The Novelinee is new to me

My first plum shrub cocktail photograph by Maria L. Berg 2021

Today’s prompt from Laura at Dverse Poets Pub is to write a Novelinee, a nine line stanza with a rhyme scheme in iambic pentameter. Let’s see what I can come up with.

In novelty

a sudden interest overpowers calm
and everywhere I look a present falls
like plums too high to pluck now in my palm
enthralling rubber skin to sweetness calls
excite my senses newness all around
abundance fills my morning breakfast air
the plop of ready fruit, adventure’s sound
what foreign taste awaits for me to dare
once hidden, now the joy in looking found

I finished this poem right on time to go combine my shrubs. I made:

  1. plum & honey + apple cider vinegar with basil
  2. plum & agave + balsamic vinegar with sage

For my cocktail I used equal parts rum, the balsamic shrub and tonic water. Sounds weird, but it’s tasty and has a nice bite. Here’s to trying new things! Make your way to the bar and request a sample. 🙂

Oral Poetry: Trying a new writing process

The Poetics challenge from Ingrid at dVerse Poets Pub is to write a poem without writing it down. This intrigued me and sounded like a great way to start exploring some ideas for this month’s Changing Focus project around the theme “reflections.”

I thought I’d share this vocal warm-up I like to do before recording (because it’s fun):

Yesterday, I discovered that the bass effects pedal I’ve had for many years, has a built in drum machine, so hold onto your hats world.

Focus on Reflections words and music by Maria L. Berg

Focus on Reflections

I face a self-imposed focus
on reflections
a month of looking
of looking in mirrors
looking at me

not turning away
looking further
and deeper
finding the deep waters
past the imperfections

What will I find there?
What does reflection
smell like? What is its
taste? How will I get to
the point where I
only see what I like?

All those flaws
become only a reflection
only the light
hitting a chip in the mirror
everything reflects light
all we see is a reflection

*That was an interesting experience. After finding a drum beat and recording the drum and bass. I played it back while saying lines to the room. When I felt like the concept was flowing, I recorded myself, then typed up what I said as if transcribing. That was fun. I think I’ll play with that a lot.

Cover of The Cynic in Extremis, a poetry collection by Jacob M. Appel. There is a picture of a grumpy looking pug wrapped in a furry blanket.

I hope all of you will come by this Thursday, Sept. 2, and read a special guest post about revision by Jacob M. Appel. I recently enjoyed his poetry collection, The Cynic in Extremis. I found it both entertaining and provocative.

Pathways: a video, music, and poetry project

Update 9/2/2021: After enjoying all the oral poetry for the Poetics prompt this week, I thought the poets of dVerse Poets Pub might enjoy this for Open Link Night. I hope you will check out today’s special guest post from Jacob M. Appel on revision as well.

Here it is! My response to wRightingMyLife‘s Changing Focus monthly blogging challenge. The theme was Pathways.

I’ve wanted to try something that combines music, photography, and writing for a while, so this was a great inspiration to give it a try. This first effort was a bit rushed ( I happened upon the challenge halfway through the month), but I had a lot of fun with it and learned a lot.

While putting together the video, I learned how to do some animations with my photographs (haven’t figured out how to use them with my video editing software yet), and learned some techniques for combining motion and still photography.

Recording myself reading my poems was great practice. While practicing, some revisions and edits became obvious.

Writing music to go with the visuals and poetry was very challenging. Many of my ideas just wouldn’t work. I went through days of discarding recordings, but finally came up with the feel of pathways I was going for.

September’s theme is Reflections. I have a lot of reflection to do about my Pathways project. 😉

Any Excuse for Nephelococcygia

In April of this year I learned about Sky Awareness Week. I was looking up an occasion to write about for a poetry prompt, so I went to the National Days site and found I was in the midst of Sky Awareness Week and after laughing, a lot, imagining people that needed to be made aware of the sky, I learned that one important activity of Sky Awareness Week is taking a blanket or mat into the yard, lying on one’s back and practicing Nephelococcygia: the act of seeking and finding shapes in clouds. And listen to the word: it’s music.

I bring this up because over at the dVerse Poets Pub, Merril presented a line from a great poem called “Clouds” by Constance Urdang as the line to be included in a short bit of prose. I’ve never participated in Prosery before, but I loved the prompt, so I’ll give it a try.

