Disempowerment 101

The 2016 election caused a bit of a social kerfuffle in the US.

Uncounted conversations with friends in the aftermath led me to this write this poem:

DISEMPOWERMENT 101

by: Sheralyn Pratt

It is old wisdom
that the way to weaken a people
is to get them to think
outside their sphere of influence.
If it’s beyond their horizon,
it is but a play on a stage.
Spectators can watch
but they hold no true sway.
They can only cheer
or speak outrage
to claims and hearsay
—hands tied,
thoughts bound
to a place far away—
until those far-away thoughts
disrupt their own day-to-day.
This is no accident.
It is all a design
to train the masses
to have impotent minds.
For unempowered souls are easily led
and when the 99 feel helpless…
well, you know what comes next.
The good news is
returning to power
is a flip of a switch.
Every animal does it—
it’s that easy to fix:
Tend to your sphere
and all you can touch.
See to its care
and make it top-notch.
Then, perhaps, if a call
leads you to go far-and-wide,
you can go,
you can give,
and improve what you find.

Here the poem is as a shareable image:

It is old wisdom 
that the way to weaken a people
is to get them to think
outside their sphere of influence.
If it’s beyond their horizon, 
it is but a play on a stage.
Spectators can watch
but they hold no true sway.
They can only cheer 
or speak outrage
to claims and hearsay
—hands tied,
thoughts bound
to a place far away—
until those far-away thoughts 
disrupt their own day-to-day.
This is no accident.
It is all a design
to train the masses
to have impotent minds.
For unempowered souls are easily led
and when the 99 feel helpless…
well, you know what comes next.
The good news is
returning to power 
is a flip of a switch. 
Every animal does it—
it’s that easy to fix:
Tend to your sphere 
and all you can touch. 
See to its care 
and make it top-notch. 
Then, perhaps, if a call 
leads you to go far-and-wide, 
you can go, 
you can give, 
and improve what you find.

Disempowerment 101: Copyright, Sheralyn Pratt 2019

Talking Poetry

Ask anyone who’s known me all my life and they’ll attest to the fact that I have never self-identified as a poet.

Yet as I get to know the fictional characters I write for, I find myself describing their POVs (points of view) in poetic fashion.

Or, as I like to call it: Poetisophical™ — philosophical bedrock that allows you to deduce the state of heart.

This is a little different than traditional poetry, in my opinion. Maybe it’s actually poetry upside-down.

Poetry is known for its invitation to sit for a moment in someone else’s experience. Good poetry inspires sympathy or empathy in the listener — transporting them into a vicarious experience that allows them to see something in a new way.

My “poetisophical” poetry is a bit different in that the genesis is often the motives of fictional characters in a story. They might be the good guy, they might be the bad guy, or they might be some form of chaotic neutral in the middle.

But they have their points of view and their motives, and the poems I write often speak to the bedrock of their character.

Then, to beat the character in the story, you must beat their bedrock.

Here’s one such poetisophical poem that has most people split 50/50 on loving it and hating it.

What do you think?

CHASING DOGMA

By: Sheralyn Pratt

A truth
becomes a lie
the moment it arrives.
For truth cannot be stopped
—sometimes it is,
sometimes it’s not—
it holds its space
and plays its part
but holding still
is not its art.
For truth is on the move, you see,
it has things to prove
and places to be.
So if you spot it once
and proudly mark its plot,
remember this:
 truth cannot be caught.

Like the poem? Here it is in a shareable image:

A truth
becomes a lie 
the moment it arrives. 
For truth cannot be stopped
—sometimes it is, 
sometimes it’s not—
it holds its space 
and plays its part 
but holding still 
is not its art.
For truth is on the move, you see, 
it has things to prove 
and places to be. 
So if you spot it once 
and proudly mark its plot, 
remember this:
 truth cannot be caught.

Copyright: Sheralyn Pratt

Like it? Hate it? Start a conversation.

Chasing Dogma, Copyright Sheralyn Pratt 2019

Honey & Poetry

“Would you like a sample?” a weathered man asked, holding out a sample stick with a twirl of honey at the end.

I looked up from the display of beeswax candles and Mason jars of honey — belatedly noticing the woman playing the harp behind his booth.

The harpist was far enough away so the man didn’t have to talk over her, but close enough that it was a good bet that the gentle tones of her playing were what had caused me to pause at their booth in the first place.

And now the question was: Did I want to sample local honey while listening to harp music?

Okay. Twist my arm. This tagteam had officially talked me into it.

Next to me, another customer stepped up to make an order. A regular. He wanted two large jars of honey.

They only had one large jar left.

A swipe of a card later, they had zero large jars left. Only medium and small remained.

When that customer went on his way, a couple stepped up in his place.

“Would you like a sample?” the vendor asked. “This is our signature honey — harvested 800 colonies from across the valley to create a flavor reflecting the botanical spectrum of the valley.”

Okay, he didn’t say that.

But those were the tidbits my brain pieced together as he talked to customer after customer — making three separate sales while decided whether I needed more honey in my life. 

How long had it been since I’d had honey any more elaborate than what came in a squeezable bear bottle at the grocery store?

Finding myself mining childhood memories for such a time, I realized it might be time to lean into rediscovering honey as a delicacy.

And what better place to start than a local business that had turned selling honey and beeswax candles into a multi-sensory, harp-accompanied sampling experience?

Gotta support that level of local quality, amiright?

