Skiing Through Life

Photo: Pixnio
Labeled for non-commercial reuse

Skiing Through Life
a Quadrille

Sturdy as a rock,
supple as a tree branch,
gentle as a mother
with her newborn baby,

high as a star,
deep as mountain lakes,
you hurl yourself
into your future—
letting go, risking, leaping,
landing with a bounce,
crunching leaves
in winter white.

A quadrille with the four words offered so far. Join us at dVerse Quadrille–the prompt word for this week is bounce.

Death Imagined: dVerse MTB

Photo: Victoria Slotto

Photo: Victoria Slotto

I’m hosting this week’s dVerse Meeting the Bar, asking our community of poets to consider what they can do to liven up a poem in their archives, a poem they are not happy with, with a focus on imagery. I wrote this poem, “And Before I Die” in 2009 and posted it on my blog in September of that year. I guess I was okay with it back then, but today, it falls flat–though I like the concept.

 And Then, Before I Die

I see the vacuum,
upright in the
corner of the room and
understand my work
remains undone.

I catch my lover’s
glance, stretch
out my hand but
words I try to speak
remain unsaid.

Outside, our world is
chilled and tumbling snow
covers earth.
I close my eyes and hope that
whatever lies ahead, my hope
remains unshaken.

Here is the revised poem, titled anew and amended with a bit more sensory detail. I feel it needs some tightening but is a bit richer for sensory detail. I’ve tried to include all 5 senses. I appreciate feedback. Is it too wordy?

Death, Imagined
a Revision of a 2009 Poem: And Then, Before I Die

There’s my upright vacuum, waiting across the room.
Spindly webs hang from valences while dust motes dance
in silver light bursting through gauzy curtains,
settle on the window sill and dresser.
My world smells musty, tastes dry.  My work here remains undone.

In the corner, my husband sprawls in his worn chair,
folds in on himself, head buried in gnarly, arthritic hands.
Words, trapped in my mind and throat, cry for me to speak them.
I open my mouth, emit emptiness.

Outside, our winter-washed world shivers
under its velour blanket of tumbling snow.
Inside, doubt hammers at every truth I hold dear.
I close my eyes, wrap my hand around my beads,
touch the wear, born of daily use, reach out to hope.
In a distance, I hear (or imagine) birdsong.

The pub doors open tomorrow, Thursday, at 3:00 PM EDT.

Wordsmith Wednesday–12 Sources of Poetic Inspiration

Illustration from the cover of Christina Rosse...

Image via Wikipedia

Today I’ve been considering the sources we poets turn to for poetic inspiration–so today’s Wordsmith Wednesday is for poets although I’m sure that it can be useful to prose writers as well. I’m going to short-list some of the sources I turn to to be inspired in my writing. I’m hoping that you will add to it in the comments section.

  • Nature–look for details, metaphors, lessons that are present all around us. When stuck, it often helps me to take a walk. I’m blessed to live in a place that is replete with nature’s offerings.
  • Reading–read other poets. Their work often tickles my creative muse. I’ve mentioned some of my favorites in my list of recommended reading.
  • News sources–look for the seeds of story-poems hidden in the newspaper, on the Internet or on TV news broadcast.
  • Poetic Forms–do an Internet search and check out poetic forms. For me, the discipline of a form can jump-start and idea.
  • Spirituality–look to metaphysical/religious ideas and writings such as the Bible or holy books of other spiritual traditions. Look within at your own spiritual experience.
  • Relationships–these evoke emotional reactions that are often begging to be expressed.
  • History–check out historical events as well as your own history. There are stories to tell.
  • Mythology–although this is not an area of expertise for me, I’ve read much poetry that draws on the classical myths, stories that transcend time.
  • Science–a wonderful well-spring of poetic inspiration.
  • Art–Use painting, sculpture, photography and translate your experience into words.
  • Writing Prompts–those of us who participate in writing communities have a wealth of material tossed out at us on a daily or weekly basis. Check out some of the sites on my blogroll. I’d love to see you link up to my own Monday Morning Writing Prompt.
  • Political issues–need I say more? My personal viewpoint is to stay away from personal attacks and stick to the issues.

I hope these will be helpful to you, especially if you are feeling stuck right now. There are more–help me expand the list if you will!

