Sonnet

I love the sonnets of Shakespeare. Who doesn’t, right? They have been good friends to me of late. Bill had a way of writing about love unlike any other; new love, old love, forbidden love, unspent love, unrequited love, undeserved love and immortal love to name a few. They’ve inspired me to take a stab at a sonnet of my own. It is a modified form unlike those of Bill’s day. And, although I think it’s pretty good, it’s a want ad or Hallmark card by comparison. Be that as it may, I give you…

 

Tear me from this mystery of sap and shapeless track of dawnless night

Betrayed within the conundrum of grace, suffused by quickening light

A statistic now in sharp withdrawal and vacuumed from the place of sight,

Warned by love of love forgot.

 

To steal what might have otherwise giv’n a simple love, both shared, sublime

Is to find all that is found when ‘tis doubly passed through space, in time

Where music, sweet, and dancing, too, the world begets what two define,

Found in love what love is not.

 

To remedy the hurricaned heart while delay and trepidy so daunting

Playing games so wicked, wild with words unspoken, dazed and flaunting

Now no sound, nor whispers call to head so bleak, a heart left wanting,

Comes grace, alas, where sin forgot.

 

Love is come where passion burned

And still’d itself inside, and learned.

 

a season without a song

This poem is currently part of a guest post on Elise Fee’s blog: EliseOnLife.  I wrote this about a year ago while considering the fact that my songwriting has all but disappeared and been replaced by poetry and prose.  If you’d like to read more of my poetry, you can go to danerickson.net.

* * *

Unhappiness is not the reason

for the lack of melody.

It’s not business, anger, or frustration,

that holds back the ryhme.

Ears and eyes open wide

to listen, watch, feel.

The song is buried deep, but never gone.

A season without a song is not the end.

It’s a time for growth,

a time for contemplation, a time to mend.

It rejuvinates the soul, the imagination,

the creative muse.

And when the season is complete,

the song will return, stronger, deeper,

wiser, yet younger than before.

 

Unless…

I’ve been on a poetry streak of late. I hope you enjoy this latest installment.

Unless a grain of wheat

 

Dry, fallen and fielded in freshness

of morning, asleep am I and…waiting;

stillness hopes for hoping still.

 

falls into the earth

 

Pungent and porous I become

as rain pools upon my sodden back bent.

And, soaked in effluent earth,

the rays of sun force cracks to appear in my skin

 

and dies,

 

and the weight of all goodness breaks

my back and bones, splintered

here and there, forsaking their unity

for roots and reach after raw and down and damp.

Silence overtakes silence overtaking me and I gasp out

a final breath, and dark removes

all light and nothingness replaces that which was.

 

it remains a single grain;

 

Is this the end? Has shadow, then, become

the defining characteristic of all things?

Am I forsaken, to be forgot and left rotting

in felch and fetid stench of this horrid, hollow hell?

 

but if it dies,

 

Heat, the warm and simple liquid light,

intrudes upon nihilo, introducing breath and branch

and with re-membered memory kills the dead,

and life cries out to see the new day.

I am not what was but am again.

 

it bears much fruit.

 

But wait, partners here in soft and strange

are bidding, too, this light-ward grasp.

Where once I was, now we are more;

where more was no more than less of one.

Excerpt: At the Crossing of Justice and Mercy

I’m currently working on a follow-up book to A Train Called Forgiveness.  The second book is built on the premise that former cult leader Peter Smith faked his death and is still alive.  This excerpt is from the initial draft of the first chapter of the book.

* * *

It was early summer, 2001.  I had just accepted a job in Southeast Kansas.  My wife, Xena, and I were visiting family near Seattle before making the cross-country move.  She’s always been curious about my childhood cult experience, so I drove her to Bonneveldt.  I took her to the old property that used to be Paradise Farms.  I took her downtown and showed her some of the stores that were owned and operated by Peter Smith’s followers.  Most had changed names.  Smith Publishing on Third, and The Silver Frame, a small art gallery on Main Street, had not.

I wondered if Peter Smith’s people still ran The Silver Frame?  ”I doubt they still run this place,” I said.  ”Let’s check it out.”  We slowly stepped inside.  A string of bells hung loosely inside the door.  They jangled as the door swung open and then closed behind us with a small thud.  The shop was filled with beautiful artwork, original paintings from well-known Northwest and Southwest artists.  There was a wide collection of custom-made frames in many sizes and colors.  The shop was colorful, yet the lighting wasn’t right.  ”A gallery should be well lit,” I said.  The Silver Frame was dim, teetering on the edge of darkness.  The darkness was more than a lack of light.  It was an aura, a deep feeling.  It seemed as if someone had lowered a black veil over my mind.  Darkness seeped through the air like a thick, black liquid from every painting, every crack, every corner, exposing the beauty of The Silver Frame for what it really was.  The Silver Frame was a facade.  It was the skin of something much deeper, something unsettling.  In all its colorful grandeur and external beauty, something was amiss.

