Monday, January 28, 2008

Monday Poetry Train - Divine Creation

Every once in a while I have a "missing my father moment." He died almost two years ago and I can't believe it's been that long already.

As usual, I used the 5 magic words from Michelle's Poefusion Blog

divine creation

today I am glass
inspired by a tome
of pink halos
left drying in the sun

you and the universe cohere
flying presently past
the dandelion field I awoke from
not so long ago

life is three days you said
on your death bed a man
now a boy
to a woman
not yet finished and
after you left
all I could offer was dedications
in books the pages years but if your
philosophy is true they are minutes
and I am flying through them with
you in my arms

today I am glass you warm me
immersed in your heart the one
that stopped beating
the one I drew my hand to
and closed your eyes

today I went to boxing class felt the
muscles of my arms as I punched
red gloves into red gloves inside the smell of
bodies burning
bending towards
no time

today I am glass
or tears or snowflakes my
eyes don’t know at any moment
what I am doing other than needing
to be in love

The Friday Five words were: create, immerse, glass, dandelion, and cohere

Join Rhian's Poetry Train, everyone's doing it.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

The Word on Wednesday - What is Stephen Harper Reading?

You don't have to be Canadian to enjoy this website. As a matter of fact, I think someone should start this same idea with President Bush (although keep it to books under a 6th grade reading level).

What is Stephen Harper Reading?

Yann Martel, author of the book The Life of Pi, which I read a few years ago, is sending Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper a new book every two weeks, along with a letter about why he chose that particular book. He's been doing this since last April and vows to keep doing so for as long as he is in office.

The books are meant to help the PM (or anyone) cultivate a stillness, which Martel deems as necessary if one is to enjoy the arts.

The idea was inspired after Martel was invited to the House of Commons with 49 other artists to celebrate 50 years of Canadian Arts and Culture.

The moment had come. Question Period was over and we were now going to be officially acknowledged by the House.

The Honourable Bev Oda, Minister for Canadian Heritage, whose seat on the government benches is as far away from the Prime Minister’s as is possible for a member of the cabinet, rose to her feet, acknowledged our presence and began to speak. We stood up, not for ourselves but for the Canada Council. Her speech was short. There was a flutter of applause. Then Minister Oda sat down, our business was over, MPs instantly turned to other things, and we were still standing. That was it. Fifty years of building Canada’s dazzling and varied culture, done with in less than five minutes.


The Prime Minister did not speak during our brief tribute, certainly not. I don’t think he even looked up. The snarling business of Question Period having just ended, he was shuffling papers. I tried to bring him close to me with my eyes.

Who is this man? What makes him tick? No doubt he is busy. No doubt he is deluded by that busyness. No doubt being Prime Minister fills his entire consideration and froths his sense of busied importance to the very brim. And no doubt he sounds and governs like one who cares little for the arts.

But he must have moments of stillness. And so this is what I propose to do: not to educate—that would be arrogant, less than that—to make suggestions to his stillness.

On his website, Martel has listed all the books he has sent, along with all the letters... and the one very brief response from Harper's assistant after he sent the first book, The Death of Ivan Ilych. There have been no other responses.

The book list is quite varied and interesting. I've only read 5 of them myself, so I better get reading as well!

Monday, January 21, 2008

Monday Poetry Train - no matter

It's still Monday in the Pacific Northwest.

This is my take on missing the bus today.

no matter

it is no matter
missing the bus
my composition shifting
outside the forgotten structure of
last night’s yellow dream
glassy eyed and grotesque from
too much busy mind I welcome the sun’s
cosmopolitan greeting holding life
momentarily by a shoe
the birds commute west
an interlude
between cosmic sheets
of music no matter to the
stage production below
no matter
their chemistry neglects intension
draws spirit from the body
of instruction and

Friday's fives on Poefusion were:


Take a Ride on the Poetry Train. It's good for you.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Weekend Writing Workout #11 - Oh, the agony...

I've gotten to what I call the SLOGGY part of my story.

I've lost my way, it doesn't seem to be moving anywhere significant, and my characters don't seem motivated (i.e. I'm pushing them through the story instead of them leading me through it).

This is about the time when I look at every other idea I have and think... hmmm, maybe I should be working on that instead? Look, shiny object!

But I don't think switching stories is a good idea. I think it's best to push through the slog to the end and see what you've got.

It's time for some good old fashioned spontaneous writing. Writing from the gut. The wilder the better. When the inspiration seems to have left and I have to drag myself to the page, it's time to think outside the box.

(even if you're not in the slog, you can still play along)

Pick whatever piece of writing it is you're going to work on. See where you are and think about what comes next.

Step 1) Set your timer for 5-7 minutes. At the top of your page, write the start: The scene that needs to be written is... because...

After you finish with that thought, write This scene needs to be written because... and start the next thought. Keep writing This scene needs to be written because... until you hit something, an idea, and then take off! At this point, no more punctuation. Just write in one long stream of consciousness. REMEMBER to write without stopping, without crossing out, without editing. If you get stuck, you can always start again with This scene needs to be written because...


