Posts Tagged ‘friday’

Signs of advanced age: I was getting sparked up to write a cranky post about how it seems like the majority of commercial YA looks like crappy romance novels when I decided to scrap it. The world doesn’t need a case made for the obvious, and my birthday deserved something better.

So I started scrawling out a poem. Yeah, that’s age for you right there. Skip the cranky and get loopy.

It’s a sort of personal influences/appreciation/homage thing that came to me in a sing-song way while my brain was still trying to noodle off on my morning commute to work. Pretend it’s 50-plus years from now and you’re a kid in fifth grade who stumbled onto this.

Vonnegut, Pinkwater, Steinbeck, and Lear,
One tall, one squat, one stoic, one queer.
They sailed the seas for a day and a year,
Old Vonnegut, Pinkwater, Steinbeck, and Lear

Vonnegut, being tall, volunteered as the mast
With his back to the bow and his eye on the past,
Shook his head at the foibles of mankind so vast,
“You’ve got to be kind, so it goes, nothing lasts!”

Pinkwater sat cross-legged, he centered the craft
With plenty of ballast both forward and aft.
Self-appointed zen master both thoughtful and daft,
You could hear lizard music whenever he laughed.

Steinbeck manned the oars with a heave and a ho.
When the seas were becalmed he pulled steady and slow
From bowls full of dust on to cannery row
Drunk on wine from the vines where the grapes of wrath grow.

Old Lear was their captain, a man prone to fits,
Who crafted the boat out of lyrical bits,
Like “There once was a man from thr Isle of St. Kitts…”
That despite lacking sense were as good as it gets.

They hadn’t a map but their course was still clear.
The point of the voyage: Carry on, persevere!
Though they fade in the distance they won’t disappear,
Old Vonnegut, Pinkwater, Steinbeck, and Lear.

Freely, I admit this could be better. And I feel a little sorry for including Pinkwater among the names of the long-gone, but his name fit the meter and his verse came easiest, almost in an instant. It’s also extremely unfair that so many other great influences of mine didn’t manage to fit in the boat – Francesca Lia Block and John Dos Passos in particular comes to mind; I just didn’t think they fit inside that absurd boat but they’re as equal an inspiration as the other four.

And these are just the writers, if I’d started mining illustrators and photographers I’d end up writing a Homeric epic!

Down the road I think I’d like to revisit this poem about four absurd travelers, much like Edward Lear’s longer works like “The Owl and the Pussycat” or “The Jumblies.” Down the road. And it’s all downhill from 51, or so I’m supposed to believe. Let’s just say “for another day” and leave it at that.

I thank you all for your kind attention.


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I’ve missed a bunch of you since dropping out of the Poetry Friday scene earlier this year. After 18 months of posting original poems and making the rounds I felt like I needed to take a break (or give you all a break, depending on how you felt about my poetry!) and refocus my energies on other things. Getting a job after 4 years of unemployment was one of those “other things” and the result was that the writing balance in my life sort of shifted onto a back-burner. I’ve been slowly looking for opportunities to nudge back onto creative turf and this week I stumbled onto something that became a perfect catalyst.

Also, it makes a good poetry challenge for all, and could be the start of something big and new.

Over at Guys Lit Wire there was a re-post of a Neil Gaiman video where he’s proposing everyone give someone they know a scary book for Halloween, a project he’s calling All Hallow’s Read. Neil hardly needs my help getting the word out about anything, but if you want to see what he’s up to (along with a half-dozen people playing zombie in a graveyard over his shoulder) the you’ll want to check this out. But also in the post was a link to someone who had taken Edgar Allen Poe’s “The Raven” and printed it as a single-sheet self-binding booklet to be given away. It’s a cool idea, but it got me thinking.

What if, instead of a chapbook, all of us poetry advocates decided to give out something a little more manageable, spooky but fun? What about something as bite-sized as those little candy bars that get handed out, I wondered. What if, along with a treat, we tossed into trick-or-treater’s goodie bags…

An original Halloween limerick!

They would fit nicely on those pre-perforated business card sheets that you run through a computer printer, dozens of them would be super cheap, and they’re just the right size for carrying around in a pocket and sharing on the playground the next day! Share with friends! Collect them all! Trade them for valuable candies!

Why limericks?

First, it’s short and fits the space nicely. Five lines with an AABBA rhyme scheme that literally sings. The limerick also has great tradition of both nonsense and a twist ending, a character and an undoing or a fatal flaw. Plus a limerick feels most complete as a narrative style, it doesn’t necessarily invite reflection so much as it tells a great little story. In rhyme.

My personal feeling about this is that these Halloween poems is that they be like little birds (or ghoulish ravens, if you will) released into the night and allowed to spark and ignite a correlation between scary and fun and poetry, or any combination thereof. I would certainly expect that if you were to do this that you put your name on it, and maybe a website or email address, though there might be something scary-fun about an anonymous poem magically appearing among the candy. Maybe on the back of the poem you could print up a “Happy Halloween 2012 Trick-or-Treat Poem Day” or something like that along with some scary fun clip art. As long as the fun of the poem wasn’t diluted with a marketing promo, a moral message, or an obnoxious copyright warning that has a word count more than twenty characters or so, I think what it looks like is up to you.

