Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Hallow's Edge

Well Toads, I am beyond thrilled to be the one to share a prompt with you today!  I love Halloween. I love dressing up, I love the mystery, the fun and candy.   Today,  I was going to enchant you with a spellbound type poem, but then I thought about ghosts.  Do you believe in ghosts?  I have had two occasions where I have felt an odd, almost a chill in the air.   Have you had an encounter?

My father had died suddenly, my first year in college.  I commuted daily and worked in the evenings at a local movie theater.  One night, not long after his death I was driving home, when I was nearing the darkest part of my ride.  Moosepoint State Park is so dark and yes, moose have been known to cross the road there.   I could feel the presence of someone sitting in the passenger seat-I was alone.  It felt as if I was being stared at. It was such an odd feeling, I turned the light on.  When I did my headlights went out...I'm at the darkest part of my trip, with no headlights.  It is 10:40pm.  I'm freaking, I'm scared...the lights come back on.  I can feel a presence, as if someone was sitting next to me in the passenger seat-I was alone.  I rode home with the light on.  I finally relaxed a bit and said, "Thanks Dad, I love you" and kept driving. When I got home, my Mom was up and I told her, what had happened.  We agreed the next day, after school to get my car to the garage. I did, I was told nothing was wrong. They couldn't find anything wrong with my lights, or switches or any loose wiring. It never happened again.   I do believe it was my Dad saying good-bye.  I still can feel this experience, as if it happened a month ago. It was that vivid!

 The other ghost encounter was a couple of years ago.  My daughter and I had heard there were a few homes, in our area considered haunted.   One is about a mile and half from my house.  She went with me. We drove the car and parked across the street, at a local church.  We walked near the home and snapped some photos.   When I uploaded the photos, I thought the door looked odd.  So, I enlarged it...Do you see her?  Do you see the ghost?

Here is the house:

 L@@K again...

 I have asked many people, what do you see?  Some say trees and some see a ghost. What do you see?   Click on it and look~

When Kerry mentioned the Sunday Mini Challenge, before Halloween...she also mentioned wanting to do a ghost type prompt.  I told her this is what i was thinking,  too.  She was gracious enough to let me have it, even though I told her to go ahead.  I could do a spellbinding type prompt, instead.  So Toads today in the garden you have a choice.  YOU can write a poem that is spellbinding, think Harry Potter, witches and their spell books, etc or you can write a ghostly tale.  It wouldn't be Halloween with out a TRICK!   You must use a line from a ghost poem in your poem.  Here is a list you can select from:   Click  HERE

I look forward to your spooktacular poems!   Damn, I tried a spellbound poem and it is working...
I'm turning into a Toad!    Beware I think it is the eye of newt... 

Hope you and yours have a bewitching holiday full of magic, a bit of enchantment and lots of candy!

Monday, October 29, 2012

Open Link Monday

It's Halloween time in the garden...

© Teresa Perin

... the toads are sharing their tricks and treats!

Carve the pumpkins, bake the cookies, open bags of candy and bring along your poetry - let's have some fun in the Imaginary Garden.

 © Ellen Wilson
 © Ellen Wilson
Please link up one of your latest pieces or share one of your Halloween poems from the archives: the choice is, as ever, yours to make and ours to enjoy.
Stay a while and visit with the many talented poets who have shared their work alongside your own.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

The Sunday Mini-Challenge

This weekend's stanza format is taken from my reading of Paul Laurence Dunbar, who first wrote the line: "I know why the caged bird sings!" in his poem Sympathy. He also devised an interesting 7 line stanza, used in the poem Melancholia, which relies on a syllable count and rhyme scheme, and this is the form we will focus on today.

© Mama Zen

The opening stanza of Melancholia gives the model for the structure of subsequent stanzas:

Silently without my window,  (a)   8 syllables
Tapping gently at the pane,  (b)   7 syllables 
Falls the rain.  (b)   3 syllables
Through the trees sighs the breeze (Internal rhyme c / c) 6 syllables
Like a soul in pain.  (b)   5 syllables
Here alone I sit and weep;  (d)   7 syllables
Thought hath banished sleep.  (d)   5 syllables

The meter is trochaic but I mention this only for the purists.

