Category Archives: Ideas
I know I’m slacking, but I have a little darlin’ to take care of. She’s still pretty much a full time job even though her awesomeness hasn’t diminished at all! She’s such a good baby. Anyway, I had an interesting dream over the weekend and a surreal moment afterward as I slowly came awake. I thought I’d try to write a draft to start exploring that situation.
Stark white light pushes at the edge of my eyelids,
Trying to push past my defenses.
It pulsates in time with the blood coursing through my chest,
To my head and ultimately to the capillaries in tiniest parts of the lid.
It rouses me–slowly;
My mind pulses to the slow drowsy rhythm.
Ever more wakeful, I feel the ebb and flow
Of a sea of sleep deposit me on a still and silent beach.
Stasis. I lie balanced on the edge of two worlds.
I’m a god in my dreams, and I do not wish to wake.
Every moment I remain is a restorative for my feeble body.
Yet, I am allowed only the briefest of sojourn.
In the dream, I feel a power I hunger for greedily.
I desire to stay as I desire to control my world.
I am empowered,
And I lust for a world of my own.
I wake and I feel love and hope and happiness.
I have a daughter and a wife and I love them.
Awake I see the false truth of my dreams.
I fear the power they have over me.
The word tumble-down popped into my head earlier, and I immediately envisioned long rows of worn, dilapidated houses much like you see in pictures of old oil boom-towns around here in Oklahoma. The image of the sun low in the sky, coloring all the bits and pieces that had managed to last, was pretty strong. I hope this conveys some of that.
Dull sun fades to rust;
Long shadows like fingers sweep
This might be an interesting image to base a longer poem on. I might just do that.
It started raining yesterday, and it only just stopped, temporarily, a short while ago. I’m a couple of days early, but it’s hard to not think of Spring when it rains like this–heavy and long. I got inspired to write, so I wrote another haiku.
Pattering on the windows,
Spring’s first rain singing.
I’ve only written a few haiku so far, but I already know that I’m wildly uncertain as to what constitutes a good haiku. The one above has meaning for me. It captured my feelings at the time of the first real rain we’ve had in some time. It’s difficult however to step out of my personal experience and evaluate this poem from the perspective of what it might be for another person. I’ll try to look into that. First and foremost, I need to read and study more haiku. Maybe I, unbeknownst to me, write the greatest and most effortless haiku of anyone anywhere. More likely, I’m missing some important point, or maybe even “the” point. I’ll try to let you know if I figure it out.
Along the same lines, I also did a little writing exercise. I just wrote some free verse and didn’t even go back to reread it. I know that it starts being about me and my feelings during the rain, but quickly becomes about the dynamics of rain and further about the life cycle of water in the environment. It will definitely have to change. I will likely try to bring the focus back to myself or at least a person so that a reader can actually connect with it. I’d like to use some of the images and dynamics, but they’ll have to be translated into something applicable to a person. And lastly, I’ll need more complex language and structure. This is overly simplistic, but it was just a writing exercise.
Moisture clogs the air, dense and warm,
Clings to it like a robe.
Almost immeasurably harder to breath,
I draw it in and push it out.
I can taste the spring in its thickness.
Fresh pollen and dust, microscopic motes
Swim in each tiny drop, trapped.
The wind changes.
It marches steady one moment
Only to halt and shuffle and shift side to side.
The front moves in and shoves it aside.
The wind driving it forth is stiff and chill,
Stark and dry it runs its fingers through
Banks of humid air.
I can feel it expand around me
As it muscles it way beneath that heavy mass.
It shoves the warms up and away.
Suddenly turbulent and chill,
Drop by drop, molecule by molecule,
Clouds ascend, bouncing and breaking light,
Showering the earth in sparkling brilliance.
Soon enough the billowing mass begins to pull
At the light, and the very air.
What was once dense becomes heavy
An aery pool of water in flight,
Bound by gravity and tossed by turbulence.
Growing overlarge as they are smashed together,
Drops fat and wet pull to the earth.
Speeding, elongating they plummet
To the ultimate finality of their destruction.
Only destruction is temporary.
Rebirth takes some many forms.
New growth, new rain, new water.
It never dies, only changes.
I think there is some potential. I’ll try to pull together a structured draft with more direction and see how it goes.
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.
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.
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.
