aqua fortis

Sunday, December 27, 2009

A Toast to Non-Blogging

This is just a little something to tide you over until I a) stop being sick (stupid Recurring Head Cold From Hell) and b) think of something interesting to say. As you can see, I was too lazy to even ink it in before scanning, so you get a pencil drawing with minor Photoshop enhancements. Bully for you! As is usual with my blog cartoons, click to view larger.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

New Year's Poetry Challenge, Day Five

Still a day behind. Oh well. This one was fun: Write a found poem using the front page of your local paper or an article from a magazine you have around the house. I was immobilized on the couch by a cat on my lap, so I cheated slightly and used National Geographic online. I used this article on Alaska Coasts Melting. I wasn't going to use this article--it's fairly short and repetitive--but I couldn't resist the town of Lonely.

Leaving Lonelytown

Swallowed by the sea
near the town of Lonely
Remains of the ghost town

a century on shore
buried underwater

perpetually frozen earth
erosion patterns

the findings
document human settlements
At least one has already been lost
another will soon be gone

unusual landscape
especially vulnerable

a picture of a whaling boat
massive amounts of ice

a natural process
melting so fast
a shift in the forces
plans can be devised

not just the ice
according to the research
but it would be unusual.

© Sarah J. Stevenson 2009

Like I said, this was fun...I could definitely do more of these.

Monday, December 14, 2009

New Year's Poetry Challenge, Day Four

Let me just say that I'm really having fun trying out this poetry challenge--it's a nice change of pace for my brain. I don't know how well the "loose narrative" approach is working, but who cares? I can always string them together differently later. Yesterday's prompt was: Think of your kitchen table or your coffee table. Write an ode, a celebratory poem, about one object on your kitchen/coffee table. If your kitchen/coffee table is clear, then write about the table itself.

I picked an object on the coffee table that I then loosely interpreted, and then it turned into less of an ode and more of a something else. I also thought I would write the ode using Sapphic meter but that's also sort of loosely used, particularly in the last line of each stanza. And, again, I'm trying to write not so much from my viewpoint as that of a character I'm attempting to convey through the imagery of the poems. So, whether what "happens" in the poem is "true" is up for interpretation.


Box of paints in small metal tubes, my mustered
lineup of hues, red, orange, yellow, green, blue--
Tones of rare earth, cobalt and zinc, iron, ochre
My bright chemistry.

Unseen layers visible, dreams made too real
Fears and horrors rendered, reduced to mere brush-
strokes and lines. I have that finesse. But I can't
paint out the past.

Pink, dilute with water, I dab, then dry brush
Dark-leaved trees—the place where I sat with you, yes,
Where this painting hatched, where the colors, light, dark,
shone and became fact.

Little paint box is simply a tool, gentle spear
Tickling essence out of the mortal shell—small
beast is served to please human senses, bright splash
on taste buds, swallowed.

© Sarah J. Stevenson 2009

Saturday, December 12, 2009

New Year's Poetry Challenge, Day Three

What happened to Day Two? you ask. I didn't want to post it. It isn't that I feel like I wrote a terrible poem, but I definitely feel "meh" about it. However, I should note in the interests of continuity that the prompt was to write a poem about a house in which we grew up without using the words "house" or "home." This might be useful information, since I'm trying to write my poems in a loosely connected fashion. In order to encourage this (and just to set an arbitrary parameter), I'm also using the last word of each poem as the first word of the next one.

Anyway, today's prompt was: Write a poem for, about, or to Wendy Toftmyer. The qualification to this prompt was: "Note: I don't know any Wendy Toftmyers. I made up the name for the purposes of this prompt. So, apologies to any real Wendy Toftmyers who may be out there." Here's the result...again, bearing in mind that the last poem was (loosely speaking) about a childhood home.

Dear Wendy

Invisible ink in unnoticed hands
Will an invisible envelope still arrive?

I watched you swing too high
I watched you climb the oak tree
I watched you eat dirt

We haven't spoken in years.
I hardly spoke, even then.
You talked for both of us.

I did not eat the dirt
I climbed the tree with trembling legs
I swung close to earth.

