Collecting Quotes

quotes2.jpgI seek, at times, (often, daily, always?) insight, clarity, truth.  I quietly quest as I go through the day.  I gather experiences, encounter others, learn lessons (sometimes reluctantly) and discover myself.

Over the years, I’ve collected quotes, though not stashed them in any orderly file. (I should, right?) I sometimes post one or two on my bulletin board. Mostly, I jot them down on a piece of notepaper. Typically, they get sandwiched between piles of papers–ideas that stand alone or that I might develop at some elusive future date. Regardless, when I happen across them as I sort, I am often touched, again, by the words of another.

Looking online, it is obvious that I’m not the only one who appreciates other people’s wise words.  These gems float on the internet, are sprinkled throughout books and magazines, graffitied on walls, in literary articles, etc. We read them in store windows or on hand-crafted signs.  Hallelujah to the immortal quotes that remind us of higher human values or that help us broaden our awareness or that become a lifeline in a moment of need.

As a writer, a quote can inspire me or find its way into something I’m writing. It can be food for thought that expands my view of the world.

Following is a quote from Frederick Buechner from his book entitled Now and Then, 1983.  

“Listen to your life.  See it for the fathomless mystery that it is. In the boredom and pain of it no less than in the excitement and gladness; touch, taste, smell your way to the holy and hidden heart of it because in the last analysis, all moments are key moments and life itself is grace.”

****

I came across this quote many years ago, yet today, I find value in it.  My understanding of it is that the body, on it’s amazing sensory path, is a worthy vehicle and when I’m intimately connected to it, I can be transported to the very center of my being over this life of great variety.  How do you interpret this quote?

WRITING PROMPT:
Have you been collecting quotes to support, influence, enliven, expand, enhance and inform what you’re writing? Are they easily accessible? Have you contained and organized them or are they scattered? Do you plan to use any of them in your writing?

WRITING TIP:
To discover the correct formatting of quotes within the body of your work, you can Google the Purdue Online Writing Lab (OWL). This is a great resource (there are others). You can also find out how to properly document your resources. And so much more!

Depending on the genre in which you are writing, there are various style guides–MLA (Modern Language Association), the Chicago Manual of Style, CSE (the Council of Science Editors) and the APA (American Psychological Association).

Hasn’t it all been said?

crow2

Say “hello” to your inner critic. WHY WRITE? HASN’T IT ALL BEEN SAID? AND MANY TIMES OVER? DO WE NEED ANOTHER BOOK? ANOTHER POEM? ANOTHER WRITER? ANOTHER BLAH, BLAH AND BLAH?

Is this a common argument for you not to write. Or is it merely an excuse, avoidance?

This is what I’ve found.  Each one of us has a unique voice, a unique way of saying things. Your writing will connect with the “EARS” that can hear your voice.  I also believe that in these times, it is necessary to think and write outside the box.  As you do your own deep work and write from that place, there is the strong possibility that something new will be revealed to you.

Have you had this experience yourself or witnessed it with your children? Your mother gives you a lecture on, for instance, why you should practice the habit of saving part of your allowance.  You are half-listening while inwardly saying “yeah, yeah, yeah…” Then, your favorite aunt or uncle says the exact same thing but in a slightly different way and you begin tucking away part of your allowance every week.  Alright, maybe that’s not the best example…a child has to rebel against parental authority.

However, the point is, some writers reach us while we dismiss others who might be saying the exact same thing in a different way.

Do throw your voice into the ring of writers if this feels like something that is important to you.  These are not the times to be timid or quiet if you have something you want to say.

****
In other words, as said before in a different way, inspiration is everywhere and in everything.  Ideas and images adrift in a universe and you, the writer, snatch the ones for which you feel a passion.  You extract what is of value to you, command the language, wield your wordy power and shape, fondle and create something that might have been said before, but now it’s made new or renewed through your particular voice.

Author and poet, Kwame Alexander recommends that you say “YES” to writing as “…language has the power to alter our perceptions.”  That’s no small thing.

WRITING PROMPT:
What in the whole universe are you writing about today?  Are you being true to your writer’s voice and allowing what wants to come forth to come forth? Is there something else you’d rather be writing?  WRITE YOUR ANSWERS TO THESE QUESTIONS IN YOUR JOURNAL.

CELEBRATE YOUR UNIQUE WRITER’S VOICE.

Playing in the Field of the Daily Mundane (part one)

A poem by Al Zolynas

The Zen of Housework
I look over my own shoulder
down my arms
to where they disappear under water
into hands inside pink rubber gloves
moiling among dinner dishes.

