Saturday, July 29, 2017

A Glance at Narrative

        "Tell me a story” may have been how the literary arts began. 

Telling stories the job of much early poetry, whose “poetical” aspects--the refrains and the tropes (those “rosy fingers of dawn” and “wine dark seas”)-- served, in part, as mnemonic devices, so that the poet would either not forget what came next, or could fill in time until he remembered it. 

But Homer, I think, had some pretty great ideas.  Narrative--an underlying story or even a hint of story--can help to keep a reader engaged in a poem in ways that even beautiful language may not.  This seems to me to be especially true in longer pieces where narrative, even small fragments of narrative, can really help to keep a reader engaged.  (You thought, for example, that you wanted to tour the Wasteland on foot, but Eliot’s little bits of implied story sprinkled throughout the poem--”Marie/Marie, hold on tight,”-- serve as friends who repeatedly stop and give the reader a lift.)

Narrative can appear in many different ways in a poem--sometimes so slyly that one can't exactly find the story, but glimpse the mere silhouette of a story, sometimes even just a curve of a silhouette. Yet, even that little bit of story still always feels like a friend to me, as reader, helping to carry me along. 

So, here’s your task for the prompt.  Simply think of some story in writing your poem--it could be the story of a moment or of a lifetime--and it need not be fully detailed.  The poem may offer a bird’s eye view of the story or the small close-up of a magnifying glass, maybe just a sidelong glimpse.  (It does not have to be a story of human beings; it could be the story of a rock or a raindrop.)  

      And, I repeat!--the story does not need to be told in full (unless you really do have a ballad in mind!) 
Though, honestly, it would be great to distill your piece, keep it compressed, since we are writing poems or prose poems, and not full short stories.  (Keeping something short is very hard so I’m not setting a word or line limit--only posing the challenge.)

I put up some drawings I’ve done that could be used in conjunction with your poems if you like; I tried to pick pieces that have story-like elements.  NO REQUIREMENT TO USE ANY--but if you do use them, please give credit to me, Karin Gustafson.

Finally, an apology for not participating much of late--it’s been a very hard few months for me due to family illness, job, and country. I am so grateful to Kerry for letting me stay on with the group despite my inability to truly play along!  I will be in airport when this posts, but I will be on my way home and will comment as soon as I can.


Thursday, July 27, 2017

Scribble It

Hello Toads

As I cast off on my maiden voyage as a host of the occasional 'Scribble It' prompt here in the garden ( I am honored by the way. Thank You Kerry for the invite) I came to pondering about your experiences of 'First Times'.

Were you Nervous? Excited? Full of anticipation.Unawares?

Where does that list of 'First Times' begin? Where might it end?

First steps, first teeth, first words, first flight, first kiss, first fall, first love, get the drift.

Please pen me a poem that speaks in some way of a 'First Time,' one already met or perhaps to come.

Once penned please add your poem to the Mr Linky below.

Don't forget to visit each other to read and comment. It makes this community what it is.

Here's a little grist for the mill in both music and word. Enjoy.

The Scribbler ;)

Always For The First Time 

by Andre Breton

Always for the first time
Hardly do I know you by sight
You return at some hour of the night to a house at an angle to my window
A wholly imaginary house
It is there that from one second to the next
In the inviolate darkness
I anticipate once more the fascinating rift occurring
The one and only rift
In the facade and in my heart
The closer I come to you
In reality
The more the key sings at the door of the unknown room
Where you appear alone before me
At first you coalesce entirely with the brightness
The elusive angle of a curtain
It's a field of jasmine I gazed upon at dawn on a road in the vicinity of Grasse
With the diagonal slant of its girls picking
Behind them the dark falling wing of the plants stripped bare
Before them a T-square of dazzling light
The curtain invisibly raised
In a frenzy all the flowers swarm back in
It is you at grips with that too long hour never dim enough until sleep
You as though you could be
The same except that I shall perhaps never meet you
You pretend not to know I am watching you
Marvelously I am no longer sure you know
You idleness brings tears to my eyes
A swarm of interpretations surrounds each of your gestures
It's a honeydew hunt
There are rocking chairs on a deck there are branches that may well scratch you in the forest
There are in a shop window in the rue Notre-Dame-de-Lorette
Two lovely crossed legs caught in long stockings
Flaring out in the center of a great white clover
There is a silken ladder rolled out over the ivy
There is
By my leaning over the precipice
Of your presence and your absence in hopeless fusion
My finding the secret
Of loving you
Always for the first time 

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

The Tuesday Platform

Welcome to the Imaginary Garden!

