Saturday, September 28, 2013


Stephanie Mesler at  A Poet's Progress  issued an invitation weeks ago for people to participate in her first ever WORD ASSOCIATION HAIKU THROWDOWN Challenge (see her site for the details).  I signed up!  Lots of writing to do these days and haikus help me flex my muscles.

Right off the bat, I received the first challenge round.  Of course I am knee deep in a chicken soup malaise, so getting started was a challenge in and of itself.  But respond I have ... passing the baton forward to the next contestant.  The word challenged with was "Dig"

As some know, I am no longer capable of writing a single piece to a prompt.  Here's the first haikus I wrote, reflecting how I am feeling today ...
A dig in progress, North Pit, Alcoota fossil site, NT ~ by Mark Harmon

Too much to resist
the snide turning of the knife
not satisfying

I know it is there
spoon digs deep into the cup
noodle triumphant!

Here was my official response - "Dig"

Find what lies beneath
mineral, vegetable
or of the spirit

Next Challenge: "Beneath"

And on we gooooooo . . .
The word challenged with was "Mistake"

Here's one:

Really a failure 
or adventures in “what if” 
I meant to do that 

Here was my official response - "Mistake"

Two thousand mistakes 
brought Edison to the light 
incandescent fails

Next Challenge: “Light”

Swing yer partner, change up order . . .
The word challenged with was "Hope"

Bird song announces
new light, new day, a fresh start
warm plate full of hope

Next Challenge: "Plate"

Ah!  Now the attempts to stump begin …
The word challenged with was "Due"

That which is my due
is what I owe to others
kind, open, respect

Do what is due too?
do you believe it is so?
give to give alone

Here was my official response –

Man wanders and walks
guaranteed only a chance
due no time, no thing

Next Challenge: "Chance"

This was a toughy as I couldn't quite decide where to go …
had to quiet my brain and relax - watched Kung Fu Panda, and it worked!
The word challenged with was "Mind"

One upon one more
thoughts multiply, complicate
requires mind stillness

Open up ones arms
embrace all that can be
this no one can mind

Here was my official response –

Deep, swirling green thoughts
imagination run loose
pranks of a dark mind

Next Challenge: "Loose"

The word challenged with was "Win"

The game all around
ambition, intrigue, ego
play is not to win

Luck, chance, or a whim
takes the skill out of the win
so what did you learn?

Here was my official response –
Change of heart and thought
to win as an exclusion
is a state of mind

Next Challenge: "State"

The word challenged with was "World & State

Look around my world
what do I really control
an elusive state

The word challenged with was seven verses total, one each for "Red" "Orange""Yellow""Green""Blue""Indigo""Violet"


A swell of brightness
is passionate one moment
and angry the next

Always looking up
a hue of optimism
or just the surface

Color to cheer you
sunny aspect quickly turns
running away fast

Growing hue of leaf
abundant, verdant but then
jealously guarded

Color me loyal
color me true and steadfast
changing to coldness

Exotic mind hue
intuit and contemplate
it is addictive

Expansive color
imagine all that might be
yet impractical

The challenge word for this round is “breath” or “breathe,” the verb OR the noun (used in any tense, conjugation or declension).  We are challenged to create a single verse haiku using the word, breath or breathe, in all three lines of the poem.

Breathe steady and sure
sound of my breathing with yours
breath stolen by you

Fire flames breathing out
imagine the breath in mind
just embers breathe in

Here was my official response –

Quick and sharp the breath 

breathing in cool, ripe, crisp air
breathe the rich autumn

Challenge word – “ripe”

The challenge word for me this round is “die”

Thousand little ways

can chip away, crack apart

live instead of die

Here was my official response –

Choose how you will die

in pieces, drawn over time

or only the once

A ten verse cycle, with one repeating line each verse.  Theme: halloween or samhain.

Blossom of summer
ripened to rich harvest gold
as the wheel comes ‘round

Damp, cold, and fall mists
creep in with bounty’s decay
as the wheel comes ‘round

Mortality knocks
beckoning our acceptance
as the wheel comes ‘round

Spirits known and not
rise to remind of the time
as the wheel comes ‘round

The veil is thinnest
invoke fire, gourd, spice and spook!
as the wheel comes ‘round

But none may you mock
these souls grimly remind us
as the wheel comes ‘round

Our time too shall come
life season curve to a close
as the wheel comes ‘round

Light the blaze to bright
see past veil, mold, clinging fog
as the wheel comes ‘round

For the wheel yet turns
there is no end, no stopping
as the wheel comes ‘round

Just a moment’s pause
living and dead face to face
as the wheel comes ‘round


Three Verses …Then, Now, Still To Come

The world wide open

endless opportunities

infinite time, then

The relentless clock
marking the death of moments
life has limits, now

Of the years yet passed
felicity or abyss
that is still to come

Write a Haiku for Halloween of any length on the theme "The Horror Lies"

Into The Unknown - Version One

Marching time, to come
so swiftly present then past
what is it we know?

