A List for Looking Back, a Poem for Looking Forward

Sometimes life just decides to take a bite out of our lives, our happiness, our capacity to feel joy. That was my 2021.

I’m trying to fight back by leaving the loss of joy behind me with the change of the year. But I can’t help looking back. Even as I know that’s not where joy is going to come from.

There are many reasons I can’t stop peeking into the rearview mirror of life. Unresolved issues. Unspoken words. A plethora of both unwarranted and earned emotions.

But as I steal glances into my recent past, I see some bright spots, too, even if they were tinged with the grey of all of the above.

  • Becoming the Heart of the Pamlico Poet Laureate
  • Earning some much-deserved recognition for my bookstore (check out the January 2022 issue of Our State Magazine!)
  • Publishing two illustrated poetry books (UnSong and 100 Warm Days of Haiku) and two issues of The Next Chapter Litearary Magazine
  • Deepening friendships and making new ones
  • Learning (through necessity) I can do more than I ever gave myself credit for—and enjoying it!

It’s impossible to know what’s coming in 2022. If there’s one thing the past two years have taught us, it’s that. But I’m choosing to believe that whatever is in my rearview mirror, joy is still out there for me. Somewhere on the horizon ahead.

I’m calling this one Truth.

Us artsy types have a hard time owning our talents. It feels like bragging. So we wait for others to validate us with reviews or compliments. But those waits can be a long time coming because those who aren’t artsy aren’t necessarily going to notice us.

That’s why authors have such a hard time with promotion. (Nobody wants to hear me talking about my books all the time. It’ll just get on their nerves.)

That’s why artists can all too often be convinced to give away their work. (I’m just happy it’s going to a good home and will be appreciated.)

It’s not fair, you know. Nobody asks a doctor to provide free medical service because it’s what they’re good at and doctors would just laugh if they did. Because it’s a business they’ve worked hard to be a part of.

Well, so is art. So is writing. So are any number of other creative ventures. At least, we’d like them to be.

Someone once compared my style of graphic art to an adult coloring book. And I let them. Well, no more. Because it’s more than that and I’m determined to own it. To demonstrate that I’m giving you the original picture I traced onto the iPad and the final product. I’m calling this one Truth.

Taking Steps: A Poetry Reading About Winter

As a poet laureate, I’m supposed to be spreading my love of poetry far and wide. As someone who is less than enamored with the sound of her own voice, this is a difficult charge for me. However, as I take this position seriously, today I impulsively decided to record a short poetry reading and post it on social media. I selected two poems about winter. The first is, ahem, not mine but by a poet you might recognize. The second is mine, one of my favorites that I wrote last year about this time. The video below is of the impromptu reading I conducted in my bookstore. It’s the first in my series, Poetry Readings, which will be posted on my Instagram account, michellegflye.

Poem: Invitation by Michelle Garren Flye

It’s ironic that the coldest part of my life thus far fell during the summer I was writing 100 Warm Days of Haiku, but that’s the way life works sometimes, I suppose. At any rate, this cool fall morning I woke up and realized I felt warm again. I can’t tell you why. Again, I suppose it’s just the way life and the heart work.

Maybe now I should start writing warm poetry?

Maybe.

Maybe not.

But I did write one today. And here it is.

Copyright 2021 Michelle Garren Flye

Poet Laureate: Another dream come true

It’s hard to put into words exactly what happened yesterday. It was a day full of emotions. A long-anticipated day, actually. In more ways than one.

Yesterday I achieved a dream. I am now the Heart of the Pamlico Poet Laureate. I applied for the position in 2020 but the award was held off due to covid. As it turned out, that was a blessing for me. It allowed me to become more serious about my poetry. It allowed me to accept that I am a poet.

Understand that I do not have a Masters of Fine Arts. I am not a teacher of poetry. Up until 2020 I’d only ever dabbled in poetry. Since then, poetry has become a way of life for me. When a line of poetry flashes into my mind, I follow it. Once upon a time I might have brushed it off. Sometimes these lines become poems.

I’ve always written poetry by feel. Sometimes it rhymes, sometimes it doesn’t. Sometimes I use literary devices like alliteration, sometimes I don’t. The rhythm is almost always instinctive. I’ll go back and rework it until it feels right, but I can’t always tell you why.

My one absolute belief is that poetry comes from the heart. It’s part of me. It’s nonfiction. I write plenty of fiction, so I definitely know the difference. My poetry (at least the poems that work), and all the poetry I’ve ever related to, is nonfiction, a part of my soul that I put out there for the world to accept or reject.

As Heart of the Pamlico Poet Laureate, I’m hoping to spread the word about poetry and its value as an art form. I will do this with pride because I am a poet. I will do this with humility because I am part of a community with so much to say to the world. And I will do it with love because that is what I want to feel coming back to me.

Graphic courtesy Pamlico Writers Group.

Poem: The Tiger

A companion piece (or sequel?) to “Dead Dragon”

The Tiger

By Michelle Garren Flye

There’s a tiger in my heart

Pacing and guarding,

Keeping me safe.

He banished the dragon—

The one you abandoned

And left to its fate.

I love my tiger.

His growl seems to say,

You got this, little one,

I’m here to the end.

You got this, you’re strong

And you know it now.

And I do know it, because—

(You want to know why?)

Not everyone can hold

A tiger in her heart.

Copyright 2021 Michelle Garren Flye

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.

Adding Color to Writing

I’m so close to being done with 100 Warm Days of Haiku! It will be my longest poetry book yet. And my most unique book of any genre. I’m excited to share it, and I hope you’ll be excited, too. It’s a book meant for looking at as much as reading. Even UnSong didn’t really manage that.

Illustration by Michelle Garren Flye. Copyright 2021.

So I guess the very reasonable question would be why am I publishing a book that’s as much to look at as to read? I’m an author, not an artist, a poet, not a painter.

Short answer? I like to challenge myself. I like to be more. Long answer? This has been a complicated year in which I came to know a lot of interesting things about myself. I mean, none of us has had an easy year, right? Pandemic, home schooling, isolation, mask-wearing…it’s all a bit much. Add any other complications into the mix and you’ve got the makings of a good, old-fashioned nervous breakdown. And who didn’t have other complications?

My answer for the complications in my life was to dig deeper to find more. I found a lot. And 100 Warm Days of Haiku is my way of sharing it with you. So stay tuned for more information.

Coming soon in full color!