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Touring Rural Landscapes in Ireland and Britain

My plane left O’Hare at 2:15 p.m. on Friday, August 5. I arrive at Shannon Airport near Limerick, Ireland the same day at 6:06 a.m., reclaiming a few hours of my life. Several tour members wait with me for our Irish driver. His name is Tom and lucky for us, he’s a retired history teacher. We tour Limerick and settle in briefly at our hotel.

dscn0229An overcast morning greets us the next day as we travel through the rugged countryside of western Ireland. The country is so exuberantly green that I want to burst into song. The mists, the bogs create enchantment. I see auras everywhere.

Tom tells us there’s a resurgence of interest among the young in learning Gaelic, and ancient songs and literature. Later, I learn that the European Union funds the study of ancient languages and arts. Brexit will remove those funds from Wales and Scotland, but not Ireland, as it is not part of the United Kingdom. Road signs are in Gaelic, as well as in English.

Tom tells us stories of atrocities committed by the Black and Tans, the constabulary recruited to assist the Royal Irish Constabulary during the Irish War of Independence (1919-1921). Memories of the Black and Tan stoke hatred in the hearts of many Irish.

As we drive through the countryside, we see cows, horses, and sheep on the hillsides. Most of the fences are dry stone walls. Artisans to repair broken walls, we learn, are a dying breed. Tom informs us that the original Irish were small in stature. After repeated Viking invasions, the Irish “grew up.” He tells us about Brian Boru (c 941-1014), who defeated the Danes at the Battle of Clongarf and afterward was slain in his tent by a Danish slave. The battle took place north of Dublin.

DSCN0163We head for the Ring of Kerry, a 112-mile coastal route, known for its ancient forts. The forts were thought to have been built betwen 500 BCE and 300 CE for defense from rival clans. Inner rings allowed an enclosure for livestock. We stop at Cahergal Fort near Cahersiveen. See photos.

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At Kinsale, we tour Desmond Castle. Tom tells us there are 780 castles in Ireland. Desmond Castle was built in the sixteenth century. Located on the Celtic Sea, it was built as a customs house. In 1601, Spain occupied Kinsale and turned the castle into an armory. Later, it held prisoners from the Napoleonic Wars, as well as American Revolutionary War prisoners captured at sea. During the famine years, it served as a relief center.

The next stop is Cobh near Cork, where we learn about the Potato Famine.

Latest Review of Edwina

Kindle-EdwinaCover“A poet writing a posthumous biography of a horror-novelist colleague gets caught up in an investigation of bones found buried on the author’s property in Handy’s (Spy Car and Other Poems, 2016, etc.) thriller.”

Read the entire review…

 

 

 

 

Look to the Skies

While cleaning the garage, I found a tape recording from Carol, an astrological counselor I’d consulted while suffering through the darkest days of my life journey. In six months, two family members committed suicide–both young men. One death was caused by my gun and my bullets, which I had not hidden well enough to thwart a young man high on drugs and alcohol.

Like Cassandra, I’d foreseen family stresses and desperately sought help, but no one listened. I managed to get everyone in front of a therapist at the same time, but my attractive, witty family charmed him into pronouncing them all well-adjusted. I was old, out-of-touch, imagining things.

While I was in my initial stage of grieving, a well-meaning priest attempted to explain why God hadn’t answered my prayers to save my family. The suicides, he said, were consequences of forces set in motion long ago. That was true. Was he saying those forces were stronger than God? He avoided answering that question.

Exhausted by grief and guilt, I turned to Carol and her astrological acumen. In speaking to me and by casting my chart, she determined that underneath the rubble of my self-loathing, I was a seeker, whose will it was to armor through darkness in search of light. She compiled mini-charts of those with whom I was involved–they were wall-builders, disinclined to self-awareness. Reconciliation attempts would continue to be futile. I did not need those people in my life. “Give them to the universe,” she said. “Let the universe care for them.”

What a blow! Hope rises as a natural desire and I refused to accept her advice. With passage of time, however, I found she was right. I’d need to carve out a new life and leave part of my family behind.

I was a sentimental person. Memories were fly-papered to my soul–children’s fingerprints on my high school graduation photo, dandelion bouquets, long games of Clue and Monopoly, bedtime stories, a set of pastel bowls, so many, so many…

I followed Carol’s instructions. Without bitterness, I cast my memories into the heavens, and after a short time, they lost their power to torment.

