Listen. I write about writing. But–I’m also a student of the world. A mother. A teacher. A women’s rights activist. A human rights activist. A believer that we all deserve to be safe, loved, respected, and honored.
I’m not going to lie. This recent world has left me so–fucking hollow and angry, and sad, and despondent. We are sick. We are dying. We are killing each other and hating each other, and judging each other. I have kids, for christssake. Beautiful little beings that I brought into this quagmire of hatred and corruption. I kick myself every day for the world we’re giving them.
If you aren’t angry. You should be. If you aren’t melted into a pool of helpless and hopelessness; you should be. Every day I fight to get up and DO something.
Today I did this.
And if you don’t like it, stop following me. If it offends you, go sit down and examine why. Chances are it has to do with your own conscience.
Peel back the antiquity
The antebellum haze over your eyes
The veil of American greatness
And look at what we’ve done.
A body lies face down
Slaughtered in her own home
Life cut short,
Weightless in blood loss
And all the things
She will never do.
She will never again
Someone’s only heart.
Stop looking away…
Stop making excuses
Pale, white excuses.
Justifying your hatred
Through the fabric of a flag
Or a bible
Or whatever misguided armaments
You deny the worth
Of another human life with.
That the slave owner still owns.
That the shackles still bind
That the rules don’t apply
That the seething pool of hatred
That puts the small brained
And fearful men in power
Isn’t a sickening, disease,
Worsening this land
Butchering its people.
In the middle of the night
In their own homes.
Stop putting power into
Hands that hold no compassion
Stop putting power
into fear-filled hearts
Into anger-filled heads
Stop putting bullets
Into black skin
Peel back the white washed history
Look to the truth
The sun shining on
The dark, sweat slicked backs
that built this country
The lives that paid its dues,
Built its land
See how we still manage,
To. This. Day.
To put them up on blocks
Bullet holes in backs
Their fathers cut down
Crosses burned and
Churches riddled with metal
Six gaping holes
In the pajamas of an EMT.
How many more lives would she have saved?
That’s how many murders you deserved to answer for.
Hello kids. Listen, lately this blog has been heavy handed with the writerly stuff. Let’s face it, a lot is going on in the world and sometimes its nice to focus on something we can control, something we can improve, something we can do.
I began this blog with a rant that just sprung out of the general feeling of hopelessness, anger, frustration and worry. For my family, my community, my country. I began on a three paragraph spewing about inequality and why the government and richest among us love to stoke the fires of divisiveness. I began, this early morning, festering outwardly what I’ve been festering inwardly for the last three an a half years.
Because our country has turned to a festering shit pile that’s hard to ignore. But we all know it. We all see ourselves behaving like hateful, ignorant assholes, but…everyone’s doing it so it makes it ok? See? Witness how easy it is for me to fall back into the loop that keeps me up at night, gives me anxiety, and makes me plan to move off the grid and become a hermit.
But today is about reprieve. A break. A rest.
Something different is called for. And so, to take a side road from writing (while not diving into the sewage that our current state of affairs has become), I want to talk about song lyrics.
Specifically, those lyrics from songs that stick into the sides of our hearts. That spur inspiration in our brains. That connect us as human beings. Surely you’ve got a few rambling around in your neurons. I’m going to give you a few here, and links to the songs.
Your exercise this week is to listen to some of your favorites and something new. Think about the words and how they correspond with your own experiences.
Writing is not as powerful if, at some point, the reader (or listener) doesn’t sit back and say to themselves ‘man, I’ve been there’.
Your job, in essence is to find a way to connect to a complete stranger by letting their words affect you.
Here you go:
I heard this one earlier in the week and it had been years. As I’ve aged, it’s struck different and more meaningful emotions in me.
