Poetry Wednesday: Reversible Poetry Contest!

When I’m not hanging around Betsy’s place or Murderati or the FTF blogcircle or playing Poohsticks in the tweetstream, or actually working on my WIP,* I like to lurk in Janet Reid‘s territories** and learn stuff.

Like what an Alot looks like.

A few weeks ago, she introduced me to reversible poetry, which can be read up or down, line by line.

It was more of a reintroduction, actually, since it was used in various ads and PSAs several years ago. Some of you might recognize “The Lost Generation” by Jonathan Reed:

I don’t think I recognized this as poetry at the time, but my definition has expanded quite a bit since then.   I love the ones that change moods and meanings when they’re reversed, but even without that kind of reverse, you do get two poems at once, like semantic double-knit.

A few collections of reversible poetry have been published or posted recently, though I couldn’t find  much on the origins of the form.^  Maybe it’s just something someone tried when Palindromes palled, and a friend looked over their shoulder and said, well, how cool is that and tried a few that another friend thought were good, and so on, until a literary agent notices a couple of amazing examples on someone’s blog and holds a reversible poetry contest . . .which your faithful poetry nutjob saw and loved and borrowed in homage to everyone involved.

See?  Poetry is contagious.

These particular poems are both fun and weird to write—it’s like turning your imagination inside out and trying to see through your ears into the future.  Or it was for me, because (say it with me, now) I am not a poet.  And the last time I tried to double-knit with actual needles and yarn, I tied my thumbs together.

But because I could no more resist one of Ms. Reid’s contests than I could a milk-chocolate HobNob, I blundered on:^^

Happy days
May stay,
My love,
Despite our desperate schemes.
More gold than it gleams,
Life may be.
But still—
Life may be
Like nothing of our dreams;
Unlikely as it seems,
My love
May go away.
Sorry days


Sorry days
May go away,
Unlikely as it seems.
Like nothing of our dreams
Life may be.
But still—
Life may be
More gold than it gleams.
Despite our desperate schemes
My love
May stay.
Happy days

But then I scrolled down to post my entry and realized she’d given a prompt:  candy.  I couldn’t work candy into the above, so I scribbled this out before lunch, which may explain the sugar shock:

Candy sour
Candy sweet
Most won’t last beyond the hour.
We give these choices so much power:
Chocolate bar
Pixie Stix—
Which will tell us who we are?
When is the tasting worth the risks?
Cinnamon star
Butterscotch discs—
Most think one flavor will complete,
As if the heart has one true treat
Candy sour
Candy sweet


Candy sweet
Candy sour
As if the heart has one true treat,
Most think one flavor will complete:
Butterscotch discs
Cinnamon star—
When is the tasting worth the risks?
Which will tell us who we are?
Pixie Stix
Chocolate bar—
We give these choices so much power.
Most won’t last beyond the hour
Candy sweet
Candy sour

Again, not a poet.^^^ But these should give you an idea of how to write one of your own.

Which is what I’m asking you to do.  But you already knew that.

For those of you who are new around here, I don’t judge quality—I’m not qualified, poetry is too subjective, and the point of these is to try something new and have fun with it.

Here be the rules:

Write a reversible poem of no more than 100-words one way (or a 200-word limit for both halves, if that makes more sense).  No prompts, any subject you want.  Feel free to fool around with different punctuation in each half, since emphasis and pauses can help make it work.

Post the poem up and down (as above) with a space in between.  If you prefer to send your poem to me via e-mail instead, that’s fine with me—please use the address in the upper left corner there.  If you want to post it on your own blog, go for it and link back—I’ll check my spam folder for the duration.

Don’t tweet it to me—I’ll get confused.

As I mentioned during the Limerick Contest—and thank heavens I did, you reprobates—I have no problems with explicit poems, but if it goes past wink-wink, nudge-nudge, please e-mail it or I’ll remove it from the comments and mail it to your mother.°  If you’re not sure where that line is, e-mail me the poem and I’ll let you know.  I talk about my kids on this blog and I suspect my boss knows about it, so let’s keep up appearances, shall we?

Once your poem is posted or received, you’ll be entered into a drawing for the regular-sized mug of your choice from Café Press,°° who as far as I can tell will ship almost anywhere in the world.  At the end of the contest, all names will be put in Sunny’s pink cowgirl hat and the winner will be selected by the first family member I can find.

You have until midnight CST (that’s Chicago time) next Tuesday, which should be the 10th

So go pick up a pen and start  looking out of your ears!


*Hush.  It happens.

**Which include the QueryShark’s hunting grounds.

^ Even Wikipedia could only direct me to an article about a Markov Chain.  While I find the Markov system fascinating and oddly empowering—mathematics are often a random, memoryless process for me—and I suspect it holds a ton of analogy-potential, it doesn’t appear to be reversible and wasn’t particularly helpful for this post. But I’m keeping it in mind for later—that’s one Random Thursday that’s going to write itself.

^^ John S., I’ll understand if you want to avert your eyes and scroll past.  Edge up a bit when you hit the mug.

