WEB WEDNESDAY – S.E. INGRAHAM

S.E. INGRAHAM

S.E. Ingraham (Sharon) is yet another of the very fine poets Walt and I met during Robert Lee Brewer’s Poetic Asides 2009 April Poem-a-Day Challenge.  Months after the challenge ended, I wrote a poem about how I felt when I entered that site on April 1, and the days that followed.  I entitled it “This Grand Ballroom,” and wrote of how out-of-place I felt among the excellent poets there.  I was truly baffled and awed when any of them noticed my work.  Without naming names, I mentioned several in my poem. Here is an excerpt:

A young woman compliments

My faux pearls,

Herself, adorned with genuine pearls

Of the highest quality

That she has been gleaning and stringing herself

For many years.

Sharon is this woman.   Thank you, Sharon, for your encouragement to me back then.  You were instrumental in igniting my love for poetry.  Walt and I are grateful for your consistent presence here with us, and for giving of yourself so generously  in this interview.  Thank you!

Now, let’s begin with a poem of yours that really strikes me.

WHEN TREES WEEP

Out the south window she notes the weeping birch dying

Feels like sobbing herself but recognizes not for the tree

Everything will make her cry today she acknowledges with fresh grief

She wonders about the protocol for mothers of dead children

Then finds herself remembering her son’s face last seen

Alive, when he was in such pain, she barely knew him

She had to let him go, told him gently, “Hush…’’

“It’s alright sweetness,” she’d held his feverish hand in hers

Told him it would be okay, knowing death’s finality necessary

So now today, she gazes at trees weeping and dies

Inside a little more as she contemplates burying her son

A thought so alien as to be beyond her ken

She stares at the strange old woman in her mirror

Flicks invisible lint off her best black suit, wonders vaguely

If the hat’s too much, all big brim, widow’s netting

She smiles, knowing her fashion savvy boy would definitely approve

The bigger the hat the better, she remembers him saying

And remembering she finds herself wailing wildly in the moment

S.E.Ingraham©

(Originally published in online ‘zine Melisma)

MARIE ELENA:  “When Trees Weep” is so striking and emotive, I believe it surely must have welled up from your own experience.   But I have said that to you more than once at Poetic Asides, and have stood corrected.  Will you share with us how you so often seem to be able to tap both emotion and element so pointedly and poignantly in your work?  (I hope this is not a true incident in your life, Sharon.)

SHARON:  First of all, let me thank you for this opportunity … I consider it an honour to write for the site itself and even more of one to be interviewed by you!

The poem you picked is one of my personal favourites, so thank you.  Happily, it’s not a true incident in my life. I don’t know why I’m able to tap into that dark place so often but I seem to need to go there, and I do.

MARIE ELENA:  How impressively you’ve created story, setting, and emotion in such a short piece.  This is part of what I love about your poetry, Sharon.

My ever-in-tune Partner reminded me that you had commented on Dyson McIllwain’s trek to Canada, and your own “Northern Exposure” of the Aurora Borealis. How does your location influence your work?  What does location say to you?

SHARON: I think location influences writing enormously. There are entire university courses here devoted to just that thing since the Canadian landscape figures so prominently in all genres by Canadian authors. I know in some of my bios I write something like “…Ingraham likes to think it’s the latitude at which she writes and not her state-of-mind that informs most of her work but she rather doubts it …” Living in a country that has four seasons undoubtedly has an impact on my writing but I notice where-ever I happen to be influences my words.

MARIE ELENA:  I see that you are now focusing more on your writing, and specifically on becoming a well-published author/poet.                                 

 SHARONLast March I won a spot at the Colrain Poetry Manuscript Publishing Conference in Massachusetts,  and the feedback I got about the manuscript I took there was so encouraging I was certain I would have it revised and sent out at least once by now. Instead I’ve barely glanced at it.

I know what I need to do (at least I think I do) to become published, and I keep saying that’s what I want but I still seem to be in a bit of a stalled place.  I have at least two chapbooks partially assembled, both of which could be self-published or submitted for publication already, but they’ re both on hold also …  And then there are the contests.

During “blue pencil cafes” I’ve received encouragement and advice from established poets I respect, and I know that winning or placing in contests is one encouraged and acceptable route to publication, but it demands a rigorous system of submitting and resubmitting and for some reason, I am stalled there as well.

MARIE ELENA: Do you ever have to deal with “writer’s block?”  If so, what measures do you take to come out of it?

SHARON: For the first time in years I’ve been stalled, or blocked, for months. I wish I could say why, but I really don’t know.

The first thing that helped me, I’m thrilled to tell you, was this site. I was not a regular contributor, could not remember the last time I’d written to one of your prompts but something sent me here in late November and I wrote one of my “I Dreamed the Lake” poems. (I have a collection of these that I hope will make up a chapbook or a section of a book someday.) It felt great. Then Walt awarded me a bloom that week and I was over the moon. Truly.  (Pan to Marie Elena and Walt, beaming! 😉 )

From then on, I’ve tried to write to your prompts at least weekly and added in other sites as I was able, priming the pump so to speak. The block is by no means gone, but it’s going. I still haven’t sent anything out but I’m closer. A lot closer.

Something I’ve found incredibly helpful always. but especially when the muse has left the building, is good books about writing poetry. Robert Brewer has recommended some and I’ve discovered some on my own. For Christmas my husband bought me Sage Cohen’s Writing the Life Poetic (one of Robert’s recommendations) and it is certainly living up to its advanced billing. I also love The Poet’s Companion by Kim Addonizio and Dorianne Laux, and Natalie Goldberg’s Writing Down the Bones has never let me down either.

MARIE ELENA:  2010.  The trip of a lifetime.  Tell us about it.

SHARON: Ah the trip of a lifetime for our 40th wedding anniversary, the summer of 2010. Whenever I imagined this trip – and I confess, I never really thought we’d pull it off – it was always either a whirlwind thing: 12 cities in 14 days or some such, or two weeks at the most, in one place we both agreed was the place.

