sharing a poetic LIFELINE with the world

Author Archive

Limericks — How It All Started For Me

Power of the Pen – Limericks

St. Paddy’s Day weekend 2009, I read my poems publicly for the first time at an open mic event. Terrified at exposing my babies to the harsh elements of public view. Even more terrified at the form I chose — limericks.

The Poetic Muselings were experimenting with different forms, and this was a huge stretch, but what better way to go all the way out on the limb?  Here’s what gave me strength to lead us on our journey. If political satire (especially in an election year) upset you, perhaps you want to skip this musing.

Power of the Pen

We need a new four-letter word
To deny this is simply absurd.
To say what we mean
and not be obscene —

The best way for the herds to be heard

****************

Hooray for good old “uck”
One letter changes a duck
into something we find —
outrageous? sublime?

the epitome of our yucked-up old luck?

****************

Politicians are so damn perverse
Campaigning should all be in verse
let rapier wits
expose all the twits

Then watch them go lurch in reverse

***************

The elected have grandiose schemes
to fix economic machines
Trust us, they say
we work magic today

Naked Emperors with unraveled seams

***********

Don’t worry, my darling, my honey
They’re only just stealing our money
They really don’t care
that they trade in despair —

Now tell me how that can’t be funny.

*****

Savoring Form and Visibility

We welcome back Lisa Gentile — she’s more like family than a guest poster! Thank you, Lisa, for joining us again today. (Please read our earlier interview with Lisa, too: http://poetic-muselings.net/2012/07/10/lisa-gentile-mentor-and-moxie-maverick/)

Savoring Form and Visibility

One of the many uplifting themes that I notice every time I read through this Poetic Muselings blog is that of appreciating the world around us, with all of its tragic, glorious, epic, and everyday beauty.

It hits me every time even though I shouldn’t be surprised by it. After all, that’s what writers and other artists do, right? They grasp an inspiration and artfully shape it into a piece of creative work so that they may reflect upon it, move on from it, and/or share it with the rest of us. But what really goes on? I suspect there are some answers lurking in around this blog.

Through focus on form we assemble a collection of sensorial, intellectual, and emotional experiences and string them together in a pleasing poetic form. Very often the new configuration gives us insight into the events or imaginings that we selected.

The resultant poem tells us something about ourselves, the characters portrayed, or the moment captured. The selection might seem random at first, the configuration unremarkable. A subtle change could shift the whole message. This is our creative hand at work, we trust that we have made the right selections for this particular piece and we follow them to their conclusion.

When we make visible what we have seen we create something tangible out of our interpretation. It matters that we create a unit of meaning, and beauty, that we can share with others. This is a powerful way to connect with each other. It creates the potential for a dialog.

We may be sharing a joy, a sorrow, or a casual rumination. The important point is that we are sharing, we are saying “I was there and I saw/ heard/ did/ felt/ thought this.” We are inviting others to enjoy our art, experience the meaning give it, and then to create their own meaning.

When we create, whether by focusing on form or making an idea visible, we are making an impression that holds personal value less abstract and more real in the world—we are shaping its meaning so that we may share it and appreciate it in our lives, so that we may savor it.

Research shows that this making and expression of meaning from our experiences contributes to our satisfaction in life. How do you give form and visibility to your experiences? How do you savor life?

Lisa Gentile, M.S. is a professional life coach. You can read more about her practice at http://www.moxiemavericks.com

Lisa Gentile, Mentor and Moxie Maverick

We’re delighted to spend some time today with
Lisa Gentile,
the “Moxie Maverick”,
career coach, writer, poet, creative artist,
and mentor to
the Poetic Muselings.

 Michele: Well, Lisa, we’ve had a bit of history since meeting in cyberspace at the October 2007 Muse Online Writers Conference. So much has changed for all of us! Your poetry workshop in 2008 was so powerful, it literally burned out your internet connection on that last day of chats. As I tap-danced my way through a room full of writers from all over the world, we decided to let you know what we were taking back with us from the intense week. Last November, Lifelines was published, the culmination of our efforts following the workshop.

