sharing a poetic LIFELINE with the world

Author Archive

Prompts: Jump-Start Your Poetry

English: harvest moon

Image via Wikipedia

Sometimes I feel like my poetic well has dried up like the middle of the Sahara desert. So I did a little sleuthing for inspiration.  I’ll pull a poem nugget from each of these sites and see if I can get a poem out of them.

http://poetsonline.blogspot.com/2009/05/random-poetry-line-generator.html which yielded the lines “In the water of discord the seasons sleep,” and “In the stillness of the soul the spirits turn, ”

http://www.languageisavirus.com/title-o-matic.html

“Shine Portrait”

http://languageisavirus.com/phrase-generator/

“It is the dying spirit.

Lost moon, velvet spirit.

Wither, decline. With sharp flames

Declining, shining.”

Here’s what I came up with:

Shine Portrait

In the stillness of the soul the spirits turn,
Lost moon, velvet spirit.

It is the dying spirit,
Declining, shining, burnt orange crescent
Tangled in purple-bruised clouds
Evening’s mantle dusted with stars
You wither, decline, disappear

In the water of discord where seasons sleep
Sister moon’s spirit stirs, sharp flames
Calling out to seasons
You shine once more
A glowing orb, reincarnating  spirit

In the stillness of the soul, spirit awakes
Found moon, craggy spirit.

©2012 Lin Neiswender

 

 

Enter the World of Haibun

The torii of Itsukushima Shrine, the site's mo...

I learned a new literary term yesterday, haibun, when I was reading a story by another writer in a group I belong to. It turns out that haibun is a relatively new literary form that combines prose and poetry, notably haiku. It’s been around since 17th century Japan but is relatively new to Westerners.

According to Wiki, “A haibun may record a scene, or a special moment, in a highly descriptive and objective manner or may occupy a wholly fictional or dream-like space. The accompanying haiku may have a direct or subtle relationship with the prose and encompass or hint at the gist of what is recorded in the prose sections.”

So I thought I’d try writing one. Here it is.

Master of Pain

A friend can block pain like turning off a light switch. I ask him, how does he do it? Easy, he says. I focus my mind completely on the task at hand, so deeply that I block out everything else. I’ve been able to do this since I was a young boy.

That explains it. How he achieved so much on playing fields, working through pain to win gold. Great success in board rooms with marriage crumbling around him. Calm and collected in storm of chaos while others cry like croaking ravens. I’m envious.  Why can’t I do that?

Hand grips glass tightly
He likes to watch birds soaring
Feelings numb like hand
Later I find out he was once a twelve-year-old, giving CPR to his dying father.
Maybe I don’t need that light switch after all.

©2012 Lin Neiswender

 

To Market, to Market- Sending Out Your Poetic Babies

Marketing Plan

So you’ve written a poem. Congratulations and job well done! But now what?

Time to polish your work till it gleams like a new copper penny, and send it out into the world.

Editing is important, as there is always a better, fresher way to word your thoughts,  fix up a place where the rhythm is off or a rhyme could be improved, add this or remove that, or rearrange some lines. Get feedback from people you trust and work until the poem feels right. Then you’re ready for phase three: marketing.

Some markets or contests require you to pay a reading fee, or buy the book of poetry if they publish your poem. My personal preference is not to send to them. Here’s why: they may not be reputable. If it’s a big, well-known market, perhaps it is worth a shot. But if not, you have just given money to someone who will just pocket it and could care less about publishing your poetry, even if it is excellent. That said, time to look at some markets.

“Where?” you cry, “I don’t know any writing markets!” Believe me, there are plenty. I recommend you sign up at Duotrope to get their weekly fiction and poetry market listings. I also recommend you join CRWROPPS Creative Writers Opportunities List at Yahoo Groups, as well as join a local poetry group. You can find some near your area in Meetup.

Read the listing you pick to submit to thoroughly and make sure they accept your kind of poetry. Look for their submissions page and be sure you follow it to the letter. Nothing will get your poem tossed in File 13 faster than thinking their rules don’t apply to you. They have to read a lot of submissions so don’t give them a reason to eliminate you from the get-go.

So what do you need besides a market listing?

First, you need a Bio. Make it a 50-or-so word biography that tells something about you –  something quirky or intriguing is good, funny is even better, as well as any relevant publishing credits. You can go the online ezine route- easier to break into than a print venue- to help you get  enough poems published to give you a good bio.

Second, you need a cover letter or email that you can modify to fit the particular market you are submitting to. Be polite and professional. Try to find out the editor’s name if you can, if not, “Dear Editor” will do.

