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Poem Tryouts: If You Could

8:09 a.m. — San Antonio

listening to Yellow River sung by Christie (I’ve always loved this song but didn’t know the group singing it, or that they are British)

Hello, everyone. Ready for an image, or two? I came across one, recently, that I immediately fell in love with, then stumbled on one that offers a contrast in perspective. Hang on, while I get them up.

cube setting

by Gustavo Fernandes

Say we live in a time where you can order your own pillar of setting. What would you choose to have depicted in your pillar?

Or, if you want to feel cosier about it, how about a jar you can place on a shelf.

scene in a jar

What is in your jar?

As always, you can approach this in any way your mind takes you. You can be literal, you can be figurative, you can link to something your brain tosses up. You can use both images, or one. You do not have to mention the images from which your poem arises, but you may. I look forward to seeing what happens.

I will see you Thursday for links and Tuesday for a prose based prompt. It’s NaNoWriMo time.

Happy writing, all.

 
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Posted by on 27/10/2015 in exercises, poetry

 

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Poem Tryouts: Indelible

9:08 a.m. — San Antonio

listening to Daylight by Maroon 5

Hello, everyone. All well, I hope. The car fit in the garage, yesterday, for the first time in weeks, thanks to a niece and her husband, who carted off a load of furniture. The house is habitable. Now we fine tune.

The idea for the prompt comes from a poem written by Sara way back in January, in  response to another prompt of mine. That prompt asks for a moment in a movie, or on television, that evoked a response from you. This is similar, but it’s not the response as much as an image, I am interested in. Read the last six lines of the poem then come back.

…..

Okay? Okay. Is there a television show or a movie you cannot rewatch because of an indelible image? There are plenty of shows and movies I don’t watch because my imagination is far too active, but only one I won’t watch and that’s the movie The Great Escape. Possibly if I had watched it as an adult, or at least an older teenager, I would have been okay, but I was twelve and the scene where the escapers hit the fence and are frozen in the lights gave me nightmares and has never left my consciousness.

Think of one such image for yourself and write the image, or write the moment, or write the part of you that cannot deal with the image. Although I am asking for an autobiographical moment, feel free to write in third person and to make up details, as needed.

But I have none, you cry. I’ll take a photograph you saw in the news, or a magazine, even an image so well described in a novel that you remember it and have not reread the novel. For me that would be something from Toni Morrison’s Beloved.

Let’s see what you come up with. I look forward to visiting you. Yes, I am finally back (yes, it’s about damn time). I’ll see you Thursday for links and next Tuesday for our image prompt.

Happy writing, all.

 
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Posted by on 22/09/2015 in exercises, poetry

 

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Poem Tryouts: Photos as Metaphors

7:31 a.m. — Atlanta

listening to John Whelan Skimming the Surface (instrumental)

Well, hello there. As I chortled over my idea for today’s prompt, based on one of Friday’s roundup prompts, I forgot this is image day, so have had to put aside my glee. I am always casting around for what I want to use as image, my greatest problem being one of provenance. The photographs I am using, therefore, are staying where I found them, but collected in one place. Field-trip!

For today’s exercise, the photographs are vehicles only. You are not writing about them, but about the metaphoric instance. I have written suggestions under each photograph. As always, should you have a completely different metaphor in mind, go with it. If you look at a photograph and something catches your poetic mind that you want to write about and it has nothing to do with metaphors and everything to do with the image… well, these things happen. Go with that, too.

Field-trip location: Go here. Don’t forget to bring sandwiches and coffee.

I shall see you Thursday for a couple of links; Friday for the prompt round-up; and next Tuesday for my put off prompt.

Happy writing, all.

 

 
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Posted by on 24/09/2013 in exercises, poetry

 

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Poem Tryouts: Before, During, or After the Storm

9:35 a.m. — Walnut Creek

Hello, everyone. I am sitting here freezing my tootsies and refusing my mother’s offer of turning on
the heat for a bit. It’s JULY. In CALIFORNIA.

