Thursday, January 31, 2013

Increase the Light--An interview with Kim Nelson

A sampling of works from Kim Nelson.  Image copyrighted, Kim Nelson.

By Kim Nelson

I see the flare
of illumination,
the semi-auto sparks
I hear dark silence set in,
move toward me
as anxiety arcs
I smell the fat
from too-lean bodies
burning a block away
I taste death
acrid, biting, bitter
this cold January day
I feel the trigger
of my M4, comfort,
in a frightening way
I envision
the future, just minutes ahead,
know a choice can now be made
I settle the muzzle
just under my chin
squeeze hard, my last card played
Empowered, I didn’t let them kill me.

Greetings Garden Dwellers:
We were first introduced to Kim Nelson a few weeks back for a Sunday Mini Challenge, wherein we learned of her creative process and were privy to some of her poems and paintings.  Kim Nelson is the award-winning author of dozens of magazine articles as well as three non-fiction books and a poetry collection. A Desert Gardener’s CompanionSouthwest Kitchen Garden,  Mommy I’m Still in Here and Woman’s Evolution are available at her etsy shop and at  Also a visual artist, Nelson works with various media including encaustic, acrylic, watercolor and pastels.   To view currently available pieces visit her website,Kim Nelson Creates, or her etsy shop.

Today, Kim has stepped into the spotlight once again to answer my pesky and meandering line of inquiry.  Without further ado…l present to you a conversation with Kim

Izy:  First round is on me, what are you having?

Kim:  I love it when someone else pays for the first round. I’ll take a Gin Ricky on the rocks with a salted rim… YUM!

Izy:  Free drinks truly are the start of a great friendship!  I can’t wait to learn a little more about you.  I understand you live in Tucson, Arizona.  Can you give us an idea of why you have chosen to live there?

Kim:  The Good Husband has a good job, and nearly 20 years ago he was told he could keep that good job if we left Southern California and moved to Tucson. Needless to say, we moved. After a few years the place grew on us.

Izy:  Your profile states, “Give me words and some hues. Magic will ensue.”   I admire your confidence! Would you care to expound on this?  How do you know the magic will ensue?

Kim:  The magic has never disappointed me, so I simply know.  I believe.  And it’s not so much confidence, Izy, as it is faith in the process. I don’t claim that the final product will be wonderful, marketable, or even good; but I do know that the process of creating, either visual art or with written word, is magical. I become centered. I am in my own best place as my best self. I AM creator. If others like the product, even better.

Izy:  I see!   One can accomplish amazing feats when they believe in their own abilities.  You are an accomplished painter and writer, can you speak to that duality:   in specific how do you know when a painting is a painting and not a poem and vice versa?  Also, which medium (writing versus painting) do you prefer at the moment?

Kim:  The word “accomplished” gives me pause, but I thank you for the compliment. I have both written and sketched since I was very young. Words seemed more powerful, so I honed that craft and have been lucky enough to work in the field. I know I could support myself, albeit meagerly, with my writing; but I also love to make art.

A few years ago I yearned to paint again, and pulled out the set I received from Santa when I was about eight. I committed to an art journal practice that required a daily creation. After a few months, I realized the visual art often prompted a poem, so I began combining the two. There is never a confusion or question about which method of expression a piece requires. My ideas (compulsions?) seem to categorize themselves.

Now, as has been the case my entire life, I write every day. I keep small Moleskine notebooks everywhere… in the car, in my handbag, my nightstand… so as not to lose a line or whisperings from the muse. I paint nearly every day as well. I am currently focused on a series of female muses for each chakra color: Good old ROYGBIV.

Izy:  Moleskine is also my preferred journal of choice.  The little folio in the back where I can stash my scraps and scribbles is my favorite feature.  I am always impressed when artists can keep a daily routine.  Coming from someone who does work “in the field”…love your phrasing of that...In the best case scenario, what will a reader take from your writing and why?

