poems, etc.

Zelda's Inferno exercise: the feats performed by fairies

Posted on: Sun, 07/31/2011 - 17:18 By: Tom Swiss

Zelda's Inferno exercise: this one was inspired by a passage in Another Roadside Attraction, which I've recently re-read:

"This next chapter begins with the image of a Greyhound bus streaking through a rural valley in the American West. That image is, in my humble estimation, an excellent on with which to begin a chapter (unless one is writing an epic of the Civil War) and I am gratified to have an opportunity to use it. Amanda came in just now to borrow a match for the lighting of incense and candles. I told her about the image with which this chapter begins.

"Good," she said.

"I think that's an excellent beginning image," I said.

"It's fine," agreed Amanda. "You sure you haven't seen the wooden matches?"

"It's just about as good a beginning image as anyone could come up with," I said. I was feeling cocky about my bus and my valley.

Amanda stopped searching for the matches and looked me over. "Yes, Marx,", she said. "One could begin a chapter with an image of feats performed by fairies or an image of immunity from certain disasters or an image of the moonstone and its properties or an image of Don Ambrosio's pact with the Devil or an image of Chinese court dogs in moments of leisure or an image of the origins of virginity or an image of an owl flying in an open window and perching on Picasso's easel or an image of the unexplained appearance of gypsies in Europe in the fifteenth century or an image of what J.H. Fabre in The Life of the Caterpillar called the 'Great Peacock evening.' But you have chosen to begin with a bus and a valley and that is wonderful. Now, where are the fucking matches, dear? I've got my trance to attend to."

Use one of those images to begin a poem.

the feats performed by fairies

consider, if you will, the feats performed by fairies

I don't mean no little Tinkerbell

no delicate Victorian winged flower fairies

I mean the beautiful and terrible fey

the half-fallen angels, if some tales are believed

the child-swapping, bewitching nobility of the forest

the inventors of glamour

those who passed leaves and stones off as gold and gems

on many an unwary man

consider, if you will, the subtle ways

they have adapted to the modern world --

surely you do not think the fair folk have left us?

for I danced with them just last night

hidden now among us

from time to time they gather

in the forest, in the desert, in some field

at a dancehall, an art gallery, a theatre

bewitching mortals to convene with them

bewitching us to act and dress like them --

a camouflage of sorts

but look quick and careful

and you might spot the fey among the freaks

the dancer whose body cannot be that light

the man whose eyes are just a bit too bright

the child with words wise far beyond her years

the musician whose instrument brings forth tones

          beyond their hands --

the fey are among us

Disc-Oracle Cozmik Debris Prognosticaor

Posted on: Sun, 06/26/2011 - 20:43 By: Tom Swiss

Zelda's Inferno exercise: 1) create your own astrological system, or 2) write a fable

Disc-Oracle Cozmik Debris Prognosticaor for June 26, 2011:

Unicorn: The arrangement of traffic is particularly auspicious today. A house trailer in your Beltway indicates good fortune on the domestic front.

Cockatrice: Mercury is in retrograde, so any old thermometers you may own will run backwards. Time to upgrade to digital.

Yeti: Matters of money are highlighted today. Sew up the hole in your pocket.

Cyclops: The moon is in your seventh house. You must have been hit hard by the real estate downturn. Good time to diversify your portfolio.

Spriggan: The astrological omens are unclear. Ask again when the clouds clear up.

Sphinx: Some celebrity whose birthday is within a week or two of yours once said or did something inspiring. Don't you wish to emulate that?

Mermaid: GPS satellites are in the constellation of Ursa Major. Be careful not to get lost and eaten by a bear.

Zelda's Inferno exercise: Directions

Posted on: Sun, 06/05/2011 - 19:49 By: Tom Swiss

Again, from http://amyking.wordpress.com/2008/04/02/daisy-frieds-poetry-exercises/ : "Write a poem made up entirely of questions. Or write a poem made up entirely of directions."

