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The Wordsmith's Forge
The Writing & Other Projects of Elizabeth Barrette
Poetry Fishbowl Open!
The Poetry Fishbowl is now CLOSED.  Thank you all for your support.

Starting now, the Poetry Fishbowl is open!  Today's theme is "commoner heroes and second fiddles."  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.

Watch for the linkbacks perk to go live.  Click to read "Marchesa Micia" (Fiorenza the Wisewoman, 20 verses) or notify minor_architect of linkbacks to reveal more verses.

NEW: Twitter users, please add #promptcall along with #poetryfishbowl when tweeting about this event.  It's a new hashtag that crowdfunders are trying to establish for the convenience of people who like to leave prompts.

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 "commoner heroes and second fiddles." 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 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; at $250 you get another free series poem.

$291 raised, first goal MET, second 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.  Useful Twitter hashtags include #poetryfishbowl and #promptcall.  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.

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.  minor_architect has volunteered to post the verses this month, so you'll need to notify her of your linkbacks in a comment to her post, in order for them to count.  "Marchesa Micia" belongs to the Fiorenza the Wisewoman series and has 20 verses.

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 post an extra series poem after the Poetry Fishbowl.  Everyone will get to vote which series gets a new poem.  (If it's one that already has unpublished poetry, you'll get to pick from that.  Otherwise, I'll write something new, and recent donors will get to offer me prompts.)  If donations reach $200, the perk upgrades so that you get a whole extra fishbowl for a poetic series, including a free poem.  At $250 you get another free series 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 "commoner heroes and second fiddles."  I'll be soliciting ideas for heroic commoners, doomed heroes, sidekicks, backup and reserves, innocent bystanders, artifacts for non-heroes, heroic artifacts in non-heroic hands, situations in which a hero is helpless but others are not, plot twists where the favorite gets killed right out of the gate, instances where no hero is available at all, everyday locations for momentous events, terrain as a plot hazard, 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+, a series fishbowl  if donations reach $200, and a second free series poem  at $250.  Linkbacks reveal verses of "Marchesa Micia.") The rest of the poems will go into my archive for magazine submission.

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54 comments or Leave a comment
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ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: March 6th, 2012 07:34 pm (UTC) (Link)


Anthony Barrette left a prompt of "The Lone Ranger and Tonto" elsewhere. From this I got the free-verse poem "Fool's Game," which explores the cultural implications of the two main characters from my own quirky perspective.

37 lines, Buy It Now = $15
e_scapism101 From: e_scapism101 Date: March 6th, 2012 07:36 pm (UTC) (Link)
Who does the Witch Son talk to when Fiorenza is not around?
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: March 6th, 2012 08:46 pm (UTC) (Link)


From the prompt about the witch-son, I got the free-verse poem "The Talk of Faggiola," about the villagers gossiping with Giacinto.

49 lines, Buy It Now = $20
janetmiles From: janetmiles Date: March 6th, 2012 07:38 pm (UTC) (Link)
From the 2007 Virginia Tech shooting, Professor Liviu Librescu and Instructor Jocelyne Couture-Nowak & student Henry Lee, who were killed as they attempted to barricade the doors to their respective classrooms.

Random people who show up to help out in emergencies and disasters.

The hero who never knows that s/he was a hero, the one who says or does just the right small thing at the right time to make an important positive difference in someone else's life.
jenny_evergreen From: jenny_evergreen Date: March 6th, 2012 09:13 pm (UTC) (Link)
"The hero who never knows that s/he was a hero, the one who says or does just the right small thing at the right time to make an important positive difference in someone else's life."

I really like that one!

Also, something from the point of view/about a witch's/wizard's/etc. familiar.

wyld_dandelyon From: wyld_dandelyon Date: March 6th, 2012 07:41 pm (UTC) (Link)
The Rainbow Gardener (in honor of a post by a mutual friend about the seeds she's planting as well as my own love of purple tomatoes and purple "green beans".

secretaries and assistants

trash collectors

The people who repair the plumbing or the roof at the Monster House

traveling peddlars
aldersprig From: aldersprig Date: March 6th, 2012 09:33 pm (UTC) (Link)
Secretaries and assistants Woot woot!

"Other duties as needed...."

(The secretary/assistant to an evil empire / to GI Joe or the like)
moon_fox From: moon_fox Date: March 6th, 2012 07:47 pm (UTC) (Link)
What pops into my head is a cobbler who somehow saves the day through a use of a very special shoe.

Still kind of reeling from my recent veterinary woes, but one of these months I'll try to leave a tip to sponsor something.
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: March 6th, 2012 10:38 pm (UTC) (Link)


From the cobbler prompt came "Heel to Toe," which will be today's freebie.
the_vulture From: the_vulture Date: March 6th, 2012 07:57 pm (UTC) (Link)
When the goblin horde comes howling out of the frozen north and all the King's Troops are pressed into action elsewhere, who's to defend the villagers of Gloryroad Crossing from goblin raiding bands?

(Prompted by memories of a Middle Earth Role Playing session where the innkeeper, Rubb Grumm, his family, and a handful of young (though extraordinary) adventurers, barricaded and held the Inn at the Last Bridge, defying great odds, against a marauding band of orcs long and hard enough for them to decide the possible spoils were not worth the growing body count.)
the_vulture From: the_vulture Date: March 6th, 2012 08:17 pm (UTC) (Link)
And if that one doesn't work, it might be interesting to look at military chaplains (or even prison chaplains; both deal with serving spiritual needs under some pretty rough circumstances).
From: minor_architect Date: March 6th, 2012 08:11 pm (UTC) (Link)
I would love another poem set in Nib and Brod's world! They're commoner heroes, after all, thanks to one enormous, magical sword.

