Poetry Pantry: The Dead are Near Us


Shared on Poetry Pantry at Poets United

The Dead are Near Us

We are never, ever alone, no
Because the dead are ever near us
Planted in the meadows
Dust scattered on the seashore

Or walking down the alleyway
Knocking over our garbage cans

May 31, 2015
sijo with zombie theme

I am a fan of the television series ‘The Walking Dead’, and this poem is an outgrowth of my zombie-addiction. I like the  image at the end of the zombie as a clumsy nuisance knocking over garbage cans rather than a horrifying destructive force.

The reason I like the sijo form is that it gives you more room to work with than in a haiku. I find the haiku very difficult to write well and it was only after writing many sijo that I finally managed to write haiku that I’m not ashamed of.

Korean sijo are written in three lines— because in the Korean alphabet three lines of the syllable length required would fit on the page. English sijo are usually written in six lines. Sometimes a solid block of six lines, sometimes with a space between each pair of lines, and sometimes as the one I have written above, with the first four lines in a block and the last two after a space.

This arrangement, which I borrowed from my favorite sijo book, puts the last two lines together because those lines are a turning, or counter-theme, or something unexpected, as well as the conclusion of the poem.

I tend to write sijo using a model poem— an old Korean sijo in English translation. I copy the model down, often in handwriting. I note how the model carries out the traditional sijo pattern and I count the syllables in the translation. When I write my own poem, I often have themes or keywords in mind. Sometimes I use some words or patterns from the model poem, sometimes not.

This is the model I used for the poem above:

In a valley where a stream flows,
I built a cottage on a ledge.
When I plough the soil under the moon
And lie down in the clouds there,

Even the sky and the earth seem to say,
Live and grow old along with us.

This is an anonymous poem, found in the book ‘Sunset in a Spider Web: Sijo Poetry of Ancient Korea’, adapted by Virginia Olsen Baron. As you can see I didn’t take much from the poem other than a lesson on how to construct sijo. No death, cremation of zombies in this poem. Sad, really.


A basic guide to writing sijo

When coffee is not enough: fighting winter blues & S. A. D.

WinterBluesIt’s winter, and that means that many people are trying to cope with Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) or its less intense form, Winter Blues. The condition can make you feel sad or worthless. It can also sap your energy and make you wish it were socially acceptable for humans to hibernate.

For writers and other creative people, these conditions can slow your winter productivity. You may end up spending months not writing, blogging or promoting your books, and feeling hopeless and useless because of it.

Some writers probably try to ‘cure’ their SAD with mass quantities of coffee. This is not a good solution, and not just because excess coffee consumption killed Honore de Balzac. A caffeine high isn’t dealing with the real cause of SAD, it is just (possibly) covering up a symptom.

The problem of the coffee-addicted SAD writer is that coffee can have other side effects that hurt your writing, such as insomnia. And as you get older, your doctor may insist you give up your caffeine habit. What happens to your writing then?

I used to think the only thing that could be done for the SAD person was using ‘full spectrum’ light bulbs. Which are hard to get where I lived. But then I read the book ‘Winter Blues’ by Norman E. Rosenthal, MD. Rosenthal has been involved in research into SAD and the Winter Blues for decades, and he had a lot of research-based advice.

Most importantly, people experiencing depression, even seasonal depression, should seek help for it. He also said that light therapy is a big help, but it doesn’t require ‘full spectrum’ light bulbs.

Instead he suggests the use of a light therapy lamp daily. I bought a Verilux brand HappyLight Liberty 5k lamp, because it was only $39.00. (If it were not for money considerations, I would have bought one of the larger Verilux light therapy lamps.) I sit in front of the lamp every morning and read or blog or something. Rosenthal’s book gives good instructions on how to use light therapy lamps.

Rosenthal also suggests using a dawn simulator to wake up in the morning. I got a Phillips Wake-Up light model HF3520/60. It wakes you with a light that progresses from dim orange to bright white light over 20 minutes. (Time is adjustable.) You can also program it to use a wake-up sound, either nature sounds (birds and ocean surf) or FM radio.

