Tag Archives: random phrases

Summer rain, summer magic

We woke up to bright sunshine, but in true July fashion, a sudden summer storm surprises us at Whale Tail Road. Perhaps my bougainvillea will dreamily shake her blossoms, Sara Teasdale-style.

Today two of my flash fictions make their appearance in the July 2018 issue of The Birds We Piled Loosely. Read “Etymology in the Neighborhood” and “We Are So Sorry”  by clicking on the cover of the magazine and scrolling to pages 15 and 25.

All of the work is distinctive in its own way, particularly poems by Emily Parker, Rich Ives, and Ally Young as well as evocative image-text pieces by Emma Sheinbaum.

This past month I’ve kept busy revising stories that I began in May’s “Story A Day” Challenge and already I’ve submitted several shorter pieces for publication.

Last week I wrapped up a one-week class offered by One Story: Write a Story with Hannah Tinti. I’ve taken online classes before but this was one of the most engaging I’ve ever experienced. It focused on structure, something I don’t always think about when in the heat of composing a story. And in just six days, all participants had the opportunity to craft, day by day, a solid draft with a viable structure. More importantly, it was FUN!

But today, as rain pounds our roof, I’m thinking more about poetry. I’m going to comb through my word boxes and see what magical combinations arise….I’ll be building dandelion suspension bridges, kitten-heeling my way into a sunset altar, and exploring the sovereignty of cookies.

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Fun with Random Phrases, Part II

phrases

Phrases can come from catalogs, newspapers, magazines, or even conversations!

As promised, in celebration of National Poetry Month, I am continuing to post sample poems from our workshop last month. This time, with kind permission from our poets, I will post two poems created through random phrases, one of my most favorite ways to generate poetry. I love random phrases for many reasons but primarily because it helps the poet free herself from the usual writer’s block of a blank page.

For our exercise, each poet drew two cards blindly from a pile of assorted random phrases that I had been collecting for some time. The poet had the option of uniting the phrases into one poem or writing two separate poems.

Jen drew a quote by Roger Ebert and a quote from an article about Lake Superior State College’s unicorn questing privilege program. She chose to write two separate poems. I’ll post the unicorn poem.

ARE YOU ONE OF THEM?

If you believe in fairies and smurfs
and life beyond the stars
then you might be eligible
for a “Unicorn Questing Privilege.”

The Lake Superior State University
Is granting licenses now, first come
first serve, to all those interested
in hunting unicorns.

Did I say hunting? No, no
not hunting. This is a “questing” license
A catch and release program.
All unicorns must be returned
to the wilds of your imagination.

So I ask again, are you one of them?

#####

Jen’s love of animals, even imaginary, and her sense of humor are clearly apparent in this gem!

Rosalie drew cards on a brand of cigar (taken my husband’s cigar catalog) and the phrase: “Hello, my name is.” She was inspired to combine both phrases and being Italian, she chose to put her own spin on it!

NAMES IN SMOKE

Ciao, mi chiamo Rosalie
You say you’re on your way to the cabaret—by the beach? Rte. 64?
Yes, I’ll come along.

Isn’t that where the old carved Indian sits outside of the cigar store?
They sell La Perla Habana.
Ohhh—so you smoke them?
Ah-h-h
Yes, yes, quite an aroma!

Does it linger on your fingers?  Your clothes?

What say we stop there—together—
to inhale some interesting smells

What?—-my name?
Again, my name is Rosalie
What’s yours?

#####

Thanks to Rosalie’s imagination, I can just smell cigars by the beach, can’t you? I have been transported without having to leave my house. And this is the beauty of poetry, and art in general, don’t you think?

In addition to exercises on imagery and random phrases, at our workshop we also created poems out of a series of questions. Next time, I’ll post a poem created by Jane that demonstrates just how the simplest of questions can create another kind of journey, equally evocative.

Celebrating April: National Poetry Month!

collageNot only does April bring us warmer weather, this month also brings us 30 days to celebrate poetry! We’ll be celebrating in a number of ways, from an interview with Scott Wiggerman (poet and co-editor of Wingbeats I and II, two of my favorite poetry-writing books) to samples of the exercises we created during our poetry workshop last month.

Today I’ll share a sample from our exercise on metaphors, what was inspired by Chapter 4 of Poemcrazy by Susan G. Wooldridge. To get us started, I read a short work of my own (below).

Hope

When in November a candelabra of tiny pink roses
pushes up through a mound
of brittle brown leaves

I then asked everyone to draw blindly from a pouch containing cards bearing a single word, an abstract noun such as love, envy, pity, sorrow, and anger. Next, I asked them to choose one of the items on the table (pictured above) and use it as a metaphor for the word they drew. What was fun about it was that a couple of people chose the same word but ended up picking very different items. Mary and Rosalie each drew “Anger” but Mary chose the beaded purse as her metaphor and Rosalie chose the rolling pin! Judith chose the men’s tie for “Envy” and Jen chose the ring for “Pity.”

