dispersing & reflecting light through poetry

Archive for February, 2015

Preparing RED to be READ

This morning has not been spent writing. Today was about the nuts and bolts of putting together a chapbook: interior layout, cover design, bio pics and logos. I published my previous chapbooks on CreateSpace.com (click on Home for a list of available titles). CreateSpace is easy to use; they walk you through the process. Working on my first book project for an hour or so in the mornings, I had a printed proof copy within a week of beginning. (Of course the home office is located in nearby Charleston, so standard delivery doesn’t take long.) And my only cost was the proof plus shipping. Now if you’re not into all of the editting and design and so forth, they do have options for professional assistance. Since my budget does not include paying for my obsession, I do it myself.

Now I know that for the longest time self-publishing has been looked down upon by the publishing world. There’s a reason it is referred to as “vanity press”. In the past, writers with the money to spend on printing their own work could bypass the review of editors, the time spent searching for publishers, the heartache of rejection. It’s still possible today. But in this digital era the rules are changing. Anyone with a laptop or tablet can be published. Writing a blog is self-publishing.

So today I prepared for the publication of RED. I set up the title as a project at CreateSpace and they assigned it an ISBN. The manuscript for RED is still unfinished, but that’s okay. I can upload revisions as necessary until I’m ready to publish and even after that I can make changes if needed (e.g. typos that get missed the twelve hundredth time you proof). I create templates for publication that just need the text added and maybe a little tweeking, so that’s what I uploaded for now.

I worked on the cover design. That included editting my personal logo to fit the color scheme, trying to select the right bio pic (though I may go in a different direction with that altogether), and adding the back cover text. CreateSpace provides free cover design templates that can be editted, as well as royalty free stock photos. If you don’t find what you need, you can upload your own, or you can pay to have it done. Options are wide open.

But what does this have to do with the process of writing works of poetry? The process of poetry is not truly complete until a reader reads and gains something from the poem. As the poet I don’t get that satisfaction unless I’m there when you read it or you are there to hear me read. Putting together the physical chapbook is a way for me to have some form of completion to the process. And it’s another step toward you receiving from the work. And when it’s finally totally printed, there’s something about holding those bound pages in your hands.

Copyright © 2015 Scott Daniel Massey


The following is a public service announcement
from the author of these posts:

I promised to let you glimpse the process of the making of this chapbook. Well here is some process in real time. I woke up this morning at approximately 5:30 a.m. EST realizing that I had paired a pair of poems incorrectly. And I have been doing it from the beginning. Perhaps it’s the early morning writing when the coffee hasn’t really kicked in yet. But I sat up and said out loud (hopefully not loud enough to wake my wife), “It’s wrong.”

So what’s wrong? Currently I have “Cheap Valentine” paired with “Ghazal: Of My Love” (both covered in the past two posts) and “Window Shopping in Rosse Buurt” with “Solomon, St. Valentine, and the Coming of Christ”, a yet to be written sonnet (more on that later). Okay, Scott? I don’t see the problem. You explained it fairly well in ‘The Cost of Mis-RED Love’ and ‘Persian RED. What gives?

“Cheap Valentine” is about misunderstood and unappreciated love. “Ghazal: Of My Love” is a sensual poem about true intimacy, sexual and otherwise. “Solomon, St. Valentine, and the Coming of Christ” will be about committed love and marriage. “Window Shopping in Rosse Buurt” is about pornography and self-fulfillment. So…

“Cheap Valentine” and “Solomon, St. Valentine, and the Coming of Christ” should be paired together, unrequited vs. fulfilled; and “Ghazal: Of My Love” should actually be the companion of “Window Shopping in Rosse Buurt”, selfless vs. selfish.

I’m not sure why I put them in that order to begin with, it seems obvious to me now, but there you have it. A truly inside look at the process. And now for another cup of coffee.

Copyright © 2015 Scott Daniel Massey

Persian RED

“Cheap Valentine” speaks of love being truly unfulfilled; whereas, its companion poem “Ghazal: Of My Love” celebrates love to the fullest.

But what is a ghazal?

Pronounced ‘guzzle’,  it is an early Arabic/Persian form. We’re talking early, like around 900 to 1300 A.D. or before, depending on the source you read (see Bibliography). The main theme of a ghazal is that of love, erotic and/or mystic. English poets seemed to have taken an interest in the form in the last quarter of the 20th century, giving their unique twist to it.

The form itself is very specific (most “forms” are). I’ll give you the basics as I understand them. A series of couplets, usually 7 to 15, though no set quantity; each couplet should stand on its own, meaning it could be a poem by itself. Each couplet ends with the same word or set of words, a refrain. The refrain is actually repeated in both lines of the first couplet. Before each refrain is a rhyme; therefore, each couplet second line rhymes. The final couplet contains a reference to the poet–their name, pen-name or nickname, or a play on their name–something to form a “signature”.

These are most of the structural rules of a ghazal. There are others related to rhythm and meter and other matters, but you get the idea. I think I captured the essence of the style.

