Indiana University Writer’s Conference, June 2014

I’m just back from an amazing week in Bloomington, Indiana, where I attended the IU Writer’s Conference—for anyone considering this conference in the future, I’d highly recommend it. Come well-rested—you’ll be too inspired to sleep much.

Teachers included the amazing Jim Elledge, who just won a Lambda award for creative non-fiction; Christine Sneed, inspiring master of voice and craft; Mike McNally, who wove insightful philosophy into his fiction-writing lectures; and Stephen Motika, poet and equal-opportunity nurturer of both reluctant and enthusiastic poets.

I wrote a series of three sonnets (or sort-of sonnets, anyway) in Motika’s class. I really enjoyed the process. I think of them like sketches. Here they are:

(June 3, 2014)

Hot met cool, see the hawk glide? Watch, I said,
buying time, fighting to keep you earthbound
spinning sad stories of morning skies red,
of lost planes, never found, of ships run aground
Pink spells disaster, I hiss, desperate
Too late—you have flown, left me here alone
in the parking lot, forlorn, disparate
Left, as you thread through clouds as gray as stones
On the blood-red hood of your car, I brace;
I cannot follow where you fly, slice, skive

Spinning out, shrinking to a speck, I trace
your spiral path, praying: Don’t. Don’t dive.

*this was supposed to be a traditional sonnet: 14 lines, iambic, etc. It fails on many counts, the biggest being that I cannot count! It’s 12 lines (oops). This is what happens at 1 a.m. But it was fun anyway.


Mustard Seed
(June 4, 2014)

It’s gone, fragment of my Episcopal childhood
tiny speck of faith lost in my jewelry box.
Faith, you tell me, sprouts from this tiny seed,
branches spreading wide, high
sheltering all the birds of the sky
I have to find it, untangle the chain, believe
That mustard seed is all I need, you say.
I want to believe, as you do,
though your world’s aflame,
Trusting that God has you, safe in his palm
What is to burn bright, what is to give light
Must endure the fire, survive the burning:

Can you? Please, I need to find my mustard seed.
I want so badly to believe.

*Notes: for this sonnet, we were to loosen the definition of sonnet; although there are some rhymes, I didn’t focus on that. There are fourteen lines, and a ‘turn’ at the end. “what is to give light must endure burning” is a quote from Holocaust survivor Viktor Frankl, one of my favorites, and I borrowed from that towards the end.


(June 5, 2014)

I have faith in the way a wasp nest is never quiet
I don’t want to cause problems at this stage
I cannot follow where you fly, slice, skive
over goldengrove unleaving
spinning sad stories of morning skies red
sheltering all the birds of the sky—
she may entangle in that golden snare;
Faith, you tell me, sprouts from this tiny seed,
with near-instant results (including wealth beyond your wildest dreams).
Chronic irony is an arthritis of the spirit:
I’m in the parking lot, forlorn, disparate
I have to find it, untangle the chain, believe

My faith flies in angry circles round my head
Go! Spiral, soar, sweep the wide sky, like a hawk


*note: this is a collage sonnet, composed of lines from the sonnets of I wrote in class, as well as from poems by Gerard Manley Hopkins, Amoretti Edmund Spenser and Aimee Nezhukumatathil, a new couplet by me, and three random lines—from a tweet by Joyce Carol Oates, a client email, and a junk email advertising chakra healing for only $39.95.

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Elaine Olund

I'm a writer, artist and designer who thinks way too much, and tries to see the beauty in the world.

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