Saturday, June 30, 2012

A Mini-Challenge for Sunday ~ Koan

Chinese Poetry

Our last Sunday challenge opened the lid on ancient Celtic-Irish stanzas, and I had a feeling that it would be impossible to do the forms justice without a lifetime of study.  I have similar reservations about this week's look at the ancient Koan form of Chinese poetry, which dates back to the Spring and Autumn period of 770 BC.  It is with awe I note, that China is the essential birthplace of Literature, and the very earliest anthology of  poetry, Shi Jing, dates back between the 11th and 6th centuries BC. 

Master Un Mun

I have once before attempted to write a few poems in this ancient style, and found it rewarding. However, I will be the first to admit that I have little or no experience in Oriental poetry, so anything I produce is something of a shot in the dark.  My post, Of Zen and Koan, can be viewed HERE.

The following set of instructions comes directly from eHow, but I have reworded them in places, and used my own work as an example.  It states that Chinese Koan poetry is traditionally written in four lines:

Line 1: The first part makes a statement about one's subject:
Daughter Number One has passed into the season of womanhood.

Line 2: Continue to describe the subject of the poem with a new image:
She ties back her heavy gold hair in the butterfly style.

Line 3: Start a new subject. The third line of traditional Koan poetry leads the reader away from the subject of the first two lines into a completely unrelated topic.
In drifts of snow, a fawn leaves its hoof prints behind the doe,

Line 4: Relate the lines. The fourth line unites the themes of the first three lines. Think of it as a circle that comes back. 
But she must walk this forest path alone.

Hint: Traditional Chinese poetry focuses on everyday activities: farming, war, the market place, people. 

Chinese scroll painting

When I was researching this form of writing, I came across this enlightening post on the blogsite, The Reformed Buddhist.  It is well worth reading before you begin your own attempt at recreating some Chinese poetry of your own.  The author mentions several other approaches to Koan.

For the haters of form, I hastily add, that you are welcome to write in free verse on the theme of all things Zen.

The Sunday Challenge is posted on Saturday at noon CST to allow extra time for the form challenge.  Management reserves the right to remove unrelated links, but invites you to share a poem of your choice on Open Link Monday.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

look at what's goin' down

Hello, Toads. Today I have for you a treat, what I think of as a delectable candy-store confection. The Jayhawks write and perform perfect roots-pop songs featuring infectious melodies, complex harmonies, and heady lyrics, reminiscent of Gram Parsons and the Everly Brothers. A mix-CD of Jayhawks songs always travels with me in heavy rotation in my car, where I love to let the music flow over and wrap around me.

Formed by Mark Olson, Gary Louris, Marc Perlman and Norm Rogers in 1985, a time when Husker Du, The Replacements, Soul Asylum, and Prince also came out of the Minneapolis music scene, The Jayhawks are not quite country music, not quite rock. Referred to as "Hank Williams on speed," The Jayhawks were named after "Levon and the Hawks," Bob Dylan's backing band in the 1960's before they became The Band. In various incarnations over the years, The Jayhawks have represented a fusion of rock, country, and folk influences into a sound that is timeless, modern, and quintessentially American. (From The Jayhawks' bio page on their website, click for more detail.)

Our song for today is the "Blue," from the 1995 record Tomorrow the Green Grass. "Blue" is a beautiful song with fascinating lyrics that somehow catch me by surprise no matter how many times I listen. Here are the lyrics, and you can listen to the studio version of "Blue" here. Enjoy the song (and young Jon Stewart, bonus!), explore the music of The Jayhawks if you're so moved, and listen to your muse. I look forward to reading! 

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Kerry's Wednesday Challenge ~ (Very) Old School

If I even mention the name Shakespeare, I wonder how many of my loyal followers will think I have finally lost it and flee Real Toads in the hope that some sanity will return by Friday.


The problem with Shakespeare lies in the seemingly archaic language - a perception maintained to this day despite the fact that Modern English was founded in the 16th Century with Shakespeare as one of its main progenitors. No other individual has contributed more words or phrases to the English language, many of them still in use today.

