“New Skin”

September 13, 2017

Www.streetlightpress.org

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More poetry news

August 9, 2017

Check out yesterday’s post by Finishing Line Press Leah Maines in Paddock Review, FLP online zine featuring FLP poets and poetry and also books. My poem is “A Bowl of Berries.” This appeared on multiple FB poetry walls, Twitter, Pinterest, LinkedIn, the FLP website and their blog. 

I am pleased to announce that Clare Songbirds LLC has accepted my small collection “For Kate: a Love Story in Four Parts.” We should be seeing it in a few months. I am hoping to sharenor donate the proceeds from my own salea of the book to the CNY Cat Coalition or Spay and Neuter Syracuse. Stay tuned.

Just Two Girls

August 7, 2017

By Rachael Ikins

Full length poetry collection with a slap upside the head ending sure to shock.

Releasing by Clare Songbirds Publishing LLC, launch party and reading 8/20/17

Broadside titled “Owl” from this collection.

On Immigrants and Refugees

June 5, 2017

Opa
Last night I caught to re-broadcast on 60 Minutes about the guy who is the founder of the Chobani yogurt company. ” Chobani” means ” shepherd a peaceful word” he said.

The interview dealt with his being an immigrant to the US, his practice of hiring immigrants and refugees and his philanthropy going to help refugees in other parts of the world. I couldn’t help but think of my grandfather as I watched. I was 13 when he died, the first major loss in my young life. It was a long time ago so my memories are not as detailed as I’d like and there is no one left to ask really.

My grandfather, ” Opa” in German to me, came here in the 1920s w a wife and 3 year old daughter. He was terrified of Hitler. 

After some horrible treatment by a boss because he was German and a resulting period of illness, Opa started his own business. He was a mechanical engineer. His specialty became testing equipment such as shock testing machines and vibration testing of manufactured items. For example, there was an ad on TV in the ’60s with a General Electric TV being dropped on a shock tester made by my grandfather.

 Family had settled in the NYC/NJ area when they got to America but after his fledgling business seemed to take hold, he moved the family and company up to the Fingerlakes region where, when my mom was 16 and my aunt 11, he had bought 60 acres of land and two cottages 10 mi out the west side of Skaneateles Lake.

For those familiar with Skaneateles, at the foot of Highland Avenue is a low brick building with ” LAB” carved into the brick over the front door. That was his company. My mom designed that logos and he never would tell what the letters stood for.

He lived at 98 W. Genesee, the big Civil war style house across from the cemetery, a house a stop on the Underground Railroad. My grandmother showed me the depression in the side garden where the escaping slaves went into the tunnel that took them across beneath the street and opened way in the back section of the cemetery.

Anyway here is why Chobani evoked this memory stream. My dad and uncle worked for my grandfather too, both Americans born and raised, a Texan and a New Englander. His factory consisted of the front offices where I sold many a Girl Scout cookie, and the “shop” where big burly men built his ideas and made them come alive in 3D.

He hired refugees and immigrants for his business. At one point I remember my dad telling me there were men working from Greece, Czechoslovakia, France, Ireland, and Germany. Maybe more.

Some of them had little or no English. Having been treated with ignorance and bigotry when he got it his new country, once established, my grandfather paid it forward by making a workspace safe for all. I remember the many languages I could hear when I went to see my dad there sometimes.

Another aspect of his paying it forward was when he bought our camp. It was only two small cottages barged across the lake. So each summer, he brought several teen city boys up from downstate. Over the years there ended up being 5 major buildings, 14 bedrooms and all of our extended family lived there 8 weeks every summer. Back when it was just the cottages, he hired these boys to help him build on new rooms. The deal was, you got out of the city in summer heat, worked all morning and then were free to play all afternoon plus room and board. And one of those boys went to medical school courtesy of my grandfather and took care of him at the end of his life.