Instead we managed over a month – a week in Paris, just over a week in Provence, and about two weeks in Tuscany. It was a “pinch me – are we really here?” experience the whole time. We rented apartments everywhere we went and they were all exceptional, and exceptionally reasonably priced.  The renovated castle in Certaldo, Alto was the best deal of all and probably the most unbelievable – sleeping every night down the street from where Boccaccio wrote the DeCameron? Surreal. (The castle is actually the “tree-house” on my blog The Poet Treehouse,  for those interested.)

I should probably add that in a “feast or famine” type of situation – we went from not having traveled overseas ever to making it almost a regular thing. Last summer my husband was picked to be the surveyor on an ongoing archaeological project in southern Italy for six weeks in July and August. If you can imagine – because it’s an non-profit educational project that has profs and students and experts (Terry is one of the latter) – the deal is this: all expenses paid: airfare, transportation to and from Rome to Rionero, student-type housing, all meals (on-site chef actually) – and when they found out Terry would do it – they thought he’d balk at no pay, I’m sure – they made the deal for both of us! As long as the Italian government approves the project on a yearly basis, we’ll be invited back so as of now, we’re headed back July 2! We have every weekend to ourselves so have now also seen the Amalfi coast, Paestum, Sorrento and Rome … like I say – an embarrassment of riches …

Terry and Sharon, Rionero, Italy 2011

MARIE ELENA:  Wow!  That sounds dreamy, Sharon!  And what a great photo this is!

Back to the home front:  When Walt interviewed me, he afforded me the opportunity to brag about my little granddaughter, Sophie.  Get out your brag book:  here’s your opportunity to tell us what it’s like to be a grandmother.

SHARON:  The only downside to the lengthy time spent in Europe was missing our family, in particular our new grandson, Jack.

I know I’ve written about feeling this bond with Jack which is probably in my mind only but ever since he was born I’ve felt this closeness with him that I’ve never felt with anyone. When I found out we were both born under the same sign in the Chinese Horoscope – not just under the Ox but the Ox Inside the Gate (only those born in the years 1949 and 2009 share this distinction) – it felt like more pieces of some cosmic puzzle clicked into place for me, even though I’m not even sure I believe in such things. I know I’m biased but he is a delightful little boy.

In any case, Jack and his baby brother James (born in 2011) are two of the very best things in life. As are their parents.

JACK

JAMES

Both of our daughters bring us much joy and we couldn’t be happier with the men with whom they’ve chosen to spend their lives – I may have mentioned, they both married in the same year? 2008. Katy and Scott had a fairy-tale wedding here in Edmonton in August, and Julie and Jason (the boys’ parents) had an all-inclusive wedding in the Dominican that November. They all live here in Edmonton.

MARIE ELENA:  Such beautiful little boys!  And that “bond” you describe makes perfect sense to me.  Thank you for pulling out your brag book.

You have studied Psychology, English, Creative Writing, and Fashion.  Your career experience ranges from school bus driver to administrative assistant to fashion model to director of a modeling agency.  Two questions:  Of all these experiences, what did you enjoy most, and why?  How has your psychology background helped you in your various careers?

SHARON:  I studied psychology years ago when we still lived in the east (Brockville, Ontario) and I was considering becoming a psychiatric nurse. Ironically, I helped a psychiatrist run trials in a nine hundred bed psychiatric facility there – a really Gothic structure reminiscent of Britain’s Bedlam in some ways. The irony is, while I was discovering I really didn’t like being around physically ill people very much at all – weak stomach and all that and of course, there were some of those patients as well – and rapidly kissing my nursing aspirations goodbye – I had no idea that way down the road, I would be spending extensive amounts of time on the other side of the locked doors.

As for how psychology may have helped me over the years – I think subjects like this help to develop critical thinking skills… and in that respect a background in the subject is useful in almost everything else you do. So that’s a non-answer, I expect. Perhaps not. I’ve been fortunate enough to find myself in several leadership roles and have also done a fair amount of negotiating; I love things like non-violent conflict resolution, and decision-making by consensus etc., all of which seems part and parcel.

It’s hard for me to pick one thing I’ve done work-wise that I enjoyed the most – my work history, as you noticed is checkered to a ridiculous degree.

I guess if I had to choose, it would be the things that allowed me to be with my kids. I love to drive and the bigger the vehicle the better so when I found out I could drive a seventy-two passenger school bus and take my daughter on-board while I did, it was a no-brainer.

When the girls were a little older, I ran a day-home out of our house, mostly so I could stay home, another win-win situation.

 MARIE ELENA:  When asked to share a poem that best represents her style and spirit,  Sharon chose “Monstrous.”   I must agree, and feel as though I would recognize this piece as one of Sharon’s, even if her name was not attached.

 

Monstrous

usually in disguise

she steals

into daydreams

and haunts the back

of elementary

school gymnasiums

but if you look

for her, you will never

find her; you may see

what appears

to be feathers

fluttering out

of the corner

of your eye

but even turning

quickly will not

afford you a glimpse

it will be hard

to say when you

first realized she is

omni-present

and chameleon-like

and she makes the hair

on your scalp hurt

you know she is

dangerous but

she’s camouflaged

so skillfully

it’s difficult to put your

finger on just what

it is about her

that worries you so;

you want to hide

your children

whenever you sense

her nearness

and you sense

it more often

then you like

to admit

some evenings

she chases you

from your house

as far as the field

by the highway

and once,

she led you

to the bridge;

you suspect

it is she

that takes you

to the hospital

but no-one

believes you,

not even you

she is scarier

than the monster

under the bed

or in the closet,

she just is,

and sometimes

when you sit

in the garage

with the car

idling and

the door closed,

she comes there too.

S.E.Ingraham©

SHARON:  I really went back and forth about what poem to put in – thought maybe something a little more upbeat – but finally decided that since I do concentrate often on the sane and the insane and the seemingly thin veil separating both, I would stay true to the bulk of my work and put up something typical.

MARIE ELENA:  So haunting … that thin veil plainly evident.  Sharon, you mentioned “… spending extensive amounts of time on the other side of the locked doors.”  If it isn’t too intrusive, will you please tell us what you are referring to?

