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
Where have you been?
Admiring the sky I caught sight
of you quite by accident,
Welcome back, Hero.
Where did you go?
The sun came up, the curtain fell…
I never gave up though,
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…
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,
Full moon at sunset. Photo by Michelle Garren-Flye Copyright 2023 Michelle Garren-Flye
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.
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.
Well, not quite. I’m a bookmaker, not just a writer. Now I am entering the phase of putting the book together. In some ways it’s more fun. In others, I miss the constant search for rhyme, the debate about rhythm, thinking in verse.
I’m trying something different with the illustrations this time. I’ll still have them. This is going to be a black and white book, though, so it will be less expensive. And I sort of felt like the color in my other books sort of interfered with the poetry. Maybe not quite as much with 100 Days as Hypercreativity, but some. And villanelle, man. Villanelle needs to be admired for what it is.
I had never heard of villanelle before July 16 of last year. I had just written Far & wee, my book of 20 sonnets. I felt fairly confident I had a good grasp of sonnet writing and I wanted to try something new. I asked on Facebook what kind of poetry I should try next and a friend suggested villanelle.
The more I researched villanelle and tried to write it, the more it became obvious that I’d have to write much more than twenty to come close to mastering the form. There’s so much to think about. Not only rhyme, but placement of the rhyme. And finding new rhymes. I mean, you could write ten to twenty villanelles with rhymes ending in -ay and -ate but it would get old. (Trust me.)
So this book is going to be a bit different, even, than the other two in my poetry diaries series. It documents what was going on in my life somewhat, but it’s also a literary journey for me. I’m learning how to write something new and hopefully you’ll be able to see that I get better.
I know some of my favorite poetry that I’ve written thus far is in this book. I won’t tell you which ones they are. I’m also kind of fond of some of the illustrations, even though I don’t imagine I’ve improved that much in that respect. (That is not false modesty. I have improved, but only so far.)
So, I’m off to make a book. Hopefully I can have it done soon. Maybe even in a week or so.
I have sold literally dozens of a certain book recently. Great news, right? (Keep in mind I don’t sell dozens of books usually.)
Except I don’t actually like this particular book…
It’s not a badly written book. I don’t write bad. It’s even got a more complex plot than some of my simpler romances. It’s just that I tried an experiment with this one and I don’t think it worked. At the time I wrote it I’d been writing romances with the typical sweet, likable, strong female protagonists who had faced down challenges in their lives and come out the better for it. (huh) So I decided to write a less likable female protagonist for this one. She’s supposed to be brittle on the outside with a soft core. She’s a bit bitchy, to be honest. And while she was sort of fun to write, I never really connected with her.
I recently heard a word that I relate to. A friend posted it on Facebook. The word is meraki. It is Greek for leaving something of yourself in everything you do. Every artist strives to do this, I think. It’s a risk, though. When you leave something of yourself in your work and it’s rejected, that’s a part of you that suffers. Maybe at the time I chose to write a romance with less of me in it than usual without thinking I’d be less likely to connect to it? Maybe that’s why I am loving poetry so much now. Because it’s easier to leave me in my poetry because if I’m writing it right, I’m lost in it anyway.
Whatever the reason I wrote that way then and this way now, every time I see the numbers tick up on this particular book, I think, No, not that one! Because there’s no meraki to it. There’s not enough me.
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.
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!
Every single damn time I write a poem, I tell myself, don’t share it. You can’t do anything with it once you do. Except self-publish it. But all my villanelles will eventually be in a book anyway. A self-published one because we’ve already established I don’t have the patience required for traditional publishing.
So, I guess, enjoy. Because I also like to share when I think I’ve written something good. (If you have no idea what I’m talking about, you’re probably not alone.)
By Michelle Garren-Flye
I love the rain, need the sun…
Can’t help the weather though.
Oh, I really just want a bit of fun.
Come with me, light one.
Make time with you pass slow;
let’s love the rain, need the sun.
All that’s left for me is a crumb
A bit of life—dare I to hope?
I really just want a bit of fun.
Incredibly, I once was young
and took time to watch things grow…
when I loved the rain, needed the sun.
In time I know I will have won
And life will return to its glow.
Right now, I just want a bit of fun.
When all is said and done
I cannot wait to watch it all go.
I love the rain, but I need the sun,
And really, I just want a bit of fun.
I’m not really bored of flowers. (should that be with flowers? I like of so I’m keeping it.) But for the moment, I’ve discovered mushrooms are super interesting.
This interest in mushrooms started when my daughter developed a love for them so I started taking pictures of them for her while I was on my walks taking pictures of pretty flowers.
Now I’m bored of flowers and mushrooms seem so much more interesting. Of course I know these are actually toadstools (at least I assume they are), but they’re really cool. And our hot, wet summer has produced an amazing variety of them. I often mow them down in my lawn. Not before I stop and take a picture, though.
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.
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.