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Revival

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Yes, fellow readers and writers…the blog lives, the fountain still flows!

It had been a ridiculously busy semester for me at college, and it’s been quite a tumultuous half-year on a personal level as well. I sincerely apologize for how dry the fountain has run and hope to keep it flowing hereafter with regular posts once again. 🙂

We’re half-way through May now. I’m sure many of us participated in April’s [(Inter)National Poetry Month] Poem-a-Day-Challenge, or some other unique and challenging poetry-related exercises! The plan was to get this blog active again by April but I was unable to do so. My own April challenge had been a difficult journey for many reasons; still, somehow I saw it through to the end–which reminded me once more of the value of such challenges.

This year, I wasn’t very satisfied with most of what I’d written last month. Yet, satisfactory or not, these poems would never have been born if I hadn’t taken on the challenge and stuck with it. This helped me to produce at least a handful of pieces that I can be proud of, and at least two dozen more that can be revised into better poems eventually. There’s usually something worth salvaging from every experience of writing.

That said, I do hope everyone else also had a productive and enriching April!

Considering that I’d like to bring this blog back to life with today’s post, I thought a suitable prompt would be “revival”.

As usual, you’re open to interpret the prompt as you like. Some other words that popped up in my mind are spring (the season), renewal, revitalize and rebirth. (That’s a lot of r‘s…perhaps you could write an alliterative piece with repeated ‘r’ sounds.) Here’s more for you to work with:

Courtesy: Google

Courtesy: Google

You could write a story about some kind of revival, a physical or emotional one. It could be a poem with revival as a theme, where you try to suggest a wholesome revival of spirit or faith in some way, through various concrete images. Perhaps if you’re not in as positive a mood, you could consider writing about something that cannot or will not be revived.

Here’s musical composition (a personal favorite) that I thought I’d pitch in. You’re more than welcome to interpret it any way you like, or stick with “revival” as your prompt and somehow let the music and the prompt fuel your piece:

 

Once again, I apologise for the months of inactivity. I’d like to thank everyone who has supported, liked, followed or even just stopped by The Horse’s Fountain to read 🙂 I’ll do my best to post more regularly. Happy writing, folks!

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November – the write-a-thon month – is here!

Hullo, folks! I hope everyone’s ready for a month of furious writing! 🙂

Yes, it’s November already! Month of the Poem-A-Day Chapbook Challenge, NaNoWriMo, NaBloWriMo, and any other way you can think of tweaking that second syllable; it’s time to get cracking, dear fellow writers!

For anyone who is new to November’s writing fervor, I’ve given a quick introduction to the various challenges in this old post 🙂

Has everyone decided which of the challenges they’ll be taking up? I’ll be attempting the Poem-a-Day Challenge as always, but I still have till the end of the day to decide whether I want to attempt NaNoWriMo 😉 it’s a challenge as it is, and to take it up last minute…but I’m still willing to play with the idea, so let’s see!

As for other ideas, I was just thinking it’d be nice to try something like “a short story a day” challenge. I’m sure there are plenty of people out there already trying it! If I skip on NaNoWriMo, I might attempt something of this sort instead.

The point of November’s furious writing, for me at least, is to make sure you show up at your writing desk every day and get something done. Making writing a habit. It’s hard to do it all year long (though that’s the ideal), so if you can’t, start here–start now, for just one month. November. Your write-a-thon month. Take any challenge that suits you, and do your best every day. Whether you’ve got a chapbook or a novel at the end, the more important product is the daily development your writing takes!

So gear up, sharpen your words, and write away 🙂

Prompts for the Weekend

Today’s the first day of November and it also happens to be a weekend, so here are a few of prompts to get you started. Feel free to mix up/compound prompts or change words/phrases/punctuation marks as you please! There’s only one rule in November and that’s to write every day!