Before I left the empty house
You stood quiet, both feet on the ground.
I never wrote.

I still have your necklace
An invisible heart in a box.

© Sarah J. Stevenson 2009

I think I wasn't sure whether to be autobiographical or not in Day Two's poem, which is why it's not really working. This one is not autobiographical, on the whole. I guess you could say it has some metaphorical or symbolic truth.

I'm also thinking I need to write funnier poems at some point in this process. It's all gloom and doom, or at least pensiveness, so far.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Distractions: New Year's Poetry Challenge

Besides the inevitable and regularly occurring philosophical debates with myself (see below), lately I've just been waiting on tenterhooks to find out what's going to happen next in the novel publication process. Most of the other stuff I do is merely a distraction to keep from futilely checking my e-mail every seven seconds. I'm also restraining myself from sending annoyingly codependent e-mails to my editor in the hopes of finding something out. So in the meantime, I'm working on revising a different manuscript (about a girl who acquires the ability to hear thoughts) and I've also decided, for better or for worse, to try out a New Year's Poetry Challenge.

As you know from previous posts, I don't write a lot of poems. But when a friend (who is also a local poet) sent me the invitation to participate in the challenge--30 poems in 30 days, inspired by daily prompts--I decided to say yes. And this is truly a challenge for me, but I'm looking forward to composing language on a closer level, to indulging a sheer love of words themselves. I may or may not post them all here, but I thought I'd put up my first day's effort.

The prompt was: Write a winter haiku. I started by looking at some internet information about the history and structure of haiku, and then I put it away and wrote this:

Winter Haiku

Leaves hunch under frost
Her fingertips cannot reach
Through the cold window.

© Sarah J. Stevenson 2009

There is a structural ambiguity with subtle differences in meaning that I rather like. I was reminded that every word is so important in a haiku; it's a very distilled form and rather intimidating.

I can't remember the last time I set out to write a serious haiku, but my vague thought was to set the scene for a loose poetry narrative that I will try to follow as it meanders throughout the month. I might go back and accompany each one with artwork, and perhaps make an artist's book in the end. I have no idea where it's going yet.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

I'm Totally Normal. Abby Normal.

Naples - Museo Archeologico NazionaleThe more time I spend pursuing a career, a life's work, that's in the creative arts (visual or written), the more I realize that another major task for me is reconciling myself to the idea of living life in a not entirely linear fashion. What I mean by that is, creative pursuits don't always lend themselves to a straight road. It's not uncommon, I'm finding, for people to meander a bit.

Perhaps this will be a bit clearer if I provide some contrast. Take my parents. Though they are very different from one another in a myriad of other ways, they are both a bit linear, especially when it comes to how they see working life. This is not necessarily a bad thing, not at all. In fact, I envy them. For them, this is how life generally works: Kid is bright and shows potential. Kid goes to college and majors in chosen field. Kid becomes knowledgeable in said field. Knowledge leads to degree or series of degrees; degree leads directly and immediately to reliable and long-term employment in field of study. Success and stability are achieved in all acceptable societal measures of such.

In the arts, this just isn't always the case. But it's taken me a while to come to terms with that fact that it's not a sign of wrongness or failure, but simply NORMAL. The more I look at authors' book jacket or website bios, though, the more I recognize kindred spirits, the more weird jobs I find, the more--not flitting about, but doing a lot of other things to earn money so that you can pursue your art. And I realize that it isn't necessarily dilettantism that has caused my longest-held salaried position to be less than two years in duration. I look with a sense of relief at the biographies of other YA writers, like Jessica Day George or Jennifer Allison, both of whose bios I recently read. I look at my stepdad, one of the smartest and most creative people I know, and the fact that within his working career he's been a carpenter, an adult ESL teacher, an optician, a high school biology teacher, and a bit of an artist, too--in his retirement, he's making pottery using molds and a homemade kiln. I have to remind myself that it shouldn't be a source of embarrassment or shame to not hold the same job my entire life, to not have a "real job" in the same way that others see it. I AM doing my "real job." Every second that I live.