Kick the Poetry Can'ts #18

Writing letters is another great way to find the poem within a certain situation. For today’s Kick in the Poetry Can’ts, write a letter to someone who is dead, it can be someone you knew or a total stranger, and then turn it into a poem. I find this easiest to just write out the long prose version first and then go back and revise it with a poetic eye.

Here’s my letter poem to a girl who died when she was sixteen.

We were never friends
but I knew who you were
that long, black hair you refused to cut
that cigarette you popped in your mouth as soon as the bell rang
that purple backpack you carried everywhere
that boy you glued yourself to,
not caring who saw you swapping spit
and playing touchy feely games under the bleachers

We were never friends
but I followed you once
not on purpose, okay, maybe I meant to
but I didn’t mean to see him hit you
I didn’t mean to see you cry
I didn’t mean to run away
knocking over the garbage can next to the snack shack
making him growl at me the way he growled at you
making me so afraid
that I forgot about him hitting you
and only thought getting away
before he hit me too.

Later
after
much later
after so much
later I wondered
if I could have saved you

Now
even later
I wonder if I can save myself

–Susan Taylor Brown, all rights reserved

Your turn.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012|Categories: National Poetry Month 2012, Poetry Prompts, Susan's Original Poems|Tags: , |5 Comments

Kick the Poetry Can'ts #17

This next exercise is similar to the spine poem we did the other day. It’s easy peasy. It’s a horoscope poem. All you need is a horoscope, for either one day or a few days. Here I have included a picture of two days worth of a horoscope. (Click on the picture to see it larger and be able to choose your words/phrases.) If you don’t get the newspaper with horoscopes in them you can search online for any horoscope of the day.

Here’s the rule. You can only use the words or phrases in the horoscope. If two words or more are next to each other, you have to use them in that order but you can move things around however you like after that. You can’t change the tenses of any of the words. If you cut out a few horoscopes from the newspaper you can go through with a highlighter and mark the words you like and then rearrange them to make your poem.

Here are the two horoscopes I used.

And here’s the poem I came up with:

explosive change
emotional confusion
spend time with an old friend
trust
someone is in your corner
don’t be shy
be true to you
push back
proceed with your eyes open
follow your heart

Now you can stop there or, you can do a second poem using this one as a jumping off point.

Your turn.

Kick the Poetry Can'ts #16

I realized today that while I have posted a few haiku of my own I haven’t yet mentioned that haiku is a great kick in the poetry can’ts. They are short which translates to easy for a lot of people. They can be as simple or as complex as you might like, depending on what set of rules you want to follow. For this exercise let’s stick with simple rules that it must be 3 lines of 5-7-5 syllable count. The first line has 5 syllable. The next has 7 syllables. And the last has 5 again.

To make it interesting, before you write your haiku, make your own brainstorm of things that have to do with water. I’ll throw you a few to get you started: ice, pond, puddle. Go ahead and brainstorm as many words as you can that are “water words.” Got that? Okay, so write your haiku that has to do with water.

Ready, set, go!

Here’s mine. I’m not 100% happy with it yet but I’m posting the draft to give you courage to try too!
beneath the redbud
blossoms puddle by design
masterpiece in mud

–Susan Taylor Brown, all rights reserved

Kick the Poetry Can'ts #15

This is another one of my favorite prompts to try. Sometimes it confuses people because there’s no easy answer. As usual, I start with a list but you can brainstorm in whatever way works best for you. If you’re using the list to brainstorm, try starting off each sentence with the same phrase and then go back and revise it to make it more interesting. Or not. Either way works.

Write about what you don’t understand. Or use the line, “I don’t understand . . .” and see where it takes you.

I’m exhausted tonight but here’s my brainstorm:

I don’t understand how my grandmother always made all the food come out of the oven at the same time so everything on the dinner table was hot.
I don’t understand how to cook. It seems too much like math and makes my brain hurt.
I don’t understand how people can taste something, like a sauce and decide what it needs.
I don’t understand how to stir things on the stove evidently because a lot of things get stuck to the bowl.
I don’t understand the concept of heat because I always turn it too low and then when things don’t cook the way I expect I turn it up too high and things burn.
I don’t understand cuts of meat because I once tried to use stew meat as shishkabobs for an important dinner.
I don’t understand rice. It should be so easy but it’s not and my rice maker intimidates me.
I don’t understand cooking.

You might gather from my brainstorm that I’m no wizard in the kitchen. And you’d be right. I don’t like to do things I’m not very good at it and cooking just frustrates me. But husband, who does most of the cooking around the house, really enjoys it. I’ve gotten better over the years but I still don’t get the pure joy from it that he does.

Here’s my rough draft of a poem. It’s not much of a poem yet but I think I like the idea of exploring the two ways cooking happens in this house.
My husband whistles while he cooks
or sings along with the iPod
head bobbing in time
as he chops veggies
pounds the meat
heats the oil
a dash of this, a pinch of that
happy dancing to the fridge
for just one more egg
he studies the recipe
the way I read a book,
with intent
with joy

I don’t understand that at all.

Your turn.

Kick the Poetry Can'ts #14

This is so easy and so much fun. It’s called a Spine Poem. And just like Kick the Poetry Can’ts #12 the idea is to use complete phrases and not add in any extra words. For this poem I limited myself to just books I had on my young adult novel shelves but wander around your house and grab some books and make a spine poem of your own. If you don’t have a lot of books to choose from, how about using some food items from your kitchen shelves?

Here’s mine: you can click on the picture to see it full size and read it more easily.

How it’s done
Blind faith
stand tall
trouble
speak
shiver
contents under pressure
send me down a miracle
countdown
smack
crash
girl overboard
too big a storm
the facts speak for themselves
the sky is everywhere
take me there
dreamland

Your turn!

Saturday, April 14, 2012|Categories: National Poetry Month 2012, Poetry Prompts, Susan's Original Poems|Tags: , |5 Comments

Kick the Poetry Can'ts #13

In the classroom we’d do the first part of this next exercise on the board. You’ll have to brainstorm on your own or use my lists that I come up with.

First, make a list of at least 5 things that are yellow.

butter
sun
corn
lemon
school bus
daisy
pepper
pencil
canary
squash

Now make a list of at least 5 things that fly.

plane
butterfly
dragonfly
mosquito
kite
helicopter
bird
bat
hot air balloon
bee

Now the first two lists we could all probably agree on. The last list will be different for each person. Make a list of at least 5 things you find beautiful.

ocean waves
sunrise/sunset
water bubbling in a creek
flowers blooming in my garden
my husband’s smile
my dog
a room full of books
hawks soaring above the hills

Now take at least one word from each list and try to make a poem.