Be brief and mention the title of the poem you are submitting for consideration and any relevent information about it. End by thanking them for their time. If they asked for contact information, give it. Then include your poem in the format they requested, which may require you to use a certain font or type of document. Sometimes this is in the body of the email, sometimes as an attached WORD or other format document. If they request a typed snail mail submission, be sure your name and email are on the poem unless they tell you otherwise- envelopes and submission letters can get lost.

Last, keep a record of what poem you sent to what venue and when. Also make a note of how soon to expect a reply from the publisher, if given in their submissions page. If you don’t hear by that time, or 3 months if no deadline is given, a polite inquiry is in order.

When it sells, make a note of the publication date and go celebrate! If it gets rejected, make a note of the date and send it right out again to your second choice. Continue till you make a sale or use up all your markets. But remember, new markets come out every month!

So here’s to your first sale! I’d love to hear about it.

 

A New Way of Looking: Ekphrasis

I learned a new word  recently, courtesy of a friend and Wiki:

Ekphrasis or ecphrasis is the graphic, often dramatic, description of a visual work of art. In ancient times it referred to a description of any thing, person, or experience. The word comes from the Greek ek and phrasis, ‘out’ and ‘speak’ respectively, verb ekphrazein, to proclaim or call an inanimate object by name.

Nowadays it might be a snapshot of a scene, a work of art, or any creation that puts you in the head of the participants or an object and tell’s you what is actually happening within it.

So I thought, why not pick one of my collages as a prompt and write about it?

The one I chose is called “La Fleur” and here it is:

La Fleur

©2008 Lin Neiswender

Here is my poem about the collage:

The Photograph

Rose Pink my Papa calls me, his little blossom
I smile inside but not for the photograph
The buttons on my shoes are too tight and pinch my toes

My little dogs are lucky, they can run free with bare paws
On the fresh green grass, and rush into the house
When they are tired, heads out the window
Listening to the bird sing

But even they are dressed too fine for comfort
Tight bows of Mama’s fine silk ribbon tied
Around their necks, choking them as does
My lace collar choke me

Still a little girl’s first love
Is her Papa, and so I endure
The scratching of the lace,
The tightness of the shoes

All so Papa can take his photograph
Of his La Fleur Rose

©2012 Lin Neiswender

 

 

Let’s Write a Holiday Poem

English: Modern Bubble light

In honor of  the winter holidays, let’s write a poem celebrating one. Stumped for ideas? You won’t be for long.

Jot down your very brief answers to the following questions:

  1. What is the first time you remember celebrating this holiday?
  2. Who was there with you?
  3. Which was your most memorable celebration of this traditional holiday?
  4. What is the favorite scent you remember from this holiday?
  5. What was the most special gift you received during this holiday?
  6. What is your favorite sound associated with this holiday?
  7. What is the favorite food or beverage you associate with this holiday?
  8. What is the holiday decoration you remember best from this holiday?
  9. What texture or tactile memory do you have of this holiday?

My answers were:

  1. The year my Dad hung balloons and streamers from the ceiling for Christmas morning.
  2. My little sister and two older brothers and our parents.
  3. The first one I remember.
  4. The smell of the blue spruce tree branches.
  5. A huge stuffed panda bear.
  6. The metal bells we got to hang from the lower branches that would tinkle as we swept by.
  7. Pumpkin pie topped with whipped cream.
  8. The angel hair spider webs that diffused the light around the oil-bubbling candle tree lights.
  9. The cozy feel of red and white candy-striped flannel nightgowns

Now, work these memories into a free-verse poem. Nothing has to rhyme. You can rearrange or delete or add more ideas as you go along. Try for a natural flow and pleasing sound of the words you choose.

Here’s my poem:

 

The Big Christmas

Santa came! Santa came! I shout with my four-year old squeal

Streamers cascade from the ceiling where balloons hover,
Held in place by static electricity and pieces of tape
The room, to me, a fairyland of bubble lights and halos
Pungent scent of  blue spruce tree, needles sticky

Tinkling bells as we pull out presents
My package wrapped in bright paper so big I ask,
Is it a horse?
No horse, better yet, a giant panda, black and white
Contrasting with the chaos of color around me

The memory of my sister and me, in our peppermint-striped
Flannel nightgowns as we hug our new stuffed animal friends
My brothers follow two strings leading outside,
To discover bicycles hung in the trees

Our excitement intoxicating my parents as they share
A Christmas hot toddy and  slice of pumpkin pie
Smiles tired but satisfied,
At this big Christmas
©2011 Lin Neiswender

When you are satisfied with your poem, print it out or email it to the people with whom you share these memories. It will be a holiday gift to them like no other. Perhaps you’ll inspire them to write their special poems too.

