April 2015 archive

Tarot Writing Prompt: Charming the Muse

MUSE DISAPPEARED? NEVER FEAR! Tarot poet Tabitha Dial and oracle creator Carrie Paris present … a muse you can fold into your pocket: The Muse Board!

the muse boardThe Muse Board’s playful directions jump-start creative-writing adventures. Click the image for your free, downloadable Board and print it. Then, like Arriety in THE BORROWERS, collect tiny household objects for game pieces. A needle threader, an acorn from last fall, a bead, a bullet (eek!), or an incense cone, will do nicely. Or ransack your game closet for Monopoly tokens or Scrabble letters.

Tarot Writing Prompt

After gathering your charms, toss a few onto The Muse Board. Now, free-write about the interface between your charms and the directions on the spaces where they fall! Have dice? Tabitha says, Toss a die or two before casting your charms. Let your roll indicate the number of sentences you’ll write, the words per line for a poem, or characters per story.

A random creativity-generator, The Muse Board is a great way to launch a family story, a poem-with-kids, or a lazy-Sunday-morning musing. (Sorry.) (Nah, not really!)

Writing Prompt: The Sharp Edge of Your Tongue

IF MY SISTER’S SNOW WHITE, THEN I’M ROSE RED.*  She: All dew drops and diamonds, pearls from her lips. Me: Devils and demons, nothing but thorns when I speak. She, of the kids, the dogs, the big heart. Me, of the razors, the sandspurs, the scars. Yet, alone on the prairie, marching my march, I’m glad to be this and not that: Not the good one. The kind one. The precious, big-bosomed home. Not Queen of the Hearth.

Tarot-ist pal Laura Mary Fitzgerald responded to the recent Queen of the Courtyard prompt with this: Right now, she says, I’m Queen of the Unexpected. I’ll write something about that when I can do it from a place of gratitude.

But why? Why wait until we can sprinkle powdered sugar and fairy dust on our attitude, our circumstances? Why not embrace the dark, sing it loud? Of course, we’re all Snow White and Rose Red. This week, though, let’s let Red have her way. Allow our lizards and toads to splatter out onto the page. Sure, doves and powdered sugar have their place. But this week? Add a little blood to the mix.

Writing Prompt

33adaf7e6f0f4cda59731c1c7556a131Write about a situation that makes you—or a character—less than happy. Be sure to dip the rough edge of your tongue in the ink before you start.

* Oops. Wrong fairy tale. The story I was thinking of is “Diamonds and Toads,” by Charles Perrault. But you know what? I like my opening the way it is. And my creative license is up to date.


headRRATTLE PUBLISHES POETS. To be specific, they’ve published a total of 2,005 poets, including 380 first-time published poets, thirteen Pulitzer-Prize winning poets, ten National-Book-Award winning poets, and eight U.S. Poets Laureate.

Published quarterly, in print, RATTLE is a journal with a mission that’s hard to argue with:

. . . to promote the practice of poetry. We feel that poetry lost its way in the 20th century, becoming so obscure and esoteric that mainstream readers have forgotten how moving language alone can be. . . .

Submissions are open year ’round (hint, hint).

Patti Smith: Rock Poet God Queen

I FIRST HEARD PATTI SMITH’S ALBUM HORSES at my friend Barbara’s flat in Watertown, Massachusetts, where she lived with her guitarist roommate, John. We were all musicians, then. Or artists. Poets. Dancers. And we each had our own god. Mine was Talking Heads. Not least because they had a girl bass player and I was a girl bass player. Bebe’s god was Patti Smith. Not least because Beebs looked a bit like Patti.

Back then, the early 80s, we were not so far from living the life Patti Smith writes about in JUST KIDS, her National Book Award-winning memoir of her NYC years with Robert Mapplethorpe. Well, except for the fame and critical acclaim. Except for that.

But then . . . my band broke up, and I became an office manager, and Barbara moved out of Watertown and went to work for Houghton Mifflin, and Barbara’s roommate became a high school English teacher, and our poet friend became a programmer.