“But these clouds are clearly foreign, such an exotic clutter

Against the blue cloth of the sky”

Constance Urdang

A gentle breeze comes, and the gray that has been smoke for days, breaks to blue rivulets between fluffy clouds. And I break for some needed nephelococcygia. But these clouds are clearly foreign, such an exotic clutter against the blue cloth of the sky. All I see are faces: an alien with huge eyes and a bulbous head, bubbling off the horizon, observing the firs and the lake; a cartoon professor with crazy eyebrows, nose pointing to my right over his wide lips, stretches to the alien’s right; overhead, an angry smiley face and a detailed sneak with a foamy, twisty beard. All these strange faces, remind me of the weeks after Katrina, after relocating, when I kept seeing friends’ faces on strangers. Wanting, needing the familiar so badly. And like those strangers, who only resembled friends from a distance, the cloud faces change.

Playing with Anapests in Monotetra

Today’s Poetics prompt at dVerse Poets Pub is to use a movie quote in a poem. Mish provided a list to choose from. When I saw “It’s alive! It’s alive!” from Frankenstein (1931), the repetition reminded me of a poetry form. I looked back through my poems from last OctPoWriMo and found it in my post from October 6, 2020 Following Desire. The form is Monotetra.

The instructions for the Monotetra are a little confusing because it talks about number of feet and also number of syllables. If you look at my poem in that post, “Desire is the ear at the curtain,” I was counting syllables (eight), and rhyming, but wasn’t paying attention to meter. The instructions for the Monotetra form assume a poetic metrical foot to have two syllables, but a poetic foot can have more than two syllables: like the dactyl (stressed, unstressed, unstressed) I used in my last post, and the anapest (unstressed, unstressed, stressed) which is how I read “It’s alive!”

Since I want to play with anapestic meter instead of 8 syllables this will be an alternate form of a Monotetra. It will still be made of rhyming quatrains, and the fourth line will repeat, but each line will be in anapestic dimeter.


When a song with a drive
brings the bees to the hive
and the throng into thrive
“It’s alive! It’s alive!”

like a wrong she deprives
and with love to connive
and belong she can strive
Hope’s alive! It’s alive!

on the path to revive
when the depth of the dive
meets the wrath she archived
Hope’s alive! It’s alive!

like a storm will arrive
hear the clap, count to five
stay informed to survive
“It’s alive! It’s alive!”

Dactyls Dactyls Everywhere: not a ptero in sight.

Edward Okun – Walc Chopina (Wikimedia Commons)


dance to the, dance to the
music of Chopin and
waltz with me, waltz with me
round a nice fantasy
keep up appearances
backhanded compliments
blacking out promises

dance with me, dance with me
turning me endlessly
waltz to the, waltz to the
mockingbird murmuring
visitors’ vanities
blushing with jealousy
echoing, echoing
over the
wonderful fantasy

At the Moulin Rouge: Two women waltzing by Toulouse-Lautrec (Wikimedia Commons)

Today’s Meet the bar prompt at dVerse Poets Pub is to take a look at the waltz. I took this as inspiration to attempt a poem in dactylic meter. Dactyls are feet that are three syllables with the first syllable stressed, or long short short like a waltz.

Pleasure of Poetry

My previous post, the last in my redrafting demonstration, was about emulating a poem or poet. Today, the Poetics prompt at dVerse Poets Pub takes that to a whole new level. Laura challenges us to write a poem either about one of our favorite poets, or addressing a poet in direct voice. I think I’ll take a look at a couple lessons of the How Writers Write Poetry MOOC and see if one of the poets inspires me to write about or to them.

