Empty Space / Love and Bouldering

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4.10 Empty Space

The empty space inside my head
Is vast, but ever shrinking
I find I bring my focus back
With patient, conscious thinking

Or else I stare at something bland
And let my hands meander
Perhaps they’ll write a shiny phrase
And my brain will take a gander.

I haven’t looked down at the keys
Which I know sounds most outlandish
Would you be kind enough to look
In case there’s something I accomplished?

****

4.11 Love and Bouldering

If I’m a bucket
You’re a crimp
We make an interesting climb
I’ll take your arms
You’ll need my fingers
We’ll make it up just fine
I’ll hold your feet
You take my toes
While we’re both in our prime
And when we’re up
We’ll trace back down
Let’s chalk it up to time

****

Sunny Conakry

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4.5 Sunny Conakry

I’m ready for the coming dark
When the power goes away
For here in sunny Conakry
It’s out most of the day

I’ll sit out in my wooden chair
And listen to the sea
I’ll watch the garbage ride the tide
In sunny Conakry

Oh happy day
Oh finery
It’s all ok
In Conakry

I’m ready for the Mad Max dawn
When the highways have gone bad
For here in sunny Conakry
Driving’s always mad

I’ll ride my little car along
As careful as can be
I’ll choke down smoke till I get home
In sunny Conakry

Oh sunny day
(Humidity)
It’s just that way
In Conakry.

NaPo 2.6, 2.7…..and….2.8 maybe

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2.6
“Temples are a Reflection of the Soul”*

Our temples are hollow and bare.
The better to carry our temples inside of us,
And send our money to the new God.
To him we build new cathedrals of steel and mirrored glass.
His houses of worship open only to the ordained MBAs.
The laity is welcome to stare at its own reflection
on the outside of these new churches
(From whom all good things charge).
It is why we do not sing,
or only sing in solemnity or to overcome sorrow,
For our temples are hollow and bare.
Joy in the soul requires something more
Than four walls and a bookshelf of hymnals.
Just as the spirit requires more nourishment
Than chrome and lobby guards.

*Inspiration/ Title Line from Joseph Campbell’s “The Power of Myth”

*****

2.7
South of the Oregon Trail/strong>

I often wonder how the settlers pushed past the Western deserts.
When they saw the shimmering flats,
The copses of lying Joshua trees,
The flat, red rocks and spiky tumbleweeds,
How did they summon hope and press on?
All along the dry, hot trail,
All along the unforgiving, closed mountains
A hundred miles and more –
Only to reach the dry scrubland of the southwest coast?
Endurance?
Mad inspiration?
What hints from people before them
Got them doggedly past the Mojave,
To the ocean beyond?
Then to reach that great body of water,
And be unable to drink from it?
I would have looked Heavenward and laughed
At the two-thousand mile irony.
That is, if I hadn’t died of cholera along the way.

*****

2.8 can wait
But let me state
I have it written here
I’ll let it stew
Then write for you
Enough to make you cheer 🙂

Internet Ghazal

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A “Ghazal” is an antique style of poetry which started in India and moved on through the Middle East. It has strong ties to Sufism.

Anyway, someone actually challenged me to write a Ghazal after I wrote a sonnet, which I wrote in response to an “incorrectly” identified haiku, which was itself a parody of a song lyric.

I highly recommend taking a moment of your day to read through the Wikipedia article about the Ghazal. It’s one of those nice little  pieces that illustrate the rules that certain forms require. A ghazal was to focus themes of love, mysticism, unattainable emotion – it’s actually beautiful and incredibly challenging if done correctly.

I was just trying to show off for a stranger on the internet.

Internet Ghazal

A poet’s words unnoticed, lost in thread forever
Buried amid counter-comments instead forever

Stretch out the Internet’s letters round the world
And fill all tongues with dread forever

Muses of the internet, be kind and present
Keep my creativity well-fed forever

Run virtual fingers through Wikipedian pages
So as not to lose my poetic cred forever

I’ll reach for old forms long forgotten
Sub-continentally considered dead forever

Stare at the GreatGreyBeast’s challenge
Let words rush through my head forever

Stand under the coded skies of the virtual world
Where thoughts have all but fled forever

To write, and write, delete and write again
A set of tiny literate wings I’ll spread forever

And though my bones will someday rest interred
Serving as the worm’s bread forever

My soul through words will always reach beyond
My soul through words that will be said forever.