The universe treated me kindly and I was unused to kindness. As a result, I fell in love with the heavens, planets, clouds, the moon, the stars, the dim winter sun. It forgave me, accepted me, and I flourished.

I tried to email Carol to tell her of my progress, but she didn’t answer. Later, her partner responded–she’d passed away. I told him I was grateful for her help. He said that had been her mission–to help people.

Often I look into the night sky and see Carol there. How many others did she help?

Lynne Handy Photo taken by Denise Bennorth June 23, 2016

Lynne Handy
Photo taken by Denise Bennorth
June 23, 2016

amid the stars.

What’s Wrong with America is Us

I’ve been writing poetry today, not creating, but tending to line breaks, listening for sound structures, weighing words. The poems are about a river storm, a shooting of an old, sick dog, and a worm’s destruction of rosebushes. I had in mind to write one about my fabulous back yard–I’ll do that tomorrow.

But I can’t keep the present out. Another shooting. The worst one we’ve ever had. I’m aghast. I’m numb.

I’m also riding a wave of anger. I’m mad at the NRA, which goes past reason, accountability, and morality in its refusal to support stronger gun legislation and enforcement of current laws. Selling a person with ISIS connections a gun–an AR assault rifle–is unconscionable. The seller didn’t know? The seller should have known.

I’m furious at politicians–Democrats, Republicans, Libertarians. A pox on all their houses! How dare they not do their jobs. I’m mad at apathetic people, those who counsel “thought” and “prayers” to solve our direst problems. I’m mad at the media, at TV news that is biased and simply ON TOO LONG. Orwell’s telescreen in 1984 continually spouted propaganda.

As far as I know, my TV isn’t monitoring me, but my computer is.

I’m mad because education isn’t given the financing it merits. An education helps you assess data and come to informed decisions. The Constitution was not created by uneducated people. The finest minds in the country came together to create our nation. How we dare we shame our forefathers by electing bumpkins to be our leaders!

I’m also mad about that kid in California getting away with rape, but that’s another entire issue–the denigration and control of women. I’m saving that for my next rant.

I’ve come to the conclusion that what’s wrong with America is us. We’re not standing up for our basic principles. We’re sloppy, lazy, and self-focused. We’re closing our eyes to what’s slipping away–and I don’t mean the Fifties (let that time of hypocrisy go). I mean our future.

Lynne Handy, Poet

My Novella, The Untold Story of Edwina, is Available!

I am pleased to announce that my novella, The Untold Story of Edwina, is ready for purchase on Amazon.

Kindle-EdwinaCoverWhen poet Maria Pell agrees to write a biography of deceased writer Edwina Frost, she has no clue that the horror fiction maven’s ghost will tag along. Complicating matters is the discovery of a child’s bones on Frost property. How does Louise, Edwina’s aloof sister, figure into the story? Her Poe-quoting cousin James? Then there’s the Spanish poet who writes of peacocks…

Maria loves her housemate, Mathieu. So does her gorgeous red-headed neighbor, Sybi, who shares photos of dried monkey heads to help with his article on voodoo. As Maria’s jealousy grows, will she suffer the same fate as Edwina? Will a malevolent spirit possess her? Read The Untold Story of Edwina to find out.

Read My Tale of the Old West

Read my short story on FewerThan500.com!

My Poetry is Featured in Reverie Fair!

ReverieFairI’m pleased to announce that my poetry and I are on pages 40-41. Read the magazine.

 

 

 

 

 

 

How “Spy Cars and Other Poems” Came to Life

SpyCarKindleCoverAs a poet and writer, I’m fortunate to live in the Fox Valley in Illinois. Not only does the area proliferate with writers groups, many attached to libraries, there is abundant support for writers. People care enough about local talent to set aside time from busy lives to provide venues, get out and listen to readings, applaud writers, and participate in forums, most of them informal, to solve problems inherent in publishing and marketing.

I’m primarily a poet and want to spend my time creating. The rest of my writing time I spend researching and editing. Once a poem is written and fleshed out, I begin editing. I care passionately about image and sound, and may rewrite a poem forty times before I deem it ready to submit to my poets group, Open Sky Poets, and/or send to editor Gloria Boyer.