Here’s my first attempt at a ghazal, the companion poem to “Cheap Valentine“. Two of the couplets incorporate imagery of Indian/Hindi dress, style, and culture. Of course, red is the traditional color of Indian wedding dresses. Another aspect of early ghazals is the incorporation of much drinking of wine, so I started there. I hope you enjoy.

Ghazal: Of My Love

To the wine cellar! Tap into the kegs of my love!
Drink deeply! Drink deeply! Down to the dregs of my love!

My love’s a basket of fresh, ripe fruit—aromatic
pomegranates and apples, dates and figs of my love.

Crimson lehenga hugs her hips, tapers to her toes.
Satin holds tightly together the legs of my love.

Hand painted embroidered dupatta hides her bosom;
a true sign. Highly favored, the world brags of my love.

See how my arms are stretched taut in an open embrace.
Look closely at the holes made by the pegs of my love.

Scott has received the invitation sent to all.
Come. Come and drink freely at the feast, begs of my love.

Copyright © 2015 Scott Daniel Massey


Avachat, Abhay. “What is a Ghazal?” http://smriti.com/urdu/ghazal.def.html 21 February 2015

de Bruijn, J. T. P. “Gazal i History” December 15, 2000 Encyclopaedia Iranica February 3, 2012 http://www.iranicaonline.org/articles/gazal-1-history 21 February 2015

“Ghazal” AHA Poetry http://www.ahapoetry.com/ghazal.htm

“Glossary Terms: Ghazal” The Poetry Foundation http://www.poetryfoundation.org/learning/glossary-term/ghazal 21 February 2015

“Poetic Form: Ghazal” American Acacemy of Poets http://www.poets.org/poetsorg/text/poetic-form-ghazal 21 February 2015

The Cost of Mis-RED Love

Cheap Valentine

I made a Valentine card for you
out of construction paper and glitter.
I cut out an imperfectly symmetrical heart,
with an equally imperfect duplicate
cut in the center,
and super-glued it to the inside
over a wallet sized photo of you.
I composed an unknown poem for the occasion
on the facing page,
written in a sloppy calligraphy—
seven quatrains of slant rhyme
expounding on things known
and unknown only to me.
I signed it using my nickname,
as neatly as I could,
because I wanted you
to be able to read it.

You took it as a come on
and took me
in more ways than I
thought possible.
When you were done,
you rolled out of bed,
bare feet on the cold floor,
and walked out with a knowing backward glance.
You called from the kitchen and
asked if I wanted anything.
Not once did you
mention the metaphor
the card represented.

I may be sharing a well-protected man-secret here, but sex is not the most important thing to a man. It’s true. Look how casually and wrecklessly we deal with sex–inappropriate comments and conversations, premarital and multiple relationships, pornography–we cheapen it. Things that we hold in high regard, things that we treasure, we protect, we share sparingly. For a man that is his heart.

Think about it. As men, we are often called out because we keep to ourselves, we don’t share our emotions, our dreams, our innermost being. It’s because the giving of these is more intimate to us than the sharing of our bodies. And the denial or misunderstanding of this giving, this opening up to another individual is more devasting than being rejected sexually.

Copyright © 2015 Scott Daniel Massey

RED–Parallel Universe…Again


Called from clay,
six foot of sand and soil
converted to perfect flesh,
unearthed from the bowels below,
exhumed and animated
     to breathe new air,
     to gulp God gasped respiration;
come to life from under the rock,
the first of your kind–
the dirty womb and its bloody placenta
now under your feet.

“Adam” compliments “Native”, a companion poem, they are parallel. I think I accomplished this parallel best of the lot.

Whereas, “Native” shows the fall of man and his banishment from the garden, “Adam” seems to take us back to his original creation. You can see man being formed from the ground; being lifted to his feet to breathe for the first time. And you get the sense that it is good, triumphant even. And it is.

But the poem also describes ‘the last Adam’. I Corinthians 15 is an incredible chapter that details the resurrection of the dead. Go ahead. Take a read. I’ll wait right here.

Quick summary: Because of the fall of Adam, the first man, everyone gets to experience death; because of the death and resurrection of Christ, ‘the last Adam’, everyone has an opportunity to experience real life after death. Death and the grave, ‘the dirty womb and it’s bloody placent’, have been defeated by Christ. “Native” is the worldview or problem, if you will; “Adam” the heavenview, solution.

Copyright © 2015 Scott Daniel Massey

RED–A Parallel Universe

In a parallel universe this book is titled GREEN. Actually, it probably isn’t. But there are parallel worlds. There is the world in which we live–solid, sensual; to our eyes, real. The others are ethereal, spirtual–yet, just as real. These worlds are seen with the eyes of faith. They are the kingdom of heaven and the kingdom of darkness.

RED is arranged in a parallel order. Here is the current list of titles:

The Diet
Cheap Valentine
Window Shopping in Rosse Buurt
Red Ink Blues
Mars Rising
Capsaicin–The Topical Cure
Seeds of Faith
Blood Shed
Red Sky in Morning
Feast of Martyrs
Luna de Sangre
Words of Christ
Solomon, St. Valentine, and the Coming of Christ
Ghazal: Of My Love
A Study in Scarlet
Red: Revelation

 I was inspired to use this format for these poems while studying Hebrew and New Testament poetry, which use parallelism as a common form. I have arranged the poems, each different in style or form or voice, in a parallel order.

