A Gaggle of Favorite Poems

This week I am continuing my celebration of National Poetry Month by posting a gaggle of favorites.

A gaggle is a term of venery for a flock of geese that is not in flight; in flight, the group can be called a skein. A gaggle is equal to at least five geese.

A gaggle is also equal to eight fifty pound bags of salt. Usually one layer on a skid.

In military slang, a gaggle is an unorganized group doing nothing. In aviation, it is a large, loosely organized tactical formation of aircraft.

Based on this Wikipedia definition, I conjectured that a gaggle of poetry consists of exactly four poems in a loose tactical formation. 🙂

I have included links to what I hope is helpful analysis if you are interested. Enjoy!

 

1. “The Brain–is wider than the sky” by Emily Dickinson

This is a lovely poem about the vastness of our minds and inner worlds. I like the analysis of blogger ritzala.

The Brain — is wider than the Sky —
For — put them side by side —
The one the other will contain
With ease — and You — beside —

The Brain is deeper than the sea —
For — hold them — Blue to Blue —
The one the other will absorb —
As Sponges — Buckets — do —

The Brain is just the weight of God —
For — Heft them — Pound for Pound —
And they will differ — if they do —
As Syllable from Sound —

 

Bird Millman Popular_Mechanics_1917

Tightrope Walker Bird Millman, Popular Mechanics 1917

2. “Constantly Risking Absurdity” by Lawrence Ferlinghetti

This is an interesting poem about writing poetry. I like the analysis provided by jhamann on hubpages.

Constantly risking absurdity
                                             and death
            whenever he performs
                                        above the heads
                                                            of his audience
   the poet like an acrobat
                                 climbs on rime
                                          to a high wire of his own making
and balancing on eyebeams
                                     above a sea of faces
             paces his way
                               to the other side of day
    performing entrechats
                               and sleight-of-foot tricks
and other high theatrics
                               and all without mistaking
                     any thing
                               for what it may not be
       For he’s the super realist
                                     who must perforce perceive
                   taut truth
                                 before the taking of each stance or step
in his supposed advance
                                  toward that still higher perch
where Beauty stands and waits
                                     with gravity
                                                to start her death-defying leap
      And he
             a little charleychaplin man
                                           who may or may not catch
               her fair eternal form
                                     spreadeagled in the empty air
                  of existence

 

toy-pictures-12

3. “Women” by May Swenson

This is one of my favorite poems about women actively choosing who they will be and how they will and will not relate to men.

Whether or not you agree with the sardonic view and feminism of the poem, it raises a lot of important considerations about identity and purpose. The notion of exploitation is a universal one to which just about anyone can relate.

I like the analysis provided by SuperItchy.com.

Women                                 Or they
   should be                              should be
      pedestals                              little horses
         moving                                 those wooden
            pedestals                              sweet
               moving                                 oldfashioned
                  to the                                    painted
                     motions                                 rocking
                        of men                                  horses
                        the gladdest things in the toyroom
                           The                                       feelingly
                        pegs                                     and then
                     of their                                 unfeelingly
                  ears                                     To be
               so familiar                            joyfully
            and dear                               ridden
         to the trusting                      rockingly
      fists                                    ridden until
   To be chafed                        the restored
egos dismount and the legs stride away
Immobile                            willing
   sweetlipped                         to be set
      sturdy                                 into motion
         and smiling                         Women
            women                                 should be
               should always                        pedestals
                  be waiting                              to men

4. “i thank You God for most this amazing” by e. e. cummings

Completing my gaggle is this gem, in celebration of all the effervescent springtime writer walkabouts I’ve been enjoying. This one’s pretty straight-forward so instead of a link to analysis, here is a cool choral rendition of the poem for your ears.

i thank You God for most this amazing
day: for the leaping greenly spirits of trees
and a blue true dream of sky; and for everything
which is natural which is infinite which is yes

(i who have died am alive again today,
and this is the sun’s birthday; this is the birth
day of life and of love and wings: and of the gay
great happening illimitably earth)

how should tasting touching hearing seeing
breathing any–lifted from the no
of all nothing–human merely being
doubt unimaginable You?

(now the ears of my ears awake and
now the eyes of my eyes are opened)

Spring walkabout

Again, if you write poetry please post a link as I’d love to read it. Have a wonderful week!

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My Panelist Schedule for Comic Con 2015 #FanX15 in SLC

Comic Con FanX 2015

I am super excited to be a panelist at next week’s Comic Con 2015: Fan Experience in Salt Lake City, Utah. The last couple have been an absolute blast! 

IMG_5588

For all you writers, my book about how to save your poor wrists while amplifying your hourly word count came out a month ago: HOW TO DICTATE YOUR WRITING LIKE IT’S…2015. The first book in my middle grade series HULDUSNOOPS is also available, for those of you needing some Icelandic fantasy / sci fi in your lives (this should be all of you).

13 Advantages to Dictating Your Writing and What a Writing Walkabout Looks Like

Here is my panelist schedule, though you can also search for my name on the main event site or download the app. Please come up and say hi!

