2011 Incarcerated Teens Poetry Workshop #4

Today was the fourth of twelve sessions teaching poetry to a group of incarcerated teenage girls.

It was not a good day.

I confess, I like walking into a classroom of boys and being greeted with mostly positive energy. When I walk into the girl’s class, I am mostly ignored. I know they are in lock up and have no choice about attending the class. I know they have a lot of issues. But some days, well, as any teacher knows some days are harder than others.

They picked a word for their group poem, worked on it for a while but without much energy. They used it more as an excuse to chatter about other things and call out put-downs to each other. Halfway through they begged for another word and said they would do better. Softie that I am, I agreed to switch. We changed from TRUTH to LIES but the group poem fizzled out when every other comment from a girl was a negative about someone’s love life. There was no group poem today.
We moved on to haiku which they had requested to do. I handed out a sheet of paper with a dozen haiku on it. I asked them to read them then pick one they liked and tell me what they liked about it. I had barely turned around when they started with, “I don’t get it. I don’t know what to do.” Which quickly spiraled downward to, “This is dumb.”
But they did it. This much credit I’ll give them. All but one girl contributed thoughts about the haiku they read.
Then we talked about the “season” words in haiku and I asked them to find the season words in the samples they had. They did okay with that. But that wasn’t writing.
When I ask them to write their own haiku (after more discussion and brainstorming) it was just more chatter. I knew I didn’t have control of the class but I didn’t know what to do to get it back again. (That’s if I ever had it in the first place.) This is one of those times that I really wish I was a formally trained teacher with more experience and training to handle situations like this. When the few that wrote shared their work it was a giant step backwards from what they had done before. GIANT step.
I don’t think it was the haiku. I think they just decided that today was the day they weren’t going to write, weren’t going to work, weren’t going to cooperate. The girl who had written the poem that made her (and me) cry on Friday had lost her privileges for the week so she opted out of everything saying it didn’t matter what she did because she was already screwed. She kept mouthing out to everyone around her.
Midway we stopped to talk about what they did or didn’t like about poetry. Most of them said they liked poetry fine as long as they could write it on their own time and not in a forced poetry class. I understand them not wanting to write and being half-assed about it all but still, they are in lock up and they have to follow the rules, get credits toward graduation, etc.
No matter what I asked them the answer was no or I don’t care.
The two hours felt like 8 and I was completely drained when I was done.
I think this was one of the testing sessions that tends to happen each time I teach in lock-up situations. I need to come up with some really good and fun poetry lessons to share on Friday. I’m thinking of YouTube videos of poets performing their work. I also need to come in full of confidence to show them they haven’t beaten me.
I think what is the hardest about days like this is that I know in my heart how poetry and writing can help them think about their lives differently, how it can help them begin to heal. I know how writing things down can make things better, even if it is just for a sliver of that particular moment. I know how writing has saved me until I was strong enough to save myself.
But I can’t tell them that. I can only try to light a path.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011|Categories: Incarcerated Teen Poets 2011|Tags: , , , , , |19 Comments

Write After Reading: Living the Life Poetic (Chapter 63)

Welcome to another installment of Write After Reading: Writing the Life Poetic, a weekly online book club with poetry participation. It alternates between my blog and Laura’s blog. Last week, over at Laura’s blog, we talked about chapter 58 and writing the Zeitgist. Today I picked chapter 63, Taking Shape, Experimenting with Poetic Forms.

This chapter talks briefly about how the constraints of a form can actually improve your poetry or at least lead you down some interesting paths. Though I haven’t yet devoted the time to mastering some of the longer forms I do agree that having that structure often helps me focus my poetic attention in much the same way that we found when we did the Mad Libs.

Here’s an online source with easy explanations of the forms of verse – Poetry Handbook.

I opted to go for haiku since I’m writing this late at night after a crazy-making day but I hope to come back tomorrow and try some other forms as well.

sleeping dog whimpers
chases squirrel shadows, barks
hunter triumphant

one week, no flour, sugar
bad habits need undoing
how will I survive?

Wednesday, June 15, 2011|Categories: Poetry Prompts|Tags: , |49 Comments

The Writing-Art connection

I wanted to come up with some wonderful title about the interesection of writing and art in my life so I could write more posts using the same wonderful title about the interesection of writing and art in my life but, you see where this is going right? I spent fifteen minutes brainstorming titles and got nothing. I seriously, I mean SERIOUSLY, considering not writing the post until I came up with the perfect title which would have meant, of course, that the post would never get written.

Luckily I caught myself in the middle of that vicious cycle and I stopped. I told myself it was just a blog post. Just get the darn thing written. (Ah, if only that worked on me for novels.)

