Fiction by Stuart Nager from our virtual circles

The party took a turn when I was in the shower. Steam clouded the entire bathroom. I was waiting. It was taking its time tonight. A heavy thumping on the door makes me jump every time. Three times: THUMP pause THUMP pause THUMP! Silence. I thought it wouldn’t happen tonight. I was wrong. My eyes jerked to the curtain with the first THUMP. The second THUMP and my stomach fell to my ankles. My heart skipped a beat while my testicles disappeared with the third THUMP. The sound of the water beating down drowned out. Rain without sound. That rain was now scalding my skin. That damn noise!

Again.

Continue reading “Fiction by Stuart Nager from our virtual circles”

Poetry by Tedo Wyman from our virtual circles

May Day

"Sunday morning,
chat in the backyard
sounds great," I text,
and it sounds
like a plan,
a téte-â-téte
under her sweetgum tree
at opposite ends of the yard,
in lawnchairs.
We'll keep our voices
up, yell at each other
those private things
friends need to share
my sex life,
her rage,
it'll be the next
"Overheard in Nyack"
podcast, we'll dub the
episode "Two Crones Vent" or
"Broads Go Bonkers in Lockdown."
Neighbors will tune in live,
we'll blow enough foam
off the oat lattés
to modify the air current
of our spirits:
summon Feng Po Po,
pull off the stoic masks,
emerge from
screened images,
rampage
into the trenches
of flesh and blood to
invoke the Anemoi,
banish Boreas,
declare victory.

Image from #atthebirdfeeder © 2020 david e bell

Prompt for May 8 – Virtual Carson McCullers House

The personification of nature as “Mother Nature” often feels a bit strange to me. And as we head into Mothers’ Day weekend, I’m reflecting on the nature of this– the oddness of the expectations set up by this poetic gesture.

Perhaps she painted this humble landscape,
whose unbrowsed grasses, daisies, Queen Anne's Lace,
and thistles stretch to the farthest mountain
with no tree or boulder to hide behind,
no landmark the human eye can focus on...

(from THISTLES in a FIELD by Marilyn Nelson,
in Ghost Fishing: An Eco-justice Poetry Anthology, 
ed. Melissa Tuckey)

Maybe it feels odd exactly because I think of it as a poetic gesture, which is something that can be extended infinitely. We can take it too far.

But sometimes it is very useful to our practice to take a figurative usage too far. For tonight’s writing, try stretching the personification to comic, grotesque, charming, or awe-inspiring dimensions. Wonder for a moment what kind of Mothers’ Day card fits this mother.

Imagine and write and join us at 7pm in our virtual salon on Zoom for readings and conversation over these fresh-on-the-page musings.

Prompt for May 8 – Virtual Barat House

Aspiration

In a moment like this for sure I see
how lazy and insufficient in love
have been those dreadfully many moments
that came before and came before as I
sleepwalked through them feeling very clever
while speaking slowly of mindfulness.

George Saunders

This is the first line of “Aspiration,” a short poem that George Saunders shared with fans in a recent newsletter, the first that he’s sent out since the pandemic lockdowns began. I personally find the line an apt observation of what happens within at the moment of so many personal transformations.

Use the prompt to inspire your work in any form (poetry or prose; fiction of any genre; creative nonfiction, essay, or memoir).

Log into our virtual meeting at 1pm here for readings and discussion.

If you prefer to post your work to our blog, visit Submittable after 12pm to upload your work. We will do our best to publish everything we receive.

Fiction by Daniel Bliss from our virtual circles

Disturbance

“Dr. Finkelstein, I have to thank you for seeing me on such short notice, I—” She felt the room around her disintegrating and recombining with each of her breaths, with the beat of her heart. In, like the outer world were made of sand, swept away by the wind. Out, back again, completely reconstituted. She closed her eyes. It was better with her eyes closed, she realized.

“Not at all, my dear,” the doctor said. “I live to serve my patients, every one.”

Staccato, between short breaths, she started talking: “A week ago . . . you gave me . . . a bottle. You told me—”

“A bottle?”

