September 7th, 2011

monster house

Poem: "The Picket Fence Committee" (original)

Complete thanks to the efforts of various audience members is this poem from the Monster House series.  It's the linkbacks perk for the September 6, 2011 Poetry Fishbowl.  The following people posted linkbacks: marina_bonomi, janetmiles, thesilentpoet, meeksp, xjenavivex, wyld_dandelyon, aldersprig, and minor_architect.  Special thanks to minor_architect for handling the verse-by-verse post during the fishbowl.

This poem comes near the beginning of the Monster House series, shortly after the purchase of the house.  We get to learn the name of the street and see how the house interacts with an unwelcome interloper.

EDIT 9/8/11: Read a revised and expanded version.

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Poem: "A Future History of Hamlet"

This poem is presented in relation various discussions about the homophobic content of the book Hamlet's Father by Orson Scott Card.  Most particularly, I've called for a round of Poke a Bigot in the Eye, and this is my contribution.

A Future History of Hamlet

Two alien anthropologists
leaned over four carefully reconstructed documents,
piecing together a notable cornerstone
in the history of human literature.

"So we're agreed
that this  is the original?"
the taller one said to the shorter one,
tapping her antenna on a copy of
Hamlet  by William Shakespeare.

"At least, it's the oldest version we've found,"
said the shorter one.
"Now this description --
isn't it a pity we haven't found a full script? --
is much later, but seems like a legitimate cultural variation
based on a society we can cross-reference from other sources.
We should forward a copy to the 'Africa' team."
He indicated a transcript
of Shakespeare in the Bush  by Laura Bohannan.

"Did you have any luck connecting the Klingon translation
to any of the other recorded languages from this planet?"
the taller one asked, poring over the spiky text.
"No, the closest I came was identifying a few similar features
in some of the languages from the 'America' continent,"
the shorter one said. 

Then he picked up the final object.
"This one doesn't really match the others
in terms of tone or theme -- the core message is different,"
he declared.  "I've listed a number of examples."

His colleague glanced at it.  "Oh yes, it staggered off-track
in pursuit of some rumination on sexual practices.
If you're done with it, send that copy
to the team working on human relationships and reproduction.
They're always asking for more samples."
Then she laughed, a musical buzz of wings against carapace.
"Who would have thought one species could be so creative
with a simple thing like sex?
I can't wait to read that team's results."

So the shorter scholar tossed the copy of
Hamlet's Father  by Orson Scott Card
onto a pile of things to be mailed
to someone who might actually appreciate it.

* * *


Hamlet by William Shakespeare
Shakespeare in the Bush by Laura Bohannan
The Klingon Hamlet translated by Nick Nicholas and Andrew Strader
Hamlet's Father by Orson Scott Card reviewed by William Alexander


Making Bigotry Not Pay

It's time to play Poke a Bigot in the Eye again, in which we take someone's stupid idea and stab it with pencils and beat it with merry bundles of cash, and conversely make more of what someone is trying to quash.

First, check out this dissection of the homophobic aspects in Orson Scott Card's rewrite of Hamlet.  It's a pretty ugly example of gay-bashing in fiction.  Stuff like this can perpetuate misconceptions that make life harder and riskier for real live gay people.

Ways you can indicate your displeasure if homophobia offends you:

* If you have read the book, go to and leave a review on the book's page expressing your opinion.  Ideally, give at least a couple of specific details from the book.

* Spend some money on literature that celebrates tolerance in general or a healthy gay lifestyle in particular.  For a particularly pointed comment, spend the book's cover price (list price is $35 and Amazon's price is $24.26).  This can also be a fun item to include in your review.

* Read some GLBT literature or browse some queer art.  Do you have a favorite story or picture about happy gays?  List your favorites in a comment.  Have you created something that qualifies?  Promote it here too!

* Watch for prompt calls in crowdfunding and request something such as, "I'd like to see a happy gay couple who are in no way associated with abuse."

* Make homosexuality, tolerance, or related issues a theme in an upcoming project of yours that involves other people. This works well both for crowdfunding and for free stuff.

* Write, draw, or create something else featuring happy, healthy homosexuals who are not affected by abuse; or otherwise inspired by this discussion of homosexuality in literature.  If you're sharing it online, please include a link in a comment so other folks can come enjoy it.  Here is my contribution, "A Future History of Hamlet."

