Sunday, November 22, 2020

Volodymyr Bilyk’s “Penguins” is #219 in the never-ending series called BACKSTORY OF THE POEM

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***Volodymyr Bilyk’s “Penguins” is #219 in the never-ending series called BACKSTORY OF THE POEM where the Chris Rice Cooper Blog (CRC) focuses on one specific poem and how the poet wrote that specific poem.  All BACKSTORY OF THE POEM links are at the end of this piece. 

Can you go through the step-by-step process of writing this poem from the moment the idea was first conceived in your brain until the final form? Penguins went through five major iterations. 

        My original intention was to capture the non-sequitur nature of the dream. I wrote each episode separately and then tried to fit it like a reverse puzzle. It was a jumble and read like rambling drivel.


        Then I decided to flesh it out - so I was first sketching the haphazard imagery and then adding context in-between to keep it cohesive. It didn't work. 

        Despite being a dream narrative - it read like some kitchen sink verse/penguins sketch, then kitchen sink verse continues, except the kuleshov effect, repeat. 

        Then I tried the "not in ideas but in things" approach and decided to make it tangible - only refer to things that happened as they happened. 

        Stylistically it was overkill, and it wasn't doing much for the narrative - a bunch of words stacked on each other looking intimidating. 

        Then I went with the haiku sequence, and it seemed to be the best way because it let me cut the fat and drop much of the writing. 


        But the poem didn't really work as a haiku series - it looked like a limerick suffering from brain damage - interesting but not what I was trying to do. 

        Then I went through some poetry anthology and stumbled upon Robert Creeley’s poem Dimensions and clicked for me. Click on link below to read Dimensions. (Below Right: Robert Creeley in 1972) 


        Instantly everything started to come together. I began to understand what was actually going on with those penguins and was able to put it into words.

Where were you when you started to actually write the poem?  And please describe the place in great detail. I was in Zhytomyr, back after a period of traveling. My room was littered with different papers, notes, books stacked in combinations for different research purposes. It had that stalled smell of dust and sweat.


        My desk barely had any free space to put a coffee cup, not to mention a notebook - it was covered in stuff with a laptop on top. I guess the right word to describe it is “cluttered.”

        I used to blank stare at a colossal oak outside my window because it seemed like a symbol of persistence in my mind. 

        My desk was right in front of the window, and every time I opened it - I got cold and felt sick afterwards. 

What month and year did you start writing this poem? The poem started gestating from around May 2015. I started drafting it as a poem in August 2015. The first version was done by October; then, it was rewritten a couple of times. The final version started in November 2015 and finished in January 2016.

How many drafts of this poem did you write before going to the final? (And can you share a photograph of your rough drafts with pen markings on it?) As was mentioned previously, there were five significant iterations. The final version had around nine drafts overall (judging from the document’s version history), three of which had major changes. The rest either expanded or reduced certain bits and juggled the episodes.

        The seventh draft was the version that locked down the structure of the final version. I then cleaned it up and tightened its pace over the next two drafts. 

Were there any lines in any of your rough drafts of this poem that were not in the final version?  And can you share them with us?  Lots and lots of stuff were cut over four different versions. While they weren’t all that different narrative-wise or image-wise - the presentation was very different from version to version.  (Right:  The eyes of a Fairy Penguin)


At the start, the penguins were mentioned a lot throughout the text—Penguins this, penguins that. Since the whole poem was about penguins anyway - I thought it was overabundant, so the final version features penguins in title only, while the rest is implied.  (Left: The eyes of a Little Penguin)


Before that, I was trying to figure out a workaround. At some point, I decided to use a dictionary description of the penguin: “Short-legged flightless birds of cold southern with webbed feet and wings modified as flippers.”. Then “sphenisciform seabird,” then it dawned on me that either was stupid, so it went to the cutting room floor. (Right:  The eyes of an Adelie Penguin)

        Here’s some cut content from the final version.

“ABBBBAABAAABBABAABBABABAAABAAAABBABBAABA” bit initially was a collage of excerpts from the dictionary describing various verbs like “Bellow,” “Bawl,” and “Roar” written as awkward mantras.

vehement; conspicuously and offensively loud; without restraint; raucous; forceful;  

Maybe hear some things… - was originally followed by the extended onomatopoeia section - SKREE WHUD BADOOM SKLUNK. It was pointless, so it went away.