I spent some time this weekend printing out some photographs to use in some art journals for my poetry. I printed out all the inspiration photos from any of the 15 Words or Less photopoetry exercises I’ve done over the years on  ‘s blog. I printed out all the in inspiration photos to go with the Native Plant haiku I wrote for National Poetry Month a few years ago. This meant a lot of fighting with the color printer, some good prints made and some so-so prints made. And eventually I pulled out some matte photos of the same stuff I had printed at the drug store thinking I’d use some of them too. My idea was to collage the photos into some of the lovely blank journals I have painted recently and then print the short poems in the journal along with the inspiration photo. I had lots of journals prepped because my go-to thing when doing art is to do a color-wash on a page of a blank journal.

In my head I had this picture of a journal full of watercolor pages with these pictures and my poems and then I’d do some collage with my beautiful papers and then some of the doodling I love. I didn’t want a scrapbook. I wanted art. And in my head, it was a masterpiece.

In reality, at the moment, none of the project is making me happy. The thin paper has photos that don’t look very sharp and the drugstore photos look like, well, modern photographs which don’t match up with the watercolor backgrounds. I’m two steps away from tossing it all in a box and putting in the laundry room so I can forget about it for a while. I’d much rather just grab a blank journal and start covering the pages with color. It’s easy. It’s fun. And I already know how to do it.

And I realized that’s what happens with my writing too. When the going gets tough, I go write something else. Beginnings? No problem. I’m great at first chapters, first pages. Poems that will never be published? Sure thing, I’ll get right on that. Novels that are broken or unwritten or finished but need to be tossed and started over? Stories that exist as a perfect vision in my head that never make it onto the page? Got lots of those too.

Now I’m not beating myself up (much) about my habits of starting and my failures in the follow-through department. I’m just noticing the pattern. And I’m thinking that maybe what I have been worrying about so much of the time, the not finishing, the starting way too many things and then discarding them, maybe it’s not always a bad thing. Maybe it’s just “my” thing. My process. Like working a puzzle. Some people might put the outside edges together and then look for matching colors and work within that group of colors, putting things together. Other people might just start in one corner and pick up piece after piece after piece to try against the same spot. They’ll eventually make the connection, it’s just going to take them longer.

I don’t always work that way but when I do I have allowed myself to feel “less than.”  And by that I mean even while I’m doing it, I know I’m taking the longest, hardest way possible and I know other people would do it differently and get there faster and the fact that I’m not doing it the same way as other people has often made me feel less than them. Less than right. Less than the creative person I know I am.

And that’s wrong.

Now I can see that my long meandering way is just that, my long meandering way to the same end, just with a different view as I journey.

This morning I took another look at the photographs printed on paper and printed like photographs. And I looked at the colored journal pages. I gazed at the blank white pages of another journal, still tempted to just grab my watercolor crayons and do something easy.

But I thought about Max, the dog in one of my novels-in-progress. I thought about how I found that newspaper clipping last week that confirmed the crazy painful plot idea I had was valid. I knew from the start that Max was going to be a hard book to write but that it was also going to teach me a lot about writing. And I got that tingle. That little tingle we get when we know we’re on the right path even if it looks like we’re going to fall off the edge of the cliff with just one more step. I love that feeling. It confirms that I’m doing what I’m supposed to be doing, even if I’m marching to an off-beat drummer.

I took another look at my piles of poems and photographs. I torn some photos into pieces. I grabbed some paint and glue.  And I started to think about how I could create a different sort of art, a different masterpiece than the original vision. I don’t know how long it will take. I’ll only know that when I am done, I will have told another story my way, the only way I know how to do it.

Monday, May 23, 2011|Categories: Writing Life|Tags: , , |8 Comments

2011 – Poem a day #26

My month of play and this month of introspection has led to, well, a lot of introspection. I’ve also been working my way through my self-help and motivational books in the library. Rereading old favorites, culling books that no longer speak to me. I feel I’m in a better state of mind, happier in the here and now, than I have been in a long time, perhaps ever. But that doesn’t mean I don’t look back and wish I could undo some things, wish I could fix a lot of things I didn’t do or I did in a way I wish I hadn’t. One message comes through again and again, forgive yourself and move on.

But boy, that forgiving oneself is a hard one, harder for me than learning how to be here now.

Three haiku today.

drawing the hard line
between making my amends
and making things worse

no one can tell me
if my choice is right or wrong
silence shouts at me

easily said but
looking to forgive myself
hard habit to learn

Susan Taylor Brown
All rights reserved

Tuesday, April 26, 2011|Categories: National Poetry Month 2011, Susan's Original Poems|Tags: , , |2 Comments

2011 – Poem a Day #18

If you haven’t already seen Brené Brown’s TED talk on vulnerability, you need to go watch it now. Really. After watching it you might want to order one of her books. I highly recommend both of them but my favorite is The Gifts of Imperfection. So much of the creative world I live in is centered around feedback from others – is my work good enough to publish, to exhibit? Will I get reviewed and if so, will the review be any good? I admire those creatives who are able to say screw the rest of the world, I’m creating what I want to create. I can do it sometimes but not always.