I added another layer of clothing. naturehdwallpaper.com 73128

 

Today is all about images. You can choose one
and respond to it specifically; you can mash
a couple of them together; you can look at them generally, but come up 300px-High_Park_Wildfire_Arapaho_and_Roosevelt_National_Forests_June_10,_2012with your own

 

 
storm poem based on something you read, saw, or had happen; you can forage for your own image and use it as a spark.

 

You may, or may not, have noticed that I have chosen my storm images to match the four elements: air, water, earth, fire. I know, a bit of a stretch, but it tickled me when I noticed the purely serendipitous actuality. weather.com haboob_2

 

This did lead to my excluding a number of storms, so keep in mind hail, tornadoes, snow, and storms that occur in teacups.ocean_storms_01_hd_picture_166248

 

 

 

I shall see you next Tuesday for, let me see… ooh, free choice, almost. She grinned.

Happy writing, all.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
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Posted by on 16/07/2013 in exercises, poetry, writing

 

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Poem Tryouts: Try an Escher

7:28 a.m. — Atlanta

listening to The Only Living Boy in New York by Simon and Garfunkel

escher storiesHullo, everyone. Last Tuesday of the month is image day, when I remember, and today we are working with some of M. C. Escher’s prints. I chose a few that escher unravelingspark an interest in my mind, in hopes that we share similar ‘ooh’ factors.

Remember: the resulting poem does not have to have any apparent connection to the art that inspires it. The art is there for inspiration unless you deliberately write about the piece.

With some, such as the black and white above, you might want to tell escher koithe story of what appears to be going on in the piece, completely ignoring the Escher surreality. You may want to focus on one, or two, of the figures and just tell their stories. Or, you might decide to include the Escher factor metaphorically when telling the story. escher65

The piece up and to the right might start a piece on unraveling, either a story coming apart, or a person coming apart. Maybe it’s an unwinding, rather than an unraveling. Of course, it can also inspire you to write about peeling fruit.

The pieces to the right and above left, speak to reflections, or reflecting, as well as perspective. Like the others they may pull to mind story. Trust where your mind takes you.

escher eyeThis last piece is for the sheer fun of sharing it. The first image of the eye that I came across was fuzzy, so I was peering quite closely to see what the image at the centre is when I realised it.

Clicking on any image should give you a clearer and bigger image to contemplate. I look forward to seeing what Escher brings forth.

I shall see you Thursday for links; Friday for the prompt roundup; and, next Tuesday for the beginning of the summer calendar.

Happy writing, all.

 

 
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Posted by on 28/05/2013 in exercises, poetry, writing

 

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Thursday Thoughts: More Words That Have to Go

8:57 am — Atlanta

Hello dear readers. I hope everyone is well and writing. Today, I shall speak about a group of words and then we will take a week’s break from my telling you what you should not be using. Next week I shall talk about some internet resources I have found worth bookmarking. Then, it’s back to words that should be used sparingly.

The grouping for today:

this is,
is when,
is where,
here is/are, there is/are

The main problems with these phrases are their blandness, lack of specificity, and use of verbs of being, which contribute to the blandness. They say nothing. I said in a blog about active versus being verbs: This is not to say never use being verbs. Sometimes we want to have a state of being, but too much being leaves the reader with a fuzzy, and often dull, image. There is nothing to see when something is, as opposed to something running, singing, breaking…When you use being verbs, do so with deliberation and an awareness of the effect.

You read: “Look. There’s John.” Or you read: “Look. John is standing over by the fountain.” Which gives you a picture?

You read: “Where’s the bread?” “It’s here.” Or you read “The bread is on the cutting board.” I am still using a being verb in the second example, but I am talking about the state of the bread’s location. I am being specific about “here”.

In poetry your phrasing will be less stilted, but the rules of specificity and sensory imagery still apply. You need to give the poem and your readers something to hang onto: active verbs, specific whens and wheres.Your objective is to engage the readers’ senses.

