Home

I am writing in response to Annie’s Prompt. I’ve not written a lot with visual prompts. Usually my prompts are written. So, we shall see how this goes.  I found the pic and prompt over at her blog in, Writing Outside The Lines.  Here is the prompt: (I can write about the words on a few of the rocks, or all the rocks, lots of options.

prompt-12

I want to talk about the colors.

The sentiments-floating or sinking.

The purple Peace is lovely.

Peace

You Are Loved

What I want to write about are my feelings right now. They are wavy and very confused and hurting in a way that feels palpable to me. Someone recently told me they appreciated my complexity. That felt comforting. I am feeling strangely determined. I am feeling hurt. It is visceral. I feel it in my heart.

If I write will I comfort myself?

Advertisements

Reading this poem, which I ran upon when I wanted to read or say something about how freaking cold it became today! This poem made me think of Leaves of Grass for which I have thought uncharitably about on Walt Whitman’s behalf for years. It was so flowery sounding to me.

However, I believe I have not given Leaves of Grass its proper review. I haven’t read much of it. I seriously laughed at times because it sounded so silly to me. I’m sure I need to take another look.

Meanwhile, I did read this lovely Keats poem about the fall. I found the writing about nature very pleasant. Almost visceral in its visuality, or sensualtiy, I think. What do you think?

Lastly, has the word twitter in it! A bit uncommon!

Found here.

To Autumn

John Keats1795 – 1821

Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness, 
  Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun;
Conspiring with him how to load and bless 
  With fruit the vines that round the thatch-eves run;
To bend with apples the moss’d cottage-trees, 
  And fill all fruit with ripeness to the core; 
    To swell the gourd, and plump the hazel shells 
  With a sweet kernel; to set budding more,
And still more, later flowers for the bees, 
Until they think warm days will never cease,
    For summer has o’er-brimm’d their clammy cells.

Who hath not seen thee oft amid thy store? 
  Sometimes whoever seeks abroad may find
Thee sitting careless on a granary floor, 
  Thy hair soft-lifted by the winnowing wind;
Or on a half-reap’d furrow sound asleep, 
  Drowsed with the fume of poppies, while thy hook
    Spares the next swath and all its twined flowers:
And sometimes like a gleaner thou dost keep 
  Steady thy laden head across a brook; 
  Or by a cider-press, with patient look,
    Thou watchest the last oozings, hours by hours.

Where are the songs of Spring? Ay, where are they? 
  Think not of them, thou hast thy music too,--
While barred clouds bloom the soft-dying day, 
  And touch the stubble-plains with rosy hue;
Then in a wailful choir the small gnats mourn 
  Among the river sallows, borne aloft
    Or sinking as the light wind lives or dies; 
And full-grown lambs loud bleat from hilly bourn; 
  Hedge-crickets sing; and now with treble soft
  The redbreast whistles from a garden-croft, 
    And gathering swallows twitter in the skies.

Poet Shaindel Beers asked me if I would like to read her new volume of poetry and do a review or interview.  I opted for an interview, because, well, I’m nosy!  I always have questions and want to know the background, where ideas originate, the creative seed, so to speak.  Shaindel sent the book to me gratis.

I read this book and was very moved.  The stories about the pictures created by children after experiencing the trauma of war are striking.  Shaindel has managed to give voice to these visual creations.

Here is our interview:

First, what gave you the idea to write poems about children’s drawings?

I just happened to come across a Slate.com article called “The Art of War” by Dr. Annie Sparrow and Olivier Bercault, who are researchers for Human Rights Watch.  They had traveled to Sudan and gave pencils, pens, and crayons to children while they interviewed their parents in the refugee camps, and Slate.com had a slideshow of the children’s artwork and some portions of the interviews in the article.

I pretty much became obsessed immediately and started writing the poems.  It was actually one of those artistic obsessions where you think you might be going crazy, where you can’t think of or work on anything else.

Where did you first encounter these drawings?

After using the artwork I found via the Slate.com article, I started looking online for other sources of children’s war artwork and ordered sourcebooks, including They Still Draw Pictures: Children‘s Art in Wartime from the Spanish Civil War to Kosovo by Anthony L. Geist and Peter N. Carroll and Sunflowers in the Sand: Stories from Children of War by Leah Curtain.  Of course, there is so much artwork out there, there were many terrific sources I didn’t get to use.  I wanted the work to have a sort of immediacy, so I only used pictures that spoke to me right away, and I wanted to try to use artwork from around the globe to honor as many child survivors of war as possible.

