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Red Wolf Journal Spring 2014, and a fresh start

April 30, 2014

First things first. I wish to announce that the PDF copy of Red Wolf Journal Spring 2014 Issue 1 is now available for download here:

Red Wolf Journal Spring 2014 Issue 1

It’s also available for download on site here.

As I promised, there would be a PDF copy. I’m delivering on that promise. At least it’s easier than delivering on the promise of a rose garden.

I think Heaven would be a rose garden. Well, to be precise, the Garden of Eden restored, in unity with God. Pardon me my illusions.

If your poem(s) got into the issue, I trust you will be yelping with joy. Second time round this time. Thanks for your good company, poets. I’m sorry that we can’t let all the poems in. If yours didn’t make it, do not let this minor setback stop you from submitting again. If you let it, then you’re likely to be me. But then you’re not me, are you?

Actually it’s a matter of personal aesthetics or style. As editors we exercised that prerogative. So the issue that we delivered reflects our own quirkiness as editors, Neil and I. Admittedly it’s more me than Neil. But he had a hand in it too. Neil, are you listening?

And with that, I wish to make a second announcement. First the bad news. We will no longer be providing prompts at We Write Poems. The good news, however, is that we will still be providing Thursday prompts over at a new site, Red Wolf Poems. It is more in keeping with our new identity as a sister site to Red Wolf Journal.

I repeat, the next prompt will appear on Thursday 1 May 2014 at Red Wolf Poems. See you there.

That is all. Have a nice day, y’all.


We Wordle #16

April 28, 2014

We Wordle #16


This week’s Wordle words are sourced from Nicole’s prompt 209 Liturgy and Prompt 210 Word of Mouth.

A reminder to everyone: please don’t panic or despair at the number of words – just use what calls your name, tickles your fancy, extracts your ink. If they all call to you, kudos. If it’s only a few, again, kudos. And feel free to manipulate the words’ form and tense as you wish.

When you’re finished, post your link in the comments section. If you don’t have a blog, you paste your poem in the comments box, if you wish to share.

From Prompt 209: Liturgy

Marian: leg squat insect
Debi: Starving truth heart
Barbara: air radio laugh
Misky: yes but when
Irene: licking spongy cat
Jules: gentle wallow weight
Nicole: wind blue tree
Abby: draw picture silver

From Prompt 210: Word of Mouth

Jules: knot corner
Debi: life small kids
Barbara: spring, silent
Misky: rides heart
Irene: rust sky
Nicole: party magic
Scars of Angst: wails forever

Use as few or as many words from the wordle list. Change the form and tense of any word you wish. Write a poem about anything under the sun. Then post your link in the comments section. If you don’t have a blog, you could simply paste your poem in the comments, if you wish to share.

Have fun, and most importantly … HAVE FUN!!

~ Misky


prompt 210 Word of Mouth

April 24, 2014
They want me to give up on this poetry life, y'all --
but I don't know another way to pray.
-Barbara Fant

During the last three weeks, we’ve explored the origins of poetry through three dimensions: history, mythology, and liturgy. For the last Thursday prompt of this month, we’ll explore one of the earliest elements of poetry: the spoken word.

Before written language, the earliest poetry was spoken or sung. As I’ve mentioned in the other prompts, poetry was used to transmit the culture of a people from one generation to the next — its history, mythology, folklore, religion, stories, and even in some cases its law. Certain poetic devices — such as rhyme and repetition — probably developed as mnemonic devices to aid memorization.

As written language developed, these devices were used in a variety of poetry forms. For example, sonnets rely on particular rhyming patterns as part of their form. Other forms, such as pantoums, are heavy on repetition and some forms, such as the villanelle, employ both.

Consider one form that crosses over between poetry and music, the ballad. Ballads are clearly written for the ear, using rhyme and in some cases, repetition as part of the form. A good example of this is the American folk song, “John Henry” about a legendary African-American steel driver who attempted to race a steam engine and won, dying at the end of the contest. I’ll quote one of the stanzas below:

John Henry said to his captain,
"Captain, you go to town,
Bring me back a TWELVE-pound hammer, please,
And I'll beat that steam drill down, Lord, Lord,
I'll beat that steam drill down."

You see the use of both rhyme and repetition in this particular ballad: the end rhymes in the second and fourth lines, the refrain of “Lord, Lord” which is present throughout the entire piece, and the repetition of the fourth line in the fifth.

