…AND OTHER ROADBLOCKS IN WRITING!

WHEN APRIL FLOWERS, POETRY SHOWERS

Poetry is a living thing, and like rain, a life-giving thing.

Poetry can be as simple as a rhyme you remember from your childhood

or as subtle as the fruity tastes and flowery bouquets in fine wines.

Poetry can be like that wonderful movie you’ve watched five times

and realize you find something new in it each time.

Poetry can calm like meditation or inflame like a raucous oration.

What amazing creations in nature fail to evoke poetry

in the most staid and stoic folk?

Even if at the rim of the Grand Canyon all they can say is “Wow…”

we can hear poetry percolating in their minds.

Poetry is in all things

and of all things

and so, in a way is

God-like.

Poetry is…poetry.

Oh, though I wax poetic, please don’t wane on my parade. Sorry. I can’t help myself.

So—very obviously—April is National Poetry Month! Therefore, I come to urge you to try your hand at it. No, Shakespeare, not another sonnet. I mean some fun stuff to get you to be HOP (Hooked On Poetry).

If you like puzzles of any kind, you’ll like poetry. Trust me. If you give it a chance, you’ll find that poetry, like dogs, can run from Teacup Chihuahuas to Yorkies, Pit Bulls to Sheep Dogs, Labradors to St. Bernards and all the non-pedigreed versions in between.

Like dogs and music, poetry runs from short-haired to long-haired.

Okee-dokee, I have cajoled you long enough. If you don’t know where to begin, you can HOP over to a fun place called Shadow Poetry where you’ll find examples and descriptions of forms people have created.

You’ll find it at:  http://www.shadowpoetry.com/

Before you go, here’s a Lanturne I wrote based on the example and description found on Shadow Poetry:

Wind

blows wild

sweeping out

all hope of a

sail.

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WOMEN’S HISTORY…

…goes back a long time. Back to Adam, and that pain in his rib, Eve, so the Bible tells us. I figured pulling a rib out of Adam was a kind of icky thing for God to do, so it had to be a fib to shut kids up when we forever asked, “Where did I come from?” “Cincinnati,” was a favorite answer in families in our area followed by a lot of adult laughter, and no further explanation—the mid-twentieth-century brushoff of further discussion. So, until I finally got answers via the playground grapevine, I figured I came from my Mama’s rib when she was in Cincinnati. But I never found out why grownups thought Cincinnati was such a funny place to come from. Is it? Let me know, Cincinnatians.

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If you think about it, ever since God made Eve as an afterthought—when seeing how helpless Adam was alone in the Garden of Eden—women in general have been relegated to afterthought status.

There have been legendary exceptions throughout history. Most everyone has heard of Cleopatra, the wily queen of Egypt, or Joan of Arc, who came to fame during the Hundred Years’ War based on a dispute between Frenchmen as to whom the throne belonged. Joan got into the fray on the prediction that France would be saved by a virgin but neglected to mention that the virgin would be burned to cinders at the stake!

 

Years ago, I came across a series about uppity women throughout history: Uppity Women of Ancient Times, Uppity Women of Medieval Times, andUppity Women of Shakespearean Times, written by Vicki LeonMs. Leon writes with brevity and humor. Each great lady’s tale is told within about two pages and is a delight to read, even if some of them come to tragic ends. Google Ms. Leon and find her books. You won’t be disappointed.

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And if women today think they have it bad, all I can say is, “Ladies, pull on your Big Girl Panties and familiarize yourselves with The Prince by Niccolo Machiavelli (coincidentally the son of an attorney) whose portrait casts him as a weaselly-looking political suck-up. For centuries, The Prince has been the bible for maintaining rule over the masses, political party dominance, and the corporate ladder climbing of today.

My sense of morality and decency prevents me from following the “evil recommendations to tyrants to help them maintain their power.” [1]However, ladies, at least go into the fray forewarned. For (cliché alert) to be forewarned is to be forearmed. Someday I’d love to read of your success in making the world a better place in a future addition to the series I’d call Uppity Women of the Twenty-first Century.