Honey bees buzz blossoms on the lemon tree
zooming fast past me
past my dog
sprawled in shadows of the sun
sipping nectar
like I suck butter from corn-on-the-cob

Your turn.

Kick the Poetry Can'ts #12

One of the things I think my students and new poets find most difficult about writing poetry is that they want a set of rules to follow: start each sentence with a capital, use complete sentences, make things rhyme, and make everything make sense. What I try to teach them is that some of the best poems or at least the seed of a good poem, can often be found more easily if you break the rules or throw the idea of rules out the window.

Now I’m not saying I find this easy to do. But when I do it, and when I share, it often cracks something open for the writer. To do this I go back to my giant stash of things cut from magazines. (I keep a stack of magazines and a pair of scissors near where I sit to watch TV. It’s a good thing to do at that time.) I go through a magazine and I cut out phrases that I find interesting. In this stash they are all phrases, no individual words. No punctuation marks. In the classroom I put a pile of phrases in front of each student.

The rules are this:
1. Use as many or as few of the phrases as you want.
2. Do not cut/tear the words apart to make other words. You have to use them just as they are.
3. Do not write new words or punctuation on scraps of paper to add to the poem.

You’d think these would be easy rules to follow but a lot of people get hung up on not having complete sentences or not making perfect sense. You can give this a try using the phrases that I share in the picture or you can grab a magazine of your own and cut out a stash of phrases that speak to you.

Here’s my set I chose to work with for this poem (click on the picture to see it full size):

And here’s the poem I came up with as a result.

Family is what you have
at break of day
listening around corners
like father, like daughter
tell me lies one by one
imagine the possibilities
behind the mask
and still the story
something very sorry
in my home

I like it. I might choose to go back and revise it into something more but I also like it just as it is.

Your turn.

Kick the Poetry Can'ts #11

Some of the best poems come from places where we feel things deeply and know well. Often that is a relationship with a member of our family. The feelings might be good or bad but they are almost always there, holding nuggets to make a poem. I ask my students to write a poem about someone in their family but to not tell me how they are related until the very last line. Let me get to know the person through their poem.

Now sometimes it’s hard to get there right away so you know what I’m going to tell you to do right? Yep. Make a list. And if it’s easiest to make the list starting out with the relationship and their name, fine. Do that in your listmaking/brainstorming stage. Then go back and reword it in your revision. By that I mean, brainstorm like this:

My sister Susan wears . . .
My sister Susan keeps . . .
My sister Susan hates . . .
My sister Susan likes . . .

But change it up when you work up your revised poem.

Here’s my first draft of such a poem.

He loved to hunt, that big tall man,
so tall that if I sat on his shoulders, I could touch the ceiling.
He loved to hunt those ducks and pheasant and quail
to keep us fed in the winter months
and when he brought home the ducks
we’d gather in the basement to pluck the feathers,
feathers we’d save to make into pillows later.
Later after the ducks were clean and singed
and the smell of burned flesh branded in my brain
we’d race back up the steep stairs from the basement
pack those ducks in milk cartons filled with water and
tuck them in the freezer for the lean days.

He loved to fish, that man who kept a toothpick wedged between his lips,
hooking the big blue and white boat
behind his ancient green station wagon and heading out to the sloughs
on a summer Saturday, stopping to rake some clams for bait
before heading off to Colusa with his best girl
hoping to snag a sturgeon before they had to come back home.

He loved to sit in that nubby red chair,
reading the paper and watching Red Skelton,
sucking on a peppermint lifesaver
while Red made him laugh a deep true belly laugh
that always felt like a hug

He loved his meat and potatoes for dinner
spam sandwiches for lunch
dessert and coffee with every meal.

He loved being outdoors
working in his garage
puttering in the yard
not being caged in the house
or a church
or a hospital bed

He loved me too,
I think,
that grandfather of mine,
even though I don’t remember
him ever saying the words out loud.

–Susan Taylor Brown, all rights reserved

Your turn.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012|Categories: National Poetry Month 2012, Poetry Prompts, Susan's Original Poems|Tags: , |4 Comments

Kick the Poetry Can'ts #10

One of the things that makes a poem, and any piece of writing, come alive is the use of specific details. Often my students will write in generalities, my dog, my car, my room. Once we’ve been writing together for a while I try to teach them to go a bit deeper with their poems and use the specific details that will show me the difference between a German Shepherd and a Poodle, between a puddle of water and the ocean, between a beat up old Chevy Impala and a shiny new Lexus just driven off the showroom floor.

It’s easiest to start with something you know well and I like to do this exercise with both a place and event. Today let’s focus on a place. For kids I usually suggest their room but they’re free to pick anywhere they want – grandma’s kitchen, church, their best friend’s basement. And then I ask them to make a list of everything they can remember about that one place, including at least one line for each of their senses. As you might tell by now I start a lot of poems with a list because while writing a poem might feel hard, making a list is usually pretty easy. Some people call it brainstorming but I usually get confused when I look at those mind maps with words going off in all sorts of different directions. A list feels orderly and yet it can still be all over the place.

So first I suggest a list of at least 10 things they remember about the place and I encourage them to use sensory details. And sometimes it’s easy to go back to the “I remember” prompt and just start the list like that. Then they can build the poem.

Here’s my brainstorm of being in my library here at home:

Some of the books are old and have that wonderful old musty book smell
It’s dusty and the windows are dirty and I don’t care
The clerestory windows let in tons of light
the picture window lets me see the lush garden
It feels like a safe place to breathe
Even with windows closed, I can hear the birds chirping
the dog is snoring,
my computer humming
A cobweb is hanging off the ceiling fan, a few more on some of the top bookcases
I’m sipping cinnamon tea
The dog is chasing something in her dreams, legs are running
I’m feeling tempted to go rearrange books
I’ve got a stack of poetry books next to me on the floor
I don’t have room on the shelves for any more books
I need get rid of some books but I don’t want to let any of them go
the room feels like a hug from an old friend when you walk into it

And here is a rough trio of haiku from the brainstorm. Alas, not many specific details but then that’s what revision is for. 🙂

ordinary day
surrounded by dusty books
gratitude fills me

gratitude fills me
snoring dog chases squirrels
birds sing songs of spring

birds sing songs of spring
calling, come outside, breathe
this is the real work

Your turn.

Kick the Poetry Can'ts #9

I love to play with words which comes in handy as a poet. I’m forever jotting down favorite phases, bits of dialogue I overhear or words that seem interesting to me for some reason or another. It’s important to play with your writing because sometimes poems hide in the act of play. There are days I  forget that and I sit down with my notebook determined that right now I will write a poem. And sometimes that works. I can pull up one of my prompt cards and scratch out a rough draft. But I think freewriting and word play are important even if they don’t lead to a poem at that moment.

