Sunday, July 31, 2016

Poetry Pantry #313

Photos of Kuala Lumpur
by Sanaa Rizvi

Kuala Lumpur City Center
and the Dancing Fountain

Kuala Lumpur City Center
and another view of the Dancing Fountain

Kuala Lumpur City Center
Bukit Bintang which is one of the most famous 
shopping streets in Malaysia. With more than 
five shopping malls within feet of each other, 
this is the IT place for shopping and dining in KL. 

Pavilion Mall at Bukit Bintang

Nasi Lemak.. a Malay fragrant rice dish
cooked in coconut milk and pandan leaf.

Hello, everybody. Look at these wonderful photos by Sanaa of her new home, Kuala Lumpur, where she moved recently. Many thanks, Sanaa, for sharing them with us.

I'm standing in for Mary today, as she's extra busy just at present. (Don't worry, she's fine; just otherwise occupied.) I hope you've been enjoying the week at Poets United. Thank you for all the great responses to my latest 'Moonlight Musing' on the dreaded writer's block and how to deal with it. I love getting your input! (If anyone missed it, you're not too late – just scroll down.)

And don't forget to come back on Monday – tomorrow! – for Sherry's interview. As you know, she's a great interviewer and her features are always a treat. This time it's particularly exciting. Believe me, you won't want to miss it! A very popular poet who hasn't been around for a while comes back to share with us an absorbing journey, a great and beautiful adventure. Can you guess?


Friday, July 29, 2016

Moonlight Musings

The Dreaded Writer's Block

Some writers say it doesn't exist, it's imaginary. They remind me of those fortunate, infuriating people who boast that they never get sick, and think those who do must be putting it on or being self-indulgent. It's just laziness, such writers say, or lack of discipline. Sit at your desk at the same time every morning, they say, and write for three hours anyway.  Or get down the story you need to tell, even if the words are awful, and fix them later. 

Yes, well, that might be all right for novelists. We're poets.

Ted Hughes, the late Poet Laureate of Britain, spoke of a time when he 'had written nothing for a year or so.' After which one of his most famous and beautiful poems, The Thought Fox, came to him one night, out of the blue. Imagine how thankful he must have felt! If such a dedicated and prolific poet could be blocked for so long, it was hardly a sign of laziness, and clearly was not imaginary. 

Even worse – an old friend, who recently had a new book of poetry published, told me he had an 11-year gap in his writing before producing the poems in the book! He thought he would never write poetry again. How devastating would that be? People don't decide to be lazy and call it writer's block as a kind of excuse. At best, they rationalise to console themselves: 'Oh well, I still have a life. I do other things now.' But if and when the poetry returns, they are not only relieved but overjoyed. They would have been doing it all along if they could.

The first time I experienced writer's block lasted only a few weeks – but I didn't know that at the time. Sitting at my desk and trying to write didn't work. It's a long time ago now, but I don't suppose I stayed there hours at a time. I did return there frequently and hopefully, however, with no result. I was distraught. I didn't know what to do. I had husband, children, work, friends; still it felt as if my life was over – or at least that a part of me had died. A vital part. It was in my early days of getting published, doing readings, and going to Poets Union meetings. Where else would I turn but to my fellow poets?

'I've got writer's block,' I muttered, ashamed and desperate. They pretty much just shrugged. I was astounded and hurt that no-one even expressed sympathy, much less offered helpful advice. It was only later that I realised it was no big deal to them. They'd all been through it and come out the other side – at least once. 

I hadn't thought to mention that it had never happened to me before. And if I had, I don't suppose they would have found much to say, except, 'It will pass.'  And it did. Thank God! One day, poetry started happening again, for no obvious reason. 