SHARON:  I have no problem talking about my mental health and, I am a huge advocate for removing the stigma surrounding the issue of mental illness. It’s funny, because I’ve written about my mental health history so often and at such length, I always assume everyone knows about it. Of course, that’s just simply not true. My major manuscript – the one I took to Colrain with the working title, “A Tear at the Edge of the Universe” is about as I’ve said elsewhere in this interview, my fascination with sanity and insanity, the thin veil that separates the two and what causes that veil to rip. The experience at Colrain showed me that an entire book of poems dealing with this topic is at least feasible as the two editors there – especially the one, Martha Rhodes – was very enthusiastic.

All my life, from my early teens on, I complained about being overly tired. I fell asleep in school and in public and just everywhere. I was told by doctors and everyone else I was just lazy. No matter how much sleep I got – I just wanted to sleep. This continued literally my whole life. Of course at some point I also got very depressed. Still extremely tired, I began seeing shrinks and began a long course of therapy and drugs. I functioned, got married, had kids etc., but was spiraling down the rabbit hole further and further until finally I guess, hit bottom and became suicidal and ended up in emergency. Thank heavens. The psychiatrist on call that night just also happened to be a sleep specialist.

For the first time in my life a doctor sat up when I said I was just so tired. Long story short – he knew at once I had a sleep disorder, ran me through his sleep lab to prove it, then set about helping me deal with the fall out.

And fall out there was – when a sleep order goes too long undiagnosed – I was in my early forty’s before my Periodic Limb Movement Disorder was discovered, unfailingly the patient is also clinically depressed. As my doctor put it, “No wonder you’re depressed woman – you haven’t slept since you were about eleven!” And, as one hears too often in the psychiatric world, “No one knows why this is but we can almost guarantee, within a year, you will almost certainly be Bipolar …”

Sure enough – almost a year to the day, I was hypo-manic. I’d lived in a state of depression for so long that both the doctor and I fooled ourselves into thinking that maybe this was just going to be my “up” side of normal; it was just so nice to see me with energy and reasonably high-functioning. I was somewhat lucky I know in that I only had hypo-manias for a couple of years … but still went way down when I did go down. However when I finally did blow full-blown manic, there was no mistaking that …

Anyhow – this was supposed to be the short version – suffice to say, it’s been a long haul of years of medication trials and therapy and numerous hospital stays and very hard times on my family. I finally came to a more balanced place about eight years ago and was doing not too badly especially, I believe, because of a spectacular doctor I was working with. We made a good team and I think would have remained so (my family agrees) had he not taken his life in 2005. I wasn’t willing to trace a spectacular mania to his death until long after the fact. A mania that almost cost me everything dear, and I do mean everything. It was followed – after many months – by a suicidal plunge that put me back into hospital for many more months.

At that point, when I’d almost lost everything and realized how badly I wanted it back, plus realized the doctor I counted on to keep me level for the rest of my life was gone – I guess I figured I better find a way to keep myself sane or I was done for. I couldn’t hurt those I loved again. Something must have taken hold in me. I haven’t been hospitalized since 2006 … that’s not to say I haven’t felt somewhat down … but I’m managing and that’s something.

Whew – and that’s the short version? I guess I don’t know a short version.

MARIE ELENA:  … and I suppose there is no such thing as a short version, when one is traveling the path of mental illness. Sharon, I can’t thank you enough for sharing this part of your life and what makes you, you.  Brave, wonderful people like you, Amy Barlow Liberatore, and my own beautiful daughter will surely help make a difference in how we view, treat, and care for the mentally ill among us.  I pray that is so.

One of your favorite quotes is, “Much unhappiness has come into the world by things left unsaid.” (Dostoevsky)  This plays right into my last question:  If we could know only one thing about you, what would it be?

SHARON:  I do love this quote!

I anticipated this question from other interviews I’ve read that you’ve done and while this fact could probably remain unsaid, I’m thinking it’s something most people don’t know about me.

Early days (very) – I sent something out for publication consideration with the usual hopes and aspirations. I received it back in very short order and so neatly folded and packaged, it was obvious to me it had not been read except maybe cursorily – just long enough for whomever to scribble across the first page in bold blue pencil –

“Too serious a topic for a female to attempt!” – no signature or anything else.

