In front of the John Lennon Wall in Prague.

Monday, March 31, 2014

April is National Poetry Month - I'm taking on the NaPoWriMo Challenge!

I've been writing a haiku or haiku-esque poem every day (or sometimes night) since the first day of this year.  So far that means 90 poems this year.  Until now I've been posting these to a private group on Facebook.  Trying to be profound and poetic every single day is a daunting task so until now I've posted these haiku to a private group on Facebook.  That makes me feel safe from my sternest critic:  my own fearful self.  But I've decided to go public for the entire month of April.  I can't promise that all my poems will be good or interesting or poetic.  I'm sure there will be some who tsk-tsk at my western attempts at a form of poetry that originated in a very different culture and language.  So it is with some trepidation that I offer you my first offering for April:

                     forgot to water
                     my tulips - out with orchids
                     much more exotic

Only 29 more to go! Happy National Poetry Month!

Friday, March 28, 2014

Celebrating Women's History Month

As I announced a few weeks ago, five of my poems were just published in this anthology, Aspiring to Inspire.  I have to admit I was a bit worried about giving so many of my poems to a small publisher of e-books, but I was wrong.  After receiving my own copy, I was quickly impressed by the range of writing.  
Each women's selections start with a short piece about a woman who has inspired her. I wrote about my friend and teacher mentor Carolyn.  I don't think I had ever told her how inspired I have been by her, so it felt good to let her know.  Also included at the beginning of each section is a quote from a famous woman.  I was pleased to find that the quotation introducing my own work is one of my favorites by Eleanor Roosevelt:

"Do one thing every day that scares you."

Since tomorrow I am embarking on a solo trip for the first time in over a decade, I'm taking this to heart. While each new trip brings a certain level of anxiety, going alone heightens that nervousness.  So I'm taking Eleanor's advice to heart.  What a great way to celebrate Women's History Month.  

What woman has most inspired you?  I'd love to hear. Anyone who would like a copy of the free e-version of Aspiring to Inspire can respond by May 2, 2014, and I'll send one to you.


Sunday, March 16, 2014

Aspiring to Inspire Anthology: Read My Five Poems!

Five of my poems will appear in the Aspiring to Inspire Anthology published by Durham Editing and E-Books.  In all the years I've been submitting my work for publication, this is the first time that editors have taken all the poems I sent!  So this is a very exciting even for me.  

Two of the poems, Sunrise with Mountain and Hike to Box Canyon, New Mexico were inspired by my time at the AROHO writing retreats in 2011 and 2013, so the theme of inspiration from women in my life is particularly appropriate. 

The anthology will be available online, so check back here for a link to the e-book.  There will be an official Facebook Launch Party this Saturday, March 22nd.  
Join in if you can. You know I'll be there!

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Celebrating International Women's Day: In the Name of Malala

This year I will finally celebrate International Women's Day.  I have always wanted to commemorate this day, but never have.  I'm not sure what makes today different from the past.  Perhaps it is the fact that my niece Felicity is growing up, and I want a better world for her as she becomes a young woman.  Perhaps it is because I am fed up with the many politicians trying to erode women's rights in our country right now.  Whatever the reason, this is the year.
IWD 100 years
I had always believed International Women's Day to be a modern invention, but discovered it had its beginnings in 1908.  I was amazed - and proud - to find out that it all started with women marching through the streets of New York City to demand shorter work hours, better pay and the right to vote ( That I didn't know this embarrasses me. After all, I spent quite a few weekends in the 1970's marching for women's rights. Having prided myself on my knowledge of the history of women in our country, obviously I still have a great deal more to learn.  But first I need to get back into action after many years.

How appropriate it is that for my celebration I had already planned to march in San Francisco this afternoon. Once again, women will take to the streets to protest for their rights.  And this time I'll join them. I love this event even more because of the name of the group organizing the march:  WORD.  What writer could resist that?  Not this one.  I want to be there just because of that!

Adding to this synchronicity, I have been reading an anthology of poetry titled Malala: Poems for Malala Yousafzai.  Published by FutureCycle Press, it contains poems written in response to the horrendous shooting in October, 2012 which made Malala a household name as a defender of girl's and women's rights.  The editors Joseph Hutchison and Andrea L. Watson have compiled  an inspiring collection of poems sparked by Malala's courage in the face of brutality.

This beautiful book contains many poems illuminated by too many powerful lines to mention.  However, here are a few that particularly struck me.  Such as these from Ode by Judith Terzi:  "She is a luminous lagoon./She is our hands, our pen".  Or "Malala, there is music in your name/and something bitter between your teeth/that, swallowed, turns sweet" in Letter of Intent to Adopt by Barbara Rockman.  And this from A Young Girl by Ed Baker: "no easy way to gain the freedom/to explore-/a young woman bravely goes"  

Isn't that what makes Malala's story so poignant to us all?  Few of us would have the extraordinary courage of that young school girl.  We only can feel awe that she was brave enough to do what we fear we couldn't have.  

All proceeds from the sale of this book are donated to the Malala Fund, an organization dedicated to fighting for girls' education around the world.  As Joseph Hutchinson asks in his foreward, "Is it possible, too, that one poet, one pen, and one poem can change the world?" I believe such change can happen. The poems in this book are proof. I'm glad I bought it.

So today, as a poet and a teacher and a woman who hopes for the freedom to travel the world, I am marching for Malala.  And for all the young women she represents.  It is the least I can do.  Happy International Women's Day!

“One child, one teacher, one book and one pen
can change the world.”
“Malala Day” speech to the United Nations
July 12, 2013

Monday, March 3, 2014

Post AWP Re-entry Was Not Easy

I played teacher-hooky last Thursday and Friday to fly to Seattle for AWP 2014.   Thus began four wonderful days  surrounded by more writers and books too numerous to count.  

Never seeing more of the Space Needle than a little blip over the rooftops, I was nevertheless one happy writerwoman content to stay within the confines of the conference center.


A real highlight of the entire trip was visiting and dining with the incredible friends I've met through the A Room of Her Own Foundation's summer retreats.

Returning to my middle school classroom this morning hit me hard.  As with most writers, I often feel the conflict between the writing identify I struggle to cultivate and the demands of my teaching job.  Today that struggle felt particularly difficult.   

Faced with an early morning parent conference, piles of ungraded papers and then another meeting after school, I couldn't believe that only a few days ago I attended poetry readings by Robert Haas and Gary Snyder and listened to Ursula Le Guin talk about how even she still faces rejections of her work.  

Today before going off to work, I spent a few minutes digging into my AWP carrier bag filled with books, postcards, flyers, pencils and buttons.  Maybe I can get myself through the week by dipping out a few of these goodies every morning. 
Who knows what inspiration I'll find there?  

How do you reconcile the conflicts between your writing life and the demands of the outside world?  What helps you stay connected to your writerself?