SunWinks! June 29, 2014: Aboard the H.M.S. Metaphor

SunWinks! June 29, 2014: Aboard the H.M.S. Metaphor

Dear SunWinkers!

Where are all the haikais? I expected to be inundated with poo-kus. Well, there are no deadlines at SunWinks! Get them in when you can—it’s never too late.

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On to today’s topic: Metaphor. That stampeding of hooves you hear is the self-described “non-poets” running as fast as they can in the other direction. I get the same reaction every time I mention that word: “I just don’t understand poetry.”

The inescapable fact is that you pretty much cannot write a poem without using metaphor in some form or fashion. But here’s the thing: you also pretty much can’t talk without metaphor. Metaphor is one of the building blocks of language. Teachers and public speakers know the value of metaphor. Our speech is chock full of metaphor whether we’re aware of it or not. “Stampeding of hooves” above is a metaphor—so is “running as fast as they can etc.”. Metaphors are the stock in trade, the coin of currency (there are two more metaphors!), of any writer who strives to be more colorful than dishwater (that’s a simile).

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Memoir: The Pacemaker

The Pacemaker

Ten years ago, Dad couldn’t get himself out of bed. Mom called the ambulance. One week and a quarter of a million dollars later, Dad had two bovine heart valves and a pacemaker courtesy of world-famous heart surgeon Albert Starr. Dad was not grateful. He continued to abuse my mother, push her around, lean on her, and make horrible jokes like “I’m a walking cadaver.” Five years later, Mom was thrown to the floor on a train and broke her hip and was taken to the hospital in Centralia, a hundred and some miles north. Dad never visited Mom in the hospital up in Centralia once. Any of us kids would have taken him from door to door. When she was transferred back to town to a convalescent center, where she stayed for two months, Dad visited one time. When she finally got home, Dad went right back to making her wait on him, even as she was trying to rehab from her hip replacement.

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SunWinks! June 22, 2014: Go Take A Haiku, Part Deux

Go Take A Haiku, Part Deux

Dear SunWinkers!

We’ve been talking about haiku, that ancient Japanese party game. Instead of gathering together to play Twister or Grand Theft Auto, 12th century Japanese poets would get together and write renga, collaborative poems of verses in syllables 5-7-5, 7-7, 5-7-5, 7-7, etc., going around the room, each person contributing another verse, ultimately running to hundreds, even thousands of verses. It was quite an honor to be chosen to contribute the starting verse, called the hokku.Poets would come to renga parties prepared with dozens of hokku, and would inevitably go home with lots of leftover hokku. So they would publish books of hokku, and hokku became an art form unto itself.

About the 16th century, various art forms became the province of the hoi polloi rather than just the royalty; these included Kabuki theatre, woodblock prints, and hokku. The popular hokku degenerated into something very much the equivalent of the bawdy limerick. They called these haikai, which means “unusual fun.” Basho (1644-1694) is credited with raising the art of the hokku/haikai once again to something more sublime. What’s easy to overlook is that Basho and others did not always have their heads in the clouds. They were not above writing personal, droll epigrams and even getting scatological. Continue reading

Story: The Honey Badger

The Honey Badger

from The Golden Books
Copyright © 2012 Douglas J. Westberg. All Rights Reserved. International Copyright Secured.

Then Gus noticed something right behind Tucker. “Don’t move!” he whispered

Tucker heard the maraca sound. “It’s a rattlesnake, isn’t it?”

“Oh my God, Tucker, what do we do? I’ll get a stick.”

“Don’t you move either. Either one of us moves, I’m dead.”


A minute went by. Then two. It seems like hours. Then Gus noticed Tucker had moved imperceptibly. “You’re moving,” he whispered.

“Shh.” Tucker was moving so slowly, Gus couldn’t even see him moving. It was like watching grass grow. He could only tell Tucker was moving when he realized he was in a different position from a minute before. Slowly, infinitesimally, Tucker was turning to face the snake. Gus had never seen anything like it.

Then Tucker made his fatal mistake. His tail twitched. That was enough. The rattlesnake struck.

Kree-k-k-k-kree! Continue reading

SunWinks! June 15, 2014: Go Take a Haiku

Dear SunWinkers!

Happy Father’s Day! I just want to say that it’s been an unalloyed privilege to live with my four children for the 28 years from when I married Nevada’s mother to when Hannah moved out. They are four of the sharpest, brightest, most beautiful and interesting human beings I’ve ever met. Yes, they could be infuriating. Yes, the challenges were overwhelming at times. But I treasure every single second because all of that made those children the people of whom I am so deeply proud and admiring today.


I’m on a new kick right now, taking pictures and writing haiku to go with them. Did you notice? This is not my first haiku kick. Actually, I think it’s my second. During my first poetry phase (c. 1998-2001), I wrote one haiku, and that was a spoof. My first haiku kick was less than a year ago—you can see them in my new book, Papa Doug’s Light Book of Little Verse.

Kick #2 started a week ago on a bike ride. I was greeted with an extraordinary sky as I was coming out of Value Village thrift store. I was greeted with another stunning vista halfway home. Thanks to my smartphone camera, these became SkyKu 1 and SkyKu 2. I love taking pictures because it’s such an undepressed thing to do. You have to have a sense of inquisitiveness and wonder, and to want to capture the image for future enjoyment and reflection. For me, it’s not just a pleasure, it’s a bellwether.

Going back to a picture, especially one I took myself, and writing a haiku, exploring the mystery and wonder of what I was looking at, is an additional pleasure. In fact, I have little interest in writing haiku about a picture I did not take. The point of haiku is to reflect on one’s own experience, on one’s own tiny movement of the soul produced from one’s identification with the natural.

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