—-

Well done!

The Great and Terrible NaNoWriMo

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Last month was National Novel Writing Month, and you can find out more about it at their website. I think that it’s a great program, a lofty goal, and a fun project for any writer to try. I heartily recommend making a donation if you are able.

I also think there are dangers to doing the NaNoWriMo, at least serially. I want to outline them here, but first some history:
My first NaNoWriMo was exhilarating. I had a novel which had been floating around in my brain for a good long while, and with dedication and some very long nights, I put it all down onto paper. I promised I would edit it up in December, and I sort of did. I was also quite exhausted mentally, and editing fell by the wayside as new ideas moved forward.

My second NaNo was nerve-wracking. Having pushed through and won the previous year, I was nervous that I wouldn’t be able to repeat the process. And I was so busy that November! Still, I set aside time every day, disappearing into my room for long stretches of time, and I put my certificate on my office door.

My third NaNo was easy. I wrote an escapist piece of self-starring science fiction. It had good bones, but by that point I knew how to get things done. It was perfunctory. I didn’t revisit the story for six months.

My fourth, and last, NaNoWriMo was two years ago. I tried to write a novel I had wanted to write for a year, a daring adventure and political intrigue caper. And I did, but there was no magic to it. I felt no thrill at hitting the 50,000 word mark, no joy at seeing the “Winner” on my home page. And my story, to my dismay, was not particularly good.

I have friends who use NaNoWriMo to get through their projects, and they are successful at it. I have friends who can’t get past 20,000 words after a month. 1600 words a day is a tough quota if you aren’t writing on a regular basis, but it is doable. Here are my personal issues with NaNoWriMo.

Learning the tricks
My first problem with doing multiple NaNo’s is that my writing became more about utilizing the “short cuts” I learned than telling the story. My characters would talk about everything except the plot. There would be side adventures to the grocery store, tangential essays on the nature of unrelated matters. My writing morphed after four novels from tight to meandering. My characters stopped doing things!

That’s because when you have to write 1600 words a day, you have to find filler on the days when you can’t write – you graffiti that writer’s block! Filler is fine, and fun to write, but if you are not careful your writing will turn into nothing but filler, with very little story.

There’s also the desire to win. I’m competitive. I don’t like admitting defeat. For me, I recognized that my desire to complete the competition was negatively impacting what I was saying.

Burnout
So you complete the novel – you wrote 50,000 words in a month! Maybe with even a day or two to spare! Good for you! Now you want to decompress. My third NaNoWriMo, my decompression lasted six months for that project. I couldn’t look at my writing. I couldn’t make myself sit and put the words down. Poetry, goofy things – I didn’t stop writing, but I found my brain unwilling to revisit old projects, or start new ones in depth.

The second danger would be burnout. For me, the mental energy of writing a whole book in a month balances with the backlash which follows on December 1. I needed a break, but as any writer will say, writing is something that must be practiced regularly or we fall out of practice. I fell out of practice, and it was difficult to get back into the swing of things.
I have come to the conclusion that NaNoWriMo is great for a year or two – it’s a challenging exercise (1600 words a day!), a practice in making good habits (writing every day!), and a wonderful environment with an engaging and active writing community. The forums are full of helpful advice, tips, encouragement and positive energy.

And I think that if you have a loose marble of a story bouncing around in your head, the NaNoWriMo is a great way to get that marble out of your system – like a “writer’s cleanse.” It might not come out polished, but the goal is to put something on paper.

However, I am not convinced that doing the NaNoWriMo repeatedly doesn’t lend itself to some bad habits over time. As with any event where quantity is the goal over quality (though of course quality is desired as well), there are pitfalls.

My advice? Be mindful.

I started this blog with the intention of doing NaPoWriMo – and writing a poem a day was a bit more freeing because poetry does not require a quota of words. It was a bit more challenging because it requires, at least, a quota of ideas. I haven’t decided if I am going to do it again, though given my enjoyment of challenging myself, I probably will. Four years from now? Well, we’ll see.

Now, go and write!