Prose and poetry that delve deeper

Eyes closed
mind focussed on a fragrance
sparked by the image
of lilacs

Wildwood Lilacs


Sandy’s words
a “fragrance of simplicity”
explode a kaleidoscope
of memories

Lush blooms
spilling from a milk glass jug
set on grandma’s table
glowing purple

Dappled light
filtering through heart-shaped leaves
onto a lavender-strewn lawn at
season’s end

French white
solemn in crystal beside a coffin
pristine and gentle beauty
without cheer


(Lilac Memories – Carol J. Garvin)


We’ve reached the end of another month, this one concluding the study of Dave Harrity’s book, Making Manifest: On Faith, Creativity, and the Kingdom at Hand. Its meditations and writing exercises were meant to be daily devotional explorations, but I didn’t follow the rules. Reading snippets sandwiched into still moments, I didn’t take the journey as planned. Still, this month and its continuing focus on poemia — that’s Greek for poetry, meaning where anything is made — has reinforced my desire to plumb emotional and spiritual depths even as I write my secular prose.

We can’t expect readers to experience the lives of our characters if we don’t experience real emotions while we’re writing their stories. Scenes that flop effortlessly onto the page are sometimes not as inspired as we might like to believe, but are the result of superficial writing. I’ve been guilty of this, occasionally letting the words spill out without feeling any attachment to them.

Sandra Heska King refers to this month of digging deeper as “learning to see a little more clearly, to listen a little more deeply.”  She speaks of faith and matters of the soul, and “a holy awakening,” but truthfully, doesn’t it take a combination of heart, mind and soul to find and follow any writing path that God has mapped out for us?

The book study may be over, but now it’s time to continue the searching, to dig below the surface, to grasp that which is meaningful, and make sure it’s significant and honest before planting it on the page. Are you with me?


Now that May is over I’ve decided to take a week off from blogging. There might be the occasional random post next week, or there might not be, but I’ll be back on the regular schedule by Monday, June 9th to begin my seventh year of sharing mental meanderings with you here. (Can it be that long ago that I ventured out onto the blogging stage? Wow!)

~  ~  ~


Watching and Waiting: a poem

You may be getting tired of my bear photos, but I’m hoping you’ll bear with me a little longer. (I honestly didn’t intend that to be a pun!) I’ve been taking part (after a fashion) in a book study being done by a group of us on Facebook, organized by Sandra Heska King. The book is MAKING MANIFEST: on Faith, Creativity and the Kingdom at Hand, by Dave Harrity. ‘Taking part’ is presumptuous… an over-statement. I’m barely auditing the participation of others, reading portions as I have time, skipping bits, or re-reading others that particularly appeal to me.

There is an exercise for each day, a prompt provided, meant to stimulate a response to the day’s chapter. Day #21 was about “Making New: Bear [or bare] yourself before the page, wait, be patient. Ask for something impossible. Come to the desk [or the yard] for renewal,” and we were asked to write a ten-line poem that features an animal.

It made me think of our recent visiting bear, waiting for her invisible cub to finish its nap, hidden away behind the greenery. Thus my ‘bearwatch’ poem was born.

I don’t write much poetry, but I believe the required spontaneous creativity has a spin-off effect on my other writing. How about you? Do you ever write poems? Do you prefer the tidy, measured, rhyming kind, or the more emotional free verse? If you’d like to try your hand at this exercise I’d love it if you’d add a poem in the comments section below. (I won’t critique yours if you don’t critique mine.) 🙂







Patience stretches time

into moments undone


hidden in green

waiting while a babe restores.

We would do well to emulate

watch and wait

and be recreated

a child of God

in His endless time.


(Carol J. Garvin for the ‘Making Manifest’
book study group’s Day #21 exercise)

Thoughts, Words and Written Chaos

There’s nothing a writer likes better than to play with words. Sometimes — okay, maybe most times — we like the words to make some kind of sense… to resonate either with us as their creator or with potential readers. The choice of words and the order in which they are strung together determine how they affect us.

Blossom thoughts2

We don’t require poetry to follow stringent rules of grammar, but we still expect the words to be meaningful. Whether they are contained in prose or poetry, however, our understanding of them, and whether or not they are meaningful, will depend upon our personal perspective… our previous exposure and response to them.

