Poetry Challenge #34-I Have Never __________

There are many things I’ve never done. Truths and Lies: I’ve never pet a tiger although I had a stuffed one growing up. I’ve never eaten snails or octopus. I’ve never run a marathon or climbed a mountain over 3000 feet tall.

Poetry Challenge #34

I Have Never ___________________

Make a list of some things you’ve never done. Try dividing your list into sections: things you’ve never done and never want to do, things you’d like to do but haven’t done yet, and things that seem impossible. Write a poem using some of these. It could be a list poem or it could be about one of these things. Maybe it’s a wish poem of things you want to do.

Set the timer for 7 minutes.

Start writing!

Don’t think about it too much; just do it.

*Cindy Faughnan (an excellent baker!--click on the hyperlink to see) and I began this 7-Minute Poetry Challenge over 750 days ago. We now take turns creating our own prompts to share with you. If you join us in the 7-Minute Poetry Challenge let us know by posting the title, a note, or if you want, the whole dang poem. Scroll down and click on the comments!

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Poetry Challenge #31-Hello Earth! It’s Me _____________

Back when I was a kid . . . (when we walked 7 miles uphill to school...phoneless) Arbor Day was the “Earth” celebration. Come April 10th, paper-cup seedlings in hand we’d tromp outside to thank our planet by planting our baby trees or a collective tree (each student took a turn scooping in dirt)—or a flower. I should know, I wrote am entire--125 word--book about Arbor Day!

Since 1970, when Earth Day, a bigger, more expansive world-wide environmental “Movement” came into creation (take that J. Sterling Morton), Arbor Day has lost its popularity—but trees haven’t.

In the spirit of inclusivity, with a nod to Arbor Day on Earth Day, here we go:

Poetry Challenge #31

Hello Earth! It’s Me __________________ the Tree!

For this prompt, you’ll need a clean sheet of paper (kind of ironic, isn’t it) and something to write with (a No.2 pencil perhaps).

Tree Shape Poem Examples

We’re going to create a Shape Poem about a tree.  But not just any tree, the tree you’d like to be.

FYI: “A Shape Poem is a type of poetry that describes an object and is shaped the same as the object the poem is describing.”*

#1:  Imagine Yourself as a Tree.

#2: Ask yourself what kind of tree are you? What do you look like? What’s your name?

#3: Draw a picture of YOU _____________ the Tree. As this is only a 7-minute prompt, make it a quick sketch (you can always embellish later).

Above your tree sketch, add the title:

Hello Earth! It’s Me ___your name here_____ the Tree.

Now, with You the Tree in mind, doodle words, phrases, questions, all around your tree’s roots, trunk, branches . . . add leaves, vines creatures.

And if you feel inspired, use those words to pencil a poem about You the Tree.

hug a tree.jpg

Or, heck, run outside and

Hug A Tree!

Climb A Tree!

Hang your poem from a tree!

*Cindy Faughnan and I began this 7-Minute Poetry Challenge over 750 days ago. We now take turns creating our own prompts to share with you. If you join us in the 7-Minute Poetry Challenge let us know by posting the title, a note, or if you want, the whole dang poem. Scroll down and click on the comments!

Want the 7-Minute Stretch sent to your email? Click on SUBSCRIBE  to receive email notification when entries are posted on Kelly's Fishbowl

Pick A Winner

Volumes of thoughts by Great Thinkers have been published...How will thoughts of today's Great Thinkers be preserved?

Volumes of thoughts by Great Thinkers have been published...How will thoughts of today's Great Thinkers be preserved?

My Mom's writing letter again... Some arrive with a bonus "Pick Your Own Adventure" component!

Remember letters? Those pages covered in thoughts, questions, memories set down in scribbles that most often didn’t, resemble any of those available in Word, with font sizes that, in my mother's case, flagrantly vary from 8 pt to 24 line to line, or word to word? (If yours is a post-1985 birthday, you might not…)

Writing letter fell out of favor with Mom, too, for scores of years, as did a lot of things… (Who knows, she might start some of those “other things” back up again, too... Let’s not think of the ramifications and implications of that, now.)

Santa letter.jpg

For purposes of this post, let’s return to Mom’s letters. She started sending them shortly after she started reading the Reno Gazette. I won’t say she started reading the newspaper “again” because I can’t recall my mother ever before reading a newspaper, or watching the news. Not since Walter Cronkite retired, anyway. (If yours is a post-1985 birthday, you might not be familiar with Walter Cronkite. For the record, Ron Burgundy might never have been if not for him.)