I suggested this as a future prompt some time ago, in response to the "uncomfortable gap in the balance of power between good and evil" mentioned in "Falling Up:"

Hmm, I see the possibility of a future poem which introduces us to the Evil Overlord(tm) who returns balance to this world...

(Or perhaps the Overlord makes a complete hash of things, instead, forcing Nib and Brod to save the day?)
meeksp From: meeksp Date: March 7th, 2012 12:13 am (UTC) (Link)
Yes, more Nib and Brod please!

An Adventure from the point-of-view of an NPC


marina_bonomi From: marina_bonomi Date: March 6th, 2012 08:38 pm (UTC) (Link)
Inspired by my own afternoon of house-cleaning...

the charlady saves the day.

The blind beggar and Cernunnos.

The flower-selling girl.
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: March 7th, 2012 03:16 am (UTC) (Link)


See below for thumbnail of the Steamsmith poem "The Tommyrocker," in which a charlady saves the day.
From: siliconshaman Date: March 6th, 2012 09:34 pm (UTC) (Link)
Other poems go on about the Hansom Knight in shining armour who defeats the dragon and rescues the princess etc... but just imagine if just once it was some NCO yeomen engineer from a sapper company who figured out how to kill a dragon.

mind you, talking of knights in shining armour... what about the hard-working squire who keeps that armour shiny. I wonder what'd happen if the princess decided she preferred him? [or if the squire turned out to be a her?]

Edited at 2012-03-06 09:37 pm (UTC)
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: March 7th, 2012 07:13 am (UTC) (Link)


Based on a prompt with the same phrasing, "The Hansom Knight" is a free-verse poem about a cabbie who finds a dead knight in his cab when he arrives at the dragon-infested manor house. Bit not good.

74 lines, Buy It Now = $37
aldersprig From: aldersprig Date: March 6th, 2012 09:39 pm (UTC) (Link)
Pay it forward... the organ-donor pay it forward comes to mind.

The Mailman as hero.

Firemen and police... "...And the heroes who died just doin' what they do?" (Allan Jackson, "where were you.")

My grandmother is my hero. Strong farmwives everywhere are my hero.... Farmers are my heroes. Including bovidae ;-)

lilfluff From: lilfluff Date: March 6th, 2012 10:48 pm (UTC) (Link)
The first prompt reminds me of reading about Nicholas Green, a seven year old boy killed on vacation when thieves mistook the family's car for one that would be carrying jewelry. Not only were seven people direct recipients of donations from him, but articles about his case have increase organ donation rates.
lilfluff From: lilfluff Date: March 6th, 2012 11:13 pm (UTC) (Link)
* The stable boy who saves the noble's home.

* The 'mere' highway patrolman who catches a dangerous criminal after stopping them on a routine matter.

* The willing sacrifices an adoptive parent takes on when they accept another's child as their own.
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: March 7th, 2012 03:44 am (UTC) (Link)


You hooked me with the adoptive parent, although it went in a weird direction. Adjo Mubarak is a soldier, desperately trying to defend an alien colony against marauders. He finds a baby clinging to the fresh corpse of its parent, and picks it up. Some babies, once you've picked them up, aren't so easy to put down again -- and there's still a battle going on. "Starfather" is a free-verse poem set in my main science fiction universe.

172 lines, Buy It Now = $86
siege From: siege Date: March 6th, 2012 11:54 pm (UTC) (Link)
The housewife

When men went off to war, it was usually the women who handled all the affairs of the house and household.

"I'm playing second fiddle to a gorilla!"
"Well, the gorilla saved a child."
"So toss one over the fence and I'll save it!"

Perhaps Maryam read a newspaper article about a tommy saving a life?
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: March 7th, 2012 03:15 am (UTC) (Link)


The prompt about a tommy saving a life led to the free-verse poem "The Tommyrocker," in which a charlady saves the day and a nursery automaton does something quite unexpected.

73 lines, Buy It Now = $73
eseme From: eseme Date: March 7th, 2012 01:21 am (UTC) (Link)
I am reminded of Gloryroad Crossing, which would, I think, be an excellent place for second fiddles to retire .It certainly has commoners, and is a fascinating place.

Additionally, I thought of Sort of Heros. Their families are commoners, and we get glimpses of the lives of henchpeople and other second fiddles...
the_vulture From: the_vulture Date: March 7th, 2012 04:21 am (UTC) (Link)
I completely agree!
kelkyag From: kelkyag Date: March 7th, 2012 03:05 am (UTC) (Link)
I'm not sure if this quite fits the theme, but ... In Not Mine, the bogeyman has the narrator call the cops for him, because he can't really report the situation he's dealing with himself. In that 'verse or others -- or ours for that matter -- what of folks who do good deeds but have to actively avoid being recognized for them because the attention would be problematic?
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: March 7th, 2012 07:40 am (UTC) (Link)


The prompt about avoiding recognition led to the free-verse poem "Vigil Ante." It's a direct sequel to "Not Mine" and touches on how risky it is for monsters to get involved in human affairs, and why some of them do it anyway.

29 lines, Buy It Now = $15
the_vulture From: the_vulture Date: March 7th, 2012 04:25 am (UTC) (Link)

Edited at 2012-03-07 04:28 am (UTC)
54 comments or Leave a comment
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