Dream of a Legend

IMG_9912One of my first poems, written over twenty years ago, was a copycat poem inspired by Gregory Corso’s poem,  Dream of a Baseball Star.  I call my version…

Dream of a Legend
© by Christine O’Brien

I dreamed of Maid Marian
sitting at daybreak
on the steps of the whitehouse, singing.

She was in a flowing gown
and her longbow lay at her feet
–wood and taut.

“Gloria Steinem says you are the Legend,” I cried.
“So do I.  I say you’re the Legend!”

She picked up the bow and with nimble hands;
stood there primed as she would in Sherwood Forest,
and smiled; flinging her schoolgirl irony
towards some invisible foe
–awaiting the cue, all the way from Nottingham.

It came; hundreds came!  like fireworks!
She drew the bow and let fly and let fly and let fly and hit
not one single target nor bullseye.
A hundred misses!
Friar Tuck, dressed in a tuxedo
Shouted:  TO HELL WITH YOU.
And the “merry men” bellowed their dismay
dispersing the ghostly noblemen from their palaces.

And I shouted in my dream:
Marian!  send the arrow:
Open the hearts of the men:
Hooray for the equality!
Yes, the woman the peacemaker!
Let a minstrel’s song praise the true Legend!
Glory the truth be told!

Writing Prompt:
Borrowing someone else’s poetic form and inserting your own content (or passionate plea) is often a great way to find inspiration.

Note:  Whether or not you are a baseball fan, do Google and read Gregory Corso’s original witty poem!

 

Greek Play–Antigone

In re-visiting an art form from the past, it is best experienced with curiosity and an open mind.  And, the ability to imagine time, place, character, the cultural and political climate also helps.

Another first for me (long ago, in High School) was being asked to direct (and narrate) a scene from the Greek Play, Antigone.  Greek translations alone can be stumbling blocks to a proud performance.  And to enter the mindset of the author, Sophocles, as he wrote about such universal and profound themes as freedom of choice and fate, dishonor and civil disobedience, a woman’s place in society, allegiance, state versus religion, power, etc.  His reality was for me, an extremely shy fourteen-year-old girl,  like entering a far-flung fantasy world.  Although, we could say that some things haven’t really changed that much.

I was both the director and narrator (a narrator figures prominently in Greek plays).  My cast of actors (fourteen year old girls!) and I took our assignment very seriously.  We rehearsed often and contrived our toga costumes and headpieces.  On the day of the performance, I came down with contagious conjunctivitis (otherwise known as pink eye).  I stood before the assembly of students and teachers draped in a dyed and styled bedsheet to resemble an authentic Greek toga, a leaf crown and wearing over-large white-rimmed sunglasses as I narrated a scene from Antigone.

The play was a great success.  The actresses captured the spirit of what we felt Sophocles wanted to convey.  We also shared an experience of another world, an escape from our own reality into timelessness and the connection that words can weave to much more than we were personally privy to.

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Writing Prompt:
Stepping outside the box of what you typically write about, avail yourself of an opportunity to see a Greek Tragedy or Comedy performed.  Does this stretch your own writing in some way?
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I found this five minute clip on Greek Plays fascinating.  Consider from where modern theater has evolved.

Galana…part two

elephant.1I am elephant
© by Christine O’Brien

I am elephant
–wild–
tough of hide
wide of eyed
beneath my trunk
a semi-smile,
and knowing wise
retreating eyes
glazed in trauma.
Little body,
floppy ears,
these wide eyes have
cried their tears.
Take me back to my mama
remove from me all the trauma
of mama lost.

My shrieking cries
could topple trees
and echo louder
than a gaping mouth
collapsed on the forest floor.
Mama,
bloodied and beaten by men
who neither see nor care
–the fear implanted.–

It’s her tusks they want
though I don’t know why
my cries go inward
and I want to die.
I become a whimper,
a shiver,
and charge in circles
while they carve
my mama to free her tusks.

— who will feed me
teach me how an elephant behaves
show me how I’m naturally brave
that ours is a way of respect
and pride
that though my hide is tough,
my heart is not?

Elephant, noble and proud,
…and left to ourselves,
there is wisdom
How do we live free and safe?
Our mothers, their young?
–freedom to roam the forests
and forage?
–freedom to play
in an elephant way?
–to watch the sunrise, the sunset
with neither fear nor dread.
today I watch as my mama
lays dead.

Writing Prompt:
Creating art is an ACTION.  A strong feeling response  can be expressed through poetry, prose, painting and other art forms. Through this expression, we help ourselves by taking an appropriate action.  And, perhaps, we reach others by sharing our art or writing.

 

 

Galana…part one

Tsavo East National Park (Kenya) is one of the world’s largest game reserves providing an undeveloped wilderness home to vast numbers of animals.  The Galana River punctuates the generally flat, dry landscape.

