FOR POETRY MONTH: Meaning and Pleasure … featuring Michael Dickel and Myra Schneider

It’s great to get a poem or story published. It’s about income and getting read and for some it’s validation as well. These are all important (even vital), but I was reminded recently that our poetry and other writing is about so much more.

In the introduction to the March issue of The BeZine, themed Science in Culture, Politics and ReligionContributing Editor Michael Dickel wrote:

American-Israeli Poet, Michael Dickel

“The title of David Cooper’s book on Kabbalah invites us to re-think the Creator as Creating: God is a Verb. While I don’t want to equate science to God in a religious sense, I want to borrow this re-conception. Science is creative, creating, if you will, knowledge of the world. Science is a verb.”

 

Jamie Dedes

A friend of mine came to visit and glowed when she told me she’d read Michael’s introduction. God is a Verb and Science is a verb popped out at her. Something she’d been struggling with suddenly fell into place. Other company arrived and I wasn’t able to get further explanation. I’m pleased but not surprise with her reaction to Michael’s piece. It demonstrates the power of words to bring joy, clarification and healing.

My own recent experience: a few people commenting or emailing me saying my post here – not with a bang but a whimper – helped release needed tears.

On another occasion in woman in Scotland wrote to say she’d read my poem – Wabi Sabi – to her wabi sabi group.  They found it inspiring. Wow! While I do need my payments, it’s this sort of thing – this human connection – that is satisfying right down to the marrow of my bones.

Poetry is also important as an entry point into sacred space for both artist and audience.  This is motivation for everyone to practice their art, whether professionally or as amateur, which is not a pejorative. I’m sure many of you – if not all of you – know what I mean.  There’s a shift that happens. Sometimes it feels more like channeling than writing. The experience is illuminating, healing and peaceful. An unexpected insight often arrives just when you need it.

Our job as poets and writers goes even further: we bear witness, we give voice to the voiceless, and we observe and commemorate.

English Poet Myra Schneider at her 80th Birthday celebration and the launch of her 12th collection

Myra Schneider said in an interview HERE, that “I believe the role of the poet is to reflect on human experience and the world we live in and to articulate it for oneself and others. Many people who suffer a loss or go through a trauma feel a need for poetry to give voice to their grief and to support them through a difficult time. When an atrocity is committed poems are a potent way of expressing shock and anger, also of bearing witness. I think that the poet can write forcefully, using a different approach from a journalist, about subjects such as climate change, violence, abuse and mental illness and that this is meaningful to others. I very much believe too that poetry is a way of celebrating life. I think it deserves a central place in our world.”

So, as we celebrate poetry this month, be sure to give yourself time to read and write … for the sake of your spirit and for the rest of us too.

Please join us at The BeZine on April 15th for our special interNational poetry issue. Michael Dickel is the lead editor.

© Each of the personal photographs belongs to the poet pictured, all rights reserved.

– Jamie Dedes (The Poet by Day)

Goulash

Editorial note: Well here we are in May already … hard to believe … and we are in the process of preparing the May 2015 issue of The BeZine for you. Look for it on May 15th. Meanwhile, we share here one of the more popular posts in the history Bardo, a poem, “Goulash,” by English poet, Myra Schneider.  Enjoy!

687px-2009-09-gulasch-pörkölt-paprikas-3

A crucial ingredient is the right frame of mind
so abandon all ideas of getting on. Stop pedalling,
dismount, go indoors and give yourself masses of time.
Then begin by heating a pool of oil in a frying pan
and, Mrs. Beeton style, take a dozen onions
even though the space you’re working in is smaller
than the scullery in a Victorian mansion. Pull off
the papery wrappings and feel the shiny globes’ solidity
before you chop. Fry the segments in three batches.
Don’t fuss about weeping eyes, with a wooden spoon
ease the pieces as they turn translucent and gold.
When you’ve browned but not burnt the cubes of beef
marry meat and onions in a deep pan, bless the mixture
with stock, spoonfuls of paprika, tomato purée
and crushed garlic. Enjoy the Pompeian-red warmth.
Outside, the sun is reddening the pale afternoon
and you’ll watch as it sinks behind blurring roofs,
the raised arms of trees, the intrepid viaduct.
In the kitchen’s triumph of colour and light the meat
is softening and everything in the pot is seeping
into everything else. By now you’re thinking of love:
the merging which bodies long for, the merging
that’s more than body. While you’re stirring the stew
it dawns on you how much you need darkness.
It lives in the underskirts of thickets where sealed buds
coddle green, where butterflies folded in hibernation,
could be crumpled leaves. It lives in the sky that carries
a deep sense of blue and a thin boat of moon angled
as if it’s rocking. It lives in the silent larder and upstairs
in the airing cupboard where a padded heart pumps
heat, in the well of bed where humans lace together.
Time to savour all this as the simmering continues,
as you lay the table and place at its centre a small jug
in which you’ve put three tentative roses and sprigs
of rosemary. At last you will sit down with friends
and ladle the dark red goulash onto plates bearing
beds of snowhite rice. As you eat the talk will be bright
as the garnets round your neck, as those buried
with an Anglo-Saxon king in a ship at Sutton Hoo,
and the ring of words will carry far into the night.

