Saturday, January 30, 2016

Sunday Mini Challenge: How about the nightly visits?

“I believe in everything until it's disproved. So I believe in fairies, the myths, dragons. It all exists, even if it's in your mind. Who's to say that dreams and nightmares aren't as real as the here and now?”

John Lennon

A while ago one of the co-authors of our short-story collection challenged me to write a poem that describing the horrors of nightmares. How it affects you, how you feel unable to move or scream. The helplessness when it's no fence between you and yourself. So I came back with a poem

I’m sure you can do a lot better, but …

I also needed illustrations and this led me to the fantastic work of Fancisco Goya (1746-1828). Just searching for disturbing paintings you will find Goya on the top of your search.  His imagination and dark fantasies might even been one of the reasons that he spend time in an asylum. Take care when dwelling in darkness.

Fore a comprehensive view  take a look at Los Caprichos,  a collection of 80 etchings, where each one is almost enough to make your dreams dark. Actually every painting can be a title of a poem.

He also painted horrors of war, he painted dark mythology, He painted blood and gore, he painted black, but even if you look closely on some of his portraits he did for the Spanish court, there is always something something sinister, something ugly or cruel.

So for today’s challenge I want you to take a careful look at Goya, and think about your own nightmares, maybe there is a consistent theme, or maybe it’s more the feeling of waking up entangled in suffocating bedsheets, or with a feeling that you are not alone. Maybe you have woken up and simply have to go and check that the door is locked.

You might even take a look at the world today and wonder if nightmares are all that different from reality. Something Goya also noticed in his Disasters of war. Maybe this is how Yeats see nightmares and reality becoming one:

The Second Coming

W. B. Yeats, 1865 - 1939

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.

Surely some revelation is at hand;
Surely the Second Coming is at hand.
The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out
When a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi
Troubles my sight: somewhere in sands of the desert
A shape with lion body and the head of a man,
A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,
Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it
Reel shadows of the indignant desert birds.
The darkness drops again; but now I know
That twenty centuries of stony sleep
Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?
Link up a new fresh poem on nightmares, I know it will be fantastic, I know I will not read anything right before going to bed.

For those of you who prefer to be inspired by music, I find that “Moon over Bourbon Street” can inspire to some nightmare emotions. After all there are always those soft footfalls following you at night.

Remember to visit other contributions, and sleep well.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Bits of Inspiration ~ Keyhole

Hello talented poets! Today we will contemplate the view through a keyhole.

“Time is a keyhole, he thought as he looked up at the stars. Yes, I think so. We sometimes bend and peer through it. And the wind we feel on our cheeks when we do – the wind that blows through the keyhole – is the breath of all the living universe.”
– Stephen King, The Wind Through the Keyhole

Longing by KingaBritschgi on DeviantArt

"No decent man ought to read Shakespeare's sonnets because it was like listening at keyholes." Author: Virginia Woolf

Hans Zatzka (Austrian, 1859-1945) «Through The Keyhole»

 "Temptation is the devil looking through the keyhole. Yielding is opening the door and inviting him in." Author: Billy Sunday

So my talented poets today's challenge is to write from a keyhole perspective. It can be a glimpse on the inside or looking to the outside. You have complete freedom with only the usual poem, the work of your fellow poets. Happy writing!!

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

The Tuesday Platform

There is one rule for The Tuesday Platform: SHARE.
Share a poem with us.
Share some time reading poems this week.
Share your thoughts when moved to do so.

Enjoy some Rabbie Burns!

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Play It Again, Toads!

Hello, all. This is Kerry stepping in for Margaret (with pics by Karin). I know of the massive snow storm that has hit the East coast of the USA and expect that some of our members may be without internet connection this weekend.

I skipped back over our previous January prompts and selected the following three for reprisal:

1.  Words Count with Mama Zen (2014)

2.  Sunday Mini-Challenge with Susan Chast (2013)

3. Weekend Photo Challenge with Fireblossom (2012)

Alternately, you may select any prompt from our archives. Please remember to provide a link back to the original post. All photos are courtesy of Karin Gustafson. Stay warm, everyone!

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Milkshakes Cold and Long - A Farewell

Image courtesy of Photo Bucket.