 Did you ever think we’d be having this conversation, in this way, and this time?

Lisa: I had no idea what I was starting when I signed into that first workshop. I never expected that we would later meet up in various states. Now it makes perfect sense that  we are writing to each other, with each other, and in one another’s spaces.

 What do you think helped us succeed when so many drop by the wayside?

It seemed to me that you all immediately appreciated the potential of your sharing. Our workshop exercises asked you to step back and really listen to your work, yourselves, and each other. But you trusted each other, or at least wanted the possible outcomes enough to take risks together.

 We learned so much from you — what might we have taught you in return?

I was humbled to hold an early version of your manuscript, which would eventually become Lifelines, in my hands. It was the culmination of your shared perseverance and vulnerability. I was grateful to have witnessed its creation, even from afar. You taught me to remain open-minded with respect to what others may achieve.

As you know, I see connections in even the not-so-obvious places. When people “take root” in each others’ lives, all kinds of things are possible.

For me, connection has always meant to witness another person, to see, acknowledge and respect what’s important to them. I like how Dr. Brené Brown defines connection as ‘the energy that exists between people when they feel seen, heard, and valued; when  they can give and receive without judgment; and when they derive sustenance and strength from the relationship.’ I find her use of the word ‘sustenance’ compelling. It seems like an important part of the connection between the Poetic Muselings that became Lifelines.

Tell us about Moxie Mavericks — how does one “become” one? And why should one?

Moxie Mavericks is the name of my company, my professional life coaching practice. Moxie means gumption, derring-do, etc. But for me it’s a family value with which I was raised. I come from several generations of people who stand by their principles, whether they make us heroes, antiheroes, or observers. We enjoy each other’s stories. And those stories don’t even have to be spectacular, as long as they are real. We simply witness each other’s moxie when we see it. So people with similar values tend to feel at home here.

Mavericks are the sorts who get very serious about creating personal meaning in their lives. They are, by definition, out on the very edge of the frontier. It’s important to note that the landscape might be internal. People have special needs when they shift to maverick mode. It gets lonely out/in there. Very often others in their lives don’t see the singular vision that a maverick might have or initially understand the actions he or she chooses. So in coaching we build a space where mavericks can get customized support and feel safe to experiment with ideas.

We all have access to moxie and can be a maverick. It’s in there.

I know you are passionate about the concept of transition in an individual’s life. What does this mean to you? What are you seeing that’s so exciting?

People usually expect life coaching to be about defining their dreams, about setting and reaching goals, and about overcoming challenges like procrastination. Indeed, these are some of the tactical aspects of the work we do in coaching. But what I see over and over in my clients is a desire to make meaning out of a transition, to understand what’s being lost and gained by moving. In some cases, if we rush into goal setting we miss the opportunity to slow down and reflect. Forced goals lack authenticity. They are burdensome rather than enriching. Giving clients space and time for this reflection has deepened and enlivened the experiences my clients and I share.

As we talked recently, I envisioned transition as trying to figure out what you need to put in your backpack for a journey — and more importantly, what you must take out and leave out in order to make a transition. That’s the hard part — letting go of what only weighs you down. Any guidance on this? 

We often don’t know that we are entering the journey of a transition when it begins. Sometimes we realize we are far from “home” only when we feel lost. Something has changed but we don’t know what. We also might not know where we are going next. So it can be tricky to pack in advance. Either way, it helps to have a stash of compassion, for oneself and for others. We are all doing the best we can. We need to be patient with ourselves. This is how we can safely look at what’s holding us down. I won’t pretend that it’s easy work. The second handy item is appreciation for ourselves and others. I work with clients on spotting signature strengths–the ones that offer us the most pleasure and personal meaning when expressed. They make for an internal compass of sorts, one that can be recalibrated as interests change.

Where are you going with projects and other aspects of your life these days? 

