Tag Archives: poetry

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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We’ve hit the 1/3-way mark! Writing prompts & an exercise for you.

Hi folks, hope you’ve all been writing strong for the past ten days! We’re already 1/3 way through the challenge 🙂 Let’s keep our energy up and charge ahead!

For today, let’s take up lists.

And, what about lists?

It’s completely up to you to decide what to do with the theme:

  • Use it as a prompt for writing lists of some kind, perhaps in your journal
  • Write a character who is obsessed with making lists for everything
  • Write a story that is written in the format of a list or utilizes listing for its narration
  • Make “lists” a theme in your story–perhaps a metaphor of some kind (things that we remember to list, things we miss out, what really happens thanks to or despite of our lists, etc.)
  • Write a list poem
  • Write a blog post that is a list of pointers/ideas/suggestions
  • Anything else that comes to your mind!

'Think Like a Tree' - a lovely list poem by Karen I. Shragg [Image Source]

Think Like a Tree by Karen I. Shragg [Image Source]

I pulled today’s theme out of the poem I wrote today, which (I only realized after it was done) turned out to be

a list poem! (this lovely one is Think Like a Tree by Karen I. Shragg)

Specifically, it was a list poem about the ways we deal with wounds, and in this case, those caused by love. You’re welcome to use that as another prompt: wounded.

A list poem I wrote a long time ago was about what a writer’s “grocery” list would look like. Notebooks, pens, sachets of inspiration, that sort of thing 😉 Feel free to expand on the theme with your imagination here! What does “list” make you think of? What are the most unique or outrageous lists you’ve heard of? What is a powerful list poem you could write today, based on an experience of yours?

A writing exercise!

Here’s a quick writing exercise with list-making:

  • List twelve of your favorite songs.
  • Pull out twenty phrases/lines from these songs totally (up to three lines per song, it’s okay if you don’t use lines from all the songs)
  • Re-write the ideas in these lines with completely different analogies/metaphors/words
    • (Re-write in prose or poetry, depending on what kind of piece you want to write)
  • Is there any way to glue these new segments together?

You don’t absolutely have to glue the segments together; you could choose to put some together and ditch others completely; you could tie them all into one big bundle–it’s up to you.

Just as a note: you don’t ever have to absolutely do anything in any writing exercise, unless you’re trying to write in form. 😉

Hope this helps with your November challenge! Happy writing/poeming folks!

Friday Reflections & Prompts for Your November Challenge

Good day, folks! How has your November challenge been going so far? I didn’t end up taking on anything other than the Poem-a-Day challenge, but that’s keeping me busy enough 😉 I’ve been going at the average pace of two-poems-a-day, dropping to one on busier days.

We are already a week into November! Today’s post will include the usual Friday Reflections topic as well as some prompts and links to keep you rolling 🙂

Friday Reflections: Translation

Translation is a daily activity for a lot of people who are multi-lingual. You may not even realize how often you’re translating things from one language to another. If you’re used to this, perhaps you could take a close look at some of the “ordinary” acts of translation you’re always doing, and try to capture that in what you write. Often there’s some comedy in the effort of translation–in the futility of the effort, since there’s always something important “lost in translation”. (You could try writing about what it is that you think is lost in translation.)

All the same, you can’t live without translating, either, just because it’s not a 100% successful activity all the time. Perhaps you could imagine a scenario in which translation is not possible–what kind of communication remains in the end?

Translation doesn’t necessarily have to be from one entire language to another. Often you’re simply trying to translate your ideas, feelings or thoughts into words. Isn’t that what we’re doing when we write? Or when we try to explain our experiences to others?

Perhaps you could write about some of your specific efforts in translating what’s on your mind into communication. Meta-fictive and meta-poetic works (like poems that are about writer’s block) are all about this (difficult) process of translation!

The act of translation isn’t limited to words, either. We translate between words and actions all the time, too! Charades is a classic game that tests how well you can do so. There are interesting ways to play with this kind of translation, such as by highlighting the incongruity between a character’s words and actions 😉

Also, translations gone wrong can often lead to misunderstandings–there’s much scope for humour (and tragedy) in this.

These are just some ideas. If you’ve got something more creative you want to try with translation, have a blast!

Apart from the poem I’ve quoted here, you can also check out ‘Lost in Translation’ over at The Poetry Foundation for a fun read 🙂

Prompts for your November challenge

Here are a few more quick prompts to keep you fuelled for your November challenge:

  • punctuation
  • frostbite
  • there’s this ______ (fill the blank in with any word)
  • set (the) _______ on fire

If you need to hear some poetry to get you into a poetic mood or rhythm, The Poetry Station is a great place to find something inspiring and contemporary to listen to!

