Where Have You Been, Activist Poet?

Yes, I know. It’s been months and months since I posted anything. To be honest, I’ve been wrestling with several questions about my writing and where it is headed. Originally, I created this blog to provide a space to push out my poetry. Then I started worrying that posting it here might make it less likely to have it published elsewhere, such as literary journals or magazines, many of which require completely original never-before-published work. Then I started wondering if it was a good idea to make my poetry available for free when it’s possible to be compensated for it. While pondering these questions (and more), I decided to push “pause” on this blog for awhile.

At the end of April I traveled  to Taos, New Mexico to participate in a week-long, intensive women’s writing retreat led by the wonderful and talented Jennifer Louden. My original intention was to make good headway on a poetry collection. And I did write a few poems while I was there.

Taos PuebloBut something happened during my time in Taos. Maybe it was the powerful, spiritual energy that flows through the community, from the Pueblo to the mountains, and into the town itself. Maybe it was the enthusiastic encouragement of 20+ brilliant women writers, who were also extending beyond their creative comfort zones, supported by Jen’s and Lisa Jones‘ gentle coaching. Maybe it was the fantastic food at the Mabel Dodge Luhan home, where our retreat was located. Maybe it was the the vast New Mexican sky, the labyrinth gracing the property, the daily afternoon gentle yoga, or the rabbits and hummingbirds roaming around. Or maybe, just maybe, it was the intentional turning off of my cell phone and the deliberate avoidance of email and news.

Whatever the catalyst (perhaps all of the above?), my focus shifted in Taos. It shifted away from writing poetry and towards a new, creative project (“The Project,” I now call it), so magnetically compelling I can’t stay away from it for very long or else I start feeling unsettled.  The Project is a novel, a work of historical fiction based on the life of my husband’s grandmother, who at the age of 9, became a refugee during the 1915 Armenian genocide in Turkey. The Project requires a lot of my time and energy–the research alone is massively challenging. After years of mostly technical writing, I’m learning that the process of creating good, quality fiction is hard. Really hard.

Oh, I’m still an activist. And I’m still a poet. But my writing is starting to tell me I could be so much more. Stay tuned….

Blessings

affection appreciation decoration design
Photo by Carl Attard on Pexels.com

Thanksgiving marks the beginning of my annual “season of reflection.” From Thanksgiving to New Year’s Eve, I spontaneously start evaluating the past year and planning for the year ahead. I think about what brings me joy, and start letting go of the things that don’t so I have more time for the things that do.  I assess progress on the past year’s goals, and if the progress is underwheming, determine whether the goal is still important enough to keep pursuing.  I debate with myself over whether to make New Year’s Resolutions or not. (I inevitably do.)

I usually start my season of reflection by counting my blessings.  (Thanksgiving provides the perfect reminder.)  This year I have so many blessings, it will take most of the weekend to tally them all. But I’m willing to give it the old college try.  Today I am grateful for:

  • dear family and friends
  • almost full moons
  • financial security and a home with no mortgage
  • butchers who don’t laugh when I ask them to spatchcock the turkey for me
  • literacy
  • small kindnesses like my neighbor’s willingness to walk my dog because my hip is acting up
  • the taste of fresh Meyer lemons plucked from my own tree
  • warm fleece jackets to ward against the cooler autumn nights
  • finding the perfect joke gift to give my husband for his birthday
  • plenty of books to read, and more being written for me to read in the future….

And most importantly, I feel blessed that you have stopped by to read my blog today. Thank you! May your blessings be too many to count. Happy Thanksgiving.

“These Are Not Times to Hide”

I’ve been so overwhelmed lately. Overwhelmed by the violence. Overwhelmed by the hate. Overwhelmed by both the “ends justify the means” political rhetoric of the man who sits in the White House and the complicit silence of Republican leaders in response. I’m an introvert, so my natural tendency when overwhelmed is to retreat. But as Amy Ferris wrote so eloquently last Friday, “…these are not times to hide.” Thank you, Amy, for helping me break free of my little cocoon. Next Tuesday is Election Day. May decency prevail. May democracy prevail. May we all break free from our little cocoons and raise a ruckus to make it so.