Now, let’s consider modern forms. As we move into the nineteenth, twentieth, and twenty-first centuries and with the advent of free verse, one might think that these time-tested poetic devices would fall by the wayside. Not so. Let’s consider a relatively new form: the bop, created by Afaa Michael Weaver. According to, the bop is a “form of poetic argument consisting of three stanzas, each stanza followed by a repeated line, or refrain, and each undertaking a different purpose in the overall argument of the poem”. To see how this works, check out part of “Rambling” by Weaver. First, we have the stanza:

Afaa Michael Weaver

In general population, madness runs
swift through the river changing, changing
in hearts, men tacked in their chairs,
resigned to hope we weave into air,
talking this and talking that and one brutha asks
Tell us how to get these things
They got, these houses, these cars.
We want the real revolution. Things...

And then, the refrain:

"I got rambling, got rambling on my mind"

Now let’s talk about spoken word. Spoken word poetry is just that — spoken — and it is geared to the ear. Modern spoken word poetry, whether as part of regular performance or slam poetry, employs these devices as well.

Here is a great example of poems using time-tested poetic devices in a modern way. Listen to Columbus poet Barbara Fant perform two of her poems, “Swallowing the Sun” and “Handfuls of Honey” at a TEDx Columbus event in 2011:

If you especially listened to “Handfuls of Honey”, you will hear her use of repetition as a poetic device. She does this in her use of refrains, which she modifies slightly throughout the piece — for example:

when He closes His fist and pulls us back in, 
I pray He calls us beautiful

and, later in the poem:

when He calls us back, I pray He calls us beautiful

She also employs repetition through the repeating and expanding of images/metaphors throughout the poem — for example:

it's about be, it's about be, it's about bee, 
like honey, like gold, like glow

and again, later:

grew it light, like risk, like gold, 
like glow, like sky

So this week, in our final days of National Poetry Month, I’d like you to try to write more for the ear than for the eye. Tools in your kit might include rhyme, repetition, refrains, and good old sonic standbys such as alliteration, consonance, and assonance.

BONUS: if you like, try recording yourself reading your poem and including it in your post — free sites include SoundCloud and of course, YouTube.

We Wordle #15

April 21, 2014


Did you have an egg-exciting weekend?

Well, whether you did or not, it’s time to hunker down to write a new poem. This time we had to back-pedal to poems written to Prompt 207 History, provided by Nicole. We had inadvertently bunny-hopped over it because we were…simply too egg-excited, this being National Poetry Month and all and we’re still in poem-a-day mode. Yep.

Without further ado, here are the contributors and their words.

stimmyabby: flags, colors, bruises
Jules: dead, fish, balloon
thisgirlremembers: specter, shroud, flush
Barbara: chromosomes, mountain, glue
Debi: tragedy, God, pirates
Misky: magnolia, leaf, tree
James: buffalo, saplings, wildflowers
Viv: famine, pun, chorus
Elizabeth: love, deer, whirlwind
Nicole: clawing, scales, streetlamp
Irene: fossil, flesh, water

Use as few or as many words from the list. Change the form and tense of any word you wish. Write a poem about anything under the sun. Then post your link in the comments section. If you don’t have a blog, you could simply paste your poem in the comments if you wish to share.

Note: We Write Poems will run the final Monday wordle prompt the last Monday of April 2014. We’ll still be hosting prompts on Thursday, alternating a regular prompt with a wordle prompt. Just so that you’ll keep to your writing practice. You heard it, it’s a practice.

prompt 209 Liturgy

April 17, 2014
Any soul that drank the nectar of your passion was lifted.
From that water of life he is in a state of elation.
Death came, smelled me, and sensed your fragrance instead.
From then on, death lost all hope of me.

Throughout April, I’ve been offering prompts that touch upon the early origins of and uses for poetry. This week, we will go in a bit of a spiritual direction.

I titled this prompt “liturgy” to encompass a broad range of spiritual purposes for which poetry is written. Where I work, the term liturgy is used to refer to a collection of texts used for public, communal worship. What sorts of poetry might this call to mind? In Jewish and Christian traditions, one might think of the Book of Psalms, where parallelism, both synonymous and antithetic, is a common poetic device. Consider this excerpt from Psalm 27, usually attributed to King David (King James Version):

King David

The LORD is my light and my salvation; 
whom shall I fear?
The LORD is the strength of my life; 
of whom shall I be afraid?

One might also think of our modern Christian hymns, and there is certainly crossover between hymns and poetry in that regard. One of the most prolific hymn writers of the 19th century, Fanny Crosby, began first as a poet. She wrote her hymns and poems mostly in four-line stanzas with an a-b-c-b rhyme scheme, as evidenced by the first verse of “Near the Cross” which I quote below:

Fanny J. Crosby

Jesus, keep me near the cross,
There a precious fountain,
Free to all, a healing stream,
Flows from Calvary's mountain.

