Old Writings and Decades Past

Monday of a new week, almost a new month, seemed a good time to roll out something I’ve never really shared before. Back in the day (way back in the day) I used to experiment with poetry. I don’t know anything about forms, or proper meter, but that never stopped me from experimenting. Recently, while digging around in computer files, I came across my poetry folder. Random exercises, these have been languishing on my computer. They’re never going to see the light of day in a book or anywhere else, so I decided to share some of them here. We all have early forms of writing we experiment with, and this was one of mine.

The first piece is about King David of the Old Testament. He is someone I loved reading about and still do. Back in day I penned this short poem to express that fondness:

Stained glass image of King David with harpFor the Psalmist 

Ancient words
penned by an ancient hand,
centuries faded but music still sweet.
From pasture to kingdom
your harp sang praise.
That I might do the same
and dance before the ark
or mourn beloved Absalom,
taken before peace could be sown.

Sweet singer of Israel,
Son of Jesse,
I linger still
in the melody of your song.


That was one of the very few poems I wrote without rhyming verse. I still remember as a kid, when my dad introduced me to a rhyming dictionary and explained how it worked. He knew I loved to write, but poetry was something I’d never tried. My first attempts failed miserably. I was in my twenties when I wrote this:


night sky illuminated with lightning above silhouette of treesLightning dances on a midnight sky,
mushrooming fire and ancient sword,
conjured, unleashed by the Nether Lord.

How we struggle to appease our guilt,
puppets pulled by tattered string,
jesters dancing on a broken gallows,
capering and scraping to the Gallow’s King.

The Weaver of Life threads her loom,
cracking and shuddering beneath destiny’s hand.
We wander down corridors soiled with souls,
never stopping to ponder life’s final command,

In a cathedral of stone, we unleash fragile dragons,
quietly ruing our own masquerade,
forever refining and silently polishing,
gold-plaited images of Self we have made.

Tarnished but chosen, we forge our own demons,
plucked from the bowels of a mute, angry fire,
we are children of circumstance, knighted by time,
torn between failure and noble desire.


Yes, I tended to be a bit strange even then. But all of that strangeness and those old creativity avenues—including my attempts at poetry (more to come)—allowed my writing to venture into the areas it has today. I haven’t written poetry in years, but I still look back on those moments with fondness.

What types of writing did you experiment with when you were younger? Have they shaped your writing today? Did you ever try your hand at poetry? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

Mae Clair: What does Autumn Taste Like?

It’s been a while since I’ve done one of these posts but, in the spirit of autumn’s arrival, I thought I’d engage in a short creativity exercise and invite you to do the same.

Want to give it a try?  All you have to do is match the sense (sight, taste, smell, touch, sound) to the season, connecting a concrete impression with the abstract. Sound confusing? Nah! ‘Tis simple. Check it out:

What does autumn look like?
Fat orange pumpkins and floppy scarecrows reclining on front porches

What does autumn taste like?
Apple cider

What does autumn smell like?
Wood-smoke rising from a hearth

What does autumn feel like?
The touch of frost on a brisk morning

What does autumn sound like?
Dried leaves crunching underfoot

How about it? What are your impressions of this vibrantly colorful season?

Even if you only try one or two, take a moment to engage your senses and your creative muse. I’d love to read what you come up with!

What Does Memory Smell Like?

We all have memory-triggers, but I’ve often heard it said the greatest trigger for memory is our sense of smell. How many times have you caught a faint scent, and been immediately flooded by a vivid rush of images from your past? 

When I was in my late teens, I spent a week each summer with my husband’s family at a bayside apartment in Maryland.  I won’t tell you how long ago that was, but Pert shampoo was popular in those days. Even now, the scent of Pert resurrects flashes of knotty pine paneling, the scent of Old Bay seasoning on steaming crabs, and the trill of seagulls. 