“Once upon a time there was an ocean But now it’s a mountain range Something unstoppable set into motion Nothing is different, but everything’s changed
It’s a dead end job, and you gets tired of sittin’ And it’s like a nicotine habit you’re always thinking about quittin’ I think about quittin’ every day of the week When I look out my window it’s brown and it’s bleak
Outta here How am I gonna get outta here? I’m thinking outta here When am I gonna get outta here? And when will I cash in my lottery ticket And bury my past with my burdens and strife? I want to shake every limb in the garden of Eden And make every love the love of my life
I figure that once upon a time I was an ocean But now I’m a mountain range Something unstoppable set into motion Nothing is different, but everything’s changed
Found a room in the heart of the city, down by the bridge Hot plate and TV and beer in the fridge But I’m easy, I’m open, that’s my gift I can flow with the traffic, I can drift with the drift Home again? Naw, never going home again Think about home again? I never think about homeBut then comes a letter from home The handwriting’s fragile and strange Something unstoppable set into motion Nothing is different, but everything’s changed
The light through the stained glass was cobalt and red And the frayed cuffs and collars were mended by haloes of golden thread The choir sang, “Once Upon A Time There Was An Ocean” And all the old hymns and family names came fluttering down as leaves of emotion
As nothing is different, but everything’s changed”
This man is brilliant, in voice and lyric. There’s something dark and gritty in him that brings out the underbelly of love:
“Love ain’t nothing more than black magic You better want what you wish for It might happen I drank your poison Fell under your spell Love is hell and nothing more than black magic
Love is like a bag of drugs it blows out both your knees Innocence gets tangled when you hang it on a string Both our eyes were foggy glass, too high to ever see The devil’s sleight of hand, twisting fate with ancient ink”
This song…is on my alarm in the morning…Because what we have is what we are and where we’ve been has gotten us this far.
“Every tree has got a root And every girl forbidden fruit and got her demons And the path I chose to go, a different girl so long ago I had my reasons
And she’s in my head so loud, screaming “Shouldn’t you be proud of what you came from? Oh, you’ve been crippled and you’ve walked on You’ve been shut up and you talked, so let’s talk some more”
Where is the hand for me to reach? Where is the moral I’ll ever teach myself? In all the black, in all the grief, I am redeemed
And its ripping at my heart Because Im dodging all the darts and on a slow train And then Ill wear it til it tatters And it shatters on the floor in instant replay
Oh, were all rotten and were pure And were just looking for the cure that feels like spring snow And all we have is who we are and where we’ve been got us this far, so let me go”
This woman’s voice and writing is so empowering. I recommend listening to this one while you’re out walking, or running, or moving. It’s a heart-helper.
“The way you smile When you believe in it, in your future It’s different, it’s different
Now we moving forward, ever backwards Never forward, ever backwards, never And when the going gets rough and life gets tough Don’t forget to breathe
I love it here ‘Cause I don’t have to explain to them Why I’m valuable, that I’m magical And back home they tear Tear my soul apart Love my broken heart I don’t know where to start
The way you smile when you believe in it, in your future It’s different”
I could go on ALL DAY. But I’ll only give you two more.
This has been a favorite of mine for a long time. It feels like a whole journey through life and the one lesson at the end you wished you’d known sooner. And this video, I believe, was compiled by some amateur videographers. It’s brilliant. It feels like what my soul would do, if it were untethered from fear.
“Hello, my old heart How have you been? Are you still there inside my chest? I’ve been so worried, you’ve been so still Barely beating at all
Oh, oh, don’t leave me here alone Don’t tell me that we’ve grown For having loved a little while Oh, oh, I don’t wanna be alone I wanna find a home And I wanna share it with you
Hello, my old heart It’s been so long Since I’ve given you away And every day, I add another stone To the walls I built around you To keep you safe
Oh, oh, don’t leave me here alone Don’t tell me that we’ve grown For having loved a little while Oh, oh, I don’t wanna be alone I wanna find a home And I wanna share it with you
Hello, my old heart How have you been? How is it being locked away? Don’t you worry, in there, you’re safe And it’s true, you’ll never beat But you’ll never break
Nothing lasts forever Some things aren’t meant to be But you’ll never find the answers Until you set your old heart free Until you set your old heart free”
If you haven’t been listening to them so far it’s cool. But, PLEASE LISTEN TO THIS ONE. PLEASE WATCH THIS ONE. In today’s hurtful environment, we all need to be reminded that every man is a son to a daughter. Every woman is a daughter to a father. We should always treat each other as if we are gifts, in need of love and understanding. It should be forefront in every heart and mind.
