November 3rd, 2009


Doing Business Together

I think one thing that has really messed up the economy is this nonsense of changing who a person is doing business with, without their knowledge and consent. I don't think a bank should be allowed to "sell" someone's loan to a company that person might not want to do business with. When people actually know each other, can meet over a desk, and live in the same area, they are more likely to behave decently. Chopping up the market like this just creates trouble.

Goldman Takes On New Role: Taking Away People's Homes
Greg Gordon, McClatchy Newspapers: "When California wildfires ruined their jewelry business, Tony Becker and his wife fell months behind on their mortgage payments and experienced firsthand the perils of subprime mortgages. The couple wound up in a desperate, six-year fight to keep their modest, 1,500-square-foot San Jose home, a struggle that pushed them into bankruptcy. The lender with whom they sparred, however, wasn't the one that had written their loans. It was an obscure subsidiary of Wall Street colossus Goldman Sachs Group."

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.

EDIT: The Poetry Fishbowl is now closed. Thank you all.

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 "languages & ways of writing." 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.

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. 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.

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 whose eddresses I already have. If you want to see the poem inspired by your prompt, give me your eddress; I recommend using {at} and {dot} to discourage spammers. 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.

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 languages & ways of writing. I am especially looking for:

  • language speakers

  • writers

  • writing systems (alphabet, syllabary, etc.)

  • unusual writing tools (quills, clay, etc.), favorite languages

  • luscious words

  • language-related plot twists

  • history & innovations in writing

  • settings associated with languages or writing

  • and poetic forms linked to a culture 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.
Fly Free

Poem: "Shumáad Delineha - Space Flight"

Today's freebie poem was inspired by a prompt from haikujaguar ... and by Láadan, a language invented by ozarque. I'm not sure if my use of the grammar and vocabulary is quite perfect, and the translation is inexact since Láadan handles words rather differently than English, but I really had fun writing this. You can browse Láadan lessons and vocabulary online here.

Shumáad Delineha

Bíilan melolin with ranileha we.
Nashumáad yo.
Mehéedá with áwithethath.
“Bó il!” medi with.
Mehil áwith.
Mesháadehul óoyahonetha yulomathath.
Meshumáad óoyatha.

Bíi le dáanashoná wa.
Bíi ril ozh le wa.
Be aríli ozh le we.

* * *

Space Flight

Rejoice! I have dreamed:
The women gather outside.
A spaceship takes off.
The women lift their girl babies.
“Look!” say the women.
The girl babies look.
Their minds grow wings.
Their hearts fly.

I am a poet.
I dream in the present.
I will dream in the distant future.


EDIT 11/7/09: Here is a revised version, thanks to input from amjbarnhart regarding the Láadan.

Shumáad Delineha

Bíilan melolin with ranileha we.
Nashumáad yo.
Mehéedá with áwith benethath.
"Bó il na!" medi with.
Mehil áwith.
Mesháadehul óoyahonetha yulomathath.
Meshumáad óoyatha.

Bíi le dáanashoná wa.
Bíi ril ozh le wa.
Be aríli ozh le we.

* * *

Space Flight

Rejoice! I have dreamed:
The women gather outside.
A spaceship takes off.
The women lift their girl babies.
“Look, lovey!” say the women.
The girl babies look.
Their minds grow wings.
Their hearts fly.

I am a poet.
I dream in the present.
I will dream in the distant future.

Poem: "A Civil Tongue"

This poem was inspired and sponsored by marina_bonomi.

A Civil Tongue

When the world was young,
We rode roughshod over rivers and plains.
We planted our hooves on the mountain peaks
And laughed in the face of death.
We were free men, then,
Innocent of cities and civilizations.

Now our language has grown old.
It has taken the wheels off its wagon.
It has sheathed its sun-bright sword.

These days, we speak like citizens
Who must learn to keep a civil tongue.
These days, it is harder to remember
The thrill of battle and the joy of journeying –
It is difficult to think of these things
In a language that has forgotten them.

Yet sometimes, in our dreams,
The old words clatter like hooves on stone
And once more our thoughts run with the wild horses.

The Poet at Work

Sometimes I work on the computer. Sometimes I take out my notebook and write by hand. Here is a picture of me on the couch, writing, during the November 2009 Poetry Fishbowl. Photo courtesy of Doug Edwards.

This is posted because wbm is holding a book party for a comic book anthology, to which I contributed the story "The Engineer in His Cups." I wish I could be there. But let's be honest, after I shook hands, said hi, and swapped business cards ... sooner or later I'd probably plunk down and start writing something. So just imagine me sitting in a corner, doing what I do best.
Fly Free

Poem: "Storyboard"

A special welcome to new prompter zyngasvryka! (If you have not yet read her ongoing novel Eclipse Court, I highly recommend that you go check it out.)

So here is the second freebie poem of the day, "Storyboard," inspired by a prompt from moosl.


