Coincidence or Synchronicity? Spooky ties! And an angel?

I’m currently embroiled in putting the finishing touches to the fourth issue of The Next Chapter Literary Magazine. I’ve often been bewildered (in a good way) by the way synchronicity works in my life. My bookstore for instance. Derby, my bookstore cat, for another. If I hadn’t been on Facebook at the right time, I’d never have seen his picture. And his magical purr would never have been there to help me through the hardest time of my life thus far.

Back to happier thoughts, though. This issue has had its share of confusingly coincidental happenings. I decided back in the summer to use a photo that was submitted for the last issue as the cover for this issue and use the theme of history. I invited one of the local authors to write the introduction. And everything fell together from there, from the submissions I received to the dedication.

Maybe I’ve read too much scifi and fantasy, but I’m a firm believer that there is a force that holds us all together. Some believe it’s their god. Some think the earth itself binds us. Jedi call it “The Force” (based loosely on the Chinese belief in “chi”). Maybe it’s just gravity.

I believe we are more of a hive mind than we’d like to let on, and that mind spans our history as well as our present and possibly our future. Hear me out. There might even be a scientific explanation for it.

In 2016, physicist Ronald Hanson proved Einstein’s dismissal of “spooky action at a distance” wrong by separating two entangled quantum particles to a significant distance and performing experiments on them, noting that the separated particle reacted in the same way as the one being experimented on. Or something like that. At any rate, the experiment proved spooky action was possible at a distance. So there was a tie between those two particles.

The universe is full of these ties, and I believe they can affect lives. But maybe I’m overthinking it. Maybe it’s the work of angels. Back in the summer on a day when I was feeling particularly badly about my life, a lovely woman with a cheerful smile and an enthusiastic attitude walked into the store. She exclaimed over everything in the store and bemoaned that she hadn’t brought her wallet with her. She said she’d be back. As she left, she looked over her shoulder and said, “I’m Joy and I’ll be seeing you.”

I haven’t seen her since…but I believe I will.

The next Next Chapter. Coming January 2022. Copyright 2021.

Facing Fear

Last weekend I and most of my kids (one was, sadly, too sick) went to Scarowinds. (That’s Carowinds on select nights during the Halloween season.) Our entire purpose in going was to visit the haunted mazes and let Scarowinds actors scare the bejeezus (that’s old-fashioned Southern slang for “crap”) out of us.

I approached the first maze quakingly. My son’s girlfriend asked if we needed to go to the bathroom. “I can hold it,” I said, and she gave me a dubious look. “I hope,” I added and we both laughed.

I managed to hit four haunted mazes during our time at Scarowinds, and we walked through “scare zones” in the park where Scarowinds actors would randomly turn and scream in your ear or yell “boo!”. It truly seemed at times like they were picking on me, like maybe it’s sort of fun to scare the old lady. I got several excellent scares during our time there. And I laughed after each one.

Fear doesn’t mean the same thing to me as it did even six months ago. I look back on the timid, shy, afraid-of-my-own-shadow-and-especially-of-public-speaking person I was then and cringe a little. I’d never, really, lived on my own then, having basically gone from my parents’ care to my husband’s. I’m living on my own now. I’ve been busy creatively, too. I’ve given a couple of public speeches, one of them (a 20-minute one!) earning me the Heart of the Pamlico Poet Laureate award.

And that’s not all.

I kill my own cockroaches and spiders. (Not saying there aren’t still some spiders I’d just as soon leave the house to instead of facing!)

Speaking of houses, I bought one.

I published a book of illustrated haiku that revealed way too much of my heart.

I haven’t unpublished said book. Because I think it has a message that may help others.

I know that I have led a fortunate life. I know there are some traumas and fears that humans can be forced to face that the human soul will never come back from. But I’ve discovered something important. When you are forced to face a real fear that you can come back from, fear doesn’t mean the same thing anymore.

The old adage “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger” isn’t exactly right, because dealing with fear and trauma does kill parts of you no matter what. It’s just a question of how much. But you might say, “If you are forced to deal with something you fear, you probably won’t be as easy to scare anymore.”

Nothing against Scarowinds. It was hugely fun and entertaining. But fun, artificial frights don’t scare me anymore.

Derby the Next Chapter Cat expresses his thoughts about fear… 😉

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!

100 Warm Days of Haiku…finished

A glimpse of Haiku 99 before it became Haiku 99. Photo by Michelle Garren Flye

I completed 100 Warm Days of Haiku on July 31, 2021. It wasn’t what I started it out to be. If you remember, back in April, I started out full of hope and happiness. I wanted to write something cheerful to bring hope and happiness to the world in a time of darkness.

Well, best laid plans may never be realized. This summer has been a dark, cold one for me. The darkest and coldest I have ever experienced. Some would say I am lucky that this is so. I probably am. I am well and alive. The people I love are well and alive. And yet.

So my beautiful book is not what I wanted it to be. It became a sort of journal of my grief and loss. Haiku is not an easy form. Easy enough to write the correct number of syllables, not so easy to make them have meaning. I believe my life experience this summer gave an unexpected depth to the simple 17-syllable format of each poem.

And there is hope there, too. I am an irrepressible, inveterate, persistent optimist, so of course there is hope. A tiny blossom perhaps, but hope nonetheless, blooming in the weeds of lonely sorrow.

And now I am off to the editing and formatting stages of bookmaking. I’m hoping to have this one out by the beginning to middle of September. But I have my work cut out for me.

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.