  • the first day

This could be about your first day at anything, like school, college, work, or your first day at your November challenge! It could also be about someone’s first day of–well, life! It could be the first day of reading something different, or writing something different, or living somewhere new, perhaps living with someone new. These are just simple examples, I’m sure your brain could churn out something much more creative than what mine’s giving me now 😉

  • “How could I have known?”

This entire line popped fresh out of my first November PAD poem 😉 there, it had something to do with communication and how we get to know things, sometimes without words. For your piece, it could even be about not knowing something had happened, but perhaps being expected to know. Whatever the line suggests to you works best 🙂

  • Dawn / Daybreak (+music prompt)

For this prompt, I won’t say too much, since it probably already has so many possibilities brimming in your mind; I shall only add that you can always change any prompt into a different part of speech if you’d like, like “dawn” to “dawning”, or just add that meaning into your piece 😉 I will also add this piece of music to the mix, so you’ll have a music prompt for this one:

(You could always make use of the novel/film association here, or interpret the piece individually!)

Happy November!

I hope everyone’s got a good start on their challenge(s)! I shall try my best to make regular posts with more prompts (I expect to have a little more time now, at least for the first half of November). Wish you all a very happy, writerly November, folks 😉

Friday Reflections: the Sun, the Moon, the Stars

I’m back after a long time, everyone! I’ve had a very busy couple of months, and though I’ve wanted to make my regular posts at the very least, I couldn’t squeeze them in; very sorry for the lack of prompts!

I had time enough tonight to actually do some stargazing, and I could see enough stars despite the city lights (plus, after many weeks, it hadn’t been too cloudy); so this Friday’s Reflection shall be to contemplate the stars! (or well, heavenly bodies in general.)

space

The Sun, the Moon, the Stars

You’re more than welcome to pick any one, two or all three of the above mentioned; you can explore related ideas such as “galaxy”, “universe”, “outer space”, or “the Heavens” — interpret the prompt in any way you’d like!

The skies mean something different for each of us. For me, stargazing gives me an immense sense of peace; I feel powerful energies emanating from them, too. And it’s always interesting for me to consider that the stars we can see may or may not exist presently, considering how long it takes for their light to travel all the way to us.

In some cultures, planets are also considered “stars“, so that’s another angle to look at it from. You could also consider the stars as multitudes of suns, much like ours, at great distances away. And of course, we know that even stars, long as many of their lives are, eventually fade/die; what about what happens to stars when they die – something that is determined by their size and nature? Many stars also provide light and sustain life (our Sun is a great example, though the Earth plays a vital role in letting that happen!).

Here’s an excerpt of a lovely poem by John Keats, especially famous for its first few lines:

Poem courtesy: Poetry Foundation

Poem courtesy: Poetry Foundation (click to read complete poem)

You could describe the sun/moon/stars as you see them today/tonight (I love watching the skyline during sunset and twilight, or cloud-watching generally) or how it affects you at that time — the burst of sunlight behind a tremendous cloud formation, the shades of red, orange and pink during sunset, the silver moon rising at twilight…perhaps even the cityscape lining the horizon! From where I live, the moon appeared as a very thin, hair of a crescent tonight — it was a lovely sight!

A lot of people consider the moon as a “friend” of some kind, who appears every night and gives them company if they’re in need of it 🙂 It has also been considered “inconstant” since we have new moons every month, when it’s not visible. Of course, it’s really always there, just not visible – you could consider that, too.

Similarly, the skies or Heavens are also said to “watch over” everything that happens on earth. In some cultures, people believe their ancestors are amongst the stars and protect/watch over them. Of course, people make wishes upon stars and shooting stars, too!

You could also explore the Heavenly bodies in various Mythic modes: there’s a character in almost every existing mythology who represents the Sun and the Moon, and perhaps various collective groups of stars too! Do you associate these bodies with what the characters symbolize? Why do you think these associations came into being? How do they influence us now? Do you have different associations you make with them? How are they appropriate to their natures?

