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.

Family Matters

February 6, 2015

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.”

Contest!!!

January 27, 2015

http://www.syracuse.com/living/index.ssf/2015/01/cny_pen_women_accepting_poetry_and_art_contest_submissions.html#comments

Publications news

January 17, 2015

http://www.nlapw.org/2015/01/15/publications-news-and-poem-of-the-week-for-kate/

Biography of a great woman patriot

January 17, 2015

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:

http://wp.me/P2Us6N-Gr

Treanor Baring
pwpoems@aol.com
NLAPW, Inc
Pen Woman Magazine Poetry Editor
Website Editor

When it is time to say good bye

January 10, 2015

When someone you love is dying, in particular a parent now you have an opportunity to be soft and protective. At first, as they start showing symptoms, maybe you will feel angry. Don’t be short tempered with them. It is only your grief. You will have time for your grief down the road.
Whether it is dementia, Cancer, whatever….you can still find moments to share together that will keep you warm after she is gone. My mom’s last meal was a good spoonful of chocolate ice cream. I am so glad. That was not the time to argue about eating fruits and vegetables. So, even if your parent asks for something strange, don’t judge, just do it if you can.
I dug my mom’s own nightgowns out of a drawer and cut them up the backs. When we changed her, that way she got to feel her own things against her skin and not a hospital Johnny. Rather than put her through more painful wound dressing and so forth, after she had said ” I’m done.” I respected that and stood between her and the medical system which grinds ever onward. I suggested and implemented slipping a depends over her entire little elbow and arm to absorb and protect. My dogs were howling on the porch like mad….until the nurse left her alone, did what I asked.
I refused to take her rings off. There is something about having your rings on that is an identity thing.
When I sit by myself or lie awake in the dark, I am satisfied that not only did I follow her own wishes but I protected her. I’m not sure if anyone ever did in that life or death way. I know she had a tough time protecting me as a kid. But I told her ” You are safe. I ve got you. It’s going to be alright.” And so it was.
The story was not coming out any other way. 90 years and a fascinating life filled with many adventures is a great achievement and her birthday party 2 weeks previous was a wonderful time for us all. As we drove in, there she was sitting in the dining room window, waiting. In good earrings and a silk blouse she had put on herself.
During the final days she kept apologizing for putting us through this. I said ” Silly girl. I put you through 26 hours of labor pains. I think it is a fair trade.”
If it was messy and awful, parts of it, well so is young childhood and also adolescence. It is part of being human and being a family. There is a line from Silence of the Lambs where Clarice Starling is comforting a distraught police officer at a murder scene. She says to him [ ] ” Let us take care of her now. Let us take care of her.”
You can do it. You can’t imagine it or practice for it. Just one day you walk into our mother’s house and the first glance when you see her face you know all the rules have changed. You take your bags to your room, maybe stop to use the bathroom, and then you wade right in to be with her.
We were so lucky she was home. We got up in the middle of the night. The various agencies came who have to in such cases. Once they d finished taking care of her, we had time alone for almost an hour before the funeral director came to pick her up. We had time to touch her, talk with her, talk about her to each other, to pray. I cleaned her face because she would ve been so embarrassed if I hadn’t. I ve never done this before and as hard as it was, I am so grateful I did it. I comforted her o de long ago, for she always always obsessed about dying, eating right, checking to see if she was dying yet…..so I said ” Nobody gets out of here alive.” ” Oh!” She startled and laughed. ” well, how funny! You’re right.”
Then I said ” Isn’t that great because that makes one less thing for you to worry about. It isn’t optional. Now go on and live your life.”

Owl art picked up

January 10, 2015

Check out these mugs, by me, listed by My Owl Barn all are in stock, microwave & dishwasher safe

New poetry & art

January 4, 2015

http://www.writersgettogether.blogspot.com/

http://www.nlapw.org/pen-women-on-line/

December 29, 2014

Webinar on NLAPW.org

Historias: Stories of Survival

December 3, 2014

Rachael Ikins’ new poetry collection:

Not so many years ago, my mother saw an ad for art lessons in our 
local newspaper. Perplexed as to what unique gift to find for me for 
Christmas, she called me to ask would I be interested in art classes.

I had been creating pen and ink art trading cards for several years, coming out of decades of belief I could not draw. I said, ” Yes.”
When classes began, the teacher who had survived the loss of her husband to cancer when she was only a young mom with 2 toddlers, one day made a comment that has stuck with me: ” It is not enough to survive. You must thrive.”
Life is, without doubt, about loss. These poems and stories in this collection talk about loss of all kinds. They share with us how important it is to make good choices after the loss and how to put one foot in front of the other when your heart is broken.
I am thankful for the many teachers who influenced me in the creation of this book principal among them poet Patricia Smith and fiction and memoirist 
Ethel Rohan, both of whom I met in the castle in Lismore, Ireland a year ago. Both Ethel and Patricia offered a unique direction to travel. “Find the thing in your mind that is a wall over which you would never climb, the thing you would never write about…now write it.” 
At the end of a weeklong workshop with them, I read ” 40 Years Later, the Slumber Party” from this collection to the assembled audience of Pultizer prize winning authors of all genres, publishers, agents and students and Irish staff from the castle. I never would have had the courage to read it if not for Ethel and Patricia.
This summer past reknowned poet and novelist, Marge Piercy advised me to slow down, revise, and to submit, submit. She gave me the courage to pull out of storage poetry I never would’ve dared read aloud anywhere let alone at
Wellfleet Public Library to a packed house. The result of all my summer revisions and submissions has astonished me.
Most recently I had the honor of introducing my 8th grade English teacher, 
Elizabeth Patton, a fine poet in her own right at a reading. The spring of my 14 th year, she read the poem I was reworking over my shoulder one day and said, ” You are a poet.” 
They say ” Those who can do and those who can’t teach.” Couldn’t be more ignorant or wrong. Those who can, teach, pay it forward, and they do and do and do. They stand up and celebrate their students. If they are all lucky, student and teacher go on to become friends. 
I must also give a nod to my 4th year college Spanish professor who was a native of Argentina. I wrote poetry in every language I spoke or studied and so it was only logical to bring him my Spanish poetry. His support and joy resulted in the pieces I chose for this book. A young woman reader from Colombia wrote me in recent years when several were published: ” I feel like you know MY life.”
I can’t think of a better thing for a poet to hear.
So, I invite you to travel the paths within these pages, and to watch how the people in the stories face their losses and what happens next. Climb the wall you would never dare and find out what is on the other side. Thrive.
Rachael


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 540 other followers