Archives for category: HOW TO

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How To Deal With An Intruder
by Suzanne O’Connell

The sound woke me up.
Thump drag, thump drag, thump drag.
It was coming from the attic.
Maybe a feral cat, I thought.
But if so, it was a really big cat.

I got the ladder, climbed barefoot,
opened the crawl space.
In the darkness, I saw an old lady,
shuffling with the help of a walker.
She was bent over, looking at her big slippers.
She wore a stretched cardigan.
Her gray hair was greasy.
“You can’t be here,” I said.
“It’s too soon.
You have to get out!”

The leaves on the magnolia tree are rusty.
Soon they will fall,
the rain will soak them.
In spring, green knobs
of new growth will appear,
then dazzling pink flowers.

I want to be like the tree.
I want a hundred new haircuts,
a thousand midnights,
a few thousand chicken dinners,
a bonus round,
many more days of love.

IMAGE: Magnolia and Irises, stained glass by Louis Comfort Tiffany (1908).

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Suzanne O’Connell is a poet living in Los Angeles. Her work can be found most recently in Delmarva Review, Brushfire, and Cimarron Review.

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How to Overcome Inertia
by Betsy Mars

Set an alarm. Don’t hit snooze.
Set more alarms

at fifteen minute intervals.
Let your phone fall beneath the bed

where it can’t easily be silenced.
You have to reach to quiet it.

Doze off while thinking
of ways to overcome your inertia.

Encourage the cat to sleep on your bladder.
Remember you are nothing

if not productive.
Forget the bird beyond the pane

unaware of your watching.
Feel the urgency of days and news

forever passing without observing.
Scroll your mind’s endless listing

awaiting scratching. Check
your time, just existing.

IMAGE: Still Life with Sleeper by Henri Matisse (1940).

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: I thought about what I have gotten really good at during the pandemic and came up with the obvious answer: inertia! Of course, while practicing inertia so effectively, it was difficult to write. And then how to describe the how-to’s of inertia? Other than a blank page, which wouldn’t be very instructive, I strained to describe my techniques in a way I hoped could be replicated. I hope that you find them helpful!

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Betsy Mars practices poetry, photography, pet maintenance, and publishes an occasional anthology through Kingly Street Press. Her second anthology, Floored, is now available on Amazon. “Pyriscence” was a winner in Alexandria Quarterly´s first line poetry contest series in 2020, and she was a finalist in both the Jack Grapes and Poetry Super Highway poetry contests. Her work has recently appeared in Verse-Virtual, Sky Island Journal, Writing in a Woman’s Voice, and Sheila-Na-Gig, among others. She is the author of Alinea (Picture Show Press) and co-author of In the Muddle of the Night with Alan Walowitz, coming soon from Arroyo Seco Press. Visit her at marsmyst.wordpress.com and on Facebook and Twitter.

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How to use acupressure to treat insomnia
by Scott Ferry

Du-20: first find the place where your fontanelles never closed
where the white cord floats upward into the heavens
twirl this hollow into a whirlpool

Large Intestine 4: flatten the muscled pearl just proximal to the web
between your thumb and index finger until you feel each scalene
unravel and drop each shoulder (if you may be pregnant,
don’t use this point)

Pericardium 6: on the yin side of your wrist slide your finger between the two
tendons from the base of your hand two inches towards your elbow burrow
a thumbnail between these roots until your heart purrs silver
and each eye wells a single tear

Ren 17: place your index finger on your breastbone where your nipple line
would fall if gravity did not pull press into your chest with compassion
like joining with the self—a self you would paint for your great grandchildren
a self before the masking before the armor caught tight around each intercostal
let your spirit into the cage / let the cage out of your spirit

Ren 4-6: place your entire hand on the area just below your umbilicus
and hum a still lake know that the bottom of the water connects to a spring
in Angola to the flood-tap of the Columbia to the bioluminescence
of the Mariana Trench

Liver 3: lastly lay an index finger in the depression between the great toe
and the second toe here the qi blinks on all the streetlights in the neighborhood
reaches sparking wires up the thighs through the three burners and back into
your breath

now if you place your palms over your eyes you may map a city
asleep

IMAGE: Sleeping Woman by Oskar Kokoschka (1908).

