sharing a poetic LIFELINE with the world

Archive for the ‘Creativity’ Category


Greetings from the Poetic Muselings, and welcome to 2015. We have decided to blog once a week this month, and I have drawn the first


We Muselings met online in October of 2008 when we all signed up for a workshop at the Muse Online Writers Conference.  The four of us were signed up for Magdelena Ball’s Create a Chap Book workshop and Lisa Gentile’s Creative Block Busters. However, due to a power outage, Lisa was unable to connect for the final online chat session, so moderator Michele Graf (see, even then she was our leader), took over, and we all shared how our week had gone. Afterward, a group of us started to meet online and share our poetry. Lifelines, and the Poetic Muselings, came from that.


As to my own, creative beginnings,  I told myself stories as far back as I can remember, stories in my head. Somehow I wasn’t all that oriented in the real world, instead inhabiting the world of my imagination. A blue fairy would appear and comfort me. The back of my closet would open and become the entrance to a new world. The door into the hall would open into someplace new and strange. But it was years before it occurred to me to write anything down.


I started writing poetry early, but never took myself seriously as a poet. When I become involved with my spouse, I started writing some for her. I wrote poems into spiral notebooks which I stored in the attic. When things got tense between us, I wrote angst-filled poems, again in spiral notebooks. A few were published in a small newsletter.


At one point I wrote a poem I wanted to keep, and that’s when I tumbled into my life as a writer. Searching for a place to store my poem online, I found a couple of communities and started to participate. I became a finalist in a poetry contest. A couple of poems were published in a print journal, a few more in an online journal. I found the Muse Online Writers Conference and connected with others. In short, I got hooked.

What I'm Grateful For

Early November through December is the time of year I used to spent locked in my own padded cell of emotionsMichele1-1. Soured holiday cheer, reminder of what wasn’t right in my life and the world.

. . . Survivor guilt at not dying when I was twenty; if I had, my father would have been sent home from Viet Nam early. A month in the hospital saved me and destroyed the family, when he died under strange circumstances three days before he was to return home. . . . Less than a year later, more guilt at finding the love of my life, my exact opposite, who’s lived with me and my insecurities for more than 45 years. . . .

Steve Jobs noted our inability to connect dots of experience prospectively. We cannot determine until well after events how they link, what their impact is, and how profoundly our lives change as a result.

“But for . . . ” my illness, and my father’s death, I never would have met my husband.

“But for . . . ” NOT getting a job I wanted, I was able to retire much earlier than would have happened if I’d been selected.

“But for . . .” putting myself in the right place at the right time, I’d never have met Carolyn Howard Johnson, which began my poetry-writing in earnest, and the discovery of the Muse OnLine Writers Conference in 2006.

“But for . . . ” that conference, I would not be writing this post today.

I sit here today, grateful for the people in my life, my personal safety and security, my needs met. As much as I complain  about — and fear — the growing list of health issues I’m battling, I’m grateful to live in a time that provides me with care unheard of even a dozen years ago.

I’m grateful for my confidence that ebbs and flows, how I am learning incrementally to trust myself, test myself. I’m grateful for the clutter that drives me nuts at times — what I can share, what it teaches me.

I’m grateful to live here, in this country, despite all our problems and issues. I feel truly blessed to be able to write what I choose, vote as I choose, and speak — or remain silent if that is my choice.

I live the American Dream:

~daughter of a first-generation girl-child born here of stetl dwellers who left the “Old Country” with nothing, before WWI;

~ able to trace my father’s family’s journey on the Trail of Tears in 1839.

~”But for . . .” the holocaust and horror of WWII, these two souls would never have met at a USO dance in Chicago in 1943. Lost and found each other again. Lost each other for good 25 years later, in the next ripping war in 1968.

~ First of my family to attend college, and later graduate.

~ Connected in recent years to extended family I never really knew earlier.

My first post on our Poetic Muselings blog was just over three years ago. It was my introduction to you, our readers and friends. I’m reissuing it here, today, because it struck me as true, still, and what I’m trying to share.

We wish you all a very happy Thanksgiving. May you find that spark, that “something” to give you peace of mind, courage when you need it, and lots of joy.


Turning Over Rocks

“Why be difficult
when you can always
be impossible?”

My family’s motto,
when I was growing up.

We lived in clouds,
ephemeral universe,
all or nothing mind-set
badgered us into paralyzing inaction,
circular conundrums,
promises meant to stop questions,
not solve problem

“Don’t answer the phone!” admonitions
when I was home alone, sick,
escaping whatever had me
in its grip that day or week

Blame and shame
games and names
hiding in books read
by shadowed night-light
to tame the monsters
lurking under my bed,
in the closet,
beyond the toys
strewn across the floor
beyond the closed door
to my personal space and mind

Child of parents
whose fractured worlds
never resolved enough to give them
strength to shelter their offspring
the way this one needed

But I was loved
and encouraged to dream big,
reach beyond what was,
by my father
live his words
not the life we had

I gained my own,
tiny shard by shard
years later, loved,
protected, cherished,
with someone who believes in me,
loves me
without needing to understand
more than he does

learn to trust,
push past fears, worries
I’ll never be enough, do enough,
justify my own existence

Learn I have to prove
nothing to the world.
I have the right just to be,
eclectic, whimsical,
inconsistent entity
in love
with my life
as I inch
toward myself

Ⓒ Michele M. Graf



Holiday Poetry Prompt

snow1Here’s a holiday poetry prompt. My response to this is below. Yes, it really is possible to construct a poem from this nonsense.


