Reminding You Once Again…

THAT YOU TOO HAVE A BODY!

Why am I bringing this up again?  Because I needed to remember.  As a writer, I have an infatuation with what I’m writing.  Some days, it’s more like a full-blown love affair.  One path leads to another…the infinite possibilities unfold.  The mind with its cornucopia of delightful discoveries, corners to turn, ideas to share!

However, that said, I forgot, once again, that I have a body with needs besides food, drink and rest.

My body needs and thrives on movement.  When I grant this request, everything in me is refreshed and my body feels celebrated. I enjoy walking in nature, some types of yoga, qi gong, tai chi and dance.  What about you?  Have you remembered to meet your body’s requirements for movement?

 

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When it comes to dance , another favorite is THE WAVE popularized by GABRIELLE ROTH.  Google it.  The Five Rhythms explores core rhythms of life itself–Flow, Staccato, Chaos, Lyrical and Stillness.  Check it out.  Perhaps there are corresponding rhythms with writing.  What do you think?

Movement Prompt:  Ask your body self what it craves as far as physical activity right now.  Pay attention.  It’s so worth it!

Haiku Haven

A friend recently said that he liked haiku because they were short enough for him to memorize.  He delighted in writing haiku that did not make sense.  He then recited them to acquaintances who were left perplexed by his Haiku Koans.

Another friend, upon waking, writes haiku as she greets the new day…it has become her morning ritual.  This was also my routine for awhile.  When writing haiku, I enjoyed the feeling of presence. The early morning was a good time to write as I left the dreamworld and entered the waking world.  I could invoke both states, it seemed.

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A brief introduction to haiku.  So far as we know, haiku originated in Japan.  Short poems, usually three lines long, haiku have a total of 17 syllables…5 syllables in the first line, 7 syllables in the second line and 5 syllables in the third line.  Traditional haiku usually contained a season word that indicated in which season the haiku was set.  The season word isn’t always obvious.  Haiku are little philosophical gems, sometimes with humor.  They can describe almost anything.  Often, they describe daily situations in a refreshing way–creating a new experience of something familiar.  It is always amazing to me that some poetic forms, such as haiku, endure.

Following are a few of my haiku–I allowed myself to veer slightly off 5-7-5 for the sake of meaning:

Springs animation
Mocks her skeletal cage
Risk taken, spirit leaps.

I’ve a perfect view
Of life through eyes that see
The world as it could be.

When summer fades to fall
As love fades into friendship
where does the heart call home?

Tea in the morning
Leaves, twigs, roots, flowers
Connect one to origins.

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Here are a few haiku from the masters:

Spring Cobalt Ocean…
Across snow-white mountains fly
black returning birds         (Shiki)

Daffodils
and a white paper screen
reflect each other’s color     (Basho)

I envy the tom cat
how easily he let’s go of
love’s pain and longing!     (Etsujin)

Divorced and lonely,
she walks to the field
to help plant seedlings     (Buson)

I climb into bed
and then take my socks off.
How lazy I’m getting !     (Shiki)

Note:  In translating haiku from Japanese to English, it is challenging to get both the meaning and the syllable count.  

The simplicity of haiku, with its ability to evoke images (and possibly a culture) in a few short lines, is appealing.

WRITING PROMPT:
In writing your own haiku, strive to “give a newcrow
experience of something familiar”.  Try to adhere
to the 5-7-5 syllables (or as close as you can get to
it).  Take a few deep breaths, get present with
your surroundings and drop into this now moment.
Write from this place.  Stand up, look out a window.
Where do your eyes land…write a few more haiku.

 

Writing Your Prayer

Writers write.  They write in their journals.  They write letters, stories, poetry, questions, lists; they write about curiosities, experiences, circumstances, politics, religion, sex, love, doubts, fears, hopes and dreams, you name it.  They write it all down. This gives them a bit of relief not to have things rattling around in their heads. Writing something down, preferably in a journal or in a notebook, they collect their creative ideas, often on a scrap piece of paper.

Lately, we’ve seen on the news, read about and experienced all sorts of natural disasters wreaking havoc across our planet.  And we are witnessing political games gone awry in our own and other counties.  Within ourselves and our families, there is hurt and uncertainty, growing pains, grief.