Perhaps you could rewrite a short myth and give it a little twist – changing what that character symbolizes? 😉 Just consider why the change would be necessary!

On Constellations

Consider the spaces between the stars that are visible (tonight); what does the big picture look like? What do you make of constellations? (One of my recent poems was about a “journey” of sorts that I took along with a constellation character, across the skies.)

Do you like forming your own constellations? What do you base them on? Perhaps your writing today can be about the process of creating a constellation; perhaps what you write can reflect this process in its own way physically, too – try spacing out the words, arranging them differently, perhaps to resemble the twinkling of stars somehow? Can you capture the image with visual or aural onomatopoeia?

Write the Stars!

Whatever you choose your theme to be, make sure you step out and experience the sky for some time, let it sink in, and then reflect on what you’re watching 🙂 Sunsets have often been metaphors for “endings“, nightfall for the coming of some “darkness“, good or bad. Similarly, daybreak/dawn usually represent beginnings, the appearance of the sun again, and its light. Similarly, clouds have been entities that constantly “wander” adrift, and explore the world, and are sometimes even “messengers” in literature.

You are always welcome to interpret these differentlythe universe doesn’t fix these meanings, we do. We’ve come a long way from thinking the earth was the center of everything — the stars in the sky are a glimpse into the infinite expanse of the universe (or perhaps it’s finite?). At the same time, the earth is where we experience these things, and every day no less.

So go ahead, pick your stars, and write them 🙂 happy weekend, folks!

I’ll sign off by sharing this lovely musical composition (Across the Stars) by John Williams (here’s a video of a live orchestral performance) you can try to write to:

Friday Reflections: Windows

Hello, folks! 🙂 I hope everyone’s been keeping up with their challenges — we’re more than half-way to the finish line! (Don’t let it fool you though — there’s no real finish line, only milestones along the journey!)

Today’s Reflections topic is Windows.

“Strange things blow in through my window on the wings of the night wind and I don’t worry about my destiny.”
-Carl Sandburg

Windows

I don’t want to put any more thoughts into your head before you brainstorm — you might have more creative images popping out of there than what I’ve got! Just take five, ten minutes to jot down your thoughts. Do you imagine a scene? Note down what you see; then consider why that image might have come to you. What does it have to do with “windows”? What significance does “windows” have?

It’s entirely up to you whether you want to write about Microsoft’s famous Operating System, or these wonderful glass-fitted openings in rooms:

Image Courtesy: Wikipedia

Image Courtesy: Wikipedia

You could even read through this Wikipedia article and take a look at the many different kinds of windows!

The word “window” could also refer to those rectangle cut-outs with transparent sheets, in envelopes, through which we can read the address.

You could observe what’s outside your window right now (or perhaps what’s outside the window of your favorite Cafe), and write about the kinds of people, happenings, and encounters you see.

Just take your pick and write away!

(It might help to know that the word “window” comes from Old Norse, combining the words “wind” and “eye“.)

There are so many interesting phrases we use today incorporating this word:

  • out the window
  • window-shopping
  • window to…(e.g., imagination)
  • a window on (something)
  • window, as an interval, i.e., time window/window of four minutes…

The phrase ‘window-shopping’ is always fun to work with! Though this quote always comes to my mind:

“I went window shopping today! I bought four windows.”
-Tommy Cooper

Apart from phrases like these, windows often take on symbolic or metaphoric meaning in a lot of writing. Windows are interesting in how they are often transparent, and could let in wind and light, but are still barriers.

“Many a doctrine is like a window pane. We see truth through it but it divides us from truth.”
-Khalil Gibran

A character confined to the space of one room, the window that he/she gazes out of takes on a very different meaning. We have characters smashing open windows to enter/exit buildings – it could be for a robbery or even after a robbery, as the last resort/getaway strategy; it could be to run away from one’s wedding; it could be to get inside one’s own home — perhaps he/she had locked him/herself out!

