Keeping current in wellness, in and out of the water
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You can scroll the shelf using ← and → keys
This week I bought a book of poetry that has been created by illiterate women in Pakistan and Afghanistan. These cultural specialties of the Pashtun tribe are biting commentary on life. Since they live in a war-torn state, to say the least, and their rights are severely limited because they are female, their point of view contains irony and stinging truth about love, war, grief, homeland, and separation. They tackle these subjects with depth and witty metaphor which they have learned from other women. The special right to express themselves is frequently withdrawn if the males in a family learn about it. The book I am reading, I am the Beggar of the World, was inspired by a young girl’s suicide when she was forbidden to create landays and share them on a telephone hot line in Kabul. The journalists who composed the images and couplets are veteran reporters who had been in the area during years of war, covering just the facts. They were emotionally and creatively blown away by the density and artfulness of this pastime/folk literature. The Poetry Foundation helped fund the expedition and Poetry magazine published some of the works. The response from the magazine’s readers was overwhelming. People want to see more of this kind of primal undiscovered poetry that is hidden and unknown to outsiders. It has touched me deeply and makes excellent meditation material.
As a writer I am taking on new subjects. My poems are still simplistic, but I am stretching to find subjects, characters, and perhaps real events that spark my imagination. I have considered how fresh and essential the landays are because of the restrictions of illiteracy and the need to remain anonymous. They are wisecracks, jokes, and political farce all rolled into a few words, like a comic distillation of the concept. Like the work of Dorothy Parker which I am reading, admire, and want to emulate, these jokes are intricate and require some practice to make them work. They pack a lot of editorial punch into 22 syllables, as Mrs. Parker did in her short witty quips. Subjects that are taboo can be handled with humor in such a way as to make emphatic points without confronting issues directly. The discovery of landays and the women who create them leads me to want to take on more difficult subjects. Politics, art and poetry overlap in any era, and the result can be revealing. I am working to develop some good cosmic jokes that resonate with my gentle readers on many levels.
As a practice writing poems is revealing and confidence building. I take zero risks typing away on my iPad saying anything that pops into my mind. In comparison to the Pashtun ladies I suffer very little for my art. I can publish it, tweet it, change it, illustrate it, and it is free to travel wherever people care to read it. I am starting to have an appreciation of the opportunity as well as the responsibility that situation creates. I wonder if I can say something funny and profound that has the power to stick in the mind and change it. For me the ROW80 challenge continues to be more about what I read and learn than it is about what I am writing now. The stepping stones to better work are contained in the works of other poets. They inspire me to look for subjects that matter.
Spring has sprung here in Arizona. We have another month of daily ruby red grapefruit harvest, which is my favorite crop of the year. I juice them and think they do wonders for my health. Since we have had a very mild winter, with the exception of a harsh freeze that ruined some plants, the trees are in bloom early. This can mean that we will be sure to have an early crop of peaches, or it could mean that survival is all the more tricky since we may dip back down in temperature before the fruits can ripen. Gardening requires both close observation and plenty of patience. Nature sometimes thrills us with the delicious outcome of our labors, but just as often some pest or weather storm renders our efforts useless. I have had some kind of garden for all of my adult life. I have had a revelation about gardening and writing that I want to share with you in this post.
Now that I am regularly spending time listening to and reading poetry I see that a well manicured garden resembles a well tuned and well edited piece of writing. Even though all the writers have different styles, I notice that the choice of words as well as the way the sound works has been nurtured and fed. Some of the initial choices have been eliminated, just as weeds are pulled and mulch set on the ground to keep them from returning. The editing process creates a stronger work just as thinning makes larger sweeter peaches. Keeping every one of the fruits is penny wise and pound foolish. After the muse brings the word or the subject or the image to light, the writer must work the creative mental soil, feed the story, and decide when and where to trim for effect. The volunteer plants and some of my current work have something in common. Although they have not been fully worked, or given time to evolve into something more complete, they grew up naturally from a seed that had fallen in the past. Like yellow pear tomatoes, this natural offspring of my imagination, can turn out never ending butterfly psyche poems, if left undisturbed.
Spending more time taking notes, spinning rhymes, and considering new territory for my writing I am pleased with all I have learned. My #ROW80 mates have inspired as well as instructed me in ways I had never expected. Thanks to all of you. I have found a great resource to consult that some of you may also enjoy. The U of A Poetry Center, of which you have heard me tell, has a library of recorded readings called voca. Poets read from their work and explain some of the process they used. This has opened my eyes to the many devices and forms that might be used to write a poem. Everything can be used as inspiration, and any writing has the possibility of becoming great, if edited with sensitivity.