During World War ll, my grandfather sent packages of food, dried foods and canned goods w cigarettes hidden sometimes and also life-saving medicine to help his only nephew who was orphaned with polio. In that time without computers, my grandfather searched endlessly for his best friend, the doctor who delivered my mom, who was both Jewish and physically handicapped. He never found him. 

My grandmother had 8 siblings some w children and somehow my grandfather managed to get enough food and clothing and medicine through the lines to help everyone survive. That nephew, a refugee, came to live with him at age 15 in Skaneateles and went on to graduate Syracuse University and Berkeley and became the comptroller of the Bayer Drug Company.

Opa had 42 patents filed with the US patent office. One year I went onto their website and discovered this treasure trove. A lot of them became machines. He was still working up until he got sick and then died at age 75.

He was also an artist, and I am lucky enough to have a box of his drawings all done on snips and pieces of spare paper of things he saw on his endless student walks along the North Sea shore or through German cities. 

When I came along and showed promise as an artist, he was there the night of the award ceremony for my 3 rd grade Scholastic art award in the then-new Everson. He was the only family member who pushed me to go into the arts. I took the long way around, but I made it. I hope he knows. We both have July birthdays and always celebrated them along with my uncles’ at camp. 

As the Steve Kroft said last night ” Sometimes refugees and Immigrants bring jobs to this country that boost the economy.” 

My grandfather was one of them.
A Bowl of Berries

Rachael Z. Ikins 
I step barefoot out of steam dreams

early morning, three note celebration

robin on the roof, cardinal voices chiding

their fledglings, sparrow chatter and 

a lone seagull swooping 

through, sounds like a cat or 

a lost child.
Scents of July lilies and milkweed fill the air.

Green everywhere. Blackcap vines’

curlicue tangles at the foot of walnut trunk,

glossy red and purpling fruits beg my fingers, 

my lips, turn purple too.
Small moths fuss among grass stems. Insects, 

wings like lace flutter across the yard. Childhood 

summers and a bowl of berries for 

my grandfather’s birthday.
He was so easy to gift, berries and a fresh caught bass 

fried in sweet butter, summer presents 

a child could create.

Poster project news

March 6, 2016

https://syracuseposterprojectblog.wordpress.com

Interview with Rachael Ikins

February 14, 2016

Last fall Aaduna.org published my short suspense story “Cellphone.” What followed publication was a request from Bill Berry Jr. the publisher, to have a “Conversation” or interview with him about arts and writing life. This would then be added to the Aaduna.org blog and each author or artist of each issue is featured for a week. I was lucky enough to be the gesture launched on Valentine’s Day. I plan to participate in Asduna.org’s spoken word event in Spring.

I hope you will take some time to read the interview and even the story (direct link follows) and to think about your own creative process.

http://www.aaduna.org/conversations/

Eating Disorders

August 11, 2015

Let’s celebrate the good work they are doing at Cafe 407, Ophelia’s Place  #circlesofchange

to help people deal with body issues from eating disorders such as anorexia, bulimia, and binging to body dysmorphic disorders. In other words seeing yourself as fat and ugly or dysmorphic. I recall a documentary where a teen boy who was struggling with this took a staple gun to his face and looking in the mirror gave himself a ” face lift” with the tool.

Eating disorders are multi generational. I don’t know who the first victim was or how far back though there was a heavy grandmother on one side and a think great aunt on the other both who made various members’ lives misery over weight. In my generation we had several  who did such behaviors as binging and cutting to bulimia. 

For those of you who don’t know what bulimia is, it is eating huge amounts of food and then purging or making yourself throw it up or taking laxatives and diet pills to compensate. Binging alone is now recognized as a separate disorder where the person eats and eats and eats. 

One family member underwent specific therapy for their eating disorder at their college and did such ground breaking work on family roles that a video was made. In the next younger generation at least one person has suffered with an eating disorder.