* Play a similar round of Poke a Bigot in the Eye on your own blog or other venue.  The more people who get involved, the merrier!

* Whatever you do, earmark your action with something like, "This celebration of tolerance is brought to you by Orson Scott Card's book Hamlet's Father, in support of making the world a safer and happier place for homosexuals everywhere."
monster house

Poem: "Pet Projects"

This poem came out of the September 6, 2011 Poetry Fishbowl.  It was inspired by prompts from thesilentpoet, marina_bonomi, my_partner_doug, jenny_evergreen, and kelkyag.  It was sponsored by marina_bonomi.  Lots of people wanted to explore the idea of pets in Monster House!  You can read the other poems in this series on the Serial Poetry page.

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Poem: "Feathered Wings"

This poem came out of the September 7, 2011 Poetry Fishbowl.  It was inspired by a discussion among ladyqkat, the_vulture, siliconshaman, and stryck about the history and evolution of Egyptian spirituality regarding the interaction of human and animal souls in the afterlife.  It was sponsored by ladyqkat. You can also read about the goddess Ma'at and her role in the afterlife, or browse one translation of the declarations that human souls are supposed to make to the 42 judges.

Feathered Wings

It is Bastet who keeps the Temple of Cats,
caring for those who have completed their nine mortal lives.

Beside them she watches the coming and going of stars
and fishes with tawny paws in the immortal Nile.

The stripes of their faces are as subtle and full of meaning
as the wind-waves on the golden dunes of the desert.

It is Anubis who keeps the Temple of Dogs,
tending the ones who have laid down their flesh.

Beside them he points his muzzle at the silver moon
and sings the celestial hymns.

Their tall black ears are as wise as the infinite night sky,
their eyes as hot and sharp as a sunbeam.

When a human soul approaches the Hall of Two Truths,
the pets are likewise summoned before the judges.

Bastet leads the cats between the questioners,
and the cats answer in their own way:

I have not stolen milk from my woman's pitcher.
I have not left live scorpions as a gift in my man's slipper.

Anubis leads the dogs along the path,
and the dogs swear to the watchers:

I have not bitten the messenger upon the doorstep.
I have not chewed at the tablet that the scribe assigned to my boy.

Then after the human soul and the animal soul
have been weighed by Ma'at and found to be worthy,

the Goddess of Truth lets her feather fall upon them
and the wings of their souls are opened.


List of Unsold Poems from September 6, 2011

The following poems from the September 6, 2011 Poetry Fishbowl are currently available. They may be sponsored via PayPal, or you can write to me and discuss other methods.

"And Have Dominion" -- 62 lines, $31
I combined post-apocalyptic animals with [info]siliconshaman's prompt about gods and pets. "And Have Dominion" is a free-verse poem about the fall and rise of Earth, changing relationships between humans and animals ... and the fact that what followers learn from gods is not always exactly what the gods intended or demonstrated, especially if the message is mixed.

"aquarium science fiction" -- 4 lines, $5
From "miniaturized animals" I got the free-verse poem "aquarium science fiction," about a truly bizarre miniature pet.

"The Dog Guides" -- 26 lines, $15 (Torn World shared-world)
The Yasiluu description does specify canine assistants, but the Empire in general really doesn't do much for handicapped citizens. However, the description also states that the aduriyarf are messenger dogs capable of memorizing multiple destinations. So I came up with "The Dog Guides," a poem about service dogs in Affayasilith that are trained, not for an individual, but for the public. They take people a chosen destination, and are a popular tourist attraction as well as a practical service.

"Farm and Field" -- 42 lines, $15 SOLD (Fiorenza, the Italian Herbalist)
thesilentpoet wanted something about Fiorenza and ordinary animals, and it also touches on [info]haikujaguar's request for large animal vets. Of course, livestock is a vital part of a village and the local herbalist used to tend humans and animals alike. So "Farm and Field" is a free-verse poem about the chickens, cows, and horses of Fiorenza's village -- featuring some classic Italian breeds -- with a little about how this shapes human relationships as well.

"The Games Pets Play" -- 21 lines, $10
From this prompt I got the free-verse poem "The Games Pets Play," exploring the enertainment of cats, dogs, and birds. But there's one game they all play together ...

