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

Update on Villanelle (with a sample possible page)

Wow, villanelle has taken me on a tour of my emotions, I have to say. I’m truly amazed how this form has elicited some of the themes it has. This collection runs a serious gamut.

It’s eclectic, to say the least.

I’m still writing this new form, but I’m beginning to think about what my book will look like. I designed a mockup page for one of them and thought I’d share to see what you think. This is not necessarily what the book will be, but I think it will be something like this.

I really hope someday I’ll write a book devoted only to hope. And maybe this book will lean that way…because while this poem is about fear, it’s also about overcoming it. Or at least bearing it. And what’s more hopeful than that?

Still enjoying villanelle: #16

I just finished judging a poetry contest. It was fun. Nerve-wracking because I’ve been on the other end of the judging too often. I know how it feels to have so much faith in your little work of art, to send it out to be judged…and then to find out it failed.

I will say this about this contest. I was blown away by the entries. Mine would have been left in the dust by these, and I say that knowing full well I would have entered if I hadn’t been judging.

With that said, I think this one is pretty good. If you think I’m talking to you, I’m probably not.

Villanelle #16

By Michelle Garren-Flye

Whisper it to me when we are alone,

this (truth) secret you can’t seem to hold.

After it’s out we can decide to atone.

I can tell it eats you down to the bone,

aging you long before you are old.

Whisper it to me when we are alone.

I can’t believe this thing can’t be known

or that others will judge you or scold.

After it’s out we can decide to atone.

Just words, set them free to be blown

away by the wind, let the Truth be told!

Whisper it to me when we are alone.

Better to choose than to chance moan

a sentence you can’t take back—too bold!

After it’s out we can decide to atone.

Come, then, escape the chaperone

who’s kept you in a stranglehold.

Whisper Truth to me when we are alone—

after it’s out we can decide to atone.

Fallen Orchid Blossom with Cat Hair. Photo by Michelle Garren-Flye

Let’s go swimming: Poem and thoughts about breathing

I’m thinking of changing the title of this blog. I named it “Breathe” way back. Years ago. When it felt like I didn’t have time to breathe. It was supposed to remind me and maybe others to take a moment. A moment to breathe is a precious thing.

Breathing took on a different meaning for me later on. Sometimes breathing isn’t easy. Sometimes this necessary thing hurts.

But maybe you still need the reminder.

I’m still on the villanelle ride. It’s not easy, either. I’m writing and rewriting and rhyming and re-rhyming (that’s a thing!). I’m up to eleven now. I thought I’d share one with you. Not the one with profanity, which is repeated multiple times because this is a villanelle lol.

This is one of my favorites, though.

Villanelle #6

I’m going swimming in a blue lake;

I want to do it once before I die.

Come with me when you wake.

This note will replace what I take.

I hope you’ll understand why

I’m going swimming in a blue lake.

I know you’re here for my sake;

our souls are bound by that tie,

so come with me when you wake.

There’s nothing between us that’s fake,

and there’s nothing sad about goodbye.

I’m just going swimming in a blue lake.

I can’t seem to heal this ache…

it just won’t seem to comply.

Come with me when you awake.

Don’t worry, your love I won’t forsake

though I know you hear me sigh.

I’m going swimming in a blue lake.

Come with me when you wake.

Summer Rose. Photo by Michelle Garren-Flye

Extend your love bubble

The blessing/curse of the empathic poet is that you are constantly searching for meaning in the pain of life. It’s not comfortable. Sometimes you have to ponder for a loooooooooong time before you come to any conclusion and sometimes it happens like a lightning strike.

That happened to me today. I almost literally stumbled across a truth about life. And I think it revealed to me the purpose behind the thing we all want in spite of how vulnerable it makes us.

Love.

How did it happen?

I was on my way to work. About a block away a young man carrying a rake who was obviously getting ready to work in one of my neighbors’ yards (in the 95-feels-like-150-degree heat) stumbled. He recovered quickly and looked around to see if anyone had seen. I immediately pretended to be looking straight ahead, not at him at all, and sent him a reassuring thought. Didn’t see anything. You’re safe.

I immediately wondered. Why did I think “You’re safe”? And I realized that’s what we all want. As we stumble through this world full of sharp spikes and tripwires, all we really want is to feel safe. And that’s nearly impossible to achieve, especially in this day and age when you just might be caught on camera and if you are, your stumble might go viral.

I recently made a playlist of songs that make me feel like everything is going to be okay. My life sometimes feels completely messed up. I have even been glad I only have another 30-40 years of it (if I’m lucky). And my life is a good one. I have people to love and who love me. They cushion some of the blows, guard me against some of the spikes, and pick me up when I trip.

And that’s why I think I’ve figured out what the purpose of love is. Love is like a bubble around us, one that gives us a sense of security. Safety. The thing is, if we do love right, it can give others that same sense. Even those we don’t know. Imagine extending your bubble of love to people around you. There are people in need all around us, whether they’re tripping over a rake or hurting for some deeper reason. Maybe you can’t actually help them. Maybe you don’t have resources beyond what you need yourself.

But instead of laughing when someone stumbles or posting someone’s misfortune on the internet for “hits” or “likes”, you can send them a reassuring thought. “It’s okay. I got you. You’re safe.”

Imagine if we could all feel safe?

Photo by Michelle Garren-Flye

Taking you along on the Villanelle ride: Poem

So I wouldn’t say I’ve mastered the villanelle form, but I have written three so far. Villanelles 2 and 3 are nowhere near ready for others to see, but number 1 is not too bad, and, thanks to some feedback from a writer friend (thanks, Brandon!), much better than it was.