The scene that needs to be written is the scene where Mabbe confronts Croilus because it gets Mabbe outside of her burl. This scene needs to be written because it's where Zhay learns that Brigitta was telling the truth. It needs to be written because it's where Zhay loses it and all his anger about being abandoned by the Ancients bursts forth and he attacks Mabbe but she's too strong for him and she strikes him down and when that happens the spell seed falls to the ground and they...

Step 2) Set your timer for 5-7 minutes. Pick one of the following as your start line:

In this scene my protagonist learns...
In this scene my protagonist reveals...
In this scene my protagonist proves...

You can also put in another character if that works better for you. In this scene my villain, my antagonist, my protagonist's mother... feel free to make it work for you.

The important thing is that a character learns or reveals or proves something. This will help move your story forward.

Again, total stream of consciousness, no punctuation, no editing, no stopping. Allow yourself to write the first thing that comes out of your pen. It's not permanent! We're getting ideas


In this scene Brigitta proves that she can fight the force of the green zynthia and she believes it has to do with her having both air and water elements now and she discovers that she is more powerful than before and the extra element has made it easier to manipulate her environment and there is no way to give it back and maybe it was her first true element...

Step 3) Set your timer for 3-5 Minutes. It's time for a "What if" wild flow! By wild I mean don't discount any thought or idea. Let the What Ifs fall where they may. This is a list that you write as fast as you can. You can simply start with What if... on each line, or use any of the following prompts:

During this scene, what if...
After this scene, what if...
After my protagonist reveals ____, what if...
After my protagonist learns ____, what if...
After my protagonist proves _____, what if...


After Brigitta reveals that she can overpower the zythia...
what if Croilus realizes the prophesy is coming true?
What if Devin and Ferris attack Zhay?
What if Brigitta thinks Croilus is going to attack the White Forest?
What if Zhay tries to kill Croilus?

Usually at least one lightbulb goes on during this exercise. But you've got to just let go and allow it to happen. Write as fast as you can, keeping pen on the page. Afterwards, you can go back and mark items that you like.

You should now be sufficiently pumped to write the next scene! I know I am. I learned at least three things about where I'm going next.

Have a great weekend!

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Monday Poetry Train - Grief

Okay, how's this for wacky.

I wrote a poem yesterday as an example for a writing exercise.

Today I went to Poefusion's Friday Five to get the weekly words for my Monday Poetry Train poem. I just happened to have used two of those words in yesterday's poem. Ooooh, twilight zone, man... considering all the English words in the world.

So, I decided to rewrite the poem, adding the remaining three words.

The words were: cease, intense, floss, prey, swallow

To see the original poem, and also the exercise through which I created this poem, CLICK HERE.


She sobs at the kitchen table
surrounded by yesterday's mail
floss of hair cascading around
shoulders’ intense wracking
through an irreparable crack
in the foundation of
her daily routine

Life with my father would forever more
be a litany of past-tenses
He was a good man...
He had a contagious smile...
He loved his work...

Dinner, newspapers, the garden
all but pain ceased to exist
it swallowed us whole

Grief, true grief,
is helpless and empty-handed
an immeasurable wrench
preying on the gut
no mortal words
can relieve

Jump on Rhian's Poetry Train. You know you want to.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Weekend Writing Workout #10 - Objects / Images / Incidences (#5 of 5)

Hey, it's only taken me 2 months to get back to this... life gets in the way like that... This is the final installment of the Object / Image / Incident 5 part exercise series.

The following exercise was inspired by Milan Kundera. I call it a "literary definition."

Kundera often comes up with fabulous "definitions" for things via an incident or image. For instance:

"The brain appears to possess a special area which we might call poetic memory and which records everything that charms or touches us, that makes our lives beautiful... Their love story did not begin until afterwards: she fell ill and he was unable to send her home as he had the others. Kneeling by her as she lay sleeping in his bed, he realized that someone had sent her downstream in a bulrush basket. I have said before that metaphors are dangerous. Love begins with a metaphor. Which is to say, love begins at the point when a woman enters her first word into our poetic memory."

I've always admired that definition of love. Well, we can't all be Milan Kundera, but we can have fun with this idea of creating definitions. The idea is to pick an abstract idea (we'll focus on an emotion) and define it by first visualizing the demonstration of it. Then we'll write the definition of it using that demonstration.

First we start with an incident.


Set your timer for 3-5 minutes for this warm-up exercise using the "I Remember" technique invented by poet Joe Brainard. Think back to your childhood, to an incident that still conjures an emotion (joy, fear, excitement, guilt, grief, embarrassment, etc). Start your timer, write the words "I remember" and continue the sentence, recalling the memory.

