I just wrote the fiftieth villanelle.

And that’s that.

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.

copyright 2022 Michelle Garren-Flye

Meraki, a risk worth taking.

lol.

Of course.

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.

From Learning Curve, coming soon! Copyright 2022 Michelle Garren-Flye

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

Poem: Love the Rain, Need the Sun

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.)

Villanelle #27

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.
Photo by Michelle Garren-Flye

What do you do when you’re bored of flowers?

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.

lol

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.

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?

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

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