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

flower-994933_960_720.jpg

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

Makeup on Empty Space: Poetry Reading Night

“Poetry can be a transmission to help you notice things.”
–Anne Waldman, 22 April 2017, Pensacola State College, at The Lyceum

Last night, I attended a poetry reading by poet, Anne Waldman, whose workshop I attended Friday.  I don’t write about these things so much to report, but rather to highlight the impact the event had on me.

anne.jpg

Anne’s son, Ambrose Bye, played the piano, which added to the ambiance, and behind them, flashed images of what she called a “family album”, or “honorary album”–pictures of poets, brain diagrams (which the medical student in me appreciated), indigenous peoples, nature (and perhaps environmental devastation–I’m not sure), so one could say that Anne had the three “poeias” down (words, music, images). 

One of the lines that captured me was “her century needed her to see above the height of the grass” which conjured up images of antitheses to anti-Christs (the latter who may always come in the form of a man).

Her poetry was written (and performed, rather than recited) in a woman’s spirit.  It wasn’t even her words so much that moved me, but the musicality of her words.  At heart, I am a storyteller; I like characters, and so many of my poems read like stories, so I saw, or rather heard, the expression of poetry in a new way.

The only thing that wasn’t for me were the chants, because it reminded me of speaking in tongues (except hers weren’t creepy).

She opened with singing the “Anthropocene Blues,” which sounded like an old-time religion church hymn.  (Btw, anthropocene is the name for the geological time we’re living in, where mankind has a significant impact on the environment.)

She also spoke on the theme of “archive,” which she defined as “an antithesis to a war on memory.”  We are living in a technological age where our words will be out there forever, which makes me very happy as a writer, but probably wouldn’t if I were a politician.  Politicians often wage a “war on memory” by trying to con their constituents/employers, saying they never said (insert inflammatory statement) if they did, as there is usually video to back it up.

Her poem on suffering was recited in a way that made me think of bullets being shot or bombs being dropped in rapid succession.  No, we don’t want to be seen as the age when people were killing each other or destroying the planet, though every age since the beginning of time can claim the mantle of the former.  We just have the power now to execute the latter.

One of Anne’s refrains was “pushing against the darkness”; I think of poetry as a way of illuminating the world.  It is the color where there is only black-and-white.  (The movie Pleasantville comes to mind.)

She recited what she called a “feminist love poem” about the g-spot (reminiscent of an apostrophe poem), which she described as a “genie trapped in a bottle.”

I concur.

I learned that the manatee is related to the elephant, and what human doesn’t love a herbivorous animal and one that won’t kill you for the hell of it?  She made a good point about man having no use for the manatee, which I took as an allegory for how humans judge one another’s worth–by their perceived usefulness or productivity (even to them).

Because racehorses have use for man, men breed them.

There was a question-and-answer session at the end, and, as Jamey Jones, the local Poet Laureate put it, “Anne really cares.”  She believes in her work, and that poets can change the world.

I will say that it already has, for is not the Bible a book of poetry?  Does that mean something has to be packaged as religion, or absolute truth, to change the world?

Something to think about.

About myself, and poetry: What I learned at an Anne Waldman workshop

“Out of a very small thing you can create a whole world…it can be as modest as a book of matches.”
–Anne Waldman, 21 April 2017, Pensacola State College

Yesterday, I had the privilege of attending a poetry workshop given by world-renowned poet, Anne Waldman (http://www.annewaldman.org/).  My poetry class, taught by local Pensacola Poet Laureate, Jamey Jones, is studying “Fast Speaking Woman.”

I must admit, my initial reaction of “Woman” was one of bewilderment.  It was like a book of spells, or chants.  However, upon recursive reading, and especially after reading it aloud in class, I grew to appreciate this pocket book of list poems (and essays) in the same way I appreciate Shakespeare.

I see “Woman” as performance poetry–something to be shared, not read in solitude.  It is a sort of litany of the “every woman.”

sarah

Me, holding my autographed copy.  This will be the first textbook since I’ve been in college I’ve chosen to keep.

I think the problem with poetry is that only other poets (or faculty from English Departments) read it or listen to it, unlike novels, which even the worst non-writers will read.

