When the Consolations of God are Small — A Sijo Poem

When the Consolations of God are Small
Job 15:28-29

The wicked dwell in desolate cities
Ready to become heaps
They are what they are
Neither shall their substance continue

But why must I come forth like a flower
Cut down in sight of His holy mountain?

9/6/2014

This is a sijo I wrote last year, using a random passage of the Old Testament as a poetry prompt. I used a Korean sijo by Kim Inhu (1510-1560) as a model, and the phrase in the poem ‘They are what they are’ was inspired by a similar line in Kim’s poem. Shared on Poetry Pantry #254 on Poets United

Catsong: for Niki

what if my heart is too long or too tall?
what if my cat is too light or too small?

this calico tabby is mine
no matter that her nails are too sharp

the chill moonlight is mine also
to collect in alabaster jars

Dec. 11, 2012

This sijo was written in honor of my elderly cat, Niki. She lived outdoors until the day she decided she didn’t like the other outdoor cats and insisted on coming into the house.  I used a poem by Shin Heum as a model, and that poem provided some elements, including the moonlight.

I shared this sijo on Poetry Pantry #143. I made the video last night, with the assistance of Niki the cat. I’ve thought for some time that YouTube gives poets a chance to give poetry readings on line, when we can’t manage to do ones in public.

 

Writing Sijo
The sijo is written in three lines, though in English each of the three lines is usually broken into two, to keep them from being too long. The first line usually states the theme, the second elaborates on it, and the third line contains a twist on the theme, or a resolution. The lines average 14 to 16 syllables, with the poem as a whole having about forty-one to forty-nine.

My method for writing a sijo is this: I copy out one classic Korean sijo (in English translation) and look at it, count the syllables and such. Then I pick something— usually from a book— to inspire my theme, as I did with the Bible passage in the first poem and my cat Niki in the second.

Challenge: write your own sijo poem. Use a random page from the first book to the left of your computer as a poetry prompt.

Facebook page Sijo Poetry: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Sijo-Poetry/392044370990201

My new Goodreads author page: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/4813575.Nissa_Annakindt

But I don’t WANT to write a book review!!!

piusmanA new horror has entered the life of readers everywhere: the need to support our favorite authors by writing book reviews on Amazon.com, Goodreads and elsewhere.

The need to write a book review drags me back to school days when I had to write book reviews to prove I’d read the book. One semester in seventh grade I read and reread ‘Oliver Twist’, one of the books on our free reading list, rather than admit I’d finished in the first week and face up to the horror of writing a book review.

Sadly, I owe a ton of authors a review. Some of them are well known favorite authors of mine. Others are people I actually know through the internet, such as Karina Fabian, Daniella Bova and Declan Finn.

Today I bit the bullet and did a review of a Declan Finn book. How did he get to the top of my list? Well, he gave me free copies of the second and third books in his series. Since I’m very low-income because of my disability, anyone who gives me free ebooks I actually read and enjoyed deserves special blessings in my book.

Here are my secrets to meeting that dreaded book review obligation:

  1. Cheat. Go ahead, read the other reviews written about the book first. That will remind you what the book was about and may also help you remember what you thought about aspects of the story as you read it.
  2. Create a summing-up formula to help you describe plots. For me, it works like this: “This book is about a [main character] who [main character’s problem.] ” You know, like this: ‘A lawyer is chased by a Mafia don when his pet zombie gets loose and bites a mob enforcer.’ ‘A shoe salesman, bored with his life, wakes up to find he’s been transformed into a giant ape.’
  3. Don’t feel the need to be a literary critic. You don’t have to turn yourself into a college English professor and evaluate the literary status of the book. Just say if you liked it, and perhaps mention something you liked about it. If the book was seriously flawed, just mention one thing about it that you perceived as a flaw.
  4. Don’t give five stars. Not unless it’s one of the three best books you’ve ever read. Five star reviews are so common, especially on amateurish self-published books, that many of us don’t trust them any more. Four stars is good enough for nearly all of the enjoyable books you read.
  5. Don’t give one star. Even with the worst, most flawed books, be kind enough to give two stars. One-star reviews are too often unfair and vindictive.
  6. Don’t be ashamed of writing a short review. If you can only think of two or three sentences to write about the book, just use that. It helps the writer just as much as a longer review. Perhaps more, sometimes, as a potential book purchaser may prefer to read a short, pithy review to one that goes on and on.
  7. Check your review for spelling and grammar before you publish. It’s also essential to use proper capitalization and punctuation. Most readers ignore reviews by people who don’t bother to do these things correctly.

I hope this helps some of you who need to get some book reviews written. And if you have any secrets on how to write a book review, do share it in a comment!