Monday, 5 AM, awoke in a Memphis hotel room. Because I am a millennial, the first thing I reach for is my cell phone and see the notification from the BBC: Music Legend David Bowie has died. 

At first, I swore I was dreaming.  I didn’t wake my older sister, who was snoring off Beale Street vodka tonics.  Instead, I put on my head phones and played Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars.  

Image courtesy of Wiki Commons


Today, Garden Dwellers, I am dedicating the Out of Standard space to the space oddity, the thin duke, the diamond dog, the goblin king, the earthling - Mr. Bowie. I call upon you to write a poem inspired by his music or iconography, or maybe inspired by your lack of inspiration (for our non-Bowie fans).  

And look, I could post a gazillion different you tube videos of all his hits: Rebel Rebel, Suffragette City, Changes, Life on Mars, Star Man,Young Americans, Let’s Dance....but there are so many and chances are you already have one in mind. 

I will leave you with my current Bowie favorite that I discovered late last year when listening to Ziggy Stardust for the first time.  But you don’t need my Bowie recommendations. You probably already have your own.


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.  

So go now, my muddy buddies, and bring us back something shiny and new to keep the space oddity a glow. 

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

The Tuesday Platform

Welcome to the Imaginary Garden...

Greetings to friends, poets and fellow travelers of the blogosphere. Following the sudden deaths of two icons of public performance, David Bowie and Alan Rickman, I am struck, once again, by the power of words - how they connect souls across the globe - and voice. Whether it be the lyrics of songs or the screenplay or scripted drama, the genesis was a word on a page and a voice to bring it to the world. And the performance lives on.

I invite you to make use of this forum to share your words with our community of poets.

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Sunday Mini-Challenge Flying From Orlando to Picasso

Hi Toads,

Manic-D-Daily here, flying from a week at a tax law conference in Orlando, Florida--meaning that I am feeling completely faked out.  Blank.  Flat.  (Also fat.)

In the midst of clouds (the sky’s and mine), I have been thinking about the artificial.  If you know anything about Orlando, Florida, you will understand why this is on my mind.  All I can say is that while this town of theme parks is supposed to be fantastical, it always seems to me more plastical--

To be fair, I have not been to the theme parks for many many years. Even so, during this last week, I have felt surrounded by a lot of strange constructs--from the laser show at the hotel’s pretend islanded/pretend water-falled pool to a bunch of convoluted techniques for reducing tax liability.  (The worst of it, for me, honestly, was the food--note to self: avoid just about anything that comes in an "individual serving pack," unless that "pack" is a peel.) 

And now I am moving--clouds are a great relief--from the artificial to the idea of artifice.

Artifice is a strange word.  Certainly, it has negative connotations, often carrying the idea of falsity or insincerity.  But artifice also refers to stratagems that are marked by the ingenius, the artful, the clever (tools that any artist may wish to have in her or his arsenal.)  

Which has led me to think about the differences between good artifice and fako artifice; and this in turn has led me to a vague notion that good artifice reveals the real (even, in an odd way, gives us the real) while bad artifice conceals, congeals, and confiscates the real.  (As in, I still have a truly icky taste in my mouth from the weirdo peanut butter licked from an individual serving pack this morning during a lecture on defined benefit plans!) 

So, what does this mean in terms of a prompt? 

Think about the real. It can be a moment in which you, he, she, it, or they understood that something--life, a relationship, some kind of effort--a war or peace, a loss or a struggle--was not a game. 

Or, think simply about some real thing---a rock, a banana.  (Something concrete but please, not concrete!  Poor Florida is covered in concrete.)

Or some version of the real that consists simply of a moment of true presence, for example, a night  in which one, walking with one's child, actually stopped to see stars.

Now, think about conveying that realness in some palpable if not necessarily realistic way.  That is, with the artifice of craft.  This artifice/ingenuity, could be a traditional poetic device, such as rhyme, meter or form--but it could also just be an artful juxtaposition, a leap or a blank, a particular choice of detail or metaphor, or your uniquely clunky (or graceful) voice.

Ahem - so, what's the prompt again?  