Be aware in your own reading, not just of poetry, but of newspapers, magazines, and novels, of how often these phrases appear and how much the writing lacks because of them. Be aware, too, of the writing that does not use these phrases and how much richer and more concrete what you are reading about becomes.

Short and sweet today. I am in recovery mode from having a temporary crown put on a molar yesterday. I shall see you back here tomorrow for the last of the short roundups. Next week we are into May and I shall return to the regular roundup list. Tuesday will be ballad day, and next Thursday, bookmarkable sites.

Happy writing.

 
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Posted by on 28/04/2011 in poetry, writing

 

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Tuesday Tryouts: Blazon It!

8:33 — Atlanta

Hello all. I decided to show you the BLAZON. The form is not stressful and can be fun.You will need to think metaphorically, much like the delight song I asked you to write some weeks back, or surrealistically, as we did some months back. I have provided links for both posts, as we have new readers, and my long time readers may need a refresher. I know I would.

Here’s an excerpt from a BLAZON, a poem that itemizes the qualities of something or someone beloved:

Free Union
a 1931 poem by Andre Breton

My wife whose hair is a brush fire
Whose thoughts are summer lightning
Whose waist is an hourglass
Whose waist is the waist of an otter caught in the teeth of a tiger
Whose mouth is a bright cockade with the fragrance of a star of the first magnitude
Whose teeth leave prints like the tracks of white mice over snow
Whose tongue is made out of amber and polished glass
Whose tongue is a stabbed wafer
The tongue of a doll with eyes that open and shut
Whose tongue is an incredible stone
My wife whose eyelashes are strokes in the handwriting of a child
Whose eyebrows are nests of swallows
My wife whose temples are the slate of greenhouse roofs
With steam on the windows
My wife whose shoulders are champagne
Are fountains that curl from the heads of dolphins over the ice
My wife whose wrists are matches
Whose fingers are raffles holding the ace of hearts
Whose fingers are fresh cut hay

If you wish to read the entire poem, you can find it here. Note that Breton starts at the top and is working his way down the form of his wife. That is one of the conventions of a blazon.

Shakespeare, in his Sonnet 130, wrote a blazon, but did so by listing what the attributes of his speaker’s beloved are not.

My mistress’ eyes are nothing like the sun;
Coral is far more red than her lips’ red;
If snow be white, why then her breasts are dun;
If hairs be wires, black wires grow on her head.
I have seen roses damasked, red and white,
But no such roses see I in her cheeks,
And in some perfumes is there more delight
Than in the breath that from my mistress reeks.

I love to hear her speak, yet well I know,
That music hath a far more pleasing sound.
I grant I never saw a goddess go;
My mistress when she walks treads on the ground.
And yet, by heaven, I think my love as rare
As any she belied with false compare.

Your Blazon

I am going to broaden our options by suggesting that we can pick a person, or an object, or even a concept and that we can write a blazon where we dislike rather than like something. For one of the things/persons you love/hate, itemize the qualities this thing/person has.

To help you create images of the surrealistic kind, consider, as you list, how each quality affects you and your senses (touch, taste, hearing, smell, sight) and your emotions and your imagination.

List at least fifteen qualities and next to each, jot sensory associations. In case you have not gone back to the postings, I have copied an example of metaphor associations: Patience: turtle, stone, the colour grey, glaciers…they are your associations so don’t worry if others might think them odd. You will only have the metaphors and imagery, in the end.

Pick the ones you like and model your lines after Breton, or Shakespeare, or come up with your own way to list the attributes. You want specific images, sensory associations where possible.

Once you have about fifteen lines, arrange them in an order that makes sense to you, and reads well. Eliminate lines that don’t ring true, or don’t fit. Figure out how you want to end your poem. Finally, post the poem and post your link in comments, or post the poem in the comments here. Most of all, have fun with this.