When a member of a family suffers, it is everyone’s problem. Plus we live In a society which worships skinniness way past common sense and has coined terms in social media such as ” fat shaming.” I had several friends years ago who were anorexic and every now and then I wonder if they are alive. It changes you to watch someone painstakingly cut off slivers of lettuce after setting aside the burgers and bun and only sucking on a sliver of green at a time.

A person with an eating disorder is at risk for death from it. If you have one, it is never ” cured.” You learn to manage it  and other ways to cope with the feelings that created the situation where starving yourself made sense or cutting off part of your offending anatomy with nail scissors and other tools. Several of us in my extended family cope by creating healthy meals with a great deal of variety and exercise to manage the anxiety. Some days it goes better than others.

Consider our town so lucky that we have Ophelia’s Place to come to meetings and dialogue and support.

#circlesofchange

Copyright

May 15, 2015

just taking a moment to remind that I own the copyright (c) to all my works, visual and literary. Use of any of my work without my permission is considered theft. If my work inspires you, please contact me to see what we can work out.

Thanks!

Respect each other

My new book, “Historias” releasing in April, National Poetry Month

March 4, 2015

This  6th collection of poems is special to me for many reasons. In my opinion it is my best book yet. It contains poetry primarily in English with some Spanish verses woven through. It is centered with a flash fiction piece I started on my iPhone high over the Atlantic on my way home from Lismore Castle, IRELAND.

The book is a result of the two writing workshops I attended in the past two years. Prize winning author Ethel Rohan ” Goodnight Nobody” and poet Patricia Smith who has won, I think, several prizes for her collection ” Shoulda Been Jimi Savannah” were teachers of mine whose instruction and impact had a lot to do with how the poetry I chose was worked and even the order of the works.

Two peers from my second workshop, Marge Piercy’s Poetry Intensive 2014 consented to read the book and to write cover blurbs. I was thrilled at this gift. The poetry editor and website and blog editor for the NLAPW.org wrote the third one.

No, I haven’ t won a Pulitzer. This is “only” chapbook #6. But I think if you give it a try, you will find stories that resonate. This winter I lost my mother and then was sick for 6 weeks so my efforts at my own PR and marketing, which I really dislike doing, have been limited to occasional posts of the cover and referral to  the publisher’s website. Www.finishinglinepress.com in the bookstore….you can also find my art in their online gallery. I would love it if any readers and or colleagues from either workshop would share this post along. Some of you have heard a few of the poems that I read in the castle and in Wellfleet Library. I know a few peers from the castle have preordered. I am also honored that Ethel Rohan bought my previous collection ” God Considered the Horizon.”

I own a great many books written by my teachers beginning with “Late Harvest” by Beth Patton, Puddinghouse, who was the English teacher I introduced at the Schweinfurth reading last November and who lit the fire of poetry in my soul in 8th grade. I own most of Marge’s books, many of Jane Smiley’s, one of Ethel’s, Patricia’s, Jane Chance’s collection and so on. I think supporting our colleagues matters. I call myself a fringe poet or a poet on the edge as I am not under any university umbrella, just hiking the trails making poetry on my own.

I value support that much more. Everyone was nobody once, ask Emily Dickinson. We all love being fans of the famous. As a judge in an annual  poetry contest myself, however, I think we need to support each other.

Nobodies become somebodies in just that way. I remember from Marge’s reading her discussion of the times when she only had rice to eat. Her autobiography “Sleeping with Cats” tells the tale of struggling to make it as a poet. I ve had an empty refrigerator a few times in my life.  For me poetry IS my back-up job. It’s my primary job and the part time one and all the others in between. I’ve won some prizes, had some good readings and while opening the fridge to find only a jar of olives can be disconcerting, I have to make poems because doing anything else makes me nuts. I tried for years. I don’t feel sorry for myself. I am  blessed to have been born a poet.

So I would ask you, try my book. I don’t think it will disappoint. Tell your friends about it and hopefully the snow will melt and I will see you at a reading or two. I will keep you posted.