Why did it stop, and what made it restart? Come, come, I don't have answers to the great mysteries! I'm just thankful I've not had to wait for 11 years, nor even 'a year or so' like Mr Hughes. It seems to have been just as mysterious to him; at any rate he offered no explanation, as far as I know. He said that, on that particular night, 'I got the idea I might write something' and the poem was finished in a few minutes. Here is the poem; isn't it wonderful? – The Thought Fox. Click the link, do! As well as seeing the words onscreen, you can hear Hughes read them.

Imagine something like that turning up after such a long block! It indicates what I have come to believe – that a block may be a time when all sorts of things germinate underground unseen, like seeds. I have experienced this a few times myself by now, and I notice that when the writing finally resumes, usually some kind of quantum leap has taken place. You start again at a higher level than where you left off. I don't think we can do much to hurry this process. It's organic, and takes place of its own accord.

But sometimes you experience only a few days or weeks when inspiration doesn't flow. In our online poetry communities we are lucky to have prompts to stimulate our memories and imaginations, but sometimes even that doesn't work. You feel that you're in a doldrums. If words do flow – or dribble – you find them completely lack-lustre. 

If you're in that kind of block, you can comfort yourself that it's input time. The well needs replenishing. As I'm fond of telling students, we need some life to put into our art. My advice is to go out and have a good time, or catch up on your reading. Or both. Forget about your writing for a while. Have a holiday from it. Fill the well with experiences, and other people's art. 

If you still feel flat, cranky and pointless; if filling the well isn't enough distraction – perhaps it's revision time, when you fish out all those awful drafts that just didn't work, and look at them with fresh eyes to find a fix. Worth a try! But perhaps the lack of inspiration will apply there too. Then what works for me is to play with form. There's something about tinkering with rhymes and syllables that does it for me, regardless of content. Somehow the content presents itself; I don't pretend to understand how. Or else I do exercises from either one of my two favourite books of poetic tips and techniques: Wingbeats, edited by Scott Wiggerman and David Meischen and The Crafty Poet by Diane Lockward.

If you don't work in form and you don't like exercises, the last resort is to try one or both of these: 
  1. start with 'I remember', free write for 10 minutes, and turn the result into a poem (or the beginning of a poem – and feel free to write longer than 10 minutes if you find you're on a roll)
  2. write about eating. 
Believe me, both are emotionally charged, and the mind will supply something.

Quantum leaps notwithstanding, I no longer believe in waiting around for inspiration. I think it's fine to chase it. Going to poetry readings can be very inspiring. Or failing that, reading (on page or screen) a variety of good poetry. Again how lucky we are to belong to a poetry community, where that's easy to find. Sometimes we need to encounter new voices; these too can be found on the web without too much trouble. Often we can get to hear as well as read them, via Soundcloud or YouTube. 

Sometimes the trick is to look outside oneself. As I think many of you know, I love the idea of 'small stones', created by husband-and-wife writers / therapists / Buddhist priests Satya Robyn and Kaspalita Thompson. A small stone is a short piece of mindful writing – not necessarily in verse, though most of mine are. Satya and Kaspa explain that it is as if you go for a walk, find a pebble that is beautiful or interesting, pick it up and bring it home, and then polish it. The trick is that you are focused out on the world rather than in upon your own psyche. If you're paying proper attention, it's hard to be blocked for those moments. (They like to have other writers join them. After a bit of a break to focus on other activities, they are doing a month of small stones again, this August – three days away. Here's the link to the facebook group if you're interested. I'm in!)

How about you? Have you ever suffered from writer's block? (You're fortunate if you haven't – yet.) And what do you do about it? What works and what doesn't? What strategies would you recommend?