Before “Spy Car and Other Poems,” I’d never put a chapbook together. The task seemed daunting because of the number of poems required–40-70. In autumn 2015, I had more than enough and began identifying the poems I wanted to include.

Once I determined the order in which the poems would appear, I handed them over to Kevin Moriarity, who handled the formatting, all dealings with CreateSpace, and most of the marketing.

The MGB on the chapbook cover (and the inspiration for the final poem) belongs to my grandson, Jeff Krabec. Jeff patiently photographed the car (two occasions), and magician friend William Pack waved a magic wand and gave the photograph artistic qualities.

Throughout the process, I enjoyed the support of Open Sky Poets Frank Rutledge, Brandon Fink, and Jen May. Thanks to everyone who helped me produce “Spy Car and Other Poems.”

Poetic Form

A friend asked why poems were written in short lines. Why couldn’t every poem be a prose poem? We poets struggled with answers that failed to satisfy our logician friend: rhythm, relationship of words, prosody, white space, etc.

I decided to do some research. My first go-to was Edward Hirsch’s “A Poet’s Glossary,” which I find indispensable. Hirsch says a line is “a unit of meaning, a measure of attention…a way of framing poetry. All verse is measured in lines. On its own, the poetic line immediately announces its difference from everyday speech and prose. It creates its own visual and verbal impact; it declares its self-sufficiency.” Webster defines poetry as “…writing that formulates a concentrated imaginative awareness of experience in language chosen and arranged to create a specific emotional response through meaning, sound, and rhythm.”

Sir Philip Sidney wrote of verse: “being in its selfe sweete and orderly, and being best for memory, the only handle of knowledge, it must be in jest that any man can speak against it.” (Glossary) Joseph Brodsky, also quoted in Glossary, writes: “The one who writes a poem writes it above all because verse writing is an extraordinary accelerator of consciousness, of thinking, of comprehending the universe.”

Digging deeper, I decided to try to find out how the poetic line evolved. Scholars trace first written poems , actually hymns, to a Sumerian priestess, Enheduanna (circa 2285-2250 BCE), daughter of King Sargon of Akkad. The hymns were memorized and sung.

Before there was written language, there was storytelling, and the tales, most in verse, passed from one griot to another. As Sidney noted, short lines make memorizing easier.

Having spent the morning reflecting on my friend’s question, I have to say I agree with all the sources quoted, but want to add that I find in the poetic form a demand for distillation that purifies thought. How can I, in the fewest well-chosen words, convey meaning? The poetic line, being short, forces me to do that.

I’m sure I’ve missed other arguments. Poets, chime in.

Sisters

Lean on Me

Lean on Me

Sister hugs last lifetimes. A happy moment under the summer sun. (Gale and Lynne Handy)

My Backyard Sandbox

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My Backyard Sandbox

Poem

I’m excited that Clementine Poetry Journal has published my poem, School Friend. I’d like feedback on my poetry. Please tell me what you think.

FewerThan500.com

Two of my flash fiction stories have been accepted by FewerThan500. The first, The Mandrake Root, will be published 22 September, 2015. The second, The Good Wife and Mother, 1895, will be published 13 October 2015.

These are my first forays into the world of flash fiction.  The Mandrake Root was an outtake from an unfinished short story. (I added words to make it a story.) The Good Wife and Mother, 1895, is the sad, brave story of my maternal grandmother (She was Abigail), which I originally wrote in prose poem form.

The Polemics of Bees

In the violet tint of afternoon, my asters curl their leaves and lure me out of doors. Purple-blossomed, gussied up with greening stems, they cry: Come, come and see! I hurry down the steps, cross the lawn, then stop. Feasting on my flowers is a grit of bees, thirty or more, toy-like in their black and yellow rompers—Beatrix Potter’s Babbity Bumbles, who hived in Mrs. Tittlemouses’s house till she tore out their nest and rigged her door so only mice could enter. Still, she bought wax from the bees, and honey.