The first and last are introductory and summary. The first seven after the title poem attempt to show the universe we reside in under the influence of the kingdom of darkness or by our own efforts. The seven poems preceding the summary poem show more of the kingdom of heaven viewpoint. The poem to poem parallels are not perfect–I’m not that good–but, I think you’ll get the idea.

For example, “Native” and “Adam”, written in a similar style with different voices, are parallel to one another; “The Diet” and “A Study in Scarlet”, and so forth. I’ll look at the parallels of the first set in the next blog.

The three central poems will focus on Christ, some aspect of the color themes that are found in HIm.

I plan to use this same format throughout this series of chapbooks. (Series? Nobody said anything about a series. You mean there’s more to come after RED?)

Today, I give you “Native”, written using red rich Cherokee symbolism to describe the fall of Adam.


Our skin
is not gi-ga-ge,
as yours
is not white or black or yellow.
are the colors of the earth–
the sand, the soil, the clay.
Our flesh dyed
by the fruit of the sumac,
by the root of the sanguinaria:
these roots bleed when wounded
and the Sky hears.
We were removed
from the fertile land of the East;
driven to evacuate toward the sunset,
return prevented by sacred fire.
Each cycle of the sun chasing the moon
we look back to the East.
Many moons pass.
Many times of spring pass:
we suffer the thunderings of war,
bear wounds that will not heal,
and walk the path that ends,
when skin and flesh and sinew
become one with soil,
and bone becomes dust
returned to its native earth.

Copyright © 2015 Scott Daniel Massey

Listing “Red”

Red” is a list poem. Now to the casual observer that would be obvious. So is a list poem simply a random listing of items, things to do or that are done? A good list poem should be more than that; it should contain things that are somehow related and/or tell a story or create an image. Once at a poetry reading, a university English professor told me she really enjoyed the list poem I had read that evening (I believe it was “Red“) because it wasn’t merely a list, it built up anticipation. I enjoy writing list poems. There’s a simplicity to the form and yet putting items in an order that gives the poem complexity and depth can be a challenge.

I don’t believe I set out to tell any kind of story with “Red“. I created a list of red objects or things that elicit a red image, some immediately recognizable, others that were out of the ordinary, hoping to give you a sense of the color inside and outside of normal experience. Not every line has significant symbolic meaning other than to give a bold display of color.

I also researched various cultures in my search for meanings of red. For instance, in India a common color for brides is not white, but red; it also indicates being highly favored. To the Cherokee it is sacred. To the Christian as well, symbolizing the blood of Christ.

The ending stanza sums up the overwhelming theme within most cultural views of the color red–it is a remarkably passionate color. This is seen in two intertwining extremes often symbolized by red, love and war. Love can be war; war fought for love. Both extremes are boldly proclaimed at the cross of Christ; but those central poems of the RED series will be discussed later.

Copyright © 2015 Scott Daniel Massey

RED: an introduction

I was born Scott Daniel Massey. There was no christening or baptism, that was not a part of our family tradition. Just a name on a birth certificate qualifying my moniker for all purposes public and private. I believe I have been a poet most of my life. It is only recently that I have taken it seriously.

I don’t normally share the process; I like to wait until a piece or project is complete and I am satisfied with it before anyone else sees or hears it. With this chapbook project, RED, I would like to start showing readers what I’m working on, what’s currently done, and some of how I got there. In this blog, I will not only spotlight some of the poems to be included in the chapbook, but I will discuss some of the forms I use, the themes within the poems, and some of the research I used.

I don’t believe I have ever seen a book of poetry in which the poet discusses their own work. It’s usually just left for the reader to figure out. And I suppose that’s okay for those who get delight from meditating upon the words and the process of determining meaning. But I think that is also why more people don’t enjoy poetry. We don’t get it, don’t know how to get it, and don’t have the time to get it.

One of my goals as a poet is to write poetry that is accessible without being trite. I would like my readers to find enjoyment in the poem the first time they read it without having to dig too far for meaning: the emotional impact, the rhythm and music of the words, the imagery–something; and yet have more within the words to uncover, to explore.

I would also like to be up front with you. This blog and the proposed chapbook contain explicit Christian topics. If the discussion of God, Jesus, the Bible, the cross, sin, or any other openly religious or spiritual theme offends you, read no further.

Enough chat. I give you the title poem, “Red“:

by Scott Daniel Massey

cinnamon imperials and Atomic Fireballs
cheap Valentines
puckered lips
a slapped cheek
ink and tape
capsaicin, present in the placental tissue
     that holds the seed
     of the habernero
fire alarm bells
     in middle school hallways
luna de sangre
Madagascar tomato frogs
the words of Jesus
ripe apples hanging
Rosse Buurt
tail lights
STOP signs
spilled blood
the feast of martyrs

The speed of red: 400-480 THz.
The heart rate during sex: up to 180 beats per minute.
The span of man: 70-80 years if lucky, mid 20’s during war.
The time it takes blood to oxidize: instantaneous.

Copyright © 2015 Scott Daniel Massey

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