People have been asking for retreats so I’m working that out. I understand more fully now how they might be of service. This fall two plays that my husband, Nick, and I wrote will be performed at the San Francisco Fringe Festival. Our program is called “Weird Romance”. We have a wonderful director, cast, and crew bringing our characters to life. It’s quite a treat to have others see your imagination walking and talking under the lights. We love hearing the audience laugh.

And what about your future? What’s coming up? 

I am exploring the vulnerability of stillness. It’s a wild ride.

You can’t get away from here without a few words about one of the strangest boat stories I’ve heard in years — and I’m a (somewhat) experienced sailor!

What is the project that made you take to the seas, what’s happening with it now, and where do you see it going?

You are talking about Spirit of the Sea, a new youth sailing program for which I volunteer. This year we acquired a very special boat as our flagship, S/V Ocean Watch. In February we splashed her, cleaned her up, and sailed her from Anacortes, WA, to San Francisco, CA.

We take youth sailing on the San Francisco Bay at not cost to them. Just participating in the sailing of a boat and experiencing the marine environment can be powerful to our youth. But we’re taking it a step further by offering activities that incorporate experiential education, citizen science, and service learning to connect these kids with critical thinking, mentors, and possible career paths. We hope to instill these young sailors with a sense of agency that will transfer to other domains.

“No one makes that trip at that time by choice.” 

That’s exactly what half a dozen insurance agents said.

Why did you do it?

I no longer know why we delivered the boat at that time. To get it done, I suppose. I did it because it was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to sail with an incredible group of experienced and moxie-rich sailors, some of whom had become my dear friends. I did it because I had earned it. We had worked hard to get the program to that point and sharing this adventure was a celebration. Also, I was ready for a new way to access information about myself in the world. This is the point of the adventure coaching that I do with some of my clients. This adventure was an opportunity for me to exercise different strengths outside of my daily routine.

Any highlights?

I witnessed first-hand the value of a “game-face” in sailing leadership. It keeps everyone calm and focused. There were many perfect moments. There was a perfect hour of a perfect afternoon. I felt secure with my fellow crew so I was free to marvel at the ever-changing shapes of the waves, patterns of the bubbles, and colors of the waters. And I had some chocolate. I think I felt deeply myself and connected at the same time. But I find that the more I try to look back at these moments squarely, the more they seem to shimmer and dissolve. They are prismatic.

So my work now is to remember how these moments felt and stay open to those sensations in the future.

Was this a transitional journey for you?

It offered key moments in a larger transition. The engine died one morning at dawn, just before a shift change. So everyone was up, exhausted, and busy. While others tracked the problem and rebuilt parts I stayed on watch alone at the helm. We had no wind so we were especially vulnerable. Even once we started moving again, my job was relatively simple: monitor the radar, watch for hazards, make course adjustments, and scan the horizon through the binoculars. But I was absolutely satisfied. I loved that no one checked on me. As the sun came up I studied the beautiful sky and coastline and faced the notion that I had fulfilled, in one way or another, just about every promise that I had made to myself as a kid. I decided to not even review the list, to just let it all be. Now I’m shifting my focus from doing to being.

They say you never return from a journey to the same place. 

When I left I was thrilled that I didn’t know when I would return. I don’t think I’ve quite yet returned. I am practicing patience and expressing my curiosity.

Your websites are as eclectic as you are, Lisa — so much more to talk about at a later date! 

Glad to see that Spirit of the Sea is a recognized 501 tax-exempt Public Charity  — which means that donations not only go to a very good cause, but are tax deductible. I encourage our readers to look at this site and consider a donation to the worthy cause. (Hint: the price of a couple of lattes could help float the boat.):    www.spiritofthesea.org

Your theater production is a hoot! How I’d love to be in San Francisco on Sept. 8, 9, 11 or 14 to see “Weird Romance”:   http://www.sffringe.org

Thank you so much for joining us today! As always, we appreciate your generosity of spirit, wisdom, humor, and that sense of connection we cherish. Good luck with all your adventures.

