The Windows of Poetry

April is National Poetry Month and the League of Canadian Poets has adopted the theme, Celebrate nature with poetry. Which suits me just fine: I like to write about nature.

Imagine yourself walking down a long hall with a good friend. In this hallway there are a number of small windows, and as you pass each one, your friend points out some particular scene just outside that window. Something is happening out there that they want you to notice.

Like a painting, a good poem is a window on some scene in life and a book of poetry is like a line of windows. At each one you stop as your poet friend draws your attention to some detail outside. Some writers will make more comment what they’re pointing out, some less.

Poets of long ago gave readers the whole story and their take on what they are seeing. For example, Robert Burns’ To A Louse, is an eight-verse poem about a louse he saw crawling on a fine lady’s hat in church. Seven are saying, “This is what I see”:
Ye ugly, creepin, blastit wonner,
Detested, shunn’d by saunt an sinner,
How daur ye set your fit upon her—
Sae fine a lady!
Gae somewhere else and seek your dinner
On some poor body.

And then the punch line, now famous around the world:
O wad some Power the giftie gie us
To see oursels as ithers see us!
It wad frae monie a blunder free us
An foolish notion:
What airs in dress an gait wad lea’es us,
An ev’n devotion!

These words have resonated with readers of all ages, since we’ve all seen people with foolish notions of their own importance and wish they could see just how their behavior looks to us. Sometimes, on reading these lines, we may shake our heads as we think of situations in the past when we acted like a know-it-all, a snob or an airhead. We see it clearly now, and surely everyone around us saw back then how silly, selfish, or defensive our attitude was. It’s amazing, when we’re trying our best to put on a persona, how much of our real self sticks out.

In our day, poets tend to rather describe what they are seeing and let you draw your own conclusions. I appreciate both kinds of verses, the one that evokes a feeling as well as the one that delivers an understanding — actually a good poem should do both. I have a harder time appreciating verses where I haven’t a clue what the writer is trying to say. No matter what size or style, give me an accessible poem any day.

For National Poetry Month I’m going to try to post a verse a day, plus get my book of haiku & senryu published. I HAD it all prepared, but glitches arose… Today I’m going back to “Self-Pub U” and hope to learn how to insert images properly. Sigh…

Life is learning, and I have lots more to do. 😉

Work Clothes

I read a little quote yesterday from some highly acclaimed musician and decided to capture his thought in verse this morning. Let me know in the comments if it gives the picture or seems too vague.

the famous artist
buried his lack of talent
in splattered smocks

Of Fall and Fine Details

This morning from my kitchen window I noticed three birds clinging to a leafless branch on a treetop, the sight of which inspired this haiku:

how brave those three
birds still clinging —
facing autumn’s gale

Much as we might wish to cling to summer, autumn has definitely made its appearance in our land. The crops are coming off and the golden brown straw left to hold the soil in place; the maple trees are golden already. Nights are cool, and during the last few days we’ve gotten the rains we wanted.

Hopefully now the Fire Ban will be lifted in our township. For a few months now we haven’t been allowed to light any fires outdoors, including in BBQ pits and such. This month local volunteer firefighters have been called out to several grass fires started by balers as farmers were harvesting hay. Sunday Sept 2nd some of our firemen left straight from church, responding to a fire east of here. About 150 acres — half of it in standing wheat crop — burned, along with four round hay bales.

The hummers left us a couple of weeks ago. Last week the second batch of barn swallows came out of their nest to enjoy the clear blue skies. For the first few days the three newcomers played in the air above our yard, then ventured farther, touring the woods and coming back to roost at night. I was out just after supper together with the cats, and the swallows came buzzing around us. Obviously they weren’t happy seeing cats so close to their residence.

It’s been awhile since I posted anything significant but I decided that if I didn’t get something written I might develop chronic blog-atrophy.

It’s not that I haven’t been writing. In fact, I’ve spent hours at the computer this week commenting on other writers’ work. Last weekend I was investigating the possibilities for having my own short stories critiqued and came across a site called Critique Circle. It It looked interesting, so I signed up and started writing comments on the stories posted.

Basically, anyone may join, and post a story they’ve written once every two weeks — but first they must critique others’ stories. In fact the system works somewhat like that old song about working in the coal mines: you do one days’ work and the company store charges two days’ pay for your groceries. 🙂 I’ve gotten .5, 1, 1.5, and 2 credits for doing various critiques, but it cost me 3 credits to post my story. So participants need to keep writing critiques (of 300 words or more) if they want to post anything.

Which is quite fair, really. I’m not griping. This approach keeps people from “taking” without putting anything in. (And it suits me because I enjoy doing editing. 😉 I do try to be gentle, though.) The “rules state that “critters” shall be encouraging and helpful to new writers as well as more experienced ones. No “Your story is blah!” comments.

I’ve posted one flash fiction story already. The first critique I received dealt mostly with grammar and punctuation — some of which I would contest. The second was an overall “Liked the story.” The third one was worth its weight in gold! It was written by a fellow who’s had a number of short stories published in literary magazines and such. He really knows his stuff and pointed out half a dozen things I SHOULD HAVE seen myself.