© Ellen Wilson

October, as it is experienced in the Northern Hemisphere, always strikes me as being a month of paradoxes: the give of the harvest and the take of Fall; a sinister festival of the dead in All Hallows' Eve, which is followed immediately by a day of celebration for the Hallowed Saints. Of course, there is the unsettled sense of change which occurs as life instinctively prepares for Winter.

© Isadora Gruye

I have selected several photos for our further inspiration that are in keeping with the many moods of October. The photographers are members or followers (or friends) of Real Toads, who freely share their work here with us. Please remember to acknowledge the name of the photographer whose work you display on your blog.

© Teresa Perin

For those who would like to try the stanza form and would like another example, I have republished a poem on Skywriting that I wrote in 2009 (back when I first started writing, I often purloined forms). However, I fully intend to make a second attempt at it this weekend.  For those who prefer the Free Verse option, please focus on an October theme, or a photograph from this post.

© H.J. Clark

The Sunday Challenge is posted on Saturday at noon CST to allow extra time for the form challenge.  Please provide a link on your blog back to Real Toads.  We stipulate that only poems written for this challenge may be added to the Mr Linky.  Management reserves the right to remove unrelated links, but invites you to share a poem of your choice on Open Link Monday.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Mary's Mixed Bag: Pet Peeves

Lawn Ornaments -  Wicker Pigs on the Lawn
Wikimedia Commons

Greetings, Toads and Friends, it is Mary here again with Mary's Mixed Bag.  There is so much serious stuff happening in the world right now that I thought I would provide a challenge that can be light-hearted if you wish it to be.    What is one of  your pet peeves? 

What REALLY irritates you? Makes you seethe?  Your blood boil?  Or simply makes you shake your head?

   Do lawn ornaments (such as the wicker pigs above) annoy you?


Wikimedia Commons


Wikimedia Commons

Unsolicited advice?

Poor grammar?

Excessive texting?

Wikimedia Commons

Company that just drops in rather than lets you know they are planning to visit?

The way teen-agers dress nowadays?

Your challenge today is to write a poem about a pet peeve or pet peeves of yours.  You know there is something that really bothers you.  Now is the time to get it off your chest.

If you really can't think of anything, here is a list of pet peeves that might inspire you!  Extensive Pet Peeve List.    Let's have some fun with this and come back  and share.

Please write a new poem for this challenge.  Link it below.  Leave a comment.  Then visit as many poems linked as you can.  Enjoy!

Thursday, October 25, 2012

In this Version of My Life--An Interview with Susan Chast

Susan Chast

Past Lives
By Susan Chast

boxed papers
I’ve carried around for years
are more foreign to me now
than today’s 
New York Times.

curled characters 
immortalized therein
are strangers to me now--
still I strive to sound 
out their senses.

Greetings Garden Dwellers,

I am thrilled to share with you a conversation with Susan Chast.  Susan and I had the opportunity to chat over the internet and by phone (wherein she helped me log into the Facebook account I didn't know I had...thanks again).  Susan is a Real Toad member who just recently started her blog Susan’s Poetry (I would also suggest checking out her second blog Susan: continued  for a deeper dive into what drives the poetry from her pen).

Luckily, Sherry Blue Sky did a wonderful interview with Susan at Poets United just a few months back.  This allowed Susan and I to pick up where that piece left off.  You do not need to read that interview to enjoy mine, however you will want to read it.   I am not retreading on any of the questions or topics from that conversation:  nothing but the freshest feasts for my toads.

Without further ado, let’s get to it.....

Izy:  I want to start by congratulating you on publishing a poem this September in Nain Rouge. Was that your first poem to be published?

Susan: Yes.  At least, yes, in this version of my life.  In the early 1980s I did a few public readings at Women Center events and had 2 or 3 poems published in a feminist newspaper.  Around the time of --and about the March on Washington when we surrounded the Pentagon--that kind of stuff  Very Peace Movement.  Those were the Years of the Women's Encampment for a Future of Peace and justice. I wonder if that's on Wikipedia.

Izy: Indeed, it is!!!! How was your poetry back then different from what you are producing now....

Susan:  Instead of the Walt Whitman long line I wrote short phrases and the poem might spread like a forced entry, page after page with lots of repetition and one and two word lines

For example:
in pockets

I think I may have one on my blog from then.

