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.
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.
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.
Respect each other
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.
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.
Hollywood and Hallmark work hard to sell us the perfect family. Maybe not so much now as in the 50s-70s. The recently ended fabulous show “Parenthood”certainly addressed just about every challenge in family relationships there could be. Remember, however, Donna Reed, Brady Bunch, Partridge Family and so on.
In recent news stories some of the actors of these picture perfect families turn out to have committed serious crimes, child molestation, for example. Real people played those fantasy roles.
Our own families can be by stages annoying, heartbreaking, wonderful and supportive and the people in them our friends, our adversaries and sometimes totally confusing. How would Sigmund Freud have made a name for himself if real families were like a Hallmark card?
One of the challenges when a family member dies, is that whether or not you lived close by, were speaking frequently or hadn’t in years, still a conversation was ongoing between you, as much as the shared genes that create the blood ties.
Suddenly that conversation stops in mid sentence. No matter how hard you worked to say it all, clarify and tie up any loose ends or misunderstandings, death interrupts.
You go through the belongings of this loved one and the conversation flows in your mind. You find this or that odd thing or you read how the will was written at an historic time perhaps no longer relevant. Questions brim in your heart. What was this keep sake she hung onto? Why did he get married again? Why didn’t he save that object a relative created? So many questions and heartbreaks. Along with many good memories and the portion of grief where we idealize the person who passed, come irritating stories and hurtful ones for many of us. Eventually you come to a place where you have to decide if you can leave it, this conversation with the mixture of pain and goodness, and move on into your own life imperfect though it may be.
Every human being is a conglomeration of good, bad, indifferent and meaningful and meaningless incomprehensible ties. It does not mean the one left behind going through the clothes and letters was loved any less.
We have a strange opportunity after someone dies to get to know that person as a person, a human being who had a whole separate secret life, hopes, dreams, goals and aspirations. Yeah, maybe you knew some of it because maybe your dad confided in you or maybe you and your cousin were best friends, but going through the detritus left behind a life lived is a strange archaeology. In its way it is as difficult as holding someone, wiping their face, and comforting their pain while they die.
So, at some point you realize you are still alive. Yep, you lost someone and it felt like a stab in the heart. But you have this life of yours and it becomes harder and harder to remember what your mom or dad or grandma said or to recall the sound of their voice, what they looked like outside of a photo…and having a long term conversation with a dead person in lieu of progressing into your life, imperfections, pains and all is, in my opinion, not the best choice.
Some memories of events will always hurt. Some past actions will always have an impact on you. We all carry scars. They are called ” experience.” So in conclusion I believe it worth stepping onto the path that says “Live. You were loved.”
Helen Holt Biography Now Available for Sale
Called a great patriot by John Boehner, Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, and lauded by Vice President Joe Biden, Helen Holt was the first woman to hold statewide office in West Virginia. In 1957, she was appointed Secretary of State of West Virginia. She has served under eight U.S. Presidents with the Federal Housing Administration and the Department of Housing and Urban Development, working to establish nursing homes and improve elder care across the country. At 100, she is an active member of the NLAPW District of Columbia Branch.
District of Columbia Branch Art and Letters Member (and former NLAPW Branch President) Patricia Daly-Lipe has completed her much-anticipated biography of this pioneer Pen Woman. Published by The Pen Women Press, Helen Holt, Memoir of a Servant Leader, can be purchased from Patricia Daly-Lipe at literarylady.com for $14.95.
Link to bookstore page on http://www.nlapw.org:
Pen Woman Magazine Poetry Editor