"Hawk in the Night" -- 24 lines, $10 SOLD
From your hawk dream I got the free-verse poem "Hawk in the Night," describing the symbolism of hawks in different contexts.

"Hourglass in the Sand" -- 6 lines, $5
The black widow prompt led to "Hourglass in the Sand," a free-verse poem about why someone might wish to keep a deadly pet.

"Jack and the White Cow" -- 31 lines, $15 SOLD
The prompt about Jack's cow led to the free-verse poem "Jack and the White Cow." It plays on a number of traditional European motifs, and more obliquely, the similarity of fairytales to video games that reset challenges.

"kept" -- 51 lines, $20 SOLD
These two ideas -- about pet plants and sentient pets -- stuck together in my mind. It got me thinking about some aliens I know, who are sentient plants, and the Freedom System in my main science fiction setting, which is all about alternative sexuality. The result is "kept," a poem written in unrhymed tercets. It tells of an alien plant who wants to belong to a gardener. It is, in a way, also a platonic love story; and I think it does a very sweet job of describing why pet play is satisfying ... by way of some very exotic framing.
(Someone has expressed interest in cosponsoring this poem.)

"New Eden" -- 33 lines, $15 SOLD
From the prompt about a failed vegan colony, I got the poem "New Eden." It's written in unrhymed tercets and relates the hazards of an ecosystem all out of balance.

"One Eye on the Horizon" -- 58 lines, $20 SOLD (Path of the Paladins)
From "plow animals" and
morrigans_eve's mention of Shahana and Ari, I got the free-verse poem "One Eye on the Horizon." It picks up the thread about Larn and the mule, after receiving a package from Ari, and their ongoing efforts to rebuild the farm and village.

"The Peacehorse" -- 34 lines, $15 SOLD (The Ocracies)
Sarah A. Hoyt mentioned being tired of reading about heroes riding a stallion into battle, particularly a fractious one that nobody else could ride. I thought, okay, not all stallions have horrible manners, and wouldn't it be cool to read about a mannerly one instead. The result is "The Peacehorse," a free-verse poem about a well-trained stallion who helped stop a war. And it introduces the Hipparchy of Pelip, a country ruled by horse breeders.

"The Pet" -- 19 lines, $10
The prompt about "livestock as pets" led to the free-verse poem "The Pet." A conversation familiar to farm families everywhere winds up in a totally different place than expected.

"The Rockhound" -- 8 lines, $5 SOLD
The "pet rocks" prompt led to the free-verse poem "The Rockhound," about collecting things on an alien planet.

"Salt and Pepper" -- 73 lines, $36.50 (Path of the Paladins)
From the prompt about Shahana and Ari meeting other animals, I got the free-verse poem "Salt and Pepper." Ari gets a lesson in woodslore -- and Gailah's sacred animal isn't any of the usual things one might expect for a goddess of grace and peace.

"Schrodinger's Human" -- 18 lines, $10
"Schrodinger's Human" is a free-verse poem that takes a look at the apocryphal television show Schrodinger's Heroes from the perspective of the cat. It's quantum physics, with kitty!

"Spotted" -- 33 lines, $15 (Tir na Cali series by aldersprig)
aldersprig left an early prompt, referencing Tir na Cali and this cool article about domestication. The result is "Spotted," a free-verse poem about the domestication phenotype and the unexpected confluence of magic and science.

"Trashcat" -- 10 lines, $5 SOLD
From the kitten prompt and "abandoned animal" by [info]kelkyag I got the free-verse poem "Trashcat." Some cats have a different reason for bringing things home...

"What Matters" -- 41 lines, $20 SOLD
From the prompt about large animal vets, I got the free-verse poem "What Matters." It speaks of the contract our ancestors made with the animals during the process of domestication.

Poem: "kept"

This poem came out of the September 6, 2011 Poetry Fishbowl. It was inspired by prompts from the_vulture and siege. It was sponsored by the_vulture.  This one takes place in my main science fiction universe.  The storyline features a human/alien relationship between a sentient plant and a bonsai gardener, with a focus on kink as a comfortable lifestyle.

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Poem: "Jack and the White Cow"

This poem came out of the September 6, 2011 Poetry Fishbowl. It was inspired and sponsored by janetmiles.  Notes regarding motifs from European folklore appear after the poem.