Throughout human history in other religious traditions and faiths, poetry has been used for praise, thanksgiving, supplication, prayer, and expressions of sorrow to the deity or deities in question. The Rigveda, a Sanskrit collection of hymns written in verse form composed between 1700 and 1100 BC, is a great example of this. The hymns in the collection address several Hindu deities, including Ratri, or “night”. I’ll quote a portion of a hymn praising her from book 10 of the Rigveda:

1. WITH all her eyes the Goddess Night looks forth 
approaching many a spot: 
She hath put all her glories on.
2 Immortal. she hath filled the waste, the Goddess hath 
filled height and depth:
She conquers darkness with her light.
3 The Goddess as she comes hath set 
the Dawn her Sister in her place:
And then the darkness vanishes.
4 So favour us this night, 
O thou whose pathways we have visited
As birds their nest upon the tree."

Spiritual poetry can also speak of more elevated themes, such as unity with the deity, the transcendence of one’s physical existence, and prophecy. The lines of Rumi’s poetry which began this post are a perfect example. Rumi, a Persian poet, theologian, and Sufi mystic, believed very much in the use of poetry, music, and dance to reach God. He spoke freely and frequently of seeking union with the Divine, as evidenced by this example:


I died as a mineral and became a plant,
I died as plant and rose to animal,
I died as animal and I was Man.
Why should I fear? When was I less by dying?
Yet once more I shall die as Man, to soar
With angels bless'd; but even from angelhood
I must pass on: all except God doth perish.
When I have sacrificed my angel-soul,
I shall become what no mind e'er conceived.
Oh, let me not exist! for Non-existence
Proclaims in organ tones,
To Him we shall return.

Many of us are in the middle of religious observances right now. Some of you are observing Passover and the Easter season this week. You might use this prompt to ground yourself mentality, emotionally, and spiritually to prepare yourselves. Might you consider the stories of your faith as a starting point for this prompt? Perhaps you seek greater union with the Divine. Perhaps you are full of praise and thanksgiving, or like King David to whom authorship of Psalm 23 is attributed, you have walked through “the valley of the shadow of death” and you need to cry out in sorrow.

For the agnostics, atheists, and questioning folks among us: this prompt might be a great opportunity to think about belief (or lack of) and consider it further. Perhaps you might explore the moment you began to question what you were told about God. For the scientific or humanistic minded among us, what does creation say to you? How do you feel about faith as a general concept and other’s expressions of it? There are many directions in which you can go.

Meditate upon this, and write where your muse takes you. I’m looking forward to the results.


We Wordle #14

April 14, 2014

Here is this week’s We Wordle challenge. The words are selected from poems written for Nicole’s prompt #208, Mythology.

I think you know the drill: Use a few, use just some, or use all the words. Be inspired and relax about it all. Write. Just write. Post your poem or prose to your blog, and then return here, and post your link in the comments box so we can all enjoy your creation. Have fun!

~ Misky

Wordle #14

Viv: glory rights song
Misky: pay pallid scurry
Jules: children vision drudge
Nicole: towers, sight, liquid
Barbara: crow black kinks
Lorna: dancing green spiral
Hannah: belly grows powers
Christopher: broke spell simple
Abby: nose bed ripple
Irene: brother myth say

Submissions for Red Wolf Journal Issue 2

April 11, 2014

Are you poeming every day in April? Are you poeming copiously in some form 
in April? Are you poeming at all? 

If so, Red Wolf Journal would love to see your poems on the theme:

“The River: Within Us and

Without Us”

Godavari River, at the Old Godavari Bridge, in Rajahmundry, India. Courtesy of Hariya1234 from

This theme, of course, is about rivers, in any way, shape, or form. What do rivers 
mean to you? What do they symbolize? What about the rivers -- both literal and 
metaphorical -- in your lives? Do you, as Michael Stipe said, need to "find the 
river"? As your soul is “as deep as the rivers”, as Langston Hughes put it, we 
want to read about it in a way that we’ve never seen before. Show us how 
the river which draws your soul travels.

For more information, please see the full explanation of our theme as well as 
Red Wolf's general submission guidelines.

prompt 208 Mythology

April 10, 2014
Raven was in a deep sleep,
dreaming the world. He saw things
and they happened, He dreamed things
and they came to life.

- Red Hawk, "Raven's Last Dream"

In last week’s prompt we explored “history”. This week, we turn our gaze to “mythology”.

