Another poetry manifesto, from “Slow Speaking Lady”

I’ve been bitten by the Shutterfly bug.

Last semester, for my final project in poetry class, we had to make a chapbook.  Being the anti-procrastinator I am (not because I’m so good, but because I’m so forgetful), the day the project was assigned, I started my Life, Inverse chapbook on Shutterfly, and worked on it once a week till it was due.

It wasn’t just a poetry project, but an art project as well.  I also learned a little about graphic design throughout the process.  I had so much fun doing it, I decided to do another, using the book below (one of the required texts for our poetry class) for inspiration.

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Growing up in the Deep South, I am far from a “fast-speaking woman,” so I named mine “Slow-Speaking Lady.”

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A screenshot of the cover of the book. I stood in front of a glass door where the sun was shining through and created a silhouette of myself.

With every Shutterfly project, rather than a dedication page, I will include a foreword or manifesto.  The passage below is from this project.

Manifesto

In the spring of my third year of community college, I finally got to take the poetry class I’d been waiting a year for. Though I’d written massive amounts of poetry, I considered myself more poetic than an actual poet. I didn’t feel I had a mind for adult poetry, but rather a heart for children’s poetry (which mostly rhymes). It wasn’t until I took Jamey Jones’s class that my ears were opened to how rhyming can often limit what could be limitless. I also became more aware of the way poetry looked on a page.

I simply became more aware.

I like to say that through my health information technology classes, I learned more about healthcare, but through poetry, I learned about myself.

I became comfortable sharing very personal poetry, when before, I’d always held something back if I had to read aloud. I conquered, at one student poetry reading, my fear of public speaking (at least non-extemporaneously). I quit asking myself “Why?” and began asking “Why not?”

I changed my internal dialogue.

I became more comfortable in my own skin, even though I’ve always felt there was too much of it. I realized if I could be confident in my message, then I wouldn’t feel like I had to look like the perfect messenger.

I had the pleasure of seeing renowned poet Anne Waldman perform one night during that spring semester. Though I’m more of a fan of her than her poetry, I was inspired by her passion, which led me to analyze her work on a deeper level; I discovered a greater appreciation of it, which inspired me to write my own version of an autobiographical narrative in list form (a la Fast Speaking Woman).

Like in Disney’s unanimated version of Cinderella, I learned, when it comes to workshopping, to have courage and be kind. Have courage when reading your work, and be kind to the person whose work you are critiquing.

Poetry class helped me become more aware of poets I wouldn’t have read otherwise. I could only learn so much in one class, but that one class inspired me seek out the work of other poets, and appreciate not just the way it looks and reads, but also the way it sounds. Good teaching, I’ve learned, leads to self-teaching.

I will never stop learning; I will never stop writing.

I will never stop until my heart does, and by then, I will have a million little pieces of myself behind, for writing is the closest thing to immortality on earth.

For more on the inspiration behind this project:

https://sarahleastories.com/2017/04/23/about-myself-and-poetry-what-i-learned-at-an-anne-waldman-workshop/
https://sarahleastories.com/2017/04/23/makeup-on-empty-space-poetry-reading-night/

Writer’s Digest Wednesday Poetry Prompt #397: Land of (Blank)

If a New York minute is thirty seconds, then a Southern minute is ninety.
–from “Poplar Bluff: A Memoir”

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The Land of Dixie

Selling their messages on street corners are
Bible-bashers, cardboard-carrying hobos,
and dancing people wearing sandwich signs,
while cars plastered with Bible quotes
or slapped with a COEXIST bumper sticker,
coexist on the streets,
passing the temples of capitalism,
the cross-bearing churches that
capitalize on the guilty man’s soul,
seeking deep, silver-lined pockets.

The rapture’s coming soon for some
in this land of Deep South Protestantism,
where hearts are blest,
where everyone’s either saved or going to hell,
or just plain don’t know what the hell’s going on.

