Oh, Villanelle, You Ruin Me

Twist“Twist” by LostCarPark is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

As a morning poet, I find my footing most easily in free verse. That said, I also enjoy the challenge now and then of a poetry form that forces my hand. Over at OpenWrite today, the challenge was a Villanelle, which has rhyme schemes, syllable counting and repetition. Dylan Thomas has a famous one.

Here is what I came up with.

Yes, I’m obsessed with morning poems
with cracking words like combination lock
before the day’s ideas scatter, blown

by odd winds of origins, unknown,
as detectives, writers scour the block –
Yes, I’m obsessed with morning poems

Not all rhymes we find ring out like phones
some sing false, and others, falter like stock
before the day’s ideas scatter, blown

through corners where wonder’s what we own
and our quiet voices, just talk – talk – talk
Yes, I’m obsessed with morning poems

perched with pen in quiet morning home
I scribble, erase, often have to walk
before the day’s ideas scatter, blown

Each verse, a kite, high in sky, alone
not able to remain stable, aloft,
for I’m obsessed with morning poems
before these ideas get scattered and blown

Peace (and poems),

Poem: Singing the Song of Son to the Father

At OpenWrite, the prompt for poems this morning was about exploring name and place, and after I wrote mine about my name and its roots, I realized the poem would probably work best as spoken poem.

Peace (listening in and rooted),

Broken Love: My Son’s Making a Movie

Colin Sam Movie Pitch

My eldest son – who works as a video editor and producer — and his childhood friend — who is in the final editing stages of his first novel — are making a movie.

They, and friends, have been making movies since they were small — all sorts of grand adventures around our neighborhood that still bring smiles to my face from the memories — and now they have written a feature film called “Broken Love” and are raising money to shoot two scenes, in hopes of pitching the film to investors down the line.

From their online pitch:

“Broken Love” tells the story of an escaped convict, Ethan, who returns to his hometown in Upstate New York to recover the $200,000 in dirty money he hid before his capture and to flee to Canada with his fiance, Jenny, and their young daughter. He returns, however, to find that two local thugs are after his money and that Jenny is now in a relationship with his childhood best friend, Todd, who also happens to be the policeman in charge of his recapture. It’s a drama inspired by the real-life escape from Dannemora prison in 2015 and also by emotionally-charged relationship films like Derek Cianfrance’s “Blue Valentine” and “The Place Beyond the Pines” as well as the darkly comedic crime thrillers of the Coen Brothers.

You should not feel under any obligation to donate but I feel the obligation (and pride) as the father of one of the filmmakers here to share their Kickstarter page in my network. I love that they are still collaborating after so many years and with different, but still creative, trajectories in their lives.

If you are interested, here is the link to the kickstarter campaign for “Broken Hearts.”

Peace (on film),

Slice of Life: Alone On A Path Through The Woods By A Lake

(This is for the Slice of Life challenge, hosted by Two Writing Teachers. We write on Tuesdays about the small moments in the larger perspective … or is that the larger perspective in the smaller moments? You write, too.)

Yesterday, due to circumstances,  I found myself hiking an unknown path all alone (usually when I hike, my wife and/or sons are with me). The trail in this conservation area was well-maintained by some Eagle Scout, apparently, and there was no one else around. Nobody at all.

I stepped forward at a leisurely pace, wary of the bugs (ticks!) in this rainy season, and soon was lost in thought as the path wound around what the maps called a pond but which was clearly a large lake. The high water levels cut off some connected trails, leading me to interesting dead ends and views of the water, before I was forced to circle back and continue on an alternative route.

The only distraction was noise from a nearby highway. But birds out-whistled cars at points, and the farther I went in, the farther away I was from the noise pollution. I took a chance on an unmarked path at one point, and felt a little lost, but used the water as my navigation point, and eventually circled back to known terrain.

Hike and lake

Why am I writing this? Quiet moments may not have a lot of drama, but they force you to notice the world. I could also easily dig deeper into what I just wrote — on the surface, about a solo hike — and find metaphorical points with which to climb. But I won’t. I’ll just leave it as a hike in the woods by a lake. The perfect kind of summer Slice of Life, I think.