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In addition to what I do creatively, I turn to prayer. And I find that sometimes, writing down a prayer, a petition, a request to a Higher Power helps me to let go of where I feel powerless…that surrender to a higher wisdom with the greater good in mind. Surrender is rarely easy, but once I truly give something over, I do feel a lightening of sorts.

How to write your prayer? No one can tell you how to write your personal prayer. I won’t try…I’ll only invite you to write one that truly reflects who you are and what you feel, need and desire in these times–for yourself, others, the earth.

The Eagle is a prayer-poem written by Joy Harjo. I memorized this poem many years ago.  It begins:
“To pray, you open your whole self to the sky to the earth to the sun to the moon
to one whole voice that is you and know that there is more that you can’t see, can’t hear, can’t know except in moments steadily growing and languages that aren’t always sound but other circles of motion.”

Have a peaceful day.

Practice Doesn’t Mean Perfection

I’ve been practicing how to draw and paint faces.IMG_9403

As a ripening artist, I fall in love with each painting…even when it is far from perfect.  Like this one.  Learning a new technique taught by Sara Burch in Paint Your Heart and Soul‘s year-long online painting and creativity course, I realize that one eye is larger and a bit lower than the other.  Yet, this painting captures something for me that I was having trouble expressing in words.  This painting helped me to bring some disparate feelings together.

Learning and practicing a new technique was the primary purpose of this new-to-me process.   Perhaps there is a time and place to strive for excellence (rarely perfection?) or even one’s personal best.  As I am learning, there has also got to be plenty of room for play, experimentation and error…sometimes happy accidents.

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With writing, is it any different?  Writers strive for perfection as they craft their prose or poetry.  Do they ever reach it?  Levels of perfection are relative, it seems.  For with any final piece preparing to leap into the world, the writer decides, at some point, to let it go.  This is not based solely on whether a piece is “good enough”.  There is an inner sense of completion.  What wants to be said has been said in a way that is “kin” to the writer.  In using the word kin in this way, I intend that the writer has expressed him or herself in a way that is unique, particular or inherent.  When that goal is reached, then a painting or piece of writing can feel complete and ready to be launched.

When you write about someone, you look for the dissonant detail.  Perhaps this is also reflected in your greater body of work–that you allow the dissonant details into your writing thereby,  making a work your own.  Those details–which could be seen as imperfections–mark your work in some way.  Those details reveal to the reader “your style”.  Offering your work, with all of its perceived blemishes, does make one feel vulnerable.

Contemplation:
Do you find fulfillment in practicing your art or craft?  Are you tolerant of “mistakes” as you learn? Are you patient with your development as a writer or artist?  Can you spot the dissonant details in your work that make it stand out as YOURS?

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“Staying vulnerable is a risk we have to take
if we want to experience connection.”
Brene Brown, Researcher, Story-Teller, Author, Lecturer

Being Alright With Looking Foolish!

IMG_9111This blog and the two following indirectly touch on the subject of  VULNERABILITY.  For when you share your work–painting, poetry, prose, thoughts, woodwork, sculpture, write a blog, etc., you are being vulnerable.

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It was deep winter in the mountains. An elder friend was in hospice care, settled in a home further north of where I live. The roads were impassable.

While I longed to visit her, I didn’t want to put myself in jeopardy.  Instead, I painted, not knowing where I would go or what needed expression.  Before long, I found myself painting with my fingers…and, of all things, a pink cow!  To this day, I don’t know why I was compelled to paint a pink cow using my fingers.  The tactile experience of painting with my fingers seemed essential.  This creative process helped me to transform the feeling of helplessness in regards to being unable to visit my friend.

Why did this help?  I don’t have an answer.  Some things really do dwell in the mystery or the deep unconscious and cannot be fathomed.  Perhaps they are before words.

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Poetry has also provided this sort of harmonizing effect for me.  When my father-in-law was dying, I turned to poetry.  Trying to understand my relationship with my parents or to make some sense of a long-term marriage that was ending, I turned to poetry.  Journal writing has been invaluable to me when facing life’s incongruities.  However, like painting, poetry has a way of containing wayward emotions while transforming them.

WRITING PROMPT:
For your journal:  Has art and/or writing and poetry helped you to express, uplift or in some way transform your difficult feelings?  Can you tolerate looking foolish in order to express and then share something that is deeply felt?

