the mad hatter

This tag is associated with 14 posts

April 2011 Poem-a-Day Challenge


While perusing the Writers Digest website, I came across their poetry blog, Poetic Asides by Robert Lee Brewer.  The blog regularly has guest posts with great advice and information, and Brewer does a decent job of leading writers with weekly writing prompts.  You’ll see your typical amount of Writers Digest product placement for their magazines or books, but not in a way that distracts from the real intent of the blog.

The main reason I’m sharing this is Brewer’s March 1st post.  Poetic Asides holds a Poem-a-Day (PAD) Challenge in April that is open to anyone.  The guidelines can be found here but in short, here are some details:

  • Runs April 1 – April 30th
  • Daily prompts will be posted on Poetic Asides
  • Poets can post their poems directly in the Comments section of the website or pick their best 5 and email them to Brewer by May 5th.
  • Brewer will pick the top  50 poems from the contest and name a Poet Laureate

While I have no illusions of making the top 50, submitting 5 new poems by May 5th based on the prompts should be do-able.  I will do my best to remember to post my submissions on here as well to get your feedback. 

Let me know if anyone else out there will be taking part in the contest.  I’m interested in seeing how much interest this contest creates and would love to read other writers’ submissions.

Cheers and Happy Writing!

~ The Hatter

Driving Through High Water – Think About It


After spending most of last night wide awake in our basement watching the local weather reports, I’m once again frustrated by the poor decisions of some of our local drivers.  Every time there’s any significant amount of rain there are certain areas of town that flood – Every time!  And each morning you can count on hearing news helicopters passing over on their way to show live images of drivers who made an attempt to drive through the high water and ended up stranded.

Really people?

This morning was actually even more exceptionally disappointing.  A school bus ended up stranded and had to unload all the unlucky children in the water so they could be transferred to another bus a few blocks away.

Here are my thoughts – charge them!  Give them a ticket or charge them for the time and services of the city workers who have to come “rescue” them from their own ignorance.  Police officers have better things to do than spend their time slugging through a foot or two of water in order to reach a struggling car.  We can charge a homeowner if there is a false alarm report of a fire so why can’t we do the same in this instance?

Ridiculously Frustrated,

~ The Hatter

Black Swan – Best Movie I’ve Seen in a Long Time


If any of you haven’t yet seen the movie Black Swan, go – go now!  Drop what you’re doing, look up the next showtime and go.  It is easily one of the best movies I’ve seen in a very long time.  I feel I should put a disclaimer in here though that it is very intense.  You really get sucked into the mind of Natalie Portman’s character, to the point that when we left the theatre it was almost as if reality had blurred.  There are also very sexually charged scenes that you wouldn’t want to watch with your Mom sitting next to you.

Anyway, go see it in the theatres before its gone.  Outside of the typical action movies or movies with great special effects, this is one of the few movies that I fully believe will have a stronger impact if you watch it in the theatres rather than at home.  Sharing in the moment with the others in the theatre adds a little something.


The Hatter

Commonplace Books – Interesting Idea – Thanks Thomas Jefferson

Portrait of Thomas Jefferson by Rembrandt Peal...

Image via Wikipedia


Today, while I was researching the life of Thomas Jefferson with a particular focus on his poetic appreciation I came across notes on his Literary Commonplace Book.  Wow… how did I not know about this phenomenon?

Apparently, sometime during the Renaissance it became popular to collect favorite verses, thoughts, prayers, or even recipes in what amounted to be a scrapbook.  Eventually, the well-educated were urged to do so during their college years.  Thomas Jefferson began his at age fifteen and continued adding to it until age thirty.  Other famous authors such as Walt Whitman, Ralph Waldo Emerson, and Mark Twain kept various types of commonplace books.  They could range from basically a journal of scribbled notes and ideas, like Twain’s, to a more familiar scrapbook of pasted newspaper articles, like Thomas Jefferson’s.

I’ve never been one to make use of a journal, even though I do think they are a great creative writing resource, but I can honestly say that seeing how the commonplace books were used throughout history has really inspired me.  I’d love to hear if others are using commonplace books and how you got started.

Also, if you’re interested you can read my full article, Thomas Jefferson – President and Poet, by clicking Here.