I don’t know how long it took for me to recover from the shock but I do know, I became determined to avoid any future knee-jerk, gender-based reactions to my work;  I would forevermore sign anything I sent anywhere – S.E. Ingraham.

~~~~~~~~

SHARIN’ SHARON’S SITES:

The Poet-Treehouse      (primary poetry site)

The Way Eye See It   (secondary poetry site)

In My Next Life  (third site used for poetry)

The Blogamist  (fourth site used for poetry)

S.E. Ingraham Says  (for book reviews)

The Leaping Elephants (for rants, musing etc.)

What Are the Odds (ponderings etc.)

The Poet Tree (older poetry site)

WHERE THE RUBBER MEETS THE ROAD – PROMPT #44

Take a little road trip. You’re going on a vacation. Write about it. You had a favorite vacation. Write about it. You haven’t been on vacation in a LONG time. Write about it.

Or write about your dream vacation. Write about your vehicle. Write about road maps. GPS? Write about the street on which you lived. You see where we’re going? We’re on the road in one way or another. Write one more for the road!

Marie Elena’s Road:

Snippets of a Brooklyn Mission
(A daughter in crisis)

Calls in the night span nearly 600 miles
Of separation. In desperation,
We talk and pray for hours,
As schizophrenia’s power
Plots to devour her very core.

Grasped firmly in the jaws of crisis,
Dad and I turn the ignition,
On a mission only love can drive.

Finally face-to-face, we
See her palpable relief,
But this thief is unyielding,
On a mission of its own.

Her minute apartment becomes home
For a spell, as we try to slay this hell
That has claimed residence in her being.

But not all is lurid, as warm memories attest:
Love expressed as “Grandpop” meets her on the Pulaski Bridge
Each day after class, as her fragile-as-glass mind
Finds comfort in his care.

Laptop in hand, we’d snub our concerns, and
Sit on her stairs to catch our Buckeyes.
Or have a slice at Triangelo’s,
Reminiscent of Grandma’s own.

We soaked in the Brooklyn tone –
Polish bakery scents,
Market and Laundromat treks –
Nothing complex,
As we walked where we needed,
And nothing impeded our task
As we basked in the 50’s feel of it all.

Seeing through our eyes
Blew home’s breath into her setting,
Letting her fears reduce from life-threatening,
If for only precious moments.

That Fall, we followed our hearts to Brooklyn
On a mission only love can drive.

WALT’S JOURNEY:

THE STRAIGHT AND NARROW

I grew up near where the metal monsters rode.
Raised on the rumble and roar,
impressed by the power and speed.
Six abreast the rails curved around the bend,
straight and narrow the metal runs
under the trellis, Northward toward Buffalo,
to the South along the lake shore toward
Erie and Cleveland. They were the major players:
New York Central, Pennsylvania, Nickel Plate,
Erie, Burlington, B&O. Saturday afternoons
spent sitting among the corn in my
grandfather’s garden, trying to guess
which rail carried the next train through.
A blast of diesel horn, and a half wave/salute
from the engineer,  and the train continued
to high ball it to its next destination.
Always my dream to ride the big
NYC 20th Century out of town.
Born too late, the dream will
always remain just that.

BEAUTIFUL BLOOMS – PROMPT #43

Pete Seeger wrote and sang (The Kingston Trio and Peter,Paul and Mary also did renditions) this wonderful folk song “Where Have All the Flowers Gone?”  Watching life pass us by becomes a reality which we all encounter. In the song, everything come back to bloom again. If we’re lucky, we will witness the resurgence of our blessings. These BEAUTIFUL BLOOMS are given for expressing this theme:

MARIE ELENA’S SELECTION:

My first inclination for choosing a Bloom for this prompt was to go with a nostalgic piece that speaks to my own delightful childhood memories.  It’s a beautifully written poem (but aren’t they all?), and I even had begun to write my words of recognition.  However, Andrea Heiberg’s  “O MAGNITUDE” would not release me from its haunting touch, and beauty and grace of script.  If you have not yet read Andrea’s introduction to her poem, please take the time to do so.  Andrea, your work in this short piece is exceptional, in my opinion.  It took several readings for its depth and message to capture me.  It is with pleasure that I offer this week’s Beautiful Bloom to you.

O MAGNITUDE by Andrea Heiberg

The days never end but
for the longing of
the damping forest
morning,
the on shore wondering,
the red-necked grebe
on its way
with her two heavy babies on her back,
resting.

No, the days never end.

WALT’S CHOICE:

In choosing this photo for this week’s prompt, one thought danced in my head. My oldest daughter, Melissa, is in the process of making her wedding arrangements. And that one thought permeated my heart. Where are you off to? Where is my flower going? The answer was clear, you are off to use all you have learned to live your life. The swings are empty, and waiting for the next rider. Henrietta Choplin’s wonderful “I LOVE YOU TO THE MOON AND BACK” (My daughters said the “STARS AND BACK” ) brings it close to home for me. Children will find a way to be children. Even at 26 and 19, Melissa and her sister Andrea stay Daddy’s little girls in heart and spirit. A lovely Quatern Hen, earns your BEAUTIFUL BLOOM.

I LOVE YOU TO THE MOON AND BACK by Henrietta Choplin

Children find ways to be children.
Smack in the middle of chaos,
“Let us swing high…up to the moon!”
“I can go, way higher than you!”

Little toes to touch an ocean blue,
Children find ways to be children.
“I’m on my way…higher than you!”
“Oh no you’re not, just watch me too…”

Graceful forms of a dolphin’s sail,
Gliding, dipping, climbing trails,
Children find ways to be children.
“…see me…I AM, where’s Mom and Dad?”

“Up in the house, but don’t you ask!”
“Up to the moon…let us swing high!”
Smack in the middle of chaos,
Children find ways to be children.

Congratulation to Andrea and Henrietta for you work this week. And a fond thank you to all our poets for keeping the flowers blooming here at POETIC BLOOMINGS.

IN-FORM POET – Trolaan

Trolaan was created by Valerie Peterson Brown, and is a poem consisting of 4 quatrains. Each line of the quatrain begins with the same letter. The rhyme scheme is abab.

Starting with the second stanza you use the second letter of the first line of the first stanza to write the second; each line beginning with that letter.

On the third stanza you will use the second letter on the first line of the second stanza and write the third each line beginning with that letter.

On the fourth stanza you will use the second letter on the first line of the third stanza and write the fourth each line beginning with that letter.

Marie Elena’s Rant:

BUT, TELL ME HOW YOU REALLY FEEL?

 
Each form has its limitations
Ears, and eyes, and brain oppose
Entertaining word relations
End, their playful tryst bulldozed.
 
All this time I’ve scorned Sestina
Aching brain now vows upon
Avoidance of this strict arena,
And Sestina’s evil spawn!
 
Lost my muse in form, unyielding
Longing for said muse to dance
Little lexicon I’m wielding,
Low, my brain is in a trance.
 
Ought now I these forms to hold?
(One would say true poets ought) –
Onward then despite head cold!

 
Or not.

 

Walt’s Example:

AS EVENING WANES

As evening wanes and morning
appears over the hill,
another day, with the sun adorning
all that lies quiet and still.

Soon, the shadows cast will