Friday January 30, 2015

2:00 pm: Writing and Health, Ballroom C

8:00 pm: Equality in Speculative Fiction, Ballroom C

I love going to Cons. The energy you get from being around that much nerdiness and creativity is palpable. And in the words of Stan Lee:

Comic Con Stan Lee Quote

So. Whether you are local or need to make the trip, it sounds like this is where you should be next weekend!!

But if you can’t make it, I’ll be posting about epic costumes and miscellany on Instagram which feeds to the right on this blog. 

Writing Characters Who Are Female, Not Females Who Are Characters

Characters I enjoy reading about are written for their personality and decisions first and foremost. On the other hand, I do not think I have ever fallen in love with characters who were described primarily by their gender stereotypes.

Maybe when I was five, watching Aurora, Snow White, and Cinderella as interpreted by Disney but I’ll get to that in a minute.

This is part of my series of posts on How to Write Well-Rounded Female Characters

Distinguishing Attributes from Character

Write someone with a good personality–which could be benevolent or evil!–and it doesn’t really matter whether they are male or female. Brunette or blonde. Gay or straight. Any race. You get the picture. Those are attributes and subsets of a character’s full self.

Thoughts. Conflicts. Experiences. Relationships. Quirks. Choices. Weaknesses. Inner philosophies. I mean, think of the most interesting person in your whole life. Would they be just as interesting if they were a different gender? Of course.

For that reason, I say if you want to write a vivid and well-rounded female character, don’t obsess over the fact that she’s female.

To my delight, the fabulous Neil Gaiman agrees. When asked about writing female characters he said the following as quoted on a site called The Mary Sue:

“I always feel like the wrong person to be asked when I get asked that question because people say, ‘Well how do you write such good female characters?’ And I go, ‘Well I write people.’ Approximately half of the people I know are female and they’re cool, and they’re interesting, and so, why wouldn’t I?”

And thus Mr. Gaiman deftly revealed himself to be, in my book, the perfect person to answer that question. Interestingly, though, Gaiman does believe books end up taking on a gender of their own. I’ll have to think about that one.

Assumptions Versus Articulation: Don’t Be Lazy!

While gender may inform aspects of the characters we write, my opinion is that the more it does, the less developed that character tends to be. Gender stereotypes allow an author to plaster the reader with assumptions about their character, rather than doing the work of articulating who this person is as a distinct individual.

That’s pretty much the lazy way out!

You have to earn the right to intrigue readers, by working to know a character’s inner workings. If you don’t know them, your reader won’t know them, and not knowing usually means not being intrigued enough to care about what happens to them.

A Poor Example from Among the Disney Ladies

Princess Aurora of Sleeping Beauty.  This character has been revisited in later works, but I’m referring to the first Disney movie.

Princess_aurora_disney

Promotional Image from Disney

She wore a pink dress. She was lovely and sang with birds. She was saved by a really good kiss. I feel Princess Aurora was written as a female and not much else. She’s a stock representative of prevailing feminine stereotypes.

What are her weaknesses? What’s going on in her head? She could be anyone in there! Would you want to eat lunch with her and have a conversation? Who knows?!

She’s a main character so why do we not know what makes her tick beyond the fact that she doesn’t like being locked up unable to talk to strangers and she has a thing for handsome princes? Hardly distinguishing traits.

A Better Example from Disney Characters

Mulan. Yes, I love that she was a more proactive personality who cross-dressed and got the job done! But she was also just written better.

Promotional Image from Disney

Promotional Image from Disney

We know oodles about this rad character from seeing her family interactions, her reaction to cultural expectations, her problem-solving, her motivation to save her family’s honor (and China!), what she says no to, what she says yes to, what scares her, what impresses her, and on and on.

Writing the What, Why, and How

The point is, maybe a particular character should be written as a more passive personality like Aurora. The problem isn’t the character, it’s how the character is written. With Aurora, we hardly get the ‘what’ of who she is let alone the ‘why’ she is that way or ‘how’ her personality manifests itself. Instead, we see manifestation after manifestation that Aurora is female.

It’s odd, really!

As I’ve composed this, I’ve really tried to think of a situation when you would want to write a nondescript female main character (or a male one for that matter). In art I feel there are always exceptions so I have to be open to that but I couldn’t concoct one. If you have or if you have anything else to say about all this, please leave a comment!

This is part of my series of posts on How to Write Well-Rounded Female Characters

How to Write Well-Rounded Female Characters in Speculative Fiction

I was recently on a few Comic Con panels about women in speculative fiction (fantasy, science fiction, and other genres). One of my favorites was titled, “Women Warriors and Female Shamans—How to Avoid Stereotypes in Writing”. I loved hearing from my fellow-panelists as well as audience members. It was super cool!

This week, I’m publishing a series of blog posts about how to write whole or well-rounded female characters in speculative fiction.

Yes, I will get sassy on this topic. But I do realize it is a point of real concern for some writers. To that I say, good on ya. This is a really important topic not only for writing but for life!