Thanks, Michele. My pleasure, and I look forward to sharing more soon.

To learn more about what Lisa does, check out:  www.moxiemavericks.com

A True Senryu Story

This form made me giggle and immediately brought up a senryu story:

 

My big Poodle hates rain

Stares at me:

“Do something! My feet are all wet!”

 

Editor’s POV: How to Submit your Work

Lin Neiswender’s Post about Publication Leads was great. She reiterated that there ARE places to send our work, and that we writers and poets are a community; when we share resources, advice, ideas, and our hearts, we all benefit. We are the Poetic Muselings, with a published book of poetry, because others before us opened the doors, reached out to help us, and now we are continuing the process.

I’ve been Poetry Editor for Apollo’s Lyre e-zine for almost two years, having inherited a marvelous forum that I’ve made my own. We publish poets and poems from all over the world, from highly credentialed folks, and those who are courageously sending their work out for the first time — some of it decades old, but unseen by other eyes. I love this unpaid job, the discovery of a fresh voice, vivid imagery, the teasing of form. Our readers must love the publication, too, because they’ve commented about how particular poems inspired them to send their work for consideration.

We get LOTS of poems, and often the decision of what to publish is very difficult. When I first read the incoming items, I do a quick scan of the poem. Some grab me immediately, a huge “YES!!!” bounces in my head. I tag these stars, so they stand out. I don’t pay attention to the bio info yet — I just know I want to find a spot for these words in a future issue.

The next category are those where the poet didn’t follow any of the guidelines:

Soldiers at Yorktown (Graf, 2005)

— a maximum of FORTY (40) lines of poetry, excluding stanza breaks

— spread out in up to FOUR poems

— subject line: Poetry, YOUR NAME, # of poems, # of lines total

—  poem and bio  in the body of the email. No attachments

— at a minimum, the use of “//” to designate stanza breaks.

(I also ask for “/” at the end of each line of poetry, but that seems to confuse people.)

— People may send in their work whenever, so long as it doesn’t exceed 40 lines and four poems in any three month period. In the guidelines page of Apollo’s Lyre, I lay out this information, with examples.

Ignore these and your poems are likely to be returned or ignored, depending on the circumstances. Send something with a blank subject line, or an attachment (unless I’ve specifically requested it), and it will travel directly to “Trash”. Do yourself a favor and make it easier for the editor or publisher not to say “NO”.

I’ve received emails from some folks who send (I kid you not!):

— one long email, with over 250 lines of poetry, in multiple poems

— one long email with ONE poem of over 200 lines

— one poem per email, with over a dozen emails received in a short period of time.

— collections of poems (often a dozen or more, with around 100 lines or so)

These leave me with the feeling that I’m looking in someone’s closet, and it’s my job to decide what they should wear. Don’t send me “everything” — send me your very best poem(s).

The next part is trickier, and always amazes me, since it gives the impression that the person submitting didn’t care where or to whom, and assumed we’d figure it out:

— maybe because my name is so often misspelled, I triple-check the editor’s name, spelling, title, etc., before sending anything out. So, when I see my name spelled in any of a multitude of variations, it says someone didn’t proofread before mailing, or didn’t pay attention.

— recently, I got a spate of poems addressed to me as well as about a hundred of the poet’s nearest and dearest editors — with all of our names listed in the cc’s. This really tells me that someone was hunting with a shotgun, not a rifle, hoping to hit and slow down at least one of us without extra effort.

We’re talking about email, people! It’s not like they were worried about postage! What would an employer say to a letter like this? “To Whom It May Concern: I would really like to work for your company, but I don’t think I should have to do any research about what you do, or what you ask for. I don’t have to follow any of your rules, since I’m so incredible you’ll be in a bidding war for my services. Oh, yes, I don’t have much in the way of publishing credits, but that shouldn’t worry you.Please call me back tomorrow. Sincerely, Princess Poet OR Frog Prince.”

Believe me, every time you send your work out in the world, you are applying for a job, that of writer.

