Saturday, August 31, 2013

A Birthday in September ~ William Carlos Williams

William Carlos Williams was born on 17 September 1883 and was a fore-runner of the Imagist movement of poetry in the early 1900s. He was sometimes referred to as the Physician Poet, as he was a medical doctor by profession, but he is said to have "worked harder at being a writer than he did at being a doctor".

The poet and critic Randall Jarrell said of his poetry, "William Carlos Williams is as magically observant and mimetic as a good novelist. He reproduces the details of what he sees with surprising freshness, clarity, and economy; and he sees just as extraordinarily, sometimes, the forms of this earth, the spirit moving behind the letters. His quick transparent lines have the nervous and contracted strength, move as jerkily and intently as a bird."

More William Carlos Williams quotes at

Imagist poets wrote free verse, with a specific focus on diction, "To use the language of common speech, but to employ always the exact word, not the nearly-exact, nor the merely decorative word." They were also at pains to attain "clarity of expression through the use of precise visual images."

Let us take a few lines from The Widow's Lament in Springtime by way of example:

Sorrow is my own yard
where the new grass
flames as it has flamed
often before but not
with the cold fire
that closes round me this year.

In the first five words he has set up the extended metaphor of the poem, and asked of his reader an imaginative leap: to take all we know of a yard and apply it to all we know of sorrow. Consider his choice of the words 'my own yard'. The speaker of the poem (the widow) lays claim to this domain of grief. The poem concludes with the lines:

Today my son told me
that in the meadows,
at the edge of the heavy woods
in the distance, he saw
trees of white flowers.
I feel that I would like
to go there
and fall into those flowers
and sink into the marsh near them.

Consider his use of the transferred epithet 'heavy', used to describe the woods, but really indicative of her own depression. His choice of verbs in the final two lines is exact: the movement from 'fall' to 'sink'.

Our challenge today is to write in the style of the Imagists. Here are a few guidelines, as defined by Ezra Pound:
I. Direct treatment of the "thing," whether subjective or objective.
II. To use absolutely no word that does not contribute to the presentation.
III. As regarding rhythm: to compose in sequence of the musical phrase, not in sequence of the metronome.
Above all, bear in mind that an image is "that which presents an intellectual and emotional complex in an instant of time."

The Sunday Mini-Challenge is posted at noon on Saturday, to allow extra time on the weekend for the creative process. Please link a new poem, or alternately, you may want to take an older poem and rewrite it, with an eye to cutting away excess verbiage, changing words and phrasing in order to produce a poem more in keeping with the Imagist tenets. If you choose this option, please include a link to the original poem, or a copy thereof, so that we may review your process in the interest of learning more about the art of writing. In this regard, I would ask that comments not be made along the lines of "I think this one is better than that" but focused on the piece which is intended for today's challenge.

Friday, August 30, 2013

A Garden Variety WhoDunnit or......Those Damn Toads

August 30, 2025

Way back in 2013 The Garden was different than it is today.  The garden was a bar a grill on Bourbon Street, decorated in rich wood and red leather it looked and felt like a cross between a wine bar, an Irish pub, and a brothel. The patrons of the Garden were still called toads, not toads like we think of ourselves today, but toads of the low and slimy variety, artists that everyone who wasn't a toad loathed because they were sure these "artists" had never worked a day in their lives, writing down their "emotions," painting pictures of idealistic nonsense and crafting a second rate reality form the scraps that other "decent people gave them."

The proprietor of the Garden was a lovely woman whose name escapes me, but she was from South Africa, she moved to New Orleans after a herd of wild rhino's flattened her house. Her family blamed her because she was always feeding the stray Rhino's.  The garden was her fresh attempt at her own second rate reality. On this day, she was sitting at the long ornate garden bar, sipping a glass of dandelion wine chatting up the hot bartender, and working on what would one day be heralded as the perfect poem. She was one line from finishing it and already quite buzzed from the wine and the muscular arms that busied themselves in front of her.