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: Even though acupuncture is a trusted form of Chinese Medicine practiced for thousands of years, it is still mysterious as to why it works and how it works. I tried to harness this mystery in this poem, but I also give the reader a real acupressure treatment, which should work to calm the shen (spirit), move the qi, and settle the mind.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Scott Ferry helps our Veterans heal as an RN. In previous lives, he taught high school and practiced acupuncture. His second book, Mr. Rogers kills fruit flies, is now available from Main St. Rag. Follow him at ferrypoetry.com.

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How to Handle a Migraine
by Dakota Donovan

Recognize the early warning signs:
sensitivity to smells,
tunnel vision,
seeing zigzags,
nausea,
runny nose,
yawning,
stomach pains.
Take OTC meds,
Excedrin works best.
If full-blown attack ensues:
Drink caffeinated beverages,
put icepack on affected
side of the head,
place cold, wet washcloth
over eyes
and affected side of the head.
Eat saltine crackers or dry toast.
Eat popsicles.
Pray to St. Gemma, the
patron saint of headaches.
If you’re lucky, you will fall asleep
and wake up without a headache.
After the attack,
you may experience
acute visual phenomena such
as outlines around objects.
You may also experience a giddy
euphoria, something to enjoy
while you can.
You’ve lived
Through another attack.

IMAGE: Portrait of Françoise Gilot by Pablo Picasso (1948).

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: After decades of suffering from migraine headaches, I’ve learned a few things about the condition. Migraines can result from a variety of factors or triggers—anything that causes the veins to dilate and press on a nerve (this is what causes the intense pain). Triggers include foods (garlic), beverages (red wine), and weather conditions (low cloud cover). People often confuse a “bad” headache with a migraine. You’ll know it’s a migraine if the pain is on one side of your head. Visual phenomena, such as auras or seeing zigzags, can precede or accompany a migraine. Treatments all aim to contract the blood vessel, so it no longer presses on the nerve in your head. Caffeine and ice packs help in this regard. Over-the-counter medications that include caffeine (e.g., Excedrin) are also helpful. An insightful book on this condition is Migraine by Oliver Sacks.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Dakota Donovan is a ghostwriter for the rich and famous who lives in Los Angeles. She’s had many wild and crazy experiences while working with celebrities to tell their life stories, and some of these strange-but-true tales appear in her comic mystery novel L.A. Sleepers, where she is both author and protagonist—and suffers many migraines. In other incarnations, she’s written novels, plays, screenplays, and television scripts. She’s currently working on the second novel in her Hollywood Ghostwriter Mystery series.

cheese spread

How to Make the Perfect Southern Sandwich
by Joan Leotta

At our weekly lunches,
my Georgia-born
neighbor, Faye, introduced
little Pennsylvania me
to her “perfect sandwich,”
bread spread with a
mix of cheddar, roasted red peppers
(pimento) and Southern charm.
I begged for the secret to the
orange-red spread I had never
tried before eating it with Faye,
what she told me was called
“pimento cheese.”
At last, one afternoon, she invited
me into her kitchen
to demonstrate how,
when blended with Duke’s mayo,
canned pimento punctuates
shredded white cheddar
with a vinegary spike.
“Duke’s blends it all,”
Faye whispered. “Duke’s is
the secret, the kiss of the South.”
We mashed the ingredients
together with a fork.
Then she smothered white bread
slices with a knife-full of gold,
deftly trimmed off crusts
and with one swift stroke,
divided the sandwich
into triangles, one each.
“So, Northern Girl, what do you
think?” she asked. I replied,
“I think I’m buying a jar of Duke’s.
These sandwiches are perfection.”

PHOTO: Still from youtube video How It’s Done: South Carolina Pimento Cheese by Discover South Carolina, All Rights Reserved. 

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: I first tasted Pimento Cheese at the Masters Golf Tournament in Augusta, Georgia, at the site’s snack bar with my friend Faye, and then at the Indigo Inn in Charleston, South Carolina. Like any recipe that’s made in many families, there are numerous versions across the South. Some folks add cream cheese to make the mixture more spreadable. (If using cream cheese in the recipe below, use 3-4 ounces room-temperature cream cheese). Some families add cayenne pepper and/or Worcestershire sauce. I like it plain. I use white sharp cheddar because I like the color to come from the pimento only. You can also use sharp yellow cheddar.