The Hatter

Public Broadcasting Under Attack


It’s not often that something in politics moves me enough to write about it, but the House Republicans’ recent success in passing a bill that would cut the entire $430M is appalling.  Not only will they cut funding to zero, but their plan is to have it at zero by the end of 2012. This means that many of the programs that have such a positive impact on our culture, both with the young and the old, will have to come up with a plan to make up a huge portion of their revenue in a very small amount of time.  That or cut the quality or quantity of their programming.

For those interested in voicing concern over this outrage, I encourage you to take a look at the website 170 Million Americans for Public Broadcasting.  It’s a call to action website where you can get updates and information or even email your own State Senators and Representative.

For those who aren’t aware of all the programs included under the umbrella of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, it includes organizations such as NPR, PBS, and Public Radio International

Some of the decisions as to which government programs are important and which aren’t are absolutely disgusting.  This, unfortunately, is one of them.

~ The Hatter

As I Look Forward to Spring – Emily Dickinson’s Poem 812

Emily Dickinson

Image via Wikipedia


If any of you have had an injury that kept you relatively immobile and generally stuck indoors, you’ll easily understand the following.  I’m two and a half weeks into what will likely be a six-week hiatus from normal life.  Not that it’s all been bad, but there’s definitely a pressure building, a need to escape… back to the real world beyond this house.

For today’s post, I’ve included a poem by Emily Dickinson which speaks of the scientifically unexplainable contentment that comes with Spring.  As the days grow longer and the daily temperatures rise, I’m struck by how creatively perfect this poem is.  One of the most pleasant aspects of my job is my morning drive in the Spring.  The wisps of fog rising across the open fields, a hint of daybreak shining across the horizon, it all provides for a flawless morning of reflection and gratitude for the gifts in my life.

Also, notice that she capitalizes the word ‘Light’ in the first line, giving it an almost god-like quality.  In doing so, she helps to increase the reverence justifiably felt for this most natural occurrence.

I truly can’t wait for Spring…


A Light exists in Spring
Not present on the Year
At any other period —
When March is scarcely here

A Color stands abroad
On Solitary Fields
That Science cannot overtake
But Human Nature feels.

It waits upon the Lawn,
It shows the furthest Tree
Upon the furthest Slope you know
It almost speaks to you.

Then as Horizons step
Or Noons report away
Without the Formula of sound
It passes and we stay —

A quality of loss
Affecting our Content
As Trade had suddenly encroached
Upon a Sacrament.

               ~ Emily Dickinson

I hope you enjoyed this as much as I did and I look forward to your comments.

The Hatter

My Weekend Routine with an Online Writing Community


This morning, I caught myself going through one of my most enjoyable weekend routines and thought I’d pass it along.  I absolutely love to sit comfortably in our den with a nice mug of coffee and spend some time on

This morning I realized that many people out there may not even be aware that exists or what it is. is an online community for writers and readers, where people can share their work.  Members are able to review the writers’ works, take part in contests or writing prompts, and support each other in many, many ways.  I treat it more as a quick hit for reading and reviewing, but have taken part in some of the small writing events.  There are also support topics and advice forums for aspiring writers as well.  The beauty of it is that it can be a different experience depending on what you’re looking for. 

The posted works are also in several stages of completion.  Some writers have written and posted full novels and been through the editing process several times whereas others will post a chapter at a time as soon as they have the final word in place.  It can be very interesting to watch a work evolve over time.  Other members, like myself, take more of a reader/reviewer role giving support and advice where we can.  And of course, I’m sure some people purely read various postings without getting involved, which is definitely okay too.

It can become an absorbing website though.  Several times I’ve found myself with 3 or 4 hours less in my day because I’ve gotten overly involved in reviewing an entry or writing an entry for one of the contests.  Normally, at least one time each weekend I’ll sit down and log into to take a look at a new author or to see if some of the authors I’m following have posted anything new.

I highly advise, if this sounds at all interesting please take a look at  If any readers do join or are already members, don’t forget to say hello.  My handle is The Hatter.


The Hatter

A Reflection on Recycling and Man’s Lack of Interest

As bland as it began, today was a day of deep reflection.

With my ankle wrapped and my daytime life ultimately immobile, there’s a limited amount of creative influence available.  I sit on the same couch that has held me for two weeks, watching the same television and staring at the same walls. 

I see a news article about the pollution that comes from overcrowding in some city in the Middle East which somehow triggers a rapid thought sequence. Overcrowding because of overpopulation, overpopulation because people are living longer, living longer because of science, science is polluting the world. 