Kim:  I’ve been called a Pollyanna or an Eternal Optimist for most of my life. In my youth those labels made me uncomfortable, felt negative. As I got older I embraced the role. With that in mind, I want others to feel hope, comfort, and encouragement when they read my work. I want them to feel understood and appreciated. I want to uplift and enlighten. I believe, and I know this sounds hokey, that it’s my role to “increase the light.”

Izy:  “Hokey” is more a word I associate with velvet Elvis paintings, not someone‘s personal artist vision!  Lately, in job interviews, I have listed my top strength as fearless enthusiasm…you’d be surprised how unhokey it can sound when said earnestly.  In the best case scenario, what will a viewer take from your painting?

Kim:  I want others to look at my visual art and feel. I don’t really care what they feel, I just want my paintings, collages and encaustics to cause a bit of a physical shift.

Izy:  I know you don’t want to use the word “accomplished,” but I do want to point out you  have published a book of poetry and three other nonfiction works.  What are the biggest misconceptions about your writing that you have encountered?

Kim:  Biggest misconception? Probably that I am simple or simpering. That my work is fluff, not edgy, not pithy enough, and therefore less relevant.

Photo from Kim's Studio.  Image Copyrighted, Kim Nelson.

Izy:  Speaking of less relevant….it’s time for my quick fire questions where we learn more about you in form of ridiculous hypotheticals or one word answers!

Izy:   You are about to drive from Tucson to Bar Harbor, Maine, on a cross country trip.  You can take 2 Literary characters with you...who are they are why?

Kim:  First, I’d invite Atticus Finch from To Kill a Mockingbird because the lively discussions of society, justice, aide and empirically proven solutions to problems would be expansive, educational and exciting. Then, depending on who was available, I’d include either Janie Crawford, from Their Eyes Were Watching God or Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre. Each of these women possesses an ability to retain dignity and integrity despite great challenge. They also understand the value of love and honest relationships in this existence.  Oh My Freaking Heck, we’d never stop talking!

Izy:  Let’s hope there’d be a camera crew a long, I’d want to watch the entire thing.  What is your favorite curse word?

Kim:  Shit! Nothing better suits the stubbing of a toe, a bad college basketball play or tea spilled on the work table.

Izy:  Do you write rough drafts in pen, pencil, or electronic format?

Kim:  All of the above. A bit of a hermit, I spend a lot of time in my studio, so I usually have my computer open to a new page or post, just in case. But I also jot notes in pen and pencil ALL THE TIME. They are, as I suggested earlier, everywhere.

Izy:  An alien race has invaded earth in order to learn more about poetry.  Which poem of yours would you share with them and why?

Kim: I’d offer up the poems I’ve tagged with the word Gram. By reading these, they’d experience the better aspects of humanity, of relationships, of living in this realm.

Izy:  Sugar coma or sleep deprivation?

Kim:  Sleep deprivation. Sugar coma would be preceded by extreme bitchiness, neither rational or productive.

Izy:  What is your favorite thing to do on Sunday evening?

Kim:  Glass of wine in the right hand, The Good Husband holding the left, sitting in the cabana as the sun sets, painting the Sonora sky with shades of unbelievable intensity.

Izy:  I have a brand new Mustang and 1,000,000 Marriott reward points....where are we going?

Kim:  We’ll start in Vancouver and follow the Pacific Coast down to San Diego. Then we’ll take I-10 to Pensacola  before heading north along the Atlantic Seaboard. I want to see every inch of coastline and try the food and drink in major cities along the way. And we’d write about it.

Izy:  Alarm clocks-- don’t use one, hit snooze repeatedly, or wake at the first chime?

Kim:  Don’t use one. Never have. When I go to bed I decide what time to get up; and then I do.

Photo by Kim Nelson.  Image Copyrighted.

Izy:  Another planet is going to crash into earth.  You have time to play one song, what is that song?

Kim:  Louis Armstrong’s “It’s A Wonderful World.”

Izy:  What is your favorite word (non-cussing variety)?

Kim:  Clearly.