 

 

Collage and Creative Writing: Common Threads

Success is Certain collage

Success is Certain ©2008 Lin Neiswender

My writing and my art are so entwined that it is hard sometimes to separate them. As with writing, I’ve been collaging since I was a child. Collage is an old art form, revived in the 20th century as modern art, consisting of portions of other works of art, text, purchased or handmade papers, embellishments or found objects glued to a background to make a new work of art.

I think of the process of creating a collage, or a poem, or any form of writing as largely intuitive and subconscious. It is in the reworking of the raw material that the new form is created.

For example, when I collage I may have a general idea of what I want to create, so I go through my boxes of clippings and images, pulling out anything that supports the idea and seems somehow to go together, or just strikes my fancy at the time. I select my surface and get my materials together- scissors, glue, anything I want to add to the work like ribbons or coins or what have you.

Then I start cutting out the images or text I like, seeing how they might go together. This influences the background I create, as there may be colors or a pattern I am especially drawn to in connection with the images.

I make the background, then select and place the items I have selected, switching them around, cutting some to combine two images into a cohesive unit. When I am satisfied, I start gluing them down. Sometimes I have to partially lift one image to place another behind it to add depth; sometimes I remove an image that just isn’t working.

The process is much like editing a piece of writing, cutting and rewriting and rearranging until it works.

I’m especially drawn to an intuitive process called Soul Collage, where 5 x 8 cards are created on mat board. It’s done entirely intuitively, usually without even a starting idea, just pulling what images appeal to me. This form of collage does not use text at all, leaving the interpretation of the card up to the viewer. The card’s creator asks and answers a series of questions about the card and it can provide some amazing insights into one’s psyche.

To me, that is a collage’s magic, the personal interpretation. When I made the collage that appears on the cover of the Lifelines book- long before the book was ever thought of- I was looking into the ocean of ideas for inspiration in many areas of my life, seeking the mermaid for answers. “Express!” is the only word in the collage, and that, I think, is the essence of the creative experience: express yourself, reveal yourself, and find your truth.

 

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Inspiration-Perspiration: It’s All Around You

Fridge Magnets 2

Image by Pierre Nel via Flickr

We all know the adage, “Don’t sweat the small stuff”, right? Do you know it applies just as easily to writing and poetry as it does to the other important things in life?

For example, I hear people asking me “Where do you get your ideas from?” and the answer to that is “Everywhere!”

It might be in a snatch of conversation I overheard at the restaurant while we’re waiting in line. It might be in the three headlines from today’s paper that I linked together to form a writing prompt.  Perhaps that interesting documentary I watched on Discovery last night at 2 AM sparked some poem or plot ideas.  It might even be in a dramatically stormy day with lightning crashing all around me.

I mean, open your eyes and ears, folks, along with your other senses. A lingering fragrance on the breeze, the tang of Thai spices on your taste buds, the feel of your lover’s caress. Anything in your world, good or bad, can serve as inspiration.

So how do you go about capturing these things for later use?

There are things you probably have in your possession already that can do that. Your cell phone  can take a photo or record a voice memo or send an email to yourself, a thin notebook in your purse or back pocket to record ideas, and a notebook, pen and flashlight on your night stand to record those flashes of ideas that come when we are least prepared.  I keep a file of writing prompts from various sources on my computer.  I have a folder of photographs that serve the same purpose. There are many books of writing prompts, tools like Story Spinner, and writing games that can give you a heaping serving of inspiration. Let’s not forget the classic fridge word magnets either.

So don’t worry that you won’t have any ideas. All you have to do is just open your mind and it will be filled with amazing information, without even  breaking a sweat.

 

Lines by Lin

I Wouldn’t Trade It

Tall geeky-girl brunette whose lungs don’t work well,
Refuses to see the end of the road
Southern accent trills Edna St. Vincent Millay,
Shoots coffee out her nose with Billy Collins,
Haunted by Greek mythology, Lonesome Dove,
Prince of Tides.

Not just literature and poetry saturate my heart and soul —
Anything to do with art, music, and my Nature mother
Real life too, my yen for chocolates and Riesling wine
Timeless hours with kin and friends and sanctified solitude
Sweet incense of lavender wands
Perky daffodils boldly yellow,
While on a table sits Quan Yin
Contented with  crucifixes and candles,
My floured hands punching down sourdough bread
In another room.

Later, dog and  cat invade my bed, which will leave me
Clinging awkwardly to the edge
But it’s all good.

©2011 Lin Neiswender

 

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