The Prompter Room

For Friday, September 8, 2017:

 

From the most serious to the most comic, the simplest to the most baroque, the most personal to the most political, poems alter the landscape of the given.  This tilting of ordinary reality and ordinary expectation is the gesture that lives in the ink of art’s first impulse.

Jane Hirshfield, ‘The American Poetry Review,’ Sept/Oct 2017

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The Prompter Room

For Tuesday (the right one this time!), April 25, 2017:

 

Attempt to write every day, to read everything, to listen, to be in the world, to challenge ideas and to question ourselves.  Because it’s not just poetry; it’s the experience of inquiry.

Yusef Kamunyakaa, New York State Poet

The Prompter Room

For Tuesday, July 26, 2016:

 

“I have spent most of the day putting in a comma and the rest of the day taking it out.”

Oscar Wilde

Oh yes, I have done this!  More than once.  One poem in particular, though, stands out.  Here’s the poem, written many, many years ago:

Communion

The trains of misty, foggy nights

entice my thoughts to go along.

Each night they call to me

of where they’re going

and of where they’ve been.

Each night the whistles cry,

and then the silence

holds the echoes

for me to hear again.

 

I wonder: is there one inside

who sees,

and wonders, as they pass,

if there is one alone out there

who hears,

and wonders too?

 

© ERR

 

Poetry is hard to punctuate because it’s so subjective and based, usually, on the writer’s speaking style and breathing patterns.  But sometimes punctuation can make a point or guide us in a direction by its very presence or absence.   I think this is one reason some people have a hard time with Emily Dickinson’s poetry.  Her famous dashes can be hard to translate to our modern ear: where do I stop, where do I pause, when do I slow down as I read?

‘Communion’ is one of those poems that comes along rarely, at least for me.  I could almost see the whole of it at once in my mind’s eye as I transferred it to the page (it helped that it’s short).   In the 25-30 years since that night, I haven’t changed a word, I haven’t changed the order of anything.  That, too, is rare for me.  I usually change something the next few times I work on a poem.

But every single time (almost) that I look at it, I try to decide if that blasted comma should stay in or be deleted.  It makes a difference, too, if I’m just reading it to myself or if I plan to read it aloud somewhere.  (Hint: it is – or isn’t – in the second stanza.)

I’m at the point now where I think this might be a good candidate for no punctuation at all.  That way the reader can make his or her own decision and I can finally let it go.

Apologies

“The best way out is always through.”

Robert Frost

My apologies for being missing in action recently … The last two or three weeks have been taken over by ‘life’ and medical and health issues.  I had hoped to stay on my daily prompt routine throughout – though I did take the respective weekends off to recoup some energy – but that didn’t work out.

This week is more of the same, including drives to and from doctors’ appointments that are five hour-long round trips.  Sometimes this part of the world is a little piece of heaven.  When it comes to some medical specialists … not so much, thereby necessitating the long, tedious, painful drives.

But in life, as in writing, we forge ahead, sometimes creeping (and creaking!), other times with resilience, but always through.

I hope to get back to the daily Prompter Room as soon as possible – at this point, it looks like sometime next week will be my earliest chance.  Things should settle down a little by then.  In the meantime, I hope to be able to announce some good literary news in two or three days.

Many blessings and thanks!

~~ Genie

The Prompter Room

For Friday, May 20, 2016:

 

“Some day you will be old enough to start reading fairy tales again.”

C. S. Lewis

It is my hope that there will come a time, in the near or far future, when we will never stop reading fairy tales.  There is so much to learn from them, those of our childhood and folk tales alike.  Clarissa Pinkola Estes’ Women Who Run With the Wolves is a fascinating treatise on how such tales inform and shape our grown-up lives, and I highly recommend it.

If you don’t want to read a fairy tale or two (though I recommend that, too!) then how about writing one?  This can be a good exercise on a number of levels.  It takes us out of our everyday thinking and actions, for one thing.  If we write in genres other than fantasy, too, crafting a new-to-us story form stretches our creative muscles.

Though it’s not my favorite genre to read, I once wrote a zombie short story that turned out a lot better than I thought it would.  I’d never written one before – and probably won’t again – but I wanted to try something new, and I’m rather proud of the result.

Zombie stories aren’t fairy tales, of course, though they’re definitely fantasy.  The point is to try something new.  It doesn’t need to be fairy tales.  If you’re a poet and always write sonnets, try a haiku or senryu.  If you write essays or memoir, try a short-short story.  Can you write a complete story, with beginning, middle, and end, in 250 words?  Or use Hemingway’s model of a story (or poem?) in six words.  Find a story you’ve written and turn it into a poem, or a poem into a story.  Try to make a poem rhyme if you usually write free verse.