“What I’ve learnt from the ocean Hard to dance and rejoice in the motion Let the sun have its moment The moon will come What I’ve learnt from a soldier Every man is a son to a daughter And we only remember When we see the blood
Don’t grow up on me Keep that backstroke in your Afro Don’t you grow up on me Slow up homie Don’t you grow up on me Keep it OG sipping slowly Don’t you grow up on me Slow up homie
Don’t you show off on me Don’t you grow up on me Show off on me
What I’ve learnt from a traveler There’s no road that can lead to nirvana There’s a world to discover But home is love
What I’ve learnt from a mirror Look too hard and you’ll find you a stranger Love is just a decision The choice is yours”
All right, writers. The choice is yours, how you do this day. Are you an ocean or a mountain range? All you’ve gone through has led you to where you are today. And while love is like a bag of drugs that blows out both your knees, you’ll never find the answers until you set your old heart free. I hope you move forwards, ever. Backwards, never. And know that love is just a decision; the choice is yours. I hope you choose love.
Good morning poets, writers, daydreamers and those who’ve accidentally stumbled onto my blog. Welcome. Grab a seat and a cup of coffee.
I’m starting off today’s post with some poetry submissions that came in over the last two weeks. I want to commend all the poets who send me their work. On a site like mine, where no profit is made, the art I share and display is for the soul and seeks to create a connection between us all. It means a great deal to me, especially in these days of separateness, to have someone answer back from the darkness with pieces of their lives that have moved them.
The second portion of this blog will have a run down of helpful tips (f*&k yeah! another bullet list!) on submitting your poetry for publication or competitions as well as a list of respected journals, websites, and independent magazines that are currently accepting submissions.
Please enjoy the poetry first. Roll it over in your brain and let it affect you.
From a small foam couch by a wide still
morning spreads hummingbird wings
and hovers above sweet shared generosity of
green breath, fragrant openings berries rounding
toward giftable ripe.
In my hand a letter of
urgent pleas, a photo of a severed head, defaced, a supine body.
i hear the cries of the killers’ children
starved of homeland, thirsty for water
not weighted by toxic sludge, in the
mourning touches and silent vigil—those who
gather to hold the immensity of loss and betrayal
together, whose hearts beat slow and whose long
trunks touch, mourner to mourner, connecting.
In my head echoes a question the letter refuses
to ask. Who buys this ivory?
Earnest groups patrol for poachers and
arrest sellers and confiscate poached evils, but
those with money enough to buy have
clout enough to hide or we allow them
to remain hidden behind lavish excesses
of endless kinds, hiding the sickness they carry
behind false fronts of our own contrived desires—
convinced that their perceived ease is our only goal.
In the pain of this poem is not where
i want to be this morning. In the dusty
Mara waiting for rain, waiting for humanity
to remember where we came from, where
we can again live whole and connected
among kin of all kinds who know us
as worthy of being mourned, i feel
the touch of sensitive trunk on my streaked cheek.
In my breath can i carry this song
of our truth—our birthright wealth? In my
heart can a scent of love spend the only
currency that matters? With my strong legs
i can embrace the work, celebrate the work, of
releasing our aspiration to laziness, so that
in my cupped hands, i can gather ripe fruits
to carry to all who hunger.
What I Didn’t Say
What I didn’t say
was that I was not sorry,
That you deserved
every faltering and bold moment
I loved you
What I didn’t say
was the space between notes
and the harbinger of changes
that I hadn’t heralded yet
All the words I did not speak
Still bitter on my tongue
And in their place
A thousand sorrys
I did not mean
I am not sorry
for my heart tremors
erotic night dreams
and the wicked way my hands scraped skin
I am not sorry
For falling, impetuous and blind
into the volcanic mess of you
The stifling and choking cloud
Heat of resistance
I am not sorry for sacrificing
my heart cells to the lost cause of you and yours
You can have them,
the cardiac muscle and hardest working fibers
What I didn’t say
you can take them all
You need them more than I do.
I’ve been preaching to my mind
In forced moments of stillness,
When images of you surface
Nothing really exists.
Least of all you
Least of all me.
Nothing is permanent.
To hold on is to suffer.
i am not attached.
i am not in need.
You are nothing.
As everything is nothing and
Nothing is in the everything.
So even though you may
have seemed my everything
You are, as all, just nothing.
