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

Sometimes it’s enough to write the next first line

The other day I wrote that I had completed my fortieth villanelle. This project has taken much longer than my last one (Far & wee). I’ve been writing villanelle since July. I still haven’t perfected it, but the forty I’ve kept are decently passable. Some are even quite good. I think there’s at least one that’s among my favorite poems I’ve ever written.

I’m trying to write fifty total for the book. And I haven’t yet figured how I’ll illustrate them, although I’ve also been drawing at the same time. I have an idea or two. We will see what works out.

At any rate, although I can see the finish line, I’m so far away still! So even after a busy day, I take my computer up to my room with me and before I sleep I try to write a little. Yesterday was one of those days. Busy from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. I collapsed and ate a bagel and watched a bit of television with my daughter. And then I went to bed and wrote.

A line and a half.

It took me thirty minutes.

And still when I closed the computer, I was happier than I would have been if I hadn’t written anything. Because I knew today I would finish that poem. I haven’t done that yet. But I did finish the first verse. And I like where it’s going.

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?

Still enjoying villanelle: #16

I just finished judging a poetry contest. It was fun. Nerve-wracking because I’ve been on the other end of the judging too often. I know how it feels to have so much faith in your little work of art, to send it out to be judged…and then to find out it failed.

I will say this about this contest. I was blown away by the entries. Mine would have been left in the dust by these, and I say that knowing full well I would have entered if I hadn’t been judging.

With that said, I think this one is pretty good. If you think I’m talking to you, I’m probably not.

Villanelle #16

By Michelle Garren-Flye

Whisper it to me when we are alone,

this (truth) secret you can’t seem to hold.

After it’s out we can decide to atone.

I can tell it eats you down to the bone,

aging you long before you are old.

Whisper it to me when we are alone.

I can’t believe this thing can’t be known

or that others will judge you or scold.

After it’s out we can decide to atone.

Just words, set them free to be blown

away by the wind, let the Truth be told!

Whisper it to me when we are alone.

Better to choose than to chance moan

a sentence you can’t take back—too bold!

After it’s out we can decide to atone.

Come, then, escape the chaperone

who’s kept you in a stranglehold.

Whisper Truth to me when we are alone—

after it’s out we can decide to atone.

Fallen Orchid Blossom with Cat Hair. Photo by Michelle Garren-Flye

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