Some of my reviews

A Pius Man: A Holy Thriller

Sunset in a Spider’s Web

The Memory of Earth

 

Summer of Zombie 2015— 30+ Zombie Authors’ Blog Tour

summerzombie15I was visiting GirlZombieAuthors blog and they have a post about the Summer of Zombie 2015 blog tour which features 30+ zombie authors and runs from June 1-30. Information can be found at the blog Dying Days: Extreme Zombie Fiction. http://dyingdayszombie.com/summer-of-zombie-2015

I found it exciting since my summer writing project is a zombie novel called ‘The Road North’ which features a young woman who, in the midst of a zombie apocalypse, is compelled to drive her worst enemy & family north to a place of safety.

Since I get bogged down in my writing, and get discouraged, on a regular basis, it will really help to have a month’s worth of zombie inspiration. So I’m really glad that I stopped by GirlZombieAuthors this morning!

 

 

What does ‘Clean Reads’ mean to you?

'Oliver Twist' dates from a time when all fiction made available to the public was expected to be 'clean'.

‘Oliver Twist’ dates from a time when all fiction made available to the public was expected to be ‘clean’.

There is a quiet revolution going on among readers. When they pick up a novel, if they find it full of f-bombs and sex scenes, they put it down and go in search of a ‘clean read’.

My mother, who is in her late eighties, is a long time reader of category romances— Harlequins and the like. She was certainly young enough when the ‘bodice ripper’ romance— romance with sex scenes— first became popular to learn to put up with sex scenes in her fiction, and even to enjoy it and expect it. But when she goes to the Saint Vincent de Paul thrift shop to pick up some romances, she chooses the Harlequin romance lines known for being ‘clean reads’ and avoids the other kind (some of which require three full sex scenes per novel).

I, being in my fifties and having spent many years of my life as a Neopagan who didn’t accept Christian values, got used to reading books without regard to whether they were ‘clean reads’ or not. As a teen, when I was a believing Christian, I read ‘bodice ripper’ romances out of curiosity about sex, though I knew it wasn’t morally right reading material. But as I’ve grown older I find that the bad elements of ‘dirty’ fiction have grown worse as the old level of badness has lost its power to shock. I find myself searching for clean reads as well— even if I have to start reading Louis L’Amour Westerns!

There are of course those who despise the idea of ‘clean reads’. I read a blog at the ‘School Library Journal’ which decries the term since it implies that sex scenes and foul language are dirty. The blogger also demands that books displaying ‘family values’ portray homosexual couples as normal families. The message seems to be that the large numbers of readers who want ‘clean reads’ should not be accommodated in any way— not even in public school libraries.

But for the rest of us, we want fiction that doesn’t violate our basic sense of right and wrong. We don’t want distorted fiction that makes it seem that life is all about committing immoral sex acts and uttering rude language that would make a 19th century army mule skinner blush. We want entertainment that entertains rather than shocks!

As an adult reader, I’m somewhat saddened that in order to get ‘clean reads’ I often need to read children’s books of the ‘young adult’ variety. I want to be able to read like a grown-up! Just not like a perverted grown-up. But sadly our society often views ‘dirty’ fiction as an issue only in connection with child readers or viewers.

In order to find clean fiction, and for authors to write it, we need to come up with some rules for defining clean fiction. They must be distinct from the rules for Christian fiction, because even though Christian fiction normally is ‘clean’, clean fiction is a broader category. It can include fiction that would fit in the secular fiction category, as well as works by authors of non-Christian faiths which express the religious values of those faiths. (Naturally, Christian clean fiction fans might not enjoy some clean fiction written by Jewish or Muslim authors that might portray Christians in a less than ideal light.)

Ben Crowder’s blog: Clean science fiction and fantasy

How do YOU feel about ‘clean fiction’? How would you define it? Can contemporary clean fiction rise to the high levels of the classic authors of the past (Charles Dickens, Jane Austin) who wrote when fiction was required to be  ‘clean’?

 

Why We Wish That Other Political Party Would Just Go Away

majmunNo matter which political party you happen to favor— and even if you are not all too attached to that party, thinking it is corrupt— chances are that sometimes you get sick of ‘that other party’. They are wrong-headed, with wrong ideas and wrong policies, and you believe they will never change. But what is it about the parties of today that make that attitude happen?

Let’s think for a moment about how a democratic republic with two major political parties functions— or fails to function. What do the parties need to have for the system to work?