A Temporary Respite with James Galvin

May I share in your antidote?
I’ll approach with pleasure
pleasure of the somatosensory
alphabet that provides
temporary respite from knowing
we’re going to die

It will be delicious
delighting our senses five
We’ll get to hear beautiful musics
I won’t want just one
I’ll want another one
I’ll bring passion

I’ll drag it, pulling
against a leash
like a dog you don’t
believe knows or fears death
giving us something to survive for
giving us a chance to stay alive better

Revising Poetry-a Demonstration Part Two: The First Redraft

Christina’s World by Andrew Wyeth (1948)

Exploring the Narrative Voice

The Poetics prompt at dVerse Poets Pub is a great way to introduce the next step in my revision process. Ingrid challenged us to explore Narrative Voice. One of the first things I did in my poem review was look at the point of view and narrative of the poem. It isn’t very clear. The poem starts with “An impression,” but whose impression? Is it a general impression by the reader, everyone, the universe? Or is it one woman standing at the kitchen sink. While reviewing my poem, I also thought of the Andrew Wyeth painting above. I’m going to write a poem in my imagined woman’s narrative voice and see what that can add to the redraft.

Staring through the cracked pane

over the vast, yellowed field,
the failed seal has left the view
speckled, impossibly frustrating,
like the black grout and stained porcelain
the ruin of wear and age

somehow my fault
my ineptitude
as if any more scrubbing
would discourage the fruit flies
in the sink more
than my reddened, sore,
cracked hands do me.

These hands that used to capture
the cosmos, fold fantasies,
weave worlds, now swat,
squish and scour,
in fruitless and futile
daily exercise toward demise.

I don’t hear the tractor
Is it behind that bale?
his sweat dripping
on her skin
it was never going to be
the last time
how will the bill’s
get paid with only
that seed sown?

An explosion,
pressure shakes the pane
the noise rings in my ears
stops the world
I step from my spiraling
thoughts and see clearly
how small my worries
each a fruit fly in the sink

A solution, so long obscured
by chores and basic needs
now, in this chilling moment bright
the truth of everything
with underlying cause:
He doesn’t love me
this lack so erosive
I can’t love myself

It’s scary, I shiver
with the knowing
there’s no going back
What hateful words
will escape my lips
forever burning
like the fading flower curtains
around the uncleanable
kitchen window
behind me

The Pep Talk

Don’t be afraid to try every and all ideas. The exciting thing about this process, is none of it is cut in stone. Each and every version of the poem and those it inspires should be saved separately. I recommend creating a folder for the poem and saving after each change with version numbers. That way you can always go back and compare.

Finishing the Review

It has been a busy morning. I’m proud to say, I’m working through each step in the process. I did four mind maps and saw some very interesting overlap. It seems like such a simple task, and it is, but somehow it really works to generate ideas. Then I free-wrote around the best lines, thinking about my character and narrative which really helped me dive into my poem. I concluded that it’s actually better than I originally thought and helped me make some big changes already. The free-write also helped me finish the narrative poem above.

This process of going through revision with you is already helping me revise my process. So fun. While going through the review, I added “identify sensory details.” I’m so glad I did. In my free-write this morning, I explored some sensory details and came upon an idea that needed some research, so I’m going to add “do research” to the review process before redrafting.

Here’s my revised review checklist:

  • Identify POV, tense, form, voice
  • setting, narrative
  • themes, moods
  • create a color key
  • identify sensory details
  • identify best lines
  • mark weak verbs & nouns
  • words to mind map
  • mark areas to expand
  • highlight cliche language
  • make easy cuts
  • choose what to edit to (theme, idea)
  • brainstorm alternate titles
  • make notes to guide re-write
  • do mind maps
  • free-write around best lines, character and narrative
  • do research
  • write a narrative poem

A sample of the free-write

“It’s a snapshot, orienting the reader to someone irritated by fruit flies in the kitchen sink. She’s thinking a million different things when suddenly, something causes everything to stop. What is this trigger? Does it matter for this poem? Like I was thinking yesterday, it could be as tiny as a sparkle in a crow’s beak, or a certain trill in a bird’s song, or it could be as large as a tornado . . . or aliens landing on the lawn. For this poem, what makes the impression doesn’t matter. It happened, it stops everything.”

–Maria L. Berg’s morning pages 5/5/2021

The poem now

After all that work this morning, I have my first redraft. I hadn’t planned to make such large changes before going through the redrafting I already planned, but the mind-maps, free-write, brainstorming sensory detail, research, and narrative poem gave me some ideas. I’ve decided to give each of my revisions one of the alternate titles I brainstormed to try them out.