Izy:  What was the last book you read that you really hated?

Kim:  The Fifty Shades trilogy. Despite the intriguing subject, I could not get beyond the shitty writing.

Izy:  What is your least favorite day of the week and why?

Kim:  Wednesday. Because none is really out of favor, but all the others have brighter highlights. And I have to drag out the garbage dumpsters.

Izy:  Three things you never write about?

Kim:  Domestic cats, instructions for destruction, and ingrown anything

Izy:  One quote you’d like to end the interview with?

Kim:  “Never underestimate that a small group of thoughtful committed citizens can change the world.” ~ Margaret Mead

Izy:  Lastly, anything I haven’t asked or anything you’d like to discuss?

Kim:  Just want to say thank you. First to you, Izy,  for your interest, enthusiasm and kind support. And to this international, virtual community which has expanded my vision, enriched my life and encouraged me to do what I want to do. Those are huge gifts!

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Out of Standard - The Irony of Hamilton Cork

Hamilton Cork: publisher and yachting enthusiast.  Image courtesy of Anonymous @ Photobucket

Greetings Garden Dwellers

Welcome to the January's Out of Standard.   If you are reading this, you have successfully navigated the January weather (regardless of what hemisphere you live in) and survived the beginning of 2013. 

Today’s Out of Standard will focus on another sort of beginning.

Award winning and critically acclaimed publisher Hamilton Cork has the ability to determine a book’s quality and potential simply by reading the first sentence of a manuscript.   Hamilton’s track record speaks for itself.   His press has published 37 of the last 42 titles to reach number one on the New York Times bestseller list.  In an ironic twist of fate, all of the first sentences which Hamilton fancied so much were removed from the final versions and have never seen the light of day.

Toads, fear not.  I have procured a list of these first sentences….and, I now present you with the January Out of Standard Challenge:

Revive Hamilton’s First Lines

Below is a list of some of Hamilton’s favorite first lines.  Your challenge will be to select one of the sentences below and use it in a poem so that it may finally see the light of day.  

  • Your selection DOES NOT  have to be the first line of your poem (I think Susan covered first lines rather nicely in her Sunday challenge).
  • It is required that you use the sentence in its entirety (word for word), in honor of Hamilton’s keen sense of good literature.   
  • Poems posted for this challenge should be written expressly for this prompt.  Management reserves the right to remove unrelated or predated efforts.

First Sentences of Fine Literature as Selected by Hamilton Cork- a sampling for your consideration

“The shed pulsated and glided along the street consuming rubbish and stray cats like a wooden basking shark.”

“I threw myself on to Jesus and crushed him flat with my boomerangs.”

“Chi and Ricard tied their hair together, loaded their pistols and began to boogie to the hot Latin beats.”

“Underwater Steve went crazy when he was photographed.”

“I was seven years old when I realized I had the ability to eat other people’s shadows.”

“The pirates all looked at the plate of freshly cut sandwiches before them and immediately burst into tears.”

 “Although she wouldn’t admit it, Jill knew she was slowly turning into a hula hoop.”

“Cats, cats, cats, everywhere cats, but then stepping out from the crowd, a single crab.”

“Tex stood at the back of the room in his enormous yellow trousers, hoping and wondering.”

“An eyeball as big as a car and fingers like summer hosepipes:  this guy wasn’t fucking around.”

“Zoobrella was her name, and she shone like a fresh crystal chrysanthemum from sector 5G.”

“Cancel the cakes, Marjorie, Sebastian’s going to use a trench coat instead.”

“Ian cried tears on to the hard shell of a dead crab and knew in his heart he was finally a man.”

Choose wisely, Toads!   And bring us back something unexpected!

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

December Sun

Greetings fellow Toads! I am lolamouse, and I had the pleasure of writing with Peggy Goetz for our In Tandem post.  We decided to play a game of Haikai, which is a form of Japanese collaborative poetry.  Haikai is a creative group activity that can be played with any number of people, either live and in-person or, as in our case, via e- mails over a period of time.

