Style: Quirks and Perks

An excellent post on finding your style. I recommend this blog on writing. I always learn something from the posts.

P.S. BE SURE to play the Bukowski video. It’s the old renegade at his best!

A Quiver Of Quotes

typewriterPhoto by Sergey Zolkin

Style is an increment in writing. When we speak of Fitzegerald’s style, we don’t mean his command of the relative pronoun, we mean the sound his words make on paper. All writers, by the way they use language, reveal something of their spirit, their habits, their capacities, and their biases. This is inevitable as well as enjoyable. All writing is communication; creative writing is communication through revelation—it is the Self escaping into the open. No writer long remains incognito.
— E. B. White, An Approach to Style in Strunk & White

White puts it so plainly, so delicately. Only skilled writers show their spirit, their capacities, their biases because their expressive medium is no longer cluttered by ungainly turns of phrase and forced plot devices. Don’t his words make you want to reach that increment in writing where you too have style? (Not to say that you don’t already.)

White also reaffirms…

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My Drabble (a hundred word or less story) was published today. Apropos, since I’m waiting for a flight to Paris. Coincidence?? You decide.

Eiffel Tower Sunset

By Sarah Russell

Someone from the Class of ’61 died today. No one close by, just someone I sent Christmas cards to and read posts by on Facebook about cats and grandchildren. And suddenly I longed to kiss someone.


I wanted to make love that leaves bruises, jump in a lake at the top of the world so cold I gasp, ride the Roue de Paris, get drunk on Bastille Day and watch fireworks over the Seine and sing La Marseilles with strangers.

Instead I sent a sympathy card to her kids that said sorry for your loss.

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At JCPenneys

“. . .a shared women’s intimacy.”

In honor of all us imperfect mothers…


I back through the door of the ladies room
pulling stroller, wailing baby, all his gear
(not a graceful entrance) into the anteroom
adjacent to wash basins and toilet stalls.
I gather his indignant, thrashing form,
my impatience nearly matching his,
and perch on the cracked Naugahyde settee.

Dammit. What bad timing. This twenty minutes
means rush hour traffic going home.
I sling a receiving blanket over my shoulder,
and squalls turn to contented gurgles.

Only then do I notice the frail, ancient figure
in a chair nearby, her cane leaned carefully beside her.
I smile, apologetic for intrusion, her catching me
at not-my-best-mom self, my feeling
of nakedness under the scrap of flannel.

Her face is soft with wrinkles and surprise.
“Oh my, you’re nursing your baby,” she says.
“I didn’t think girls did that anymore.”
I tell her it’s become the norm,
that studies show it’s healthier.
“Do you mind if I sit here with you?” she asks.
I assure her it will be all right.

We are alone, the restroom quiet
on a Tuesday afternoon,
save for soothing baby sounds.
I relax, change sides, let the blanket slip
in a shared women’s intimacy.
Finally the baby breaks away, eyes closed,
still suckling in his sleep. “I nursed seven babies,”
she tells me then. “If I close my eyes,
I almost remember what it feels like,
having a baby at my breast.”

I can’t speak, overwhelmed
by the miracle of milk.

– Sarah Russell
First published in The Houseboat
Painting: “Baby Nursing, Mexico City,” by Tina Modotti

Stevieslaw: My poem “Studio in the Asylum” was published in The Ekphrastic Review today

Speaking of ekphrasis, here’s one from my friend Steve Deutsch. He has written a series of ekphrastic poems from the point of view of the artist, taking into account the era and their particular situation. Steve’s always right on point, whether he’s writing poetry or political satire. Take a look at his other posts for the satire part.

Stevie's Law

Studio in the Asylum (find the poem at
Dear Theo:

I am surrounded here
by the painter’s commonplace,
the half- filled canvases
that dot the ochre walls and
those ornaments of still-lifes—
the vases and jars standing
to attention on the sill,
empty of color and purpose.
I feel a tension, as if
a single dazzling orange
would shatter the calm

I have finished “Studio in the Asylum.”
It is a soothing depiction,
like a setting for a prayer.
Yet, I might well have named the piece
“The window in the wall”–
that brightness that separates
the therapeutic room
from the glory of the garden
and the grounds.
Soon, now
I shall make my way outside.
to paint the olive landscapes
and pasteled huts
and to color
the stars of the night sky.

Yours: Vincent

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Mademoiselle Boissière

“. . .roses dizzied her with summer. . .”

Ekphrasis is poetry is based on works of art.  I love this kind of writing.  This poem is based on “Mademoiselle Boissière Knitting” by Gustave Caillebotte.


She sits alone
knitting for Sophie’s baby,
expected in the spring.
She doesn’t think of Sophie baring
herself for a man, as she did once,
when roses dizzied her with summer,
how easy her petticoats lifted, how
afterwards they smelled of blood
and sweat, how she stumbled,
pushed the bolt to lock the door,
how those smells return
when she sees him in the square,
squiring his wife on errands
and feels her heart loose
in its stays.

– Sarah Russell
First published in Ekphrastic Review

Susanna IX

“You must let me go, Tomás…”

OK, I’ll admit it.  I’m a hopeless romantic, and Will Pennington’s series of poems and fiction about Susanna captures lost love so poignantly that I asked if I could reblog his latest poem.  To read more of the Susanna series, please visit Will’s site, and let him know your thoughts.