So I keep a lot of lists. I keep lists of individual words I like and word pairings that might work in a poem. I spend time in the garden just staring at the plants and the birds trying to describe them. I make lists of things like everything I can think of that is red or cold or pieces of furniture. I make lists of verbs. It’s not busy work. Really. It primes the pump.

A lot of times making these lists leads to an important exercise that I learned from Beth Kephart. She said she writes five metaphors a day.

I thought it sounded easy until I tried it. I stuttered step around it a lot and write a lot of junk metaphors but after doing it for a while (more like every few days. I don’t have Beth’s discipline.) I’ve found that I can quickly write out 5 metaphors and 1 of them might be something I can use. The more you practice it, the easier it comes.

So today’s exercise is to start a couple of lists of your favorite words and try your hand at a few metaphors. They don’t have to lead to something, but you won’t be too surprised if they do.

Monday, April 9, 2012|Categories: National Poetry Month 2012, Poetry Prompts|Tags: |2 Comments

Kick the Poetry Can'ts #8

This is another great prompt that can be used in a variety of ways. They haven’t made it to index cards of their own but they will soon.  These are incomplete sentences. Some of them lead right into make a list, 3 Ways to . . . Some are a great invitation to go someplace unexpected, Isn’t it your turn to. . . Usually students don’t have much trouble completing these. But then I often (depending on the class) serve them a twist. I tell them then need to brainstorm at least 10 lines and then they have to swap it out with someone else.

I didn’t have anyone to play with me tonight so I’m doing this one on my own. I decided to take the phrase BEHIND THE and see where it

Here’s my quick 10 line brainstorm.

behind the tree is a bush
behind the bush is a branch
behind the branch is a leaf
behind the leaf is a nest
behind the nest there is hope
behind the hope is a belief
behind the belief there is years of nature doing its own thing
behind the years of nature doing its own thing is a girl
behind the girl is the dream
behind the dream is the will

And here’s my quickie first draft of a poem. I like where this is heading and think I’ll come back and work with it some more.

Just outside my door
a Japanese maple begins the garden
rimmed in lady ferns and baby tears
dainty violets and meadow foam,
a wetlands bordered by bubbling water rocks

Beyond the tree a scraggly bush,
no tree itself, at least not yet,
grows like a skeleton against the fence
bending and sometimes breaking, when the wind blows

Within the bush branches grow
zig zagging toward the sun
highways for ants and aphids, spiders too,
a place for birds to perch, to preen
after a midday bath

Beside the branch
dark green leaves cluster like a fan
protect the jewel nestled in the vee
that meets the trunk

Behind the leaves
there is a tiny nest
woven with bits of spider webs
scraps of lint
white downy feathers
a bed newly made
waiting to hold the tiny eggs
from the tiny dancer
humming her song of hope

Rough but something new to play with in my spare time. Your turn.

Kick the Poetry Can'ts #7

With the students I usually work with, we do one or two steps forward into touchy territory, and then we go back to something fun and easy. Some kids will continue to go deep and some will take the opportunity for a break and write an easy poem.

I have a collection of ordinary items that I rotate in a basket to bring in for days like these. You can pull something from your junk drawer or start your own treasure chest. On my own desk I have nature items to inspire me, favorite rocks and twigs and dried flowers and leaves. Depending on the group, we either stay serious and write about the item as it really is or sometimes we go off and pretend that it is anything but what we are holding in our hand. I pass the basket and everyone picks one item out that speaks to them. I encourage them to brainstorms the basics of what it looks and feels like and then to just jot down anything that comes to mind. Make a list. So many poems can come out of the lists. Then they can go back and take that list, add some more details, and shape it into a poem.

Because I have been focusing on (obsessing) the hummingbird nesting in my yard, I think for this poem, I’m going to pick up those binoculars.

Here’s my rough poem, a trio of haiku.

snug in high branches
grandfather’s binoculars
bring the magic close

close enough to touch
iridescent feathers wave
while wind rocks the nest

while wind rocks the nest
baby hummingbirds slumber
snug in high branches

—Susan Taylor Brown, all rights reserved

Kick the Poetry Can'ts #6

This exercise is very loosely based on the George Ella Lyon poem and exercises called Where I’m From. I put it together after trying to use Lyon’s poem in some classes with students who just couldn’t seem to wrap their brain around the poem. This exercise was a nice way to ease them into it. Depending on the students (or poets) you could leave this as a simple list poem or use the list brainstorm to create something else. I alter the items on my list depending on my mood, the mood of the students, and whether it’s raining outside. (Okay, the first two are true. The last one, not so much.)

The students seem to like it because at first it’s just like answering questions, if you were an animal, what would you be? And I just toss out various items (kept on one of my trusty index cards in my back pocket) for as long or as short feels right. By the time they have their “list” they are warmed up and ready to go. Plus this builds on the 5 senses warmup poem we do every session.

So first off, just answer the questions to build your list. If you were a — what would you be?

Color?
Animal?
Article of clothing?
Sound?
Room in your house?
Smell?
Piece of furniture?
Job?
Food?
Weather?
Memory?
Dream?

Now build your poem. For kids I have them frame the poem by starting with “I am” and finishing with “I am.” I tell them the finished poem can’t have just one word answers. We usually title these poems “What I Want the World to Know About Me.” We go through these fast so they are reacting quickly and I don’t give them time to ponder the initial list until we’re done.

Okay, here’s my quick answering of those questions:

green
bird
fuzzy sweater
someone whistling
library
delta slough
rocking chair
gardener
storms of thunder and lighting
a child of 5 asking someone to look at her
to feel like I what I do matters

And here’s my quick draft of a poem.

WHAT I WANT THE WORLD TO KNOW ABOUT ME

I am green, the color of growth, the sign that I am new and untried, with so much still to learn.
I am a bird, pecking at what looks like nothing until I find a valuable seed.
I am your favorite fuzzy sweater that makes you sigh as soon as your arms slide in the sleeves.
I am the sound of my grandmother whistling as she hangs clothes on the line.
I am the library, the center of our home, the room that tugs you into it and wraps you in a hug.
I am the smell of the sloughs out on the delta, my fingers trailing over the edge of the Glasper boat, while Papa captained us to the beach.
I am the rocking chair that rocked my babies to sleep.
I am the gardener of my life, growing stories and poems and an Eden in my own back yard.
I am storms that crash with thunder and lighting, so quickly do my moods change.
I am still, at times, a child of five, asking someone to please, just look at her.
I am one who wants to know that at some time, in this life, what I did mattered.

Your turn.