A Haikai poem may contain any number of verses, but it is written in alternating three- and two-line verses.  The three-line verses may have up to 17 syllables, and the two-line verses up to 14. Additionally, there are some "rules" that should followed:

1. The first writer (three-line verse) should make a reference to the current season and surroundings. This may be direct (winter) or indirect (snow). Remember, no more than 17 syllables total.

2. The next person should write something to suggest the same season as the first verse. It should link to the first verse, but shift away from it a bit as well. After the first verse, everything is fictional. No more than 14 syllables in the two-line verses.

3. The third writer (or back to the first if there are only two) should write a three-line verse that links to the second verse but also shifts away from the first verse in meaning somewhat.

4. Continue alternating two- and three-line verses. Every few verses, a season should be mentioned. The idea is to link to the preceding verse while shifting away from the one before that. A feeling of change is conveyed by linking and shifting.

5. It is also suggested to include the following:
  • all four seasons
  • the moon
  • a flower
  • love (in two adjacent verses)
6. Haikai start with three-line stanzas and end with two-line stanzas. Participants may vary their writing order so that each may write long and short verses.

7. End on an upbeat note.

Easy enough, right? Actually, it's not that difficult once you get started. Below is my and Peggy's attempt at Haikai. You can read it and see if we followed all of the rules!

photo source

December sun
peeks through gray smiling
for late roses damp with dew

Petals of faded velvet
recall their glory days

She stands at the window
remembering, sighs
as soup pot boils over

Red cardinal alights
upon rusted sled

Scarlet melody wakes
summer memories
lovers walk entwined

Hearts naked dancing
with electric hunger

Fingertips buzzing
Each touch a playful sting,
kindling sleeping skin

August blaze lingers as owl
moon lights dark eastern sky

Silent, wolf moon stalks
owl among stars 
Plaintive howls in the snow

Soon pups will play in spring bright
dales as all begins again.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Open Link Monday

Welcome to the Imaginary Garden...'re in the company of Real Toads!

Good day to all friends and visitors to the garden. This is your weekly opportunity to link up a poem of your choice, free from any restrictions and parameters of prompts and challenges. I always look forward to seeing your latest pieces, or having the opportunity to read a poem from your archives which I may have missed. Please remember that this is a shared forum, so in linking a poem, be sure to return the visits to your site - your comments are much appreciated.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Sunday Mini-Challenge

Hello Toads, Susan here, emerging from this grey Philadelphia week with sunshine in my heart and triple layers against the cold.

Today I start a once-a-month-series for Real Toads: “First and Last Lines.” Today it is the Sunday mini-challenge, posted a day early so you can take your time.  Next month it will be on last Wednesdays.  I was called into action because Ella of “Ella’s Edge” is taking a break, but I cannot pretend to replace that passionate young Toad. I’ll introduce form and ideas, hoping that Ella will stop by to raise the roof.  

Today's idea grew out of my experience essay and letter-writing. Among the many reasons to write, I write to think. Often it is not until the end of a long rant that I am clear about what I want to say. The conclusion makes a better introduction, and then I can organize strategically to bring readers along. Does this sound familiar to you?

When I tried the same with a poem, I liked the result, and have ever since been carrying around a list of last lines the way other people carry around crossword puzzles!

Here’s the challenge: Look at five to ten of the latest poems you wrote and find last lines that are rich with possibility for a new beginning. If none of your last lines leap out at you, simply pick one you like and use it for today’s prompt. It will be the first line (or two) of your brand new poem—long or short—that you write this weekend.

