About Michelle Garren Flye

I am an author of romance, poetry, children's books and graphic novels. I also own a bookstore. My love of the written word runs deep.

My first ghazal and thoughts about choosing constraints

If you follow my writing at all, you know I am fascinated by different styles of poetry. I’ve written haiku, sonnets, villanelle and am now tackling the dreaded ghazal. I’ve often said that if I have writer’s block, I will write haiku to break it.

So when one of my favorite e-newsletters arrived in my mailbox featuring an article about Oulipo, an organization of French novelists and poets, I was intrigued. These writers believe writing with certain constraints actually inspires creativity. For example, very restrictive forms of poetry as far as rhyme and/or length and even more daring constraints on works of fiction. Like writing an entire novel without using the letter “e”. Some of these works have been translated from French to English…also without using the letter “e”, if you can believe that.

What would it be about restricting yourself that actually inspires creativity? I can’t answer this, but I know that historically adversity can lead to great works of art. The Renaissance, for instance, was conceived during the darkness of the Bubonic Plague. Amazing works of art resulted from the pain of the Aids epidemic. Wars have always inspired great art. And the Covid-19 lockdown released a flurry of works of art, literature, and music that we are only beginning to appreciate.

Is it because we as humans have to hope that adversity creates great work? And following that, do we as artists create artificial constraints on our work just so we can burst out of it? Does restriction force something else out of us? Or is writing a sentence without the letter “e” just silly? (Or: Is it silly to try to show our thoughts without using a common symbol?)

I can only really answer to what works for me (and it’s not not using the letter “e”). Although I don’t totally agree with Robert Frost that “Writing free verse is like playing tennis with the net down”, I do believe that I write good sonnets…and haiku…and villanelle. Not sure about ghazal yet. What do you think?

Star Falls

By Michelle Garren-Flye

Recite poetry in a husky voice—I hear your calls!

Tell me the story of the world and the star that falls.

How is it okay to whisper it all in my ear?

Count every moment from now to when the star falls.

It won’t matter anyway, I won’t let myself care.

I’ll run away—I swear I will—run ‘til that star falls.

But wait!, you say, are you sure that’s really okay?

The moments don’t pause, though, no, not until the star falls.

You’re silent at last, peace surrounds me and I will stay.

Last chance to wish on my whisper (sun’s rising!)…and star falls.

RIP Calliope, 2015-2023. Photo by Michelle Garren-Flye. Copyright 2023 Michelle Garren-Flye.

Poem: Echoes in a Fangirl Heart

Confession time. I am and always have been a fangirl. It has taken various forms over time. Some things have stuck, others have worn off, and some have…grown. For instance, my current obsession with K-Pop has expanded from one or two groups and styles to multiple. As long as I don’t understand more than half of what they say, I’m in. (LOL, it’s not really based on the language, but you get my drift.) Oh, and K-Dramas, too. I’m actually picking up a bit of the Korean language now…thanks to all the subtitles.

I became a fan of David Bowie early in my life thanks to my older brother and Major Tom. Space Oddity actually came out several months before I was even born, but I remember my brother playing it on the jukebox at our local Pizza Hut. I was maybe five or six years old at the time but I remember listening and dancing next to the table with my little brother.

In 1977 I distinctly remember watching the Bing Crosby Christmas special where he sang “Peace on Earth/Little Drummer Boy” with Bowie. I was seven years old and had no idea that what I was witnessing was a miracle of negotiation and compromise between two diametrically opposite human beings. I also remember the debut of Bowie’s “Heroes” music video during the commercial break. Again, I was too young to fully comprehend the importance of that music video debuting at that time when people like my parents were the audience, but I now feel certain that bit of strategic marketing contributed heavily to Bowie’s career.

Bowie songs came and went and got stuck in my head over the years. I really became a true fangirl in 1986 when I saw Labyrinth. I fell head over heels in love with Bowie’s mysterious, sinister portrayal of the regal Jareth, but the songs were what captivated me. “Underground” in particular. I fairly ran to the store to snatch up the cassette tape, lol. And I was done for after that. A fangirl of Bowie’s for life.