And Patti? For a while, she, too, ducked her rock-poet-goddess status, slipping off to suburban Detroit with her husband, Fred “Sonic” Smith. But even then, unlike me—or Barbara, or the other dancers/musicians/writers among us—Patti Smith kept on. She wrote. She recorded. And when Fred Smith died in 1994, Patti Smith came roaring out of the suburbs, touring and releasing ten albums in twenty years.

Patti_Smith_performing_at_TIM_Festival,_Marina_da_Gloria,_Rio_De_Janeiro_(4)What’s the difference between Patti Smith and those of us of whose art/music/poetry washed out with the tide of the 1980s? I’m not sure. Not sure the difference between those who do and those who just used to. Maybe there’s a clue in JUST KIDS. I don’t know. But I do know this: Patti Smith, still writing, still rocking, is—still—a fierce god to follow.

Writing Prompt: Tarot Poetry

WITH ITS 78 (DRAMATIC!) ILLUSTRATIONS of human experience, it’s no wonder poets find inspiration in the tarot! For instance, when poet and tarot reader Tabitha Dial needed a fresh take for her poetry thesis, she dug out her Universal Rider Waite tarot deck to prompt her—and created from those prompts the book-length collection of poems she needed to complete her degree!

Now a tarot reader with an MFA in poetry, Tabitha teaches others how to use the cards for inspiration. She suggests we pick a card, start by listing its visual elements, and see where that takes us. Lists, she says, can be powerful and stand as their own poems—take for example [Tabitha’s poem] “The Banner (The Sun),” [which] stems from descriptions of the image and lays claim to a more general idea of what it may symbolize at the end.


The Banner (The Sun) 

Red, blood’s rich mania,
fabric’s flow,
in the small grasp
of the child
in a brightness
that is too much.

(Learn more about Tabitha at Tarot and Tea-leaf Readings.)

Using a slightly more interpretive approach to description, artist/teacher/tarot reader Andrew Kyle McGregor, proprietor of Toronto’s The Hermit’s Lamp, wrote this poetic riff on the Tarot de Marseille’s Trump XIII:


Trump XIII

Your footing now so blue and untrustworthy,
as to make your heart pound in your throat.
The shadow of your face always
casting backwards,
as your leg bone refuses to sing
like it used to.

(Andrew’s new book, SIMPLY LEARN TAROT, is available now!)

Tarot Writing Prompt

Your turn! If you’ve got a tarot deck at hand, pick a card (any card) and start naming what you see—then tweak your list poem-wards. Don’t have a deck? Choose a card image from the hundreds (thousands?) on Aeclectic Tarot. (And while you’re there, take a look at Aeclectic’s dedicated Tarot Haiku thread. Jump right into the limited-syllable sandbox for a tarot-2-poetry play-date!)

UCF BookFest: Go!

WONDERING ABOUT THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN a book festival and a writing conference? A book festival showcases authors and their books, and typically includes presentations, book-signings, and readings. We attend to support authors and celebrate literature and writing. (Interested in presenting your work at a book fair? You might enjoy Making Book Fairs Work for You.)

A writing conference, on the other hand, is designed to educate writers about their craft via workshops and panel presentations, as well as providing opportunities to pitch work to agents. (Interested in attending a writing conference? You might like this Writer’s Digest article, How to Make the Most of Any Writing Conference.)

Now, head on out to the UCF BookFest! With thanks to Liz Rash, who reminds us that the 2015 Annual UCF Book Festival will be held this coming Saturday, April 18, from 10 a.m. – 3:30 p.m. at the UCF Education Complex.

Writing Prompt: Poemcrazy

51-1qMAw6EL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_I REACH FOR SUSAN GOLDSMITH WOOLDRIDGE’S POEMCRAZY whenever I need a dose of creative encouragement. Wooldridge invites such playful abandon with words, it would be a stiff upper lip indeed that didn’t curve reading her!

In “The Answer Squash,” Wooldridge talks about labeling objects in her home with word tickets. A squash in its basket bears the label answers, and a worn scrub brush at the sink, diamonds. Like all innovative use of language, these labels make one rethink the objects to which they are attached—see them in a new light.

