I Hear the Angels Humming

Out under the maples, noon light
dappling the scene like drops of sun,
Joe strums his Martin, humming along
his own accompaniment. His fingers
glide along the ebony board,
pressing the strings into tuneful
Cs and Gs, and even the F-sharps
and B-minors that come out like
the ragged brushing of steel-string
corduroy trouser legs when I try them.

I’m a little jealous as I watch
and listen, hacking away at
my fallow word garden,
pressing my uncalloused fingers down
in search of the chords
to some sort of art, too.
Mine is an arrhythmic melody
played on a soulless keyboard,
the worksong of one lost in empty silence.

I heard it first from the angels
who whispered in my ear
the last five nights, while
dark dappled on dark and
my instrument gathered dust
as it lay upon the pillow.
Mine is a solo piece, I know,
but I hear the angels humming
along with me anyway.

A Writing Process Blog Hop

Thanks very much to my dear friend Heather Grace Stewart for inviting me to participate in this blog hop about the writing process. I met Heather through some Twitter conversation a couple of years ago. It was like talking with an old friend. Strangely comfortable and most comfortably strange. She has been a great cheerleader and supporter of all my writing projects ever since. Thank you, Heather. There have been times that, without you and a few others in my corner, I’d walk away from this bloody and blessed obsession.

Heather

Heather Grace Stewart’s first novel comes out this June, but she is best known for her poetry, which includes: “Three Spaces”, “Carry on Dancing”, “Leap”, and “Where the Butterflies Go.” In 2012, she published the screenplay, “The Friends I’ve Never Met”, which has been well received on both Kindle and Kobo. Her two non-fiction books for youth are part of the Warts & All educational series on Canada’s Prime Ministers.

She has written for a wide range of magazines, including Reader’s Digest and Canadian Wildlife magazine. Her column in the Queen’s Alumni Review magazine, Grace’s Grads, was created in September 2005.

Heather’s poems have been published in Canadian literary journals, newspapers, and magazines, Canadian and British school textbooks, audio CDS, online journals, international print anthologies, and in the British small presses. She was awarded Queen’s University’s McIlquham Foundation Prize in English Poetry and the UK journal Various Artists’ “The Poet’s Poet” Award (2008 & 2012).

Heather can be found on Facebook , Twitter , her blog , and her website . Her women’s fiction/general fiction novel “Strangely, Incredibly Good” will be released by Morning Rain Publishing on June 5, 2014.

Yeah, she’s the goods. So, with special thanks to Heather, who still believes in me (and my future) as a writer, even when I don’t, here’s a look into how I do what I do:

What are you working on?

Until recently, I was worrying more than working. I’d suffered through a slowing down on day-to-day production for my blog. But since last year, I’ve gathered together a collection of poems and stories I call Penumbra, or The Space Between. It explores the observations and feelings, the radiance and darkness, of a man in his life’s penumbra, the space of partial illumination between perfect shadow and full light, no longer young but not yet old. The manuscript file gets tweaked a couple of times a week, depending on my mood and belief in myself that day.

I am gathering research for a novel I have gnawing at my brain and guts about a woman I read but a single sentence about from Somerset, England, who came to America in the 1700s. She is said to have been killed while fighting for the American side in one of the Battles of Saratoga in the fall of 1777. That, her date of birth and her name, Trish Bodden, is all I know. At that same time, a noblewoman from that same county came to America to be with her husband, who commanded a British grenadier regiment at Saratoga. I found the comparisons and contrasts of these women fascinating. It’s a push whether I’ll have an empty skull and abdomen before this novel sees its way to publication. But there it is.

How does your work differ from others in your genre?

Thanks for making me think about this self-centered mumbo-jumbo of the writing craft. I think my status as someone who’s written for publication and a living since 1975, yet only recently allowed myself to be open to creating things from my heart, makes me stand out a bit.

This is no doubt most obvious in my poetry. I straddle the line between dewy emotional ingénue and that gritty, seen-a-lot storyteller who wants you to listen his story and then get the hell off his lawn.

I have, I’m told, a unique voice and vision. That’s probably true, since I don’t read much other poetry and fiction from which to absorb any influences. Couldn’t remember them anyway. So my voice is unique to me. But what writer’s isn’t, right? I just hope mine is more ruggedly handsome than the next guy’s.