I will see you Thursday for more words to avoid, and Friday for the week’s wrapup. If you know anyone who would enjoy blazoning, feel free to share. Happy writing.

 
8 Comments

Posted by on 19/04/2011 in exercises, poetry, writing

 

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Thursday Thoughts: To Be or To Do

9:09 am, Thursday — Atlanta

Verbs. No part of speech communicates as effectively as a richly active verb. Whenever you come across a dull being verb (am, are, is, were, was, be, being, been), try to reorganize your poem so as to employ, instead, a better and more active verb. You want the reader to interact with the poem and that happens with active verbs.

Here is what Moat and Fairfax, from The Way to Write, have to say: “Imagine you were around at the moment the rudiments of language were being discovered. First came the grunts in the shape of names — MAN. WOMAN. FIRE. Then from outside, MAMMOTH! One big name, speaking danger. But with it a new need, the need to name something entirely different. ‘What’s that mammoth up to?’ The verb was born.

Dependent on nouns, but powerful.

Not so powerful when the mammoth is merely being, when for instance he’s sleeping; but when he’s acting, when for instance he tosses you over his head, very powerful indeed.

Nouns may be the most loaded words, but verbs are the most dramatic.

‘The mammoth is asleep under the tree.’ That expresses a state of being; a calm observation — you might say it gives a false sense of security.

‘The mammoth sleeps under the tree.’ That’s more powerful. You get the feeling that the mammoth is putting his back into it. His sleeping has almost become an act. The reader is put on the alert.

‘The mammoth has gone to sleep under the tree.’ More powerful still. That really does suggest action. It also points out that the mammoth was awake beforehand. Now the drama’s creeping in. He might wake up.

All three statements are in the present. They all say the same thing — to the untuned ear. And that’s the point. The tuned ear detects the difference. A difference of meaning, and a difference of power. The writer must have an ear; and by discipline he must tune it to register where the power, and so the meaning, lies.”

Active vs. Being

This is not to say never use being verbs. Sometimes we want to have a state of being, but too much being leaves the reader with a fuzzy, and often dull, image. There is nothing to see when something is, as opposed to something running, singing, breaking…When you use being verbs, do so with deliberation and an awareness of the effect.

A friend, Kaspalita, who is part of a duo who created a network for writers, Writing Our Way Home, wrote a poem this morning that illustrates my point and he kindly allowed me to use it as an example.

I snort up the letters in your poem
enjoy the soft edges of your vowels
your consonants draw blood

I’m spraying ink onto the page
nothing is wrong/nothing is right
the paper skits under the speed of my hand

in the morning
illuminated in a pool of dawn
I see a heap of broken words, and
on the floor, dark letters cast aside in last night’s frenzy

the only things moving are motes of dust
caught by the sun

by Kaspalita, March 17, 2011

Note the active verbs and how they set the tone and drama of the poem. Be conscious of the images they give you. Find the being verbs. The speaker is speaking of a state of being in all cases. The being verbs are necessary, but are, as they should be, a small percentage of the verbs.

Go through one, or more, of your poems and highlight the active verbs and the being verbs. See how many being verbs you can make active and if you leave a verb of being, do so because you know it is the right verb.

Thank you if you stayed through to the end. There was no way I could shorten this [and I could have made it longer!]. If you have questions, or something you wish to comment on regarding verb use, please do comment.

I will see you tomorrow for the Friday roundup of prompts and exercises and Tuesday for the next phase of dialogue poems.

 
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Posted by on 17/03/2011 in poetry, writing

 

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Thursday Thoughts: It’s All About the Nouns

8:12 am, Thursday — Atlanta

Good Day to all. If you remember, last Thursday I set an exercise to prove a point about the strength of nouns in writing. In case you haven’t read last Thursday, here it is. You might revisit the post anyway to remind yourself how dreadful my adaptation is, before reading the poem below.

When you read Masefield’s poem “Cargoes,” note the specificity of nouns. Ask yourself how those nouns affect your reading of the poem. How do they affect the mood of each stanza? How does the imagery affect you sensorily?