Vicki Leon, if you’re listening, I hope you can find all of the Uppity Women of the Twenty-first Century so far and start the next book!

 

(1) Giovanni Giorgini, “Five Hundred Years of Italian Scholarship on Machiavelli’s Prince,” Review of Politics (2013) 75#4 pp. 625–40

SEEING WHAT’S NOT IN FRONT OF YOU

No, this is not advice to cyclists in a narrow bike lane (or none at all) on a street frantic with traffic. Picture Miami, Orlando, or almost any big city in Florida during season. Got it? Good. You visualized that well despite that scene’s not in front of you.

Even if you’ve never been to Florida, you have some frame of reference that can form a mental picture of the Road from Hell.

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And, cyclists, if you don’t have bike-or-helmet-mounted rearview mirrors, I can visualize your imminent visit to a nearby hospital. . .or worse. Visualize that! Ouch! Or maybe: We are gathered here to mourn . . . . A word to the wise: Four eyes are better than two. Point belabored, I press on.

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There’s a tightrope in writing that new writers must learn to walk between too many and not enough clues or details to help the reader visualize a scene or a character’s emotions.

For example: Selena could tell Rick was angry by the look on his face.

That may be enough to remind you of how you look when angry, but your reader can’t read your mind—just your words. Will that sentence impress your reader with the urgency of the situation?

To me it’s a thin slice of white cake, no frosting. The image you want to create is a gooey-moist, triple-fudge brownie with a half-inch of rich chocolate frosting—with or without walnuts. Which image here brings the scent and taste along and has you drooling over your keyboard? (Excuse me while I get a tissue.)

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You might try to rewrite that original sentence as something that also reflects the fear Selena must feel:

Selena backed away as Rick’s eyes narrowed to slits. The muscles in his jaws twitched. He rose from the couch in slow motion, face clouded with silent fury like the plague that had ravaged the town. 

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Oka-ay. . . so maybe Rick’s not quite as angry as pictured here, but I still don’t want to be in the same room–or even the same town with him. From the simile of his anger to the plague, his action, and two visual clues, I sense the depth of his anger.

Finding the best words to show rather than tell comes with practice and a safety net to catch you when you fall to either side. That safety net can be a critique group, a critique partner, or a beta reader.

Like the cyclist, you’ll find that four or more eyes to scan your writing will weave an invaluable safety net for your work.

Write on!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

JANUARY 10, 2019

I checked the date today and figured it was too late to write about New Year’s Resolutions. Especially since I already broke my first one: “Never put off until the tenth of January what you can do on the first.” And that should have been pretty easy to keep, because it applied to a specific month, right? ONE month. No contract. Pay as you go. Hey, no judgements here, thank you. I have a ton of good reasons. None of which you would accept from your third grader…but let’s move on!

According to National Day Calendar (https://nationaldaycalendar.com)  today is:

Cut Your Energy Day: So this blog will be short, and I might sit and read all day.

 

 

Save the Eagles Day: Not necessary. They saved themselves on February 4, 2018 when they won Super Bowl LII (pronounced “Lee”) but for LIII (“Leee”) who knows? What? You mean the birds? Oh. If I see any, I’ll do my best.

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Bittersweet Chocolate Day:Which I reverently celebrate as I sit here. You are lucky this not paper, or you would see the chocolate drools on it, and…

 

Oysters Rockefeller Day: Which my husband will eagerly celebrate in my stead. UGH!

But what I hope lights a bulb in your brain, is that you can start to write with ANYTHING as a prompt.

Even a date from National Day Calendar. Just DO it.

Now, as promised, I am going to turn off my computer and cut my energy. Unplug and do your part for the environment. Have a Nice Day!

