“You need to write another damn book!”

I am thrilled to announce that Yellow Flag Press will publish Seek the Holy Dark as the 2017 selection of The Louisiana Series of Cajun and Creole Poetry. Great thanks to J. Bruce Fuller for this honor. Yellow Flag Press is a Louisiana-born publishing house that is growing its national presence. I have had a long relationship with it, and I can’t think of any other affiliation that would make me as happy.


A little backstory:


For a long period of time since my mother’s death in May of 2014, I felt aimless. I was writing, but I did not have a meaningful writing project in front of me to keep me focused on the bigger picture of my Writing Life. I had material for a new manuscript, tentatively titled “Broken Jesus,” that I began to assemble after Eating the Heart First was published. Over the course of a couple of years, I abandoned hope for it and just kept writing new.


Several months ago, while having coffee with The Bayou Mystic, Bessie Senette, I expressed my feelings of a lack of purpose beyond my personal responsibilities and our writing group’s objectives. She knew that I had relinquished my roles in many of the projects I had been involved with before my mother’s death. She also knew that was very hard for me, because of my giving and ambitious nature. The deep dissatisfaction I had been living with was causing depression beyond normal grief.


Bessie listened as I shared my feelings. After a silence, Bessie stood, pointed her finger between my eyes, and said, “You need to write another damn book!” As soon as she said it, I was taken aback. I went home with a charge of energy to do exactly what she said to do. I got to work with real determination.


In December 2015, in a casual conversation, I brought up the work I was doing to J. Bruce Fuller at a writing event we were attending in Arnaudville, LA. He offered to read the manuscript. When I sent it, I had a sense that if I had to face a “no” I would reluctantly consider other options. Honestly, from that moment in Arnaudville when the opportunity opened, I desired for Seek the Holy Dark to be a YFP book.  I have always had great faith in J Bruce’s integrity and the good health of his press.


[Surprisingly, in less than three days of receiving the publishing news, the cover art was selected and rights acquired. That is another story that involves my dear Bessie!!]


I am thrilled, ready, excited, and focused to bring this new work to the world. I again express thanks to J Bruce Fuller and Yellow Flag Press for this amazing opportunity.


And great thanks to Bessie for seeing my need and calling forth my energy to fulfill it.


More soon…


Delineating my Self

I am delineating myself; setting clear boundaries and making few exceptions for energy spent on things outside of these lines. In fact, everything I am doing at this point in my life is directed toward the purpose of securing what I want and making a path for who I want to be.

In this realm, I must only include those who I feel are most trustworthy. I cannot be lackadaisical about who I let in and who must be out. It’s unfortunate when there are people we care about who don’t recognize that their behavior is unnecessarily dramatic, hurtful or harmful. I have had close calls with people who want to smother me, parent me, or subjugate me in some way.  I will not tolerate this any longer. In fact, I haven’t really tolerated it for some time.

I certainly have the emotional strength to address this one-on-one, but I don’t have the time or inclination to. So, I am letting it/them go. I don’t need to explain myself any further. This is just me being right for me.



©2016 Clare L. Martin

Renegade Writers Workshop



We have a writing group that meets in the Acadiana area called Renegade Writers. We meet every other Saturday to write new together. It is not a critique group. We draw names of the willing to choose a workshop leader and that person is responsible for the prompts and securing a location. Really, the leader can do anything they want to get us writing. It’s a blessed thing. Today I led the group. Below is my outline for the workshop I presented. I have linked the titles to sites where the books can be purchased. I hope to work on the pieces I developed in my participation in the workshop and post them tonight.

Please credit Clare L. Martin if you use these in a workshop. ©2016, Clare L. Martin

Sheryl St. Germain, The Journals of Scheherazade

Poem: “How to Write a Poem”

The poem gives a formula for writing a poem. We followed that formula.

4 nouns
4 verbs
A secret
A secret within a secret


Dana Guthrie Martin, The Spare Room: Poems About Survival (I could not find a link for this title to be purchased.  Limited edition chapbook).

