Wednesday, July 31, 2019

Tanka,Waka, approaches to writing flash

Tanka: Poetic Form. The Japanese tanka is a thirty-one-syllable poem, traditionally written in a single unbroken line. A form of waka, Japanese song or verse, tanka translates as "short song," and is better known in its five-line, 5/7/5/7/7 syllable count form.
Tanka: Poetic Form | Academy of American Poets -

How to write a Tanka poem

The Tanka poem is very similar to haiku but Tanka poems have more syllables and it uses simile, metaphor and personification.

There are five lines in a Tanka poem.

Line one - 5 syllables  Beautiful mountains
Line two - 7 syllables  Rivers with cold, cold water.
Line three - 5 syllable  White cold snow on rocks
Line four - 7 syllables Trees over the place with frost
Line five - 7 syllables  White sparkly snow everywhere.
Tanks poems are written about nature, seasons, love, sadness and other strong emotions. This form of poetry dates back almost 1200 years ago.
Similarly, the other form is waka
It is a poem in thirty-one syllables, arranged in five lines, of 5/7/5/7/7 syllables respectively. For example, here is a poem written by a famous Heian-period woman, Ono no Komachi:

The flowers withered, (5)
Their color faded away, (7)
While meaninglessly (5)
I spent my days in the world (7)
And the long rains were falling. (7) (1)

The waka is often said to have an "upper verse," which refers to the first three lines, and a "lower verse," the last two. The haiku form is based on the "upper verse"; another form, called a renga, is made from alternating the two — first a three-line, seventeen syllable verse, then a two-line, fourteen syllable one, each by a different poet for up to a hundred verses!—from

Image result for juan fujita 1919 race riots
photo: Juan Fujita, 1919 Chicago Race Riot. Fujita was a poet who employed the tanka technique

Monday, July 29, 2019

More Thoughts from the book of poems, 1919, by Eve Ewing

“Haibun for July 30”
. . . .
after days of blood,
candles in the window again
birds shake off the rain

A couple of things:
1)Many of her poems are reactions to research on the 1919 Chicago Race Riot—specifically to The Negro in Chicago: A Study on Race Relations and a Race Riot, a 1922 report, an old book sitting on library shelves that broke Eve Ewing open when she read it. “ . . . It was so direct and made such a bold claim on totality.”

Here is the excerpt she is reacting to from that study:
Rain on Wednesday and Thursday drove idle people of both races into their homes. The temperature fell, and with it the white heat of the riot. (7)

Eve Ewing did not approach this collection with a set methodology. She searched for the most (to her) authentic response/form. She chose to write a haibun.

From an interview I found online:
“There’s a haibun in the book (“Haibun for July 30”). People are more familiar with haiku, but what the haibun does is allow you to explore a moment in nature that has a beauty or simplicity to it, but without as much brevity. When I thought about how to write about the natural world as it pertains to this story, I thought of this moment of the rain. The riots momentarily stopped because it rained, which was so beautiful to me. Even in moments of incredible violence, there’s still rain, there are still trees, there are still birds, there’s still grass. It’s still summer in Chicago. So that’s an example of my thinking — not to use form as an exercise or novelty but to use it to illustrate or amplify the narrative.”

So she begins the piece with a prose poem setting the stage, details of rain on city streets, fat drops falling from leaves in the trees, imagining the scene—then writes 3 short lines. Beautiful.

From Writer’s Digest:
The haibun is the combination of two poems: a prose poem and haiku. The form was popularized by the 17th century Japanese poet Matsuo Basho. Both the prose poem and haiku typically communicate with each other, though poets employ different strategies for this communication—some doing so subtly, while others are more direct.

The prose poem usually describes a scene or moment in an objective manner. In other words, the pronoun “I” isn’t often used—if at all. Meanwhile, the haiku follows the typical rules for haiku.

It occurs to me that haibun is a perfect form for creating flash—a vignette based in nature and then a haiku as a sublime ending to the whole thing.

Ending to the whole thing.