The other toads were lounging, talking, writing and fighting at various tables and booths around the Garden, the trash talk was always a bit uncomfortable and was laced with more than just a bit of truth.  Hedge was planting some Night Blooming Freesias in a pot at a corner table and trying to avoid eye contact with Herotomost.  She found him loathsome and boring and a bit pudgy for her liking.  An arrogant bastard with a penchant for the drink. Lola Mouse, Grace (looking up hot pictures for her hot posts) and Margaret were in the corner trying to help Kay come up with a word that rhymes with bastard, while Susie, Kim and Ella played groupies to Shay as she strummed her Martin D28 and began to play every Emmy Lou Harris song she could muster. The fact that Susie was in nothing but a tube top, hot pants and six inch wedges surprised no one as she rarely wore any clothes at all while in the garden.

Mama Zen sat alone in a corner of the room fashioning voo doo dolls of some of the toads, the ones that made flippant comments on her writing and the ones that just annoyed her in general would be the first to feel the curse of the Z....she laughed to herself and sipped at her Absinthe. Sherry, Amy, Latonya and Peggy were drawing pictures for ideas that they had for tattoos that Hannah was going to tattoo on them that evening.  Every one had a good idea for a tattoo except Sherry who insisted that she wanted a full back piece that involved two fat naked Sumo Wrestlers brandishing light sabers and eating fried chicken.

At 3:30 a door on the mezzanine opened and out flowed Izy, and when I say flowed, I mean flowed.  Draped in white chiffon and lace, one of those longish cigarette holders in one hand and a Chocolate martini in the other, "dessert in a glass," she would always say....and she had dessert a lot. Izy leaned over the railing and screamed that all the toads where fakes and posers, "and further more, you pathetic excuses for artists, I want to inform you all," just then the lights went out, Herotomost screamed like a little girl. When they came back on, the only thing that was different, was that the chic from South Africa had her head on the bar, she was sobbing. Marian rushed to see what was wrong, and to ask her when she was going to finish her damn book, when she saw it.  On the bar top was a news release announcing the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry had been awarded to a poet by the name of Filthy Frog.  The problem was that the poem was the one that South Africa had just finished with the exception of the last line........which really didn't fit.

Today fair toads (and I know you all are not the low and slimy kind), your challenge is to write a poem, story, alliteration, single word, song, rant, affidavit or so forth telling us which toad was the poem thief and what the missing last line was that didn't quite fit.

I have to let you know that all of the characters in this story (if you can call it that) are purely fictional (except Susie and her tube top) and any similarities are coincidence only.

Yours truly....with no discernible emotional content in this one...


P.S. Headed to New Orleans til' next Thursday, but will have my I pad with me so I can review your wonderful work.  But, be patient as I might have a cocktail or two while I am there.  Have a great week and Thanks!!!

Fat Catz photo credit: bitzcelt via photopin cc
Absinthe photo credit: wallyg via photopin cc
Death photo credit: °]° via photopin cc

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Toads In Tandem ~ It's a Love Thing!

What happens when a Sharp Little Pencil is asked to sketch in Black and Gray
You get some serious collaborative genius.

For our last combined poem written by Real Toad members in celebration of our second year of communal blogging, Amy and LaTonya give their interpretation of "free love".

by Amy Barlow Liberatore and LaTonya Baldwin © 2013

We were children of the 70s,
afros and long hair, psychedelic
colors and velveteen prints.

Love supreme

Uncle John and Uncle Tony
never had girlfriends.
Mom said they loved each other.
“Same love is called gay,” she said.
I just called them Uncle.
At five, love didn't need a label.

We are family

Brenda and Kathleen lived together
with her six children. I never asked why.
To me they were Brendaandkathleen.

Love supreme

Our aunts, uncles and friends loved us.
They hosted baby showers and gave us cars.
Dropped us a rope when we fell
down the rabbit hole.

We are family

Love the member, reject the hate.
Your dad called the people you loved, faggots.
My dad called my friends, sissies.
The bigotry stung. Still we learned to love.
Reject the hate.

Love supreme

We mourn loved ones lost to disease and violence.
We campaign for education, access and truth.
We fight for love and marriage and happiness.

We are family

We are the children of the 70s, afros and long hair.
We are psychedelic babies high on life.

It's time for love, people.
We love disco balls and rainbow parades.
One love, people.