Kick the Poetry Can'ts #5

I call this lesson 5 x 7.  Make a list. Don’t think it over very long, just quickly brainstorm 5 each of the following items:

5 nouns, 5 adjectives, 5 verbs, 5 things that are green, 5 emotions, 5 sounds, 5 locations

You can obviously swap these around to 5 of something else. I’ve done different colors, foods, animals, the weather, etc. You can also build your own brainstorming set by jotting these things down on scraps of paper and keeping them in labeled baggies then draw words out of them to build a poem. But for now, let’s just brainstorm. And once you have your brainstorm, the idea is to write a poem using at least 1 word from each of your 7 categories.

Here’s my brainstorm. You can use mine for your poem or brainstorm your own.

5 nouns
dog bird water wind photograph

5 adjectives
tired sweet hot confused excited

5 verbs
race  plunge  pluck  simmer  look

5 things that are green
fern  leaf   pickle   mallard   artichoke

5 emotions
happiness love worry  envy  lonely

5 sounds
birds chirping  bubbling water rock   country music playing in someone’s backyard  snoring dog  bees buzzing

5 locations
under the Japanese maple tree  on the roof  at the park   home    on the couch

And here’s my quickie rough draft of a poem:

Dog races down the garden path
then stops to plunge her head
deep into a nest of ferns
sleeping beneath the Japanese maple tree
to roust a lazy lizard
who dives down and away from chomping jaws

I envy her simple pleasures
slurping water from the bubbling rock
bothering bees as they buzz around the garden
snoring in the sun
important lessons I should let her
teach me

I think I’m likely to come back and play with this draft and either expand the idea or perhaps chop it way back to a haiku.

Your turn.

Audio guest post!

Hear me read my pantoum poem and get the story behind the poem. I’m guest pod posting at Katie Davis Brain Burps.

Thursday, April 5, 2012|Categories: Listen to Me Read, Susan's Original Poems|Tags: , , |0 Comments

2012 KidLit Progressive Poem stops HERE today

Welcome to day 5 of the first (I think) experiment in collective verse, the 2012 KidLit Progressive Poem! This fun idea was the brainchild of the talented Irene Latham

Irene got us started on the first day and each day the poem moves to a new blog where you can read the next line. It will be such fun to see the twists and turns this poem takes along the way. You can read the schedule for the progressive poem in the sidebar on the right.

Here is the poem, thus far, with my new line #5.

If you are reading this
you must be hungry
Kick off your silver slippers
Come sit with us a spell

A hanky, here, now dry your tears

Next up is Mary Lee at A Year of Reading.

My next installment of KICK THE POETRY CAN’TS will be up a little later today.

Thursday, April 5, 2012|Categories: National Poetry Month 2012|Tags: , |25 Comments

Kick the Poetry Can'ts #4

Sometimes it’s the simplest prompts that get my students writing. From the beginning that’s my goal, just to get them writing and often not even realizing that they’ve written a poem until they’ve been doing it for a while. I use a lot of my index card writing games because it feels more like a game to them and less like homework. And because it allows them to stay in a safer place until they are ready to go deep. Because of course that’s what I’m hoping poetry will do for them, invite them to go deeply into who they are, the choices they have made, what matters to them, and where they want to go with their life. But I can’t dig at their hearts right away so I do a lot of easy prompts and exercises to get them in the mood.

Building on the idea of a list poem I like to use the prompt “I remember.”

Students are usually confused ask me, “I remember what?”

And I say yes. Tell me what you remember. Tell me everything you remember about yesterday. About the last time you saw your family. (My students are usually incarcerated.) Tell me what your bedroom looks like. Tell me how you feel about green beans. Pick a single thing or a single person and just make a list. Start every sentence with “I remember.” Then later you can go back and, if you want, rework the sentences. To see how this prompt worked in one of my classes you can read about this experience I had with a very reluctant student.

Okay, let’s write. I decided to write about a day 15 years or so ago when I was living in New Orleans and sprained my ankle.

First, my brainstorm starting each line with I REMEMBER:

I remember working late and being in a bad mood when I got home because there wasn’t anything good left in the house for dinner and I was too broke to go out to eat.
I remember climbing the two flights of stairs to apartment and hearing my dog barking on the other side of the door.
I remember thinking about how I didn’t want to go take the dog for a walk because it was looking like it was going to rain and besides I was really hungry and worrying about what I was going to eat.
I remember the cat got out the front door and for a minute I worried about him taking off except by then it was raining and I knew if he got wet he’d come back.
I remember the cat racing back into the apartment out of the rain.
I remember walking the dog for several laps around the apt complex, trying not to let her roll in the big puddles of water.
I remember how I couldn’t stop her from rolling in the water and she was a dirty, stinky, wet mess of dog by the time we headed home.
I remember being so angry about everything I didn’t like in my life, about living along, about being poor, about living in a town that didn’t want me, that I didn’t watch where I was going.
I remember the big tree, so close to my apartment, the tree whose roots were tearing up the sidewalk.
I remember tripping over the roots of that tree.
I remember falling and letting go of the leash and feeling something horrible happen to my ankle.
I remember pain. A lot of pain.
I remember hopping to stairs of my apartment, my dog barking and dancing like it was some kind of a game.
I remember crawling up the stairs on my hands and knees.
I remember collapsing, just inside the door,
I remember the way my ankle looked, swollen about 5 times its normal size.
I remember holding on to my wet and stinky dog and crying because I was so alone

And here’s my first draft of a quick poem. It needs something else but I’m going to go ahead and post it now.

Walking in the rain
a dancing dog by my side
I am suddenly sideswiped
by a sidewalk split open
by ancient roots seeking sun
by my own obsession with my anger

thrash
crash
mash
my ankle should not hit the sidewalk first
but it does

mud splatters
rain patters
nothing matters
anymore

my will is broken
my foot is not
and I crawl up the stairs
on my hands and knees
like a three-legged dog.

Inside safe but alone
my ankle swells
my world shrinks
and I can do
is cry.

–Susan Taylor Brown, all rights reserved

Your turn, if you choose to play along. Write an “I remember” poem

Wednesday, April 4, 2012|Categories: National Poetry Month 2012, Poetry Prompts, Susan's Original Poems|Tags: , |8 Comments

Kick the Poetry Can'ts #3

This exercise started off because I needed another “something extra” to keep in my teaching bad. I’d had a run of bad luck with getting the kids to write and all the warmup exercises kept falling down flat. If I couldn’t get them to warmup, I couldn’t get them to do much of anything else. So I started opening and shutting (okay, maybe slamming) the drawers in my desk and file cabinet thinking I would find an answer in there somewhere. And I did. Sort of.