The obsession faded, of course. I was distracted by other 80s hair bands like Bon Jovi and Ratt for a time. I even fangirled over them a bit. As an adult, I had a beach music/Jimmy Buffett phase. But I still listened to Bowie. And then the word came that he had died.

That news hit me pretty hard. I’d never really gotten over Bowie. In fact, although I hadn’t listened to him regularly in a long time, I immediately pulled out all my old Bowie music, downloaded even more and spent more than a year listening to him exclusively.

Yesterday was the seventh anniversary of Bowie’s death. I saw all sorts of tributes to him on the internet. I heard his songs again, sometimes just playing on repeat in my head and echoing in my heart. And I wrote a little something. Because, I guess, that’s what fangirls do.

Echoes in a Fangirl Heart

By Michelle Garren-Flye

Hello, Starman.

Where have you been?

Admiring the sky I caught sight

of you quite by accident,

pale shadow.

Welcome back, Hero.

Where did you go?

The sun came up, the curtain fell…

I never gave up though,

Astronaut.

Insane lads leave me distraught…

How come they can’t be caught?

Image distorted, I can’t see your face,

going against all I was taught…

…Alien.

Greetings, my long-lost friend.

Just on the other side of the moon

is where I find you now,

even though it all ends too soon,

Spaceboy.

Full moon at sunset. Photo by Michelle Garren-Flye Copyright 2023 Michelle Garren-Flye

New Year’s Eve reflections about life in the dark

Hope smiles from the threshold of the year to come whispering, “It will be happier.”

Alfred Lord Tennyson

I wrote my last post about light on the darkest day of the year. Today, the eve of a new year (New Year’s Day in some places already), is supposed to be all about light and hope. And in spite of my optimistic Winter Solstice resolutions about hoping without reason and loving without expectation (and I intend to stick to those, I promise), I cannot help but think about the previous New Year’s Eves when I threw open my front door to welcome those years into my life:

New Year’s Eve 2019: The end of a decade, the beginning of a new one! (uhhh…guess what 2020 has in store? Pandemic.)

New Year’s Eve 2020: God, I’m glad this year is over, let’s move on! (still pandemicking…and personal crap broke me…)

New Year’s Eve 2021: Well, that year sucked. Let’s try next year on for size! (still pandemicking and the personal crap intensified…)

I think it’s best to approach the end of 2022 without expecting too much from 2023. Instead, let’s look inside for the change we need. That’s why I intend to stick to my two Winter Solstice resolutions.

Hope. Even when it’s dark and it’s been dark and you’re bone cold and can’t imagine warmth ever again. Hope because if you believe the light is coming, maybe it will. If you give up on it, though, you will never see it even if it does come.

Love. Let love be its own reward. Love your family if you’re lucky enough to have them. Love the people around you. Love things. Love music. Love a flower that peeks up through the sidewalk if that’s the only thing you can find to love. Love the feel of the sun when it shines. Just love because it feels good to love and it will give you strength.

I will still open the door at midnight on New Year’s Eve. I will welcome the new year with hope even if there’s no reason to. I will love the new year, but I won’t expect anything from it. Because life is indifferent to me, and I will have to accept it all…good and bad…regardless. But if I believe the light is coming, at least I’ll have my eyes open when it does.

Photo by Michelle Garren-Flye. Copyright 2022 Michelle Garren-Flye

Winter Solstice reflections about life in the light

Yesterday was an important day that often goes unnoticed. In the Northern Hemisphere, it was the darkest day of the year. Winter Solstice.

Ever since I was a little girl, I’ve loved the idea of the Winter Solstice. I remember my mother always marked it. She was one of those people whose mood is affected by the light. The darkness of winter depressed her, so the Winter Solstice was a time of change for the good. Because every day after would be brighter. The days are getting longer now, she’d say in the hopeful voice I loved to hear.

Yesterday was a good day for me. I almost forgot it was the shortest day of the year because it seemed bright. Good news, new music, a great day at my store and time with my kids…when I looked at my watch and saw it was almost time for the solstice, though, I knew I needed to mark it. Because every chance I get to make things brighter, I need to take it.