I noticed the first version of this exercise the other day and thought I’d try another. Basically, both are just snippets of phrasing with only the most vague idea of what they might be eventually. I started with the same first line as the last exercise and just let my mind wander while I free-wrote the verse. Both versions are superficially about love or repressed emotion, but I haven’t figured out where I’ll go just yet. I’ll probably try to put them together and see what the overarching feeling or sentiment seems to be. Then I’ll try to write a draft that has an actual direction and see how that goes.
The willful deception of my heart sustains me,
succor to my hopelessness.
Waiting patiently, like a mother,
It calls to me–coaxing me into it’s embrace.
Though wounded deeply, I endure,
Finding respite in misery, wallowing.
Understanding glimpsed through this cage,
Waking from desperate nightmares,
Turning ever away from my path.
Awash with fear I’m too weak to overcome,
I wait, I regress.
Picking moonshadows from the Earth
As I still my mind, mesmerized.
Oh but the fortune I seek zealously
Jealously guarding my offering.
Desperate lust and hope restrained.
The smallest ember glows fitfully dim,
As I, so unaware, search for this misunderstood
and malignant creature.
Craddled in my chest, It beats desperately against
The cage I’ve erected round it.
Freed, It would destroy me.
There are many ways people go about firing up the creative impulse and coming up with solid ideas or even the beginnings of a writing project. I wish I had some foolproof method for beginning that flowed progressively forward through completion of a written work. I don’t. Just a couple of days ago, I tried to just do a simple exercise, and although I put a few things down, I would probably have been better served getting some sleep or trying to draw. My brain adamantly refused to process verbally.
Normally though, I can usually flip the switch and actually do something simple at the least. To that end, I use a number of very basic methods to “try” to get into the writing frame of mind and to “try” to get inspired. Below is a straight copy and paste from the same text file where I’ve done a few quick exercises over a couple of days. I’ll break them down.
The first part was from a few days ago. I had the word minstrel pop into my head and immediately starting thinking of a scene where a minstrel played for a small group of people in a tavern. I wrote the first word down and then jotted down the remaining words as I thought about the scene.
As I thought about it, I expanded the visual image to include a walled city in the early dawn. Yes, I know that my recent infatuation with that time of day is getting a little out of hand, but that’s also the way it goes when you spend a lot of time thinking about something while revising other work. And I have no idea where Onus came from, but I put it down regardless.
Anyway, after only a few seconds, I had a short list, but I also had a visual image in my head of a scene. So I wrote the first line below. From there I followed the progression of what the light would do as it played across the stone walls and wrote the second line. Then I brought the minstrel in and completed the stanza with a rhyming fourth verse that fit with the dynamic scene I had evolving in my mind’s eye.
The dying sun casts fitful rays at the cold stone walls of the keep.
Shadows grow in cracks and bowls among that flinty face.
Minstrels tune the lute and lyre in preparation for the night.
Chandlers with their waxy wands spread light about the place.
I don’t know if I’ll ever do anything more with this, but it has at least a little potential as the beginning of a poem that tells a story. You’ll also notice that I consciously shifted away from dawn toward dusk, which changed my mindset but also fit the feeling of a beginning of a long evening rather than the closing of one.
Later in the same day, I was thinking about my unborn child. I’ve always been a little distractible, so it shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone who knows me that I was randomly daydreaming about a child six months from birth. During my imaginings, I thought about the fact that this is my first child, and that although I’ve been around and helped rear many children of both family and friends, this will be the first time when I have real weight behind what I say and do when I raise my child. So I thought about what I would tell him or her. The quick list of thoughts that follow is the result.
Letter to my unborn child
I hope you are better than me. That is my wish, my greatest desire. I want you to understand the benefit of hard work better and much sooner than I did. I want you understand kindness and selflessness without having to endure the worst of those lessons. I want you to be a person to inspire others. I want you to be judged and scrutinized by everyone and never be found lacking. I want you to be successful.
These are tiny little sentences that wrap up huge moments in my life. I think it likely I will tell my child all the truth I can muster as he or she grows, and so I stopped writing this exercise because I realized the futility of trying to wrangle that kind of scope into even a grand volume, so much experience to mete out. Yet, I also stopped because I realized that the little bit I wrote could be used to start countless other things as I expounded upon the events I learned from growing up.