Here’s my reflection.  With the vast scientific capabilities we now have, even though in most cases we believe we’re doing good, are we in fact ruining the world that we live in?  Most people would probably take that thought process to cloning, or stem cell research, or something like that.  Being business-minded like I am, I go a completely different route.

Look in your cabinet or pantry.  If you’re like me, you’ll have a ton of pre-packed goods – from cans, to single packs of coffee, to chips and on and on.  Tons of plastic, cardboard, and metal.  Consider the impact that this packaging has on the environment.  And many times there’s packaging inside the packaging! 

Recycling is an obvious possibility, but there are too many complacent people out there that aren’t concerned about where their trash ends up.  For many people, recycling would have to be a zero effort process for them to get involved.  Making a special trip to a recycling bin is completely out of the question.  Even at special events where there are clearly marked recycling containers for cans and bottles, it’s still too much of an effort for some people to walk the extra five feet to throw their bottle in the recycle bin and not the regular trash.

My thought is this.  Yes, we are slowly ruining the world we live in.  Until the majority of the population comes to terms with the trash they create and the reality of what that trash means for future generations, the future looks bleak.

The Beach Boys – Don’t Go Near The Water
Don’t go near the water
Don’t you think it’s sad
What’s happened to the water
Our water’s going bad

Oceans, rivers, lakes and streams
Have all been touched by man
The poison floating out to sea
Now threatens life on land

People Watching – A Creative Writing Project


It’s amazing how much a broken ankle is a perspective changing event.  Suddenly, I can’t go outside by myself for fear of slipping on the ice.  All the small things are now so much more time-consuming and difficult.  I now understand why elderly people will fight tooth and nail to keep their right to drive.  Mobility means so much in this world. 

Since I have so much free time and the lack of mobility to do much with it, today I’m going to bring back a past-time from my creative-writing days.  People-watching.  Not in the sense of making fun of people but in a more constructive way.

Here’s the process. Go to a comfortable place with a fair amount of public present – i.e. a coffee shop, mall, etc.  You’ll need a notepad and a pen or a laptop. Coffee shops are generally my favorite because the clientele tend to stay longer than what you might get in other public places.  Find somewhere comfortable to sit and then just look around. 

Take in your surroundings. Make notes on the background sounds, smells, overall atmosphere. Then take a look at some of the people around you. Find someone who catches you as interesting.  This will be your character. They could be very similar to you or you could be complete opposites.  You’ll find that the type of person you focus on will change every time you do this.

Once you’ve found your character, you have two main options on how to write. You can try to put yourself in their shoes, making their story as realistic as possible for this person.  Or you can just write, using the real person as a starting point but not worrying where their story takes you.  Now write. Write their background, their life, why they’re in the coffee shop, anything that helps explain who they are.  Spend at least 15 minutes continuously writing, with no pauses.  Don’t stop short though, if 15 minutes isn’t enough just keep going.

Once you’re done, relax and give your character a name.  Then put your pages away and don’t look at them for at least a day.  This will give you some separation before you do any revising.

If any of you should happen to do this, let me know how it goes.  I’ve always been a huge fan of people watching and really enjoy taking it this extra step.

The Changlings by Rudyard Kipling

NSRW Rudyard Kipling

Image via Wikipedia


As I sit at home, handicapped by my broken ankle, it’s becoming easy to think of things that I wish I could do.  Reading stories of travel and adventure help a little.

In one of my old books of poetry I came across this one from Rudyard Kipling.  I found it intriguing even though it’s not the first time I’ve come across the concept.  When we allow ourselves to enjoy the moment, to get lost in the moment, there are no differences between us.  We’re only held back by how we define ourselves.

As always, I appreciate your comments.

The Hatter

The Changlings

Or ever the battered liners sank
  With their passengers to the dark,
I was head of a Walworth Bank,
  And you were a grocer’s clerk.

I was a dealer in stocks and shares,
  And you in butters and teas;
And we both abandoned our own affairs
  And took to the dreadful seas.

Wet and worry about our ways–
  Panic, onset and flight–
Had us in charge for a thousand days
  And thousand-year-long night.

We saw more than the nights could hide–
  More than the waves could keep–
And–certain faces over the side
  Which do not go from our sleep.

We were more tired than words can tell
  While the pied craft fled by,
And the swinging mounds of the Western swell
  Hoisted us Heavens-high…

Now there is nothing — not even our rank–
  To witness what we have been;
And I am returned to my Walworth Bank,
  And you to your margarine!

The Rabbit Hole

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