Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Iroha Mokigusari

Yowsa! This form was a bit of a challenge. But then I kind of like a challenge.

Some of my favorite forms are the Japanese ones. Even though they usually have a strict 5/7 syllable count, at least you don’t have to worry about rhymes. All you need for most of them is a good thesaurus that includes the number of syllables in a word. :-)

The Iroha Mokigusari is an ancient Japanese form and seeing as I can neither read nor write Japanese I have to trust the western interpretation of it. It’s described as a perfect pangram, meaning it contains each character of the Japanese syllabary once only.

For our purposes, its best described as a Japanese alphabet poem. It differs from our western alphabet poems (in which each line starts with a letter of the alphabet starting with A and continuing in descending order) in that it follows the normal 5/7 pattern of syllables, and the first and last letter of each line follow the alphabet.

The structure looks like this:

and so on…

One example I found of this form was called Nonsense, a fitting title because it’s almost impossible to write a poem under these restrictions that makes sense.

My attempt has no title.

A question that’s dumb,
Can you fly like a buzzard?
Even without proof,
Given your innate hutzpah,
I believe in Raj –
Knew you were always playful,
Maybe brave even.
Only watch for a breakup –
Quicker than ever,
Starlight is shining at night
Under an improv
Winter moon; like a phoenix
You shine like glitz.

Monday, April 23, 2018

The End…Almost

I don’t think I’ve been complaining about the weather too much here, I’ve been saving it mostly for my other blog. Suffice it to say we’ve been enduring a long string of grey, wet, snowy, grey, icy, wet, grey days for what seems like forever. However, that changed late on Friday when this strange light appeared in the sky. It was round and yellow, and gave off not only light, but warmth! It was…awe inspiring!

But while everyone else seemed to spend as much time as possible outside soaking up vitamin D on Saturday, I spent most of my time in my office. This was the big push to get my office organized. I moved the bookcase that was against the wall behind my desk to its new home under the window – it’s just slightly shorter than the window ledge and it fits under there nicely.

I had tried the desk closer to the window, but it just didn’t feel right, so on Saturday I tried butting it up against the wall and that was a little better, but was still a little off. After last Monday’s post, I actually looked up feng shui for an office, and I recalled that several of the floor plans had the desk set at an angle (to face both the door and the window). So keeping that in mind, I gave it a try.

Ding, ding, ding! We have a winner!

Not only does it give me extra space behind my desk, it makes it feel like there’s more space in front of it too. Fuelled by my success, I dragged the box holding the parts of my newest bookcase into the living room and put it together. It turned out to be a little narrower and a little higher than I’d expected, but it works on the wall where the other bookcase had been.

My large boss’s chair was still a little big for that space, so I gave it to the hubby – he was spending more time at his desk anyway so it seemed only fair – intending to use the somewhat rickety secretary’s chair he’d been using until I could find something better. Only he had a rather nice pair of office chairs in the music room and with the way his equipment was now set up he only had room for one. It’s actually a lot more comfortable than I expected and is just the right size.

So. The desk area is set up to my satisfaction, but I didn’t have enough time left to get the reading area sorted out. I’m getting rid of the wooden filing cabinet my tea station was on – I wasn’t really using the drawers for anything, it was more just something to fit the tea station on. It’ll fit just as nicely on top of the tiny book case in the reading area, and it makes more sense to have it there. Now all that’s left is a reading chair.

Yesterday the hubby and I made a pilgrimage to Peterborough in search of a chair. We didn’t find a chair, but we did find a new dining room set. LOL I did see my dream chair, but it was way too big for the space I have. And it wasn’t as comfortable as I remember it being. So today, after babysitting, we’re going up to Ikea in Toronto to get the chair I almost bought a couple of weeks ago. Only this time it’s on sale. :-D

With any luck, next week’s post will have pictures.

Friday, April 20, 2018

Speculative Poetry

Speculative fiction and poetry – what an interesting combination!

We started out this week’s class by reading some poetry by Sandra Kasturi to give us an idea of just what was meant by speculative poetry. It’s pretty much the same thing as speculative fiction, albeit in poetic form – words embracing the fantastic, the mythic, and science fiction themes.

