Saturday, July 7, 2018

Some thoughts on rejection

Reporting to you from a perfect Ohio afternoon...Ignore my weird toes.
I was the kind of kid who started writing angry letters to politicians by the time I was in middle school.

I can't say I was exactly politically informed, but I knew enough about how to fire off a letter to my local council members, school board, congressmen, and even to companies with shoddy products when I read something in the paper or otherwise encountered something that bothered me.  Sometimes, I even received responses.

I was a weird kid.

I've been reflecting on this personal history in words as I continue to ruminate on a recent rejection for a submission in which I'd invested a lot of work, and as such, became more emotionally invested in acceptance than I wanted to admit at the time.  A couple weeks since the news, and it's still sensitive to the touch.

I've been working on remembering that this rejection doesn't invalidate me and what I do.  I spent a good amount of time feeling sorry for myself, but now I'm remembering that words matter, that my words matter.

I recently finished reading an advanced copy of Vox by Christina Dalcher.  It's a Handmaid's Tale-type of setting in which a religious dictator in the White House decides that all females should be limited to speaking no more than 100 words per day.  The book pays homage to Atwood's classic, though includes more "ripped from the headlines" sort of details (a reference to MAGA lets you know who she's talking about if there was any doubt), and the end is twisty in a pop-fiction, it all works out happily ever after kind-of-way.  But the point is that words matter.  If you don't use your voice, you will lose your voice.

I know that my words have mattered.  I can look back at letters I have written that have helped friends or been the impetus for changes in the private and public world.  These changes have been small.  I haven't cured cancer, I haven't changed the course of international policy, but I've tangibly changed a couple things in the world because of a letter or opinion I have written.  If everyone could change one or two small things in their immediate world by embracing their unique talent--whether that be art or writing or gardening or music or math or farming or science or carpentry or listening or any one of hundreds of vocations that we find ourselves called to, then everyone's lives would be just a little better.

It reaffirms that my words matter.  They may not capital-M Matter in the way I wish they would right now in this exact moment, but they do matter.  Words matter.  That will need to be a good enough reason to keep at it right now in this moment.

Friday, June 29, 2018

Politics in Poetry

I once wrote a blog post for Cleveland Poetics suggesting that politics does not belong in poetry.  I distinctly remember an open mic reading in which a young man stated that he was a veteran, and proceeded to read a poem or two that he had written about his war experiences in the Middle East.  The poet who immediately followed him read a piece that was vehemently anti-war and anti-the current republican government.  Shortly after, the young veteran stormed out, and to my knowledge, has never been seen since at a poetry reading in Cleveland.

Stock photo from Pexels
At the time I wrote the essay, I believed politics was the cause, politics was driving people away from poetry.  We’re making everything too political and can’t we all just kum-bay-ah our way through poetry?
I don’t regret writing that essay now, but I have changed my stance.  It’s important to remember that people can change, people can hold one idea that may evolve over time based on experience or interaction with others.  It is even possible for us to hold two or more contradicting ideas in our heads at the same time, to grapple with them and try to work out the complexities of the issues and ideologies we can be faced with every day.  Life is not binary; neither do anyone's ideas about important issues need to be.  It is a very human experience to learn about points of view different than your own and to then cobble together a new opinion on a topic where you once believed or felt something entirely different.  God gave us big brains to do this, to have ideas, to see facts and process facts, and then use those facts to formulate new ideas.  We don’t need to cling to an idea we held 20 years ago, 10 years ago, 5 years ago, or heck, even yesterday, for the rest of our lives.  That is counter to the lifelong mental and emotional growth we as human beings are supposed to undergo.

Unfortunately, it seems to be a very contemporarily digital social experience to never be able to consider more than the one thought you have conditioned yourself to hold and have held, excluding any and all new information.


