Walls and Otherwise

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Walls and Otherwise

An edifice of sandstone, smooth and windswept.
One would think it was a cliff face
For all its length and height.
It is imposing.
It suggests impenetrability.
I walk to it, taking in the immense flatness of it.
My fingers press on its sun-warmed surface and am surprised to feel small, red granules roll away under my fingers and fall to my feet.
Hesitantly, I scratch the wall, watch flakes fall
and turn to dust.
I tap, grind, dig, emboldened.
The seemingly solid mass gives way begrudgingly
My hands will hurt tomorrow.
It would be easier to stop, but I’m insatiable.
Finally, a hand pops through the other side
The wall is not thick.
Simply a grand facade.
I reach through and there on the other side I can feel them brushing against my hands.
My words.

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NaPoWriMo Strikes…Again!

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It’s that time of the year again – it’s National Poetry Writing Month! And luckily, this year I’ve remembered that I do NaPoWriMo every year.

For the next 30 days, I will endeavor to put up a new poem every day. On days when this gets away from me – either because I’m reclining in the heat of a luxurious bed, or because I’ve been called to the mountaintops – I will post the necessary make-up poems as soon as possible.

So without further fanfare…Shall we write?

<strong>Day 1: A Poor Beginning (A Sonnet)</strong>

I’ll christen paper with this pen of mine
Or click the proper electronic links
I’ll edit out the words which do not rhyme
And iron out mistakes and awkward kinks

For what do I endeavor to unfold?
What hopes of mine do I intend to find?
A writer seeks to leave no truth untold
Even those that lurk within their mind

I pray the words from this my feeble brain
The crude and crumbly edges of this noise
That from my witless rambling you will gain
A speck of strength to speak with your own voice.

I’ll write a month of poems grand and dire
In hopes a better poet gets inspired!

The Process: New Plots

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I’m stalling.

See, I have three good pages. Three engaging pages of prologue that set up a really fun soon to be book. I can feel it, in my periphery as I type.  I’m tweaking my voice, and I like where it’s going.

Except I don’t know where it’s going, really. I have three good pages all done, and snippets of future chapters written and stored for later. But I don’t know what the story is yet. Is it going to be dystopian? Heroic? Is my protagonist secretly immoral? She’s definitely got that edge about her, in the five thousand words I have so far.

I spoke to my new writing buddy Christian, and he showed me a printout he had just done containing dozens of questions to ask a protagonist. He said that asking all the questions ahead of time, or asking a different question each time you sit down to write, might help give a better idea of what the character wants to do when presented with the scene you set. That may be true, but right now my difficulty is not with my new leading lady, nor her script. My issue is with the scenery – the flats haven’t been spiked. The curtains are flying incorrectly. I’m not even sure if there’s supposed to be a table when the show opens or not.

(I’m mixing my metaphors now.)

Times like these, I usually turn to Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird, a book I feel every writer should own and read on a regular basis. Except I didn’t bring a copy with me to Japan, and while I remember most of the book, I don’t remember her exact advice for not rushing a character or a story. The only passage that is currently lodged in my memory is her analogy that finishing a story is like putting an octopus to bed. Except I haven’t even thought of my conclusion, because I’m stuck two-thirds of the way into the prologue. No, not stuck. This isn’t writer’s block. This is…forgery and spell craft. I’m trying to decide what something will be before I’ve actually formed it in my mind.

I find that freethinking exercises work best at the beginning. I give myself permission to write down every idea that pops into my head, without judgment or editing. Then I look over what I’ve done in, say, ten minutes and see if I’ve managed to come up with any interesting ideas.  It’s a good way to declutter your creative space, as well as find any new leads you might have overlooked. The trickiest part is the permission – your inner editor (if it’s anything like mine) will have an opinion on everything you come up with.

Me: hmm…space pirates?
Inner Editor: That’s stupid. Don’t write that.
Me: I feel pretty strongly about this space pirate idea.
Inner Editor: Like you did about your failed pirate book back in college?
Me: Here’s a glass of mental bourbon. Relax for ten minutes, and drink the mental bourbon while I do this. Then you can tear it apart and remind me of my pile of rejection letters. Deal?
Inner Editor: Deal!
Escapism: Did someone say bourbon?
Me/Inner Editor: NO.

I know that I have to write out something for this prologue to continue. I have three ideas for where I could go, but no idea where each path ultimately leads.

