Inspirations, exhortations, and announcements.

Pounce! (383617744)My son had a preschool friend with  a huge vocabulary that didn’t fit in her little mouth. Sometimes to get past that, she used her own versions of words. Instead of “announcements,”  she said “a-pounce-ments.”

“I haf a apouncement about my bithday party!”

It’s been a few years now, but I secretly hope she still uses “apouncements” sometimes.

Opportunity is supposed to knock. Sometimes, though, it feels more like a little chance that hangs out on the lawn, waves to passersby, maybe sends a few texts…So instead of waiting for it to knock, we have to pounce on it before it wanders off to get a Slurpee or something.

Having material ready for those opportunities is half the battle. I got a  jolt of energy from Margaret’s  interview with Joan Hamilton. Joan’s someone who can make moments into opportunities; it’s worth reading the interview if you’re in need of inspiration.

In our poll a few weeks ago, the most frequently mentioned creative goal  for the summer was to write/paint/act/film/ more. Summer prompts and practices abound. I’ve been using some of Poetic Bloomings’ Life’s a Beach prompts – it’s only day 12, and there are already so many great things to write about. I also think I mentioned one of my  fave annual writing events is coming up, the August Postcard Poem Festival; it’s a freeing, connecting experience that helps me create a lot of new writing. And Poets and Writers’ Weekly fiction and poetry prompts – really thoughtful and you can go through archives to find extras.

Gillie pouncing (2292639076)Lastly, a couple of a-pounce-ments from inourbooks. If you were one of the young authors in the Brighter Light contest, keep an eye on your mail the next few weeks 🙂 And if you contributed to the Brighter Light Summer Prompt challenge, I haven’t made a final decision because I pretty much like every poem that came in, but I’ll be contacting you-all before next Wednesday. And next Wednesday, we’ll have an interview with author Barbara Vaughan, whose first novel was just released this week by Black Opal Press, on how she made it happen.

And now, I’m going to listen to my own advice and write ~ Ina

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Friday Surprise: Summer submissions #2

Ice cream coneAh, the dog days of summer…the perfect time for ice cream, and to sit in the (air conditioned) local library and send out submissions. This batch contains two directed to what I think of as special writers – young people and sonnet writers. So if you know someone who fits either or both bills please pass this list along!

  • Writers Rising Up (protecting the environment and habitat) has a really fun contest coming up: the interactive slithery, slimey, buggy poem!  This one is open to ALL ages, and I suspect that it would be a lot of fun for some of the younger readers here.
  • Missouri Review just sent out a sweet note on Twitter saying that they’re a little light on poetry submissions. I was happy to help them out – are you?
  • There aren’t, in my opinion, nearly enough nature magazines publishing poetry. One of the few poetry mags that is entirely devoted to nature, Avocet, is open for submissions again. The currently deadline is August 31st. Even if you’re not a “nature poet,” this is a great time of year for sun-lovers to write about the beauty of the outdoors.
  • Sprout is one of those lit magazines that a real visual pleasure – they celebrate the positive, the beautiful, the colorful, the meaning in the small things in life. Full disclosure: a number of friends have been published in Sprout, so I’m inclined to like the magazine 🙂 They have two upcoming deadlines for themed issues: “Whimsy” on 7/15 and “Sanctuary” on 8/15.
  • If you’re a sonnet writer or a writer of formal poetry,1) I’m totally impressed and 2) the Helen Schaible International Shakespearean/Petrarchan Sonnet Contest is open and taking entries until Sept. 1st. I should mention that this is one of those rare contests that *does not charge a fee for entrance.* 

Let’s get that work out there ! (I’m exhorting myself, mostly – nothing like a writer community to spur activity!)

Friday surprise: Brighter Light and Summer Prompt

As many of our readers know, in the winter Andrea blogged a month-long poetry challenge for adult-and-kid teams called Brighter Light. Now, with the advent of the light we were longing for in the depths of winter, I thought we ought to have a follow up.