(Fox image: Dave Bezaire, "Red Fox Coming," Creative Commons license 2.0)

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Poets United Midweek Motif ~ Acceptance

"Life is a series of natural and spontaneous changes. Don't resist them; that only creates sorrow. Let reality be reality. Let things flow naturally forward in whatever way they like."---Lao Tzu

"I want to sing like the birds sing, not worrying about who hears or what they think."---Rumi

"A man cannot be comfortable without his own approval."---Mark Twain

""Nothing, absolutely nothing happens in the God's world by mistake. Until I could accept my alcoholism, I could not stay sober; unless I accept life completely on life's terms, I cannot be happy. I need to concentrate not so much on what needs to be changed in the world as on what needs to be changed in me and my attitudes."---Dr. Paul Ohliger

Midweek Motif ~ Acceptance

Wikipedia says: Acceptance in human psychology is a person's assent to the reality of a situation, recognizing a process or condition (often a negative or uncomfortable situation) without attempting to change it or protest.

I feel Acceptance is a better word than tolerance. The word has a kinder heart; intelligence, open mind and free spirit. The word is also brave enough to embrace 'change'.

In today's world however accepting others as they are is yet an issue. People seem to forget that 'Acceptance' is key to happiness.

We are writing on Acceptance today.

Let's take a look at these wonderful poems on the theme:


by Robert Frost

When the spent sun throws up its rays on cloud
And goes down burning into the gulf below,
No voice in nature is heard to cry aloud
At what has happened. Birds, at least must know
It is the change to darkness in the sky.
Murmuring something quiet in her breast,
One bird begins to close a faded eye;
Or overtaken too far from his nest,
Hurrying low above the grove, some waif
Swoops just in time to his remembered tree.
At most he thinks or twitters softly, 'Safe!
Now let the night be dark for all of me.
Let the night bee too dark for me to see
Into the future. Let what will be, be.'


by Langston Hughes

God in his infinite wisdom
Did not make me very wise -
So when my actions are stupid
They hardly take God by surprise.

The Weed

by Ella Wheeler Wilcox

A weed is but an unloved flower! 
    Go dig, and prune, and guide, and wait, 
    Until it learns its high estate, 
    And glorifies some bower. 
A weed is but an unloved flower!

All sin is virtue unevolved, 
    Release the angel from the clod-- 
    Go love thy brother up to God. 
Behold each problem solved. 
    All sin is virtue unevolved.


by E.E.Cummings

If freckles were lovely, and day was night,
And measles were nice and a lie warn’t a lie,
Life would be delight,—
But things couldn’t go right
For in such a sad plight
I wouldn’t be I.

If earth was heaven and now was hence,
And past was present, and false was true,
There might be some sense
But I’d be in suspense
For on such a pretense
You wouldn’t be you.

If fear was plucky, and globes were square,
And dirt was cleanly and tears were glee
Things would seem fair,—
Yet they’d all despair,
For if here was there
We wouldn’t be we.

Please share your new poem using Mr. Linky below and visit others in the spirit of the community.

                        (Next week Susan's Midweek Motif will be ~ The Song of a Single Word)

Monday, July 25, 2016


This week, my friends, we are careening through the busy streets of Bangalore in a rickshaw. It is monsoon season, so we are being liberally splashed with rain from above, and spattered water from below. The scenery is spectacular! We are on our way to visit Rajani, who writes at Thotpurge: Incomplete Thoughts. She also has a new second blog called Phantom Road with a mix of poetry and prose. Rajani has some chai tea and beautiful poetry to share with us, so hang tight, we will be indoors and dry very soon.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Poetry Pantry # 312

Tofino Skies and Beaches

by Sherry Blue Sky

Morning Beach

Tofino Skies

Coastal Mist

When Nature Is Art

Wickaninnish Waves


Sunset Variation

Sunset at Chestermans


Hello, fellow poets! I'm pinch-hitting today to give Mary a well-deserved day off. I am sharing some photos of my beloved beaches with you, from my place of heart, Tofino, B.C., on the West Coast of Vancouver Island, in Canada. You can see why I love it so much. I spent ten glorious years there, where, on a daily basis, my eyes could not believe the spectacular beauty I was living in. I just kept saying to myself, "I'm here! I'm really here!"

