New short poem

March 7, 2012

About a werewolf attack.


The Attack of the Werewolf


The sable clouds

At once enshroud

And clothe the moon in eerie light.

The whistling wind

Is toss’d and spinn’d

Across my ears tonight.

The crackling leaves,

The husks and sheaves,

Protest aloud each careless step;

My beating heart

In fits and starts

Reminds me fast to homeward get.


For too long stayed

And too far strayed;

The hearth was warm, the company

So full of mirth.

This chilly earth

Does now conceal its path from me.

These upreach’d arms

The heavens harm,

The tree-limbs, claws, do hide the stars.

I cannot say

Where lies the way

And whether near or nigh or far.


The moment moves;

The first howl proves

A not-quite-unexpected shock;

‘Tis understood

Within these woods

That packs of wolves are store and stock.

The second howl,

Though, draws a scowl,

And this despite me, not by choice;

‘Tis long and foul —

I’m frozen now –

It echoes like a human voice!


And ere on feet

Which, less than fleet,

Across the crumpling carpet fly

To whence I came

Half-mad, aflame,

I dash, to draw indoors or die.

But what enchantment

Was supplanted

The path supposed to bring me nigh

The party hall!

My footfalls fall

In circles, hopeless, and awry.


With labor ceased,

I see the beast

Who draws upon me, in a clearing.

Fallen, panting,

Devils chanting,

I see the dark chimera nearing.

Black and foetid,


Draws the ravened, scabby fiend;


Dank, incessant,

The vapors of his breath are seen.


Giant fleas

And skin disease

Bespeck his flesh with fest’ring sores;

A look of hell

And hunger swells

Within his eyes, a man’s no more.

And as I pray

And blessings say

Upon this world I briefly loved,

He comes! I swoon

Beneath the moon

Beneath the stars and skies above.


My hunger grows.

A thousand woes

Be his who meets me on the night

When pale light shines

And then entwines

With my infected bite.

I know these woods

As hunters would;

I claim my prey each harvest moon;

I howl, I hunt

As wolves are want

And return a man by tomorrow noon!


Poems vs. Poetry

March 1, 2012

Lately I’ve been reading Tennyson. He’s been climbing in my estimation really fast, starting to rival Poe (who I used to think was the greatest poet around). Turns out (surprise surprise!) that Tennyson was one of Poe’s main teachers and inspiration!

Anyway, Tennyson has been teaching me something about poetry that, well, I had kind of swept under the rug. Namely this — that a poem doesn’t have to be a thousand lines long to be worth reading. See, most people write these 10-20 line poems, generally free verse, that just meditate upon a feeling or a moment in dripping, too-descriptive language, then autograph it and call it a “poem”. Then everybody else reads it and loves it because they couldn’t do any better themselves. But the end result, if you’re really searching for something that you can enjoy, love, or learn from, is… well, it’s not something you can enjoy, love, or learn from.

That’s why I’ve been writing long-form poems; epics, or in the case of The Supervillain Sonnets, a long cycle of connected short poems. But then I discovered Tennyson, whose poems don’t have to be that long, but are simply incredible for depth, for loveliness, for skill… For everything that a poem should be. Have you ever read Charge of the Light Brigade?

I have.

Anyway, so I’ve been drifting toward shorter poems, songs, things like that. It’s going well. Take that Godzilla poem for instance (although by most modern standards, that’s not a “short” poem!).

Progress on the Tales in Space has been slow! I kind of hit a stagnant point on the Bounty Hunter’s Tale, because I lost sight of what got me excited about that project in the first place. There was something I wanted to capture, but only a part of me really loves that thing, so… When the other parts of me are calling the shots, it’s hard to write.

Nathan out.


February 12, 2012

The salty, silent ocean air —

Oh, Godzilla —

The rolling waves and sunlight fair,

Oh, Godzilla —

My gaze turns east, to east I stare

But all that placid vista there

Does but conceal your secret lair,

Oh, Godzilla.


My fellow men would fain pretend,

Oh, Godzilla,

That towns rebuild, and wounds will mend,

Oh, Godzilla;

That you were just a passing trend

That no more reigns of terror pend

That madness struck, then met its end,

Oh, Godzilla!


But I remember, I recall,

Oh, Godzilla,

Your chilling, keening, plaintive call!

Oh, Godzilla,

It burned like brimstone if at all,

And o’er the valley drew a pall –

I watched the first defenses fall

Oh, Godzilla!


You ambled up from ‘neath the waves,

Oh, Godzilla,

And out from underwater caves,

Oh, Godzilla.