They are all here somewhere:
the hero
the pirate
the three witches
the urchins
the apparition
the genius
the wanderers
the innkeeper
the king

even the dancing bear and the bird man.

Instant epic, just add water –
an ocean or two should do.

The muse pastes their little figures
on the computer screen while I write,
rearranging them as necessary
until the story unfolds in compelling sequence.

When I try to sleep,
she pastes them on the inside of my eyelids

Call for Cosponsors of "Choralia"

Here is another call for cosponsors, this time minor_architect drumming up support for "Choralia." This free-verse science fiction poem came out of the November 3, 2009 Poetry Fishbowl, inspired by haikujaguar, ozarque, and a previous fishbowl poem (not yet published) called "The World That Sang." In "Choralia" we learn more about first contact between humans and a race of aliens who speak in chorus. Donors so far: minor_architect, janetmiles, nhpeacenik, haikujaguar, miintikwa, and stonetalker

EDIT 12/8/09: stonetalker has funded the remaining portion of this poem as a holiday gift to haikujaguar and miintikwa. Happy holidays!

This microfunded poem is being posted one verse at a time, as donations come in to cover them. The rate is $.50 per line, so $5 will reveal 10 new lines, and so forth. There is a permanent donation button on my profile page, or you can contact me for other arrangements.

78 lines, Buy It Now = $39
Amount donated = $30
Amount remaining to fund fully = $9
Amount needed to fund next verse = $3

EDIT 12/8/09: This poem is now FULLY FUNDED. The last portion was covered at half price as part of the 2009 Holiday Poetry Sale.


We did not know,
when first we arrived on your world,
that it was made of music
as much as matter.

We only knew
that it sang to us
from a thousand throats,
so beautiful and so mysterious.

We did not know,
when first we met your people,
that you were sentient.

We only knew
that your orchestral voices
were intricate and exquisite.

We suspected
that you were intelligent,
but we could not prove it.
We wanted to prove it,
so as to protect your world,
not knowing yet that
Choralia has its own protections.

When our starship disappeared,
we begged you to bring it back,
and when you did not,
we accused your people of stealing it.
But all our pleas and condemnations
were in vain.
We did not know that the safe way
into the system opens only once every twenty years.

So we stayed on Choralia,
becoming settlers
instead of explorers.

Our linguists followed your people everywhere,
recording and analyzing, always trying to tease out
words and grammar from the constant flow
of crescendos, arpeggios, diminuendos.

But people who look like walking pipe organs
and sound like clarinets and trumpets and
the high piping of piccolos
woven in with words in voices high and low
do not speak in the same way
that monkey-tongued humans must speak.

We noticed, though,
that babies born on Choralia
grew into musicians
as quickly as they grew into their feet
and learned to walk.

We called them mozarts
and let them play with keyboards
until they grew older and began to carve
flutes out of reeds and branches.

In their high childish voices
they mimicked you,
and you tootled back at them,
and we paid it no mind
for although the linguists still
puttered about with theories,
we had given up on communication.

It was not until
the first of the mozarts passed puberty
and their voices settled into adult registers
that they could combine with their younger siblings
into fully fluent choirs, treble to bass,
and take up their instruments
in elegant hands,
and speak to your people properly.

They tried to explain to us
that you are communal beings, not individuals,
and that we were hearing
not single words spoken in sequence
but whole sentences or paragraphs intoned at once,
the grammar woven through pitch and voice –-
but we were old, and did not understand.

It was a young Choralian who piped up,
one careful voice at a time,

Poem: "The Graffiti War"

This poem was prompted and sponsored by minor_architect. It takes a gritty yet whimsical look at a science fiction classic, aliens-invade-Earth.

The Graffiti War

When the Gkarr came to conquer Earth
they took care to destroy
the radios and televisions,
the phones and computers,
so as to cut off communication.
They confiscated books
and punished people for writing.
But they overlooked one thing –

It was not until
the first human slaves escaped
from cleaning alien toilets
and joined the resistance
that we learned why:
the Gkarr marked their territory
with colorful excretions laid out
in elaborate, abstract designs.

So we sprayed our insignia
on every boxcar and building and bridge
all over the city.
We painted the sidewalks and the streets.
There were no police left to stop us,
and the Gkarr didn’t care.

Cell to cell, we connected,
as we penned our plans minutely
into the margin of every neon signature;
every rebel learned to write fast and small
so that from a distance it looked like an outline.
Slaves passed the word cross-country
until the roads ran red with paint.

If the Gkarr caught someone at sabotage
and pressed his face to the pavement
or bounced him off a wall,
there was bound to be vital contact information
right under his nose.

We pushed back the lines,
retook what was ours, and
sprayed paint raucously over their marks
every inch of the way.

When we had finally beaten the Gkarr,
my gang stood victorious over the enemy ship
and the mayor of Chicago
personally handed us the cans
so we could tag the landing gear.