The directions go something like this:

Go straight ahead on Divine Certainty Road
In 300 feet, turn left on Confusion Avenue
Recalculating... Recalculating... Recalculating...

Take the exit right and proceed on True Love Boulevard
Detour ahead
Turn around if possible
Recalculating... Recalculating... Recalculating...

In two miles, take the exit right and proceed on Career Parkway
Take the motorway
In ten miles, merge on to Wealth Expressway
In 300 feet, merge on to Wealth Expressway
Merge on to Wealth Expressway
Turn around if possible
Recalculating... Recalculating... Recalculating...

In ten miles, exit on to Art Road
Take the exit right
Pull over
Park the car
Get out and walk into the dark woods
Take the path
Climb the hill
Climb the hill
Scramble over the rocks
Reach the top

Zelda's Inferno exercise: Lies

Posted on: Sun, 06/05/2011 - 19:18 By: Tom Swiss

This is from two weeks back. The exercise: write a 10 line poem in which every line is a lie. (Idea taken from the list here: http://amyking.wordpress.com/2008/04/02/daisy-frieds-poetry-exercises/ . ) Note that, like all my poems, this is from the point of view of a narrator who may not be me -- in other words, when I say these are lies, I may be lying. Or, not. And it's not 10 lines, anyway...

I've never stolen anything in my life
And the check is in the mail
And I'm not in love with her anymore

I don't get angry anymore
And I've certainly never wanted to punch someone in the face,
      over and over again
And I'm not in love with her anymore

I never break the speed limit
And I've never run a red light
And I'm not in love with her anymore

I was late for work because I had car trouble
And I don't know where that baggie came from, officer,
     someone must have left it in my car...
And of course, I assure you, I say with 100% honesty:
     I'm not in love with her anymore

Zelda's Inferno exercise: do kids still go to the park?

Posted on: Sun, 05/15/2011 - 19:47 By: Tom Swiss

Zelda's Inferno exercise: free-write on one or more of the following random phrases, from the Urbanite and Baltimore Guide:

people don't go to the park now
it's like organizing butterflies
on the local front
something that will have a lasting impact
miniature golf course
a great deal of charm
two rainouts a week
free admission
dressed up nice
sleepwalks into their bed

I adapted the first phrase a bit and went with that.

do kids still go to the park?
i remember a summer
(maybe it was two)
when dad played softball in the evenings
on the diamond at Rosedale Park
while my brother and I would run around and play
trying to walk up the big sliding board that went down the side of the hill
climbing the pole to ring the bell at the top
swinging on the money bars in the twilight
spinning the carousel
we'd go back watch the grown-ups play for a bit and
then run off again
idyllic suburban July nights
after the game dad would usually buy us snowballs at the stand
     in the park's parking lot

the park was full of kids --
white suburban kids, mostly two or three or four generations from
      Polish and Irish and German and Italian immigrants
whose grandparents or great- or great-great lived in East Baltimore
and parents had moved just outside to the suburbs

and I never thought twice of this
until one evening a whole group
like a field trip
black kids with a handful of adults from the city
they walked around like visitors to another world, like tourists
in the big open green space
marveling at a jungle gym over grass, not over concrete

first intimation that mine was not the only world

macabre grammar

Posted on: Fri, 05/06/2011 - 22:11 By: Tom Swiss

Over on Facebook, our good friend Molly Griest pointed out the linguistic curiosity that if you whack somebody with an ax, you are an "ax murderer", but if you use anything else you're just "a murderer".

This got me thinking. It seems to me that we'd say "an ax murderer", and maybe refer to "a poisoner", but almost never "a strangler" -- "the Boston strangler" or suchlike, yes, but not so much "a strangler". You'd never say "a strangulation murderer" or "a poison murderer". "A shooter" or "a gunman" doesn't necessarily mean a killer, and you don't say "a gun murderer". You'd almost never say "a stabber" and certainly not "a knife murderer".

