August 2nd, 2011


Vampire Poetry

This announcement popped up on the SFPA list:

And so this morning my poetry book, VAMPS (A RETROSPECTIVE) has just been
listed as an August release by Sam's Dot Publishing.  84 pages, 75 poems
of which about a third are previously unpublished (one reprint is also in
this year's Rhysling anthology along with several in previous years), and
even for those who hate my poetry a don't-miss-it cover and illustrations
by Marge Simon, all for less than the cost of a pizza (depending, of
course, on local pizza parlor limitations, including variants on size and
toppings).  More info plus a link to the publisher is on my blog,

James S. ("have a bite on me--pizza that is") Dorr


Poetry Fishbowl Open!

The Poetry Fishbowl is now CLOSED.  Thank you all for not laughing as I tried valiantly to hang onto a firehose all by myself.

Starting now, the Poetry Fishbowl is open!  Today's theme is "corruption and redemption."  (You can be creative about interpreting either or both of those terms.)  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 "corruption and redemption." 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) Swim, Fishie, Swim! -- A new feature in conjunction with fishbowl sponsorship is this progress meter showing the amount donated.  At $150 you get a free series poem; at $200 you get an extra fishbowl featuring a poetic series.

$317 raised, first goal MET, second goal MET, third impromptu goal MET

3) 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.

4) 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"

5) 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.

New linkback perk: I have a spare series poem available, and each linkback will reveal a verse of the poem.  One person can do multiple links if they're on different services, like Dreamwidth or Twitter, rather than all on LiveJournal.  Outside LJ you'll need to tell me where you're linking so that I can tally the links.  "Purity" belongs to the Paths of the Paladins series and has 12 verses. Completed!

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.  August 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.  If donations reach $200, the perk upgrades so that you get a whole extra fishbowl for a poetic series, including a free poem.  Everyone will get to vote on which series, and give prompts during the extra fishbowl, although it's likely to be a half-day rather than a whole day.

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 "corruption and redemption."  I'll be soliciting ideas for tainted heroes, villains with second thoughts, clergy trying to sway people toward good or evil, pollution, contagions, aspects of corruption, different types of redemption, things that taint people, inspiration for redemption, reasons why people switch sides, turning points along the path, hard choices, places that are tainted in some way, holy ground, restoration projects, 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, an extra series poem  if donations reach $150+, and a series fishbowl  if donations reach $200.  Linkbacks reveal verses of "Purity.") The rest of the poems will go into my archive for magazine submission.

Poem: "Purity"

Written between fishbowls, somewhat inspired by continuing discussions, this epic poem belongs to the Path of the Paladins series.  I'm posting it verse-by-verse in exchange for linkbacks to the August 2, 2011 Poetry Fishbowl.  Linklove by: aldersprig, janetmiles, meeksp, marina_bonomi, minor_architect, kyleri, siliconshaman, siege, the_vulture, eseme.

Woohoo, we did it! The whole poem has been posted.

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Fly Free

Poem: "Entropy's Blessing"

This is the first freebie for the August 2, 2011 Poetry Fishbowl.  aldersprig and wyld_dandelyon got into a great discussion about different types of corruption, and where corruption and redemption meet, including a reference to rot.  So that got me thinking about compost and the detritus food web, which I absolutely love as manifestations of entropy's positive aspects.  I offer you this poem as a celebration of those types of corruption which are necessary for redemption. You can also read my post on "How to Make a Compost Pile."

Entropy's Blessing

The compost heap breeds life from death,
health from infestation.
Refuse rots down into fresh clean soil:
dark, black, rich, fragrant, burgeoning with promise.
It is all that is reviled, ignored, denigrated, put down;
and yet it is pure in its own way,
holy in its harmonious destruction.

The detritus food web takes what was
and turns it into what will be.
Microherds of bacteria
teem in the warm, moist depths.
Fungi spin threads of white and gold,
binding the pile together.
Sowbugs graze on the growing things;
beetles and centipedes hunt
through tiny tunnels;
wolf spiders prowl the surface.
Earthworms eat and excrete,
drilling their way through once-living matter.
A toad burrows into the damp fluff
and devours the invertebrates.

This is entropy's blessing:
it takes what syntropy leaves behind,
restacks the deck, and offers
raw materials with a knowing smile.
It is corruption that is redemption,
two different phases
in one great cycle.


Poem: "Following Along"

This poem came out of the July 5, 2011 Poetry Fishbowl.  It was prompted by minor_architect and sponsored by an anonymous donor.  It belongs to the Sort Of Heroes series, and will make more sense if you've already read the first two poems about Nib and Brod.  Here we meet a somewhat more experienced hero, and learn a little bit about Nib's family and background.

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Poem: "Redemption"

This poem was prompted by wyld_dandelyon and janetmiles, and sponsored by janetmiles.  It also draws on personal experience, when a covenmate passed away.  The "Third Road" is a reference to the path that leads, not to Heaven or Hell, but to Faery and the Summerland beyond.


The young Pagan man gazed at the two gates,
one of gold and pearl,
one of iron and onyx.

He looked down at the coupon in his hand:
Last Rites:
Get out of Hell free!
Remit one.

Then he turned to the frayed soul behind him,
a teenager dead from overdose,
lank hair swinging around a pinched face.
"Hey, kid, do you want this?
I'm headed for Summerland myself."

A tentative nod answered his question.
He pressed the coupon into the waiting hand.
The teenager's tired eyes turned toward the bright gate.

The Pagan soul stepped out of the line
and strolled away down the Third Road,
a winding path fringed with blackberries and apple trees
soon disappearing into the undergrowth.

Origami Mage

Poem: "foxwater"

This poem was inspired by siege and marina_bonomi.  It also touches on "The Jewel and the Key," and it's essentially a side-story in the Origami Mage series.  The main characters never appear onstage in this poem, just the paper boats and the holy white foxes who become Inari's guardians.


white foxes go blind
in the harsh bright light of spring,
sun burning clear eyes

blind foxes follow
their ears to the ocean beach,
white foam whispering

they wait for the tide
and ride paper boats to sea,
pure white sacrifice

inari takes them,
turns fragile flesh to strong stone,
clear eyes to white pearls

inari sets them,
white marble foxes to guard
gates in his temples

inari feeds them
those who try to break the Wheel:
lost souls, so tasty

white marble foxes
roll their pearly eyes and laugh,
long red tongues lolling


Poem: "A Turning Point in the Clockwork War"

This poem came out of a conversation with viva_la_topknot and some other folks about handicapped characters in comic books and other contexts.  We got to talking about how handicapped characters are usually not frontline combatants.  But what if they were ...?  And so began the Clockwork War series, of which this is the first poem, sponsored here by viva_la_topknot.

Note: Several of my readers pointed out the similarity to the historic figure Douglas Bader. I didn't know about him when I wrote this poem, but the parallels are striking.

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