December 1st, 2009


Fading Dreams

America is becoming more and more a place where a few people have vast amounts of wealth, and the vast majority scrabble for the basics. Lords and peasants, all over again -- without even the old noblesse oblige. It's disgraceful.

Henry A. Giroux | No Bailouts for Youth: Broken Promises and Dashed Hopes
Henry A. Giroux, Truthout: "It appears ever more unlikely that the Obama administration will undo the havoc wrought by the Bush administration (itself the culmination of a decades-long trend toward market deregulation) or reverse the effects of a rampant free-market fundamentalism now unleashed across the globe. As the financial crisis looms large in the lives of the majority of Americans, government funds are used to bail out Wall Street bankers rather than being used to address either the growing impoverishment of the many people who have lost homes, jobs and hope of a better future, or the structural conditions that created such problems. In this scenario, a privileged minority retains the freedom to purchase time, goods, services, and security, while the vast majority of people are relegated to a life without protections, benefits, and safety supports. For those populations considered expendable, redundant and invisible by virtue of their race, class and age, life becomes increasingly precarious."

Art Levine | As Treasury Department Stumbles, Liberals Push Tougher Measures to Stem Foreclosures
Art Levine, Truthout: "With today's scheduled announcement by the Treasury Department of new efforts to pressure lenders to lower mortgage costs, progressive economists, advocacy groups and legislators are pushing for tougher measures to keep homeowners in their homes - and to force banks to take losses on their exploding mortgages. In contrast, the Obama administration's response to a crisis that is causing two million families a year to face the loss of their homes has been widely derided as ineffective."

Housing Meltdown, Ground Zero: The American Home-Owning Dream on Life Support
Andy Kroll, "At the end of a week in mid-October when the Dow Jones soared past 10,000, Goldman Sachs recorded 'just another fantastic quarter' with a $3.2 billion quarterly profit, JPMorgan Chase raked in a cool $3.6 billion, and a New York Times headline declared 'Bailout Helps Revive Banks, And Bonuses,' I spent a Saturday evening with about 100 people camped out in a northern California parking lot ... These people, and thousands more like them who had streamed into the arena all day long from as far away as Los Angeles, Phoenix and Las Vegas, were unemployed, broke, bankrupt or at their wit's end. They were here waiting for help - for their chance to make it inside the warm arena to participate in 'America's Best Mortgage Program.'"

42 Essential 3rd Act Twists

I bet some of you could've used this last week! Anyhow, here is a list of bizarre plot twists across several genres, courtesy of haikujaguar.

Writing exercise:
1) Roll 2d6. Count from the top down for the first die. Count from the left rightward for the second die. Make a note of the plot twist.
2) Roll 2d6. Count from the bottom up, then from the right leftward. Note the plot twist.
3) Roll 2d6. Count from the top down, then bottom up. Make a note of the plot twist.
4) Use all three of those plot twists, in that order, in a story or poem. Emergency backup: if you can't make #3 work, try counting from the opposite directions to generate a different twist for the finale.

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 December poetry fishbowl is now closed.

If you are holiday shopping, consider that an original poem makes a good gift for "someone who has everything" if they like literature. I can "credit" a poem to anyone you wish. Also, I offer papercrafted versions if you want to put a poem into tangible form, suitable for framing or putting in a scrapbook.

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 "cultures of the world." 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 cultures of the world. I am especially looking for: culture heroes, historic figures, ancient or modern societies, objects linked to a certain culture, winter holidays around the world, cultural practices, culture clashes, historic evolution of cultures, places associated with a given culture, 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: "History Returned"

Today's freebie poem was inspired by a prompt from marina_bonomi. The name of this six-line verse form is "Scottish stanza" or "Burns stanza."

History Returned

From Italy to Scotland’s heather
All bent and bowed against the weather
With sword of steel and vest of leather
History returned
To wind their separate fates together
Just as one heart yearned.

To friends who had helped him in his fight
And given him shelter in his flight
The bonnie Prince Charlie, in the night,
Left all that he had
And gave Italians the solemn right
To wear Stuart plaid.