In my stationary drawer I had a stack of envelopes that didn’t go with any cards or notes. Just a bunch of mismatched extras. And I started to wonder what the kids  might do if they received an envelope that obviously had something in but they wouldn’t know what and they wouldn’t be allowed to open the envelopes. I took a stack of the envelopes and filled them all with something. Sometimes just a single Post-it note. Sometimes several sheets of paper (blank but they didn’t know that.) Then I sealed all the envelopes and proceeded to write on them, decorate them, drop them in the dirt, get them wet, crumple them up like they’ve been in someone’s pocket. All sorts of things to give them character.

In class I let everyone pick an envelope and I tell them that they can either be the person who just got this envelope in the mail or they are getting ready to send it.

I ask them to brainstorm 6 things about the envelope, simple story questions, WHO, WHAT, WHERE, WHEN, WHY and HOW.

And then to write a poem using those answers. I ask them to go back and revise with using the 5 senses. And for those that are really digging in about it’s “too hard” or “I don’t know what to write” I tell them they can do an acrostic if they like using the word LETTER or ENVELOPE.

I always tell the writers that they can make it all up. It doesn’t have to be real. But they almost always end up writing about something that actually happened to them.

There’s something that seems to happen when you are holding an envelope you know you can’t open. It usually gets people writing. (By the way, this is a great general creative writing exercise too.) It’s a little hard to do with just a photograph but let’s see what I can come up with. I’m picking that white envelope at the bottom with the phrase “Why won’t you talk to me?” on it. It’s crumpled and has been scuffed in the dirt a bit.

My brainstorm:

I’m thinking I just got the envelope and I’m trying to get up the nerve to open it. None of this is true. I’m just making it up as I go along.

– WHO?  I’m pretty sure it’s from a neighbor who lived across the street from me years ago. She was always leaving little notes in my mailbox
– WHAT?  It’s a yearly plea that comes, oddly enough, not at Christmas, but on my birthday.
– WHERE? I’m sitting in my car because I just picked up the mail at the post office
– WHEN? It’s my birthday. Early morning before the day has really gotten started
– WHY? We had a big fight over something horrible and I just can’t seem to forgive her, no matter how many times she asks.
– HOW? How am I going to get past this big rock in road?

Here’s my 10 minute poem. It’s very rough but I can see some things I like I might want to develop further.

Birthday mail
should make me smile
but a single envelope with
that familiar loopy handwriting
I used to try to mimic
makes my heart jump to a not-so-happy place.

A can near the door of the Post Office beckoned,
your offering would have been
a perfect gift to the garbage gods
but I couldn’t let go
anymore than I could
forget or forgive.

Neighborly notes of love
landed up in my mailbox
near every day
for the seven years
you lived across the street from me
thanking me
for blueberries
babysitting
and listening to you cry
when your mother died
until the day came
when I couldn’t listen
anymore
because everything you said
was a lie.

I hate your lies
but more than that
I hate what you stole
from me
the friend I thought you’d
always be
the smile I thought I’d
always have
every time
I saw your name.

–Susan Taylor Brown, all rights reserved

Your turn, if you care to play along.

Kick the Poetry Can'ts #2

I use a lot of index cards and things from magazines when I teach poetry. They’re easy and inexpensive. I can cut things out of magazines while I’m watching TV or just relaxing in the garden. In the past I skipped taping things to index cards but magazine paper is flimsy and things would get crumpled or lost too easily. Now I’ve discovered a bonus of having things on index cards is that I can always have a couple of sets in my pockets. Because one thing I’ve learned about teaching is that some lessons go over great and some of them fall flat in a heartbeat. I like being able to grab another set of cards and jump right into something else. In the classroom the kids seem to like holding them. At my desk, I like shuffling through them until something calls to me.

I start every class with the sensory warmup. If you want to warmup first I’ll give you a word from my stack today: TRUST

The next exercise is a simple list poem. I love using these with people who are intimidated with the idea of writing poetry. I tell them they don’t have to worry about rhymes or making any kind of sense. They just have to start with a list. A great example is Bruce Lanksy’s I Can’t Write a Poem.

I find using a question as a prompt sometimes helps get things started so here are some of my question cards.

Let’s pick one and write.

I chose WHERE DOES IT HURT? Here’s my first brainstorm.

 

WHERE DOES IT HURT?

every time I look in the mirror

my eyes (allergies)

my shoulder (fell off my horse too many times)

my little toe (stubbed it on the dog bone)

the thumb on my left hand (slammed it in the fridge)

the inside of my mouth where I bit my cheek (watching a scary movie)

the corner of my heart where I keep thoughts about my dad

a vault where I hide my memories of living in New Orleans

shadowy places where a mother always worries about her children

a hidden place deep inside of me where I know I’m not living up to my full potential

Now what was interesting to me is that I started off thinking about actual physical hurts and then it just flowed into more emotional ones. Sometimes I have long lists. Sometimes I get just a couple of lines and then a poem explodes. Sometimes my list poem stays a list and sometimes it goes off in another direction. It’s all good. It’s all writing. It’s all a gateway to poetry. This is just another way for me and my students to enter the creative process. Maybe they can’t write a poem, but they can make a list.

Here’s what I did with my brainstorm.

WHERE DOES IT HURT?

Blood and band-aids
record the painful moments
I let the world see
stubbed toe
slammed door
one shoulder,
always sore.

But those wounds heal
eventually
scar-less memories
that fade
but never haunt me.

I can’t show you
where I hurt the most.

One corner of my heart
holds hurts leftover from childhood
the gift of a missing father
the pain in an unwanted daughter
the memory that I have no memories
of him to call my own.

Behind another wall
I hide any recollection
of ever living in New Orleans
pretending like it never happened
pretending like it never change me
pretending, always pretending,
because remembering
is where it hurts the most.

—Susan Taylor Brown, all rights reserved

Your turn. You can use the question prompt I used or one of the cards or open a magazine and find one of your own. I hope you’ll decide to share it here.

Kick the Poetry Can'ts #1

Hooray! It’s National Poetry month! Poets and poetry lovers everywhere have been looking forward to this all year. I know I have.

I teach poetry to incarcerated youth. They’re a tough audience. They don’t want to do anything and they REALLY don’t want to write poetry. It takes me a few visits to get them into it and while I don’t convert everyone in loving poetry I do seem to get a lot of them writing it. I’m going to share some of the ways I get these kids to write poetry. They always involve prompts and exercises of some kind so I will do the exercise and I hope you will play along. Not all of the poems and exercises I share will speak to you and that’s okay.

When I go to a poetry residency I usually go for 10-12 visits. This is good because in the detention facilities it usually takes 3 sessions before I have built up any trust with the kids. So I start off easy and set certain things in place that they know will happen every time.  After reading to them from Ruth Gendler’s wonderful book The Book of Qualities, I bring out my purple cards.