Will Ferrell's Ron Burgundy came after Walter...way after!

Will Ferrell's Ron Burgundy came after Walter...way after!

Walter Cronkite.jpg

 

Cronkite was the CBS Evening News Anchorman of my youth. For that matter, heaps of other pre-1985 era folks, too. For the record, he was the first “anchor of American network television's first nightly half-hour news program.” Cronkite ended his Anchorman career the way he did every night's broadcast: “And that's the way it is: Friday, March 6, 1981."

With a twist announcing he was handing over the reins: "I'll be away on assignment, and Dan Rather will be sitting in here for the next few years. Good night."

Mom’s letters arrive like happy little mailbox bursts, decorated with stickers, glitter, slogans, stars, ANYTHING that will stick to an envelope. I’m thinking they must brighten my mail carrier, Candye’s otherwise dull deliveries. (I’ll have to ask her one day.)  I wonder who Candye thinks is sending the letters? (Reading other people's mail is a Federal Offence, so legally she shouldn't be reading beyond the address.) 

Mom was sending Family History Letters. She wanted to record all about our ancestors before she died. She dedicated each letter to one family member, or decade, or event—as the mood struck her. She made copies of these memoirs and mail them to everyone in our immediate family and a few cousins and friends.

After a few months, we ran out of family history or mom ran out of memories, whichever. All I know is one day the history letters stopped and notes with magazine and newspaper clippings started.

After those drear Family History Letters, Mom’s Notes with Clippings come as a welcome relief. Now that she’s a subscriber, Mom reads the newspaper every day cover-to-cover and while doing so, clips out articles of interest and mails them to us. For grandson Bennett, she cuts out articles and photos of animals. For me, recipes she’d like to eat, beauty tips she’d like me to try (sparkle eye shadow, pants with peek-a-boo legs), human-interest aka photos of “new citizens” being sworn in dressed as hot dogs, and horoscopes.

Always her and my horoscopes: Virgo & Leo.

Receiving out-of-date horoscopes irritated me no end. Why?

  1.  What good is reading out-of-date advice?
  2. Often, Mom cut off the Sun Sign so I didn’t know whose it was—Virgo or Leo or?
  3. Sometimes she cut off part of the horoscope—perhaps the important part…

Yesterday’s mail brought this horoscope--again with the date cut off:

Leo (July 23-Aug 22). You’ll get the wonderful feeling that you’re in the right place and right on time, too.

As I read that horoscope, it dawned on me that there was no “By accident” about it. Mom knows exactly what she's doing when she cuts off the dates. I called to confirm. Her response: 

Keep the good ones and throw away the bad. After all, who needs bad advice!

I’m thinking she’s onto something. After all, who says, just because history or horoscopes are written one way, we can’t rewrite it?

How about you? Ready to choose your own horoscope? 

And that’s the way it is…or can be!

Pick A Winner Playlist:

 

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"KEEPING YOUR HEAD IN THE GAME" via Write On!

Confession time: I suffer from major book envy. Jen Kam's middle grade novel, Devin Rhodes is Dead (If it's not on your Must Read list, it should be.) is one of those that really makes me suffer with "I wish I could write like this" emerald green pangs. So when Jen invited me to guest post on "Write Now!" what I call Jen's version of the Algonquin Round Table (minus the Tinis), I was thrilled.

Rather than chatter on here, I invite you to click over to "Write On!" to find out how I keep my head in the game--and screwed on at all--in the midst of all the everything else but sitting "Butt In Chair" (As my friend The Book Doctor calls it).

As an extra incentive Jen's giving-away 3 signed copies of the special Jumpstart Read for the Record© edition of Not Norman, A Goldfish Story (Spanish or English version)--read all about it, sign-up and comment to win . . .

Write Now!

And when you're finished reading Jen's blog, check out her debut novel.  Here's the 4-1-1:

Devin Rhodes Is Dead by Jennifer Wolf Kam

Devin Rhodes.jpg

4.24 of 5 starsTold in alternating "Before" and "After" chapters, Kam's novel focuses on the events leading up to and just after Cass's best friend Devin's body is found at the bottom of a local ravine. Part realism, part ghost story, and part coming-of-age tale, this young adult novel will draw you in and keep you turning pages until the dramatic conclusion.

