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Writing Prompts: The Perfect Time (to Start Again)

the perfect time (to start again)

(c) 10 Dec 2013 Windy Johansen

This time’s phrase is: the perfect time (to start again)

My creative writing often has these ideas of redemption and triumph as central themes; even if such ideas aren’t central, they’re typically woven through a work. I’ve had to start over so many times.

ANd as much tragedy as there can be in the things that make us start over, there’s often hope. Hope that this time will bring us closer to the best people we can be.

I think these moments give us the chance to be our own people. I think they also remind us of how delicate things in life can be…how delicate our own fellow beings are. I think these times of picking up the piece teach us to be kinder to the next person who goes through their own set of awful things.

I think that it makes our dreams and hopes capable of becoming far more rich and alive than they could be otherwise.

And at the same time, I really hate blazing through piles of tissues because I cried approximately 500 times today. But those things, those awesome things that grow out of this…brokenness…they’re grand. (And piles of dirty tissue is a small price to pay for that.)

I see this picture in my mind of dirt or soil broken into little jagged dry pieces. Those pieces are glass sharp enough to hurt you. The ground is rocky now; no water will ever make it produce life again. You’re sure it can’t.

You walk around a bit, picking past large shards. You stumble, fall, and dust yourself off. Ow. Owowow.

And then you see it…there’s this little plant growing a few inches from your toes. Somehow, life is still here.

You fell over that spot not long ago. Your blood must have given that seed just enough water to grow. You’re sure that has to be it. Otherwise that’d be a miracle.

Do miracles happen? N-no…Um..

The plant just continues to be there. It’s a bright green, with softly rounded leaves.

Do miracles happen?

And in that little plant..inside you, is this new promise: Tomorrow may not give you any rain, and the glass might hurt you, but there will always be bright things somewhere.

Unexpected life is extraordinary stuff. And as you look around, you spy other plants, even in places you haven’t been to.

Wow. The broken ground gave these little seeds room to sprout.

An embryonic forest of miraculous origin.

It’s the perfect time to start again.
How do you feel about these things?


A Less than Poetic Announcement

I’m going to have to stop doing the “A Poetic Look At” series as often. I can’t do such long posts every week with the way my arms are right now. I’m going to make it a special sort of thing that’s done roughly twice or three times a month.

Also the “5 Ways” series is getting pared down too, largely because I can’t seem to come up with enough ideas. I’ll write posts in that series when I actually get an idea, which…really doesn’t give you much of a schedule for that. I’m sorry.

But I’m not going away. I’m just..redecorating, moving furniture… that sort of thing.

The good news is that all this paring will make room for me to write way more writing prompts. Writing prompts are so nice, because the empty page is terrifying to me. (I think that’s likely true for you too.

This also gives me the chance to share more of the stuff that shows the inherent beauty and artwork in life. Life is full of creative geniuses from loads of fields. I want you to see these things and squee as much as I do.

Doing this will allow me to post 6 days a week. Yay!

Love you! <3

A Poetic Look At: Villanelle


(c) 2013 Windy Johansen

Villanelles are interesting, if repetitive, poems to compose as well as read. Historically, they described pastoral settings. Of course your villanelles don’t have to keep with history.

You’ll notice that this post has a completely different tone than the previous ones. I’m in the middle of a bout with tendinitis. I’m sitting here, on my couch, dictating this to my computer. Computers are awesome, but it is kind of funny when the computer types “if” every time I sniffle. :D (In the interest of being stupidly detailed, some of this has been typed, and some was written via dictation.)

The villanelle’s form seems complex, and it is complex to explain, but it isn’t too complex to work with. There are several elements. Let’s go through them, and then I’ll show you how I wrote a villanelle for this post. (It may not be awesome, but it will show you how this works, and that’s all I want it to do.)

There are six stanzas. Stanzas one through five each have three lines (stanzas like this are called tercets), while stanza six has four lines (stanzas like this are called quatrains). This gives us nineteen lines.

While villanelles don’t necessarily have to have a meter, it’s now common to write one in pentameter. (A couple hundred years ago either trimeter or tetrameter were common.)

There are two single-line refrains woven into the poem. Since these lines are repeated several times, they have the most power to communicate your central theme. (Refrains are something like short choruses.)
Make sure the first and second refrains flow together and stand on their own two (metaphoric) feet. (Now I wonder what it might look like if they did. Haha.)