Perhaps it’s because one can speed through a book and “get it,” but with poetry, one must slow down (even if the poet is a “fast-speaking woman”).  We live in a world where captions and headlines are the most read items in the newspapers.

I say, I’ve never been interested in being part of a book club, but there is something about poetry that brings people together.  It connects people in a way books do not–perhaps because of the very personal nature of the art form.  Books are inside me, but I am inside my poems.

Poetry is my aura.

One thing I learned before Anne arrived is that one doesn’t miss out on anything by arriving early, because I met Robin, an artist (see below), who did a phenomenal pen ink drawing of Anne.

Now, why do I write and not draw?  Because I can’t hit backspace.  Perhaps that’s the perfectionist in me, for I won’t even read my articles after they’re published in the student newspaper out of fear I will catch a typo.

painting

Robin, having presented Anne Waldman with her portrait.

Even though I am majoring in Health Information Technology, I need writing in my life to help me stay awake enough to do the work that will help me support my family, even as the arts support me.

~

We are living in an exciting time.  “We’re all feeling the interconnectedness of our world,” Anne said.  She went on to talk about multiverses and exoplanets, and all the information and knowledge (or access to knowledge) available to us.  Even just learning a new word has inspired me to write an entire work.

Furthermore, she said it was an exciting time to be an investigative, or field, poet, but as for me, I will stick to writing about “the verities,” or the things that transcend time.

Though my primary focus is a career in one of the STEM fields, art is (almost) as essential to me as breathing, for can you imagine a life without art or music or poetry?  Such are like that last moment of twilight.

Anne said, “I want to live in a reality where I can create another world.”  This resonated with me.  Perhaps growing up in near poverty, I, like Francie Nolan (A Tree Grows in Brooklyn), created multiple universes I could slip into at will.  I didn’t just slip through time and space, but through time and space.  I could be anywhere, any time. This was my way of “having it all,” and all at once.

~

Anne had us write a genealogy poem (how many times have I had to tell people I am NOT named after the cake and pie lady?).  The fun was in the sharing.

She also taught us of the three “poieias” (which I had never heard of because I am not an egghead, though I wish I were):

Logopoeia:  words
Melopoiea:  music
Phanopoeia:  image

She explained the philosophy (rather than the structure, which I’ve always found to be a bit of a drag) of a haiku:

Heaven (5 syllables)
Earth (7 syllables)
Man (5 syllables; man connects the first two lines)

I appreciate this form now (though my Irish heart will always have a fondness for the limerick).

I also learned about different poetic art forms, where it isn’t just about content, but the way the words look on a page.  She mentioned a poet (whose name I cannot remember) who wrote a poem about rain, the words written like rain dripping down the page.

One of the scribblings produced from this came to me in the form of a mere “thought poem,” which I call, “A New Era.”

download.png

I like the idea of “creating something beyond your own lifetime,” as Anne said.  That’s one of the many reasons I love technology, for I like to think of my blog as a portal to earthly immortality.  Long after I die and my soul has been perfected in one of God’s many mansions, I pray that my stories will live on in this alternate universe we call cyberspace.

~

“The purpose of art is to help the world wake up to itself,” Anne said.

My art has awakened me to myself.  I am not quite the same person I was when I went back to school more than two years ago at the age of thirty-two, as a newlywed and new mom.  I’ve gained some self-confidence that was lacking.  I’ve conquered, for the most part, my fear of public speaking; my motto has become, “Aw, what the hell?”

It has served me well.

 

From Literature to Journalism: Writing for Two

DSCF6339

Last week, I got to read my poem, “When the World Went Deaf,” to a group of student artists and faculty at the unveiling of The Kilgore Review. Ironically, I was asked to read the piece that didn’t win last year’s collegiate writing contest and not the piece that won, which was a short story I had originally written for myslexia magazine (a UK publication).

Figuring it was a quintessential American story, I submitted it to the writing contest, because what college students wouldn’t want to read about what happens when a girl sneaks in pot brownies and spikes the punch at a Mormon potluck?

It was a humor story, of course, which has become my favorite to write (as well as read). I’ve found that during my time in college, I am not only evolving as a person, but also as a writer and speaker/storyteller.

Creative writing will always be my first love, because I don’t have to depend upon anyone else to give me the story; if I do need to conduct research, I can find it with a few clicks.

