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

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

Twitter, perfection, happiness and The Princess Bride

I’ve rejoined the world of Twitter.

Don’t judge.

I did it originally because Elon Musk. Need I say more? But I stayed because Twitter is so much more interesting than it used to be. Or maybe I’m just more interested.

It’s kind of like people-watching now. People post about something that interests them and somehow it ends up in my feed. Maybe they’re a fellow writer or Stray Kids fan or posting about magic or movies or something I’ve indicated in some way to the Twitter world that I’m interested in.

At any rate, the other day a fellow writer posted about The Princess Bride and how she’d just watched it for the first time. It reminded me of the time when as a seventeen or eighteen year old (don’t remember which), I rented the movie from Blockbuster, took it home and watched it on a VCR I’d borrowed from somewhere on my little black and white television. I probably watched that movie five or six times in that one weekend. I didn’t have a color television. Just black and white. And it was small. As in, they don’t make tvs that small anymore.

And somehow that didn’t matter.

Watching that amazing movie made me happy in a very content way because the power of the story transcended the medium. It didn’t matter that it was on a tiny screen instead of a big silver one. It didn’t matter that I couldn’t see that Buttercup’s dress was red. The story was still told and I still loved it.

I’ve been trying to remember to be happy in the space I occupy. I’m glad I was on Twitter and was reminded of that experience. Watching The Princess Bride on a small black and white television alone in my bedroom might not sound like perfect happiness. But it was. In that moment, I was happy in the space I had.

In fact, it felt pretty perfect.

Photo by Michelle Garren-Flye Copyright 2022

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

Far & wee: The origin story

I was really shy about admitting the whole story about how Far & wee came to be. Why on earth would that be? I mean, I’ve already admitted I wrote twenty sonnets (and illustrated them) in nineteen days (okay, maybe that’s a bit of a flex…). I’ve admitted that I had no patience for getting feedback on the sonnets (this wasn’t that kind of project, honestly).

So I’m impatient and proud and may have rushed this project through (not just to be able to brag that I got it done in twenty-five days, but that doesn’t hurt). Why would I be embarrassed to admit what the spark was that put this whole thing in motion?

Well…

And here’s the shy part.

…the spark came from my persistent and somewhat consuming fandom for a K-Pop group.

There. I said it. I’m a K-Pop fan. K-Pop came along in my life when I needed a lift. And it gave me that! It started with BTS, but it quickly expanded to include groups like TXT and Enhypen…but especially the self-produced group Stray Kids.

If you come into my store, you’ll no doubt hear Stray Kids. If you surprise me in there, you might catch me dancing and sometimes singing along (you don’t need to hear that—I’m bad enough in English). I was fascinated when I found out they write and produce almost all of their songs. They help with choreography and producing the music videos. But especially the writing part. The poetry of these songs is incredible. In three different languages, no less. Mostly Korean and English, but they also write entirely Japanese songs as well as Japanese songs with some English mixed in.

It doesn’t hurt at all that they’re also handsome and charming in addition to prodigiously talented. And they adore their fans.

So how did they inspire me to write Far & wee, a book of sonnets about the balloon-man in e.e. cummings’s “[in Just-]”—when I’d been considering writing such a book for a long time?

It all came about when the leader of Stray Kids, Bang Chan, who loves to tease fans with spoilers they’re never going to figure out until it’s far too late, messaged his fans that his favorite color combination was pink and blue. And how together they made a whole new color.

Well, my first thought was that pink and blue really just makes purple. But I started thinking about pink and blue and purple and somehow it got mixed up in my head with the balloon-man (balloons come in all colors!). And there you go.

I won’t call Far & wee Stray Kids fan art, because it isn’t. But it is art that was done by one of their fans and definitely owes some of the inspiration to them. And a good bit of it was done with them playing in my AirPods or in the background.

So, thank you, Stray Kids. Because I’m really proud of this little book.

Wolf Chan and my book Far & wee.

A box of dreams

I do not know what I want from you. I’m just certain there is something more and the only reason I consider love or romance is because I do not yet know the other. But my soul yearns for it. Across stars and oceans I call. But all I get back is the echo of a whistle of a far away balloon man.

Yesterday my book came. Far & wee. This is my “seize the day” book. I started writing it on May 21 and today, June 15—25 days later—it’s on the shelf at my store. It’s available on Amazon. You can read it if you want.

I’ve never been real good at “launching” my books. I suck at marketing. Especially the initial teasing about what it’s about and throwing myself a big party and signing. I’m more like, hey, I wrote a book. You know, one day it’s not on the shelf at my store, the next day it is. lol.

This book is no different in that respect. Yesterday it was not on the shelf. Today it is. I’ve signed it, priced it and even put up a sign that it’s mine (I don’t usually do that). But yesterday when I opened the box, I got this feeling that this box of books was different.

It’s a box of dreams.

My box of dreams.