My Prose Poem ‘Amber Puppy’

My prose poem ‘Amber Puppy’ was first published in Quadrant magazine in September 2019.

I do enjoy writing prose poetry. Prose poetry is a cross between a poem and a prose piece, although, according to Wikipedia,  prose poetry is poetry written in prose form instead of verse form, while preserving poetic qualities such as heightened imagery, parataxis, and emotional effects.

Have a read of my poem and tell me what you think:

Amber Puppy: 

What can an amber puppy mean in a world of Siris and driverless cars?

I was older, one of the Baby Boomers. Life was a series of warnings:  Don’t fall over rugs or loose cords, don’t overeat, don’t go to bed before nine, drink coffee after midday, watch too much Netflix. When the new puppy arrived one birthday, rich brown as a raisin, I heard it shadowing me: Don’t trip on the dog’s lead.

There was much to be anxious about. One day, walking through the park – the rain had eased, spring waterfalls spilled into the creek, soon we would cool off under the trees – I lost my grip on the lead. Into the bushes he fled, disappearing into green. Since when did parks swallow small dogs? I drove home in a frantic car. My best friend. I’d loved him and he’d loved me.

The days staggered past like drunks. I prayed silently, absorbed sunshine, climbed steps, wrote Letters to the Editor. Don’t panic, don’t shallow breathe, don’t think the worst – you could hear it all around. A reclining Buddha could show you how to deepen the breath. A bird call at first light could tell you when to get up. A storm could remember to fill the dams and the water tanks – I was meandering between the trees when I saw him scampering through the creek. Splashing around then shaking himself dry. A muddy escapee. A barking survivor.

Where had he been these three long days? I could wash him, wrap him in a towel, take him home. Unexpected good news could still happen. Dogs off-the-leash need to stay close to their mistresses. Trees shed their leaves in winter and dogs run away, but find their way back. Seventy-two hours later, what can an amber puppy tell you in a world of Botox and identity theft?

See the difference between holding on and losing your grip.

Copyright © 2019 Libby Sommer

My Prose Poem: Sixteen Is A Very Difficult Age, You Know

guitar and harmonica on the grass at sunset

So what is a prose poem? According to the Poetry Foundation, a prose poem is a prose composition that, while not broken into verse lines, demonstrates other traits such as symbols, metaphors, and other figures of speech common to poetry.

If you are able to distill meaning in a very short form, you may enjoy writing prose poetry.

Have a read of my prose poem ‘Sixteen Is A Very Difficult Age, You Know’, first published in Quadrant magazine September 2018.

Sixteen Is a Very Difficult Age, You Know:

Well yes it is. This time of year isn’t easy either. It has most of us by the neck.  You don’t want to get sick at Christmas. They said he needs six weeks of intensive therapy then they’ll decide about medication. How – when everything’s closed till February? Yes, he’s up and down. Better some days, but hardly ever. They said hide all the tablets and remove the kitchen knives. I ring or text to see how he’s going. He doesn’t always pick up. Don’t refer to the incident. Wait for him to say something. Well, he doesn’t say much though he’ll let me give him a hug – sometimes. So here I am trying to gather his forgotten dreams from the air. They’re drifting just outside my reach.

Copyright © 2018 Libby Sommer

My Prose Poem: In the Mall

My prose poem ‘In the Mall’ was selected as an entry in the Microflix Writers Awards and was available to be chosen by filmmakers for adaption to a short film for the 2019 Microflix Awards. The theme was ‘sound’.

Have a read. Hope you enjoy it.

In the Mall‘:

In a café inside a mall in Sydney a small curly-topped girl sobbed and sobbed. She sat on her father’s lap, stabbing her finger into a slice of banana bread. Her dad soothed, whispered, coaxed. What would you like, Tara? He cut into his poached egg. Toast? he cajoled. The girl sobbed more loudly, wailing, coughing, staring out into the mall. I want my mum. She cuddled a pink soft piglet. Our eyes scanned the glass display of croissants, pies and pastries. I loved every carb that did not pass my lips. I loved the sobbing child who heard no one else in that cafe but herself, whose lungs fought hard to reach a soaring, sorrowful pitch. What have you got? an elderly woman asked her. Still crying, the child held up her toy. Her father gave up on his poached eggs and carried her out, still wailing. We went and sat at the table with the stabbed-at bread her finger had made and swept the moist crumbs into a heap.

Copyright (c) Libby Sommer 2019 

My Prose Poem: ‘Taste’

woman sitting on chair while reading book

In terms of creating new material during a pandemic, poetry is where I turn for inspiration.  What about you?