This damson day, I back away. My trapezii tense, mandible clenches, nares flare. Driven from my garden by uninvited guests, and worse, ones whose sting I fear. The bees are immigrants (they do not live in my yard), taking pollen where they can. I did not ask them in, but they are here, in their place in the universe, as with my own stock, English farmers and herders, who centuries ago crossed an ocean to seize a land so their progeny could flower…just as people cross borders now, the grit of life between their teeth.

Other Critiques

Other critiques were generous in stating they believed I didn’t mean to take such a negative approach to immigration (true!), but had entrapped myself when I equated my deadly fear of bees with immigrants (true). Another remark–I didn’t need to state that blossoms were purple, since asters are purple. (But they are also white, yellow, pink, and red.) Another remark: the use of the word “feasting,” perhaps was inaccurate. (Bees do feast on the nectar from flowers.) My instructor wondered if I could do more with the Beatrix Potter reference. There were positive comments regarding word choice, e.g., mandible, grit of bees, damson day.

I took several days off from the poem. I read more of Beatrix Potter and discovered a great analogy in the story of Mrs. Tittlemouse. I deleted the part where I shared my personal experience with bee sting. I deleted the word, “pests,” and inserted, “guests.” My next posting will be the revised poem. It has a new title: The Polemics of Bees.

More on student critiques of Trespass

R is confused by my use of the word “pests” as it relates to the bees as immigrants and he’s right. I don’t have that right yet. He suggests that if I “go there,” I should explain. L. didn’t see the problem, so I need to take a look at that part of my poem next.

Trespass (Revision I)

In the violet tint of afternoon, my asters curl their leaves and lure me out of doors. Purple-blossomed, gussied up with greenery, they cry out: “Come and see!” I hurry down the steps, cross the lawn, then stop. Feasting on my flowers is a grit of bees, thirty or more. They seem toy-like in their black and yellow rompers–Beatrix Potter’s Babbity Bumbles–but they are potentially a death squad. I’ve been stung in the neck by bees; as my body ballooned with venom, I prayed for calm, raced to a hospital, and lived to tell the tale.

This damson day, I return to the house. Territorialism kicks in: my trapezius tightens, mandible clenches, nares flare. Driven from my garden! The bees are immigrants, taking sustenance where they can. I did not ask them in, but here they are in their place in the universe…as with my own stock generations ago, English farmers and herders, who crossed an ocean to sow and tend so their progeny could flower…and as with people crossing borders now with the grit of life between their teeth.

Student’s Critique of Trespass

I promised to share critiques. Here is E.’s. To paraphrase the critique: she writes that she’s followed my every-day process and enjoyed my connections and inferences. She says I don’t need the specifics of what will happen if the bees don’t pollinate my flowers. She’s right. Everyone knows that. She likes the idea that my garden was a sanctuary for the bees, but not me. She suggests that I tweak the ending metaphor, and direct readers’ minds to what immigrants did in the past to pollinate our lives. She likes my alliterations and the words I’ve chosen to use.

These are valid suggestions. E., as always, is spot on, so I’m going to revise my poem.

Day 5 – TRESPASS

In the violet tint of afternoon, my asters curl their leaves and lure me out of doors. Purple-blossomed, gussied up with greening stems, they cry: “Come, come and see us!” I hurry down the steps, cross the lawn, then stop. Feasting on my flowers is a grit of bees, thirty or more. They seem toy-like in their black and yellow rompers–Beatrix Potter’s Babbity Bumbles–but they are potentially a death squad. I’ve been stung on the neck by bees: as my body ballooned with venom, I prayed for calm, sped to a hospital, and lived to tell the tale.

This damson day, I return to the house. Territorialism kicks in; my trapezius tenses, mandible clenches, nares flares. Driven from my garden! My own garden! Uninvited pests, and worse–ones that I dread and fear. Yet on reflection, I know that without them, my asters won’t bloom, nor will a number of crops vital to humankind. The bees are immigrants, taking sustenance where they can and loading up to pollinate. I did not ask them in, but there they are, and though they’ve temporarily booted me from my premises, they have their place in the universe      as do people crossing borders with the grit of life between their teeth.

Day 4 – Second Draft of Poem, Grit

In the violet tint of afternoon, my asters curl their leaves, luring me outside. Purple blossomed, fancied up with greening stems, they touch my sense of wonder. I hurry down the steps, cross the lawn, then stop. Feasting on their nectar is a grit of bees, thirty or more.  They look toy-like in their black and yellow rompers–Beatrix Potter’s Babbity Bumbles–but they are potentially a death squad. I’ve been stung by bees, the last time in the throat:as my body ballooned with venom, I prayed for calm, sped to a hospital, and lived to tell the tale.

