Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Take It From Here...

Hi Toads. Peggy in Southern California here.  One of the good things about a poetry site like Imaginary Gardens with Real Toads is the great variety of poetry. So many perspectives from so many different places and lives.  All starting with a single prompt idea.

This time my prompt is to write about: fish.

Maybe you have had pet fish, or maybe you just like to eat fish. Or maybe you like to take your pole and fish in a lake or even the ocean.  And of course people can swim like fish and there are those who fish for compliments.

Many directions to go with  “fish” and I look forward to seeing what you come up with. Link below with Mr. Linky and then come back and read what others have written as well.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

A Toad's Favourite--Izy

Allen Ginsberg and Peter Orlovski.  Image courtesy of Wiki Commons.
"America I used to be a communist when I was a kid and I'm not sorry."
--from Allen Ginsberg's America.

Greetings Garden Dwellers,

Izy here with our next installment of A Toad's Favourite.  When Kerry put out the call to share our favourite poem, there was no doubt in my mind what that poem would be.  Allen Ginsberg's America touches all the Izy soft spots: cold war rhetoric, a call to undress and be angelic, a guilty fascination with Time magazine, and a gushing sentimental love of workers and anarchy.

My muddy buddies, this is the poem that made me want to write poems. To this day, I still sign certain pieces of correspondence with "Go fuck yourself with your atom bomb," because that sentence captures everything I could want to say.

Written in 1956, America appeared in Howl and other poems.  It is an extremely political and intensely personal love letter to a world that could be a tender, benevolent partner if only it cared a little more.  Throughout the poem there are references to a 1950's USA, all of which still read as if they had been inked last night.  And, dear Garden Dwellers, make no mistake about when Ginsberg writes 'America' in this poem, he's pointing directly to you...all of you, American or otherwise.

And so without further ado, I present excerpts from America.  Because the piece is copyright protected, I cannot post the poem in it's entirety, but you can find it HERE.

America I've given you all and now I'm nothing.
America two dollars and twenty-seven cents January 17, 1956.
I can't stand my own mind.
America when will we end the human war?
Go fuck yourself with your atom bomb
I don't feel good don't bother me.
I won't write my poem till I'm in my right mind.
America when will you be angelic?
When will you take off your clothes?
When will you look at yourself through the grave?
When will you be worthy of your million Trotskyites?
America why are your libraries full of tears?
America when will you send your eggs to India?
I'm sick of your insane demands.
When can I go into the supermarket and buy what I need with my good looks?
America after all it is you and I who are perfect not the next world.
Your machinery is too much for me.
You made me want to be a saint.
There must be some other way to settle this argument.  
...America I feel sentimental about the Wobblies.
America I used to be a communist when I was a kid and I'm not sorry.
I smoke marijuana every chance I get.
I sit in my house for days on end and stare at the roses in the closet.
When I go to Chinatown I get drunk and never get laid.
My mind is made up there's going to be trouble.
You should have seen me reading Marx.
My psychoanalyst thinks I'm perfectly right.
I won't say the Lord's Prayer.
I have mystical visions and cosmic vibrations.
America I still haven't told you what you did to Uncle Max after he came over
from Russia.
I'm addressing you.
Are you going to let our emotional life be run by Time Magazine?
I'm obsessed by Time Magazine.
I read it every week.
Its cover stares at me every time I slink past the corner candystore.
I read it in the basement of the Berkeley Public Library.
It's always telling me about responsibility. Businessmen are serious. Movie
producers are serious. Everybody's serious but me.

...America you don't really want to go to war.
America it's them bad Russians.
Them Russians them Russians and them Chinamen. And them Russians.
The Russia wants to eat us alive. The Russia's power mad. She wants to take
our cars from out our garages.
Her wants to grab Chicago. Her needs a Red Reader's Digest. her wants our
auto plants in Siberia. Him big bureaucracy running our fillingstations.
That no good. Ugh. Him makes Indians learn read. Him need big black niggers.
Hah. Her make us all work sixteen hours a day. Help.
America this is quite serious.
America this is the impression I get from looking in the television set.
America is this correct?
I'd better get right down to the job.
It's true I don't want to join the Army or turn lathes in precision parts
factories, I'm nearsighted and psychopathic anyway.
America I'm putting my queer shoulder to the wheel.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Open Link Monday

Welcome to the Imaginary Garden...