All of the following common phrases are Shakespearean in origin:

~ a foregone conclusion                              ~ all corners of the world
~ eaten out of house and home                 ~ it was Greek to me
~ fight fire with fire                                    ~ night owl

More can be found HERE

Many famous works of literature have quotes from Shakespeare as their titles:

Something Wicked This Way Comes – Ray Bradbury

The Sound and the Fury – William Faulkner

Brave New World – Aldous Huxley

Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead – Tom Stoppard

The Moon is Down – John Steinbeck

Of Woman Born: Motherhood as Experience and Institution – Adrienne Rich

Titles from Shakespeare reveals an amazing number of authors who have been inspired by his words.
Goodreads has a wonderful list of books devoted to "Willsphernalia".

Our challenge is to find a phrase or quote from Shakespeare to either inspire a poem or to use as the title of the finished piece. 
I have provided a quick link to the Goodreads page of Quotes from Shakespeare.

For those of you who have stuck around to the end of my post, I will leave you with these words:

“Our doubts are traitors, 
and make us lose the good we oft might win, 
by fearing to attempt.” 
― William ShakespeareMeasure for Measure

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Personal Challenge: Visual Pathways with Mary Ann Potter

Hello Toads!  Margaret here, back from my Washington D.C. trip (what an amazing city!) and posting this a tad late today. 

As Mary Ann Potter of "From the Starcatcher" is an artist as well as a poet (she designed and created the above collage) I selected her with a poetry challenge I entitled "Visual Pathways" inspired from an art book I often reference for drawing.  I asked her to select one (or mix them up a bit) and apply it to writing poetry instead of drawing:

1) How can we view things differently?  View things from a mirror, turn our head upside down, look through colored lenses, cross you eyes, look through a hole in a piece of paper, twirl...

2)  When drawing an object, learn all you can about it.  Research its form, history, constituents, then approach it with knowledge to guide you.  We draw the tree from the ground up, but if we understand the hidden part, the root system, our tree will be more convincing in the way we feel it rising up from the ground.  The tree does not begin at the earth line.  Nothing begins where it seems, everything grows out of something that supports it.

3)  Be still within movement, move within stillness.

The following is Mary Ann Potter's very creative response (inspiration came from her collage she designed and the following YouTube video).  I love, love antique and old treasures from the past, so this is a real treat for me.  I hope it is for you as well!

Thank you, Mary Ann.

_ _ _ _ _

This intriguing little scene, the oldest surviving film, was filmed on October 14, 1888; it shows Adolphe LePrince, the son of the cinematographer, walking around the garden with Sarah, Joseph, and Harriet Hartley at their home in Oakwood Grange, Roundhay, Leeds, West Riding of Yorkshire, UK.  They don't do much here.  We see them laugh, walk, turn, and we wonder what LePrince was thinking.  Sarah walks backward, and Joseph's coat flies out as he turns.  The movie was made at 12 frames per second and lasts just 2.11 seconds in its finished form.  It has surprisingly lasted all these years and has ever been re-mastered.  (Thanks, Widipedia.  I never knew about this before.)

It inspired this poem, a different way of looking at film after some research, a little visual pathways to a brief epiphany.

Roundhay Garden:  An Adventure in Celluloid

What little she knew of the world
came from stories;
treasured collections on library shelves,
long whispered mysteries,
mother's advice -
(a lady always...
a lady never...)
Don't do that, daughter.
It's simply not nice."

Even spinsters have hearts.
The auteur is not gentle.
He spins us in circles,
life caught in sprockets.
"You, in the white dress,
now turn and twirl."
Oh, if he sees I'm
a beautiful girl...
(a lady might...
a lady will...)

Squeezing out truth makes us smaller,
I'm told.  We wonder:
What makes a chain tighter,
locks or memories grown cold?

by Mary Ann Potter

Monday, June 25, 2012

Open Link Monday

Calling all toads to the garden...

Good morning to all friends and followers of Real Toads.  Another Monday is upon us, but I am smiling as it is the first day of school Winter vacation for me, and I have 3 weeks in which to do very little besides giving my writing some much needed attention.  Many of our members are also enjoying the long Summer holiday, and have had the opportunity to be inspired by the wonderful places they have visited, and time spent with family.  If you have any recent poems to share, we would love to read them, but this Open Link provides the opportunity to link up an older piece which lies forgotten in your archives.   Please take the time to read a few of the poems that are to be found alongside your own, because that is how we roll in this garden.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

The Sunday Challenge ~ Take #2 with Margaret Bednar

Back in January, Margaret was our featured photographer on The Sunday Challenge and many of us fell in love with her photography.  You can imagine my excitement, when I noticed that a new element had been added to Margaret's blog, Art Happens 365.