When it's gone-gone-gone . . .Whoa-ohh-ooo?

I was chatting with my friend Shona the other Monday and something she said touch a nerve.  Let me set the scene so you’ll know where this is coming from: Shona and I used to be part a creativity group in Jakarta, called the “GGs,” that met every Monday. Our weekly meeting began with creativity recovery study and morphed into everything chats a la “The View.” 

Sending Wind Wishes for GG Joy upon leaving Jakarta

Sending Wind Wishes for GG Joy upon leaving Jakarta

Reflexology is Grand for Creative Recovery!   

Reflexology is Grand for Creative Recovery!

 

Anyway, now the GGs have scattered, we are all recreating our lives in various places. Consequently, Monday groups have morphed into occasional social media meetings.

Shona and hold GG Skype-a-thons—Shona from South Africa, me from WHB or Trinidad—by carting our devices around we make the most of our face time. We chat, show each other recent remodel progress—or not . . . make coffee & tea, take occasional potty breaks (blank screen), holler at each other from various parts of the room, commiserate, rejoice, problem solve, inspire, motivate . . . It’s not ideal, but it keeps us in touch.

So, during our last chat, I asked Shona if she was getting out, making friends. (Yes, it’s the same “Mom Question” regardless of age.) I asked because I’m worried I’m destined for Hermitville. I am not someone who needs anybody to keep me busy. Curtis is the same way.  We can put-put-putter way days and still have room for more. So, making friends doesn't come easy,  it's work.  I’m afraid once we retire to this new village where, as the children like to tease, “the only people we talk to are those we pay—our contractor, George, the Barista, Counter Girl at the cleaners, Recycle Center guy, Hedge Clipper guy . . . We have actually gone to local restaurants where, mid-way through the meal, I've leaned forward and whispered “Once we live here, will any of these people be our friends?”

Shona, however, is much more extroverted. No matter where she is, she seems to find new people. So, I was taken aback when she said, she wasn’t looking for friends. That she “didn’t need anybody” new. She went onto explain: “If I want to talk, I can call you or (she named off several other friends), then concluded with, “So why bother trying to find new people I have anything in common with when all I need to do is skype one of you?”

About the same time, if not the same day, another friend, Jayme, emailed* a New York Times Op Ed piece entitled “Losing our Touch”  which began: 

Are we losing our senses? In our increasingly virtual world, are we losing touch with the sense of touch itself? And if so, so what?”
— Losing Out Touch article

The article went on to note how the term “touched me” as in “A song touched me” or “Wasn’t her speech touching” stems from the way words or a scene trigger an emotional response so visceral we literally feel it.  “Touch is the most universal of the senses,” as Aristotle noted.

Even when we are asleep we are susceptible to changes in temperature and noise. Our bodies are always ‘on.
— Aristotle

Not to dis Aristotle--or more probably, that translation--I think saying touch is the “most universal sense” is incorrect.  Touch isn’t one sense, it’s all 5 senses—taste, sight, sound, smell, tactile—engaged at the same time. Aristotle’s “universal” touch is the full-orchestral performance—including the smell of the crowd and the crush of hot shoulder against shoulder. 

The article is not about  keeping friends connected or about making new friends. It’s about not dating or needing to date. It’s about hooking up via social media to hook up. Which made me think how, conversely—or not—our increasing reliance on social media to keep us in touch is making it easier and easier to be out of touch, literally.

What’s wrong with touching, keeping in touch, staying in touch, touching, connecting via social media?  Not a thing! It’s fabulous for keeping friends and family “In Touch,” as we have already amassed memories and can in essence fill-in the sensory blanks. It might even be, a much needed answer to how people can find each other in these busy times. But it’s not the real thing, baby! 

Play it again, Sam . . . this time with feeling!

Play it again, Sam . . . this time with feeling!

In touch via social media is the “record player” version of touch. At best two of the five senses:, sound & sight,  are engaged in the experience, in essence reducing “touchy-feely” to touchy.

(Obviously, for me,  a touchy subject.)

Be warned, if you have any sensory memories, it will engage them all! 

Be warned, if you have any sensory memories, it will engage them all! 

 

I recently read Meg Rosoff’s debut novel How I Live Now.  (If you haven’t read it, do.) As read, I kept thinking to myself: What must they smell like? 