According to Edward Mallinckrodt Distinguished Professor of English, Washington University, St. Louis, Missouri, 1976–90. Poet Laureate of the U.S., 1988–90,  Poetry is literature that evokes a concentrated imaginative awareness of experience or a specific emotional response through language chosen and arranged for its meaning, sound, and rhythm.

Do you find reading and writing poetry right now is how you are able to express yourself during a troubling time?

Phyllis Klein from Women’s Therapy Services puts it this way:  “Turning to poetry, poetry gives rhythm to silence, light to darkness. In poetry we find the magic of metaphor, compactness of expression, use of the five senses, and simplicity or complexity of meaning in a few lines.”

This is my pre-pandemic poem ‘Taste‘ first published in Quadrant magazine May 2019. Have a read. Hope you enjoy it.

Taste:

I rather like poems about minor calamities, bursts of tiny delights, the sun warming the tender skin of the elderly. Also, the way palm fronds conduct themselves during a southerly, dishevelled, exposing the softness of their billowing arms. Pastries in display cases do something for me too. Even cupcakes iced in gelato colours, adorned with miniature decorations … Can you see my preference for the words ‘miniature’ and ‘tiny’, an inclination towards the distilled in a world favouring often the big and the overwhelming? People with the patience to follow a complex recipe – well, that’s not me, but I like to taste what they cook.  Babies in prams kicking chubby legs make me hover – how difficult not to take a bite. If you write something about a paper straw, I will be fascinated. You could try a ladybird, a pocket-size umbrella. The generalised angst of the human condition, however, may be hard for me to get a handle on.  Watch that man with the disabled daughter moisten his finger after her cupcake is eaten and relish the last crumbs. Consider the rainbow-coloured wristband tied to a letterbox on the way to the park or the miniature plastic bucket and spade we found half-hidden on the beach at Bronte and packed with us for years on every visit to the sea.

Copyright © 2019 Libby Sommer

 

Another submission success

hands typing on typewriter

I am very happy to say my new prose poem ‘Someone I Don’t Know Sideswiped My Car’ has been accepted for publication by literary magazine Quadrant. A huge boost to my confidence as a writer. Fear of the blank page and running out of ideas never leaves me. Am very grateful that I am still producing and publishing new work.

So what is prose poetry?

Wikipedia offers this definition of prose poetry: “Prose poetry is poetry written in prose instead of using verse but preserving poetic qualities such as heightened imagery and emotional effects.”

‘A prose poem falls somewhere in the gray area between a story and a poem. Prose poetry also tends to be very, very short, often (but not always) less than one page. Prose poetry blends the styles of poetry and narrative prose.’ – Writer’s Relief

I love creating stories in this very very short form.

Small Fictions

man walks beside train

Have you tried the short short form yet? I might have mentioned before that I am working on a book length series of small fictions – flash fictions and prose poems, some already published in literary journals.

This is one of my flash fictions, THE BACK PACK first published in Quadrant magazine in July 2011. Hope you enjoy it.

The Back Pack

What can a man who meets you at the station and offers to carry your backpack mean to a woman traveling the world alone?

I was scared, like anyone who has no sense of direction.  The journey was a series of stops and starts.  Whether to use the Eurail pass or post it back home and ask the kids to get me a refund.  Giovanni appeared one European winter, thick padded jacket, woolen beanie, scarf and gloves, tall and imposing,  I’ll carry your bag.

I was small, the backpack the length of my spine, the zip-off bag on one shoulder, the daypack positioned in front like a nine-month baby bump.  That evening, as we climbed the steps of the Corniche – the wind bitter across the Mediterranean, the metal stairs covered with slippery ice, the railing melting beneath my hand.  Soon it would become my railway platform, my steps, and Giovanni my landlord.

We walked there in the crisp night air.  My own place.  It didn’t cost much.  No-one yet knew I was here.  I could ask Giovanni if I needed any help.  I knew my children would be pleased I had a base.  I didn’t want them to worry.  It was the thing I wanted the most secretly, studying maps, absorbing travel books.  To be safe, a desire whispered to the moon that moved behind my shoulder at night.  If you guide me to a safe haven I promise to be happy.  And the moon listened.  I did my best.