She stares out the kitchen window

An impression arrests fruit flies in kitchen sinks full of ideas
frozen mid-irritation, like tinnitus of Meniere’s before the dizzying vertigo
stepping out of a spiral, the view becomes clear, as if finally
finding the source of wafting, permeating decay

Contentment empties the glue of flavor and steals the scissors of artistry
but constant irritation and insatiable hunger remain
to this arsonist of bridges with nothing I’ve left
what indelible marks will topple to the tongue?

Refreshment wriggles among the moles under the tent of solitude
having vacated the house with ideas, but left the kitchen sink to the fruit flies
the dark, fresh-earth tunnels adumbrate new and curious spaces for contemplation
where crawling, not seeing, may nourish new understanding


I had planned to continue to some more redrafting, but I hadn’t imagined the big changes I already made today. What do you think? Is the poem improved? Does it make more sense? I would love to hear your thoughts of the pros and cons of the changes while I let it sit until tomorrow. I hope you’re enjoying the process as much as I am.

Revising Poetry: Creating a process

A photograph of seed packets and loose seeds on a poetry notebook.

A Seed of Hope

The seed yet planted
has potential
it may be the one
to burst into sprout
the tiny green hope
watched by the discerning eye
not ignored as the yellow
flowers in the garden,
the kale gone to seed
soon composted
to clear the way

That quadrille (a poem of 44 words) in response to today’s dVerse Poets Pub prompt, feels like a great way to start this week’s adventure in revision. Merril’s prompt “seed” is also a fun tie-in, because it’s a Janus word.

Now that the April challenges have ended and I have over thirty new poems drafted, it’s time to think about revision. Last year in May, I had the same idea. I read a lot of posts and books and started charting my revision process in my poetry notebook. I’m going to attempt to approach each draft as a seed, full of potential.

The Process

Here’s what I have come up with thus far:


After letting a poem rest a while, come back to it as if reading someone else’s poem for the first time. What do I like about it? What don’t I like about it?

Here is my review checklist:

  • Identify POV, tense, form, voice
  • setting, narrative
  • themes, moods
  • words to mind map
  • alternate titles
  • highlight the best lines
  • mark weak verbs & nouns
  • mark areas to expand
  • highlight cliche language
  • choose what to edit to (theme, idea)
  • make notes to guide re-write


Here are some ideas to try while redrafting a poem:

  • Choose the best lines and freewrite. Dig down, find the deeper meaning.
  • Use the best line as the beginning of a new poem.
  • For each line, write its opposite. Search for the turn in the poem.
  • Cut each line in half. Write a new beginning and/or ending for each line.
  • Write the poem in different POVs and tenses to find the strongest telling.
  • Expand, write past the ending. Tighten, to it’s most succinct telling.
  • Force into a form, or change from formal form to free verse.


Read the poem aloud. Feel the words in your mouth. Sing it to your favorite songs. Walk to it. Dance to it. Feel the rhythm. Have the computer read it aloud. Highlight anything that doesn’t flow, that doesn’t sound right, anything that feels forced or doesn’t fit.


When you feel ready for some feedback, you might want to try Poetry Free-For-All, an online poetry workshop for poets to exchange critiques. There is a lot of useful information in the forums including A Workshop for One. 

I like that poets giving critiques are called critters. It makes me think of the campy horror movies. It’s fun to imagine getting poetry feedback from balls of fur with sharp teeth.

Learn from other poets

The forums of Poetry Free-For-All also include an extensive Recommended Reading list.

You may want to check out the videos at Sounds of Poetry with Bill Moyers.

Revise Again

Take the useful feedback and things you’ve liked from reading and listening to other poets talking about their work and come to your poem again with a fresh, critical eye. Read it aloud until it feels good in your mouth and body while clearly expressing your intended meaning.

A Demonstration

I thought it would be fun and useful to take the first poem I wrote this April, since it has had a good rest, and demonstrate each step through the entire process as a series of posts this week.

