July 5th, 2011


Photography: Clear Fireworks

Tonight we drove out to see a local fireworks display, not at ground zero but from a nearby country road.  We got a pretty good view.  my_partner_doug set up the camera for me to take some pictures.  This checks off one of my annual goals, learning more about the fancy digital camera.  (I also studied the settings after we got home.)  If I counted right, I've met 11 of 19 goals so far this year: better than half.

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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 "low fantasy."  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 "low fantasy" anyway?  It's usually contrasted with high fantasy, and can mean: small-scale rather than large-scale events, minor rather than major heroes, less rather than more magic, also sometimes stories set in a close analog of our world rather than an obviously different fantasy world, ambiguous rather than polarized morality, and/or a tone more gritty than glowing.  Low fantasy is about saving a village rather than a country or a world, about getting one or two people's lives to work halfway decently, about solving problems with the gear on your back rather than an army's worth, and dealing with problems that don't really have good solutions.  In the rain.  So for instance, the Fiorenza series mainly concerns life in a quiet little village, with occasional preternatural problems that get solved more by wit than magic.

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 "low fantasy." 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.  July 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 "low fantasy."  

I'll be soliciting ideas for characters of minor heroes, antiheroes, sidekicks and second fiddles, ordinary villagers, henchmen, characters in that grey area between hero and villain, broken or mismade magical artifacts, unusual adventuring gear, ordinary items used to save the day, small-scale conflicts, side scenes from epic events, ways in which epics affect ordinary people, scenes that show off the gritty tone of low fantasy, solutions that don't involve magic, places where something important happened long ago, classic low-fantasy settings such as sleepy villages or deep forests, 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: "Dicing with Lives"

This is today's freebie poem.  It was inspired by prompts from the_vulture and siliconshaman about gaming and self-referential characters.  How do campaign settings shift from low magic to high magic?  When epic characters roll well and decide to change the world ... 

Dicing with Lives

The gamers are awaiting reincarnation,
chatting with the Universe as they work.

They are choosing classes, generating stats,
and minmaxing their advantages and disadvantages.

The computer wizard is pumping IQ
while the stick jock goes for Strength.

Eyeing the conditions of the campaign setting,
everyone loads for bear.

Probabilities clatter and dance,
then fall in their favor.

The dice lie innocently upon the table,
glittering like pyrite.

"Remember, this is a low-magic setting,"
the Universe says testily.

The computer wizard cracks some knuckles
and says, "I can fix that."

The Universe grumbles
and demands to be passed the cheetos.


Poem: "Where the Action Is, and Was, and Ever More Shall Be"

This poem was inspired and sponsored by the_vulture.  It touches on fond memories of gritty low fantasy stories, and roleplaying games at low level.  (One of my best-ever campaigns had everyone at first level for almost the entire time.)  And just because you've changed life roles doesn't mean that you're out of the picture...

(You can read about Dron's neighbor, Brilla the Baker, in "Half-Baked Ideas.")

Where the Action Is, and Was, and Ever More Shall Be

Dron retired from the army
with a bad limp and a bag of gold.
He missed the adventure, though,
and the everyday challenge of survival.

He bought a tavern
in a quiet little crossroad hamlet,
hung his axe over the mantelpiece,
and prepared to settle down.

At the end of the first week,
there was a brawl.
Two dwarves and four elves had it out.
Dron tossed them into the street.

At the end of the second week,
there was a fire.  Apprentice wizard.  Too much ale.
Dron put him out
and then extinguished the flames.

Not long after that,
bandits tried to raid the bar.
Dron's axe had a new nick in the shaft
when he hung it back over the hearth.

Then came the adventuring party
whose cleric had somehow gotten kidnapped,
and would anyone possibly have heard any gossip?
Oh please.  Barkeeper.

At the end of the month, Dron smiled.
How could he ever have forgotten where the action happened?
Perhaps retirement wouldn't be unbearably boring after all.
Humming, the barkeeper polished his glassware.  And then his axe.


Poem: "All You Need"

So angela_n_hunt was ruthlessly dissecting a movie for poor content and shabby use of heras.  The critique began with the title "You have been given all the weapons you need."  It led to this poem, which she has sponsored.

All You Need

"You have been given all the weapons you need."

Wilda and Vronic looked at each other.
They looked at the wagon full of swords
and sheaves of light lances tied with twine.
Then they looked down the mountain,
slopes black with orcen army.

"Now fight," said the duke, then left.

Wilda heaved a sigh,
tucking a strand of dark hair behind her pointed ear.
One wagonload of weapons.
Well, it was a start.

Vronic crossed her burly human arms
and grumbled curses in three languages.
Then she perked up.
"Hey, look ... the drover has throwing knives."

Wilda flicked her sharp gaze downhill
to where the orcen commander
had foolishly pitched his tent on the rise above the ravine.
"We could infiltrate and behead their whole command."

The two women grinned
as they shook down the drover for suitable gear.

It began to rain.