I’m going to publish it here even though I started out the day with major imposter syndrome after reading Sylvia Plath’s “Mad Girl’s Love Song“. You should definitely read it if you haven’t. It’s what I will strive for in my villanelles. I’m not there. Not anywhere near it. But what is life if you’re not trying to perfect something?

Villanelle #1

By Michelle Garren-Flye

Follow the direction of your heart.

It’s the best way to spend your time—

and the only real way to make a start.

There is no other way to map or chart

the treacherous mountains you must climb.

Just follow the direction of your heart.

Life may want to rip you apart,

but the map of the heart is sublime

and the only real way to make a start.

Reach for reason and long for art!

It will never be considered a crime

to follow the direction of your heart.

There’s no confusion when you depart.

Even if you can’t find the right rhyme,

you know it’s the way to make your start

The sting of winter may yet smart

even when you’re in your prime.

But follow the direction of your heart!

It’s the only real way to make a start.

Crepe myrtle. Photo by Michelle Garren-Flye

Poem: Favorite Song

Yesterday I wrote a poem. It’s the first in a series of poems that will concentrate on happiness.

I’m an autobiographical poet. When I write poetry, it comes from inside me. Sometimes it’s like I’ve slapped blood and guts onto the page (or my computer screen…side note: don’t do that). I have poems I’ve written that I probably won’t ever want anyone to read. I’ve deleted poems after writing them, not because they were bad, but because they were too good.

They showed too much of me.

What I’m getting at is that I often dwell on my dark places. Not always, but too much.

I’m going to do my best to focus on the good stuff in my life from now on. I’m starting small.

Favorite Song
By Michelle Garren-Flye

It's that moment when your favorite song begins
and your stomach that had been so heavy?
(weighed down by worries
about the kids
and parents
and bills
and the rats in the basement?)
—all of it disappears
pushed back into the ether that houses those things—
the ugly things that snatch pieces from our hearts
and leave us lonely (and broken if we let them)...
But it's all gone with that first note
and you and the song are together—
the one thing that lifts you away,
the only thing that can.
Probably the cover? Photo by Michelle Garren-Flye

Far & wee: The (video) audiobook

It’s one thing to tell you how special this little book is. It’s another to show you. So here I am in a one-take video, reading my book out loud and explaining it as well as showing you the pictures as best I could.

Want to look for the balloon-man with me?

What I’ve learned about life from Beat Saber

Be happy where you are. I’ve said it before. What I haven’t said is I learned at least a portion of what I now know about being happy in the moment from my VR headset.

Beat Saber. It’s a game where you have to slice up energy blocks that are flying toward you in time to music. If you’re like me, you feel like each energy block that gets past you is a potential threat to your family, your home, your entire way of life. So you have a tendency to panic.

Panicking doesn’t help. And if you dwell on the energy block that gets past you, you’ll mess up on the ones still coming at you. And if you try to anticipate the ones that you can’t see yet, you are likely to miss the ones you can see.

You get it? Live in the moment. One energy block at a time. One enemy or obstacle or opportunity at a time. Beat the hell out of those and then move on. And if one gets past you, let it go.

In other news, Far & wee is getting some attention with its first five-star review on Amazon!

5 stars! Sweet and beautiful

“Michelle Garren-Flye, novelist, childrens’ book author, and 2021 Heart of the Pamlico Poet Laureate, has put together an entire collection of Sonnets in Far & Wee, which, strung together, tell a story of one woman’s quest. Flye is searching, as we all are, for reasons that life’s roads twist the way they do, and it is during this search that we should look for inner peace. Like the old adage, ‘It’s not the destination but the journey,’ Far & Wee invites the reader into her heart and soul as the poet takes us on her personal journey. It is obvious that this stream-of-consciousness writing can be extremely effective, and, I would imagine, incredibly cathartic for the poet. I read the book in less than an hour, though I did go back and re-read bits and pieces, some out loud. To add to the power of this little book, please know that Flye wrote the book–AND created the illustrations–in 29 days. But even if it had taken her a year to put this together, I’d be impressed!”

I want. (TMI?)

I have a feeling this is gonna be one of those weird stream-of-consciousness posts that might actually be TMI but nobody’s probably gonna read all of it anyway, so what the hell? Caution to the wind, live in the moment, seize the day…

I’ve been thinking a lot about being happy where I am. It’s hard. I don’t want to be happy here because here is prosaic. I want poetry. I want flower paths and sea breezes and to dance among the stars.

I want. And I think it’s okay to want. I think it’s okay to work toward the things you want. But it’s also essential to appreciate the things in your life that are already good. They might be prosy instead of rosy, but they’re still cool.

That’s why I’m dancing more. Even if it’s in my bookstore and not in the night sky tripping through the stars. And when I walk my dog, I stop to take pictures of flowers along the way. They might not exactly line my path, my steps may not be softened by their petals, but they’re still beautiful. And when a breeze lifts my hair and cools my neck, I close my eyes and imagine I’m standing on the deck of a sailboat in the middle of the sea. Even if I’m mowing my lawn.

None of this means I don’t still want the things I want. I’m fifty-two years old and I haven’t yet achieved my dreams. Does that mean I won’t? Nope.

Maybe I’m just taking longer to get there so I can enjoy the journey.

A flower from my walk. Photo by Michelle Garren-Flye