An evening at Poetry Square

September 17, 2021

Amazing evening of poetry-related events last night. At 7:00 I participated in Foothills’ Michael Czarnecki’s Palm in Hand memoir workshop. It was so informative and stimulating I took copious notes and later when I wanted to fall asleep my head started thinking of things to write LOL!!!!
At 9:30 I met up with Diane Funston who invited me to be one of the three features on her program Poetry Square. The link is on YouTube and FaceBook and was live, but since she is from CA, the event began at 7:00 CA time which was 10:00 here.
I practiced my 15 minutes often during the day, reading selected poems from each of my books from four publishers, ending with a teaser excerpt from upcoming A Piglet for David Clare Songbirds Publishing House illustrated by Katie Turner. There was a slideshow onscreen while I read so viewers could enjoy my covers, a broadside currently on Synkroniciti Magazine online and sneak a peek at Piglet.
The 29 yr old in my head says one thing, my aching, sleep-deprived body another. LOL
My family behaved themselves with only a short break between events for feeding and peeing outside. Here was my most faithful listener, Ruby, keeping an eye not only on the screen but on the sleeping fish tank, too.
Thanks to one and all for the invites, sharing and teaching. Now I need 😴😴😴🥱

Small Acts of Kindness

August 21, 2021

The small acts of kindness are what matter.
When I won my first poetry prizes I was in my early 50s. Bankrupt and had lost our house, but there it was, I’d won first prize and an HM in a contest by the NLAPW local chapter. Of course I was going to go to the award ceremony which fell on Mother’s Day. My own mother was unhappy about that and minimized the win to dollars and cents. So, I phoned my teacher, Beth Patton because I had no idea what to wear and no money to buy something fancy. She reassured me clean jeans would do. I wore black jeans, a white jean jacket and a corsage I created from wildflowers.
A year or two later my mom had been bragging about this big art show —Association of University Women— she was in in Skaneateles. She had never done anything to date with her artwork and dismissed my struggling photography business.
At that time of poverty I allotted money for one roll of film and developing, and one set of poems because submissions were all paper w SASE back then, a month. My mother must’ve mentioned Beth was also in this show. I’m not sure how the details went—my mother was clearly lording it over me—but Beth told me who to contact and what I would need for a display table and to wear and bring. I remember chatting with her as the show progressed and admiring in particular a photo she had for sale of a line of white aprons drying in the sun. She took it in Italy, I think.
Another year, same show, her husband had just died so she was not in it. As the day wound to a close, I was surprised when she walked in and made her way directly to my table. “I wanted to come out for you.” She said.
We used to meet for coffee in Barnes and Noble and she always wore a bucket hat, carried an umbrella and a list of books as if she was grocery shopping but for books. Times always flew by too fast. She loved me but the siren song of the stacks was just too strong to resist.
She brought another student who became her friend/family to my reading at Creekside Bookstore in Skaneateles. This was with my first chapbook “Slideshow in the Woods” (Foothills 2008) and the first time anyone had ever invited me to be a feature. My mother and her husband complained they couldn’t hear me though we had a celebratory dinner of sorts at their house after. What I remember most, however is Beth coming up to buy a signed copy and introducing me to Heidi Nightengale. It was amazing to me that all those years from the first poem published at age 14, here was my teacher buying my first book!!!
There are other stories. She covered for me once in a public situation that would ve been awkward, smiling, no questions asked. It was such a relief.
Another time I wrote a lesbian erotic short story, and felt it had potential but was insecure. So I called her and she had me mail it. I bet it is here in a tote somewhere with her writing on it. Waiting for her to send it back was excruciating. When I opened it I remember written across the top in that same handwriting was, “Really good character development.”

I told her of the worst things that happened to me in highschool when another teacher repeatedly molested me. She just listened and accepted and was more motherly in some of those above acts than my own mom. Most important, she always believed in me. She never had to be convinced. I didn’t have to qualify, justify or explain in a desperate bid for acceptance, she just did it. Belief in someone and supporting their dream and talent makes all the difference.
A few years ago I had an idea for a reading to happen at the Skaneateles Library because that was where she taught and I grew up. It was “Two Students, One Teacher” then morphed into Two Students, Two Teachers because Heidi had grown up to become not only a poet but also a teacher and her student Laura Williams French who cofounded ClareSongbirds Publishing with her had been Heidi’s student.
Beth told a funny story after about someone mentioning she had on that person’s husband’s old vest, because she liked to shop at thrift stores.
2019 I launched “Eating the Sun” and at that event Beth read from “Feeling for Eggs” which is a short story collection that will be coming. I contributed photography for the cover.
Seems fitting and full circle. I copy edited her manuscript, too, and that felt super weird-role reversal.
When all else fails, just be kind. Kindness and the memories of it can last a lifetime.