To write of something real, but not necessarily to write realistically, literally, or even grammatically.  (I keep thinking of E. E. Cummings here--who wrote some very real love and real political poems with all kinds of mash-ups,  I strongly recommend looking at any of his poems to get out of a rut.  But there are a zillion other more contemporary examples-- Robert Bly, and his use of metaphor in My Father's Wedding; or an interesting U.S. poet C.D. Wright, who died in the last week - "Everything Good Between Men and Women", )   Of course, if you want to just write of something real and not worry about the artifice part, that is fine--for myself, I would like to open the box a little. 

Which brings me to the Picasso sculpture show at the Museum of Modern Art in New York.  (That's where all the pics are from.)  My photos of the show aren't great (and sadly give a very limited idea of the breadth of the show, since I only took my camera out in a couple of rooms).  Picasso's sculptural style, like his painting style, went through a host of transformations (not shown here), and he used a zillion different materials--from found objects--like the bits of a iron stove that make up the woman and child above, to cardboard, bronze, flattened metal sheets, and little etched pebbles.

Some of the most intense pieces, such as the man with the goat above, and the next group below,  were done during World War II, when Picasso stayed in Paris, though he was viewed extremely negatively by the Nazis and his work was banned as degenerate.  As a result, he had to make the plaster pieces for the bronzes in his small bathroom. (Note that I have a couple different views of the skull.) 

I bring up Picasso's work because it gets to something so very real, and yet it is also so full of artifice.

I post more pics below--feel free but not obligated to use them in your piece;  if you do, please give credit both to Picasso and I suppose you can identify me as photographer as well.  (Ha--my only chance ever to be paired with Picasso!)

I’m sorry if this prompt feels vague--my intention is to be broad, and to encourage you and my very blank self to get back to some expression of the genuine.  (Hopefully, I can keep it in my pocket for use during one of possibly many trips into the world of the artificial.)

Please, as always, visit your virtual (yet also very real) compatriots in this craft. 


Thursday, January 14, 2016

Artistic Interpretations with Margaret - Maria Wulf's Visual Poems II

Welcome to Artistic Interpretations!  Today I reintroduce some of you to Maria Wulf, a fiber artist I have admired for a few years.   She lives in the state of New York on Bedlam Farm with her husband and her blog is Full Moon Fiber Art.  A little over two years ago I shared her "Visual Poems" HERE  and thought it was time to share again.

In my opinion, Maria is an artist who absorbs life and seemingly renews herself each day creatively - everyday objects become art - I mean ... bailing twine?  I throw it away everyday at my barn.  She see's it as a means to something beautiful.  Her "Rapunzel Chair" is an example below.

Another example that thrilled me just moments ago is her post of January 13th - her "lace" tree.  She receives an old quilt, sees something in nature - and her artistic eye creates a unique and beautiful piece of art work - the lace tree is a small part of a whole concept on an old quilt block - she is working in a zodiac moon face and who knows what else.    HERE is the post.

As you play these short video clips, listen to the sounds of what you don't see, live in the moment, feel the emotions (or memories).  Write in any poetic form you choose.

I do require a new poem be written in response to Maria's Visual Poems.  You may embed these videos on your blog but please credit Maria Wulf and her "Full Moon Fiber Art" blog for inspiration.

Please link with your specific poem for this challenge to "Mr. Linky" below.  Thank you, and I look forward to your artistic interpretations.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

The Tuesday Platform

"I always had a repulsive need 
to be something more than human."

David Bowie (1947-2016)

"The truth is of course is that there is no journey. 
We are arriving and departing all at the same time."

Welcome to The Tuesday Platform, the open stage in the Imaginary Garden. Please share with us one of your poems today, new or old, and visit the offerings of others.

Saturday, January 9, 2016

Sunday Mini-Challenge: Islands

Medieval woodcut of St. Brendan discovering an island

Greetings fellow Toads, Brendan here. I’ve been extended the opportunity to take part in offering poetry challenges to the community. Who could resist? So here we go with my first Sunday Mini-Challenge  …

Some history before I beg your mysteries. To be a poet in pre-“literate” Ireland, a bard had to memorize the entire songbook of the oral culture, spending seven years in dark “singing-huts” listening and repeating the tales. (The scriptorium in which the oral tales were later written down are survivors of that tradition, as I suspect the survive and thrive whenever we close our eyes and listen to the singer within.) A poet was not allowed to write a lick of his or her own poetry until they could recite the entire canon. (What is creativity without that great springboard?)