--other forms to explore:
tanka, waka, haiku, prose poem

keep reading this week's post for MORE

Image result for 1919 eve ewing

Thursday, July 25, 2019

Things that bother me, part 2

Not getting published

Getting published

Wait! Why is that a bad thing? Well, what bothers me is that, yes, I want to be published—so I submit my work to agents, editors, journals, contests, etc. Mostly to non-paying outlets. The times I’ve been reimbursed for my words I can count on one hand. This is a whole other blog.

So last fall I submitted a piece to Friday Flash Fiction, as well as other venues. I got a few declines, a few non-responses. Once a piece is accepted, I inform others and withdraw the piece. I keep a submission grid, so can pretty well tell you where I am with a certain piece.

What bothers me is when a piece is taken and I am not informed. I know this might be taking things too far, but it feels like stealing. Yes, I’ve given it to an editor for review or for consideration. If they are professional then they should get back to me in a timely manner and give me a response: thumbs up or thumbs down. But to simply take it and quietly publish it without letting me know sounds like theft, or as if I’m merely a tool to your own benefit.

We work together. I write and you need content.

What I’m describing has not happened just once but already this year a couple of times, and in one instance MADE CHANGES without my permission.

This has made for an awkward situation, since I continued to send it out and it was officially accepted and published by an up-and-coming journal. I feel horrible—yet it was not something I intended—to submit a piece of work that has been previously published.

Editors, please realize that in this day and age of easy communication to inform writers if you are accepting their work and also understand if you unintentionally end up publishing work that has appeared previously. Obviously first-level journals this might not be a problem, but for those of us swimming upstream in a sea of anonymity it still affects us.

Here is the legit one! Revenge at HunnyBee Lit

Tuesday, July 23, 2019

Little Things that Bother Me

Like misogyny.

This weekend I was out on my bike. Yes, it was hotter than Hades. But I’m about to go on another cycle trip and wanted to make some upgrades to the bike. I was ¾ of the way home and entering the Lakefront Trail on Ardmore. A group of men veered from the sidewalk to walk in front of me. I was going super slow as I had just crossed the intersection. I was right behind them as they walked in front of me so not too far. I said, “There’s a walking path right of the cycleway.”

You would have thought I told them to go to hell or go ---- themselves. It was World War 3. As I passed, giving them plenty of space, not yelling ON YOUR LEFT or ringing my bell, but just simply existing next to them, they erupted in Holy Hell. They did not stop calling after me in abusive language; I could hear them even after I turned onto the path and rounded a corner.

I took a deep breath. It was weird how immediate and fraught it felt.

Then a minute later on the path I was about to cycle around a slower ride. The oncoming lane was clear and so again didn’t feel the need to shout ON YOUR LEFT or ring my bell—except he was looking at his phone and suddenly veered left, almost hitting me. I swerved and simply said, You are wandering. At first he was like, oh sorry. Then again it was a spitstorm of obscenities.

I really cannot account for this. Except that I happen to be a woman and I said something. Both of these instances I used a neutral tone and tried to make a simple statement of fact. I wasn’t insulting their mother. I also used a room conversation voice, not shouting.

Perhaps, I’m still ruminating about this:

A NPR radio news story about fans of the Marvel movie Endgame who have posted YouTube edited versions. I’m used to Harry Potter fans writing fan fiction—this is a tribute to their love of the books. In the news story the fans are editing out Brie Larson, offering instead a "defeminized" fan edit.

An anonymous fan edited out shots, scenes and characters in a "defeminized" version circulating now on an illegal streaming site. As well as losing Larson's character, Captain Marvel, the defeminized edit is missing a scene where Hawkeye teaches his daughter to shoot. ("Young women should learn skills to become good wives and mothers and leave the fighting to men," the editor opined in an accompanying document.) The role of Black Panther is minimized. ("He's really not that important.") Spider-Man doesn't get rescued by women characters anymore. ("No need to.") And male characters no longer hug.

