2019-11-25 Writers Workshop Whammy

Where are we at today? Ah yes, in writers workshop where my poetry is being critiqued by an eclectic group of undergrad students. Most of whom, might I add, have had more exposure and experience than I in studies about literature, poetry, and writing in general. I got my undergrad in computer science, so what do I know anyway?!

One answer to that is that I know some things which only life experience can teach (and I have about 20 years on all these kids). I digress.

I submitted a poem to workshop which was a tribute to Terrance Hayes. Mr. Hayes is a poet whose most recent book, American Sonnets for My Past and Future Assassin, is (in my opinion) a masterpiece. If the words “tribute” and “masterpiece” do not make it abundantly clear what my position is, then I’m truly lost. Anyway, so I wrote this poem – a double sonnet, which I worked for quite a while on to get the sound and sense of just right. And might I add that I am proud of the way it turned out and would be honored if it ever reached the eyes and mind of the person who it was written for. I mean, I truly did toil over each line and phrase and combination of words.

To the critics who made me well up inside and out with angst over hearing their impressions and criticisms, I will concede a few points. There are word choices I did not realize would be offensive. Mind you, it’s a group of all white students save for one gal who remained silent the entire session (except for saying she was staying out of it). A couple of ill-placed line breaks which made the interpretation of my “white” poem seem racist. There I said it. That was the main tension in the room, that my poem was taking on a subject in a way that was offensive and inappropriate.

That somehow, in my attempt to praise Mr. Hayes for his skill and mastery of the poem and of language, I came across as crossing some line that shouldn’t be crossed. To me, hearing these comments was most disturbing because I was not trying to play a race card at all. I was not trying to use his blackness or my whiteness to any end. I used (sparingly) a little of his language and that was taken as appropriation. In the poem I was basically saying that he has done something I could never do and that I can never truly understand his words because his history and experience are so different from my own, but I can try. That I want to try and understand.

Right. In the poem I’m literally saying I want to try, I have to try, for my sake to make something more, to try and learn from what he has to offer and empathize with his plight. It is a poem about love of language and bowing down to the skill of another.. and if anything, the need in this hour of human kind for a little understanding across boundaries. Good gawd.

To be fair, there were a few comments that were counter to all the negative and one person said it was “the best poem they have ever read in workshop”. I think it was this differing of opinion that made people want to keep talking about the subject. In any case, The discussion ran long and the class was due for a break so the prof said to cut it there and take 5. I took my 5 to the bathroom on the 3rd floor of the fine arts building and arrived back after I had regained my composure (which took longer than the 5 minutes allotted).

I’ve never cried during workshop before and I’ve been in workshop with Kate Gale for god sakes. What on earth am I doing letting these comments get to me. I didn’t have the time or space to put together final comments so I basically just said something about my intentions. That It was meant as a tribute and high praise and was not at all meant to be offensive. I will probably change those line breaks and maybe another word or two here or there, but as for the rest? I’ll stand by it.

It kind of makes me think about that Robert Frost poem, Road Not Taken, which was written as a lighthearted jest to his friend who often lamented taking the wrong path. That poems true interpretation and intention has been argued countless times in the last 100 years (originally published in 1916), and at the heart of that, lies the secret of poetry – which is that it has layers of meaning and is always subject to interpretation in the mind of the reader. The meaning can be opaque and perhaps, in some cases, it’s better that way.

Now I’m not comparing myself to Robert Frost (ha!), but I would say that if my poem stirs that much discussion and controversy, then I might be on to something. If one measure of a good poem is that it makes a person remember and elicits a conversation long after it is over and done, then look how this poem might be a huge hit.

My only counter to that is that I don’t actually think it’s that edgy. I really don’t. In a way, I think these workshop mates of mine are just looking for something to be critical about. Still (as I said) I will revisit the poem again to make a few adjustments. I suppose the only true fix to this predicament is for me to have it accepted for publication. I should start doing more of that anyway.

Perhaps one day I will be posting a “conclusion” to this post in which I’m announcing my success. A girl can dream anyway right.

Ok.. that’s it for today. I’m over it.. and out!

