A New Literary Challenge for 2017

In 2013, I challenged myself to write one short story each month, format it for Kindle, create a beautiful cover image, and make it available to readers for 99 cents a pop. It was a fun year that stretched me and, in the end, resulted in one of those stories (“This Elegant Ruin”) being a finalist for the Saturday Evening Post‘s 2014 Great American Fiction Contest, and in the beautiful printed collection which you see on the side bar and on my Books page.

What was great about that venture is that it was completely self-directed and completely within my control. I would succeed or not succeed commensurate with my own effort and I could do everything on my own timetable.

In my writing life now, I do a lot of waiting. The submission process is out of my direct control and there is nothing I can to do speed it up. I know this, but the knowing doesn’t make it any easier to sit and wait. So I continue to write more novels in the meantime, working hard to have options should the first attempt to sell not pan out. But novels are gargantuan projects. And when they are done, they’re just going to get into line to wait behind the rest of their long-form kin.

So I’ve decided it’s time for another personal challenge that I can complete all by myself. This year I will be focusing on poetry, both writing new poems and gathering and editing old ones for a chapbook which I’ll produce myself. I believe I’ll organize it around the four seasons, since so many of my poems reflect themes of nature and the passage of time. I may intersperse some line drawings in there as well. My goal will be to have it completed and ready for purchase in late November. Chapbooks make great stocking stuffers, after all.

Noel: Christmas Eve 1913

 
Noel: Christmas Eve 1913
by Robert Bridges, 1844–1930

Pax hominibus bonae voluntatis

A frosty Christmas Eve
when the stars were shining
Fared I forth alone
where westward falls the hill,
And from many a village
in the water’d valley
Distant music reach’d me
peals of bells aringing:
The constellated sounds
ran sprinkling on earth’s floor
As the dark vault above
with stars was spangled o’er.
Then sped my thoughts to keep
that first Christmas of all
When the shepherds watching
by their folds ere the dawn
Heard music in the fields
and marveling could not tell
Whether it were angels
or the bright stars singing.

Now blessed be the tow’rs
that crown England so fair
That stand up strong in prayer
unto God for our souls
Blessed be their founders
(said I) an’ our country folk
Who are ringing for Christ
in the belfries to-night
With arms lifted to clutch
the rattling ropes that race
Into the dark above
and the mad romping din.

But to me heard afar
it was starry music
Angels’ song, comforting
as the comfort of Christ
When he spake tenderly
to his sorrowful flock:
The old words came to me
by the riches of time
Mellow’d and transfigured
as I stood on the hill
Heark’ning in the aspect
of th’ eternal silence.

A Poem for the Spring Thaw

Lenten Rose

 

 

 

 

 

The world melts around me
as the sun caresses
the contours of my city.

A robin addresses
blue sky studded by
clouds hurrying past —

Don’t linger here! Fly! Fly! —
Do I spy a blade of grass?
Or is this mere flirtation?

A sly come hither glance?
Who cares? On this temptation
I’ll blithely take a chance.

 

Because it snowed 10 inches the other day, and I need this…

BlandfordinSpringSkinny
A Light Exists in Spring
by Emily Dickinson

A light exists in spring
Not present on the year
At any other period.
When March is scarcely here

A color stands abroad
On solitary hills
That science cannot overtake,
But human nature feels.

It waits upon the lawn;
It shows the furthest tree
Upon the furthest slope we know;
It almost speaks to me.

Then, as horizons step,
Or noons report away,
Without the formula of sound,
It passes, and we stay:

A quality of loss
Affecting our content,
As trade had suddenly encroached
Upon a sacrament.

Christopher Walken Reads The Raven

We’re enormous Christopher Walken fans in our house. My husband and son often (often) do impressions of him, even when ordering food in public (aside: zero students working at area fast food restaurants find this amusing). So when I heard this lovely reading, the perfect pairing of material and performer, I thought I’d like to share it with you.

Enjoy.

Alison’s Poem and the East Lansing Poetry Attack

This past week I was pleased to open an email from the nice folks in charge of the East Lansing Poetry Attack that read in part, “Your poem Alison’s Poem is destined for a tree in East Lansing.” Readers of my old blog may have seen this before, but I couldn’t find it anywhere here at A Beautiful Fiction, so I’ll share it now. I wrote “Alison’s Poem”  on the morning of my sister Alison’s March 24th birthday a few years back. Older than me by less than two years, Alison is the firstborn of the family, but not the first conceived. I was thinking about how my mother must have felt to see her after a miscarriage during her first pregnancy, and so I wrote this…

Alison’s Poem

Clear dawn over the snow-dusted lawn
Deep gray gives way to a subtle ray
Then bright and vibrant hues chase the night
Sweet pink, then yellow—orange—green, I think
So fades cold evening to the next day
So things of winter melt into spring

The poem will be displayed this Sunday, April 26th, at 1-4 PM in the trees in front of the East Lansing Public Library as part of the 3rd Annual East Lansing Poetry Attack. Some of the poems will later be moved to city hall and displayed during the East Lansing Art Fair, May 16-18. More details on their Facebook page.

What Man Has Made of Man

Lines Written in Early Spring
by William Wordsworth

I heard a thousand blended notes,
While in a grove I sate reclined,
In that sweet mood when pleasant thoughts
Bring sad thoughts to the mind.

To her fair works did Nature link
The human soul that through me ran;
And much it grieved my heart to think
What man has made of man.

Through primrose tufts, in that green bower,
The periwinkle trailed its wreaths;
And ’tis my faith that every flower
Enjoys the air it breathes.

The birds around me hopped and played,
Their thoughts I cannot measure:—
But the least motion which they made
It seemed a thrill of pleasure.

The budding twigs spread out their fan,
To catch the breezy air;
And I must think, do all I can,
That there was pleasure there.

If this belief from heaven be sent,
If such be Nature’s holy plan,
Have I not reason to lament
What man has made of man?

Writing for Our Better Selves

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These are the first lines of Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s Aurora Leigh, a poem in nine books which was particularly beloved of Emily Dickinson. I’m just diving in to my copy, an 1884 printing of the 1859 text. This quote strikes me, a professional copywriter who is ever writing for others, as a lovely, selfish thought. That is what my fiction is–writing for me, for my better self.

Roses, Roses Everywhere

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My roses are mostly pink…

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…but why miss an opportunity to share some lovely Robert Burns with you?

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O my Luve is like a red, red rose
   That’s newly sprung in June;
O my Luve is like the melody
   That’s sweetly played in tune.

 

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So fair art thou, my bonnie lass,
   So deep in luve am I;
And I will luve thee still, my dear,
   Till a’ the seas gang dry.

 

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Till a’ the seas gang dry, my dear,
   And the rocks melt wi’ the sun;
I will love thee still, my dear,
   While the sands o’ life shall run.

 

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And fare thee weel, my only luve!
   And fare thee weel awhile!
And I will come again, my luve,
   Though it were ten thousand mile.

 

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