Be curious enough to ask… - featured a short typographic concrete poem blast “YUIO YUIO YUITIOTIOTIOTIO WXWXWXWXWXWX VVVVV.” After a couple of rereads, I got tired spelling, and it added nothing to the poem, so it went away.

"blank stare, wink-wink" was originally a full-blown description of a blank stare on the face slowly morphing into a “wink-wink” one. It was overlong and stalled the poem. So I just got straight to the point instead.

“mountains laughing” - originally featured an onomatopoeia laughter BAHAHAHAHA. While it is a right touch when reading aloud - otherwise, it was stealing the thunder from the “mountains laughing” image, so I took it out.

“tremendous shadow falls.” - was initially featured by another line “shirk of the slash of disquiet warps inside outs.” It was way too pretentious. 

“whatever smells that way…” - was preceded by an “elirtinonolamenedilyzneborolhc” - a faux chemical element that emitted said smell. It was hard to read, not worked in the text, so it went away.

What do you want readers of this poem to take from this poem?  Penguins are an exploration of the image power of language. You can’t read it as a poem because it is not written as a poem per se - it is a document, a record of the event expressed in language. (Left:  The eyes of a Southern Rockhopper Penguin)

        It is a poem that eschews a straightforward narrative and instead lets the reader adjust a version of a narrative according to their understanding and interpretation of the sequences of images.

Which part of the poem was the most emotional of you to write and why?  The whole process of writing “Penguins” was quite emotional. 

        In 2015 I had a long stretch of stressful days on my job and started to crack under pressure. Working remotely, leisure and day job rolled into one with no real break between the two. Messes you up. You stop feeling at home because of that. 

        I was working overtime, and things were falling apart all the time, and I needed to fix them fast—lots and lots of stress. So I began having a recurring dream where I was watching the penguins from afar. 


        And every time I was reaching my limit - that image of penguins was popping in my head. At that time - I wasn't actively pursuing my artistic aspirations - I was trying to quit because it started to affect my day-to-day life in a negative way. 

        I was dedicating too much attention to vanity art stuff and not enough for my employment, which resulted in me making a mess once in a while. 

        By mid-2015, this attitude had reached its pinnacle and was breaking down. Thus - the penguin dream. 

        And I tried to analyze it and somehow understand what it means. 


But it wasn't helping because after a while, the dream evolved into me being a beholder in the midst of the crowd of penguins - in huge close-up - seeing the texture of their skin - their faces, and so on. And not much else. (Right: the eyes of a Gentoo Penguin)


After a while, I was fed with this imageworm, so I tried to get rid of it by just writing it down - and it sprawled into a series of narrative strands that started to emerge as I was writing down the recollections of dreams. (Left:  The eyes of a Yellow-Eyed Penguin)

Before long, I decided to make it into a poem.

Regarding a specific part of the poem - then it is “tremendous shadow fall” bit. 

It is one of the few bits that came all the way through the original draft of the poem. 

It is actually a slightly reiterated note from my diary. I did it after having an emotional breakdown. (Above Right:  The eyes of a King Penguin)

Has this poem been published before?  And if so where?  "Penguins" were previously published on the Beakful Blog. ( Beakful Logo)  It was sort of a farewell to dark days. 

        Back in the day, I thought this poem would be served best without the surrounding context. 

        Now I think the experience of writing may also contribute to the experience of reading it.







detached cry at the tin bowl:

echo - quells,

inane meek flush appears

: gray glow...

wave hand kindly,



hear some things...



be curious enough to ask

if there is a pattern.


shed tears

inside out.


"blank stare, wink-wink"






(is a line).

in the haze,

tongue claps - offensive.





mountains laughing

, sobbing.

listening to

hair rash...






("squirm, wince, flinch, shudder")



shadow falls.

a few touches

here and there...

the roar...:




“Oh, yes. Right.”





craggy fog



squawk wobble.


whatever smells that way...

throes additional sizzle...sigh,


so boring...





boxing flip-flap

fuzzy cough -


hops of wight; lame

- knee jerks,

more like bobs...


Listen to these lost and

useless notions...





blight,  tight fist,







wisps and skimps

- puff,






curdle curves cuddle.

sour clatter:

neat vexation.








- indecent flight ends with an impact

- broken pieces look like abstract action figures...


what a marvel!


