Wednesday, July 28, 2021

Weekly Scribblings #80: Sudden Moments

Hello  again, dear Wordsmiths. How are you surviving the weather, the pandemic, the politics? Escaping into books (if only temporarily) is one of my strategies.

Lately I’ve been reading Tim Winton – such a beautiful writer! 


This time it’s not one of his brilliant novels, but The Boy Behind the Curtain, a collection of autobiographical stories which the blurb describes as ‘a powerful evocation of those charged moments that make up a life’. It further describes these moments as, ‘joyous, traumatic and transformational.’ In the early part of the book, which is where I am, they are moments of accident and havoc.

Winton himself says, in the book, that he has been ‘a chronicler of sudden moments … the abrupt and the headlong’. Certainty, he suggests, is an illusion, yet we have come to expect it. He tells of an editor rejecting one of his stories on the grounds that 'the shark attack came out of nowhere' – as if that were 'so unlikely as to seem improper'. 

The book was written in 2016. By now we have been reminded en masse that life is not as predictable as it may seem. 

On the other hand, we can get a sixth sense. He mentions also the 'sudden, skin-prickling proximity to havoc’ in situations of danger, whereby ‘sometimes its arrival is no real surprise at all … If you’re attuned, you can see things coming unstuck before it starts to happen, and it’s an eerie feeling.’

At this point he’s talking about catastrophic events, but the same prescience might also apply to the joyously serendipitous.

I would love to read what you have to say about sudden events which people somehow sensed coming – and also those which they didn’t. Whether traumatic or joyous, your own or someone else’s, real or fictional – that’s up to you.

New or newish writing, please, or old stuff considerably reworked; one per person; verse or prose, with prose capped at 369 words. Link us to your post via Mister Linky below; and leave us a few words here, too, if you will.

On Sunday Magaly will host our next Writers' Pantry, on the first day of August. Goodness, how did we get here so fast?

Sunday, July 25, 2021

Writers’ Pantry #80: The Struggle Is Real

Greetings, poets and storytellers. I hope you are well—nice and cool, if you happen to be in the Northern Hemisphere; and keeping warm, if you are in the Southern Hemisphere. Right now, Im too hot, too sore, and my body is beyond annoyed with me. I would share some details, but I’m much too tired. So, here are some memes that tell most of the tale:

Yep, the struggle is real.

But enough of that. We aren’t here to discuss the silliness of people who workout too hard, when they know that their body isn’t ready. We are here to write and share.

So, let’s open the Pantry! We welcome poetry or prose, new or old, fiction or nonfiction, short or longish (if choosing prose, your word count should be 369 words or fewer). Only one link per participant, please. This prompt shall remain open for a week. Lets do words!

for our next Weekly Scribblings, Rosemary will be asking us to write about "sudden events which the people involved somehow sensed coming"—or didn’t.

Wednesday, July 21, 2021

Weekly Scribblings #79: On My Way

Hello, Word Artists and Admirers! I am back after a relaxing vacation. Well, mostly relaxing. Dealing with the traffic, especially around Connecticut, this year was a mighty pain. Also the days of being able to drive for hours and hours with no ill effects on my or my husband’s back are behind us. So we decided to break up the trip with a stop at a really cute inn in upstate NY. It got me thinking about the idea of a way station. Merriam-Webster defines a way station as 1: a station set between principal stations on a line of travel (such as a railroad) 2: an intermediate stopping place.

Your challenge this week is to use the idea of a way station as your inspiration for writing. You don’t have to use the word in your word art, but the idea of it must be made clear. I’m taking poetry and prose, fiction and non-fiction, new or heavily re-worked pieces. Just be sure to keep your prose pieces to 369 words or fewer and one entry per person. Thanks!

Sunday, July 18, 2021

Writers' Pantry #79: The Latest on the Shortest

... or the latest I'm aware of, anyway.
Hello again, dear wordsmiths. 

I promised you some time ago that you wouldn’t entirely lose the Friday features you used to like, which we discontinued in that format. This post, I guess, is a cross between the old  ‘Moonlight Musings’ and ‘Roving the Web’, with a bit of ‘I Wish I’d Written This’.


Whether you enjoyed or were challenged by Magaly’s invitation to micro-writing last Wednesday – or both (I was both!) – I guess we can all agree that haiku/senryu are the shortest of the lot. In modern practice, they don’t even have to be 17 syllables (whereas an American Sentence must).

As a post-script to Magaly’s prompt, I’ve been finding out all sorts of stuff while roving the web, which might interest you too.


I had been thinking of senryu as a kind of poor cousin to haiku. I understood that senryu are often humorous or satirical, or even downright rude, and are about people in particular, whereas classical haiku are supposed to be about (any other aspect of) Nature in general.

Then I started reading about Issa, one of the acknowledged great haiku masters, and re-reading his haiku too. He loved to write of human nature as much as other kinds. Indeed, his haiku on other parts of Nature often highlight or comment on aspects of human nature, by inference. He endeared himself to readers in his Japan, and to many of his current readers too, by his fellow-feeling with the common people rather than the rich and powerful.

Meanwhile I discovered two facebook sites which showed me that senryu have quite a following in their own right. One is the group Senryu Circle, described as ‘The Home of English Senryu! … a place that EXCLUSIVELY supports senryu … to provide senryu a space to continue and grow.’ Members can post senryu they admire, as well as their own.

The other is Failed Haiku, a page for an e-journal of the same name, subtitled, ‘a journal of English Senryu’, which has just published its 67th issue. 