BrighterLightBadge2First: for our original challenge participants. Thank you so much to all the participants in the challenge.We still don’t have the “results” of the challenge judging, since for both health and technical reasons Andrea has had almost no internet access for months, but the TRUE results are an amazing collection of collaborative poems. I was just reading through the poems on the Notice Board and am so amazed by the breadth of approaches to the prompt and the quality of the poems. It’s a real privilege to know so many amazing writers (big and small!). In honor of your participation, I have posted, in the side bar, a code that you can put into your own blog or website which will display the Brighter Light Poet badge for this year! If you can’t use that code directly, you can also just copy at paste a copy of the badge to the left (it’s slightly lower quality but it’ll work fine). In addition, I’m asking that all challenge participants contact me with an address to which I can send Brighter Light stickers for the “kid” participants in the challenge. You can reach me through the “Contact Us” page on this blog. I really want to make sure that kids get a chance to show their pride in having a great thing (and in the cases of the really little ones, to have stickers to play with :-0 )

Maurice Prendergast - Revere Beach No. 2 - Google Art Project

Maurice Prendergast – Revere Beach No. 2 [PD-US]

Second: for all our writer friends, one last prompt! I thought we’d close out the challenge with one final prompt. I love this Prendergast painting (to the right)  because it shows so many people enjoying a summer day in so many different ways. Summer is experienced by each of us in different ways ~ by the difference in color and light, or scents, or heat, or location.

The prompt: Your summer day is like no one else’s; what is your summer day (or night)?

 Please post your poem or flash fiction response in the comments below, on your own blog or website, or (if you, like me, don’t post pieces publicly because that excludes later publication elsewhere) through our Contact Us form before July 4th (11:59 p.m. July 3rd U.S. Pacific Time). I’d especially appreciate young writers joining in. I’ll have a special badge available for all participants AND I’ll be picking 3 authors for a mini-interview and/or highlight on InOurBooks.com.

Thank you again to all the prior participants, and I look forward to reading all the Brighter Light Summer entries!

Friday Surprise: Here We Are!

Here we are!

The 1st of February.

Sunshine and moon

An overwhelming number of wonderful poems and in my case also several new words. Sharon taught me, Andrea, all about a Lazy Boy, so now I know precisely what a Lazy Boy is.

And it explains a lot because years ago someone called themselves Lazyboy and displayed a video with someone who kind of view the life from a Lazy Boy and it’s called the Facts of Life. Lazyboy continued though and sent out this impressive something in around 2004 and it has been one of my favorites ever since. I’d call this poetry – only I’m not quite sure who’d agree. Only this is what I thought of when Sharon writes Lazy Boy:

Lazy Boy!

About Our Brighter Light Challenge – yes, the light is so much brighter now. Ina and I already said that there will be prizes for the best poem and the best collection. Well, in fact the best number one, number two and number three single poems and one prize for the best collection.

During this week-end I’ll go through all the poems and I will likely post something more on Sunday.

Friday Surprise: How To Be A Young Writer

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This is my desk. I blame the elves.

This year,  I gave myself a birthday present: the time to read all I want this month. I promised myself that I wouldn’t get mad if the dishes are not “done” every evening or the tax forms languish. Admittedly, it looks like my desk was attacked by demented elves, but I refuse to worry about it until February.

I have read all the poems that have been posted in the Brighter Light contest so far. And then I started thinking about other poems by writers under the age of 20 – young writers. I read through copies of “Stone Soup” and Highlights for Children.” I found more kids’ poetry in collections from the library and our books at home.

What struck me was the originality of these poems. I found myself saying, Wow I would never have thought of that, over and over. Take this poem:

Cheetah

A cheetah has metal girder teeth
it goes hurling down through the jungle
throwing out its fear*

Panthera leo -zoo -yawning-8aNow, I have heard cat’s teeth compared to many things: lions teeth to daggers, tigers’ to sabers, kittens’ teeth to needles. But cheetahs’ teeth and metal building girders! How wonderful to think of that!