 

ocal

CARGOES
John Mase field

Quinquireme of Nineveh from distant Ophir
Rowing home to haven in sunny Palestine,
With a cargo of ivory,
And apes and peacocks,
Sandalwood, cedarwood, and sweet white wine.

microsoft

Stately Spanish galleon coming from the Isthmus,
Dipping through the Tropics by the palm-green shores,
With a cargo of diamonds,
Emeralds, amethysts,
Topazes, and cinnamon, and gold moidores.

 

ocal

Dirty British coaster with a salt-caked smokestack
Butting through the Channel in the mad March days,
With a cargo of Tyne coal,
Road-rails, pig-lead,
Firewood, iron-ware, and cheap tin trays.

A book I think everyone should own is The Way to Write by John Fairfax and John Moat. It is a slender volume on language. They say this about nouns:

“The word noun comes, one way or another, from the Latin word nomen which means (here we go again) a name. ‘The name of a person, place or thing …’ Knowing what we do about names and the power they command we can surmise that nouns are important. They are, in fact, the most important, and for one good reason. Of all the parts of speech, only nouns are independent. All the rest, directly or by implication, depend on the existence of nouns for their own existence. Nouns depend on nothing.
TIGER. Bang. It stands all on its own.
But, ‘RAN’ or ‘PUNY’ or ‘INTO’ or ‘MOREOVER’ or ‘STEAD­ILY’ — they just don’t figure. Not on their own.”

Notice in your reading of poetry, when you like a poem, whether the writer uses strong nouns and verbs; if you don’t like a poem, ask yourself what is missing…

Next Thursday, a little on verbs and a final thought on adjectives and adverbs; tomorrow is the prompt roundup for the week; and Tuesday, more dialogue poems.

 
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Posted by on 03/03/2011 in exercises, poetry, writing

 

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Tuesday Tryouts: Your Metaphor

9:05, Tuesday – Atlanta

I was going to start a new series of exercises with dialogue poems, but wrote a metaphor poem last week, in response to a We Write Poems prompt, that I enjoyed so much and feel is too good an exercise not to share.

By: doraelia ruiz

 

The first thing you need to do is visit the original poem on which I based mine, N. Scott Momaday’s “The Delight Song of Tsoai-talee“. I will post mine below, so you don’t have to leave the page a second time.

Jot a list of qualities you associate with yourself. Next to each quality write things you associate with that quality.

from microsoft

 

Patience: turtle, stone, the colour grey, glaciers…they are your associations so don’t worry if others might think them odd. You will only have the metaphors, in the end.

Pick the ones you like and write a line beginning with I am + the thing you are + a place, or action, or time. That will be much clearer on reading the two examples. You want specific images, sensory associations where possible.

Once I had about fifteen lines, I rearranged them in an order that made sense to me, and read well. I eliminated a couple of lines that didn’t ring true, or didn’t fit. Finally I figured out how to end my poem, because following Momaday for his ending would have been difficult.

 

from microsoftMy Delight Song

I am the words I write
I am a dragon swimming the ocean’s depths
I am a stone waiting to be picked up
I am a stand of evergreen bamboo
I am a grain of dust carried on the wind
I am the smoke of incense spiraling skyward
I am a cloud through which the sun shines
I am the border between night and day
I am the red berries of the winter ash
I am the grey heron hunched against the cold
I am the cry of a train in the night
I am a photograph fading out of focus
I am a scrap of paper left as a bookmark
I am a fingerprint on the minds of students
I am all these things and
I am the words I write.

After “The Delight Song of Tsoai-Talee,” by N. Scott Momaday

Enjoy and do post a link in comments, so I can enjoy too. Thursday will be Revision: Verbs and Nouns and I know you won’t want to miss that! Friday is our roundup of sites. Next Tuesday will be Dialogue Poems.

 
12 Comments

Posted by on 22/02/2011 in exercises, poetry, writing

 

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