Reflections: My 2018 A to Z Blog Challenge

Hello out there,

I enjoyed the 2018 A to Z Blog Challenge more than 2017. Last year, I just couldn’t break the code. This year, it went well.

I did two challenges during April (as did others like this or this). I wrote poems for the National Poetry Month and mythology for the A to Z Challenge. Unlike last year, I decided not to piggy-back them by using one post for both challenges. Thus, I posted twice on most days and consider my blog stats questionable. Views, likes, and follows were consistent throughout the month.

As with last year, the A to Z reveal in March got a lot of attention. In April I posed to my blog 56 times.

I think my poetry (NaPoWriMo) was favored over the folklore and mythology creatures in A to Z. I got some comments, such as “I did not know that” regarding the myths. I enjoyed most of the research and writing. While I finished both challenges, I was burning out.

On April 1st, I was almost two weeks ahead in writing for A-Z blogs. However, I wrote the NaPoWriMo poems each day based on the midnight prompts 29 out of 30 times. The one day I did not use the prompt, I wrote the poem from a previous idea. As time passed, I lost my advantage on A to Z. By April 29th, I was writing Z for the next day’s final posting. I was ready to stop before the challenges were completed.

While I stopped doing morning pages for April, a good outcome of the April challenges was getting my brain back to daily creative writing and poetry. My writing had slowed to a virtual stop during our move from Washington state to Texas. These challenges helped me to perk-up and I feel more like writing now. I restarted MPs May 2nd.

Since I did two challenges simultaneously and posted twice per day, it makes sense that my 2018 numbers almost doubled what they had been in 2017.

I tried to keep my A-Z posts brief (<600 words) and used at least two graphic images per day. I felt that format might help visitors do a quick reading and move on. When I read other blog posts during April, I did not always finish when they were long reads.

As was the case last year, I was unable to predict the popularity of any post or poem. I am grateful to all who clicked like when they did. And my special thanks to anyone who took the time to comment either in WordPress or on Facebook.

The most interesting thing (it shouldn’t have surprised me) I learned was that people who know me personally prefer when my writing sounds like me (my voice, in their opinion), despite the quality of the writing. It’s as though I’m forgiven when the reader can hear my voice.

I also find that when I can ditch my inner editor for a while, I enjoy writing more. That finding my voice method leads to some “trashy” flapdoodle twaddle, but when I can channel my inner Bukowski, I can feel it (his attitude). I like it. I find pleasure in writing dark, real life, miserable shit, but I avoid it more than I want to. I’m not sure why.

Maybe I am making a mistake allowing my concept of public opinion to dictate my writing style or content. If I was going to publish other than my blog, then that might be wise. But I do this for pleasure.

For now, I need to write from the inner me and stop letting what I think others may think guide me. I’ll work on that. But such letting go isn’t as easy as it sounds. I’m a bit programmed.

Thanks for listening. Look both ways and mind the gaps.

Bill

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Poetry — NaPoWriMo: Et nos unum sumus

The 30th (and final) Global Poetry Writing Month prompt challenged me to write a poem that engages with a strange and fascinating fact.

I picked the last two sentences from Chapter 24 of Bill Bryson’s book, A Short History of Nearly everything. At the end of page 415, he wrote, “It cannot be said too often: all life is one. That is, and I suspect will forever prove to be, the most profound true statement there is.”

 

et nos unum sumus

Life
Life is
All life is
All life is one.

Cells.
Just one. Or many.
DNA and all that
One. All one. All life.

Look and see.
Germs to grass to trees,
Animals, birds, fish, and
We’re all one, all related.

Practical profundity,
Quintessential cousintry,
Uncle monkey’s nephew
The lion with the lamb.

All from the same space dust,
Them, you, me; all of us,
Will wonder never cease?
So little difference, you from me.

(Bill Reynolds, 4/30/2018)

Look both ways — know we are not alone.
Mind the gaps, so you can fill them with love.

Click link to National Poetry Writing Month

Poetry — NaPoWriMo: Cactus Flower of Spring

The 29th (of 30) NaPo prompt challenged me to write a poem based on the Plath Poetry Project’s calendar. I was to pick a poem from the calendar, and then write my own verse that relates to it.

If you don’t know anything about Sylvia Plath, you should. Click on her name to link up. I selected her poem Poppies in July (click for link to analysis) because the city I live in is having a Poppy Festival today. Also, reading the poem and learning about Sylvia’s life was deeply moving.

Poppies In July (by Sylvia Plath)

Little poppies, little hell flames,
Do you do no harm?

You flicker.  I cannot touch you.
I put my hands among the flames.  Nothing burns

And it exhausts me to watch you
Flickering like that, wrinkly and clear red, like the skin of a mouth.

A mouth just bloodied.
Little bloody skirts!

There are fumes I cannot touch.
Where are your opiates, your nauseous capsules?

If I could bleed, or sleep! –
If my mouth could marry a hurt like that!

Or your liquors seep to me, in this glass capsule,
Dulling and stilling.

But colorless.  Colorless.

© by owner. provided at no charge for educational purposes.

