Springtime Poem Revision

I had a chance to revise the Springtime poem from the earlier post.  I cleaned it up some and tried to make it more personal in the perspective.  I think it is a little closer to an experience in time rather than a description of a repetitive occurrence, which is where I want to take it.  The language is pretty simple for much of it, but I’m fine with that for now, as I wanted to make the story or event more concise before I worry about the verbiage.  Hopefully, the next draft will be tighter and more “poetic,” if that’s even something I should strive for.

Moisture clogs the air, dense and warm,
Clings to it like a robe.
I can feel it on my skin,
Inducing sweat from my pores.
I can feel it in my lungs.
Ever so much harder to breathe,
I draw it in and push it out,
Laboring just a fraction more
As I pull at the thickened air.
I can taste the spring in its thickness.
Fresh pollen and dust, microscopic motes
Swim in each tiny drop, trapped.

With flitting caress, the wind shifts.
It sidles steady one moment,
Only to shuffle and shift aside.
I feel the pressure mount,
As a wall of atmosphere presses
Insistently, bounding southward.
Shoving aside that gentle wind,
It buffets me stiff and chill,
Running stark, dry fingers
Through the heavy bank of warm air.
I can feel it expand around me,
Turgid and impassive,
As it muscles it way beneath that heavy mass.

I feel the passing of transient warmth,
As it succumbs to turbulent and chill,
Drop by drop, molecule by molecule,
Clouds ascend, bouncing and breaking light,
Showering the earth in sparkling brilliance.
I watch them climb and marvel,
Even as I shy away from the sudden cold.
I watch them grow fat and black,
As the billowing mass begins to pull
At the light, and the very air.

I picture the drops growing fat,
As the crash and tumble into others,
An aery pool of water in flight,
Bound by gravity, held aloft by turbulence.
Growing overlarge as they crash together,
Drops, fat and wet, pull to the earth.
Speeding, elongating they plummet
To the ultimate finality of their destruction.
I watch it all.
I feel the first fat wet drops,
As they crash into skin,
Moist with sweat born of the same warmth
That bred the rain and feeds the spring.

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Spring Time Inspiration

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.

Minuscule tapping,
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.

Duke

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Another Haiku

Here is another haiku attempt.

Breaking on the rocks,
Foaming seas moan deep and low,
Restless, mournful soul

There are so many approaches to creating haiku.  I think I’ll have to really work to find my voice.

Duke

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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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Willful Deception Exercise 2

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.

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How I begin writing

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.

Minstrel
Onus
Lamplight
Dawn
Walls

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.

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Early Dawn – Second Draft

This is actually less a second draft than it is a bit of content with a question.  The question is how should I proceed?  I was thinking of some of the imagery of the late night/early morning, and I started writing some verse.  I like much of the new stanza, but it very obviously doesn’t fit at the end of the poem where it was originally tacked on.  The original three stanzas are much more cohesive–likely because they were written together on the same day, so it’s hard to split them as they flow together well.  Part of the problem is that the new material, while in line with the theme, does not fit conveniently anywhere with regard to the timing of the coming of dawn.

The lack of cohesion was strong enough that I stopped working on another stanza to try to find a way forward.  I think from this point I could go many directions: I could omit the stanza and try to create new verse that fits the earlier draft, I could revise and/or reposition the stanza to try to make it mesh more with the original material, or I could possibly create more verse that would smooth the transition.

I settled on trying option two and three.  I moved the stanza around, and it fits best at the top, but needs revision to change the feel.  There also needs to be at least one more stanza after it to smooth the transition to the appearance of the light.  So as of now, that’s the answer to my question.  I’ll work on that for now and see where it goes.

Waking creatures announce themselves,
With fitful stirrings of leaf and frond.
Roiling water marks piscine play,
On the mirrored surface of crystal pond.
Chitter and click of darkness fades,
As faithless denizens of the night abscond;
Nocturnal beasts retreat silently,
Through fields and woods and the hills beyond

Cool grey predawn catches fire,
Burns ever brighter as the sun ascends;
Radiant warmth fights silently,
Against the crisply coursing autumn wind.
Trees and grasses shiver and sough,
Hum tenuous tones on sway and bend;
Chanting songbirds lend melody,
The ethereal chorus of twilights end.

Hill and swale coalesce in form,
Awash with mornings first tentative rays.
Mounting dawn coaxes color forth,
Drawing vibrant hues from the muted haze.
Golden tones color Fall’s last leaves,
Sharing final splendor in dying days.
Deep violet skies flee fleetly west,
Seeking refuge once more as night decays.

Long shadows creep across the land,
False strength that falters as day grows bright.
Earth and stone sit stolid and cold,
Unavailing resistance to warming light;
Crystaline dew breaks free from bonds,
Restlessly stirring, grasps the wind and takes flight.
Eternal sun dances onward up,
An overarching orb empowering life.

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