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Poem published! Jump September 16, 2011

Posted by philangelus in writing.
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3 comments

Over at the Floorboard Review, I’ve got a new poem published.  Jump is one of those pivotal moments we all face, although it’s not always at the edge of a swimming pool.

Jump
You insisted
You won’t drown.

This whole poem came out of my head in one shot. The idea came while I was getting the mail, and I had the whole poem in my head before I got back upstairs.

Even if you don’t like poetry, this one is accessible, and I’m so glad it’s finally in print. Thank you for checking it out.

On command August 4, 2011

Posted by philangelus in religion, writing.
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7 comments

A couple of Sundays ago, the psalm response was “Lord, I love your commands.”

If your first reaction was along the lines of “I don’t really, of course,” then slide over on the bench because I’m with you. I don’t love the laws of the United States of America, and I don’t find myself falling over with glee when I look at God’s commands either. Is that a failing? Regardless, even for deeply personal ones, where I feel like God wanted me to do something and I did it, I don’t react by saying, “♥♥♥Okay, God!!!♥♥♥♥ ♥♥♥♥I’m totally not stealing anything today!♥♥♥♥”

This time, though, I thought about it a bit longer, and I twisted it around. Let’s take it out of Thou Shalt Not territory.

The sonnet is a highly regimented literary form. Fourteen lines, iambic pentameter, with a rhyme scheme of a-b-a-b, c-d-c-d, e-f-e-f, g-g. I’ve written sonnets. You didn’t know that? You want to know why? Because they were terrible and never got beyond first draft.

But look at what some writers have done with that highly regimented form. The beauty, the encapsulation of the human spirit, and I would argue (as they might too) that without the regimented form, they wouldn’t have dug as deep to create as well as they did.

In music, the classical symphony also had a very complex but regimented form, and listeners of the time would have been able to dissect a symphony on the first listen-through, identifying the introduction, exposition, modulating bridge, and so on. And those are just the parts, let alone the theory behind it all (key, tempo, harmony, rhythm…) A regimented form, but listen to what Haydn did with it, what Mozart did.

What if we looked at God’s commands that way? That each of our souls is a poem, a symphony, a work of art, and the Creator has certain guidelines for the work. In order to conform to these guidelines, the soul has to reach deeper and become more perfectly itself, at the same time conforming and becoming more individual. It’s difficult work. (I say this in perfect ignorance, having never attempted to write more than one line of music, for one hand, on the piano.)

If the form itself forces the piece to intensify and become more itself, then yeah, I guess we could say we love it.

Speaking of regimented forms, just to be a tad bit silly…

All through the Bible you’ll read,
God loves all His people indeed.
He gives us commands
and He opens His hands
to give us the things that we need.

“Burntime,” beginnings and endings April 21, 2011

Posted by philangelus in writing.
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9 comments

I’m delighted to announce that my short story “Burntime” has been published in the Jet Fuel Review.

There’s a story behind the story, of course, and because this is my blog, I get to tell it. Back in 2006, I read the guidelines for a contest run by a literary magazine, and although I decided not to enter the contest, I came up with the framework of a story that would fit the magazine. I had several scenes in my head, plus the central question of the main character. The main character carried a lot of guilt, and it was visible and unchanging to him in the form of  harm he’d done to his daughter.

I had the framework, but the story wouldn’t gel, so I filed it off in the back of my head where I keep a lot of stories-in-liquid-form. They’re all jumbled up on a dark shelf, few of them bearing labels.

Two years later, I pulled the story off the mental shelf and found that while it wouldn’t gel in that form, what if we added this and that and moved it to here. Ooh, now we had something! The main character still had the same flavor, but the daughter was a lot younger. They weren’t raking leaves any longer. They were in a public place. In other words, every one of my vivid scenes was now gone, but that’s par for the course in a mental edit.

I wrote the whole story in a couple of days, but then I froze on the ending. The thing wouldn’t resolve. I mean, I tacked on a couple of paragraphs that worked as an ending, but it didn’t have that amazing slam-it-out-of-the-park feel that you get when a story hits the sweet spot.

A year later, I submitted it to a critique group looking for help on the ending. Nothing. I sent it to beta readers. “Well, it’s okay.” I even gave it to my Patient Husband, who said I’d nailed the tone, but he couldn’t tell what was missing in the ending either.  I changed the ending five times. I did some intensive self-psychotherapy to see if I could uncover some hidden meaning where the story pertained to my life, but no. I didn’t need to make a personal realization in order to end the story. I just needed to end the story.

Last fall, for reasons I cannot fathom, I received the ending. Subtle, gentle, perfect. Two paragraphs changed, and the thing went out into the world. And now it’s in print.

If you’ve followed along this far, I also had a poem published in issue 19 of Ruminate Magazine, titled “The Next Lesson.”

Enjoy!

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