The stories I’m working on now are for my upcoming book of flash fiction. And now that I’ve registered it and gotten the ISBN, I can post the cover I’ve chosen (from unsplash.com.) What do you think?

The next design issues: choosing a font style and “outside border or no?”

Abstract cover.all

Due to Start Soon

Fandango’s prompt for today: DUE

Oh, what a flexible word! I was to the library yesterday and borrowed a couple of books that give drawing and sketching lessons. This is due to my continued curiosity about art and my hope to someday produce some. My books are due back — must be returned to the library by — Sept 18th.

Due to my continued interest in writing practice, I’ve subscribed to The Write Practice. Sad to say, I don’t often find the time to do the assignments, but I get their posts. and their Fall Contest is due to start soon; participants must enroll before Sept 14th. Do check it out.

I’ve also come to enjoy haiku & senryu, both reading it and writing it. Humorous, serious, sometimes a bit wry. Like this one I wrote after visiting Value Village, a second-hand clothing & housewares store:

seniors’ day
at Value Village
Volvos in the parking lot
😉

If you hop over to Call of the Page, you’ll see their haiku and senryu classes are due to start Sept 6th. If you enjoy this form of poetry, do consider these classes; I think they’re going to be a lot of fun.

Our hummingbirds are perhaps overdue to fly south. There were three twittering around here yesterday evening, and one came to the feeder this morning at 5:45 am. A new version of “the early bird gets the worm.”

And now I’m due to start my day with a quick visit to the Seniors’ Home where I work. Then back home to work on a writing project long overdue.

Heads up, everyone. Owing to — or due to — continued worldwide interest, NaNoWriMo will be starting again November 1st. Time to start thinking about our next Nano writing projects.

Transforming INK into STORY

Daily Addiction’s word for today is TRANSFORM, a wonderful word indeed.
For example, a good edit can transform this scene:

Colour swirls

into this:
Circles of colour

Some people may prefer the first picture; many will call it a mess. The big questions are: who’s going to buy it and how much will the customer feels it’s worth?

Thanks to Amazon.com, any writer is free to write as he so chooses and publish his work. But most readers want pattern and clarity, a story that moves along at a lively pace, unencumbered by unnecessary detail. So a writer must decide when he starts out who he’s writing for. If you’re writing for yourself only, I’d suggest doing a journal. There are enough badly written books out there.

On To My Book Review

52 Steps to Murder,
#1 in the Dekker Cosy Mystery Series
© 2013 by Steve Demaree

Mrs Nelson, a disabled elderly lady, wasn’t pushing the button that unlocked her door when her granddaughter stopped by. So granddaughter Angela became worried and called the police to help her break into her grandma’s house. A rookie cop arrived; he and Angela hurried upstairs and she checked her grandmother’s room, where she found the old lady dead in her bed. When he heard Mrs Nelson was dead the officer went back to his cruiser and radioed for help.

Homicide investigators Lieutenant Cy Dekker and Sergeant Lou Murdock arrived at Hilltop Place — and surveyed with dismay the 52 stairs they’re going to have to climb. The two middle-aged men aren’t in the greatest physical condition; their roundish shape is a recurring joke through the story.

Examining the scene, Lt Dekker — who tells the story in first person throughout — has a feeling that the death isn’t due to simple heart failure, so they begin asking questions. When the medical examiner informs them the next day that the old lady was poisoned, they investigate in earnest. Unfortunately all the houses on Hilltop Place involve that long climb up, up, up. And before long they find another disabled elderly lady missing. The plot thickens.

I like these two fellows. I enjoyed the humor, yet at times it’s overdone, especially when they and the medical examiner quip back and forth about their physical fitness while they’re at the scene of a suspicious death. All through the book their banter is at times amusing but other times it just goes on too long.

While I appreciated that these officers profess to be Christians and attend church every Sunday, Lt Dekker’s dislike for his neighbor and his sarcastic put-downs struck me as quite uncharitable. This gave rise to one cute typo, though:
The two of us enjoyed a good laugh as I recanted my most recent encounter with my next-door neighbor.

I sometimes wish we had a two-number rating system: one for the overall story-line and one for the writing quality. I’d give this book a 5 for the first and a 3 for the second. This story has an interesting, well formulated plot, but needs an editorial polishing big-time to eliminate the repetition and irrelevant details the writer felt to add.

I feel the last half drags in places where Lt Dekker gets into rehashing who might have committed the crime, alone or together with who, how they accomplished it, when, and why. Given the facts, readers can and will ask these questions themselves; this repetition is a waste of ink, IMO. Since his musings were about the same each time, I just skipped over them.

For example, here are a few sentences from this book I think an editor could have helped to smooth and clarify.
(Lightning is his name for his VW Beetle.)
I braked and eased Lightning in front of Mrs Nelson’s house. Lou and I used one hand for leverage and extracted ourselves from the yellow bubble.

(Sgt Murdock had a bucket list of 100 books he plans to read.)
Lou began his conquest by reading a novel told from the point of view of one of literature’s most beloved characters, Scout, from To Kill a Mockingbird. Lou called it a delightful book and voiced his disappointment that Harper Lee never wrote a second book.

An After Thought

The writer just released the fourteenth book in this series in April and has two other mystery series on the go, so he’s likely learned a lot about editing since this book came out.