Or write that fairy tale.  We all have them in us.

Once upon a time, there was a group of writers who excelled at everything creative they put their minds – and pens – to.  The townspeople of the place in which they lived expected nothing else, and it was always an honor when a humble townsperson was asked to join this elite group.

One day, word reached the writers that a young woman thought she was ….

Good enough/not good enough to be one of the writers?  What happens in each case?  How do various characters’ perspectives change?  For the better or the worse?  What is the moral of the story, what do readers learn?

Go for it!

The Prompter Room

For Monday, May 16, 2016:

 

“What would life be if we had no courage to attempt anything?”

Vincent van Gogh

Tomorrow and Wednesday my best friend will debut a new creative enterprise and I am so proud of her I could burst!   Chris is one of the most courageous people I know – I always think of her when I need a dose of courage myself – and the way she has embarked on this whole process doesn’t surprise me.

I will share specific details here as soon as I can, but for now I will say how impressed I’ve been as I’ve watched Chris create this new venture.  She’s faced her technological fears and frustrations to design and implement a beautiful Website.  From the start, she’s found personal, digital, and business resources that have helped her to develop an endeavor that will serve others who are unable to leave their homes or are in nursing and veterans’ homes or rehabilitation facilities.  She has navigated territories and will go to places that are literally and figuratively unfamiliar to her, all because she is dedicated to helping others.

Creating anything new always takes courage and inner strength, and my beloved BFF is my example and role model for both.  Good luck tomorrow and Wednesday, dearest Chris!

 

The Prompter Room

For Friday, May 13, 2016:

 

“The world is ruled by letting things take [their] course.”

Lao Tzu

Today’s been one of those days already.  I don’t know if it’s because it’s Friday the 13th, or the rain, or because Mercury’s still in retrograde (I presume), but this has been a day of distractions and interruptions out the wazoo.  Since I don’t have any brainpower left to speak of, then, I had hoped to re-blog one of my earliest posts.  That didn’t work either, so I’ll just explain it some here and refer you to the original post if you can access the archives.

The post is called ‘Handy Work’ and I wrote it on May 11, 2015.  Old-timers have seen mention of it a few times over the past year, and I hope newcomers will find it useful. This exercise, which I created some years ago, loosens up the creative muscles by using your non-dominant hand.

This means getting away from the keyboard and putting pen/pencil to paper.  Now write something, but use your non-dominant hand.  It can be anything, even a grocery or to-do list, or you can copy something, or try a short poem or craft a paragraph for a work-in-progress.  If these options don’t appeal, just doodle.  Write down the ABCs, draw circles or various shapes.

The intent is to access the side of the brain you don’t use as often, so do this for 10-15 minutes.  The mere physicality of putting hand to paper – brush to canvas works, too – is beneficial.  Doing so with your non-dominant hand frees up the creativity even more.  A friend of mine once said that his always-active and -noisy brain quieted down enough with this exercise to actually give him some unexpected peace.  Others have found that using their non-dominant hand helped them to get over a spell of writers’ block.

If you’re having one of those days with your writing, then – even if you’re not – try using your other hand for a while.  No one else has to see it, so don’t worry what it looks like.  Some exercises actually can be fun, and this is one of them – and there’s nothing wrong with a giggle or two in the process!

The Prompter Room

For Tuesday, May 11, 2016:

 

“I wrote my first novel because I wanted to read it.”

Toni Morrison

“Write a page a day.  Only 300 words.  And in a year you have written a novel.”

Stephen King

Or a memoir.  Or a collection of poems or essays.  I did the math – well, the calculator did – and 300 x 365 = 109,500 words.  That’s definitely a book.

Many of us who blog write at least 300 words a day, so we know we can produce that amount.  Add in our emails, Facebook posts and comments, and tweets (if we do those), and it’s likely we’ve already surpassed those 300 words.  According to WordPress’s convenient little word count down in the corner – thank you, WP 🙂 – I’ve already reached 121 words up to here.  So it’s doable.

Yes, blog posts, Facebook, and emails are different, and at least the latter two are far easier than writing a book of any genre, but the words are there.  Usually the time is there, too.  Since I started my blog here a year ago – last week was the first anniversary of magiclampedits! – for instance, I’ve reduced my time and words on FB so I can write this blog and work on my books.

Even when I’m working on the blog, it’s not always at one sitting.  Usually I get up from the chair a few times – to let the dogs out, get some tea, turn down the TV, retrieve a dog toy from the water bowl or from under the couch, answer the phone, sometimes even to think and ponder – but those 300-500 words get done.

When I get distracted from or discouraged with my new novel-in-progress, I remember this.  Because I want to read it.  Once I reach the period in this sentence, I’ll have 290 words.  Almost there … and if I can do it, you can, too!