Just Neo’s spoon.
And I know now
There is no spoon.
So it can bend and move,
Or cease to exist.
There is no you.
No words you gave
Or thoughts you implanted.
There’s nothing but the breath
And the heat within me
Forging in time,
mine of universal light
And maybe this is the way I let you go.
Because you are the
Regret of my past
The ill-placed hope of my future
And all I really have…
Is the empty now.
Thanks for reading through all of those beautiful journeys into humanity. Now, I present to you a short and sweet bulleted list of tips for submitting your work:
Do your research: There’s nothing worse than sending your erotic, atheist, non-trad poem to a Christian Journal looking for pieces to be read aloud at their yearly conference. Know the journal/mag/contest you are submitting to. Try to write or match up a poem that fits what they’re looking for or at least the general “flavor” of their publication.
Be respectful and follow the guidelines: Every submission has guidelines. Read them. Follow them. If it seems like jumping through hoops is a waste of your time, thinking of sending out 35 submissions that don’t even qualify. That’s a waste. Most guidelines can be found on the website beneath or within the “Submissions” page.
Make sure your work is complimentary and tight: If you send out a group (3-5) poems it will help to have the poems compliment one another in some way, so the tone is not too disruptive but it also shows the depth of your writing skill. Also. EDIT. I know poetry is a bit free form and we can play with spellings and words to make things interesting, but don’t play it that way if you really just didn’t feel like spell checking.
Keep a Log of your submissions: If you use Submittable (and many contests, journals and mags do), it will track who you’ve sent work to, when, and how much the fee was if applicable. This not only helps you keep on budget but it allows to see where your work is and query or move on if no responses are given with the appropriate time frame. If you don’t want to go that route, you can make a spreadsheet in Excel, or keep a notebook with the date submitted, the publisher/journal, the poem(s) sent, the expected response time, entry fee, and anything else that you feel like creating a column for.
Don’t be afraid or discouraged by rejection: I’ve known poets who submit over 700 times a year and maybe get only five to ten poems published. I’m not nearly that ambitious but it helps to know that its just part of the game, and is not necessarily a reflection of your work so much as it is a matter of odds.
Know your ownership rights: Some forums will require that they have the sole publishing rights for a certain amount of time, meaning you can’t put it on your website or shop it around, even to local or smaller works. Be sure that you are okay with their terms of publication.
Start Small: Ya’ll I’m not even joking. One of the biggest secrets to publishing is to not throw your heart into the cauldron of huge publishing factories. Not only will your work get lost in the endless entries from around the globe, but it may not get into readers’ hands in the same way you wrote it. Do yourself a favor and research local magazines, niche magazines (think Erotic Atheist Digest?), local writing groups, and small literary presses. While they can be more discerning in some respects, they also carry the torch of being outliers that appreciate the art in a more grassroots way.
Well…holy smokes this might be one of my longest posts but, I did also promise you some good starting points for sending out your work. So, big breath in, you’re in the home stretch.
Ghost City Review
Little Death Lit
Don’t forget to search local college/university literary journals, local publishing companies or poetry groups, and independent journals. Don’t be afraid to, every once in a while, send your stuff to bigger places too. The Harvard Review and Poetry Magazine as well as The New Yorker usually also accept submissions.
First, apologies for missing last week. I started my Thursday morning at 2 am, driving to the trailhead of my first 14er. It was a beautiful cool day up on the mountain and I was pretty tired upon returning home.
In addition to that, and on the same day, we welcomed a new family member into our home.
So I’ve literally been climbing mountains and raising babies for the last few days and am now safely locked in my office for an hour of dedicated writing time.
Without wasting any time, let’s get into the basics of poetry.
Some of us are born with the inclination towards alliteration, symbolism, personification and all the intrinsic elements of powerful poetry. For the rest of us, becoming a better poet (progress not perfection) can be accomplished by learning the dynamics of poetry form and function.
Now, I’ve heard a lot of degrading comments on poetry that rhymes. First of all, Poetry is Poetry. It doesn’t have to fit into some MFA or Beatnik/Hipster trend to be worthwhile.
