In which I ramble a bit

Today’s post being a post about poetry, friendship, and cat videos.

It’s all sort of connected, really. It’s been a weird sort of week with lots of things going on. I’m feeling joyful because last week I had a massive toothache, but I got the tooth pulled last Monday and it’s been getting steadily better all week. It’s amazing how much the absence of crushing pain makes one appreciate the normal state of affairs. I’m feeling grateful for a dentist who would work with me. Huzzah!

I’ve been experimenting with poetry. I’ve been writing lots of haiku, which you may know, and I’ve been trying adding some fiction elements to the form, partly as a way to experiment with plotting which feels like my writing kryptonite. I’ve committed to a story in haiku about a train journey. I add to it every day, and so far, so good. If I fail to figure out plot as I go the train will crash. It could happen, but the fact that I post it on a public page has helped me to face some of my demons. If you want to see where it’s going so far, you can check it out here.

I also had a grand time going to the cat video film festival. It was held at the Showbox theater, an enchanting Seattle venue full of faded glamour and elaborate chandeliers. It was also full of people who loved cat videos and we all had a great time. A nice blogger from the UW took my picture and that of my friend, and wrote up a fun article with links to some of the cat videos. The picture got into the slide show in the article. If you decide to take a peek,  I’m the one in the mohawk with the tiger cat ears and my friend is wearing a black kitty mask. It was a fantastic evening.

The film festival also got me thinking about poetry. I’ll lead you with me, and there we’ll stop. My favorite cat video of the night is one I hadn’t seen before. It’s called “Boots and Cats” and it’s an elaborate rhythm poem about two main things. I bet you can guess what they are… It’s amazing that something so simple has such an impact as poetry. I am still pondering it, and would recommend you view the video if you want to see something cool. It’s pretty nifty even if you don’t like either boots or cats.

The week was rich in experience although random in tone. I’m happy to make my own kaleidoscope out of the bits and pieces. What’s your kaleidoscope look like?

Your assignment, should you choose to accept it:
273. Take a few moments to think about your week as a whole. What would you put on your highlights reel? What would you rather leave out? Did you discover anything new?

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Do you haiku?

I’ve been writing a lot of haiku this year, because a friend of mine accepted a challenge to write a daily haiku. I decided to take on the challenge too, and I believe it’s made me a stronger writer. I look forward to doing my haiku, and I’m hooked–I expect to recommit to another year when this one is over.

Haiku is a wonderful form because you can only capture a moment. It forces you to choose your words carefully. You only have so much space, so many syllables, but you can convey so much. I read the work of many fine haiku poets every day over at the Carpe Diem Haiku Blog, and I am inspired by how many of their haiku tell whole stories within the short format.

I sometimes write a haiku based on things I’ve seen during the day, and this forces me to be mindful of my surroundings. I also write a haiku each day based on the prompts over at Carpe Diem. I believe it’s helpful to do writing exercises. You demonstrate to yourself that you are capable of writing something even without the inspiration fairy sitting on your shoulder. When you do writing exercises you can prove to yourself that you can always lure her over if she hasn’t chosen to land on her own. This is a valuable skill for any creative type.

The writing prompts have also been a good exercise in the old writing maxim “show don’t tell.” Many of our prompts have been words like “joy”, “justice”, and “sacrifice”. It’s tempting to write a poem about how someone is feeling joyful, but it’s much stronger to depict the emotion. It’s usually better to show your reader something and let them draw their own conclusions. No one wants to be told how to feel. My daily haiku practice is a reminder of this, and a chance to sharpen my skills.

I’m glad I took this on. It keeps me writing daily, even when my world is busy and life is demanding too much attention. I’ve also discovered a vibrant community of online haiku poets, and my life is richer for their company and what they write. Haiku anyone?

Your assignment, should you choose to accept it:
255. Write a haiku. You can check out the info over at Carpe Diem or check out my blog Haiku Plate Special for examples. You can stick to the old format–five syllables first line, seven syllables the second line, five syllables the third line–or go with a more modern format and use fewer syllables if it seems to work better (the older format works better with the original Japanese). If you need a prompt, write a haiku about cake. How was it? Ready for some more?

A geeky blog is born

I’ve started another blog called License of Ink. It’s about Shakespeare, writing, and other geeky things. If you like Yay! Pigeons you may want to check it out. If you like haiku, I also have a haiku blog called Haiku Plate Special. You can click on the links in the menu if you are interested in taking a look, or follow the links below. I’ll still be writing Yay! Pigeons, too. Cheers!