Thought the Toads might enjoy this Barbie and Ken poem: KINKY by Denise Duhamel 

Welcome to the Tuesday Platform, your unprompted free-range day for sharing poems in the Imaginary Garden. Please link up a poem, old or new, and spend some time this week visiting the offerings of our fellow writers. 

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Weekend Mini Challenge: Buildings

Welcome to the Weekend Mini Challenge with Kim from!

One of my favourite poems by Philip Larkin is ‘The Building’, which I cannot reproduce here due to copyright restrictions. However, I can provide a link to the poem HERE 

as well as a link to a YouTube recording of Larkin reading his poem: 

What I like about it is the way in which the poem conveys the physical appearance and atmosphere of a hospital without once using the term ‘hospital’, through the use of certain words and connotations.

Today’s challenge is to write about a building. It could be a specific building with a name that we would all know without directly naming it. It could be a church, a school or a building in which you have lived. It could be a department store, a government building or a concert hall. It is up to the reader to work out what the building is. Your poem does not have to consist of nine stanzas like Larkin’s and can be in any form you choose, but it should be a new poem.

Link up your new poem via Mr. Linky, visit other Toads, and leave some friendly graffiti on their buildings! It'll be fun trying to work out what those buildings are. Happy building!

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Watch the Corners

Ahhhhh, the dulcet tones of guitar hero J. Mascis and his band Dinosaur Jr.! I figure any Toads who might be parents, and/or who know and love teenagers, and/or who were ever teenagers ourselves, can appreciate and find some fodder for writing in here. See if you can get to the end without feeling a little something in your eye. Love, love, enjoy!


Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Toads In Tandem: Poem Of A Silent Woman

Hey. Look up there. It's a bird! It's a plane! No! It's a Skywriter! But wait. What's that traveling alongside? It''s...that aerial curiosity called a Fireblossom!

For our collaboration, which I can safely say we both thoroughly enjoyed working on, we have written a cascade poem. Without further ado, here is our poem.


You think I am silent; truth is, I never hush.
I am flow as well as bung; either way, I offer much.
You concern yourself with rind; not much further is the fruit.
The climbing rose grows bare and shaded at the root.

I am a west-wind owl in open sky-- I create.
You are the saddle and boot, the bull at the gate;
Wild mane, tossing tail, I canter beyond the sagebrush.
You think I am silent; truth is, I never hush.

My gate is vined, and latched and tall
But opens, lockless, every Fall;
I am baskets hung with tendrils--fire--frost--and flush--
I am flow as well as bung; either way, I offer much.

You believe that you know all that I am,
Read my smile wrong, think me a lamb.
I am child of the moon, ebb and tide--no absolute.
You concern yourself with rind; not much further is the fruit.

Come by the moon--new, quarter, and full--
by degrees, shows its turned face--then shows all;
come through the gate--with the season slip through--
the climbing rose waits, shaded--for you.


Tuesday, July 18, 2017

The Tuesday Platform

Welcome to the Imaginary Garden ...

Greetings to all poets, travelers and friends ....


This is the perfect day for me to touch upon our theme for 2017: Being Human. Today is Mandela Day which is commemorated annually on the date of the late Nelson Mandela's birth. The clip is a short interview with South African poet, Nkateko Masinga who is participating in the annual 67 Poems for Freedom for Mandela Day, hosted by UNISA Poetry Society, in which she recites one of her poems

It is also coincidentally the anniversary of the Imaginary Garden With Real Toads. Yes! Unbelievably, this site opened for business on July 18, 2011, which means we are officially 6 years old. Our origins were humble but we remained true to our concept of membership and became a support base for emerging poets as a place not only to showcase our writing but also to share ideas, encourage divergent thinking and make valuable connections within the online poetry community. These have stood the test of time. In celebration of our anniversary, we have relaunched our Toads in Tandem, in which members pair up and produce collaborative poetry. Please remember to stop by tomorrow to read the combine efforts of Fireblossom and Skylover.

And now, I open the floor to all who are here to participate in the open link. I suppose it would be too much for me to expect 67 poems, but feel free to dig into your archives, as far back as 2011, and share more than one post today.

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Weekend Challenge: Imagining a Changing Earth

Konstantin Vasilyev, "Fires Are Burning" (Wiki Art)

Greetings from Brendan's scriptorium, fitted these days on the back of an endangered whale.

There was a disturbing essay on the harsher threats and looming realities of climate change in the in the June 9, 2017 issue of New York magazine. David Wallace-Wells laid it all out in the title: “When Will The Planet Be Too Hot For Humans? Much, Much Sooner Than You Imagine.”

