Keeping current in wellness, in and out of the water
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When I began the #ROW80 journey with fellow writers I had an expectation that I would become a poet by grinding out a poem a day for 80 days. 54 days of this trip are now water under the bridge. I am happy to report that I have not only established a habit and practice of writing poetry, but have learned a lot about creating better, richer written work. Both my plain brown paper wordpress blog and my illustrated poems on Tumblr need new perspectives, interesting characters, and dazzling descriptions of scenes to be more compelling. I am grateful to other writers who have shared works in progress and personal creative systems. I have been too eager to finish and move on to another brief encounter with poetry to spend a proper amount of time revising and refining my first drafts. I have rushed as if I had a quota of quickie poems to write, and then I would start creating more meticulous work. I see the folly in this speed system. I can only become meticulous by practicing specifically to choose each word above all other words for effect and artfulness. I am practicing taking more time and trying on subjects I have not used in the past. So far, so good. I am going for quality, not quantity.
Lunar cycles are central to agriculture and other businesses that need to work with nature. I observe the new moon each month with a clean slate for new intentions and projects. I keep a bundle of marjoram in each of the four corners of my home. This little charm grown in our garden is used to protect our home from harm, both physical and psychic. I empty the old herbs and replace them with freshly picked marjoram that smells delightful. The picking of the herbs includes a little ritual, and I treat the old plant material as depleted magic waste. I return it to the earth as compost or as mulch in my back yard. By refreshing these four sachets on the new moon I remind myself to start again on stalled projects, or refresh commitment to ongoing goals. We have had two new moons during the 80 day challenge. I do notice a difference in my willingness to write creatively. The first new moon found me enjoying the poetry discovery, but not personally applying myself very much to improve. This second new moon that just passed last week was a commitment to the poetry writing goal, but with a shift in attitude. The unexpected consequence of meeting writers and learning about their processes and goals is a much higher standard for my finished product. I have a big realization that bursts of zen poetic flashes are just not sufficient. The first shot is rarely good, so I need to go back to enhance my initial inspiration, work with my muses, and labor a bit.
Next month the new moon will include a solar eclipse on 20 Mar, 2015. This event has symbolic implications beyond the normal new moon. The shadow of the moon is cast on the earth, blocking the sun. The solar eclipse is a time to turn within and come to terms with any unfinished personal business from the past. Our 80 day written program will conclude just after this auspicious occasion in March. I believe this exercise will benefit me long after we stop our check ins. I think the next new moon will bring unexpected gifts. We have only to find them and put them to use.
I have achieved one of the goals I stated in my first post here. I have been to the U of A Poetry Center this week. The free reading on Thursday evening was part of series on the poetics and politics of water. Sherwin Bitsui, a Navajo poet, read from his works. The were haunting and evocative of desert landscapes. He was generous in his explanation of the background and muse for the works he presented to us. This gave us both biographical information about him, and a sense of how long he worked on the books he had published. Mr Bitsui is now a professor of creative writing in San Diego, but he comes form the Navajo reservation. In his introduction he was recognized for his support of other Native American poets. He mentored and helped a number of people during his time at the University of Arizona who have gone on to publish books of poetry. I thoroughly enjoyed listening to him read. Ideas from the reading have been resonating and reverberating in my mind…a good sign that those poems hit home in ways I have yet to understand.
Yesterday, for Valentine’s Day the Poetry Center docents presented a reading at the Tucson Botanical Gardens. Poetry in the Garden is a regular series open to the public held in the natural setting of the gardens. Our broad subject this month was birds as symbols of love. These readings are enjoyable for all ages and stages of poetic interest. The docents compile a packet of poems and read from the collection. The audience is invited to read too, and discussion takes place after each reading. The docents encourage the audience to express thoughts and feelings about the meaning or the sounds in the readings. The discussion is broad and not academic. The programs are very well prepared and produced, this one being no exception. We heard from e.e. cummings, Emily Dickinson, some other well known writers, and less famous poets with all kinds of styles. The setting and weather were ideal as we were visited by singing birds before and after the session. They seemed to be voicing approval or applause.
Both of these very well produced events are an example of the very good luck it is to live near the Poetry Center. Having access to these high quality readings is a gift. Some of the attendees at the evening readings are enrolled in a University of Arizona seminar on the poetics and politics of water. They spend class time with these visiting poets as well as the public reading time. There will be 3 more in this series. I plan to go to all of them because they touch a very serious subject for us in Arizona…water. The fact that they are all Native American is meaningful. In history tribes respected natural resources while the invaders worked to deplete them. Our situation today is precarious. We have less security about water every minute. The scientists involved in this seminar agree that poets bring something to the study that pure science can not.
I am still writing, listening and learning about the lives of poets in my own practice. I have expanded my subject matter a little, but nothing too impressive. The best thing I discovered through listening at these readings is that you can write poetry any way you want. There are no forms that are rejected. Free verse is square, some poems are drawings of shapes with the lines, some use sound with mysterious meaning, still others rhyme and are held together in quartrians. It is all good. I still notice my preference to hear the sound rather than see it written on the page. The garden readings are particularly pleasurable for me because I am sitting in a favorite spot with someone reading stories to me. It is a big luxury to glance around the gardens and take in the poems. It is like having a limousine instead of driving yourself. Do you like to listen to spoken word, gentle reader, or do you like to read it in print? My dad used to read to me, and he did recite a few poems, so I think this reminds me of my childhood in a good way.
