October 5th, 2010


Poetry Fishbowl Open!

Starting now, the Poetry Fishbowl is open!  Today's theme is "Horror: Vampires." 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 "Horror: Vampires." 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 "Horror: Vampires."  I'm soliciting prompts for vampires (all kinds), vampire hunters, items used to kill or repel vampires, bits of vampiric lore/mythology, cliches that can be twisted, classic or neo vampire plots, weird surprises for a horror plot, settings where vampires are openly recognized, settings where vampires are hidden, places you'd never expect to find a vampire, and poetic forms in particular.  What counts as a 'vampire' for this purpose?  Pretty much anything that feeds on human energy or resources, though some feed on other things; the global definition is very broad.  If you're lost, try searching "vampires world myths" or something like that.  I'm also flexible on 'horror' as the tone; if you want another tone, that's cool.

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: "The Vampire Frogs"

Here is today's freebie poem, courtesy of a photo prompt from moosl.  This one is science fiction horror.  For some reason, today seems to run toward odd variations of horror as a genre/tone.

The Vampire Frogs

No one can prove how it happened,
but it happened downstream from the genetics lab,
so people have their suspicions.

The scientists said that there had always been
green frogs in the area, and vampire bats,
but on the subject of how the two might have gotten together,
they remained stubbornly silent.

They're real, though, those vampire frogs
with their jade wings and ivory fangs.
Their long lamprey tongues shoot out
to capture their hapless prey.
You can hear them at night, a peeping chorus
that maps the hidden world into their waiting ears.
You won't see them in the swampy darkness,
only feel the cool touch of their suckered toes
as they cling to your skin
and suck you into your second life.


Poem: "This Curséd Gift"

This poem was prompted and sponsored by ladyqkat.

This Curséd Gift
-- a villanelle

This curséd gift is worked within us all
Who dwell in human flesh, yet bear a soul
That trembles when the hunger makes its call.

An accident, a suicide, a fall --
We come to sip the fear of those left whole.
This curséd gift is worked within us all.

An earthquake shakes the timbers of the hall --
We pour outside and rush to fill our role
That trembles when the hunger makes its call.

A diplomatic incident, a brawl --
As generals we dig each war's hell-hole.
This curséd gift is worked within us all.

A stadium, a concert dome, a stall --
We feed upon the crowd, filet of soul,
That trembles when the hunger makes its call.

We cannot turn from what holds us in thrall,
But only choose the form to take its toll
That trembles when the hunger makes its call.
This curséd gift is worked within us all. 


Poem: "Afflictions of Blood and Flesh"

This poem was prompted and sponsored by minor_architect.  The original prompt laid out in some detail a version of vampirism with two modes of transmission, so that it basically went from a communicable disease to a genetic malady.  It reminded me of the difficult decisions that people face when they know they carry something that could make life miserable for their descendants.  The result is this piece of horror-tragedy.

Afflictions of Blood and Flesh

I say to you:
This is the curse that has two forms.

First, there is the affliction of the blood.
When a vampire bites a man, so that he dies,
the victim rises from the grave a vampire himself.
Then someone must hunt him down, find his lair,
and destroy him as soon as possible.
For if he eludes the hunters,
after seven years the curse will recede
and the roaring in his blood fall silent,
leaving him once again a man among men.
Then he may remove himself to another land,
learn another language, take a wife, get children,
and live out his life as all men do.
But this is the end of the curse only for him.

Second, there is the affliction of the flesh.
It is passed from man's seed to woman's womb,
knitted into the child's body as it is formed.
All the descendents of a man who was a vampire will,
upon their deaths, rise as vampires themselves.
For them there is neither rest nor redemption,
and they spread corruption to all who feel their bite.
Even the children born to them before their deaths
will carry the curse, hidden by a thin veneer of life,
until the grave disgorges them into torment.

I have discovered that saying such things
makes the hunting easier, the killing cleaner.
So long as I find them while they are yet sane,
they will listen to one who knows these bitter truths.
They understand that I cannot save them,
I can only save their descendants
by stopping the curse before it turns from blood to flesh.

      Lie down.
      Close your eyes.
      It will be over quickly.

I can only do for them
what I wish someone had done for my grandfather,
what I pray someone will do for me when my time comes.


Call for Cosponsors: "What Scares the Monsters?"

FULLY FUNDED! Read "What Scares the Monsters" as sponsored by miintikwa and janetmiles.

miintikwa has chipped in $3.  That's on hold for "What Scares the Monsters?" -- if it finds someone(s) to cosponsor the other $12.  You've got one week to fill that.  Otherwise the $3 goes into the general fund, and the poem goes into my submission archive.
"What Scares the Monsters?" is a $15 free-verse poem of 34 lines. 

Three separate monsters reveal their fears, different in detail but the same underneath. Although it has monsters in it, the flavor is more creepy psychological horror.

Poem: "Mutant Fruit"

I have long admired the "Weird Fruit" series of paintings by Ursula Vernon.  So when eseme mentioned the vampire squash from Digger, I went out to the gallery for a reminder, and well, this poem happened.  I decided to make it today's second freebie because I don't want to take money for something that is this heavily based on someone else's work -- the interpretations are my own, but the Squashbat, Mammoth Garlic, Lemonlopes, Bighorn Pears, Wildebeets, and Boreal Yams are all of Ursula's design.  This is sort of humor-horror or weird-tales stuff.  Second freebie is courtesy of new prompters paradigmshifty and alycewilson.

Mutant Fruit

Although the first frankenfoods
were developed on purpose
to create heavier yields or
to withstand potent herbicides,
evolution took over from there
and things got interesting.

First came the Vampire Squashbat,
ungainly until it opens its wings
but deadly in the air.

Its spread was controlled
only by the rise of Mammoth Garlic
staking claim to the northlands.

Then the Lemonlopes took to the plains
in great golden herds, their fragrant passage
a constant temptation.

Competing for territory with them
were the Bighorn Pears -- more vulnerable
on the flats, but capable of climbing higher.

Later, the Wildebeets proved useful
for dealing with Vampire Squashbats,
their blood a vivid bait.

The Boreal Yams emerged from the ocean
and did a fine job of repelling yetis,
though they scuffle with Mammoth Garlic.

Over the years, more reports of mutant fruit
have come in, but it's difficult to get confirmation
when the once-intrepid explorers
are afraid to venture outside of their jeeps
or even, sometimes,
to open their lunchboxes.