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The Wordsmith's Forge
The Writing & Other Projects of Elizabeth Barrette
Poetry Fishbowl Open!
Starting now, the Poetry Fishbowl is open! 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.

EDIT: The Poetry Fishbowl is now closed. Thank you all.

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 "languages & ways of writing." 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. Details are here.

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. Encourage people to come here and participate in the fishbowl. 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.

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 whose eddresses I already have. If you want to see the poem inspired by your prompt, give me your eddress; I recommend using {at} and {dot} to discourage spammers. 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.

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 languages & ways of writing. I am especially looking for:

  • language speakers

  • writers

  • writing systems (alphabet, syllabary, etc.)

  • unusual writing tools (quills, clay, etc.), favorite languages

  • luscious words

  • language-related plot twists

  • history & innovations in writing

  • settings associated with languages or writing

  • and poetic forms linked to a culture 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.) The rest will go into my archive for magazine submission.

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Current Mood: busy busy

46 comments or Leave a comment
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flutterbychild From: flutterbychild Date: November 3rd, 2009 03:28 pm (UTC) (Link)
Egyptian hieroglyphs.

King Tut's tomb.
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: November 3rd, 2009 04:06 pm (UTC) (Link)


I have always loved Egyptian history and language. I combined these motifs with a closely related one: deep time and the difficulty of making a warning clear to people who don't read the same language. "Warning Sine" is written in verses whose lines have different lengths, creating a kind of wave pattern. To us, Egypt is the dead dusty past ... but to our distant descendants, so too will we become.

50 lines, Buy It Now = $20

marina_bonomi From: marina_bonomi Date: November 3rd, 2009 03:34 pm (UTC) (Link)
Hope you'll like this one, my prompt is nushu, the women's script

Hope the link is useful, that 'traditional Chinese culture (...)forbids girls from any kind of formal education' is definitely a big exaggeration but the info on nushu is good.
haikujaguar From: haikujaguar Date: November 3rd, 2009 03:43 pm (UTC) (Link)
Ooh, or fan languages/other forms of secret writing!
stonetalker From: stonetalker Date: November 3rd, 2009 03:43 pm (UTC) (Link)
One of my favorite Star Trek TNG episodes is 'Darmok', where the alien can only speak in metaphors. How about something written in a different language structure? I know that Cherokee language is verb based, and I believe that Yoda also structured his sentences this way. (Aw, c'mon Ysabet, you 'know' how I love playing with words!!)

"Temba, his arms wide."
jenny_evergreen From: jenny_evergreen Date: November 3rd, 2009 05:04 pm (UTC) (Link)
I second the mention of Darmok as an inspiration!
arielstarshadow From: arielstarshadow Date: November 3rd, 2009 03:45 pm (UTC) (Link)
It might be interesting to take a look at the Romani language, which is very similar to English in that as the Romani traveled outwards from India, they incorporated words from all of the languages they met along the way into theirs.
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: November 3rd, 2009 09:09 pm (UTC) (Link)


From this I got "rromani ćhib," a free-verse poem about the background of the Romani language and people, winding through continents and time.

23 lines, Buy It Now = $10
haikujaguar From: haikujaguar Date: November 3rd, 2009 03:45 pm (UTC) (Link)
Since probably only you could manage the combination of linguistics knowledge and poetic power... how about something about the perils of reading something written in consonantal orthography with the wrong vowels? >.>

Maybe people and aliens!
arielstarshadow From: arielstarshadow Date: November 3rd, 2009 03:50 pm (UTC) (Link)
That could fit in with the Egyptian reference above. :)
dulcinbradbury From: dulcinbradbury Date: November 3rd, 2009 04:40 pm (UTC) (Link)
Whenever languages come up, my mind always turns to Linear A.

I've also got a fascination with Basque / Euskara, as their language is not Indo-European and has no living relatives.

I'd love to go to Iceland to hear them speak... for modern Icelandic is very close to Old Norse.

Additionally, I'm fascinated by endangered languages, particularly Irish & Cree, as they are the words of my ancestors.

Lastly... "Hwæt. We Gardena in gear-dagum, þeodcyninga, þrym gefrunon hu ða æþelingas ellen fremedon."
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: November 3rd, 2009 09:25 pm (UTC) (Link)


From this I got the free-verse poem "Language and Lineage," about what was and what will be, and where we are in the center of it all.