It's another Monday, the last of July, and on Real Toads, this day signifies the beginning of another wonderful week of poetical opportunities. All are welcome to join in the fun by linking up a poem of their choice, and to rest a spell in the garden, take in the tranquility and beauty by reading and sharing your thoughts with us in commentary. The year is rushing by us, sometimes we need to pause and reflect on a single day, before it too becomes a thing of the past.

photo credit: smilla4 via photopin cc

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Weekend Mini-Challenge: Etheree(al)


© Diana Matisz, All Rights Reserved. Used with permission.

Happy weekend, and welcome Toads and followers; hedgewitch here with a striking photo generously contributed by the gifted Diana Matisz,  and another obscure form to lay on your plates today. 

During the course of my time with the Imaginary Garden, many of our resourceful members and contributors, especially Kerry O'Connor, have introduced me to a wide variety of forms, mostly short, all challenging and almost all equally rewarding. I've been racking my brain for this mini-challenge, as the sheer abundance already presented here is (literally) formidable.

Kerry kindly supplied me with her compendium of forms from past articles, and it was daunting, but very helpful in eliminating multiple possibilities, leaving me pretty much back where I started, pulling out what few strands of hair I have left.

Then, while browsing through some of my older stuff, I found a form that I think has so far not been featured.  It's called the etheree, and is named after an Arkansas poet  about whom I could find almost zero information, Etheree Taylor Armstrong (1918-1994.)

The etheree is an unrhymed syllable counting form, relentlessly rational, and seemingly childishly simple. You begin with a first line of one syllable, and continue for ten lines increasing the syllable count by one each line. Diagramming in syllables, this is what you get,  line by line: 1/2/3/4/5/6/7/8/9/10.

That's it. (If you'd like to skip to the chase, just scroll down to the bolded blue section below for the nuts and bolts of the challenge.)

Sounds ridiculously easy, doesn’t it? No rhyme, no meter, no tricky iambs and such, just a few consecutive lines that are usually used to unfold a single thought or image. The etheree is often compared to a flower gradually opening. All I can say is, writing a serious one will give you new respect for the mechanics of flowers.  

The fun of this form is snapping words and syllables together like Legos, so play around and build something, and if ten lines aren't enough there are variants to explore, like repeating the pattern for multiple stanzas, even reversing it in a mirror image style (1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10, /10,9,8,7,,6,5,4,3,2,1.)

Here is an example of my first etheree, which some of you may remember:


liquid knots
ashen sorrel
all tied with shadow
melting in the mind wrap
rolling up the bruise of stones
the soft erasure, tumbled cells,
skull's last tears, falling where earth swallows
the small rain that runs off a concrete heart.

 ~April 2013
© joyannjones

The Challenge: Write an etheree as described above (a ten line poem with a focused theme, beginning with one syllable and adding a syllable per line till line ten is reached) or any variant of one. I know you can all count to ten, but for those to whom such syllable counting forms are unfriendly, I offer the option of writing to the word ethereal, and ask that you follow the spirit of the etheree by making your free verse example revolve around a single image or thought, not exceeding twenty lines.

The very talented photographer and poet Diana Matisz,(on flick'r as Avatress) of the blog Life Through Blue Eyes, has graciously given us permission to use her photo at the top of this page for illustrating the challenge. (Diana's work is also available for purchase in many forms at her Redbubble store.) Thanks so much, Diana!

If you decide to use this image, please include proper attribution and credit, as we always do for all our contributors here at IGWRT.  

Have at it, Toads! As always, the only caveats whether form or free verse, are that your submission be a new one written specifically for this challenge, and that you include a link back to the Garden. 

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Friday Night Raw

OK....Herotomost here!!!!!! So its my turn again and I am pretty sure that I am writing this at the last minute and super nervous that I will not be able to get it posted correctly...but here goes anyway.