“She walks in beauty, like the night
Of cloudless climes and starry skies,
And all that’s best of dark and bright
Meet in her aspect and her eyes;
Thus mellowed to that tender light
Which heavy to gaudy day denies”
Or one of my other favorites:
“When I am dead, my dearest,
Sing no sad songs for me;
Plant thou no roses at my head,
Nor shady cypress-tree;
Be the green grass above me
With showers and dewdrops wet;
And if thou wilt, remember
And if thou wilt, forget.”
Christina G. Rossetti
“There’s too many kids in this tub
There’s too many bodies to scrub
I scrubbed a behind
And it sure wasn’t mine.
There’s too many kids in this tub.”
Many a talented writer use rhyming and alliteration to build a beautiful rhythm that lends well to spoken recitation, which is one the most important foundation of Poetry. We’ll get into that a little later.
Do you need to rhyme your lines for it to be “poetic” or presentable? Of course not, as I mentioned last week, Poetry’s main function is to tell a story in the thickest, boiled down way. I do think it’s important to play with the concept of rhyming poetry, even if it’s only as a practice. It will not only help you to build your vocabulary, but it teaches you the essential dynamics of beat, and syllabic flow.
When considering how to help other writer’s have a good starting point for their experimentation into poetry I thought of the things that have helped me to grow and thrive in my poetry.
And I even put it into a bullet list because…bitches love bulleted lists.
Attend Poetry Readings (as social distancing permits–you can find online forum as well): The beauty of poetry, as I mentioned above, the ability for it to translate into the spoken art. Performance poetry will move you in ways that simply reading it cannot. By listening to poets read their poetry, you can catch a lot about word use, syllabic stress, alliteration, rhythm, tempo, and personification. Plus, the emotion of poetry is so much more present when someone is telling it to you.
Start Small: You don’t have to write The Iliad. Start with a haiku (5-7-5) or even put a 25 word limit on your poem.
There is Poetry in Every Thing: You can write a poem about a ball of yarn, a flower, the death of a loved one. Every object, feeling, action, or person can be inspiration. I once wrote a poem about a katydid I found being eaten by a wasp. I’ve written a poem about tripping. There is a poem in every thing. Find it.
Don’t Obsess Over First Lines or Titles: Just like pausing to edit your novel or story can interrupt the flow of creativity, worrying about creating the ‘perfect’ first line will staunch the ideas. Just start from somewhere. Like any writing, poems will undergo different rounds of changes and editing. Sometimes I don’t have a title until the final edit. Sometimes I don’t ever have a title. Don’t let that stop you from trying.
Tell a Story/ Express Big Ideas: One of my favorite things about poetry is that in a single stanza we can learn a world. Poets that are magnificent at this are: Maya Angelou, E.E. Cummings, Edna St. Vincent Millay, Sylvia Plath, Chuck Bukowski, Pablo Neruda, and Mary Oliver.
Use Tools: It probably sounds silly to remember your thesaurus but when we are working with an economy of words the difference between the right word and the almost right word is, as Twain said, the difference between lightening and a lightening bug. My favorite function in Word might be the “synonym” checker. Just make sure that it still conveys the flavor and tone you are aiming for.
Connect With Other Poets: Your local writing groups or if you follow social media, will have groups that can help you learn more, have safe places to share, and provide opportunities to submit.
Well, that was a lot of information. On Thursday I will be featuring some poems that came in last week (one from my absolute favorite fellow Wyomingites, sid sibo, is among them) There’s still plenty of time to contribute so send your experiments my way.
Until then, good luck. Delve into reading some new poetry and exploring your own abilities in the field.
I’m not immune to the fact that this blog has tripped around in the dark a bit lately. Let’s be honest, all of us are probably tripping in the dark. We’re in unprecedented times, facing stresses and noise that we’ve never dealt with before. It’s easy, in the dissonance, to lose our path.
So for the next three to four weeks I’ll be getting organized and coming back to the basics. No, I’m not going to make you deconstruct your sentences into diagrams, circling your subject, double scoring your gerunds, slashing through your adverbs (or will I? Could be a fun practice in the lost art of sentence diagramming AND tortuous. I’m a girl who likes it a little rough).
First, we’ll be taking a few weeks to explore the basics of each type of the most prevalent submissions for authors: poetry, flash fiction, short story, and novel.