And then when the girls come upon evidence of recent carnage, the scene Rosoff described was uncomfortably visceral, too vivid. Why?

Because I know what rot smells like. I have amassed a trove of sensory images to call upon.  I've exchanged molecules with gore.

But what of younger readers? 

They may well have the visual memory--in itself disturbing--but what of the visceral?

For me as a person, and as a writer, I’m worried.

How long has it been since they’ve had a bath?

Growing up in our disinfected, anti-bacterial, perfumed, connected world, are people amassing the visceral memories needed to be "touched" the  trove? Are we making time for face-to-face time needed to create memories--sensory and other? 

If we don’t make an effort to keep in touch, how long before we lose touch with touch?

How long before “touch” really does grow cold? And does it matter?

The “In Touch” Playlist:

On a lighter note: When I searched for the utube of Out of Touch I came upon a couple of lists of misheard lyrics: “Banana touch, banana time  . . . “??? Cracks me up!

Thanks for reading! 

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Big Wheel Keeps on Turning

Big wheel keeps on turning, churning up snippets so long forgotten they might not be rightfully considered mine anymore. (Reading over that line, I'm feeling a little too much like Miss Daisy...better get some of that there "blueing shampoo." 

A name, in author and VCFA faculty advisor, Sharon Darrow's Write at Your Own Risk post, "The Imagination Has Its Orders," prompted the stop and pried the cage open this go round. Bonnie Riedinger, not even the correct name--off by one letter--but close enough. Yep, like horseshoes and hand grenades, memory works that way. 

Halloween, Junior Year, my BF Valerie is Alice. Get what that leaves me? We were having too much fun to graduate!

Halloween, Junior Year, my BF Valerie is Alice. Get what that leaves me? We were having too much fun to graduate!

My senior year of high school, I only had to take two required classes, Government and Senior English. I didn't need to take either really, could actually have graduated early, but why? I had a good paying job--school hours only, weekends and holidays off--in the Career Guidance Center, (I would have had to quit if I graduated.) My friends were all still in school. I wasn't ready to be big.

Instead, I padded my schedule with Volleyball P.E. with a plan to slide through my senior year.

A certain Huntington Beach High School English teacher named Mrs. Riedlinger (note the "l") was my is responsible for turning my slider into a home run. 

People ask why I became a writer.  It took reading that one-letter-wrong name all these years later for me to come up with an answer: Mrs. Riedlinger.  I doubt she'd remember me (even a year later.)  I wasn't that kind of student. But Mrs. Riedlinger was that kind of teacher.

Going round and round and round in the circle game. . .
— Joni Mitchell

Here's what I remember from Mrs. Riedlinger's class: We read the Odyssey AND Travels with Charlie. She taught poetry, by way of the classics--AND Dylan AND Elton AND Mick. Unheard of! (This was 1975-76, back before the age of reason.)

She assigned 10 SAT words a week. "Define them and use them each in a sentence."  

That name stopped me. I Googled my teacher and 2 yearbook pages popped up. Judith Riedlinger,  teaching at HBHS in 1971-1985.

That name stopped me. I Googled my teacher and 2 yearbook pages popped up. Judith Riedlinger,  teaching at HBHS in 1971-1985.

I raised my hand. "Do we have to write one sentence each?" I asked. "Or can we use more than one word in a sentence."

(The smart girl in the class, Deirdre, who by the end was my friend and still is, thought up the question. She was a sophomore who'd already skipped a grade or two, and unlike me, had every intention of graduating early.)

"Use as many as you like per sentence. Use them all in one sentence if you can. But," Mrs. Riedlinger challenged. "If you want it to count, it had better be a proper sentence."

Each week of that semester Deirdre and I went for it. Doing so took much more time, no doubt, but we managed to cut our sentence production. And at least once we succeeded in correctly using all 10 of that week's words in one sentence. If memory serves, two of those were sagacious and parsimonious

My story, of a passionate teacher changing a student's life, isn't unique. Still, it's lovely to know it happens--can still happen--especially as this brand new school year begins. Here's hoping our students connect with their Mrs. Riedlinger!