Did you catch Rosemary's feature on Friday? Do check back, if you missed it. Rosemary always has interesting poems and poets with which to enlighten us. Tomorrow I have a special visit for you with a poet who has been with us for quite some time. I know you will enjoy what she shares with us. And on Wednesday, Sumana asks us to write on the topic of Acceptance, an intriguing subject to contemplate. 

I hope you will enjoy the work of your fellow poets today. For those of you who are new, welcome! All you need to do is link your poem with Mr. Linky, visit others, and enjoy being visited in return. Let's dive in! 


Friday, July 22, 2016

I Wish I'd Written This

What to Do with Objects
By Robert Bly

A little snow. Coffee. The bowled-over branches.
The wind, it is cold outdoors, but in the bed

It's warm, in the early lamp-light, reading poems.

These fingers, so rosy, so alive, move
About this book. Here is my wide-traveling palm,
The thumb that looks like my father's, the wedding ring.

It's time to prepare myself—as a friend said—
"Not to be here." It will happen. One day
The dish will be empty on the brown table.

Towards dusk, someone will say, "Today
Some rooms were busy, but this room was not.
The gold knob shone alone in the dark."

No breath, no poems, no dish. And the small change
Will go unnoticed by the snow, the squirrels
Searching for old acorns. What to do with

All these joys? Someone says, "You take them."

From "A Week of Poems at Bennington", published in Best American Poetry 1998. New York, Scribner, © 1998.

The recent deaths of poets I've known have me reflecting on my own mortality – as Bly was when he wrote this, for whatever reason. 

I like the simple directness of the poem (what Wikipedia calls his 'plain, imagistic style') and the ease with which he dwells on various small things that are important in the moment. In the end, despite the title, it is not the physical objects he dwells on so much as the joys they inspire – and not, I think, the dish and the small change so much as the squirrels, the snow, the warm bed, the book of poems, his own hand, the wedding ring.... 

And how can one 'take them'? And who should do that? It's open to interpretation, but I think he means that he himself must take them with him when he dies. If so, it seems to me the only way to do that is to fully experience them while he is alive to do so. And then it becomes not just a message to himself, but to each of us – live fully, don't waste what time you have, savour the joys. The recently deceased poets I am thinking of did that!

Bly himself is still with us, at nearly 90 years old. He has been an important and influential American poet, widely known also in other countries. He has been involved in numerous translations into English from the literatures of other cultures; he has created a specific activism of poets and writers, e.g. during the Vietnam War; he became deeply interested in the Goddess, the Divine Feminine, and this in turn led to the formation of the Men's Movement; both these explorations have included delving into myths and fairytales, as well as Jungian archetypes. 

He has also produced many volumes of poetry and several non-fiction books, as well as editing a number of poetry anthologies. You can find pages of books by and about him at Amazon.

He was born in Minnesota of Norwegian ancestry, has lived most of his life there, and became its first Poet Laureate in 2008. He has received various awards, including the Robert Frost Medal in 2013.

The most comprehensive source of information about his life, work and aesthetics is probably his website. In addition to his bio, details of his books etc., this includes both an extensive interview and details of a film about him, A Thousand Years of Joy. The film, we are told, is available on DVD and can be ordered online.

You can also consult the Wikipedia link above, and similar material (plus poems) at The Poetry Foundation, PoemHunter and Academy of American Poets. The latter includes audio presentations of some poems. There are also readings and lectures on YouTube.

Material shared in 'I Wish I'd Written This' is presented for study and review. Poems, photos and other writings remain the property of the copyright owners, usually their authors.