I was about to buy one of their few remaining medium-sized jars when the vendor looked at my bag and saw flyers I was carrying with me.

“What you got there?” he asked, pointing to them.

“I’m hosting a writing contest,” I said. “and giving flyers to anyone who’s interested.”

The harp player took a break as I said this and moved into the booth. The man looked her way, “She’s a great poet.”

“I’d love to see your work,” I said to her, handing over a flyer. “Please, enter.”

She took the flyer, then surprised me by reaching for a jar of honey.

“Poetry is important,” she said. “It’s a good thing to keep alive. Here. Can we give something to the winner? Some honey for a gift basket?”

I must confess this wasn’t an idea I remotely had on my radar, but the offer was so sincere and the honey was so good that there was only one answer:

“Yes. Someone in the poetry category can win your honey. I’m not sure exactly how that will play out, but we’ll make that happen.”

And that’s why one lucky poet will get a small jar of honey this year in The BATTLE of the BARDS. Because a local honey company believes in the craft and wants to thank you for keeping it alive.

It’s delicious. I hope you enjoy.

In the meantime, feel free to check out this great local company: https://www.whitelakefarms.com/

Of Parables & Fairy Tales

What is the difference between a fairy tale and a parable?

Are either type of story the same things as a fable?

All 3 of these story types are considered morality tales with the goal of helping people better understand the world around them and who they want to be in it.

But how do you tell which type of story you’re writing?

Ask Yourself 3 Questions

Question 1 – Are all my characters animals or insects?

Question 2 – Are some of my characters animals and some humans?

Question 3 – Are all my characters human?

Check Your Answers

If your answer to Question 1 = Yes, you are likely writing a FABLE.

If your answer to Question 1 = Yes, you are likely writing a FAIRY TALE.

If your answer to Question 3 = Yes, you are likely writing a PARABLE.

1847 illustration of the tortoise and the scorpion
The scorpion and the tortoise, a.k.a. the scorpion and the frog. A famous fable.

Checking your answer to Question 1 is a good thing to do before submitting to the BATTLE of the BARDS competition because there is no Fable category. Only Modern Fairy Tales and Modern Parables.

So, if all your characters are animals, you will need to change at least one of them to be a human for this contest.

While fables deal with straightforward actions and consequences in nature, fairy tales and parables invite us to examine the human motives that can put us in tough spots.

Gustav Dore's etching of Little Red

In traditional tales, these decisions can lead to terrible consequences — up to, and including, death.

Originally, Little Red dies. So does the little mermaid; she goes all-in for the man of her dreams, loses her voice and turns into seafoam (then an earthbound spirit) while the Prince marries someone more suitable.

In fairy tales, little kids get thrown into ovens, boys who cry wolf are left to fend for themselves, and boys seeking treasure end up murdering to acquire the wealth.

Actions and consequences. Fairy tales and parables both explore this theme.

So what’s the difference?

The quick take you can use that will guide you right in choosing the correct category of submission in The BATTLE of the BARDS is this:

Fairy tales share principles, based on an understanding of basic human/animal nature — incorporating both animal and human characters as metaphors.

Parables share principles couched in an understanding of human cultures and practices — where setting and roles can replace the laws of nature as being the first line of consequences the characters have to deal with.

For example, if you have a morality tale about a girl in the woods who runs into three animals, you probably have a fairy tale; if you have a morality tale about an inmate in a prison who has a run-in with three other inmates, you probably have a parable.

Parables require an understanding of cultural setting to explore the world the character lives in.

Fairy tales require an understanding of basic natures to explore the character’s journey.

So, to summarize:

What’s in a parable?

One of the first signs that you are writing a parable is:

All the characters driving the story are human.

Setting, culture, religion, politics, or cultural circumstances are embedded into the dominoes of the actions and consequences.

The more you know about the culture/dynamics a story is set in, the better you understand the arc and outcome of the parable.

Take the parable of the Ten Virgins, for example.

Illustration depicting the 10 virgins from Matthew 25 of the New Testament.
Anyone know who this artist is?

Understanding the culture the story is set in can change your understanding of the 5 prepared virgins not sharing their lamp oil from:

Why didn’t they just give their friends half? What difference does that make?

to:

Why didn’t the five girls who had the $10 bills to get into the party just tear their bills in half and give the other half to their friends so they could all get in?

Because, in parables, cultural practices and situations are context to the dilemma presented.

What’s in a Fairy Tale?

Fairy tales explore the dynamics we can all relate to, using both humans and animals as metaphors.

Anyone from anywhere — human or not — can relate to a wolf being at their door.

Everyone can relate to the temptation to play rather than work, stray off a safe path for a bit, or wanting to escape an isolated tower.

The use of universal metaphors in fairy tales makes them easy to understand across time and cultures.

Because whether they’re talking about losing a mom and gaining a step-mother who only cares about her own children or underestimating wolves, there is a level of understanding that can be universally applied by the audience.

Summary: Parables and Fairy Tales — Similarities and Differences

The thing that parables and fairy tales have in common is that they invite discussion and reflection on things we deal with every day.

The main difference is that fairy tales invite all to examine our basic, universal natures while parables invite us to explore situational ethics.

Said another way: Fairy tales explore different actions and outcomes tied to our basic natures; parables dive into the morality of our cultures, practices, and more complex behaviors.

Thus, the challenge for the fairy tale/parable author is to see the dynamics and drives of each character with clarity that leaves personal bias on the cutting room floor.

Keep these tips in mind as you submit and your entry should be solid!

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