~Miss SugarCookie

2019-11-22 A Love Letter for Today

A Love Letter for Today

 

My words are a love letter.
To love is a verb which doesn’t always mean
the same thing as it did the day before.
The bible says that it is patient and kind but i find
more often than not, it can also be lonely and wanting
and hopeful and full and sometimes stomping it’s foot
in defiance, not wanting whatever meaning is given that day.
What do the men that wrote the bible know
about anything really? How can you trust an ancient mirage
someone might have seen or heard
and language so new in the mouth
not everything had been named yet?
We can only know of love what we experience
in brief existence. And we can only know our thresholds
according to what came the day before.
And we can only learn the capacity of our cup
if we dare to let it run over once or twice
and can never know when or why it’s bigger
or smaller than the day before.
My words are a love letter to all who might listen
for a moment, in the morning to the birds
or gaze out a window, steam rising from a warm cup in their hand.
Those who allow themselves to be mesmerized by the dryer vent
pushing heat into the cold
or their breath as they wander out to get the mail in December
and also those who hold the importance of a moment up, in wonder.
Or a lifetime. Or a life.
Or each other. For all things fragile are a wonder.
I thought once that pain made me feel alive
and believed that what doesn’t kill me makes me stronger.
Now I believe only that what doesn’t kill me, leaves me alive
to try again tomorrow.
My words are a love letter to myself. To my future self
who will never read them, just as so many others who love me
and will never read them.
This love letter is just words.
Some of which don’t know the meaning of themselves yet
Or might mean something different
tomorrow.

2019-09-26 The In-Between Place 🌍 ☀️ 💚

It’s no secret I don’t care for air travel, but something about a solitary journey through the sky changes my mind. Not about the flying, but a shift of thought, deeper, more clear. Brighter perhaps.

Lifting off the ground I’m physically detached from the me that exists on the ground. The mother, daughter, lover, friend, student ceases to exist. Suspended briefly in not existing. Unburdened. This freedom from ties to a life creates within me a space where other things bloom.

If I was on the ground, I might call this a daydream of sorts but here, in the air, the definition of it eludes me. I like not having a word which means how I feel right now. That too, is freedom. Freedom from words and definition and rules that govern language. It’s just me here with nonsense and it’s ok because there is no we or him or her or them or us, except us, in this in-between place.

I can wonder about the river, overflowing and how beautiful it looks from here and how magnificent it is to see whole cottonwood trees swallowed in it. From here it’s a child napping. It’s a lazy Sunday afternoon. It’s a marvelous gift from Mother Nature. And I can wander around this, like the river and splay my mind in so many directions and it doesn’t have to mean anything. Tragedy doesn’t have to be tragedy. Pain and loss can be sweet cotton candy rolling across the sky.

There’s no consequence of thought in this suspended dimension. This existence is a wide angle lens. Here, I may even be able to admit that I do believe in God. Or not-God. Or the infinite formulations of atoms and sub-atomic particles that travel between God’s not-dimensions, like bees communicating in their bee language, beyond our comprehension. What secrets and predictions they must have.

And with this lens, I can see the earth from space, a tiny blue orb, tied to the sun, like I am tied to it by a man made word – gravity. And I can see her shine In the glow of the sun, with her cancer eradicated. In Remission for a time, let’s call it, a man-made ice age.

A beautiful planet, magnificent and overgrown with new life now that the human beings have all gone. The particles of their souls dispersed to other universes and so she turns. A pirouette around the sun that is no longer a sun because the language of man has been extinguished too.

The whales have their songs again and such joy in the freedom to roam. The birds, too, rejoice in song, and none lament the end of an era. The river swells and turns into another nameless ocean and in it, the most beautiful coral not-man has ever seen!

***

That’s probably enough nonsense and not-thought for now. I will be returning soon, to the good ground and the reality of language and people and communication and, yes, responsibility. Though, I’m going to try my best not to worry about all those ties too much while I’m in Texas. I’ll exist, but I probably won’t be as tuned-in as I normally am.

Peace and love,

🌏🐝☀️💚🐳🌺

~Miss SugarCookie

2019-09-23 Skiddle-de-Do

The assignment due today? Pour the worst time in your life into a poem and make it linguistically beautiful and tragic and don’t forget to turn all the abstraction to concrete image. It’s the toughest assignment I’ve ever had.

How do you turn all that black out drunk grief wailing near the top of the stairs because you don’t have enough left to take on one more step? How?

It started with writing 3-5 sentences of moments that had been burned into the brain, so deep, you can still conjure how your body felt. Then mold it to fit the tiny space of one piece of paper.

The last instruction.. end mid movement without a conclusion. Thank the universe, as I will never remember what happened after the black out. I mean, of course I remember parts of the next day, the next month, the next year, as I clawed my way, agonizingly, back to sanity. Most of it anyway.