Portrait of the Artist

In her own words:
I have a new "side blog" called i & I. It is all about spontaneous photography, compositions that catch my eye, sweet moments that can't be choreographed. They won't be pixel perfect and will often be a bit grainy as they are from my iPhone.  I invite you to hop on over now and again to i & I and ENJOY!

© Margaret Bednar ~  i & I ~  2012

"Hopes & Dreams"
                 by Margaret Bednar, June 19, 2012

I grasp

as day
gives way

to evening

and dreams

and shared

as my pony

and nods

I recently asked Margaret if she would be so kind as to share her images with us again, and she has generously thrown open her entire collection of iPhone Photography, which can be accessed HERE.  A sample of this amazing photography can be seen below, but Margaret has invited you to make your own choice from her blog.  Please remember to acknowledge any photos you upload with her name, as all images are under copyright.

© Margaret Bednar ~  i & I ~  2012

© Margaret Bednar ~  i & I ~  2012

© Margaret Bednar ~  i & I ~  2012

Margaret recently took a trip to the Antietam Battleground in Maryland, and was inspired to take a series of photos, which she shared HERE.  These images have also been offered for our poetic inspiration.

© Margaret Bednar ~  i & I ~  2012

The Antietam Battleground in Maryland was the bloodiest day of the Civil War with over 24,000 men dead upon the rolling farmland photographed here. These are from my iPhone, using "Instagram" textures.

The Sunday Challenge is posted on Saturday at noon CST to allow extra time for the creative process, so please do not link up old work which kind of fits the image. Members will only respond to poetry written specifically for this prompt: this is in the spirit of our Real Toads project to create opportunities for poets to be newly inspired. Management reserves the right to remove unrelated links.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Fireblossom Friday: Get Famous!

Hey Toads and Toad followers! Fireblossom here with another Fireblossom Friday.

Let's take a walk...

This time, I ask you to write a poem which features a famous person. 

They may be admirable,

or not.

They may be real or imaginary,

living or dead.

They can be someone who inspires you,

or just someone you love!

Just a few rules. Yes, rules! I know, Fireblossom making rules. What's up with that? Anyway, please write an original poem for this challenge; don't just recycle an older poem. And make your famous person an important part of the piece, not just a passing mention.

Then sign the linky so we can see what you've written, and i will be around to comment! have fun!

pictures, from top: the Beatles, John F. Kennedy, Kim Kardashian, Charlie Chaplin, Gregori Rasputin, Roy Hobbs, Emmylou Harris.  

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Ella's Edge


PREMADE Beach Stockby ~xxfantaisiamanipsxx

   It is the longest day of the year, for most of us. Summer Solstice is today. It is already sweltering, sauna hot at my house. You toads would love it!   When you were a kid did you spend your days basking at the shore, beach?  Did you ever write a message and tuck it in a bottle?  Sending it adrift, hoping someone would find it.  Did you hope they would see your profound message and maybe they would send you a note.  Today, Toads we are jumping in the big pond.  I grew up near the ocean.  It was and still is my favorite place on earth to escape, to take time out to reflect, look for treasures, and dream.  I would write names in the sand, draw, look for tiny bits of time worn sea glass and Sand dollars.   Maybe you never did this...   Today is your day...  SOS means Save Our Ship, but your challenge Toads is to write a poem that is about saving one's soul.  A life lesson, a view of your journey, you would love to share and tell the world.  Your poem needs to be a SOS to the world. This is a treasured thought, not a soap box rant.  Here is your chance!   I want to thank the Police for their song. It inspired my prompt this week ;D



You can pen a poem about a message you would like to find in a bottle.  Think of this as a treasure map.  You are sharing a shiny bit of gold, with your recipient.  The gem is your insight, your words!

Message in A Bottleby *DallasNagata

Messageby *xGlycerinex