This particular defeminized edit is just the latest example of a trend, says Suzanne Scott, a professor of film and media studies at the University of Texas. A similar "chauvinist cut" of 2017's Star Wars: The Last Jedi removed key scenes of women making decisions, giving orders, having ideas and fighting in battle. So much was trimmed, Scott says, that only about 30% of the original film remained.

Hearing this—gave me chills. Who does this? Works this hard to erase women, gays, other marginal people from their white, male-phile worldview???

Then in relation to this weekend—what upset these men so much that they couldn’t move three feet over into their own pedestrian walking path or be told—in so many words—it’s not wise to ride and be staring into your phone. Why the sudden, violent reaction?

Also I might have been impacted by the week’s news cycle of Trump tweets and the resulting meltdown. It was disheartening every time I saw and heard the tweets repeated about “go back to your own country”, go back to where you came from—directed to powerful women of color.

There is something at work here that gives the males on the Lakefront Trail a sense of privilege that they feel perfectly okay lashing out at anyone/women that comes near them or asks for shared space.
Image result for lakefront trail chicago, active transit

Monday, July 22, 2019

Hearing Language

I love word play. Often when I write I’m not only physically typing in the words, but also hearing them. It’s probably why there’s so much internal rhyme and alliteration in my sentences.

I was reminded recently of when I was going through the galleys of Beyond Paradise. I was going over a scene with me editor (at this point we thought we were done) and I might have casually mentioned that I relied heavily on my primary source, a diary or article written by a former internee of the camp I was writing about. My editor asked how heavily. It was decided I might need to change up some wording and add some further elements. One of the suggestions was to have the camp civilian orchestra (based on real events) play a specific suite in rehearsal. I know nothing about music let alone classical violin pieces so I called up a friend who plays. He is originally from Switzerland and grew up in Austria. For the life of me I couldn’t understand what he was saying because he was pronouncing Brahms name correctly. It sounded like he was saying bombs.

This was exactly the inspiration I needed. The scene was supposed to include a Japanese guard who was also a trained musician. I had him burst into the rehearsal shouting “bombs, bombs” until the women gather he is requesting they play Brahms.

So many times we remain focused on the problem, the editing issue that if we stop and just LISTEN to the language, the context of the piece, what the characters are saying or not saying as they talk past each other—we can find a way through.

Available from Amazon, click here

Thursday, July 18, 2019

July, July!=Chicago Heat Wave

In 1995 a heat wave hit Chicago. Almost 800 people died. Their bodies, too many for the morgue, were kept in refrigerated trucks in the coroner’s parking lot.

From July 12 to July 16 daytime highs were above 100 degrees while at night it didn’t cool off. Back then AC was not the norm. You opened the window and turned on the fan. In my building the fuse box overheated and fuses blew out until we were down to the last one. We were asked to turn off refrigerators, TVs, stereos, whatever was drawing power.

I remember it was the very week I started recording Marie James, a bag lady, to get her story. We sat in a room with a window open to the alley and the fetid dumpster. She rolled in with her cart full of old milk jugs and wiping her neck with a dirty rag. But somehow I was able to overcome the sensory distractions and turn on my recorder. Her story transported me. A year later Orphan Girl was published.

I have just now gotten around to reading 1919 by Eve Ewing. Dr. Eve Ewing, though when she sat behind me at a performance of the play No Blue Memories: The Life of Gwendolyn Brooks I didn’t know she was a PhD. She looked way too young. We chatted for a moment. She was way too humble. I discovered she was the co-author of the play.

In her poetry collection 1919 she revisits the hot summer, the red summer, of 1919 in Chicago where from July 27 to August 3 38 people were killed in a race riot.

Dr. Eve L. Ewing is a sociologist of education and a writer from Chicago. She is the author of Ghosts in the Schoolyard: Racism and School Closings on Chicago’s South Side. She is also author of Electric Arches, which received awards from the American Library Association and the Poetry Society of America and was named one of the year’s best books by NPR and the Chicago Tribune. She also writes the Ironheart series for Marvel Comics. Ewing is an assistant professor at the University of Chicago School of Social Service Administration. Her work has been published in The New Yorker, The Atlantic, The New York Times, and many other venues. She is a literary force to be reckoned with.