DIVINE INSPIRATION

When you think about divine inspiration, it really is divine, and often in disguise. Sometimes a writer struggles to find something to write that hasn’t been done in fifty-seven varieties like Heinz products. Other times, inspiration floods in until you’re knee deep in ideas with only two hands and one keyboard to mop it all up. I often start out with a goal firmly in mind. I keep both hands on the keyboard, driving straight to the point on a clear road when suddenly, something takes control and steers me in an entirely different direction.

I sat here at the keyboard attending to the very important task of deleting tons of outdated files from the computer. I excused my post-writing procrastination as waiting for divine inspiration.

angel-fig-face-christmas-39014As time progressed, I suspected my muse was probably out Christmas shopping. Heavy on my mind was one of the cardinal sins of writing: Thou shalt not await Divine Inspiration! So I hit the keys on my own to see what I came up with.

I started with a sentence about the colors of Christmas, and that thought veered off course into a forest of ideas and became a poem about a tree instead.

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Joyce Kilmer would be proud of me. But my blog is not done yet, and who wants to read writing catechism at this time of year? Nobody. I don’t even want to write it. And I realized that was what my poem was telling me.

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In The Road Not Taken by David Orr, the author claims that the poem of the same name by Robert Frost was not an ode to individualism because the author takes the path less traveled, but has the deeper observation of the self-deception we employ in telling our life stories in retrospect. Poetry can be, and often is, intended by the author to be read by more than one road, or level of meaning.

In this instance, I prefer to see Frost’s poem as the individual unafraid to take a different path. The poem that follows came because when the road before me diverged, I took the one less traveled. So even when you think you’re veering off track, remember that following it might be that divine inspiration you’re seeking.

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GREEN TREE      by Virginia Nygard 2018

Green tree.

Strong, faithful, and true

it stood tall and calm

through many a winter onslaught

until cut off in the prime of life.

Impaled and crucified on an iron stand.

Given a water sop to tame its thirst

and prolong its agony.

Severed from its source

it may as well have been fed

vinegar instead.

 

Green tree.

Crowned now with gold

costumed in mimicry of life

in red and green and blue, silver streams

and every hue rainbow blends deliver

it awaits the morning.

 

Green tree.

In the bustle and whirl of early day

it stands straight

bearing its purpose with dignity

shining with superficial joy

while remaining green and pure beneath.

It knows what they seem to forget

in the dizzying glee.

It’s His day.

Not theirs.

 

Green tree.

In dying

to a different use

it, too,

proves again to all

what sages long have known

the form may change

but the spirit lives on.

 

CANDLES AND OTHER USELESS THINGS

Watching the coarsening of society reminds me of Socrates’ comment on the children of his generation:

“The children now love luxury; they have bad manners, contempt for authority; they show disrespect for elders and love chatter in place of exercise. Children are now tyrants, not the servants of their households. They no longer rise when elders enter the room. They contradict their parents, chatter before company, gobble up dainties at the table, cross their legs, and tyrannize their teachers.” *

A bit mild these days, no? Reminds me of when I was in high school and the “bad boys” got expelled for smoking in the boys’ room! To me, “normal” children don’t get into trouble by themselves. In a sense, they have the full cooperation of their parents.

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And I find this true in society, too. Bullies don’t get away with beating, crippling, blinding or killing people they hate because of a perceived insult, skin color, religion, sexual persuasion, or national origin IF the parents in society (add corporations, politicians, and religions) set examples by doing their jobs honorably.

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On TV a few days ago, I heard a mother respond to a senseless, tragic death in her family. She said she didn’t want our thoughts and prayers. She wanted action. So, instead of a candle, balloon, or teddy bear that makes you feel better, but doesn’t bring back a life or change society, sit down and write something! Francis Scott Key, amateur poet, wrote “The Star-Spangled Banner.” Katherine Lee Bates, English teacher and poet, wrote “America the Beautiful. Inspiring. Thought-provoking.

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Recently, a friend, fellow writer, and member of the National League of American Pen Women, Joanna O’Keefe, wrote a beautiful poem called “America at the Crossroads.” She teamed up with musician Tony Smith and the beautiful result can be found on You Tube. See it at:    https://youtu.be/I9w0oV62V-w.