Cocoon

Darkness surrounding, enveloping
Ensuring security, safety in being alone
Black walls block distractions
Provide protection
No judgements, no shaming
Nothing inhibiting penetrates

Breathe in courage, building
Breathe out fear, releasing
Emergence is coming
Dimness yielding to light
Inner power too much to contain

Almost there

Time to go

 

 

 

Tired from the Week? Try Being Still.

It’s Friday and I’m tired. On days like these it’s hard to write, hard to do anything except (a) think about when I may be able to fit in a nap or (b) find a quiet place to watch nature do its thing.  When I take the time to be still, I experience some pretty amazing things. Like this….

Hummingbird

A hummingbird sits
One bird of paradise on another
At rest
Before the day’s whirring begins

She watches
Longing to rest and be still as the bird

But the bird is not still
It shifts its gaze…left…right…up…back and forth
Alert for potential threats and opportunities
Wings ready for flight in response to either

One last sip of coffee
One last sip of nectar
As both take flight into the promise of the day

animals_hero_birdofparadise-story

Releasing the Rage

I learned to suppress my emotions at an early age.  My mother was a master at such suppression and I was determined not to replicate my father’s explosive temperament.  For too long, women have been criticized for being “too emotional,” as if passionate feelings are a bad thing.  Such criticism continues to be a primary weapon used to maintain women’s oppression. That’s why men in power resort to labeling women protesters as an “angry mob,” then turn around and praise each other’s anger as being “strong and forceful.”   Such double standards enrage me.

“Well behaved women seldom make history,” said Laurel Thatcher Ulrich. Perhaps overcoming our fears and releasing our rage is the best way for us to make history now.  Although I wrote this poem in February, it seems particularly relevant today.

RAGE

Rage…
Hot steam billowing up
Smashing against lids of self-control
Teary droplets unable to fall
Opening would bring needed release

But

she

is

afraid

Afraid of being scalded by her volcanic emotions
Afraid of being burned by others all over again

 

 

 

Your Vote Is Your Voice

Sometimes I have trouble finding my voice as a writer–until something really bothers me. It is then, in the midst of frustration, anger, disappointment, sadness, disbelief, shock…that words flow almost effortlessly from my pen to paper.  Writing is one way I use my voice.  Voting is another.

You may have heard that there’s an election coming up in the United States. (And if you haven’t heard, where have you been? I may want to go there some day!) It’s tempting to think our vote doesn’t count, but I know from experience that’s not true.  I have witnessed a mayor’s race in a medium-sized city be decided by only 11 votes.  Some races have ended in a tie, causing candidates to draw straws or roll a die to determine the winner. Anyone else remember those close Bush v. Gore hanging chad results that had to be resolved by the Supreme Court? Our democracy requires “we the people” to have a voice in deciding who represent our interests.  We have a voice in determining what kind of nation America will be through our elected representatives.  Our vote is that voice.

The voter registration deadline has already passed in many states  (including Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan, Mississippi, New Mexico, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Tennessee and Texas), and will close tomorrow in a few others (New York, North Carolina, Oklahoma).  Depending on where you live, it may not be too late to register. In most cases it can be done online. Visit vote.org for a state-by-state directory of deadlines and requirements. The clock is ticking, so don’t wait.

The only time your vote doesn’t count is when you don’t cast it. And you can’t cast it if you aren’t registered.

Vote is Voice

Only a Survivor

In April of 2018 I published an essay about a sexual assault I experienced in college and why I stayed silent about it for 40 years.  This was long before the topic of sexual assault became so politically charged.  I shared my story because I wanted to let other silent survivors know they are not alone, and to point out several factors inherent in our society that make it difficult for women to come forward.  In the months since, I was overwhelmed by the love and support shown by both friends and strangers. The response was universally positive.  Until yesterday.  Continue reading “Only a Survivor”