Tag Archives: poetry

Be a Shape Shifter!

little puss

What do you see in the magical coat of Little Puss? Evil snowman or smiling panda bear? This tricky feline is a shape shifter!

What’s your favorite genre, someone recently asked me. Poetry, fiction, nonfiction, plays? My answer: All of them!

The longer I write, the more I’ve learned that the various writing genres are not mutually exclusive. The same solid idea that sparked a short story could easily morph into an essay or a poem. Especially if you still have curiosity about the topic. So why limit yourself to just one form? Be like Little Puss, a shape shifter!

Case in point. Shirley Jackson. This renowned writer didn’t just pen short stories and novels; she also wrote essays and even drew cartoons! Here’s another:  Vladimir Nabokov. He wrote stories, novels, poetry and his nonfiction memoir, Speak Memory, is a model for any writer in terms of craft. Dorothy Parker: poetry, stories, book reviews. And Tennessee Williams wrote much of the above and even took playwriting to another level by tackling screenplays.

Shakespeare was also a notorious shape shifter, excelling in every form available at the time. If he lived today, in addition to the plays and poetry, he’d probably dash out a sitcom or two, don’t you think?

Shape shifting is also more efficient. In my case, my essay “Eulogy of a Northern Red Oak” eventually turned into a poem. It’s essentially a condensed form of the same essay but with unusual line breaks and intentional omissions, the sadness of the topic–the loss of our natural habitat–is exacerbated. The poem was named a finalist in the 2019 Poet Laureate Competition and will be published in “Waiting for the Wood Thrush,” my first poetry collection by Finishing Line Press in November.

As I plunder through my old writing projects, I’m continuing to “shift shapes.” Or is it “shape shift” ? Maybe I’ll breathe new life into an old essay and turn it into a short story. And I think I have a poem or two that might work as a short story….humm….let the magic begin!

 

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A Day of Poetry at Weymouth

Ashley-podiumBefore the deluge today, we enjoyed a wonderful day of poetry at the Weymouth Center for the Arts & Humanities in lovely Southern Pines. The N.C. Poetry Society held its annual awards day, and I was honored to join both old and new friends to read “Eulogy of a Northern Red Oak,” a finalist for the Poet Laureate Award.

“Eulogy” will be one of the poems in my forthcoming collection to be published by the kind and generous Finishing Line Press in Georgetown, Kentucky. After much deliberation, and a conferral with reviewers and friends, my chapbook of 30 poems is now titled “Waiting for the Wood Thrush.” This title makes the most sense, given the book’s strong focus on nature as well as love.

In addition to hearing my fellow poets read, another highlight of the day was the dedication of Pinesong to my friend and celebrated author Ruth Moose. She was regaled for her unwavering support of the poetry community, her love of stories, and, of all things, the exclamation mark! Here’s extra just for Ruth!!!!!

The exclamation mark is both joy and urgency, delight and a bit of fright, a paradox unto itself.  It underscores the words of W.H. Auden, recently shared by a friend. The revered poet’s definition of poetry? “The clear expression of mixed feelings.”

 

What makes a successful writer?

flowers.jpgIn this particular order….

1- Love of language

2 – Internal burning desire to write, write, write….no matter what’s going on in their lives

3 – Abiding curiosity (obsession!) for the human experience

4 – Significant body of work to draw from so there’s always something in circulation — plenty of pieces to submit and re-submit when the times are tough.

What do you think? Am I missing something? It’s entirely possible!

“Pfull” House at Pfeiffer and WOW!

phoenix2Last night I had the pleasure of reading my poem “I Like My Bagel Toasted” at the special launch celebration of The Phoenix at Pfeiffer University, and it was a blast. First off, it’s a rarity to see more than 20 people at a literary event but at this wonderful occasion, there was at least 100–a “pfull” house by anybody’s standards! And anytime I get to see my friend Ruth Moose (and Pfeiffer alumna!) is always a special occasion.

Wonderful food, a great mixture of art (poems, stories, essays and photography!) and fabulous music made for an entertaining evening. The editors, staff, and advisors did a terrific job of making all attendees and authors feel appreciated.

bagelHats off to the editors who read and considered the nearly 1,000 submissions they received for this issue! My “bagel” and I were indeed lucky to be included. It’s taken a lot of courage to write about my multiple sclerosis so this has been a big step for me.

All in all, the day itself couldn’t have been more perfect. The weather alone was magnificent, sunny and dry with a gentle breeze. Amazing. And not only did my little bare-rooted Mara des Bois strawberry plants arrive from the nursery, I found out I won first place in the WOW Q2 Essay Contest for “How to Chop an Onion Without Crying.”

Isn’t it funny how life turns out? We writers work so hard, day in, day out, and the rewards are mostly internal–the joy you get from finding just the right word, putting your words to paper and sharing what you write with family and friends. But once in a while, the world surprises you with a little recognition and how sweet it is!

Wishing you strawberries, onions, bagels (and more) as you plow ahead and make your own writing dreams come true.

 

Celebrating Poetry Month with a Bagel!

phoenixHow are you celebrating National Poetry Month? Right now I’m pondering poetic connections between the wet red mud and fledgling grass seed outside my window….and tonight I’ll be reading my poem “I Like My Bagel Toasted” at Pfeiffer University.

I’m honored to join other writers as we help launch the 60th issue of The Phoenix, Pfeiffer’s esteemed literary magazine.

What’s so cool is that the festivities will be livestreamed on Pfeiffer’s YouTube channel starting at 7 p.m. EST. So if you can’t make it, you can watch it from the comfort of your own home.

Is there a connection between grass seed and caraway seeds on a bagel? Maybe…..:)

Self-Portrait of a stunt woman

vivienWhat do you do when you find out you’ve got a little bit of Hollywood in the family? You write a poem about it!

By the picture you might think I’m suggesting I’m related to the talented and beautiful Vivien Leigh…..well, not quite! Through my beloved late grandmother, Wilma Dare Hash Thomas, I’m a distant cousin of Addie Hash Warp, the woman who doubled for Vivien Leigh in that famous staircase tumble in Gone with the Wind.

Unfortunately, I never met Addie (who passed away in 2008) but she was a renowned equestrienne who also doubled for Elizabeth Taylor in National Velvet, among other movie roles. In Addie’s own words, “I was black and blue for a while. But I knew how to fall.”

In honor of Addie (and of course Vivien), I wrote a poem “Self-Portrait of Stunt Double for Vivien Leigh Falling Down the Stairs in Gone with the Wind” that appears in Turnpike Magazine, Issue No. 4.   Here I focus on the jitters I imagine must face all stunt people, no matter how experienced they are, when faced with the daunting task of falling down a long staircase AND filling in for a star. Can you imagine? As for me, I’m a chicken who’s only been on a horse once in her life.

Turnpike also kindly published my poem “Ode to the Goddess of Missing Tools,” which is a comic tribute to my husband and all the tools that mysteriously slip through the cracks of our house. There’s a little bit of magic at work here, I’m sure.

The fun of a “self-portrait” style poem is that you can imagine yourself as anyone, famous or not, and write from their point of view. It’s a terrific form of escapism and creativity. So….if you’ve always been fascinated by someone and would like to walk (or fall!) in their shoes, give this prompt a try today.