Happy writing, folks, and keep the November writing fever going! 🙂

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:

Reflection & Exercise: bridges to cross / bridges to burn

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Hi, folks! 🙂 I hope everyone’s had a great summer!

Today’s post is a bit like a Friday Reflection, but since it’s also a writing exercise, it’ll have a few instructions and guidelines for you to follow. It’s totally up to you whether you adhere to it strictly (not there are a lot of guidelines in the first place) or simply take what you like! 🙂

The topic is: bridges to cross / bridges to burn.
It can be two topics, if you think of them that way, or one unit with two halves.

Step 1: A great bit of brainstorming

As always, let’s brainstorm before diving into the actual writing of the piece (it is, after all, the first step of the writing process). You could pick either “bridges to cross” or “bridges to burn” to reflect upon, or you could take the entire topic as a unit and reflect upon it as a whole.

Before I throw other ideas into your mind — what are the first thoughts that come to you? Jot them down somewhere right away — whether they’re single words or entire phrases, or even images.

This is an important part of today’s exercise, and might end up writing your poem in the process, so spend a good chunk of time here. Find a place to sit comfortably (curled into your beanbag, out on the balcony, up in a tree…wherever you can stretch your brain best without distraction). Spend fifteen to twenty solid minutes for brainstorming. Try to fill up your page with as many ideas/phrases as possible.

Step 1.5: Some food for thought

Once you’re through putting down what was already in your mind, you can proceed with this step.

What are the ideas that come to mind when we think of “bridges to cross / bridges to burn”?

There’s the famous proverb: Don’t cross the bridge until you come to it.

There’s a famous quote:

The hardest thing to learn in life is which bridge to cross and which to burn.
-David Russell

As Wikipedia says, crossing a bridge is a common metaphor for solving problems or overcoming obstacles. Bridge-crossing can also symbolize a significant decision made, or an important point of progress in a journey. In that journey, the two ends of the bridge can be two very different places, even contrasting places. These places can be landscapes of the mind. The journey can be entirely psychological, emotional, or physical.

You’ll find that images/metaphors such as these work best when they’re more layered. See if you can, in your piece, incorporate as many aspects of bridge-crossing (or burning) as you can: physical, emotional, psychological…

Burning a bridge signifies cutting oneself off from a thing forever (just as literally, once you burn a bridge down, you cannot get to the other side). You could be burning a bridge either to a place (again, this can be physical or of a mindset) to which you’ve choosing not to go, or from which you’ve come.

When the two are placed side-by-side, however, they seem to find new layers of of meaning, new messages. One of the messages rings with a tone of finality: either you cross the bridge or you burn it — stretched to Mr. Russell’s quote, it’s the difficulty of figuring out which are the “bridges” in your life that you have to “cross”, and which you have to “burn”.

Remember, “burning” a bridge implies that you’ll never be able to go across; “crossing” it may mean you never return (as Mr. Frost says, often “way leads on to way” and you find you’re too far ahead to turn around) or are not welcome back, should you wish to return. You could also be afraid of what awaits on the other side. This kind of decision-making could involve a lot of inner conflict.

Before we move on to the next step, could could also take a moment to check out this blog post on ‘Crossing Bridges’, for another perspective. There’s a poem shared there that could also give you another point of view:

Step 2: What’re you going to write (about)?

You’ve already got material to write with from your brainstorming, but the next crucial step is to decide what theme/experience you’re going to focus on in your piece. You have several options by now, actually:

  1. Go through your brainstorm and pick out one idea/theme that seems to dominate most of the page (perhaps something like ‘making difficult choices‘, or if it’s just one of the two topics, ideas like proceeding with the journey or leaving someone behind)
  2. Go through your brainstorm and pick out interesting oppositions that you’ve either intentionally or inadvertently written down (because of the two halves of the topic), and make this opposition of ideas your focus: two ends of the decision-making process; bridges we cross vs. ones we burn; or even the central conflict of choosing whether to cross or to burn
  3. Recall a personal experience of having to make that decision (crossing/burning a bridge) and illustrate the physical, psychological and emotional layers of the conflict
  4. Recall a non-fictional or fictional experience of the same — pick a character from a fictional story (could be from a short story or a novel) or a non-fictional one (could be historical, of instance) who might’ve had to do this; try to work through his/her/its experience — you could experiment with either 1st person perspective and write from their point of view, or maintain your position as an outsider and write in the 3rd person perspective
  5. Create a fictional experience based on the topic and work through it; experiment with perspectives, try to make the most efficient use of the metaphor as possible

Step 3: Let’s write!

Now that we’re done with all that reflection, and you’ve decided on your focus, it’s time to start writing! 😀

You can draw as many images, words or phrases from your brainstorm as you wish, just make sure they fit together and can be worked into whatever your theme is.