In 1919 she has a poem dedicated to the heat wave of 1995. As Chicago moves into another heat wave beginning Thursday through the weekend, let’s keep these tragic events in mind—check on seniors, our at risk neighbors, hand out bottles of water, have mercy on us O Lord.

Link to sound cloud July, July

Thursday, July 11, 2019

Where do you wanna go? Michigan 1997

How old do you have to be to be nostalgic? I recently realized—I know, pathetic—that time is flying. My own millennial is turning 30 this year. I bet she never thought she’d be this old.

I, on the other hand, am old. I deserve to look backward and wax nostalgic. Past summers, riding my bike down hot sticky asphalt roads, milkweed swaying in the breeze, wishing . . . someday. Someday is here.

I like to listen to All Songs considered—a national treasure from our government. National Public Radio works very hard at archiving the music of America as well as discovering new voices. So with All Songs Considered and the Bob Brolin Playlist (updated every Tuesday via Spotify) I am introduced to music I might not find all on my own.

Never thought I would be the one
To think that I would be the one
To blink and life would be this far along
Never thought I would be the one
To think that I would be the one
To blink and life would be this far along.

This is a song for millennials who are turning 30. For the kid who is about to get married, maybe have a kid, who will forever be paying off their school loans, who will always be one catastrophe away from ruin. Who make craft beer in their garage.

Dandelion wish in the wind
Talking with my imaginary friends
In the backyard in Michigan

We create stories
Of who we used to be
Like looking for a ghost in an empty house
When the future is too hard to see

Where do you wanna go?
Where do you wanna go?
Where do you wanna go?
It’s okay if you don’t know

I believe there is a theremin playing during the opening chords of this song—which lends itself to that feeling of longing. From the Internet: the band formally known as Holy Golden is now Dolly Valentine.

Remember that song, “In Five Years Time” by Noah & the Whale? (In fact I think it’s been about five years if not more since it came out.) This is where that song is now—in “Michigan 1997.”

These are definitely challenging times. We cannot deny that. It is fun to think back to when there was no Donald Trump or if there was he was up in Trump Tower. What was really important was friends and riding bikes by the lake. Now there is a morass of bad news and “big decisions”, debt, and the seemingly impossible. Just remember the wheel of time turns. Keep going, keep going.
an oldie, from 2007

Monday, July 8, 2019

Afternoon of a Faun

Afternoon of a Faun, book review
By James Lasdun
W.W. Norton & Company, 2019

The copyright says it all. It’s complicated. These times.

Making it even more difficult to unpack a complicated story. More like meta fiction, which ends with the assumed election of Hillary Clinton over her Republican opponent Donald Trump. The last scene in the novel is a living room gathering of friends watching the last debate together with cheers: “He’s going down!”

Who is HE, who are WE? The universe keeps expanding in a wave of self-incrimination. What part do we play, have played in the sequence of events leading up to now? I’m of course thinking of . . . children in cages, anti-Semitic attacks, the depths of despair raging over society, people thinking it’s okay to vandalize the Maggie Daley Cancer Survivor Wall, violence against women. Social media hate. The toxic mix making up the news of just this morning.

All of us contribute. You can read the culpability in Afternoon of a Faun. In this multi-layered novel we are reeled in by different facets of loyalty/identity/privilege. We sympathize with the abuser and the abused, with the victor and the loser. From a place of self-assured confidence that of course what seems rational, sensible will win out. That when it comes to justice there is a level playing field, a point we can all agree on.

Wait: is that the sound of the world blowing up?

In December 2017 The New Yorker published “Cat Person” by Kristen Roupenian that waded into murky territory. It went viral. Pretty much exactly down the middle—if you were a male you thought the female in the story led the guy on, wasn’t being honest, some said she was a tease. While most women who read the story understood exactly. It’s complicated.