Ten Characters:
1. Old Saint Nick
2. Rudolph the red-nosed reindeer
3. Frosty the Snowman
4. The Grynch
5. Good King Wencheslas
6. Little Red Riding Hood
7. The Big Bad Wolf
8. Sleeping Beauty
9. Glinda the Good Witch
10. The Wizard of Oz

Ten Locations:
1. The North Pole
2. An enchanted forest
3. A frozen lake
4. Antarctica
5. Rockefeller Center
6. Central Park
7. The Eiffel Tower
8. The Louvre
9. Tokyo
10. The New York Subway

Ten Objects:
1. A Candle
2. A Snow Shovel
3. An Ax
4. A red light bulb
5. Ice Melt
6. A sled
7. A wine glass
8. Needle and Thread
9. A dozen red roses
10. An Apple

Ten Incidents:
1. A Scream
2. An enchantment
3. A package delivery
4. A fire
5. A birthday party
6. A visit to a department store Santa
7. A visit to the post office
8. Raking leaves
9. Shoveling Snow
10. Loading Santa’s Sleigh

Ten first or last lines (or titles)
1. Thanks for all the Apples
2. Eat the whole thing
3. I’m allergic to fish
4. I’d rather be in Florida
5. I want a dog
6. I’d rather be ice skating
7. See you next year
8. A roll of stamps, please
9. This is impossible
10. You’ve got to try harder

Pick two characters and one from each of the other categories


Thanks for All the Apples


The cake has appeared

the candles are lit

the Tokyo skyline

is beautifully lit


The boy takes a breath

all ready to blow

all set with his wishes.

What? Soon we’ll all know.


With a whoosh and a swish

the candles are extinguished

then from down the chimney

who should we distinguish?


It’s Frosty the Snowman,

but oh, he is melting,

and behind him a Big Bad Wolf

is silently pelting


“My God, boy, my heavens,

oh, what were you thinking?

That wolf has a foul smell.

The whole room will be stinking.”


By this time poor Frosty

was reduced to a puddle

The wolf lapped him up.

Birthday boy’s in a muddle.


“Now look what you’ve done.

Frosty is gone for good.

And the wolf,” said his mom,

“is now loose in the Hood.”


What should you extract

from this terrible tale?

Better wish for some apples,

’cause the wolf’s sure to bail.

EAR-WORMS! Lyrically going mad . . .

November is Poetic Asides Poem-A-Day Challenge Month, among other intense writing options. Mary, Anne, Margaret, and I are diligently writing to the prompts, with a goal of something wonderful to publish at the end.

One of my favorite aspects is to see how differently we grab the prompts — or how they grab us. The poem below was written as a “together again poem”.

This post is adapted from one I recently published on my blog,  Ship of Dreams - Artimals
Heart, Soul, and Rough Edges . . .
A Gypsy Journey of Words and Wonder


When I first heard of “ear-worms”, I felt vindicated. Others heard them, too — I wasn’t alone. Or nuts.

Never heard of ear-worms? I bet you have heard ear-worms many times in your life. Snatches of song lyrics (especially), bits of melody, or conversations playing out over and over and over in your head. They worm their way into your ear and then your brain.

No way to make them disappear. The harder you try, the louder — and more insistent — they get. You cannot win the fight against an ear-worm. You can only distract and/or overcome it by replacing it with something else.

Then, of course, THAT ONE becomes the ear-worm. And so it goes . . .

PAD 2 – 11/2/14 Ear-Worm Imbroglio (a together again poem)

What gibberish pokes
through mind brambles

  • Oh, Sinner Man —
    where you gonna run to?

My personal ear-worms
over and over

  • Snowflakes on roses…
    Whiskers on kittens… 

over and over
over and over

  • I think we’re alone now…
    Beating of our hearts is the only sound…

Until BANG!
Too bad it didn’t work

  • I am the walrus…
    Do do do do, dodo dodo do do do do …

We’re together again
All at once

  • New York hipster,
    Cardiac hero of 2000 years …

Cacophony imbroglio
Madness defined

  • Where were you
    When the world stopped turning…?


Michele M. Graf




Character Revolt

NOTE: brokenbonds_200X300(1)

This post previously appeared on my blog,

This month’s blog round robin is about character revolt: did you ever have a secondary character threaten to take over a novel?

Boy, did I ever. And what’s more, he succeeded.

It went like this: After I wrote Relocated I was haunted by a question that I asked myself during the writing of the book: what happened to  the partners of one of my characters, Ardaval, who is living alone in a large house in the novel. While contemplating this question, as well as the question about the future progress of my main character, Keth’s, romance with Orodi, I started another novel which I had taking place four years after the first one. I meant this novel to answer both questions.

