Sep 27, 2023

Novem Poetry Form

The Novem is another fun form, invented by Robin Skelton, a prolific writer and poet who was instrumental in creating the Creative Writing Department at the University of Victoria (British Columbia, Canada).

The number three is important to the Novem. It consists of three verses of three lines each, and each line has only three words. However, each line has four syllables - 2 one-syllable words, and 1 two-syllable word. Here’s the catch – the placement of the two-syllable word keeps moving. In the first line it appears at the end, in the second it’s in the middle, and in the last line it appears first. Also, you’re going to want to try to have one consonant sound repeating four times in each verse.

But here’s the good news, there is no restriction on subject matter, and there is no rhyme scheme. Getting the syllables in the right place can be a little tricky, but the more you do them, the easier they get. Which is why you’re getting two examples.

The wind rises
leaves rustle but
never let go

days grow colder
their colour starts
changing, they turn

I think autumn
is coming soon
winter comes too.

I see dragons
in sunlit glades
flying in arcs

I see faeries
and waltzing elves
mingling by glens

I see dreamworlds
of mythic gods
before I sleep.

Sep 25, 2023

Welcome Autumn!

Fall has always been my favorite season. The time when everything bursts with its last beauty, as if nature had been saving up all year for the grand finale.
— Lauren DeStefano

It's the first day of autumn! A time of hot chocolatey mornings, and toasty marshmallow evenings, and, best of all, leaping into leaves!
— Winnie the Pooh

But when fall comes, kicking summer out on its treacherous ass as it always does one day sometime after the midpoint of September, it stays awhile like an old friend that you have missed. It settles in the way an old friend will settle into your favorite chair and take out his pipe and light it and then fill the afternoon with stories of places he has been and things he has done since last he saw you.
― Stephen King

A wonderful thing happened on the weekend – it officially became fall!

The days are shortening, becoming cold enough that you need a jacket in the morning, but warming up nicely during the day. The sun is somehow brighter now, the air crisp and clear.

Are you yea or nay on pumpkin spice? Pumpkin spice seems to be synonymous with the fall these days. It has become so popular that our local Starbucks keeps running out.

On Friday the granddaughter helped her Grampy close up the pool for the season. This involved him having to put on his bathing suit for one last dip so that he could take the stairs out. And yes, we laughed at his reaction to the temperature of the water. A series of cold nights has dropped the temperature of the pool water considerably. Then one last pool cleaning and the cover could be put on.

This is also the time when the gardens are ready to be harvested. I don’t know about anyone else’s, but ours was late going in, so it’s still going strong. The cherry tomatoes on the deck are just about done, but the ones in the actual garden are still ripening.

The green beans are done – this year’s crop was pretty poor compared to previous years. I don’t know how much of that is due to the infestation of Japanese beetles and how much was the extreme weather we had over the summer.

We’ve been getting a lot of tomatoes, but we have to pick them when they’re just starting to turn pink and let them finish ripening in the house, otherwise the tend to split and rot. The exception was the tomato the granddaughter found on Friday. It was hidden deep in the tangle of green bean and tomato vines, and was the most perfect tomato of the season.

I wanted to pull the green bean vines, but they’re so entwined with the tomato vines that it’s almost impossible to separate them. And I don’t want to mess with the tomato vines yet because they’re still covered with green tomatoes. If the temperature dips too low at night we’ll have to pick them anyway and put them in paper bags to ripen.

I’ve started to pull the carrots as needed – once to go with a beef roast and once to go with a pork roast – and I don’t mind saying they are the best carrots I’ve ever had. Late this week I’ll be pulling some more for a stew, but the rest are fine in the ground for a while.

The peppers went crazy this year. I’ve never had pepper plants produce so much before. My neighbor (who gave me the plants as seedlings) said to wait until they turn red before picking them, but only a couple of them have turned so far. I’m probably going to pick the largest ones anyway, and cut them up for the freezer.

I know these bright days won’t last forever, but I intend to make the most of them while I can.

How do you celebrate Autumn?

Sep 20, 2023

Landay Verse Form

The Landay is a traditional form from Afghanistan. The name means short, poisonous snake in Pashto.