On this damson day, I return to the house. Territorialism kicks in–tense shoulder muscles, clenched jaw. I’ve been driven from my garden by bees! Uninvited guests, and worse, ones that signal danger! Yet on reflection, I know that without them, my asters won’t bloom, nor will a number of crops vital to humankind. In my yard, the bees are immigrants, taking sustenance where they can and loading up to pollinate. I did not ask them in, but there they are, and though they’ve temporarily booted me from my premises, they have their place in the universe, as with people crossing borders with the grit of life between their teeth.

(I edited this version for opportunities to use slant rhyme to improve the sound. I also took out words and phrases like “and buds, stood silent on a windless day” and I changed “swarm” to “grit.” I wasn’t sure how I was going to use “grit” at that point, but I did use it again at the end of the poem. The Moses basket image got lost, but I think it served as a subconscious theme. On this edit, I also tried to make the story more coherent. I think I might finish the poem tomorrow.)

Day 3 – First Draft of Poem, Sailing in the Moses Basket

The violet tinted afternoon and late-blooming asters called me to the garden. Purple blossoms, stalked and fancied up with greening stems and buds, stood silent on a windless day. Then I saw them: the swarm of bumble bees, thirty or more in their black and yellow rompers, scoured the flowered anthers, sucking nectar, filling their legging saddlebags. Hurrying to the house, I closed the door. I’ve been stung by bees–the last time in the throat, somewhere in rural East Texas and as my body ballooned with venom, I drove madly to a Beaumont hospital and lived to tell the story.

I had planned a few moments in my garden and resented being driven away by migrant bees (they weren’t hiving on my property). But on reflection, I realized without them, my asters wouldn’t bloom, nor would the tomatoes or the clover, a number of crops vital to humankind. In my yard, they were refugees taking sustenance and loading up to pollinate. I hadn’t wanted them, but there they were; and they had their purpose, their place in the ecosystem–as it is with the poor and the refugees pouring into stable nations, needing an ark for sailing on uncertain waters.

Day 3 – Second Draft, Moses Basket

I went to lunch at a very bad restaurant — had been wanting to try it and now I have. The distraction served to give insight into my poem. What was I thinking when I decided to write about bees preventing me from enjoying my garden and what was I thinking when I chose the “Moses basket” theme from my book of writings? I had already intuited that immigrants fit into my poem. That was the spinner that was working its way through my consciousness. The significance of the bees was more than forcing me to take cover.

Over cold spaghetti and butterless bread, I had a sparkling thought: the bees were immigrants, not from my yard, but from somewhere else, and though they were taking from me, in forms of freedom and nectar (the flowers were mine), their survival was necessary for the sake of the environment. How did Moses come in? Pharaoh had issued an order to kill Jewish infant boys to keep down the Jewish population. Moses was saved from death by by his mother, who hid him in a waterproof basket, and sailed him into the hands of the pharaoh’s daughter, who loved and cared for him. Moses, like immigrants, was “the other.” He was given sanctuary.

Now to blend this into a poem…

Day 3 – First Draft, Moses Basket

Asters lured me to the garden in the violet tint of day. Purple-petaled, braced with greenery, they stood erect. I moved closer, then stopped. Bees. At least thirty scoured the flowered anthers of my asters, sucking nectar to bloat their pouches. I went no farther. I’ve been stung by bees–the last time in the neck near a library in rural East Texas where, as my body ballooned with poison, I frantically drove to a Beaumont hospital. Resentful I could not take pleasure in my asters, I returned to the house. Bees, with their threat of death, had thieved my garden, my __________. Though I must share my space with pollinators for the greater good, it rankled. My mind leaped to immigrants from war-torn places. (Unfinished)

(Although this prose poem starts out about asters, I don’t want assonance. I don’t want the tone soothing. That’s why I’ve chosen alliteration–lots of s’s and r’s.)