What do you say? Anyone up for this?

I would be jazzed if people posted their poems as comments, and it would be a kick to see photos of the final product. Feel free to share this idea with anyone and everyone, just convince them to drop by and share what they did in the comments.

And now, just to show you what I mean, a trio of newly minted Halloween limericks!

In the rain a young pumpkin named Josh
Rolled down into the lane for a slosh.
His friends back on the vine
Couldn’t warn him in time
As a car came and turned him to squash!

A single dead playboy named Lance
Tried to score at The Afterlife Dance
He came dressed to the nines,
Spouting bad pick-up lines,
But he hadn’t a ghost of a chance!

On All Hallow’s Eve, dark and pale,
The same wretched thing happens to Gail;
She casts spells the whole day
To keep strangers at bay–
Trick-or-treaters show up without fail.

So it’s Poetry Friday, here and there about the internet. A little early, perhaps, but you can go a-trick-or-treating about the offerings over at Live Your Poem where Irene is hosting today.

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Missed a week, but I had my reasons. I was busy writing and talking about writing and generally doing writerly things.

Okay, I forgot all about Poetry Friday last week.

In the meantime, I’d stumbled upon a sort of “test” that was given by an ad agency to prospective copywriters, designed to see how they think on their feet, word-wise. A number of the questions make for good writing prompts (“Describe toast to a Martian in 50 words or less”) but I was surprised that my instinct for answering the first question, “Give a short, persuasive argument on letting Pluto remain a planet,” wanted to come out in verse form.

the abandoned egg
nursed from a chick
to a full-grown sparrow

imprinted on our hearts
following us around
feeding from our merest crumbs

cannot be returned to the wild
any more than our dogs and cats
they are no less than family

which is why pluto should remain
part of our adopted solar tribe
our orbiting pet rock

What is a planet anyway? The dictionary says the word comes from the Greek and that it differentiates objects that orbit a sun from stationary stars in the sky. So what if Pluto is really nothing more than an orbiting asteroid following us ring-around-the-rosy like a happy Saint Bernard puppy? We couldn’t see it for millenia, and when we did we claimed it as one of our own. Let it stay, it’s doing us no harm.

Let Pluto be Pluto.

If you’re gonna fall down the rabbit hole on the internet, might as well do it with poetry. Dori has the Poetry Friday roundup this week at her site, Dori Reads, including a nifty interview with Laura Purdie Salas.

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I haven’t been writing much poetry for kids lately. Well, not for public consumption at least. I have a couple projects I’m poking and prodding and I don’t know what their final shape will take. For the time being though I’ve been generally happy to just play around on these Fridays. And I thank you your kind indulgence and wonderful comments.

This week I found an old notebook I used to keep. I used to always walk around with a notebook and jot down snippets and crazy ideas. Why don’t I do that anymore? No matter, there was a couple of lines and possible rhyme pairs and for whatever reason it didn’t happen a few years ago, the following poem presented itself.


if I had just one final wish,
noodles, heaping, on a dish.

if it was meat-filled ravioli
I’d fork it fast but chew it slowli.

the way that I prefer spaghetti
is al dente, almost readi.

with melted cheese and macaroni
the only choice could be elboni.

when looking at a fluted ziti
the word that comes to mind is pretti.

a cream sauce tossed with steamed zuchinni
is how my parents eat linguine.

and how could I ever forgette
those little saucers, orecchiette?

the rule of thumb when serving pasta
is get it to me molto fasta!

this orzo here, it’s rather nice
but… what the heck is this?

it’s rice?!


this rice now puts me in a lurch,
I’ll need to eat some more research.

Hidden in this wordplay I can’t ignore how, growing up, my mom had all sorts of names for dinner dishes that were really just variations of pasta. We were poor and rather than saying “pasta” three or four nights a week it would be “elbows” and “spaghetti” and, most inappropriately, “goulash” which was simply shells (or conchiglie) with a chunkier ragu. It wasn’t until I moved to the East Coast a few years ago that I learned the regional term for one of my mom’s goulashes is called “American Chop Suey,” a problematic name on so many levels.

Now I’m hungry. And I just ate!

Poetry Friday, it’s a thing. Gathering Books has the rundown this week. You ought to go check it out, see what else people have posted this week. And for you commenters (always welcome!) the question is: what’s your favorite type of pasta dish?

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I have an internet search agent for old photographs from my home town. Occasionally something pops up in the weekly email I get that opens up a whole new world for me, something I’ve never known or imagined about the place I grew up. Recently a photo came up of two servicemen and their dates from a nightclub I’d never heard of. The building is long gone, but a little digging revealed that the club was originally built as the West Coast home of The Cotton Club. Further internet time-suck opened another world of live recordings made during the 30s and 40s at the club, many from radio broadcasts, including a bunch from Louis Armstrong who actually lived near (and got busted for marijuana at) this club, not far from my old high school! It’s crazy what a little tidbit of info can lead to.