I let a student pick a card and from there we do a group poem on the board based on using our five senses to describe the word. It takes a while but pretty soon they get into and are shouting out some great descriptions and I jot them all on the board. We pick our favorites and put together a quick list poem. This is the one thing I do every single visit. In the classroom it helps get them warmed up without writing yet and because they are all doing it together, there is less pressure on them. And they get used to it and look forward to being able to pick a card and get us started. As you can see from the photo, these are just words cut from magazines that I taped onto some index cards.  I use these cards in a lot of different ways and when I am teaching, there are always a stack of them in my back pocket. I keep some on my desk too, if I am looking for a prompt.

So let’s do one of these now. I pick the card ENVY. In the classroom, this is what I would write on the board:

 

What does envy look like?

What does envy feel like?

What does envy sound like?

What does envy smell like?

What does envy taste like?

 

Okay, here’s what I came up with:

 

Envy looks like every person I’ve ever seen who doesn’t have issues with their weight.

Envy feels like a beach bonfire blazing out of control.

Envy sounds like steam hissing from a broken overheated pipe.

Envy smells like candy cooking on the stove, so sweet it makes me feel sick.

Envy tastes nothing like I imagined it would taste like.

 

Now in a classroom you’d have a lot more sentences for each sense but this will give you the idea. And if you’re doing this on your own, go ahead and freewrite as many as you can come up with. You can use my word, ENVY, or one from the picture or picture a word of your own.

After I have my sentences I like to play with them and see if I can find the poem.  I should add that I do these quickly. They’re great warmups for just that reason. You don’t have to spend hours or days revising it. I might go back and play with it some more but here’s my 10 minute poem.

 

ENVY

Envy sounds like steam hissing from an overheated pipe

every time I seem someone who doesn’t have issues with their weight

my chest hurts.

 

Envy feels like a beach bonfire blazing out of control

and smells like candy cooking on the stove, sickening sweet,

it makes my stomach turn

it makes me feel sick

it makes me into someone I don’t want to be.

 

Envy tastes nothing like I imagined it would taste like,

it sticks in the back of my throat like peanut butter

choking my possibilities.

— Susan Taylor Brown, all rights reserved

 

And I tell these new poets, this is it. You wrote a poem.

Your turn. Why not give it a try here in the comments or on your own blog. If you post it on your blog please leave a link in the comments so I can come see what you’ve done.

I hope you’ll share your poems in the comments so we can all be inspired.

Epitaph: In Memory of Rain

It’s been a long time since I participated in Poetry Friday but I’m getting back in the saddle again, a great prelude to National Poetry Month. I recently participated in the March poetry madness over at Think Kid Think where poets were challenged to create a poem in a short amount of time using an assigned word. I got the word “impaled” for my third round 3. Not exactly a word I use in a sentence every day. I took the challenge a step farther and decided to attempt to write a pantoum. So this is my first pantoum using my assigned word, impaled. (Note, the Think Kid Think tournament is still going on. It’s down to the final four so you can pop over there and read some amazing poems and vote for your favorite.)

Epitaph: In Memory of Rain

And when water freely flowed, we cheered
tiny seedlings impaled the crusted clay
giant sequoias stretched high to salute the sun
their roots anchored deep in the belly of the earth

tiny seedlings impaled the crusted clay
wildflowers carpeted canyons in a kaleidoscope of colors
their roots anchored deep in the belly of the earth
we danced at dawn to the music of birds and bees

wildflowers carpeted canyons in a kaleidoscope of colors
before the forest fell down around us
we danced at dawn to the music of birds and bees
until we squandered nature’s gift

before the forest fell down around us
giant sequoias stretched high to salute the sun
until we squandered nature’s gift
and when water ceased to flow, we wept.

–Susan Taylor Brown, all rights reserved

Friday, March 30, 2012|Categories: Poetry Friday, Susan's Original Poems|Tags: , , |4 Comments

Coming soon! Kick the Poetry Can'ts

Much to the joy of poets and poetry lovers everywhere, national poetry month begins April 1st. For the last few years I’ve been writing a poem a day for National Poetry month. One year it was haiku about my native garden. The next it was poems about the father I never knew.  And last year it was about some of the things I learned about myself during a month of play. I love the pressure of coming up with a new poem every day, much like the pressure of the recent March Poetry madness, though this time I’m not in competition with anyone.  When I was pondering a topic for this year I was thinking about how I am often asked how I go about teaching poetry to incarcerated teens. I decided to spend the 30 days in April sharing the various ways I teach poetry, with exercises that I will do and post and invite readers to play along.

So you’ll still get a poem a day from me. But you’ll also get the chance to write a poem a day yourself and get support along the way. Teachers and parents who homeschool their children will learn some fun ways to include poetry into your classroom.

I hope you’ll all join in the fun. See you back here on Sunday where you KICK THE POETRY CAN’TS.

 

Thursday, March 29, 2012|Categories: National Poetry Month 2012|Tags: , , |2 Comments

March Madness Poetry tournament 2012 – Round 3

Well I won my round 2 match in the poetry tournament and my round 3 has just been posted. I have the word “impaled” and am up against the very talented Greg Pincus who has the word “truce.” After you check out our match, make sure you go back to the Live Scoreboard and read the various other match-ups going on.

Go here to read and vote.

Friday, March 23, 2012|Categories: Susan's Original Poems|Tags: , |5 Comments

March Madness Poetry Tournament 2012 – Round 2

Thanks to all of you who voted and helped me win the first round in the March Madness Poetry tournament. My new poem for the next round is up now. This time it is translucent vs cement.
Please read and vote for your favand help us get the word out. We’d like to double the votes from the last round. Voting is only open for about a day and a half.

Thank you!

 

At 14, I Learn the Truth
by Susan Taylor Brown

One steamy shattered shower door
translucent glass coats the floor
I am a little girl
no more.

Monday, March 19, 2012|Categories: Susan's Original Poems|Tags: , |8 Comments

March Madness Poetry Tournament 2012 – Round 1

So I signed up to be in this crazy poetry madness event where children’s poets are randomly seeded (kinda like basketball tournaments) and are randomly assigned words with a difficulty of 1 (easy) to 16 (ouch!) and have to write a poem appropriate for kids. Then we’re randomly matched up in a head-to-head tournament. We have a short time to write the poems and then readers vote and the winners of the match-ups go on to the next round.

I’d love the chance to continue but I have to win this round. I had the good/unfortunate luck of being seeded 16 which gives me the impossible words. I got nonconfrontational for the first round.