So at 4:48 p.m. I lit a candle. I burned it until midnight and I tried to picture my life…brighter. I came up with two resolutions.

I will hope without reason.

I will love without expectation.

I think if I can hold onto these two resolutions, I can live a brighter life. Too often we wait for life to give us a reason to hope. If we can just hold hope in our hearts, we can live in the light more often. I don’t know what you hope for. I’m sometimes not even certain what I hope for. But I know without hope for something, we might as well curl up and die. So hope.

And loving without expectation is something we all struggle with, I think. I’ve always found it easy to love…things, people, places, pets, food. But in loving, I too often expect something in return. I have a plan in mind for my love, a path it should follow, rewards I should get in return for it, whatever. But I don’t control the object of my love, so I cannot control the results of my love and am often disappointed. Love itself has to be the reward, and if I can achieve that, I will surely live brightly.

I’m sure these two resolutions are not unique. Buddha or Gandhi probably came up with them long ago. Perhaps this is what they tried to teach me in Sunday School when I was a child. Is this what faith is? Or is it just the ramblings of a middle-aged would-be poet? You decide. It won’t matter to me. I’ll be over here hoping for a brighter future and loving you.

I’ll be in the light if you’d like to join me.

candle

Photo by Michelle Garren-Flye Copyright 2022

Dead Butterfly on a December Sidewalk

It’s cold here today. Yesterday it was mid 60s. This morning? In the 30s. That’s why it wasn’t really surprising to see a dead butterfly on the sidewalk. Poor insect is as confused as I am about the weather. Yesterday, shirtsleeves, today, winter coat. But he didn’t have a winter coat. He was frozen but still beautiful.

It reminded me of poetry. Is that morbid? Definitely dark. But then, I’m one of the best poets you’ve never heard of, and I’m thinking it might be difficult for many people to name ten living poets off the top of their head, anyway. Because poets don’t become household names anymore.

Robert Frost said, “Poetry is a way of taking life by the throat.”

Carl Sandburg said, “Poetry is an echo, asking a shadow to dance.”

Considering the competition between these two poets, sometimes one-sided, it’s not surprising that these two poets had very different views of poetry. What has always intrigued me was that people paid attention to that rivalry. It was a different time, I suppose. These days, poetry is a hard sale. I see it every day in my store. I have shelves of used poetry—some modern, some classic—in my bookstore. I also have a section of local poetry, including my own.

It’s the classic poetry people still want. Byron, Dickinson…Frost, Sandburg. I understand that want. Those poets wrote about things that aren’t our reality. They’re a higher brow type of escapism than bestselling fiction. I myself have two poetry books sitting on my desk right now. One is The Complete Haiku of Matsuo Basho and the other is A Little Treasury of Modern Poetry (published in 1950). I study haiku, so that’s my excuse for that one, but I love the pastoral themes of past poets. I adore reading about love and beauty and passion as if I hadn’t a care in the world.

But I know modern poets are important. We are dreamers and truth speakers, but when we put those dreams of truth out into the cold December mornings, there’s the danger that they may die of the cold.

Photo by Michelle Garren-Flye

Promoting Learning Curve

I’ve been making up some graphics to help me promote Learning Curve, which will have its official release day next week. If you can’t wait, you can order it on Amazon now, of course, but if you’d like a signed copy, my bookstore is the place to come, specifically next Friday from 5-8 p.m. (although any other of my open times works as well).

Here’s a bite-size tidbit to help you decide if you want to join me on the learning curve of life…

Copyright 2022 Michelle Garren-Flye

Welcome to December. What should I write?

Happy December! It’s cold today. My hands are cold as I type. But it doesn’t usually stay cold here for long. Tomorrow will be warmer. Maybe I’ll find something else to write. Any suggestions?

Learning Curve is coming soon!

Copyright 2022 Michelle Garren-Flye

Happy Thanksgiving…have a fortune cookie?

I’ve picked up an interesting tradition? habit? madness? (You pick)

Every few days I have a fortune cookie. And I either shrug off the fortune inside or spend the next few days pondering it. Yesterday I got a fortune that read “A person who wants to sing will find a song.” (Or something to that effect. I think I lost the fortune…)

That one has stuck with me. Because it’s true, and I have spent far too much time living my life for wishes to think it isn’t. Because I can make as many wishes as I want, but there’s no wish fairy out there fulfilling them. Wishing is, quite simply, a way to focus my intent on something I want.