Which probably explains why nobody is having sex these days. (Millennials in particular—are having “so little sex,” senior editor Kate Julian soberly framed the drop as a “sex recession.”) Which doesn’t mean that we’re over “rape culture,” it’s just that both men and women are having a hard time voicing what they really want.

Basically, no one wants to be a tool. We’re not talking romance, a Disney ending, happily ever after. Just where no one feels taken advantage of or hurt.

Afternoon of a Faun is about a journalist who about 40 years prior had sex with a woman. They were both mutually attracted to each other. It’s just that she asked him to stop and he didn’t. That says rape. Except that they remained close, for a while. In fact, after the incident, she stayed in bed next to him and left the next morning. So was it?

Now she’s writing a memoir and revives the memory. The narrator of the story is in the confidence of both parties involved and hears about it from both sides, casting him as somewhat their judge. On one hand he feels for Marco who can barely remember the moment, is successful, leading a full life—this accusation coming now would ruin his reputation. He believes it isn’t who he is. The woman, Julia, was at the top of her game in the 70s as a sought-after news journalist. After what happened her career faded. She’d had some unexpected turns, issues with her health (mental and physical), relationship problems—to the point of actually cutting some people off, and was now trying to resolve things the only way she knew how: by writing. Marco definitely has the upper hand. He has power and privilege and fights her by having lawyers cease and desist, trying to silence her. This is about who deserves to be heard.

As readers/observers we can feel on the hook. By choosing who to believe we stake political claim, personal identity, philosophical leanings. Can we be truly liberal and yet empathize with Marco? Even though Julia’s story/her behavior doesn’t make sense (How do we characterize a victim??) is she still believable? And, against the backdrop of this drama American history is playing out the Trump campaign/election. And when you're a star, they let you do it. You can do anything. ...

Afternoon of a Faun like its namesake ballet("Afternoon of THE Faun"), adapted from the poem by Mallarmé is about the limits of desire, the yin and yang of intimacy. We do not know how this story is going to end.

Thursday, July 4, 2019

New Work Up @ HunnyBee Lit

It's their first issue so let's give them some hits:

Revenge is a small (100-words) piece inspired by a dinner time conversation. I didn't exactly steal verbatim from the guest at the table, but this is the gist. Dietland was me.

Image result for dietland

Monday, July 1, 2019

Bike Trip: I & M Canal/Towpath Trail Joliet to almost Utica, 60 miles

Last week I got caught in the rain 4 times on my bike. Not normally a big deal, but Chicago has already had so much rain that I try to get out between showers. Sometimes it looks perfect and I think to myself, Stop being a slug. Get up and go downtown!, and literally ten minutes later it’s pouring. When people see me come in dripping wet they act like I’m so hardcore to ride in the rain. I want to tell them, No, I just need to get home and that’s how—on my bike.

So then there was this past weekend.

I wanted to take advantage of a weekend without rain in the forecast. OK, there was a 20% chance, but that’s 80% chance of NO rain. And it’s finally warmed up. The average June temp in Chicago this year was like the low 60s. So meteorologically it looked like the stars were aligning for a two-day ride and camp out.

I met a woman at the Bikes of Wrath movie (see link for review). It was a movie about bike touring and afterwards I came out to the parking lot to see someone looking at my bike. She was cute and little and said, I have a Torker too! So we talked bikes for a moment. Then I said, I need to start riding home, if you’re heading north let’s go together. She said she lived north. I said I lived in Uptown. So did she. I said I live by Sheridan and Wilson. She lived in the building behind mine. So after we made it home we exchanged details to ride together whenever convenient. So far we’ve managed a few local rides. So when I mentioned a bike camping weekend on the I & M Canal Trail she jumped on the idea.