These days I use a shampoo and conditioner infused with olive oil that I purchase from a salon. I couldn’t even tell you the name of it, but I know what the bottles look like. Hopefully, that doesn’t make me snob – – especially when I might pop open a bottle of Pert now and then solely to reminiscent about giddy fun-filled summers at the shore. I remember drinking Mountain Dew until it came out of my ears, learning how to bait a fishing line with a minnow (my initial reaction – – “Ewww!”) and riding the wake of larger boats in our tiny jon boat.

Writers love experimenting with sensory input, fleshing out scenes with descriptions of sight, sound and smell in hopes of bringing our settings alive and creating bonds between our characters and readers.  It’s much easier to feel sympathetic to a character when you know the odor of wet flannel makes a curmudgeonly cop think of the Saturday afternoons he spent fishing with his kid brother, or a harried business exec gets sentimental whenever she spies a basket of daises.

Last week, I asked “What Does Childhood Taste Like?”  This week, wrap your head around “What Does Memory Smell Like?” (and any other sense you want to use). Think outside the box, have some fun, get creative!  Here are a few of mine:

Memory looks like starlight, ephemeral and dazzling
Memory smells like a closed up attic and old newsprint
Memory feels like water slipping between my fingers, often gone before I can grasp it Memory sounds like the calliope at a carnival
Memory tastes like  ??? 
Totally stumped on that one. Cotton candy? Broiled seafood? Luden’s cough drops?  They all have meaning for me.

What are YOUR memory associations?


What Does Childhood Taste Like?

What Does Childhood Taste Like?

Way back in the days of yesteryear when big hair bands ruled the rock scene, and stirrup pants, legwarmers and neon jelly bracelets were a popular part of women’s fashion, I was browsing in my local Newscenter and happened upon a creativity workbook called “What Does Childhood Taste Like?”  The title intrigued me and, when the author, Jack Maguire, promised “mental workouts that will stretch, bend, and energize the way you think, respond, dream and create,” I knew I couldn’t leave without purchasing it. Three decades later, I still pull out that book and engage in an exercise or two.

I know many writers (including myself) who have tricks and rituals they employ for stimulating their muse. As silly as it sounds, I keep a dozen polished stones strewn under my computer screen that I fiddle with when I’m stuck on a sentence. Remember rock tumblers? There’s something about a rainbow of smooth, colorful stones that resonates with my creative side. Other times, I play an instrumental CD in the background (usually lilting flutes, strings or piano) and, still other times, my muse requires complete silence. I’ve come to recognize what she needs when she needs it, and react accordingly. When I do, and we’re in sync, good things happen. There are, however, occasions when I degenerate into a hissy fit because a particular scene or story isn’t flowing. During those times, I picture my muse as a pouting prima donna who needs to be coaxed. Thankfully, those moments are fairly rare.

Like me, my muse has a fondness for the past – – old photos, fond memories and long-ago dreams conjured from summer afternoons when childhood tasted like bubblegum, smelled of sweet clover, and felt like the splash of cool pool water on sun-warmed skin.  

Looking back, I realize much about my writing life has remained the same. I’m still crafting stories, characters and worlds. I still poke around in that old workbook, and I still love recalling the tastes, sights, scents and feel of childhood. My muse has matured with me, my partner through the journey, but there’s a part of me (undoubtedly, of all writers) that never grew up. It thrives on make-believe and what-if possibilities. The only way to appease that part is to create worlds and characters who populate them. The same as I did in childhood.  🙂

 So . . . I ask you . . . what DOES childhood taste like?  Even if you’re not a writer, take a moment to associate an abstract idea and share your comment.  If you prefer, you can choose to answer what does childhood sound like? Smell like? Feel like? The idea is to close your eyes, forget the present, and recall the magic you felt as a child. What made you happy?  What made you smile or gave you the shivers?

I’m toying with the idea of posting a similar exercise each Monday or Tuesday for those interested in giving it a try.  Even non-writers can benefit from mental stimulation, creative thinking and, heck – – some out-of-the-box fun!