Chatting with Parrot Literary Corner

July 17, 2021

An interview with Fevers of the Mind Poetry

July 17, 2021

https://feversofthemind.com/2021/07/11/a-fevers-of-the-mind-quick-9-interview-with-rachael-ikins/?fbclid=IwAR08fHxo6INFG2HbdmzWTxB4_pSMlBHSfnJFBFQFxd4SgPpBXy9ppjvspQQ

Camping on Memorial Day Weekend

May 29, 2021

When I was a kid, every year after supper today, we’d load up the car and dog and head down to camp for the long weekend. The lake would be so cold it made your hands or feet ache and there was no heat or electricity or running water. We cooked on a woodstove and hung out in the livingroom cottage where there was a fireplace. We slept in sleeping bags in our cottage at the end of the beach. I remember the delicious cold and mothball scent of stored quilts. The alluring scent of living water, hemlocks and woods, the fragrances in the fields of wild strawberries and daisies. Those particular bird songs, towhee, wood thrush that always evoke childhood, a scolding chipmunk. Lugged water up from the lake. Hiked the woods and fields bird watching and celebrating each jack in the pulpit, each wake robin red trillium, the hepatica and white carpet of trilliums, wild red columbines. Greeting each, visiting each from memory to exclaim over their reappearance.
A month later after the last day of school, we packed up dog and cats and goldfish and moved down for almost three months. My bedroom was the farthest north on the beach. Often after storms the beach in front was eaten away and I could fall asleep with the lullabye of waves almost close enough to touch.

May 18, 2021

Ordered a rain barrel. A new adventure. Some comfort at the start of gardening season and with one drainpipe wrecked by plow anyway. Will solve that.
Washed Bug’s muddy body-print off slider windows. Wow. I can see out.
Took apart the contents of the corner cabinet aka Ruby’s new hang out. Filled a tote with stuff and put back mostly just pottery things. I’m bad about a “display cabinet” —usually just keep cramming more things in, then it looks like crap.
Now, it has unity, glass is clean, so are contents, and as I type, I see Ruby is ensconced up there. Total win.
Put away a ton of clutter off my dining room aka everything table, too.
Loaded a bunch of junk from garage into trash bin. Why hang on to dirty old tote lids, for instance?
I guess this would be considered Spring cleaning. I figure a couple windows and a cabinet is better than none at all LOL. Swiped a few cobwebs with my swiffer.
Wrote a poem. Unrelated.
I think a bean plant is up.

This morning’s wildlife adventure involved the rescue of a fledged baby starling from the wading pool. I guess s/he was bathing using the forsythia branches I have there for perches. I let the dogs out, and they surprised him/her. Fell in the water, flapping desperately. I used a stick under him/her. S/he perched on it and then sat to dry off.
Going to keep deck gate closed now so when we come out, any visitors have warning before we burst on the scene. #magicstillhappening #poetrzisgarden

🦇🦇🦇🦇Last year I hung a bat home outside my bedrm window between it and the chimney. Took me awhile to figure out the best exposure that would attract them.
Tonight I was lucky to be outside in time to see the couple who’ve moved in, working the yard catching mosquitoes. Soooo happy.
I put a bee house out and bees moved in. Bat house has bats. 3 birdhouses occupied. Still hoping for a frog in the fountain again.
🦇🦇🐸 #poetrziswildlifesanctuary

#writinglife and last day of National Poetry Month 2021

April 30, 2021

writinglife In closing.

My last published poem for Poetry Month 2021 is “Mother Earth”
Accepted in 2019’s climate themed anthology, “Planet in Peril” (UK Fly on the Wall Press) and 11/11/19 with permission to reprint in the journal, “Headline Poetry.”
As I watched Sir David Attenborough two nights ago I felt so happy, knowing he has read this poem and wrote the publisher a lovely letter about how much he enjoyed the book.
World Wildlife Fund was one of the judges for the art in that anthology, and chose my “Onondaga Lake in January” photo. A warm feeling all around. Most of the time we don’t know who reads our work. Lots of people buy books but never read them.
Anyway, thank you everyone who has read and enjoyed my poems this month. It was a good feeling to post “a poem a day” all from different journals, anthologies and books. One thing the pandemic did was remind of the importance of time, offer it and a chance to write more for many. It gave me perspective on how hard and long I have worked.