Photo SpangleJ, licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Poets United Midweek Motif ~ Suffrage, the right to vote

Union fran├žaise pour le suffrage des femmes 1909 poster.png
Poster of the French Union for Women's Suffrage (1909)
Union fran├žaise pour le suffrage des femmes
"French women want to vote - against alcohol, slums and war"

“I do not know if the people of the United States would vote for superior men if they ran for office, but there can be no doubt that such men do not run.” 
― Alexis de TocquevilleTocqueville: Democracy in America

“To view the opposition as dangerous is to misunderstand the basic concepts of democracy. To oppress the opposition is to assault the very foundation of democracy.” 
― Aung San Suu KyiLetters from Burma

“There is no such thing as not voting: you either vote by voting, or you vote by staying home and tacitly doubling the value of some Diehard's vote.” 
― David Foster Wallace, Consider the Lobster and Other Essays

Midweek Motif ~ Suffrage, 
the right to vote

Do you have the right to vote?  
When did you last use that right?  
Have you ever been on a ballot? 
What would you like to see on a ballot to vote for?  

Your Challenge: Write a poem that exposes and/or challenges suffrage. 

We walked five blocks 
to the elementary school, 
my mother’s high heels 
crunching through playground gravel. 
We entered through a side door.

Down the long corridor, 
decorated with Halloween masks, 
health department safety posters— 
we followed the arrows 
to the third grade classroom.

My mother stepped alone 
into the booth, pulling the curtain behind her. 
I could see only the backs of her 
calves in crinkled nylons.

A partial vanishing, then reappearing 
pocketbook crooked on her elbow, 
our mayor’s button pinned to her lapel. 
. . . . 
(Read the rest HERE.)

I am unjust, but I can strive for justice. 
My life’s unkind, but I can vote for kindness. 
I, the unloving, say life should be lovely. 
I, that am blind, cry out against my blindness. 

Man is a curious brute—he pets his fancies— 
Fighting mankind, to win sweet luxury. 
So he will be, though law be clear as crystal, 
Tho’ all men plan to live in harmony. 

Come, let us vote against our human nature, 
Crying to God in all the polling places 
To heal our everlasting sinfulness 
And make us sages with transfigured faces. 

I hold my ballot in my shaking hand
And say to myself: this is cause and effect.
The opportunity is so grand
I have spent all my life to expect.

You have lived in a free country, 

Here you and your ancestors were born; 
Your civil rights are numerous and sundry; 
Please do feel pity for the forlorn.

I had exercised my right to vote

In my native land’s first ever election: 
Illiterates did not know what cadres wrote; 
Bad factions led them to wrong direction.

Wanting self-rule, people grew wiser; 

The patriots just built a young nation.
But the invaders, however, were slyer: 
Elections were only to shield usurpation.

. . . . 
(Read the rest HERE.)

Monday, July 18, 2016


Today, my friends, we are featuring Tarang Sinha, who writes at TARANG: REFLECTION OF MY THOUGHTS AND IMAGINATION. Tarang lives in India, a country we are always so pleased to visit. She is highly accomplished as a published freelance writer, and is announcing the publication of her first novel this month. Tarang is also a watercolour artist and will share a few of her paintings with us. I can't wait! Let's begin.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Poetry Pantry #311

Japan Nature Photos
by Totomai Martinez

Greetings and Happy Sunday to you all!  And welcome to another Poetry Pantry and also to another set of Totomai's wonderful, breathtaking photos.  What talent he has, doesn't he?

This past week we had some excellent features.   If you haven't read Sherry's interview of Bjorn, please check back, as it is an interview not to miss.  And if you have not yet seen Rosemary's wonderful tribute to Viv Blake, check back as well.  Viv had the foresight to write her own epitaph.  Makes me wonder how many of us poets have done that.  And, thanks to all who participated in Sumana's "absence" prompt this past week.

Looking ahead, tomorrow you can read Sherry's interview of Tarang Sinha, who has been participating here at Poetrs United for a while.  And, on Wednesday Susan's prompt is "Suffrage, the Right to Vote" which is a very timely and thought-provoking prompt for us to contemplate.

With no delay, let's share poetry.  Link your one poem below.  Stop in and say hello in the comments.  Visit other poets who link.  I will have a busy Sunday so may perhaps not comment on many of you early in the day, but at night I will return for visits.  Have a joyful and poetic week ahead!

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