But after reading Brené’s books I realize there are more ways to seek that approval than just with publishing. It’s all around me and I’ve become hyper-aware of it, maybe too aware of it, because I find myself hesitating to do things, to say things, because I don’t know if it will be perceived as trying to call attention to myself. As with everything else, I suppose it is a balancing act and I will have to go too far the other direction and then pull myself back to the center.

Chasing worthiness
want to quit that full-time job
my ego screams NO

Susan Taylor Brown.
All rights reserved.

Monday, April 18, 2011|Categories: National Poetry Month 2011, Susan's Original Poems|Tags: , , |3 Comments

2011 – Poem a Day #17

Behind again. A haiku from yesterday.

monkey flower blooms
beside the unfurling fern
can you hear me laugh?

Susan Taylor Brown.
All rights reserved.

Sunday, April 17, 2011|Categories: National Poetry Month 2011, Susan's Original Poems|Tags: , , |5 Comments

2011 – Poem a Day #15

I am horrible about falling into the “compare” trap when talking about progress on a project. If I’ve written 100 words, someone else has done 500. If I manage 1,000, someone else has done a chapter. It’s discouraging to me so I find that I have to pull away from reading a lot of what my friends are doing. This is even worse when I am working in verse because word counts and chapter counts, well, they don’t count up the same. So I am trying to celebrate a poem a day. More is good. More is great. But more doesn’t always happen and that’s okay.

Poem a Day #15

one well-written poem
(no chapters, word or page counts)
a productive day

Susan Taylor Brown.
All rights reserved.

Friday, April 15, 2011|Categories: National Poetry Month 2011, Susan's Original Poems|Tags: , , |10 Comments

2011 – Poem a Day #8

Today has been more pondering about my struggle to write or struggling to not write or struggling to not care what other people think about what I want to write. Just some rough haiku as I try to move through the muddled part of my brain.

falling on deaf ears
my words, pulled from my soul, yes,
my heart breaks again

my heart breaks again
stories stagnate within me
this is what I fear

this is what I fear
doubt wins too many battles
words unwritten wait

words unwritten wait
happily ever after
more than just a dream

Susan Taylor Brown.
All rights reserved.

Friday, April 8, 2011|Categories: National Poetry Month 2011, Susan's Original Poems|Tags: , , |4 Comments

2011 – Poem a Day #5

Painting kept me in the here and now. In ten and fifteen minute increments I could focus on colors and textures and forget about writing. Except I could never really forget. Not completely.

Two more haiku

untold stories wait
while silence overwhelms me.
at my desk, I weep

I am a writer
who does not write, undefined,
who am I now?

Susan Taylor Brown.
All rights reserved.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011|Categories: National Poetry Month 2011, Susan's Original Poems|Tags: , , |6 Comments

2011 – Poem a Day #4

I’ve always been one of those writers who said they “heard voices” and didn’t see pictures. I could tell you how my characters felt but not what they looked like. Even my dreams were primarily auditory and not visual.

During my month of play I gave myself the same sleep intention every night, “What stories should I tell?” I didn’t even mention a character’s name because I didn’t want to influence my subconscious. For a few weeks I had no response. None in my dreams and none in one of those moments of inspiration that come when you least except it. I just kept on doing what I was already doing. I couldn’t say that I trusted the process, I just hadn’t invested anything emotionally in a particular outcome.

After a few weeks of practicing mixing colors and playing with various texture techniques, I was surprised to find myself thinking in pictures and not words. Now considering my fears around not writing and wondering if I would ever write again, this might have made me even more afraid that my silence was permanent and not just a passing pause. But instead I found it invigorating. Laying in bed, waiting to fall asleep and I would wonder what would happen if added a glaze of burnt sienna or dripped some India ink across the half-finished collage that waited on my desk. I saw myself grabbing a handful of colorful papers and gluing them willy-nilly and watching a sunset explode in front of me.

Making art was changing the way my brain worked.

A pair of haiku for today.

paints tales only I can hear
when I close my eyes

silence sits with me
I am unafraid. Art sings,
colors hold my hand

Susan Taylor Brown.
All rights reserved.

Monday, April 4, 2011|Categories: National Poetry Month 2011, Susan's Original Poems|Tags: , , |7 Comments

5 Things I've Learned About Myself Recently

I was going to post this on Friday for a Friday five but then it started getting really long. Then I was going to post it on Saturday and didn’t. By Sunday I convinced myself to wait until Monday. That’s the way my thought process has been going these days.

I haven’t been around the blogosphere lately because I’ve been doing a lot of pondering about myself and my writing and my online life and art and a whole bunch of stuff. Not sure that many folks even read this any more because I haven’t been good about interacting and I know that’s what makes you fall off of other people’s radar. Anyway, here are some thoughts around some of the things I’ve been thinking.