Poetry began as an oral tradition to transmit the history, stories, and culture of a people from one generation to the next. Included in this was the culture’s mythology. Of course, mythology can overlap both history and religion in earlier cultures — in many cases, what we now label mythology were considered true accounts of the actions of the gods and other superhuman characters in those cultures, and legends were considered true stories about the actions of humans. Mythology and legends were often transmitted through epic poetry — consider one of the most famous examples of this, The Odyssey by Homer.


The term “myth” has become somewhat pejorative, denoting something that is fictional and not true.  I’ll bear out this idea a little further with a question: if Zeus’ defeat of his father Kronos is considered a myth, what about the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah by Yaweh? In different times and places, both have been considered literal retellings of real events.

The Destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, by John Martin

I present the previous question to broaden the idea of “mythology” a bit. For this week’s prompt, I’m going to ask you to take the word “mythology” and run with it — in any direction you choose. You can go epic with this. Or, if you’d like a modern example of mythology in poetry, you can check out “Raven’s Last Dream” from which I quoted at the beginning of this prompt. Do you look to mythology from your own culture? Might you look to the stories of heroes/heroines or warriors — what about Cú Chulainn, Hua Mulan (and not the Disney version!), or Samson? Do creation stories fascinate you — whether it be Yaweh speaking the world into existence, or the Maori story of Rangi and Papa?

Legendary Chinese Warrior Hua Mulan

Consider other possibilities. Would you do some mythologizing of your own — might you take a modern event and explain it as a result of a supernatural event? What might happen if an ancient mythological or legendary figure appears in modern times — would Saraswati perform on India’s Got Talent, or how would King David fare at a poetry slam? Or do you think in terms of metapoetry about mythology itself?

Saraswati, Hindu goddess of knowledge, music, art, and science

As Jim Morrison put it, “Let’s reinvent the gods, all the myths of the ages/Celebrate symbols from deep elder forests”. I’m looking forward to what you create. 🙂


We Wordle #13

April 6, 2014


This wordle comprises a selection of words from poems submitted to Prompt 206 “Which Childhood?” So the following are the poets who’ve submitted poems and the list of words which I’ve picked:

Ms Pie: embryonic, borrowed, turtle
Nicole: toothpicks, earlobes, fatness
emangsteroo: fighter, hatching, jagged
Jules: aura, ripples, unwrapping
purpleinportland: stockings, shame, songs
Marian: color, emerald, snapshots
Misky: marshmallows, pine, sap
Stimmyabby: dissecting, microscope, almonds
Annell: snakes, coastal, leaf
Barbara: record, books, homing
Debi: unseen, lemon, foot
Irene: lame, birds, roots

Kind of a delightful potpourri, so hopefully they serve as your inspiration for meanings and associations so you create your own particular scent of a poem. That’s the whole idea. Be free to change forms and tenses of the words. And you may choose to use a sprinkling of the words or (gulp) the entire lot. Just follow your muse and play. Don’t you forget, this is the month for poetry and love. Or love for poetry. Or… (gulp gulp) never mind.

prompt 207 History

April 3, 2014
I am large, I contain multitudes.
-Walt Whitman, "Song of Myself"

Welcome to the first We Write Poems weekly prompt of April! This month, I intend to take you all on a journey through themes — themes which inform the very craft of poetry in which we engage.

We have just begin National Poetry Month. Also, the first half of the year tends to celebrate history — February is Black History Month and March is Women’s History Month. This month, interestingly enough, is also Autism Awareness/Acceptance/Understanding Month in the United States. During these times, the histories of these groups (more recently autistic folks) is shared and celebrated.

I thought about these these ideas and these energies…and about history in general. History is more than just names, places, and dates: it is a part of who we are as individuals and it informs our writing. Sometimes, it is our cultural histories which leak into our work — and by culture I mean anything as broad as nationality, ethnicity, and religion or something as narrow as the culture of one’s family or social group. We may draw on historical events and people from other dates, times, places, and cultures and use these in our writing. Also, consider that poetry and history are natural partners, as the genesis of poetry as a form was a result of the need to transmit culture, stories, and history to future generations before the existence of the written word.

For an example of how this might play out in poetry, consider these lines from “O Black and Unknown Bards” by James Weldon Johnson:

James Weldon Johnson

Heart of what slave poured out such melody
As "Steal away to Jesus"? On its strains
His spirit must have nightly floated free,
Though still about his hands he felt his chains.
Who heard great "Jordan roll"? Whose starward eye
Saw chariot "swing low"? And who was he
That breathed that comforting, melodic sigh,
"Nobody knows de trouble I see"?

