Why Poetry is Nonfiction

Earlier this week, I finished formatting 100 Warm Days of Haiku. Ordinarily, this is where I would begin asking friends and fellow writers to look at it for me. Read and critique the poems, be sure the order makes sense. Look at the pictures and tell me if any of them need to be changed at all.

But the more I thought about what this book is, the more I realized that was not something I needed or wanted to do. This book is different. This book is true.

I have always wondered why poetry is classified as nonfiction, but after writing this book, I realize that has always been true. Poetry captures what is going on in the soul of its writer in a way that cannot be denied.

My 100 haiku were written and illustrated over the course of a four month period stretching from April 1 to July 31, 2021. To put it bluntly, this time period involvedogreat deal of change and upheaval for me personally, and that upheaval is reflected in this collection. There is anger, sorrow, beauty, love, loss and loneliness in this book. And there is also hope.

To give you an idea, here’s the description from the back of the book:

A picture may be worth a thousand words, but is it worth seventeen syllables? Poet Michelle Garren Flye explores the ancient form of Japanese poetry during three months of spring and summer. The book follows the author on a journey of change and transformation that she didn’t expect when she undertook the task, using the spare format of the haiku and her colorful illustrations to express emotions and desires that emerge from the chrysalis of her heart.

As I got closer to the end of the book, I tried to figure out how I would end it. I have never yet ended a book on a sour note. I’m not a tragic writer, and in spite of emotional upheaval, I am not a tragic person. I won’t spoil it, but I am so very proud of the final illustration, I thought I might share that with you:

Copyright 2021 Michelle Garren Flye

For more information, you can find 100 Days of Haiku on Amazon.

100 Warm Days of Haiku Cover (Work in progress)

You know that old adage about not making plans? My summer has been that adage over and over again. I’m living it. Starting on June 1, 2021, my life took a hard turn toward…something. I’m not quite certain what, but it definitely isn’t what I had planned for my summer. (Long walks on the beach, family time, maybe even a vacation for a change.)

Nevertheless, plans for my first full-color book of haiku are still progressing. I’m in the 80s now. And while my warm days have often felt cold, I’m finding plenty of inspiration in what life has chosen to throw my way.

So that’s something.

Today I started thinking about covers. I came up with this one. It seems to suit the book, which will have a definite feel of both beauty and loss. I’m hoping to end it on a positive note, however. Because I’m a positive person and it will take more than this…whatever it is…to keep me down.

Illustration by Michelle Garren Flye. Copyright 2021.

Happy May Day! with an UnSong poetry reading

Happy May Day! It’s a perfect day here in Eastern North Carolina as I sit in my bookstore, one of my favorite places in the world. The sun is shining, a breeze is blowing. If I walk outside, I can see the river a couple blocks away.

Speaking of May Day, I snapped a picture of a young cypress tree. I love cypress trees. Their green is so soft and perfect. I took this picture because she seemed so happy with her new spring dress.

Photo by Michelle Garren Flye.

I’m thinking she needs to be a poem, but sometimes real things are already poems and can’t be improved on by words.

Of course, UnSong is my attempt to capture some of those things with both words and pictures. See below for a video of me reading the title poem. Then go check it out! I’ve gotten some pretty great reviews on it already!

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UnSong Release!

Today is usually both a relief and a sad day for me because I love National Poetry Month. 🙂 In case you couldn’t tell. I enjoy challenging myself by writing a poem a day. I love reading others’ poetry, and this month I took it a step further and invited local poets to submit recordings of themselves reading one of their poems, which I then posted on my store’s social media.

It’s a been a good month.

If you’ve enjoyed my illustrated haiku, thank you. They’ve been a great deal of fun to come up with. I’m planning to continue through the summer (though not posting them online, sorry) and at the end I hope to have something I can be proud enough of to publish with the title “100 Warm Days of Haiku”. This one will be different since I’m getting more confident with my use of color. It’ll still be pretty cheap as a Kindle book, but the physical book may be a bit more expensive since I’d like to publish it in color this time.

In the meantime, please consider giving my first collection of illustrated poetry, “UnSong”, a try. It’s available online today. I don’t have physical copies in my store yet because I worked on it right up til the deadline to make sure it was something I could be proud of (and I am).

So here it goes. I’m releasing UnSong on the world. I hope it doesn’t hurt too much.

Available today! Check your favorite online retailer.

UnSong (T minus 1 DAY!): Final blurbs

I’ve saved some very special people for last on my list. I’m fortunate enough to belong to a group of local writers, every one of whom is extremely talented. If you think self-published authors just don’t make the cut for talent, you HAVE NOT read the work of these writers. Everyone’s self-published for a different reason. Sometimes you don’t want to jump through the hoops required for publishing. Sometimes you don’t want to write what the publishers want to publish. And sometimes you just want to cut the crap and publish your book already.