I will always be a writer first, a reporter second, but more on that later.
Last time I read my poetry, I opened with a joke. This time, I ended the reading explaining what inspired the poem, which adds context and a more personal touch.
I have unilateral hearing loss, and I know I’ve missed out on things (which is why I am a shameless eavesdropper.) I probably look quite apt when someone is speaking, because I have to make a conscious effort to listen. That’s why I don’t notice people snoring behind me–I am too focused on what’s in front of me.

On “When the World Went Deaf,” I wondered what life would be like, how humans would adapt, if everyone was like me, more than I was like me (i.e. completely deaf). The film Perfect Sense, which epitomizes the cliché, “poetry in motion,” also inspired me.
I made sure to plug my story; when you use the words Mormons and pot (and mention that it was a first-place winner), you just might get people to read it.

I invited my mom because there was free food, and it was nice to have someone there who loved me with me. When my husband tells me he’s proud of me, it means a lot, but it doesn’t carry the same weight as when my parents say it; it’s not because I love them more, it’s just that way (I think) because we all have an inner child that never grows up.
We grow up, innately wanting to please our parents.

~

The next day was our journalism workshop.

So this Michael Koretzky (http://www.koretzky.com/) was the VIP, wearing a Che Guevera shirt (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Che_Guevara) with a monocle hanging from his neck. As soon as I saw him, I thought, this guy looks a bit intimidating (I usually only see other women as intimidating).

Within the first ten minutes, I could tell he was the type of person to psychoanalyze you, and that puts me on my guard. He didn’t care about our names–he just wanted to know what we did for the paper (some people didn’t know!), where we saw ourselves in 5-10 years (some were still figuring that out), and our favorite genetic/communicable disease (I chose Huntington’s chorea, because I’ve written two poems on it). https://sarahleastories.com/2015/04/02/poem-a-day-writers-digest-challenge-2-theme-secret/.

Some he referred to by our “favorite” diseases (glad I chose one most non-medical students have never heard of), but never by our name. I’m the type of person who feels humanized when people use my name, so I wasn’t crazy about this tactic, but it was creative. It did spark some interesting conversation, so perhaps that was the intent.

He said the people who had quick answers are those who are always reassessing what others think about them. I’m not sure that’s true, but I will say I don’t always ask certain questions because of the Mark Twain quote about opening your mouth and looking like a fool, so maybe there was a little bit of truth to that. I don’t even like it when my husband reads me, but that’s the poker player in him. I don’t like to be studied (just admired).

Ten years ago, I would’ve burst into tears when he pulled up my story on green living and said it was good writing, but shitty reporting (which I still don’t understand, as I had three good student quotes on things they did to be more environmentally-conscious). However, I didn’t have any pictures, and that is something I’ve learned–take your own or arrange for a photographer. Instead, a bunch of lame graphics/clipart were used, and I think that’s something we need to get away from.

But on the shitty reporting. I will be the first to admit, I am much more a writer than I am a reporter. I am still learning, but reporting includes stills and video now I still think the reporting was good, but what I gathered was that I was supposed to find someone on campus who did something outlandish to be green; I would then profile that one person, and I say, I much prefer to prearrange to interview one person than go out and get quotes from strangers. I like in-depth profiles, but where to find these people? My eyes and ears are wide open–maybe I should hang around the biology department. I don’t know. I think what I need to do is find the story, rather than write the story, and build the narrative around it.

Koretzky went into detail about all the different ways you could write for companies without being a journalism major. That would be something I would do freelance, but my primary career will be working in a hospital or clinic in an administrative capacity until my creative writing pays off (i.e. I become a best-selling novelist or win the lottery and buy a million copies of my book).

I like writing “the verities” that Pulitzer Prize-nominated columnist Rheta Grimsley Johnson (http://www.rhetasbooks.com/new-columns.html), who visited our Corsair class, talked about. I write the kind of writing that transcends time.

That said, I believe all kinds of writing are important, and so I want to become better. Reporting has helped me become more comfortable with others, and learn how to ask good questions. I’ve had experiences writing for the paper I would never have gotten just writing my own thing. I am not a news junkie, which I believe you must be if you want to be a journalist.

However, I wouldn’t mind writing for a newspaper as a correspondent on a freelance basis, or what I call citizen journalism.