“It always happens on a Sunday! During the morning of Sunday 15th August, a phone call from our De-Snaring Team Leader in Voi alerted us to the fact that a young female elephant had been rescued near the Galana river, about 10 miles from the Sala Gate on the Eastern boundary of Tsavo National Park. She was approximately 1 year old, and had been found all alone in a patch of thick salt-bush bordering the river by some visitors, who happened to spot a small foot poking out.”

This orphaned elephant was named Galana after the river near which she was rescued.

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The following youtube excerpt is about eight minutes long.  It isn’t always easy to watch.  However, it is remarkable.

I first became aware of Dame Daphne Sheldrick and this elephant orphanage after watching a 60 Minutes television special several years ago.  I have not forgotten her and the orphaned elephants.

Writing Prompt:
When something tears at your heart, what is your response as a writer or an artist?

 

Writing About Yourself in Third Person

Over the years, she had a variety of interests. bakeoffcookbook1965
Baking and cooking “from scratch” lead her to
gourmet cooking for her family and friends.
She enjoyed preparing a few ethnic dishes
–enchiladas with red chile sauce,
chicken tamales; Asian soups and stir-fry;
her mother’s Spaghetti and Meatballs.  One year,
facing into another cold and snowy winter
in the mountains, she tried her hand at
Eastern Indian fare.

 

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Writing about yourself in third person, as if you were your own fictional character, is an exercise we’ve looked at in an earlier blog.  You know your history, quirks, qualities, likes and dislikes.  With all of that background information, you can readily fictionalize yourself…put yourself in a circumstance and consider your reactions based on what you know of yourself.

You can apply this same type of exploration when it comes to your fictional characters, the ones that your imagination has conjured.

Giving your character a DOSSIER enables you to write a character with believability. Before you put your character in a situation, don’t you think that you, as the writer, should have that omniscient author’s privilege of knowing them fully? In order to effectively write this character(s) it is necessary to understand where they’ve come from, what their motivations are, what they are distressed by, how they dress, who and what they love, etc.  There are fictional character dossier templates online.  Enjoy the process.

Does this poem have relevance for you?

The images in this poem remind me of a surrealistic painting.
Of Mere Being
by Wallace Stevens
The palm at the end of the mind,
Beyond the last thought, rises
In the bronze distance.
A gold-feathered bird
Sings in the palm, without human meaning,
Without human feeling, a foreign song.
You know then that it is not the reason
That makes us happy or unhappy.
The bird sings. Its feathers shine.
The palm stands on the edge of space.
The wind moves slowly in the branches.
The bird’s fire-fangled feathers dangle down.

Writing Prompt:
This is one of those poems that people read over and over trying to capture the relevance of it to their own lives.  Have you found something that is meaningful to you in these few verses?  Appreciating the imagery could be enough.

A Woman’s Best Friend?

bestfriend

One day a few weeks ago,  I had a plan to paint a forest fairy.  What showed up on the canvas was the eye and snout of a dog!  I don’t paint dogs typically.  I was going to force it into a forest fairy!

Then I went out in the world and had three encounters of the strangest kind.

The first:
What do you do for recreation on a rainy day?  A friend and I went to the local museum to see two exhibits:  1) Mount Shasta: Mystery and Magic–Elevating the Human Spirit and 2) Tattooed and Tenacious: Inked Women In California’s History.  By the way, I highly recommend both exhibits.
As we stepped out into the parking lot, walking towards our vehicles, a young girl ran up to us.  Her message was urgent.
“Would you mind if our dog said hello to you?  He really wants to say hello.  It would make him so happy.”
Who could refuse?

The second:
Later on, the same rainy day, an acquaintance–one who seldom frequents the local cafe– stopped in to get a hot chocolate.
He explained, “I was taking my dog for a walk and it started raining.  He doesn’t like walking in the rain.”
I asked “What kind of dog?”
He answered “Everything. Would you like to meet him?”
Who could refuse?

I took both of these instances as a sign that I was to paint this dog.  I came home and started to bring him forward.  Then I got this text from my daughter.

The third:
“Just saw Isle of Dogs, Of course I liked it.”
I hadn’t heard of Isle of Dogs.  (I’ve seen it since and thought it was a work of artistic genius.)

As if I needed more confirmation.  I texted my daughter an image of the work in process.
She said:  “She/he is so cute.  Looks like a lil wolf dog and looks like a dog from the movie.”

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All of this to say, when the universe sends synchronicities, listen and follow them.  Paint the dog!

Creative Prompt:
Be alert to those messages, especially the ones that come in bunches.  Follow the intuitive hit, the creative impulse, the prompts that present themselves over the course of your day.