* * *

You can learn more about At the Crossing of Justice and Mercy and A Train Called Forgiveness at http://www.danerickson.net.

Keeping it Simple

I teach a feature writing class at Yakima Valley Community College.  I tell my students to keep it simple.  I’ve noted, both in my own writing and most students’ work, that as writers, we tend to use too many words.  Sometimes it’s needless modifiers that just jubiantly jumble up our writing.  You know, the descriptive words that squarely plant our profound prose in the ultimate, over-the-top camp.  Sometimes we use too many ifs, likes, buts, little bits, and actuallys.  We often repeat… repeat ourselves using different words, a variety of language, to say the exact same thing, twice, in a single sentence.  At other times, we hedge, we beat around the bush, we describe something or someone too carefully, because we don’t want to come right out and call them fat or ugly.  We don’t want to step on toes or hurt feelings.

It’s been my experience that most writers tend to use 10 to 30 percent more words than they need to get their point across.  When I edit my work, the first thing I do, is look for extra words, extra words that don’t add anything to the meaning of the written piece.  I worry about the technical stuff later.  Next time you write a poem, a letter, a journal entry, a book, a movie script, a memo, a play, a postcard, a facebook entry… oh, you get it, take time to check if you’re using too many words, more than you need to get your intended meaning across to your intended audience at the intended time and the intended place.  If you’re as critical as I am, I bet you’ll be able to eliminate a few words in nearly every other sentence while remaining true to both the message and beauty of the writing. Take this piece for instance.  I’m really, really reluctant to post it.

Rimrock retreat – a day at Ghormley Meadows

For guys who do what I do (church music director), the day after Holy Week is bittersweet. Bitter, because all that the week promises in its wealth of life-giving news and hints of transformation are gone for another year. Sweet, because such a grand narrative is never over. It is always just beginning.

For National Poetry Month and to honor a most delightful day at a local Christian camp, I offer the following:

Rimrock retreat – a day at Ghormley Meadows

 

Rimrock, rustic and real with space

to contain all that’s empty.

The rugged road cast before feet apace

where moon outshines the sun’s identity-

but loses out to one yet brighter.

 

Pillaged, austere and raw this one comes

bent and spent he went round

and there to see tomb unmanned, he’d won

what spillage, spewed, is spared, fixed and found.

I was blind but now have sight, or

 

is all that sees as blind or lost

as one whose eyes are just downcast?

For just to see is not to walk, wind-toss’d

and free from nature’s slighted past.

Between the stones of each one’s road

 

grow wild, still, evidences of strangely new

that mix with voices old to taunt

and vie for the once-free. But they, too

must retreat or be removed like mustard-mount

seeds of faith renewed, of hope, sowed

 

to keep and deepen the promised field

of unswept dreams and unkept pains;

detritus of lesser gods gives way to peals

of forest bells and words and Word unstain’d

This one’s tale of a Tale once and forever told.

 

Excerpt: A Train Called Forgiveness

The following is a short excerpt from my first book, A Train Called Forgiveness: A Novel Based on Reality.  It’s the story of Andy Burden, a young man who’s struggling with his childhood experience of being subjected to a cult.  The following excerpt depicts the beginning of the cult leader’s loyalty ceremony.  For more information about the book, go to http://www.danerickson.net.  The book is now available at http://www.amazon.com.

* * *

In the summer of 1977, Peter held a special meeting.  He came with his bible, a bottle of wine, and a silver chalice.

He preached about Jesus’ disciples.  He spoke tenderly, with a soft, kind voice.  He spoke of the disciples’ love for Jesus, their teacher.

He compared us, his followers, to the disciples.  He compared himself to Jesus.

Suddenly, Peter raised his voice.  He became angry, enraged.  He shouted loudly concerning Judas, the betrayer.  He clenched his fists and shook his hands.  ”In the end,” Peter said, “the betrayer dies.”  He warned us never to betray him.

Peter claimed to be a messenger, sent by God.  He swore his never-ending love to all who’d follow.  He threatened a painful death to those who’d betray.

He raised his arms above his head, palms toward the sky, and claimed he was Michael the Archangel.  He promised paradise to those with patience.  He claimed he was the light in the darkness.

Everyone clung to his words.  Eyes filled with tears.  Their savior had come.