Following that, and into the fall, I’ll start breaking it down further into genre work, dialogue, plot building, scene construct, story structure and the basics of good editing.
That’s not to say I won’t occasionally throw in a “stop being assholes to each other” rant. I like to keep it exciting after all.
It’s been a while since we dabbled in the lighter word count and heavier hand of poetry so I thought…why not start there?
(Hold on to your asses, she’s about to ADULT over here!)
Poetry used to be the sole conveyer of great stories, epic tales, and the meat and potatoes of religious creed. The first believed poem, author unknown, was called The Epic of Gilgamesh. Besides this epic, there was Rig Vedas of Hinduism, and The Song of The Harper from Egypt. Centuries before we first heard a Greek throw down an ode to an urn, people were writing poems.
Poetry was borne in the heart of burgeoning cultures and empires. As we move west across the world, we have The Iliad, Beowulf, 154 shout outs to Will Shakespeare’s best girl(s), and eventually, on to the new world with works like The Song of Hiawatha.
From these epic and structured beginnings, poetry has evolved and moved, like a river around obstacles, constant but ever-changing. One of the reasons I love poetry is its ability to capture the heartbeat of time-periods through the use of its language and form, as well as the ideas that it holds.
Poetry records history. From the simplest nursery rhymes (“Mary, Mary Quite Contrary” was actually based on Queen Mary I, aka Bloody Mary, who tortured and killed hundreds of protestants. Silver Bells and Cockle Shells aren’t perennials, they’re torture devices.) to Walt Whitman’s descriptions of the horror and decimation from America’s Civil War (“O Captain, My Captain” was written about the assassination of Lincoln just before the close of the ‘storm’ of war) poetry is a powerful conveyer of humankind’s journey through time.
Poetry connects. It’s visceral and often uncomfortable. It paints pictures with the deepest hues of language. Poetry is vital to song writing, memory retention, and a host of other deep-seated neural mechanisms humans use to survive. (the ABC song, “Thirty days hath September…”, “I before E except after C–and about a dozen other exceptions because the English language is a bastardized torture device for anyone learning it”)
So how do you write a poem?
Well, that’s the beautiful thing. We are no longer shackled to the 15 line iambic pentameter, nor are we beholden to ends that rhyme. Poetry can be written in just about any form you can conceive. You can write it, you can rap it, you can sing it, you can paint it across a street in bold letters. There are no rules but one.
Poetry should be true to your soul.
It should never be half-way. It should fling open the shutters of your close-held heart and expose it to the light. Poetry should reflect the thoughts and the feelings, the commiseration and worry, the anger and peace, the joy or the sadness that fills your head and your community.
When I think of poetry, I think of catharsis and a means to work through big and hard emotions (a girl’s favorite kind?) I think of finding meaning and perspective, shrinking down the large imposing impossibilities to moments I can do something with. To feelings I can direct towards change.
To write a poem is to be truthful about what hurts most in that moment.
I’m sure you can guess this week’s exercise. Write some poetry. In any form you want. Send it to me, let me know if you want it to have a little spot here on The Beautiful Stuff, or if you rather just share it with another soul. I don’t have a preference for form or length. Just get to the darkness, poke around in there, tickle the tender underbelly of what drives your biggest emotions and tug it out into the light.
In the midst of a nation undergoing painful and necessary growth, I’m happy to have you joining me here today.
If you follow my writings and my blog, you know where I stand on the issue and I want to take a moment to urge every white person in this country to re-examine their own lives, understand the privileges they have, and really start opening your hearts, minds, and ears to listen to People of Color.
Keep your mouths shut and listen.
It isn’t about you. It isn’t about your guilt, it isn’t about how it makes YOU feel. It isn’t about arguing your way out of the discomfort. It’s about anyone and everyone who has had to limit themselves out of fear, who was held back or down because of the color of their skin. Listen, work to understand and ask what you can do to be the most effective in fighting alongside them. Let’s start working towards a country and nation where we are all free to walk down the street, drive our cars, go out for ice cream, go out for a jog without being pursued, punished, incarcerated or killed.