It is an uneven couplet, having nine syllables in the first line and thirteen syllables in the second. There can be as many independent couplets as you wish, but the final one should end with a “ma” or “na” sound.

While the Landay can rhyme, usually it does not. It’s meant to be a sharp, witty poem, generally dealing with such topics as war, grief, separation, and love, and often criticized traditions and gender roles. They were originally meant to be sung, usually by women.

You can find a fascinating article about the Landay and its importance to Afghani women in Poetry Magazine

Okay, I tried to write my Landay using the traditional subjects, but I failed miserably. But my example does follow the nine/thirteen format.


A cold wind sweeps inland, waves crashing,
while those with no where else to go shiver in the dark.

The detritus that is left behind —
broken dreams and hard living, scattering like sea shells.

No permanence for the likes of you
move along, move along, don’t let those roots sink too deep.

The rain comes, but our roof does not leak,
it is cold and dark, but we are safe and warm inside.

We are untouched by what lies outside
and turn a blind eye to the tents on federal land.

We take our privilege for granted
saying prayers each night to avoid accruing karma.

Sep 18, 2023

City Vs. Country – A Fair Comparison

Agriculture is the greatest and fundamentally the most important of our industries. The cities are but the branches of the tree of national life, the roots of which go deeply into the land. We all flourish or decline with the farmer.
— Bernard Baruch

The county fair is a place where dreams come alive and memories are made. From thrilling rides to delicious food, the county fair has something for everyone. The county fair is a chance to disconnect from the world and embrace the simple pleasures of life. Walking through the county fair feels like stepping into a nostalgia-filled dream.
— FsmStatistics.FM

Agriculture is the most healthful, most useful and most noble employment of man.
—George Washington

Over the weekend, I had the opportunity to man my stitchery group’s table at the Port Hope Fair. It’s small potatoes, as fairs go, but I tell you, I honestly enjoyed it far more than the CNE.

The Canadian National Exhibition may have started out as Canada’s largest agricultural fair, but there’s nothing agricultural about it anymore. It’s become very citified, with it’s international markets and high tech displays.

I remember one of my favorite things was cutting through the horse barn on the way to one of the other buildings, and sitting in the stands around the indoor ring watching the horses jumping. And there was a whole building devoted to farmers and the farming industry. All sadly part of the past now.

The Port Hope Fair, however, was everything a fair should be. There was a midway with plenty of activities, fair food, and plenty of displays, like ours:

For a small entry fee, you could pit your skills against other people in everything from floral arrangements:

To jams and preserves:

I helped set up our display on Friday night, and then took a turn manning the table to answer questions on Saturday and Sunday mornings. After my shift on Sunday, I stayed to have a wander around the fairgrounds.

I took a ride on a horse-drawn wagon:

Then I got to pat an alpaca:

The lighter coloured one was named Bella, and the darker one was Rebecca. In case you were wondering. :-)

I also got to pat a lion-mane bunny - so soft!

I saw goats, cows raised by members of the 4H Club, dogs in training to be sheepdogs, and all kinds of agricultural displays. I watched a sheep being sheered. And other than an overabundance of wasps present, I enjoyed myself far more than I did at the CNE.

This fair, though small, had more of a sense of community to it. It helped that though busy it wasn’t crowded. There were truck and tractor pulls, a hunter/jumper horse show, and a demolition derby. There was a vintage tractor show, a flyball (dogs) demonstration, and lawnmower races. You won’t find any of that at the CNE.

I guess I’m just a small town girl at heart because I’ll take a small, county fair over the big city fair every time.

Sep 13, 2023

Haibun Verse Form

The Haibun, which means haikai writings in Japanese, is an interesting form that combines both prose and Haiku. Its origins can be traced back to the 17th century and one of Japan’s most famous poets, Matsuo Basho. It is called a prosimetric form, a term which comes from prosa, meaning prose, and metrum, meaning verse.

It begins with a prose narrative or personal essay like passage, which typically describes a scene, a journey, an experience, or a memory. It’s written in a concise and vivid manner, and often incorporates sensory details and emotional insights.

The Haibun ends with a Haiku, which is intended to serve as a brief reflection that compliments the prose. The Haiku can echo an image, expand on your theme, or create a different perspective, but at the same time it needs to establish a connection with the prose section.