Is she the one, Susanna?
I do not know, Tomás.
You must know, Susanna.
Why, Tomás?
She makes me think of you.
She is not me.
I want you back, Susanna.
I’m dead, Tomás.
You died too soon.
Why? Why? Tell me.
I do not know why, Tomás. It was my time to die.
It isn’t fair.
Life is not always fair.
Sasi makes me feel the way you did.
Then you must be with her.
What if I forget you?
You must forget me to be happy with Sasi.
I lost half of my heart when you died.
Then Sasi must replace that part of your heart.
No, Susanna. I can’t.
Yes, Tomás. You must.
I don’t want to forget you. You have the piece of my heart that makes me whole.
You must let me go, Tomás, so you can find love and happiness again.
If Sasi is the one, she will hold the piece of your heart that makes you whole.
Yes. Love makes the heart whole, not the person, Tomás.
Do you love Sasi?
I’m falling in love with her, Susanna.
You must be fair to her, Tomás, and let her love you.
You must forget me to love her, Tomás, or you won’t be happy.
Then I won’t be happy, Susanna.
I love you, Susanna.
I love you, Tomás.

– Will Pennington


“. . .an avian funeral cortège.”

The smartest man I know is dying –
cancer, spreading to his bones
and cruelly, to his brain.

“Come look back here,” he says when I visit.
“They knew even before I did.”
Six ravens walk – stately, slow, with purpose –
across his yard, an avian funeral cortège.
“They’ve been here since spring,” he adds.

He points to a corner near the fence.
“That one has a broken wing.
Got it robbing a blue jay’s nest.
Shouldn’t mess with jays, I told her.”

He feeds her raw chicken and steak but says he knows
that soon she’ll ask for death, and he’ll oblige.
“They won’t do the same for me,” he says.
“Fucking do-gooders.”
I don’t know what to say.

“When she’s gone, her fellows will have
a feast of her carcass,” he says without malice,
“just as they will with mine.”
I try to protest, but I know it’s true.
Already there’s talk that his research is passé.

At lunch, I see my own reflection in a soup spoon.

– Sarah Russell
First published in Misfit Magazine
Watercolor by Sarah Yeoman,

P.S.  New prompts are up on the Prompts page.

Who put Bella in the Wych Elm?

Another reblog today from Ryan Stone’s Days of Stone blog. Ryan’s poem is based on an actual event, which makes it even more eerie.

Maybe you remember I praised the Poppy Road Review venue yesterday. This poem was published on Poppy Road’s sister site, Black Poppy Review, where poetry takes a turn toward the macabre. Click at the bottom of the poem to visit this beautiful, if chilling, collection of poems.

days of stone

On stone walls and fences near Hagley Wood
the question appears in ghostly script:
Who put Bella in the Wych Elm?

They found her in its hollowed trunk
back in ’43. Wedged inside her musty grave
to grow stiff, to slumber undiscovered,
unnoticed, unnamed.

Who put Bella in the Wych Elm?
for she didn’t climb in alone. Gagged
with a scrap of taffeta, missing tooth
and hand–until the cryptic message
no one knew her name.

In a rotting womb, so far from the light
bones become legend, for trees tell no tales.
And every few years, the same phrase appears:
Who put Bella in the Wych Elm?

– Ryan Stone

first published by Black Poppy Review, May 2017

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Coming of Age in Suburbia

A must-read. Brilliant metaphor and honesty.

Oran's Well


The housing development in Florida we moved to
in 1972 had been carved out of an orange grove.
Our split style ranch had six trees and a pool
for 42 grand. When we moved in construction
was still going on, acres of orange trees collapsing
behind our back fence with streets and new houses
slowly filling in the gouges: Noise by day, seeping
groans in the darkness at night. Cracker wilderness
balding to suburb, briars and snakes under concrete.
I was 13 so my memories of the two years we lived
there are heavy with puberty’s brilliant tang.
There was sexual ardor and mystery just in the way
I squeezed quarts of juice from the oranges I picked.
The pulpy mouthpubis of quenching, the sudden flow
of cold sweetness thrilling down through the groin.
Everything back then was either getting or taking,
picking this girl or another and trying to…

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“. . .I know the contours of this room so well. . .”

First, thank you all!  In about 6 weeks, I have 107 followers.  Wow!  I don’t think my website had 107 views in the three years it was up.  Love this interactive format!

Now that Poetry Month is over, I’m going to start posting my own published poems, poems I run across that I admire, and reblogging other poems and flash fiction that I find.  Be sure to ask questions about the poems if you have them.  I won’t ever give my interpretation (that’s for you to decide) but I will tell you about the motivation for the poem (if I remember it…)

“Leaving” was published a few months ago in Poppy Road Review, one of my favorite  venues, edited by Sandy Benitez.  My previous post, “Family Photo, 1899” by Joan Colby was also published there.  Sandy is very kind to emerging poets as well as seasoned ones.  Follow the link at the bottom of the poem to see this beautiful site.


The dimmer switch is canting down
and flowers on the table are in silhouette.
I know the contours of this room so well,
know the path across so I don’t stub my toe;
where one dining chair’s leg tangles
with another, mars in the untangling,
so I lift it up and over gently to sit down.
You want to push the toggle all the way
to dark, but let me have this twilight
’til my heart adjusts, OK?

– Sarah Russell
First published in Poppy Road Review
Photo by Niki Feijen for the Huffington Post