Pensacola Beach is the jewel,
set in fool’s gold turning green,
with its sand like ground pearls,
water vacillating between
emeralds and sapphires,
and homes the color of Jordan almonds.
The flip-flap-flopping of their footwear is their answer
to Australia’s slip-slap-slopping,
beating a rapid tattoo on the boardwalk.

Such paradise is everyone’s playground,
home to the earthly blest,
where few transplants are rejected,
their organs pumping the lifeblood
into the economy,
for which the tourists are both
donors and recipients.

I look around at my side of town,
at the heat waves shimmering off the asphalt,
the mud-filled potholes,
the never-ending road work;
I still see conflict and war,
deconstruction alongside reconstruction—
a rebirth of conservative nationalism.

I am home.

Note: Slip-slap-slop is a real thing: http://www.sunsmart.com.au/tools/videos/past-tv-campaigns/slip-slop-slap-original-sunsmart-campaign.html

http://www.writersdigest.com/whats-new/wednesday-poetry-prompts-397

For more on Pensacola:

https://sarahleastories.com/2014/02/19/daily-prompt-west-end-girls-2/
https://sarahleastories.com/2015/04/10/poem-a-day-writers-digest-challenge-9-theme-work/
https://sarahleastories.com/2016/11/23/poem-a-day-writers-digest-challenge-23-theme-when-blank/

Writer’s Digest Wednesday Poetry Prompt #396: Historical Persona

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“…well-behaved women seldom make history,” Laurel Thatcher Ulrich

This poetry prompt happened to coincide with a scholarship essay I started yesterday. The topic: A book that changed my life.

Sister Aimee: The Life of Aimee Semple McPherson, by Daniel Mark Epstein, was the book that changed my perspective on women serving as pastors.

For years, I was a member of a church that did not allow women to serve in the priesthood. I never had a problem with this, because if you don’t like a church’s policy, you’re free to leave it. (I didn’t leave for this reason, but for numerous others; however, that’s another story for another day.) I honestly didn’t have any desire to be ordained—enough demands were already made without that responsibility. I’m not the type to want something just because I can’t have it; I’m the type who says you can keep it.

I remember the reason behind this was explained quite eloquently: Women were innately more spiritual than men, and because they could bear children, men needed something to bring them closer to God, that being the priesthood. (Black men couldn’t be priesthood holders till 1978, so I’m thinking the policy on women will change in less than 100 years.)

I’ve always been one to follow the dictates of my own conscience, but one’s conscience is often clouded by the imperfect ideas of others. I realized the only reason it didn’t seem right for a woman to be a minister was because that’s what I had been taught.

I read this book because I was fascinated with the idea of a female evangelist—a twice-divorced woman and sometimes single mother who founded her own Church and helped feed the hungry in the depths of the Great Depression.

I think the illustrious life of Sister Aimee is summed up perfectly with this portion from an article by John Updike in The New Yorker:

She brushed aside the distinction between the “deserving” and the “undeserving” poor, and that between legal and illegal residents. One Mexican, the actor Anthony Quinn, who as a teenager acted as a translator for her, told an interviewer, “During the Depression . . . the one human being that never asked you what your nationality was, what you believed in and so forth, was Aimee Semple McPherson. All you had to do was pick up the phone and say, ‘I’m hungry,’ and within an hour there’d be a food basket there for you. . . . She literally kept most of that Mexican community . . . alive.” (http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2007/04/30/famous-aimee)

~

Ten Dollars and a Tambourine:

The Ballad of Sister Aimee

“True Christianity is not only to be good but to do good.” –Aimee Semple McPherson

I am an imperfect messenger,
relaying the perfect message.

I am the voice on the radio—
feminine flesh spreading the Word.

I am a widow, a mother,
a minister who feeds the hungry mouths,
who feeds the hungry soul.

I see the divinity in humankind—
the opposite of Darwin’s evolution—
where men and women are made in the image
of their Creator,
not the created.