Without stopping to think or edit, simply keep writing lines, forming a "list-poem" with the words "I remember" starting each line. Do not write " " marks, you need to actually write the words "I remember" on each line, as it gives you a moment to find the next memory. See where the memories take you. You can skip through time as much as you like. Don't think too hard about it, just let it flow...


I remember dancing around a pizza parlor during my 6th birthday in my favourite long green and purple dress, thinking I knew how to tap dance. I couldn't stop dancing and everyone was watching and laughing with me.

I remember my mom tripping over the cat and hitting her head against the wall. She started bleeding everywhere and I ran to the neighbor's house to get help.

I remember my mom sobbing at the kitchen table the night after my Dad died.

I remember sticking a paperclip into a light socket and getting shocked.

I remember my friend riding her bigwheel into her pool and her Dad jumping in and saving her.

I remember singing "Hello My Baby" in a can-can line at my friend Kiki's house.


This could be a poem itself... but wait, there's more!


Pick any one of the above lines, especially if it conjures a strong emotion. Move the memory around in your head, what do you SEE?

Set your timer for 3-5 minutes. Without stopping, simply jot down a list of the images you associate with this memory.


old brown kitchen table with green legs
my mom bent over, her shoulders shaking as she sobs
her reddish blonde hair
newspapers piled up in the corner
mail piled on the table
dinner plates


Now, name the emotion. Then, demonstrate the emotion through the incident. Use the images from your list in your paragraph or to inspire your paragraph or both. When you get to the end of the paragraph, write your definition. The key is to put yourself in that moment and to FEEL, really feel, the emotion. Then describe it in words as if writing it in a literary dictionary. This is an invaluable tool for a writer.


I watched my mother sob at the kitchen table - shaking, wracking sobs that burst through an irreparable crack in the foundation that was her daily routine. Her life with my father would forever more be a litany of past-tenses. He was a good man. He had a contagious smile. He loved his work...

In that moment, all but her pain ceased to exist. I could only watch as it swallowed her whole. Grief, true grief, the one that leaves us helpless and empty-handed, is an immeasurable wrench of the gut that no mortal words can relieve.

What to do with this? Well, try a bunch and see which ones you like best.

You can then use them to create a poem
or perhaps place them inside a short story or a novel as part of your character's experience.


My mother sobs at the kitchen table -
surrounded by yesterday's mail -
wracking sobs that burst
through an irreparable crack
in the foundation of
her daily routine

Life with my father would forever more
be a litany of past-tenses
He was a good man...
He had a contagious smile...
He loved his work...

Dinner, newspapers, the garden
all but her pain ceased to exist
it swallowed her whole

Grief, true grief,
leaves us helpless and empty-handed
an immeasurable wrench of the gut
no mortal words can relieve

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

The WORD on Wednesday - Band Name Generator

This site turned out to be way more fun than I had anticipated.

I needed a name for a female rock band for a mockumentary web series. I threw in a few words an ended up with Hell Sister Rebellion, Hell Sister Fiesta, and Suburban Hell Sisters. (hmmm, notice a theme?)

If you are ever in the need of a band name for a novel or screenplay, Band Name Maker is the place. There are other band name generator sites, but I like Band Name Maker because you can put a word or two in yourself and it will use those words in the name. Other sites like Band Name Generator or Rock and Roll Generator or Random Band Name Generator simply put random words together (although the last one allows you to pick the style of music).

Just for fun (on Band Name Maker) I put in the words "accidental," "novelist," and "accidental novelist" and came up with these gems:

Campground Of The Accidental Chihuahua
Accidental Hallucination
Misplaced Novelist
Delayed Novelist Emergency
Accidental Novelist Of The Lucid Sunday
Flannel Accidental Novelist And The Girlfriend

Anyone interested in forming a band?

Post other names in your comments if you try it out.

Monday, January 7, 2008

Monday Poetry Train - Double Triolet

Because I am a sucker for assignments in form and poetic challenges... I combined two of Poefusions assignments, one being a triolet (which I haven't written in years) and the other being her Friday Five (in which she picks five random words we have to write in our poem).

When I was at Naropa, poet Pat Reed had us write what she called "double sonnets" and "double triolets." Which were basically one right after the other either continuing the sentiment or, even more fun, responding to it.

One thing that wasn't mentioned on Poefusion, is that a traditional triolet is written in iambic tetrameter.

Double Triolet for a Mind’s Mad Fiction

When I reach sleep I dream as moss
concordant breath connecting me
to other world’s distorted toss
when I reach sleep I dream as moss
bewildered lashes fishing free
when I reach sleep I dream as moss
concordant breath connecting me

I reminisce throughout the day
about the polestar of that path
across the vellum on display
I reminisce throughout the day
bookmarking mind’s material bath
I reminisce throughout the day
about the polestar of that path

Poefusion's Friday Five: fiction, reminisce, moss, distorted, vellum

Okay, I DID it... I didn't say it was a GOOD poem. haha.

Get on the Poetry Train