Anyway, they’re short, 8 lines or less, and I’m begging for folks to go read, at least my match-up, and vote for the ones they like best.
http://www.thinkkidthink.com/1-carve-vs-16-nonconfrontational

Of course I hope you’ll like mine enough to vote for me. 🙂

 

At 13, I Walk on Eggshells
by Susan Taylor Brown

More than the way your hands paint bruises the world can’t see
I fear your words, and the way they tattoo themselves in my brain
creating a chorus of put-downs that play in an endless loop,
reminding me of all I am not, in your eyes.

Your words are my only gift from you and I carry them close,
like the most precious of jewels. I can’t help myself.

In this house, nonconfrontational
is just another word for survival.

Thursday, March 15, 2012|Categories: Susan's Original Poems|Tags: , |4 Comments

On Being True to Your Writer Self

I signed up to be part of this wonderful crazy-making idea that Ed DeCaria came up with – a March Madness Poetry Tournament, where poets are assigned a word and matched up in head-to-head battles. They have to write a kid appropriate poem. Readers vote, winners move on to the next round. Some of the words are insanely difficult. Some are silly. The poems are great fun to read, many of them are light, funny verse.

The seeding is random and the words range from 1 (easy) to 16 (how will I ever use this in a poem). I was seeded, randomly, at 16. Which meant I was going to draw the tough words. The word I drew was “nonconfrontational” Uh, huh. To use in a poem for kids.

Here’s what went through my mind. Is he crazy? I can’t use this in a poem for kids. I can’t use this in a poem for anyone. If he wants nonconfrontational, I’ll give him nonconfrontational. Well maybe I won’t because he lives in Chicago and I’m in California but boy, if he was here. Gee, if I was a real poet, I would probably feel differently about all this. I might look at it as more of a game, a challenge, maybe it would be fun. Oh man, looking at the discussions from other people it sounds like there are going to be a lot of funny poems. I don’t write funny poems. I write poems that break your heart and hand them back to you with an apology and a roll of Scotch tape. I can’t do this. Why did I sign up for this? Okay, maybe I can write funny. Rhyming couplets would work, right? I Sure, let’s give it a try. Oh man, that didn’t work. Double Dactyl, yes, it’s the perfect word for a Double Dactyl, the only problem is that I’ve never written a Double Dactyl in my life. And they’re supposed to be funny too. I am so not a poet yet. I need to study more. I need to learn all these forms. I shouldn’t have signed up for this. I’m not a poet.

Does any of this self-abuse sound familiar? The things we writers do to ourselves. I actually considered quitting without posting anything. Yes, dumb, I know.

But here’s what finally came to me. I was trying to force myself into a mold that no one told me I had to fit into. I don’t write light and funny verse. I don’t read much light and funny verse. I’m not a light and funny verse kind of writer.

So I decided to do something radical. I decided to lean into my strengths.

And as soon as I let go of all those preconceived ideas of what I was SUPPOSED to write, the poem came together. In ten minutes.

Writing is tough enough. Let’s not make it any harder than it has to be. Lean into your strengths. You might just surprise yourself.

I hope you’ll go read my poem for the poetry match-up. Voting is only open for the next day and a half and you can only vote once. So please read, vote and share.

And of course, I hope you’ll like my poem, At 13 I Walk on Eggshells, enough to vote for it.

 

Thursday, March 15, 2012|Categories: Writing Life|Tags: , |13 Comments

Art Show Update

Last Thursday I challenged you to share something good about yourself. It was wonderfully inspiring to see people respond to the challenge. I encourage you do it again this week, tell me something good about yourself, or if you still find that too difficult, how about this, tell me something good about a friend of yours. Pick  just one  friend and tell me all the wonderful things you love about that friend. We can do another friend next week.

I want to tell you about my friend Laura Salas. If you don’t know Laura’s books or poetry, you should. Her website is full of kinds of all fun stuff as is her blog. I met Laura years ago in an online critique group and while we have only had the pleasure of being in person together twice (once at the Chautauqua conference and once at KidLit con) we have maintained our friendship via emails and Skype calls. She’s an awesome cheerleader to have on your team and terrific critiquer as well. If you already know Laura, you know of her generous heart and unending support of poetry. She wants poetry to be easy and accessible for everyone and she works hard to make that happen. For the past, shoot, four or five years (Laura, help me remember here) she has done a Thursday poetry exercise called Poems of 15 Words or Less. Every Thursday she posts a photograph and invites people to share their poetic responses in the comments. The only catch is that it has to be 15 words or less.

I can’t believe how long she has been doing this and that every single Thursday, she comes up with something to say about the photo she posts. I have participated on and off but I confess, sometimes the pictures don’t inspire me and I just have to let it go. But for a while there I was doing the 15 Words or Less on a pretty regular basis. I saved the photos to my computer, along with my poems, knowing I didn’t want to lose my words but I didn’t know what else I might do with them.

Then I started art journaling and I knew that my collection of 15 Words or less poems would be perfect in an art journal. I had so much fun creating art pages and then adding Laura’s photos and my words. I ended up with a lovely fat book that still surprises me when I turn the pages.

But the story doesn’t end there. As some of you who follow me on Facebook might know, last night I participated in my first art show. One of the pieces on display was my Laura Salas inspired Art Journal! I can’t even put into words the thrill of standing at one end of the gallery and peeking down toward the other end and watching complete strangers flipping the pages, nodding their head at something they read.

Thank you, Laura, for the idea of 15 Words or Less inspiration, for the dedication to keeping it going, week after week after week (even when life is trying its best to beat you up) and for being the wonderfully supportive friend that you are.

I had eight other pieces in the show as well, from a series called “Notes From a Life”. I’ve included a few pages from the art journal and the individual pieces in the photos below. And it looks like I may have already sold my first piece.

Click on any photo to see it larger.

Your turn, tell me something wonderful about a friend of yours.

[nggallery id=2 template=caption]

Thursday, March 1, 2012|Categories: Susan's Art|Tags: , |21 Comments

Letters to Characters

Dear Frankie and Max,
I had a dream about the two of you last night. Max, you were in a safe place, warm and well-fed with a big bone to chew on whenever you wanted. Frankie, you were less safe, less warm and very hungry, not just for food but for a different life. Your story hasn’t changed from when first began to whisper in my ear – it is still a sad and heartbreaking story of abuse that doesn’t fit into any current story mold but I understand more now than I did then. I understand that some stories have to be written even if I am the only one who ever reads them.  I know I told you to quit talking to me because you were breaking my heart but I thought I’d let you know that it’s okay to speak up again. It’s not that I think I’m suddenly any stronger than I was before, but it’s that I understand how much you need me to let the world know what’s happening to both of you.

 

Dear Flyboy,
I think you’re grounded. Probably permanently. Please try not to take it personally. I realize now that I was writing about flying for all the wrong reasons. But you’ve helped me through a lot of painful explorations over the years while I tried to find out about my father. A friend once told me that the hardest thing about your story was that you would find the answers about your father and that I never would. And she was right.  But then that changed and I found my father’s family and learned more of the truths about him and with that knowledge I felt the anchor of you that I’ve carried for 20+ years, slipping away. When and if I visit you again I expect we’ll both have different stories to tell.