seem elongated and pronounced,
surrounded by the sounds that fill,
serenity has been announced.

Over in the quietest places,
one who seeks will find.
Of all their heart encases,
offerings are the thoughts within their mind.

Very soon the morning fades,
vacillating between now and noon,
valiantly the hours parade,
visions of nightfall coming soon.

© 2012 – Walt Wojtanik

WHERE HAVE ALL THE FLOWERS GONE? – PROMPT #43

Marie Elena’s View:

ONE MORE CHANCE

Step with me across the moon,
where childhood awaits
with puzzle books, and sharpened crayons
and four-wheeled roller skates.

Take my hand, and skip with me
To Thumbelina land.
Let’s grab a rope for Double Dutch;
Build castles in the sand.

Climb with me beyond the clouds
Discover who is there –
It’s Chatty Cathy, Penny Bright
And your first Teddy Bear.

Come where time did not pass by,
And ceaselessly it’s Spring
Where getting there’s the easy part:
Just grab an empty swing.

Walt’s Poem:

GROWN AND GONE

It used to be our playground,
our sanctuary; our safe harbor.
It’s harder to imagine where time
has stepped off and left these seats vacant.
Youth was our canvas and painted
with vibrant hues, offered a world of possibilities.
But these days of futures past, have left us
to seek our dreams a bit muted and unsure. We have all grown
and we need to “own” what we’ve become.
Returning to days of youth soothes our souls;
these memories tend to fade once we’ve gone.

BEAUTIFUL BLOOMS – PROMPT #42

The innocence of a child, wide eyed with wonder and purity, searching for security and knowledge. But there are times we can take lessons from them. They show what real trust and love and joy are all about. It wouldn’t hurt us to switch places with them and become their students in these regards. You have all offered beautiful and inspiring pieces worthy of the recognition. We thank you for your worth and contribution to this place we all can claim as our own. The BEAUTIFUL BLOOMS for week #42 are now on stage!

Marie Elena’s Bloom:

What a fun prompt this was!  Diapers to duct tape to distractions … all struck my fancy, made me chuckle, or touched my heart.  Thank you all for taking up Walt’s challenge of writing a children’s poem.  I thought many would bow out of this one.  Instead, you rose to the challenge, and drew the most comments we have seen to date.  Awesome!

My Bloom goes to Alexandra Palmer (The Happy Amateur) for “You Are The Be(a)st!”  This piece is fun-fun-fun, imaginative, and suits the prompt to a “T.”  Tighten up the meter, and GET THEE TO A PUBLISHER!

~You Are The Be(a)st!~

It happened in a misty land,
Where beastly creatures dwell.
A yelp was heard to lend a hand
(Or was it ‘paw’? Oh, well.)

“What must I do? Where should I go?
I need to have a plan!
I have to know! I want to grow!
Please, help me if you can!”

“My little beast, you’re worried sick!
It’s going to be OK!
Sit down, have some chocolate milk,
And hear what I say:

You will find out what you’re about,
Just do your very best,
And Mother Nature will – no doubt –
Take care of the rest.

Before you know it, you’ll grow
And see what future brings.
Have fun, and go with the flow,
And try all sorts of things.

Try wiggling ears, growing claws,
Try glowing in the dark,
Try rolling eyes and clicking jaws,
Try grinning like a shark,

Try sleeping in the scariest cave,
Try howling at the moon,
And if you’re really, really brave,
Try eating with a spoon!

Try being small, but standing tall,
Try out your mighty roar!
And when you think you’ve tried it all,
Try trying even more!

Try ups and downs… never fear:
You’ll find your guiding star.
But most importantly, my dear,
Just be the beast you are.

I’m always with you, always near,
No matter how far.
And I will always love you, dear,
Just for the beast you are.”

Walt’s Selection:

A fun prompt to a point. We all loved fairy tales that offered us lessons of life and love in some way.  All wrapped up in a “Happily Ever After”  In a perfect world, all lessons should be as such. But we know better. We are imperfect people in an imperfect world. Our tales are of princesses and princes, little wooden boys and floppy eared Elephants. Reality is of people struggling to survive. Doing what is needed to secure those very lives. Part of our reality consists of such warriors. Kimiko Martinez teaches a lesson some would just as soon forget. Thank you for teaching me something I already knew, Kimiko. Here’s your beautiful bloom.

THE WARRIOR by Kimiko Martinez

Dedicated to Sgt. William Stacey, a 23-year-old Marine who died in Afghanistan a few weeks ago.
And to all the warriors we have lost and love.

William was a warrior.
So off to war he went,
as warriors often do.

He kissed his girl
and faced his fate,
in a far off place

full of warriors who
had kissed thier own
wives and mothers

faced their own fates,
fighting to protect
an idea that burned

as deep as their love
for the women who
would stare at some

far-off place as they
thought of the men
they loved, off at war,

hoping they would
come home to love
them once more.

William was a warrior.
He died for this love.
As warriors often do.

POETIC RECOLLECTIONS

For all who have not yet heard,  we are offering to all our poets the chance to consolidate your POETIC BLOOMINGS poems onto your own parcel within our “Garden.”  This section is entitled “Poetic Recollections,” and may be found in the menu at the top of this site.

All poets who have posted here on a regular basis are eligible for a site.  “Regular”  meaning multiple posts to a Sunday prompt or IN-FORM POETS form prompt. The IN-FORM poems may be placed on your site as well.

Please note:  The Poetic Recollections sites are intended for our poets to collect and organize the poems they’ve already posted on the main page for POETIC BLOOMINGS prompts. We ask that you continue to post your poetry, comments, and replies on the main prompt pages.  We respectfully request that you refrain from commenting directly to the individual Recollections sites.

To make your Poetic Recollections page request and provide your information (photo, bio, links, etc.), please send an e-mail to poeticbloomings@yahoo.com (Subject: Profile Page)Each of you who request to have a page set up for your works here must provide a brief bio, including any of the URLs of your blogs, or other materials you wish to promote.    Also if you use a pen name:  we would like your page to include your given name so we can promote your works here and across the blogosphere. 

These electronic “Chapbooks” will enhance our site greatly. Thank you all for your gifts of words, and your continued support.

WEB WEDNESDAY – CLAUDETTE YOUNG

CLAUDETTE YOUNG

In her own words, Claudette Young is an infrequent gardener here at Poetic Bloomings. Personally, I’ll take her words and works anytime I can get them.  I refer to Clauds as my “wise and wonderful friend.” It is very much my pleasure to bring her to the spotlight today.

The poem I chose to share with you is entitled The Alley.  Clauds says it really needs to be read aloud with a southern accent for effect.  So butter your grits, and head south to The Alley.

 The Alley

In the south, where the moss hangs heavy
and rivers run sluggish and deep,
there forms an atmosphere of anticipation
during summer afternoons as heat rises from
withered grasses and wilting willows.

Life begins storing breath deep inside itself,
knowing that danger walks on one twisted leg