And “new names seem to change people,” too, Wooldridge says, offering us a chance to reconsider our identities using randomly chosen word tickets. In “Our Real Names,” Ronnie, a young man doing time in juvenile hall renames himself thus:

Let’s talk about death.
Yesterday my name was James.
Today, it’s tossing helium dream.
Tomorrow, my name will be
Gerald Flying off the Cliff,
Dave Mustang.
Inside my name is
dying heart,
and a lotta hope.

Writing Prompt

Try it yourself! Make a batch of scrap-paper labels and affix them, willy-nilly, or with poetic precision, on items around your abode. Take a break for a cup of tea, then wander up to one the newly-christened items and find some writing inspiration in the quirky tension between the object and its moniker.

Alternatively (or additionally), add a word ticket to your mirror. How does what the word say alter how you see yourself? Start writing to find out!

Writing Prompt: Queen of the Courtyard

A MEMOIRIST READER* WRITES, March was grim and cold and windy and gray and utterly unendurable. I huddled on the porch thinking about Passover and the imminent Seder and who would be coming and when I would make the chicken soup and could I freeze the matzoh balls in advance and where the angel-food pan was and about my grandmother’s dusty crystal on the top of the cupboard that had to be hand washed and the unpolished silver—and I had an epiphany: I don’t have to do this. Never again.

And I didn’t. My daughter did.


Two weeks later, back on the porch, still smarting from the uncomfortable and sad and disturbing disagreement with my daughter, I realized I’ve worked my whole life to get elected: Best daughter. Best wife. Best mother. Best cook. I thought I was doing great. But the returns are in, and they ain’t so good.

So I quit. I withdraw my nomination. I will not run again. If I don’t like you, I am not going to return your calls. And, honey, you can make your own damn supper. I am going to sit on my porch and read the paper. Eat ice cream for dinner. Eat the last muffin—with butter and strawberry jam. My old, splintered teak chair perches on the front porch, and I am going to settle in.

I’m Queen of the Courtyard. The hell with the rest of it.

Writing Prompt

Now you! What have you declared yourself queen (or king) of? And how did you earn your crown?Free-Vectors-Crown-GraphicsFairy1

*The writer graciously allowed “Queen of the Courtyard” to be edited for VHV.

The Sunshine State of Poetry

YOUR VOTE COUNTS! DURING NATIONAL POETRY MONTH (April), the Poetry Foundation invites Floridians to share our favorite poems as part of the Favorite Poem Project.index Just click the pretty yellow banner and enter the title of your favorite poem on the form you’ll find on the site. Selections from our submissions will be used to create a mini-documentary series that will air later this year. The Favorite Poem Project: Florida is part of a nation-wide program created by former U.S. Poet Laureate Robert Pinsky. Its purpose is to celebrate and encourage poetry in all American lives. And it gives us a chance to celebrate the particularities of the fresh-squeezed poetry goodness that sweetens our Sunshine-State lives.

Gary Carries the Prairie

POET. PHILOSOPHER. PROFESSOR. PSYCHOTHERAPIST. And, oh, yeah, Montana farm-boy! All these hats imageshang on Gary Whited’s hat rack. Gary’s poems have appeared in SALAMANDER, PLAINSONGS, THE AUROREAN, ATLANTA REVIEW, and COMSTOCK REVIEW. His collection, HAVING LISTENED, won the 2013 Homebound Poetry Prize and a silver medal in the 2014 Benjamin Franklin Book Awards.

About HAVING LISTENEDRoger Dunsmore, author of YOU’RE JUST DIRT, says,

What gives this love-song to the prairies of Eastern Montana its heft and depth is not only the poet’s deep affection for ‘rattlesnake skins fluttering in the wind’ and ‘the perfection of still water’ just below the muzzle of his father’s white horse, but the way this love occurs amidst the disturbing sorrows and unspoken loneliness of these families in their struggles with themselves as well as the land….

HAVING LISTENED has recently been translated into Russian—which is appropriate, as Gary will be teaching in St. Petersburg this spring! But wherever he goes—from Montana, to Massachusetts, to the far reaches of Russia—Gary always carries the prairie inside him.

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