We Sinful Women by Kishwar Naheed

We Sinful Women by Kishwar Naheed, photo of Naheed

We Sinful Women by Kishwar Naheed

Cooking, cleaning, laundry and making a little music have eaten my weekend. I am exhausted from fighting off a winter sickness and cleaning my basement. Forgive me for not presenting a researched and original written piece this day. Instead I would like to present a poem, “We Sinful Women”,  from one of the “badass” feminist poets: Kishwar Naheed.  Naheed is an Urdu poet from Pakistan. She is the founder of the Hawwa Foundation that supports women who do not have an independent source of income. A copy of this poem in English and its original can be found in We Sinful Women: Contemporary Urdu Feminist Poetry by Rukhsana Ahmad.

We Sinful Women

It is we sinful women

who are not awed by the grandeur of those who wear gowns

who don’t sell our lives

who don’t bow our heads

who don’t fold our hands together.

It is we sinful women

while those who sell the harvests of our bodies

become exalted

become distinguished

become the just princes of the material world.

It is we sinful women

who come out raising the banner of truth

up against barricades of lies on the highways

who find stories of persecution piled on each threshold

who find that tongues which could speak have been severed.

It is we sinful women.

Now, even if the night gives chase

these eyes shall not be put out.

For the wall which has been razed

don’t insist now on raising it again.

It is we sinful women

who are not awed by the grandeur of those who wear gowns

who don’t sell our bodies

who don’t bow our heads

who don’t fold our hands together.

Cinquains

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I consider writing fiction a form of advanced puzzle solving involving creating characters who because of their nature experience conflict and work their way through it in the manner of the plot. This is not the only consideration I put into creating stories and I have written at length elsewhere on this blog about my ideas on creating stories.

To warm up to written word play and problem solving, I like to write poetry. I work on having more words convey more, have more muscle, by seeing what works in poetry. Sometimes I write haiku, other times sonnets or sestinas. Another form to just exercise verbal dexterity is the cinquain.

A cinquain is a short poem consisting of five, usually unrhymed lines containing, respectively, two, four, six, eight, and two syllables.

Here are a couple of my attempts at playing with cinquains:

Saturn

Crystals,

of ice, playing

Ring-around-the-rosie,

Enslaved to the giant planet.

Shining.

 

 

 

Mars

 

Red dust

blowing over

canal etched arid plains

pocked by cold, dark impact craters.

Water.

Obviously

Obviously

by Annette Bowman

 

Words go beyond…

the contrast of

black and white.

 

Tough rats.

Said the cats,

When the vermin walked away.

 

The lover pondered the beloved’s words.

Tumbling in a tangle

Like twisted sheets

The morning after.

Multihued,

symphonically toned,

words.

Salty, sour,

Spicy, bitter….

Grabbing you by

your “frontal lobes”.

Total penetration.

If ya know what I mean.

 

Sweet?

 

Cotton candy

Is just dandy.

Said the teen with no teeth.

 

“You had me at hello.”

 

Oh, so coyly flirting there.

Rocking the world,

tickling a fancy,

teasing with mystery,

seducing with one first opening line.

KA-POW!

 

“I care about you.”

Bend and pray.

Said the priest today,

To the sinner who escaped.

 

“That means a lot.”

 

Make me hurl.

Said the matchstick girl

When the Mercedes drove away.

 

A friend put on glasses

and suddenly could see

the leaves out of the green

on the tree.

And the words

Were clear.

 

“Say what you mean and mean what you say.”

Jane Was An Open Book

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Jane Was An Open Book

by Annette Bowman (that’s me!)

Jane was an open book.

At night when it was time to sleep, she was folded and laid to the side.

She dreamt in dark compression

of being lovingly gazed upon,

Read,

and comprehended.

Her complexities would show through

By virtue of her subtext.

Her beauty lay in the lilt of her words.

She had such ideas!

 

The one who held her every night,

Became mesmerized…

By a Reality show

featuring twelve people.

Only one could be the winner.

He returned her to the shelf.

 

Years passed.

Jane waited to be re-opened,

Grew dusty.

Would she ever feel the warmth of hands?

Eyes upon her?

Or would mice nibble her edges?

Worms eat her?

Her words never diminished.

National Poem in Your Pocket Day


Poetry is a happy thing! It is like a puzzle where words are used as tightly as possible to convey multiple meanings and emotion. I love poetry. I love the economy of poetry. And the possible impact.

Today, I am carrying “Crystal Spider Ascension” by Charles Wright in my pocket. What are you carrying in your pocket?

Crystal Spider Ascension

The spider, juiced crystal and Milky Way, drifts on his web through the night sky
And looks down, waiting for us to ascend …

At dawn he is still there, invisible, short of breath, mending his net.

All morning we look for the white face to rise from the lake like a tiny star.
And when it does, we lie back in our watery hair and rock.

Thinking in Haiku (Sounds like an ’80’s Pop Song)

I am currently a little mired in doing critiques of other people’s work so I am getting a bit behind on my blogposts. If you are looking for a decent online workshop and you write science fiction, fantasy or horror, check out www.critters.org. It is a place where you can critique other people’s work and you can post your own work.

This morning I have been kind of thinking in haiku. Here are a few examples:

Storm blew, bending trees.
Wind chimes cried out the assault.
Little sleep for me.

Coffee, milk, and toast.
Much work to be done today.
Quilt warm, pillow soft.

Sometimes, so very cold
Beyond needing a sweater.
Tears warmer than tea.

By intent a hand
hits a drum, sound fills the air.
Nothing is the same.

The pattern for haiku is 5 syllables in the first line, seven syllables in the second line, and the third line again has 5 syllables. It’s good practice to see how dense and succinct you can make the words.