 

Like I said, this post is pure stalling. I guess I’ll stop now, and get back to writing.

Wallowing

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I’m eating goldfish crackers

All the way down to the salty crumbs.

Then I eat the flakes too.

Walk in ineffectual circles,

Listen to ineffectual music.

Recite ineffectual mantras.

Because when you told everyone to leave you be,

That today was your “writing day”

Then suddenly you need people

And you can’t bring yourself to ask for help

Or speak of the hurt

Or untangle your necklaces

The only thing you can do is wallow.

Eat all the crackers,

Avoid the whiskey in the closet,

And hold tight to the main mast

Until the squall passes.

Because deep down you know – I know –

That the storm may not pass entirely,

But it will eventually mellow,

Which will give you the space you need

To breathe, to write, to speak,

And push through to to the next, new sun.

 

 

 

Process: The Halloween Poem

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Every year I write a Halloween poem – most of the time I try to write a funny poem. When I was in college, I even wrote some performance Halloween poetry (which wasn’t that bad – I should try to find where I stored those).

Anyway, when I was working on this year’s poem, I got into a good rhyming flow, right up until this point:

I waited there so patiently
Out on the grassy hill
But not a soul came near to me
The air was light and still

So far, so good, even if I wasn’t a fan of the fourth line. I had a plan for where I thought this poem was going. It was going to tie into my being abroad. The original title for this poem was “Indifferent Spirits,” because I felt a real disconnect on Halloween. Normally I’m good at finding a spiritual connection on All Hallow’s Eve, but not tonight.  This poem was originally going to involve a bunch of ghosts wandering by, speaking Japanese and wondering what I kept talking to them in English.

The rhyme suggested a different path, and because I didn’t plot out this particular poem I followed. When it turned out the narrator was dead already (what a twist!) I realized that I had wanted to tell a very different story than a funny miscommunication piece.

The last line was a tough one, because my brain really wanted me to end on a scary note, not a funny one. The last four lines were to culminate in something like “There is no pleasure greater than/ a death on Halloween.” I thought this entirely too dark for my desire. While I wasn’t going to change the angle of the poem, I also didn’t want to end it on such a strong, morbid note. Better to go with the angle of time and Halloween, since I think that is what resonates more with a soul than the idea of accumulating more souls.

My brain was upset at this, because it was a really good rhyming couplet. But first thoughts are not always the best thoughts. I try to limit editing when doing a flow poem, but I think the writer has the ultimate authority to step in when tone takes a sharp left turn. Especially when its within his or her own voice.

 

 

All that a Writer Can Do

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All That a Writer Can do

When my tires went flat
I mused and sat
Out on the grass of a hill

By the freeway’s shoulder
Upon a boulder
I took out my modern quill

And composition
In such a position
Is all that a writer can do

To pass idle time
With humor and rhyme
Until the tow truck comes through

When my heart got broken
I pulled out your token
And promised never again

Reclining in bed
With an angry head
I took out my ballpoint pen

And composition
In such a position
Is all that a writer can do

To soothe the hurt feelings
With drama and peelings
Until the heart mends anew

When the sun shone upon me
I walked in its bounty
Through parks and fields fair

And out in the flowers
Spent carefree hours
Writing my musings there

And composition
In such a position
Is all that a writer can do

To capture sublime
In meager rhyme
Apologizing when through

And when I die
I will not cry
I’ll hand the journal to you

To write me with care
Be I foul or fair
So long as you write me true

And composition
In such a position
Is all that a writer can do

To send me on
To the great beyond
Where I’ll write something new.

Keeping Notes

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I have an issue. I have this line that I came up with while free-forming in the car. The problem with free-from/beat poetry while driving is that, unless you have the presence of mind to record yourself, you forget all the cool stuff you came up with by the time you reach the driveway. I hit the same refrain:

Turgid, tumultuous tumbling words

I love alliteration. There is something about hitting the same letter – the same note – while putting together similar syllables that just sits well in my heart.

And while I know that I pulled in Shakespeare and Dr. Seuss while I was riding the beat, I can’t for the life of me remember this morning what I said.

Then let the lesson be: When you have a good idea, pull off in the nearest truck stop and write it down. The destination will always be there.
(Unless it’s a job interview. Then go do that because food is a terrific motivator.)

I hear in my mind the sheepdogs baying
The commas unraveling unruly herds
My mind is vocabulary racing to cliffside
Turgid, tumultuous, tumbling words!