#OctPoWriMo & #Writober Day 12: An Ode to Tortured Love & Frogs

Light Frog by Maria L. Berg 2021

Today’s Tourmaline .’s Halloween Challenge, is “frog.” My nephew told me that my next bokeh filter should be a frog a while ago. I’m glad I finally made it. I like how it turned out.


Today’s prompt is “ode.” The 2018 prompt was “Tortured.” I like the contrast of writing a tortured poem of praise. It really captures the chaotic loss of control of love.

The Tuesday Writing Prompt at Go Dog Go Café is to write a poem without using the words “the” and “and.” I think this constraint could work well with sonic surrender, so I’m going to give it a try.

Today’s Poetics prompt at the dVerse Poets Pub: to write my way out of a place of pain, fits so perfectly with my thoughts of an ode to tortured love, it’s as if Ingrid was in my head this morning.

Oh, my Torture, this Love

When pain reigns, thrilling
heightened awareness glaring
nerves sparking with life
firing toward limitations
creating tense-muscled suspense
extremes of what I can stand

Is it fear that brings me here?
Does my flesh believe it will tear?
Warning of peril from unlimited pleasure
chaotic behavior when overwhelming
pre-frontal processes, living uninhibited

In dizzying free-fall, Contusia
dazed in a haze, purples
sensitive to touch, crazed
obsessive worries in separation
so unstable wobbles, topples hobbled
drained faint–that in-between pain

like frogs hopping perilously
across back roads in thick morning fog
brought on by a pond squashed in grills every year
I am drawn to danger, red cayenne heat of danger,
frying-pan-to-fire danger, tightrope-no-net danger,
thin lines connecting cliffs over synaptic canyons
too far to cross, between gains
lost, ends too soon

Lake Frogs by Maria L. Berg 2021


Go Dog Go Café also has a Halloween-themed Prompt Challenge looking for Halloween inspired original pieces of writing / and or art. Submissions are open until October 25th.

This Week’s Story

Logline: An arrogant gossip hears noises coming from his shower. Exploring the drain isn’t enough, after cutting a whole through the floor, he finds that his problems run much deeper.

This morning I started the draft and it already surprised me. I’ll keep writing to about 1,000 words today and then let it simmer again until tomorrow. Here’s a little excerpt from my protagonist’s childhood trauma flashback:

I’m not sure what I did to convince it to stop playing dead, but when it did it was all claws and teeth. Its feet pierced my neck and shoulders trying to hold purchase while its teeth and front claws went for my head and face. I dropped the wood and flailed, but couldn’t scream for fear that parts of it would get in my mouth. So no one came to my aide.

I fell hard to the concrete on top of the wood I dropped, bruising my ribs, and played dead myself. It didn’t take long for it to lose interest and scurry into the shadows. I crawled up the steps and cried for my mom. She covered my cuts in stinging alcohol. I filled the house with screams, outmatching the wind until it died, and she took me to the hospital.

Maria L. Berg 2021
Frog on Her Head by Maria L. Berg 2021

Happy Reading and Writing!

Stone Soup Poem

Steadfast-slab Soliloquy

set in stone
a tome, a tomb
slow to erode
unmoved by storm’s
wet starved moan
leftovers torn
forlorn, stone cold
bones hold known tones
strummed by the stubborn
turned to stone
struck, stuck outta luck
stored enduring alone
a stone’s throw
from home

Today’s Quadrille #137 prompt from De Jackson at dVerse is to “carve a poem out of the word stone.” The Quadrille is a poem of 44 words. (Images taken by me this evening. The light was really nice. Glad I went searching for stones)

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.