Wallace-Wells starts with the assumption that the human community will continue fail to rally the sufficient motivation, energy and resources to address the immediate problem of climate change; that the Paris Accord temperature rise boundary of two degrees Celsius by the end of this century will be flagrantly surpassed, and that the planet will have been warmed at least by four degrees with eight degrees at the upper arches of probability. If you live in the United States, it’s easy to see how likely this more dire scenario may come to pass. 

Noting that the last time the planet was four degrees warmer the oceans were hundreds of feet higher than now, Wallace-Wells then looks at the array of consequences which go far beyond the mere drowning of our coasts: massive animal extinctions; insufferable heat rendering uninhabitable large swaths around the Equator; diminished food production; droughts withering the world’s arable lands; diseases not seen for millions of years released as permafrost melts; ozone smog pollutions rising to levels that will make the Chinese “airpocalypse” of 2013 look like blue sky forever. Heat breeds violence, and incessant war will lead to permanent economic collapse. Oceans will die, and Earth will become a dead zone, survived only by bacteria living at the vents at the deep ocean. 

And let’s remember, these processes will continue to build over time, so if the Earth’s temperature eventually rises 11 or 12 degrees, Earth becomes Venus—a dead broiler. No wonder Eton Musk and Steven Hawking are separately urging us toward rapid deployment of extra-planetary colonization.

Wallace-Wells doesn't believe all these things will come to pass because eventually humankind wake up, smell the burning and commit finally to act. But what is so daunting (and perhaps damning) is that we haven't reached that point yet. We’ve become accustomed to rough news and harsh predictions about the earth; but with the terms so abstract, our narratives are hard-pressed to factor them in. (Where were you when carbon in the atmosphere passed 400 ppm?) And how much must be lost to future generations before enough is enough?

Wallace-Wells received some flack from scientific community for the essay–not because the science is wrong, but because it focuses so intently on worst outcomes. Pennyslvania State University's Michael Mann, a climate researcher who has been sharp in fighting climate change skepticism in the past, posted a rebuttal on his Facebook page soon after the essay's publication. "The evidence that climate change is a serious problem that we must contend with now is overwhelming on its own," he wrote. "There is no need to overstate the evidence, particularly when it feeds a paralyzing narrative of doom and hopelessness."

In a follow-up post, Wallace-Wells rejected Mann's "doomist" characterization of his essay. "Personally, I don't think we're doomed, just facing own a very big challenge. But I own up to the alarmism in the story, which I describe as an effort to survey the worst-case-scenario climate landscape. We have suffered from a terrible failure of imagination when it comes to climate change, I argue, and that is in part because most of us do not understand the real risks and horrors that warming can bring." 

In the original essay, Wallace-Wells wondered why it is that humankind is so ill-equipped to deal with this enormous challenge. We have the technology to address it (many are now focusing on carbon capture, developing the means of extracting carbon dioxide from the atmosphere): but our will to act is weak, distracted, enervated by tiny screens and mindless pleasures. He cites a book-length essay, The Great Derangement by novelist Amitav Ghosh, which suggests that our failure is primarily one of imagination. According to Ghosh, writes Wallace-Wells, “the dilemmas and dramas of climate change are simply incompatible with the kinds of stories we tell ourselves about ourselves, especially in novels, which tend to emphasize the journey of an individual conscience rather than the poisonous miasma of social fate.”

Could it be that our human imagination needs to grow up in order to see the peril ballooning before our eyes?

Two books I read recently provide some examples of how to accomplish that. In While Glaciers Slept: Being Human in a Time of Climate Change, M. Jackson writes about studying glaciers in Alaska at the same time she experiences the death of one and then the other parent. Her grief provides the imaginative scale she needs to find words for the titanic theme of melting glaciers:

I cannot untangle in my mind the scientific study of climate change and the death of my parents. My whole life, climate change has been progressing, and I cannot understand realistically what has happened to my family without stepping back and seeing what is happening to this world. There are too many parallels, and, at times, there is too much darkness. They can't be separated. The language and, to some extent, the experiences for both remain deeply similar. Just as when I could not imagine my parents' deaths, so I now hear us talk of climate change as an event we cannot look beyond, we cannot imagine, of which we cannot see the other side. The blindness clouds the reality that we are both in the midst of and on the other side of climate change. The unimaginable is happening right now. Our job remains, then, to begin re-imagining courageously. (21)

The other book is Jedidiah Purdy’s After Nature: A Politics For The Anthropocene. In it Purdy finds a way to move our imagination of nature from private experience into the public (and political) arena. A healthy environmental imagination means seeing clearly what has been lost while at the same time envisioning the possibilities of what remains. “Losing nature need not mean losing the value of the living world, but it will mean engaging it differently,” he writes.

