Sunday, January 14, 2018

Red Rooster Farm
Photo P.Tonery

Writing from Place:

Looking out any window in this farmhouse, I find another point of view that contradicts the previous views; and so, my thoughts on nature and human nature are constantly changing. Poetry here surprises me.  What I am wrestling with, that is, trying to come to terms with in order to live well, without fear of some pending doom is a constant challenge.  Imagination is necessary for a writer,  and I admit that I'm daydreaming a lot,but sometimes it's a runaway horse, and I worry a bit too much.   Take, for example, the winter weather.  I have lived here my whole life; I know what to expect, how to drive, what to do in a snowstorm.  Why, then, does the weather report send me into a panic?  It's true, I'm not a big fan of the below zero temperatures.  It's been extremely cold here; much like the winter of 2013, just as I predicted.  I keep saying the chant, Spring is coming, Spring is coming -- a prayer of sorts; inevitable, too.

 Meanwhile, what am I doing?  I'm writing a lot, both poetry and prose.  The 100 word stories are challenging and so unlike my poems.  The stories remind me of making a pop-up card.  With the launch of a word, the landscape of the story finds its way  to be 3D, and while reading the story, you can peer around corners and see what isn't said, but implied. Like poetry, every word counts in a 100 word story. Characters and situations test our  reading strengths and weaknesses.  Last semester, a visiting writer, told the audience that "empathy is overrated."  As you can imagine, this bit of glib frosting  wasn't  what I was expecting (read: immediate sinking feeling) because I believe in empathy, I promote empathy, and I knew, my very literal students would take this young writer's word as gospel, whereas I knew he was just being flip. You have to have life experience to be truly cynical, and I personally think that this young writer was given success on a platter. So his ennui was facade.  I get it.  We all wear masks.    He even confessed to wishing he were marginalized.  He felt he should be writing about that. But to write about that, I think you need to have lived the experience, right? Of course, all of this plays into stereotypes, which seems to be my battleground-- to help my students, family, friends see that our culture reinforces stereotypes in our everyday life.  Now, more than ever, we need to question authority.  Authority. Just look at that word, with "author "big as life itself.  Is the author reliable? Do we believe what we are reading, hearing?  I think this is the challenge nowadays, trying to figure out what is the truth.  To think we're all living in a pop-up book.


Thursday, January 11, 2018

Some Thoughts On Poetry & Reviews . . . .

Photo K. Iuppa
Lake Ontario, Stormy Skies

Poetry Quote of the Day:

“There’s a sense in which poetry is not so much the writing of words as much as it is the movement of breath itself.  To write it you must pay attention to the breathing of poetry, to all speech as breath, to the relationship of our thoughts and emotions and the actual way they fill our bodies.  This is the emotional, physical centering of the activity of poetry~ Robert Hass

Sit with this quote a while. Let it sink in the movement of your breath.  Read aloud a favorite poem.
Read it slowly. Feel the music of the line wash over you, its breath and your breath.  Now read one of your poems aloud. Read slowly. Again, appreciate the music of the line.

For me, poetry is music, and through the music the images and meaning arise.  I want to be carried away by a poet's artistry.  I  want to hang on their words and listen intently.  I want to know more.
This is the ways it's been since I was small.

The poem that hooked me as a child was Robert Louis Stevenson's  "The Swing" (A Child's Garden of Verse).

The Swing

How do you like to go up in a swing,
   Up in the air so blue?
Oh, I do think it the pleasantest thing
   Ever a child can do!

Up in the air and over the wall,
   Till I can see so wide,
Rivers and trees and cattle and all
   Over the countryside—

Till I look down on the garden green,
   Down on the roof so brown—
Up in the air I go flying again,
   Up in the air and down!

To this day, I love this poem, and whenever I see a swing, I jump on and recite each line as I pump higher and higher.  Mind you, I don't jump off anymore.  I just let the swing wind down.

That said, I think I have revealed two ways of finding poetry in your life.  Reading, yes, always a good choice, and engaging with life, both in and out doors. Sometimes, when I am feeling antsy, especially after spending too much time working on a keyboard, I get up and go out.  It can be a brisk walk on the canal,  or along the lake shore, or a trip to the thrift shop, or sharing a cup of something with a friend. You need to find that balance between being a observer and a doer.  Balance is the key word to this elusive enterprise.

I have made a promise to  the Blog Revival group to be a bit more 'mindfully' balanced this year.  We'll see how successful  I am.

On Reviews:

I have been reading a lot of  book reviews lately, hoping to be steered in the right direction; wanting to discover some authors based on good recommendations.

Reviews can spread the word and increase an author's visibility.  All of us who have had  the "good review" experience are eternally grateful that the reviewer didn't tell us the feared "bald" truth, whatever that may be, like " shelve the pen, and buy dancing shoes, dearie."  

That said, I think I can articulate what I'm looking for in both poetry and prose.  I'm looking for "instinct."  The writer who writes from head, heart, spirit, who risks saying something that is both wild and tame. My personality is willing to listen closely.  I've been known to think about an image, an idea, a form, a sentence for a long time, and I remember.

