Poem: When We Return to Normal

As we return to normal, I’m seeing lots of signs of people forgetting. It’s human nature, of course, to want to forget pain and sorrow and fear. Part of our makeup as a species. But I had big hopes we could come through this more together than ever. That’s the poet in me, always wanting to be optimistic even when reality nips my heels like an annoying chihuahua.

Anyway, this poem has been on here before, but never like this. It’s in my book of illustrated poetry UnSong, also.

Poem and illustration by Michelle Garren Flye. Copyright 2021.

Five Star Review for UnSong!

I cannot tell you how much it means to find a positive new review for one of your books. The surge of triumph, heartwarming and uplifting… For poets, this feeling may be elusive, but it’s just as powerful, if not more so. It’s why we writers risk rejection so willingly. Because we’re basically junkies for that feeling.

So you can imagine how I felt when I found this review on Amazon:

Thank you, Anna! 🙂

If you haven’t read UnSong yet, you’re missing out. Reviewers (my fellow poets) had already proclaimed it “wicked-smart” (Dennis Mahagin, author of Grand Mal), “joyful and optimistic” (Alice Osborn, author of Heroes Without Capes), and “a dash of light to repel the darkness” (Sam Love, author of Awakening: Musings on Planetary Survival). Now it’s got five stars on Amazon!

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 (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.

UnSong update… and a few thoughts about Seuss… with an illustration

First off, the good news. I am almost finished with UnSong. Which means I’m looking for a few good…people…to read and review it. It’s in the Beta reading stage, then my art director gets to look over my illustrations and offer constructive criticism (or just fix my mistakes herself) and meanwhile I’m working on Scrivener to format it properly (page numbers and what not)…but it won’t be long before I am ready to send it out for advance reviews. Anybody interested?

Second, I’m finally ready to weigh in on the Dr. Seuss debacle (you know where the estate of Dr. Seuss took six of his books off the shelf because they contained racist imagery?). It took me a while to digest this and figure out how I felt about it because Seuss was a source of great entertainment when I was a child (though I admit I had a preference for the darker imagery of Mother Goose). Still, the Cat in the Hat was pretty creepy and fun.

Anyway, six Dr. Seuss books being yanked from stores and shelves and online dealers all at once caused a great deal of consternation among parents and teachers. How dare they? These are classics. True enough, though I couldn’t remember reading any of them except Mulberry Street and McElligott’s Pool. And though I didn’t recall any racist imagery in them, when I went back and looked, it didn’t take long to spot.

Still, surely it’s a bit of an overreaction to pull six books because of a few racist illustrations and words. Doesn’t the work itself outweigh those tiny infractions?

Not necessarily. As a librarian and a writer, I know books go out of print for a number of reasons. One of those is certainly outdated information, and Dr. Seuss’s talent for iambic pentameter and rhyme notwithstanding, his books were definitely guilty of that. Another reason for removing books from print and/or shelves is if there are other books and authors that provide the same entertainment or information value without the offensive characteristics. I can list a number of authors who can do this: P.D. Eastman, Shel Silverstein, David Shannon, Marcus Pfister, Eric Carle… If you want to broaden children’s minds rather than limit them, just Google “anti-racist alternatives to Dr. Seuss”. There are some amazing books out there for kids. And there’s always the rather dark, twisted and melancholy world of Mother Goose where children regularly break their crowns or eat blackbirds baked into a pie.

Dr. Seuss definitely played a role in my childhood. It’s possible he inspired some of what I write today. It’s also possible I’m still fighting some of what he taught me.

Worth considering, don’t you think?

By Michelle Garren Flye copyright 2021

Happy Birthday to Me! (with another teaser for UnSong)

Today is my birthday, and I’m celebrating by writing, but not just writing. I’m writing whatever I want. I’m also going back and reading some of what I’ve written in the past. If that sounds like self-gratification, keep in mind that I write what I want to read. It’s the main reason I enjoy it so much.

But I wanted to share another little bit from UnSong. I’m still working hard on the illustrations, and I’ve done most of the easy ones (and by that, I mean the ones that lend themselves to illustration more easily—they have a definite image. Poetry being poetry, not all of the poems in my volume do…or the image they have is a bit difficult for a novice artist like me to put on the page.

My point is, I’m getting there. The book is taking definite shape now. And I’m using Scrivener to build it, so I’m kind of proud of that, too.

I guess old dogs can learn new tricks.

Illustration and poem by Michelle Garren Flye copyright 2021

Update on UnSong (with a teaser)

I am so in love with my new project I’ve been working practically nonstop on it since last week. It’s tough when you’ve got a project like this that you can’t wait to see finished…but you’ve got to stop and do mundane things like pay the bills and get ready for taxes and, well, eat and sleep. (Though I will say I’ve sacrificed a bit of the latter.)

So I’ve been working nonstop since last week and I’ve gotten about halfway with the illustrations. But I just can’t wait to share at least one. So I chose one of my favorite haiku. Here it is with the illustration I finished just last night:

Poem and illustration by Michelle Garren Flye copyright 2021

If you’ve seen my graphic novel HourGlass, you’ll recognize where I got the idea for this one. This is half the battle, too. Though most of my poetry is pretty easy to illustrate, some of it isn’t. This one actually took me a while. If you’ve ever tried to draw rain, you’ll understand why. It’s not the easiest thing to draw. I played around with different “brushes” on my iPad and finally realized it was the hand that was the important part of the poem, not the wind and rain. And thanks to HourGlass, I already knew how to draw a ghost-like hand. Lol.

Anyway, I’m off to illustrate more poetry. Maybe write one or two as well. There’s one I’ve included in this book that I may not be able to use as I’ve also entered it into a contest. I’m at least half hoping it doesn’t win (which it probably won’t) because it’s the best one I have and could easily take up a two-page spread, and I have the illustration all planned out. Well, we shall see, right?

If it does win, maybe I can still include it and add a line to the front cover: “Contains the award-winning poem—————”