1. It’s important to think about the whys behind your doing of things.

I have become (mostly unintentionally) greatly disconnected from the online world. Some of this is a carryover from all the house stuff last year but some of it is me dog-paddling for so long that I just don’t have the energy to keep it up anymore. Hard to keep swimming when you don’t see any land in sight. So lately I’m not Tweeting. I’m not blogging or responding to blogs. I’m trying to keep up on Facebook status updates but that’s about it. In some ways this has been good. Online is noisy and even if the noise is virtual, for me it’s like being at a rock concert 24/7. And I don’t do concerts.

Taking in all that info, trying to remember who to check in with, making the rounds and making the rounds and then, one more time, making the rounds it can drain me. It can also fill me, when there’s the give and take with people but because of my unintentional disconnect, there hasn’t been that give and take. I’ve taken from everyone for too long without giving back so people move on. I understand. It’s the way things work. The trouble is figuring out where to jump back in again because it’s not just the jumping in…it’s the convincing myself to keep going beyond those quiet times while things build back up again. So this has been the subject of much pondering on my part.

I recently bought and watched a CD from Brene Brown called The Hustle For Worthniess which was an extension from one of her books (sorry, I can’t remember which one) but the idea of hustling around, doing things we think will make us worthy of someone’s attention rang a little bit too true for me. So I’ve been wondering, why do I Tweet? Why do I use Facebook? And most importantly, why do I blog? Am I trying to help other people or am I seeking attention for myself? And if I want the attention, is that a bad thing, a hustling for worthiness sort of thing? I’m still trying to figure that one out. What confuses me is that a friend told me recently that I am at my best when I put myself out there with honesty and transparency. That rings true for me but then it is all about me, me, me and I don’t know that I am offering anything else to the world.

2. Not everything you try is going to work, and that’s okay.

I am probably going to retire The Poetry Push I started on Tuesdays. It hasn’t taken off and I know that a big reason for that is because of my own lack of participation in the event and in other online things. I think the result might have been different if I had started it during a peak rather than a valley. I might use the list poem prompts as my project for National Poetry month since that’s coming up next month and I have no idea what I am going to do for that. Two years ago when I participated for the first time I wrote haiku about my native garden. Last year I wrote poems about the father I never knew.This year I have no idea. I thought about trying to write poems about Cassie but I don’t know if I could come up with 30 of them. I thought about doing a different poetry prompt each day, doing the exercise myself and hoping more people would participate. I thought about trying to write about art and what it is adding/doing to my life. But so far nothing seems both right and achievable. Because I really hate failing.

3. Play time is an important gift to give yourself, especially guilt-free play time.

I gave myself the gift of March as an entire month of play. It came about as a result of taking with a friend about working and not working and she said you know, there’s a big difference between not working and beating yourself up about it and feeling guilty and then, instead, giving yourself permission to take time off and then not feeling guilty about not working. She was right so when I went to my Asilomar conference at the end of March I let myself think about which one I was doing and finally decided to give myself a month of guilt-free play. I’ve been taking painting lessons online and doing a lot of art. I’ve been sitting in the garden and doing nothing. I’ve been reading non-fiction. And I’ve been waiting for stories to tell me they want me to pay attention to them. The stories, well they’ve surprised me. I’ve been reading more poetry and feeling, at times, less like writing it. I am being drawn back to some middle grade prose ideas I’ve played with. Then of course I start to second-guess myself about why I feel less like writing poetry when I go back and read what I’ve written and mostly like it. I think some of it has to do with the labels and pressures that are placed on verse novelists. (Not that labels and pressures aren’t places on all writers.) Which goes back to my first point and wondering if it is about chasing worthiness again? I’ll continue to let myself see-saw on story thoughts for the next couple of weeks and see how I feel at the end of March.

4. Doing something with a friend makes it more fun. Plus there’s that accountability factor.

Some of you might have read  posting about an upcoming poetry adventure she and I are undertaking together. So many times we get poetry books (or writing craft books) and we really MEAN to do the exercises but we don’t. So Laura and I are starting a weekly feature called Write After Reading where we actually, gasp, plan to DO the exercises in a book as we read it and then discuss it in alternating weeks on our blogs. The first book we are starting with is Writing the Life Poetic and we’d love for you to join us. I’ll write more about it all in a separate post later but for now you can pop over and read about it on Laura’s blog. She’s started us off on Wednesday.

5. Learning something new makes you look at everything else in life differently.

I’ve been mostly focused on art this month and really stretching myself to learn a lot of new things about art in a short amount of time. I love the excitement that comes with learning something new. I love the lack of pressure that comes from being a newbie. I love making “mistakes” and just letting go of the mistake as learning experience and not beating myself up.

I dug into my stash of “beautiful blank books” and just started throwing paint on the blank pages. (oh yes, artists suffer from blank page syndrome just like writers do.) I wanted to overcome the idea that the book was too beautiful for me to use and anything I put into it had to be beautiful too. I had a stash of craft paints that have (to me) a horrible chalky texture that I can’t stand to touch, especially after becoming addicting to Golden Fluid Acrylics. So I decided to use them as a first layer in a new art journal. Every time Cassie rang the bell to go outside I’d sit down at the art desk and slap a coat of paint on a couple of pages. After about a week the journal is mostly filled up with color. Some color I like. Some I don’t. It doesn’t matter. It just the first layer and it’s only paint. I can paint over it. I can collage over it. I can even rip the pages out if I really don’t like it. But I no longer have a blank page staring at me. Now I have something to edit. Just like writing. You can’t revise a blank page.