My hands lift a wine glass,
holding it by the stem and under the bowl.
It breaks the surface
like a chalice
rising from a medieval lake.

Full of the grey wine of domesticity, the glass floats
to the level of my eyes.
Behind it, through the window
above the sink, the sun, among
a ceremony of sparrows and bare branches,
is setting in Western America.

I can see thousands of droplets
of steam–each a tiny spectrum–rising
from my goblet of grey wine.
They sway, changing directions
constantly–like a school of playful fish,
or like the sheer curtain
on the window to another world.

Ah, the grey sacrament of the mundane!

****

Al’s poem certainly elevates the mundane task of washing dishes to…a sacrament!  And, it illustrates that anything is fair game for inspiration from which to write your own poetry.  Reading Al’s poem, we become very present with him as he washes the dinner dishes.

When reading a poem, I recommend that you read it at least twice.  And aloud, slowly. The writer has placed line breaks where he feels they are appropriate.  Reading it, let the line breaks support the meaning of the poem.

There is no writing prompt today.  Instead, review Al’s poem giving it your full attention. Some things to notice are the shape of the poem on the page, the number of stanzas, the number of lines in each stanza, line breaks, the opening line , the closing or concluding line, cohesiveness, the punctuation (or lack of), rhyming or not, a rhythmic quality. Notice how the poet uses simile and metaphor and shifts his description from the actual to the metaphorical and back again.  In your estimation, what is the purpose of this poem? Is there anything else that stands out for you? What feeling(s) does it evoke in you?

Have fun playing in the field of the daily mundane!

floral1

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Betwixt and Between Prose or Poetry

Where Do Poems Come From?
© by Christine O’Brien

Plucked from the heavens
or scavenged from dread–
Swung upon a star
or in the lover’s eyes–
Breathed through
a baby’s first cry
or landed on the moon

Where do poems come from?
The gnarled roots of a
toppled pine–
The ecstatic branches of a
grasping redwood–
Dropped to the earth
in a widow’s tears–
Sprung up from a new flower
hatching the world

Where do poems come from?
Pushed out between my thighs
or sobbed into a pillow–
Creeping through the house
during the longest night–
Inherited from ancestors
too numb to speak
Chanted
in mindless media messages–
Twitching on the cat’s tail
as she leaps towards her prey

Where do poems come from?
Spread-eagled on the ground–
arms outstretched
Faraway places
without dreams–
Under the lamppost
kissing new promise–
In a child’s prayer
to the gods who deliver
a happier life

On the surgeon’s table
when the heart stops cold
Groping in the back seat of a car
and more
Raked embers of pain
Tattered ideas
A fallen meteor
Rotted earth poems
Encrusted pearl poems
Fusing my experience
as I
witness the universe

****
Each one of these images can be translated into at least one poem (likely many) or into a story or prose.  Do you agree?

And I do believe that any story can shapeshift into a poem.

This is a game that a writer can play with him/herself.  That is, transitioning between poetry and prose and back again.  Each writing form lends something to the development of a piece that you are working on.

For me, poetry has been a soul-touching expression.  It has engaged my deepest writer’s voice, plugged into my emotions and rendered–a poem. While prose  has been meandering, meaningful, and cathartic for me, poetry got me to the crux of whatever I was trying to express through writing.  Poetry takes me directly to the heart of what I want to say.

WRITING PROMPT:
Dancing Between Poetry & Prose:  Borrow one of the lines from the poem above (or draft your own list of where poems come from) and write a short prose piece. You decide the time limit on this one.  Then, reread what you’ve written.

Walk away for at least 24-hours.
In the next day or two, reread your prose piece.  Extract an emotion from this piece and let this feeling be your guide into writing a poem.  If the poem wants to go another way than initially intended, let it determine its own course.
This exercise is not about producing a polished poem or prose piece.  It’s an exploration in playing with two different types of writing.  Invite in the spirit of play and curiosity.

WRITING TIP:  You can glean words and phrases from your prose to develop your poem and vice versa.  By the way, there is also prose poetry.  (You can google it if you are curious.)

Bloom12x12 copy

Writing from the daily mundane–Part One

Image

floral1

from the Tao of Women, by Pamela K. Metz & Jacqueline L. Tobin

“The muse’s energy is tapped when you stop
and listen to the silence inside.  Creating
sparks of brilliance from barely glowing
embers, she is only a breath away.
Expressions of the self wait to be birthed.
Look to the potter’s hands, the weaver’s eye,
the basket maker’s techniques.
The creative spirit lives on in women’s tasks.”