Or take this stanza from Sylviya’s poem (she’s the young writer in the Yellow Ninja team) about hair:

Black is shiny like the blouse
my mommy never wears.
Shiny, glossy, smooth
like our kitten’s fur
when I squeeze her
to get some kisses.

I have all the usual associations with black: knights, stallions, nighttime, sadness. Sylvi on the other hand thinks of an unworn blouse – this says so much, so specifically, about how she feels about her mother, and their relationship, and beauty, that feel as if I am standing with her as she sees her mother’s hair.

5984380533_2816ee14a5_bAdult writers spend a lot of time trying to peek around the edges of all the rules we’ve learned and ways we’ve been taught to think. We have heard the overused metaphors, memorized the tens of thousands of rules of plotting, and tried every poetic form…until we have forgotten what the world looks like to us.  Adults envy young writers, I think; we are so used to comparing happiness to a warm puppy that we forget that happiness can also be a new Band-Aid, or a herd of manta rays, or a battered leather jacket with a broken zipper.

Don’t get me wrong – I don’t mean that poets shouldn’t read other poets, that essayists should never read novels, or that fiction writers should live in huts in the woods with no windows or visitors. We can learn a lot about how language works, how form works, what structures can work for stories, by reading and experiencing many things. But how do we do this and still keep our fresh perspective – our own voices?

What we can do is…write. A lot.

Ggb in soap bubble 1If you’re a younger writer, writing now means that you’ve started a thread that will connect you to the writer you will be as an adult. For an adult, writing a lot gets the “junk” out of our systems, so we can uncover the pure shimmering connections to our former selves. We can write ourselves into to the world in which it’s fun to pop glass bubbles, where spiders’s legs are as fine as spun glass and tap dance skitter-skatter, where there’s beauty in wearing our helmets and where bicycles have invisible wings, where birdhouses are farms or fairy homes or as safe as warmth, and where dragons love rocks and pebbles make our planet, where we are both ourselves and baby turtles,and where adults and children are connected by words, and birds, and love.**

So, I say, go to it.  Go, you yourself, and write ~ ina

*by Darren Coyles, aged 7, first published in Children as Writers:21st Year 1979, republished in Beauty of the Beast, ed. Jack Prelutsky, Knopf, 1997

**All of these images came from the Brighter Light challenge entries. There are many more than I could list and each one is as wonderful.

Friday surprise: Music Made Of Words

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This blog post started out as something for our younger readers and writers. But then I had a conversation with my “DS” (darling son), while we were sitting at the kitchen table having a snack.

Me [ina]: I’m kind of freaking out trying to write a blog post for the kids who read In Our Books. I don’t remember what it’s like to be a kid. I don’t even remember how I learned about poetry. I don’t remember anything these days! I hate getting old! Argh!

DS [looking toward ceiling]: Hm. You don’t remember what it’s like.

Me: I don’t. And I don’t even know how to introduce people to poetry. I mean, what is  a poem? Argh!

DS : You want to be helpful. [closes eyes and hums thoughtfully for several moments] Kids like what grown ups like [wanders to the sink to get a glass of water]. By the way, Mommy, a poem is just music made of words.

So now, this is  not a post for kids. This is  a post for everyone.

Calliope, the wonderful operonicon or steam car of the muses, advertising poster, 1874Every place and culture has music. Different people like different kinds of music; some people make music, others listen to it. Like poems – they are everywhere, and each of us hears them differently.

Some poems, like some music, have constant, repeated “meter” and “rhyme.” The meter is the rhythm of the poetry; rhymes are words that sound the same. Many poems in English have a repeated, steady rhythm:

de DUM de DUM de DUM de DUM//
de DUM de DUM de DUM de DUM

Kenyan dancers

These poems sometimes have end-rhymes at the end of lines. End-rhymes are when later parts of the words sound the same. Those same-sounding words come at the ends of lines. For example:

The cow is of the bovine ilk;
One end is moo, the other, milk.