I’m not normally an alarm clock person. When I have an alarm set, I can’t sleep all night long, anticipating. But this ‘wake-up light’ works for me. The first time I used it, I was very overtired from staying up late. I didn’t feel at all like getting up. So I kept my eyes closed and fell back asleep listening to the nature sounds. Those sounds even featured in my dreams. When the wake-up light finally realized I wasn’t going to get up and turn it off, it turned off the light and the sounds— which woke me up. I think it took about an hour to do that, and I was ready to get up by then. So far, I feel better using it.

There is another trick I know to beat depression that works at any time of year. Just go on a low-carb, ketogenic diet. After a short time on the diet, I feel much more energetic and less depressed. There is actual scientific backing for this effect. The problem is, if you start eating carbs again, the effect stops and you may become depressed again.

Poem of the Day

I have no wife, said I.
And so my landlord gave to me
A tiny maiden flower.

haiku by Yamamoto Kakei, (1648-1716.) From the book ‘The Classical Tradition of Haiku: An Anthology’ edited by Faubion Bowers. The book is a Dover Thrift Edition and cost around $3 when I bought it a few years back. Highly recommended.

Asperger’s Syndrome: There are some things I can’t do…

When I was a child, my parents told me I could be anything I wanted to be. And I wasn’t clever enough to say I wanted to be a tall black man. Or a Sherman tank. And my parents didn’t know I had Asperger’s Syndrome— I wasn’t even diagnosed until after my father’s death.

Aspies tend to be intelligent people. Sometimes we can harness the power of our Special Interests to acquire knowledge and skills that would be highly valuable in the workplace. Yet 80% of people with Asperger’s Syndrome are unemployed.

Sometimes they lose jobs or can’t get hired because of things that wouldn’t apply to me. I could make it through a job interview without having a ‘meltdown’ or behaving in wildly unacceptable ways. But I don’t make eye contact correctly and so people probably think of me as shifty and probably dishonest. Once hired I would have difficulty with some tasks, such as answering phones— I just can’t manage phone conversations with strangers. And I’m not an organized person— People with Asperger’s usually have executive function deficit, which is kind of like having AD/HD as well.

Another thing I can’t do is have friends. I had one best friend in 1st and 2nd grade, and then my family moved out of state. Every friend I had in school and college was a person who would not have considered me a friend but an acquaintance. In the years after college, I had not one friend and the only people who spoke to me were my parents. When I got online, after a few years I discovered a few people I consider friends. At least they sometimes comment on my Facebook posts.

It’s just that I don’t know what to do to signal to people that I want to be their friend. Oh, I’ve had people give me advice (or orders) as to what I had to do to have friends. But all this advice might as well have been given in Chinese. People might say, just be friendly, talk to people. But how do you do that when you are not able to gauge which ‘friendly’ actions are just the right degree of friendly? Wrong actions might make you seem disinterested in friendship, or, worse, creepy and intrusive.

And the worst thing is that sometimes it seems the world around me wants me to spend less time on the things I can do that give me happiness and spend all my time working on somehow developing the skills I don’t have and have not yet been able to learn and perhaps cannot learn. It’s as if they want me to stop being an Aspie, and to become normal at the sound of the magical incantation ‘Behave yourself!’ Moreover, when it comes to family members, they don’t want me to become just ANY normal person. They have a specific person in mind. She’s thinner than me, dresses in pant suits in pastel colors, goes to social occasions chosen by family members willingly, and says all the right things, never mentioning anything a family member would need to correct in mid-sentence. Never being interesting, just obedient. I call this false person ‘Suzette.’ She is not like me. She couldn’t assist a ewe in giving birth to a lamb in the middle of the night with a dying flashlight. She wouldn’t be caught dead in some farmer’s field, inspecting the ‘important parts’ of a breeding ram she was considering buying. I really don’t like Suzette much.

But I do like ME. Sometimes, anyway. And I guess I’m going to keep doing the things I do, like blogging and writing, until I’m too old and feeble to do anything and the government either puts me in a shoddy nursing home or gives me a poison shot. And even in my extreme old age I hope I shall be able to scream an angry haiku and pee on them.

Poem of the Day

still life with autism spectrum disorder

and then there is the
social problem of those
who have selfishly failed
to grow wings

and then they ask
for doors
and stairs
on the ground floor
which they do not in fact need.

all that they need
to grow wings.