Ours is the control
or so we slyly believe
audacity brims

There is joy and fear
they are always a constant,
possible, lurking

Each moment has both
dark and light, joy and fear
ever in balance

And our mastery
Is an utter illusion
ourselves only fooled

The journey could be
dark or light, we know not,
there the horror lies

 Here was my official response –
"Nebel Alle Fog" by Greg Berdet from Wikimedia Commons
 The Unknown

What we see, we know
what we believe we affirm
confident and sure

If we disagree
we reject, ascribe to fools
again we see, know

In between is gray
it is neither dark, nor light
none are its master

It waits in shadow
unseating our certainly
there the horror lies


The challenge word was "Mystery"

We look at the road
viewed through the lens of desire
seeking certainty

We want in our hearts
the confidence of the known
mastery of change

The journey observes
laughing at all our conceits
the need for control

Fate allies with glee
coiling and uncoiling threads
feeding our desire

They know the secret
that thing which we struggle with
in our need to know

The richest texture
is in the discovering
joyous mystery


The prompt word was “Life” and the haiku had to rhyme. I hate rhyming.  I have a single rhyming gene.  It becomes active for about 48 hours every decade, usually at the most socially annoying moment, and I become “rhyme possessed” for that period of time. As you can see from my submission, this is not one of those times.

Language is not rife
even armed with hunting knife
of good rhymes for “life”


Fours stanzas for Veteran’s Day in an ABA rhyme scheme on the prompt “Experience.”   

The Experience         
from the Department of the Navy via Wikimedia Commons

A reality
one’s self is changed forever
skilled maturity

Trained for all action
committed at high level

Can we understand
their sweat, their blood given us
in a foreign land

Our best acquaintance
ever honor, and duty
their experience


The challenge for Round 17 is to write double haiku using the challenge words above.  Double haiku are two verses of 10,14,10 syllable lines - my prompt “Yearning”


Thoughts that come unbidden to my commute
night time imaginings of the scent and the feel of you
your voice rumbling up my spine, held close, tight

Ghostly hands massaging my aching neck
grasping my arm, entreating me to come away from toil
a thousand sly glances and shared laughter
NOTE:  No more posting and scrolling - as of November 17th the haikus will be posted on their own page - CLICK HERE

 All Haikus (c) Judith Cullen

Thursday, September 26, 2013


"Herfstkleuren" by Dick Muddle from Wikimedia Commons
The trees are starting to turn, and last night I had that "first frost" feeling as I climbed into bed that made me seriously consider rechecking all the windows and curtains versus staying invested in my warming, blanketed cocoon.

But there was no denying this morning that the turn of seasons is well under way and no longer just lurking.

So I thought I would drag out an old favorite to take us into the season ... Christina Rosetti's Goblin Market. It bridges the transition from harvest to "spookable" October quite nicely, and contains one of my favorite poetic sequences which I always think of as "the Fruit Orgy."

I recorded the entire poem in parts last year ... it's a bit of a trial to read, and even harder to edit as the poem is full of tough plosive words and phrases.  Even with professional equipment it was a challenge, but totally worth it.

CLICK HERE for The Goblin Market ~ Part 1
CLICK HERE for The Goblin Market ~ Part 2
CLICK HERE for The Goblin Market ~ Part 3
CLICK HERE for The Goblin Market ~ Part 4
CLICK HERE for The Goblin Market ~ Part 5 

NOTE: As always, Audio Clips offered freely, but tips of appreciation are always accepted.  We are, after all, a struggling artist and author.  Many Thanks!

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

A YEAR IN TULFARRIS ~ Live Wednesday 9.25 at 7pm Pacific Time!

I'll be reading from Caitlin Walsh & Alfred Hellstern's lovely book of pictures and essays from their year living in Ireland.

"My boss was wondering if I'd be up for working in Dublin for a year. What would you think of moving to Ireland for a year?

"And so began the adventure, chronicled by his photographs and her written musings, as they explore monuments and meet people (and animals) who will leave an indelible mark on them and their children forever." 

This week - Conclusion: Summer on the Emerald Isle and "falling" towards home.

The reading will be live in Second Life at the Seanchai Library in SL Voice...