If you’ve chosen to deal with those oppositions:

  1. You could write something that’s interestingly structured — a poem written in two columns, perhaps, where each stands for one respective end of the bridge, i.e., the possible consequences of decisions. It could even be a list poem.
  2. You could write a story where the oppositions run parallel to one another, perhaps depicted through decisions two different characters make (each character could reflect a personality — one who constantly ‘crosses’ bridges head first, another who often chooses to ‘burn’ them).

If you’re writing a poem, see if you can structure it to work with the progress of thought in your poem! You could make it a concrete poem — structured in the shape of a bridge, for instance. You could have a fixed rhythm, rhyme, etc. and suddenly break it when you hit the climax (where either the bridge is crossed or burnt); depending on the resolution, you could either set back into rhythm (perhaps a new one), or choose free verse. This free verse could be cluttered, chaotic, or clumsy — depending on why the persona has not come to terms with the decision — or it could flow smoothly, and utilize the “free” quality of free verse to express the persona’s sense of liberation.

Of course, these are all only suggestions. If you’ve got a picture perfect idea of how to let your poem’s theme spill unto its structure, go with it! 🙂

Happy writing & happy weekend!

I hope you find this exercise useful and/or challenging! It’s always up to you to take as much or as little as you want from all of this. The most important thing is to be able to find something to write about, and of course, write.

Have a great weekend, and as always, happy writing! 🙂

Friday Reflections: Freedom

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Hullo, folks! I’ve had a bit of a break this summer because of a bit of travelling and plenty of family fun, but I’m back for today’s Friday Reflections post.

One of the world’s most beloved poets (of course, she was much more than a poet, too), Maya Angelou, recently passed away. Her poems are amongst my personal favorites; they always inspire me, and give me strength.

Today’s post has also been inspired by her life, and the topic is Freedom.

Freedom

Image Source: quotesstack.com

The Meaning of Freedom

Well, the dictionary certainly defines freedom in several ways, depending on the context — but each of us desire different kinds of freedom. It could be freedom of speech or the freedom to choose a way of life; it could be the freedom to read books, the freedom to be educated. It could be a country’s freedom — independence. Someone could be breaking out of social confines: limits determined and imposed by society, based on class, creed, race or gender. One could also yearn spiritual freedom.

What’s the first kind of freedom that strikes you? Which would you prefer most? Do you think you already have it? If not, why not? If so, does it satisfy you?

You could also always write about how doing some specific action set you free in some way. Perhaps creativity sets you free? Or going out for a run in the early morning? It could be emotionally taxing, like letting go of someone or some past incident; it could be a ritual of some kind that releases you in some way. One could also let go of inhibitions and fears (like in the song, Let It Go). Go for whatever resonates with you best!

Freedom works great as a theme in novels and short stories, even in poetry; and there are many symbols that are commonly used to represent the concept of freedomBirds (in flight) are amongst the most common images used (such as as on the covers of the book series, The Hunger Games). Another image is that of broken chains, which constructs a story: there is a past (one of confinement), then the struggle for liberation, and finally freedom.

“You only are free when you realize you belong no place — you belong every place — no place at all. The price is high. The reward is great.”
-Maya Angelou

An Exercise: Illustrate your concept of freedom

Based on what kind of freedom you’ve chosen to write about, can you construct an image that would be representative of it? Try to avoid cliché images, come up with something different. Try to be specific, and use all five senses to flesh it out.

You’re welcome to even try to sketch this image, if not write a poem or a prose piece.

‘I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings’

One of Ms. Angelou’s best-known and loved works is her autobiographical work, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings; the poem of the same title is equally famous.

I share it with everyone here today, so that it may continue to sing of freedom:

A free bird leaps
on the back of the wind
and floats downstream
till the current ends
and dips his wing
in the orange sun rays
and dares to claim the sky.

But a bird that stalks
down his narrow cage
can seldom see through
his bars of rage
his wings are clipped and
his feet are tied
so he opens his throat to sing.

The caged bird sings
with a fearful trill
of things unknown
but longed for still
and his tune is heard
on the distant hill
for the caged bird
sings of freedom.

The free bird thinks of another breeze
and the trade winds soft through the sighing trees
and the fat worms waiting on a dawn bright lawn
and he names the sky his own

But a caged bird stands on the grave of dreams
his shadow shouts on a nightmare scream
his wings are clipped and his feet are tied
so he opens his throat to sing.

The caged bird sings
with a fearful trill
of things unknown
but longed for still
and his tune is heard
on the distant hill
for the caged bird
sings of freedom.

Maya Angelou, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings

(Poem Source)

With that, I’ll sign off — I wish everyone a happy weekend, and happy writing 🙂