Poem: Storyteller

I should’ve been a poet
At this late stage,
Instead of losing myself
In stories—
Other people’s stories—

Not the ones
That excite my imagination
But bore a hole in my life,
That nothing
But another escape
Can fill.

And so I am a storyteller,
Silent with more words
Than anyone wants me to speak.
Storytellers need someone
To listen;
Poets need only whisper to themselves.


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Poem: Romancing the Word

You constantly long
for the right word,
though how could you ever
be content
with just one-

courting the idea
of a sentence,
a paragraph,
a page,
from the first chapter
through many more
to the end?

This is the romance
you live for now
and perhaps always have,
for your heart
has been stolen
more often
by your imagination
than your reality.

Don’t give up
because your love
is unrequited
and it seems
no one will ever know
how it breathed
as though
nothing else mattered.

Be true
to your calling
and don’t regret
a word of it,
for each one
that comes to you
takes your hand
in hopes
of fitting your vision
and pleasing your voice
like diamonds

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Shining on Appointed Sands

Emily Dickinson wrote…

The moon is distant from the sea

and yet with amber hands

She leads him, docile as a boy,

 Along appointed sands.

I can visualize her taking a break from late night writing to look out her bedroom window beyond swaying branches and sliding clouds at that moody orb begging to be personified. She sees its face but also its soul with a shape and light and purpose that illuminates her own. There’s supremacy in its position suspended between heaven and earth which offers her some influence too, at least, with words. She has never seen the sea…yet is well versed in waves and tides and depths and even foreign shores. She might really be alone but for the companions her musings make, such so-called isolation filled by a myriad of encounters in a life traversed though not traveled, only seeming to stand still if the movement of her poetry isn’t considered.

It’s amazing where her imagination takes her and also what it brings her, like a window not only for looking through but opening.

Opening. Eyes seeing more than meet them. A heart loving beyond reason. An intellect curious for more than it can get hold of. A soul reaching into the memory of every where and time. Opening. Into a poem, a play, a story, a sermon, a song. Even a newspaper article. There are the facts and what is done with them, experiences and what is made of them, opinions and what is freed or enslaved by them. Then there are visions, exploring the less obvious, paradoxical and creative.

A spider’s web sparkles with dew to strangle a fly, the wind blows to caress the trees and bring them down, water washes what it can also drowned, snow blankets the spring that wants to rise up.

A writer lifts her voice in silence, sails away without leaving port, realizes she may never return, cries without tears, and smiles without anyone to appreciate how wise she looks when she does. She thinks and therefore she is, falters and therefore she isn’t, feels her destiny so it only matters that she keeps on writing. The window is wide open and she leans out as far as she can without falling into the prickly bushes below.

Because even in retreat she needs to let her spirit go, telling stories she feels compelled to tell, into the past as if it was the future, studying like a scholar and dreaming like a fool, taking chances without risking anything, looking up for something to show her the way of shining on her own appointed sands.


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Creative Writing for Creative Readers

Like many writers in “purgatory”(to borrow an apt word from James Herriot of All Creatures Great and Small fame) while trying to get published, I’ve encountered the question of which genre my novel belongs to. One of the cardinal rules in submitting a manuscript to literary agents or publishers maintains that an author needs to have a clear idea of its potential readership. My experience so far seems to confirm that without conformance to the idea that a book will only be read for its genre, “the heaven” of being third party published requires extra prayers.

It’s hard enough to research and narrow down the vast lists of agents and their specialties with a work that is fairly easy to categorize; even then it’s a game of throwing one’s creative labors to chance in hopes of scoring an advocate. It’s nearly impossible when you didn’t think about which bookseller’s “aisle” it should be placed in until it was too late—and, to make matters worse, if even at that point you’re very glad you didn’t.

Why shouldn’t a novel (or short story or poem or painting or symphony) be marketed as a commodity? After all it eventually needs to be sold to be of any value, right? Certainly this is the choice that confronts artistic souls again and again, whether to treasure their vision and voice or surrender to what potential financial profit might see and say for them.  “Write without pay until somebody offers to pay” Mark Twain advises. Often the rest of the quote is omitted: “If nobody offers to pay within three years, the candidate may look upon this circumstance with the most implicit confidence as the sign that sawing wood is what he was intended for!” Well, I haven’t quit my “wood sawing” job! But still I write and believe that in spite of any cynicism, freely doing something is the only way of getting it done for whatever the rewards may be.

I create (and live) best in a naive bubble which doesn’t think of formulas for success or how to classify the result or even whether anyone else cares what I’m doing—yes! that’s nirvana for me!  It sounds selfish and is selfish, as meditation or any sacred practice is—a quiet place amid the chatter so words can actually be my friends, unity between my desires and abilities, patience with my highs and lows, amazement for how large and small a story is, knowing what I want to accomplish and through study and imagination finding the inspiration and perseverance to do so. The writing comes as so much in life does—turning out exactly or nothing like envisioned. It can’t be neatly wrapped as then and there or here and now, as something out of this world or too much in it, as romance or mystery or thriller, as uplifting or depressing, for this market or that. It might be for very few or very many; perhaps only the unknown should be the judge of that.

Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote: “One must be an inventor to read well. There is then creative reading as well as creative writing.”

That is the gift that all the arts offer all of us—where the selfishness becomes sharing the inventors in ourselves, the unlimited possibilities of our intellects and imaginations and hearts and spirits, an adventurousness that suspects there is much to discover if we go where we’ve never gone before. That is what I’ve realized as a reader and writer for whom there’s much yet to experience beyond what I ever thought I wanted to.

Creative readers (including those who don’t yet know they are)—do you ever think of what the categorizers are keeping from you?

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Words and Music

I am listening to The Plaint: O Let Me Weep by Henry Purcell, playing it over and over, a mantra while I’m writing. Even vocal music doesn’t distract me if it’s fluid and expressive, like the current under a boat, sending a narrative on its way. In the liner notes of soprano Nancy Argenta’s Songs and Airs CD, Adelaide de Place writes that “Purcell liked to compare music and poetry with two mutually supportive sisters.” Stradella would’ve appreciated the comparison, perhaps smiling mischievously, preferring to create a little rivalry. Though never discord. Even his Italian “sisters” would’ve bowed gracefully to his designs, side by side, arms entwined, differences reconciled as their voices blended into one sound so beautiful no man could put asunder.

English lawyer, biographer and “Renaissance man” Roger North (1653 – 1754, who figures prominently in my new novel) wrote that “poetry called” his grandfather, the 1st Lord North, “to music.” For me it was the other way around, music expressing almost everything I couldn’t until I picked up a pen like a violinist lifts his bow and interpreted it into something so personal, beyond thought and emotion. Without music I may never have written a word, never realized I had to write, never lost track of time until I found myself alone in its company having forgotten how to speak – except silently.

Both words and music are about playing with silence, like birdsong or breezes or rain or thunder, our breathing or someone else’s, heartbeats and heartaches, love-affairs and loneliness. As with the chicken and the egg, their collaboration employs a circular cause and consequence, no way and no need to answer the question of which came first or is more important. As music inspires me to write, I desire to make music of my writing.

As I write now I am thinking of ghosts and not minding the melancholy, for it sounds so pleasing I question there is anything more joyful. It’s as if I’m enveloped in a prayer. O let me weep…or smile…or dream…or despair as I please, let me never be at a loss for words and music. Amen.

©Artwork and writing, unless otherwise indicated, are the property of Diane M Denton. Please request permission to reproduce or post elsewhere with a link back to bardessdmdenton. Thank you.