 

Dear Plant Kid,
No one, except for me, really believes in your story. I understand that and for a long time I’ve let that stop me from spending time with you. But like I told Frankie & Max, some stories have to be written even if I am the only one who ever reads them. I can think of a couple of angles to tweak to make you more commercial but I’m not thinking that way right now. I want to just climb back into your skin and record the experiences you’re having and see where it takes us both. Sure, you’re a very introspective, quirky kid and I’ve never met anyone who looks at the world the way you do, adult or child, but then, that’s part of your charm.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012|Categories: Letters to Characters|Tags: |6 Comments

Tell Me Something Good, About You

When I woke up this morning I knew I wanted to write something about how quick we are to see the negative in our lives and in ourselves and how seldom we celebrate ourselves or feel bad talking about something that went well for us. We can shout it from the rooftops for family or friends but all too often we can’t do the same for ourselves. Many of us have negative loops that play in our head, telling us we’re not as good as we think we are, telling us that book we’re trying to write is a waste of time, that piece of art isn’t really art, and that meal you thought came out so well was boring and overcooked. I’m all for changing the tape on that background noise. How about you?

Here’s the new chorus I want to hear in my head. I’m forcing myself (I’m saying “force” because it’s not a habit yet.)

  • I’m good at writing. Not just writing in general but I’m good at writing the kind of stories that get under your skin and tug at your heart and sometimes make you cry.
  • I’m good at taking every day moments, like something that happens in the garden or an observation of my dog or a teaching moment in the classroom, and writing about them so that most people can relate to the situation and the story.
  • I’m good creating a home that is welcoming to all who come to visit.
  • I’m good at reading fast.
  • I’m good at supporting my friends and kids and encouraging their dreams.
  • I’m good at listening.
  • I’m good at making other people feel at ease.

This isn’t an easy thing (for most people) to do. I know I’m good at other things but when it came to actually putting them on the list I found myself hesitating. Maybe next week it will be easier to add to it. I also stopped myself from being snarky and saying how good I was at doing things that were bad for me because I don’t think that goes with the spirit of the exercise. You don’t have to qualify your talents. You do have to accept them.

It takes practice for most of us to be able to talk about what we do well so here’s your chance. Tell me what you do well. Don’t counter it with I do this but I stink at that.  Trust me, I had a corresponding negative thought for everything I posted. Start each sentence with “I’m good at . . . ”

Ready, set, go!

 

Today, in some parts of the blogsphere, it is known as Thankful Thursday. Thankful Thursday was started by writer L.K. Madigan, an amazing woman whom I met on Livejournal.  Today is also the one year anniversary of Lisa’s death. Jama Rattigan has a wonderful tribute to Lisa on her blog.

Thursday, February 23, 2012|Categories: Random|Tags: , |38 Comments

A Patchwork Life is Okay With Me

“It is good to love many things, for therein lies strength, and whosoever loves much performs much, and can accomplish much, and what is done with love is well done.”- Vincent Van Gogh

I’m interested in a lot of things. Writing novels and essays and poems. Making art. My dog. My California native plant garden. The birds and other wildlife that visit my garden. Photography.

Any one of those could be a full-time job and sometimes I make myself crazy jumping from one thing to another. And sometimes I beat myself up for what I fear is a lack of focus on any one thing because I worry it will lead people to think that not specializing in any one area of my life means I’m not very good at any one thing. Of course that’s complicated by the fact that I am quick to shout out my shortcomings and less quick to announce things I do well.

In moving old blog posts over here to my new blog I’ve been rereading a lot of posts, seeing if they still hold up over time and if I should keep them around. I noticed a disturbing trend, there was a lot of guilt, a lot of beating myself up for what I did and didn’t do. If I stopped blogging for a while I reentered the blog world with a long list of explanations. If I didn’t finish a book project by my personal drop dead date I got out the old hair shirt and wore for weeks and weeks. I whined a lot about my deficiencies as a writer, poet and artist. I called myself a rotten person, wife, mother, daughter, and friend. I gave a lot of space to the negative things in my life. Wow, what a bummer, eh?

There weren’t very many posts where I shouted out about how great I was doing with a book project or how a poem came together absolutely perfectly or how a piece of art went from the picture in my head to the picture on the page in a way that made me gasp. I have those moments but I didn’t write about them very often. I’d like to change that. I’d like to celebrate the every day moments of my life, the weird, the wacky, and the wonderful.

Today was a pretty typical day. The first thought I had when I woke up was about how to fix a design issue on the garden site. Which got me to thinking about the garden blog. Which got me to thinking about how I wanted to relaunch this writing blog/website today which meant I needed a blog post.  So I stayed in bed, closed my eyes, and sorted through some possible blog topics. Greg Pincus just wrote a post about social media guilt and I thought about writing a response to that since I’m returning to blogging after a long absence. I decided not to because sometimes giving voice to something I’m thinking about gives it power and for once I wanted to step back into blogging without making an apology. I blogged. I stopped. I decided to blog again.

Because I want to write more Of Dogs and Writing posts I wondered if I could find a way to link them together. Which for some reason made me think of National Poetry Month and the project I have planned for this year and my Kickstarter idea for next year. Then I thought I should really write about exhibiting my art in a gallery for my very first show which has me alternately excited and petrified. (I don’t expect everyone to like my work, or to buy it – though that would be nice – but I sure hope I don’t overhear anyone talking negatively about it.) All that thinking reminded me that it was probably time to reread my three “go to” books:  Art and Fear, Callings, and The Creative Habit.

Keep in mind I had all these thoughts before I even got out of bed. That’s the way my mind works.

By afternoon I had checked in with a couple of friends, titled and priced my art for the show, worked on the cover of the art journal that is also going into the show and took Cassie to the vet. In-between times I spent in my chair in the corner of the library taking pictures of the birds and then later, I wandered around the garden and captured some great shots of a few newly blooming plants.

It was a busy day. I didn’t finish any one thing and yet I am profoundly happy. I saw some progress on a couple of projects. I jotted down ideas for an art series and some notes for a poem about Cassie, and brainstormed my Kickstarter poetry project.  I spent the day doing things I love.

I’m a lucky gal. I can finally not only recognize but accept that my life is always going to be a patchwork sort of life made of blocks of time devoted to the various things that interest me. Maybe that doesn’t make me an expert in any one thing. Or maybe it does.

I’m pretty good at being me.

Monday, February 20, 2012|Categories: Writing Life|Tags: , |17 Comments