With that said, my group is made up of four of the most talented writers I’ve ever crossed paths with (and me), and all of them gave me feedback on UnSong. Three of them went so far as to offer a blurb for the cover. And here they are:

UnSong is a beautiful compilation with an amazing amount of breadth and variety. Ms. Flye is literally a song writer! I particularly enjoyed the themes of “staying” and “taking flight”. 

—Tracie Barton-Barrett, author of Buried Deep in Our Hearts and Finding Her Spirit

Ms. Flye’s personality shines brightly through both her poetry and her illustrations. A lovely and relevant book to behold!

—Leslie Tall Manning, award-winning author of Knock on Wood and Upside Down in a Laura Ingalls Town

Michelle Garren Flye’s poetry, art, and photography excite my senses and touch my heart. Oh, what a talent!

—Padgett Gerler, author of Invisible Girl and The Gifts of Pelican Isle

Heather W. Cobham was the one who suggested I put dragonflies on the cover, which, in my mind, rounded out the book in a fantastic way.

For more information on these fantastic ladies and their writing, check out their websites:

Tracie Barton-Barrett

Heather W. Cobham

Padgett Gerler

Leslie Tall Manning

UnSong (2 days and counting): Third review

Now we come to what is probably the review/blurb I worked the hardest to get. Poet Sam Love was one of the first people I approached for feedback on UnSong. He agreed to do it. Thank God.

I’m not sure how difficult it was for Sam to be a hundred percent honest with me, but when he replied there was no hesitancy. My book was sort of a mess. It lacked focus, some of the poems just didn’t seem to belong and it wasn’t organized into anything like a book. Just a mishmash of poems.

Don’t rush it, he said. You’ve got the beginnings of a good collection here.

I’m a seasoned professional so of course I didn’t think about never speaking to Sam again.

No, really, I have been writing seriously for long enough so I was able to receive Sam’s honest opinion and be grateful for it, even if it was hard to hear. I replied a sincere thank you and let the advice percolate for a bit, deciding what to do. I could put off the publication date, or I could work really hard and fix it.

Being the seasoned professional I am, I fixed it. I worked late into the evening, I worked between customers at the bookstore. And I got more opinions from other writers. Frank Hutton, a photographer and writer I have been friends with (we met on Zoetrope.com and have worked on other projects together), gave me some invaluable advice about design, as well as well as some great feedback on the poems themselves. I have some blurbs coming up from other writers tomorrow who also gave me some awesome feedback.

So…I fixed it and went back to Sam. Would he be willing to give me a blurb? I had no idea. Maybe he didn’t want his name associated with this mess.

He replied a day later with this:

Unsong is a bit like a buffet with nuggets of wisdom you can choose to embrace until it fills your soul. Wonderful nibbles of hope that you will return to when you need a dash of light to repel the darkness.

—Sam Love, author of Awakening: Musings on Planetary Survival

I call it victory.

For more information about Sam and his poetry, check out his website. His books are also available in my store.

For more information about Frank Hutton, check out his blog: In Search of Perfect Light.

UnSong (3 days away) Second Review

My second review for UnSong comes from an extremely talented poet and musician who I’ve actually met in person. The truly incredible thing about this woman is that she works tirelessly for other authors while at the same time managing her own career and family. I count myself lucky to have been introduced to her, and you can imagine how much her feedback on UnSong means to me!

Here’s her review:

In UnSong, Michelle Garren Flye’s poems invite the reader to take a pause from the busyness and stress of modern life: “I know the wild world calls— / you want to spread your wings; / but, stay, a little longer, dear, / put off your springtime flings.” In “River Bones,” “time comes to a halt” after the wind uncovers “forgotten memories, a bucket, a plate, / a fishhook left on the line too late.” While in “Everything Grows,” Flye invokes Shakespeare’s famous line from Sonnet #15: “When I consider everything that grows / holds in perfection but a little moment,” in order to express how hard it is to make time stand still: “Everything grows, everything rushes into the night.” Other poems reveal Flye’s sharp sense of humor (“What Good is a Girl?”) and wonder of the natural world such as in “I’m a December Tree” and “Now That I Am in Mid-Fall.” … As an added treat, Flye’s oems are paired with her own illustrations. Savor this collection written by a romantic, and experience the wonder of reading joyful and optimistic poems—a true balm in these troubled times.

—Alice Osborn, author of Heroes without Capes

Alice is extremely talented and you really should look her up. To help you out, here are a few links:

Website

SoundCloud

YouTube

UnSong: Illustrated Poems (4 days away!)

We interrupt our regularly scheduled stream of illustrated haiku for a special message:

UnSong, my collection of illustrated poems (which does contain some haiku but also has free verse, sonnets, etc.), will be published on Friday, April 30! I’ve already seen a hard copy proof and it’s pretty darn good, if I do say so myself.

And I don’t totally have to say so myself. I’ve been lucky enough to get some glowing advance reviews for UnSong from poets and writers I respect a great deal. Of course, I’m going to smash all of them onto the back cover (I already have and I’m hoping the type will be big enough to read…) But I also wanted to take some moments to brag a little and explain why each of these advance reviews means so much to me. So this week, I’ll be putting up early reviews from these wonderful, talented people so you’ll feel more confident when you go to buy UnSong.

