.”
~ Katherine Dunn ~

 Carnival Dreams, by Shelle Kennedy

“And now here is my secret, a very simple secret: It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye.”
~ Antoine de Saint-Exupéry ~


As usual, the Weekly Scribblings is an invitation to write new poetry or prose. This prompt will stay open for a week. One link per participant, please. If you choose to delight us with prose, the word count should be 369 words or fewer. Let us see, feel, write, read (and spread the joy that is ink).

Be safe. Be kind. Be wonderfully you.

Sunday, November 8, 2020

Writers' Pantry #45: Horses and courses.

Right, dear wordsmiths, I trust those most affected by it are now recovering from last Tuesday's big event. I refer, of course, to the Melbourne Cup. As we say here, ‘the race that stops a nation’. 


(Oh yes, there was that election too, but I might leave that one alone.) 







I never gamble myself, having once been married – very briefly – to a compulsive gambler, which put me off for life. So I don’t bet on the Cup (or anything else). I do, however, like to watch the race on TV. I enjoy seeing the beautiful horses parade their way to the starting blocks, and admiring the jockeys’ colourful silks. I like to see if I can guess beforehand which will win. It’s the only horse race I ever watch, and that would probably apply to many other Aussies too. It’s one of those things: you just gotta. In the State of Victoria it's a public holiday – even in this year of the pandemic.

It wasn’t a very dramatic spectacle. For one thing there were no crowds of spectators drinking bubbly, showing off costumes elegant in the extreme, colourfully outrageous, or designed to raise a laugh. No Fashions on the Field competition this year, obviously. The pandemic meant no crowds allowed. The rose gardens at Flemington Racecourse were as profuse and beautifully kept as ever, but that seemed a bit pointless without people walking among them to enjoy them up close. The big metal gates to the course were locked. 

The race itself also seemed less dramatic than usual. The winner was the front-runner all the way. It was the jockey's first Melbourne Cup ride. A nice young man, he also became a father for the first time this year. His 2020 was better than most!

Michelle Payne was one of the few people there — not as a jockey this year but a special guest commentator, looking happy and pretty. She made history a few years ago as the first (and so far only) woman to ride the winner of the Melbourne Cup. Now that was an exciting race! Perhaps you saw the movie they made about it, Ride Like a Girl. It was pretty exciting too.

We heard on the news later that evening that there was some excitement this year after all, but not the kind anyone wants. One of the favourites broke a fetlock in the home straight and had to be euthanised. On the TV news they showed the bit we didn’t see from our living rooms while the race was being run — the horse, behind most of the field, suddenly leaping and twisting. I remembered what’s too easy to forget: horse racing is not always very kind to horses. Then someone quoted statistics.

On average, one racehorse dies every 3 days in Australia, often from catastrophic limb injuries, cardiac arrest or internal bleeding. In the 2019 – 2020 racing year, 116 horses died on the track.

If you can bear to know more, Google will find you the details of many more injuries which don’t immediately lead to death but still make horrific reading.

Things are not always what they seem. Or perhaps they are what they seem, and they are other things as well. I can’t believe for a minute that those two nice young jockeys are cruel to horses. I think they love horses. Can they not know? Do they think it’s unavoidable? Where does the buck stop? 

With me, for one. 81-year-old me with less time left than I once had to speak, to write, to sign petitions. I can’t unsee those statistics now. I don’t have time to bury my head in the sand, and neither do all those horses have time for me to do that. But I can't help all by myself.

It also stops with all the decent people who want the world to be kind and honest – which is most of us. We might have disagreements on how to get there, but we want the same outcomes by and large.


We might be limited in some respects. E.g. my old legs and lungs are past marching in protests now. I do what I can. It isn't all that much, by myself; but, as my Dad always taught me, if everyone tries as well as they can to do the right thing, it will add up.

And sometimes, too, it’s OK to turn away for a little moment – to look at a flower or a sunset, to read a child a fairy story. To 'light a candle rather than curse the darkness'. To find ways to restore our own souls and nourish our own joy, rather than be overwhelmed with rage or despair. 

What would you like to share with us today? We welcome it all: poetry or prose, new or old, light or dark, in any style, on any subject. One piece each, please; and if it’s prose, make it 369 words max (apart from title). Post your link below, pause to leave a comment if you have a minute, and enjoy the varied fare in this, our latest Pantry. Together, we create a feast! 

Advance notice:  On Wednesday, Magaly will ask us to write new poetry or prose inspired by one (or all) of the three paintings shared on this link: ‘Beautiful, YOU are’ by Magic Love Crow, ‘Delightful Donkey’ by Gina Morley, and/or ‘Carnival Dreams’ by Shelle Kennedy. For this prompt, your imagination is the limit. Do let us know which painting(s) inspired your contribution. 

Racehorse image is from Unsplash, with thanks to Daniel Bonilla.