My study of poetry and the lives of poets has enlightened as well as encouraged me to continue my poetic practice. I also loved hearing the news about the secret manuscript discovered that was written by Harper Lee, famous reclusive author. The story of her one big hit, To Kill a Mockingbird, followed by a life out of the public eye entirely is compelling. She never spoke to press people, but her sister did. Now that her sister has died this old copy of a typewritten story was found in the safe deposit box attached to the original of the published novel. It is super romantic because her fans have hoped to make her write again, but she had done it even before they knew her work. Truly a blast from the past for all involved, the publication with cause all manner of excitement. It has captured my imagination about finding the writing of my ancestors in the safe deposit box of history.
I found a poem about writing that has a deeply funny sense of humor. Anne Bradstreet, my 9th great-grandmother, wrote a poem to her published book in which she describes the work as a child of hers. Although her work is usually pretty serious, this one strikes me as not only funny, but also prescient. The book of which she speaks made her a famous person in the history of poetry, but she is both humble and comical in her description of the work:
Thou ill-formed offspring of my feeble brain,
Who after birth did’st by my side remain,
Till snatcht from thence by friends, less wise than true,
Who thee abroad exposed to public view,
Made thee in rags, halting to th’ press to trudge,
Where errors were not lessened (all may judge).
At thy return my blushing was not small,
My rambling brat (in print) should mother call.
I cast thee by as one unfit for light,
The visage was so irksome in my sight,
Yet being mine own, at length affection would
Thy blemishes amend, if so I could.
I washed thy face, but more defects I saw,
And rubbing off a spot, still made a flaw.
I stretcht thy joints to make thee even feet,
Yet still thou run’st more hobbling than is meet.
In better dress to trim thee was my mind,
But nought save home-spun cloth, i’ th’ house I find.
In this array, ‘mongst vulgars may’st thou roam.
In critic’s hands, beware thou dost not come,
And take thy way where yet thou art not known.
If for thy father askt, say, thou hadst none;
And for thy mother, she alas is poor,
Which caused her thus to send thee out of door.
I really get the way she edits and finds more fault. She calls her book a bastard and herself poverty stricken, which I think she knows is a joke. She warns it to stay away from critics, then lets it go. By animating the book to human stature she paints a picture of an underprivileged child, some awkward and unpolished brat. At the publication (return) her blushing was not small. She was proud to be published, and yet as a Pilgrim could take no personal credit for the art. This has become my favorite work by Mistress Bradstreet because I clearly relate to her sense of comedy. In 1678 some of her work was published posthumously. She was, in a certain sense, a feminist. Now we learn she was also something of a comic, concerned about the cosmic.
Birth: 1612 Death: Sep. 16, 1672 Poet.
Born Anne Dudley to nonconformist parents Thomas Dudley and Dorothy Yorke Dudley in Northampton, England. Her father was the steward for the Earl of Lincoln and afforded his daughter an unusually complete education. About 1620 she married Simon Bradstreet, her father’s assistant. On March 29, 1630, Bradstreet and her family sailed for the New World. After several years, they finally settled on a farm in North Andover, Massachusetts in 1644. Simon Bradstreet became a judge, royal councilor, and twice a governor of the colony. Anne Bradstreet became mother to eight children and wrote only privately. She was frequently ill and apparently developed a vaguely morbid mind set and was continually distressed by the culturally ingrained condescension toward women. Her first public work may well have been the epitaph she penned for her mother in 1643. Four years later, her brother-in-law carried a collection of her poems with him to England where he had them published. They appeared as ‘The Tenth Muse Lately Sprung Up in America, By a Gentlewoman of Those Parts’ in the New World in 1650. While it did sell in England, the volume was not well received in Massachusetts. Although she continued to write for herself and her family, no more of her work was published in her lifetime. She was purportedly buried in the Old Burying Point in Salem, Massachusetts beside her husband, though other locations for her grave have also been proposed. In 1678 her ‘Several Poems Compiled with Great Variety of Wit and Learning’ was posthumously published followed by ‘The Works of Anne Bradstreet in Prose and Verse.’ She is now considered the earliest of American poets and among the finest of her age. (bio by: Iola)
Now that Anne is a little bit funny she is a better poetry muse to me. Dorothy Parker, as my muse, as nixed the whole #Trwurse and #Twessings concept. She did wonderful intricate play on words before twitter and is not at all amused by the substitution of tw to indicate twitter being witty. She is right, of course. Nursing mothers are already occupying the #Twursing hashtag, as is the PGA. Back to the word board, sans #tw. I still like the blessings and curses for twitter, but am now inclined to call them just that. I have also realized that February is the perfect time to write short and funny rhymes..on Valentines. I feel okay about breaking out of my impersonal poetic rut because I have written a food poem and one Valentine that are in new territory. I have not said anything very funny yet, but think I will sometime soon. I aspire to write jokes that would be understood hundreds of years into the future, in case they are discovered, but still be funny now. Contrived twitter words will not be funny enough to last hundreds of years, but will seem like Olde English does to us now. Best to go for eternal when crafting a joke or a pun….