“All right, go on.”

“What was in that bottle, Dr. Finkelstein?”

Continue reading “Fiction by Daniel Bliss from our virtual circles”

Prompt for May 6 – Virtual Didier Dumas

The party took a turn when . . .

This prompt is inspired by the first line of one of my favorite novels on family complications, Commonwealth by Ann Patchett. But you don’t have to write about family.

Use the prompt to inspire your work in any form (poetry or prose; fiction of any genre; creative nonfiction, essay, or memoir).

Log into our virtual meeting at 8pm here.

If you would like to post your work to our blog, visit Submittable after 7pm to upload your work. We will do our best to publish everything we receive.

Deeper dive into the prompt

Mother’s Day is this Sunday. I’m a mother several times over, and I love my own mother, but I’ve always felt conflicted about the holiday. Mother’s Day greeting cards epitomize the silly but very human urge we all have to simplify the complex. (To say the least.) Commonwealth explodes the myth of the simple, serene nuclear American family truthfully, with insight and good humor. If Mother’s Day is truly about family, Commonwealth is the slant Mother’s Day card you’ll never find on the rack.

Memoir by david e bell from our virtual circles

A Walk Up the Driveway (5)

The distance across my harbor.
The equator of my world.
At dusk, an amble up the drive
gray gravel damp underfoot
a milk over cereal crunching

I’ve raked gravel down this driveway in summer heat, sweat stinging broken blisters. I’ve shoveled this driveway after a late winter storm, numbing cold meltwater seeping through the worn-out seams of boots long past their sell-by date. I’ve dug a drainage ditch through wet leaves and hard packed earth in the cold slashing autumn rain. But most of all I’ve ridden a cafeteria tray down hard-packed snow in the half lit night of a winter snowstorm, laughing.

Continue reading “Memoir by david e bell from our virtual circles”

Prompt for May 1 – Virtual Carson McCullers House

Poet Eavan Boland died this week, and I have been too sad to think about it until just now, as I started considering what prompt might honor her memory.

I learned a lot from her in a book she co-edited with Mark Strand, The Making of a Poem: A Norton Anthology of Poetic Forms. She reflects in her wonderfully personal introductory essay on the way her lyric voice started to enter and claim the domain of traditional forms:

“To start with, if I get up from the table, walk out of my room, I can hear the breathing and stirring of my small children. All day I will have been with them: lifting them, talking to them, drying their tears, setting their clothes aside at the end of the day. Through all these tasks and pleasures I have begun to hear my voice. It is the entirely natural, sometimes exasperated and always human voice of someone living in the middle of their life, from task to task, full of love and intense perceptions.”

I found it wonderfully consoling to think of her, esteemed poet, sounding exasperated. The exercise to begin your writing tonight: jot down a sentence or fragment you said earlier today to someone. It could be something from a text or email that you sent. And then go someplace from there, paying attention to the form of the utterance and the form of what comes next, in whatever genre you prefer.

Join us on zoom at 7pm tonight for readings and conversation. Hope to see you then!

Prompt for May 1 – Virtual Barat House

In and Out of the Frame

Choose an image from this Life magazine archive , from your own photographs, or from a work of art—here’s one featured on Google Arts and Culture today, but you might prefer one that’s hanging on your wall. Or just look outside, restricting yourself to the confines of the window frame.

What can you reveal about the unseen? Does one of the people in the frame have a hidden characteristic or secret? You can extend this question to animals and other beings, to the plants, the built or natural landscape, the historical period, whether real or imagined. Extend beyond the frame, if you like.

Use the prompt to inspire your work in any form (poetry or prose; fiction of any genre; creative nonfiction, essay, or memoir).

Log into our virtual meeting at 1pm here for readings and discussion.

If you prefer to post your work to our blog, visit Submittable after 12pm to upload your work. We will do our best to publish everything we receive.


Thank you to River River board member and Journal editor Rebecca Watkins and her poetry for inspiring this prompt.