Love supreme

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Get Listed ~ Of Catnip & Moons

Greetings to all! It gives me great pleasure to feature a word list compiled by none other than Tim Schaefer a.k.a Timoteo at Catnip Blog.

Tim has shared the following thoughts with us regarding his writer's process:

When working from a word list, I try to utilize as many of the words as I can--all of them, if possible. The more words, the bigger the challenge, and the greater the satisfaction (for me) if I end up with a successful poem. Often, though, there will be one or two words that become the square pegs I'm trying to force into a round hole, and I will eventually discard them rather than upset the balance of something I feel is working. 

There are many ways to begin. Sometimes looking at the list as a whole will suggest my theme immediately. Other times, I may focus on one or two words and get a feel for what they are saying to me, and I will set off in that direction like an explorer, allowing the poem to find its own direction as we go along. Like a novelist who, at some point, realizes that his characters are taking over and essentially "writing themselves," one needs to intuit when to drop any preconceived ideas and just let it happen. A big part of the joy of writing, I think, is being surprised by what can come out of you...especially if you "didn't know you had it in ya!"

Buen viaje

And now, the list of words!


If you have a chance, please check out Tim's collection of poems. His book is hot off the press, published in conjunction with ALL CAPS.

Available HERE

Our challenge today is to write a new poem for this prompt, using a selection of words from the list - a minimum of three is required.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

A Toad's Favo(u)rite Poem : The Leaf and the Cloud

Stamp Falls, Vancouver Island

Today, kids, as part of Real Toads My Favo(u)rite Poem series, I offer for your delight and delectation The Leaf and the Cloud by Pulitzer Prize winning poet Mary Oliver, my favourite poet of all time. The poem is an entire slim volume of 53 pages. Warning: once you open it, you will not stop reading until you have finished the poem. It is even better read aloud to someone you love, before a flickering fire, or while someone is driving you along the seashore. A fire on the beach, with the music of the waves as accompaniment, and you'll be transported to another plane entirely. (Note: none of these possible scenarios has ever happened to me. But a gal can dream!)

I have a habit of earmarking certain pages so I can find my favourite passages easily. In this little book, nearly every page is turned down. Line after spectacular line follows each other down the page. Truly this is her Magnum Opus of poems. Her love letter to life, with a hint of farewell, as she is aging. 

I will include a few of my favourite excerpts, and you can track down others  by clicking on the links and exploring. But best of all is to read the entire poem, in sequence. It is a meditation on life and death, on love and loss, and especially on the richness and beauty of the natural world, described as only Mary Oliver can describe it. 

Her parents, her big dog, Luke, her later dog, Ben, with his "sweet wild eyes", time and eternity - all make an appearance. Through Mary Oliver's eyes, the earth shines with a radiance that stays with one. After turning the final page, one wants to sit on the porch in the afternoon sun and just "stare at the world", as Mary does, every day. In describing what she sees, she helps us to see the world anew, all bright and shining and, in every inch, alive.

Let's dive in.


Welcome to the silly comforting poem.


The poem is not the world.
It isn't even the first page of the world.

But the poem wants to flower like a flower.
It knows that much.

It wants to open itself
like the door of a little temple,
so that you might step inside and be cooled and refreshed,
and less yourself than part of everything.


When loneliness comes stalking, go into the fields, consider
the orderliness of the world. Notice
something you have never noticed before,

like the tambourine sound of the snow-cricket
whose pale green body is no longer than your thumb.

Stare hard at the hummingbird, in the summer rain,
shaking the water-sparks from its wings.

Let grief be your sister, she will whether or no.
Rise up from the stump of sorrow, and be green also,
    like the diligent leaves.

A lifetime isn't long enough for the beauty of this world
and the responsibilities of your life.

Scatter your flowers over the graves, and walk away.
Be good-natured and untidy in your exuberance.

In the glare of your mind, be modest.
And beholden to what is tactile, and thrilling.

Live with the beetle, and the wind.

This is the dark bread of the poem.
This is the dark and nourishing bread of the poem.


I am a woman sixty years old and of no special courage.
Everyday - a little conversation with God, or his envoy
    the tall pine, or the grass-swimming cricket.
Everyday-I study the difference between water and stone.
Everyday - I stare at the world; I push the grass aside
    and stare at the world.


