Autumn Alarm Clock (revised as an aubade quatrain)

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Autumn Alarm Clock (Original):
Mother tapped on my window this morning
Seizing my skin with her breeze and my mind
With the click-clack of leaves falling from trees
Still I squeezed my pillow in denial
My eyes holding on tightly to slumber
And pressing hard on my subconscious snooze
My loving mother found another way
She sent the rain to trickle and tickle
Sweetly on my subconscious mind with its
Dripdropdrip Dripdropdrip
Autumn sensations replaced with those of
Coffee and cream and delicious caffeine
Suddenly I’m awake.

Autumn Alarm Clock (Revised as an aubade quatrain):
Mother tapped on my window this morning
Seizing my skin with her breeze
And pleasing my ears with the click-clack-
Click of leaves falling from trees

Though I realized you were gone
I still squeezed your pillow in denial
Then pleading to be released
I pressed hard on my mind’s snooze

Nature found another way
She sent the rain to trickle,
Tickle and tease me with its dripdropdrip
Dripdropdrowning out my dreams

Still I refused to believe
In reality without
You beside me I’d rather
Stay here sleeping the day away alone

Finally, Autumn retreats
Her sensations are replaced
By temptations of caffeine, cream and you
I rise to delicious coffee for two.

Haiku and Haibun Fun

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As I wind down toward the light at the end of the tunnel of this eight week poetry class, which has been a wonderful experience all around, these have been my favorite forms so far!

Haiku was awesomely freeing. I loved writing haiku (even though I sort of hate that the plural form of haiku is haiku; it just seems so pretentious, doesn’t it? Just me? Oh.). Anyway, I feel like I could write haiku all day long. Not just the word “haiku” though that’s fun, too, but haiku themselves. In fact, yesterday when I wrote my haibun/haiku, my husband and I started randomly free styling haiku. The game got old (rather quickly, especially for him) but we both had fun.

Even though I read it’s not necessary to stick to the 5-7-5 format, I somehow found safety and comfort in counting syllables and always felt finished once I liked the poem itself and landed on the correct, so to speak, count.

I also really enjoyed the haibun aspect of this. It was different than my typical prose in that I felt it needed to sound more poetic, if that makes sense, so I worked to include images and descriptions. Still, I wanted to stay true to my style so I kept it as tight and concise as possible and I tried not to go overboard (for me) with the flowery descriptions which aren’t quite me. I went as far into the descriptions as my skin would currently let me. I’m comfortable writing prose though and I’m no stranger to present tense so for me this was natural and fun.

Content and form seemed to play equal roles in haiku/haibun. This week’s class activity was to wrote a haibun containing haiku (see my previous post for the product of said activity). For me, while the haiku portion was easier, for lack of a better word, to write, the haibun grew naturally out of the haiku. While the haiku is a sort of clever and mysterious little poem, the haibun was like the haiku’s helper. It broadened the message, added clarity and together, I found, they told a real story.

I really love where I ended up with this and I want to write more of these. The haiku (man, I really want to write/say “haikus”) just spilled out of my brain! On that note, what a wonderful way to rev the creative engine and get pumped up to write more? I think haiku would also work well to get the creative juices flowing and maybe even serve as a weapon against writer’s block.

Since I’m usually writing longer projects, like novels and screenplays, this was a refreshing break from the norm. While some of the longer poetic forms, like the sestina, frustrated me, there was nothing frustrating about haiku. It was simply nice to write something so small and yet still so meaningful and creatively fulfilling.

Of course, I can’t speak for the quality of my haiku since I’m so new to poetry in general and am learning as I go but I truly enjoyed the process of writing it and I’m happy with my results. I wonder if I could write a haiku a day… I bet I could!

This poetry class has been a great experience for me and this week was the icing on the cake. It’s hard to believe that in just one more week it will be over. These eight weeks truly flew.

Planting Words (a sestina about writing)

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Planting Words (a sestina about writing)
Money doesn’t grow on trees
They say.
But who are they anyway?
Because as a writer who writes
What I know
I’m sure that’s where my fortune grows.

It takes love and time to grow
A tree.
Plant a seed and wait, you say?
So who are you to show the way?
We’re writers
And we must write. That’s what we know.

But how did we come to know?
We grow
Up this way and like the trees
We find our strength in what we say
Our own way.
It’s what it means to be writers.

And we’ve always been writers,
We know.
Like a seedling knows to grow
Toward the sun to become a tree.
We can say
The same. We know no other way.

If there was another way
Are savvy enough to know
That like a wild fire grows
Through the trees
We must share what we have to say.