As usual this went on a lot longer than most people want to read but hey, I’m consistent with my gabbiness. Here’s hoping to be around the blogosphere more in the future.

Monday, March 14, 2011|Categories: Family|Tags: , , |24 Comments

A Haiku

Nana often said

good riddance to bad rubbish

her junk, my treasure

@copyright Susan Taylor Brown 2010
All Rights Reserved

31 Blogs You Might Not Know – Elizabeth Koehler- Pentacoff

Today’s entry in 31 Blogs (you might not know) is great for teachers, writers, librarians and kids! It’s Reading, Writing and Elizabeth, the blog home of author Elizabeth Koehler-Pentacoff. Liz searches the web for writing contests for kids (and adults.) She also posts interesting writing prompts that are terrific for writers of all ages (and great for the classroom) so check them out in the sidebar.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009|Categories: Random|Tags: , |2 Comments

You've Come a Long Way Baby

Sunday marked one year since we brought Cassie home from the German Shepherd Rescue group. A lot has changed in our girl in that year. A lot has changed in us. When she came to us, Cassie was a shy, not quite nervous but very tentative dog. Her ears were close to her head a lot as though she wasn’t sure if something bad was going to happen to her or not. Her mouth was usually closed, no happy smiling doggy face. She jumped up so high and so hard when you came in the door that it’s a wonder she didn’t break someone’s nose and she always had something to say. She had pretty bad separation anxiety and when my husband would leave the house she would make herself crazy running up and down the stairs and in and out of the house looking for him. For a long time she just wanted to be in the room with us, not necessarily being touched by us. So we let her. She didn’t know what to do with toys so we bought all kinds of them and let her experiment and pick out her favorites. Some she goes back to every so often. Some never captured her attention. And some, like the egg babies, she plays with every day.

She didn’t know much when we got her. She was young and a stray but I don’t think anyone spent much time with her during that important bonding time. But in the last year she has learned the basic commands like sit, stay, wait and sometimes, come. She’s learned how to ring the bells to go outside and to ring the outside bells when she wants to come back in. She’s learned a lot of tricks like waving bye-bye, shaking hands, spinning, rolling over, find it, tell me a secret, and my favorite, peek-a-boo.

She’s come a long way baby.

None of these changes in Cassie happened to overnight. They took time. They took patience. And some of them took a large amount of “do overs.”

It’s been 9 months since I was laid off from the day job. I’ve been up and down. Twelve different kinds of nervous wondering if I could “make it” as a full-time writer. Make it is hard to define but for me it means not having to go back into the cubicle.

Because I was worried about all sorts of things I’ve spent the last 9 months focusing on doing as much freelance work as I could, wanting to prove that I could do what needed doing. The last few months have been hard, filled with a lot of work, a lot of deadlines, not much time for fiction, and no small amount of stress. I was whining a lot.

As I sat here tonight looking at my beautiful dog I realized how very much my life has been enriched in just this first year with her. I’ve learned patience as I’ve worked to get her to bond with me. I’ve learned how to laugh more because of her silly antics and funny noises. I learn love teaching her new tricks. I love watching her get brave in new situations. I love seeing her happy face staring back at me because she is just so happy to be here, now, living this wonderful life she is living.

And I started thinking about all I had done in the last 9 months. Designed and installed our wildlife garden. Taught social networking for authors in a variety of places both online and in person. Wrote a bunch of articles and a ton of WFH projects. Did a haiku a day for the month of April. And wrote a goodly number of new pages on Flyboy and Plant Kid. Nothing to sneeze at as long as I don’t fall into the trap of comparing myself to other writers who live different lives than mine.

I’ve come a long way too. I just needed to slow down long enough to recognize it.

When was the last time you stopped and really took stock of how much you have already accomplished in your writing? We spend a lot of time talking about goals and how we are always reaching for that elusive dream on down the road. I suggest you take a few minutes to just stop and turn around. You don’t have to let go of reaching for that goal but maybe you ought to take a good look at just how far you’ve already come.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009|Categories: Of Dogs and Writing|Tags: , , |9 Comments

Original Garden Haiku

For National Poetry Month I made a personal challenge to write a haiku a day based on my California Native Plant garden. After rereading them tonight I thought I would share a few of my favorites for Poetry Friday.

Catalina Ironwood
beneath feathered bark
alligator lizards hide
blue jays go hungry

Woolly Blue Curls
royal fuzzy blue
ballarina Arabesque
dancing with the bees

Mountain Mahogany
from exploding seeds
sparkling feathers light the sky
somewhere a child smiles

Western Redbud
spring unleashed, it blooms
pink kisses flirt with the sun
Kool-Aid explosion

Flannel Bush
careful where you plant
giant sunshine on a stick
where did that house go?

