Monthly Archives: February 2012

Haiku

I submit to you a haiku!  It’s a western style 5-7-5 syllabic verse rather than the more nuanced Japanese forms.  I’m sure I’ll try to play with the forms more as I continue to write haiku.

delicate new growth
rends the walls of winter tomb.
Verdant eruption!

I wrote this yesterday after a series of events brought haiku to mind.  I hope you enjoy it.  I plan to write more, and I’ll explain why.

I was looking over information on manuscript length yesterday and ran across a site that mentioned micro-fiction and flash fiction.  they are, as you might have guessed from their names, very short fiction.  Micro-fiction is typically 100 words or less and anything over that up to approximately 1,000 words is commonly called flash fiction.  These formats sound pretty interesting to me, so I’m going to do more research and possibly try to write some.  Seems like a good challenge and an excellent way of forcing myself to edit very precisely.

An offshoot of this discovery was that I began thinking of writing “short” material.  Naturally, short stories came to mind, and I jotted down a few ideas I had for new short fiction along with further thoughts on some I’d already started working on.  Eventually my thoughts turned to poetry, which is typically short as well, at least in word count for the style that I tend to write.  Lying beyond even the shortest of my poetry is haiku.

Haiku is the ultimate in distilled thought and imagery.  They require deep understanding of what you would like to express.  Writing simple haiku is easy.  Any thought or idea can fairly quickly be transcribed into the form.  That doesn’t mean the haiku would necessarily be good.  Just like with any poetry, there needs to be revision.

I decided that writing haiku would be a good exercise for this blog because I could write drafts fairly quickly while working on something that’s either not ready to be posted or not meant to be posted.  I hope that doesn’t sound like an attempt to create filler for the blog.  What I hope is that it will be a constant exercise in translating thoughts and images into concise, metered poetry.

I respect that although writing what is typically 17 sylables can be done quickly, it is still very hard to do well.  I want to be able to develop a better understanding of what comprises the best haiku.  So while I might post more frequently because the form is shorter, I will still try to perform my due diligence and improve the work.

I will also continue to do freewriting and work on the material I’ve started.  I’ll still create new material as well, but when it’s harder to find time to post, I think I can probably manage to at least work on haiku.  I can even post them from my phone, so rather than being an excuse to slack, which would be an insult to the form if that were the case, I want this to be a pointed exercise in creating better, more concise poetry.

Duke

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Freewriting

Just thought I’d put a few lines down as a freewrite.  That’s about all I’ve got time for with work being so busy, but I’ll get something more involved up soon.

Covert glances precede awkward stares,
And uncomfortable silence passes endlessly.
Staring as if unsure of dream or desirous hallucination
At a figure of desire so lucid as to stir depths
Of longing untapped and ingrained in man.

A quickening pulse throbs as it courses
From heart to mind and back again;
A cycle or torment bore willingly.
Breathing in deep and calming breath;
Fighting to control the swim and sway
Of shattered equilibrium

Fear pounds relentless
Smothers an otherwise confident man
Breaks the will to hold something
So perfect,
So pristine.

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Renewal – Writing Exercise

It snowed last night, so I thought about it off and on through the evening and morning.  I decided to do a quick exercise on some of my thoughts.  Nothing really too structured, just some simple imagery.

Stark white and cold,
Snow blankets the earth,
Gathers in corner and crevice,
Piled high upon the weak.
Radiant and diffuse.
Renewed from above,
Destroyed from below
By latent heat, by warmth,
By falling too soon.

Fallen leaves soften and mat
Beneath the freezing down.
Succumb to repetition,
Dry and cracking beneath weights,
Wet molding to the ground.
Already dead, yet waiting,
Waiting to be eaten,
By the insect, by the worm,
By something lower still.

Brought low by frigid winds,
Bodies built for cold sleep
And for quick death,
Pace inexorably forward,
Programatically aware of life,
Functions carried out methodically
Onward to death,
Consuming and replenishing
Endless cycle of renewal.

I walked in the yard for a minute this morning and noticed that in some places the snow was very powdery and fresh, and the leaves that dodged the rake tend to crunch and crackle from being so dry.  In other places and on the driveway, the heat stored in the ground always melts the snow from underneath, and the leaves pull in the moisture and mat together.  I used to see a lot of that cycle in the woods around home, and always found it interesting how dynamic the range was.  I don’t know that that is worthy of a poem, but it does add a little color to the thoughts above.

Maybe something will come of it.

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Right Brained Distractions and a Way Forward

I’ve been writing some lately, but mostly just ideas and notes for the manuscript I want to complete this year; it’s not really anything I’m posting.  Beyond that however, It seems that when I try to pick up and continue some of the material from the blog, I haven’t been able to feel comfortable with where my mind is going, so I’ve stalled on some of the work.  I’ve also been a little distracted by drawing and other right brained activities.