One may open a window to let in a breeze – the breeze may carry in with it fluttering leaves, inspiration, or some scent that invokes memories for the poet persona. Glass windows also let in lightwhich may be metaphorically significant. Does the character/poet persona open or close the window? What about curtains or blinds?

You could choose to be extremely concrete, or completely abstract; you could choose to dance somewhere between the two, or back and forth.

Here’s an excerpt from the poem I’ll Open the Window by Anna Swir (you can read the entire poem here), to give you an idea:

I will open the window
and the large, frosty air will enter,
healthy as tragedy.
Human thoughts will enter
and human concerns,
misfortune of others, saintliness of others.
They will converse softly and sternly.

Another poem: From a Window by Charlotte Mew.

Many have written about what they see outside their window, or why they’re looking out the window (instead of just going out the door?). Perhaps the very idea of looking outward is a positive one, signifying that someone, who has been withdrawn for a long time, is finally opening up, moving out, moving on… Perhaps they yearn for freedom — to go out, to experience the world, or be with nature.

While we’re on the topic of “windows”, I’d also like to share this lovely, very touching video (and the music):

 

In the spirit of National Poetry Month…

I’ll share one more poem today; it may not have windows (but I think poems themselves are windows, in a way), but it’s one of my personal favorites.

Mother to Son by Langston Hughes

Well, son, I’ll tell you:
Life for me ain’t been no crystal stair.
It’s had tacks in it,
And splinters,
And boards torn up,
And places with no carpet on the floor—
Bare.
But all the time
I’se been a-climbin’ on,
And reachin’ landin’s,
And turnin’ corners,
And sometimes goin’ in the dark
Where there ain’t been no light.
So boy, don’t you turn back.
Don’t you set down on the steps
’Cause you finds it’s kinder hard.
Don’t you fall now—
For I’se still goin’, honey,
I’se still climbin’,
And life for me ain’t been no crystal stair.

Happy Writing!

I hope this helped you get your creative juices flowing, if they weren’t already. Good luck with your NaPoWriMo/Poem-a-Day challenges! Have a happy weekend,  folks — I hope it’s full of writing/poeming 🙂

Friday Reflections: Memories

Good day, folks! 🙂 Hope everyone’s been gearing up for (Inter)National Poetry Month! It’s just a few days away, now.

To get you warmed up, in case you’re participating in the April Poem-a-Day Challenge–or any other Poetry-writing event, this Friday’s Reflections post has several references to other poems, books, songs, and related articles! 🙂

Without further ado, this Friday’s topic: memories.

by PARANOIA--7 at Deviantart

wonderful photography by PARANOIA–7 at Deviantart

Brainstorm!

Before my ideas clutter your thoughts, just take a few minutes and brainstorm around the topic “memory”/”memories”:

  • list out any words that pop in your head when you think “memory”
  • jot down any memories that strike your mind first
  • if you want to write about memories as such and their nature (not specific incidents in your life), you could brainstorm through the process of memory-making and remembering, and on how/why these happen

If you have a specific memory in mind already:

  • brainstorm note any and all details you can remember, down to names, places, clothes, colors, time of day, season/month, dialogue (if any) and even brand names
  • brainstorm as many sensory details as you can with regard to the scene of your memory; if what you’re going to write is going to recall a memory, you can create the scene most effectively by being specific
  • try to brainstorm words that capture the mood of the memory

All Kinds of Memories

When we say “memory” we can mean the power of the human mind to save and recollect information. We could also mean Computer Memory: RAM or hard-disk memory…could be a tech-y poem (I’ve written one, it’s quite fun)!

The mémoire (French for memory) is also literary form. It’s not, however, the same as the memoir (the better-known of the two).

Memory poems, and the theme of nostalgia, are amongst my favorite when it comes to writing. I love saving up many keepsakes and little trinkets, and when I go back to them, they almost always invoke a little poetry.


(The word nostalgia always reminds me of Yanni’s piece — this particular medley is all the more evocative.)

