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?


I’m happy I joined the flock

I’ve resisted the lure of the little blue bird for years. I was not going to tweet. At first it was easy. I heard the rumors–people were simply listing what they ate and when they used the restroom. I wanted no part in that. I am not that self-absorbed. I recently changed my mind and joined the flock. It started slowly with trouble in my neighborhood.

The anarchists started attacking Seattle again, and I was able to find updates through the Seattle police Twitter stream. I didn’t realize this, but you don’t generally have to be on Twitter to read the posts. It was very helpful to see the up-to-the-minute info. I looked around a little. I got intrigued. I also decided I should be on there to promote my businesses and so that I’d have experience if someone wanted me to tweet for them–I do some promotional writing. I took the leap.

I’m actually loving it. I’m getting all kinds of fun tidbits about Shakespeare and other geeky subjects I love by following the Royal Shakespeare Company, Sir Patrick Stewart, and others. I’m also following a lot of stand-up comedians. Laughter truly is the best medicine. I also love to share helpful information with others, and this gives me a platform (along with my public Facebook page) to share short things in a timely manner. All this is good, but it’s not my favorite part. I am loving Twitter because of the games.

These aren’t your average time-wasting games. If those are on Twitter I haven’t found them and I wouldn’t indulge. I’ve been on Facebook for years and I’ve never had a farm or tried Candy Crush Saga. I know myself too well and I don’t want to spend my time that way. These are word games. Twitter has a number of fun ways to learn new vocabulary and play with words (and play with others who are doing the same). I am having fun and gaining new vocabulary by engaging with altwiculate and artwiculate. Their websites have a daily word with a definition and then people tweet sentences that use them (trying to be clever, if possible).

My favorite game on Twitter is called the Hashtag Game. Hashtags are the little phrases prefaced with a #. You’ve most likely seen them, even if you’ve been avoiding the Twitter as long as I have. The whole point of the game is to make up something clever to say about the subject that they are talking about. These quips get posted at a fast and furious pace. Here’s one of my examples from yesterday: “A week-old turkey dinner inside a bus station locker. #ThingsYouWouldn’tClaim”

I love to play with words. If you make words your friends you’ll be a better writer, and if you’ve got to write something quickly without overthinking it your brain will be primed to spout ideas and vocabulary at a moment’s notice. This is fun, and it’s fun that’s good for me. I get the added benefit of interacting with the other people playing and connecting further with online writing friends. Sometimes my posts are better than others. This is also okay. Writers need to write lots. We need to write well and to write poorly. This is how we learn. This is how we learn to experiment. This is how we have fun. I like fun, don’t you?

Your assignment, should you choose to accept it:
260. Check out the vocabulary and word games on Twitter and play a few on paper even if you aren’t on Twitter yourself. You can see the stream of my posts on my main personal website or follow me @CathyTenzo. If you’re not on Twitter and it seems like fun, give it a try. If you do join or if you’re already on there, leave your info in the comments and I’ll check out your tweets. Even if the whole thing just seems bizarre, it can be fun to explore a foreign culture.

Details details

I love the change in the seasons. I’ve never been much of a fan of summer, so while others are mourning the summer’s demise I am looking forward to the fall. I love autumn and always have although it’s not nearly as marvelous here in Seattle as it was when I lived in New York–we got crisper air and therefore nicer leaves. It was more of a transition, although here it will cool down a bit and the rains will start coming back. This is still a win.

As a writer and a Zen girl, I try to be observant. One of the ways I hone my abilities to notice and stay in the present is through various forms of art. I love to draw. If you get very quiet and just observe a thing and draw what you see you’ll notice things you might never have noticed before. In order to draw something well you need to really look at it. The skill in your fingers will come with practice, but it all starts with the eye. Once you start drawing on a regular basis you’ll start studying things with a casual glance. Beware, as you may start to get distracted by the lovely curvature of your next teacup or the patterns on the light sconce in the hallway. You are starting to see, and it is good.

I also write haiku. In order to write about a brief moment you must first see that moment in all its detail. The more detail you have, the more choices you have as a writer when crafting your haiku. Writing is also a way to take a tour of your own brain. Writing exercises require you to use details you have stored up in your memory. I particularly like writing exercises that use random words because they allow me to create something that I might not have imagined otherwise. I wander around noticing things, and it is this reality that infuses the poem or story even if that poem or story is about outer space. All writing is grounded in some sort of truth, no matter how fantastical it might be. If it isn’t, it generally fails because people do not believe it. You may not believe in hobbits, but everyone knows someone who would rather sit and eat cakes than go on an adventure. We know someone like Bilbo Baggins, and therefore we accept a lot that doesn’t make sense within our own experience.

As the season changes I’m going to be noticing how those changes manifest in Seattle. I want to fully experience whatever the fall has in store for me, and I can’t wait for the rain to start.

Your assignment, should you choose to accept it:
257. How does the change in seasons manifest where you are? Are you noticing as much as you could? Try drawing something or writing about it and see if you notice more than you normally would.

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:

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?