The poem I wrote on April First was:

Breeding Fruit Flies with Two Different Eyes

An impression arrests the fruit flies in kitchen sinks full of ideas
frozen in mid-irritation, fleeting yet multiplying before your eyes
what indelible marks will topple to the tongue
and adumbrate the growing clutch

Contentment empties the glue of flavor and steals the scissors of artistry
the constant irritation and insatiable hunger
–of those fruit flies, feeding in the sinks–
sketch an impression of furious flight

Refreshment wriggles among the moles under the tent of solitude
having vacated the house with the ideas, but left the kitchen sink to the fruit flies
the dark, fresh-earth tunnels adumbrate new and curious spaces for contemplation
where crawling, not seeing, may nourish new understanding

The Draft

This poem draft follows a form I created myself that for now I call the Jar and Janus form. I started collecting words in vases last year when I enjoyed the Coursera course Sharpened Visions: A Poetry Workshop with Douglas Kearney for the second time. While working with abstract and concrete nouns, I decided to create vases full of each, to make random connections to spark ideas.

For each stanza of this poem, the form (followed loosely) is:

  1. Abstract noun+verb+concrete noun+concrete noun+abstract noun
  2. response to that phrase/idea
  3. expand on the response in line two including a Janus word
  4. Use the Janus word to say the opposite, or create a second thought, or point of view
  5. Repeat for as many stanzas as you like

Now that the draft is created, the form isn’t particularly important, except to remember the Janus words and think about their opposite meanings.


Before we dive into revision, it’s a good idea to focus intention. Why do I want to revise this poem? I want to improve it, of course, but why? And why this poem?

I want to revise this poem because:

  • It’s one of the first examples of a form I invented and I want to continue to explore the form.
  • I want to take one of April’s poems through revision to work through my revision process. This poem has had the most time to rest.
  • I think it’s a good example of my unique poetic voice that I want to continue to develop.
  • Though I will be publishing the revised poem here, so it won’t be eligible for journal publication, if I love the results, I may want to include it in a collection.
  • Since I plan on developing this form further, what I learn from this revision could be very useful for future poems.
  • My main motivation is to learn by doing and share the experience to inform others.

Next Steps

I hope you will join me this week taking a poem through all of the steps of my revision process. In my next post we’ll go through the Review and plan some re-writes.

An Irreplaceable View

Tonight is the Poetry & the Creative Mind Gala. It’s free.

The NaPoWriMo prompt for today is to imagine looking through a window, any window, and describing what I see.

The PAD prompt is to write an evening poem.

Over at the A to Z Challenge they’re playing the Yes Game. My Janus word is yield which can mean; to give up, surrender, or relinquish, but also; to produce by natural process.

Today is Open Link Night at dVerse Poets Pub where you can share your best recent poem and read and comment on all the great poetry being shared.

This is the window

with the slightly broken sill
covered in flakes of pop-corn ceiling
with semi-sheer blinds that when open
tuck up all wrinkled on one side
through this dusty, cobwebbed window
revealed by off-white sheers belted to hooks
where a speck of a beige-dotted bug climbs
there’s a once thought impossible view

because for my whole life
it was blocked by next door’s tall firs
providing cool shade lakeside
my great aunt told me
she did it on purpose
to hurt her brother next door
a family feud of unnatural proportion
wielding God’s power one sibling on another
imagine each day’s hurt never recovered

But they’re all gone now
and I can finally see past
the iron railing, the rhodie, and the hedge
to the rippling water, a dock, and a buoy
to the houses and the park, but above that
what this table was so long deprived
is the sky filled with mountain–
ignore the threatening volcano inside–
massive contrasts of blue and white
glacier and rock, snow blanketed slopes
it’s never not amazing, not one single time
I look, even hiding behind complete cloud cover
when a stranger wouldn’t know it’s there

I tried to think of any other window
where I would rather look
and suddenly, I am in the international
space station, looking down on Earth
my body is confined, but my view
through this small portal is as if
the eye of God. To see the sphere
its atmosphere floating in the void
to know the glorious insignificance
of momentary stresses, bringing
overwhelming strife, but seeing
all connection of a day in life

But there’s no coming back from that
I’ve already known what new seeing
can do, would I want to add that fractured
knowing too?

I only have this window for a ticking-clock
of time, I want to be aware, to take in each tick
of this view while it’s sublime, the years
of firs blocking the way flew so quickly by
knowing there are limits, a coming end
erases the flaws in the pane, even the
baked-on bird gifts that won’t scrape
with a blade, all I see gleams
this view holds a vivid shine