– Myra Schneider

Excerpt from Circling The Core (Enitharmon Press 2008)

© 2009, poem, portrait (below), and book cover art (below), Myra Schneider, All rights reserved and presented here with the permission of the poet. Photo credit ~ Pot of Goulash by Ralf Rolestschek via Wikipedia under Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NonDiriviative 3.0 U.S.

IMG_0032-1circling core_22MYRA SCHNEIDER ~ is a poet, a poetry and writing tutor, and the author of Writing My Way Through Cancer and, with John Killick, Writing Your Self. Her poetry collections, Circling the Core and Multiply the Moon, were published by Enitharmon Press. She has eight published collections. Her most recent work What Women Want was published earlier this year by Second Light Publications.

Myra’s long poems have been featured in Long Poem Magazine and Domestic Cherry. She co-edited with Dilys Wood, Parents, an anthology of poems by 114 women about their own parents. She started out writing fiction for children and teens. We first discovered Myra through her much-loved poem about an experience with cancer, The Red Dresswhich she generously shared with readers here in our Perspectives on Cancer series in 2011.

Currently Myra lives in North London, but she grew up in Scotland and in other parts of England. She lives with her husband and they have one son. Myra tutors through Poetry School, London. Her schedule of poetry readings is HERE.

Myra Schneider asks, “Who is poetry for?”

1815_coversNote: This full-length feature article is presented as an appropriate wrap after celebrating interNational Poetry Month (April). The feature was originally published by ARTEMISpoetry (13 November 2013) and is delivered here with the permission of the publisher (Second Light Live) and the author, Myra Schneider. Although Myra discusses poetry in Britain, we feel her observations apply to other countries as well. Jamaica only just appointed a poet laureate for the first time in fifty years. This month in the U.S. King Features Syndicate partnered with the American Academy of Poets to present poetry to the general public along with the news, which hasn’t been done in the U.S. for more than a generation.

Some months ago at one of the twice-yearly poetry readings, which I help organize for Poetry in Palmers Green, a woman I didn’t know, turned to me as she was leaving and said apologetically: ‘I’m afraid I don’t write poetry.’ It was as if she had been attending under false pretences. I told her we welcomed everyone and felt it important our audience didn’t only consist of writers. The conversation reminded me sharply that in Britain poetry is in the main seen as a separate world. Who would go to a concert feeling uncomfortable that she/he didn’t play a musical instrument?

Why is it that contemporary poetry is often viewed as a minority art form when there is often no more potent way of expressing and communicating vital aspects of life and thought?

One problem is the poor coverage of poetry by the media. BBC Radio 4 broadcasts the poetry request programme Poetry Please. The medium of radio is, in fact, ideal for poetry and Radio 4, which includes readings twice a day from prose books, could offer much more. However, there are some green shoots. Radio has given serious attention to some contemporary translations of classical poetry, such as Amy Kate Riach’s translation of The Seafarer broadcast with sound effects and music on Radio 4, summer 2012. This programme also included a discussion of the poem led by Simon Armitage. This year a Radio 4 play was based on the life of the poet Clare Holtham, drawing on her writing. Radio 4 is also due to broadcast in January next year, as an Afternoon Play, Pam Zinnemann-Hope’s adaptation of her book-length poem On Cigarette Papers about the lives of her parents. More programmes with a poetry focus would be valuable.