First off, Marian, darling, light of my life.....I am not trying to usurp your music challenges here. It may seem like it, but rest assured, this is not a musical challenge.  It is a challenge about the way we get each other to feel our very deepest emotions using different devices and styles in our writing. Trolling the depths of our feelings and experiences and trying to relay them so that they hit the reader like a ten ton bag of bat guano, smelly, yet sooner or later it will help yield flowers. In order to do that,  below I have posted a live music clip by one of my favorite bands ...Blue October.  The clip is from their live DVD "Argue with a Tree" and encompasses the point of my challenge today. So, before I go on, kindly watch this snippet, be warned for those with sensitive ears or are easily offended by f-bombs...there are a few of them in the video. What I want you to watch for is the way Justin Furstenfeld captivates the crowd using a number of devices...lyrics, gestures, switching up intensity, and pay specific attention to the crowd shots, especially the one at the end....egad...I am sooo glad that wasn't me caught forever on!

That one always chokes me up a bit...I know, but I can't help it, I am a sucker for lyrics that bleed.  Many of my friends are not so keen because they think its whiny...but not me, his affected lyrics bury me every time and with almost every song. Its why my wife says I wear the Capri pants and clam diggers in the family.  I prefer a nice tube top and hot pants....look at myself in the mirror all

OK enough of the shenanigans.  Justin used so many devices in his performance to suck the audience in to the message of the song.  What I want you toads to attempt...if you feel like it, is to write something using a few different literary devices to pour your heart out to it happy or sad, angry or glad, rant political, rant philosophical, but use some of the tricks of the trade to emphasize the emotional content.  Maybe you use something as simple as ellipses, or maybe you use a refrain.  Maybe the shape of the writing, or maybe a somber and delicate rhythm, whatever it is, use it to draw out the perfect storm  or Six Flaggs style happiness in you soul.

Once again, this can be any format of writing you choose, lyrics, Novel, encyclopedia entry, I don't care, just make me feel it down in my old and aching bones.

I will be heading for the high country tomorrow, so I will review as many as I can before I leave, but make no mistake, that if you want to take your time, I will be back on Monday and will make sure I caress each and every word that you offer.  I am thankful for every waking minute I get to spend with you Toads, as always thank you and I hope you find this challenge something fun and not too much of a chore.

Collaboration ~ Hannah and Kim

Hello Toads and Pond Dwellers! It’s Kim and Hannah with our poetic collaboration. 

We explored the gardens of each other’s lives and learned that we’re both inspired by our natural surroundings. We have a commonality in our love of nature so what better way to bring you into our worlds then to take a stroll in them? 

We’ve presented pictures from one another’s gardens and three line responses to the photography that inspired us. These are not necessarily haiku, as they do not follow a syllabic count and form, but rather a way to honor, in brevity, the beauty and breath of nature.

Enjoy the walk in words and images!!

Copyright © Kim Nelson

Rows of quills and spires
hold plumes of indigo glow
deep green sanctuary.

~Hannah Gosselin

Copyright © Kim Nelson

Golden breath of inspiration,
brilliant white face of feathered layers;
violet mane of flowered dragon entices.

~Hannah Gosselin

Copyright © Kim Nelson

Soft gray in the shadows of terra-cotta orange
we pause and care for our creative selves
breathing fully of the sky-climbing lavender.

~Hannah Gosselin

Creatures connected
Leaves, trees, people, bees

~Kim Nelson

It’s all there, as it should be.
The fresh and the rot
Life. Cycles. Perfect.

~Kim Nelson

Wild rose surrounded by green
Ideal example
Of beauty in being unique

~Kim Nelson

Thank you for joining us in this colorful creative space.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Get Listed ~ The Grapeling Way

Our guest contributor today is the enigmatic poet who blogs as Grapeling, and is a regular participant in Real Toads.
M was so kind as to share some thoughts about the writing process and a list of words for us to include in poetry, but he has decided to take a short break from blogging at this time, so I cannot provide a link to his site.

photo credit: Le Singe via photopin cc

Grapeling reminds me of the word "grappling", which is something we are all familiar with as a poets who constantly seem to be trying to get a grip on words.

M describes his process thus: 
I hear or see something that reminds me of a word, which becomes a phrase of between two and ten words. The poem evolves from that. I speak lines aloud, as I believe all poetry should be spoken, even if it contains layers or can be construed in different ways depending on line break and intonation.

On his use of words in poetry, M shares the following:
(I prefer) a selection of common words juxtaposed or placed in line breaks, so they project more than one sense or meaning, (rather than) choosing uncommon words. I tend to cross up usage, using verbs as nouns, for example, rather than using adjectives. One thing I try to accomplish with each writing is to not sound contrived, or forced - which is ironic considering that poetry is specifically contrived to contravene 'normal' speech.