^^^And not the poem I actually entered.  The results haven’t been announced, yet, but the entries should still be up, if you’re interested.   Some of them are excellent, and I’m glad I don’t have to judge them.

° Kev, this is not to be taken as a personal challenge.  I mean it.  Chris gave me your mother’s e-mail address.

°° Or an equivalent online gift card, if you don’t want me to know your full name or postal address.


Random Thursday: Candy, a Contest, and the Steampunk Cheesefest

Jane’s class Halloween party is coming up, and we volunteered to provide the drinks.

My husband went to the wholesale place and bought two flats of assorted juice boxes (one for lunches, one for the party), various household necessities . . . and the biggest bag of Hershey miniatures I’ve ever seen—and that’s coming from a woman who often dreams in chocolate.

“It’s for the Trick-or-Treaters,” he said, with commendable optimism.  “Hey, kids,” he said to the two who had materialized in front of him the moment he said trick-or-treat, “do you think we should hand these out for Halloween?”

“Yes!” said Jane, her nose pressed against the plastic of the bag in an expression of cacao-ian rapture.  “They’ll love them!”

“Daddy?” asked Sunny, her eyes huge.  “Can we come by our house for Halloween and get some of those, too?”


Her Sharkliness, Janet Reid is hosting another one of her 100-word story contests over at her blog, presumably to celebrate the release of  Sophie Littlefield’s new book, Unforsaken—the prize is a critique by Barbara Poelle, who is Ms. Littlefield’s agent.

The required words are: unforsaken, deadly, witch, ghost, decay, and slay, with extra points given for working in insalubrious.

You can place your story in the comments of the contest post starting tomorrow at noon EST.

It’s a fun little exercise and it’s free to enter.

I’m planning to start scribbling mine right after I google insalubrious.


Three Musketeers is coming out tomorrow.   I’ll be going with my friend, Grace, as my husband, who is devoted to the 1970s movies,* which follow the books just a touch more closely,  has declined to go anywhere near it.  He says if they wanted to make Master of the World, they should have—but they shouldn’t call it Three Musketeers.

But I’m planning on reveling in its steampunk fanfic-y cheesiness without apology.

I say fanfic, because this clearly isn’t a remake—it’s a what-if  brought to life, with much fanfare and use of rich fabrics and exploding ordnance.   Barbie and the Three Musketeers might be marginally closer to the source material, and that’s one of the few books I’ve hidden under Sunny’s mattress so I won’t have to face them for a while.**

I may be asked to turn in my Bibliovore Society membership card, but I don’t care about any of this, as long as Matthew Macfadyen keeps talking in that lovely voice of his and Orlando Bloom keeps chomping scenery like a piranha in a fop suit:

Even Genevieve Valentine, who has already dubbed this film The Comedy of the Year, is planning to revel in its anticipated wrongness:

I suspect it’s one of those movies so wonderfully dreadful that, after I see it, I will feel as though it’s always been in my life.

That’s my kind of recommendation.


*The ones with Richard Chamberlain as d’Artagnan—both of whom irritate the behooey out of me, though the book character bugs me marginally less.  While all the Musketeers sport some pretty big character flaws, which makes for more interesting reading, Mr. Chamberlain—a fine actor, I’m told, whose performance in Austin Powers I did enjoy—infuses the admittedly WTF dialogue of his d’Artagnan with just a bit more oblivious arrogant narcissism than I feel is strictly necessary.  Or indeed tolerable.  I actually prefer the Disney version, which might tell you something, though I’d swap all of them for The Man in the Iron Mask with Gabriel Byrne, Gérard Depardieu, John Malkovitch, and Jeremy Irons.

**I think there are one or two Barbie-wrecks-the-classics under there, but mostly it’s just because the best children’s books tend to lose their luster after the bazillionth reading.  Parents, guardians, and caregivers, back me up:  what books have you nudged under the couch?

Small Victories

It is Friday and I am still upright. 

Coughing, snorting, and trying to drown that damned frog with my my third gallon of hot tea since this morning, but upright.

That counts.


I sent off the “autobiographical” reenactment speech last night—a whole week before deadline, thank you—and received a reply this afternoon that it was more than acceptable and they’d “be in touch.” 

This is both a relief and a slight puzzlement—I wrote it for free* and I don’t have much in the way of stage direction or insights to offer, so I’m assuming any future  touching would be for edits, possibly for length.

No sweat—I could take out the poem, the obituary excerpt, and/or pare back hte bit about his best friend the radical socialist.

Or if it’s too long, I could put back one of his wives, his military “career”—which appears to have consisted mostly of a few months at Camp Cuba Libre during the Spanish-American War—and the subsequent book about said “career” (whoops, just remembered that one), numerous affairs with the women he didn’t marry, and a couple of great cautionary tales about the dangers of binge drinking.

So there’s room to move, if movement is required.

But for now, it’s one more thing off the checklist, if I had one. 