(wind and  breath

get into a fight)




eyes toot.



back matters.

skews a bit

definite  gust

kicks the cheeks

chin  jigs

with a sound of a hiss.


dung aside



001  December 29, 2017

Margo Berdeshevksy’s “12-24”

002  January 08, 2018 

Alexis Rhone Fancher’s “82 Miles From the Beach, We Order The Lobster At Clear Lake Café”

003 January 12, 2018 

Barbara Crooker’s “Orange” 

004 January 22, 2018 

Sonia Saikaley’s “Modern Matsushima”

005 January 29, 2018

Ellen Foos’s “Side Yard” 

006 February 03, 2018

Susan Sundwall’s “The Ringmaster”

007 February 09, 2018

Leslea Newman’s “That Night”

008 February 17, 2018

Alexis Rhone Fancher “June Fairchild Isn’t Dead”

009 February 24, 2018

Charles Clifford Brooks III “The Gift of the Year With Granny” 

010 March 03, 2018

Scott Thomas Outlar’s “The Natural Reflection of Your Palms” 

011 March 10, 2018

Anya Francesca Jenkins’s “After Diane Beatty’s Photograph “History Abandoned”

012  March 17, 2018

Angela Narciso Torres’s “What I Learned This Week”

013 March 24, 2018

Jan Steckel’s “Holiday On ICE” 

014 March 31, 2018

Ibrahim Honjo’s “Colors”

015 April 14, 2018

Marilyn Kallett’s “Ode to Disappointment” 

016  April 27, 2018 

Beth Copeland’s “Reliquary”

017  May 12, 2018

Marlon L Fick’s “The Swallows of Barcelona”

018  May 25, 2018


019  June 09, 2018

Alexis Rhone Fancher’s “Stiletto Killer. . . A Surmise”

020 June 16, 2018 

Charles Rammelkamp’s “At Last I Can Start Suffering”

021  July 05, 2018 

Marla Shaw O’Neill’s “Wind Chimes” 

022 July 13, 2018

Julia Gordon-Bramer’s “Studying Ariel” 

023 July 20, 2018 

Bill Yarrow’s “Jesus Zombie” 

024  July 27, 2018 

Telaina Eriksen’s “Brag 2016” 

025  August 01, 2018

Seth Berg’s “It is only Yourself that Bends – so Wake up!” 

026  August 07, 2018

David Herrle’s “Devil In the Details” 

027  August 13, 2018

Gloria Mindock’s “Carmen Polo, Lady Necklaces, 2017”

028  August 21, 2018

Connie Post’s “Two Deaths” 

029  August 30, 2018

Mary Harwell Sayler’s “Faces in a Crowd” 

030 September 16, 2018

Larry Jaffe’s “The Risking Point”


031  September 24, 2018

Mark Lee Webb’s “After We Drove”

032  October 04, 2018

Melissa Studdard’s “Astral”

033 October 13, 2018

Robert Craven’s “I Have A Bass Guitar Called Vanessa” 

034  October 17, 2018

David Sullivan’s “Paper Mache Peaches of Heaven” 

035 October 23, 2018

Timothy Gager’s “Sobriety” 

036  October 30, 2018

Gary Glauber’s “The Second Breakfast” 

037  November 04, 2018

Heather Forbes-McKeon’s “Melania’s Deaf Tone Jacket”

038 November 11, 2018

Andrena Zawinski’s “Women of the Fields”

039  November 00, 2018

Gordon Hilger’s “Poe” 

040 November 16, 2018

Rita Quillen’s “My Children Question Me About Poetry” and “Deathbed Dreams” 

041 November 20, 2018

Jonathan Kevin Rice’s “Dog Sitting” 

042 November 22, 2018

Haroldo Barbosa Filho’s “Mountain” 

043  November 27, 2018

Megan Merchant’s “Grief Flowers” 

044 November 30, 2018

Jonathan P Taylor’s “This poem is too neat” 

045  December 03, 2018

Ian Haight’s “Sungmyo for our Dead Father-in-Law” 

046 December 06, 2018

Nancy Dafoe’s “Poem in the Throat”

047 December 11, 2018

Jeffrey Pearson’s “Memorial Day” 

048  December 14, 2018

Frank Paino’s “Laika”

049  December 15, 2018

Jennifer Martelli’s “Anniversary”

O50  December 19, 2018 

Joseph Ross’s “For Gilberto Ramos, 15, Who Died in the Texas Desert, June 2014” 

