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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!  Today's theme is "sociological science fiction."  (Sociological science fiction deals with soft sciences such as anthropology, psychology, and linguistics; and how technology impacts societies.  If you have a favorite social issue, that's fair game too.)  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 "sociological science fiction." 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 "sociological science fiction."  I'll be soliciting ideas for social scientists, unsocialized characters, aliens from unusual societies, things that make a culture unique, weird bits from historic cultures, things an alien might find bizarre about human culture, devices useful in social sciences, how biology shapes society, plot twists based on social sciences, plot lines where a previous writer went to a certain point but quit just when it was about to get interesting, alien societies, futuristic cultures, 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

42 comments or Leave a comment
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ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: July 6th, 2010 05:00 pm (UTC) (Link)


Courtesy of siege and the_vulture, both of whom left advance prompts because they couldn't be online right now, I have combined the concepts of "greetings" and "carlessness" to create the poem "Passing Time." It's positive science fiction, but in a different direction than usual: the appreciation of slow instead of fast. The evolution in this free-verse poem is not biological or technological, but social -- a fond awareness of how far that society has come.

16 lines, Buy It Now = $10
janetmiles From: janetmiles Date: July 6th, 2010 05:29 pm (UTC) (Link)
Linguistics: tech is developed to keep the language-acquisition window open through adulthood, perhaps through an implant or gengineering.

Social issues: tacit is fascinated by radical longevity (me, I'm horrified at the idea of living forever). How would it change society? Would different cultures respond differently?
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: July 6th, 2010 06:16 pm (UTC) (Link)


I combined both the language and the longevity into one poem, and then realized that it's in the same setting as "Passing Time" so the_vulture is involved here too. "The Given Now" is a free-verse poem about how a society changes when it removes its mortal deadline. It doesn't necessarily go in a direction we would expect, because we're not there yet.

50 lines, Buy It Now = $20
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: July 6th, 2010 05:32 pm (UTC) (Link)


Doubling back to siege's comment about conlang greetings, I built a poem around greetings in natural and invented languages. "What We Say in Passing" is a free-verse poem about hidden messages.

38 lines, Buy It Now = $15
siege From: siege Date: July 7th, 2010 02:56 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: Poem

I'd like to note that those two greetings were received via spirits, who taught them as from the languages of their own home cultures. What happens if technology allowed us to speak with long-departed aliens, and what languages might they evidence, what cultural insights would they have to teach us that we could only learn this way -- and what distortions might occur as the technology evolves? One possibility to combine with this is the idea of time travel, that a people who gained instant communications early on might break light-speed in order to speak with their elders... from the other side of the galaxy.

Sorry if I'm posting this too late; a coincidental event caused me to not go to camp this week, but LJ crashed earlier this evening for me, so I couldn't post until I got home.
(Deleted comment)
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: July 6th, 2010 07:20 pm (UTC) (Link)


I combined "homelessness and newer housing modules" with jenny_evergreen's idea of designing a home that is unattractive to insects. The result is "Homefield," a free-verse poem about nanotechnology creating portable houses -- and the unanticipated side effects of that.

28 lines, Buy It Now = $15
valdary From: valdary Date: July 6th, 2010 05:49 pm (UTC) (Link)
Cloning and recognition of siblinghood
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: July 6th, 2010 09:23 pm (UTC) (Link)


From your "cloning" prompt I got "Apology to a Daughter Once Removed," a family confession about the challenges and charms of cloning. This is a prose poem, a form I almost never write; and also an epistolary poem, which takes the form of a letter. So the line count is inexact, but that's okay because it falls near the middle of the "medium-short" range anyhow.

@ 17 lines, Buy It Now = $10
jenny_evergreen From: jenny_evergreen Date: July 6th, 2010 05:52 pm (UTC) (Link)
I don't know why I'm having trouble with ideas, this is one of my fields!

I was thinking of a culture that uses insect avoidance as its primary goal; so, for example, if a house attracts insects, they'd redesign until it didn't, changing materials, etc.

Heh. How about a culture based entirely/primarily on intuition?

Pick some elements and see how they socialize together, assuming sentience.
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: July 6th, 2010 07:21 pm (UTC) (Link)

See above...

... my description of "Homefield" using an insect-proof house. For certain loose definitions of "house."
From: minor_architect Date: July 6th, 2010 06:07 pm (UTC) (Link)
Alien museums! What do you think would be on display? And would entire societies have access to the exhibits or just the "chosen few"...whoever they may be?
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: July 6th, 2010 08:05 pm (UTC) (Link)


From this I got "The Hall of Worlds," a poem about the museum at the center of the galaxy. All will be remembered, and there is only one exclusion.