I never have a problem with finding ideas for my writing, but for my reporting–that is a challenge.

So even though I don’t want to become a journalist, I want to become the best reporter I can become while doing it for the paper.

Koretzky helped us discover that our largest problem was communication. We don’t always make the meetings or collaborate; most of us work independently. I prefer to just write the story and let them do with it what they may. I don’t hang out in the Corsair office; I already work in an office all day during work-study. I prefer to work remotely, but I do show up for the meetings. However, I do need face-time once in awhile. The only thing that drives me crazy is when the meeting doesn’t start on time and its just dead time, wasted time.

The workshop was a good (if lengthy) experience; I learned a great deal and got more motivated. Did you know that group photos suck because they’re boring? Journalism doesn’t have to be fair. There was a great shot of a girl in the geology club climbing a rock, and it wasn’t used, but rather a posed group shot was. I am also a fan of including negative space in a photo and overlaying text in that space, because I do that with my poetry sometimes. (I call it “phoetry,” which is just a little too precious.)

One of his best lines was about talking about your own media–not someone else’s. We all discuss our favorite shows on Netflix, books we’re reading, etc. Let’s give that same attention to the content we create.

Poem-a-Day 2017 Writer’s Digest Challenge #10. Theme: Travel

Considering I just returned from a journalism field trip yesterday (explaining my delay), “travel” was a timely theme.

Sunday and Monday, our Corsair group (The Corsair is the Pensacola State College newspaper: http://ecorsair.com/movie-review-like-water-for-chocolate/) went to Tallahassee to attend the “Word of South” festival and tour the old and new capital buildings. We also got to talk to a lobbyist about guns on campus and educational funding, and visit the Tallahassee Democrat, the last of which was the best part of the trip, as we got to talk to student reporters of the FSView (the Florida State University student paper) and the editor of the Democrat. We also got to see how newspapers were made, and though I love the look and feel of a print paper, I don’t believe print (books, perhaps, but not periodicals) will be around in 100 years.

I learned that degrees matter, but majors don’t have to lock you into a field. Just because I’m majoring in health information technology doesn’t mean I must work in the healthcare field. I would still love to work at Sacred Heart Hospital (I’ve always said I’d rather work in a cold hospital rather than a hot kitchen), but if I could work for a newspaper, writing about the healthcare field (perhaps with a human-interest slant/angle) I would like that even more. People who write don’t just write—they are doctors, lawyers, politicians, pilots, business people, etc. I’m a writer who happens to be majoring in something that is more medical coding than creative writing.

A question I asked on the trip was if this editor only hired journalism majors. He basically said he would hire any person with expertise, provided they could write well about it. (One of the ladies who worked there was a theatre major.) Everyone I know believes I am an English major, and I guess you could say I had gone after what I was supposed to want, not what I really wanted, because I was afraid what I really wanted wouldn’t pay the bills, but this was something I had to find out for myself. I live my life without regrets—pursuing this medical degree has brought me to where I am now, and I love where I am now.

I had this life plan all mapped out, and even though the map is constantly being redrawn, it isn’t frustrating—it’s liberating. Life is a process, always.

hassee

Tallahassee, 10 Apr 2017

She thought she had come too far to change her mind,
but the choice she had made for the good of her family,
would not limit the choices she could make;
for majors did not determine the only thing she could do—
it simply paved the way to greater things.

http://www.writersdigest.com/whats-new/2017-april-pad-challenge-day-10

 

Poem-a-Day 2017 Writer’s Digest Challenge #1. Theme: Reminiscing

This “personal geography” poem was originally named, “Life, in Five Acts” (like a Shakespearean play).

The stanzas below were merely abstract introductions to much longer stanzas of a seven-page, narrative poem.

slc

Timeline

Spain: 1987
I lost half a sense,
which may have saved all the rest.

Saved: 1996
I lived with myself,
and knew not who I was.

Montana: 2003
I was Molly Mormon,
looking for Peter Priesthood.

Utah: 2004
I lost my faith,
but reclaimed my creativity.

Brian: 2013
And so a woman must leave her family
to create one of her own.

Hannah: 2013
I led her to milk,
but she would not drink.

College: 2014
I feared our future,
so I changed my present.

http://www.writersdigest.com/whats-new/2017-april-pad-challenge-day-1