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Joan’s Pimento Cheese (with a nod to the Indigo Inn in Charleston, South Carolina)
Ingredients
1 cup freshly grated extra-sharp white cheddar cheese (do not buy pre-grated).
2 ounces pimento peppers, well drained and chopped
3 tablespoons to ½ cup Duke’s Mayonnaise
Dash of cayenne pepper
Method
Stir and stir until the ingredients are well blended. Refrigerate. Lasts one week.

Photo by Pamela McAdams, used by permission. 

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Joan Leotta, a Pittsburgh girl now living in North Carolina, plays with words on page, stage, and in the kitchen where she balances Southern Italian cooking with American Southern. Her poems, essays, and stories have appeared in Silver Birch Press, Potato Soup Journal, Sasse, Highland Park Poetry, Verse Virtual and Visual Verse and others. Her chapbook, Languid Lusciousness with Lemon is available from Finishing Line Press.

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The Fallback Plan
by Jay Passer

my niece moved to Santa Cruz
to attend the University there.

for her birthday I gave her a nice
chef’s knife, cutting board, and
a clean bar towel.

she was delighted, but perplexed
by the bar towel.

what’s this for?

2 functions, I said. wet it a little
as an anchor for the cutting board,
so it doesn’t slip around while
you’re using the knife.

she pursed her lips and nodded.
and the other?

to practice flipping pizza pie,
of course.
just pretend the towel is the dough.

I showed her how.
she was tickled, but flummoxed.

why would I ever need to know
how to do that?

her major is astrophysics.

you never know, I said,
keeping that Cheshire smile to myself.

Photo by Benjamas Suwanmanee, used by permission.

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NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: I was a pizza cook for several years, and in the beginning cheated a bit by using a damp bar towel to simulate a pizza dough in order to practice twirling. If the dough is proofed properly, it’s not absolutely necessary to twirl (although the centrifugal force does quicken the expansion process), but if you’re working in an exhibition kitchen it’s definitely worth it because the kids love it.

PHOTO: Still from youtube video Pizza Toss 101 with Carl Penrow. Watch the video here.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Jay Passer’s poetry and prose have appeared online and in print, in anthologies, chapbooks, and a few full length volumes, since 1988. He lives and works in San Francisco, the city of his birth.

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Passing Along Workshop Info
by Barbara Eknoian

The first lines of your poem
that inspire you to write
may just be scaffolding.
Chop it off at the top
you don’t need it anymore
For sure, avoid adverbs
use strong verbs instead
Think twice about adding
those adjectives like
glorious sky, massive rock
gorgeous gown
Sky, rock, gown
should be able to hold
their own in your poem.
Try to include some slant rhyme
it adds to the musicality
Don’t offer so much explanation
After all, poets are discerning
If you can, begin with a preposition
it will place you somewhere
The poem on the page
should look tidy
readers are visual too.
Those uneven lines are unsightly
Eliminate tiny words like “a” and “the”
so it doesn’t sound so prosy
Be certain not to wind up
with an editorial at the end
instead of an image
Try enjambment, runover lines
to create some tension
don’t rest at the end of the line
make the reader think twice about
why you have separated New
from England
You should strive for a metaphor
in place of a ho-hum simile
as: She sings like an angel
Never ever use the term
“first light”
Eyebrows will rise at the workshop
You might even hear a guffaw
When it comes to meter,
if you don’t know a spondee
(DUM DUM)
from a (DUM da DUM),
stick to narrative or fiction

PHOTO: Ladder to the Moon by Georgia O’Keeffe (1958).

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: After taking poetry workshop classes for so many years, this poem flowed out of my psyche. Since I’ve listened to so many instructions about do’s and don’t’s in how-to-write poetry, I kind of wrote it tongue-in-cheek. All of the information I’m passing on is as true as I can recall. I figured this would give beginning poets some good writing tips.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Barbara Eknoian writes narrative poetry and novels. Her work has appeared in Pearl, Chiron Review, Red Shift, and several of Silver Birch Press’s anthologies: Silver, Green, Summer, and Self-Portrait. Her poetry book, Why I Miss New Jersey, and her latest novel, Hearts on Bergenline Avenue, are available at Amazon.