I find it fascinating you were able to tell the stories of these children and their suffering by studying the pictures they drew.  Did you have background information (not mentioned in the book) on what happened to these children, or did you imagine what may have happened based on the drawings?  You certainly channeled the emotions of these children.  Did you feel like you were doing that?  Did you meet any of these children?  Did you speak to people who worked with some of these children?

It really varied depending on the sources.  Some of the pictures came with detailed stories, but many didn’t.  If a picture had a story, I stayed as true to it as possible, sometimes including quotations from the children.  But other pictures, I completely interpreted on my own.  For instance, in the piece that inspired, “Painting by a Child at the Landmine Education Center in Dong Ha (Quang Tri Province, Vietnam),” there was a number 13 in the painting, and I had no idea what it was, so I had to come up with an interpretation for it.  What I imagined in the child’s voice was:

…I do know the number I have drawn

on one mine.  13.  The number of children lost in our village.

What I tried to come up with first was the age of the child and then stay true to that age.  If a drawing was by a nine year-old, I tried to stay true to a nine year-old’s vocabulary and perspective.

I haven’t met any of the children or had any correspondence with them.  I did exchange a few emails with the founder and director of the Iraqi Children’s Art Exchange, Claudia Lefko, asking for further information about some pictures from their website and a small translation question, but that is about the extent of the contact I’ve had with anyone who has been in contact with the children.

What was your process in translating what the pictures were telling you into a poem?

I guess I really tried to inhabit the work — what story is the picture trying to tell?  Is it witnessing?  Is it imagining a peaceful world outside of war?  If I were a child artist, why would I have picked this color, this style?

I picked up a lot of knowledge from reading the interviews and stories, which helped.  I learned that children, regardless of culture, seem to draw dead people with their heads at the bottom of the page or to not color them in because in their minds, this is a way of portraying something as “not right.”  I also spent a lot of time remembering what childhood was like and remembering how my mind worked at various stages to help fill in the blanks.  Most of all, I wanted to honor the children’s stories and be as authentic as possible.  If I did make changes, like putting a child on a train instead of a bus, I hoped they were small, artistic license sorts of changes that didn’t change the core of the story.

I did want to ask you some questions about the 2nd part of your book.

It is my favorite kind of poetry, I guess of the “confessional” school, where you are putting your emotions into words.  Can you speak to any of your inspiration for that?  Were you addressing situations in your life that brought these feelings forward?

I really believe in the 1960s and 1970s feminist rallying cry, “The personal is the political.”  Women’s stories were ignored for far too long in our society and are still marginalized in many ways, so, for me, even if I’m writing work that seems personal, it is a political act because I’m asserting my right that the things that happen to me matter.  They are worth writing about, and they’re worth reading about.  And by extension, I’m writing for those women who’ve had the same experiences but who haven’t written about them yet.

I also process things through writing, sometimes years after the fact.  Everyone seems to remember Wordsworth’s quote that poetry is the “spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings,” but they often forget the part that he adds, “it takes its origin from emotion recollected in tranquility.”  I seem to have a lag time of a few years between an event happening and my writing about it.  I have some poems about my abusive marriage which I left several years ago in this collection.  I just couldn’t write about that experience while I was in it, or even shortly after it was over.  It took a lot of processing the events to even understand what had been happening to the point that I could write about them.  And, in turn, writing about those events helped me to move on and heal from them.

Liam, my son, is now almost three years-old, and this books ends with pregnancy poems and one poem in which he’s a baby.  I’ve always been curious if people who don’t write are just “faster” processors than the rest of us.

When did you know you wanted to write poetry?

The first poem I remember writing that wasn’t an assignment, I wrote when a grown cousin had shot my dog.  I wanted to process what had happened, so I wrote.  Poetry was my way of dealing with things.  That’s when I knew it would be my way of figuring the world out.  I was about ten years-old then.

Do you journal?  Did you journal as a child?  Can you talk about it a little bit?

I’ve never really been disciplined enough to keep a journal.  It’s one of those things I’ll start on and do really well for a few weeks, and then it slips by the wayside.  I wish I were a more disciplined writer.

I “journaled” as a child in the sense that some Language Arts teachers had us write in a journal every day, usually with a prompt they wrote on the board.  I remember that and sustained silent reading time being my favorite parts of school.

If left to my own devices (if I had a day off of work and an empty house), I generally like to use the cycle of read, sleep, write.  I like to read until I feel like my head is “full,” then I take a nap, and while I fall asleep, I think about whatever I’ve just read, and then when I wake up, I write something inspired by those thoughts.

Who are your literary “heroes”?

