Renegade Writers 10/03/2015

I am part of a group of trusted writers and newcomers who meet every other Saturday at various locations to write together. This past Saturday, I led the exercises. We take turns leading, so the responsibility of running the group is shared.  I am posting here my writing exercises. I only ask that if you use them in a class, that you credit me. Please feel free to use them to spark your own writing.  It would be interesting to see examples of your work generated by these prompts in the comments below.

  1. LANDThe land has stories. Consider our natural environment, or a particular place that you have ties to, and tell its story. Start by listing the ideas you have associated with this land, and any memories. Use the items on your list as a source of inspiration and write a poem examining why this occupies your mind. As you write, continue to hunt for clarity and more to say. Does the land change you? Do you feel a particular way when you think of it or visit it? Does this place still exist? Is it threatened? Do you feel calm or fear when thinking of it or visiting it?

Weave your impressions and ideas into a poem or short piece of fiction.

  1. Thirteen ways of looking at a _____________________________

After reading the poem, “Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird,” pick an object and write several stanzas numbered 1-13. Strive not to be literal but to see beyond the thing.  Write the most imaginative narrative about the object you chose that you can conjure.

  1. Word Prompts

Circle 3 or more words that resonate with you from each group. Write sentences with each of those words. Push for clarity and interrogate the sentences to determine a narrative thread. Spend time shaping this into a poem of short piece of fiction.

We will repeat the process with another round using different words, or your own list.





©2015 Clare L. Martin



I have this one life. I am addressing areas that have been neglected and treating myself with love and care, whereas in the past I harmed myself. I have no apologies for reclaiming my energies to prevent myself from living in a wheelchair, suffering from joint disintegration, or dying from a heart attack. Of course, we don’t know how we will go, but I am revolutionizing my mind and body to squeeze every bit of life out of life.

I haven’t felt inclined to write poetry of late. That is okay with me. I feel that I will come to it when I am ready. What inspires me is other writers, other artists of many forms. I have a photo by Annie Pluto on my computer’s desktop that I am allowing to consciously and subconsciously resonate with me. I hope to write an ekphrastic poem inspired by it.

I am being very selective about what I will do in my Writing Life. I have set boundaries; and will respect my own authority to make decisions in regards to how I will proceed. Otherwise, I firmly believe, the work will not be authentic or any good, the goals for which I have always strived.

I have had to let go of things that at one time meant so much to me. My mother’s death changed me in ways that I view as positive, which I believe she would have wanted for me. My hope for the New Year is that I can continue the progress I started in late 2014, to better myself, in a holistic way.

My determination is strong. My hope is rising. My will is palpable; and I have the love and support of those dearest to me, thank God.


Thank you for reading.


Clare L. Martin

Watching the Wheels


I forgot who I was. I knew the age spot on my left cheek. I knew the sagging breasts and the overlapping belly. I knew my feet; my unusually small toes. I knew my eyes and what they had seen. I knew my lips, now shaded in regal purple. I knew my place in the bed next to the dog, and further away, my husband. I knew him; his wants and needs. I knew the losses: friendships, a friend forever, my father, son and now, almost seven months ago, my mother. I knew something of my values, but not as clearly: my own value. I had forgotten the tools of my fingers; except to inconsistently pleasure myself, wash my face, shave the stubble here and there, or grip a steering wheel. I knew my daughter; but already this knowing is an ocean away. I knew the reason I withdrew from an outside life that filled others more than myself. I knew the shame of saying one thing and doing another. But I had forgotten myself.

I know that in the past six months I put words on paper. I know that as soon as those words were written I forgot them. I forgot the thrill too, and felt only dislocation.  I forgot the feel of words in my mouth, as though my tongue had been numbed for surgery. I forgot the clicking taps on a keyboard except for inane mumblings; wretched gloats and ambiguous streams of babble. But back to dislocation: my writing setting has been unsettled. There are two sofas in this room. One does not belong here. Things are unplugged that should be plugged in. There are china cups wrapped in newspaper in boxes that haven’t been unpacked. One curtain hangs and another needs to be hung up. Where is my grounding? Files and files and no skeleton for them. Unopened mail. Books unread. I became dislocated in the aftermath of death. I do remember the tenderest parts of me and the kisses they received.

Before I progress, I need to familiarize myself with myself. Yesterday, I wanted to disappear. I wanted to drive on a road I’d never traveled and tell no one if I was going north, south, east or west. Instead I went to a bakery and bought my favorite dessert. My husband ate half and my daughter the other.  The yearning I have is to be left alone. JUST LEAVE ME THE FUCK ALONE.  That has been my mantra, but I do want to engage. Those closest to me understand. I have enough time. I just need awareness of the ever-presence of the opportunity of solitude and the will to delineate myself into its holy grasp.

Drained. I have been drained. Lately, I have related an adage that came to me: “If your own kitchen is on fire and your neighbor’s house is burning, put out the fire in your kitchen and then bring water to your neighbor.”  This is how I must live my life, for now, until the fire is put out, until the long task list is accomplished. I do not feel guilt for saying no. I do not feel remorse for expressing wrath when only wrath, justified, would accomplish the necessary. I had forgotten wrath. Wrath can be useful. I accept my own blamelessness.

God help those who elicit my wrath. It is life-stopping in a metaphorical way; and profoundly affecting. Good, good, good. Now you know. Now you will pay attention and show me respect. Wrath: a wolf in defense and defiance for survival. It is necessary for the continuation of my living with no ill intent at all.