And we have so much to say.
This way
There’s no deadline for writers.
We may be starving but we know
Our faith grows
Beyond the forest through the trees

It’s the truth trees and writers know
For there’s no other way to say
We plant our words to watch them grow.

(Not So) Deep Thoughts on Billy Collins and on Writing Sonnets

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I really enjoyed Billy Collins’ poetry book Sailing Alone Around the Room. To me, it felt like stories and there was a casual quality to it that I truly enjoyed. Also, I found many of his poems/stories so relatable that I can’t help but think how awesome it would be to sit at the same table as Billy Collins at, say, a wedding. It seems to me there’d never be a lull in the conversation… though who am I to say? Maybe he’s better on paper than in person! In any event, I loved this book and have added it to my list of books I won’t sell or give away.

Regarding writing a sonnet, I struggled with this form at first. I started and stopped several poems before finally being inspired to write and complete my sonnet about being hung over. That one came to me quite easily the day after my family’s annual Independence Day party. To that end, I think when I’m inspired to write something the writing comes easily despite any particular format, genre, rules or instructions. Once the inspiration for this poem hit me, the words came and sort of slid into the sonnet form. It’s hard to explain, but I imagine you will understand what I’m trying to say here.

I think the sonnet itself has been such a lasting form because it’s fun. For one, it’s short and although that brings with it its own struggles and complications, for the most part I found that the length itself and the rules brought about an interesting and playful challenge. Even though writing the sonnet wasn’t an easy task, it was a fun challenge and I enjoyed it. Also, having rules helped to set parameters for the poem and that was nice in that it allowed my thoughts to be presented in a neat little package. In other words, knowing the rules gave the poem a shape to strive for—much like having a diagram helps a pile of wood eventually look and act like a book case. Knowing I needed to write a sonnet helped my words become one. Without these rules, I’m afraid I might have gone on and on about drinking and being hung over without ever finding a form. In fact, I’m not sure I would have written this poem at all.

After writing a sonnet myself, I can see why so many poets write sonnets and also why so many seem to write them specifically to get their writing gears greased. The sonnet put me in the mood to write more. In a way, it reminded me of the 3AM Epiphany and 4AM Breakthrough books which are full of writing exercises meant to battle writer’s block and inspire writing students to write. As I sit down to write more poetry in the future, I think I’ll try a sonnet from time to time just for fun and for the challenge of it, but also to see if they positively affect me and my writing as they seem to have positively affected so many other writers and poets.

Hangover Mimosa (a sonnet)

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Hangover Mimosa
We laughed till the sun rose
Memories and wine were to blame
You couldn’t feel your nose
I might have forgotten my name

Ceiling spins and it rushes back to me
Stomach erupts as cartoons pierce my brain
Reminds me of responsibility
Oh how we now need to breathe through the pain

This time the hair of the dog won’t fix it
When the new puppy pees on the floor
Unsupervised minions run rampant
We must be Mommy and Daddy once more.

Plop plop fizz fizz in our OJ sure hits the spot.
A relief it is… though a mimosa it’s not.

Autumn Alarm Clock (poem)


Autumn Alarm Clock

Mother tapped on my window this morning

Seizing my skin with her breeze and my mind

With the click-clack of leaves falling from trees

Still I squeezed my pillow in denial

My eyes holding on tightly to slumber

And pressing hard on my subconscious snooze

My loving mother found another way

She sent the rain to trickle and tickle

Sweetly on my subconscious mind with its

Dripdropdrip Dripdropdrip

Autumn sensations replaced with those of

Coffee and cream and delicious caffeine

Suddenly I’m awake.

Fun with Images


1. He was as happy as a bag of wet cats
2. She plopped down onto the plastic couch with the thump of a ripe melon
3. Cannibalistic carnivores playing Russian Roulette in an herb garden
4. A psycho clown smiling while dancing barefoot on the sun
5. The shark-sharp teeth of a puppy nipping at your ankle
6. Crabs in a bucket climbing, clawing, falling on top of one another
7. Demons laughing at you from the foot of your bed
8. We sat and waited patiently for the locusts to come
9. Her ego makes mine look like a speck of cracked black pepper in a sarcastic sea of salt.
10. The determined beagle sniffed and sniffed searching the streets for a chicken bone
11. A blood thirsty black cat with hair up hissing wickedly at the witch of the west
12. Then I choked on a thick dark cloud of Aqua Net
13. As she sucked the nectar from the mango’s core its juice dripped up to her elbow
14. Swollen and pursed to burst like a gangrenous gallbladder
15. Alley cats screaming profanities under the starry night sky
16. Sticky fingers smashing overripe bananas in a cereal bowl
17. Pimply adolescent faces hormonally bonded by braces
18. The lunch lady glumped the decomposed paste onto the plate and said, “Eat up.”
19. Is that a pubic hair stuck to the tip of your tongue?
20. Red rose petals painted on a child’s chubby pink cheek
21. She sipped champagne through a swirly Minnie Mouse straw
22. Fancy frozen ponies galloping up and down frolicking round and round forever forward
23. One lonesome wish floating across a sea of weeds all waiting to come true
24. Inhaling the last lush lavender breeze of springtime
25. The final child’s death blow caused candy canes to rain from the sky
26. Two sisters laughing while stirring anxiously making melted Neapolitan soup

