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The Wordsmith's Forge
The Writing & Other Projects of Elizabeth Barrette
Poetry Fishbowl Open!
Starting now, the Poetry Fishbowl is open!  (Net connection is slow and spitty today; I hope it works well enough to run the fishbowl properly.)  Today's theme is "teaching basic lessons," as selected by the audience.  (Poetry that teaches something is called "didactic poetry."  If it helps memorize information, it's called "mnemonic verse."  Both are often scorned today, but they still work.)  I'm soliciting ideas for characters who are teaching, characters who are learning, educational tools, sets of related items to be memorized, methods of learning, challenges encountered in education, morals or themes to be learned, settings in which didactic poetry was popular, and poetic forms in particular. I will be checking this page periodically throughout the day. When people make suggestions, I'll pick some and weave them together into a poem ... and then another ... and so on. I'm hoping to get a lot of ideas and a lot of poems.

What Is a Poetry Fishbowl?

Writing is usually considered a solitary pursuit. One exception to this is a fascinating exercise called a "fishbowl." This has various forms, but all of them basically involve some kind of writing in public, usually with interaction between author and audience. A famous example is Harlan Ellison's series of "stories under glass" in which he sits in a bookstore window and writes a new story based on an idea that someone gives him. Writing classes sometimes include a version where students watch each other write, often with students calling out suggestions which are chalked up on the blackboard for those writing to use as inspiration.

In this online version of a Poetry Fishbowl, I begin by setting a theme; today's theme is "teaching basic lessons." I invite people to suggest characters, settings, and other things relating to that theme. Then I use those prompts as inspiration for writing poems.

Cyberfunded Creativity

I'm practicing cyberfunded creativity. If you enjoy what I'm doing and want to see more of it, please feed the Bard. The following options are currently available:

1) Sponsor the Fishbowl -- Here is a PayPal button for donations. There is no specific requirement, but $1 is the minimum recommended size for PayPal transactions since they take a cut from every one. You can also donate via check or money order sent by postal mail. If you make a donation and tell me about it, I promise to use one of your prompts. Anonymous donations are perfectly welcome, just won't get that perk. General donations will be tallied, and at the end of the fishbowl I’ll post a list of eligible poems based on the total funding; then the audience can vote on which they want to see posted.

2) Buy It Now! -- Gakked from various e-auction sites, this feature allows you to sponsor a specific poem. If you don't want to wait for some editor to buy and publish my poem so you can read it, well, now you don't have to. Sponsoring a poem means that I will immediately post it on my blog for everyone to see, with the name of the sponsor (or another dedicate) if you wish; plus you get a nonexclusive publication right, so you can post it on your own blog or elsewhere as long as you keep the credits intact. You'll need to tell me the title of the poem you want to sponsor. I'm basing the prices on length, and they're comparable to what I typically make selling poetry to magazines (semi-pro rates according to Duotrope's Digest).

0-10 lines: $5
11-25 lines: $10
26-40 lines: $15
41-60 lines: $20
Poems over 60 lines, or with very intricate structure, fall into custom pricing.

3) Commission a scrapbook page. I can render a chosen poem in hardcopy format, on colorful paper, using archival materials for background and any embellishments. This will be suitable for framing or for adding to a scrapbook. Details are here.  New photos of sample scrapbooked poems are here.

4) Spread the word. Echo or link to this post on your LiveJournal, other blog, Twitter, Facebook, MySpace, Digg, StumbleUpon, or any other social network.  The Twitter hashtag is #poetryfishbowl.  Encourage people to come here and participate in the fishbowl. If there is at least one new prompter or donor, I will post an extra freebie poem.

Additional Notes

1) I customarily post replies to prompt posts telling people which of their prompts I'm using, with a brief description of the resulting poem(s). If you want to know what's available, watch for those "thumbnails."

2) You don't have to pay me to see a poem based on a prompt that you gave me. I try to send copies of poems to people, mostly using the LJ message function.  (Anonymous prompters will miss this perk unless you give me your eddress.)  These are for-your-eyes-only, though, not for sharing.

3) Sponsors of the Poetry Fishbowl in general, or of specific poems, will gain access to an extra post in appreciation of their generosity.

4) After the Poetry Fishbowl concludes, I will post a list of unsold poems and their prices, to make it easier for folks to see what they might want to sponsor.

