Monthly Archives: February 2016

Lunar New Year, Tibet, Mythology, and Writing by Jennifer Kuzbary

You might be aware we have just emerged from another New Year celebration, a lunar one. From the new moon at the beginning of February until the full moon a few days ago, people all over the world went above and beyond their usual activities to acknowledge this new phase of life. Curious onlookers such as myself are fascinated by some of the rituals and customs of these typically culture-specific happenings.

I am particularly interested in the Tibetan world and its myths and traditions. In Tibet and in many other places, including Houston , people participated in community activities this month associated with bringing in the Year of the Fire Monkey. According to tradition, the challenges of the Fire Monkey year include balancing an aggressive competitiveness with the more nurturing skills of creative sociability and patience.

What does this have to do with you or with your writing? I use this bit of information to illustrate one of many ways mythology can inform our activities and, in particular, our writing.

As you know, good writing requires the writer to have a good imagination. Without that, a reader will have trouble imagining or seeing what the writer had in mind. Take the image of a fire monkey, for example. What do you see? I don’t know about you, but I see a feisty creature, one who is probably full of both mischief and fun. There’s a certain energy here that feels empowering and very playful.

Good writing is like that, too. The reader feels energized as the writer’s playfulness comes through in his or her words.

Consider author Lisa Unger. I am inspired by one of her blog posts in which she says: “There is, after all, no more fascinating or gripping mystery than the human mind.”

I also love her idea of spelunking our way through the mind’s dark cave. To figure out what our fictional characters are all about, we need a flashlight or (better) a headlamp pointed toward whatever it is we might discover to help us get to know them. Imagine yourself wearing a headlamp while poking around in a dark place you just know contains interesting characters and intriguing plotlines.

If it helps, you can even imagine a chatty little fire monkey perched on your shoulder and pointing out what he sees. Who knows? Perhaps something unexpected will come to light and you can write it down, see where it leads.

Let’s return to mythology once more. Oh! The images. So many of them. Again, shine that headlight. From King Arthur’s world to the Greek and Roman gods and goddesses to the obscure mythologies of people we have yet to meet or come to know, the possibilities seem to be unlimited.

In the blog post referenced above, Lisa Unger writes: “I have a very high opinion of my readers, and readers in general. I know them to be wise and intelligent, and – maybe more than any other type of person – open-minded. They are spelunkers like me, always willing to go deeper into the darkness just to see what’s there.”

Whether in Houston, Tibet, or anywhere else in our physical world, we can quickly tap into the mysteries of our own minds and access imaginary worlds which can be used in our stories. All it takes is confidence that something worth writing about is actually there, and a willingness to look for it.

Keep writing, then write some more.

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Fun with Haiku – Days 4-5

This is third and final blog in the series on haiku. This round may be a bit more challenging, and more fun.

For our last two days, let’s add a little twist. Tanka are five-line poems written in 5-7-5-7-7 syllables. Throughout history, there have been different versions of sharing, or chaining, the poems. For example, one person might send the first three lines of 5-7-5 syllables to a friend who then provides the last two seven-syllable lines.

For today, you can take any three-line Senryu or Haiku already provided in the comments or one shared below and add the last two lines. Be sure to include all five lines in your comment.

Seeing the country

  From the backseat of a Ford

    Car-sick too often

Charlotte Phillips

 

The rope swing is there

   A bit more worn than is good.

      Do I dare? I must.

Charlotte Phillips

 

Keep straight down this block,

   Then turn right where you will find

      A peach tree blooming

By Richard Wright

 

Alternately, you can provide the first three lines for one of these:

Taking a very long nap

   is not done at work, I learn

 

Easy to hike down the hill

   Hard to return to the top

Have fun!

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Fun with Haiku – Day 3

Welcome back! (If this is your first trip The Final Twist Blog, you may want to scroll down to the earlier post on haiku. Then again, you may want to just jump right on it.)

Now that we have the hang of the three line,  5-7-5 syllable form, let’s see if we can’t get closer to Haiku by using imagery of nature and seasons to evoke emotion. For today’s topic, you have a choice:

  • Romance
  • Beauty

If you don’t already have the perfect setting for your poem, try these (selected in honor of Black History Month) African landscapes , or these pics of the second largest continent, or, for  fans for The Number One Ladies Detective Agency.

Remember our examples from yesterday:

In the garden pool,

   dark and still, a stepping-stone

      releases the moon

     By O. Mabson Southard

 

Across the still lake,

   through upcurls of morning mist –

      the cry of a loon

By O. Mabson Southard

 

Heaps of black cherries,

   Glittering with drops of rain

      In the evening sun

By Richard Wright

 

Please leave your haiku or senryu in the comments. Have fun!

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Flash Fiction Poll – Moon

Remember the January Flash Fiction blog? We’d like you to help us pick the the best. The first day concerned all things lunar. Please take a look a the submissions and vote for your favorite.

Thanks!

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February Fun – Haiku!

Our January experiment with short fiction was so popular that we decided to do something similar in February.

Before I get into the details for February, though, I must explain why we haven’t yet posted the best contributions from January. The reason is simple. There were so many excellent entries we can’t seem to agree on the best. So, we decided on another first here at The Final Twist – we’re going to figure out how to set up a poll and let you, our readers, decide. Stay tuned!

On to February. The shortest month of the year is the month we celebrate love. We have selected poetry for our February contest. Don’t stop reading! Most of us are prose writers, so we are not expecting Poet Laureate level entries. (If any Poet Laureates want to participate, please do. All are welcome.) The intent is to have some fun. Think karaoke in written form. Specifically, haiku.

Haiku has a rich 700+ year history and its own superstars. Those who are interested should check out:

  • An Introduction to Haiku by Harold G. Henderson
  • The Narrow Road to the Deep North, but Matsuo Basho (that last “o” needs a bar above it)
  • The Haiku Anthology edited by Cor van den Heuvel
  • Haiku: This Other World by Richard Wright
  • Wikipedia

According to Harold G. Henderson, most Haiku are composed, “…for the pleasure of the author and his friends….”  It’s also very short, and should evoke emotion in the reader by painting a picture, which makes it perfect for our purposes.

We’ll use the most commonly known form – 3 lines with specific syllable counts of 5-7-5. Here are some examples:

Capturing a thief,

   I was surprised to find him

      None but my own son

By Basho

 

In the garden pool,

   dark and still, a stepping-stone

 releases the moon

By O. Mabson Southard

 

Across the still lake,

   through upcurls of morning mist –

  the cry of a loon

By O. Mabson Southard

 

Heaps of black cherries,

   Glittering with drops of rain

In the evening sun

By Richard Wright

 

The examples above demonstrate two different types of haiku-like poetry.  The first example, by the Japanese master Basho, is an example of  senryu, a style of haiku that usually involves dark humor or human learning experiences.

Haiku, in its purer form, more often focuses on the natural world and seasons as in the other three examples.

Now it’s your turn. We’ll have a different topic each day for five days. We’ll begin with

  • Romantic Love (day 1)
  • Platonic or Parental Love (day 2)

Please post your romantic haiku in the comments. We’ll have a different topic Monday, so be sure to check back.

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