Poem: “On the Long Narrow Stem of Life”
“this is where it starts and this is where it ends”

Think of a “conclusion” and make it your beginning. It could be a decision, a death, or reaching a destination. Take the poem anywhere, even into the realm of fantasy or horror. End with how it changed you, how you survived, and repeat your first line as the ending.

Susan Tepper, dear Petrov

“Floods” and “The Scarf”

Describe a falling down house. Scour every decaying inch with your mind’s eye. Consider the smells, the layers of dirt and dust. See every cracked pane of glass. Now, in this house, something miraculous exists. What is it? Start your poem from this.

Louise Glück, Ararat
Poem: “A Novel”

“Like echoes, the women last longer.”

Think of five inanimate objects that possess durability. Write a sentence for each word, without linking the sentences logically. Use these sentences to build metaphors for the hardiness of women.

Margaret Atwood,  Morning in the Burned House

Poem: “A Sad Child”

1) Try to remember your first heartbreak that was not a romantic one. Write a few cursory facts about the memory. Go deeper to your tender child-self and put words to the pain in one sentence.

2) Now, take this memory and the one sentence and create a list of images of the harshness of nature or physical aspects of urban life. From your one sentence and the imagistic phrases write a poem that can create dissonance in the tone while communicating the heartbreak.


Swimming as Prayer


Sometimes when I enter the pool, even when I am swimming, I think “this doesn’t seem real.” I don’t sense that I am present in my body at that moment. But then, body memory takes over and my mind follows. These are the best times, when my mind senses and recognizes that I am in the moment, in the pool, synced with my body so that all of me is coalesced in the present. Then, each breath, each moment is aligned with thought, and form becomes essential. My thought turns to prayer, or a mantra, and my body’s movement is prayer as well. I am a ‘living prayer,’ and not unlike a dance, my focused attention is on form, flow, freedom.






“La tristesse durera toujours”
“The sadness will last forever.”
           –Vincent Van Gogh’s final words

Madness stalks me. Through snow it tracks me. Blood on snow razes the mind. Fire rides my nerves. I cover my body in thick mud; smother the flames. I wake in the night and work: digging, sifting, rooting. Faces of strangers are stranger. I cannot avoid what kills, or afford to die.

I need and will never fill.

I will go, telling no one.
I will pack a bag full of secrets.
I will bring a word. The word will be a sword.
I will plan my leaving of this world.

Dawn-light breaks over the fields of Auvers-sur-Oise, where Vincent caught the sun and bled.

When blood escapes the body it cools. The blood on the ground is dust-cold. But the gun is hot, and still the sun is hot. I am holding my blood-hot wound as yellow light departs. The glint is gone.

I hate. I hate this penetrating hate. The sun does not hate—

It welcomes me.



© 2016  Clare L. Martin



March 17th, 2016

Pictured above: Van Gogh’s belived-to-be-last painting, “Wheat Field with Crows.” [Image used for educational purposes.]

Above is a poem I have been working on since 2004. March 30th, 2016 is Van Gogh’s 163rd birthday, and World bipolar day. Many experts believe he was bipolar. I have long identified this with him and have felt myself drawn to his works, for as long as I have been aware of him.

A quote from his letters to Theo, dated July 10, 1890:

They are vast stretches of wheat under troubled skies, and I did not have to go out of my way very much in order to try to express sadness and extreme loneliness…. I’m fairly sure that these canvases will tell you what I cannot say in words, that is, how healthy and invigorating I find the countryside.”

Dreams of Fire


I dreamed last night that marauders had gone into my parents’ home (they were still alive), poured gasoline on them and set them on fire; my beloved (deceased) son, Adam, too. Then, the dream transformed and my mother and I were traveling the country in a truck, staying in filthy hotel rooms. We traveled for ten years together, living roughly and on the edge.

My mother disappeared on me and I was suddenly in the bed of an old boyfriend. I desperately wanted to make love to him, but while I was on my trek he had had children with another woman. There were children throughout the house, children of multiple nationalities. The other woman entered the room and yelled at us.

Before I left the house, my old boyfriend told me to get the mail he had been collecting for me.  There were acceptance letters from numerous publishers for the book I had been writing of the ten years on the road. This made me excited.