I say all this because my poetry lately has been predominated by political themes.  I can’t seem to write much of anything without it turning into a commentary on politics and social issues.  Life in America in 2018 feels like an inherently political experience if you are paying attention to anything happening nationally or globally.  Even in the personal relationships where I know discussing anything political would cause some angst so I try to keep things neutral, it still squeaks its ugly head into conversation every now and then.

When life is political, art can’t help but be political, too.  When politics affects you personally, when laws and applied policies directly affect the lives of you and your neighbors, there is no longer a line that can be drawn between politics and everything else.  And the truth is, life is and always has been political, whether some of us have been isolated enough [waves hand] in the past to ignore that fact or not.

But to circle back to that open mic reading, it wasn’t politics that was the problem that day.  Politics didn’t drive that young man away.  It was a lack of reading the room, a lack of compassion, a lack of sensitivity in that moment.  That temporal tone-deafness is also something that I and probably everyone else reading this has also been guilty of at some point in our lives.

Where am I going with this ramble?  Here’s what I can conclude right here, right now:  write whatever you want, read whatever you want, create whatever you want.  But let’s all work on making sure that we create out of awareness, and hopefully, love.  Now, love can encompass anger, and frustration, and a lot of other “negative” emotions, but I hope we can create out of love.

But who knows, tomorrow, I might find reason to change my mind.



Friday, June 22, 2018

Video from CVAG reading

Greetings!

Thanks to Michael DeBenedictus for hosting and organizing the poetry reading last weekend at Cuyahoga Valley Art Gallery!  It was great to share a stage with Dan Smith and the Deep Cleveland Trio again, and I was so happy to meet and hear work from EbaNee Bond.

Here's link to the video from my reading that evening!

https://www.facebook.com/100009675966867/videos/pcb.10215183351950855/656634031335790/?type=3&theater

Friday, May 18, 2018

Around Akron with Blue Green

Tonight's new episode of Around Akron with Blue Green will be featuring, among other segments, several spots of poetry with some great Akron poets!  The episode airs at 9:30pm on Western Reserve PBS.  (Also airing at 9am & 11:30pm Saturday 5/19; 2:30am Sunday 5/20; 6:30pm Tuesday 5/22; 5pm Saturday 5/26.)

Don't miss it!  Blue is one of the folks doing the work to make Akron what it is.  Be sure to watch!

Check out this quick preview write-up from The Devil Strip!

Update:  You can now watch the full episode online here!  Thanks again for making this happen, Blue!

Sunday, May 13, 2018

Shopping

Went book shopping yesterday with my husband's side of the family at B&N to celebrate Mother's Day with my mother-in-law.  Here's the great haul we found.  I have to say, I'm impressed with the store's poetry collection lately.  Will Evans, Kevin Young, Morgan Parker (and fiction from Jesmyn Ward).






Sunday, April 22, 2018

True Story

The day I started this blog/website--the day of my first post here--I got engaged that evening.

Crazy, right?!

After that, I pretty much never touched this page again.  This place is like the fixer-upper I bought with the intention of tearing down walls and remodeling the bathrooms and kitchen, and then instead I went to Europe for five years.

I finally decided that needed to change, and that it might be beneficial to have a more official online presence for the poetry parts of my life.  Here we are.

Most of my pages have been updated, and I expect I'll continue to tweak things.  I'll be posting news, featured readings, and other such info here in the future.

I'll try to keep the rants to a minimum, or at least, the non-literary rants.  No promises, though.  This is the internet, after all, a magical place where anything can happen!

In conclusion, welcome to the finally-renovated online home of my poetry!  (And feel free to use the contact form or comments to let me know if any of the links don't work.)

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Progress on this site...

This site is falling together.  I have a calendar.  I have a contact form.  I have links to buy books.  It's ridiculous how excited a only-moderately-tech-savvy-me can be about slowly remembering the bits of self-taught html I gleaned from customizing my myspace page back in the twenty-aughts.  (Look!  I figured out how to link the picture to that site!)

So until things get hopping here, (and even once they do) check out my friends at NightBallet and The Poet's Haven--they also have a mess of fantastic writers besides me.