CLICK HERE to enjoy John McDermott's rendering of "Grace" which is referenced in one of tonight's essays - "Penny dropping"

Note: To be able to enjoy the streamed reading, your computer may require an application.  You may want to check this in advance ... such programs include:
  • iTunes
  • Windows Media Player (NOT all versions, so check yours out, don't assume!)
  • Windows 8 Radyo
 A Year in Tulfarris (c) 2009 by Caitlin Walsh and Alfred Hellstern.  All Rights Reserved.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

NEW: "Argument for Empathy"

A contemplative virtual me
It happened on Friday the 13th at the recycling bins.  I was standing there, dropping my separated glass into the correct bins, and the thought came into my head:  "What do I look like, standing here with my bags of recycling?  What assumptions would people draw from that and how accurate are they?"

For a brief moment I bought into the possible "truth" of those assumptions, then I rebelled.  I rebelled so fervently that my mind would not let go of the thought and began to compose.  I must say that driving around on Friday the 13th (or any day for that matter) with something vehemently composing itself in free verse in your head is not particularly safe - fortunately no lives were lost and there was no collateral damage.  From that experience, Argument for Empathy was born:

Argument for Empathy
By Judith Cullen

© 2013

We choose.

We select from what we see.

We apply it, and call it “truth.”

We choose.

We see a disability and think “broken”

We hear unfamiliar speech and we think “foreign”

We see grey hair and think “old”

We hear thoughts not our own and think “ignorant”

We see fat and think “lazy”

We hear conflict and think “enemy”

So many other things we see, we hear,

We categorize, judge and file neatly away,

When we choose.

We choose.

And with our choice our blinders slam shut,

Our vision becomes limited.

What do we miss?

We choose to miss:

The person of worth who clings daily to their independence and dignity,

The pioneer of intelligence and skill, bravely building a new life in a new land,

The lifetime of experiences and knowledge, happily shared,

The points of view that might keep our own ideas honest, and compassionate,

The person struggling daily with pain and discomfort,

The transcendent grace to disagree, and still respect.

We choose to miss People:

As individual as snowflakes.

They fall all around us, some softly, some born on a pelting wind

Each unique, each bearing love, and the desire for happiness

In their intricate, life-born geometry.

We choose.

We select from what we see.

What would happen if we chose differently?

What desire for happiness,

What liberation from judgment,

What vibrant truth would we see differently?


We choose.

When …

We choose.

CLICK HERE for Audio of Argument for Empathy
© 2013 by Judith Cullen ~ Music "Clean Soul" by Kevin MacLeod at

NOTE: Audio Clips offered freely, but tips of appreciation are always accepted.  We are, after all, a struggling artist and author.  Many Thanks! 

Wednesday, September 18, 2013


I'll be reading more of Caitilin Walsh's wonderful essays of her family's life and adventures as they spend a year living in Ireland tonight live in Second Life at the Seanchai Library at 7pm Pacific Time.  Alas, still struggling with streaming, but it is still a possibility in the near future, just not tonight. Stay Tuned!

Husband Alfred Hellstern provides breathtaking photographs to accompany Cait's witty essays.  Enjoy more of Alfred's inspired work by visiting his Online Photography & Design Portfolio.

Learn more about Cait and Alfred's gorgeous book A Year In Tulfarris

Friday, September 13, 2013

COMING SOON ... "Miracles: A Trio of Island Tales"

Belief is essential to a good life.  If there is a through-line to most of my work, it is the essential need for all of us to believe in something beyond ourselves.  It does not matter what.  Simply believe.  By believing in something beyond yourself, you learn to better understand your world: to believe in yourself.

Belief is woven into all three stories in Miracles: A Trio of Island Tales.  These stories are fictionalizations of family stories shared by my collaborator, Saane Tome.  She is a native born Tongan and devout Christian. The power of her stories is moving and undeniable.  You may or may not share her belief system, and that does not really matter.  It is hard to hear her stories and not recognize the essential power of them.

Meet King Tupou I of Tonga.  He was the first in a line of Tongan Kings that has remained unbroken to the present day - through nine generations!  He is  part of Miracles: A Trio of Island Tales.

During his near century-long life he transformed Tonga from a collection of bickering, war lords to a unified Kingdom.  He is the King Arthur of the South Pacific.  He was smart, ambitious, and he saw that the only way to combat foreign colonialism in the 19th Century was with one Tonga, under one ruler.  He knew that otherwise, the atoll and the people would be picked apart by outside interests.