Write what you know when it comes to writing and write what you feel when it comes to poetry, as I did, but never got around to sharing it until now.

So, whether you write a letter to a mayor, governor, or representative in Congress, or simply a poem or story that inspires others, pick up YOUR pen and Make America THINK Again!

AND THEN WE LIGHT CANDLES AGAIN

by Virginia Nygard  © 2018

The numbers grow, the reasons flow

and name every mental illness known;

we’ve mastered blame and faux denial

…and then, we light candles again.

 

We’ve forgotten those lightweight claims

of three or ten, a middle-weight of thirty-two;

we’re just grateful it wasn’t me or you

…and then, we light candles again.

 

From Columbine to Virginia Tech,

Sandy Hook and Parkland it goes,

and where it lands, nobody knows

…and then, we light candles again.

 

TV plays brutal gore for weeks, which

we say we abhor, but we binge-watch more

and get ready with teddy bears, flowers, balloons

…and then, we light candles again.

 

For lack of restraint, the wait is short

and our halfhearted thoughts and prayers

abort thoughtful solutions for prevention

…and then, we light candles again.

 

You say we’ll meet next time? Sure, that’s fine.

This week was your place, next one’s at mine.

You bring the tears, I’ll supply wine,

…and then, we light candles again.

 

 

* Attributed to SOCRATES by Plato, according to William L. Patty and Louise S. Johnson, Personality and Adjustment. p.277 (1953)

IT’S PUZZLING!

I think everyone who can read should be required to work crossword puzzles. Thoughtful puzzle workers will discover something about their thought processes that carries over into everyday life and decisions they make, be they religious, social, or political.

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The puzzle I worked today required a word for maxims. I considered adages, axioms, aphorisms, and related thesaurus meanings until, coming at it from a different angle, I realized the correct answer was the simplest: sayings!  And I remembered the old joke about the little boy who asked his mother where he came from. Mom goes into great detail with the birds-and-bees talk when the boy pipes up, “No, Mommy. I mean David comes from Atlanta. Where do I come from?” The simplest answer is best.

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And that got me thinking what we need right now is leaders who can take the puzzling world in hand, view it from differing perspectives, and make things better. Not perfect. Nothing will ever be perfect. Ask any writer whose work has been pecked apart by voracious error-eating vultures in critique groups and editorial services. Let’s strive for a simple betterment of the standard of life for all sides. That will take willingness to see issues from another’s point of view. And for today’s students it could begin with all high school curricula requiring students to enroll in at least one semester of debate.

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We full-grown bodies (adult assumes having attained a matured age of reason) can begin by flushing from our hearts and minds the poisons of accrued dogmas. Those my-way-or-the-highway lines of thought permeating politics, religion, and social interaction. And for some, a step like that is scary. Like stepping out of a plane without a parachute. Think differently from what authority figures have drummed into us all our lives? That sends lightning bolts of terror rushing through and numbing minds further.

Once we take that step, then we can demand more altruistic leaders as devoid (as possible) of greed and self-aggrandizement; leaders with impeccable (as possible) qualifications. Candidates who see beyond the winner-take-all mentality.

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Team spirit is fine for games. It’s great fun to see grownups paint their faces or wear weird outfits in honor and support of their favorite sports teams. But in the real world, when your team does something awful, will you have the courage to speak out?

Beyond games, doing unto others as you would have them do unto youwas meant to be lived, to be the creed of all people, not to lie dormant in the Bible and be given lip service and a wink-wink-nod. Puzzled as to how you get someone to listen to you? Step One: Listen to them. The more you listen, the greater your chances of understanding their point of view. Not accepting it totally, just understanding how they feel. That leads to Step Two: You’ll be better able to find points of agreement to build on. Step Three: You’ll be on the way to forging a compromise that will benefit both of you! Puzzle solved!

And that’s my monologue on Dialog on Dialogue for this time.

Go. Do unto others. Listen. Dialogue.

Any questions?