These Shining Faces On the Road

My friend Sonia asked me to participate in a “blog tour” in which I answer some questions about my writing process.  Sonia received the prompt from a friend, wrote her own response here:  http://dream2write.wordpress.com/2014/04/28/color-my-palate-on-the-road/, and passed it on to me.  I am supposed to pass it on as well, but I can’t think of any blogger friends, so if you see this and wanna write a blog, let me know. 😉

My Writing Process…

What am I working on?

I’m working exclusively on poetry.  I have never been much of a fiction writer, and don’t really try my hand at short stories or novels.  I feel like my brain isn’t necessarily wired to produce fiction.  I’m not great at fleshing out characters and writing dialogue.  Maybe I like to keep it vague and esoteric.  🙂  If I were to write something other than poetry, I think it might be essays.  I wouldn’t mind working with humor more.

How does my work differ from others of its genre?

I’m not sure whether it does or not.  I am very inspired by nature poets like Mary Oliver, and that theme shows up in my poetry a lot, but there are definitely more intellectual influences that refuse to be ignored.  🙂  I end up writing very introspective things about my own emotional journey, usually.  NaPoWriMo has been awesome.  It really forced me to branch out, learn new ways of writing, and pull writing out of my brain that I probably would not have, otherwise.

Why do I write what I do?

Hmmmm.  Good question.  The simplest answer is that I write what I do based on the things I have absorbed in the world, meaning the writing of others, and also my own experiences and everything else I have observed and processed.  As to a specific goal with what I write, I think each poem allows me to resolve a particular emotional/psychological/spiritual issue, to some degree.  I also hope, like any writer, that it will resonate with other people.

How does my writing process work?

Lately I have been starting with prompts and going from there.  When that’s not the case, usually, an idea for something I want to work on will more or less come to me out of the ether. Often, it comes with a few words or lines.  I start fleshing the idea out from there.  I like to mix it up in terms of how I get the writing down.  I tried carrying a tiny notebook, but more often than not, I start writing little scraps of poem on post-it notes.  Hot-pink ones.  🙂 Sometimes long walks help me work out poetry ideas, as well as whatever else I have going on in my head.  Sonia mentioned that she likes to watch well-made shows to get inspired, and I do the same with music.  Really great music reminds me why I want to be spending more of my time creating, and feeling like I’m doing something worthwhile with my life.

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NaPoWriMo, Day 29

“The prompt is called the “Twenty Little Poetry Projects,” and was originally developed by Jim Simmerman. And here are the twenty little projects themselves — the challenge is to use them all in one poem:

1. Begin the poem with a metaphor.
2. Say something specific but utterly preposterous.
3. Use at least one image for each of the five senses, either in succession or scattered randomly throughout the poem.
4. Use one example of synesthesia (mixing the senses).
5. Use the proper name of a person and the proper name of a place.
6. Contradict something you said earlier in the poem.
7. Change direction or digress from the last thing you said.
8. Use a word (slang?) you’ve never seen in a poem.
9. Use an example of false cause-effect logic.
10. Use a piece of talk you’ve actually heard (preferably in dialect and/or which you don’t understand).
11. Create a metaphor using the following construction: “The (adjective) (concrete noun) of (abstract noun) . . .”
12. Use an image in such a way as to reverse its usual associative qualities.
13. Make the persona or character in the poem do something he or she could not do in “real life.”
14. Refer to yourself by nickname and in the third person.
15. Write in the future tense, such that part of the poem seems to be a prediction.
16. Modify a noun with an unlikely adjective.
17. Make a declarative assertion that sounds convincing but that finally makes no sense.
18. Use a phrase from a language other than English.
19. Make a non-human object say or do something human (personification).
20. Close the poem with a vivid image that makes no statement, but that “echoes” an image from earlier in the poem.”

I’m way behind on finishing NaPoWriMo, but I liked this prompt.  I didn’t quite use all 20 “projects”.  Maybe you can tell which ones?

Poem:

Katie, life will be a carnival.

In Somewhere, America,
as if in a Ray Bradbury novel,
you will be greeted at its gates by dark and light.
Step right up, they’ll say.

Scent of summer, hint of fall.
Humid touch on your skin followed by the cool breeze.
Every fantastical thing before your eyes, man-made, against the backdrop of tree and sky.
Salt and sugar both lingering on your tongue.
The wild music blending with the sound of birds.

You’ll forget your troubles among the happy crowd.
You’ll buy a trucker hat with your name airbrushed on it, and a shiny caramel apple, that will smile at you brilliantly when you bite through its shell to reveal bright green skin and white flesh.

A fortune teller will read your fate from the lines upon your hand.
A weight-guesser will guess your weight, accurately.
You will win absolutely nothing.
The funhouse will have no power to frighten you.
You’ve learned by now that every distortion of reality makes it more clear.

In fact, everything in this place presents a choice.
Will you be afraid, or will you embrace life with gusto, and take a chance?

A carnival ride, that’s what life will really be.

You know the one.  Some tilt-a-whirl bit of madness, the hilarious precariousness of a machine meant to fling you through the air, de- and re-constructed in different places, for adventure-seekers to take chances of their own.

It will say to you, let it go.

Climb on, throw caution to the wind, stop planning every second, and breathe the colors of this existence.  Embrace the joie de vivre that is hidden under layers of good behavior.

