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/

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.

Submerged in semantics

Welcome to installment number 118 of the blog, in which we discover that our heroine is an incurable word geek.

It’s true. I am obsessed with words, with grammar, with the byzantine glories of this language that we share. Today’s gushing homage to vocabulary was inspired by Colin Dexter. If you saw yesterday’s column you’ll know that I’m really enjoying his work.

I love these novels because they challenge me. Not only does the author provide the mystery puzzle for the reader’s solving pleasure, but he gives poetry quotations and shares clues from the cryptic crosswords in the British press. He also uses a lot of words that I have to look up. I find it a joy to learn new words, so I do not take this as a negative, as some readers might.

Yesterday I learned the word tmesis. The American Heritage Dictionary defines tmesis as the “separation of the parts of a compound word by one or more intervening words; for example, where I go ever instead of wherever I go.” This word also describes the interpolation of profanities (or other words) into the middle of words. Next time you hear someone say ABSO-FUCKING-LUTELY, you have listened to an example of tmesis.

I am fascinated by the words we use to describe and catalogue our language, and this example particularly delights me. I am tickled by the fact that you can use such a pedantic word to describe such a coarse practice. It is this contrast of the bitter and the sweet that makes this particular definition so marvelous.

While reading the same novel I was also spurred to look up the expression beyond the pale. I knew what it meant, or thought I did, but I suddenly wondered about its origin. My online research revealed that pale is an archaic noun meaning “a stake or pointed piece of wood.” There is a remnant of this usage in the related word impale, which means to “pierce with a sharpened stake.” It doesn’t come up very often, unless you are trying to kill vampires. Pales were sometimes used as fence stakes, and so the word came to mean fences as a whole, and later fenced areas where certain groups were required to stay by law. To be beyond the pale meant to be outside the fence. This is why the term now means away from home and safety, and can also mean outside the law or unacceptable.

These are only two of the things I looked up in that novel. I’m having so much fun reading Colin Dexter’s books!

Your assignment, should you choose to accept it:

118. Next time you read something, pay attention to the words and phrases within. Does something spark your interest for further research? Have at it! (Hmmm, I wonder where that phrase comes from. . . .)

Links, should you desire them:

http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/tmesis

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pale

http://www.phrases.org.uk/meanings/64100.html

The sky was gray

The woman at the bus stop was telling her boyfriend how bad her job was. While she talked she fingered her curly blond hair. Her complaint was punctuated by the snapping of gum in a rhythm as steady as raindrops hitting a tin roof.

“I mean, she gave me a half an hour lecture on Wite-Out—how to use it, where to put it back, and she told me not to take her bottle. It was insane! I mean, I’m twenty-five years old! I know how to use Wite-Out.” The boyfriend grunted sympathetically. Off to the other side a teenager slumped against a post, his headphones so loud that some kind of disco music was leaking out the sides. His jeans were pulled down low, the crotch falling somewhere around his knees, hobbling him. In the street horns were honking, and I could hear cars rolling by. Occasionally there would be another song to mix with the kid’s headphone noise, as vehicles with open windows cruised on past.

The air was fresh, still damp and clean from a recent rain. I was grateful for that, because sometimes the bus shelters have a funk about them, a certain smell that reminds me of all the alcoholics we have out on the street. Instead the scent in the air was damp earth with the slight undercurrent of exhaust which lingers near any roadway.

My heels were a little sore from dancing, and I rested against the bus sign, so that the sidewalk would not take my full weight. It helped a bit. I was looking forward to getting home; looking forward to the tangy zip of the gazpacho I had planned for dinner.

Today’s little slice of Seattle was brought to you by the five senses. Including a little bit from each sense helps a scene come to life, to inhabit a reader’s brain. This skill is helpful for writers, but is applicable to anyone—when you’re telling a story to someone, you want them to know what it was like to be there. Make them feel it with you, and you’ll captivate your listener every time.

Your assignment, should you choose to accept it:

96. Describe something that happened today. How did it smell, feel, taste, sound and look? Do you remember more because you used all your senses? Is the telling more vivid?