The prose is pretty much self-explanatory, all you need is the ability to write a paragraph. You can include things in the prose that you do not have space for in the Haiku, but at the same time, you do not want the prose to overpower the Haiku.

The Haibun will typically avoid using a first person perspective, using more objective description instead. It often explores themes of nature or the seasons, or it could be personal introspection.

You can extend the length of your Haibun by alternating segments of prose and Haiku until you reach the length you wish. Most of the examples I came across, however, have shown only one of each. My own example only has one of each, but I would like to explore this form further, creating a longer Haibun.

It is hard to trust the Weather Network’s report of a day of sunshine when the rain comes sweeping in from across the lake. The smell of ozone accompanies the symphony of thunder as the water churns, whitecaps forming on the crests – the lake is angry. Meanwhile the flowers in the garden bow under the driving force of the rain. Steam rises from the hot earth as the clouds clear, only to repeat the pattern another day.

dark clouds over the
surface of the black water—
chased by a pale sun.

Sep 11, 2023

Summer’s End

Alas, summer sun can’t last forever. The days will grow cooler and shorter, and our skin will once again pale.
— Sarah MacLean

To say it was a beautiful day would not begin to explain it. It was that day when the end of summer intersects perfectly with the start of fall.
— Ann Patchett

Summer was over in twenty minutes that day. Finished. At four o'clock in the afternoon the roses were quiet on their stems, full-blown, fulfilled; the water in the pool was warm; the leaves on the trees quiet, too, and green. The cat lay with his belly to the sun, steeped in heat.
― Elizabeth Enright

Last week I talked about the first sign of the ending of summer – the CNE. This was followed on Tuesday by the kids going back to school. The days are staring to grow shorter, the nights cooler, and it’s time to clean out the gardens in preparation for next year.

Mother Nature, however, needs to get with the program.

While the days are definitely growing shorter, last week was one of the hottest weeks of the summer. This is Canada, so very few, if any, schools have air conditioning. The poor granddaughter just about melted, and with her busy afternoon schedule she was only able to make it over once to go swimming.

I was happy to go in with her – the pool temperature was 80F, the highest it’s been the entire season. Ironically, it didn’t feel that warm because the air around us was so warm. Figures, eh? Needless to say, we were back to being sealed in the house with the doors and windows shut for the week.

As for the gardens . . . well, thanks to the Japanese beetle infestation, the green beans aren’t doing all that great. Was it only last year they were growing so fast I could barely keep up with picking them? This year I have to fight my way in because they’re so tangled with the tomato plants, and I’m finding just enough for a meal each time.

The tomatoes are doing well though. We have an insane bumper crop of cherry tomatoes, thanks to the hubby getting four plants. The three we have in a planter on the deck look like they’re just about done, but the one I planted with the regular tomatoes is still going strong.

I worried about my tomato plants because I accidentally planted pole beans instead of bush beans and they grew right over top of them, but I shouldn’t have worried. They’re covered in tomatoes, but they’re all still pretty green. I’ll be making enough spaghetti sauce to keep us going for the winter if they all start ripening at the same time.

Actually, I’ve started picking them anyway. If you wait until they turn red, they start to rot on the vine. But if you pick them when they get just a hint of pink to them, they’ll finish ripening in the house. And last year, a lot of our tomatoes where still green when the frost warnings started, so we picked them and put them in paper bags – they ripened slowly and we had fresh tomatoes right up until Christmas.

The lettuce is done. I will be planting less of it next year – we just couldn’t eat it fast enough, despite it being the best lettuce I’ve ever grown. Never saw a hint of the beets I planted, and I’m not sure what happened to the spinach – I think it’s somewhere in the morass of beans and tomatoes, but good luck finding it.

The carrots may not be a bumper crop, but they held their own. I’m leaving them in the ground for now because they’re still a little on the puny side. But the peppers! Wow, have we got a good crop of peppers going. My neighbor (who gave me the plants) said to leave them on the vine until they turn red. So far only a couple of them have got that far, the rest are big and green. I might pick a few of them anyway, just to make sure we don’t lose them to bugs or rabbits.

So looks like summer isn’t quite done with us yet. What do you do to mark the end of summer?