Then earlier today I was working on the Early Dawn draft and playing with verses that were thematically similar. I started with a mental image of early dawn and hit upon the following bit of verse:
Fitful traces of radiance draw forth form
From the erstwhile edges or deepest night
Depths resolve to surrender themselves
To the inevitable advance of invasive light
This verse doesn’t work with the other stanzas in Early Dawn, so I left it alone and moved on to the verse that I did include in the previous post. I like some of this short stanza, and although it didn’t work as originally intended, it stimulated me enough to write the additional stanza. Maybe I’ll come back to this at some point or incorporate it.
And the last bit is some simple verse I jotted down after seeing the word “stirrings” in the Early Dawn draft stanza I had written. I thought about the word and started putting down some verse.
A stirring is felt within.
It is not something of the mind,
But of the soul.
How dare I speak of the soul,
Yet dismiss it as fantasy or mythology.
How and why and what are questioned,
And where are answers to be found.
It wasn’t meant to be thematic or even cohesive, but as one verse led to another, I started to tie them together more. Again, this is just an exercise. I’ll probably not use any of this, but if looking back on it another time, I find myself inspired, then it is a success as a writing exercise.
I guess I’d have to say I have two overall approaches to getting inspired. The first and most common for me is through visual imagery, be it a mental image I construct of a scene or event or something I witness first hand. Based on the vision, I create action or observation that I then feel compelled to put down on paper. The second approach is verbal. Hearing or thinking about a word or phrase is often the stimulus that causes me to want to write it down. Once I have put something down, my mind naturally wants to toy with it and see if there is more to be coaxed from the words.
I’m not trying to espouse any method of divining inspiration, as I truly believe it’s a personal thing that has to be found out. In all honesty, this post is more about self exploration than about sharing my experience. If you find it useful or at least interesting, that’s just a bonus.
This is another quick poetry exercise to get some imagery down on paper. I was down at my family home this weekend, which is in the country, and while outside it occurred to me a number of times how much the feeling of the place affects me. I thought I’d jot down some ideas and work to expand that.
Crisp wind buffetting the land
Cool grey pre-dawn catching fire,
Burning ever brighter as the sun ascends
Waking from dreams meant to lull and control
Breathing deeply, slowly drawing idyllic scents
Memories and substance awaken
Unable to recapture a perfect essence
Yet overwhelmed and inundated.
For decades I drank of that pastoral landscape
Sights and sounds innumerable and eclectic
Permeate every and all things
Sticks and mud, stone and tree, air and water
All subjects of the masterwork
Verdant and breathy, it pulsates to a deep rythme
My heart beats with it.
An awakening seldom priveleged
It stirs the depth of incomprehension
But comforts with familiarity.
So grand a vision
I haven’t had much time to work on the Old Age poem, which I’d really like to finish. I did work on a short new poem as a bit of an exercise.
I stand exultant yet mute,
Vexed by prudent secrecy.
Wistful longing forcefully abated;
Utterances shuttered . . . silenced.
Wondrous revelations swallowed,
Forcibly restrained, tethered and chained
Open to so few.
Hidden for mere moments;
Sufferingly long moments;
Withstanding the ebb and flow,
Of temultuous, undulating restraints.
Waiting time will wither.
Rejoicing in revelation,
All joyous and unrestrained,
New beginnings emerge and change.
This is an exercise I did to get some words down and see where it leads. Most of the time, I have an idea or theme that I will follow closely trying to write a more polished first draft for a poem such as with Old Age. In this case, however, I had the first phrase, which I’d thought of and written down in a notebook at some point. Since it was just a turn of phrase that occurred to me rather than a specific idea, I started with it and just let my mind wander for a bit to see what all I could put down fairly quickly. It’s low-grade poetic brainstorming, but just looking at this, I can see some potential for themes or even some verse that might be fodder for a similar exercise.
The willful deception of my heart sustains me,
Awash with emotions I desperately try to subdue.
Unbending forms force their structure on me
So tense–coiled and compressed
Brutish but subtle such as it were,
I feed my anguish into its maw.
Tirelessly constructing pathways;
Drowning naivete with ever more complex machinations
Unknowable fears course through me
Blanketing me in cold separation
Alone in stasis
Without direction or recourse
Twilight landscapes devoid of depth and color
Stark surroundings bind me motionless
Hunkered down . . . fetal . . . wallowing
Effusive sadness permeates everything.