All poems @copyright Susan Taylor Brown 2009

Friday, May 1, 2009|Categories: Susan's Original Poems|Tags: , , |23 Comments

My personal poetry month haiku challenge

I did this for me and then thought some folks might be interested as well.

Here are links to all 30 of the California Native Plant Haiku that I wrote for National Poetry Month.

Haiku #1 Ceanothus
Haiku #2 Worms
Haiku #3 Concrete
Haiku #4 Sea Thrift
Haiku #5 Dichondra
Haiku #6 Poppies
Haiku #7 Catalina Ironwood
Haiku #8 Purple Needlegrass
Haiku #9 Wooly Blue Curls
Haiku #10 Fuschia flowered Gooseberry
Haiku #11 Coyote Bush
Haiku #12 California Pipevine
Haiku #13 Painted Ladies
Haiku #14 The Wind
Haiku #15 Wax Myrtle
Haiku #16  Mountain Mahogany
Haiku #17 Sticky Monkeyflower
Haiku #18 California Honeysuckle
Haiku #19 California Fuschia
Haiku #20 Blue-eyed Grass
Haiku #21 James Roof Silktassle
Haiku #22 Western Redbud
Haiku #23 Coyote Mint
Haiku #24 Milkweed
Haiku #25 Flannel Bush
Haiku #26 Yarrow
Haiku #27 Island Snapdragon
Haiku #29 Hummingbird sage
Haiku #30 Going Native

Friday, May 1, 2009|Categories: Susan's Original Poems|Tags: , , |0 Comments

Haiku #30 – Going Native

Today is the last day of National Poetry Month and the last day of my personal promise to write a haiku per day inspired by my native plant garden. I have to admit that I didn’t know if I would make it to the end. I’m usually really good at starting and not so much at finishing. But I did it and I surprised myself a time or two. I really enjoyed the process and found myself falling in love with word play once again, always a good thing for a writer.

Only a few of mine really hit the mark of what I wanted to say but some of them had lines that I fell in love with and I want to revise the rest of the poem to match up to those great lines.Thanks to everyone who supported me through this challenge.

Before we even had the keys to this house I knew what I wanted to do – create a wildlife habitat in the front and back yards. It’s a long way from done but it’s much closer than it was two years ago. I was glad to see the lawn go. I’m happy we’ve redirected the water from the downspouts underground. But what gives me the most pleasure is to go outside in the middle of the day when the neighborhood is quiet and just visit the plants, seeing spiders and predatory wasps and bumble bees and carpenter bees and the occasional hummingbird zoom by.

goodbye lawnmower
you’re not welcome anymore
wildlife wanted here

bugs and birds and beasts
move in when no one’s looking
happy neighborhood

@copyright Susan Taylor Brown

Thursday, April 30, 2009|Categories: National Poetry Month 2009, Susan's Original Poems|Tags: , , |10 Comments

Haiku #29 – Hummingbird Sage

This is another of my all-time favorite, dependable California Native plants. It starts off forming this great cluster of evergreen arrow-shaped leaves and then up from the center pop these beautiful bright pink flowers. Another great wildlife plant for butterflies and hummingbirds. A big bonus is the wonderful smell of the leaves (which you can dry and use in tea). When Cassie rubs up against it and comes back in the house it is like she has taken a bath in native perfume. I have it all over the yard and it can spread to its heart’s content around here.











Hummingbird Sage
napping place for dog
double decker jester stick
eau de dog no more

@copyright Susan Taylor Brown
April 29, 2009

Wednesday, April 29, 2009|Categories: National Poetry Month 2009, Susan's Original Poems|Tags: , , |4 Comments

Haiku #28 – Dogwood

When we bought this house a little over two years ago one of the first things we knew was that we wanted to get rid of a lot of the cement. And when I saw this sideyard I had an instant image of a green, lush secret garden sort of place. The picture on the left is when we moved in, and the picture on the right is from about a month ago. The gate leads to the front courtyard so when we have a party we can open it and people can wander through. After the new fence went up and the cement was taken up, we had the blue stone path installs and planted both sides with red twig dogwoods. Eventually the dogwoods will naturally arch over the sideyard, enclosing it, and making it the perfect place for my secret garden.


down the dogwood path
salamanders frogs and toads
I can only hope

@copyright Susan Taylor Brown
April 28, 2009

Tuesday, April 28, 2009|Categories: National Poetry Month 2009, Susan's Original Poems|Tags: , , |15 Comments

Haiku #27 – Island Snapdragon

Island Snapdragon was one of the first native plants I bought. I fell in love with the bright red tubular flowers that I knew would offer a feast for my hummingbirds. It’s a lovely evergreen plant that, once established, is fairly drought tolerant despite the tropical look. It’s a native of the Channel Islands.

