To the poetry community that supports and encourages all who wish to express themselves in this medium, I am grateful. Whether you celebrate Thanksgiving, or Indigenous Peoples Day, or simply enjoy a day away from obligations, I hope your day is filled with joy.
And because food seems to be so essential for this holiday, here is a link to Joy Harjo's "Perhaps the World Ends Here", which speaks to all of us of memory, love and life.
Welcome to my remodeled website. I hope you will spend some time here getting to know me. If you ever visited my site in the past, you know that this was where my blog posts resided. As we all are painfully aware, the last 21 months shook up everything we knew about our lives. I could explain what has changed in my life and my relationship to poetry, but I won't bog you down with details. I realized early on in our "lockdown" life that I wasn't a blogger, that it wasn't the kind of writing that gave me joy, or added anything of value to the universe. So this page is now called, "Good News" and I will be using it to tune you in readings, events (both mine and others) and other tidbits I think you might find interesting.
With so many Zoom poetry readings to choose from, it's easy to miss a few gems. Sometimes the best ones are hiding in plain sight. I'd like to recommend a good one. The Athens County Poets & Storytellers meets on Zoom every 2nd Thursday of the month and is run by our very own Ohio Poet Laureate, Kari Gunter-Seymour, and poet Stephanie Kendrick. The guest on November 11th at 7pm is Ohio's Beat Poet Laureate, John Burroughs- a treat for sure. And don't miss the open mic. The poetry is stunning from this group. You can find them on Facebook.
We are under construction and hope to be back in early 2021 with a new and improved format. Thanks for visiting and please come back and visit us in 2021!
In 2017, Women Speak, the literary portion of the Women of Appalachia Project, was one of the premier experiences of my poetic life. This project was created to address the often negative image of Appalachian women in our society. To quote founder Kari Gunter-Seymour, Poet-Laureate of Athens, Ohio,
"We believe that all women are capable, courageous, creative and inspired. We tell our stories through our art."
The project is celebrating its 10th anniversay. Now Ms.Gunter-Seymour has put together a collection of work from 90 women writers and artists from nine states, and oh, the stories they tell! I am humbled and honored to be one of the contributors to this remarkable collection. If you want to laugh, cry, cringe, and rejoice, and hear the unapologetic truth of being a woman in Appalachia, you must get this collection.
You can get it at Amazon here or go to the Women of Appalachia Project website and learn more about this worthwhile project.
Just a quick post to announce the Polar Vortex has iced the launch of The Curve of Her Arm scheduled for tomorrow night in Coshocton, at the Johnson-Humerickhouse Museum. Hope to reschedule soon! In the meantime, it is still available for purchase by leaving me a comment here and I will contact you, or at NightBallet Press.
After watching the birds gathering at the bird feeder today, I thought I'd share this winter poem with you:
Two grackles descended on the feeder by my window.
The day was bitter, and the snow deep on this,
their first visit to the establishment.
The finches flustered and blustered, most affronted by these leviathans.
The nuthatches honked up and down the trunk of a nearby maple,
And a lone chickadee cocked his head from a branch above,
as if to say, “Who are these clowns?’
The grackles jumped and swung on the feeder like two wild boys on monkey bars.
Suddenly one paused, looked in the window, and - I swear – winked at me.
Then with a flash of midnight blue, the two flew off seed in beak,
Leaving me with monkey bar dreams of my own.
After three years of work, this collaboration with my friend, Holli Rainwater, has finally come to fruition. I am thrilled to announce the publication of The Curve of Her Arm. The poems in this collection published by NightBallet Press are inspired by the practice of qigong, an ancient Chinese practice incorporating body movement, breath, and mindfulness.
Holli and I want to thank Dianne Borsenik of NightBallet Press for her care in creating this chapbook, as well as artist Becky Hernandez for her gorgeous artwork. If you can join us at our reading on January 31, 2019, 6:30 p.m. at the Johnson-Humerickhouse Museum in Coshocton, Ohio, we would love to meet you. We will be sharing poems and some of the related movements. The Curve of Her Arm is also available from NightBallet Press ($12), from Holli, or from me (see the Contact page on this website). Future readings will be posted on this website.