 It's my promise to write reviews of books  that deserve to be remembered. 






Sunday, January 7, 2018

Words to Live By . . .

Photo: K. Iuppa.

Quote for Today:

“When you look back on a lifetime and think of what has been given to the world by your presence, your fugitive presence, inevitably you think of your art, whatever it may be, as the gift you have made to the world in acknowledgment of the gift you have been given, which is life itself. And I think the world tends to forget that this is the ultimate significance of the body of work each artist produces. That work is not an expression of the desire for praise or recognition, or prizes, but the deepest manifestation of your gratitude for the gift of life.”
                                                                     ~ Stanley Kunitz

 Sunday Poetry Prompt:

"Like A Good Joke"  What has struck you as "funny" this first week of a New Year?
You may interpret "funny" any way that you please.

Good News :

On January 1st, 2018, I began writing a review of Alicia Hoffman's second full length poetry collection, Railroad Phoenix, Kelsay Books, 2017. I finished the review by January 4th and sent it out.  It will appear in either the February or March issue of The Lake (UK).  Thank you, John Murphy, Editor, for giving this review ascent and promoting Alicia Hoffman's book.  I have taught this book twice, in Spring 2017 and Fall 2017.  My students valued her poems and asked poignant questions about her work, which made us move deeper into her collection.  

If you have not read this collection, please put it on your list to read in 2018.

Saturday, January 6, 2018

Writing, It's Personal . . .

Since the semester ended (12/16/2017), I have  been settling back into my own creative life, writing daily. 

I have pushed the clutter of nagging thoughts, the to-do list, the temptation to read up on our latest cultural dysfunction, and have made myself a safe haven.

I'm at my desk, with music playing softly, fresh cup of hot coffee warming my hands, as it is very cold here and daylight hasn't begun to fill the sky. I think, Now what is it that I want to say? What can I set loose  onto this page that waits like the landscape of white. Some days, I feel like I live on the moon.  The wind has been blowing for three days now--whispers of snow slipping off the high drifts that bank the country roads-- moments of no visibility, like writing-- cutting a path on fresh powder, just letting thoughts take over until  I arrive at a place where I can look back over my shoulder and see how far I've gone. Sometimes, there is no looking back, all tracks were quickly erased, and I found myself sitting in a parking lot listening intently to NPR . . .
And how does that radiocast influence me for the rest of the day?  They were trying to replicate the voice  of a soon-to-be retired reporter, and the voice impersonator was breaking down the reporter's voice phrasing and cadence and use of assonance and consonance and alliteration, and suddenly I realized it is always about poetry. This reporter's voice has captured my attention for years,and now he's retiring . . . How will I always remember his voice, and others will never know it? Isn't this the sad truth about writing, too.  How will we be remembered ?

 Time will Tell (Photo P. Tonery).

Thursday, January 4, 2018

Happy New Year! Here's to 365 days of making Art!

Niagara Falls is frozen once again!We're in the middle of a "Bomb Cyclone" Arctic Cold, with Wind and Snow.

If you are from Western NY, you know that it has been snowing double negatives, which means, yes, we're snowed in. I have been making the best of this quiet.
On Fb, my friend, cohort from Rainier Writers Workshop MFA Program, fellow poet, Kelli Russell Agodon  posted a call to blog revival.  Back in the day ( I can say that!), but from 2004 (when I began the MFA program) to 2010 (maybe?), I followed many poets' blogs.  It was my morning read with a piping hot cup of coffee.  I enjoyed  reading the poetic musings, the struggles of day to day, the weather, the news of success, and so on.  It was  my way of feeling connected to these poets who were doing the impossible, that is, raising a family, working, writing, maintaining a sense of humor, eating too much chocolate. I followed  many women poets, who were and still are younger than I am.
I found them to be full of life. Ah, life.  

When I first began this blog, I hoped it would be my living  journal.  Even though I have a strange addiction to pencils, pens, and notebooks of all sizes and  shapes, I have never been truly successful in keeping a daily journal. Over the years, my children drew in them, my husband wrote grocery notes or phone messages, and sadly, when things got too busy, they ended up on a shelf.  As you can see, the journals were not secret or hands off, so the blog seemed to be a perfect venue.  In the early days, I did have readers who would leave comments., and I loved the conversation.  Then, when my youngest son Nicholas moved to Germany in 2012, I joined Facebook(Fb).  Many of my Blog friends were  and still are on Fb, which cut into Blog reading time. Life continued, that is, I was teaching, writing, making  and experiencing art, still raising a family, and dedicating a great deal of time to sustainability. So, this blog became  my reports on how we were doing  here, on this small farm, in Hamlin NY.

Now, it's 2018.  I'm not sure what I am promising. Perhaps, I should start with posting more often. That would be a good start to the blog revival. Stay warm, fellow bloggers.  I look forward to stepping back into your lives and having you in mine.