Thus I was concerned with what would become two four-way relationships, the one between Keth, Orodi, Darus, and Jozi, and the one between Ardaval, Brad Reynolds, another character from the first novel, and Ardaval’s two remaining former partners, Nidrani and Imarin.  And I had to pick a main character and a romance to concentrate on.

I’d just finished writing a young adult novel, so I picked Keth as the main character and proceeded to write the novel in the first person, concentrating on his romance. Along the way, I signed up for a writing course that required me to write 1000 words a day for about five weeks, and produced a messy, multi-point-of-view incomplete draft concentrating on the romance between the adults. This consisted of a lot of the YA version rewritten into third person as well as some new material.

I completed the draft of the YA version, which  I called  New Aleyne Novel, revised it, and passed it by a beta reader. She pointed out some weaknesses in the novel structure and wondered if a version concentrating on the adults might result in a stronger story.

So what did I do? A short while contemplating her remarks convinced me she was right, and moreover, I needed to scrap BOTH version and start over. This time I made Brad Reynolds the main character and concentrated on the adult romance. I set out to pick my point-of-view characters and to lay out the arc of the revised story.

I’d never, outside of the messy draft for the online course, written a multi-pov novel,  but I had to pick my point of view characters. Although I loved both story lines, I needed to keep the number of point-of-view characters to a reasonable number.  I picked the four characters in the adult romance: Brad, Ardaval, Nidrani, and Imarin, and in addition, the antagonist, Senator Hank Manning. I rewrote the entire novel from scratch. It became Broken Bonds.

I also needed major help managing the multiple POV’s , but that’s another story.

Here’s to Character Revolt — long may it wave.



When Major Brad Reynolds is assigned to head the Terran Federation base on planet Aleyne, the last thing he expects to find is love, and certainly not with one of the alien Aleyni. How can he keep his lover, in the face of political maneuvering and of Ardaval’s feelings for his former partners— and theirs for him?

Tell Your Own Story

I’m sure we’ve all gone through thoughts that we’re not good enough, that someone else could do it better.

I was going through one of these phases: any other writer could tell this story better. Then I remembered my conclusion when I put myself down as a bad parent.

Even though I’m not the best mom, I don’t want anyone else raising my kid, because I know him best.

As a writer, my characters deserve the same. I may not be the best writer, but I know my story and characters and no one can tell their story the way I can.

One of my favorite fantasy authors, Patrick Rothfuss, responded to a commenter who wished they could write like him. I wrote this verbatim into my bliss book so I’d always have a reminder when I start comparing myself to other authors.

“I’ll never be able to write a book like The Last Unicorn. I wish I could, but I know I can’t.

You can’t write the sort of story I write. Only I can.

We all have our own style. Our own way. Our own something we need to say.

If you want to write like me, you’re bound to fail. What you want to do is write your story, but do it brilliantly. Do it so well that it shines.

But it takes time. And revision. And depression. And work. And then more work…

I’ve been there. I know what you’re talking about.”

We are all unique. We each have a story to tell. Whether we tell that through our blogs, or poetry, or fiction, or in a different medium such as film or art. We can all contribute to the world. When we stop contributing, we do the world a disservice.

Keep on Going on

You are you.
No one can replace you;
No one can love
the way you do.

You’re not just one star
in the universe;
You are someone’s sun–
They would be adrift
if your light went out.

Don’t give up your dreams—
your success, your creations, your journey,
may change someone else’s life.

Keep on going on.

(Content previously posted on personal blog.)

Mary Butterfly Signature

Facing Mortality

NOTE: This post previously appeared on my blog,


It happened many years ago. We had just learned  I was pregnant with our second son when I got a call from my mother, with the words no daughter wants to hear: It’s cancer. My mother had cancer of the colon.  She

had had a sigmoidoscopy instead of a colonoscopy. The lesion was fairly high up in the colon, and the procedure had missed it. Hthen-doctor, not the brilliant diagnostician his dead partner, my mother’s former doctor, had been, had been slow to put together the symptoms. By the time he did, the cancer had spread to the liver. It was October, and by June she was dead.

At about the same time, I was offered some freelance work that would have brought in a significant amount of money, money we could have used. But I had a full-time job, a small son, a pregnancy, and a sick mother. I turned the work down, instead passing on the name of a friend — he later joked that I’d payed for the addition on his house. It was one of the best decisions I ever made. Instead of spending my weekends working, I spent them traveling back and forth from Boston to New York.

Here is a poem inspired by this experience:


Mother’s Day, Margaret Fieland

He died
the white-haired doctor
with smiling eyes,

leaving you
to the quick-voiced young one,
who called your cramps indigestion.

Your hair became
sparse as grass during a dry August,

your walk
creaky as the old pasture gate,

your frame as thin
and brittle as the bare branches
of the old oak.

until finally
you lay in bed, smelling
of old guts, too weak
to lift your head.

We named
the baby
after you

You cam find it and other poems in the collection Lifelines.


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