Izy:  Susan's Poetry is a relatively new blog for you and I noticed that October has been your most prolific month yet....what is driving the high production?

Susan:  I'm a workaholic in a new work environment?  I'm excited to take the cork out that kept me a private person?  I am finding that I get better at writing the more I write?  All of the above?  I am also taking a writing word shop now--three hours a week--in which I am working some poetry, but mostly a novel.  I actually like all of the [online] prompts, but want to start weaning away a bit because of some unprompted things the prompts got me to.  I really needed the encouragement of the Imaginary Garden in order to get Real.  Being asked to become a member pushed that up a notch.  And communing with other writers--especially poem to poem--has been exciting.

Izy:  I wanted to ask about your novel. You mentioned it in your interview at Poet's United and at your second blog Susan: continued. Have you finished chapter 8, yet?

Susan:  Yes. Chapter 8 and 9.  They are short chapters.  Mostly taken from my experience as performance artist in the mid 1990s.  Mixed with feminist theatre from the early 1980s.  I am thinking of putting some chapters on the blog but am afraid that it will effect publication.  Also it's scary because I want to use some actual events.  Like the chapter I am writing now is about unlearning racism from a racist incident in the theatre company.

Izy: I congratulate you again on moving forward.  I swear, I keep just rewriting the same novel I finished seven years ago....My motto is "Polish until published"

Susan:  Really?.....but what if you never finish polishing?  Do you feel your writing is meant to convey a truth?  I will never stop learning from my life, but when do I become less afraid of speaking what has remained unspoken?  For me this is a serious issue because of several factors.  None of which I have truly been truthful about in the Adrienne Rich sense--You know . . . "'Some Notes on Lying"?

Izy:  I feel my writing it's meant to convey a gut reaction. Instincts and observation and perspective, I guess some would call that truth.

Susan:  Yes. But it is not necessarily a need-to-be-public truth. I'm trying to work that out from my own life--What I know about unlearning racism. about fighting fighting and other violence.  What I know about the paradox of needing to be straight to defend and support the non-straight especially when the ministry involves being a teacher in the University or in High School.  And especially why both liberal and radical feminism are necessary and birthed the more "precise" and harder to fathom materialist feminist takeover of academia.  I am not brave enough to tackle all of that. And after working with students year after year, think I ought to tackle it.  Yet then there is the fact of Brian's experience as a target. 

Izy:  I am definitely picking up what you are putting down.  When you sit down to write a poem, what is your intent or rather what is the purpose behind the pen? Do you draw upon a past experience or an abstract truth....

Susan:  Sometimes it is thematic, and I free write "what I want to write about is . . . " until a way in realizes itself. Sometimes it is a line or an image that wants me to play with it until I find a groove . . . That's how my "end-line poems" work. And then, given one of those two possibilities--sometimes I challenge myself to a form which forces a series of rewrites and discoveries. I actually learned this from teaching Creative Writing.

Starting in 2005, in the high school classroom and in poetry club I began to realize that I enjoyed that honing, that unless I did it I was giving my students the wrong message about the role of form and freedom. I am very comfortable in the Whitman free verse, but that is not the only tool for making an impression or getting across a message. Then when I came to the Imaginary Garden, Kerry truly confirmed this for me. I like the haiku (Haiku Heights) and like the few times that I came to publish two versions for someone like Mama Zen who said hone it, hone it. I am still learning.

Izy:...sometimes we do need some prompting and challenging, but then sometimes, a good poem can just simmer out of you, as if it has been there all the while. What was the last piece you wrote that arrived that way?

Susan:  I think "Sunshine"--but then, the prompt came from Theme Thursdays. So did I write it as a class assignment? Or did the class assignment open a bottle cap?  "Not just for the young" but again, that was a Poets United prompt about wolves.  "Past Lives" has been on my mind, I actually just found the little piece of the past and cackled about it and wrote the second stanza with glee.

Izy:  What I have really admired in your work is a sense of ideal coexisting with the idea....are you searching for utopia?

Susan:  Not really but I have been in a few settings (time and place) when I felt that the process was right for an attentiveness to human interaction that promised a more liveable kind of imperfection.  I first was able to articulate this in my dissertation--unpublished--on Ellen Stewart and LaMaMa: Place of Performance and Performance of Place.  Do you know them?  Ellen and MaMa of Off-Off Broadway?