Go Ask Alice (a personal PS)

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I first read Go Ask Alice at age 12 and it was so powerful that it’s stayed with me. It was one of my favorite books back then and reading it again at 37, it was still powerful but it was also nostalgic. I remember once I read it back then wanting all of my friends to read it, too. It felt important. And honestly I still believe every teen girl should read it. What an awesome book.

I love to write in the margins as I read. I fully intend to share this book someday with my daughter so this time I wrote notes to her in the margins. Every time “Alice” wished she had someone to talk to, I wrote a little note reminding my daughter that she can always talk to me. And each time “Alice” failed and felt badly about herself, I wrote a note telling my daughter that I will always love her no matter what.

Time as Detail (A Critical Response)

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Time as Detail: Exploring James Wood’s How Fiction Works and Joan Silber’s The Art of Time in Fiction
In their books How Fiction Works and The Art of Time in Fiction, Wood and Silber, respectively, analyze various elements and techniques in creative writing. While Wood layers his focus on such things as narration, character, language and dialogue, Silber zeroes in entirely on time. I found both books fascinating and their individual lessons useful on practical and even subconscious levels. While each made some similar points, both taught me a great deal about writing and about myself as a writer. Still, for me, it seems each book is missing a chapter.

In reading both, I found their lessons overlapped and converged on the element of detail. Wood dedicates an entire chapter to the topic of detail and he uses the element of time to make a few points while Silber treats detail as a theme and variable of time. It was as though they both danced around but never quite landed on the idea that time itself is a critical detail.

The age of the characters, the century, decade and year a story takes place, the time of year or even time of day a scene is set, as well as the order and passing of time in a character’s life, from chapter to chapter, or from first to last page… all of this shows the importance of time.

Silber says: “A story can arrange events in any order it finds useful but it does have to move between then and now and later.” So many ways to contend with time passing and, yet, each way changes the overall shape, look and feel of the fiction itself. In other words, time itself changes the details and the story. Silber says: “Where the teller begins and ends a tale decides what its point is. How it gathers meaning.” She goes on to say: “We read anything looking for patterns of events, and through it a meaning—the reason someone is bothering to tell us this.”

Similarly, Wood writes: “We have the sense that the ideal of writing is a procession of strung details, a necklace of noticings, and that this is sometimes an obstruction to seeing, not an aid.” Isn’t that another way of saying focusing on moments allows us to notice or not notice the passing of time? He adds: “Literature makes us better noticers of life; we get to practice on life itself; which in turn makes us better readers of detail in literature.” Once we have an experience in life then it is easier to notice details and feelings of the same or similar experiences elsewhere.

Wood says: “We use detail to focus, to fix an impression, to recall.” Silber says: “Much fiction depends on people who never forget.” It’s the details of these unforgotten memories, experiences and moments in time which drive the stories we love so much, making time and how it and its passing is presented in a work of fiction the greatest detail of all.

Let’s face it. Time is important. The passing of time is a critical detail and perhaps the most challenging to tackle. Of course, with time (and practice) we, as writers, get better at details and more specifically with detailing time. I’m with Wood when he says “But I choke on too much detail.” People feel the same way about too much time (years mostly). It’s so easy to take detail and time too far into the realm of enough already. Silber writes: “A bad storyteller will beg just get to the point, and a good storyteller will make us beg for more.” I want to give my audience enough to get it without drowning them in it. And, yes, I want them to want more.

After reading both books, the play “Waiting for Godot” by Samuel Becket sprung to mind. In it, Vladimir and Estragon, the two main characters, wait together on a country road by a tree in vain for the arrival of someone (or something considering the infinite interpretations of the play) named Godot. While no physical descriptions or background information are ever given for these characters, time and the passing of time are exemplified primarily through the tree so much so that the tree itself becomes a major point of focus. As Silber says, “Pointing to nature is key in the handling of fictional time.” As the tree changes, time changes. Here time is the most critical detail. The tree is simply a tool used by the writer to get the reader to see time move. The play lives and breathes in the realization of the passing of time.