051 December 23, 2018

“The Persistence of Music”

by Anatoly Molotkov 

052  December 27, 2018

“Under Surveillance”

by Michael Farry 

053  December 28, 2018

“Grand Finale”

by Renuka Raghavan

054  December 29, 2018


by Gene Barry 

055 January 2, 2019


by Larissa Shmailo 

056  January 7, 2019

“The Seamstress:

by Len Kuntz

057  January 10, 2019

"Natural History"

by Camille T Dungy 

058  January 11, 2019


by Brian Burmeister 

059  January 12, 2019


by Clint Margrave 

060 January 14, 2019


by Pat Durmon 

061 January 19, 2019

“Neptune’s Choir”

by Linda Imbler 

062  January 22, 2019

“Views From the Driveway”

by Amy Barone 

063  January 25, 2019

“The heron leaves her haunts in the marsh”

by Gail Wronsky

064  January 30, 2019


by Terry Lucas 

065 February 02, 2019

“Summer 1970, The University of Virginia Opens to Women in the Fall”

by Alarie Tennille 

066 February 05, 2019

“At School They Learn Nouns”

by Patrick Bizzaro

067  February 06, 2019

“I Must Not Breathe”

by Angela Jackson-Brown

068 February 11, 2019

“Lunch on City Island, Early June”

by Christine Potter

069 February 12, 2019


by Andrew McFadyen-Ketchum 

070 February 14, 2019

“Daily Commute”

by Christopher P. Locke 

071 February 18, 2019

“How Silent The Trees”

by Wyn Cooper

072 February 20, 2019

“A New Psalm of Montreal”

by Sheenagh Pugh

073 February 23, 2019

“Make Me A Butterfly”

by Amy Barbera 

074 February 26, 2019


by Sandy Coomer 

075 March 4, 2019

“Shape of a Violin”

by Kelly Powell 

076 March 5, 2019

“Inward Oracle”

by J.P. Dancing Bear

077 March 7, 2019

“I Broke My Bust Of Jesus”

by Susan Sundwall 

078 March 9, 2019

“My Mother at 19”

by John Guzlowski 

079 March 10, 2019 


by Chera Hammons Miller 

080 March 12, 2019

“Of Water and Echo”

by Gillian Cummings 

081   082   083    March 14, 2019

“Little Political Sense”   “Crossing Kansas with Jim

Morrison”  “The Land of Sky and Blue Waters”

by Dr. Lindsey Martin-Bowen 

084 March 15, 2019

“A Tune To Remember”

by Anna Evans 

085 March 19, 2019

“At the End of Time (Wish You Were Here)

by Jeannine Hall Gailey

086 March 20, 2019

“Garden of Gethsemane”

by Marletta Hemphill 

087 March 21, 2019

“Letters From a War”

by Chelsea Dingman 

088 March 26, 2019


by Bob Heman 


089 March 27, 2019

“Clay for the Potter”

by Belinda Bourgeois 

#090 March 30, 2019

“The Pose”

by John Hicks 

#091 April 2, 2019

“Last Night at the Wursthaus”

by Doug Holder 

#092 April 4, 2019

“Original Sin”

by Diane Lockward

#093 April 5, 2019

“A Father Calls to his child on liveleak”

by Stephen Byrne


#094 April 8, 2019


by Marc Zegans


#095 April 12, 2019

“Landscape and Still Life”

by Marjorie Maddox

#096 April 16, 2019

“Strawberries Have Been Growing Here for Hundreds of


by Mary Ellen Lough

#097 April 17, 2019

“The New Science of Slippery Surfaces”

by Donna Spruijt-Metz

#098 April 19, 2019

“Tennessee Epithalamium”

by Alyse Knorr

#099 April 20, 2019

“Mermaid, 1969”

by Tameca L. Coleman

#100 April 21, 2019

“How Do You Know?”

by Stephanie

#101 April 23, 2019

“Rare Book and Reader”

by Ned Balbo


#102 April 26, 2019


by Jefferson Carter

#103 May 01, 2019

“The sight of a million angels”

by Jenneth Graser

#104 May 09, 2019

“How to tell my dog I’m dying”

by Richard Fox

#105 May 17, 2019

“Promises Had Been Made”

by Sarah Sarai

#106 June 01, 2019

“i sold your car today”

by Pamela Twining

#107 June 02, 2019

“Abandoned Stable”

by Nancy Susanna Breen

#108 June 05, 2019


by Julene Tripp Weaver

#109 June 6, 2019

“Bobby’s Story”

by Jimmy Pappas

#110 June 10, 2019

“When You Ask Me to Tell You About My Father”

by Pauletta Hansel

#111 Backstory of the Poem’s

“Cemetery Mailbox”

