February 8th, 2011


Poetry Fishbowl Open!

The poetry fishbowl is now CLOSED.  Thank you all for your enthusiasm.

Starting now, the Poetry Fishbowl is open!  Today's theme is "Vision and Sight" as selected by the audience in a poll.  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.

Sky is clear today and the ice has mostly melted off the trees, so the signal should be clean, gods and weather willing.  Please help pass the word about the fishbowl today since it had to be rescheduled.  You might also like to view the new samples of scrapbooked poems including "Wings of Steel."

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 "Vision and Sight." 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. Commission details are here.  See new photos of sample scrapbooked poems: "Sample Scrapbooked Poems 1-24-11"

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 you have room for it, including your own prompt will give your readers an idea of what the prompts should look like; ideally, update later to include the thumbnail of the poem I write, and a link to the poem if it gets published.  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.  While you're on the Donors list, you can view all of the custom-locked posts in that category.  Click the "donors" tag to read the archive of those.  I've also posted a list of other donor perks there.  I customarily leave donor names on the list for two months, so you'll get to see the perk-post from this month and next.

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 "Visions and Sight."  I'll be soliciting ideas for visionaries, seers, blind characters, monsters with magical sight, visual aids or artifacts, unusual types of vision, invisible things, plot twists that turn on spotting something, visions, places where visions may be sought, settings where it's easier or harder than usual to see things, the limitations of vision, 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.
Fly Free

Poem: "In Black and White"

Here is today's freebie poem, posted as such because it draws inspiration from Star Trek and roleplaying, so I don't want to charge money for it.  marina_bonomi requested a poem about her character and a case where blindness would be an asset.  This quickly brought to mind one of Star Trek's many examples of race-based stupidity, the people of Cheron.  The poem reached epic length, but I was having fun and I was determined to do justice to the theme: Sometimes, what we think we see gets in the way of what is.

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Origami Mage

Poem: "unfolding wings"

marina_bonomi asked for a poem about the origami mage and a blind beggar.  This one is a likely candidate for the beginning of the story arc.  I wish I could draw ... it would make an adorable illustration.  Sponsored by marina_bonomi.

[EDIT 2/9/11: marina_bonomi helped with the coin research, yesterday's result having been imperfect. So tael has been replaced by wen. I was aiming for a small-denomination coin, and Chinese money has a deep and intricate history. People would carry "strings of cash" with the cheap, square-holed coins threaded onto twine.]

EDIT 4/12/11: See an adorable sketch of this scene drawn by meeksp as part of her crowdfunded illustration project.

unfolding wings

the blind beggar sits
on a sunny street corner
folding paper cranes

two wen  will buy one
to take up to the temple
and leave with a prayer

a little girl stops
to watch the old man working
what seems like magic

she tugs mother's sleeve
the string is untied, coins freed
and given over

in her tiny hands
paper crane opens white wings
and bursts into flight


Poem: "Seeing Clearly"

ladyqkat requested a poem about seeing auras without seeing the colors in them, yet still knowing  what colors would be present.  As a Pagan scholar I am plenty familiar with the subjectivity of magic, and how the subtle senses may manifest differently for various people ... yet still cluster around the same information.  So I had fun finding different ways of describing light without color, and auras interpreted by insight.  Sponsored by ladyqkat.

Seeing Clearly

That which is perceived but not seen
remains every bit as real.

It is the wind made visible,
the sound transformed to the sight.

Colors gallivant like ghosts
through a spectrum sensed yet unseen.

It is something intended for divine eyes,
somehow strayed within range of mortal souls.

The tint of the aura is known to the wise,
yet its light may not answer to wavelength.

The clear lines are not colored in
but they define the boundaries all the same.

The meanings are mystical but not mysterious;
the symbolism of the aura is understood.

Each hue has its own ephemeral footprint
just waiting for a watchful eye to follow in its wake.


Poem: "Shame Comes to Civilization"

One of my favorite characters from the setting of Kherishdar by haikujaguar is the First Servant of Shame.  So when haikujaguar mentioned that in a comment, I came up with this poem, inspired by her illustrations and the descriptions that go with them.  It was sponsored by laffingkat.

"Shame" is not a condemnation, but an awareness of the difference between right and wrong that leads to regretting mistakes and striving to redress them.  "Civilization" in this context means something between culture and religion, as taught and embodied by Thirukedi the Emperor.  The Ai-Naidari are aliens; their minds and bodies don't work exactly the way we do.  haikujaguar has a lot of translating to do in presenting them to us in ways that we can understand; I'm doing my best to keep up. 

Shame Comes to Civilization

Without shame, there can be no Civilization.
Without someone to draw the lines, there can be no Law.
The one who lays down the Law cannot enforce it;
The hand that draws out the lines cannot lead between them.
Who can look into the face of Shame and meet that gaze?
Who can stare at the foundation of Civilization and not flinch?
They are each what they see in the other, and themselves.
Only in balancing each other are they made complete.

So the First Servant lies down upon the altar of Shame
And the Emperor makes the marks with careful claws:

Sight divided by a sword's edge,
Truth scratched out in permanent ink,
Two lines drawn to mark the path
At the edge of where it is safe to stop,
So that those who must approach
Will not have to see all there is to be seen,
But are allowed the mercy of meeting that gaze
Only through the silvery wall of one-way mirrors.


Poem: "Invincible Wisdom"

This is a Torn World poem, but it has not yet been approved by the canon board.  (I did ask ellenmillion for a quick assessment of my idea, and it should work for Torn World.)  I will be submitting this through the Torn World site later, when I have time for that.  For now, please consider it potentially canon rather than canon.

This poem was inspired by a conversational thread of prompts between haikujaguar and aldersprig.  It has been sponsored by laffingkat, so if or when it gets approved by the canon board, it will be reposted on Torn World for everyone to see there.

If you're not familiar with the setting: The Southern Empire is a bureaucratic behemoth of a culture covering most of a continent.  It keeps most people happy most of the time, but some folks get the short end of the stick.  (Registered members can read the "Empire" article.)  It got this way by assimilating the neighboring cultures as it expanded.  Not all of them have melted ... quite completely ... so this scenario sprouted from my fertile little mind.

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