Why do you write what you do?

I write what I do because I can. Or, rather, now I can. It’s exciting to express myself as I couldn’t or wouldn’t allow myself only a few years ago. I think I have a lot of stuff I don’t even know I do that I can share in my own way for quite some time to come.

Every day I have to write something. Most you will never see. It may only be a line of a poem, or a horrible first paragraph of a story, a research note for a book I might someday write, or a list of words I free associate upon a subject that might become a poem or story I can dash off. But to not write something would be to stop treading the water that would draw me back into the shadowy swells of my old empty obsessions. I could sink so easily into them again.

How does your writing process work?

It’s changed slightly since my dog Mollie died. Not much in my life hasn’t. When I’m really open to the world and my feelings, some image or emotional expression will inhabit me when I’m falling asleep at night, on a walk or when Mollie and I would go out at 5:30 in the morning. By the time I finish my walk or my commute to work, that something has become an idea with strings of words attached. While my computer boots in the darkened office, I grab a pencil and pad and write…fast. I figure the poem doesn’t have to be an arbitrary good, it just has to be.

My story-writing process is a little less, oh..ethereal. For that, I somehow place myself into a scene, actually crawling inside it as 3rd-person observer or inhabiting the skin of the protagonist. And I mean, Daniel Day-Lewis Method-acting “inhabit.” I see, hear, feel and smell everything, which probably is why I tend to infuse a lot of deep detail into my story drafts. Maybe I’m a poet trying to write prose, or a prose writer trying to write poetry. Or maybe even a ham actor trying to portray each.

I have recently tried something new in my creative process that I’ve borrowed from Ray Bradbury and the terrific Canadian writer Sarah Salecky…lists. I’ll grab my notebook, write a word or image at the top of the page and then write 1 through 10 down the sheet. From there, I write whatever words ooze from the shelves in my head. Very free. I look at the list and find connections and off I go. Weird, eh? Don’t do it all the time, but find it a good way to get the ball rolling when I’m stuck.

The most important part of the process, though, revision and polishing, I have a major problem with. Some of it’s not knowing how to really revise, right down to the DNA, a story or poem. The rest of it might be..let’s call it Editor’s Block. Paralysis by analysis. In other words, I probably ned an editor until I learn (and am viciously brave enough) to do it myself.

And that’s the big secret of what you read here. It’s all pretty much first drafts with a tinker here and there.

PLEASE visit these following writers, who will be posting their answers to these questions next week, Monday, April 7, 2014. They are terrifically talented writers and have become some of what Heather calls the “friends I’ve never met.” They have the passion for expressing their true hearts and sharing them through the written word with you that I don’t think I ever could.

Beth

Beth Winter writes poetry, prose, and anything else her itchy pen decides to scratch. A self-taught poet, she has written nearly 800 poems, nearly as many journals and has possibilities piled around her. She lives and works in the beautiful Kansas Flint Hills. She maintains a website called Eclipsing Winter where you can read more of her work.

Emmett

Emmett Wheatfall lives in Portland, Oregon where he reads, writes, and performs poetry. He has published four books of poetry entitled He Sees Things (2010), We Think We Know (2011), The Meaning of Me (2012), and Bread Widow (2013).
He has published four chapbooks under the titles Queen of the Nile, I Too Am A Slave, The Majestic, and Midnight In Madrid. Also, a number of his poems have been published by online journals and periodicals.

He has released three lyrical poetry CDs. When I Was Young (2010), I Loved You Once (2011), and Them Poetry Blues (2014), all of them contain great poetry writing set to jazz, blues, gospel, and pop musical influences.

A Thankful World Poetry Day

GRPG Meetup - London

A very happy World Poetry Day to all my versifying friends–those I’ve met and those I wish I could–around the globe.

Without poetry, I don’t believe I’d be so open to what this world has to offer.

And without you, I’d never believe I was a poet. I’m pretty sure I’d still be writing things in that odd way I do that some folks regard as “poems,” but I’d never believe I was one of those P-people.

Sometimes, I still don’t, which is probably why I so often refer to myself as a “poet guy.” It’s like I’m still occasionally holding onto the rail like a skater afraid of the open ice.

Happy Our Day to you all who have pulled me out to center ice, where the sunrises and salkows roam.