I lost a husband in Hong Kong,
but gained a daughter.
My second husband gave me my second child—
my only begotten son.

I followed God,
but my husband did not follow me.

From tent to temple,
I preached that everybody is somebody to Jesus,
for everyone should matter to someone.

http://www.writersdigest.com/whats-new/wednesday-poetry-prompts-396

Note:  I seem to enjoy writing persona poems from the perspective of strong, conservative women.  Here is the home for my third-person persona poem on Grace Coolidge: https://sarahleastories.com/2016/01/26/writers-digest-wednesday-poetry-prompt-337-theme-persona-poem/

 

 

20 Things My Mother Taught Me: A Mother’s Day Message

Mom

  1. You don’t have to be a stay-at-home mom to be a good mom.  Dads are capable of raising children, too, just as women are capable of serving in wars.
  2. Do not repeat your parents’ mistakes.  My mom didn’t believe in whipping because she was whipped as a child, and it was always a dehumanizing experience. Contrary to conservative belief, my brother and I didn’t fear our parents and turned out to be good citizens and innately kind human beings.
  3. Just because you love your children differently, doesn’t mean you don’t love them equally.
  4. The military is a worthy career choice.
  5. Tell your daughter she’s pretty.  (Her parents never did and so she grew up believing she was ugly.)
  6. Cancer schmancer.  You get it a second time, you fight it a second time.  Fighting till the end doesn’t make one’s death any less “dignified.”
  7. Perfectionism can be a hindrance to starting and finishing things.
  8. If you want your kid to be a Christian, take them to church.  My mom has often said she regretted not being stronger about this with my brother.  Church attendance doesn’t make you a Christian, but it can help solidify the foundation poured at home.
  9. Kelly is not a girl’s name.  American girls stole it.  (My brother’s name is Kelly Morgan.)
  10. Even if your parents weren’t perfect, it is your duty to take care of them for raising you to maturity.
  11. It’s okay to get really pissed off and throw things.  Just don’t throw them at people.
  12. Let your child pursue that which moves them.  For my brother, it’s music; for me, it’s writing.  Encourage them.
  13. Empathy is one of the greatest of all virtues.
  14. If you have one good friend in a lifetime, you’re lucky.
  15. Marry who you want, regardless of what your parents think.
  16. Eat your meat well-done.  Her dad grew up on a farm and knew the deal.  If you look like a hick for ordering it that way, so be it.
  17. Don’t be afraid to accept help, even if that help is from the government (as long as you are trying to better yourself in the process, in which you will be paying it all back via taxes).
  18. Dad’s food might give you ringworm.
  19. I was a baby before I was born.
  20. Let your children know they can always come home if they need to.  Love really is an open door.

And this Sunday’s Instagram post, which seemed befitting the holiday:

Revive the art of conversation peg

She had them put down their devices
to get a CLUE over some CHESS pie.
Mom had the MONOPOLY on sociability
that night she took a RISK by shaking things up.
When they all made plans for another night,
she saw it hadn’t been a TRIVIAL PURSUIT.

Doubling up: Maximizing your writing, and more

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So I am getting ready to start summer school–another semester of work-study, a class I don’t care about, and Intermediate Algebra, which is very scary indeed.  I made a D in it about 15 years ago, and I allowed my fear of failure–that I wasn’t smart enough to finish college–keep me from finishing.

Like Buddy Sorrell on “The Dick Van Dyke Show,” who could make a joke out of any word (including “milk bath”), I can write a poem on the spot about any word, but algebra has always been the bane of my educational existence.

Except this time, I am so close, with only a handful of credits left before I can work as a copy writer somewhere in the medical field.

This time, I will have access to free, on-campus and virtual tutors.

This time, I will have a few hours a day at work to focus on this class I will never use again, but will help me get to wherever I am going–that place called Career Contentment. I don’t know where that is yet, for I am still following the map, but I have a pretty good idea of what I will be doing when I get there.