Now, in line with that, I wanted to talk about a program that I had planned to start this summer with a beautiful human and social organizer, Queen (you may remember the piece on her son Dontré. If you haven’t read it, please do: “Weapons Used Against Me”)
Queen and I had envisioned a free writing workshop for disadvantaged youth and others in the community who’s voices were constantly being silenced or marginalized. The idea was to encourage and teach them how to find their true voice (outside of influence), to tell their story, in their truth and have a safe place to do so. A place where it wasn’t about the moderator’s discomfort, or what could or could not be said. A place for them to find power in their own purpose. Then, how to take those words and get them noticed. How to be heard in a world that is too used to turning away when something makes it uncomfortable. I had hopes of finding publishers for their work, and if nothing else sponsoring publishing of their work myself with all proceeds going back to the participants.
Then COVID came along and sort of blew it all to hell. But, I’m in contact with Queen and will find a way, in the next coming months, to bring the workshop back to the table. Because writing things down matters. Because putting emotion, thought, and personal truth down in words on paper immortalizes the truth of you and your place in time. And the more voices we listen to, the bigger the truth we find.
Today’s exercise is about finding your voice. And that can be scary as hell. We humans can harbor some pretty dark shit in our souls. We hold on to traumas like moths in a closet that we’re afraid to let out. But they slowly eat away at everything we own. We shrug and say “It’s okay, it’s no big deal how I feel, how I felt, how I survived…”
Humans, it is a big deal. It matters and you matter. So write it down.
Write down what you’re feeling about today’s social climate. About your own feelings about racism, what you notice in yourself at the bridging of the topic, what you wish for, what you hate about yourself, what you love. What can you change? What will you change?
I will keep you updated on the progress of the class and how you can participate, contribute, or spread the world to people who may need this kind of therapeutic and power-restoring practice.
Normally I’d say “Happy Writing” but today I’ll leave you with this.
As we are in the last week of National Poetry month I have a couple to share from last week’s exercises before we get into some fun little distractions from your current pandemic confusion.
But first…some Verse…
The children must be taught
So they can “grow up”?
So they can feed this horrible and unequal shipwreck of a country?
This continuous machine that steals their joy
and forces them into tiny boxes of pre-approved paths?
Paths that continue to feed the privileged?
who ride, like great white kings, on the backs of former dreamers?
Dreamers forced to live on the crumbs of cake that fall
from their slovenly white jowls?
The children MUST be taught
A new lesson.
A new way…the way of their heart.
The way their soul already knows.
The way that shouts out,
“You don’t get to tell me what my potential is–
You don’t get to standardize my worth by tests and deficient wages.”
The lesson of straightening spines
To topple the oligarchy from their shoulders
and down into the mud, to take their turn in wallowing.
Lessons must be learned.
The children must be taught.
–J. McLaughlin (Fort Collins, CO)
And from Miss Elliana (past contributor) :
And so it is,
Not one damn word in my head,
While the world rolls and sways,
Constantly tipping the balance point
Now to humanity
Now to the hungry gnash of teeth.
And I can’t remember the last words I said to you.
I can’t remember if
I was human that night
I must have felt the full and oceanic spectrum
all the love
and the hate
Heart and mind, a mirror of the worldly indecision.
I like to imagine I was kind.
Even though I’m well aware,
of the splendid mess I am
for that boy.
A stammering, uncontrolled fool.
But these are stammering, uncontrolled and
–Elliana Byrne (Boulder, CO)
Finally, because I cannot ask you to do something that I wouldn’t do myself I decided to experiment with storytelling/dialogue in poetry:
“The truth–“she breathed. “The truth is that love changes.
In ways we don’t expect when we first fall.
It grows and festers, or it cools and softens.
It recedes and fades.
Sometimes it aches,
like a bone that healed wrong.”
His thought crashed out loud.
Thick skinned rhino parting reeds.
“How did you love me?”
Heavy stillness settled
Hot, lazy, savanna swelter
hanging over, waterhole dried.
Air so thick, she could cut it
With the truth.
“The festering, aching way.”
And, since it’s still Poetry Month…here’s some ideas to squeeze in a few more exercises in the art for this last day of April!
Write about something that will always be out of reach (everything from the cookie jar to the corner office)
Write a poem where each line/sentence is about each day of a week (maybe last week, maybe an alternate universe week)
What does your favorite color taste like?