Still, I find it a challenge to recall with clarity what visceral movements were involved with the end of 2016. It’s a distant memory tempered by time and the healing that comes with support from someone who wants to see you, know you, be with you.

And where does one start or stop anyway? Life is so complicated that it’s not ever one thing that’s involved with the downward spiral. How could I possibly explain that not only was I broken hearted, but also drowning at work, struggling as a parent, and hating the world for what it had become? And limit myself to one page? And make it all make sense? That’s the challenge. Reach the reader and pull them into the swirl.

Good Grief!

Anyway, I wrote some words and they are getting turned in today and then I’m turning my attention to packet 2 feedback which was received incredibly less than 36 hours after the packet was submitted last Friday. I have an in-person meeting with my mentor for this semester tomorrow and I have to be prepared. I need to show up to class, be on-point with my peers there and then continue to ride that wave through tomorrow.

This one calls for purple hair I think. I’m feeling all right right now despite the fact that today was day 1 of my cycle. Funny thing I didn’t have any noteworthy PMS this time. Perhaps my left ovary has been taken over by apathy and every other month I’ll get a break from the usual drama (a girl can dream).

I’ve only got a short bit before I’ve got to get ready to go. I need to jet. Yeah, that’s my Monday

Peace In and Peace Out,

~Miss SugarCookie

2019-09-18 Words.. The Lost and Found Edition

When I was at residency I had a flood of words to work with. It’s always an interesting experiment in immersion and the impulse of spontaneous thought lingers for a while after I return home. This time around I was given an extra push and had some strong emotion to propel me forward and keep the words coming.

Now, miles away from that and approaching the halfway point in the term (yes already), the impulse is gone, the topic seems to have exhausted itself and though I know I have a few more in me, they just won’t come. It’s been blurred with all the assignments with the other class I’m taking which is moving way too fast for my taste.

Yesterday I did some reading and some critical writing, but it was all starts and stops and so slow going. I also tried to free write but got nada. One line. Ok, I got one damn line. (Btw I don’t think one line is a poem.. perhaps a title.)

I tried to build on that one line and it just never materialized. I mean, you have to have a message or what’s the point? What’s my message? What’s so urgent? Problem is, there’s not a lot that feels urgent right now. Urgent in the sense that I get sometimes when something in me wants out. The post on Monday was a giant shrug and that seems to be the theme for my week.

I guess I’ll just press on, with Mario at the wheel, reading and critical thinking and attempting these assignments. What else is a girl to do?

In other related news, we did an exercise in class where we were put in groups and told to behave like we were editors of a new literary publication. We had to choose our genre/theme and the title of our mag and then review poems anonymously submitted by our classmates. We had to choose the one that was a good fit for our genre, the one we would accept. It was an interesting exercise that consumed a lot of class time.

One of the groups came up with the name “Pumpkin Spice Confessions” which was advertised as “basic bitch” poetry appealing to the masses. They chose my poem. Ha!! I mean, an acceptance is still an acceptance no matter what the pub is right?! And believe me, I know my poetry is pretty basic.

I’ll never be like any of these great writers I’m reading. Just now I wrote “I don’t have a traumatic childhood”, then erased it because, well, yes I do. I would say I’ve never been in an abusive relationship, but I have. I might confess that I’m just a layer of motz cheese on top of a pizza with nothing underneath, but yo! I got spicy pepperoni and artichoke hearts and red onions and some savory tomato sauce. Yeah. That.

Or maybe I’m just hungry because I’m starving myself to fit into a heavy white dress. It’s not white though.. it’s ivory because you really only get one shot at white and that was wasted, because I was already wasted at 19.

I was already rehearsing lines of white pages, a script handed to me before I could read. I toddling tot with my baton in a purple sequin leotard, with matching skirt.

My mom pierced my ears before I could talk. It was a botched job by a family friend that left me with puss filled ears my entire childhood. And you know that line in the script, “if at first you don’t succeed”, when I was finally healed we tried again.

On my wedding day I wore pearl white earrings that belonged to my paternal great-grandmother. Something old.

I followed all the instructions in the brigade handbook, a recipe book with clear descriptions of ingredients and exact measurements. Recommended Process and procedure for best results.

36-24-36

I checked again this morning, my numbers haven’t changed.

***

Ok.. that went somewhere weird. But, that’s just Luigi stretching and flexing.

