Submission: Unexpected Music

Sitting in a Study Room
Listening to two students sing
Who are unaware I can hear them

These women with rock-star aspirations
I believe they are trying a karaoke machine
In their small white box with paper-thin walls

What would they think if they knew I had overheard
The way each one broke into laughter after a few words
And commented how terrible they were indeed
Or if they had heard me applaud their efforts

So I will just admire them from afar
Unknown performers to an unknown audience

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Book Review: Good Poems for Hard Times Edited by Garrison Keillor

Pages: 344
Published by: Penguin Books
Copyright: 2005
Rating: Highly Recommended

Brief Editor’s Bio:
A blurb on the inside jacket cover for Garrison Keillor states that he is an author based in Minnesota who has written The Prairie Companion and a wide assortment of novels, and that he is a member of the Academy of American Arts and Letters.

By reading the introduction, however, it is possible to get a much better sense of who Keillor is as a writer and person—which goes to show how much a few pages of personal prose can reveal about an individual. In Keillor’s case, the introduction unveils a writer who sees poetry as a uniting force that, when done just right, lends courage to readers regardless of their age or circumstances.

So it is no wonder then that Keillor pulled together a thick collection of poems under the title mentioned in, well, the title of this posting.

Good Poems for Hard Times:
A solid selection of poetry is always welcome, especially when they come from a wide variety of writers, are easily accessible, and have humorous and similarly memorable qualities about them. Good Poems for Hard Times, I’m happy to say, is just such a collection. Done in tribute “To the English teachers of America, doing good work every day, with admiration and affection from an old student,” Keillor breaks the contents of his anthology down into quirky sections like “Kindness to Snails,” “The Lust of Tenderness,” and “Simpler Than I Could Find Words For”—titles which, oddly enough, well match the poems place into each categories.

Many anthologies for literature courses, as an example, tend to pull together a few poems from a handful of well-known historically well-known poets, in addition to short stories and examples of other types of literature. And it’s true that certain poems become classics and pop up again with good reason for exemplifying certain concepts in literary studies, alongside their own truths and attention to the world.

But what makes Good Poems for Hard Times refreshing is that although there are poems by well-known poets like E. E. Cummings, Muriel Spark, William Shakespeare, and Robert Frost, there are many poets whose work might never pop up during undergraduate or graduate studies into literature or creative writing—and seeing them in such abundance here is like a reminder not to overlook all the poets who are currently practicing their craft and deserve to have their work read.

The poems themselves also stand out for having noteworthy titles that catch the eye right away. For instance, pieces like “Why I take Good Care of my Macintosh” by Gary Snyder, and “The Poet’s Occasional Alternative” by Grace Paley can strike close to home for contemporary readers (after all, poems about the connection people have with their personal laptops or computers is something that doesn’t show up very often, oddly enough). Many of these poems use clear, straightforward language to express their mini-narratives, and can invoke an unexpected chuckle or two.

In other words, Good Times for Bad Times certainly is a collection worth having around to clear up anyone’s mood during cloudy moments in life.

Writer Journal (24 May 2018)—Trials and Developments

After struggling with hand and wrist problems for a while, I did some research and wound up getting an “Ergonomic Keyboard.” The keys on the keyboard in question are spread further apart from each other, and mine includes a gel wrist rest—all of which helps to keep my hands in a natural, relaxed position while typing. So far, it has served me well and—along with more breaks—means that my hand issues haven’t returned.

Hopefully my hand problems have gotten resolved for the time being.

Now I can focus on other issues in my life, such as improving this blog in every possible way. I had hoped to place more articles on here that concentrated on Metafiction as an emerging area of literary studies (which has yet to gain acceptance as a “critical lens” through which to view texts), alongside metafictional works. But literature and creative writing are such amazing areas that I want up exploring them at length as well.

I love Literature & Writing Studies! ^_^

Inspirational Literary Quotes (24May2018)

From Cornelia Funke’s Inkheart:

“Perhaps there’s another, much larger story behind the printed one, a story that changes just as our own world does. And the letters on the page tell us only as much as we’d see peering through a keyhole. Perhaps the story in the book is just the lid on a pan: It always stays the same, but underneath there’s a whole world that goes on—developing and changing like our own world” (147).


[Note]: Funke brings to life a literary fantasy in her Inkheart series, and the above quote comes from the first book in her trilogy aimed at children (but more than appropriate for all ages). It is also metafictional down to the core. A basic element of metafiction is to study the way stories influence our perception of reality, including the metaphor that the world is like “a book” in which people hold “roles.”
The fictional story that the characters seek out in Inkheart has its own narrative that readers know very well, but the point is that there are always more stories taking place in addition to that narrative. Even without reading that story all the way through, the protagonists in Funke’s story create interpretations of and find their lives touched in numerous ways by its characters and themes.

Writerly Tips: Wordplay

Wordplay comes in several forms within literature. An author might play off sounds or words to create a certain effect—in other words, a “play on words”—such as for puns or alliteration. The tongue-twister exercise “She sells seashells by the seashore” is a brilliant example of wordplay in action, because it plays with the sounds of words and makes the speaker carefully think about how to form those sounds (especially five times fast!).