Taken on this morning’s walk as I pondered Sylvia and her poem.

Cactus Flower of Spring

Little Cactus Flower of much despair,
Your short life, a sad bad mad dream.

Your song of pity plays on. Oh lord, I want to touch you.
Deeply reaching your inferior, I want to know your pain.

Misery and pain surround you,
dear yellow flower of agony and sorrow.

Surrounded by cacti, as you are,
I cannot save you in life or death.

I can only see your pain today,
Through words you left of such sorrow.

May your pain be gone, your love remains,
O’ Little Flower of despair.

Yellow, green, red and blue,
I see them now, and I think of you.

(Bill Reynolds, 4/29/2018)

 

 

Live and learn and lean both ways, looking for our Cactus Flower.
Mind the thorns and shun the needles, the gaps are there for all to feel.

 

Click link to National Poetry Writing Month

Poetry (sort of, again) — NaPoWriMo: Fix’n ta Pit Stop

The 28th day of NaPoWriMo prompted me to draft a prose poem in the form/style of a postcard. Ain’t it funny, how time drifts away? I got local with vernacular and dialog and supported it with a short video clip.

 

Fix’n ta Pit Stop

Ah war-out ‘tween Austin an Waco, west-a the shinry an’ east a’the hill country. Mah butt was plum give-out. Feelin’ a smidgen puny, ah dismounted. Lucky as all-git-out, seen a big’o swait-tay saloon o’er yonder. It’ud be jist the thang, cuz ah was fixin’ to be flat as a cow-patty, ‘n dry as Odessa. Ah jerked up mah britches, an moseyed o’r to Harly’s Truck Stop. Dark as a big thicket, them ‘boys gimme a look’n over. Ah tipped mah sombrero, “Howdy. How y’all doin’?” “Ah’ite, ah’rite,” and “better’n all git out,” an one oh’boy yelled, “How ‘bout them ka‘boys?” Barkeep smiled, “Wha’cha drinkin’?” “I’ll have Shirly Temple.” Bar goes silent. Bar back says, “She jist left.” Ah near got-down with all the hootin’ and a-hall-erin’. “Well then, how ‘bout cold Lone Star? An gimme some’a-dem chips ‘n sausa.” Ah drank-up ‘n warshed-up, “Been good. Nite-cha-all,” and ah headed out fer Willie’s Place up ‘a road prit’-near Carl’s Corner.

(Bill Reynolds, 4/28/2018)

This is where I live folks. Lest you think I make this shit up:

Ride sober, look both ways, take breaks,
drink un-swait-tay, mind the gaps,
and love Willie.

Click link to National Poetry Writing Month

Poetry — NaPoWriMo: Her Three Cups

The day 27 NaPoWriMo prompt encourages me to pick a tarot card and then to write a poem inspired either by the card or by the images or ideas that are associated with it.

I know very little about tarot cards, and I have never had any kind of reading. I selected a card after reviewing what I could, most of which left me worse off than before I started. I selected the three of cups because after this only three more days will be left in the poetry challenge, three is a prime number, and three has significance in many areas such as religion, superstition, art, and even death. I also like cups, and the three woman pictured seem right. I’ve no idea why I have that thought. I am so not a mystic.

The tarot site said of the card, “Maidens in a garden-ground with cups uplifted, as if pledging one another. Divinatory Meanings: The conclusion of any matter in plenty, perfection and merriment; happy issue, victory, fulfilment, solace, healing, Reversed: Expedition, dispatch, achievement, end. It signifies also the side of excess in physical enjoyment, and the pleasures of the senses.”

Her Three Cups

She held out the cards and said to me,
“You must believe for this to work.”
I smiled to her and looked to see,
“This must work, then I’ll believe.”
Quiet and intense – she made us hot tea.

She poured, “Why so much, you refuse to believe?”
“I accept what is true, I trust in the proof.”
Spread out the cards as she said to me,
“I pick. Minds of deep doubt lead rarely to truth.”
She guided my hand, “This card you must see.”

Three maids with three cups meant nothing to me,
“Thrice blessed or so cursed, look close to this card.
For the rest of your life, the number is three.”
“What is this message? Must this be quite so hard?”
“It is what this is, and what you choose to believe.”

(Bill Reynolds, 4/27/2018)

Look both ways to find the truth.
Mind the gaps in the facts.

Click link to National Poetry Writing Month

Poetry – NaPoWriMo: The Big Bike Ride

The day 26 NaPoWriMo prompt encourages me to write a poem that includes images that engage all five senses (touch, sight, hearing, smell, and taste). I’ve reached for this kind of writing in the past because I enjoy it. This is one I wish I had more time to work, but the deal is a poem a day, finished or not.

The Big Bike Ride

Special pants and socks and ankle-high boots,
jacket, sunglasses, and ear-plugs too.
Put on the gloves and crank her on up,
listen to the purr of ma sweet little pup.
Map and cell phone, no room for ma cup.

Turn her handgrip and feel her pull forward,
tap on her brakes, then turn on her blinker,
it’s left then right, to a big road we’re headin’ toward.
Feel as one this man and machine, search for a groove
as together we skate, and down the road, so swiftly we move.