I am thinking : maybe just looking and listening
is the real work.
Maybe the world, without us,
is the real poem.

Goodbye to the goldfinches
in their silver baskets.
Goodbye to the pilot whales, and the curl of their spines
in the crisp waves.
Goodbye to the grasshopper.
Goodbye to the pond lilies, the turtle with her
cat's head.
Goodbye to the lion's mane floating in the harbor
like a spangled veil.

Goodbye to the moon uprising in the east.
Goodbye to the going forth, and coming home.

Goodbye to the going forth, and holding on, and worrying.
Goodbye to the engine of breath.

The knee sings its anguish.
The ears fill with the sound of ringing water.
The muscles of the eyes pull towards sleep.

up the hill,
like a thicket of white flowers,
is coming.

This is the poem of goodbye.
And this is the poem of don't know.

My hands touch the lilies
then withdraw;

my hands touch the blue iris
then withdraw;

and I say, not easily but carefully --
the words round in the mouth, crisp on the tongue --

dirt, mud, stars, water-
I know you as if you were myself.

How could I be afraid?


Think of me
when you see the evening star.
Think of me when you see the wren
     the flowing root of the creek beneath him,
     dark       silver       and cold

Remember me I am the one who told you
he sings for happiness.
I am the one who told you
that the grass is also alive, and listening.

alleluiah alleluiah
sighs the pale green moth
on the screen door,

alleluiah alleluiah
the red tongues of the white swans
shine out of their black beaks
as they shout
as their wings rise and fall

rise and fall

oh rise and fall

through the raging flowers of the snow.


Monday, August 26, 2013

Open Link Monday

Welcome to the Imaginary Garden ...

photo credit: @Doug88888 via photopin cc

Warm greetings to all our visitors and friends! We will be seeing the end of our recent collaborative features this week with our final pairing of newest members, Amy and LaTonya. The collaborations are held every six months, so we will get a chance to work together again in the new year. Our regular features will continue to offer all poets many interesting and varied prompts to inspire writing. These challenges are open to anyone who cares to participate, and we welcome enthusiastic responses to each prompt. I would also like to take the opportunity to thank all the Real Toad contributors for their tireless efforts to maintain this perpetual stream of creative ideas. It is no mean feat, and I, for one, do not take their time spent for granted.

Now, to the good stuff! Please feel free to share your poetry using the open link we provide for that purpose. Remember that there are no rules or regulations governing the post you choose to share, so long as it is poetry (not photography). Poems written for prompts on other sites are welcome, so long as there is no overt advertising for that meme in commentary. Above all, enjoy your time spent here by reading and supporting the work of others.


Saturday, August 24, 2013

Weekend Mini-Challenge: The Fib(onacci)

By Dr. René Hoffmann,  via Wikimedia Commons

This weekend, Toads and Toadettes, we will be looking at another short, syllable counting poetry form, suggested to me (hedgewitch) by our connoisseur of short form, Marian Kent. It's called the Fibonnaci, or Fib, and is based on a mathematical progression known as the Fibonnaci sequence.

First introduced to the West in the 13th century, and originating in ancient India, the Fibonacci sequence frequently appears in modern art and composition, (perhaps most famously in Dan Brown's pop best-seller The Da Vinci Code) but for those who are either fuzzy about it, or aren’t familiar with it at all , rather than confuse you with my lack of math comprehension, I'll let wikipedia explain it (or you may skip directly down to the Challenge section below the video clip, where the specifics are laid out):

"In mathematics, the Fibonacci numbers or Fibonacci series or Fibonacci sequence are the numbers in the following integer sequence:


By definition, the first two numbers in the Fibonacci sequence are 0 and 1, and each subsequent number is the sum of the previous two.

The Fibonacci sequence is named after Leonardo Fibonacci. His 1202 book Liber Abaci introduced the sequence to Western European mathematics, although the sequence had been described earlier in Indian mathematics."