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Vulnerability sounds like truth and feels like courage.
Truth and courage aren’t always comfortable, but they’re never weakness.”
Brene Brown, Researcher, Story-Teller, Author, Lecturer

The Suffragettes

Women’s right to vote in England and the USA was hard fought and “won” in the early 1900’s.  My mother was born in 1920, the year women won the vote in the USA.  The way that my mother lived her life, you would never have guessed that she was a “free woman”.

VOTE

As a young adult woman, my life was busy with family, husband, pets, house, job, volunteer time and the unexpected.  One such overwhelming day, I wasn’t sure if I was going to get around to voting.  My teenage daughter reminded me of the suffragettes and their long, arduous battle for women’s right to vote.  That was it.  I voted and never again considered if I had the time to exercise this right which is also a privilege.

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I’ve been a “voiceless” woman and witnessed many others.  It was through journal writing that I expressed my inner private world.  And even there, I felt wrong for having thoughts that were considered “outside the box” of a woman’s entitlement.  The first time that I ventured out to read my poetry in public, I heard my own voice echoed by other women in this writer’s circle.  In our shared words, we reflected the restrictions and the timidity we felt in being a woman with a voice. Our true expression felt counter to either our familial, religious or societal upbringing. Writing poetry or prose that reflected our true thoughts and feelings was scary.  Sharing it publicly felt risky.  Yes, even living in America.

Writing Prompt:
For your journal:
As a woman, have you felt restricted or curtailed in your self-expression? Has this changed for you?  If so, how?

As a man, are there women in your life who seem to feel inhibited when it comes to self-expression (through writing or otherwise)?  Have you been an encouraging force in their lives?

 

 

Getting a Glimpse and Giving a Glimpse

I have not personally witnessed the blues players in a bar in Harlem circa 1958.  I won’t have this direct experience.

That is why I’m grateful to the late poet, writer and social activist, Langston Hughes, who documents some of this in his jazz poetry.

His words, as I let them wash over me, take me to another time, place, era and give me a vicarious experience.  How fortunate we are to have a youtube clip of Hughes reciting his poem, The Weary Blues, to musical accompaniment.

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Listening to and watching Langston Hughes recite his poem more than once, I am transported!

I recall the one time that I read a poem to musical accompaniment–an upright double bass player and a drummer.  We didn’t rehearse together ahead of time.  Along with other poets, I was invited to read a poem or two on a little stage in a long hall.  Reading publicly was relatively new to me.  Feeling both excitement and fear, I tentatively walked to the elevated stage and stood beside the bass player.  The grounding tones of the bass, the heartbeat of the drum and my words created a melange of sounds.  Once finished, flushed with the energies of the moment, I leapt from the stage, heart pounding and listened as other brave poets read their words to music.

There is something about reading your poetry to music.  Have you tried it?  Do you have a friend who plays a musical instrument?  Do you play an instrument yourself?  Dear poet, if you can, do find a way to give yourself this experience.  Musical accompaniment creates a whole other dimension to poetic expression. Afterall, poetry is rhythmic.

WRITING PROMPT:
Langston Hughes’ poem captured a segment of society and a particular era.  What is something distinct to your life that you’d like to write about? to preserve for posterity? to offer as a glimpse into your experience for a future generation? Through prose, poetry…or another art form. Write it, then recite it to someone…perhaps with music.

NOTE:  If you are interested in listening to a lecture by Langston Hughes talking about his life and hear him reading some of his poetry, you can google this recording.  I found it to be fascinating.

Langston Hughes Speaking at UCLA, 2/16/1967

Conjecturing

I call this exercise Conjecturing.  Imagination let’s you play with what you’ve accepted as the way it is or was.  Imagination opens doors to other possibilities–what if’s, if only’s and dream on’s.  Fairytales, we discover, can be altered.  Following is my poetic rendition using the fairytale, Little Red Riding Hood.

What if Little Red Riding Hood
wasn’t so little
and the color, red, was a camouflage
in a maroon forest
and the wolf was tamed
or on vacation?

What if Little Red’s mother
drove her to grandma’s house
on some well-traveled highway
and the woodcutter
was a truck driver
in some other state?

What if Little Red
was a lot older and wiser
and understood wolfish ways
and detours?