If you don’t follow general guidelines, you leave the impression you might be difficult to work with. This leads me to a third category of poems — those with potential, maybe some minor fixing or clarification to bring out their souls.

This pile is reviewed several times, under different circumstances. Some poems take more concentration to grasp, and are worth the effort. Some may need a bit of rearrangement of images, or a shift to present tense, reduction of “ing” words and unneeded articles. Poetry doesn’t have to have complete sentences, cover all gaps. I read these poems aloud for cadence, rhyme, awkwardness or smoothness of sounds.

Before you send anything in — even (in my opinion) novels or non-fiction, but especially poems — read it aloud. Hear what you’ve written, listen to how the sounds complement, contrast, enhance your intent. Where do you breathe? Is it clear from the poem? I know that my Mac desktop computer, and my Windows 7 laptop, have a text-to-voice program that will read your words to you. Usually this is part of “accessibility” options. Turn it on and try it.

There are two other general categories of poems that don’t make it into our publication:

— Those that aren’t quite the quality level yet, perhaps too cliche-driven, forced rhyme, or otherwise not appropriate for Apollo’s Lyre in subject matter. Not all poems are right for all publications. That’s where the search for publishers is important. Read back issues.

— Some incredibly wonderful poems may not be used simply because we don’t have room to publish everything we want, and/or we have other similar poems we’re using. Choosing is hard! Two poems about very similar subjects requires a decision about which one is “best” for us, at the time. I wish the poets success placing the ones I’ve passed on.

I’m as susceptible as anyone else when it comes to being treated fairly, with respect, understanding, and a willingness for a poet to work with me to edit a poem. Usually I’m right with my suggestions, since I’m approaching it with some distance; it isn’t my baby, but I care about it. Sometimes I’m wrong; I just didn’t “get it” about what was intended. When I’ve heard the background, I understand, and might suggest a few words be added to the bio, to help the reader understand, too.

I’m blown away at the talent out there, and here with our blog. I hope some of this helps you get ready for your next batch of outgoing angels. Help them fly to their destination, and not get eaten by the nasty gatekeeping trolls (like me!).

Let us know if you try this, and it works — we’ll spotlight your success. And, if you share other ideas of where to submit poems, we’ll keep an active spot here, giving you credit for it, of course.

Keep writing!

Michele

Capturing the Elusive Villanelle

Garden of the Gods, Colorado. © Graf 2006

Maybe “deconstructing” is a better word for what follows.

I love a well-constructed, nuance-laden, tension-building poem — especially one with lines or phrases repeated, each time expanding on the underlying theme. When it works, it really works. When I dabble in a structured form, I need to take it apart and put it back together in a way that makes sense to me.

Over the years, I created my own versions of “cheat sheets” — today they are usually called “templates” — for a variety of poetic forms, when it was important to have a set number of syllables or sounds per line;  control the number of lines in each stanza, especially if the stanzas are not constructed the same — like the villanelle. I’ve used them with haikus, tankas, ghazels, alternating voice layout, and for song lyrics — especially useful to bridge beats, where you want to stretch out a sound.

My Villanelle template and construction process are simpler than it appears at first glance.  I:

1. Took as my guide the Dylan Thomas poem “Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night”, which Margaret used when she introduced the form.

2. Identified the rhyme pattern alongside each line, as Margaret explained. To make it easier, I highlighted the first line and each repetition that followed, then used a different color highlighter, and did the same for the third line. Since the only other rhyme was with line 2, I highlighted the last word in each of the “B/b” lines (below is a portion)

Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night
Dylan Thomas (1914-1953)


… and so on.

Then, I:

3. Counted the number of syllables per line (ten); the number stanzas and lines per stanza (five stanzas of three lines each (tercets), plus one stanza of four lines (a quatrain)); the total number of lines I needed, including a blank line between stanzas (24 lines total)

Next step was to write my first three lines, using the right number of syllables or sounds, and the right pattern, knowing that the first and third lines would be repeated several times in the poem:

   We claim our fears and ghosts by what we do,
   paths drag us into, not by accident,
   territory steep in our deep taboo.