How does this apply to poetry, you ask?  Once again, wikipedia:

"Fib is an experimental Western poetry form,…based on the Fibonacci sequence. The typical fib is a six line, 20 syllable poem with a syllable count by line of 1/1/2/3/5/8 - with as many syllables per line as the line's corresponding place in the Fibonacci sequence... The only restriction on a Fib is that the syllable count follow the Fibonacci sequence…"

The form was originated by Gregory K. Pincus in 2006, and you can find a clear exposition of it here, at Writer's Digest, along with various examples, and also at Mr. Pincus's blog. On, Georgia Luna Smith Faust discusses building Fibonacci poems by word count as well as syllable count, and there is even an article taking notice of the form from the the New York Times Book Section.

The Fibonacci sequence is also related to the Golden Ratio, a consonance between mathematics and the aesthetic building blocks of art, also expressed in nature. Here's a video that shows the relationships better than I could explain:

The Challenge:  is to write a poem in the Fibonacci form, where the first line contains 1 syllable, the second, 1 syllable (the sum of 0 and 1) the third, 2 syllables (sum of lines 1 and 2) the fourth, 3 syllables (sum of lines 2 and 3) the fifth, 5 syllables (sum of lines 3 and 4) the final line, 8 syllables (sum of lines 4 and 5) ending with a six line, 20 syllable poem all told.

Alternatively, you can follow the same blueprint above using a word count instead of a syllable count, which may give more scope to your poem.

So, your pattern will look like this:

Line 1:   1    (syllable or word)
Line 2:   1    (            "           )
Line 3:   2    (syllables/words)
Line 4:   3    (           "            )
Line 5:   5    (           "            )
Line 6:   8    (           "            )

It's quite possible to continue on in the sequence(13,21,34,55,89, etc) but it tends to get unwieldy rapidly after a certain point.

You can also, as with the nonet, etheree, etc, reverse the sequence after 8 syllables or words:
for a 12 line poem if you so desire, or write several linked Fibs. Feel free to be as creative in the arrangements as you'd like, so long as the form is clearly present.

Free Verse: For those not inspired by the constraints of form, as always there is the free verse option, with the challenge being to write to any of these suggestions:

  • the top photo of the nautilus shell (an example of the sequence in nature)
  • any other example(s) of the Fibonacci sequence/ the golden ratio in art or nature
  • Fibonacci himself
  • the origins of the sequence in ancient India
  • any similar such tie-in with the theme that sparks your fancy

 In the spirit of both the Fibonacci sequence and the 'mini' part of the mini-challenge, please keep your free verse poem to 5, 8, 13 or at most 21 lines, and as always, for both form and free verse, please write a new poem for the challenge. (Also as always, if you use the photo at the top, please include attribution.)

Above all, enjoy the challenge and explore it's little mathematical and historical nooks and crannies, even if for you like me, mathematics can seem a deep and abiding mystery---after all, so is poetry.

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Footnote: Not long after choosing this subject for the mini-challenge in July, many will know I took a hiatus from blogging. After writing this up, I found out that during that time, Tony Maude at dVerse Poet's Pub had done a prompt on Mathematical Forms, in which he covers the Fibonacci. I apologize to those who have already done this form there, and for this challenge coming right on the heels of his--it was a complete random coincidence.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Artistic Interpretations "Stillness, Silence, Solitude" with Margaret

Edvard Munch "The Girl in the Window" (detail) 1893
Stillness.  Silence.  Solitude.

In the past month I visited two art museums.  Above and below are details from paintings - the top one is from "The Art Institute of Chicago" in Illinois, which is huge, and the rest are from a small museum in Roanoke, Virginia, "The Taubman Museum of Art".

Below is Pablo Neruda's "I Like For You To Be Still", read by Glenn Close

Today's challenge is simple.  Choose at least one image and write a gently quiet poem, trying not to overuse the word quiet or like synonyms. (Although Pablo Neruda seems to make it work :)  Paint with words the mood, the scene, the feelings of stillness, silence, and solitude.

Edward Steichen "Coopers Bluff - Moonlight Strollers" (detail) 1905
Susan Macdowell Eakins "Portrait of Mary
& Elizabeth Macdowell" (detail) 1879
Frederick Carl Frieseke "In the Nursery" (detail) 1917
Ralph Albert Blakelock (1847-1919)  "Solitude" (detail)  undated
Winslow Homer "Woodchopper in the Adirondacks" (detail) 1870
I would love a new poem, but will accept an older, updated (reworked) poem.  Please post your specific post to the Linky below.  Feel free to use more than one image and coming to the table late is acceptable as Fridays often get busy.   We do have "Open Link Monday". 