by Jennifer Horne

#112 Backstory of the Poem’s


by Kate Peper

#113 Backstory of the Poem’s


by Jennifer Johnson

#114 Backstory of the Poem’s

“Brushing My Hair”

by Tammika Dorsey Jones

#115 Backstory of the Poem

“Because the Birds Will Survive, Too”

by Katherine Riegel

#116 Backstory of the Poem


by Joan Barasovska

#117 Backstory of the Poem


by Michael Meyerhofer

#118 Backstory of the Poem

“Dear the estranged,”

by Gina Tron

#119 Backstory of the Poem

“In Remembrance of Them”

by Janet Renee Cryer

#120 Backstory of the Poem

“Horse Fly Grade Card, Doesn’t Play Well With Others”

by David L. Harrison

#121 Backstory of the Poem

“My Mother’s Cookbook”

by Rachael Ikins

#122 Backstory of the Poem

“Cousins I Never Met”

by Maureen Kadish Sherbondy

#123 Backstory of the Poem

“To Those Who Were Our First Gods”

by Nickole Brown

#124 Backstory of the Poem

“Looking For Sunsets (In the Early Morning)”

by Paul Levinson

#125 Backstory of the Poem


by Tiff Holland

#126 Backstory of the Poem


by Cindy Hochman

#127 Backstory of the Poem


by Natasha Saje

#128 Backstory of the Poem

“How to Explain Fertility When an Acquaintance Asks Casually”

by Allison Blevins

#129 Backstory of the Poem

“The Art of Meditation In Tennessee”

by Linda Parsons

#130 Backstory of the Poem

“Schooling High, In Beslan”

by Satabdi Saha

#131 Backstory of the Poem

““Baby Jacob survives the Oso Landslide, 2014”

by Amie Zimmerman

#132 Backstory of the Poem

“Our Age of Anxiety”

by Henry Israeli

#133 Backstory of the Poem

“Earth Cries; Heaven Smiles”

by Ken Allan Dronsfield

#134  Backstory of the Poem


by Janine Canan

#135 Backstory of the Poem


by Catherine Zickgraf

#136 Backstory of the Poem

“Bushwick Blue”

by Susana H. Case

#137 Backstory of the Poem

“Then She Was Forever”

by Paula Persoleo

#138 Backstory of the Poem


by Kris Bigalk

#139 Backstory of the Poem

“From Ghosts of the Upper Floor”

by Tony Trigilio

#140 Backstory of the Poem

“Cloud Audience”

by Wanita Zumbrunnen

#141 Backstory of the Poem

“Condition Center”

by Matthew Freeman

#142 Backstory of the Poem

“Adventuresome Woman”

by Cheryl Suchors

#143 Backstory of the Poem

“The Way Back” 

by Robert Walicki

#144 Backstory of the Poem

“If I Had Three Lives”

by Sarah Russell

#145 Backstory of the Poem


by Andrea Rexilius

#146 Backstory of the Poem

“The Night Before Our Dog Died”

by Melissa Fite Johnson

#147 Backstory of the Poem


by David Anthony Sam

#148 Backstory of the Poem

“A Kitchen Argument”

by Matthew Gwathmey

#149 Backstory of the Poem


by Bruce Kauffman

#150 Backstory of the Poem

“I Will Tell You Where I’ve Been”

by Justin Hamm

#151 Backstory of the Poem


by Michael A Griffith

#152 Backstory of the Poem


by Margo Taft Stever

#153 Backstory of the Poem

“1. Girl”

by Margaret Manuel

#154 Backstory of the Poem

“Trading Places”

by Maria Chisolm

#155 Backstory of the Poem

“The Reoccurring Woman”

by Debra May

#156 Backstory of the Poem

“Word Falling”

by Sheryl St. Germain

#157 Backstory of the Poem

“Vel’ d’Hiv Roundup of 7,000 Jews Detained in an


by Liz Marlow

#158 Backstory of the Poem

“Why Otters Hold Hands”

by William Walsh

#159 Backstory of the Poem

“The Invisible World”

by Rocco de Giacoma

#160 Backstory of the Poem

“Last Call”

by Ralph Culver

#161 Backstory of the Poem


by David Dephy

#162 Backstory of the Poem

“Mare Nostrum”

by Janice D Soderling

#163 Backstory of the Poem

“Winnipeg Noir”

by Carmelo Militano

#164 Backstory of the Poem

“Needlepoint Roses”

by Jason O’Toole

#165 Backstory of the Poem

“Singing, Studying on Whiteness, This Penelope Strings”