 

Poetry: The Red Poppy by Louise Gluck

I found this poem this evening in my insomniac wanderings across the internet. It struck a chord. Louise Gluck is a poet from New York who is currently a poet in residence at Yale University. Her work has been characterized as being neither “confessional” nor “intellectual.” I liked the simplicity of this poem. It brought to mind the floral paintings of Emil Nolde.

The Red Poppy
by Louise Gluck

The great thing
is not having
a mind. Feelings:
oh, I have those; they
govern me. I have
a lord in heaven
called the sun, and open
for him, showing him
the fire of my own heart, fire
like his presence.
What could such glory be
if not a heart? Oh my brothers and sisters,
were you like me once, long ago,
before you were human? Did you
permit yourselves
to open once, who would never
open again? Because in truth
I am speaking now
the way you do. I speak
because I am shattered.

Poetry: “When You Are Old” by W.B. Yeats

I am currently writing a story revolving around a changeling and have been reviewing Yeats’ poetry. Much of the poetry of William Butler Yeats draws from Irish folklore and mythology. He was greatly influenced and participated in the Celtic Revival of his time period and was linked romantically with Irish revolutionary Maud Gonne. Even though they each married other people and drifted apart, she influenced his poetry. Ezra Pound was also an influence on Yeats’ poetry and Yeats’ poems grew more modern in their expression and imagery but he never gave up using traditional verse forms.

W.B. Yeats left a large and fascinating body of work. He won the Nobel Prize for poetry in 1923. This morning I was reading “When You Are Old.” This one does not draw from Irish folklore and is not romantic in the sense of the romantic movement. I have been thinking about the phrase “pilgrim soul” and what that conjures for me. The final stanza I am still puzzling through. The overall tone of this one for me is regret and lost love. Yeats himself lived to be quite old and passed away when he was 73 in 1939. Please read and enjoy Yeats’ “When You Are Old.”

When You Are Old

by W. B. Yeats

When you are old and grey and full of sleep,
And nodding by the fire, take down this book,
And slowly read, and dream of the soft look
Your eyes had once, and of their shadows deep;

How many loved your moments of glad grace,
And loved your beauty with love false or true,
But one man loved the pilgrim soul in you,
And loved the sorrows of your changing face;

And bending down beside the glowing bars,
Murmur, a little sadly, how Love fled
And paced upon the mountains overhead
And hid his face amid a crowd of stars.

The Ode Less Traveled: Iambic Pentameter

I have written about the book “The Ode Less Traveled” by Stephen Fry in the past. At one point I was going to work my way through the book and do all the exercises. Life intervened and I never did do the poetry exercises. This morning after reading about eighty pages of Stephen King’s book titled “On Writing” which really is very good and I will probably write about it another day, I pulled out “The Ode Less Traveled.”

I read the first section. It introduces the book and talks about meter in poetry. The first exercise involves listening to the rhythm of a set of selections of two lines of poetry that are written in iambic pentameter. Iambic pentameter is a type of meter where every other syllable is stressed. An example would be:
“He bangs the drum and makes a dreadful noise.”

I read through all of the examples and felt confident that I had the rhythm of iambic pentameter. The second exercise in the book is about writing iambic pentameter. I need to work more on this.

Here is what I wrote this morning. It, uh, needs work shall we say. I am still trying to get the hang of this iambic pentameter thing.

Touched

The wind blew fierce and whipped the trees with might
Brown branches bent, cracked, and fell to sodden ground.
With rain, green grass grew slick, dove grey rock black.
The thunderbirds rode chariots of cloud

We hid under woolen blankets to watch.
The scent of pine, lightning’s ozone sharp tang,
And sweat scented the air. I watched the waves,
Relentless scour the shore. Thunderclaps boomed.

One strike from heaven turns sand into glass.
What once could flow unformed and ordinary,
becomes jagged and sharp with crystalline
knowledge too delicate and dangerous.

Writing in a structured meter is hard because you begin to force the meter in your thinking and after awhile you just simply cannot hear the stresses on the syllables. I posted the above poem just to give an example of what I mean. After working on this for the better part of a half an hour I am sure that if I were trying to talk to someone the way that I would say the word dangerous would sound as though I was not a native speaker of English. Also while writing this poem, I was convinced the second line was good iambic pentameter. Looking at it now the stresses are all wrong. I am going to let this activity rest for the day and come back to it tomorrow.

Try writing something in iambic pentameter! It makes you think about the word choice and offers a restriction that forces a bit of creativity.

The Ode Less Traveled

Next week I will post more six sentence stories!

Today I would like to recommend a fabulous book about poetry titled The Ode Less Traveled by Stephen Fry. Stephen Fry writes in the book:

“I have a dark and dreadful secret. I write poetry…. I believe poetry is a primal impulse within all of us. I believe we are all capable of it and furthermore that a small often ignored corner of us positively yearns to try it.”

In The Ode Less Traveled, Fry offers exercises so that the reader can learn about, explore, and write poetry. It is both a kind of workbook that he expects you to deface as well as a textbook to learn about poetry. He wrote the book and kind of operates on the assumption that most people don’t like poetry because it is mysterious and intimidating. He leads the reader through lessons that help them to not just write poetry but to read poetry with a new perspective.

I highly recommend this book. I write poetry to improve my fiction. I want my words to pull multiple duties and have muscle. Writing poetry helps, I believe, to strengthen prose. I am going to work my way through The Ode Less Traveled in the next few months. I will post about the book and what I discover as I work my through it.

The first lesson in the book is about iambic pentameter. The heroic line. It is about listening to the lines, savoring them, and finding where the stresses are that give the words rhythm.

Go forth and listen aptly for the beats in language!