I look forward to your artistic interpretations.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Out of Standard: Blue Moon Special

Blue moon over 96th Street.  Image courtesy of Wiki Commons.

Greetings Garden Dwellers.  Welcome back to Out of Standard, where I will set before you a challenge to defy the conventions of a particular theme.  I will call upon you to write out of the standard and find new places in the everyday, but caution: there will be a twist is a twist.  Let’s move onward to August’s challenge...


Last night inhabitants of earth got a glimpse of a “seasonal” Blue Moon the third of four full moons in a season.  There hasn’t been a seasonal blue moon in three years.  Another fun fact:  because of the enormous distance between the earth and the moon, moon phases are a shared global event.  Meaning one person in Minnesota will see the exact same moon as another in India. 

Hopefully you all paid particular notice to last night’s sky...because here is your prompt

The Challenge:
Write a poem about the moon.

The Twist:
Your poem must NOT mention any concepts of night or sky (or night sky).  Simply replacing the words with an adjective is considered cheating and will result in a heavy fine.   

Like every challenge, your poem must by newly written for this challenge and not one which you have previously written which conveniently fits the theme.   

Go now, my toads, and bring me back something startling, shiny, and new.

Viva la

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

A Toads Favo(u)rite.....Emperor of Ice Cream

Hey Toads....Herotomost fresh off a three day Ensenada cruise, a little worse for the wear but alive and intact. I have been told that it is my turn to post a favorite poem for our Toads Favo(u)rite Poem feature and as most of you know, this one is probably a little harder for me than most. I really didn't start reading anything until I was probably 14 or 15 and then it was mostly sci-fi and horror books with the occasional "Incredible Journey" or "My Side of the Mountain" thrown in.  Heck, in school I wasn't required to read any book until my Junior year (To Kill a Mockingbird), and it was the only book that I was required to read in school.  So to say the least, my exposure to poetry was  somewhat underwhelming and what poetry I did come across was many times an introduction to a book or a chapter of a book, and when put into that kind of context, some of the poems I read were fantastic and probably didn't mean at all what I thought they did. They were always hooked to feelings and emotions that I was having while reading the book. It wasn't until watching Dead Poet's Society that I picked up my first real poetry book which was Uncle Walts, Leaves of Grass and a Dylan Thomas book, which one I couldn't tell you.

I first read the poem I have chosen in Stephen Kings Salem's lot, he uses alot of quotes, poems and lyrics to introduce chapters or sections of books and I can remember this poem better than I can remember the rest of the book.  It was because of how it made me feel when I read it.  I have since looked it up, read a plethora of explanations and analyses of what it is supposed to mean and many of those ideas contradict each other heavily. So I am not going to give you my take on it, I am not going to analyze it to death, because you know by the way that I comment on all of your poems that most of the time I feel how your words punch me in the gut, or massage my shoulders, or kiss me full and wet on the mouth.  I don't care if I get the total meaning wrong, I only care that the words reminded me of something that I have experienced, and I like the feeling of a shared experince especially with someone that I have never met before.  It makes me think that the world does work the right way alot of the time and that people understand each other at the most basic of levels.

OK enough or Kerry gonna say something like...."Ackkkkk...enough with the feelings already!!!!" lol. Here it is....

The Emperor of Ice-Cream


Wallace Stevens

Call the roller of big cigars,
The muscular one, and bid him whip
In kitchen cups concupiscent curds.
Let the wenches dawdle in such dress
As they are used to wear, and let the boys
Bring flowers in last month's newspapers.
Let be be finale of seem.
The only emperor is the emperor of ice-cream.

Take from the dresser of deal,
Lacking the three glass knobs, that sheet
On which she embroidered fantails once
And spread it so as to cover her face.
If her horny feet protrude, they come
To show how cold she is, and dumb.
Let the lamp affix its beam.
The only emperor is the emperor of ice-cream.