The List!


M provided a few other suggestions:

- When possible, eliminate "the".
- Minimize conventional 'adjective-noun' pairings (starry night, verdant hills) in favor of unconventional (starry hills, verdant night)
- Use line breaks instead of commas, allowing the reader to read both with, and without a break when trying  to convey multiple meanings that may be contradictory, but which together might form a cohesive image.    For example:
  heaven glanced down with fury 
  tender as youth 
- Speak lines aloud for cadence and natural pauses.

Please select three or more words from the list and write a new poem for this prompt.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

A Toad's Favourite: Take a Bite!

From the time I was quite young, I have loved poetry.  Before I could read, my mother read to me from A Child’sGarden of Verses by Robert Lewis Stevenson.  My grandmother gave me a book of poetry for my seventh birthday, One Hundred and One Famous Poems by Roy Cook. Over the years I read and reread those poems and still have my dog eared book! 

It was when I was a young teen, however, that I discovered modern poetry. I felt that I had found poems that were not only beautiful or interesting, but relatable. These poets wrote in the language that I wrote in, and this inspired me to begin writing poetry myself. I began filling pages of spiral notebooks with my own poetry, most of which I still have today.

The book that inspired my love of modern poetry is called Reflections on a Gift of Watermelon Pickle … and Other Modern Verse  by Dunning, Lueders, and Smith.  It was originally published in 1966 by Scholastic Book Services as a poetry anthology for young readers but has appeal for all ages, in my opinion. The final poem, by John Tobias, is called “Reflections on a Gift of Watermelon Pickle Received from a Friend Called Felicity.” It remains one of my favorite poems to this day.

my old copy

This poem is about childhood, memories, imagination, and nostalgia. Each time I read it, I find some new or different meaning, as I move through the phases of my own life. This is a poem that grows with the reader.  It begins:

During that summer
When unicorns were still possible;
When the purpose of knees
Was to be skinned;
When shiny horse chestnuts
    (Hollowed out
    Fitted with straws
    Crammed with tobacco
    Stolen from butts
    In family ashtrays)
Were puffed in green lizard silence
While straddling thick branches
Far above and away
From the softening effects
Of civilization…

One can already glean the nostalgic mood of the poem as well as the dreamlike mingling of memory with imagination.  “Green lizard silence” is still one of my favorite phrases in a poem.

He continues:

During that summer--
Which may never have been at all…
…Watermelons ruled.
Thick imperial slices
Melting frigidly on sun-parched tongues
Dribbling from chins;
Leaving the best part,
The black bullet seeds,…

Tobias uses the watermelon as an extended metaphor for the changes experienced while maturing into adulthood. I love how he uses such a simple concept to explore a complex theme, the changes and losses of growing up.

And when the ammunition was spent,
There was always another bite:
It was a summer of limitless bites,
Of hungers quickly felt
And quickly forgotten…

Tobias ends the poem with the gift of watermelon pickle, which resurrects his image of an ideal childhood that may have, or may have not, actually existed.

…But in a jar put up by Felicity,
The summer which maybe never was
Has been captured and preserved.
And when we unscrew the lid
And slice off a piece
And let it linger on our tongue:
Unicorns become possible again.

As I believe that this poem is still under copyright, I did not print it in its entirety, but it is definitely worth a read (or two or fifty!) Here is a link to the full poem :  Reflections on a Gift of Watermelon Pickle

The poem has been called a classic by both educators and critics, but despite many searches, I have been unable to locate any other poems by Tobias. However, he has written plays, including “My Husband’s Wild Desires Almost Drove Me Mad” and “Is the Real You Really You?” that have been produced worldwide as well as Off Broadway. He also wrote a book on American history and literature called The Adventure of America.

As a final note, a bit of trivia: There is an actual Felicity who did, indeed, give Tobias a gift of watermelon pickle. Instead of a bottle of wine, Felicity brought a gift of homemade watermelon pickle to Tobias’s publication party for The Adventure of America. She had argued with her husband about the gift, as he thought it made her look cheap. Later, the poem “Reflections on a Gift of Watermelon Pickle Received from a Friend Called Felicity” was published in The New Mexico Quarterly (1961). I guess Tobias enjoyed the gift!

I  hope you enjoy the poem! 

my yellowed copy of the poem