This was followed by a discussion of what kind of elements can be found in a speculative poem, and this in turn was followed by some free writing time. The idea was to keep some of these elements in mind as we tried to write a speculative poem. I have to be honest here, I really hate being rushed when it comes to poetry. I like to be able to take my time and mull an idea over. This is the unedited poem I came up with in the allotted time:

bitter rain lashes the darkness
on the deck railing, mourning doves huddle
feathers puffed out
the others come, one by one
chickadee, sparrow, grackle
they gather, like crystals of ice
the others come, one by one
thrush, cardinal, blackbird
the tree above becomes weighted down
the others come, one by one
nuthatch , swallow, jay
they speak with one voice
their voices weave together
great wings sheltering
necromancer raven
cast your spell,
cast your spell

This is what happens when you rush me. :-)

The next exercise was a little more fun. The instructor introduced the class to erasure poetry. It’s very similar to blackout poetry, except instead of blacking out the text around the words, you erase it. We weren’t able to do any actual erasing, what we did instead was circle the words for our poems. We were also asked to give our poem a title. I found mine in the text, it means “happy meeting place.”

Here’s a picture of what mine looked like on the pages:

And here it is written out so you can actually read it:


Questions asked in a deeper understanding
had no boundaries.
Conversations and stories intersect;
ink and bottle showed a broken domestic story.
Uncovered interest objects –
thus, story was kept contextualized.
The history of stories exchange meanings.
Each story is recognized –
universal conversation can describe stories,
embed the meaning of place and history.
Distinct knowledge happens.
Evidence of a girl studying,
understanding the unexpected.
There remains artefacts, living fragments,
of corrugated experiences.
Parallel stories support example.

The final exercise was my favourite. The instructor had us break up into pairs so we could collaborate on a poem, taking turns writing each line. It was actually a lot of fun:

I beg you please
To listen to my words
For each, and every, means something
Different to the individual being
Birth, a start
And life, a continuance
Of wonder, mistake and love
Of joy and happiness
Death, an end
Which itself is only the beginning
For memories, we have a many
To buoy us up when we would fall
To sail away, from each and every tempest
And find a safe harbour
Land, I beg of you please
To listen to my words

If you’re still curious about speculative poetry, check out the following links:

Liminality (a magazine of speculative poetry)
Locus Online
Strange Horizons

Wednesday, April 18, 2018


There’s nothing worse than staying up late to schedule a poetry post and then have it somehow disappear. I don’t know what happened – I checked the preview before scheduling last night and it looked fine but this morning when I looked all I had was a title. I'm glad I checked!

I had really hoped to present a new (to me) form each Wednesday through the month of April, it being National Poetry Month and all, but poetry can be time consuming to write at the best of times and some forms even more so. That pesky thing called life got a little busy last week and I just didn't have the time for a new form so I had to settle for one I've already given a try.

You may recall me mentioning the codified Welsh meters in last week’s post, so I figured this week I’d share one of the few I’ve tried. There are 24 codified meters in Welsh poetry, divided into three categories: the Englynion, the Cywydd, and the Awdl. Today’s form is the 16th, an Awdl, called the Clogyrnach (clog-ír-nach). Despite it being one of the easiest ones you don’t see it used much these days, but in ancient times the Awdls were the territory of the chief or master bard.

The Clogyrnach contains thirty-two syllables in a six-line stanza. The first two lines have eight syllables each; the second two, five; the third two, three. The last two lines may be written as a single, six-syllable line. There are only two rhymes per stanza, and there can be any number of stanzas.

Technically, it looks like this:

x x x x x x x a
x x x x x x x a
x x x x b
x x x x b
x x b
x x a

If you join the last two lines together to make one six-syllable line, it's important to keep the rhymes in the same place, so if you do that your last line will have the b rhyme in the middle:

x x x x x x x a
x x x x x x x a
x x x x b
x x x x b
x x b x x a

Of course I used the traditional format for my example. I found the five syllable lines to be the most difficult, especially following the eight syllable lines – I kept wanting to write four syllables or six syllables instead.


An earthen sky of amber hue
A canvas on which dreams may brew
A zephyr blowing
Past rivers flowing
You pass through.

A stormy sea of hopes and dreams
Where nothing is quite like it seems
Reality skewed
Sanity unglued
Changing mood
Endless themes.

No order to the chaos here
Where wisdom’s just a thin veneer
Passions are higher
Truth is a liar
Wake from here.

Monday, April 16, 2018

A Funny Thing Happened…

… on the way to becoming more productive. AKA excuse #0573 for not writing.