And lightning breath your pathway paves

And dots with death and unmarked graves

And makes the mighty cringe like slaves,

Oh, Godzilla.


We raped the earth and spoil’d the seas,

Oh, Godzilla.

We filled your chambers with disease,

Oh, Godzilla.

We said, “Pooh pooh!” in Japanese

And dumped our waste and chopped down trees,

So you ignored our desperate pleas,

Oh, Godzilla.


And all the works of Tokyo,

Oh, Godzilla,

Your whirling-dervish-madness know,

Oh, Godzilla!

Your dorsal plates aflame, aglow,

Your crackling fire overflows

You sweep your lightning to and fro,

Oh, Godzilla,


And brick and mortar turn to ash!

Oh, Godzilla,

As ancient sites around you crash,

Oh, Godzilla,

And all our species, young and brash,

You maim and rape and chew and gnash

Our homes are like our spirits – smashed –

Oh, Godzilla!


So like a sentinel of yore,

Oh, Godzilla,

I camp, a tramp, upon the shore.

Oh, Godzilla,

But though I grow quite old and hoar,

And no one have a clue what for,

I’ll listen for your plaintive roar

And keep my vigil evermore…

Oh, Godzilla!


Projects underway…

February 12, 2012

Dear everyone,

Well, no one offered me any feedback on The Valiant Little Tailor, which is OK. I’ve decided to go ahead and publish it on KDP for $.99 — it won’t be the longest $.99 poetry book out there, but it won’t be the shortest, either, so I can probably get away with it. I also came up with a lovely cover, but it uses a painting I found on the internet and I’m currently waiting to hear back from the painter about permission.

Now the Bounty Hunter’s Tale — with the owl and the killing and the talking farm animals — is coming along rather nicely. It’s shaping up to be about as long as the Space Admiral’s Tale, which goes completely against my intention of having Space Admiral be the longest tale (just as the Knight’s Tale is the longest in Chaucer). But oh, well. It’s funny writing in iambic pentameter — it’s so much easier to say exactly what you think than it is in a more restrictive style, so I wind up just filling in more detail than I would otherwise, which means a longer story.

AND! I’m working on a ballad about Godzilla, to the tune of Oriana by Tennyson, which I’ll be posting on here soon. Instead of “Oh, Oriana,” it refrains, “Oh, Godzilla”.


Iambic tetrameter vs. iambic pentameter

January 31, 2012

It’s kind of like crossing the border from France into Germany — the fact that both of my major projects up to this point were iambic tet, and now I’m in iambic pent. I remember learning in high school that iambic pentameter is “the closest to ordinary English speaking rhythms,” and that’s why it’s been so popular. There’s something to that, although I don’t think it’s really true of modern idiom. Well, maybe in the American south it is, but I’m from Pittsburgh, and I don’t sense all that much kinship with iambic pent. Proof of that is that most people who try to write in it wind up inverting their subjects and objects, using feminine endings (like movèd instead of moved), and other tricks. Heck, I did it a lot in the Sonnets. And I’m doing it some in the Bounty Hunter’s Tale.

BUT! I’ve noticed something else really interesting. Once you absorb the rhythm into your body (which is key no matter what meter you use), writing in iambic pentameter feels more like writing prose than anything else I’ve done. The part of me that’s in touch with the page isn’t so much the musical part of me, but the talking, story-telling part. I’m focusing more on what happens and not so much on the rhythm of the words themselves.

That’s cool. It still rhymes, and it still moves iambically, but I feel much more like a prose author than a poet. I still love poetry, but there’s something attractive about prose — if only just because about 100x as many people read it.

OK, thoughts over! On the aside, The Bounty Hunter’s Tale is turning out awesome.

Introducing the next tale of the Tales in Space!

January 25, 2012

A quiet landscape of windswept clover and undulating hills.

A small farm in the highlands of rural Scotland, filled with talking animals.

Will be shocked

As the sun rises on a grisly scene of unsolved murder.

One barn owl detective rises to the test.

Written in carefully crafted iambic pentameter couplets.

The Bounty Hunter’s Tale.

Coming soon.

Introducing… The Smuggler’s Tale!

January 17, 2012

So the next tale of the Canterbury Tales in Space is underway. The Smuggler is a general rake and ne’er-do-well. Originally I intended for him to tell a tale about a total nobody who, through a series of comic circumstances, rises to become king of a kingdom. I was going to write this story myself. Meanwhile, just to keep my poetry chops going, I started writing a verse adaptation of one of my favorite fairy tales, The Valiant Little Tailor.