Day 2 – Third Post

Last evening from my kitchen window NO
Glowing in the setting sun NO
Asters lured me to the garden in the sun’s last glow MAYBE
Plum-like petals beckoned I stepped closer and retreated: Bees. Bombus ravagers whose venom spells death to me, thirty of them, scoured the flowered anthers sucking nectar to bloat their back-leg pouches. How dare they scare me from my own garden! Did I not have the expectation of safety there? Where is my Moses basket green where I might find safety in this world of drones and terrorists on planes and trains? MAYBE

Second post on Day 2

Unsure of my way into this poem. Do I start with the basket or the bees? I’m thinking maybe the bees. Not sure yet. I’ve been reading several prose poems. It’s easier to figure out how to write them by reading examples–in fact, that’s what the how-to books do-provide examples. Carlo Matos, my instructor has written chapbooks of prose poetry. I’ve been reading Gertrude Stein, Charles Simic….

Thoughts on Day 2 of Assignment

Paging through my journal, I found “a Moses basket trimmed in green.” Soon after, I looked from my kitchen window and saw my purple asters looking gorgeous in the waning daylight and went to my garden to admire them. They were swarming with fat bumblebees, so since I am deathly allergic to bee venom, I returned to the house. I was resentful. I owned the house and yard, but not the freedom to wander it safely. Bedtime was delayed as my mind swirled around safe havens and bees and drones and how to be brave on a train from Brussels when a terrorist opens fire.

I think this will be the focus of my poem. I will read up on prose poems and try to put one together.

Rooster Moans Workshop Assignment

Previously, my assignments for Carlo Matos’ workshop have been to (1) compose an ode to a sports figure; (2) compose a wedding song; (3) compose an ekphrastic poem. This assignment is as follows: write about a newspaper headline, Facebook meme, memory, rumination, happening, random thought, event, or just what’s on my mind, and compose, revise, edit, and present, keeping all work live. I suppose it will be like starting out naked and dressing in my Sunday best.

Since I have a blog, I’ll do it all on my blog, starting with my thoughts on what I might write about: (1) holding trials for and condemning to death grasshoppers when I was twelve; (2) the plight of refugees; (3) my perceived state of the United States of America; (4) my writing group; (5) another writing group; (6) something about outer space; (7) sturdily-built women; (8) something I have yet to consider. I’ll be back tomorrow.

Familiar Spirits Ghost Story Anthology

Familiar Spirits Cover SmallerI’m happy to announce that my short story “Green Lady” was chosen to be part of an anthology of ghost stories, “Familiar Spirits.” You can be part of this process. Please visit our Kickstarter page (http://kck.st/1D5y18B) and help promote the book. Get in early to get a copy of the book (ebook or printed) for less!

 

 

 

 

Critiquing Poetry

Until I joined a writers group, my critiquing experience stemmed from professor-led classroom experiences. He or she would point out examples, like anastrophe (“a turning back or about,” as in Poe’s “Once upon a midnight dreary,” rather than “dreary midnight”), or alliteration (repetition of consonant sounds), etc., and we students set out to identify those elements in other poems.

In writers groups, I was on my own–no professor to guide me. As I learned more about poetry I brushed up on meter, and devices like consonance and onomatopoeia, and became a better critic, but nothing honed my ability like taking online poetry courses. Among serious poets, who, like I, were paying students, I felt lost. I could parse my own poems, but expanding that skill to analyzing others’ work made me uneasy. What if I was wrong? What if I offended?

Since students could see the teacher’s and other students’ critiques, I usually waited to see what they would write before writing my own. Critiques always began with a compliment, and when recommending changes, critics used kind language and gave explanations. Often critiques included a nod to published poets’ work–a nice touch.

As time passed, I grew more confident and soon was rushing ahead to be the first to offer an opinion. Some poems, I learned, especially those using free associations, took longer to understand. I’d wait awhile to submit my critique. To understand unfamiliar allusions, I looked them up (as I nearly always do for Lucie Brock-Broido’s rich work), and was rewarded with a recovered memory or new knowledge–always a gift! No one in any of the online poetry courses I’ve taken has refused to critique a poem because he or she was unfamiliar with the topic. How can poets guess the knowledge stored in readers’ heads? And what’s wrong with learning something new?