30 lines, Buy It Now = $15
tonithegreat From: tonithegreat Date: July 6th, 2010 07:24 pm (UTC) (Link)
A few prompts regarding issues on my brain lately that could work for this:

  • How does an alien culture deal with the allocation of finite resources?

  • Contemplative society versus a pragmatic society.
  • tonithegreat From: tonithegreat Date: July 6th, 2010 07:32 pm (UTC) (Link)
    Here's another interesting concept that you might use in building an alien culture; Dunbar's Number.
    ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: July 6th, 2010 09:03 pm (UTC) (Link)


    I've encountered Dunbar's number before, but I think this is the first time I've seen that name for it. From this I got the free-verse poem "Editing Dunbar's Number," which explains how humanity finally achieved world peace.

    61 lines, Buy It Now = $30.50
    marina_bonomi From: marina_bonomi Date: July 6th, 2010 08:22 pm (UTC) (Link)
    I'd love to see what you could make with my job in a SF or fantasy setting.

    As you may remember, I am a cultural mediator (specifically for China, in my case) we are a cross between a translator and a diplomat, 'go-betweens' between the varous services (hospitals, schools, social services and so on) and immigrants who (mostly)still have problems with the language. We work by helping the 2 parts to come in contact and find common ground to solve the problems one might have (for instance helping the patient to understand a medical procedure, translating the doctor's question in a polite, respectful way, 'bringing out' doubts and helping to avoid cultural misunderstandings).

    We can't take anyone's side and are bound by confidentiality. My boss used to define our job as 'absorbing uneasiness and giving back trust'
    ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: July 7th, 2010 12:34 am (UTC) (Link)


    To this I added some examples of cultural challenges using prompts by xjenavivex, janetmiles, jenny_evergreen, and tonithegreat. The poem itself is set in my main science fiction universe. "Buffer's Own" is a free-verse poem about the origin and performance of the mediators. This particular setting has a variety of interesting character classes, and I hadn't known about this one until you pointed my attention in that direction. Cool. I just hope I did it justice in the description.

    74 lines, Buy It Now = $37
    eseme From: eseme Date: July 6th, 2010 08:31 pm (UTC) (Link)
    I know why I am not coming up with ideas - I'm home sick. Just wanted to leave a note that I enjoy the monthly poetry.
    ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: July 6th, 2010 09:04 pm (UTC) (Link)


    I hope you feel better soon.
    jolantru From: jolantru Date: July 6th, 2010 10:07 pm (UTC) (Link)
    Marriage customs with different genders in mind?
    zianuray From: zianuray Date: July 6th, 2010 11:06 pm (UTC) (Link)
    zianuray From: zianuray Date: July 6th, 2010 11:07 pm (UTC) (Link)
    I know this has been done to death, but variant gender / non-gendered designations and how these may be influenced by societies that recognize more genders or none
    ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: July 7th, 2010 01:35 am (UTC) (Link)

    See above...

    I put this together with jolantru's prompt about marriage.
    wyld_dandelyon From: wyld_dandelyon Date: July 7th, 2010 12:53 am (UTC) (Link)
    Alien religions.

    Rites of passage. If beings evolved in vacuum, what kind of rites of passage might they have?

    ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: July 7th, 2010 02:37 am (UTC) (Link)


    From "rites of passage" I got the idea for a species that lives in a cometary orbit. I think they reproduce by budding, but I'm not sure whether that's a sexual or asexual process for them. In any case, their rite of passage is perihelion. "The Sungrazers" is a sonnet telling of the approach, their apprehension and determination.

    14 lines, Buy It Now = $10
    From: siliconshaman Date: July 7th, 2010 01:40 am (UTC) (Link)
    Hmm...how about an experimental anthropologist, someone who designs cultures and conducts frighteningly subtle tests on societies.

    Which sounds like it ought to lend itself to a Haiku chain. [linked Haiku's].
    ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: July 7th, 2010 03:02 am (UTC) (Link)


    Okay, I gave this a try as a haiku chain. You'll have to judge how well it worked. I gave each of four theories a pair of haiku verses, and didn't count the main title or the subtitles in the line count. "Coal into Diamonds" not only follows the experimental anthropologist through several cultures, but hints that this character too is caught within the culture of origin.

    24 lines, Buy It Now = $10

    Edited at 2010-07-07 08:19 pm (UTC)
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