Over Scotland

Originally written as the beginnings of a lyric to a song I was writing to commemorate the same trip, this comes as I gazed out an airplane window at Scotland below us. It was 1988 and my wife, Rae, and I were moving to Edinburgh to live and work for a short time. It is the country and culture closest to my heart as I hope this short poem illustrates.

Over Scotland

High flying, window glass reveals tattered floor-

Pristine heaven greets eyes open to curving planet yonder

Stretching, reaching, sky-borne, we soar.

Place of kings bringing wonder to hearts that wonder.

 

Stipple-green, ground richly steeped in lush, purple hue-

Woven pattern of road-cut scenes moves closer,

Sky meets peripheral sky, horizon’s hazy blue.

Shadows run as daylight comes, chosen.

 

Well-fermented scenes distilled in ancient dreams-

Walls of stone, hearts of flesh, eyes of steel,

Pageantry in motion, all is as it seems.

Like God in man, surreal kisses real.

 

CreateSpace Review

Over the past few days I worked through the process of self-publishing my first book, A Train Called Forgiveness, on CreateSpace.  CreateSpace is Amazon’s website community for those who choose to publish their own books rather than waiting for the slim possibility of finding a major-publishing deal.  And here’s the kicker: for their basic services, it’s free.  In this short article, I’ll review my experience using CreateSpace.

The first step is simple.  You go to http://www.createspace.com and start an account using your email address and a password.  The next step is to simply choose “start a new title” and complete some basic information about your book.

Next, you create your ISBN number.  You can just click one button and CreateSpace will assign one for you, free of charge.  Or you can choose other paid options.  I went with the freebie.

Next, you need to download a PDF file of the interior of your book.  You need to have your book thoroughly edited and in your desired format.  Once it’s in the system, you can’t change it, unless you start over.  You have to make sure your PDF file is in the desired trim size for your book.  Most word processing programs are set at 8.5 x 11, so you have to reset the size and reformat your document before saving it to PDF.  Most paperback books range from 5 x 8 to 6 x 9.  On my next project, I’ll just start out writing in a small-page format.  CreateSpace will help you fix any issues regarding trim and formatting problems.

Next, you create a cover.  CreateSpace has about 25 cover templates that make creating your cover a breeze.  There are also many files of cover photos to choose from, or you can use your own photo.  I found a stock photo that worked well for my title and went with it.

The final step is to submit.  After you submit, you will receive a message within 48 hours as to the status of your file.  CreateSpace will let you know if their are any problems.  In my case, it took 12 hours, and everything was okay.  I did a final proof, clicked, and my book was immediately available on CreateSpace.  It was also available on http://www.amazom.com within 24 hours.  Pretty cool.

Throughout the process it was easy to view my book, so I could see how it would look.  Also, when I had questions, my email was answered within 24 hours.  I was able to price my book at $14.00.  I can buy my own copies for under $4.00.  There are also many paid services provided by CreateSpace if you choose to use them.  Overall, I found the service and experience of using CreateSpace wonderful.  I would recommend their services to anyone interested in self-publishing.  Happy writing.

Edit, Edit, Edit.

Last spring, I wrote my first book.  Officially, although barely, it’s over 40,000 words.  That makes it a novel.  I wrote the entire first draft in about six to eight weeks.  When I get involved in the writing process I tend to spend several hours per day tapping away at the keyboard.  I write pretty fast, about 1000 words per hour.

Most experts and advisors on writing will tell you to write first and edit later.  I break that rule.  I am constantly editing my work as part of the writing process.  I tend to write in short sections that range in length from a couple of paragraphs to a few pages.  After writing each section, I go back and check for errors and make changes.  The chapters in my first book consisted of about five to seven of these smaller sections.  Each time I completed a chapter, I read it, reread it, and edited.  This process works well for me.

However, I don’t disregard the advice of experts.  After I completed my first draft, I set it aside for about three months.  That gave me time to disconnect myself from the emotional excitement that comes with the writing process.  It’s also when the real work begins.  When I pulled my manuscript out of the drawer, I spent several weeks reading, rereading, and editing.  It’s hard labor.  I much prefer the original writing process and have to twist my own arm to get through this first editing phase.

After I completed my editing, I was fortunate enough to have a friend and colleague, with a background in journalism, who was willing to edit the manuscript.  It came back to me with many suggestions for further changes.  Over the past week I did a final edit.  The final edit was actually much easier and more enjoyable than the initial edit.

In the end, I’m certain that I’ve spent more time in the editing mode than in the writing mode.  I’m also certain that my writing is stronger and more concise because I put the effort into editing.  As with most creative individuals, I’m still my own toughest critic, and after editing the manuscript three to five times, I’m not 100 percent convinced my work is the best it could be.  But at some point you have to say, “It is finished,” and move on to the next project.