The way my new office is laid out, the desk throws a shadow on itself. I have a desk lamp, and of course my spiffy new lap top has a back lit keyboard, but there’s just something about that layout that bugs me. I keep wanting to turn and face west, which puts the desk on my left.

So I spent most of Saturday rearranging my furniture. It’s not as though I could go anywhere, after all. We were in the midst of a raging ice storm. It started out as rain, moved on to ice pellets, then by noon it was freezing rain. In the morning the water on the tarp covering the pool was clear, but as the day continued I watched the steady progression of the ice until it was fully covered. It was kind of neat, although I’m sure I wouldn’t have thought so if I’d had to leave the house for anything.

Laugh if you want, but I think there’s something to be said for the idea of feng shui. I didn’t consult a book or Google it or anything, but I can’t help feel that if I get my office set up in just the right way, I’m going to start being more productive. Maybe I’m crazy, but there you go.

And that is how I ended up spending most of my Saturday cleaning the stuff off my desk and cursing and swearing as I moved stuff around. I stopped when it started to get dark because I wasn’t sure how long the power would last and I didn’t want to be in the middle of something if the lights went out. Although I enjoy the romance of candle light, it’s not exactly the safest thing around stacks of papers and books.

But while I didn’t trust the power to stay on to work in my office, I had no problem with it staying on so I could start binge watching the new Lost In Space series on Netflix. :-D

I loved that show as a kid, and in fact I have the complete series on DVD. I enjoyed the movie with Matt LeBlanc in it too. Normally I don’t like when they make a lot of changes to old favourites – don’t get me started on the changes made to Battlestar Galactica – but I have to say, I love how they’ve updated Lost In Space. I don’t even mind that they turned Dr. Smith into a woman.

But I digress.

None of the changes I made to the arrangement of my desk felt right so in the end I moved everything back the way it was. Of course I’m not ready to give up quite yet, I had another couple of ideas on Sunday, but it was so late in the day by that time that I didn’t have a chance to test them.

After all, I had blog posts to write. ;-)

Friday, April 13, 2018

Adjectives and Adverbs

If nothing else, I’m having fun with these Wednesday night writing classes. You wouldn’t think something like adjectives and adverbs would be fun, but it was. :-)

Of course you all know what they are, right?

***crickets chirping***

That’s okay, far be it for me to judge. For most people the parts of a sentence rank right up there with calculus and algebra – you have a vague recollection of learning them in high school, declared “when will I ever use this in real life?” and upon graduation promptly forgot everything you ever knew about them.

An adjective modifies, or describes, a noun (person, place or thing) – the old woman, the green grass, the frozen wasteland. An adverb modifies, or describes, a verb (an action word) – walk quickly, search frantically, sleep peacefully.

Our first exercise was just twenty minutes of free writing. You could hear the sighs of relief around the table at not having to dive right into the lesson. LOL

I actually work better from a prompt than being told to just write whatever you want, and I just happened to have this month’s prose prompt from Brazen Snake Books with me: A man running to catch a train/bus/cab drops a red rose. A woman picks it up, and finds a note wrapped around the stem.

Here’s what I came up with in the allotted time:

The train station was busy as usual. Catherine kept a death grip on her purse as she was buffeted by the sea of humanity.

“Oof!” One elbow jab to the side was particularly sharp. She opened her mouth to yell at the man who’d jostled her so rudely, but he was already too far away to hear. He was tall and dark haired, a business man by the look of him. He must be in an almighty hurry to get to wherever he was going, she thought, watching him elbow his way to the waiting train. Probably late for a meeting or something, although that was no excuse.

“Ha! Serves you right!” she said.

He’d tripped on the edge of the platform as he boarded the train, nearly losing his newspaper. Something else fell instead, something that had been nestled in the paper’s folds, and her last glimpse of him was the resigned look on his face as he stared down at the platform as the train pulled away.

The crowd was beginning to thin and curious, she worked her way towards the edge of the platform.

It was a long stemmed rose. She glance around but no one else appeared to notice it. Or if they did they didn’t care. Hesitantly, she bend down and picked it up. There was a note wrapped around the stem. With a shiver of excitement, she unfolded the paper.

I suppose it shouldn’t be a surprise that the next part of the assignment was to underline (using different kinds of lines) every noun, adjective, verb, and adverb. It made for quite a messy page, but it gave each of us an idea of the number of them used in our pieces.

