One simplistic definition of poetry could be something made from nothing. As in all art forms, the maker must undertake an uncertain journey that can hurl them between peaks of confidence and valleys of self-doubt. Makers must have the courage of their conviction and a strong belief in the power of their voices. This week, as I completed a manuscript that I hope has something important to say, I’ve learned a valuable lesson about voice from the young students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., who are making change out of chaos. They are America’s hope and have names that reflect its rich diversity: Kasky, Hogg, Gonzalez, Wind and many others. They are unafraid to be outraged, unafraid to raise their voices. I am inspired, salute them, and thank them for this exceptional example of the power of voice.
Recently I was talking with my pal, Ann, bemoaning how long it was taking to complete a book of poetry I’m working on. I had several poems I was pleased with, and a few more that weren’t falling into place. I felt disheartened and stuck. Ann looked me straight in the eye and told me to focus on writing three new poems a week.
“Just barrel through,” she advised. “Perfect them later.” I thought she’d gone off the deep end–but I always listen to her advice, which she follows herself. Proof positive: her amazing book, Free Ferry, was just published by Under Hand Press. So I barrel
on. And with four new poems-in-progress, it seems to be working. Just want to pass this along to anyone feeling a little downhearted. Just keep writing!
I’ve learned that no matter what form our artistic expression takes, friends are a vital part of our creative growth. They listen, encourage, and sometimes send us back to the drawing board. True friends are not afraid to suggest what we may need–even if it’s not always what we want to hear. They keep us honest. And that’s a gift we should treasure, honor, and reciprocate in kind.
I’m excited to have my poem, “The Transformation,” along with a mini-interview, appear in the January 15 issue of The Phoenix Soul. My close friends inspired the poem, so I’m grateful for their continued friendship.
Looking back at 2014, it turned out to be quite a mixed bag: far too many passings of family members and friends; the happy births of a great grand niece and a great grand nephew; my very first (and second) solo watercolor exhibit; and the publication of my second chapbook, Archeology in August. It was the year I decided to retire from my job and move with my husband to San Antonio to be closer to family. With so much going on, it certainly was a year during which staying centered was often challenging.
Now, five months into my new environment, I’m working on simplifying things and sticking to my only New Year’s resolution: Be in the moment. Easier said than done, I know, but I’m trying my hardest to enjoy my family, explore my new surroundings, work at my art, and make sure that I make every day count.
I love April especially because it is National Poetry Month. It gives me the opportunity to read the work of poets I’ve had little or no exposure to (like recently discovered Texas poets R.S. Gwynn, Carmen Tafolla, and William Virgil Davis, to name a few). And it affords me the luxury of going back and re-reading poets I’ve loved forever–too many to name here. Or, in other words, it lets me be in the moment–a place I sometimes fail to inhabit–to enjoy the beauty and power of the right words in the right order.
National Poetry Month is also my impetus for writing some poetry. Because there is the omnipresent “30 poems in 30 days” challenges, I allow myself to write fast and worry about perfection later. Daily prompts help, in case the poetry side of my brain has developed a little rust.
So, I hope all of you are gifting yourself with poetry– this month and beyond. If you’re at a loss for what to read, let me make a few suggestions are well worth your time: “Face Painting in the Dark” by Ann Cefola (Dos Madres Press, 2014), “Habeas Corpus” by Cindy Hochman (Glass Lyre Press, 2015), and the soon-to-be-released “The Night Ghost” by Susan Moorhead (Finishing Line Press, 2015). (I humbly offer my own Archeology, too.)
I’d like to close this post with a tribute to those who write poetry–a short poem written by friend and poet Josephine Curran whom I’ve sadly lost contact with:
We must feed our poets sultry things
and sweets, and words that laud them.
For they must bring us in return
the bitter news, the solemn glance
the songs that sing of life.
Here’s to you, Jo, and to poets everywhere!