Feed the Fish!
Now's your chance to participate in the creative process by posting ideas for me to write about. Today's theme is "teaching basic lessons."   I'm soliciting ideas for characters who are teaching, characters who are learning, educational tools, sets of related items to be memorized, methods of learning, challenges encountered in education, morals or themes to be learned, settings in which didactic poetry was popular, and poetic forms in particular. But anything is welcome, really. If you manage to recommend a form that I don't recognize, I will probably pounce on it and ask you for its rules. I do have the first edition of Lewis Turco's The Book of Forms which covers most common and many obscure forms.

I'll post at least one of the fishbowl poems here so you-all can enjoy it. (Remember, you get an extra freebie poem if someone new posts a prompt or makes a donation.) The rest will go into my archive for magazine submission.

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Current Mood: creative creative

51 comments or Leave a comment
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janetmiles From: janetmiles Date: May 11th, 2010 05:17 pm (UTC) (Link)
This may be outside your parameters, but if you could come up with something about the rules of logarithms, I would be ecstatic. No, I don't need to use them, but I've had them in several math classes and I always end up losing them within weeks of the class ending. I'd like to get them lodged into permanent storage.

If I think of anything less awful, I'll prompt it later.
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: May 11th, 2010 05:47 pm (UTC) (Link)


Well ... I tried. I got two verses into "Log Rhythms," describing what a logarithm is and the basic assumptions. And then it crashed because, well, I don't know how to read the benighted things, how they sound when read out loud in English words, not written as numbers on a page. I couldn't find a source for that online; I'm working at the fringes of my experience here. If I'm going to turn something into poetry, I have to know how it can be said and how words could be juggled around to make them memorable ... like knowing that 2010 can be said "two thousand ten" or "two thousand and ten" or "twenty-ten," etc.

Do you have any resources that might help?
valdary From: valdary Date: May 11th, 2010 05:18 pm (UTC) (Link)
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: May 11th, 2010 06:27 pm (UTC) (Link)


Okay, this got me thinking of stellar navigation, so I wrote a mnemonic for finding the North and the South pole using constellations. "Star Faring" is a couplet-rhymed ballad. (Writing these things is harder than it looks ...!)

16 lines, Buy It Now = $10
janetmiles From: janetmiles Date: May 11th, 2010 05:25 pm (UTC) (Link)
Okay, more thoughts. Characters who are teachers but not traditionally so: occupational or physical therapists.

Characters who are learning: A baby or young dragon learning how to keep inventory. An AI.

Morals: "Those who can, do; those who can't, teach" is a vile statement. However, it can be correct in one regard: Those who can NO LONGER do, may be able to teach (e.g., retired warriors, dancers who've worn out their knees).
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flutterbychild From: flutterbychild Date: May 11th, 2010 05:26 pm (UTC) (Link)

lead by example

"I slept and I dreamed that life is all joy. I woke and I saw that life is all service. I served and I saw that service is joy. "
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: May 11th, 2010 08:28 pm (UTC) (Link)


From "lead by example" I got the couplet poem "Walking and Talking," which is today's freebie. I'll post that separately so everyone can see it.
ellenmillion From: ellenmillion Date: May 11th, 2010 05:32 pm (UTC) (Link)
An unusual teacher

A classroom in the sky

Learning colors
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ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: May 12th, 2010 01:55 am (UTC) (Link)


From your guitar prompt I got "Stringing Along," a couplet-rhymed verse naming the strings in order.

6 lines, Buy It Now = $5
haikujaguar From: haikujaguar Date: May 11th, 2010 05:43 pm (UTC) (Link)
I'd love a singsong rhyme that teaches about common everyday dangers (like running into streets, touching hot stoves, putting fingers on the floor and then in the mouth).

And then the same idea, but with a magical setting. :)
jenny_evergreen From: jenny_evergreen Date: May 11th, 2010 05:49 pm (UTC) (Link)
Ooh, seconded, not least so I can teach it to my kids! :P
jenny_evergreen From: jenny_evergreen Date: May 11th, 2010 05:48 pm (UTC) (Link)
The first thing that comes to mind is a sort of in joke with my mother: "When the sled is headed for a tree, JUMP OUT."
See, I was in a sled (actually a "flying saucer" style one with basically no steering) and I was headed for a tree, but I was going VERY fast down a slope and was afraid to try and get out. I managed to flip the fortunately metal sled between me and the tree and came away with only a sore hand (it whacked the tree sideways) and a crushed sled.
So, for ever after, whenever a "this should be REALLY OBVIOUS but I'm going to tell you anyway, JUST IN CASE" moment comes up, the in joke gets mentioned. I've already used it with my spouse and probably will with my children as well.