In fact, I’d like to just start out sassy.

Women Aren’t Flat

If you immediately thought I was talking about boobs, this exercise might be for you! (Okay, actually I would have thought the same thing).

The next time you look at the people living in your house, take notice. Are the men three-dimensional, thinking, emotional, decision-making beings while the women act like flat pieces of paper? No? Interesting.

If the women in real life aren’t one-dimensional, why would you write female characters in science fiction or fantasy that way? It’s so weird how often this happens. No human should be written as a paper doll!

fairytale-paperdoll-graphicsfairy009c

Women Aren’t Easy

Again, if you immediately thought. . .The next time you are at a bus stop and start imagining life stories written on all the people around you, take notice of how you do so.

Are the men covered with words belying the fully-developed, complex stories of their upbringing, financial situation, health concerns, temptations, obstacles, and responsibilities, while the women get only easy, terse labels? Gorgeous. Bitter. Young. Old. Desperate. Sweet.

Art reflects life. Your art reflects your inner life. Please tell me you don’t think of women so simply.

Women Aren’t All Things Nice

The next time you are in a conversation, take notice. Are the men’s statements showing a range of emotions, motivations, complex outlooks, and life decisions while the women are focused on the approval of the men, making the men feel good about what they’ve said, or being sweet at all costs?

If so, you might consider finding some more interesting female friends! Or at least honest ones. Because even those women who behave as if they are all things nice (or all things relative to men!) are actually whole characters and will manifest themselves as such at some point even if they bottle it up now.

And by the way, being a whole character makes women authentically human, not broken versions of what some people have decided women should be.

Most if not all readers have experienced well-rounded female personalities in their real lives, so mere sugar and spice will not a believable female character make.

You don’t want your readers having the same reaction I hope you have to this 1902 poster I found in the Library of Congress:

02926r

For That Matter, Women Aren’t Missing Entirely

The next evening you find yourself thinking about your day, take notice. How many women did you see? Was there one token female arbitrarily placed somewhere in your day with very few lines and even fewer distinguishing character traits? And yes, she was unbelievably smokin’ hot. Naturally!

Even if some scenes in your novel are comprised mostly of men, the overall story should reflect the reality that people generally see a more equal distribution of women to men in a given day. Some stories are exceptions to this based on plot, but not many. Especially in genres as progressive as sci fi or fantasy!

For example, marketing for the 1953 work “The Space Pioneers” invited girls along, but the actual story itself did not reflect their presence. Sound familiar?

The Space Pioneers

Calling All Boys and Girls

How to Write Well-Rounded Female Characters

So I’ve had my little rant, that after thousands upon thousands of years, humans are still having trouble with what to do with women as a concept. Oy vay!

But ultimately, you may still find it elusive to write well-rounded female characters and that’s a legitimate quest.

As a quick aside, notice I did not say ‘strong female characters’ because even though I personally favor ‘strong female characters’, I do not think every well-written female personality has to be a kick-butt man-with-boobs.

To the contrary, I think a lot of ‘traditionally feminine’ qualities are super strong. I personally subscribe to the idea that a man or woman can expand their life by embracing both the ‘traditionally masculine’ and ‘traditionally feminine’ qualities.

But whatever your personal philosophy or taste, you know what your female characters can’t be? Written flat as paper, with simple labels you lazily slapped on rather than getting to know them, and devoid of realistic depth of motivation. Or non-existent.

As always, feel free to comment!

More on writing female characters:

My Schedule for Comic Con 2014: Fan Experience in SLC

Comic Con 2014

I am super excited to be a panelist at next week’s Comic Con 2014: Fan Experience in Salt Lake City, Utah.

You’ll notice my participation spans a couple genres. That’s just how I roll. 

For example, my series THE SALT SHEEN PARADOXis a sci fi time travel mystery with a fair dose of romance. The first book in the series, AVIATRIX, is available on Amazon.

I’ll keep you posted!

Thursday April 17, 2014

1:00 pm: Women Warriors and Female Shamans—How to Avoid Stereotypes in Writing

3:00 pm: The Female Superhero: Fighting Crime in Pearls and Heels

Friday April 18, 2014

10:00 am: Writing Software Showdown: The Best Tools for Writing Novels, Screenplays & Comics

2:00 pm: Lovecraft and Poe: What Influence do They Have on Modern Horror?

4:00 pm: No Girls Allowed? Not Anymore: Girls who Make Sci-Fi/Fantasy Chic

6:00 pm: 39 Steps to Bates Motel: Why Hitchcock Still Resonates

Saturday April 19, 2014

4/19 10:00 am: Downton Abby: How a Stuffy British Drama Became One of TV’s Most Addictive Shows

4/19 4:00 pm: Self-Publishing, Indie Publishing and Traditional Publishing: Which One is Right for You?

If you have never been to a con, you should definitely consider it. Even if you can’t make it, I’ll be posting about epic costumes…and anything else epic that crosses my path. It’s going to be a blast!