****
One way that we tap the quiet space inside is through our repetitive tasks.  Though society has devalued women’s work, we no longer need to abide that false notion for what has been termed mundane is often where we find our muse–especially when we are able to be fully present with the task at hand.

WRITING PROMPT:

  1. How do you perceive this quote from The Tao of Women?
  2. Consider ways that you experience creativity (in any form) in your life?
  3. Do you garner gifts from your daily repetitive tasks?  What are a few tasks and what are the gifts in them?

As you go about your day today, witness yourself in your repetitive tasks.

INSPIRATION

 

I’ve heard some say that they receive inspiration while in the shower or on a trail in the forest or beside a lake.  I’ve had a poem write itself when I’m stuck in traffic.  There are innumerable places to find inspiration.  Consider if there is a place or time of day when you typically receive inspiration.

INSPIRATION–Truly, it is everywhere, in any moment if we are RECEPTIVE!  Aren’t we blasted by inspiration of one sort or another daily.  When I look out my bedroom window, I see sky and natural beauty everywhere.  When I’m traveling, I view highways, vehicles, people, bridges, bays, high deserts.  In a cafe, I overhear a line from someone at the adjoining table that I have to write in my notebook. Or an aroma crosses my olfactory awareness and I’m transported back in time to when my mom used to make her famous spaghetti sauce.  Or, as often happens, the words of an old familiar song take me right back to my twenties.  With all the inspiration around us, we could easily go into overwhelm.  For the writer, there is a necessary sorting process to determine what “scents” we want to explore further.  The sorting of dross from gold. That’s where our particular inspiration comes in.  You’ve decided, haven’t you, what you want to write about, where your passions lie?

According to Mr. Webster himself, inspiration is “A divine influence or action on a person believed to qualify her or him to receive and communicate sacred revelation.”

NOW THAT IS A POWERFUL CALLING!

****

It’s a good idea to be a witness to how your unique creative process works and how you respond to inspiration.

WRITING PROMPT:
Think of something you wrote recently.  Then back track…and list the details that lead you to explore this particular topic.

  • What was the topic?
  • Where were you when inspiration hit?
  • What were you doing?
  • Were you in conversation with someone?
  • Did you immediately know that this was a hot topic for you?
  • Did you write it down?
  • Tell someone about it?
  • Put it aside for another time?

This is a way to witness your own process when it comes to how you respond to the muse, to inspiration.

****
Next, consider
“What does it take for you to leap from the point of inspiration to write something on the page?”

Invocation of the MUSE

 

Invocation
by Frank T. Rios

My muse burns
a holy candle
to the nite
as She lies quiet
in the other room
the space
between us
a mystery
like walking
on air
what I know
fits
in my closed hand
the rest
a vision
and my Muse
guiding me

****
We’ve talked about inspiration.  We’ve mentioned “The Muse.”  We’ve looked at how we respond to inspiration (the muse).  When I don’t have to rush out the door in the morning, I return to my bed with a cup of hot yerba mate tea.  I write or draw in my journal.  I contemplate the day before me.  I look out the window & note the blueness of the sky, the shapes of trees, the structures, the sheer beauty.  Sometimes, I let my imagination roam…a good thing for an artist to do–give your imagination room to roam.

****

WRITING PROMPT

I thought it would be interesting to imagine that my muse has a physical form.  I thought it would be insightful to interview my muse.  To ask her or him some questions.  I drafted a list of interview questions (see below).  I invite you to do the same–that is, interview your muse.  You can use my questions and if you have some questions of your own, include them. Give your muse the opportunity to write out the answers to your questions in a stream of consciousness way.  (Oh and remember that the muse is a bit unpredictable and playful.) Enjoy this process.

  • Who are you?  (Calliope, Saraswati, wiser self or?)
  • How do I invoke you? (Through a poem, a prayer, an invitation, getting quiet?)
  • What are some ways that you bring me inspiration?
  • What’s most important for me to be writing about?
  • What do you need or desire from me?

****

You’ve created a list of things that you’d like to write about.  Good for you!  Now what?

Writing Prompt

From your list of inspiring topics, choose one topic that you feel passionate about.  For twenty minutes, write with abandon (no censoring or editing).  Allow your curiosity, passion, natural inclinations to guide your writing.  Set your timer for twenty minutes. On your mark, get set and WRITE!

Read what you wrote aloud and then let it be for now.

Enjoy your day.

peasantfinal