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How to Write a Villanelle
by Marjorie Maddox

To write a villanelle, think like a bird
that soars and swoops in seven different ways
then sings a song that you’ve already heard,

returning to its favorite branch to perch.
Become a sparrow—light, and quick, and gray—
to write a villanelle.  Think how the bird

salutes you every morning undeterred
from trilling what it always wants to say.
within its favorite song; the one you’ve heard

so many times you suddenly are stirred
to listen closer still, to find the way
to write a villanelle, just like a bird

that flits across your vision in a blur
and leaves the sound of beauty in its trail,
still singing songs that you’ve already heard.

Next time you want to fly away on words,
remember what we talked about this day.
To write a villanelle, think like a bird
that sings a song that you’ve already heard.

SOURCE: “How to Write a Villanelle” appears in Inside Out: Poems on Writing and Reading Poems with Insider Exercises (Finalist Children’s Educational Category 2020 International Book Awards).

IMAGE: Sparrow on a Flowering Branch, circa 1930s, by Ohara Koson (1877-1945).

EDITOR’S NOTE:villanelle is a 19-line poetic form consisting of five tercets followed by a quatrain. There are two refrains and two repeating rhymes, with the first and third line of the first tercet repeated alternately at the end of each subsequent stanza until the last stanza, which includes both repeated lines.

Marjorie Maddox May 2020 with Inside Out author photo copy

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Professor of English and Creative Writing at Lock Haven University, Marjorie Maddox has published 11 collections of poetry—including Transplant, Transport, Transubstantiation (Yellowglen Prize); True, False, None of the Above (Illumination Book Award Medalist); Local News from Someplace Else; Perpendicular As I (Sandstone Book Award)—the short story collection What She Was Saying (Fomite); four children’s and YA books—including Inside Out: Poems on Writing and Reading Poems with Insider Exercises (Finalist Children’s Educational Category 2020 International Book Awards),  A Crossing of Zebras: Animal Packs in Poetry and I’m Feeling Blue, Too! Common Wealth: Contemporary Poets on Pennsylvania (co-editor); Presence: A Journal of Catholic Poetry (assistant editor); and 600+ stories, essays, and poems in journals and anthologies. Forthcoming in 2021 is her book Begin with a Question (Paraclete Press), as well as her ekphrastic collaboration with photographer Karen Elias, Heart Speaks, Is Spoken For (Shanti Arts). For more information, please visit marjoriemaddox.com.

PHOTO: The author with her book Inside Out: Poems on Writing and Reading Poems with Insider Exercises (Finalist Children’s Educational Category 2020 International Book Awards).

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How to Write a Poem
by Robert Okaji

Learn to curse in three languages. When midday
yawns stack high and your eyelids flutter, fire up

the chain saw; there’s always something to dismember.
Make it new. Fear no bridges. Accelerate through

curves, and look twice before leaping over fires,
much less into them. Read bones, read leaves, read

the dust on shelves and commit to memory a thousand
discarded lines. Next, torch them. Take more than you

need, buy books, scratch notes in the dirt and watch
them scatter down nameless alleys at the evening’s first

gusts. Gather words and courtesies. Guard them carefully.
Play with others, observe birds, insects and neighbors,

but covet your minutes alone and handle with bare hands
only those snakes you know. Mourn the kindling you create

and toast each new moon as if it might be the last one
to tug your personal tides. When driving, sing with the radio.

Always. Turn around instead of right. Deny ambition.
Remember the freckles on your first love’s left breast.

There are no one-way streets. Appreciate the fragrance
of fresh dog crap while scraping it from the boot’s sole.

Steal, don’t borrow. Murder your darlings and don’t get
caught. Know nothing, but know it well. Speak softly

and thank the grocery store clerk for wishing you
a nice day even if she didn’t mean it. Then mow the grass,

grill vegetables, eat, laugh, wash dishes, talk, bathe,
kiss loved ones, sleep, dream, wake. Do it all again.