Wordsmith Wednesday–Symbolism

Pink Tulips Lit by Afternoon Sun

Image by danagraves via Flickr

Our writing prompt on Monday asked us to look at symbolism in dreams and this got me to thinking about the value of symbols as a tool to enrich our creative writing, whether prose or poetry.

Let’s take a look at the definition of symbol as found in

  • something used for or regarded as representing something else; a material object representing something, often something immaterial; emblem, token, or sign.
  • a word, phrase, image, or the like having a complex of associated meanings and perceived as having inherent value separable from that which is symbolized, as being part of that which is symbolized, and as performing its normal function of standing for or representing that which is symbolized: usually conceived as deriving its meaning chiefly from the structure in which it appears, and generally distinguished from a sign.

Here a few examples of how cinema and fiction have used this device.

  • Remember the role of music in Jaws? There are a few bars that are repeated as a herald of an up-coming shark attack and every time the viewer hears those chords, he grips the arms of the chair.
  • I recall a movie from when I was quite young (don’t ask me the name) when the scent of gardenia forwarned that someone was about to die.
  • The entire premise of Moby Dick is based on the whale as a symbol of a life-goal that as yet to be achieved.

I offer you another example from my second novel, The Sin of His Father. This scene takes place immediately after the protagonist’s mother has died. On her deathbed, Matt’s mother tells him a secret she has kept from him–that he was conceived in rape. He is standing outside the nursing facility where she had been a patient:

Across the lawn, large crows helped themselves to bread crumbs. Matt knew that it had been Edward Riley, a resident of the facility, who’d scattered them. One of the birds interrupted breakfast to stare at Matt—Matt would have sworn it was so—and his skin tingled at the thought of stories his mother used to tell him of dead people coming back as black birds. Beside the predator, strewn feathers told of a smaller bird that had lost its struggle to keep on living. Matt’s grief came pouring out. That it was because of a fragile creature stunned him at first before he recognized the similitude. Like the wren, his mother fought her whole life for food and survival. She’d known a dark monster, too. Not one that would destroy her suddenly, mercifully, but one that most likely haunted every moment of her adult life. One that tore her down from the inside-out and in the end defeated her.

In prose, symbols should emerge from the writing process itself. It’s important not to force it. That is to say, most often you don’t choose a symbol and write your manuscript to fit. Just the opposite. The symbol grows as you seek to express a character’s feeling in metaphor.

The opposite may be true in poetry where the poet chooses a symbol first and takes it from there.

If you are looking for help in finding an effective symbol, a website or book dealing with dream imagery can help.

You may be surprised to find that a theme grows out of your choices of symbolism, even though you are not conscious of it. That happened for me the first time I brought the opening chapters of Winter is Past to a workshop. One of the other participants pointed out the role that tulips in Claire’s garden played:

My breath fogged the window panes but in amber light cast by late afternoon sun I saw tips of irises. Spent gold and purple crocuses spattered the flowerbed in between tulips that had tried to open, but had frozen, stunted in their voluminous leaves.

This image recurs in the novel as Claire struggles to come to grips with her own insufficiency until the flower at last comes into full bloom.

  • Can you give examples of how you’ve used a symbol in your own prose or poetry?
  • Did it develop on its own, or did you choose it consciously?
  • What other works can you cite that use a symbol to create texture and atmosphere?

Next week I will be traveling so this article will not be up on Wednesday and I trust, if I can’t make it happen, you will understand.

Happy Writing…enjoy the process.

Wordsmith Wednesday–Writing from the Heart

Anthony van Dyck - Cupid and Psyche (1639–40)

Image via Wikipedia

As we approach Valentine’s Day, I’ve noted a number of poems and posts dealing with love. Today, I want to briefly address the subject of writing emotion because most of us as beginning writers have difficulty, whether we write prose or poetry, in expressing strong feelings adequately, but without going overboard.

As a disclaimer, I am not a romance writer and this post will not deal with the sexual or erotic expression of  love but rather the underlying currents of closely related emotion. Today, let’s just focus on love and let’s begin at looking at three types of love. To do that, I’m calling on my poor old memory.