  1. The parties need to have different ideas, ideology or philosophy from one another. Well, we certainly have that. One party wants smaller government, the other wants government big enough to make things ‘fair’. One party wants ‘reproductive freedom’ operations available through all nine months of pregnancy, the other wants to value human life from conception until natural death. Sometimes it seems the differences are killing us. But what would it be like if there weren’t any differences? If the two parties didn’t have different ideas/philosophies, there would be no such thing as a party that votes one way on an issue because they thought their way was moral and right. Without that, why would parties vote differently? Either for personal reasons— ‘our guy Joe wrote that bill, and we all like Joe so we support it’— or for corrupt reasons. In other words, we vote that way because of the bribes we took.
  2. The parties need to have ideas in common. We don’t have enough of that right now. Let’s think back to the year 1958. At that time, both Democrats and Republicans would agree that both Communism and National Socialism/Fascism were bad things. They agreed that the Constitution of the United States was good and functioned pretty well. People from both parties agreed that if a politician or other leader got caught in adultery, he should resign. Marriage was a good thing, not an ‘outmoded institution’ or a government benefit program. And when people looked at a man and his wife taking their children to church services and to Sunday school every single week, the vast majority from both parties thought that was a good and responsible way to live. Even in areas that were very controversial at the time— such as whether the racial segregation system of the southern states should continue— there was at least the agreement that Negroes ought to be treated kindly. The difference of opinion was on whether segregation could be done kindly, and it was the unkind things done during the civil rights protests to the protesters— most especially the bombing that killed 4 young girls in their church— that killed off the segregation idea for good.
  3. The ‘ideas in common’ need to outweigh the ‘different ideas’. This is the problem we have now. One side is making a principle of rejecting most of what the other side thinks of as right and good. You can’t even wish someone ‘Merry Christmas’ without getting accused of forcing your religion down someone’s throat. When you say ‘is there some way we can agree to disagree?’ the response is ‘but those other guys are hateful and evil!’ In the political realm, the Constitution, as it is written and as the Founding Fathers intended it, is no longer common ground but something only one party tends to believe in. The other one either believes in the ‘new Constitution’ created by modern court decisions, or flat-out says the Constitution we have is outmoded and needs to be replaced by something more like what the cool countries in Western Europe have.

The problem, then, is the massive degree of difference between the two sides and the lack of common ground. What is to be done? Other than civil war, the only hope is to calmly and reasonably attempt to educate— not propagandize or ‘spin’— others in our point-of-view and the reasons behind it. We may not be able to convince others to adopt our positions on ‘abortion rights’ or ‘marriage equality’, but that doesn’t matter. The important thing is to help the other side understand our point of view directly, instead of hearing about it only through slanted news stories created by their own side. Perhaps, little by little, if we listen to one another, new common ground can be created. We need this. Because if our country keeps on getting more divided, we all lose.

becoming a dragonfly

IM000921

becoming a dragonfly

and this is my life
since becoming a dragonfly i float
in the windows of the nobles to steal
their jewels
which i give to the old priest
who feeds the poor
and gives them rosaries
made with his old bent hands
and Job’s tears

over all of this the emperor
watches and smiles
fearing only the assassination attempts
made by the moon
that is his life
which shines and sparkles
but cannot fly
or find solitude

May 13, 2015
free verse composed using keywords: dragonfly, jewels, emperor, moon
‘Job’s tears’ is a plant whose seeds have been used as rosary beads.

This poem is being shared on Poets United’s Poetry Pantry #252 Please stop by their site to view the other poems.

Notes:

Recently I purchased a couple of books on how to write poetry. I’ve been writing poetry seriously since 1988, but wanted to expand my knowledge. One of the books I got was Writing Poetry from the Inside Out by Sandford Lyne.  The book has its drawbacks— the author was into ‘spirituality’ in an annoyingly post-Christian way— but it has one useful technique for writing poetry, which is the use of keywords (which I’ve blogged about before.)

This poem is one I wrote using keywords from Lyne’s book. I must admit that, being me, I didn’t use one of the four-keyword groups Lyne provided but did some mix-and-match between groups.

I ended up with two major characters— the poet-become-dragonfly who becomes a jewel thief, and the emperor. The dragonfly has an association with an old and holy priest, while the emperor fears assassination attempts by the moon. (And in my poetic worlds, inanimate objects can assassinate you just as well as anyone else can.)


 

surly petunia

Since last week I got 2 new downloads of my poetry book ‘surly petunia’ on Smashwords. No sales on Kindle and no reviews either place, though.

surly petunia on Smashwords (free): https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/480237

surly petunia on Kindle: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00NZ96EYE

Do YOU have a poetry book available? Please feel free to add one link to it in your comment.

When the Death Penalty is Necessary

bostonbomberYesterday the Boston Marathon Bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was sentenced to death for his crime. Which brings the question of the death penalty to mind. We know the PBS/Progressive/Europeanish faction hates the death penalty, largely because their role models, the Western European nanny-states, have banned it and declared it ‘uncivilized’. But just because fools hate something doesn’t mean wise men have to be for it.