Here’s an example. The second poem is built from the last line of the first:

A New Beginning by Susan L. Chast

Hsssssssssssssssssssssssssssssss . . .
Where was I when I began, she wondered.
She stroked tiles tightly tucked around her,
tiles tilting forward and turning.
This was not her typical maze:
It wasn’t alive and it wasn’t green and it didn’t stand
still as it should while she moved. Ths one was much like
fish scales covering a spiraling mobius strip.
I’m in the DNA, she thought, I hope it’s mine.
If it were possible to be in the DNA, why care if it’s my own?
She giggled at this second thought, and pushed forward.
She felt the wall undulating around her. Snakeskin! 
She thought, it doesn’t even smell fishy! Snakeskin,
and probably discarded. Unless I am the snake, she said aloud.
And a hiss echoed around her spiked tongue.

Most Fateful Day: a ghazal by Susan L. Chast

A hiss echoed from its spiked tongue and you thought
That the snake had not lied to you in word and in thought?

Watch it slide away and take the apple along too
Neither giving it to you nor to God as we thought

Your tell-tale teeth marks are in it too, along with my own—
Seeing our DNA together, the snake will guess that YOU thought

We’d be together in Eden or in jail and no matter how much
We pay for it; happiness follows this ability to have thought.

But doubt is quite difficult and I liked it much better
When fate was determined and we need not have thought

About all of the options, the leaves of the trees, whether
To beat you or to love you. I wish I had thought

This before, dear Lady, I opened my mouth to your pleases
And caresses and most seductive scatterings of thought.

I write these rapidly, following my first thought and letting go of consideration of form until I stop. The above revision demanded a few changes in the opening line and a small amount of repetition to help the character think. Within a few changes it became a ghazal. But what if it had stayed alive as a free form or a prose poem, a short poem or a long poem?    For an example of free verse last line poems, see "Execution" which is a last line poem from “Peace.”

As long as it breathes, post your new poem for us Toads to enjoy in the Garden, with a link back to its source poem.  Then come on back to read and comment on other "First and Last Lines."  

Enjoy!  I am looking forward to reading your poetry.

Thursday, January 24, 2013


Happy Friday, Toads! It's Marian here with a new and exciting music prompt for you! Get ready for inspiration from the Land of Izy. We are travelling to Minneapolis, Minnesota to experience the music of rapper, singer, and spoken word artist DESSA.

While Izy and I worked on our collaborative poem, speaking for myself anyway, I tried to soak up as much of Izy as I could so that we could find a subject that resonated for both of us. (Oh, who am I kidding, we were both crushed out on each other and trading things we loved, and particularly chatting about music, like a coupla teeangers on a first date.) I knew a bit about the MPLS scene, which we visited in an earlier music prompt featuring The Jayhawks, but I wanted to know what current music on the scene got Izy excited.

Through much exhaustive questioning and prodding, I learned that Dessa is one of Izy’s favorite artists, as well as Doomtree, the MPLS indie hip-hop collective of which Dessa is a part. Izy became hooked on their music upon hearing a song called “The Chaconne” from Dessa’s first solo album, A Badly Broken Code, on public radio. Since then, Izy has seen both Dessa solo and Doomtree live many times, and has become a regular fangirl. Dessa and Doomtree are cornerstones of the MPLS music scene. I will confess to approaching fangirl status myself already, just by falling down the rabbit hole of Dessa/Doomtree YouTube videos.

Izy explains why she finds Dessa so fascinating: Dessa uses wordplay in her songs to deliver a new take on old concepts, like “Forget the bull in the china shop, there's a china doll in the bullpen,” or “Kiss the bottle, spin the girl.” One of Izy’s favorite lines comes from a Doomtree song (written by Dessa) called “Sadie Hawkins”:

A little bit of melancholy
never really did hurt anybody
even if it is a sickness
I'm oddly convinced at least it's honest
When life gets so tragic comic--
a mattress with no sheets on it--
The fact is you have it, the task is to want it.

Plus, the music is intriguing, mysterious, beautiful, danceable, and all of that is crystal clear upon first listen. Izy describes it as “lavish and highly addictive.” I agree.

Without further elaboration (though clearly I could go on and on, both about Dessa and about my new BFF Izy), I leave you to your own rabbit hole in the hopes that you will be mightily inspired. Can’t wait to read any and all that you write. Enjoy!