I’ve learned not to puzzle over literal meanings of poems. They’re often not there. And something else–poetry is not prose. It often lacks a backstory. Phillip Sydney (1554-1586) called poetry “…a speaking picture…to teach and delight” (Hirsch, A Poet’s Glossary). Tomasso Ceva (1649-1737) wrote “Poetry is a dream dreamed in the presence of reason” (Hirsch). Robert Frost (1874-1963) said, “Poetry provides the one permissible way of saying one thing and meaning another” (Hirsch).

Remembering Professor Wordsworth

Background notes: Thrilling to see my first play in 1956, when a teenager. Old Vic Production. Romeo and Juliet. Tybalt: Richard Wordsworth (great-great-grandson of William Wordsworth). Purdue Hall of Music. Kept playbill as souvenir. Framed, it hangs on my study wall.

Poetic essay: Lion holds diamond in its mouth. “If you suck on a diamond,” said Hildegarde of Bingen, “it will keep you from lying.” Diamond equals truthful word. Wordsworth, the actor, spoke Shakespeare. Wordsworth, the poet, introduced the Romantic Age in poetry. “I wandered lonely as a cloud.”  “The Child is father to the Man.” “I saw a crowd…of daffodils…” Richard appeared in my classroom in 1980, teaching English novels. Something about him was familiar. Reaching into the pit of memory,
I recalled where I saw him, where I had heard his voice. Tybalt! I was thrilled beyond belief. It was he of my first play, my first incursion into the world of dramatic arts.

I discovered that Professor Wordsworth loved the novels he’d chosen for the course.
I loved them, too. We communicated via my weekly essays. My maternal heart was touched by Trollope’s widowed Mrs. Bold (Barchester Towers), who having decided to marry Mr. Arabin, thrust her child at him, crying, “Take him!” I had been in her position when I took a second husband, who was stepfather to my little son.

For a semester, I connected soulfully with a stranger. I basked in his erudition, in his Englishness. I was a daffodil, thirsty for learning.

Midway through the course, I shyly approached him with the old playbill and he looked off at a distance trying to remember the performance. So many performances, I knew.

He autographed my playbill: “I thought you’d appreciate the familiar red ink! Every good wish and all love, R.”

Richard Wordsworth’s obituary praises him for his solid character roles. I won’t ever forget the tall, kindly professor, who wrote in red ink on my essays: “Can I give you no higher grade than an A+?” He left a warm aura.

Trance Poems

“Creativity being an ongoing praxis, is a continuous trance, in which one deals with the unification of worlds, rather than fostering inclement fragments.  Insights, worlds within worlds, which include not only scintillations of the conscious mind, but more importantly, its ability to both elevate and descend, thereby traversing the triple levels of the mind, the conscious, the supra-conscious, and the sub-conscious minds, creating in the process a concert of worlds.” –  From My Interior Vitae by Will Alexander.

Kristin Prevalett opens her book, Trance Poetics: Your Writing Mind, with the aforementioned quotation. It’s the idea of putting the mind into a self-induced trance to get at the soul of a poem that I want to write about today.

It’s always been easy for me to free-associate. Once my brain receives a prompt, I can cover several pages with linked words. In the beginning, the linkages were ordered:  words came from my brain either in rhyme or by category (I trained as a librarian). As I progressed, my associations seemed freer, e.g., dog-planet, but not entirely free because there is Sirius, the dog star.

I used to suffer from insomnia. I couldn’t find ways to shut down my brain until fairly recently. Now I tell myself, “Stop thinking,” refuse to allow images to come into my mind, and go to sleep. Having developed a kind of mind control, I do a better job of free-association.

For my self-induced trances, I go to the living room, sit in a comfortable recliner, adjust it for maximum comfort, and begin breathing exercises. In my lap are a clipboard, tablet, and pen. It isn’t long until I feel sufficiently relaxed to begin to write. I give myself a word, one that would be hard to rhyme, (which my brain tends to do), like “mirror,” and then write whatever comes next. I cover several pages. When I’m done, I write down all the words or word combinations that seem original. From that list, I find those jewels that comprise a theme and form them into a poem. Following is my most recent poem, using a self-induced trance:

Circle Game

Your lips touched my mind
as you traveled my orbit.
Bird hair, you once said,
meaning feathers.
You, city tiger,
prowling through alleys,
smelling Tupac’s rose
among the molt.
What is in the cup?
You and I—we don’t explain.
We are circle players.