I really need to do Jazzercise today.. I haven’t gotten to it at all yet this week. And for clarification, it’s not needed for the aforementioned numbers, but is needed to get my heart pumping, and because dance, and also… the current theory is that the free-weights and activity are helping with my tennis elbow situation.

More on that soon I hope. Until then..

Peace and Love,

~Miss SugarCookie

2019-09-13 Making Sense of Nonsense

This week has been a mess of nonsense. One minute things are fine, the next there’s an urgent letter that arrives and I spent time trying to decipher it, then I realize what day it is and go spinning back in time to try and make some words for that. I have assignments that are due and all I could do was try, but it came out as nonsense.
The more I thought about the subject and form, the aesthetic requested, the more frustrated I became with my inability to execute. I searched my words for a connection I could use to make what I had written qualify. I failed.
Then today, 91319, I woke up and realized what day it was. Another glorious palindrome, Friday the 13th, and the crescendo of the Waxing Moon. Behold, now it all makes sense.
Of course with Friday the 13th there is fear. The letter, what I’m most afraid of.
Of course with the full moon there’s a swarm of human emotion and longing.
Of course with the day, the date, there’s a strong desire to think logically and make connections.
The nonsense I had written was not nonsense at all. Now it all makes perfect sense.
It’s first draft Friday again and what I have is not yet in its proper form, but it will do, for today…  Aftermath of the Swell
Finding joy in beautiful messes,
~Miss SugarCookie

2019-08-31 Autumn Declarations 🍂🍅🌼 and Life Proclamations

I woke at 7:22am after sleeping for a solid 8 hours and 55 minutes. That’s the most I’ve slept in months, my average hovering at about 6.5. I feel great. Not just good, but great. Well, well now.

Despite a few bumps, August was a success. I’m exactly where I’m supposed to be, tip-toes, tipping over into September. A few days ago I said “I hate mums”, which is harsh. I dislike mums but I can’t hold it against them that they are the signature fall flower that pairs best with pumpkins and nights getting longer and first frosts. Its a terrible job, but some flowers got to do it.

I can’t remember if I’ve always disliked fall or if this is a relatively new development. Have orange and moon white and deep purple and maroon been stained by the September’s and October’s that have scarred my past lives? And why do I remember falling apart in Fall instead of falling in love?

I did that. A whole section of one of those lives titled “August and Everything After”, because I really believed at the time that it was finally my very own happy ever after that would last for the rest of my life. I was so head-over-heels in Love. That was 2011. It’s true, I’m not over it, I haven’t “let go”, not completely. Why must we?

I’m here today, standing in the glow of in the best possible light to make a declaration. I still regret mistakes that I’ve made but must also acknowledge that without them, I wouldn’t be here. I’d be somewhere else living a different life and only the Universe knows what that alternate reality looks like. Let us not “let go” ever. Let’s instead hold on to all of it and look back once and a while and just resist staring.

Do we need to reject nostalgia? Is it harmful or very useful? If we dismiss the past how can we learn from those mistakes?

A few days ago I was writing a poem and had a “need” to incorporate something I wrote in about 1989. I went on a hunting expedition and found myself knee deep in memories. Back then everything was hand written so it’s a lot of paper to go through. It makes me very, very grateful for my left brain organizational tendencies. I loved organizing my writing as much as I loved writing it. It’s all sorted and dated and labeled with clever, appropriate titles. I love coming up with titles for things. A few days ago I wrote a whole page that was just potential titles for unwritten poems. I digress.

I found what I was looking for but also found several hand written journals I didn’t know I had. #truth. I flipped through briefly and was like “yup, that was my life”.. back when I was married, not the “August and Everything After” guy, but years before that with my ex-husband. I just looked and didn’t dwell. I put all the collections back in the boxes and back up on the top shelf in my closet.

So that was a life, and that was a different life, and this is a different one too. They are all my lives and that’s life.

The real declaration is that Fall doesn’t have to be the enemy. I don’t have to dread it. I can build a life where fall means we look forward to sweater weather and Wearing boots and sitting by the fire-pit and enjoying looking out across the lawn and seeing the mums bloom, their deep reds and sunset oranges coming to life as the leaves begin to fall. It can be whatever you want, you just have to know what that is.

See you in September..

Peace and Love,

~Miss SugarCookie

PS.. Here’s the poem I was looking for from one of my former lives (don’t hate, I was like 15 when I wrote it)…

Stacey’s Proclamation

I thought that life was blue
And that mosquito bites were red
But life is green I guess
Because that’s what Stacey said.