We hope our poems will compel you to, as Holli writes in the introduction, "feel, in a visceral way, our kinship with everything else in the natural order", to "subtly change our way of being in the world."
(See my February 27, 2015 post for "Three Rivers Qigong", a poem included in this chapbook.)
March is my birthday month and I have been given two unexpected but very appreciated gifts this month - publication in two stellar collections of poetry and story. Wow, what a privilege!
On March 11th, the Ohio Poetry Association launched its anthology, A Rustling and Wakening Within, a collection of ekphrastic poetry by Ohio poets, edited by Sharon Fish Mooney. This week, the Women of Appalachia Project released the chapbook, Women Speak, edited by Kari Gunter-Seymour. These two editors have worked tirelessly to produce works of quality. I am both humble and proud to be included in both.
For those who are unfamiliar with ekphrastic poetry, it is poetry based on another form of art, like a painting or piece of music. On the OPA website (https://sites.google.com/a/ohiopoetryassn.com/the-ohio-poetry-association/home) you will find additional information and see a link to the artwork referenced in the anthology.
The Women in Appalachia (www.womenofappalachia.com/women_speak.htm) poets are selected each year by jurors and agree to give presentations in the region to represent Appalacian women and their strength, intelligence, diversity and resiliency; to break the stereotype and celebrate who they are.
I hope you will consider purchasing one or both of these quality publications. Here are the links:
Exciting news! I am honored to have been chosen as a reader in the 2016/2017 "Women Speak", Women of Appalachia events. Here is a link to the details, time and place of the various events, and the list of amazing women who will be reading alongside me. Hope those of you in the region can attend one of these. I think it's going to be fabulous!
Inspiration is often found in the oddest of things:
Only the shell left of what you once were,
you crawl away to let wings dry then lift off
to court another of your kind. You are
no creature of instant gratification.
Seventeen years you grew under our feet,
until, as if by some silent signal,
you burst forth, en masse.
Red-eyed, lace-winged, resilient sapsucker,
you transcend time and darkness
to emerge into the light.
With one final rent, you shed
that which held you captive.
Into a world that had all but forgotten you,
you move in a sensuous, undulating hymn,
singing halleluiah to life, halleluiah to love.
Two nights ago, our local library offered a program on "found poetry". A poem is formed by the taking the words of others (properly cited) from articles, books, or any other source you choose (one suggestion was fortune cookies) and composing a poem. It was a form I was not familiar with and decided to attend.
This program was for teens, although adults were also welcome. I'm afraid it was not well-attended, as the local teens usually interested in writing were busy with other commitments. I know that the two program leaders were disappointed, but in the end, the five of us that were there had a great time "finding" poetry in the materials that were provided for us. We had a lot of personal interaction and the experience spurred me on to continue the form at home.
Recently, I spent an overnight visit at Malabar Farms (home of Louis Bromfield) with three other writers and we spent several pleasant hours reading our poems to each other, listening to suggestions, and just talking about the local lit scene (and the world) in general. This was not a formal writers group-just some friends visiting another friend who had a reading in the area. Yet, once again, I took home some invaluable advice and insight into my work and poetry in general.
It doesn't take going to a major conference, or even joining a writers group-although these are both worthwhile endeavors-to get inspiration for your poetry. Sometimes it is where you least expect it, in the one-on-one contact with others of like mind, just sharing what they know, what they hear in your poetry, and what truths they have "found" in their own.
Turning 65 sucks. A lot. Yes, I know and appreciate all the blessings I have in my life - a loving husband, three great kids, seven perfect grandchildren (their parents just did an eye-roll), life on a land full of wonder and beauty - but none of that prepares you for the day mortality slaps you in the face. That day, for me, is today. I am now a Medicare maven. I know that I will never be on the Voice. I will most likely never walk the road to Santiago. My calves will never again look rockin' in a pair of three-inch heels. The Grim Reaper may not visit me for another 20 years, but there is a reminder on my neck and in my knees that the last 20 years, the 20 before that, and the 20 before that have flown by like snowbirds in RVs on I-75 in November.