Peace (in the terrain),

Book Review: The Call Me Ishmael Phone Book

The Call Me Ishmael Phone Book: An Interactive Guide to ...

I had no idea what I was getting myself into when I saw The Call Me Ishmael Phone Book (An Interactive Guide to Life-Changing Books) on the shelf of the public library. It was a chance check-out, done on a whim, and how glad I am that I did.

This text is in the form of a phone book (perhaps a generational splitter for readership, but who knows) and is a collection of codes, so that when you call the main phone number, and enter a code, you can hear another reader give a story or review of a book that is listed in the phone book.

Get it?

There are also prompts throughout the book (such as shout out your local independent book store or tell of a book you read as a child, etc.) with an invitation to add your voice to the telephone book. So each reader has the opportunity to be part of the book.

How cool is that?

There are also narrative transcripts in this physical book, taken from the audio files of readers, that tell stories of how books did transform their lives, and how certain books left imprints on their past, present or perhaps, future trajectory. I loved that sense of voice in these mostly-anonymous stories of books.

Oh, and did I mention all of the playful “advertising” throughout the book? They are funny, insightful and a bit tricky, calling on memories of stories and characters in famous books. Those have codes to call into as well.

The Call Me Ishmael Phone Book | Book by Logan Smalley ...

All in all, The Call Me Ishmael Phone Book is a reader’s delight on many levels, and it inspires the reader to ‘call in’ and join the mix of book lovers.

Peace (on the lines),

PS — wanna try it out? Call 774 325 0503 and use the code 5490 to learn about American Born Chinese, the graphic novel by Gene Luen Yang

Slice of Life: Poems for Planet Earth

(This is for the Slice of Life challenge, hosted by Two Writing Teachers. We write on Tuesdays about the small moments in the larger perspective … or is that the larger perspective in the smaller moments? You write, too.)

A few weeks ago, I noticed a “call for artists” through our local public library, for an exhibit they were pulling together about healing, health and the state of our planet. They were seeking videos, art and writing. Intrigued, I decided to try my hand at some poems — five short poems — with environmental themes, and I sent them in, and then I forgot all about it (as I am apt to do).

The other day, I found out that the library art gallery had accepted three of the five poems I sent in for its “In This Together: Virtual Exhibit on Planetary and Human Health” display. I feel honored to be among the 41 local artists (some of the other pieces in the collection are really amazing to look at — particularly the visual artworks).

This is from the gallery description:

As we emerge slowly from the Covid-19 pandemic, we reflect on how it has changed us, the environment we live in, and our outlook. While our societies and our world are still in the midst of enormous changes, how do we feel about our role? How has the past year impacted how we relate to the environment and to each other? Have our priorities changed?

abstract photo by Faith Kaufmann

via Hosmer Gallery, Northampton, MA

My three poems can be found here, here and here.

As a poet writing daily throughout the Pandemic, I noticed the act of writing has often been rather lonely. (Maybe that always is the case for poets, but the isolation of the lockdowns seemed to make it even more so). I like the idea of a few of my words being part of a local community collective effort to think on the changing Earth, and how the Pandemic is influencing that thinking, that wonder, that warning. To see my words mingled in with other media and art feels right, and satisfying.

I’m not naive. I don’t think poems or poets can change the world. A few verses won’t change policy. Stanzas don’t scale up.

But writing poems can change the poet who writes those poems, I believe, and the time I spent composing the five pieces gave me a chance to sit with the ideas, to mull things over, and try to capture some thoughts that will help me in my own small actions, each day. There were threads across the five pieces that I know are there, threads I made visible to myself that connect to how I can and should view this world we are caretakers of.

What more can a writer do?

Peace (in poems and planets),

Comics About Writing: RobotWriting

RobotWriter Can't Do Poems

This is part of a series of comics I had been making about writing some time back. Just ’cause … and then I forgot to share them here …

Peace (squared),

PS — I know this isn’t true — many AI engines are now creating poetry ..