The rhyme scheme is at once very simple, and very..not-simple. There are only two rhyme sounds used. This is the simple bit. The other is that you must choose your line-ending words carefully, because you only have two rhyme sounds to use for the whole of the poem.

The rhyme scheme is ABA for every stanza except the final one, which is ABAA. The refrains fall into the rhyme scheme this way:

1st stanza: First line is refrain #1, using rhyme A. Second line uses rhyme B, Third line is refrain #2, which uses rhyme A.
2nd and 4th stanzas: First line uses rhyme A. Second line uses rhyme B, Third line repeats refrain #1, which uses rhyme A.
3rd and 5th stanzas: First line uses rhyme A. Second line uses rhyme B, Third line repeats refrain #2, which uses rhyme A.
6th stanza: First line uses rhyme A. Second line uses rhyme B, Third line repeats refrain #1, which uses rhyme A. Fourth line repeats refrain #2, which uses rhyme A.

How I Wrote A Villanelle
I am not good at writing to a form. I suppose some of my poems could fit a form; I really don’t know. But I wanted to take the challenge. So I made a couple maps for myself, so I didn’t hit any snags and ragequit. (I’m not very patient with my imperfections. But I want us all to be patient with imperfections.)

Refrains: They’re Not Small, They’re Fun-Sized!
I mapped out my refrains, knowing that they needed to carry a lot of weight. I made several changes to my second refrain to make it work better.

refrain 1 (rhyme A): I do not, will not, cannot agree
refrain 2 (rhyme B): with why you’ve made this debris

In the end, involve got tweaked to become involved, but the resulting poem should help you understand the form better. And refrain #2 got change a bunch of times.

Rhyme Time
Since the rhyme scheme uses only two sounds (rhyme A and rhyme B), I listed the rhymes out so that I could see if I had enough words to rhyme with, say, the word solve. If a word has many words that rhyme with it, you don’t need to list all of them for this method to work, you just need to list the ones you want to use.
If you don’t know which ones you want, pick some at random and trust your imagination. If something comes into your mind that fits the rhyme scheme and your poem, don’t worry if it’s not on your list, especially if you like the feel it gives your poem. :) Trust yourself and your creative wisdom.

You don’t have to do this. But I found that it helped me. It could help with making sure you don’t use a cliched rhyme, too. (But don’t be afraid of a cliche. June and moon rhyme, and it’s a cliched rhyme, but maybe your poem is about the moon in June. In that case, you can try to use other words, or just use moon and June…depending on how important it might be to be exact about your descriptions.)

rhyme A (7 needed, refrain lines and first rhyme sound): see, agree, free, three, debris, me, tree, be, knee, flee
rhyme B (6 needed, central lines)::solve, absolve, revolve, involve, devolve, evolve, resolve, dissolve

The Result: “Anger”
I do not, will not, cannot agree
I don’t know what problem you hope to solve
Hey, why’d you make this debris?

Don’t you lie, I know you see
Each new day, I find new resolve
I do not, will not, cannot agree

Your mind can lie to you, but not to me
You can’t get rid of me, I’m too involved
Hey, why’d you make this debris?

For every mile of you, I’ll go three
Tanks, guns, you think you’ll be absolved
I do not, will not, cannot agree

Even if you cry, I’m still free
I don’t get it, why can’t you evolve?
Hey, why’d you make this debris?

If I stand up and draw my sword, you’ll flee
I won’t let your fire destroy, or dissolve
I do not, will not, cannot agree
Hey, why’d you make this debris?

Ah ha ha. CRAP.


(c) 2013 Windy Johansen

I know posts have been super slim this week. It’s not that I don’t love you all.

My arms are still being ridiculous. (Someday I will learn that tendinitis takes rest as a dare and gets worse!) I’ve found some exercises that will help. I’ve also set up my computer so it can take dictation for me. This is making the posts take 9000 bazillion years to write, because I’m new to doing it that way, and so is my poor computer. (Also, pain makes me ragequit more often than normal, which doesn’t help at all.)

I’ll get the posts I promised to write written. They’ll just show up later.

Love you. :D
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(c) 2013 Windy Johansen