I have spent the last few months of winter contemplating this event and, I have to admit, not exactly taking it like a champ, but here's the thing. Today, on the actual day, I am strangely serene, not celebratory, but accepting of this speed bump in my journey as I have made it over every other bump in the road of my life. I have my loved ones, some lovely friends, my garden, and my writing. And even though there is snow on the ground this morning, the sun is shining. It will soon melt; eventually spring will be here, then summer and fall, the earth continuing to turn with comforting surety. It is in our Mother planet that I find the most assurance. After all, look how old she is, and yet how beautiful. There may be some hope for me yet - I have a great teacher.
Photo courtesty of NASA
Some of my most peaceful moments in the week come during my Qigong class. The ancient movements and their beautiful names have inspired me to write several poems. Our instructor, Holli Rainwater, also a haiku poet, put together a series of movements reflecting the place where we live that she calls Three Rivers Qigong. I asked her if I may use that title to write a poem about it. I am so honored and humbled that she chose to use my poem in class. It is truly a beautiful form of performance poetry. I offer to you my poem, along with pictures of the class flowing together as one. Thank you to all my fellow class members who were so encouraging. You fill me with energy and light!
Three Rivers Qigong
Place woven in movement.
Fingers spread like buckeye leaves,
then form fruit in circle fists.
Arms become red bird wings
drawing the energy of flight
through our spines and outstretched arms.
We are agile deer displaying our antlers
in the season of red and gold,
black bear ambling through forest,
searching, sniffing, sensing.
Heron poised on one leg scanning
stream for silvery fish and frog.
Our stems are strong as trillium emerge
early in spring - three-petaled,
beautiful in our simplicity. We are Ohio.
We are the meeting of three rivers, this
place no glacier has touched, this edge
of Appalachian beauty, life-giving,
life-affirming, qi-filled, distilled in this
moment in this room in these people
standing on the boulder of geologic time,
connected to earth, to this place, to home.
It's my tradition (and pleasure) to peruse my local indie bookstore for books as one of the presents for each of my grandchildren at Christmas time. Their insistence upon growing up makes the choices more difficult with each passing year, but luckily I still have some younger ones for whom I can purchase a beautifully illustrated picture book. The manager, Lois, always has a fabulous find for me and this year was no exception.
One of her recommendations was Winter Bees & Other Poems of the Cold by Joyce Sidman & Rick Allen, published by HMH Books for Young Readers (November 4, 2014). This duo teamed up to produce the 2011 Newbery Honor Award winner, Dark Emperor & Other Poems of the Night, combining scientific facts about night creatures with stunning illustrations and hauntingly lyrical verse. I was happy to see their new 2014 release continued this theme with the same quality of line and art.
Being a beekeeper's helpmate, the first poem I turned to was "Winter Bees".
We are an ancient tribe,
a hardy scrum.*
Sidman's words catch the hum and feel of the hive deep in its tree trunk home, keeping the heat on by the act of "shivering" - which keeps it a balmy 92 degrees, by the way. Her vocabulary is picturesque but not difficult for the age group - don't you love the word, "scrum"?
However, my favorite poem was "Brother Raven, Sister Wolf". Having been a wolf watcher for many years, this poem took my heart. She portrayed the relationship of bird and canine as I have often imagined it to be. Although not exactly friends, they have been observed to be of great use to one another in finding and providing something to eat - though they often squabble in the process.
Silver winged thief,
Yellow eyed snarler,
Other subjects in the book are voles, chickadees, and even a triolet on the lowly skunk cabbage, a plant I eagerly look for in late winter. I highly recommend this lovely, lovely picture book not only for the young ones in your life, but for you and anyone who loves nature, poetry and the treasures of the winter season. Ms. Sidman also hints of the promise of spring, for as she says in "Chickadee's Song",
winter doesn't last forever.
Hopefully, the team of Sidman and Allen (his linoleum block prints are truly amazing) will continue to give us more enjoyable collaborations. Bravo!
*Book cover and quotations from poems with permission of Ms. Sidman.