Sonnet Two

Not that we shouldn’t desire more
of that which feeds the hungering soul
for such yearning, it seems, opens the door
as we stare out upon a distant knoll.

“Comfortable complacency” is fine
–we all need pauses in our quest for more–
Grateful for the banquet on which we dine
fingers laced, beside the fireplace, shut the door.

But when the bell tolls the eleventh hour
mustn’t we from our sedentary rise?
Step into our uncomfortable power–
this before our comforts become a vise.

The hungering soul feasts on freedom.
Quick!  They are capturing the kingdom.

 

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I wrote this poem a couple of years ago and again tried to merge poetry with imagery.  I’m not really pleased with the painting…but I think the message is current.  Truly, it doesn’t seem like we can hide behind our “comfortable” doors any longer although we mostly shelter in place.  I think that we are asked to be activists in a way that is true to our nature.

When any one of our freedoms is infringed upon, we are called to stand up against injustice.  When our neighbor’s freedom is infringed upon, we are called to stand up against injustice.  For truly, if my neighbor isn’t well-cared for by our society, then I’m affected too.  We’re in this together.

Remember, Spaceship Earth, so-named by Buckminster Fuller?  We’re all here together riding around on this very small planet.

“How can I serve?”

I frequently ask this question of myself.

 

What if…

What if I’d been born a woman in a time and place where women weren’t allowed to read and write–illiterate.  It wasn’t that long ago, especially in the context of the whole of human literacy, that women were “granted the right” to get an education.  If you are interested, you can google the timeline of women’s education across the globe.  That it be debatable whether or not a woman should be allowed to get an education is mind-boggling for those of us who, in many ways, take education for women for granted.

I wonder if parts of myself would be permanently closed off, untapped because I couldn’t make this scratching on paper with a pen?  When I look back and recall how, at 27-years old, I started to write to save my life, I honestly couldn’t have had a better means to express what was going on inside of me and outside of me.  Or so it seemed.  Self-expression takes many forms.  I know that I’d have found another way.  However, writing has been so accessible, cathartic and freeing.  It has worked well for me in addition to other creative ventures.

Here’s another way to look at women and the advent of the alphabet.  According to author, Leonard Shlain in his book, The Alphabet Versus the Goddess, the alphabet has usurped women’s innate powers.  It has thrust women from an intuitive universe of imagery and symbolism into the masculine logic thereby making these feminine attributes less accessible, diminished and even superstitious.   Within myself, I can feel a deep desire and an inner-directed course towards reclaiming and re-valuing these women’s ways of knowing.  I make art and write poetry to foster the intuitive side of me.

In China, women developed their own secret language, NuShu, to communicate with one another across the miles.  Daughters sold off into marriage were taken distances away from their mothers and sisters.  They were strangers in their new village and sometimes not welcomed.  Many of them would never see their families of origin again.  They wrote their secret language on the folds of fans that were delivered to and from their families.

“The script [NuShu] was often used in embroidery, calligraphy and handicrafts created by women.  It is found written on paper (including letters, written poetry and on objects such as fans) and embroidered on fabric (including on quilts, aprons, scarves, handkerchiefs). Objects were often buried with women or were burned.”
by Jone Johnson Lewis
from NuShu, a Woman-Only Language of China

Stamping out women’s illiteracy across the globe isn’t complete.  Belinda Jack’s well-researched essay, The Right to Read:  Belinda Jack on the History of Women’s Literacy, concludes:

“For many women readers today it’s easy to think that the history of women’s reading as a distinct story has come to an end. But in some parts of the world women continue to risk their lives reading material which those in authority have forbidden.”

I’m grateful that I can read and write.  That said, the re-valuing of a woman’s deeper intuitive ways of being, seeing and knowing is likely the antidote to a world that is steeped in a masculine logic gone awry.

What do you think?

 

 

What Do You See?

As a writer, how do you PRACTICE describing what you see?

Following is one of my favorite poems that illustrates deeply seeing and then portraying what the poet observes.

Nude Descending a Staircase
© 1961 by X. J. Kennedy

Toe upon toe, a snowing flesh,
a gold of lemon, root and rind,
she sifts in sunlight down the stairs
with nothing on. Nor on her mind.
We spy beneath the banister
a constant thresh of thigh on thigh;
her lips imprint the swinging air
that parts to let her parts go by.
One-woman waterfall, she wears
her slow descent like a long cape
and pausing on the final stair,
collects her motions into shape.
I appreciate this poem because it not only succinctly describes a nude woman walking down the stairs, it creates an imagery whereby I, as the reader, also see her.  And, in her descent of the staircase, I note the action of her walking, the movement.  This is a great feat in poetry.
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We’ve seen artists with their pencils and art journals sketching what they see.  As a writer, do you practice writing word sketches?  These word sketches can be used later on in other writing that you do or to simply facilitate your ability to observe.  Either way, it’s not time wasted.
Writing Prompt:
Here’s  fun exercise.  Take yourself outdoors to a park bench and sit with your pen, a  journal and notice people, your surroundings, the array of dogs?  Find the precise words to describe the flowers, trees, any movement.  What adjectives or metaphors come to mind as you allow yourself to really see someone or something?  Jot them down.  Practice doing a word sketch…or several.
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Thank you to X.J. Kennedy for permission to print his poem.
“From In a Prominent Bar in Secaucus: New and Selected Poems (Johns Hopkins University Press), copyright 2007 by X. J. Kennedy.  By permission of the author.”

Putting it Together

We’ve practiced working with descriptive image detail and the figurative language of simile and metaphor. We’ve played with writing in third person. Let’s put it together.

For your prop, find a photo of yourself at a younger age.

One way to approach this exercise is to begin by making a list of nouns naming the facial features. i.e., hair, face, nose, eyes, ears, chin, cheeks, jaw, forehead, neck, lips, skin, etc.

Beside each noun, write an adjective or two that describe the noun. i.e., for jaw, a few adjectives could be strong, weak, tense or what?; for lips–full, pouting, stern, etc.

Then, look for something that really is a “dissonant detail”–something that jumps out and makes you take notice.  Is your smile crooked, your front tooth chipped, are you frowning, squinting into the sun, anything? What is your demeanor or countenance? How old are you?  What is your hairstyle, style of dress?

Next, using the third person perspective, write a paragraph incorporating the nouns, adjectives and the dissonant detail(s) as you fully describe yourself in the photo. Dare to further expand on a few of the nouns using the imagery of  original simile or metaphor in your word illustration of the photo. i.e., his jaw was as determined as a base runner; her eyes were misty like that indeterminate rainy April day.

Finally, what is something you might have said or wanted to say…give yourself one spoken line.

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Writing Tip:
If  you are writing a memoir, looking at old photos and re-collecting in this way can help you to connect with yourself or someone else in another time and place.