where hot meets cold and sparks night-time fireworks.
Eagle-eyed watchers take up their positions,
idling power always ready for use.

“Soon,” sighs the first faint whisper of breeze.
“Wait for it,” echoes the building cloudbank.
Soon the cow birds disappear into sheltered hide-aways;
herds amble toward circled safety in numbers.
“Almost here,” breathes a quicker cousin of the soft breeze.

Quiet begins as sickly yellow cloud commandeers sky;
color tells the tale, warns the wary, and stands firm.
Waiting blackness that flows brings first hail;
Experience sees peas and then marbles.
The time has arrived to descend to security.

Hours of howling winds and piercing rain
lash the land, proclaiming dominion over all.
Then, silence announces completion, an end.
Life releases its collective breath, emerging to survey
a world scoured clean, ready for renewal.

In contrast to the The Alley, our guest chose Walking the Forest of Thought as the poem she feels best represents her own style and spirit.

Walking the Forest of Thought

Big ideas stand as Sequoyahs

Reaching, stretching ever skyward

For expanding distant stars, while

Rooted in detritus of past dreams.

Memory’s chainsaw of vision

Reduces giants to toothpicks for

Use as cleaners of baby teeth called

Expectations, never caring

That clear-cutting leads to later floods,

Or landslides of obsessive dream,

To replants after denuding,

To secure a healthier forest.

CLAUDETTE:  This is a poem which reflects my thoughts on the process of writing and the process of my life. I chose it because this is how I think many days, hence some of my difficulty in writing for mass audiences. I think much of the time in metaphor. Thinking in literal terms is hard for me.

MARIE ELENA:  This choice and your reasoning behind it have me nodding my head in agreement.  I cannot think of a better representation of your very core.  This confirms what I always tell you:  you think poetically.

I discovered a quote in your Claudsy’s Calliope blog that I find very intriguing, and very YOU:  “I took up writing at the age of 12. I gave up writing to be a “Real Person” during my early adulthood and middle years. Then I learned what “real” actually meant to me and began writing again. Using words set me free. Making sentences, that’s the hard part.”  Something tells me we could spend the entire interview exploring this alone.  What did you discover about being a “real person,” and how and when did you discover it?

CLAUDETTE: Being a “real person” to me means living for your own goals, your own aspirations, rather than constantly striving to accede to another’s intentions for you. For instance, most of my life my parents—but particularly my father—dictated how I ran my life.

I made choices based on two things: actions that would be approved of by my parents, or actions that rebelled against the choices that I thought would have been made by my parents. Truthfully, I tried to please at all times because it was less of a hassle and fight.

I did everything I could to remain in approval mode. After my mother’s death, I went corporate. I’d just finished my Master’s program, having completed two Bachelor’s degrees and a double Master’s program in four years. During those four years, I’d dealt with learning how to function with almost no usable sight, a grandparent at death’s door, a brother that almost died, and my mother’s terminal cancer. Stress had become my middle name.

When I went corporate, I placed myself in an even more stressful environment that kept promoting me because I was good at what I did. That is, until I wasn’t any longer. The pace, expectations, corporate plans for me, etc. took me to my own death’s door. I refused to go quietly. I fought the verdict, broke with the corporate world, and fled.

For nearly twenty years, I worked to become myself, without falling back into the trap of living for someone else’s dictates. I finally managed to do that, and began writing for myself in 2008. I refuse to look back and apologize for this decision.

MARIE ELENA:  This response is gripping, and very telling. You must look back sometimes in wonder at how you survived the stress.

It does not surprise me that your rich corporate background and eagerness to please brought you to a sense of what being “real” means to you.   What do you do to implement what you discovered?

CLAUDETTE: I remind myself each day that I have my own purpose on this earth, separate from what others might believe or want. I’ve been given a choice of how to live.

MARIE ELENA:  On writing, you say, “It’s an itch that I must scratch.”  I’m sure many (all?) of us here can relate to that!  Since you caught the writing bug at the age of 12, how has the way you scratched that itched changed through the years?

CLAUDETTE: I was much freer when I was young. I experimented with all sorts of forms. It never occurred to me that I couldn’t write a perfectly good adult romance novel at age 12. I still like that story. It was the same with my first play at age 11. I have since learned what a framed story is, and still write that way at times.

When I was in medical recovery after corporate life, I wrote an epic SF fantasy novel and its sequel. NaNoWriMo would have loved me with that first one. Five hundred and twelve pages in three weeks. I was on a role. Naturally, it was rejected, but with an editor’s personal comments rather than a form rejection. I was then offered a second chance for a literary agency. That terrified me.

Now, I’ve learned enough to be fearful for different reasons. I’m not as free with my writing as when I was young. I’ve only recently begun experimenting with more and different forms and genres. My growth as a “real person” is making another surge forward, though. I’ve come to a point in my study of the industry where the fear of rejection doesn’t come around as much anymore. I may still know that I have plenty to learn and I’m not “the bomb,” but I know I can write.

I can’t stop writing. Even when I am washing dishes or talking to someone on the phone, ideas pop in for use in established stories, or as sparks for new ones.

MARIE ELENA: I can relate to that, and I’d like to know why it seems that the creative juices flow at the most inopportune times.  😉

Your writing ranges from children to adult, fiction to non, documentary to poetry.  What is your favorite genre, and what are your publication aspirations?

CLAUDETTE: Oddly enough, I’ve had more success with both non-fiction and poetry than with fiction, memoir or essay. I love writing poetry and kick myself each day for not taking enough time for it. I have four books of poetry that I’m working on at present. “Moon Sees All,” “A Forest Primeval,” “Ancient Reflections,” and “A View from Outside.”

But I’m also writing a women’s cozy mystery, “Dreamie’s Box,” and books stemming from a cross-country trek with my sister. Like I said before, I do keep busy.

I’ll never go back to technical writing as I did with corporate work. It’s far too rigid.

If I had to choose one genre, I’d have to say poetry, because it can be both non-fiction and fiction, depending on the subject matter and approach. Poetry has given me a new voice that I hadn’t before seriously explored.

MARIE ELENA:  Quite impressively, your formal adult education ranges from completion of a writing course at The Institute for Children’s Literature to a double BS/double MS from Ball State University in psychology, sociology and gerontology.  Tell me, do these lines intersect?