Jack and the White Cow

The white cow listened
to all of Jack's troubles
because he never forgot
to measure her grain or
to fill her trough with fresh water or
to warm his hands before milking her.

When farm ran out of money,
the white cow said to Jack,
"Soon your mother will tell you
to sell me, and you must do so."

Jack cried on her creamy shoulder
one last time, and led her to market.
He took the magic beans
from the gnarled hand of the old woman
and then trudged home.

"What do you think will become of him?"
the witch said to the white cow.

The white cow flicked her red ears
and replied, "Why, he will become a hero.
He'll save the land from the ravaging giant,
come home with armloads of gold,
and doubtless marry a pretty girl."

The witch laughed.
"You find heroes in the strangest places!"

"It is no stranger to find a hero on a farm,"
said the white cow, "than to find a faery cow
or a handful of magic beans."

"I suppose so," said the witch.
"Now come with me: I know of
a peasant girl about to begin her journey,
and you can be one of the tasks along her way."

* * *

This poem combines many motifs from traditional European folklore. It begins with a riff off of "Jack and the Beanstalk." The white red-eared cow is a creature of Faery, and like the cat of "Puss in Boots" she gives good advice to a kind master. Previously we discussed the idea of the hag or witch as a challenger and maker of heroes, and how fairytales 'reset' similar to video games, in the poem "Hag-Ridden." Various fairytales reference milking a cow as a task, and set girls on quests; "Frau Holle" is one such, and the tasks can vary from one telling to another.

Poem: "The Peacehorse"

This poem came out of the September 6, 2011 Poetry Fishbowl.  It was sponsored by janetmiles. It was inspired by a Facebook post from Sarah A. Hoyt:

For the record, if I read one more story about someone going to battle mounted on a stallion, there's going to be a temper tantrum. (And this one isn't it, yet.)

I remarked that just because stallions tend to be rambunctious doesn't necessarily mean they ALL are, but of course, the unridable stallion really is a cliche.  She replied:

Elizabeth Barrette, Try reading five of these in a row. By the time you get to the "He rode a black stallion, an ungovernable beast only he could mount" you're reaching for the dramamine.
Whereupon I thought that it would be a great deal more interesting to write and read about a mannerly  stallion, who would be more valuable than a bad-tempered one anyhow, and there I was in the midst of a fishbowl about "pets and livestock" so off I went to write this...

The Peacehorse

He rode a black stallion,
a mannerly beast
that anyone could mount.

Now the horse was trained for battle,
fierce under fire,
but calm as could be in the paddock.

The old general rode him to war,
and then to parley,
where he whickered politely at the mares
and then ignored them.

The enemy commander scratched himself thoughtfully
and said, "I don't suppose you'd like to sell your horse?"
The old general replied, "I don't suppose
you'd like to delete paragraph three from section two
of this proposed armistice?"

"Deleting it would be beyond my authority,"
the enemy commander said regretfully.
"Perhaps we could revise  it a bit?
If you'd let him cover some of my mares?"

So the two soldiers
worked out the armistice agreement
while the horses lowered their noses to the clover.

It turned out that the black stallion
had what the breeders called very good stamp,
which meant that the colts and fillies he sired
carried on all his best qualities:
the sleek body, the glossy black coat,
and the even temper.

That was how the black stallion
came to be called the Peacehorse
and how the Hipparchy of Pelip
came to have the steadiest horses in all the lands,
so calm that even the stallions
could be ridden by anyone.

* * *

"The Peacehorse" belongs to The Ocracies series, and you can read its other poems on the Serial Poetry page.  I had been thinking that this fishbowl might spawn a nation run by farmers or something like that.  I was really amused to turn up "hipparchy" in the Phrontistery list, referring to "rule or control of horses," which seemed like a reasonble fit for a nation run by horse breeders.  I suspect it inclines them to take the long view of things, and it certainly influences them in the context of battle and its aftermath.


Poem: "One Eye on the Horizon"

This poem came from the September 6, 2011 Poetry Fishbowl.  It was inspired by prompts from morrigans_eve and kelkyag, then sponsored by janetmiles.  It belongs to the Path of the Paladins series; you can read about the other poems on the Serial Poetry page.  In this poem, Ari's brother Larn receives the packet of unicorn hairs that she and Shahana sent, and contemplates the slow rebuilding of farm and village with the help of the mule that Shahana left there.

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