A fortune teller will tell you your future, and she will be absolutely wrong.

You are the author of your fate, and no one may pre-make your choices.

Board the ride of your life.  Throw your arms up, and fly.  You’ve always been able to.

 

NaPoWriMo, Day 28

No prompt, just a bit o’ silliness. I tried my usual weighty themes and got nothin’, so I decided to stop taking myself so seriously for a minute-here is what I came up with.

Poem:

The life of the clumsy
is ever fraught with worry.
Something’s in my eye!
Now my vision’s blurry.

Walking without looking,
I fail to see a stone.
My ankle bends beneath my foot,
muscle pulls on bone.

Standing at the sink,
hand by the cabinet,
I knock my finger hard,
and that is what I get!

There’s a message somewhere in here
but I’m sure I don’t know what-
oh, I am so careless!
Now my knee is cut.

I know that I ought
To pay attention to the Now.
And though it can be taught,
I have as yet to master:  how?

I’ll surely keep on trying
not only for the sake
of my peace of mind, but to
spare other bones a break.

NaPoWriMo, Day 26

“Today’s prompt [is to write a] curtal sonnet [which] is shorter than the normal, fourteen line sonnet. Instead it has a first stanza of six lines, followed by a second stanza of four, and then closes with a half-line. The form was invented in the 1800s by Gerard Manley Hopkins, who used it in his famous poem “Pied Beauty”

In reading “Pied Beauty” I decided to go with the poet’s God theme, and follow his form pretty closely.

Poem:

All thanks to Holy Spirit
for every shining face.
You’ve peered through many pairs of eyes
to give me needed grace.
And in the darkest times you’ve reached
through hands to hold mine, give fear chase.

Now I see your animation in each living thing
when I choose, but I must choose to see the gifts they bring.
Let me not get in ways so set
I lose sight God’s in all things.

Don’t forget.

 

NaPoWriMo, Day 27

Never, never,
never again,
would I take this for granted:
the power to shut out the world at night,
and stop having to think, for a time.

Do you realize that sleep is a miracle?

Maybe not, because it is so simple-
until you can’t.
I learned so many rituals to cross the threshold into that healing place,
but none of these work without faith.
I could not trust that the least little thing would work out,
and so how could I surrender into oblivion every night?

Do you realize that sleep is a miracle?

Oh, how I envied my lover, and for that matter, the dogs,
and everything else in the world that could sleep.
You can lose your mind after two nights with not one minute of pure, unconscious relief.
I drove my car, half-mad.
I pulled away from a gas station pump with the hose still in the gas tank,
and somehow survived to know rest again.

Do you realize that sleep is a miracle?

I believe in miracles, and I bless each night of sleep.

NaPoWriMo, Day 24

I’m totally dragging on NaPoWriMo.  It’s hard to try to be creative-on-demand daily, and then yesterday, I doubled down on forced creativity at a poetry workshop, writing 5 first drafts in 3 hours.  The workshop was totally great, and NaPoWriMo has been, too, but it will be nice to slow down a bit.  🙂

For today and tomorrow, at least, I’ll post the workshop first drafts, instead of first drafts in response to NaPoWriMo prompts.

The prompt for this poem was two-fold.  Firstly, you respond to the general question of “what did you do when you received ‘the news’?”  Secondly, you pick a couple words from a list to incorporate.

Poem:

Trying hard to avoid the news, buried in books,
It came anyway.
Sometimes the news carries a hard first punch,
followed by years of slow bruising.
I thought for sure that my heart would spill out of my mouth with my sobs,
but it stayed where it was as it hardened to empty rock,
and then dropped farther and farther down until it got to my feet.
Well, falling may not be fun, but it’s still the easy part.
But I find, that the higher I lift the stone, the lighter it becomes,
the more joyful I become, until it feels like a heart again.
I never wanted to erase you.
I just wanted the memory of you to make me laugh again.

 

 

NaPoWriMo, Day 23

“Today’s prompt (optional, as always), is an oldie-but-a-goodie: the homophonic translation. Find a poem in a language you don’t know, and translate it into English based on the look of the words and their sounds.”

I picked an Icelandic poem, in some cases picking English words based on the way I thought the Icelandic words sounded, in other cases, using substitutes that made sense to me.  The result is a bit weird, but that is the fun of these exercises.  You write things you never would have written, otherwise.

Here is the Icelandic poem:

Ég reyni að vera
alúðleg við börnin
svo þau hirði um leiðið mitt
þegar þar að kemur
mylji köku ofan í grasið
á afmælinu mínu
og fari með ljóðið um
fingruðu kýrnar
þá sjálf orðin gömul og grá

Samt á ég eftir að
þekkja þau aftur 
á himneskri húsalyktinni

alltaf skulu þau ilma eins og Jesúbarnið

by Gerður Kristný

My poem:

The Queen of Truth
looks after her children,
herds them away from lies.
She pegs each comer miles off,
approaching the altar of her grace.

She says, you are family.  You are mine.

You’ve feared me at times,
my finger in the corner of your eye,
drawing your gaze,
not letting you settle into comfort.

I will ordain you, you will gamely offer up your gratitude.

So that after that-
you won’t want to peck away at lies any longer.
You will sing hymns and hosannas to truth,
knowing that is what the universe wants.

That is what makes you healthy.  That is what makes you whole.