CLAUDETTE: I’m a life-long student. Learning is as necessary for me as breathing. As to intersection, oh yes, they do intersect quite well. When I was teaching back in the nineties, I used much of what I did during university studies to relate material to students.

It’s the same for working with writing now. Things that I learned back then – ways of thinking – correlate nicely with methods of writing, researching, etc. I had to work on many research projects, including a massive survey for a foreign government and an annual national survey done each autumn in the U.S.

Because I had to master the art of creating specific types of questioning techniques for those needs, I’ve been able to utilize the knowledge for interviews now. Maybe it’s a quirk of how my mind works, but that training also changed how I looked at information and its use. That impacts my research now, whether for children’s or adults’ articles. It also gives me more freedom at times regarding how stories come together.

There’s an old saying that “Information is power.” It does have power to lead the writer into many arenas she wouldn’t otherwise have explored.

MARIE ELENA:  You are not one to shy away from a challenge. For instance, writing not just a sestina, but an entire book (“Moon Sees All,”  mentioned above) written in sestina form.  I marvel at this feat, and I’m sure my sestina-loving Walt is fairly glowing with pride in you right now.  What do you feel is your biggest writing challenge, and how do you go about conquering it?

CLAUDETTE:  My biggest writing challenge is slowing down. Strange, huh. I’ve written about it. I have trouble preventing myself from haring off onto new projects without finishing those already waiting on the boards. Some would call that “flighty,” I suppose.

I’ve been giving serious attention to that tendency in the past few weeks. I have dozens of articles, stories, and poems sitting on my hard drive, waiting for a new home. Some are ready for submission, others need some TLC before leaving home. I try to take one piece every day or so, get it ready to submit, and take the time to find at least three potential markets for it before sending it out. My goal is to submit at least three pieces each week.

The one thing I need in my writing life right now is control. I seemed to have lost that somewhere and am having trouble reclaiming my former position as CEO of my own budding career. I’m determined to take back that chair at the head of the conference table.

MARIE ELENA: Subbing at least three pieces each week? Thanks for the kick in the seat of the pants, my friend. I need to take up that challenge.  And speaking of facing challenges, let’s talk about that cross-country trek with your sister (and photographer), Jo.  (See  BJJones Photography.)

CLAUDETTE: Jo and I went on the road for five months to see as much of the country as possible. We wanted to take a year to see all of those places we’d never seen, while we tent camped and made a photo diary of the adventure.

Instead, another major economic shift occurred, which forced gas prices to skyrocket, as well as those campsites we’d researched so arduously for months. On top of the financial crunch, the country experienced aberrant winter weather like few had ever seen. Pitching a tent in water-logged ground isn’t advisable. We ended up sleeping in the car most of the time.

We’d left in mid-December for the southern climes and were chased by heavy storms and cold throughout the South. We managed to travel through twenty states, but enjoyment was low on our agenda. We saved our strength for keeping warm, dry and safe.

MARIE ELENA:  Yes, I remember it well!  Kate and Lynn (a couple of mutual [and talented] friends of ours at the Institute of Children’s Literature Writers Retreat) kept an online map of your whereabouts and trials at the time.  It certainly kept me in prayer for you and Jo!

CLAUDETTE:  We saw and learned things about our country that we might not have learned any other way. By the time we returned to Montana the next May, we were tired, discouraged, and flailing to find purchase somewhere stable and unmoving. Yet, because of those experiences, we discovered how many blessings operate.

Rather than have one travel book about places and sightseeing, we ended up with several books. The first is entitled “Failures to Blessing: Finding the Silver Lining.” It speaks to the positive results of our trip’s failures, those results that have long-reaching impact on our lives. The second book is tentatively entitled “Blessings to Potentials: Building on Silver Linings.” This takes those blessings and others and projects how those impacts are played out in our lives. The third volume brings the reader back to the beginning and entitled “Potentials to Futures: Realizing the Power of Blessings.” One last book will be written which acts as a more visual account of our journey toward realization through the photos and stories behind the photos that were taken during our trip.

Those should keep us both occupied for a while.

MARIE ELENA:  Indeed, it should!

LOADED UP AND READY TO GO

ANY ROOM FOR CLAUDS AND JO?

GREETINGS FROM YOGI AT JELLYSTONE PARK (INDIANA)

LOUISIANA TUG BOAT

(All images courtesy of BJJONES PHOTOGRAPHY)

MARIE ELENA:  In keeping with the topic of challenges you’ve faced: as mentioned above, you have extremely limited eyesight.  This has got to wreak havoc on a writer.  I knew of your condition, but I’ve never heard you complain even once. Do you mind telling your story?

CLAUDETTE: I don’t mind, Marie. Mine is genetically based. The men carry the gene, evidently, and the women manifest the condition. All but one of my aunts on my father’s side are blind, and that aunt has had a few eye surgeries of her own. Our retinas don’t like to remain attached to the walls of the eyes, and the maculae break down easily. Most of us were under the age of twenty when the first retinal detachment occurred.

I do a lot of reading with very strong spectacles, and according to the font size, sometimes a strong magnifying glass as well. The computer, while it tires the eyes and causes them to dry out easily, helps quite a bit because it puts me in control of font size. Websites and emails are a bear sometimes because servers think everyone has eagle eyes and brings fonts down to 8.5 to 10pt size.

With Windows 7, though, I can teach my machine to read to me whatever is on screen and to take dictation just like Dragon. I don’t have time to do that right now, so I keep plugging along as I do things now.

The thing that chokes me most of the time is not being able to read as fast as I used to or not being able to scan screens for specific words or phrases. That slows down my processing abilities and causes everything to take longer to do. I feel terribly slow and clumsy most of the time. I keep thinking I’m supposed to catch on instantly, see something instantly on a crowded page, and that kind of thing. Self-defeating, I know, but that’s how my psych works most of the time.

MARIE ELENA:  I know you are a woman of faith, and it shows in your strength through adversity.