I have one going up a trellis outside the courtyard gate and a couple more in the backyard around the wine barrel pond.

I know I haven’t been posting the brainstorms lately but that’s because I haven’t been doing much of them. I am writing these way too quickly but that means I will have lots to revise when things slow down, right? 😉 In order to get these polished I need to spend more time just thinking.

Island Snapdragon
snapdragon stands guard
come, sweet nectar hides within
hummingbirds break fast

@copyright Susan Taylor Brown
April 27, 2009

Monday, April 27, 2009|Categories: National Poetry Month 2009, Susan's Original Poems|Tags: , , |0 Comments

Haiku #26 – Yarrow

Yarrow gets a bum rap from a lot of people. They recognize it as the plant that often grows in disturbed areas alongside the road. It does spread by rhizomes which means it can give you a nice fill of a large area quickly. Supposedly Achilles used yarrow to heal his warriors in the battle of Troy which is where it gets its name, Achillea. Native Americans found many medicinal uses for yarrow.

It’s another great bug magnet in the garden, drawing bees, wasps, and butterflies. Those flowers are great landing pads for butterflies. I love the foilage and those ferny leaves make a great native lawn either on its own, or mixed in with some native grass or, like I did today, mixed in-between the Carex Pansa growing in the backyard. You can plant an entire lawn of yarrow and it will use a lot less water than a lawn. If you want a short, more traditional looking lawn, mow it with a push mower.

I don’t feel like I captured what I wanted to here but it will help me remember where I want to go when I revise.

ferny feathers nest
beneath common yarrow
this weed welcome here

@copyright Susan Taylor Brown
April 26, 2009

Sunday, April 26, 2009|Categories: National Poetry Month 2009, Susan's Original Poems|Tags: , , |4 Comments

Haiku #25 – Flannel Bush

A Flannel Bush is a beautiful show stopper of a plant. But all that beauty comes at a price – the leaves and flower capsules are not to be touched – they are covered with fine hairs that irritate the skin. These are also normally huge plants, big enough to cause one of the nurseries to warn people not to plant it close to the house unless you want to use an ax to hack your way outside. I have a very tiny one in the front yard, at the edge of the driveway. It is the smallest one we have, a Ken Taylor, that I hope to be able to keep under control with careful pruning. It has three flowers on it already and it is barely a foot tall. And even at the low height, I have to stop and stare.








Flannel Bush
careful where you plant
giant sunshine on a stick
where did that house go?

@copyright Susan Taylor Brown
April 25, 2009

Saturday, April 25, 2009|Categories: National Poetry Month 2009, Susan's Original Poems|Tags: , , |12 Comments

Haiku #24 – Milkweed

When I was a kid we had a lot of milkweed growing in the back, back yard (the one we use to store old wood and junk,) It grew like the weed it was and the Monarchs would come every year. It’s a sacrificial plant – one to plant in-between the others in your garden – because if you get Monarchs, and if the wasps don’t eat all the eggs, you’ll have a lot of hungry caterpillars munching on the leaves. With the eggs, come the aphids and the ants, who sort of take care of each other. And then the wasps come along and pick off a lot of the caterpillars which is why so many people will bring the cats inside to raise.

I only have about six of these so far but will continue to add more. I don’t know if I’ll get any Monarchs this year, but hopefully next year.

monarchs flutter, soon
cocooned caterpillars sleep
hurry, I can’t wait

@copyright Susan Taylor Brown
April 24, 2009

Friday, April 24, 2009|Categories: National Poetry Month 2009, Susan's Original Poems|Tags: , , |7 Comments

Haiku #23 – Coyote Mint

This is another one of my favorite plants, Coyote Mint. I have two kinds in my yard, the regular and the willowly, and I love them both. They like the sun and are pretty drought tolerant and the bees and the butterflies adore them. Their little pincushion flowers always have company. But what I like best is the reaction on people’s faces when they see the flower and ask me what it is. I say Coyote Mint and all they hear is mint and they start to back away very fast as though it might be contagious. But California Native mints are not invasive at all. They are a very well behaved plant and I have many of them in the front and the back yards.






Coyote Mint
purple pincushion
soldiers quiver at your name
invade my yard, please

@copyright Susan Taylor Brown
April 23, 2009

Thursday, April 23, 2009|Categories: National Poetry Month 2009, Susan's Original Poems|Tags: , , |14 Comments

Haiku #22 – Western Redbud

I have yet to see a Redbud in full bloom such as this but someday. I have two of them in my front yard on each side of the dry creek bed. Even though they are only a couple feet tall right now I can easily imagine them 10 feet tall or more, branches gracefully swooping over the edge of the creekbed.

Western Redbud
spring unleashed, it blooms
pink kisses flirt with the sun
Kool-Aid explosion

@copyright Susan Taylor Brown
April 22, 2009

Wednesday, April 22, 2009|Categories: National Poetry Month 2009, Susan's Original Poems|Tags: , , |9 Comments

Haiku #21 – James Roof Silk Tassel

James Roof silk tassel is a beautiful evergreen tree/shrub that has these wonderful long, silky catkins hanging down at the end of winter. I have a very tiny one in my yard, about a foot tall. I don’t want to think about how many years I will have to wait to be able to see its beautiful display.