Here’s one from the best poet you may never have heard of but should:

UnSong by Michelle Garren Flye is a wicked-smart mash up of verse and graphic art. Early in the book, an elegy to Ruth Bader Ginsberg is paired with a portrait of a woman in a black dress, seen from behind, her arms raised as if to enthrall an unseen crowd. Later, a brilliant untitled haiku takes as its subject our “Covid Days.” My favorite work in the book is a piece called River Bones: “… water rolls back to caress and cover the river’s bones with the touch of a lover …” Illustrated poetry books are hard to get right. UnSong nails it, the book rising above any limitations of the format. Buy this book! 

—Dennis Mahagin, author of Grand Mal, and Longshot & Ghazal

I’ve “known” Dennis for several years. We’re both what I consider graduates of an online writers group called Zoetrope. Dennis was one of the first poets I knew in real/online life that I became a fan of. His poems are edgy and true, with a sprinkling of genius in some of the ways he uses words that I have never been able to capture in my own work. So he was one of the first people I approached with a request for a blurb. When he responded with the above paragraph, I felt a little like I’d won a prize or hit the best-seller list or…something pretty awesome.

If you want to check out some of Dennis’s work (and I do encourage it), Google him for some of his many online publishing credits, but you can also find his collection Grand Mal on Amazon, and he has a tumbler blog.

Happy Release Day, Hourglass! Let’s do this, an origin story.

And just like that, Flye Gee Comics is born. LOL. Mainly because, like everything else I do, it’s with a “just go ahead and do it” mindset (I didn’t steal that from Nike, btw, I’ve been like this for a while now).

It’s really funny the way this came about, though. The origin story is important in comic book lore, so here it is in a nutshell. I fell in love with manga (My Hero Academia in particular). It reminded me of reading comic books. I started thinking how cool it would be to have my stories illustrated that way and realized I always have a vision in my head while writing anyway. And those visions are often not scenes, exactly, but like a particular aspect of a scene. For instance, I might write a scene about two people having a serious conversation while one drinks water, and the picture in my head is of when that character sets the glass down. The ripples in the top of the water.

Like a comic book frame.

Not being an artist (at least not a really good one), I started wondering if I could do at least part of my comic book with photo manipulation. Yeah, that could work. I’ve been playing around with the concept of poetography (a poem paired with a photograph) for some time. And if I based my comic book story off some of my poetry, I could incorporate three or four things I love in one thing.

Okay then. Let’s just go ahead and do it, I thought.

I’ve shared some of my journey on here. You’ve seen early versions of the illustrations. I’ve improved some of those. I worked really hard to format it into a book. I treated each page like an individual work of art. I finished the ebook version first, then fought my way through the formatting of the print version. I proofread and marked up and printed and proofread again. I corrected margins and found odd marks on some of the illustrations that I swear I didn’t put there. I removed those. I learned how to do speech and thought bubbles. I played with different fonts and ended up using three different ones. I finally decided it was good, so I ordered author copies. And yesterday a box full of them arrived about two weeks early.

So I decided I’d just go ahead and do it.

And that’s the origin story of Flye Gee Comics. I’m playing around with ideas for Issue 2. Stay tuned because chances are I will go from concept to publishing with little warning.

Let’s do this.

Happy 25th and 18th: An anniversary, a book and a poem.

Today is, in a very real way, a very big day for me. It’s my 25th wedding anniversary and the day I officially release my 18th book.

Thank you.

It’s hard to celebrate right now, as I have good reason to know. My 50th birthday fell right at the beginning of the Covid-19 crisis. My son and my daughter also have celebrated birthdays. Today I have no actual plans to celebrate. I once envisioned a busy day full of well wishing friends for both my book and my marriage. I mean, not as many people make it to their silver wedding anniversary as used to, right? And quite a few authors never see 18 books with their name on the front.

But celebrating is hard right now. People are still sick, still dying. I’m working hard to make sure I’m not one of them. I have nightmares that my family is. And life goes on.

And still, I am happy to announce the publication of my 18th book, Magic at Sea, the seventh book of my Sleight of Hand series (and still a standalone, so you can read it even if you haven’t kept up with the series!). And I am happier still to be married to the same wonderful man for twenty-five years. Rain or shine, we’ve had them both.

Rain or Shine

By Michelle Garren Flye

When did it rain?

I never heard thunder

Or wind or raindrops.

When did they fall?

It must have happened

Behind the scenes

While we were busy

Doing something else.

Something important.

Raising kids, living life,

Paying bills…surviving.

I didn’t know it rained.

Just like so many other

Things have happened

In the background.

It’s funny how you start:

Focused on each other,

Certain nothing will change.

But then it does.

Work and family and life

All change you.

And rain falls unnoticed

Until you see the puddles,

And then you notice the wet

And open an umbrella.

Happy anniversary to my patient, supportive, loving husband. Photo by Michelle Garren Flye