But wordplay is also a powerful game to use when experimenting with creative writing, and to perhaps even inspire new ideas for writers. Here are a few possible exercises you might consider trying, either just for fun or to generate ideas:

Association:
Word association involves stringing together words that bear some kind of relation to each other, even if it’s just from the person’s perspective, which can sometimes lead onto interesting concepts. While it’s recommended to have at least two people participate in this word game, a single person can still get a lot of good use out of it.
1) Start with any word—usually a noun—like “Bear.”
2) Consider what the word “Bear” reminds you of; for instance, a particular type of a bear might come to mind, like a “Grizzly” bear. So you would write down “Bear Grizzly.”
3) Repeat the process just with the word “Grizzly,” which might perhaps remind you of someone’s grizzly beard. So the word string becomes: “Bear Grizzly Beard . . .”
4) Continue the association process for as long as you like! If you are playing this word game with two or more people, each person can have fun thinking of the next word in the string.

Dissociation:
While association focuses on stringing together words that bear some relation to each other, dissociation does the exact opposite. The intention is to string together words that have absolutely nothing to do with each other.
1) Choose a word, like “Pizza.”
2) Next, try to think of a word that you believe has nothing to do with Pizza, or is as far from the meaning of Pizza as you can get, like “Ducks.” The string then becomes: “Pizza Ducks.”
3) Continue on in this matter until you have a long string of dissociative terms, doing so either on your own or with other participants, for as long as you choose. Regardless of where you stop, you’ll have a nice string of words that, when read aloud, might conjure interesting images you might not have otherwise considered (like “Pizza Ducks,” for instance).

Question-and-Answer:

This Question and Answer word game requires at least two people to play, because the intention is to come up with crazy and fun combinations of, well, questions and answers. The word game works wonderfully during creative writing workshops, because the teacher can divide the room into students who provide questions and those who provide answers.
1) Have one person quietly write down any kind of question they like (the wackier and stranger, the better!). Meanwhile, the other person should also quietly write down a possible answer (to any imagined question). At no point during this step should either side say what they are writing!
2) The first person will read out loud the question they’ve written, and then the second person will read out their answer. You might be get a fun surprise at how relevant some of the answers are to the questions!

Writer Journal (7May2018)—Does Anyone have Tips?

Good afternoon, everyone!

It’s been a little while since I’ve posted anything due to some medical issues. The transcription company I’m working for offered me a raise if I significantly increased the amount of work I completed each week, and as the days passed, stiffness and pain started to develop in my fingers and wrists.

Does anyone have any tips for how to deal with cramped or aching hands?

Writerly Tips: Writing Tools and Mediums

Paper and pen. Even today, I think those two items conjure the image of our writing craft. But, of course,there are so many ways to write, tools to use, and mediums available to hold our creative visions.

The idea that different creative projects might benefit from experimenting with a variety tools and mediums came up during my grad program on several occasions.

For instance,a handwritten story set down on lined paper might come out differently than one written on a computer. Each medium lends itself being with it different impressions and expectations. One professor of mine actually mentioned feeling better able to express herself by writing out her ideas, in pencil, in a small notepad.

I’ve heard of authors who might, as another example, prefer to first write their pieces using a typewriter–before moving onto a computer to help with later drafts.

Even using a pencil, rather than a pen, might make a difference!

My point is that writing is a process where even the way it gets carried out can affect how it develops. So many of us, I know, have specific preferred ways of writing that we make use of quite a bit. And that’s wonderful.

But if we also take opportunities to test out a variety of methods, the results could make for a pleasant surprise.

I’ve discovered that truth a few times now.

Happy writing!

Literary Studies and Discoveries: Visit the Archive at Project Gutenberg!

Project Gutenberg (www.gutenberg.org) deserves its well-earned position as the largest digital archive available, replete of E-books in the public domain for easy download to most electronic devices. You can find such classics like Frank Baum’s Wizard of Oz series (all the books) or Jonathan Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels, but also harder-to-find older works such as J.M Barrie’s Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens (the precursor to the beloved children’s tale, Peter Pan). It is a good place to seek out free works, operates as a non-profit organization, and constantly seeks out volunteers to help improve or contribute to their collection.

Founded in 1971 by Michael Hart, Project Gutenberg now has more than 56,000 titles in its archive (an impressive feat).

Interesting facts:

-The first work digitized and added to Project Gutenberg was the United States Declaration of Independence on December 1, 1971.

-Project Gutenberg has CDs and DVDs containing hundreds of their E-books available for download, so users can enjoy them off-line.

-Several countries have their own version of Project Gutenberg, including Project Gutenberg Australia and Project Gutenberg Canada. There is even a Project Gutenberg Europe!

-Project Gutenberg is currently working to support Net Neutrality; in other words, they are taking a stand against network providers who deliberately slow traffic to sites that are not commercial partners with them or essentially penalize users for accessing them.

So I’d recommend going to check them out for some useful and fun reads!