It may mean learning to find beauty in ordinary places, not just wonder in wild ones. It may mean treasuring places that are irremediably damaged, learning to prize what is neither pure nor natural, but just is—the always imperfect joint product of human powers and the natural world. All of this will require a vocabulary, an ethics, an aesthetics, and a politics, for a time when the meaning of nature is ultimately a human question. And since it is a question we must answer together, it should—but not necessarily will—receive a democratic answer.” (10)

If we are stuck here (we may not survive to the day when the extra-terrestrial visions of Hawking and Musk can come to pass), then we have to figure out a better way to see our world and co-habit in it.  Collective self-restraint within a framework of political and regulatory action may not seem quite like the drastic measure needed, but that in itself represent a radical change from the present. And it is at essence an imaginative act, one we have to collectively dream our way toward.

Without finding a way to charge our imaginations to this task, we are left with living-dead and atavistic head-in-the-sand metaphors and daily footage of slow annihilation. How long we wait will define the weird sense of time to come. Wallace-Wells writes,

Surely this blindness will not last — the world we are about to inhabit will not permit it. In a six-degree-warmer world, the Earth’s ecosystem will boil with so many natural disasters that we will just start calling them “weather”: a constant swarm of out-of-control typhoons and tornadoes and floods and droughts, the planet assaulted regularly with climate events that not so long ago destroyed whole civilizations. The strongest hurricanes will come more often, and we’ll have to invent new categories with which to describe them; tornadoes will grow longer and wider and strike much more frequently, and hail rocks will quadruple in size. Humans used to watch the weather to prophesy the future; going forward, we will see in its wrath the vengeance of the past. Early naturalists talked often about “deep time” — the perception they had, contemplating the grandeur of this valley or that rock basin, of the profound slowness of nature. What lies in store for us is more like what the Victorian anthropologists identified as “dreamtime,” or “everywhen”: the semi-mythical experience, described by Aboriginal Australians, of encountering, in the present moment, an out-of-time past, when ancestors, heroes, and demigods crowded an epic stage. You can find it already watching footage of an iceberg collapsing into the sea — a feeling of history happening all at once.

And this, my fellow Pondsters, brings me at last to today's challenge.

In a poem of any length or style, imagine for us the plight of this world and your place in it—as citizen, sibling, primate, victim, survivor and singer. What do you love, what would you not lose, and where can you take us which shows us how that place will continue?

Some other ways into this vision challenge:
  •          How is poetry best suited for imagining the world now coming into view as a result of climate change?
  •         The other day, an iceberg the size of Delaware broke off from the Larsen shelf Antarctica. Relate that event to the intimate details of your own life that day.
  •         How is our sense of time changing? How do our short human lives stand in relation to deep time, and what does it mean to become a change agent of that eternity?
  •        What does if feel like to have a heart full of grief for a changing world?
  •         What is there to celebrate as the sixth massive species die-off in the history of the Earth now unfolds?
  •         Do humans have a place in the world's future, or should we stop advocating for our survival?
  •         In a world that has been largely changed or damaged by human influence, just what does the natural now look and feel like, and how might that be different from the sublime encounters of a John Muir?
  •         If the world is visibly transforming before our eyes and we are yet finding it difficult to see, what else are we missing?
  •         Are we developing a cultural autism, rendering us unable to read affliction in the face of the world? As nature degrades, is there something forever lost in the human as well?
Take a good, deep, long, grieving, loving look at the world ... then come back and tell us what you behold.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Fireblossom Friday: Bang, You're Dead.

Bang, you're dead. Maybe that crazy kid driver ran you down, or maybe the aneurysm you didn't know was in your head exploded. It could have been any of a thousand things, but no matter how you slice it, you won't be participating in that charity run this afternoon. 

Still, this doesn't have to be the end, despite what you might have heard. Don't you feel like you still have something to say? Don't be shy. After all, what can anyone do to you now? Presentation is strictly up to you. Automatic writing, poltergeist activity, dream messages from the great beyond. C'mon, get happy! You're gonna slay 'em.

So. To whom may I direct your (phantom) call? What do you want, spirit? Time is money, chop chop, let's go. You're killing me here. Just write an original NEW poem and sign the linky. It never, uh, expires.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

The Tuesday Platform

Who taught us that there are only
196 kinds of people
because there are 196 countries?
We're all one earthquake, one civil cry
short of becoming refugees
and that speaks a lot about the fault lines
under our own democracies...."