Links, should you desire them:
http://licenseofinkblog.wordpress.com/
http://haikuplatespecial.wordpress.com/

For the love of Bill

I’ve been indulging my Shakespeare obsession lately. There have been so many great opportunities to enjoy the bard and our upcoming outdoor theater festivals promise more fun to come. I’m also really looking forward to seeing Joss Whedon’s take on Much Ado About Nothing which will be out in theaters here on Friday.

Like any good relationship, my acquaintance with Shakespeare becomes more rewarding the more I get to know his work. I am sad that many people were scared off from this pleasure in school or because they are intimidated by the language. Today I’m sharing some of my favorite Shakespeare on film for your enjoyment.

If you want something with more modern language:

  • Scotland, PA (2001)Macbeth set in a fast food restaurant. “Out, out, damn spot” gets a whole new unforgettable meaning, and Christopher Walken is charmingly funny as Lieutenant McDuff. It’s also hard to resist the cheesy Bad Company soundtrack that goes with the 70s setting.
  • She’s the Man (2006) — When I think of Shakespeare, Amanda Bynes does not leap immediately to mind, but she was really fun in this modern adaptation of Twelfth Night. She masquerades as her brother to try out for the boy’s soccer team, gets a crush on her male roommate and all kinds of hilarity ensues based on the original play. I particularly enjoyed comedian David Cross as the overly supportive principal and love the homage to Malvolio. If you want a more traditional version of the play, try Sir Trevor Nunn’s 1996 version starring Helena Bonham Carter and Ben Kingsley. It’s delightful.

If you want the Shakespearean language:

  • Titus (1999) — Julie Taymor directed this engaging study of the beauty of violence, and be warned, it is violent. Anthony Hopkins is riveting in this innovative adaptation, and I was glad I saw it even though I may never see it again.
  • Much Ado About Nothing (1993) — Sir Kenneth Branagh has done so much for the cause of Shakespeare. I often revisit this film and its setting in the Tuscan sun. The cast of notables is too numerous to mention. Michael Keaton’s humorous performance is particularly amazing, and Keanu Reeves has a small part which is the only blight on the film.

It’s hard to stop there, because so many other great films come to mind, but I don’t  want to add to the voices making Shakespeare overwhelming. If you’d like a recommendation on a particular play, ask me in the comments. So much is out there, and I have so much yet to see, so if you have a recommendation please share that, too. “The play’s the thing”!

Your assignment, should you choose to accept it:
246. If you love Shakespeare, see a film you haven’t yet seen or a live performance. If you’ve been scared off, try one of the films above and give it another try. You may just see what all the fuss is about.

Your references, should you happen to be in Seattle:

Make a mess

I’m a writer and a poet, and I used to give a lot of poetry readings with other friends of mine who are also poets. Invariably, someone would come up and say they liked my poetry (I’m sure the ones who didn’t just didn’t bother to come up.) I remember one woman in particular who approached me and my friend Laurie. She’d seen us read before, and she told us she thought all of our poetry was brilliant. She said she wished she could be like that. She said something about how nothing we wrote was bad.

That was where we had to stop her. It’s nice when people like your poetry, of course. We told her we appreciated her kind words, but we had lots of bad poetry–we just didn’t read it in front of an audience. We’d written plenty of it. Laurie and I have often done writing exercises together, and we always read what we’ve come up with out loud to each other right away. Some of it is wretched. Painfully bad. Simply horrifying. You have to read that stuff out loud sometimes simply to exorcise it from your brain. You have to write that stuff because making a mess is part of the process of creativity–you can’t create magic on the page without experimenting and being willing to throw ideas and words out there and see what works. You have to get down in the muck with the words and wrestle a poem out of them–sometimes you’re lucky and one just leaps at you, but more often you have to play with things until the poem is just right.

It’s also important to get feedback. I write and post at least one haiku a day on my haiku blog, and I don’t have time to let anyone see it first. I know what I’m trying to say but somehow things don’t always come out as I intend, and recently my readers let me know that they were interpreting one of my haiku to say something I don’t believe in. I was grateful for that, and explained what I had meant. I often show writing to trusted friends to get their impressions before sending things off for publication. It helps me to avoid such errors. Writer friends also point out when I’m being lazy or simply just in love with the latest dreck I’ve foisted upon the page. Kind critique has saved many of my readers from work that wasn’t ready to be shared. Blogging doesn’t often allow that luxury, but it’s good practice when time allows.

Play with your words, experiment with your art, make a mess, and then let your creations out into the world and start making something else. Lather, rinse, repeat.

Your assignment, should you choose to accept it:
244. Write something in a different style than usual or using words given to you by a friend. Experiment with new art materials–go outside your comfort zone and get messy–when you’re satisfied with what you’ve done, start over and make another mess. How did that feel?

