Poetry Diaries: It’s happening!

Everyone who knows me as a poet knows my feelings about poetry being nonfiction. Poetry is a much more personal form of writing (to me) than novels or short stories. I can write about anything in a novel or short story. I once wrote a flash fiction about a woman who’d lost both legs in an accident. I used to write horror. And yes, romance. All fiction.

Nothing personal.

Poetry, on the other hand, is almost never fiction to me. I can’t really put myself in someone else’s shoes when I write poetry. The few times I have, it’s because I’m able to empathize for one reason or another. And I almost never think those poems are as good as my others.

So poetry is very personal. It’s my thoughts and feelings. And when I put together a poetry book, it’s almost like a diary. I tend to share a bit about what and why I wrote different poems. Like a diary.

I noticed this trend in my work after Hypercreativity. Both Hypercreativity and 100 Warm Days of Haiku fit this concept I had for poetry diaries. So I decided to make them part of a series. The Poetry Diaries was born. The third in this series is coming soon. Well, hopefully. I’m hoping it will be fifty villanelle, but I haven’t even hit forty yet and may stop there, honestly. I’ve discovered a new type of poetry I really want to try. In the meantime, however, I did design the cover to the next poetry diary. And it’s pretty good!

I

Just make a left

Do you ever just wish you could stop following all the rules?

I know I do. I see other people doing it. In the carpool lane when it’s obvious there’s a faster way than the long line of cars leading to the proper exit. Just make a left instead of a right. You’ll get out a lot faster.

Forget the rules.

Who’s gonna care?

Ah, but I’m a rule follower. It’s about honesty in my opinion. There are no shortcuts. No legal ones, anyway. No honest ones.

It’s like that in my writing as well. If I’m writing a haiku, it’s going to have the proper number of syllables in each line. I know even haiku master Matsuo Basho said if it’s better with the wrong number of syllables, it’s better to write it that way, but I’d rather write and rewrite and rethink and restructure until I’m happy with it. Because I have to follow the rules.

I was considering entering a poetry contest with some of my villanelles. (I’m that pleased with how they’re coming out.) This contest had a section for traditional rhyming poetry, something few editors have an appreciation for. I was encouraged, so I looked up some of their past winners. One of them was a “villanelle”. I pulled it up and read it.

It broke all the rules.

There were no rhymes where there were supposed to be rhymes.

There were no repeated lines or even words.

It was written in paragraph form.

What’s the fun of that? It’s like writing a short story and calling it a haiku. There’s no challenge. I remember my father saying something that has stuck with me for most of my life, “You can call it whatever you want, it doesn’t make it that.”

Hey judges, it’s not a villanelle if it doesn’t follow the rules.

I’m going to keep plugging along writing my haiku and villanelles and following rules. I have no idea why. I could break the rules and write a paragraph and call it a villanelle. I could write a novel and call it a haiku. I might even win some contests that way. But I won’t.

It’s just that I’m a rule follower.

Villanelle #21

Just make a left instead of right!
It'll get you there much faster,
and your schedule's really tight.

Nobody's gonna care if you take flight
and look for a greener pasture.
Just make a left instead of a right.

I don't mean to make light;
I'm certainly not your master,
and your schedule's really tight

No one can really know your plight.
It can't possibly lead to disaster
if you make a left instead of a right

Rules are not always right.
They're not molded in plaster,
and your schedule's really tight.

Perhaps you'll never feel Karma's bite
graze rear skin of alabaster.
Just make a left instead of a right—
after all, your schedule's really tight.

—Michelle Garren-Flye
Fall is around the corner. Photo by Michelle Garren-Flye

Which Wolf Do You Choose?

Fear and hope. One can easily defeat the other. It’s a matter of which wolf we choose to feed.

I’ve fed both in the past. Fear is a scavenging beast of a wolf. His ribs always show, regardless of how much you feed him. He’s always wanting more. More of your confidence, more of your dreams, more of your self. He brings nothing but doubt.

Hope is a mighty warrior when you feed her. She’ll slay Fear before he can eat your soul. She’ll encourage you to reach for those dreams, even when it seems there’s no way you’ll ever achieve them. She brings joy and life and love.

I am almost finished with my next poetry book Hypercreativity. During the course of putting it together, I realized that although I always want to choose to fill Hope’s bowl with kibble, I often dribble it into Fear’s. Because you have to consciously make a choice to feed Hope, but Fear is always there, waiting.

I made a conscious decision to finish my book with a healthy feeding for Hope. I’m pleased with that decision because my entire writing life is built on Hope. She needs to be strong.

Illustration copyright 2022 Michelle Garren-Flye

National Poetry Month, Day 30, Verse 30

And so we have rushed, headlong, to the end. The end of April, the end of the beginning of spring, the end of National Poetry Month, and the end of my renga.