Nissa Annakindt, (c) 2011
Included in my poetry chapbook ‘surly petunia.’
Amazon (99 cents): http://www.amazon.com/Surly-Petunia-Nissa-Annakindt-ebook/dp/B00NZ96EYE
Smashwords (free): https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/480237

This expresses the frustration of a person with a ‘invisible’ disability in the situation where the authority figures expect him to do the impossible (‘grow wings’) in order to be allowed to ‘fit in.’

Thank you for reading to the end of my post. Perhaps you would like to visit my Facebook author page: https://www.facebook.com/nissalovescats/ While there, leave a link to YOUR Facebook author page. Or some other page you run. I will visit it and ‘like’ it.

Today I’ve been pondering my self-publishing plans

When you are as disorganized as I am, it’s hard to make firm decisions. About anything. But I’ve got to do it, because when you are self-published, there is no one to make the decisions for you.

The first issue has to do with poetry publications. I have two poetry books out. One is print-only and the other is a chapbook-length ebook. Since I haven’t been very effective in promotion either book, my sales are dismal and I lack reviews. I also have had my next poetry publication in mind for some time— I even gave it a name (‘Waiting for the Poison Shot’) and have a book cover made.

I have been torn between getting ‘Poison Shot’ published and doing more with the other two. First book needs an ebook version, second one needs a print version. After a lot of back-and-forthing I have come to a decision: the second book, ‘surly petunia’, is what I should work with.

Getting a print book (or booklet, it’s a chapbook) for ‘surly petunia’ I think is a priority. I think maybe I can get some reviews of it by giving away print booklets to select writer friends. Or blog readers. The ebook version of it has been free on SmashWords and 99 cents on Amazon.com. I will be looking in to whether it is possible to do a revised version without cracking the universe.

If I can only get ‘surly petunia’ out in print and get a few reviews for it, then I will be ready to get ‘Poison Shot’ out. At this point I’m still undecided if it is going to be a larger book of 72 or so pages like the first poetry book of mine, or if it is going to be another chapbook. But that is something I’m going to put aside until I’m done with ‘surly petunia.’

My other self-publishing project will be my first prose project— a short story called ‘The Skin Shirt’, set in a city where people change their skin color by donning a new ‘skin shirt.’ How does a person decide which skin color to pick this time? The story will follow one man’s decision about a skin shirt— and about his life. This project will be a short e-book. If the print chapbook for ‘surly petunia’ works out well, I may do one for ‘The Skin Shirt’ as well. (If you want to read the current draft of ‘The Skin Shirt’ it is still up on my FB author page: https://www.facebook.com/nissalovescats/. I will be taking it down at some point as I work on a final draft of the story, so look it up while you can.)

When I think about my writing projects sometimes I feel very down. I feel like very few people will read my work no matter what I do, and no one will be moved by it. But I’m stubborn and plan to publish anyway. Whether people want to read it or not.  After all, when I first started writing poetry I never though any of it would even be able to get published in the kind of literary magazine that pays in copies, but I did manage to get some poems published. Someone must have liked the poems. Perhaps there are some ‘someones’ who might like the books too.

Readers, have you ever self-published? Did you ever feel some insecurities over your efforts?

Poem of the Day

“Shut up, you crickets!
How can I hear what my wife
Is saying to me?”

by Richard Wright (1908-1960)

Wright was an African-American, Communist author. His book ‘Native Son’, published in 1940, established his career as an author. During the last 18 months of Wright’s life, he devoted himself to writing haiku by the thousands. Over 800 of his best haiku were collected into the book ‘Haiku: The Last Poems of an American Icon.” This poem is #8 in the collection.

This is Ozymandias, the new cat. He has only 3 legs. The mail carrier delivered him to me.

This is Ozymandias, the new cat. He has only 3 legs. The mail carrier delivered him to me.

Do you have an author FB page? Visit MY author FB page (https://www.facebook.com/nissalovescats/) and:

  1. ‘Like’ my page
  2. Leave a link to your own author FB page

and I will ‘like’ your page.

Does blogging still help writers?

Some people say that blogging is dead. I don’t think that is quite true. A lot of people have let their old blogs go dead. Others have destroyed their chances to gain readers by filling their blog with pop-ups and ads. But I believe that blogging still has benefits for writers, such as the following:

1. Blog hosting services can give you a good-looking and free author web site.
https://myantimatterlife.wordpress.com/wp-admin/upload.phpAuthors need a web page these days. But for the new author, particularly if self-published, it may be too great an expense to build and maintain a static author page. A good blog, however, can serve the same question and it won’t cost you.