by Jeanne Larsen

#166 Backstory of the Poem

“How To Befriend Uncertainty”

by Prartho Sereno 

#167 Backstory of the Poem

“Shostakovich: Five Pieces”

by Pamela Uschuk

#168 Backstory of the Poem

“Bouquet for Amy Clampitt”

by Peter Kline

#169 Backstory of the Poem


by Catherine Arra

#170 Backstory of the Poem

“Silence – a lost art”

by Megha Sood

#171 Backstory of the Poem/ May 09, 2020

“Horribly Dull”

by Mark DeCharmes

#172 Backstory of the Poem/ May 12, 2020

“Celebrating His Ninety-Second Birthday the Year his Wife Died”

by Michael Mark

#173 Backstory of the Poem/ May 14, 2020

“Night Clouds in the Black Hills” 

by Cameron Morse

#174 Backstory of the Poem/ May 18, 2020

“I’ve Been In Heaven For Long”

by Evanesced Dethroned Angel

#175 Backstory of the Poem/ May 20, 2020


by Barbara Crooker

#176 and #177 Backstory of the Poem/ May 25, 2020

“My Small World” and

“My Mistake”

by Tina Barry

#178 Backstory of the Poem/ June 05, 2020

“Against Numbers”

by Andrea Potos

#179 Backstory of the Poem/ June 15, 2020


by Julie Weiss

#180 Backstory of the Poem/ June 20, 2020

“The Tree That Stood Beside Me”

by Carly M Loper

#181 Backstory of the Poem/ June 23, 2020

“Electric Mail”

by Julie E. Bloemeke

#182 Backstory of the Poem

June 24, 2020

“Her First Ten Days”

by Julieta Corpus

#183 Backstory of the Poem

June 26, 2020

“Outside My House Is A Guava Tree”

by Dr. Ampat Varghese Koshy

#184 Backstory of the Poem

July 2, 2020


by Victor Enns

#185 Backstory of the Poem

July 5, 2020

“A Way of Life”

by Dan Provost

#186 Backstory of the Poem

July 6, 2020

“The Alabama Wiregrassers”

by Charles Ghigna

#187 Backstory of the Poem

July 7, 2020

“The Seer”

by Kathleen Winter

#188 Backstory of the Poem

July 11, 2020

“Stuck At Home”

by Valerie Frost

#189 Backstory of the Poem

July 13, 2020

“Between the Earth and Sky”

by Eleanor Kedney

#190 Backstory of the Poem

July 14, 2020


of patience” 

by Eftichia Kapardell’

#191 Backstory of the Poem

July 15, 2020

“Threnody by the President for Victims of COVID-19, Beginning with a Line from Milosz”

by Ralph Culver

#192 Backstory of the Poem

July 16, 2020

“Will Be Done”

by Tom Hunley

#193 Backstory of the Poem

July 17, 2020

“The Love of Two Trees”

by Hussein Habasch

#194 Backstory of the Poem

July 18, 2020

“June Almeida”

by Lev RI Ardiansyah

#195 Backstory of the Poem

July 19. 2020

“After Grano Maturo”

by Matthew Gavin Frank

#196 Backstory of the Poem

July 20, 2020


by Linda Neal Reising

#197 Backstory of the Poem

July 21, 2020

“Will Be Done”

by Tom C Hunley

#198 Backstory of the Poem

July 22, 2020


by Ted Morrissey

#199 Backstory of the Poem

July 23, 2020

“Being In Love at Fifty”

by Anne Walsh Donnelly

#200 Backstory of the Poem

July 25, 2020

“Star pinwheel poem”

by Andrea Watson 

#201 Backstory of the Poem

July 30, 2020

“Gentle Women, Adult Female Persons, and Housewives in Indonesia ♀” 

by Kimberly Burnham

#202 Backstory of the Poem

July 31, 2020


by Don Yorty

#203  Backstory of the Poem

August 01, 2020

“I want to unfold the disease”

by Vanessa Shields

#204 Backstory of the Poem

August 06, 2020

“A Bone of Contention with the Ghost of John Lennon Over Strawberry Fields Forever”

by Ruth Weinstein

#205 Backstory of the Poem

August 07 2020

“Statement by the Pedestrian Liberation Organisation”

by Thomas McColl

#206 Backstory of the Poem

August 08 2020

“Un Poco Pequeño”

by Damon Chua

#207 Backstory of the Poem

August 10, 2020

“mary lou williams’s piano workshop (after Fred Moten)”

by Makalani Bandele

#208 Backstory of the Poem

August 18, 2020

“Roll Credits by KCK”

by Casey Kirkpatrick aka KCK

#209 Backstory of the Poem

August 21, 2020

“Ancient Pyramid”

by Mark Tulin

#210 Backstory of the Poem

August 23, 2020

“How Far the Storm?”