Failed Haiku


The fb page has news of the latest journal issues and so forth. The web site is an even more interesting read. One of the journal editors, Mike Rehling, says, on its About page:

Many years ago, at a haiku meeting, someone asked me what my definition of a senryu was, and I said: “It is just a failed haiku is all.” It was a flip answer, not particularly literary, but I have grown to like it for both its brevity and its lack of preciseness, both of which fit the spirit of senryu perfectly.

They may be failed haiku, but they are not bad haiku! (Even if they are senryu, lol.) Issue 67 includes these recent contest winners:

First Prize
how white the shirt
of the rapist
Arvinder Kaur

Second Prize
first cry . . .
I too am born
a mother
Agnes Eva Savich

Third Prize
white privilege—
a protester asks
to use the bathroom
Kelley White

In keeping with much current English practice, these don’t observe a 5/7/5 syllable count, but they do respect other qualities of haiku, such as the juxtaposition of two ideas, and the kigo (or turn in thought, here indicated by punctuation) even though the magazine editors do not insist on that feature. Above all, they leave space for readers to enter in with our own minds: that moment of surprise / realisation.

Bad Haiku

I also found, elsewhere, a link to a new collection of school children’s haiku. It was a sad example of the bad teaching of haiku which happens in too many schools! All of them were neatly 5/7/5, all of them stated the obvious, and none of them was the least bit poetic. It’s possible to write lovely haiku in English in 5/7/5 syllables. We have shining examples in this community, in the persons of Magical Mystery Teacher and Gillena, among others. (I still do it myself, now and then.) What I object to is kids being taught that that is the ONLY thing that makes a haiku.

(I won’t give you examples from that publication, however, nor name it. Public shaming only makes people – in this case kids – feel bad, and does nothing to improve matters.)


Let me close by regaling you with some favourite pieces from dear Issa. David Lanoue, the author of the book I’m reading about him, suggests that when Issa talks of such humble creatures as worms, insects, fish, he’s obliquely referring to people too, and that his overtly down-to-earth verses also refer to ‘Pure Land’ Buddhist teachings about the blessings open to all despite this world’s impermanence and corruption.

(This centred alignment is how they are written in the book, and Lanoue's translations ignore syllable count in English, in the interests of being faithful to the poet's meaning.)

a precious harp
a beggar's flute
deep in mist


this fallen world
with cherry blossom


in cherry blossom shade
no one
is a stranger


unaware of the bucket...
a cool evening


locked in a staring contest
and a frog

and one I think we can all relate to just now (maybe we said something like it around last Christmas):

end quickly!
this year, you've been
an evil one

Now, please regale me and each other with anything you like, old or new, short or long, poetry or prose. (But if prose, no longer than 369 words, please.)

I was so enthused by Magaly’s micro-writing prompt that I rushed to write in every form she suggested. Luckily I double-checked and realised I had to limit it to one only. Some of you, similarly enthusiastic, also wrote more than required and posted them too, so we stood you in the naughty corner (deleted your posts). But we’re all free to share those today, and I certainly will. I’m kinda hopeful of a plethora of micro-writings in this Pantry. But whatever you come up with, I know it will be a feast.

Pop the link to your post in Mister Linky below, one post per person, and don't forget to have a look at each other's and leave an encouraging comment if you can. We love it when you leave a comment here, too, if only to say G'day (or Hi, or whatever that is in your language).

Next Wednesday, Rommy will ask us to write poetry or prose using the word ‘waystation’ as inspiration.

Wednesday, July 14, 2021

Weekly Scribblings #78: Micro-writings

I enjoy micro-poetry and micro-storytelling. I understand that not everyone feels this way.  Once (or twice *cough*), I heard a writer say that a haiku is “too vague to say anything real” and that “micro-stories are a sign of laziness brought on by social media”. After I finished rolling my eyes and glaring (yes, at the same time, I can be quite skilled when I combine disbelief and disdain) I reminded the writer of the famous 6-word story, attributed to Hemingway:

“For sale: baby shoes, never worn.”

I’ve read that micro-story hundreds of times, and it still breaks my heart. I don’t know of anyone who can read this without feeling the loss. The whole story is there. In six words.

And I don’t even know what to say about the ridiculous idea of haiku being “too vague” to show reality. That is a heap of nonsense. How could anyone read Bashō and think haiku negatively ambiguous? Seriously, can you read the following two translations of this Bashō haiku and believe the imagery “too vague” to speak clearly of what’s left after war? Anyone who can read this without feeling its vast power has my deepest condolences.

“summer grasses--
all that remains
of warriors’ dreams”

 “waves of summer grass:
all that remains of soldiers’
impossible dreams”

Today, my dear poets and storytellers, I invite you to take your muse into world of Micro-writing. As always, you can write poetry or prose. If choosing poetry, you can write a haiku, a senryū, an American sentence, a tanka, or an elfchen. If going for prose, then the genre is your choice, but the word count must be exactly 69 words.

Please, only one poem or prose piece per participant.

I suspect most of us (all right, me) might never be able to produce masterpieces like those quoted, but I’m quite certain that most of us can birth a splendid piece of micro-writing.

This prompt will stay open for one week. We welcome new prose or poetry, or old pieces that have been significantly rewritten. One link per participant, as always. But unlike our usual Weekly Scribblings, this particular prompt limits poetry contributions to the forms offered above (haiku, senryū, American sentence, tanka, or elfchen) and prose contributions to exactly 69 words. I know I’m repeating myself, but I just really want to see what wonders we produce with a rather limited number of words.

Let’s write succinctly. And comment at length.