2. A blog gives potential readers a free sample of your writing.
Some time ago, I encountered a self-published writer who had a blog full of misspelled words and incomprehensible sentences that seemed to have key words missing. He did himself no good with his blog posts. But if YOU can put out correctly spelled blog posts with readable sentences, your potential reader will be able to see that you know some of the basics.

3. A blog helps you interact with readers
Someone finds a link to a book of yours. Perhaps he buys, perhaps not. But with a blog, your potential reader can look at your blog posts, comment, and interact with you. It will help him think of you not as a stranger, but a friend.

4. Blogging helps you network with just the right fellow writers
Writers need other writers. Sometimes you need help that you can best obtain from other writers— people who will volunteer to be beta readers or to review your books. Since other writers might need these same forms of help, they are the most likely to help you.

5. Blogging helps you find your True Readers and fans.
Every time I blog, I attract some readers and repel others. When I wrote about the March for Life, I got comments from prolife blog followers. But I may well have lost a follower or two who supports abortion wholeheartedly. When I talk about my faith, I become more attractive to people of my faith and offend the atheists. When I talk about my genres, I attract others who like those genres. Before long, my blog has a group of followers who like what I like, and are potential buyers of any books I have on the market.

But these benefits are most available to those of us who work on our blogs, improving our layouts and finding good blogging schedules. Participating in blog hops is also a way to make your blog more effective.

Question: how has your blogging helped you? Are there ways you can work on your blog to make it better?

Poem of the Day

When a shadow appeared on the water,
I looked up to see a monk crossing the bridge.
Stay, I said, so I could ask
Where he was going.

But, pointing at white clouds, he moved on,
Answering without words.

An anonymous sijo by a Korean author. Taken from the book Sunset in a Spider Web: Sijo Poetry of Ancient Korea. Adapted by Virginia Olson Baron.

Could better lie-detection technology help screen refugees?

Aylan-Kurdi-628x328-refugiados-europaThe refugee crisis caused by the ‘Islamic State’ has lead to floods of refugees fleeing to find a safe place to live. Yet ISIS has tried to cut off aid to refugees by claiming to have placed many ISIS members among the refugees, and by staging terror attacks to frighten off those who want to take the refugees in to their countries.

The difficult part is to find out which refugees are sincere frightened people without terrorist ties or criminal records including violent crime. And one thing I wondered was whether lie-detection technology could help screen refugees.

The results of a lie-detector test is not admissible in US courts. But it is reliable enough that police detectives routinely take a lie-detector test that indicates the suspect is truthful to mean that the suspect is very unlikely to be the guilty party and start looking for other suspects.

But the problem is that there is a limited number of skilled polygraph examiners. What I was wondering— though I have no knowledge of polygraph and lie-detection technology— was whether we can use computers to read a lie-detector examination and give out a reading of truthful, deceptive or inconclusive.

The test would probably have to be laid out in a rigorous way, using a set of yes-no questions. People would have to be trained in how to administer the basic examination. A skilled polygraph examiner would have to set up the programming, showing it which patterns indicate deception or truthfulness. Then the machine could score the examinations of many, many refugees or apparent refugees.

Since many of the refugees have lost personal records, and the records from their war-torn home towns are not available, this would be one method of screening that could help. It would not get every future terrorist or criminal— especially since some of these people might turn to terrorism or crime AFTER they have been taken in by some country as refugees. But certainly it would screen out some, and allow countries to take in more of those in such desperate need of refuge that they are willing to risk their lives and the lives of their children to leave their homeland.

Other useful measures have been suggested— like examining the social media accounts of those people who have such things. We need to use whatever methods we can to protect our nations while rescuing as many people as we can from ISIS horrors. And why not rescue some of the Christian refugees as well, since they are major targets and would not be welcome as ISIS members? Just a thought, folks, just a thought.

Poem of the Day

And now, something a little less grim than ISIS and drowned refugee babies: the best haiku in the history of ever.


Don’t look at my face.
No change, just large bills.
One wrong move will be your last.

by Paul Violi

This poem is taken from the book ‘Haiku in English: The First Hundred Years.’ Violi’s haiku, which is 5-5-7 syllables instead of the usual 5-7-5, is on page xxxiv of the Introduction.

Finding an author tagline.