by Charles Malone

#211 Backstory of the Poem

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“89 Tears”

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#212 Backstory of the Poem

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“Food and Water”

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#213 Backstory of the Poem

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“To hold, to hollow”

by Meghan Lamb

#214 Backstory of the Poem

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“Would It Be Too Much”

by Justine Quammie

#215 Backstory of the Poem

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“Darkest days. . .Loneliest nights”

by Aaron R  

#216 Backstory of the Poem

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“About My Death”

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#217 Backstory of the Pome

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“Leash of Deer”

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#218 Backstory of the Poem

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by Susan Tepper 

#219 Backstory of the Poem

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by Volodymyr Bilyk 

Sunday, November 15, 2020

Joy Cheriel Brown and her auto-biographical Screenplay N.O.S are featured: “Just Kiss Me So I Can Wake Up!”

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Joy Cheriel Brown and her auto-biographical Screenplay N.O.S are featured:  

“Just Kiss Me So I Can Wake Up!”

Name of screenplay? And were there other names you considered that you would like to share with us?
The name of the script is N.O.S. Previously the name was too on the nose. It was called Take Your Medicine. (Above Left: Joy Cheriel Brown in September of 2020)

What is the date you began writing this screenplay and the date when you completely finished the piece of fiction? I actually wrote the first draft of this script as a contender for my thesis project in college back in 2004. However, I wanted to make sure that I had the right location for it, so I decided to make another film ("Figment" ended up becoming my thesis project, which is available on YouTube: 

I put the script away and didn't find it again until 2012, which was actually a huge synchronicity because I had decided to make my third short film, and I had moved since then and everything, and I was going through a container and found the original draft from college. I went on to do 9 more drafts of it. We shot draft 10 of N.O.S. N.O.S. is actually a true story. It is based on my first hospitalization for psychosis when I was 18 in 1999.

Where did you do most of your writing? And please describe in detail. I have a home office where I do most of my writing. When I moved into my current house, I decided to use the master bedroom as my office, and I sleep in one of the other bedrooms. 

I have a small couch in my office; my desk, computer, and printer; a bookcase with a ton of books; and a really old TV that is so old that it has a VHS player. I also tend to write in my living room when I get tired of my office; and oftentimes I work at Barnes and Noble during the research part, but actual scenes get written in my house.

What were your writing habits while writing this screenplay - did you drink something as you wrote, listen to music, write in pen and paper, directly on laptop; specific time of day? I tend to like to do most of my writing at night once it has gotten dark outside. Also, I usually outline everything in a spiral notebook, and usually the first draft gets written in a different spiral notebook, every other draft gets done in Movie Magic Screenwriter, my preferred software of choice. (Above Left: Felicia Sabree as Chelsea)

What is the summary of your screenplay? I was hospitalized for psychosis in 1999 for 5 days, and the whole time I was trying to figure out why I was there and how I could get out. So that's what N.O.S. is about. I was able to fit a lot of issues concisely into the story without losing focus that it's about a young woman trying to understand what's wrong with her and return to normalcy. (Scott Duvall as Nelson)

Please include just one excerpt.  This one excerpt can be as short or as long as you prefer. This is page 1 (it lost its formatting when I copied and pasted; also it should be noted that because this is the shooting script, and I directed it myself, I included notes like Day #1):



[Day #1]

A hot summer day.  CHELSEA, an 18-year-old Black girl-- sweaty and frantic-- pounds on the door of the old, but upkept house.


Open the door!  Tatum!  I made it!  I finally made it.

NELSON, an 20-year-old White guy, opens the door, confused and bewildered.


Tatum's not home.  He's in school.


You're lying to me.  I know he's here.

She steps back and looks at the upstairs windows.


Tatum!  Come to the door!  I made it!  I proved that I love you.


Chelsea, where's your car?


I walked.


But that's like 10 miles.


I know.  But I saved everybody and now I have to prove to Tatum that I love him so I walked.


What are you talking about?

Chelsea thinks for a second.  Her breathing comes with short quick breaths.  She wipes her forehead.


Are you okay?