Often, these writings are bittersweet, because we’re talking about what’s already passed. Sometimes, they’re downright painful!

Some such famous poems include Lord Tennyson’s Tears, Idle Tears and William Blake’s Memory, hither come.

We talk about cherished memories, painful memories and childhood memories; we talk of short term and long term memory, and even memory loss. Many contemporary stories have protagonists who suffer from memory-loss — either temporary or permanent (think Memento). We talk about how some memories fade, or about how we’re either trying to remember or trying to forget something.

Sometimes, we’re trying to remember something, and it’s on the tip of our tongue, but not quite — a very interesting phenomenon!

We have all kinds of things aiding our memory now — Post-It notes, reminders and alarms, To-Do lists(potential list poem!) How do you keep track of/remember what has to be done? Do you have a system? Take a look at your system — if you don’t have one, see if any family member you know, or perhaps a friend, does. Observe. How often are these aides…required? A little too often for comfort? Or does the subject perhaps have extremely good memory? (I certainly don’t!) Perhaps photographic memory?

We could remember a person, remember an experience or even an object. We could remember our pasts, remember the people and things we’ve lost. We could even remember a culture — perhaps a dying culture — the remembering of it being its only means of survival.

A poem I wrote several years ago was written from the point of view of a woman who suffered from Alzheimer’s disease. I was able to create tension by placing her beside her daughter, whom she did not recognize, and also by filling the scene with items and ideas that were to evoke memories — but only cause the woman pain and confusion instead.

You could also write about recollecting certain memories with someone else who has experienced them. Or perhaps, being unable to do so.

“The worst part of holding the memories is not the pain. It’s the loneliness of it. Memories need to be shared.”
― Lois Lowry, The Giver

Photographs

It’s interesting how photographs used to be so rarely taken once upon a time, and often only in large groups, or in studios — and now we click! thousands of them with mere touches to our smartphones. Many of us still have that nostalgic feeling, though, when we go back to certain photographs we haven’t seen in a while. Sometimes, the memories seem so far away that we wonder if it really happened:

“Was it a dream?
Was it a dream?
Is this the only evidence that proves it,
A photograph of you and I–”
Song: “Was It a Dream?”, 30 Seconds to Mars

One of my personal favorite Memory songs is Memories by Within Temptation, and its lyrics give us an example of the effect one’s memories can have on him/her:

 

The Mind works how it will

This article on Memories, Photographs, and the Human Brain looks into the working of the human mind and how it captures memories and images.

It’s interesting how we remember things. How much of it is really as Mr. Márquez says?

“He was still too young to know that the heart’s memory eliminates the bad and magnifies the good, and that thanks to this artifice we manage to endure the burden of the past.”
(from Love in the Time of Cholera)

And then there is this lovely bit from Haruki Murakami‘s Kafka on the Shore:

“Most things are forgotten over time … There are just too many things we have to think about everyday, too many new things we have to learn. But still, no matter how much time passes, no matter what takes place in the interim, there are some things we can never assign to oblivion, memories we can never rub away. They remain with us forever, like a touchstone.”

Happy writing!

Try to put together the pieces of your brainstorm and flesh out the details of the memory you’ve chosen. Finally: what does it do for the poet persona/writing voice? It could offer some kind of progression or growth. Does it prove cathartic or epiphanic, or provide some sense of closure?

Give some thought into why that particular memory, and what its recollection achieves.

Hope that gave you some food for thought and hopefully helped to write a piece 🙂 Happy writing, folks!

8 Music Prompts

It’s been quite a few Reflection Fridays in succession, so I thought I’d put up something a little different today! 🙂

The best tonic for me when I feel a little low on inspiration is music. And while there are many wonderful, wonderful songs that work at just the right time, there are some compositions that work all-year-round for me – any day, any time, these pieces never fail to stir my spirit to write!