Jane, who drew the card for “Sorrow,” knew immediately that the half-burnt candle was the perfect metaphor to describe the  recent loss of her beloved Maltese. With her kind permission, I share her poem below.

Sophie Jill

Once a flame was burning bright, so full of love and joy—
A candle of life, so sweet and strong
A white, fluffy baby girl, sharing my life with unconditional love
Remembering those kisses, stored in my heart
Knowing that each day is a gift, we savored each precious moment.

Then all at once, the candle of life was no more.
The sorrow I felt was overwhelming, and I cried out
to the heavens for help
As time has healed a little, I know that the tears I cry each day
are not tears of sorrow but tears of love
Sophie’s flame of life will live in my heart forever
and there is no doubt that her spirit is still with me
She is still in my arms, giving me kisses.

—Jane Craven Thomas

What a comfort poetry can be, giving us words for those things, like sorrow, that are so difficult to express! Susan Wooldridge makes a habit of labeling concrete items with metaphors. In fact, she and her children regularly go around the house with a roll of what she calls “word tickets” and affixes them to items they find in their drawers and cabinets such as an antique globe, a piece of driftwood, even an old pair of shoes.  What fun! Bored on a rainy Sunday afternoon? Try it yourself!

April also brings good news for my fellow writers. Ralph Earle, one of my favorite poetry teachers, won the 2015 Sable Books February Chapbook Contest for his poetry collection, “The Way the Rain Works.” Available now as a pre-sale from Sable Books, Richard Krawiec, writer, poet, and esteemed judge for the contest, had this to say about the book:  “This is a deeply felt book about a family in crisis that lives inside you and lends itself to multiple readings.” Just as I did, order your copy today by contacting Sable Books!

I was also thrilled to learn that two of my poems, which (not coincidentally!) originated from exercises in Ralph’s class last fall at Central Carolina Community College placed in contests sponsored by the N.C. Poetry Society. “Phalaenopsis” (which came from his prompt to write about an incident that happened to us during the previous week) won second place in the Mary Ruffin Poole Heritage Competition and “Napoleon and Antosia” (write a poem on anything and then use different line breaks on 2 versions) won second place in the Carol Bessent Hayman Poetry of Love Award. They will be published in the 2015 edition of Pinesong and I will read them at the May 30 meeting in Southern Pines.

Stay tuned for more poems. Next, I’ll share poems penned by Jen and Jane on smoke, unicorns, and runaway brides, all products of exercises on random phrases!

New Poetry Prompt – Fun with Random Phrases!

Seeking a new creative writing prompt? Here is a prompt I discovered for poetry but can be easily used for fiction as well. Within the course of a single day, simply make note of 5 random phrases — either overheard directly by you or contributed by friends, preferably not from movies or TV.  A poem or story devised around little snippets of the real world around you results in fresh and unusual word combinations. It’s also unbelievably fun.

Hint: It helps to start with at least a rough idea of some sort of action, if not a story, and as in the case of my poem, it can be lifted from reality or imagination. I think you’ll find that the “random” phrases you use will spark your imagination in many directions!

Let’s look at an example. Here is one I wrote last week with 5 phrases that came my way. At the very end you will see a “key” for the source of the phrases.

I Write the Book You Play the Fiddle

Do you ever close your eyes and draw
your finger down a state map—
any state but yours—and land
on a town with a name that sounds
a lot like a town in your state
say
 Jonesville or something like that
and wonder
 if the people in that Jonesville
are anything like 
the people in your Jonesville
and then 
imagine yourself strolling
down their
 Main Street and going into
a coffee shop only to
 hear those people say
things like not
 my circus, not my monkeys
or I write the book you play the fiddle,
and that’s a separate conversation
 and
looking up at you like they know you
and having the waitress slide you a latte
just the way you like it with the cream
so high you have to swirl it before
you take a sip and
 then seeing the old man
who looks just like your grandpa pat
the seat beside him and tell you
the people in this place are as thick
as the hair on a dog’s back and you
not knowing whether that’s a good thing
or a bad thing but because everyone laughs
you decide it’s a good thing and the next
thing
 you know it’s getting late so you say
See you tomorrow to your new friends
but add maybe because you’re not sure
how
 you got here in the first place?

####

I write the book you play the fiddle — conversation overheard by Ashley between two students at Lenoir Dining Hall at UNC
not my circus, not my monkeys – Melissa K., a co-worker
that’s a separate conversation – Melissa K.
people in here as as thick as the hair on a dog’s back – Brian W., another co-worker
See you tomorrow maybe – overheard by my son on a NYC subway