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.
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.
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.
What is your favorite holiday memory? For some, it is a special time in their life, such as a young married couple’s first Christmas together, or a child’s first Hanukkah. For others, it is a bittersweet moment, such as when a son or daughter is far away serving their country, and can only share the holiday by letter or e-mail. Memories from childhood teem with sights, sounds, and smells that linger far into our golden years.
One of my many special memories happened when I was about seven or eight years old. We had gone to my paternal grandfather’s on Christmas Eve, as was our tradition. Santa, as was his tradition, had come while we were gone. After we had opened the gifts the jolly old elf had left us, and the ones we had made or bought for each other, my father told us to sit tight, and went upstairs. Carrying a huge box wrapped in orange butcher paper, he struggled down the steps and into the living room.
He set it in front of my mother. She carefully unwrapped it. It was one of those new Motorola stereophonic record players! It played 78-, 33-1/3-, and 45-speed records, and had speakers you could put across the room! We were all so excited! My mother loved music, and although she knew it was more than they could afford and said so, she was happy with the gift. My father, who had used an unexpected holiday bonus to pay for it, was so pleased with himself for picking such a great present that he looked like the Cheshire cat! I remember sitting on the floor by the twinkling Christmas tree, and listening to records that night before we went to bed.
My mother, my sisters, and I played many records on that stereo over the next decade. When I was eighteen, my mother died of cancer. For the next few weeks, my father, who had seldom used it, repeatedly played “Um bel di” from the opera, Madame Butterfly. He had never been a fan of opera. Why that particular plaintive melody? He never explained, but it seemed to give him comfort. His gift to us that long-ago Christmas, which had given us hours of pleasure and a wonderful holiday memory, had traveled full circle, and become a gift that helped him to work through his loss.
Using your own holiday memories, write a poem, short story or essay or just jot it down in your idea book for later inspiration. This time of year is full of stories!
In my initial post of 10/21, I gave readers the beginning of one of my short stories, Everyone She Loved, and asked readers to contact me and I would send them the ending. From the names of those who requested the story, I would pull one and send them the New River Press anthology, American Fiction Volume 13 -The Best Unpublished Short Stories by New and Emerging Writers which contains my story, "Blind Horse". The winner of the anthology is (drum roll) Steve Patton! Happy Thanksgiving, Steve! Your book will be on the way this week. Thank you to all who participated. Hope you enjoyed the story. If anyone else would like to read the ending, just put your contact info here on the contact page and I will send it to you.
It reached 59 degrees today after a brutally cold, snowy two weeks here (and much of the country-so sorry, Buffalo, we're thinking of you). What a respite it was, encouraging the beekeeper and I to do some necessary clean-up and rearranging for the company we will have on Thanksgiving weekend. Still, I don't want too many of these days now that we are headed toward December. My body is ready to hibernate. I slow down, become introspective, write longer and more often. I look at winter as a time of going within, rest and renewal.
How do you feel about winter? Are you a grizzly, ready to den? Or are you a polar bear, in your element in the snow and cold? How does winter affect your writing? Leave me a comment and let me know. In the meanwhile, here's a prompt for you: using a person who lives in a cold city like, say, Chicago, and a person who lives in Miami or Key Largo, write two persona poems or a short short story on how they react to the winter season.
It is my desire to be cremated. No, it's not the greenest form of burial. Being buried naturally on our own land is possible and would be preferable, but a bureaucratic headache. We have to register as a cemetery, etc.. It's been a source of discussion between my daughter and me for years. That is, until she came across something on the Internet that swung her my way. My diamond-loving daughter found out she could turn me into a diamond when I pass on!
I won't reveal the company - you can Google it yourself - but yes, for a fee they can turn you or me or my pet into a jewel to be passed down through the generations. What do you think? Is that creepy, intriguing, haunting, comforting?
My writer instincts immediately kicked in. The moment she told me, I thought, "What a great idea for a story or poem!"
So here is a prompt for anyone looking for some inspiration today. It lends itself to fantasy well, but could fit in other genres as well as in poetry. I have a couple of ideas, but here's a quick haiku:
Winter sun sparkles
through jewel hung in window.
You, with me always.
If you are willing, you are welcome to share your story or poem in the comments. Or if you have a short comment on being turned into a jewel. But please short works only. If you would like to share a longer story, give us a link. Thanks, and write, write, write!!
I recently received a copy of Nancy Boutilier's On the Eighth Day Adam Slept Alone (Black Sparrow Press, 2000). Nancy is a Visiting Associate Professor, Rhetoric and Composition at Oberlin College. I met Nancy at an Ohio Poetry Association workshop weekend at Malabar Farm where the leader, Diane Kendig, read Nancy's poem, "Why I Love Mornings" which was featured on the Writers' Almanac. I knew immediately I wanted more. I am not disappointed.
I am grazing through the book, reading two or three poems at a time, rereading them to delve deeper, discovering the many layers in her words. Nancy had a tomboy upbringing and it serves as inspiration for many of her poems in this book. "Snapper AFGUE" is about catching snapper turtles and so much more. "What Holds" uses childhood backyard baseball to describe the yearning to return to a sweeter time in a changed relationship.