"Go Back to Your Own Country!" 
by Ankita Shah & Ramneek Singh

Welcome to the Tuesday Platform, a place for sharing poetry. How? Link up a poem from your blog, old or new. Then visit, read, and comment on the offerings of others. Simple! Enjoy, and we look forward to reading your work.

Share * Read * Comment * Enjoy

Saturday, July 8, 2017

Fragile, Natural, Wild (with Magaly)

Greetings, dear Toads, and welcome to another Weekend Mini-Challenge. Today, the Prompt Muse (yes, she exists) comes bearing flowers, bugs, herbs… and three phrases (because in my challenges *and in stories* the best things come in threes).  

The prompt is simple: write a 3-stanza poem using one of the following images plus the phrase that precedes it. Feel free to share the photo with your poem (credit the photographer). If you choose not to share your chosen image, please add a note letting the rest of us know which photo inspired your poem.

fragile things
by Robert Draves (@draves.robert)

natural hungers
by Robert Draves (@draves.robert)

wild memories
by Magaly Guerrero (@magalyguerreroindarkerwords)

Feed the direct link to your new poem to Mr. Linky.
Visit other Toads, and see what their Muses have been blooming.
While you are there, gather a bouquet of wildest fun.

Thursday, July 6, 2017

get listed - July

Nearly high noon of summer here in the northern hemisphere.

What they won't say anymore, or ask, is what happened to birdsong?

Maybe it's only here in concrete southern California - maybe where you are, there are more than crow squawks and gull cries and the occasional dove coo at dusk.

For this edition of get listed, see if you can bring the sounds of summer to the page - something missing, or maybe something just waiting to get noticed again.

As always, please post an original poem to your blog, link that pen to Mr. Linky, then visit back to read and comment on the other poems as the days go by. The prompt will remain open.

Please use at least 3 of these words (or reasonable variants):

heat, bird, easy, fling, pass, sweat, corn, float, ice cream (that's considered one), bright, cricket, dusk

(Song rights belong to respective publishers. No infringement intended - non-commercial use.)

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Toads In Tandem: Observing love and broken things

What happens when runaway sentence and a dash of sunny team up? Magic! When Marian and I first began writing we were practically on the same wavelength and ended up selecting the same topic. Writing alongside her was an amazing experience! Hope you guys like our poem.

Observing love and broken things

Through darkness peer your words
                     and songs
we celebrate and eulogize--
in youth, you are the song unsung.
Difficult to rationalize

such a loss, the depth of your eyes
a well from which we all sustained
our sodden tenderness, disguised
as sunshine. Now it looks like rain.

I reach out and extend my hand
to you, a silhouette fading
as crumbled stone on shifting sand.
Love, I fear my heart is breaking.

Now outside daylight is fading--
upon your face I stole a glance.
We used to laugh, but now I am
won’t you give me a second chance?

It’s when I started losing things
that I stepped back to look at you--
doubly brash, emboldened by drink,
you, whose lyrics always rang true.

Losses aside, the spark of you
roils in my belly like a burn
that’s emberred long, waiting
                            out blue,
then brown, until comes shadow’s turn--

I remember your smile, sweet tune
as waning sky grows pale
                                     and gold.
Your memories flood until June,
trees emblazoned, though sun is cold.

I beg my heart stay strong and bold
now as I live on without you
in world where truth is seldom told.
Love as we knew it comes to few.

Seems unwise to love so truly
given the harshness of our world--
but again, without your beauty,
my meager verse as yet unfurled,

I’d have given in to the swirl
as you did, and chose every day.
So I sing the song of our world,
wishing earnestly you
                    had stayed.

Love, if I could give you one thing
would lend ability to see,
oh, since you taught my heart to sing
from aberrations to live free--

Now all these thoughts
            have come to me--
when life knocks you down, gaze at stars.
Though long and sombre sky may seem,
this place and this moment is ours.

The form we chose is called Huitain also known as The Monk's Stanza (first introduced in the Garden by Kerry a few years ago, here). The verse form was popular in the 16th century and was often used for epigrams in the 18th century. The true Huitain is a single verse, eight line poem with eight syllables per line. The rhyme scheme is: ababbcbc

I remember going into panic mode when first trying to write in this form but Marian's cheerfulness and optimism removed every trace of doubt from my soul. Thank you Marian for being such a wonderful writing partner and Kerry for assigning such a lovely project to us.