And, what if grandma
lived with Red and her mom
and no one had to go anywhere
afterall
with a basket of goodies?

What if the world weren’t so dangerous
and the unknown wasn’t dark and scary
only unknown
and talk over tea and cookies
were the universal fare
and war was obsolete.

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I’ve used the “what if” technique to encourage the imagination to play with and rewrite a story that can be traced back to Europe preceding the 17th century (there are many different versions of Little Red Riding Hood).

WolfandRed.final

Writing Prompt:
Is there a fairytale that you’d like to recreate? In prose or poetry, employ the what if  technique and see where you can go with it.  Flights of fancy can take you to surprisingly new territory (and out of the woods).  Enjoy the process.

Writing Tip:
Conjecturing with “What if” is a good way to move through a writer’s block.

Note:  All of the art on these blog posts is my own. This piece was inspired by a class I took with Alissa Millsap called Barn Painting.  With general guidelines, I tend to go in my own direction and this painting is where I went.

Poetry Animated

Billy Collins is another amazing poet of our times. If you haven’t read his poetry or heard him reading his own poems, then allow yourself this amazing experience.

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For some, poetry has received a “bad rap”. I admit to having had childhood experiences of reading a poem and really “not getting it” and generally, not seeing the relevance of poetry to my life. Earlier, I posted a blog on blending my poetry with paint in a mixed media piece. Discovering this poem by Billy Collins, Forgetfulness, put to animation, exhibits another possible way to make poetry both accessible and relevant for audiences today. This poem was animated by Julian Grey of Head Gear Animation.

Creativity in presenting your poetry can go in many directions.  Are you open to exploring them?

Creative Prompt:  Have you considered how you might insinuate poetry into your daily experience?  Have you wondered how you can revive an appreciation for poetry in others? What is the value of poetry to you as a writer and reader of poetry? Does poetry presently weave its way into the ebb and flow of your life?
Take time to watch some YouTube videos of Billy Collins reciting his poetry. Afterwards, consider any new ideas that might be brewing inside of you around making your own poetry and writing both accessible to others and relevant to our times.

Poetry + Paint + Collage

Have you ever considered creating a mixed media piece with art and poetry or words?  A local art exhibition was my incentive to give this a try.  I have wanted to integrate poetry with images for some time. I wasn’t sure how I would accomplish this. The poem is called My Mother’s Hands–stemming from a visit to my parents in a care home during their last years.  At the time, I remember thinking that it was such a personal poem, revealing more than I wanted to share with the community that would attend the art exhibit. I got the idea to write the poem on the canvas and then let words and phrases peek through, not the entire poem.  I had some of my mom’s old costume jewelry.  Somehow, I wanted to integrate a few pieces.

I laid down a background by dripping some inks on the canvas. Once the acrylic ink was dry,  I wrote the poem on the canvas with black India Ink.  I gessoed and painted over parts of it in a very random way.  I traced my own hand and placed two pieces of my mother’s costume jewelry on the fingers.  I added my mother’s photo at age 17.  I collaged a few more pieces of paper, dripped more ink, traced out the flowers.  None of this was planned.  It unfolded organically.

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Creative Prompt:
Do you have a poem or some other writing that you’d like to incorporate with collage and/or painting? Do you have a bit of memorabilia that you’d like to include in your art-making?  Are there colors that you are drawn to?  Is there something that you deeply want to express that includes words and then goes beyond words?

If this process interests you, purchase a few bottles of FW Daler-Rowney Acrylic Inks (choose warm or cool colors so you don’t create muddy colors on your substrate) and have a spray bottle filled with water handy.  Watch a few youtube videos on ways to use these inks.  Play with the inks on a 12″x12″ canvas.  Drip one or two drops (a little goes a long way), spray them.  Watch the ink disburse.  Lift and tilt the canvas slightly creating drips if you desire. Once the ink is dry, write your poem or prose using India Ink or some other permanent black ink–you don’t want water soluble. When dry, partially gesso over some of the written words, add bits of collage or memorabilia. Add acrylic paint if you feel called to.  I used Posca Fine Line Markers to add elements of design as a finishing touch. Have that sense of experimenting, following your whims…perfection is put outside the door.  Let this exploration be for your eyes only.