The dreamed turned back to the burning of my beloveds. I was completely distressed, needing to ask them questions, needing my mother’s love. I woke myself up, confused and sad that the only people who could answer my questions, who could answer my questioning heart were long gone.

Get the juices flowing

WritingThis is a tried and true writing exercise that I use often to get the juices flowing. Pick a beginning phrase and complete the sentence. Many writers have used the litany to create memorable poems that juxtapose seemingly unrelated things, unified by the opening of the sentence.

I am posting the unedited text. Try your hand at this exercise to “wake up” the mind.


I woke up remembering ice and snow.
I woke up remembering nothing of my dream.
I woke up remembering how it felt to write by hand on lined paper.
I woke up remembering that I wanted to be a painter.
I woke up remembering the boiling pot.
I woke up remembering the wrongs you did to me.
I woke up remembering to put the cat out.
I woke up remembering how it felt to write a poem.
I woke up remembering solitary confinement.
I woke up remembering your long eyelashes.
I woke up remembering frost on glass.
I woke up remembering fields of poppies.
I woke up remembering the shots from the firing squad.
I woke up remembering cannon fire.
I woke up remembering ashes of the dead.
I woke up remembering the carnival calliope.
I woke up remembering myself as an embarrassed third grader.
I woke up remembering the faults of others.
I woke up remembering pieces of broken china.
I woke up remembering the multitudes of clowns.
I woke up remembering the sideways smirk of the politician.
I woke up remembering the lace my grandmother tatted.
I woke up remembering your unprovoked anger.
I woke up remembering mysterious lights in the sky.
I woke up remembering smoke at dawn.
I woke up remembering fleeing the encampment.
I woke up remembering this writing exercise.


©2016 Clare L. Martin

Behind Glass


“Approaching Sunset” by  Zeralda LaGrange


*Behind Glass

Thirteen Anhingas and a sturdy Brown Pelican perch in a cypress tree. The thinnest line separates water from sky.

I look into the photograph as if it were a mirror.

I have seen the snakebird sail flawless lakes. Sink below water to sideways-spear small fish. Serpentine necks gloss the surface of a presumed danger, in the place where water holds everything secret.

Weighted bones and flags of wet plumage. Oil slick, ink-bodies
scrawl verse across the sky—

The photographer notes a language. Stilled in the capture, the semblance of harsh, croaking calls. The caul of ensuing night entraps them.

Each bird:  a point in the continuum, a tributary of exchanges extant in the Seen and Unseen.

And so it is with me.


© 2016 Clare L. Martin
*Renegade Writers prompted poem, from a February session held at the Lafayette Art Association Galleries, Lafayette, Louisiana and led by J.K. McDowell.  The poem is an ekphrastic response to a photograph by Zeralda LaGrange.

Poem discovered in a CNN article.

See if you can find a poem in text from a news source today. ~Clare L. Martin

“And when we hear
the universe,
we will learn
about the secret
life of black holes —

their birth,
their death,
their marriage,
their feeding.

We will hear
when a black hole
eats a neutron star–”


Clare is here. 


Sourced from:

Gravitational waves open ‘a window on the universe,’ scientists say
By Todd Leopold, CNN
Updated 1:28 PM ET, Thu February 11, 2016 | Video Source: CNN


Renegade Face to Face

From Margaret Simon about last Saturday’s Renegade Writers session.

Reflections on the Teche

Join the Two Writing Teachers blog for Tuesdays Slice of Life Challenge. Join the Two Writing Teachers blog for Tuesdays Slice of Life Challenge.

Saffron roses I bought for myself.  They make me happy! Saffron roses I bought for myself. They make me happy!

This weekend while I was laid up by my tailbone injury, I messaged Clare that I wouldn’t make it to the Renegade Writers meeting. Unless…maybe we could Google Hang-out. The Google Hang-out didn’t quite work as planned, but she called and Debra gave me the prompts. I wrote, then they called back when they were sharing and passed the phone around the table. Almost like being there. I was able to write and share and hear everyone else’s writing. This group is not a critique group. One person leads with prompts. When we share, we thank the writer with no comments.

The last writing prompt of the day was to write down 5 situations in which you feel vulnerable. You meet a stranger. Write about your encounter with…

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