The photo itself has very little information beyond the club name and the date the photo was taken. I made up a storypoem to go along with it.

two servicemen and their dates
frozen in 1943

the captain, all of 24 years old
promises to marry the redhead on his lap
after the war

his buddy, the lieutenant
a year younger but battle-wise
in the fields of love
makes no such promise to his brunette date
but will write her daily
until VE day

they met that night at Casa Mañana
all of them looking
for a few hours respite
from the war
from the fighting
from the rationing
from the loneliness
of a nation’s sacrifices

the brunette, a seamstress
could fashion dresses
from the humblest of draperies
specialized in children’s clothes
and knitted sweaters for the boys
on the front in winter

her roommate, the redhead
worked a switchboard downtown
plugging the incoming with the black cables
connecting to outgoing with the red
(occasionally listening in
when the supervisor wasn’t near)

the women admitted
they’d flipped a coin earlier that night
heads they’d see a movie
tails they’d go to the club
the servicemen laughed
they, too, almost went to the pictures
“Heaven Can Wait” they all said
and laughed
and ordered another round
and danced to swing music

at the end of the night
the women suggested a nightcap
at their Venice apartment
the servicemen were game
as much for the soft beds
as the promise of liquor
a good time
and a farewell breakfast

before hailing a cab
the redhead collected the photo sets
of the foursome at their table
taken by the house photographer
developed on site
and presented in a paper folder
a souvenir
of a night on the town
at the Casa Mañana

By the way, as far as I know, The Tonga Room at The Fairmont Hotel in San Francisco still has a photographer who goes around to all the tables and will take your party’s photo and deliver it by the end of your evening with your check. It’s a very classy old school thing that I wish more places did. Granted, everyone’s got their cell phone cameras and can upload a picture instantly during the party, but it’s not the same. We’re all so busy recording our lives these days rather than living them. But I digress.

Poetry Friday is congregating over at Laura Purdie Salas‘ place, and while you’re there, why not check out (and try) her 15 Words or Less Challenge from yesterday.

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I started the year off with a cento based on the lyrics of Steve Miller’s “Fly Like An Eagle” due, in part, to the fact that its original lyrics made no sense; I was curious to see if there was something of worth buried within that refrain of “Dit dot dit doot-doot-doot-oo.” I was kind of pleased with the results because, indeed, playing around with the phrases I was able to detect some thread of the revolution Miller alluded to. Maybe. I could be reading too much into my own work now.

But what other songs have lyrics that, outside their musical accompaniment, drew the giant question mark above my head? Two came to mind instantly, one of them being Neil Diamond’s “I Am I Cried.” It’s the chair. The guy is talking about how he declares his existence to an empty room and seems surprised that the chair doesn’t respond. Fine, it’s a cry of desperation about a life in flux, but… that. damn. chair. And the phrasing of that chorus. And what’s this whole thing with Neil Diamond anyway? Yeah, he wrote some hits, but they always sounded like they were just barely one rung above Rod McKuen. “Seasons in the Sun” anyone?

So let’s see what we can pull out of Mr. Diamond’s… lyrics.

born and raised
between two shores
I’m lost
between two shores

thinking about
laid back palm trees
the sun and the rents grow
laid back palm trees

but it ain’t mine no more

I am I
no one
not even the chair
can say why
I am lost

deep inside emptiness
won’t let me go
a man who likes to swear
won’t let me go

a frog changes a king
who dreamed of being
and then became a frog
who dreamed of being

but I’ve never cared for being

I am I
no one
not even the chair
can say why
I am lost

I said I
can’t say I’ve tried
and no one there
can’t say I’ve tried

and I’m not alone

Ah, Camus couldn’t have said it better! The full existential angst of the modern man writ large, full of despair, madness, and fairy tale allusions. It’s all there, if only Neil could have tapped into it the way I can!

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to go deflate my ego. Why not go to The Iris Chronicles and check out what else is happening in the world of Poetry Friday.

Oh, and if you have any nominations for nonsense lyrics (I am fond of the 70s and 80s, but will consider all eras) feel free to nominate candidates for future centos in the comments.

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Having spent most of the month endlessly recovering from what my doctor called a “quiet” case of pneumonia (everyone’s a poet these days) I find myself longing for all the foods I am restricted from eating. That, in turn, makes me think about recipes which have a rhythm of their own at times. And then I stumble across an article in the newspaper featuring some nonsense recipes. And so, a tribute.

for Edward of Holloway

Find the circumference
Of one golden Kumquat
And tossed in a pot

An Anglerfish’s degree
Plucked fresh from the Sea
Sauted until hot

A measure of Music
Boiled up with a flourish
Performed at a trot

A quartful of quarters
Poached from Four-flushers
Set fire to the lot

Add the Palm of one Heart
Unbroken, unblue
And free of all clot

When you find your nerves shot
Once the mixture congeals
You’ll find it will yield
One Lear

Sort of a recipe, kind of an homage, at least the nonsense part makes, er, sense.

Poetry Friday, unlike any other friday because of its poetriness, this week being rounded up over at Hey, Jim Hill! If you haven’t come her from there, then go there from here!

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