This gave me the shape of the form. Time to do the template. I:

4. Created a table with eleven columns across (one for each of the ten syllables needed in each line, PLUS a first column with the rhyme pattern), and 24 rows (for each filled and blank line in the poem)

5. Shaded in the rows that were stanza breaks (rows 4, 8, 12, 16 and 20; I didn’t create a column to number the rows — just counted down)

6. Filled in each of the first three rows, one syllable per each cell across the table, in columns 2 – 11, with my first tercet.

7. went back to column one, and, with my trusty Thomas poem, wrote in what the rhyme pattern needed to be.

8. filled in on my template where lines one and three were repeated

9. really cheated on the next step! I wrote the sound I needed to repeat (in parentheses) in the last column of each line. Yes, I’ve creatively split words as I sounded them for the cells.

… (the complete template is at the end of this post)

10. then came up with a bunch of words that rhymed with each of the endings of the two lines.

A1 and A3:  do/ taboo (DO) — view, new, clue, avenue, cue, due
B1: accident (DENT) — amazement, evident, coincident, bent, went, event, dent, sent

Then the creative process really started:

11. I wrote the poem from the last stanza forward — I knew how it started; that was already written. I decided how I wanted it to end, and, using the list of “sound alike” words, figured how to end each of the lines in the quatrain.

12. Worked my way through the poem, looking at the rhyming words I’d come up with, and moved them around.

13. wrote lines, juggled them from tercet to tercet, until they made sense to me.

And, voila! Though this is still a work in progress, you can see how each step shaped this draft of the poem’s cadence, flow, rhythm, content, and context. Now the work begins, to hone it into a sharp, complete story. Like Mary’s poem, my subject is dark. I hope to capture the same sense as hers did.

Ever Thus
by Michele M. Graf

We claim our fears and ghosts by what we do;
paths drag us into, not by accident,
territory steep in our deep taboo.

You may argue with me, bellow your view;
we both know how those branches get so bent:
we claim our fear and ghosts by what we do.

Mourn the loss, the lack of hope for the new
words to stop needless blood so poorly spent.
Territory steep in our deep taboo.

Paint it, gloss it, but you can’t hide the hue
of euphemism masking what is meant.
We claim our fear and ghosts by what we do

when we rant, and rave, call it just miscue,
no longer valid — such self-evident
territory steep in our deep taboo.

Fate enters laughing when it all comes due.
Can how its end not be coincident?
We claim our fears and ghosts by what we do,
territory steep in our deep taboo.

Events and Accolades

We’ve been busy, sharing our poetry with the world. Some highlights of our recent and future activities:

Anne Westlund:  
~had three poems published in Poetry Breakfast:
http://poetrybreakfast.wordpress.com/?s=anne+westlund
“Chivalry”  – March 11, 2012
“White-out” – March 17, 2012
“Eclipse” – March 26, 2012
~Strange Pulp – one time publication for the Oasis Sci-Fi Convention in Orlando, Fl.  Short story,  File Under “S”, May 2012

Lin Neiswender: Three poems in the anthology Love and Other Passions by the Poets of Central Florida, http://www.amazon.com/Love-Other-Passions-Central-Florida/dp/098515070X

Margaret Fieland:
~is Participating in Sequential Poetry Reading on Sat April 21st between 12 and 3 at The Omen, 184 Essex Street in Salem, MA
~ Poems published:
Boston LiteraryMagazine
“Monday Morning” Spring, 2012
http://poetrybreakfast.wordpress.com/?s=margaret+fieland
“Weather Report” February 24, 2012
“Taking a Break” March 3rd, 2012

Michele Graf: Two poems, “Chief Joseph Trail” and “Forest” were recently included in the Oregon Poetic Voices Project (OPV), a comprehensive digital archive of poetry readings to complement existing print collections of poetry across the state. Read and listen to her poems at:  http://oregonpoeticvoices.org/poet/370/

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