 

My time is more limited than ever now, so I’ve decided to cut most of my weekend posting (I’d just had enough of dealing with self-inflicted “homework” first thing in the morning).  The one exception is a single #SundayInspiration Instagram post (see bottom) with what I hope will be considered “thinking outside the candy box” (https://www.instagram.com/sarahleastories/?hl=en).

I’d forgotten I even had an account until a recent Facebook friend followed me, and I thought, well, I do have one of those phones now, and I can take a shot of virtually the same thing (which will help establish my “theme”).  I’d tried Pinterest, but it’s more for consumers than creators, and I like the cleaner, sleeker look of Instagram.  Pinterest also seems like it’s more for crafters than writers or photographers.  Furthermore, Instagram seems much more personal, more real.  It has a freshness Pinterest does not.

 

Streamlining your writing process is a form of minimalism, and it can help you focus on the more important aspects of writing (like improving your craft and getting paid).  It’s good to have a social media presence (any publisher expects this if you’re unknown), but the thing that will get you noticed is submitting, submitting, and submitting [quality] work.

 

Instead, I will be posting two writing “workshops” (basically, writing tips) the first and third Mondays of the month, and two book reviews the second and fourth Mondays (as I will be dropping the Micropoetry Monday segments at the end of the year).  The latter will help me read more (as I’ve been reading poetry this semester, mostly), and the workshops are bits I post on my Facebook author page, so they’re already “baked in.”

This is one way of maximizing your writing.  To come up with brand new content for every social network isn’t worth it, because chances are, your friends, fans, and followers won’t catch your post on every network anyway, so it won’t seem like you’re repeating yourself.

One Instagram post a week is much more doable than six a week on Twitter–that’s too much time taken away from submitting.  LinkedIn is limited, because it’s what I call “businessy-boring.”  I rarely write a post specifically for the network but if something I write works on there as well as my blog, I’ll post the whole piece on there (as people hate being redirected to another site).

LinkedIn is basically Facebook-lite, complete with memes.  All too often, I see “connections” sharing someone else’s quotation.  Have an original thought in your head, for goodness sakes!  It doesn’t do anything for your brand, only the person’s you are quoting.  Though I haven’t been guilty of posting such things, I have been guilty of sharing them.

 

For me, it’s all about creating content.  The only new blog post I have to create is on Wednesdays–the Writer’s Digest poetry prompt.  Fridays are taken care of, because the posts are based on my novel, rewritten in verse form (which I’ve decided to make a separate, promotional chapbook out of called Mormons on the Beach).

I plan on spending the writing part of my weekends writing new work, editing existing work, and submitting to publications.  I haven’t been doing enough of that lately, but then when I come home from work and school, my daughter’s just gotten off the bus and I only have about about three hours with her till it’s time for her to go to bed.  I need that time with her as much as she needs my attention.  If I didn’t have her, I’d be spending too much time clacking at my keyboard, my eyes glazed by the glow.

 

Social media has its place, but it should be used wisely and sparingly.  Though Twitter is the equivalent of a bathroom wall, it isn’t a complete waste of time, as one of my friends hooked up with a local philanthropist through it who self-published her book; I got a guest blogging gig.

As for WordPress, don’t waste time reblogging (people never return the favor), unless you’re reblogging your own guest post.  Don’t waste valuable real estate on your blog with someone else’s work.  Again, this is elevating their brand, not yours.

What’s more, it’s one thing to use stock photos on your blog (I balked for the longest time, but I’m just a fair photographer with a lousy camera), but photography is Instagram’s focus (pun intended).  Strive for authenticity.

 

The moral of this post:  Write, edit, and submit–that’s the real work.  That social media stuff is a hobby.  A blog is the best of both worlds–a hybrid, of sorts.  Someday, I hope it will make me money (either directly or indirectly), but in the meantime, I’m having lots of fun doing it.

