About Forty

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Sharpen Your Writing Skills with Online Critique Forums

Ten years ago, at the prodding of a library patron, I first started participating in an online critique forum. The group of poets I met helped me tremendously. While I know not everyone has such a wonderful first experience in online forums, I’ve come to believe that these forums are of great help and importance for helping writers today both improve their quality of work and network within the global writing community.

I’ve written a guide to getting the most out of such forums. Click here to read more.

If you want to participate in online critique forums, there are several excellent places to learn and grow.

Poets can learn, play and critique one another at Wild Poetry Forum. Those more interested in reading and writing poetry than critiquing it will enjoy the House of 30 at Blueline.

Short fiction writers can join in the fun with Friday Fictioneers, hosted here on WordPress. The Writer’s Hangout, a group on LinkedIn, has an excellent weekly challenge with several quality writers who have become a source of inspiration to me.

Do you participate in any other online critique forums? I’d love to hear from you.

Thunder Belts Its Awesome Jazz

I’ve had some fun playing with the pantoum, a rather challenging poetic form. Here’s one I’ve revised a few times since it was first born at Wild Poetry Forum as a part of a creativity game.

Thunder Belts Its Awesome Jazz

Thunder belts its awesome jazz
in lonely straits of atmosphere.
Lightning adds staccato pizzazz
before clouds shed a single tear.

In lonely straits of atmosphere
the North Wind stirs her cauldron.
Before clouds shed a single tear
she must don her starry apron.

The North Wind stirs her cauldron.
Nimbus clouds boil within the pot.
She must don her starry apron
and prepare the brew like a criminal’s plot.

Nimbus clouds boil within the pot.
As the North Wind’s magic works
to prepare the brew like a criminal’s plot–
each batch has its separate quirks.

As the North Wind’s magic works
with music in the heavenly plane,
each batch has its separate quirks,
calling on snow, sleet, hail or rain.

With music in the heavenly plane,
lightning adds staccato pizzazz.
To call on snow, sleet, hail or rain
thunder belts its awesome jazz.

Daisy Duke, Hutchinson, Kansas, 1979

Thirty-five years ago today, The Dukes of Hazzard first aired on CBS. Although I never watched an episode of this popular show, it became an important part of my childhood. Today, I finally completed this poetic memory about those days on the playground at Central Christian Elementary. This one’s for you, Andy Chin, wherever you may be.

Creative commons, GNU Free Documentation License

Creative commons, GNU Free Documentation License

The photo captures

the dry, windy playground.

Where is the place

it held for the crippled girl

and her Chinese friend?


Most of all in these United States,

the Chinese boy loved

The Dukes of Hazzard—memorized

every line, recreated

every scene with other children

as pawns upon the playground,

moving as he directed (he was,

of course, the sheriff—what

dipstick wouldn’t obey).


One by one, the children tired

of his game, left

for swing sets, softball and kick-the-can,

until he stood alone

scuffing his shoes in the dust.


Wailing like a siren, he would pause

to chat with his Daisy,

still sitting where he had left her

on the schoolroom steps.


Time has scarcely faded

my mental snapshot

of that bumbling sheriff

and his adoring, crumpled Daisy.