October 14th, 2008


How Job Loss Frays Communities

This article reveals that involuntary layoffs tend to cause a permanent reduction in people's community involvement.

Lose Your Job, Lose Contact With Your Community
Tom Jacobs, Miller-McCune: "Two troubling trends have reshaped the lives of Americans over the past few decades: Our jobs are less secure, and we are less likely to participate in social and community groups. A first-of-its-kind study suggests these phenomena are linked. Analyzing decades of data, sociologist Jennie Brand of the University of California, Los Angeles and Sarah Burgard of the University of Michigan found workers who have been laid off even once are 35 percent less likely to be involved in community or social organizations than workers who have never lost a job under those circumstances. "

Poetry Fishbowl Open!

Starting now, the Poetry Fishbowl is open! 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.

Also, if you're thinking about using my poetry as a holiday present, the next couple of months will be better for that than December; if I get overloaded, it'll take longer than if people spread out requests for scrapbooked poems and such.

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 "horror." I invite people to suggest characters, settings, and other things relating to that theme. Then I use those prompts as inspiration for writing poems.

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Poem: "The Doll House"

Here is the freebie poem for today's fishbowl. It was inspired by a prompt from minor_architect. Since the topic is so timely, I decided to share this one today rather than wait for an editor to buy it.

The Doll House

When the witch’s house was foreclosed upon,
she went quietly.
She packed her black dresses and her brooms.
She closed and latched the oven door.
She dug up the belladonna, the foxglove, the hemlock
and carried them away in pots.

Of course, with the housing market
in such dire straits,
ordinary buyers were hard to find.
So the bank’s real estate broker showed the house,
in person or in photos mailed and emailed all over,
to anyone who might be enticed to make an offer.
Mostly that meant showing it to other bankers
and brokers and investors looking for bargains.

“Hmm,” they would say, “it’s not a bad place …
rather small, though.” Or “It’s quaint, don’t you think?”
That sort of thing.

Then they’d see the last room.
“Oh my! What an amazing collection of dolls. Look –
little three-piece suits and business dresses and even briefcases!”
That’s what they’d say, and then they’d ask,
“But what are these still doing here?
They must be worth a lot of money.”
“I guess the previous tenant must have left them,”
the bank’s broker would say, then prompt,
“Would you like to make an offer on the property?”

But no matter what they said that day,
none of them were ever heard from again,
and the house stood empty…

… except for the dolls.

Poem: "Motherless"

This poem was inspired by prompts from flutterbychild and dulcinbradbury. It has been sponsored by janetmiles.


Monsters are motherless children.
Oh, they have fathers, right enough –-
The Wolfman and Dracula with their penetrating teeth,
Dr. Frankenstein with his shining implements of science –-
But there are no mothers in these old stories.
No warm milk. No lullabies. No night-light.
No one’s hand to hold when it hurts.
No one to come with a flannel blanket
When the nightmares wake,
Because these nightmares are for real.
No memories -– none at all –- of being loved.
Is it any wonder, then, that we call them monsters,
When they do not share the common ground
That makes us human?