To keep the feel good going, here are my top 5 Favorite Teachers in Movies: 

  1. Danny Divito as Bill Rago in Renaissance Man
  2. Sidney Poitier as Mr. Thackeray in To Sir With Love 
  3. Michael Cane and Julie Waters in Educating Rita (not sure who's the teacher?)
  4. Robin Williams as John Keating in Dead Poet’s Society
  5. Peter O’Toole as Mr. Chipping in Goodbye Mr. Chips 

If that's not enough, here's a list of MORE inspiring Teacher/Student Movies.

This blog's playlist: 

--Thanks for reading! 

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LISTEN!

/I’m not at home in my own home/

MY Life Is A Musical! Yes, it's true, Songs play in my head all the time. Almost any phrase suggests a song, or a line from one, sometimes an entire score. 

And it's the title of a new musical comedy. I’m not like Parker, the lead in the show. No one  around me burst into song or busts out dancing. I’d love that! Unfortunately, singers, dancers or otherwise, there is no one near. I am alone. Alone at a crossroad . . .

Cast from the play belting out a song in Parker's personal musical.

Cast from the play belting out a song in Parker's personal musical.

 I saw My Life is A Musical at Bay Street Theatre in Sag Harbor. (You can see it too, if you hurry; show runs until Aug. 31.) That title is what drew me to the play--that and because my visitor Dawn suggested it. (That’s the Truth About Visitors…can’t deny them.) Here’s the blurb:

MY LIFE IS A MUSICAL is about Parker, who isn’t like anyone else. When Parker wakes up in the morning and leaves his apartment, he hears people singing, he sees people dancing - and no other person on earth knows this is happening. Because Parker’s life is a musical. And Parker hates musicals.

This morning, my fourth day back in Trinidad after being gone for more than 2 months, that line: I’m not at home in my own home/ from that song Listen sung by Beyonce in the movie version of Dreamgirls, is cycling in my head I’m not at home in my own home/

Have you ever noticed how, as soon as you share a problem with certain someones, they respond with a solution? Usually the perfect fix! Exactly what you need to do! According to them… and without you even-ever-asking for their advice, expert though it may be. (I know--squirm, squirm--I’m guilty of jumping in with the quick fix, too.)

Then why share our problems if we don’t want answers? Why not keep it to ourselves?

The answer is the title of that song; we want you to Listen! 

Maybe more than that, we want to/need to talk it out. We know something wrong. But it’s all tangled up in other stuff. First, we need to figure out exactly what is the problem. And in order to do that, we often have to pull a situation apart, study it, turn it over, dissect it, chew it up and spit it back out in order to break apart to find out what it’s all about, Alfie. . .

Hashing out a problem with someone else is easier, more fun, maybe less painful, definitely more social acceptable than talking to ourselves.

But, but, but, all we want you to do is Listen, not solve.

This crazy life I’m living—bouncing from home to home, Tulsa and Texas, Westhampton Beach and Port of Spain—sounds exciting, but the truth is, it’s strange. I'm not feuding like the Hatfields and McCoys, but I'm close . . . 

Wait! James was helping me pack in Vermont. Did he take it?

Wait! James was helping me pack in Vermont. Did he take it?

Have you ever been on vacation, and woken in the night and not known where you are? Walked the wrong way to the bathroom? (One long ago Christmas, my brother turned left instead of right, opened the door and peed on the furnace.) Looked everywhere for a certain blouse or dress, but couldn’t find it?

With part of my wardrobe there, the other part hanging here, and more still stuffed in my suitcase, that’s every day for me. It's frustrating, but it’s not the worst of it. The worst of it is, it's lonely. Unlike the song, I am alone in my own home/


STOP! – I feel your wheels turning, already thinking up solutions to my aloneness. Thinking how much better off I am that someone else—just, Listen!

I know I’m one of the lucky ones.  I’m not alone, alone. I have somebody, lots of somebodies. . .  Yeah, but. . . . But, I’m alone—now—and it doesn’t feel good, so . . .

See, this is what we do: Writers. This is why we write it: to figure it out. Folks are called CRAZY for talking to themselves. But, when we write to ourselves, it’s called work.

That being said, er, written, on with the song: Now I’ve gotta find my own . . .

Just in case you want to be like Parker, here is today's playlist:

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Play it Again, Pal! or 2:48 Minutes More

Settle your little ones in front of the monitor, click on an Author Read-Aloud video (below), and let them watch and listen while you enjoy some lazy time. Okay, you can view, too--if you promise to act  OUR age!