Johnson considers the unknown singers before his time — unknown names and unknown faces, but their songs known and remaining.

Another example of how an event in the history in a smaller group — a family, a town, a village — might play out in a poem is in “Daredevil” by Sherman Alexie. In the poem, he speaks of an aunt who went blind after drinking antifreeze as a teenager. (Quoted from publication in Superstition Review at

Sherman Alexie

She recognizes me with some other sense
No matter how long I've been absent.

I can silently appear on her front porch
But she'll say my name as she opens the door.

And of course, there is always the option of fictionalizing history in poetry. Consider these lines from my poem, “Debutante Emily Looks for Buried Treasure“:

They lived on Seventeenth. The Negro
steel mill workers, these new men recruited
by ashen-coated promises of gold moved into
these little one-story brick boxes with their
families: and Helen’s was no different.

The poem uses real-life places and events: Seventeenth Avenue is in an area of the town in which I grew up. It was one of the streets on which the then-president of the local steel mill contracted builders to construct houses for his African-American employees in the early twentieth century; he did this because many of them were living in slum-like conditions. The town (albeit renamed) is real, the street is real, the steel mill is real, and the house is real, but Helen and her family are not.

So I ask you this week: what’s in your genes? What have you been inspired by, historically?  What do you think, in a broader sense, about the idea of history? Would you like to fictionalize history? Meditate on this and write. I’m excited to see what you all come up with.


We Wordle #12

March 31, 2014
tags: ,
We Wordle #12

Welcome back for more We Wordle fun. This is wordle #12 (how wordles fly when you’re having fun!), and this week’s words are plucked from poems written to Irene’s prompt #205 “Your Neck of the Woods.” Here are each poets’ three word contributions to the Wordle.
Yousei: me you mockingbird
Viv: tea cake says
Ron: window road morning
Hannah: rain melting wind
Abby: churches bread sky
Irene: woods stars read
Marian: rabbit blue water
Roslyn: smile tease life
Debi: swearing thin again
Jules: Palm canal south
Barbara:  madness neck out
And here are the pesky unruly rules: There are none. No rules, except that I hope you have fun. Use all the words or just a few. Change the tense, if you wish, if you must, if your muse is not amused and needs a wee small push. Post your poem to your blog, tattoo it on your leg, leave it here, leave it there, write it and leave it anywhere!! Post a link if you dare.
Looking forward to reading your poems.
~ Misky

Prompt 206 Which childhood?

March 26, 2014

Which childhood?
The one from which you’ll never escape?
–Li-Young Lee, “A Hymn to Childhood”

In our adult life, writing as poets, do we find ourselves returning to childhood as a kind of base for who we are, how we’ve become? In your imagination, who was this child? Why is childhood significant? What is the nature of childhood? Is it somehow a frozen place, a place of fixed identity? How do your experiences in childhood shape who you are? One way of writing about childhood is to draw on the memory of an experience.

In Sharon Olds’s poem, “Killing My Sister’s Fish”, the narrator describes the steps taken prior to poisoning her sister’s goldfish and when the deed was done, she was just lying there, “as if without/regret, as if something set in motion/long before I had been conceived/had been accomplished”. The speaker seems to be referring to some sort of karmic destiny. It can even be said that it raises the question of our a priori nature. What is it that our DNA carries, that carries this piece of history? In accounting terms, it is the balance carried over.

Is childhood really a clean slate? Or does it carry imprints of our past?

So write a childhood poem with a twist and let it deal with karma, déjà vu or the sixth sense.

Announcement: As you know, April is National Poetry Month and most of you, I hope, will be all wrapped up in the writing. Somehow it doesn’t seem daunting even if it is. Or it’s daunting only if you let it be. They do get better with more writing. The poems I mean. Even if you have to drown in really bad ones while you’re at it. Of course there’re poets who can’t write a bad poem. But I’m not one of them. I post up every one of my drafts. I’m not much of a revisionist either. Is that why I don’t go from good to better? Or best? Is there always a good, better, best version of poems? There must be. I still haven’t got sufficient insight to figure it out yet. My method is really to keep writing new poems and hope for a kind of consistency.

I forget what I meant to say. And it is that We Write Poems will go full throttle in April. By full throttle it means Thursday’s regular prompt, and Monday’s wordle prompt. Then come May, we will no longer ramp it up. Sorry if you haven’t found the pace leisurely, to your liking. Like slow food or something. So as I was saying, from May we’ll post weekly prompts on Thursday, alternating regular and wordle prompts. Slow food…