I want success, so I’m finding ways to make it happen.

I want happiness, so I’m learning to concentrate on the things I have in my life that make me happy. (And deal with the things that don’t without letting them upset my apple cart.)

I want a cherry red Ferrari for free— Okay, maybe not. (Adam Sandler fans will get that one.)

I’m still looking for the song I want to sing. I will have to write it myself, and I know that it won’t be easy, it won’t look exactly like I once pictured, and it won’t be the only thing in my life.

Nobody’s life is filled with one thing. It’s mixed up with the good and the bad, but if I want the good, I can choose it. If I want to be happy, I’ll find that happy in the middle of everything else. I can succeed if I’m willing to put in the work. And for this knowledge, among all the other good things in my life, I am grateful.

Happy Thanksgiving.

A villanelle from Learning Curve. Illustration and poem copyright 2022 Michelle Garren-Flye.

Learning Curve is at the printer: Want a peek?

I just sent my latest poetry book, Learning Curve, to the printer. This is the third poetry book in my Poietry Diaries series, my sixth poetry book overall. I think. If I counted them right…

Anyway, it’s done. I started this one in July. Now in mid November, almost exactly four months later, it’s done. And I’m proud of it. The poems are well written, edited and illustrated. The format of the book makes sense. I’ll be proud to have it on the shelf at my store. It’s a good addition to my repertoire.

Here’s the blurb for it:

Learning Curve is a contemporary collection of poetry written in the style of villanelle, originally a rustic Italian song, later developed into a French form of short poetry and then into a format with a rigid and demanding rhyme scheme and format. Award-winning poet Michelle Garren-Flye takes on this form in the latest volume of her Poetry Diaries, taking the reader along on not only an emotional journey but also one that promises to introduce the reader to a beautiful form of song-like poetry that will delight and enchant any poetry lover.

Let the reader beware, however. As the poet acknowledges, poetry is the most true of any form of literature. If the truth is anywhere, it’s definitely in these pages.

And finally, it took me a while to decide on how to format this book. It’s a little different from my others. For one thing, I went with black and white again. I was going to go with all simple line drawings, which is more my forte anyway, but I wound up adding shades of grey (lol) to many of them. Here’s one I particularly like that I thought I’d share with you. If you like it, stay tuned. Release date will be announced soon!

Poem and illustration copyright 2022 Michelle Garren-Flye

Putting on my author hat…over my bookseller one.

This Sunday, November 20, I get to do something I don’t often get to do anymore. I’ll be just an author selling her books.

I’m not totally certain I remember how to do that…

Running a bookstore was a dream of mine for a long time. I used to haunt the two little bookstores in my hometown. The Book Nook was my favorite because it was used books that I could actually afford. (I did buy my first new hardback book there, though. Black Beauty and Other Horse Stories. It cost $15 and I still own it.) Highland Books was where I went to dream. I didn’t have enough money usually to buy the books, but the owners were tolerant and didn’t say anything if I curled up in a corner with a brand new science fiction novel they knew I couldn’t buy. I wonder how many people bought books there that I had already read?

But I digress. I dreamed of owning my own bookstore for a long time but I didn’t realize that when I got one, I couldn’t just be an author anymore. Yes, I write in my bookstore. And sometimes I sell one of my own books. I’m on the bestseller table here, so I do sell some here and there, and it’s definitely exciting when I do. But I’m mostly here to sell other people’s books.

On Sunday, however, I will be at the New Bern Farmer’s Market from 1-4 p.m. with a slew of other authors, all selling our own books! I’m planning to take all the books I have here at the store (well, maybe leave one copy of each on the shelf) and hope to sell them and maybe get some people reading my poetry.

And still I won’t be able to resist asking what kind of book people like to read. And I know enough of the other authors there so I’ll know if their books are a better fit than mine. And I won’t hesitate to send them that way…so it might not be that different from being in my little bookstore at all. 🙂