June 7th, 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 "alternative sexuality and gender studies."  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 "alternative sexuality and gender studies." 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 latest 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.

5) If donations total $150+ by Friday evening then I'll write an extra series poem after the Poetry Fishbowl, and post it for free.  Everyone will get to vote which series gets a new poem.  June donors will get some kind of input into the poem's content; I'm currently planning to ask them for prompts, but it could be something else.

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 "alternative sexuality and gender studies."  

I'll be soliciting ideas for characters of nonstandard sex/gender, odd couples (or moresomes), alien sexes, extra genders, sexual orientations and choices, cultures with more than two gender roles, ways in which sex/gender affects plot, scenes that highlight differences in the way each sex or gender handles a situation, locations where sex/gender is relevant or is declared by where someone goes, how cultures handle sex and gender, 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, and an extra series poem  if donations reach $150+.) The rest will go into my archive for magazine submission.
Fly Free

Poem: "Redrawing the Lines"

Here is today's freebie poem, inspired by kyleri.

Redrawing the Lines

Thou art God.
Thou art Goddess.

Thus the lines are drawn,
men in this circle,
women in that circle.

Where do I stand?
When do I stand there?
What do I wear while I'm doing that?

I am neither here nor there,
this nor that.  I am as much
male as female,
feminine as masculine.

In what aspect of the Divine
do I see my reflection?

"Ahey, sister," says Trickster,
settling on my left shoulder.
He is wearing a loud pink skirt
and a brassiere stuffed with flowers.

"Ahey, brother," says Trickster,
settling on my right shoulder.
She is wearing leather pants
and a huge phallus made of paisley cloth.

He hands me a pointed stick.
"It's time to draw your own lines,"
he says, so I scratch a circle
around my bare feet.

She hands me a drum.
"It's time to dance to your own beat,"
she says, so I flatten my hand on the head
and make music.

Soon all of the men and women
are staring
at my divine madness.

Fly Free

Poem: "Shane Reaction"

Today's second freebie poem is courtesy of new donor morrigans_eve and prompter poeticknowledge.  I found that the fluidity mentioned by morrigans_eve fit well with the feisty character mentioned by poeticknowledge.  We don't have television, so somebody who actually watches The L Word  and knows Shane will have to gauge how close I came to the mark.  Note: this poem contains some frank language about human sexuality and life challenges that may not be to everyone's taste.  Think before you click.

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Poem: "The Air That Birds Don't See"

This poem was inspired and sponsored by the_vulture and is a highly allegorical exploration of sexual privilege and asexuality.  The title touches on a literary motif of that which is unseen yet ubiquitous; its antecedents include the saying "the water that fish don't see" and the famous genderfic "The Women Men Don't See."  Another historic reference is the image of birds in flight as something that must be envied, as if the desire for flight were necessary and inevitable, and flight itself inherently good.  But not everyone sees the world the same way...

The Air That Birds Don't See

They fly,
effortless as clouds,
and never look down.

They do not notice
those who walk below
on solid ground.

Earthbound, we look up,
and see the wind's path
written in the shape of their wings.

who live in air,
see nothing of it.

Every touch is theirs by birth,
every caress of breeze over feather,
every nuance of lift and thrust.

Earthbound, we stand back
and watch them glide, our lives
defined by gravity and drag.

It is not our nature
that makes us less than free,
but the manner of their flight.

For us the forest trails,
so infinite and compelling,
would be paradise if not for the air.

Some days it seems as if all the words
are for nests and eggs and the songs of love,
leaving nothing for us to speak, to breathe.

They soar above us, looping the sky
with their courtship, and never
take note of our own.

Their privileges
are invisible torrents
as steady as trade winds.

Sometimes they sit on high perches
and cry for us to follow, not realizing
that we neither have nor want such wings.

They will never know the joys of caving
or rock climbing or digging in the soft earth.
They are birds.  How could they understand?

Let them gather grass for their nests
and ribbon the sky with their adulation.
The wind was made for their wings.

Let us have the beckoning trails
and the slow swing of friendly feet.
The stones were made for our skin.

We only ask for the freedom
to move through the world
in our ways, not theirs.

We only ask them to leave us in peace,
not bind us in ropes of wind and words,
lest we smother in the air that birds don't see.