King Tupou I of Tonga outside his Palace
In the 1830's he was baptized as a Christian, and he used his faith and beliefs as a tool in building the sovereign kingdom of Tonga.  He was a formidable man, and one of the few Polynesian rulers that was dealt with as an equal by other world leaders.  The Tonga he passed on at his death in 1893 was radically different from the one he was born into. Not only did he build a sovereign nation and develop a constitution, but he made serfdom illegal, secured the land of Tonga for Tongans forever by making it illegal for anyone other than native Tongans to own land, and he built a Christian Church that took its roots from the Wesleyan Church, but was essentially Tongan.

Learn more about this remarkable man and the paradise he dreamed of in Miracles: A Trio of Island Tales.

Don't forget to take the WHICH ARE YOUR FAVORITES Reader Poll!

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

TRIO TALES UPDATE ~ Everyone has an opinion. What's yours? Take Our Poll!

Okay, let's face it ...I am not J.K. Rowling.  Who the heck is?  But I have come to believe that the audience for short stories, short subjects, microfiction in general is growing.  You can read it on a commute, while waiting, when you just need a break.

Short Stories help me learn as a writer, and refine my craft as I work towards longer compositions.  I am in love with the form, and I cannot imagine not writing short stories. Some of the stories already published could yet emerge as longer works. Maybe even "proper books."  Which are your favorites?  Take the WHICH ARE YOUR FAVORITES? poll in the right margin, and share your thoughts!

There were some great responses after last weekends TRIO TALES Promotion ... here's the most recent:

"Each one of these three stories contains a learning lesson. Two of them were military in nature so I felt more at home with both of those. 

"... I was trying to pick my favorite but am unable as all of them resonated with me.

"Highly recommended."     
~ Amazon Reader Review, FIVE Stars

"A TRIO OF CAT TALES could actually have been written by a cat!

"Judy has such a way of telling these sweet stories from the feline point of view that the reader could almost believe that "S" had taken the keyboard and written them herself. "S" tells her tale as she goes through different life situations with her owner "She". As the reigning Cat of the House "S" sizes up each of the scenarios she is dealt and handles them with kitty-cat grace and aplomb. Well...except for in "Travels with S", which is tale #2. Here we do witness a good bit of yowling and more than a few tears, but don't worry. Everything ends okay. As a cat-owned human who has moved several times with felines in tow I got a big kick out of "Travels with S"!

"Those humans who have a cat reigning in their household will especially enjoy this book."      ~ Amazon Reader Review, FIVE Stars

"... Judy’s characters are strong and very real. The dialog rings true, and fellow Irish-Americans will enjoy (and perhaps recognize) the familial banter in the second tale, The Shadow by the Gate. Liam, its young protagonist, reminds me a little of me as a teen.

"A TRIO OF IRISH TALES is not a thriller, but it does keep you turning pages. Judy does with pooka, the man of the mists, and dancing fairies what others do with bullets and mayhem. The book’s charming mysticism grabs with plenty of character and just a pinch of suspense. The writing is conversational, and Judy’s voice is as friendly and open in her book as it is at her readings. The pace, flow, and tone precisely complements the stories.

Although they are fresh from Judy’s mind and two of three stories take place in today’s world, all read like traditional tales. In the first tale, entitled “In the Mist” a girl’s dream of romance is shattered, and her passion draws her from safety into the hidden dangers of the mist. In the Shadow by the Gate, Liam, a jaded teenaged technophile is thrust into a startlingly real world of traditional mysticism. The book finishes with The Oak, a story of one woman’s life as the river of time flows past her, her home, and her family.

A TRIO OF IRISH TALES is a great read. It’s both pleasant and engaging and should appeal to all readers, not just those of us of Irish descent. I recommend it. 
~ Amazon Reader Review, FIVE Stars

Sunday, September 8, 2013


The Trio Promotion went great Friday and Saturday, in part thanks to my Launch Team, and to my great friends and supporters. (You could be a part of the Launch Team fun!  Just leave me a comment or contact me on facebook!)   I think there might even be some actual fans now! Fans of my writing!  GASP! We'll party again when Miracles: A Trio of Island Tales comes out in a few weeks. 

Thank You One and All!
This week I'll begin supporting another friend and author, Caitilin Walsh.  She and her husband, Alfred Hellstern, published this lovely book of essays and photographs after spending a year living in Ireland.

I will be reading from Cait's essays and featuring selected photographs of Alfred's in Second Life (c) at the Seanchai Library at 7pm Pacific on Monday September 9th and Wednesday, September 18th.

At the moment, there is no firm plan to stream Monday's session, but God willing we might be streaming the session on the 18th.  Otherwise, You need to be logged into Second Life and at the Seanchai Library on the grid to hear the live presentation.  If you are an SL resident and you are interested, send a notecard to me as Caledonia Skytower (IMs often get capped).  We'll keep you posted on developments here regarding possible streaming.