There are so many.  Since you asked about “confessional” poetry, I would have to say Anne Setxon.  She broke so many barriers of writing about deeply personal issues, and she also did the interesting work of reinterpreting fairy tales using events in her own life in her collection Transformations.

In a sense of this specific collection, The Children’s War, several of the poems came from prompts given to me by Carl Phillips, who is such a fine teacher and terrific poet.  He gave these crazy, specific assignments at the Kenyon Review Writers Workshop that seemed impossible to follow, but they turned into such beautiful poems.  I learned from him both as a poet and as a teacher.

Of course, there are so many others, but I think we can leave it at those two in the terms of this collection.

Image

Shaindel Beers’ poetry, fiction, and creative nonfiction has appeared in numerous journals and anthologies. She is currently an instructor of English at Blue Mountain Community College in Pendleton, Oregon, in Eastern Oregon’s high desert and serves as Poetry Editor of Contrary. A Brief History of Time, her first full-length poetry collection, was released by Salt Publishing in 2009. Her second collection, The Children’s War and Other Poems, was released in February of 2013.

Shaindel was raised in Argos, Indiana, a town of 2,000 people. She studied literature at Huntingdon College in Montgomery, Alabama (BA), and at the University of Chicago (MA) before earning her MFA in Creative Writing (Poetry) at Vermont College of Fine Arts. She has taught at colleges and universities in Illinois and Florida but feels settled in the Eastern Oregon high desert town of Pendleton. Her awards include: First place Karen Fredericks and Frances Willitts Poetry Prize (2008), Grand Prize Co-winner Trellis Magazine sestina contest (2008), First place Dylan Days Poetry Competition (2007), Award-winning poem published, Eleventh Muse (2006), Honorable mention, Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Poetry Awards (2005), Honorable mention, Juniper Creek/Unnamed Writers Award (2005), and the title poem from this collection, “A Brief History of Time,”was nominated for a Pushcart prize (2004).

Shaindel loves meeting her readers. You can find her on Facebook or on Twitter.

Personalized, signed copies of  A Brief History of Time are available on the Buy Signed Copies page, too!

A Teaser

2013/10/08

The talented poet Shaindel Beers sent me a collection of poems she wrote, and is allowing me to interview her and do a profile of the collection and her.  I am very excited about it.  It will be awhile before the final piece is on here but I just wanted to let you know about her.  She is on my blogroll but click on her name above and it will link to her website.  Here is the cover of her most recent poetry collection.

Image

Ta for now!

That is the name of the following poem by Rita Dove.  I found it here.  You can find out more about Rita Dove here.

November for Beginners

Snow would be the easy
way out—that softening
sky like a sigh of relief
at finally being allowed
to yield. No dice.
We stack twigs for burning
in glistening patches
but the rain won’t give.
So we wait, breeding
mood, making music
of decline. We sit down
in the smell of the past
and rise in a light
that is already leaving.
We ache in secret,
memorizing
a gloomy line
or two of German.
When spring comes
we promise to act
the fool. Pour,
rain! Sail, wind,
with your cargo of zithers!
Here is a pic of something that is for the fall or reminds me of fall.
Image
A full moon 10/22/10

Prophecy

2013/09/22

Another poem by Tennyson, found here.  Well darn, the link thingy isn’t working.  Here it is: 

http://www.poetryloverspage.com/poets/tennyson/prophecy.html

I like this poem for its hopefulness about the future, for it’s prophecy of peace.  Is possible?

For I dipt into the future, far as human eye could see,
Saw the Vision of the world, and all the wonder that would be;

Saw the heaven fill with commerce, argosies of magic sails, 
Pilots of the purple twilight, dropping down with costly bales;

Heard the heavens fill with shouting, and the rained a ghastly dew
From the nation’s airy navies grappling in the central blue;

Far along the world-wide whisper of the south-wind rushing warm,
With the standards of the people plunging thro’ the thunderstorm;

Till the war-drum throbb’d no longer, and the battle flags were furl’d 
In the Parliament of men, the Federation of the world.

There the common sense of most shall hold a fretful realm in awe,
And the kindly earth shall slumber, lapt in universal law. 

Crossing the Bar

2013/09/22

by Tennyson.  I love this poem.  I found it here.

Sunset and evening star,
    And one clear call for me!
And may there be no moaning of the bar,
    When I put out to sea.

But such a tide as moving seems asleep,
    Too full for sound and foam,
When that which drew from out the boundless deep
    Turns again home!

Twilight and evening bell,
    And after that the dark!
And may there be no sadness of farewell,
    When I embark;

For though from out our bourn of Time and Place
    The flood may bear me far,
I hope to see my Pilot face to face
    When I have crost the bar.