Sep 6, 2023

Rhupunt Verse Form

Welsh bards (poets) were held in very high esteem, and their poetry can be traced back to 100 B.C. Poetry was considered a profession, and to practice a person had to qualify, usually by participating in the Eisteddfod, or poetry competition that had very strict structural requirements.

Sometime in the 14th century, the Welsh poetic forms were codified into 24 official meters. These meters were then divided into three categories: the Englynion, the Cywydd, and the Awdl. The Rhupunt (pronounced hree’ pint) is the 13th Welsh meter, falling into the Awdl category. It has both a strict syllable count and rhyme scheme.

It can be presented in one of two ways: either as a stanzaic form, with 3 to 5 lines per verse, 4 syllables each; or as a single line for each verse, broken up into 3 to 5 four-syllable sections. The lines or sections of each verse are mono-rhymed, except for the final one which rhymes with the other final lines/sections throughout the poem. When written as a single line, the lines are paired as couplets. Easy peasy, right? I think a schematic is definitely called for!

Schematic for four line stanzas:





Schematic for single lines:



Because I did two schematics, I thought it only fair that I do my example both ways. To be honest, it wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be to write, although being limited to four syllables per line was a little annoying – it seems kind of choppy with that restriction. But the best part is, I have another one of the coded Welsh forms under my belt! :-)

I start to write
with sun so bright
I wish for night
when it is chill

my mind, it strays
my thoughts ablaze
I look for ways
to hone my skill

I choose my font
the words look gaunt
I do not want
the ink to spill

deadline is met
fulfilling debt
I’ve one task yet –
put down my quill

I start to write, with sun so bright, I wish for night, when it is chill
my mind, it strays, my thoughts ablaze, I look for ways, to hone my skill

I choose my font, the words look gaunt, I do not want, the ink to spill
deadline is met, fulfilling debt, I’ve one task yet – put down my quill

Sep 4, 2023

Let’s Go to The Ex!

Pictured above are the Princes’ Gates, entrance to the Canadian National Exhibition, better known as the CNE or, more fondly, The Ex, Canada’s largest fair. It began in 1878 as an agricultural fair, with 100,000 people attending for the admission price of 25 cents.

Today an estimated 1.3 million people visit the CNE, generating more than $50 million in revenue for Toronto, and over $70 million for the Province of Ontario.

It's held for 18 days at the end of August. It covers 192 acres along Toronto’s waterfront and features shopping areas, exhibits, live entertainment, a casino, and of course the midway with a plethora of games, rides and food. There’s also the Kid Zone, which features entertainment for children as well as scaled down rides and games.

I’m not sure how old the daughter was when we first started going to The Ex, but it became an annual ritual for the two of us. It always seemed like the perfect way to end the summer. Then the daughter started on her road to higher education and string of trips to The Ex was broken.

This year seemed like a good idea at the time for the whole family to celebrate the end of summer with a trip to The Ex. So on the weekend we drove to Oshawa, then boarded the GO train to Exhibition Place.

The crowds were absolutely insane.

The above picture as taken before the crowds got bad. None of us were comfortable with the crowds, especially on the midway. And the lines for anything were also insane.

However, we’re nothing if not a family of troopers. We started in the Enercare building, which featured a display of garden gnomes:

A seaworld exhibit created with roses:

And a video gaming area:

We rested our tired feet by sitting on the bleachers provided for viewing some robot wars:

And later stood in the most incredibly long line I’ve ever seen to see the Super Dogs. In fact, we were more than twice as long in the line as we were watching the show.

While the hubby and I checked out the Craft and Hobby building, the daughter and son-in-law took the granddaughter to the kid zone. Overhead the U.S. Blue Angels and the Canadian Snow Birds made sure there was no napping on the job. Those jets passing overhead were LOUD!

While it was wonderful to spend the day together as a family, I have to be honest and say that none of us were sorry to board the train back to Oshawa. I would love to go on another family adventure, but maybe something a little less people-y. And maybe indoors. With air conditioning.

The Ex has certainly changed a lot since the daughter and I used to go. That it’s more expensive is a given – everything’s more expensive since the pandemic. And there doesn’t seem to be as much to see.

Would I go again? I’d probably give it another try. But I think I’d suck it up and drive all the way there – our travel time was way too long. And never again on a weekend.