To learn more about Cait and Alfred's book, CLICK HERE

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

FREE KINDLE PROMOTIONS ~ Friday and Saturday!

Coming This Weekend -  Free Promotions of TRIO TALES:

Saturday, September 7th ~
A Trio of My Father's Tales will continue to be available free on Amazon for Kindle. CLICK HERE
A Trio of Irish Tales will be available for ONE DAY ONLY free on Amazon for Kindle. With refreshed text! CLICK HERE

To read about A Trio of My Father's Tales and listen to audio selections - CLICK HERE
To read about A Trio of Irish Tales and listen to audio selections - CLICK HERE

NEW TO ME AND MY WORK?  Learn more about in this great interview by fellow author Stephanie Mesler on her site A POET'S PROGRESS (Click here)

Coming Later this Month ...

The Island cultures of the Pacific are deeply rooted in spirituality.  It does not matter whether it is christian or indigenous beliefs. Living in tropical splendor their lives are infused with faith, and a belief in the real power of miracles.

Miracles: A Trio of Island Tales whisks the reader to the Island Kingdom of Tonga in the late 19th Century.  It is a time when European and American colonialism are at their height, and many Island Nations find they must choose sides.  Through three miracles: one each of earth, water, and fire, we get a glimpse into the rich and unique Tongan culture, and begin to see how they have remained strongly independent and a sovereign nation.

Sunday, September 1, 2013


Beauty on the Interstate OR Cool Is as Cool Does.
By Judith Cullen

The Highway is a great rolling stage for drama.  Some are grand and expansive, complete with flashing lights, bells, and confrontations of life and death.  Others of these rolling epochs are simple moments of delight and justice, for where would tragedy be without comedy?

I was in lane two, the second from the left, with a semi-truck in front of me.  It was a clear, uncomplicated morning on the Interstate.  We citizens-in-motion were doing a healthy 65-68 in a 60mph zone:  fast enough to feel like we were being just a bit rebellious, yet not so fast that a slight pause on the pedal would make us respectable to any lurking State Patrolman.

To my left, in lane one was a rare sight: a motor tricycle.  I have learned since that “trike” is the appropriate thing to call it.  Somehow that seem to ill reflect the majesty of the vehicle I saw.  I’d rather think on it as a “Hog-and-a-Half.” 

It was a beautiful thing.  It was clearly the pride of a serious and experienced biker. It was not flashy, not too “cherry”, no flames, nothing so brash.  It was shiny and black with just enough chrome details to make it clear that this rider knew his business.  He cruised along at ease with the rest of us, an elegant rolling royal seat among the commoners.

I saw it coming up behind us in my rear view and side mirrors.  It was big and it rumbled.  I recognized the type of driver, and you probably do too.  The type that is almost constantly changing lanes: constantly scrutinizing any little hole or crack in traffic that might shave 25 seconds off their commute.  It doesn’t matter that everyone was already pushing the speed limit.  No one could possibly be going fast enough for this driver, as long as they were in the way.  My father used to call drivers like that “Willy the Weaver.”  They drive like where they have to get to is so much more important than anyone else, and they don’t really care who they put in jeopardy by their manic transits.

This one was in a big Ford truck.  It was not long before Willy the Weaver came up on us and decided that the Hog-and-a-Half was the weak link in this particular layer of vehicular progress.  So, the Ford shifted into lane 1 and chomped up on the Hog’s tail, menacing it from behind.  The Hog did not budge, so the Ford kept on chewing its tailpipe, trying to bully it out of the way with its size and dangerous proximity.  The Hog stayed serenely where it was.

After a few miles, the semi-truck in front of me changed lanes, shifting right to lane 3.  The Ford hardly paused, barely gave signal before starting to move in front of me into lane 2 and out from behind the Hog-and-a-Half. 

To my delight, I watched the Hog anticipate this maneuver and sail smoothly ahead of the Ford into lane 2 at almost exactly the same moment the Ford moved.  As it glided to the right, the truck still breathing on its bumpers, I saw the Hog’s driver majestically lift his left arm and salute the Ford with a regally uplifted middle finger.

I wanted to applaud right there in the moving traffic: a rolling ovation to an expression of displeasure that had both class and style.  I wanted to stay behind the Hog-and-a-Half for the rest of my trip, in a show of respect.  I wanted to send the driver a thank you note.

"Thank you where ever you are, Mr Hog-and-a-Half, you brought a bright smile to my face today."

© 2013 by Judith Cullen