This is by no means an exhaustive list, but here it is: (Warning: there are a lot of embedded videos up ahead. You can always choose to load the links individually instead!)

Johann Pachelbel: Canon in D

Easily one of the most uplifting pieces I’ve ever heard. String orchestra versions are my personal favorites, but there are plenty of versions around the internet that are just as wonderful, like this one.

Frédéric Chopin: Tristesse

I love most of Chopin’s compositions, but if I were to pick a favorite… Tristesse (Etude 3, Opus 10) bests Fantasie Impromptu by just a margin. Tristesse always touches me in that special way that tragedies do…never lets me go.

John Williams: Battle of the Heroes & Duel of the Fates

If I were to be honest, this would be a 9 Music Prompts list rather than 8 since I have chosen to mention two of Williams’ pieces. It’s very difficult for me to pick one over the other. In fact, I love Across the Stars just as much as Battle of Heroes and Duel of Fates. If you’re looking for romantic-epic music, I’d go for Across the Stars. The two mentioned here are battle-epic. They help me write climactic scenes (whether in prose or poetry) all the time!

Yanni: Enchantment

Enchantment was the first Yanni piece I ever heard, and remains my favorite. For me, it did exactly that: enchant. The music creates a sort of  magical mood. This somehow helps me write sensitive and earnest characters.

Mani Sharma: Thaye Yashoda (from the film ‘Morning Raaga’) (Singer: Sudha Raghunathan)

This would be one of the best Fusion (Carnatic/Western) pieces I’ve ever heard. Takes my breath away.

Utada, Hikaru: First Love (Piano/Instrumental)

I love the lyrics of the song, but the instrumental version is simply…sublime. This piano duet version is also lovely.

Kajiura, Yuki: Akatsuki no Kuruma

Rarely is there a composition by Yuki Kajiura (also the pianist in this video) that I do not enjoy from start to end. Akatsuki no Kuruma (Japanese) was my first experience with her music, and combined with Yuuka Nanri’s soulful voice, this song achieves such a depth -both its music and its lyrics- and it always leaves me wanting to write poetry. This Live version is the best one I know, possibly better even than the studio recording. I don’t know if there’s a translation that could go it justice, but do look it up if you’re interested! Beauty of music is, though, that it can be understood (to some level at least) even if it’s a different language.

Happy Writing!

That’s all folks! I think it’s been quite a long list, looking back – hope at least one or two pieces resonated with you and helped you write! 🙂 Happy weekend, folks, and happy writing! And three cheers for music~ 😉

The best thing…

The best thing is to go into my study in the morning and put words together.
-Robert Harris

I couldn’t agree with these words more.

It’s been a long time since I wrote poetry first thing in the morning, fresh out of bed – but when I did it today, it felt wonderful. I’m a morning person – most productive before 1 p.m. Since I have the day off (it’s Deepavaliand since it’s a festival, I got to wake up earlier than I would on the average day, and had some free time before preparations.

I poemed right away, hair dishevelled and glasses barely on straight. Fellow writers, I have to say: it makes me wonder why I don’t do this every morning! If at least for the sake of the November PAD challenge, I’m going to try making the morning hours my regular writing time.

A couple of prompts

  • fire juxtaposed with rain
  • light juxtaposed with darkness

I used the second for today’s poem (which is in keeping with my November PAD chapbook theme!), but the first prompt came into my mind when I saw a sudden burst of rain (it hardly lasted ten minutes) earlier. Put that next to the endless music of firecrackers, you get an interesting picture (thinking of it now actually reminded me of this Hindi song – one of my favorite compositions sung by one of my favorite singers). You’d think rain would damper everyone’s spirits, but it almost always rains this time of year, so the folks are used to it. They just wait it out and start lighting fireworks again.

Deepavali is the “festival of lights” – hence the second prompt.

In my poem’s case, it was the moonlight against the darkness of the night. Gotta love ’em archetypal symbols.

Good luck for the rest of November, folks! Happy writing 🙂