Below:  My first Instagram post

Improvise Dove #1

Her life was one of improvisation—
of the kind of spontaneity
that, unlike planned events,
made the event itself,
not the planning,
more fun.

My Poetry Manifesto

So we’re making chapbooks for our final project in our poetry class, and I’m taking the easy (but more expensive) route–I’m doing mine on Shutterfly because I’m not that crafty yet.

Our professor wanted us include our manifesto on poetry, and so this is mine:

Manifesto

I grew up on Mother Goose and Eugene Field, in the voice of my father.

As I matured, I turned to longer works; it wasn’t till I had my firstborn that my love for such rhyme and whimsy was reawakened.

“I have fed you with milk, and not with meat” (1 Corinthians 3:2). My dad had fed me the milk, nourishing me so that I could hunt for my own meat. Many years would pass before I realized I had been brought up on one of the most influential books of poetry the world has ever known: The Holy Bible.

That book has illuminated my being with its powerful message: that we are fearfully and wonderfully made, and are of inherent worth, for “ye are bought with a price” (1 Corinthians 7:23). That value is something no one can ever take away.

As I entered adolescence, I discovered Poe, Tennyson, and Frost–the classics–but it wasn’t until I took a college level poetry course that I began to appreciate adult, non-rhyming poetry.

And it was when I began to recite at and attend poetry readings that poetry became alive–something not just to be seen, but heard.

Poetry, for me, is a distilled form of literature, a purer form of language. It is life with the water taken out, and yet it flows like the blood of the one who wrote it.

Above all else, poetry has been, for me, the way to express all the things I could never say.

Dad

Me and my dad, circa 1982, who always read to me not from books, but from loose pages with illustrations, and who taught me to say “Three foul balls in a tub” instead of “three men in a tub” (on “Rub-a-dub-dub”)

Poem-a-Day 2017 Writer’s Digest Challenge #26. Theme: Regret

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Almond Pistachio

So I was sitting in the car with my daughter,
the secondhand light from the windshield
warming my face,
even as the breeze from the open windows
cooled it,
waiting for my husband to return with his
self-medicating bourbon,
all the while planning Easter dinner,
trying to think of springy foods,
thinking a pistachio dessert would be just that,
being green.

And it was then,
like a flash of lightning,
I remembered Joey had loved
almond pistachio ice cream,
for we had went to the parlor once,
where I always got chocolate mint,
which was unnaturally green.

Overcome, I was, with this memory,
which fails me often,
for people will come up to me,
and I will walk with them in stores,
not knowing who they are.

Seven years too late,
seven years too late I waited,
to tell this boy,
now a man,
how sorry I was
for shamelessly using his glorious body,
well-endowed by our Creator,
to forget the man whose heart
was cold to me
because I fit not the Molly Mormon mold.

Seven years gone from this earth,
and I never even knew,
thinking, every once in a great while,
that we would run into each other someday,
and I could love him as a friend,
as I hadn’t been able to love him as a boyfriend.

My Joey—
with the Elvis sideburns and
the smile that would cause women of all ages
to throw piles of money on the tables he waited—
this boy whose love for me was lusty and pure,
who could’ve given me lots of children,
but I wouldn’t have had the one who is in the back seat,
chattering away in echolalia,
because the love I have for the one I have
is priceless against the ones I could have had.

Because of her,
I’ve no regrets,
save for a kindness owed.

This ice cream memory
struck me like lightning.
I pray it will strike twice,
for I am torn apart with grief
for this boy I know now
I could have loved.

I ask God
to tell Joey I am sorry—
to tell him that I had cared
and not known it
after all.

Herstory almost repeated itself,
for I almost lost my second chance
at a Joey-like love,
because I was in love with another man
when I met my husband,
and time was running out;
for what, I did not know,
but I married the man who loved me back,
just as I should have done
all those years ago.

2017 April PAD Challenge: Day 26