Really it started great. I was so happy to be out on a trail, in nature, hearing birds, pedaling away. It was hot but manageable. We stopped every so often for snacks and to buy drinks. I’ve ridden the I & M many times. But I haven’t ridden to the end of it for many years. Possibly 4 years ago and I remembered that after Seneca it was a bit rough. We finally decided to take the road into Marseilles and Ottawa. It went from a wide track, to a single track, to an unmowed slice. Grades going down to railroad tracks were chunky gravel and washed out. It might have worked for a mountain bike without packs.

Outside of Ottawa is where things broke bad. Suddenly the heat was oppressive. Humidly made it feel like I was swimming in slow motion. We hit a long stretch of mud. More like sticky clay, which seized my back tire and I slammed to the ground, into a puddle. I had blood flowing from my elbow and tried pushing my bike forward as mud gummed up the brakes. As mosquitoes lighted on my arms and back, biting through my shirt. The mud was so deep and sticky my shoe sunk in and I had to suction it out. Step by step. Finally we made it to hiker/biker camping and I got a chance to use bug spray.

camping, so hot

close up of mud

The next day nothing was dry. I packed up a damp tent and put back on my wet clothes hung out on a line to dry. We went back through the mud and in Ottawa took about 20 minutes to wash bikes off with water bottles at a pump. It was already hot. By 20 miles I felt exhausted. After 30 I felt like I had asthma. I would pause after every miles breathing hard over my handlebars. I was drinking, but obviously not enough. Rian turned on her phone (we set them on airplane mode to save on power). In Ottawa in was 104 degrees! Where we were it was 94. No wonder I felt terrible! In Morris I bought a drink. I wasn’t at all hungry. Really, I needed air conditioning.

We kept going as we wanted to catch the train in Joliet. In the distance we heard thunder and the sky was blueing up. I knew there was a picnic shelter at McKinley Woods and struck out for it. The last few miles were stressful as the rain clouded up my sunglasses and there were puddles on the trail that freaked me out after already taking a tumble. We arrived just as the storm really hit.

The flashes of lightning were intense followed by immediate contusive thunder. The ground shook. My ears rang. At times I jumped up from sitting at a picnic table to clasp my hands in fear. The rain poured down.

A minute or two after we arrived another cyclist slipped in. So he was there for us screaming when the cracks of thunder startled us. He checked his phone and said it was all around us and extensive. So there goes that 80%. He called his wife and said, Bring the truck. He told us he lived just up the hill in a subdivision. As he ran out to catch his ride he called out to us: It’s supposed to start hailing. This will later feel like a parable for climate change.

Well, it didn’t hail, but, and it’s hard to believe, it rained harder. At times it was a white-out, as if we were sitting in a bowl of milk. The rain was that thick. Water poured down a hill and created its own gullies, it ran through the picnic shelter and continued on down to the canal. It flowed faster and the shelter began to fill up. It was at first just messy, then annoying, then we climbed up on the picnic tables. Water was everywhere around us, ankle deep, and swirling with speed.

At this point a phrase went through my mind: If I get out of here alive, I’ll be really glad.

It was no longer about the heat, staying dry—we were beyond all that. It was no longer about making the train. This was about making it out. The rain and water just wouldn’t stop.

There came a point where it did slack. Out in the parking lot were 3 hatchbacks. The drivers ran back to their cars from wherever they were waiting out the storm. I ran out to them to beg for a ride. One guy seemed willing to take Rian and I but not our bikes. We waded back into the shelter and got back on top of the table.

Here is where it’s important to have friends. I had enough battery left to make one phone call. I asked someone to drive down from Chicago to rescue us. No small feat on Pride Weekend. It took them 90 minutes and truthfully by the time they reached us the rain had stopped, we were still inundated and had to walk the bikes through standing water to reach them in the parking lot. We learned that it had rained 3 inches in 40 minutes.

But here’s the kicker: that guy who left us in rising water, he lived at the top of the hill, not in a subdivision as much as a gated community of mansions. This, my friends, is what climate change looks like. The rich will have an escape hatch. I’m just glad I had friends who came to my aid. We’re all going to need friends when the waters rise.