Originally published in Indra’s Net, an anthology in aid of The Book Bus charity (Bennison Books, 2017).

PHOTO: Nautilus Shell by Edward Weston (1927).

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: My process sounds odd to most people, as I seldom know what I’m going to write about when I sit at the table. I simply start writing. Sometimes a word or a phrase sets me off. Or an image, or even a vague feeling, a discomfort or a pleasure of some sort. Life’s circumstances also come into play, and my landscapes, both emotional and literal, affect the output. The words carry me along, and at some point in the writing, perhaps only one or two lines in, but often much deeper in the piece, the poem, the flesh of it, starts coalescing. And then I backtrack and revise. In essence, my subconscious guides me, and such a guide is not always trustworthy or easy to work with, as many false trails are laid out and pursued. But even the false trails lead somewhere, often to greater rewards. ¶ Not knowing is central to my process. This probably sounds cryptic, or pseudo-zen, but it’s honest. I learn by questioning. By doing and failing and trying again. I revise during the course of writing, even during the first blush of creation, as well as after. The poems always sit and marinate for a while, sometimes for just a few days, sometimes for weeks or months, and there are a few that have stewed in their juices for years. When I return to them, I see problem points that weren’t apparent before, and I revise accordingly. At some mysterious point, the poems are done, or at least as done as they’re going to get, and I consider sending them out in the world.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Robert Okaji is a displaced Texan hunkering down in Indiana. He holds a BA in history, and once won a goat-catching contest. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in Vox Populi, North Dakota Quarterly, Slippery Elm, Panoply, Book of Matches, Buddhist Poetry Review, The Night Heron Barks, and elsewhere. He blogs at robertokaji.com.

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With activities and movement curtailed during the pandemic, many of us are spending our quarantine-in-place time learning or practicing new skills—with bread baking as a popular choice. This idea and a recent Twitter thread from Heather Christle about “poems in the form of instructions” have inspired the HOW TO Poetry and Prose Series. What have you learned how to do? What do you already know how to do? What would you like to learn how to do? Your answers can range from the practical (how to fix a leaky faucet) to the abstract (how to heal a country). If you’re looking for inspiration, here’s a link to “How To” poems from other authors.

PROMPT: Tell us how to do something (nothing R-rated or X-rated, please)—it could be something you’ve learned, imagined, or wish for—in a poem (any reasonable length) or prose piece (300 words or fewer—this word limit also applies to prose poems). We prefer narrative work written from a personal perspective, and avoid material that attempts to speak for the world at large or comes across as didactic or preachy.

WHAT: Submissions can be original or previously published poems or prose. You retain all rights to your work and give Silver Birch Press permission to publish the piece on social media. We are a nonprofit blog and offer no monetary compensation to contributors—the main benefit to you is that we will publicize your work to our 10,000+ followers. If your piece was previously published, please tell us where/when so we can credit the original publisher.

WHEN: We’ll feature the poems and prose in the Silver Birch Press HOW TO Poetry and Prose Series starting in late February 2021. We’ll also feature the work on Twitter and Facebook.

SUBMISSION CHECKLIST

To help everyone understand our submission requirements, we’ve prepared the following checklist.

1. Send ONE MS Word document TITLED WITH YOUR LAST NAME (e.g. Smith.doc or Jones.docx).

2. In the same MS Word document, include your contact information (name, email address). Also list your home state or country.

3. In the same MS Word document, include a one-paragraph author’s bio, written in the third person. You are encouraged to include links to your books, websites, and social media accounts — we want to help promote you!

4. In the same MS Word document, include a note about your poem/prose or creative process written in the first person (this is optional — but encouraged).

5. Send a photo of yourself as a SEPARATE jpg attachment (not in the MS Word document). Title the photo with your last name (e.g., Jones1.jpg, Jones2.jpg).

6. Email to sbpsubmissions@gmail.com—and put “HOW TO” in the subject line.

SUBMISSION DEADLINE: Sunday, March 7, 2021

We look forward to learning from (and about) you! 

Photo by Chernetskaya, used by permission.