What followed was a spirited discussion of words and word usage and upcharging a verb plus adverb. Example: instead of “she ran very fast,” you could simply say “she raced.” Or instead of “he talked very loudly” you could say “he shouted.”

Word choices, too, can be important because many words have more than one meaning. Like bark. It can mean the outer layer of a tree, or the noise a dog makes. Novel can be a book or something new – a novel experience.

When it comes to adjectives and adverbs, you need to keep three things in mind:
1. Are they needed?
2. Do they add to the story?
3. Could they be taken away?

For the next exercise we came up with a list of nouns and in a second column an adjective for each – shoe, expensive; bar, shiny; tea, green; watch, broken; space ship, dusty; table, solid; universe, limitless. Then the instructor mixed it up a bit by rearranging the order of the adjectives so we had: broken shoe; dusty bar; expensive tea; green watch; limitless space ship; shining table; solid universe. Then we were asked to chose two or three pairs of words and write a short piece.

You know me, I love a challenge. I managed to use all the pairs. But I’ll warn you, it makes better sense if you know who Doctor Who is. ;-)

I swaggered up to the dusty bar and ordered an expensive tea. The waiter who brought my drink over to the shiny table was wearing a broken shoe. I checked my green watch and realized I was out of time. The Doctor would be waiting for me in his limitless spaceship. Tossing back my tea, I threw a couple of bills onto the table and hurried away, eager to explore the solid universe.

Wednesday, April 11, 2018


The Canzone comes to us from medieval Italy. Once upon a time I thought the most difficult form I ever stumbled across was the Sestina. Then I discovered the 24 coded Welsh metres. *shudder* The Canzone isn’t quite as bad as the Welsh poetry forms, but it definitely beats out the Sestina.

With the Sestina you have six key words that are each used to end one line in each of the six verses in a prearranged pattern. The Canzone only uses five key words, but each of the five verses has twelve lines, with a five line envoi at the end. You see the problem? There’s a lot of repetition.

The layout is as follows:

Stanza 1: abaacaaddaee
Stanza 2: eaeebeeccedd
Stanza 3: deddaddbbdcc
Stanza 4: cdcceccaacbb
Stanza 5: bcbbdbbeebaa
Envoi: abcde

My words: dream moon night grave soul

My poem:

The Waking Dream

The night calls to you in a dream…
High above shines bright the moon –
Embrace the path within the dream,
Immerse yourself into the dream.
The moon, a beacon in the night
Guides you through the land of dream,
Illuminates the waking dream.
Seek the truth beyond the grave
There must be more than just the grave.
The truth is hidden in a dream
You know this in your deepest soul,
The silent longing of the soul.

The night holds hostage to your soul
As you continue in your dream.
A secret longing fills your soul
Of things forgotten by your soul
Remembered only by the moon
Whose light shines down upon your soul,
The cool, pale stream that soothes your soul
As you wander through the night,
A shining beacon in the night.
The lustre comes now from your soul
Which comes from far beyond the grave –
You’re not quite ready for the grave.

The look upon your face is grave,
You stop and contemplate your soul.
The end is more than just the grave
So cold and alien, the grave –
Or so it seems within the dream
That blindly leads you to the grave.
With nothing else beyond the grave
That lies beneath the shadowed moon
You seek the peace within the moon –
And find yourself beyond the grave
That lies here in the darkest night,
Strange vision of the tortured night.

And here you are, lost in the night
Now searching for that shadowed grave
Within the dark and empty night,
A deep and dark and mystic night
That spills into your very soul
To show you what is truly night
Before you pass into the night
And leave behind your waking dream –
No memory left, merely the dream
That calls you to embrace the night
Beneath the silvered hunter’s moon –
Stand up straight, drink down the moon.

Ah, gentle, passive, mother moon
A beacon in the darkest night.
A haunting sight, the gravid moon
Yet shadows long cast by the moon
Fall upon the empty grave.
Another aspect of the moon
Here in the dark night of the moon
That calls out to the willing soul,
Enticing those who have a soul
To worship peace and seek the moon
As it appears within the dream,
But only in the waking dream

Perhaps this is the end of dream.
Fill your cup, drink down the moon
And leave behind the darkened night
Find your truth beyond the grave
There is a cleansing of your soul.