Resorting to Greek, an obvious kind of love that I’ve already named recalls Eros, or erotic love. This is the love that is charged with the energy of sexuality, the love between spouses and lovers. The second is related to Philia.Think of Philadelphia, the City of brotherly love. This refers to the love between family and friends. And finally, there is Agape, the love that comes from higher ideals, that is selfless and beneficient. (Such is the love that those of us who are Christians refer to when asked to love our neighbors and even our enemies–a love, of course, common to all schools of spiritual thought.) These distinctions serve as a reference point when we are writing our characters’ inner thoughts and dialogue. How can we express just the right amount of intensity? Here are a few suggestions:

Avoid purple prose–the overboard, maudlin expression of love. Think of words or expressions that just drip with sentiment–flowery, unrealistic description or dialogue. Has anyone of you ever had a lover tell you, “Your eyes are blue like cornflowers and I fall into them enjoying ecstatic thrills that make my heart-throb” ?

Strive for subtlety. Call upon your own experience and don’t be afraid to ask others for help. Think of words of love you have said or heard. Take notes when reading or watching movies or TV–jot down effective dialogue or descriptions.

Use metaphor or simile with care. This can work but calls for discretion. For example, in the purple prose example above. While “Your eyes are like cornflowers” may be over the top, you can always have the character see a field of cornflowers that reminds him of his loved one.

The nature of poetry is such that there is a bit more room for exaggeration, but even here I suggest evaluating your work using some of the above suggestions. While reviewing poetry for Jingle’s Poetry Potluck, I came across a poem by Bob at NotATameBlog that I believe exemplifies a well-written love poem. Thanks to Bob for allowing me to share his link with you:

These are my opinions and if any of you have differing thoughts, I urge you to express it in comments. Also, if you have examples from your own work of either over-expression or effective expression of love, I’d love you to post it. This could be a fun discussion.

Monday Morning Writing Prompt–Art and Poetry

Intaglio printmaking - roller and ink

Image via Wikipedia

Note: to visit my entry for Jingle’s Poetry Potluck go to:

Poetry and Art

I enjoy writing and reading poems that incorporate elements used by artists as a metaphor. Think about some of the possibilities: line, shape, color, perspective, unity, movement, pattern (many more). For this week’s prompt, I invite you to choose anything that goes into the creation of a painting, sculpture, collage, fiber art, printing…and use it in a poem. For mine, I’ve chosen “intaglio“–an aspect of print art in which a design is incised or engraved into a material such as copper which is then inked and used to imprint the design for multiple reproductions of the original. Some artists famous for this method include  Whistler and Rembrandt.


The story of your life unfolds—
not in lines
forged by a stylus on copper—
but in the choices
you etch each day.

I especially hope to hear from some of you who engage in the visual arts. Please link your poetry in the comments and enjoy a productive week of writing.

AROS #4 and 5–Catching Up

Owens Valley - Feb 23, 2008

Image by niiicedave via Flickr

After a few days of travel and unpacking (still not settled) I’m trying to catch up. The drive between Reno and Palm Desert provided much inspiration: high desert, mountains, Mount Whitney, Owens Valley and the starkness of the Mojave. Here in Coachella Valley all is verdant and serene. The mountains separating us from the ocean are snow-covered, the skies blue, and sunsets are splendid.

Mother Nature dusts
the mountains to the East
with confectioner’s sugar.

Mother Nature shakes out a quilt,
covers Owens Valley in soft white fluff.

This week I will not be able to post a Wordsmith Wednesday column. I will try to make up for it next week. Happy writing. Enjoy the process.

Submitted to a River of Stones:

Monday Morning Writing Prompt–August 23,2010

Well, it’s started. In the background, our TV rumbles with the roar of the crowd watching the 49’ers play the Vikings in a pre-season performance. Football season is here.

I’m a secondary football fan. That is to say, I sit with my husband as he watches the games, but my primary activity is usually knitting, beading, reading or even writing. I’ll give my full attention to instant replays when David tells me “Take a look at this,” and from time-to-time I’ll even watch most of the game. I know enough about the sport to be conversant, to recognize teams and major players and understand some strategy and calls made (or missed) by the officials.

For this week’s prompt, use football in a short story, essay or poem or construct a football metaphor to convey an idea or emotion. Please, please share with us what you’ve come up with and I will do the same later in the week. Have fun with this one.