[by Ogden Nash, “The Cow,” Free Wheeling, 1931]
If this is a kind of poetry you like, there are many poets who wrote poems like this:

  • Jack Prelutsky (he writes lots of books of poems, but one of my favorites is My Dog May Be A Genius)
  • Shel Silverstein (many people love Where The Sidewalk Ends)
  • For more old-fashioned poems (though with a lower silliness quotient), the author of Treasure Island, Robert Louis Stevenson, wrote the first set of poems I happened to memorize as a child myself, A Child’s Garden of Verses
  • Spot, our Bustopher Jones

    Spot, our Bustopher Jones

    My DS’s favorite book of poems is by a poet who wrote almost nothing for children. TS Eliot’s Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats is so well-loved that it has been made into a musical play called “Cats.” One of my favorite poems is about a cat named Bustopher Jones, mostly because we have a cat just like him

There are other poets who wrote rhymed and metered poems for kids but who are loved by people of all ages; look for Dr. Seuss, Charlotte Zolotow, Spike Milligan, Roald Dahl, Rudyard Kipling.

Hamakoi Dance Festival 2009 at the Yokohama Sogo department storeSome poems are more “free-form” – people call this “less structured.” Many poems “for adults” and many poems written by poets who usually write for adults are poems that just need a listening ear – whether that ear is young or old, big or small, for the flow of the song to become obvious.

Some places to start might be:

    • The great American poet William Carlos Williams, who was also a doctor and wrote many of his best poems on the pads in which he could give medicine prescriptions for his patients. A favorite: The Red Wheelbarrow. When you read this, how does it sound? What does it remind you of? How does it make you feel inside?
    • Valerie Worth’s Animal Poems are for everyone. She writes about little things like crickets in a way that makes us understand how big those little things are
    • Ted Hughes was known as a poet for adults, but he did write many poems for children which have been made into a book, Collected Poems for Children

Here’s another lovely poem by Hughes:

If you’d like to try reading several different poets, to find out what sorts of poems you like, there are some wonderful English-language collections to try:

800px-Childart11Slovakia5Why am I spending so much time talking about poems to read? Perhaps it is because I learned to write – to find my own songs – by reading the songs of others. But I will stop here, and I hope that all our fellow writers, young and old, will tell us : what poems would you want to share with other writers? which poets would you recommend for people starting out their poem-ing life?

A little Friday surprise: Talk to me

Pierre-Auguste Renoir - Confidences

Last month  I was looking for a particular ee cummings poem. And in the middle of the search, I ran across an archive of cummings reading his own work. Like this: love is thicker than forget. Since then, I’ve searched all over for poets reading their own works. I particularly love Fishouse Poems, which archives recordings of emerging poets. There’s an amazing poem by Amaud Johnson which you have to hear. Turns out there are archives all over the net of people reading amazing works. Of their own. Wow.

A poet we’ve interviewed on this very blog, Jay Sizemore, has posted some recordings of his poems on youtube. It’s an amazing experience listening to them – it’s not that the poems are better spoken, but different. I get different things out of using my ears than my eyes. I think we all do. I want to do a search sometime soon for youtube videos of people signing poems in ASL (which I don’t know much of, but a tiny bit) – I think I will learn a lot.

Charles Dickens, public reading, 1867It is good to read one’s draft poems aloud. It’s like getting several months away from them, it’s that fresh. All the slightly wrong notes are obvious; all the truly “on” moments stand out in great beauty.

If you find that you like reading your poems, there are not only open mics where you can speak your word in public but there are journals that will publish your works…in audio. These venues range from the multicultural spoken word standard, Visions With Voices, to the multi-media-friendly new magazines like shuf that include audio works. I’m thinking sometime that IOBs might want to try publishing audio works too.

So my thought for Friday? Let’s talk.