Sometimes, pointing out the obvious isn't as useless as it may seem. :)
janetmiles From: janetmiles Date: May 11th, 2010 06:37 pm (UTC) (Link)
Oooh! Oooh! And, "Ray, when someone asks you if you're a god, you say 'YES'!"

And "Green and Go and Gas all start with the same letter for a REASON!" (Alternate phrasing: "It's the one on the right, dammit.")

And this is going to make absolutely no sense to anyone except me and my friend Jan WINOLJ, but "Put. The reptile. BACK."
marina_bonomi From: marina_bonomi Date: May 11th, 2010 07:24 pm (UTC) (Link)
What about a teching rhyme about the Ogham tree alphabet?

Or...another one used by children to memorize the steps of a simple origami toy, like the boat?
http://www.origami-fun.com/origami-boat.html (ifthye prompt 'clicks' feel free to use any kind of origami toy that works for you, of course).

ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: May 11th, 2010 09:24 pm (UTC) (Link)


The boat prompt turned into two poems. First, I wrote "The Folding Boat," a ballad explaining the steps of the origami pattern.

20 lines, Buy It Now = $10

Then of course I got to wondering what our friend the Origami Mage would be doing with a folding boat. That image merged with some old Japanese imagery about flowers and water and going with the flow. I am really tickled by how this one turned out. "flowing water, folding boat" is written in haiku verses.

21 lines, Buy It Now = $10
siege From: siege Date: May 11th, 2010 08:59 pm (UTC) (Link)

A few themes

How to own a knife; pocket knives, cooking knives, hunting knives, carving knives. Care and maintenance, safe use, safe carrying and handling.

Something on the subject of land use and wildlife conservation, perhaps from several points of view (hunter, ranger, cattle rancher, the wildlife).

The basic calligraphic strokes.
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: May 11th, 2010 09:52 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: A few themes

As it happens, my grandparents used pocket knives regularly, so I found this a charming topic. "Cutting Words" is written in rhymed couplets, detailing some of the rules for knife care and safety.

16 lines, Buy It Now = $10
eseme From: eseme Date: May 11th, 2010 09:57 pm (UTC) (Link)
I may be too late. I check LJ after work, not before.

How about something humorous on the subject of training a dog (or other animal - it might be interesting from the POV of the rat in the maze).

Humans are not the only ones who learn.
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: May 12th, 2010 12:34 am (UTC) (Link)


This reminded me that sometimes teaching animals to do things is not such a good idea. It made me think of a video about kea birds, which are very smart and destructive, but funny at the same time. The result is "Keys," a cheeky little ballad.

28 lines, Buy It Now = $15
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ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: May 11th, 2010 11:40 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: fishbowl

Yay! I'm happy to see you here again.

*chuckle* My desertfolk have been in my head all day, since I tried fooling around with logarithms this morning. Waterjewel fields some of the finest warriors in the Whispering Sands ... but they don't approach training the same way the bandit-tribes do. You happened across one of the odd little principles that characterizes the Waterjewel way: not brute force, but the natural flow of things. And just because it isn't rough doesn't mean it's easy... "Learning to Relax" is free verse about swordfighting, falling, and foreign languages.

18 lines, Buy It Now = $10
wyld_dandelyon From: wyld_dandelyon Date: May 11th, 2010 11:07 pm (UTC) (Link)

some ideas

Computer programming (there being a programming language called Basic)


Being responsible for yourself and your family


Mind-reading etiquette

ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: May 12th, 2010 01:00 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: some ideas

From "politeness" I got the ballad "Magic Words." It lists the little social phrases that make life easier, and the situations for their use ... and what magic really is.

24 lines, Buy It Now = $10
From: minor_architect Date: May 11th, 2010 11:42 pm (UTC) (Link)
I realize this isn't a basic (as in "beginning") lesson but what about a poem that teaches the concept of "earnings, not entitlement?"

In Japan, it's phrased as, "Those who work get to eat."

And Mark Twain once said, "The world owes you nothing. It was here first."
haikujaguar From: haikujaguar Date: May 12th, 2010 12:55 am (UTC) (Link)
I certainly think of that as a beginning lesson.
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: May 12th, 2010 03:58 am (UTC) (Link)

Done for the night!

Okay, that's it for tonight. Thank you all for coming. It's been a fascinating day.
51 comments or Leave a comment
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