Mother Earth
Rachael Ikins

She is a big, soft woman,
a curled fetal ball.

They swarm her like ants.
Assault her; bombs, pile drivers,
endless marching foot steps.
Strew her skin with trash.
Piles of nothing alive.
dust caked nostrils, a trickle of blood stripes her chin.

An anonymous woman
forgotten by the entitled masses who wrangle and tromp
all her secret places.
Digging, gouging, drilling,
pipelines to suck her blood.

Sometimes she wakes from
nightmares she wanders:
Rolls her arm-earthquake shatters a city.
Blinks a tsunami-washes away thousands.
Her heart beats-volcano
blows, slashes of lava pulse through civilzations at mountain’s feet.
She raises waters, pulls the land back. Her fury floods,
her voice the sound of hurricanes shrieking.

Some say she is off her axis.
Some say she is crazy

with grief, heart aching for humans who steal life from beloveds;
her centipedes, honey bees, ants, her elephants, orchids,
sightless worms that hunt by hot springs in ocean depths.

Her immune responses evolved when she was nothing but
a star’s dream. She urges them to genocide, war, the moon; sends in viruses, bacteria, her fiercest warriors the smallest-anything to rid
the plague that consumes her,
afraid nothing will remain-
stone bones flash past the sun.

She curls up, exhaustion takes her. Sleep. Too soft to face their sharp
edges any more
for this day.

The writing life

April 26, 2021

#thewritinglife

When I first attended a workshop by Michael Czarnecki (Foothills) I read in bio that he is, among other things, an “encourager.” That word stuck in my head all these years
The poetry world is challenging on many levels. Since it is poetry and nobody is waiting for the movie version, its very competitive and not a high paying career. Many of us have had unsupportive families.
You just have to find, not only your voice, but your lane, and give yourself permission to be in it.
I’ve always appreciated those who’ve encouraged me (because writing is also filled with periods of deep self-doubt) so was especially happy to be chosen to edit Clare Songbirds Publishing House’s first anthology, “The Brave.” Was able to reach out to many military families and friends with active duty soldiers or vets who had a chance to share their work in this anthology. That book launch was amazing.

My friend Arthur & his wifeCandi Honey Ramer gave me a first place in Sushi Blues to hang gallery artwork, to try drawing again, and they hosted my first one woman poetry reading. Later they hosted my open mic event for several years. Arthur died some years ago, a mostly unrecognized poet. I had encouraged him to join more writing groups, and together we ventured to Colgate Writers Conferences feeling like Hansel and Gretel that first time. So happy to have put together and published his first wonderful chapbook, “Closing Time” (Clare Songbirds) this weird pandemic year.
I once urged him to enter a contest which included my carrying his entry to the PO. He won first prize. I didnt even place 😂.
Recently, I have had to chance to encourage a friend who has worried that it is almost “too late” for this fine writer ever to have a book of their own. Manuscript has been accepted. I won’t say more because as that unfolds, it is not my story to share but I am very excited.
If you are not an educator or in a writing group, you can still encourage and support other writers. Even just showing up to listen at a reading. One thing the pandemic has shown is that when people work together, good things happen.
So, be an encourager even if it is just to tell your kid or neighbor or whoever “wow! I had no idea you could write.” You’ll feel great.

The Writing Life

April 16, 2021

April 2021, On the writing life: I could no more will myself to stop writing than I could to stop breathing. Yet, I seesaw on whether I want to continue to put my work out there, to strive, to achieve. It is a long-haul lifestyle with no guarantee of payback for hours, months and even years of work. Some days yes, some days, no.
I made my peace with that I will never have my MFA CW. I educate myself where and when the budget and opportunities allow. I read all the time though since the pandemic, I have become more of a watcher.

At the end of the day each movie or show is made up of layers of writers before it reaches an actor to interpret. TV wasn’t allowed much when I was a kid so it still feels a bit illicit.

Since I have branched out from poetry to writing children’s stories, fantasy, essays and short stories etc., watching character development come to life onscreen can be pretty cool.

Anyway when I am at a “I’m just stopping and doing it just for me” place, I think back to moments with readers that left indelible marks. The poem about a little boy supporting his friend with leukemia that became a centerfold of their school yearbook that had such an impact on parents and teachers of both boys, on the principal of the school—that was a big one.

