Category Archives: Writing

Opportunity Overload and Outcome

Handwritten writing exercise-document detailThere were so many enticing word-related opportunities lately, I overloaded myself and had to pull back. Here is the result of one that I enjoyed through a local group called The Village Writers School. The writing exercise briefly pulled me out of poetry into short-story writing. It was a 15-minute challenge based on a choice of prompts. The prompt I chose was “First Impressions.” Here is how it went:

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Winter Withdrawal

Banner featuring magnifying glass and candle

What to say?
I used to think my writing would foster and help preserve meaningful life events. I further expected that these recorded experiences and discoveries would later prove helpful to people in some way. But what generally happens is this:  During key times of intense exploration and insight, the writing evaporates almost entirely.

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Poetry: Villanelle

Villa entranceYes, the “Villanelle” verse form relates to villas, or at least to villagers. Possibly, it derived from the work songs sung by Italian peasants as they tended crops.

As a poet, why have I avoided traditional forms so long? …Arrogance, laziness, freedom, efficiency—or what? My response is: All of the above, plus a good dose of fear. To me, it seemed a violation of an emergent poem’s integrity to stuff it in a straitjacket of just so many lines, beats per line, rhyme patterns, or even a prescribed mood or theme. “Let the poem make its own choices,” I protested, considering myself more midwife than mother. Besides, following all those writing rules is hard work.

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Creative Realms

Clear-Mind Flow

After a decade of writing near-daily poems, I’m surprised at how often I’m surprised doing it. When I don’t come to the task ready with a topic, I often simply position the pencil over the paper, clear my mind, and wait for some kind of flow (words, images, or emotions). If I resist writing whatever first appears, that resistance sets up a blockage. So no matter what comes, I welcome it, even if no poem results. In every case, though, a wonderful gift arrives—an absurdity, a memory, an exploration of pain, or something else altogether.

Statue of Dreamer


Writing this way is akin to dreaming. It taps into normally hidden or disowned realms of consciousness. Once retrieval is made, analysis can begin. Today’s poem-writing process illustrates that adventure.

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Poetry Lessons

Poems on scrap paperPoetry and Learning 

Poems get lost. Over the years, many of mine have disappeared due to computer crashes, lost flash drives, and other kinds of accident or neglect. I steward them better now, such as by posting them online.

Rarely, a poem finds its way back to me from the void, such as when found on a scrap of paper tucked in a notebook. I’ll share one of those poems in a minute (below).

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Author, Author!

My claim to authorship is rather thin, since—outside of career—my writing is usually devoted to personal projects rather than public ones.

That’s starting to change. On October 5, the Springdale Library will host an Arkansas Author’s event and I am one of the participants. At the event, I’ll promote my writing and book illustration. I may also have to explain the photo of myself that appears in the library’s announcement. It’s the one at the top of this blog, but without the three monkeys … which leaves me looking rather impudent toward my audience. Anyway, if you’re nearby with free time, please come to the library that afternoon with your support.

Thanks!  ♥ ~Jo

Rhyming Dictionaries

Tools and Fools

“Argue for your limitations and they’re yours.”
~ Richard Bach

Poets should avoid rhyming dictionaries like a pestilence*, I used to think. These “aids” too easily form a crutch, distract, or lead astray. Instead, poets should develop access to their abundant internal writing resources.

Guitar Strings

Lyrics combine poetry and music

A music video converted me from this foolishness. It featured lyrics by Leonard Cohen and showed that one of this renowned poet-musician’s favored tools was a rhyming dictionary. Immediately after discovering this, I abandoned my self-imposed rule of avoidance.

The switch initiated some learning: Continue reading