But there is no subject that is beyond Nancy's adept pen. We are pulled into quiet introspection in , "Help Arrives"
on its own
I recommend this book to all. Thank you, Nancy, for this poetry experience. I hope to see more of your work soon.
Recently, I was asked to display some of my poetry at the Johnson-Humerickhouse Museum in Roscoe Village, Coshocton, Ohio. The exhibit is called "Local Bounty" and features local artists celebrating locally grown food. Holli Rainwater, a local haiku poet, and I were asked for written works relating to this theme.
Since locally grown food and sustainable living is near and dear to my heart, I was thrilled to have them display my work among the stunning visual art by our talented local artists. The exhibit runs through January 4, 2015. Do try to make the exhibit if you are in the area. If you go to my "Poems and More" page, you will find the poem, "Kale" - one of the poems in the exhibit.
Of course, ekphrastic poetry-descriptions and interpretations, in poems, of works of art-is the true meld of visual art and poetry. The Ohio Poetry Association is doing a series of fine workshops this year all around the state in various museums. I attended one at the Columbus Museum of Art with Terry Hermsen (I adore Terry) and they recently held one at the Cleveland Museum of Art with Clarissa Jakobson. Check out the OPA website for the next one and consider attending - it is worth your time.
This is my new website where I will schmooze on anything poetry and short fiction or anything having to do with words. I will inform you about events coming up or those that I thought were worth attending. But be forewarned, you will occasionally get a post on sustainable living - it's just who I am. It's my hope and goal that you will find some information or tidbit along the way that will propel you forward in whatever goals you have as a writer.
For those of you who followed me from my old blog, Fishing For Words - glad to see you again. It's been awhile, hasn't it? I did well for a time then fizzled out,- mea culpa, mea culpa, mea culpa. I am in a better place now.
To start things off on a fun note, I have decided to make you an offer. I have written a story I think might be appropriate for the season. I would like to have you read it and comment on it. Here's how it starts:
Everyone She Loved
She was standing in front of the window, watching the taillights fade on the highway headed out of town. That last customer, a mother with twin boys, was young, weary written all over her face. Peasy knew how to read that face. Knew it involved a man and a dream gone wrong. She'd seen that face in her own mirror years ago. The young woman wasn't completely defeated; in her eyes there was still a light–dim but discernible. Peasy had snuck the woman's $20 bill back into her sack while she used the restroom. As the car pulled away, she silently wished her well.
“I saw you give her that twenty bucks. Your boss will be so pissed.”
“Hush, Bristol,” Peasy rubbed her eyes and turned toward her son. “She needed more than that but it was all I could do. I just voided the sale; he'll never know."
"You're just a softie." He grinned at her. That grin could always melt her resolve to be tough with him even when he was just a little boy. The urge to ruffle his hair was strong. She remembered how he hated that.
"What time is it?" Her watch was slow. It needed a battery, just another thing on the list of items she didn't have the money for. At least it had the right date - August 29, 2013. Where did the years go? Seems like just yesterday that Bristol was born.
Bristol checked the employee time clock. "Nine fifty-five. Time to start closing."
She laughed. "You in a hurry?"
"Nope, got all the time in the world, but I know how you are, Ma. You'll dally until some poor sucker drives by and needs a fill-up." He looked at her sternly. "You're tired. You need to get home so you can get some rest."
Peasy turned off the hot dog warmer and gathered the shriveled meat on a napkin. She'd throw it out onto the parking lot for the strays and coyotes to pick up. It would all be gone by morning. She ran the register tape, put the money for the a.m. shift in the safe, and put the deposit in the cloth bag for the bank. As she wiped down the counter, Bristol stood on the other side and watched her.
"I checked the back door. It's still locked," he said.
"Always looking out for me. Thanks, hon'."
She threw on her jacket, gathered up her car keys and the bank deposit, and turned off all but the security lights. As she left, she placed an envelope on the counter. Bristol noticed, giving her a questioning look.
"I'll explain on the way. Let's go," she said as she closed the door and tested the lock. "It's chilly out here tonight. Fall's coming. Change is in the air."
The old Ford truck complained a minute, then started up with a whine second time around.
"You need to get that looked at, Ma. I think it may be your fuel pump"
"How much would that cost, Bri? I'm not made of money."
"Probably pick one up at the junkyard for $150. I could talk you through putting it in. You're always good at fixin' stuff when I was a kid."
Peasy chuckled. "You were always good at breaking things. You know the saying about necessity being the mother of invention? Well, this mother had to use a lot of invention to cover the necessity."
Bristol started to say something, but she interrupted him.
"Bri, we need to talk. That envelope back there? It had my notice and the store key in it. I quit my job."
So there you go, folks. That is how it starts. If you would like to read the rest of the story and comment on it for me, just go to the contact page in this blog and leave your email address by November 1st. I will send you the rest of the story and await your reply. Be kind, but be honest. And for helping me out, I am going to put all your email addresses in a pot, draw one and send the winner a free copy of the New River Press American Fiction, Volume 13, in which you will find one of my other stories, "Blind Horse". Just reply with your comments by November 15, 2014. Thanks, and I hope you will continue to visit here.