Ellen, for all her fire and tantrums, knew and was able to act on the continuing nature of revolution--it is never finally achieved. The door must remain open and then with each newcomer, the explanations and experience, the experiential nature of the reality had to be re-taught, open to change and rediscovery.

I had thought the women's centers could do that in the 1980s, but we got tired of continually renewing, we wanted the job to be done.  I have felt the same way each time I had to get a new counselor--what? Start again? Explain all over? You can't really mean that!  But that is indeed as Utopian--I believe--as we will ever get--to be open to the recurring cycle with the changes that each brings to it.

Izy:  bit of a transitional question up next--an alien lands on earth and asks you what poetry is...which poem of yours would share with the visitor and why that poem?

Susan:  A haiku called "Soul":

Spirit is climbing

up an evergreen mountain

fragrant, expanding

It’s nothing too complex.  Something that gives us a way to start conversing--I'd be so curious!  Just an image, trying to be the most positive human I could be.  Not to start by apologizing, which is my first instinct.

Izy:  Next question--Heard any good jokes lately?

Susan:  Let me think. I was just at a little conference on Quakers in the Arts--I am sure I heard jokes almost every minute. I am famous for not remembering jokes or gossip--never passing them on . . . .Nope. Nothing. I just remember intense joy at many moments.

Izy:  Three things you never write about....

Susan:  Hah! I laugh because it is a trick I learned in Scotland from a great writer/mentor to write down a secret. Then a real secret. Then decide which would be a more interesting topic of a book.

I never write about . . .Hate, really, especially the most personal disappointments wrapped in fear.  I never write my current sexuality.  I never write about my medications and their histories.

Izy:  Any particular reason for the three?

Susan:  I think I fear that deep of a vulnerability. Of the three, sex is the least personal, really.  They are the three that people use as power-over-others, aren't they?

Izy:  Agreed...I find it fascinating what each person holds sacred. You have that right as a human being and a poet. Sometimes holding them in gives them more protection and perhaps a little more power.  Next question...when you read a newspaper, which do you read first: the horoscope or the obits (I'm an obit girl myself)

Susan:  Ha ha--I'm still laughing. I don't read either. I read the arts and the front page--If I had to choose though, I'd turn to the obits. I am getting to the age when I am knowing more of the dead than about the dead.  You're thinking of looking back or forward, aren't you?

Izy:   Which book from your personal library should I read before I die?


Sherri Tepper's Grass
Rilke's Letters to a Young Poet
Guests of My Life by, by . . .Elizabeth Watson.
The Cloud of Unknowing, anonymous Christian Mysticism
Leaves of Grass by Walt Whitman
Woman and Nature: the roaring inside her by Susan Griffin

Anything by Audre Lorde and Adrienne Rich
not necessarily in that order

Izy: ..I shall procure these titles at once, except for Whitman...I already have read Leaves of Grass. Last question: what are your four favorite words

Susan:  Oh my. I wonder what a scan of my poetry would say? I love s-sounds, as in celery, survivor, listen, Peace love How awful to try to rank them! grass, breeze, celery, cellar, cell, sequel, consciousness, being, rest....I am a poet, can't stop finding favorites, ever.

**Once again, my personal thanks to Susan for being held under my scrutiny, ahem, company for two hours.  We had so many wonderful conversations, not all of our dialogue could make it to the final cut.   Viva la and onward!**

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Kenia's Wednesday Challenge

I begin my journey at dawn with my horse
As the large morning bird wakes.
I keep quiet, like a moon grown heavy.
Before me, rain of unknowable age, 
Flowers on the far side of a thousand years.
Last night, last night I saw in my dream
That I was sundered from my coal-eyes love.
I broadcast my passion on the night with my hands.
It snows for me in the mountains.
I swirl fog in with the autumn trees. (continue reading)

My dear toads! Has it been a month already?!  I'm glad to be back here to introduce you to another amazing  poet and I really hope you enjoy his works!

(image from Wikipedia)

Melih Cevdet Anday was best friends with Orhan Veli and Oktay Rifat (you remember them HERE, don't you?) since they were in high school, and together they wrote Garip (Strange) in 1941, a book that happened to be the mark of Garip movement, which was pretty much the Turkish literary surrealism, and would change the history of Turkish poetry forever.