This, These, This

In the dark, ceiling-staring
into the nightly abyss,
I became not-alone.
Twilight dreams before sleep
projected a life of never be,
but would never leave
in the soft dawnlight glow
behind my hooded eyes.

I lie there thinking of
the living, the dead
and the one beneath
those covers who was neither.
With one more sigh,
t’was then I saw them,
short strings of expression
rising from my body,
five knots in the first,
seven on the next.

They repeated over and over,
a rope ladder I climbed
past soft women,
and hard worlds,
elevating my spirit
and body to a near-waking
breath and breath
exhalations of unrhyming song.

The blood-rush in my ears,
wave upon wave, sounded like
“Wish, which, wish,.”
To which I replied,
“This, these, this.”

My young friend, the terrifically talented Anthony Desmond, makes his official debut as a member of the dVerse Pots Pub crew the afternoon of March 4. He is asking poets to write a poem that is influenced by certain times in our lives that made us the poets we are today. I originally wrote something mopey and dark, but decided to toss it this morning. (I’m a foolish artist, aren’t I?) This piece came to me, like the time my first “real” poem, Night Writer, did. In fact, it practically is the story of Night Writer. Welcome aboard, Anthony. Hope I did right by you.

Shadow Play

Behind the pink scrim, shadow play performers gesture about the stage in indistinct silhouette to woodwind accompaniment and the plucked bass string of my pulse.

Here and there, flashes of halos bounce against the screen, but instead of blinking I open the curtains.

Before me I see lakeside willows waving and the glaring pitter-pat of the Star’s face upon that shattered mirror of water.

It falls warm upon my cheek like your touch, and I can’t help but close my eyes again.

“What are you smiling at,” you say, as I lean back, humming the score of Nature’s Ombre chinoise.

Here is a 100-word, Five Sentence Fiction drabble prose poem that I am sharing with Lillie McFerrin’s troops (Prompt: SUNSHINE) and with my friend Victoria C. Slotto’s call at dVerse today for and Object Poem, where we look at something quite ordinary, but in a different way. Hope I haven’t jumped too far from their requests…these pain meds and all.

A Thing for Words’ 3rd Birthday

Birthday cake 1

Today marks the third birthday of this little corner of the WWW called A Thing for Words. It was born of a desire to share my writing with other writers, but has grown into something even greater than than that. It’s become a home.

If you had walked up to me three years and a month ago and said I would one day be the proprietor of an Internet presence upon which I’d have hung something like 350 pieces of writing in 36 months (more than 300 of which would be poems, for God’s sake!), I would have laughed at you. And I didn’t laugh much back then. I’d never believe I would venture into the pirate seas of the blogosphere. However, even squirrelier, there is no way I could see myself writing 300-some poems…ever.

As I prepared to touch pen to paper in drafting (As usual, One-Take Hesch on the job) this bouquet to A Thing for Words, it came to me that I may have built this house, painted, papered and peopled it with my scribbles and blood-drop dribbles, but it’s been YOU who have made it a home. Because of you, my kind and generous readers, there is a pulse in the body of of this place. Your visits, “likes” and comments keep me at this exercise in therapeutic phlebotomy I try to conduct a couple or so times a week. Thank you for helping me find Me.

And so, friends, here I raise my glass of virtual brew on the occasion of the third birthday of our place together out here in the scary old World Wide Wilderness. You have made it a less scary place. You’ve helped make it home. Now, who wants cake?

Writer’s Lament

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Today I felt like I emptied out
my whole damn bag, reached in
and grabbed nothing but burlap.
This happens from time to time,
but it occurs more and more
these days. These nights.

They’re the empty windows I see
as the train of fictive thought
blows past me in the dark.
No faces, no people, no stories,
just a dizzying necklace of  lights
with no illumination.

We all go through these long nights
of emptiness, no feeling, no sense.
And just before I throw the hopeless,
helpless sack against the wall,
I felt this thing stuck in the weave…
See?

Here’ s my (hopefully final) sickbed poem, a 100-word Drabble, in response to a Word Bank prompt from my friend, the talented Kellie Elmore. Kellie said I could use any or all of these words — train – burlap – fiction – pearls – vertigo — or use them as inspiration. As usual, I took the biggest bite. Free Write Friday with the flu, baby. Don’t try this at home.