Were elements of Circle Game already in my mind? Sure. But I didn’t know I was ready to write about them. I hadn’t explored my subconscious to see how they would fit together. This is a technique that works well for me, so I decided to share.

Honing my Craft

I’m learning more about my craft by taking The Rooster Moans Poetry Cooperative workshops, which are reasonably priced and taught by accomplished poets. “The Fairy Tale Poem,” taught by Brenda Mann Hammack, introduced me to a genre of poetry I’d not previously considered. Kristin Prevalett is teaching “The Poetry Talent Riding on the Silver Cloud of Consciousness (and Other Trances) and I’m learning how to find the essence of a poem through deep relaxation. Next month, I’m signed up for Joshua Davis’ “Foremothers: Imitating Women Poets.”

Belonging to the Coop allows interaction with poets in this country and other parts of the world. I plan to post a poem for general review soon. Coop participation helps shape poems and sharpens critiquing skills. I’m feeling very good about my growth as a poet.

Poem in Clementine Poetry Journal

Read my latest poem in the Clementine Poetry Journal.

Whose Evil Hand

Such was the darkness of the day…that we walked in clouds and lost our way.
Reverend John Hale, A Modest Inquiry into the Nature of Witchcraft, 1702.

In 1691, raging winds lashed Salem town.  Heathen raids, rare in winter,
occurred with regularity. King Williams’s War wore on in Maine.
People slept disquieted, muskets by their beds.
On the Arabella, Winthrop foresaw a city on the hill.
Where?  When? Would God never bless his saints?

Sabbath Sermon: Believe. I will make a footstool of thine enemies.
The faithful listened, but even as the pastor spoke,
Abby itched and Betty twitched.  Sit thee still, a deacon hissed.
Then Indians slaughtered settlers—Abby swished
and Betty slithered like a fish. King Louie’s army stormed a fort.
Betty contorted front to back. Abby pecked a pig.

Sermon emendatiThe awful Frowne of God is upon us.
Girls convulsed and babbled.  Magistrates examined them.
Malefic impulse? Not us, they blabbed, Slave Tituba hath bewitched us.
Under torture, the slave confessed, said she wrote her name
in Satan’s book and saw there names of Salem saints.  

The Devil slavered over souls like a raven with its kill.
Pastors pounded those accused:
What evil spirit do you know? Tell us, have you woven spells?
We are innocent
, they cried, but magistrates presumed they lied.

Sermon sequentiArm! Resist the Fiery Darts of the Wicked!
At the trials, oh what a show!  Judges endowed with Right: adjuring juries,
defendants trembling in the dock, and on the floor, mad girls chanting—
A yellow bird sucked Goody’s hair…a wing-ed thing flew through the air…
…a big black dog grew two backs…a rooting hog…a bluey cat…
The audience began to shrill: I saw a tett on Goody’s flesh.
She popped a poppet in the fire for the children to admire.
She baked a witchcake and fed the dog into a fit…

Sermon hortari: Jesus will send forth destroyers.
To stamp out Evil in Salem Town, goodly men hung nineteen neighbors
and pressed a man to death with stones; four defendants
and several infants died in custody in Jesus’ name.

Addendum:  The girls may have been afflicted with ergot poisoning,
ergot being in the rye they ate. With sunshine, symptoms did abate.

Italicized quotes inspired by In the Devil’s Snare by Mary Beth Norton.

Note:  Whose Evil Hand was heavily influenced by the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.  True piety has no room for hatred.

Welcome to my Blog!

A year ago, I moved to the Fox Valley in Illinois, which hosts a lively literary community. I joined the St. Charles Writing Group to share my work and critique that of others.  Group members sometimes read their work at Waterline Studio in Batavia and I’ve been able to share in that, too.  This is a glorious place to be and I wish I’d found my way here sooner.

I’m interested in the world.  The universe has saved me many times by giving me hope and absorbing my sorrows.  On this blog, I plan to share my thoughts on patriotism (liberals are patriots, too) women’s issues, and social issues.  I’ll publish some of my poems, and maybe a short story or two.  As it comes my way, I intend to share information about writing events and opportunities.

I hope you’ll visit from time to time.