I used to consider myself anti-death-penalty. My home state of Michigan outlawed the death penalty some time in the 1850s, and that’s pretty much OK with me. But as I’ve matured and thought things over, I have to account for the fact that many good and decent people of the past have accepted the death penalty as a sad necessity for an ordered society. In the laws of the Old Testament of the Bible, many acts called for the death penalty. Jesus Christ never banned it— even though he himself was executed. Saint Paul, author of many of the epistles of the New Testament, also eventually an execution victim, never objected to it. As an intelligent person I believe I must take into account that just because many modern people believe the only decent approach is to ban the death penalty, there are many people who are/were intelligent, thoughtful and good who thought the death penalty was right.

In many cases, the death penalty is clearly an option. Some guy kills his wife and their children, you could execute him or give him life-without-parole or give him life-with-parole and you have the impression of the man that even if you let him out of prison early, he’s not going to go out and kill anyone else.

But there are other circumstances where it seems that the death penalty— if you believe in it at all— is called for. Some of these circumstances mostly apply to the past, while others are still with us today. Here is my look at such circumstances:

  1. Societies that don’t have the concept of prolonged imprisonment as a punishment. This applies to many civilizations of the past. They had prisons, but those prisons were just a holding area to keep someone until the authorities decided what to do with them. If a man spent five years in such a prison, his society wouldn’t look on those five years as a punishment, but as five years in which he escaped being punished. Punishment meant things like being flogged, amputations for some crimes, in some cultures, or death. Without the concept of life imprisonment as a punishment, you couldn’t ban the death penalty without having to face the concept that you’d be letting murderers loose, possibly to kill again.
  2. Nomadic or highly primitive societies without the capacity to build functional prisons. How would a nomadic tribe go about giving a murderer life imprisonment? You’d have to assign a group of men to do nothing but guard the murderer as your tribe moved from place to place. If a tribe did that, they would lose out on the labor power of the men assigned as guards, which would hurt the tribe’s ability to feed itself. If the tribe were attacked, it would have to do without the guards joining in the defense. Even tribes that were not nomadic, in primitive circumstances, could not manage to keep their murderers imprisoned for life. They might have heard of the concept of imprisonment-as-punishment, might even think it is superior, but they don’t have the material ability to carry it out without endangering the tribe’s survival.
  3. Societies with ‘leaky’ prisons. This can happen even in modern times, though normally only in Third World countries, and in rural/remote sections of the country. If criminals can regularly break their confederates out of prison, or bribe the guards and warden to let their confederates out, you can’t really sentence a murderer to life imprisonment as a substitute for the death penalty with any hope that he will still be in prison for any length of time.
  4. Societies with out-of-control liberal judges. We think we have a lot of them here in the US. But imagine if it were worse. Imagine we have enough of such judges that the average person sentenced to life-without-parole would be back on the streets within five years because some judge thought the man’s rights were being violated. If we couldn’t get rid of such judges, keeping the death penalty would be one way to keep some of the worst murderers off the streets— though those same liberal judges would try to get rid of the death penalty.
  5. Killers who kill in prison. The hope we have when we sentence a murderer to life-without-parole is that he will not be able to do any more killing. If an inmate kills within the prison, especially if he has made many violent attacks short of murder while in prison, death may be the best way to get the killing stopped.
  6. Serial killers. These are people who have made a habit of killing. This is the worst type of bad habit imaginable. Locking a serial killer up may stop him killing during his imprisonment, but it will never be safe to let him out. And the crime is so over-the-top evil it’s kind of hard not to consider the death penalty in such cases. That being said, many captured serial killers are model prisoners, not violent, and some cooperate with scientific studies of serial killers. In my opinion, it’s only the worst of the serial killers that need the death penalty.
  7. Killers whose crimes are an act of war. Think of the Oklahoma City Bombing or the Boston Marathon Bombing. These are killers who considered their killing an act of war against our society, and who wanted their crimes to be imitated by others. If enemy soldiers came pouring over our borders, we’d send our military to stop them with deadly force, even though some of those enemy soldiers would certainly die. Killing killers whose crimes were meant as an act of war shows that we take such deeds very seriously.

As a Christian, I don’t delight in the idea of the death of any person, no matter how wicked that person is. We are all sinners, all have done wicked things. And I don’t like the idea of a murderer ending up in hell. I hope every murderer turns to Christ in the end. But I can’t ignore the victims of crime, whose blood cries out for justice, and the possible future victims some of the most dangerous killers might take. I don’t like the thought, but I am beginning to believe that in some cases, such as the Boston Marathon Bombing, the death penalty may be the better way to deal with it.

What do you think about the sentence in the Boston Marathon bombing case? What sentence do you think would be the most just?