Less Coward, More Wilde

Submissions. My one writing imperative is: when the work is ready, send it out. AKA—submit.

Yesterday, I spent a big chunk of time prepping a submission to a literary journal. What I thought I had ready to go were four proems—the form formerly known as the prose poem. All four proems had been through the re-wringer: they had been rewritten, revised, reworked, and refined. They were definitely ready. But first, I had to write my cover letter and a brief bio.

The cover letter was relatively easy, but the brief bio was not to be dashed off. There was a four-sentence limit to the bio, and the journal wanted certain particulars included. When the four sentences with particulars had been crafted and completed, I began the copy-paste process, transferring the work from my original file to the submission doc.

As I gave each proem its own page (as required by the journal), I read through it, to be sure nothing had gone amiss during the transfer. The first two passed the test, but the next two—as I read them aloud one last time—called out to be honed again. Not the whole piece, but in each, I saw the need for more clarity in certain phrasing and description. So, more spit and polish. Actually, there was no spit involved. A lot of polish. After all, Rule No. 3 of my top three writing rules is: Rewrite. Revise, revise, revise, until it sings and you know you’re done.

I set out to submit at noon. Five hours later, I hit “submit.”

Yes, dear, it was a long hard day at work. While it’s true that I long to be like Noël Coward, who reportedly wrote Blithe Spirit in six days, I take comfort in having some kinship with Oscar Wilde, who once told a friend: “I was working on the proof of one of my poems all the morning, and took out a comma. In the afternoon, I put it in again.”

Oscar Wilde in New York, 1882

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On Idleness

“Rest is not idleness, and to lie sometimes on the grass under the trees on a summer’s day, listening to the murmur of water, or watching the clouds float across the sky, is by no means a waste of time.”
— Sir John Lubbock

“It takes a heap of loafing to write a book.”
–Gertrude Stein

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For Australia – A Heavy Rain

A heavy rain is what we need,
that’s what I heard him say.
A heavy rain, but it isn’t in the forecast,
not until May.

Down under, they need rain now,
all the animals, the people, the trees,
all the life of that land,
Australia needs rain now.

If you know how to pray, pray for rain.
If you can imagine, imagine rain.
A downpour in Australia.
Rain, sweet rain.

You can think. Think rain. A heavy rain.
You can dream. Dream rain. A heavy rain.
You can wish. Wish big. Big rain.
Never mind the forecast. Let us predict a miracle.
I don’t know how, I only know
they have happened before,
happened in the past. And down under,
they need a miracle now.

Pray, think, wish, dream, pray.
Imagine the impossible.
Ask for rain, ask for this,
sweet blessed kiss of rain,
a heavy rain, now,
for Australia, a heavy rain.

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Three Rules and One Imperative

My top three writing rules:

1) Write. Write whenever you can, for as long you can. Write.

2) Read everything you write out loud.

3) Rewrite. Revise, revise, revise, until it sings and you know you’re done.

The imperative: Send it out.

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Top Ten Reasons to See “Where’d You Go, Bernadette”

Here are my top ten reasons to see “Where’d You Go, Bernadette”:

1) The phenomenal Cate Blanchett—a perfectly cast genius portraying a genius.

2) The visual splendor of the Antartica. The silent majesty of ice sculpted by nature and the purity of the chill-blue waters underlines the clarion call to save our planet.

3) The sheer joy of the relationship between Bernadette and Bee (Emma Nelson), the daughter who is Bernadette’s life-line.
4) The shock-to-the-system event that sends Bernadette Fox into her downward spiral.
5) The rant-monologue Bernadette delivers to explain why she—an acclaimed architect and one-time MacArthur Genius Fellow—has not designed, built, or created anything in nearly twenty years.
6) The three-sentence summary her mentor, Paul Jellinek (Laurence Fishburne) delivers after Bernadette’s rant — a summation that reduces Bernadette’s explanations and excuses to sound and fury, signifying nothing.
7) Kristen Wiig as Audrey, Bernadette’s absolutely maddening, politically correct neighbor.
8) The Oh-My-God! consequence of Bernadette following to the letter Audrey’s instructions on how to improve the thorn-entrenched blackberry wilderness encroaching on Audrey’s property.
9) The surprise entrance of the FBI, and the equally surprising place Bernadette goes to get help in making her exit from the looming institution about to swallow her life.
10) The deeply satisfying resolution to this story of a person and a family coming undone and put back together again.

You want more reasons? It’s funny. It’s audacious. It’s Cate Blanchett!

Also, there are no guns, no car chases, no aliens. It’s about people, really interesting people. Go already. I think you’ll like it. I loved it.

P.S. Stay for the credits—at least until there are no more images. That’s part of the pay-off.

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Leaning against the windowsill,
stretching to see the last radiant glow
of deep pink in the western sky,
I breathe in the scent of earth
and pray, pray
we will not lose this sweetness
to the deniers and profiteers,
lose everything
to the ones who profit
from denial.

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For You, A Song

For You, A Song

I’ve been a long time gone,
And I’m slow coming home,
I’ve been working away
Putting on a play.

Been putting on a show,
Ask me, how did it go?
Was better than okay,
Was great! I say.

Yes, all of that is true,
And now I have the time
To make up this rhyme
For you.

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Not yet become a Buddha,
this ancient pine tree,


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I Wish

I wish I had a poem
for the wonder of snow
all through the night,
and the children tumbling out
into the morning light,
bundled in jackets
of violet, blue, and pink
blooming in the winter white.

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Lunar New Year Haiku

Three in the morning
Dreaming a song of heartache
Awake now—look, snow!

Thanks to thisischris.com

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