But what do you know? The Valiant Little Tailor is a story about a nobody becoming king through a series of very comic circumstances. So why not just have that be the Smuggler’s Tale? It’s not like all of Chaucer’s tales were original.

At this point the project is about 65% complete. It’s the most rhyme-dense piece I’ve ever written, and perhaps one of the most rhyme-dense epic poems in existence. It uses Chaucerian ABABBCC stanzas, except I don’t let myself get a new rhyme with the subsequent stanza. The result is

ABABBCC CDCDDEE EFEFFGG… and so on. Mind you this is 8 syllables per line.

The result is kind of a shitstorm of rhyme and rhythm.

Looking forward

December 21, 2011

As far as I’m concerned, there’s only one piece of writing advice that matters. Never finish a project without an idea of what the next project will be. Just as women go through post-partem depression, a writer can be crippled by the discovery that this thing you poured oodles of love and attention into, for x-hundred hours of your life (the Space Admiral’s Tale represents about 400 hours of mine), is falling on deaf ears. All I know how to do is ignore it, and press on. Which now means “keep writing.”

Just ‘cuz it’s fun.

To that end, here’s something I hammered out about my hometown. Its title is misleading.

A Very True History of Pittsburgh

Once upon a time, there was a city which was known as Pittsburgh, because it was built at the bottom of a giant pit. This was thousands of years ago. And as the ages passed, erosion began to wear at the edges ofthe pit until soon they were level with the city. And that is why now “Pittsburgh” is surrounded by many hills.

Pittsburgh exists at the confluence of two rivers. What no one knows is there is actually a third river, so tiny that only very small people can see it. This river is very clean, unlike its cousins the Monongahela and the Allegheny. But all the same you should not swim in it.

It used to be that the world was very small; about three miles long, in fact. But people kept throwing away their trash, which turned into new land. And that is how the world became the size it is today. But when it was small, it was divided into two parts, a southern part and a northern part. The southern part still exists in Pittsburgh, under the name “The South Side.” The people of the city foolishly believe this means the south side of Pittsburgh.

Long ago, people used to eat steel, which is proved by the fact that ‘steel’ rhymes with ‘meal.’ And so Pittsburgh was once the bread-basket of the world. But now our digestive systems are much weaker, and Pittsburgh’s industry has fallen on hard times.

Long ago, the penal code was much stricter than it is now. It used to be that thieves were condemned to battles to the death on arbitrary teams, crushing each other with their bodies while fighting over a piece of stitched pig’s hide. Eventually these deadly matches were televised, and the people of Pittsburgh loved to watch their “Stealers” fight to the death, although now I understand the term has been corrupted to “Steelers.”

West of Pittsburgh was a great enchanted oak forest, peopled by fairies, satyrs, imps, and centaur. It wasn’t until Ernest Learning built his great cathedral there that it began to become tame. But the fairies would not give up their homes so easily, and took to covering their faces with long bangs and thick glasses, and calling themselves “hipsters.” But I know better, for to this day, if you stand in Oakland and sprinkle sawdust in a circle about your person, you will find that no hipster may cross it without being turned to ash.

And this concludes my very true history of the city of Pittsburgh. And if anyone doubts it he can write his own history, thank you very much.


The Space Admiral’s Tale — released!

December 21, 2011

So, it’s finished! And not as well as I would have liked — there were some passages in the first section I wasn’t crazy about — but close enough for jazz. And here is the link…

Now, because this is only one tale from a planned 10 or so, I had originally intended to release it for free until I finished the book. But Amazon wouldn’t let me. So anyone who finds this blog through my Amazon profile can always read a 100% free and unabridged version here…

God bless, and stay safe!

Purposes of writing

June 25, 2011

I’ve often asked the question of why we write, and why (conversely) we read. There are a lot of different answers. Right now I’m reading a book which has been a wake-up-call for my life; I’m finding the characters in it making a lot of mistakes, and the author wants to show that they’re mistakes, and they’re things I’ve been doing for a while. It’s not exactly FUN reading, but it is rewarding.

A lot of books (almost all commercial books, in fact) are written simply because they’re fun. Other books are written because the author has a point to prove; these books can generally only be enjoyed if you agree with the author’s point.

And some books, I think, are written just because they have to be. Something in life, something outside of the author, calls on the author to write; the world just needs this book. That may sound crazy, but it isn’t, really; lots things in life happen because, well, they’re just meant to. I feel that anyway.

I think J.D. Salinger’s Catcher in the Rye was like that. I think it was written just so the world could have bragging rights to other worlds.