What it feels like when you don’t belong in a group of others. (do you want to belong or are you trying to stay an outcast? Play with the difference in those emotions.)
Start the first line of your poem with a word or phrase from a recent passing conversation between you and someone you don’t know. (it can be a simple, “how’s your day going?” from the clerk at the grocery check out line, or more intrusive like a “Have you found Jesus?” concern from a person on your front door step. Maybe it’s the “It’s called a blinker, jackass!” you hear from behind you in traffic (back in the day when we sat in traffic).
“We make out of the quarrel with others, rhetoric, but of the quarrel with ourselves, poetry.” –William Butler Yeats
I cannot believe it’s taken me nearly all month to remember that it is, in fact, National Poetry Month. I think I may have skimmed over something in the deluge of news clips and overthought, under-edited articles that pervade my cyber space, but in a world where days blend together, I nearly missed it.
You know what coming next, don’t you?
Oh,I’m not being lazy! It’s good practice!
And its more a matter of economy–I’ve got end-of-school projects due and a Black Belt Progress check this week, and therefore, my plate is a little full. So this week your exercise is simple. Go outside, mask it up if you find yourself in a bustling park, of course, but if it’s a deserted early morn, breathe the un fettered air, allow a scrap of paper and pen to tag along with you.
Take ten minutes of just being aware of the moment. What do you see? What do you hear? What do you feel? What do you smell? Use these observations and notice how they filter and affect the thoughts already on your mind. Have a quarrel with yourself and see what arguments emerge. What solutions? What epiphanies?
Then go find yourself a favorite place to sit and write me a poem.
I was going to give you some restrictions but I think we’ve all had enough of those. Any length, any form, rhyming or blatantly against, iambic pentameter–why the f%*k not? Limerick or Odyssey, dark or light, whatever is on the tip of your brain, no matter how sharp or dull.
Send them along, and let me know if you want me to include them in the weeks to come.
With all of the excitement of last week’s book release (oh my god, here’s a link! Go buy it, it’s fantastic! Impress all your friends with the cultured look of carrying around a poetry book–classy my friend, very classy: No Small Things: The Beautiful Stuff Poetry Anthology 2019-2020) and a very personally busy week, I missed last Thursday’s lesson.
That’s probably going to happen from time to time in the next few months. I am in a strange season in my life and coping with some heavy changes. Add to that work, kids, parents, and school and I’m lucky I even remember to put on pants in the morning.
So–there may be some weeks that come and go without my lovely presence streaming across the ‘universe’ at you, but rest assured, I’ll always come back. And here I am. So let us commence.
This weeks creative exercise is really short and easy so I’m asking that you do it twice.
1.) Pull out the dictionary
*Don’t have one? What? Shut the front door! Every household should have a dictionary. Fine. Ugh. Go online if you must to: Who Doesn’t Own a Dictionary?
2.) If you’re an actual writer with a dictionary (yeah, I said that…I don’t cut often but when I do, I cut deep) blow the dust off. If you’re using the internet, order a dictionary then continue on (free snark given to those not owning a dictionary)
3.) Flip to a random page and chose a random word. Read all about it, and then…
4.) Take that word, and the one before it and after it and compose a 500-1000-word short story using those three words.
Easy peasy lemon squeezy.
If you want a little something more, do it again (or use the same three) and write a poem using those words.
Okay, there you go. I’d better go put my old nose back to the grindstone. Happy Writing.
I know I’ve made a lot of empty promises and delays in this project, which is misleading because it is something so dear to my heart. But there have been life hiccups and unexpected formatting issues (one just last night that came to my attention and pushed back the release by a day!)
Needless to say, this project has been on the drawing board far longer than I anticipated.
But like all good things…sometimes you just have to love it (warts and all) and let it go. So, without further fanfare, I invite you to purchase and peruse “No Small Things: The Beautiful Stuff Poetry Anthology 2019-2020”, available later today at Amazon.
Thank you so much for your patience and support for all of the great poets who contributed. Share this around and help spread the love for artistic endeavor. Sometimes this life can be so ugly and harsh, we have to nurture the beautiful no matter how small.
If you are interested in purchasing a signed copy directly from me, please feel free to contact me via The Beautiful Stuff contact page or at firstname.lastname@example.org