(yells to sky)

Just kiss me so I can wake up!

Why is this excerpt so emotional for you as a writer to write?  And can you describe your own emotional experience of writing this specific excerpt? *and humor is one of many emotions. Well, this scene is actually a representation of the most embarrassing thing that has ever happened to me. Some of the things I (Chelsea-- I changed the name from Joy to Chelsea), Chelsea, says are actually kinda funny, but overall it is really sad because you can tell she's out of her mind and the person with her, which is just Nelson on page 1, doesn't know what to do.

Were there any deletions from this excerpt that you can share with us? And can you please include a photo of your marked up rough drafts of this excerpt? Here they are. This is from Draft 1:

Script was written in Fall 2004 while attending Howard University. Notes written in August 2011.

Rewrite.  Take out the things we can't see.

Write tighter.  Use an economy of words.



Chelsea opens her eyes and takes in her surroundings around her.  She finds herself to be on a bed in what appears to be a hospital room.



Chelsea screams while what appears to be nurses hold her down and a doctor injects a needle into her arm.


Chelsea rubs her eyes and sits up on the bed.  She is fully dressed in regular street clothes, but she still doesn't recognize her surroundings.  The other bed in the room is empty.

She sits on the edge of her bed, facing the window, and notices a duffel bag sitting in the chair.  Goes over to it.  Opens it, and inspects the bags contents.  There are clothes, pajamas, a toothbrush and toothpaste, comb and brush, hair gel and a few other toiletries such as deodorant.

Chelsea closes the bag and leaves the room.


Chelsea comes out of the room.  She notices other doors across from her.  A woman named EVA, wearing street clothes and a tattered bathrobe with frazzled hair, walks past her, mumbling to herself adlib (incoherent babble about killing and protecting herself from

being killed and such things).

Actually write out Eva's dialogue.  Rename her Mala.

As Chelsea passes her, EVA gives Chelsea the deadliest look anyone has ever seen.  Chelsea shutters and makes her way to the "receptionist" station that up ahead even faster.


Director's note: Light the nurses station so that it looks heavenly and angelic.

Upon closer inspection, it can be seen that what looks like a receptionist station from far away, actually has nurses working at it. They're all wearing what looks like white lab coats.  The area where the nurses station is located is actually divided up into other sections-- a place to eat and visit, an area for arts and crafts and group meetings, and a room for listening to music across from that.

Has this screenplay been made into a film? And if NOT which actors would you like to portray your characters in this screenplay? Yes. It has. Originally there was another actress cast as Chelsea, but it took several years to get the film made, so by then, the original actress was no longer interested. On one of the last days of auditions, a young woman entered, Felicia Sabree, who was actually auditioning to play the nurse. But she looked just like I did when I was younger, so I asked her to read for the lead as well, Chelsea, and she nailed it and got the part. 

How many pages?  What does that equate to how long the film would be? The final script is 22 pages (but the last page only has writing on the first few lines of the page). The entire film is 21 minutes and 25 seconds.

Anything you would like to add?  I have answered the questions below for your blog about my short film, N.O.S., which is based on my first hospitalization for psychosis when I was 18-years-old. 

The film is available on Amazon Prime and here is the link. I think readers would love to actually be able to check out the film:

Cast and Crew Information

Here is the link if readers want to know about upcoming projects. They can join the mailing list


Joy Cheriel Brown is an accomplished filmmaker, with an MFA in creative writing from National University and a bachelor’s degree from Howard University, where she studied film and English and graduated summa cum laude.

        Joy is the founder of Third Person Omniscient Productions, a production company whose mission it is to produce powerful, meaningful, thought-provoking movies, plays, and television shows that enlighten audiences about the human condition, shed light on the meaning of life, and raise the collective consciousness. Her first feature film is currently in development by her production company.


She has served as a screenwriting mentor for the DC Shorts Filmmaking Mentor Series and a panelist for the screenwriting panel at the Prince George’s Arts and Humanities Council’s Festival of Literary Arts, and she writes for Script Magazine and other media outlets. 

        She is also the author of “The Secret of Life Through Screenwriting: How to Use the Law of Attraction to Structure Your Screenplay, Create Characters, and Find Meaning in Your Script,” which is available on Amazon.


Furthermore, her short film, N.O.S., was acquired by ShortsTV and is also available on Amazon Prime. 

        In 2019, she produced her stage play, Stuck, for the Washington, DC Capital Fringe Festival, and received Playwright of the Year from ACHI Magazine.