While Becket uses nature masterfully to show time in Waiting for Godot, I struggle with it in my writing. To stop and notice nature often feels jarring to me and out of character for my protagonists, who are often far more focused on themselves than the world around them. I want to get better at this. I want my characters to stop and smell the roses in spring and see the snow fall in winter. But I want to do so subtly. I write most comfortably in first person and I’ve tried having my characters notice elements of nature but it almost always feels forced to me. Recently, in my novel Private Mommies Society, I’ve started playing around with infant milestones to show the passing of time—it’s still nature just different than, say, leaves falling from trees. It gives me the freedom to point out the passage of time while my protagonist stays self-absorbed.

Silber discusses various ways writers can go about dealing with the passing of time. She breaks down different methods of presenting and passing time, including classic, long, switchback, slowed and fabulous time. She even discusses time as subject and while this idea is similar to the idea of time as detail I wished for a separate chapter on it altogether.

In the unit four lecture, Professor Cain writes: “Silber states (and shows, I might add, in the example that starts off her book) in the introduction to The Art of Time in Fiction, time itself can help determine what a story or novel will look like, but we as authors are often unconscious of the ways in which we use it, so that it exists as an invisible, yet powerful presence in our work.” Is it simply that time is something we cannot see, touch and taste that poses the challenge? We can’t see love and, yet, writer after writer tackles its description and many quite eloquently. Time may be invisible but it is still very much there. We are all aware of it. In fact, it refuses to be ignored. Even some of the most amazing writers struggle with time. I struggle to capture time and more so with showing its passing between moments. In verbal conversations I speak in tangents and rarely worry about how I transition from one story to the next, but in my writing jumping from one scene to the next doesn’t always come so smoothly.

In life time passes through details or lack of details. In literature and in life time itself is a detail even if it’s one we cannot see with our eyes or touch with our hands. We all worry ourselves over how much longer we have left and how quickly it all flies by. We fret over birthdays but look forward to Fridays. As a writer, I think it is just as important how we describe our settings and characters as how we portray time. After all, aren’t our memories the details and descriptions of how we perceive moments in time? Silber says: “The sequence of any fiction is, by its nature, the path of time evaporating.” Wood writes: “One of the obvious reasons for the rise of significantly insignificant detail is that it is needed to evoke the passage of time, and fiction has a new and unique project in literature—the management of temporality.”

Wood uses the Bible as an example. He writes: “Time lapses between the verses, invisibly, inaudibly, but nowhere in the page. Each new “and” or “then” moves forward the action like those old station clocks, whose big hands suddenly slip forward once a minute.” But the Bible has always seemed to me to be more like a compilation of short stories than a novel. As a novelist when I leave out transitions someone is bound to notice or feel turned off by it.

But even without transitions to describe the passage of time, time still passes. Much like leaving out a key descriptor for a character, it often somehow draws our attention to it that much more. Silver says: “When the past is left out, the focus on the present moment can sometimes lead to the intensity of what (she’d) call slowed time.” Bringing so much attention to a moment in time serves the same purpose as detailing a women’s dress or describing a man’s face: The writer wants us to focus on it for a reason. That said; not describing something can have a similar effect. Circling back to Waiting for Godot, Beckett’s lack of character descriptions allow our imaginations to run wild. Suddenly, Vladimir and Estragon could represent anyone; we decide.

A good writer stops time and focuses a reader’s complete attention on one moment or a string of moments hovering ever so delicately in the universe. But time—even when standing still—still exists. Wood writes: “One needs to know every detail, since one can never be sure which of them is important, and which word shines out from behind things.” As writers we choose the details. We decide what’s important to include and exclude. Much like a magician, we direct the reader’s eye toward what we want them to see and away from what we do not want them to see. Or we choose not to direct them at all, allowing the reader to play a more active role in the story. Silber writes: “Life can be led only in small, manageable chunks of experience, one narrow bit at a time.” Even in her description of flashback or switchback time, we still get the details of the story one frame at a time. Silber says: “A story depends on things not standing still, on the built-in condition of impermanence. All the emotions that attach to the passage of time—regret, impatience, anticipation, mourning, the longing for what’s past, the desire for recurrence, the dread of recurrence—are the fuel of plots.”

When I saw The Art of Time in Fiction I grabbed it and immediately started reading. I wanted to learn all there was to know about time in fiction. The techniques taught by Silber are valuable but it wasn’t until I picked up How Fiction Works and read Wood’s chapter on detail when I started to understand the depth of time’s importance in fiction.