I’ve been thinking a lot about my life up to this point. I should definitely be past the beginning of spring. Well established in my, ahem, fifties, however, I’m not certain if I ever had one.

This year, this project forced me to look closely at the spring that was not just happening, but living and breathing all around me. I saw how the flowers bloomed, how they started as tiny buds, but because they knew from the beginning what they were supposed to do, they just did it without question. They spread petals, inviting the visits of pollinators and the gentle brush of spring breeze to spread the pollen that not only makes us sneeze but also carries their DNA to another willing recipient.

The flowers do this because they know what they are meant for. As human beings, we question. We doubt our talents and our abilities and our purpose. This leads to anger and resentment and despair. Most of us never fully experience our spring and are therefore not ready for summer because we’re stuck in that thawing stage at the beginning, unable to fully realize our potential because we just don’t believe.

(As an example, I’m doubting these words even as I write them.)

It’s a difficult thing believing in yourself. Going all in for what you want to do and be. More and more I’m trying to do that. Maybe even at this point in my life, it’s not too late for spring.

Poem and illustration copyright 2022 Michelle Garren-Flye

National Poetry Month, Day 29, Verse 29

Ever considered doing something kinda nuts (nuts just because it’s totally out of character for you, not like dangerous or anything)? I feel like I’ve spent most of my life rushing headlong toward the end and now I want to put on the brakes and just enjoy. I might get whiplash if I put them on too hard, though, so I’m still hesitating. Hesitating while rushing onward.

Poem and illustration copyright 2022 Michelle Garren-Flye

National Poetry Month, Day 28, Verse 28

On Saturday I actually give a fairly long speech about the history of poet laureates. I’m a bit nervous, not to mention ambivalent about closing my store for a couple of hours to do it. But it’s the last day of National Poetry Month, and I’m discovering I actually like public speaking once I get past the scary moment at the beginning—and if I am fully prepared with a written speech that I’ve read out loud several hundred times. This was an interesting one, too. I had to do a lot of research since I didn’t know that much about poet laureates (I had some idea that it came from Greece because of the whole “laurel” thing). What I found was equal parts interesting, amusing, and inspiring. If I wrote the speech right, maybe it’ll come out that way for my audience.

In the meantime, my spring renga is rushing to its close.

Poem and illustration copyright 2022 Michelle Garren-Flye

National Poetry Month, Day 27, Verse 27

No real thoughts today except that I do think my artistic skills are improving lol. This rose, compared to the rose in verse 19, is far better. And the rose in verse 19 is better than the ones I drew in 100 Warm Days of Haiku. Most of them, anyway. Hopefully my art will improve along with my writing. We’ll see. That is always my ambition, at any rate. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve written the greatest poem ever only to read it a week later and think, god, what garbage…

I guess I did have a thought or two.

Poem and illustration copyright 2022 Michelle Garren-Flye

National Poetry Month, Day 26, Verse 26

The other day I ran across a quote from Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. “‘Tis always morning somewhere, and above/The awakening continents, from shore to shore,/Somewhere the birds are singing evermore.”

I love poetry. (I might have mentioned that.) But mostly I love poetry that speaks to me at a certain time in my life. I think that’s because poetry is meant to reach inside you and pluck at your soul. I think that’s our job as poets. We aren’t lovers. We don’t play heartstrings. We play soulstrings. This particular quote spoke to me. I hope you find something today that speaks to you.

Poem and illustration copyright 2022 Michelle Garren-Flye

National Poetry Month, Day 25, Verse 25

I think this is the fourth year in a row that I’ve done some sort of self-inflicted poetry challenge on here. Every year, I wonder why. Why do I want to add one more thing to my to-do list?

This year, my focus (that word again) has shifted a little internally. Why do I almost always only write poetry with illustrations now? This renga is a perfect example of how it might be easier to just write the poem. By the time I’ve moved on to the next verse, I’ve forgotten what was in the one before.

But this verse is an illustration of what I love about writing illustrated poetry. Poetry is everywhere. Even in a tiny blade of blooming grass.

Poem and illustration copyright 2022 Michelle Garren-Flye

National Poetry Month, Day 24, Verse 24

Less than a week to go. It seems like just yesterday I was struggling to draw ice. lol. I mean, if I tried again, it would still be hard. But I did it once, so…

Once this is done, I’ll be putting together my poetry book. There are still a few illustrations to be done, possibly a few poems yet to be written, but I’m hoping to get that taken care of next month. Maybe I can even have the book out by the beginning of June. Mid June? I wonder how far my hypercreativity can carry me.

Poem and illustration copyright 2022 Michelle Garren-Flye