32 lines, Buy It Now = $15
valdary From: valdary Date: November 3rd, 2009 04:49 pm (UTC) (Link)
It can't possibly be that time already, I've definitely been in hospital too long.

My prompt for you is Ogham
jenny_evergreen From: jenny_evergreen Date: November 3rd, 2009 05:12 pm (UTC) (Link)
My favorite Ogham resource, for inspiration:
tonithegreat From: tonithegreat Date: November 3rd, 2009 04:53 pm (UTC) (Link)
How about petroglyphs in the desert?
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: November 3rd, 2009 10:37 pm (UTC) (Link)


From this I got "Carved in Stone," a free-verse poem about ephemera and permanence, and how we're not necessarily as important as we think we are.

9 lines, Buy It Now = $5
jenny_evergreen From: jenny_evergreen Date: November 3rd, 2009 05:09 pm (UTC) (Link)
<a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Language_of_the_birds" target="_blank>The Language of the Birds</a> (pretty please!) Typing and handwriting...in my case, there's a flow to handwriting that has a beauty to it, but, in the end, I am happiest when typing...getting it all out as fast as I can and finding the beauty in the stark black and white words...and the spaces between. Potential for a funny one...Babytalk
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: November 3rd, 2009 10:31 pm (UTC) (Link)


From this I got "The Language of the Birds," which is written in quatrains although it has no rhyme or meter. It is essentially a myth telling how the birds stole language from the gods -- and then dropped it.

28 lines, Buy It Now = $15
ellenmillion From: ellenmillion Date: November 3rd, 2009 05:13 pm (UTC) (Link)
Footprints in the snow as a language?
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: November 3rd, 2009 10:50 pm (UTC) (Link)


From this I got "Traces of Intelligence," about some explorers on an alien planet seeking signs of sentient life ... only to be thwarted by the fragility of snow.

14 lines, Buy It Now = $10
From: minor_architect Date: November 3rd, 2009 05:25 pm (UTC) (Link)
How about urban graffiti? It's been used for so many purposes: art, spreading political messages, marking territory, even product advertising!

What else could it be used for, I wonder?
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: November 4th, 2009 01:30 am (UTC) (Link)


From this I got "The Graffiti War," a free-verse poem in which humans cunningly use graffiti to organize resistance against an alien invasion.

44 lines, Buy It Now = $20
marina_bonomi From: marina_bonomi Date: November 3rd, 2009 05:38 pm (UTC) (Link)
Another one, if you don't mind, somehow related to my 'Stregheria' comment.

Old Lombard (or Longobard) the language of my ancestors, they came to Italy from Denmark, via Hungary, the language is lost, once they settled their written language was Latin. but Italian mantains words derived from longobardic, most of them relate to horses, weapons, woodworking,anatomy and food (I am convinced that there's more than a little Lombard in the Rohirrim).

Maybe the change in using a different 'cultured' language in writing one's thoughts? Trying to express a 'wilder' nomadic worldview in a basically city-oriented language? If you like it, take the prompt and run with it, I'm curious...
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: November 3rd, 2009 07:33 pm (UTC) (Link)


Oh, what a lovely image and conundrum! From this I got the free-verse poem "A Civil Tongue," which tells how a change in language can constrain thought ... but not entirely.

18 lines, Buy It Now = $10
moosl From: moosl Date: November 3rd, 2009 06:31 pm (UTC) (Link)
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: November 4th, 2009 01:47 am (UTC) (Link)


From your first prompt, I got "Storyboard," which I have decided to post as the second freebie poem of the day.
janetmiles From: janetmiles Date: November 3rd, 2009 08:41 pm (UTC) (Link)
Since I'm online now, I'll drop mine into a comment: boustrophedon.
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: November 3rd, 2009 10:12 pm (UTC) (Link)


From this I got the free-verse poem "Oxrows," a poem about the history and evolution of language that uses some farming metaphors.

23 lines, Buy It Now = $10
wyld_dandelyon From: wyld_dandelyon Date: November 3rd, 2009 11:05 pm (UTC) (Link)
I'm scheduled to do a panel on non-verbal language at Windycon, so that (one or more non-verbal forms of language) is my prompt.

Language for people (of some sort or another) living in the near-vacuum of space, for instance.

Edited at 2009-11-03 11:06 pm (UTC)
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