Or so it seems to my ear. But why speculate when we can actually examine how people actually use certain phrases? It's Google-fu time! Here are the number of hits on various murderous phrases. To keep the comparisons fair I've included the "a/an" in each search, so that we're not including "Boston strangler", for example:

  • "an ax murderer": 157,000
  • "a poisoner": 77,300
  • "a poison murderer": 9
  • "a strangler": 103,000. But, results for strangler figs show up on the first page. If we adjust our search to cut those out ("a strangler" -fig): 75,000
  • "a strangulation murderer": 0
  • "a gun murderer": 2,240. Though two of the top results are about this topic of how people use "ax murderer" and not "gun murderer"!
  • "a knife murderer": 19,800. As with "a gun murderer", top results also include discussion of how rare this phrase is.
  • "a stabber": 11,800. But the first several hits are about a class of spaceship in the game EVE Online.
  • "a baseball bat murderer" : 8
  • "a bow murderer": 6
  • "a crowbar murderer": 1

I'm surprised that "a knife murderer" comes in higher than "a stabber". But in the end, there's no doubt about it -- despite their rareness, ax murderers get people talking in a way that no other murderers do. (That is, by the way, not a suggestion. Just to be clear.)

dead squirrel

Posted on: Mon, 04/11/2011 - 23:04 By: Tom Swiss

hey sorry I
didn't see you there

even just a few minutes ago so
you took me by surprise

not as surprised as you, though, I guess

but not a bad way to go
outside on a warm sunny spring day, romping around, then suddenly --

no, not bad at all

the Buddha, I have heard, died cranky
in pain from poison mushrooms, or bad pork, or a blocked mesentery artery

and despite the fact that he got stupas and relics
and you got a hole in my lawn
I think I like your way better

Zelda's Inferno exercise: poetry obstacle course.

Posted on: Sun, 04/10/2011 - 20:50 By: Tom Swiss

Zelda's Inferno exercise: poetry obstacle course. This is a series of unconnected lines (at least, not deliberately connected), each with a subject and an action.

seedlings poking up out of the potting soil
homeless guy in a Planet Hollywood jacket walking down the street
computer seeking out a radio signal
fire burning in the night
crumpled napkin holds its shape
cigarette slowly turns into smoke and ash and cancer
a man a two women walk down the street together
a running dog tears up the back yard
breakfast sits on the plate, waiting for you
the beard makes the man
ink absorbs some wavelengths of light and reflects others
lungs exchange oxygen and CO2
after days of rain, the harbor smells of garbage
roses dry out and turn brown
books hold their words fresh for decades

Zelda's Inferno exercise: "The Action of a Sentance"

Posted on: Sun, 04/03/2011 - 19:44 By: Tom Swiss

Zelda's Inferno exercise: "The Action of a Sentence", from Writing Down the Bones. List 10 random nouns, an occupation, and 15 nouns associated with that occupation. Then make interesting sentances.

nouns: red, food, cart, dog, heart, coat, ice, arrow, sign, earring

occupation: a mechanic. verbs: replace, repair, change, open, roll, lift, turn, rotate, pump, test, inspect, weld, hammer, tighten, charge

His heart barrel-rolled in his chest

The dog followed me as if welded to my heel

Her fingers hammered the earring into her flesh

Red changed everything.

There's just no replacement for food.

Why does no one ever repair the stuck wheels of shopping carts?

The button failed, the coat opened, and the purloined merchandise fell to the floor, leading to a shoplifting conviction -- all for the want of a stitch.

Ice welded the gullible kid's tongue to the flagpole.

As the arrow opened his chest and sought his heart, he could only hope the cause for which he was dying was worthwhile.

The sight of the highway sign for Baltimore lifted his spirits.

The dog inspected the empty bag again and again, as if expecting that food would suddenly appear within it.

Hearts open -- sometimes.

The dog rolled lovingly in the April mud.

Ice lifted the rocks as it froze, rewriting geography.

His coat lifted out behind him in the wind, like a pair of wings, like a superhero's cape.

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