CLAUDETTE: I’ve had my own experiences surrounding faith. There have been literal and timely answers to prayer. There have been dreams which bring me up to wakefulness in panic at the messages I was given. Each of these instances deepen my faith, but at the same time cause me to question my ultimate purpose on this world. When you’re told what you’re supposed to be doing, and that vocation is so antithetical to what you believe yourself to be, a chasm of apprehension arises. I’m still staring into the chasm.

MARIE ELENA: As with all my interviewees, my final question is this:  If we could know only one thing about you, what would it be … and why?

CLAUDETTE:  I’d tell them that I’m a very shy person inside and that what people see is a self-protection shield. I don’t trust easily or like to be in the limelight. Self-promotion is one of the most difficult things I’ve had to attempt in the last five years.

I’ll tell you a short story here. I realized when I was in grade school that when we went to visit my dad’s family in another state, I would stand back and watch each person greeting us. Usually it was only my grandparents since we’d arrive there in the middle of the night. Displaying affection toward these almost-strangers didn’t happen for me.

I couldn’t allow myself to do that or accept their affection toward me. I had to make sure of them first. I had to know that these were the same people whom I’d known during the last visit. Only then could I relax and blend into the family picture.

For the most part, I’m still that way. If I’ve been apart from someone, caution rules at the next meeting until I know that I can still trust them. I watch and listen, and then I make a move forward or back. Few people know that about me.

MARIE ELENA:  If there is one common thread that I am discovering in the interviewer’s seat, it is that Poetic Bloomings is populated with extraordinary people who walk with grace and strength through exceptionally trying times.  You are no exception, dear friend.   Thank you for carving time from your taxing schedule to give us a glimpse of your strength and inspiration.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

You may find more of Claudette Young at:

http://claudsy.blogspot.com/ (Claudsy’s Calliope)

http://trailinginspirations.wordpress.com/     (Trailing Inspirations)

http://claudsy.wordpress.com/ (Claudsy’s Blog [wordpress])

Sampling of published works:

Yahoo News/Associated Content (Travel, op-ed, children’s story, Yahoo Writer Style Book)
SuperTeacher Worksheets (Math Word Problems and quizzes, incorporating reading comprehension with problem solving and logic skills)
Sea Giraffe Magazine [online] (Poetry pending release date)
Soft Whispers Magazine [online] (Poetry)
The River Literary Journal [online] (Poetry)
Small River Stones Journal [online] (Poetry)
Prompted: An International Collection of Poems (Poetry Anthology)
My Friend, Smories and other online magazines (Children’s stories)
ICL Newletter (Articles for children’s writers)

MORAL OF THE STORY – Prompt #42

Poems touch, teach and entertain people of every size and age. This week we will ask you to write a children’s poem that teaches a lesson. But, the lesson is meant for the parents or the responsible adult. The moral of this story is have fun and learn a little something about ourselves.

Marie Elena’s Poem:

I SAID TO ME
(positive self-talk for middle-grade children)

Today I think I woke up on the wrong side of the bed,
‘cause everything is mixed up in the brain inside my head.
I couldn’t seem to get things straight. There’s nothing I could do.
But then I told my dad, and he said, “Son, that’s just not true.”
My Father said, “Can’t never could, ‘cause can’t will never try.
But can works hard to get it right. Can helps us to get by.
Don’t ever tell yourself you can’t; that you don’t have the skill.
Just say ‘I can,’ and try your best, then certainly you will.”

So, I said to me:
“I’ll make it be.
I’ll try with all my might.
I’ll do my part,
I’m plenty smart,
And things will be alright.”

Now when I start to say “I can’t,” I hear my father’s voice.
It tells me “Hey – you know you can. Just simply make that choice.”

 

Walt’s Poem:

UNTIL YOU WALK WITH ME AGAIN

Daddy, can I walk with you?
You go so far and I can’t keep up.
Help me, mommy says supper is ready
and I can’t catch my breath.

Daddy, will you walk with me?
I can’t cross the street
and my ball rolled over there.
I’m scared until you hold my hand and take me.

Daddy, will you be there when I walk
across this stage in my flowing gown?
My mortar board keeps sliding off of my head,
and I’d rather let my tresses flow instead.

Daddy, will you walk with me,
on this day  that I become a bride?
I see it in your eyes: the pride
and love and sadness when you get me there.

Daddy, I’ll help you walk.
I’ll be right here to show the way as you did.
Every day I’ll take your hand and stand besides YOU.
I will be here to guide you. Until you walk with me again.


BEAUTIFUL BLOOMS – PROMPT #41

Marie is off spending time and traveling with her Father . She had asked that I make her selection for this week, along with my own. These two selections were something that I was uncomfortable with until I read through the entire list of 200 comments and poems. That was when it became clear who offered the best work for the week. This is something Marie and I agonize over on a weekly basis. She made it the most logical choice in her absence. So…

The following poets will be awarded this week’s BEAUTIFUL BLOOM;

Hannah Gosselin                                                Jane Shlensky

Jane Penland Hoover                                      Andrea Heiberg

Barbara Young                                                   Rinkly Rimes

Kelly Donadio                                                     Henrietta Choplin

Michael Grove                                                    Andrew Kreider

Mike Maher                                                          Mary Mansfield

Sasha the Happy Amateur                             RJ Clarken

Richard Walker                                                   Marian Veverka

De Jackson                                                            Mark Windham

Sharon Ingraham                                              Connie L. Peters

Paula Wanken                                                     Michelle Hed

Magical Mystical Teacher                             Marilyn Braendeholm

Sara McNulty                                                        Vivienne Blake

Every poet who had taken the time to share a poem this week deserves this designation and so the well-earned award is given for your efforts. Marie and I appreciate your talents and your generosity in planting your seeds of poetic wonder here in our garden to blossom and grow here at POETIC BLOOMINGS.

***

In light of this, we make this offer to all our poets:  the chance to consolidate your POETIC BLOOMINGS poems onto your own page within our “Garden.”. Each of you who request to have a page set up for your works here must provide a brief bio and a profile photo (and include any of the URL’s of your blogs, or other materials you wish to promote) to attach to your work.  Also, those writing with a pen name, we would like your page to bear your given name so we can promote your works here and across the blogosphere.  To make your request and provide your information, please send an e-mail to poeticbloomings@yahoo.com (Subject: Profile Page). These electronic “Chapbooks” will enhance our site greatly. Thank you all for your gifts of words.