The brainstorm.

Silk tassel
nature’s icicles
tree feathers
tree hair
tree feathers dangle
dance in the breeze
nature’s tinsel
catkins dangle in the breeze
silk tassels dance in the breeze
living icicles
let the party start
party can begin
nature decorates
let the party start
wearing fancy clothes
catkins dangle in the breeze
nature’s icicles
catkins dangle in the breeze
sunday best display
let the dance begin
silky catkins sway with the breeze
catkins dressed in silkiness
catkins dressed in finest silk
putting on the ritz

Silk Tassel
putting on the ritz
catkins dress in finest sil
let the dance begin

@copyright Susan Taylor Brown
April 21, 2009

Tuesday, April 21, 2009|Categories: National Poetry Month 2009, Susan's Original Poems|Tags: , , |8 Comments

Haiku #20 – Blue-eyed Grass

This morning when I let Cassie out back there was still a bit of dew clinking to the tips of the Blue-eyed grass. This picture is from my old garden – the ones I’ve planted at this house haven’t bloomed yet. It’s not really a grass, it’s actually in the iris family. It’s a small, clumping spot of beauty that is great in a rock garden or in front of a boulder. I was also thinking about bees today, our native bees, who often live a solitary life and unlike the wimpy European honey bees, are out working the flowers when the morning air is still quite cool.

Blue-eyed grass
blue eyes wet with dew
thirsty bee stops to drink -wait
listen to the dawn

@copyright Susan Taylor Brown 2009
April 20, 2009

Monday, April 20, 2009|Categories: National Poetry Month 2009, Susan's Original Poems|Tags: , , |6 Comments

Haiku #19 – California Fuschia

When I was growing up my grandmother always had at least one fuschia on the front porch….the kind you get at your local garden center. It was lovely and tropical looking and a wee bit on the finicky side to take care of. When I discovered the California Fuschia I fell in love. I couldn’t believe how beautiful and lush it was with so little water or attention. And talk about a hummingbird magnet! To see a large bush of them cascading down a bank looks like it it raining fire to me.

hummingbird magnet
red trumpets
trumpet firey red
raining trumpet fire
hummingbird guards red trumpet
one hummingbird guards his prize
hungry visitors
hungry mobs
others wait their turn
others go hungry

California Fuschia
inside trumpet fire
one hummingbird guards his prize
others go hungry

@copyright Susan Taylor Brown
April 19, 2009

Sunday, April 19, 2009|Categories: National Poetry Month 2009, Susan's Original Poems|Tags: , , |4 Comments

Haiku #18 – California Honeysuckle

California doesn’t have a lot of native vines. Only a couple. California Honeysuckle is not like the some of the exotic honeysuckles that can scale a chain link fence in a season. It’s a nice rambling groundcover or can be trained to grow up a support. I have seven of them along my back fence with a trellis behind each one. As soon as they reach the top of the fence I’ll string wire from trellis to trellis to encourage it to grow up and across, giving us a little bit more privacy. California honeysuckle is happiest with its roots in the shade and the top of the plant in the sun. A little water and it grows fast. Not much water and it still grows. Hummingbirds love these flowers.

Once again, not really much brainstorming went on. I was just trying to get a draft of a poem together because, well, it’s late and I’m tired and I know I can revise these under less pressure. 🙂 It’s not quite right but it captures the direction I want to go.

California Honeysuckle
roots hide in shade, cool
vining fingers search for sun
hummingbirds rejoice

@copyright Susan Taylor Brown
April 18, 2009

Saturday, April 18, 2009|Categories: National Poetry Month 2009, Susan's Original Poems|Tags: , , |6 Comments

Haiku #17 – Sticky Monkey Flower

This is one of the funniest names for a plant, Sticky Monkey Flower. I’ve read that they’re called monkey flowers because the flowers look like grinning Monkeys. You may or may not agree. They do, however, have very sticky leaves filled with nutrients for critters.

I see these plants all the time as we drive to Santa Cruz, bright orange flowers popping up from in-between the rocks where it doesn’t seem like anything should grow at all. Of course I had to have them in my yard. It has its own butterfly…its own caterpillar…the checkerspot butterfly lays its eggs on the sticky leaves.

I have to say that I didn’t really do much of a brainstorm on this one. I read up on the plant a little bit, then got the last line first. After that came the second line and then the first. I was happy so I stopped.

Sticky Monkey Flower
sticky leaves hug eggs
hungry — not yet butterflies
laughing monkey waits

@copyright Susan Taylor Brown
April 17, 2009

Friday, April 17, 2009|Categories: National Poetry Month 2009, Susan's Original Poems|Tags: , , |8 Comments