It’s not just about the tricks and techniques of portraying time and the passing of time which are relevant. In writing and in life, there is so much more to time.

My Darling Niki

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I chose to write a poem for my creative response to the novel A Pale View of the Hills by Kazuo Ishiguro.

I really enjoyed the novel but with all that happened in between the lines, it was a challenge for me to fully process the whole story, both what was said and unsaid. I wound up reading the novel twice (and listening to the audio book once) to fully wrap my head around it.

When I’m feeling highly emotional or confused, I like to write poetry to help me work through my thoughts and feelings. Since poetry can be somewhat nonlinear and ambiguous, writing it helps me draw my focus both inward and outward simultaneously. By that I mean I can sort of feel the topic in a less structured or organized start-to-finish type way but more so in an all-around big picture type way before diving deeper into the nitty-gritty of it.

For this project, poetry helped me process my feelings about the heavy themes (i.e.: murder, depression, abuse, war, loss, destruction, death…). I lean toward light humor when I write so tackling something so dark was interesting for me. Creating a poem allowed me to work my way through the darkness. It also helped me process what Ishuguro wrote and what he didn’t write. The novel itself was nonlinear, like poetry, and it quickly became addictively confusing and, at times, I struggled to fully understand it. I think that was Ishuguro’s intention because just when I thought I grasped what was happening, something would change. For example, at one point the tense and POV shifted entirely and that caused me to lose my footing. Prior to that I thought one thing (that Etsuko was telling a story about an old friend, Sachiko) and after I thought something different entirely (that Etsuko and Sachico are the same person). At that point I knew I had to reread the novel to make sure I didn’t misunderstand entirely what had happened and to catch whatever else I was sure I’d missed. So much was left unwritten and unrevealed in the story that poetry allowed me to work comfortably through the confusion and ambiguity until I eventually arrived at the heart of what I think actually happened. It also gave me the opportunity to fully process the many feelings the author and his story gave me.

The poem is titled “My Darling Niki” and my intention was to write it from the main protagonist Etsuko’s point of view as though she was processing her feelings and writing to her only surviving daughter, Niki. I used elements from the novel itself to pull it together.

My Darling Niki:
It’s so strange
How the brain
Triggers dreams
Tramples truth

Grief does strange things to the mind

When the bomb fell
Hope exploded
Life imploded
My thoughts shifted

Split entirely in two

There was nothing left
In that wretched place
But pain breeding pain
And death breeding death

Helpless… hopeless… less and less

No one left to love me
No place for children so
I chose death to end their
Suffering and my own

I wasn’t the only one.

But fate had other plans
With blood still on my hands
I got another chance
To be a good mother

But it was too late for her

Your sister witnessed death
I looked up and saw her
Standing, waiting her turn
But her gaze changed my mind

Those eyes looked into my soul

I wished they wouldn’t have
For she suffered slowly
Like kittens left to starve
When drowning’s more humane

I knew she’d never be happy

I vaguely recall a
Time when I was happy
When I lied to myself
Waiting for a better life

I met your father, then I

We decided to start over
Leave pain and death behind
One world for another
But they followed me here

We thought our love would fix it

I ran off and played house
When I should’ve saved her
The rope around her neck
Was the one I gave her

New life suggests new hope but

We blamed her for the pain
When it wasn’t her fault
She’s a victim, like you,
Like me, products of war

With infinite destruction

The dead have it easy
Those who remain are left
To pick up the pieces
Or hide them behind doors

Your sister’s Purgatory

My Love, it’s a riddle
You’ll never comprehend
For there are two of me
And too many of you

Too many secrets to hide

I have the answers to
The questions you won’t ask
Hidden deep but instead
You request a postcard

Of a place you’ve never been

A picture for a friend?
You say you’re proud of me
Now how can you be proud
When you don’t know the truth

And you won’t let me tell you?

If I told you my truth
Would you even hear me?
If you could see my soul
Would you follow her lead?

Could you ever forgive me?

The nightmares never stop
Lifeless child on a swing
Body dangling from a bridge
Noose tied around her neck

Madness sets in to save me

Memories loop my mind
Dreams and lies intertwine
Make me confess, repent,
Absolve me of my sins!

Unconditional love is

What I took from them
And gave to you but
If you knew the truth
Would you hate me, too?

More so than I hate myself?

My darling Niki,
I’ve lost it all
But somehow you’re
Still here with me

Doesn’t that mean something?

Please don’t leave
Me alone
In this house
With nothing

But a pale view of the hills.