The poem my neighbor read to her blind husband who had grown up where I stood as I wrote about what I saw, and he was able to identify the spot exactly is another.

The time I answered the door to some energy guys w paint on my hands and ended up giving one my business card because he had a friend who wanted to be a writer, forgot about it, and then the last person in line to get a copy of “Totems” at the book launch turned out to be that friend, whose dad had driven her from Herkimer to Canastota that night so she could meet me, a lasting memory.

The first short story I showed a well-known mentor who told me it “needs a lot of work.” So I let it simmer, but two best friends clamored to read it. Both voracious readers, they told me “F**k experts, send it out!” And the acceptance letter for it that said, “this is one of the most tender, dear love stories I have ever read.” (And the highest paid I have ever been for one piece.)

The elderly woman who said, “I’ve read two books this year, the Bible and your poetry. Your book comforts me.” This was humbling.

I’ve struggled to identify my niche in the literary world. I’m not in academia. I’m not many things. The constant I return to is that my work has resonated in a huge way with particular readers along my journey. So I think of myself as a “people’s poet.”

At the end of the day, whether you are poet laureate or a Pulitzer-winning author or someone writing on envelope backs in your room, or a famous novelist; whether you publish with Randomhouse or a small indie publisher, you want your words to have an impact on someone reading it.

I’ve been through so many changes and so much chaos in my life, I am so grateful to have settled and to have put down roots. I always feel like I’m just getting started. It doesn’t matter my age, it still feels new and still is a wonder when a reader drops a card in the mail or shoots me an email.

There are goals I maintain, but I always used to say “Just once I wish all the focussing rings of my life would line up. Just once.” Well, they sorta kind of have. And I want to settle into it and live it. To be in it.

Someday far from now someone who doesn’t know me well will be tasked with going through my things after I’m gone. I’ve helped twice or three times do just that job and listened to and felt
the disinterest or frustration or wry humor of why someone had “all this stuff.” It is sad but it is the way of things.

Were I to feel not-new enough to think about what my legacy might be, it would be that I took care of the earth I was privileged to share and that maybe some of my words, a painting or two will live on to be passed down as a cherished treasure.

The Writing Life and Life with Pets and a Garden

April 10, 2021

day10 The writing life:

Today is the anniversary of my father’s death. I was 27. He was only 55. So long ago.
My mom used to say that growing older was a privilege denied many. We live in such a youth obsessed culture and yet there is that chestnut of truth: youth is wasted on the young. However, there is no way to get here without traveling through it.

I had an amazing week maybe the biggest for me since the pandemic began. Both shots in me, I have been to dentist and my fam practice Dr so far. Who knew how fabulous it feels to be told how healthy I am, to see the practitioners’ joy about this. My dr. Is a huge fan of my arts and has even commissioned me and bought books, hung a gallery exhibit in her office when she was new.
I went to Wegmans and the next day Aldi. A friend dropped by. I took the fans apart and cleaned grills and guts, ready for a new summer. Thought about the hair of many and what-all those blades held of 2020’s over-hot dry summer memories.
Hoses are out and connected. The screen blind in my garage door frame is usable. I filled the PVC hem pipe with clay cat litter to weight it and ever since the cats are ecstatic to watch the world from under the car.
Set up a dining space in this garage-porch.
Made stock and a vegetable goulash. Made chocolate nests again.
Planted seeds even as I eat from the freezer the final things I grew last summer in spite of the weather.
Cranked out 40 new pages on my manuscript. It seems to highjack my hands.
A wonderful anthology containing my work and poetry by other poets I respect and know arrived in yesterday’s mail. A Zoom book launch tomorrow. 5 Zooms since April.
I watch the trial of Derek Chauvin daily and do laps around the neighborhood during the court breaks.
All sorts of plant friends are blooming in the house as well as being pulled from the earth by the strong April sun and too-warm weather. I pray there are no May freezes like last year’s.
Everything you do informs your writing. I found, especially during the pandemic, looking inward and looking at smaller wonders is the gateway to good things.
I have lost many I loved, one or two more than life itself. Lost People, family, houses and yet here I put down my roots.
I am loved and surrounded by it—all the shared furnishings from friends and from family who is gone. always feeling that love even on a slow day.
I am never bored. Living with animal family forces you to step up, every day. My usual awakening is with Ruby’s fanny or tail in my face. Sometimes I come downstairs and have stepped in a dog poop with my bare feet. Life is never perfect but parts of it are excellent. Once they’ve all been fed it’s my turn and by the time my smoothie gets into my system I start to feel more awake.