The top part of this piece of writing
Couldn't be read; no one knows who wrote it either.
Never mind, what matters is the words, not the sound.

"...Then I ate whatever I found in the house:
"Bread, almonds, dill.
Barefoot I jumped on the horse,
The wine of the morning was raving mad
So I dashed through the people and went away
Full gallop."

I was going under a tree
It happened in a flash
I fell apart from myself
And became a poppy flower
Bending in the sun,
Tortoise shell, house of wedding
Delirious talk, bevy of names.
I turned into the petal that drags
The wind like a blind God,
I became the century.
A tiny moment like a bug.
I was going under a tree
I became a tree
That propels itself
And saw someone stuck in the ground.

The four of us were taken in the park,
Me, Orhan, Oktay, Şinasi too…
It seems to be autumn
Some of us in coats, some in jackets
The trees behind us are leafless…
Oktay’s father hasn’t yet died,
I don’t have a moustache,
Orhan hasn’t yet met Süleyman Efendi.

But I never was that gloomy;
What is it in this picture that recalls death?
Still, we’re all alive.

CHALLENGE: Today's challenge asks of you to borrow a line from a friend's poem and use it as inspiration to write a surrealist poem of your own. Link your poem below! Happy writing!

Personal Challenge - Mary Mansfield

Being a new member at Imaginary Garden with Real Toads, I’ve fully been expecting to be tapped for a personal challenge, cringing inwardly a bit at the prospect of possibly being asked for a sonnet or villanelle (iambic pentameter is truly my poetic kryptonite.)

Sure enough, Kay Davies has passed the challenge baton to me with the following idea:  “I know you enjoy car races and also karaoke, so I have this off-the-wall (not really, we hope) idea for a poem from the point of view of a race-car driver who is thinking about the evening's karaoke instead of the afternoon's race.”

Wow…definitely not the challenge I expected.  Kay was right though, I do love my NASCAR and I love karaoke, and a chance to veer away from my the normal doom and gloom that seems to punctuate my writing is always welcome.

Two images immediately came to mind when I began thinking about this poem.  This first was a commercial that has been shown often this racing season, with a driver actually singing karaoke in his car, mirrored ball and all.

The second was of my husband singing what has turned out to be his signature karaoke song; there’s just something inherently hilarious about a big, burly man with a beard singing “Baby One More Time” by Britney Spears. (I would insert a video here of him performing that particular tune, but mysteriously my camera seems to disappear every time he's set to begin.)

So here is my response to Kay’s inventive challenge. I’m not entirely sure I’m finished tweaking and expanding on this theme quite yet, but it has been a lot of fun to work on.  Thanks so much, Kay!

NASCAR by Todd Ellis
photo courtesy of

Driven to Perform

It’s a muggy summer morning
And the fans have filled the stands,
Anticipation building 
As they await the start command.

Would-be heroes of the asphalt
Are now strapping in their cars,
To fire up those engines
And go racing toward the stars.

The drivers are all focused
On the massive task ahead,
Except for one, whose thoughts trail off
To his post-race plans instead.

The freedom that he finds in speed
Sure makes his soul take flight,
But he finds the same wild feeling
On the stage at karaoke night.

He channels thundering metal
On the track and at the shop,
But when he’s got the microphone
It’s strictly girly pop.

Mariah, Whitney, Katy,
Man, that boy can sing it all;
In a smoky bar or Victory Lane
You’ll find him standing tall. 

We know the boy’s got talent,
He can drive like Dale or Jimmie,
But he loves to belt out Winehouse 
With an extra shake and shimmy.

So when the green flag flies
He drops the pedal to the floor.
The end of that first lap
Will find them racing door-to-door.

Lap by lap the miles race by
At a frenetic pace.
He drives his crew chief crazy
While he’s humming “Poker Face.”

By the time the race is over
And he sees the checkers fly,
He’s energized to go and chase
His karaoke high.

It’s just two sides of the same coin,
You can’t tear his worlds apart,
‘Cause he’s got motor oil in his blood
And music in his heart.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Open Link Monday

Welcome to the garden ...

In the Head Toad's Garden it's Spring!