The winter sky closed down and the spring began its flowering.  I took photos and painted and rang the children every week.  Watch your money, don’t talk to strangers, be careful walking at night – you know the drill.  The pebbly beach, the weekend markets, it was all there for the exploring.  A glimpse of the sea between terracotta roofs – a vision in turquoise.  The cobbled streets could show which way to follow – and none of them wrong.  A room at the top of the stairs – till June I stayed reading the English books Giovanni had left in the bookcase, shopping for food, telling my kids and friends they should come for a visit.

Where had the months gone?  Almost two years on the road.  Summer approached. The rents would go up and the tourists arrive.  Time to move on.  I could only take with me what I could carry on my back.  A Jewish gypsy they said.  One more step into the unknown.  Pack up, give away what I couldn’t manage, but keep the palette knife and miniature easel.  There was stuff happening back home.    The boys were grown and earning a living.  Their sister turned twenty-one.  People were reinventing themselves all over the place then coming back home.  A thousand train rides later, my mother nearly eighty.  I won’t be around much longer, she cried.

His was a helping hand in a world that says, but what are you doing there?  What are you doing?

Copyright © Libby Sommer 2011

For further reading, check out my posts  What Is A Prose Poem? and Writing Tip: A Sense of Place. And to make sure not to miss anything from Libby Sommer Author you can follow me on Facebook  or Instagram.

Best wishes for the festive season, dear WordPress friends.

 

Writing Tip: Small Fictions

 

Libby Sommer with her book The Crystal Ballroom in book store
At Harry Hartog Bookseller

I love writing small fictions, also known as hybrid fiction:  flash, micro fiction, prose poetry.  The form is gaining in traction and you can enter your stories in various competitions like the New Flash Fiction Review.

‘New Flash Fiction Review has chosen to honor master storyteller Anton Chekhov through holding an annual award for excellence in flash fiction— or as they might have said, back in Chekhov’s time, “very short fiction”. Anton Pavlovich Chekhov was a Russian playwright and short-story writer, who is considered to be among the greatest writers of short fiction in history. Chekhov’s mastery for saying a lot with a little makes him one of the flash fiction’s spiritual inspirations. Over one-hundred years before the term “flash” was invented, Chekhov himself was writing short stories in under 1,000 words, stories such as “After the Theatre”, “A Country Cottage”, and “Bliss”. In 1886, Chekhov wrote in a letter to his brother, “… you’ll have a moonlit night if you write that on the mill dam a piece of glass from a broken bottle glittered like a bright little star, and that the black shadow of a dog or a wolf rolled past like a ball.”’ – New Flash Fiction Review

My small fiction titled Undulations was first published in Quadrant magazine. Hope you enjoy it.

Undulations

So we’re sitting in Melbourne in a vegan restaurant reminiscing about our school days spent mucking-up in the back row and Jane (her hair still red, short and frizzy, like childhood) remembers daring me to ask our fourth-grade Geography teacher how to spell ‘undulations’.  What?  “Because I wanted to write her a message,” Jane says.  “An unsigned message saying, ‘The way you run your hands over your boobs to demonstrate undulations is disgusting,’ but didn’t know how to spell it.  So I told you that if you were my friend, you’d ask her.  You know how she always said to speak up if we couldn’t spell something?  For some reason she wrote the word down on a piece of paper, rather than on the blackboard.  Maybe she thought you couldn’t see properly from our eyrie.  So you got back to your desk and passed it to me under the chair.  I wrote in my best handwriting, ‘Your demonstrations of undulations are gross,’ blotted it carefully, and placed it furtively on her table after the recess bell had cleared the room.  When we filed in after lunch, I saw her open it up.”  Jane taps me on the arm enthusiastically.  “What happened then?” I say.  “Was she angry?  Did she think it was me?  Did I get punished?”  How forgetful was I?  Jane had mastered the art of getting the ink from the inkwell to the pen nib to the paper—no ugly blotches—her cursive as good as a professional engraver’s.  Even after all this time, she still prefers a fountain pen and has a proclivity for setting wrongs right.  “She threw the chalk in the bin, reached for her cardigan and draped it over her shoulders,” Jane says, grinning.  “Yes, that’s what happened.  And she didn’t demonstrate undulating landscapes on herself or on any of us ever again.”

Copyright © 2018 Libby Sommer

Or you can study this growing-in-popularity short form by getting a copy of Best Small Fictions by Sonder Press:  ‘The Best Small Fictions is the first ever contemporary anthology solely dedicated to anthologizing the best short hybrid fiction published in a given calendar year.’

“If you are a writer of any kind, this book is also a must read because it will only enhance and inspire your own work, particularly through models of stellar openings/endings and meticulous editing.” — JMWW