In the initial stages of writing,
thoughts emerge
like gurgling waters from a geyser,
bubbling up and
bursting forth
to splatter on a page.

We don’t have a lot of control over them,
certainly not at first.
It’s during revisions
that we stare at the mess we’ve made.
We dab at it
in an attempt
to contain the chaos…
to reorder the words
into  a semblance of organized storytelling.

An entire novel
originates with a single thought,
but it’s one that must expand
and be reworked
many times
before it becomes recognizable.
Writing it is a combination of
creativity and craft,
exhilarating and exhausting.

I’m at that stage where the story is no longer a suspended idea, but it’s still  chaotic, with the wrong words cluttering up page after new page. Where are you at with your current project?

More from James Douglas…

“It is a good idea to be alone in a garden
at dawn or dark
so that all its shy presences
may haunt you and possess you
in a reverie of suspended thought.”

~  ~  ~


Poetry or Not (preferably not!)


“Poetry is truth in its Sunday clothes.”

[Joseph Roux]

Yeats 14-A Coat

During April I’ve been participating in National Poetry Month. Participating how, you may wonder; it’s a far stretch from novel writing. Well, I admit I didn’t write a single poem during the month. The initial challenge at Tweetspeak Poetry was to pick a poet and study his or her work, reading a poem each day.

I’m not sure why I chose William Butler Yeats‘ poetry. Much of it is gloomy, focused on aging, lost love and politics, and yet Yeats (1865-1939) is “widely considered to be one of the greatest poets of the twentieth century.” He was awarded the Nobel Prize in 1923. The Poetry Foundation says he “was interested in occultism and spiritualism. He had been a theosophist, but in 1890 he turned from its sweeping mystical insights and joined the Golden Dawn, a secret society that practiced ritual magic… he became convinced that the mind was capable of perceiving past the limits of materialistic rationalism.

For all of that — or perhaps because of that — Yeats’ poetry is fascinating to me, not so much for what he says, but for how he says it. He is very strict in his adherence to the traditional verse forms of his time and the words bring a kind of verbal magic to the page.

Dennis Gabor (1900-1979) once said, “Poetry is plucking at the heartstrings, and making music with them.” (Gabor was also a recipient of the Nobel Prize, but in physics.)

At the end of each day this month (with the exception of a few missed ones at Easter), I chose a Yeats’ excerpt that spoke to me, despite often being out of context. I added it to one of my original photographs, and posted it on Facebook and Flickr, just to prove to my fellow poetic sojourners that I’d done my daily reading.

The earlier graphic is from April 14th. This is yesterday’s…

Yeats 27 - Innisfree Peace

If you’d like to see the entire month’s collection, you’ll find it here.

So, when April has ended what will have been the point of this exercise? I want — no, I yearn — to prove the truth of L.Willingham Lindquist‘s observation at Tweetspeak Poetry:

We’ve noticed something about people who read poetry every day: they write better, whether it’s poetry or prose. Maybe it comes from exposure to well-crafted lines. A little like osmosis, so to speak. Or maybe a corollary to what your mother always told you about the kind of friends you keep. I like to think it also comes from what the words do once they get inside you. Those well-crafted lines have a way of opening passages into our souls. They gently (and sometimes not so gently) push us to look at things differently.”

There is something to be gleaned from reading in genres other than one’s favourite. I don’t consider myself a poet. Except for rare occasions, I don’t write poetry and seldom read it. Oh, years ago I introduced my Grade One and Two students to it with fun verses by Ogden Nash, but who takes that kind of poetry seriously? (May the ghosts of his ancestors not descend upon me in wrath!) No, I prefer good ol’ fiction… a traditional mystery, perhaps historical fiction or something inspirational. But if reading poetry can make me a better writer, who am I to pass up an opportunity for improvement?

This month has also been about enrichment and self-discipline, and can’t we always use a good dose of both?

How do you feel about poetry? Have you marked National Poetry Month in any special way?

~  ~  ~


National Poetry Month, a Novel, and Now

Throughout the month of March many of us took part in a literary version of March Madness, daily working our way toward an assortment of writing-related goals. Now April has arrived, bringing with it National Poetry Month, and a new daily challenge — reading a poem a day.