Sportsmanship in Art

February 16, 2015

Maybe it is partly due to weather and interminable winter, but of late I have been dismayed to read on social media sites rants by poets and artists who did not make it into a publication/ win a prize/ get into a gallery exhibit. We all have our share of disappointments. Reading paragraph after paragraph of ” woe is me” by any adult is disappointing.
Making a living as an artist or writer especially a poet, is hard. Life is hard in general. If you did not go up the university train and climb on board the MFA CW car, it is even harder. Why? Is it fair? Maybe not, but we live in a society ruled by politics and labels and lots of works of excellent merit do not get the attention they deserve nor their creators for simply such arbitrary reasons.
There are millions of poets out there. Millions. Every other person thinks they are a poet. There is nothing quite so bemusing as being a professional poet and after a reading, someone who is not, approaches and says with smugness ” Oh, I could write better than that.” Has happened to me. And perhaps the person could, who can say? It is all subjective.
The number of markets vs the number of poets/artists is vastly weighted toward number of creators rather than recipients. Those editors and publishers, judges and gallery owners are human beings each with a very subjective taste. So, of course, in your career as a poet you will receive far more rejections than acceptances. It’s just math. Not that many poets excel at math.
I attend workshops and conferences. I thought not only to learn of course, but perhaps I ‘d find support among fellow attendees and learn enough to draw attention to my work and the quality of it. Not so. Or maybe so, but I do not know of it. I am releasing a new collection in March. It is bilingual poetry though mostly English. I have had almost no luck gaining reservations for copies. It is the best book I have done. Most of the work in it is the result of an amazing workshop spent with Patricia Smith at Lismore Castle in Ireland. Is it because I am nobody? I notice folks who have already ” made it” have no trouble at all selling their work. Weren’t they nobody once, too?
I like to watch Masterchef Jr. It makes me feel close to my husband who cooked with me. Most folks I mention the show to pooh-pooh it: they don’t like Gordon Ramsey or whatever. Guess what? If you watch that show you see the most excellent standard of sportsmanship in young people I have ever seen. No long woe-is-me rants. No, if someone is voted off, group hug, positive critique of their food art and while he or she may walk away crying, they are also walking away with pride. How is it these 8-13 year olds go from this behavior– even helping a competitor in a timed competition–to adults who perhaps will complain about how unfair life is because their work was rejected?
Philip Levine was a working class poet. Frank McCourt did not publish till he was in his 60s. Most of us know Emily Dickinson’s story….Van Gogh’s mother threw out a lot of his work….to name a few.
Whether you sell books, paintings or are invited to give readings and win prizes is not what makes you an artist. Making art makes you an artist. Period. It does not even involve audience– it is between you and yourself. In my case, as far as poetry is concerned, when I was in first grade my teacher, Miss Mahoney, used to write poetry on the blackboard when we were learning to print. Printing, for those of you who are unclear, is when a person starts with a piece of paper, holds a pen or pencil in their hand and makes letters on the paper! No keyboard or touchpad! Miss Mahoney felt it might be less drill and more thrill if she chose interesting poems for us to copy and to discuss while doing so. Thus Miss Mahoney inadvertently exposed me at age 6 to the fact that I was a born poet. Emily Dickinson’s words were on that board, Edna St Vincent Millay’s, Carl Sandburg’s, Robert Frost’s….Miss Mahoney had excellent taste. No nursery rhymes for her class. I did not meet another teacher who loved poetry until I was in 8th grade.
Going through my mom’s papers as we cleaned out her desk unearthed poetry written by me when I was 8. My mom could still recite one I composed when I was 7 until a few months before her death.
If nobody buys my books, reads my work or takes a painting home, it does not make me not a good artist. Some days since my mother died, I feel like not putting my work out there any more and keeping it just for me. Maybe that is the path for awhile. Time will tell. A great impetus for me was achieving enough so that my mom could pass knowing her child was safe and okay. Perhaps that is enough for now.