0117160840a‘Author branding.’ Oh, the horror! But we do need to do it. There are a lot of authors out there, from the famous to the not-yet-ready self-published. Author branding means we develop a distinctive ‘brand’ to be more memorable. To show how we are different from other authors, like Coke is different from Pepsi.

One way to do this is to have an author tagline, just the way books might have book taglines. Here are some real author taglines:

Cynthia Herron: Heartfelt, Homespun fiction.
Heather Thurmeier: Heart, Humor, and a Happily Ever After
Pat Ballard (Queen of Rubenesque Romances): Romance novels with big, beautiful heroines
Jami Gold: Where Normal Need Not Apply (paranormal romance author)

So far, the info I’ve found on author taglines has mostly been about romance fiction. But it doesn’t matter your genre or genres, any author can use one. You can use it on your blog and on other social media.

I happen to have a tagline myself, though I didn’t think of it that way when I composed it. It was when I was starting out with my author page. I didn’t want to call it ‘Nissa Annakindt, Author’ or ‘Nissa Annakindt,Writer’. That seemed too common. So I came up with ‘Nissa Annakindt, poet, Aspie and cat person.’

I used ‘poet’ because I’ve been a published poet since 1989, and have been published in a number of literary/little magazines. I have also been attempting novels since about 1990 or 1991, but I have as yet not been successful in becoming a published novelist. The complexities of writing have so far defeated me.

‘Aspie’ is a slang term for someone with Asperger’s Syndrome. Officially Asperger’s Syndrome is now just a part of ‘autism spectrum disorder’ which also includes people with low-functioning autism. Having this in my tagline makes me feel a little uneasy now. Like I’m playing the disability card. I honestly don’t believe in doing that. Having a disability shouldn’t mean you are making that disability your ‘special interest’, or, worse, that you are claiming special treatment as a member of a protected minority group, people with disabilities. I don’t believe in this protected minorities (Black people, gay people) versus despised minorities (traditional Christians, conservatives) way of looking at society that so many in the mainstream have. But— on the other hand being an Aspie explains some things about me, like my intense, obsessive interest in certain topics, my being utterly disorganized, my lack of ‘normal’ social skills, and my eccentricities.

I suppose the least useful part of my tagline is ‘cat person’. Though I have written a few poems about my cats. And it spawned a tagline to my tagline: ‘cat person? Well, when the moon is full….’  I’m not sure that’s a useful addition. But my cats are a big part of my life and my lifestyle. I live on 60 acres in a rural area, and so it is possible for me to have quite a number of barn cats, some of whom get to be house cats.

Before I had that tagline the best I had my ‘crazy cat lady’ bio that I wrote for my first poetry book. “I’m a crazy cat lady from upper Michigan. Want a kitten? No, you can’t have that one. No, not that one either. And don’t even think of that one there— the one that hisses and bites everybody. She’s my favorite.”

You can see therefore that I am not at all sure that my current author tagline is the best it can be. Though I am rather fond of it and I’m not sure I can change my Facebook author page to match a new tagline. But I’m thinking about changing if I can think of something better. (If you have suggestions, please mention them in a comment.)

It can be hard to come up with a good tagline because your writing work can change over the years. You can go from writing romance to writing mysteries or hard science fiction, for example. From genre fiction to literary fiction. From potboiler novels to serious poetry. You need to find things that are going to be always true about you and your work.

What about you? Do you have a tagline? If so, please share it in the comments. Are you working on a tagline? Or do you think the tagline idea isn’t right for you?

Poem of the Day

Today’s featured poem was written by Percy Bysshe Shelley (1792-1822). He was some guy married to the lady who wrote Frankenstein. I like Frankenstein. And his Monster.


I met a traveller from an antique land
Who said: Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert…Near them, on the sand,
Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown,
And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them, and the heart that fed:
And on the pedestal these words appear:
“My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!”
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away.

My cat Umberto is expecting kittens soon, and I may name one Ozymandias. It may or may not be a boy kitty. Update: I now have a cat named Ozymandias. The mail lady found a half-starved three-legged cat on her route and she knew exactly where to deliver THAT package. He’s a friendly cat and has already hopped in my lap. Also tried to help me eat my lunch.

If you write poetry, you might like the Facebook group ‘Red Explosions Poetry Group.’ It welcomes poets from beginners to published poets.