I talked to a friend today. It was nice. She offered refuge and calm water. I cannot do for others outside my closest family and my core friendships. Loss. We have lost so much and I am in transition. Part of what I forgot or tried to unburden myself from was writing; what it had come to mean for me.  But what it meant, or what it was starting to represent for me was obligation and burden. Yes, there is a burden to carry as a writer and almost always I carry that with joy, but the elements of operating in a society of writers was what I felt trapped by. I came to a conclusion to only write when I feel like it and to not submit my work to journals anymore unless I am solicited to do so. It is not because I feel I have reached a level of status that it is beneath me; it’s just that I am not hungry.  I do not have the time to write, submit, write, submit, etc. I think of the John Lennon song’s “Watching the Wheels” because it expresses how I feel about my career as a writer.

What is it about writing that brings me joy? I am no longer playing the game. I am vitally more interested in growing my family, as we have lost so many of our blood and kin. If I can solidify my core family, blood or not, I will find that inner resolve to write something worthy and authentic. I will write words with blood-worth, with the meaning and impact that has always been my fiercest intention.

Dream of the White Horse


Dream of the White Horse

I dream I am night-blind
I am astride

a vivid white horse,
but only when planets
position to my favor.

Oh, to dream
of The White Horse
is salvation; a blessing
ineffable and sublime.

Once, I dreamed the car
I was driving
went over a bridge,
and I woke
completely afraid—

How do dreams linger
to create a haze out
of our entirety of days?

Peculiar and forceful,
sometimes made of metal,
my enemies arise
in dream-light;
in queer movies,
in falsities.

I have got to get my shit together,
this dream says;
or portrays me
as The Rider: legs
tight against hide.

The White Horse and I
share instinct and will.
The sense of this beast
encompasses all
that is ethereal, and yet
she is tremendously strong.

Oh, spirit, gift of perception,
visit me tonight.


©2014 Clare L. Martin




Japanese lithophane cup, like ones in a tea set that I have inherited from my mother.

This poem came out of the creative writing work I am doing with women in recovery and/or transitioning from homelessness.  We are all survivors of something (myself included) and we are, if we choose to be, on a path of reclamation. More info on “Recovery Academy Two: Transformation of Lives through Poetry” can be found here:

This exercise was:

Recall one object/thing. It could be a memento, a gift, something you mean to discard but have not, even the covering of dust on the furniture. Describe it in detail. Describe it with love or hate. What is its significance or insignificance to you? What will you do with/to it in the future?


In 1972, my mother
rescued a wood
and glass cabinet
from the nuns
of Saint Genevieve’s.
Forty days after her death,
my brother slides
two glass shelves
off of their metal brackets,
and he and I carry
the cabinet to the back
of my car, open a door
and slide it onto a quilt.
I was not ready
to remove the cabinet
from its place
the same place
it had been since I was five.
I am crushed but we laugh
at something
have a bite to eat,
and move
toward the other things.

That glass cabinet
belongs to me.
I could have left it
in the back of my car
for as long as I didn’t need
space for groceries,
quarts of oil, a spare tire.
My husband carries it. I am not ready.
I shout, “I am not ready!”

I am not ready
to dust and shine it,
to put in the glass shelves;
but objects will find a home there.

Japanese cups
Brother David
gave to my mother.

(A gift of war—if you lift them
empty to the light,
a silhouette of a geisha’s face
is revealed in the bottom).

Buttons, buttons, buttons.
Hand-embroidered handkerchiefs
and the white gloves
she wore at her wedding—

This dark morning it is only me awake; only my eyes open in this house.



Clare L. Martin


©2014 Clare L. Martin



Listen: the growl is deafening. A cloud splits in two. What mythical wonder woke you?

Sleep executed by firing squad. (Oh, the marksman without a bullet cries and the woman on his finger languishes).

He who has blood on his temple will never raise the stone in his fist.

We keep the sins we commit. What is a secret if no one cares to know it?

Hunger, hunger from the day you were terribly born. (This is why she hates you). There is no milk for children made of glass.

That which is left behind is all for you. The curse is that you cannot touch it. Remember what came to you through death will go through you like water. Still, the dead keep giving.

Wind shoves its tongue down your throat. A brass bird revels in rain. Someone runs into traffic with an inverted umbrella, dances, and shakes loose coins from her belly.

Hunger, again, for dog meat, good enough to eat, so, why not eat it? Filaments of lightning sear your morning-eye then burn out.

Phones ring with too much treble. Every time it is her–I want you back. The house shakes. Sleep shatters: a plane crash.

It was wrong of me to take a swig of vodka at the funeral. I did  not want it, or its meaning.

I pity the most unusual things. And there was no charm in this creature: dwindling fur, black, broken teeth, ember-eyes and skin thin as a frog’s. Nauseating.

Why did it come here? Was it for souls? I thought to feed it raw bacon wrapped to a wooden stick, but it took what it came for.

The sun rises and we hunger. The sun sets and we hunger. It is only one hunger that matters.

Sky Burial


Sky burial platform in Dra Yerpa Monastery
Sir Charles Bell
September 11th 1921
Lhasa Area > Dra Yerpa


Leave me
on open land
until bonesong
goes unheard
and all putrefaction

Let me cultivate
the growth
of all that is visible
and invisible—
be the giver
of alms to the birds.

My secret name,
as is yours,
is Carrion.

or living come,
come to commune.
Let us go with eyes open
into ineffable light.



©2014 Clare L. Martin