... where real toads like to hangout every Monday.

Good day to all toads, wanderers and bards! Whether you are feeling the cold approach of Winter or are looking forward to the warm days of Summertime, you are most welcome to spend some time in our garden. Share a tale, visit with a friend, leave your thoughts behind. 

This open link affords us all the opportunity to present a poem of our own choice, without any stipulation except that this space be treated with due consideration for all, in the Real Toads spirit.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

The Sunday Mini-Challenge

Last week we focused on the four-line form of stanza, known as the Envelope Quatrain, and I would like us to consider the possibilities of other quatrain forms today. Despite the quatrain's perennial popularity among  poets, it can be fairly limiting, as there are only so many rhyme variations possible:

a b a b
a b x b

a a b b

a b b a

And various combinations:
a b c b    d e c e
a a b a    b b c b
a b c d    a b c d

© Kenia Cris

While I was searching for a poetical form which consists of only 4 lines, I came across a genre of Chinese poetry called Midnight Songs.  A collection of these poems under the title "Lady Midnight" appeared in the 4th Century AD, and were popularized by famous poets, such as Li Po. The poems are arranged into four sections for the four seasons: spring, summer, autumn and winter. Thematically, they represent four views of the seasons. They are written in four lines (paired couplets), each of which consists of 5 Chinese characters, known as yuefu.

© Ellen Wilson

This information led me on to discover a similar form called Jueju. Jue Ju is one of the oldest of the Chinese patterns and in the 3rd century AD the Jue Ju was very popular. It often carried "suggestively erotic themes". It does not tell a story but attempts to create a mood. This example is given on Poetry Magnum Opus:

Autumn Moon by Cheng Hao
(translated by Xiao-zhen, Nov 2009)

Over green hills a limpid brook flows
Sky mirrored in the water of autumn hue
Away from the distant earthly world
Maple leaves and velvet clouds leisurely float

© Teresa Perin

If one is to attempt an English version of this poetic style, the following guidelines are offered:

Line length: 5 words per line
Lines per stanza: 4
Theme: Often suggestive of erotic love
Rhyme scheme: couplets or unrhymed

© Hannah Gosselin

Our challenge for today is to write either a four-lined poem, following the Chinese forms described above, or to write a longer poem, in rhyming quatrains, using any of the variations mentioned.
I have also included the photographic talents of several of our Real Toads Members and Followers. Remember to acknowledge the name of the photographer on your blog, if you decide to use an image as inspiration for your poem.
The Sunday Challenge is posted on Saturday at noon CST to allow extra time for the form challenge. Please provide a link on your blog back to Real Toads. We stipulate that only poems written for this challenge may be added to the Mr Linky. Management reserves the right to remove unrelated links, but invites you to share a poem of your choice on Open Link Monday.

Friday, October 19, 2012

A Word with Laurie: ZEN (Meditation)

Photo by L. Kolp

Busy, busy, busy. I don’t know about you, but I’ve been busy! That’s probably why you haven’t seen me around too much lately and I do apologize (click here to read my exciting news).

How do you handle stressful times? The holidays are coming soon and for many this presents a lot of anxiety. How do you obtain peace in your life?

Courtesy of Wikipedia

It helps to find a quiet spot, close your eyes and meditate. When I meditate, I TRY to think about nothing. I concentrate on a pleasant image, which for me is the beach. Eventually I start to relax. It’s almost as if I’m riding the waves on a raft. I see a white light. Guiding thoughts pop into my mind. I am at peace.

Photo by L. Kolp

Some of you might prefer going on a nature walk to clear your mind. This is something I love, too.

Photo by L. Kolp

As I was perusing blogs, I came across Kim Nelson’s beautiful poem, Flowing Example where the word Zen is used. Zen is meditation. Let’s use that as our word this time.

A school of Mahayana Buddhism that asserts that enlightenment can be attained through meditation, self-contemplation, and intuition rather than through faith and devotion and that is practiced mainly in China, Japan, Korea, and Vietnam. Also called Zen Buddhism.

Thanks, Kay, for sharing this with me! Click here for more.


So get meditating on what you will write about. You can use the pictures to inspire you if you'd like. Most importantly, be courteous to others and visit their blogs- leave comments- just as they visit yours.