At the stroke of New York midnight tonight, Janet Reid will open the entry floodgates for one of her famous 100-word story contests.  The prize is an advance copy of The Devotion of Suspect X by Keigo Higashino and the thrill of knowing that for one shining moment, Ms. Reid liked your stuff.

And I’m done with my entry!   Trust me, this counts as a victory, long-winded as I am.

I’d enter the contest anyway, because I’m ever so slightly addicted to the mini-challenges, but I do want to read Suspect X, a mystery set in Japan.  I’ve always been fascinated with Japan, mostly because of Dad, who taught at the American School in Tokyo in the ‘fifties. 

Dad taught me how to use chopsticks to pick up almost everything—practicing with M&Ms is key—and tells great stories about his first trip to the baths, where an elderly gentleman taught him a lesson in humility, and skiing, where he learned of his own mortality, and bits and pieces of everyday life the way it was half a century ago.  Of all the items he brought back with him, I covet the beautiful book of haiku,each poem delicately drawn on one page, with the translation in lovely printing on the next. 

So I’m definitely there for this one—though probably not at midnight, even if I am on Central Time. 

Ms. Reid is only allowing entries for twenty-four hours, so come join me!  The more the merrier! 

And as usual, if you win, please let me borrow the book.


My wonderful First Reader got back to me with her impressions of the revised early chapters of my WIP and so far, so good. 

I’m still wrestling with how much I should reveal of each character’s backstory . . . but at least I’ve got the firearms legally back in the hands of my ex-cons!

Hey—anyone know what a Pennsylvania gun permit looks like? 


It’s nine-thirty, the kids are toothbrushed, pottied, and in bed. 

That counts as two.


*Three reasons:  the reenactment is the entertainment for a fundraiser benefiting the local writing center, so taking money from them in this economy made no sense.  The lady who asked me to write it is a lovely, sweet, and iron-willed woman—a retired children’s librarian, in fact— who would have repeated, “We can’t pay you much,” in an apologetic tone until I caved anyway, so I cut to the chase.  And I’ve never done one of these monologues before, so if it had stunk on ice, money would have been embarrassing.

Incomprehensible Winner!

A week or two ago, Her Sharkness,  Janet Reid deigned to acknowledge the release of Vordak the Incomprehensible’s handbook of evil, How to Grow up and Rule the World.

In fact, she took the evil high ground and hosted one of her infamous literary tetris contests, in which she provides  to her many chums (pun intended) a list of words to be used in a 100-word story.  As an inside joke, or to put her frenemy\nemesis* firmly in his place, she dubbed it the Great Gassy Goblin Contest.

Reader, I won!

The QueryShark herself selected my entry, which more than makes up for having to tell my parents that I won a writing contest with the words gassy goblin in it  (Dad:  “I knew you had it in you!”).  I may never delete the e-mail message she sent me:

“Book and swag are going out today in the mail.
Let me know when it arrives, ok?
J” **

I received the book yesterday, in all its yellow incomprehensibility, and my new favorite mug, which clearly shows that though Vordak may be the be-tined King of the Evil Mountain, Janet Reid will always be the sharkskinned Empress of the Deep:***

Or in other words, those who can’t, teach.  Those who can, chomp.

Nevertheless, Vordak’s book is a thorough course on how to become evil from a standing moral start, with many exercises, examples, and basic diabolic plans to get one started on one’s career as the Evil Ruler of the World.

I will say that one of the subclauses in the required Standard Evil Promise of Employment Agreement  is a bit worrying, though I’m sure it’s just boilerplate . .  .    But the chapter on superheroes is worth the price I would have paid if I’d had to shell out for the book,^ as are the many tips and commandments scattered throughout:

Never believe Commander Virtue when he assures you there is no need to confiscate his utility belt because there us nothing in there that he can use to escape from your latest diabolically clever yet extremely slow-acting death trap. anyway.

Apparently, honesty is not one of his virtues.

My seven-year old is already a big fan of Vordak, and is even now studying hard in her novice headgear and practicing her evil laugh: BWAH-HA-Ha-ha-ha!

I’m so proud.

I should probably note, however, that even now my three-year old is sitting quietly in the tub chuckling to herself  (Heh-heh-heh-HEH) and playing with her favorite bathtoy:

Things are going to get interesting around here . . .^^


*Tomato, tomahto

**Seriously, Ms. Reid added some kind, encouraging words  in another e-mail and the note that came with the book (all of which I am saving), but as I promised to make her seem more evil that Vordak, you didn’t read that here!  Ahem, Ms. Reid has so surpassed evil that she has come through the other side and  created not one, but two of the most helpful and addictive online sites for writers who would like to know what the hell they’re supposed to do (and not do).  She sheds wisdom like sharks shed teeth.  There.

**Please for to note the tiny, swimming, oblivious Vordak . . .

***Or rather, the price the children’s department of my library is going to pay for a couple of copies once I recommend it.    I could donate my copy, but it’s mine, all mine! Hey, the evil is starting already!

^^And now I’m exploiting my children on the Webternet.  Woo, this evil stuff is heady!