Feel the freedom and the touch of the wind,
see other traffic and hope they see you.
Mowers ahead, oh yes, that smell of fresh-cut grass.
Getting hard, this seat could be a pain in my ass.
Onto that big road where the traffic will pass.

So many cars and big trucks run in this hot Texas sun.
Crank hard on her handgrip to push her big run,
zip into the traffic and all of its dangers, we are not
to this wind some unknown strangers. Cars and trucks,
unaware of chaos they cause, pushing air all around.

Racked by turbulent wind, we lean left then right,
be in control no matter the fight. Look all around
and hope they see us. Damn these trucks make a terrible sound.
Truck’s got some cooking hot tires and stinking back brakes,
add to this big deal, the unwanted odor of burning black diesel.

First thunder, then lightning, we tighten our grip.
The smell of the rain gives up its first tip.
No longer we see them, they cannot see us.
The downpour continues and collects in our saddle.
Up this creek, we need a boat and some paddles.

See the sign, take the next exit. Slow to be sure we find the road safe.
What if this, what if that? And the now to the rain – slowly it stops.
Soaked to our bones, with the taste of rain fresh in my mouth.
Together we dried, so onto the little farm road, we’re ready to ride.
Smell the clean air and sweet wild flowers, all country scents.

The danger is gone, the road is now ours,
lean into the turns and feel the fresh start.
Now it’s a good day to go on for hours.
See colorful flowers born in the fields,
and the green trees. Look at the streams, now running so free.

Look and lean into each turn, she feels the road and my soft touch.
See the cows looking at us. Behold the ride, feels so right.
Not too fast nor too slow, see horses and sheep as along we go.
As we smell mom’s apple pie, roll-on, smooth curvy road.
Now it’s all worth it that danger and fear are in the past.

Let’s pull on over, Honda my dear. This is Cow Creek,
and here we can rest. I will can eat lunch and read you this book,
sitting just there while you cool off your heat.
Maybe you’ll soften that firm and hot seat,
as I write this here poem and have something to eat.

(Bill Reynolds, 4/26/2018)

Rider? Look all ways. Mind the gaps. Mind everything. See, be seen!

Click link to National Poetry Writing Month

Poetry (sort of) — NaPoWriMo: Warnings Cautions & Notes

The day 25 NaPoWriMo prompt encourages me to write a poem in the form of a warning label about myself.

For humor, I decided to twist the prompt a little. I also added too many warning memes for the same reason. Sorry. I hope you laugh. I did.

When I flew airplanes for the US Air Force we used (and carried with us while flying) many technical instructions, called tech orders. All military flying has similar things but may call them something different (i.e. Navy is NATOPS because thou shalt not out acronym the US Navy). The most important of these weighty volumes, now probably carried electronically, was titled a Flight Manual (dash-one in AF jargon). If yer familiar with this, you’ve prolly guessed where I am going.

My poem has three parts: warnings, cautions, and notes. (We had to memorize warnings and cautions.) I am using the same definitions in my poem.

Warnings are operating procedures, practices, etc., which, if not correctly followed, could result in personal injury or loss of life. Cautions are practices that could result in damage or destruction of equipment, loss of effectiveness, or long-term health hazards to personnel. I will add hurt feelings, pain, and tears to the list. Notes are things essential to highlight. The folks who write that stuff don’t just make it up. One never wanted to be the reason for a warning, caution, or note being added to a tech order. But this is supposed to be about me. I used third person, casual.

 

Just so ya know.

I – Warnings

Irrationally defensive of loved ones.
Capital punishment opposer,
…but willing executioner, if necessary.
45 years with US DoD, never kilt a body,
…but might try anything once.
Game to breaking rules & taking chances,
…not tough enough to be too stupid.
Drives safe and wears seat belts,
…but known to play road-rage roulette.

Goats are fake ewes.

II – Cautions

Given to fits of laughter for no reason,
…or at the most inappropriate times.
Thinks snarkasm should be Olympic sport,
…it’s his only chance for a gold medal.
Sheepishly grins at who thinks him harmless,
…often delights in being misunderstood.
Understanding & compassionate listener,
…until your whiney-ass is drama royalty.
He don’t hunt, fish, play golf, or ride a Harley,
…he writes poems, loves animals, & gots a soft heart,
… he’ll edgimacate any who sees it a weakness.

III – Notes

Thinks blunt synonymous with
…clear, concise, and brutally honest.
Loves to use foul language at random.
Likes to argue without knowing why.
Thinks Irish are the soul of humor.
Is way past old enough to know better,
…pretends to no longer give a shit.

Anti-masturbation?

(Bill Reynolds, USAF, Retired, 4/25/2018)

Can’t you see, Ah, Lawd, can’t cha see wha’ dat woman’s been a-doin’ ta me?
Look both ways, my way and yours.
Mind the gaps, cuz Ima’ways right.

It’s them damn atheists again.

Breathing is optional.

Doc asked me what motivated me to quit smoking.

Click link to National Poetry Writing Month