The body of tales they learned to recite was divided into four branches—the Mythological Cycle, the Ulster Cycle, the Fenian Cycle and the Historical Cycle. However, storytellers did not order their songs in that manner, nor by any chronological method; instead they classed them by life events—births, youthful exploits, battles, wooings, adventures, visions, glorious deaths.

One distinct class of these events was the immrama or “rowing-about,” tales of sea-voyages to strange and wonderful islands, each of which were Otherworlds of their own, places so unique and strange as to fully name—or harrow—a wonder in the catalogue of experience. How else to truly know a Thing but out on the salty margins of being?

In the “Voyage of Maelduin,” 33 islands are described: an Island of Great Birds, an Island of the Little Cat, an Island With a Wondrous Fountain (milk on Sundays, ale and wine on feast-days), an Island of Black Mourners, an Island of Great Horses, an Island Whose People Shout “It Is They!,” an Island With An Arch of Water and—most strange and wonderful to this singer—an Island of Women.

In the Christian era that came to Ireland in the fifth century, these immrama were saved—as with much of Ireland’s ancient oral culture—by the monks who wrote them down. It was one of the rarest survivals of an oral culture into the literate, enabled perhaps by the new-found wonder of books themselves—each an island of God’s glory, both in description and decoration. (Have a gander at the Book of Kells, and you’ll see why.)

In the Christianization of old Irish culture, the ferryman of souls, the “wave-sweeper” Mananann, became the great angel Michael, and the immrama were converted into tales of the “white martyrdom,” saints who commended themselves to God by setting forth upon the wave in their frail coracles, going where God bid them. (Poetry is a little like that.)

My avatar Brendan was one of these voyaging saints. Clara Strijbosch writes in “The Heathen Giant in the Voyage of St. Brendan,”

According to “The Voyage of St. Brendan,” Brendan burned a book containing stories about the wonders of God’s creation out of disbelief. For this reason he is sent on a voyage so as to see with his own eyes certain divine manifestations which earlier he had refused to credit. In this way he is to recover the book by refilling it with the wonders which he witnesses on his voyage. The majority of the phenomena which he comes across are related to man’s actions and behaviour in this life and the circumstances consequent upon them in the Afterlife. Brendan encounters souls in hell, heaven and paradise. The astonishing and sometimes frightening experiences restore his belief. (School of Celtic Studies DIAS 1999, p. 369)

Immrama serves as an apt metaphor for the way-stations of our lives that taught us something deeply and yet in retrospect were transitional, closing one set of doors and opening new ones. It was the first set of impressions we had moving to a new location, or the strange new passions a person released in us which time would decide was for better or worse (or both). The birth of a child, the start of a new book, the night your wildest dreams came true (even if only for a night), the low places mental disease took us, the spookiest damned thing that ever happened to you—islands.

Islands are the dark night of the soul, the blossoming of our art, a season in which we grieved deeply a loss.  

Islands are the Otherworlds of your poetry, each poem an encounter, a Thing both hallowed and harrowed in the naming.

For this Sunday Mini-Challenge, write about a situation or time or relationship or in your life as if it were an island encountered on the wide wild sea. Land us there, tell us what you found or learned there or what it looked like diminishing behind you as you moved on.

The only stylistic requirements I ask is that your poem is a new creation and that you include the word “island” in your title.

Lets gather our islands into a Real Toads immrama, a book of voyages which any saint worth his salt would burn as too wild for belief. A ocean wilderness of wonders may come into view, even if we haven’t left our little pond.

I look forward to the voyage soon to begin!



One of my favorite poems is by William Stafford, and it is as much about finding islands as having the faith that the next poem will reveal them:


Tomorrow will have an island. Before night
I always find it. Then on to the next island.
These places hidden in the day separate
and come forward if you beckon.

But you have to know they are there before they exist.
Some time there will be a tomorrow without any
island. So far, I haven’t let that happen, but after
I’m gone others may become faithless and careless.

Before them will tumble the wide unbroken sea,
and without any hope they will stare at the horizon.
So to you, Friend, I confide my secret:

to be a discoverer you hold close whatever
you find, and after a while you decide
what it is. Then, secure in where you have been,
you turn to the open sea and let go.