Finding the moments

I’ve started writing a daily haiku. It’s one of my commitments this year, and it wasn’t done for any specific reason, beyond the fact that my friend was doing it and I decided to accept the challenge. I passed it on so there are three of us. So far I’ve met my commitment and written a haiku every day, sometimes more. It’s been really good for me. Not only does the process allow me to work on writing for myself (as opposed to the paid work I do) but it also helps with my mindfulness. When I go out on my walks now, I am searching for my haiku. Travelling around, I look for them on bus seats and park benches. I found today’s in the middle of an exhausted fog–it was sitting right there, staring at me.

As a Zen girl, I believe in mindfulness. It’s good to look around you and be where you are. There are so many things you can miss if you are staring at a screen, making to-do lists in your head or all of the other myriad distractions of modern life. You might miss the wonders of the universe–so many little moments that can make or break a day. In rural areas you might miss the beauties of nature, and in more urban areas you might miss what I like to call our “urban wildlife.” This is not a good thing to do, because sometimes the urban wildlife is hostile. You need to be aware of your surroundings to keep yourself safe.

This isn’t to say that cities aren’t full of birds and other critters. One of my favorite sights is watching pigeons eating french fries. We have a burger joint on the hill that’s more like a drive-in, and people either eat in their cars or stand around in clumps consuming their deep-fried goodies. Pigeons and seagulls are happy to help with whatever is left.

I don’t want to miss out on these impromptu little goodies that nature provides me. I’m also really enjoying the haikus that my friends are writing. It’s good to get a glimpse into their daily lives, especially as these are friends that live too far away. Haiku brings them closer. That’s a lot of benefits for seventeen syllables.

Your assignment, should you choose to accept it:

224. Go out looking for a haiku. When you find it, write it down. The standard format is three lines, with the first line being five syllables, the second seven syllables, and the final line five syllables. If you need examples, check out the links. If you are so inspired, I’d love to see your examples in the comments.

Links, should you desire them: 

My haiku blog is called Haiku Plate Special, and you can find it here:
http://haikuplatespecial.wordpress.com/

My friend Gabrielle’s haiku blog is called Balsamic Pearls, and you can find it here:
http://balsamicpearls.blogspot.com/

Our other friend isn’t publishing his online, so I can’t share those, but they are as fabulous as he is.

 

So much to look forward to

I’ve been really busy during the last few months, but that’s because life has kept me on my toes. I’ve started a new business, and I’ll tell you all about that at some other time. Don’t worry, though. I’m earning my keep writing–Yay! Pigeons is not going to become a vehicle to sell vitamins or insist you try some new weight loss scheme. The blog will continue as it has been.

Amidst the whirlwind of activity that is my current schedule I just celebrated the new year. I don’t usually make resolutions, although I do have goals. This year I decided to make commitments instead. It’s a subtle difference, but I know it’s an important one. In the past, I’ve resolved to do various things—lose weight, get more organized, drink more water. You know the drill. You’ve probably made these same resolutions, or ones just like them. Somehow I never take them very seriously, and they usually get recycled before January ends. We all know that resolutions usually fail, and therefore most of them do.

Commitments are different. As a responsible person, I believe in keeping my word. When I commit to something, I show up. I set time aside in my busy schedule. A commitment is a promise, and I believe in keeping my promises. In addition, I tend to share commitments. I’ve told many of my friends what I am going to accomplish this year, and I’ve made most of these commitments public in social media. I mean to follow through, and I’m tracking them all on my calendar. So far, so good, and I enjoy all the shiny gold stars in my planner.

Writing is very important to me, so I’ve made a number of writing commitments. I’ve promised to write a daily haiku during 2013–if you’d like to see them check out my new blog Haiku Plate Special. I’ve also committed to posting to Yay! Pigeons at least once a week, so you’ll be seeing more of me on these pages. I’m incredibly busy these days, but since I made the commitments, I’ve been finding the time. It’s as simple as that. I also made sure not to make too many promises. I’ll be happy to exceed my commitments, but I don’t want to set myself up to fail, and I’ll make exceptions for illness or crazy circumstances. It’s important to go with the flow, but it’s also important to schedule yourself for success. It’s going to be a great year. I look forward to sharing it with you all.

Your assignment, should you choose to accept it:

223. What would you like to accomplish in your life? Make at least one commitment. Shout it from the rooftops, announce it on Facebook, tell all your friends. It’s important to remember that some things are not predictable–you can commit to going to the gym a certain number of times a week but you may not be able to control how many pounds you lose by doing so. Commit to what you can control, and get ready to celebrate your achievements. This will be a great year for you, too.