Last night, for instance, I was sitting on the couch and noticed a fingernail clipper sitting on an end table in direct light from a lamp.  I immediately started to notice the shadows and highlights that shiny metal object was creating.  I had to draw it.

Sketch of Fingernail Clippers

Fingernail Clippers

You’ll have to forgive the photograph.  I took it with my phone in low light.  I brightened it up in Photoshop, which brought the picture noise out nicely (read sarcasm).  I’ll try to put up a better one some time.

Anyway, that drawing episode got me thinking about how art affects me as it pertains to writing.  I truly am not much of an artist, but I would like to be.  Much like my writing, I have some ability, but I need a lot of practice.  I’ve felt that way most of my life, so naturally when I got to college, I took some art classes along with my English and creative writing coursework.

I’ve always been a very spatially organized person, but that structure typically played second fiddle to my verbal pursuits.  Once I started taking art classes in college, that changed quite a bit.  In even the most basic courses, you are taught to look at everything spatially.  It’s all shape and value and space and negative space.  It’s a new language.  Teaching that language is the primary objective of most drawing courses rather than mechanical skills with one medium or another.  You willfully override the connection in your brain that wants to put a name to an object and instead look at the object as the product of light and shadow.  It pulls you away from the verbal to the spatial.  I’m certain that I will not blow anyone’s mind with that statement of the super obvious.  I only mention it to highlight the fact that viewing the world around you this way becomes easier the more you do it, and that is largely the aim of an art class.

Well, after having taken a number of classes, I noticed that the switch to spatial awareness was much more instinctive rather than methodic.  It is much more common now for me to look at something as a shape rather than an object.  This right brained tendency somewhat interferes with my writing because it pulls me away from words.  I also find that when I start to get a little “right brained,” it becomes an itch I have to scratch, and it’s been my most keen distraction lately.

So, it seems that beyond my typical distractibility in writing pursuits, I also have my right brain to deal with, and I believe I’ve ignored this facet in many ways.  I hope thinking about this is the first step to truly developing a strategy for successful productivity.  My original plan was to use this blog to force me to focus on writing, and that is the aspect of blogging–with this type of blog specifically–which rubs up against my bad writing habits and bends them to shape.  I obviously jump around between work a lot when writing and sometimes find it hard to find direction.  I wanted to feel pressure to work on something with consistency and to be able to break through some of the barriers I’ve typically encountered in my workflow.  The structure provided by the blog is helping me focus on completing work rather than letting it lie rough, and the guilt of not posting helps bring me back to it.

Also running counter to my goal of completing material is a tendency to want to start something new.  I’ve been trying to find a balance between doing new exercises and drafts versus continuing revisions on other work.  I did notice that while trying to create new material, I have been consistently coming back to similar imagery or ideas, which I think is a natural byproduct of writing more frequently and which must be dealt with by anyone who writes.  I seem particularly prone to writing about dawn and dusk lately.  Being conscious of the staleness of some of my thoughts has therefore made me even more prone to distraction.  I need to avoid distraction or at least manage it so that I can maintain progress.

And speaking of distractions, I have the artsy things I like to do.  I need to find a way to make art a part of my workflow rather than an impediment.  I am going to try to make myself draw at least once every few days in hopes that it will help me manage that desire.  I think I’ll probably start to include posts with anything I think has been executed well.  That will give me an outlet so that I won’t feel like I’m forsaking one thing for another.

Going forward, I’ll try to fine tune a structured approach to conducting my activities that allows enough freedom to avoid becoming stifled while maximizing my opportunities for being creative.  Drawing will be the easier part.  One upside to drawing and painting is that it’s easier to make yourself do it.  Even if I don’t particularly feel like drawing, I can set up a few objects and some light and make myself work through the process of exploring and translating that scene to a page.  It might not be the best work if I’m not “feeling” it, but it should at least be a quantifiable effort that can be completed to some degree.  The writing portion will require me to delve more deeply into my approach to become more efficient when writing.  I need to find a way to break away from distraction and to break through walls.  I think finding an method of brainstorming up new and fresh ideas will help with potential stagnation, and then improving my free-writing method for revisions will help evolve older work.

So . . . if I try to draw twice a week and then write something at least twice a week, I should be able to keep moving forward with this blog and with my work.  Ultimately, I think I’ve learned more about my process and what works for me in the last few months than I had in the entire interval preceding it.  I still have a lot of fine tuning to do before I would even consider myself passably efficient, but I’m willing to try.

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