Sunny Tree

The challenge was dished out to me by Sandra Heska King and her allies at Who can deny having time to read just one poem each day? I already read a portion of scripture and the poetry of the Psalms. How hard could it be to fit in a few more verses? Of course, one could jump in with more of a commitment and write a poem a day, but that would stretch my poetry moments into poetry hours, and end up overshadowing the other writing I want to do. I know my limits.

Each day I spend a chunk of time working on the new novel I began last month, but my tortoise-like progress reminds me of how easy it is to let other activities obscure that priority. I have writer friends who hold down full-time jobs, homeschool their children, and still cope with the deadlines of multiple book contracts. I’m always in awe of Ruth Logan Herne who daycares a houseful of children, prepares material for and monitors two daily group blogs (in addition to her own website), has chickens, and dogs, and goodness knows what else, but is consistently up and writing by 5:00 a.m. every morning, getting her couple hours in before the rest of her household awakens and her ‘other’ workday begins. My days are mostly empty, but I get much less done. It’s all about priorities, having goals, and not letting them become lost behind other attention-grabbing pursuits. Oh, and knowing how to juggle a bit doesn’t hurt.

I watched a video yesterday and one statement in it really hit me: “It is always now.” Yesterday is an unchangeable memory. We may wait for tomorrow, hoping for our situation to get better, easier, or improve in some other way, but each moment we live is our NOW. We will never get this moment back to do over. What we want to accomplish tomorrow will only happen if we work towards it today… beginning right now.

Do you have any desires or goals that are being eclipsed by other things? What are you doing to try and achieve them?

~  ~  ~

“… ridged inch deep with pearl”


The snow had begun in the gloaming,

And busily all the night

Had been heaping field and highway

With a silence deep and white.


Every pine and fir and hemlock

Wore ermine too dear for an earl,

And the poorest twig on the elm-tree

Was ridged inch deep with pearl.


[James Russell Lowell — The First Snow-Fall]


(Click photos to enlarge)

Escape Into Winter


An escape route that leads nowhere

but away.

Some days

away is where I want to be.

I could slip from the room unnoticed

but not reach the bend

out of sight,

thanks to that fence.


There is always a fence.


(Click to enlarge)


Eyes linger

where my feet can’t go.

There is perceived respite…

a moment of visual escape

in burnished branches and untouched snow.

A moment of tranquility.



For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him.  He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.
[Colossians 1:16-17]

~  ~  ~


A New Notebook for Words


A brand new notebook! I’m giddy with excitement. Am I the only one who enters a store and heads straight for the stationery department? The only one to dally and daydream over choices before moving on to pick up other more mundane items on the shopping list?

I have a stack of empty notebooks that almost equals the height of my To Be Read pile of books. I love all writerly tools of the trade but I have a weakness for special notebooks, particularly journals with covers in colours and textures that inspire creative words.

Maybe only another writer can appreciate the delicious anticipation of opening the cover of a brand new book, and, with pen poised, choosing the perfect word to initiate the promising blankness. Unlike beginning a new manuscript, where the pressure to produce the right start to an entire story can push us into a panic attack, it’s a gateway into the adventure of free expression.

Now, as I run fingertips over the leafy texture and consider what that perfect first word should be, I remember this poem by Sandra Heska King (thank you for permission to reprint, Sandra):


What’s in a Word?*



mined from



planted on



dispersed with




jewel with



pregnant with


filled with


and rich


a million



Do writing tools make your senses tingle with anticipation for the word? Or are they simply a necessity required by the task? Not counting your computer, what’s your favourite writing tool?

(* Copyright March 2011, Sandra Heska King)


Windows on Winter

Windows on winter

Sun-blessed discoveries

On a chilly morn

Wandering ‘coon tracks

Across my back deck

Pressed in powdered snow

Glimpses of beauty

Branches of white lace

Tree spears stretching tall

Evergreens shiver

Showering snow flakes

To capture lost warmth

Fresh winter snowfall

Fluffy white crystals

Dusting winter’s day


What’s your writing day like?

Can you describe it in five syllable phrases?