Television rarely gives attention to poets and poetry. Serious drama, art and classical music, are all featured on both radio and television. Over recent years national newspapers have cut down the space they give to poetry. At one time there was a daily poem in The Independent and a weekly poem in The Observer. These have been dropped. The Guardian usually features a very short poem in its Saturday Review and a long review of one collection by a well-known poet. It used also to include two or three short reviews. Few bookshops hold good collections of poetry.

The mainstream media’s focus on a very small number of ‘hyped’ poets disguises the great range of lesser-known but strong writers whose poetry deserves to be heard. A large number of poetry collections are published each year but potential readers have no pointers about what is on offer amongst this confusing variety. If they go into a bookshop which does have an extensive poetry section (rare!) they may alight on books in which the poetry is obscure, erudite or both and others which are streetwise or jokey. They may remember some poems from the past which they liked as children but have no idea how to make their way into contemporary poetry. Unless they chance upon a book they can relate to they will probably give up.

There are, however, certain organizations and individuals who are concerned to take poetry to a wider audience. The Bloodaxe anthology, Staying Alive, and its sequels include in themed sections a wide range of accessible contemporary, twentieth century together with a few earlier poems, that is poems whose language and rhythm communicate their general sense. In comparison with the normal sales of poetry books, these anthologies have had huge and deserved success.

In London the Southbank Centre offers a fair number of readings by acclaimed poets from the UK and overseas. These draw in some non-poets as does Poet in the City’s themed readings. The Poetry Libraries in London and Edinburgh are invaluable resources with their comprehensive collections of books for children as well as adults. Both stock magazines and leaflets, provide information and put on intimate readings by a wide range of poets. Poems on the Underground and the charity, Poems in the Waiting Room, both long-running, bring poetry to the many who are unused to hearing or reading poems. The Poetry Society, which sees part of its role as bringing poetry to the public and is the main organizer of National Poetry Day, helps promote Poems on the Underground.

Of prime importance is the work done, on whatever scale, by individuals who have found ways to introduce poetry directly to non-poets. I want to mention some of the very different examples I am aware of.

Deborah Alma, who wrote about her Emergency Poet Service in ARTEMISpoetry 10, is in great demand at city centre events and venues such as pubs as well as at poetry and arts festivals. She travels as a poetry ‘doctor’ in her adapted ambulance and comments, ‘What I do by “prescribing” a poem for their “empty-nest-syndrome”, their stress or heart-break, is show them that poetry has something to say, that it can speak intimately…I try to tailor the poem to their reading habits and taste. I really do believe that poetry is for and about everyone. I might recommend a Bloodaxe anthology…It works! And it matters.’

Poet Kaye Lee, who attends a WEA Writing for Pleasure class, was asked by the tutor, whose interest was prose, to run a poetry session. She told me it was difficult because although one member of the group had requested poetry most of the others were antagonistic, considering it outlandish and too difficult. She started by reading and discussing several accessible list poems by Ruth Fainlight and other poets as a lead-in to writing and gradually won the group over. Keeping to the format of beginning with themed poems, she now runs one very popular session every term. Some members of the group are reading poetry for pleasure at home.

This year the Second Light Network invited a few book-groups to accept copies of Mary MacRae’s posthumous poetry collection, Inside the Brightness of Red, to study her work and to send in reviews. Some book-groups had previously avoided poetry books and a typical comment was: ‘Only twice in the last fifteen years…have we ventured into poetry. The few reviews coaxed from our group suggest that we might do well to dedicate more evenings to poetry in the future.’ Though Mary MacRae was widely admired by fellow-poets, she did not have a high public profile. Nevertheless, the many new readers targeted by this project were able to appreciate both the power of her work: ‘This is a luscious book of poetry. It oozes beauty and wistfulness and is a joy to have by the bed – a poem at bedtime.’ Such enthusiasm makes you wonder what it would take to bring more people and more poetry back together (‘a poem at bedtime’?).

While she was manager of Palmers Green Bookshop Joanna Cameron, a non-poet who loves poetry, ran a series of successful poetry readings. Much of the audience was made up of customers who didn’t write poetry. Later, Joanna was a founder member of Poetry in Palmers Green and she has brought many non-poets to the readings. She now lives near Cambridge where she is putting on readings for Oxfam. She believes it is important to be inclusive while offering a high standard of poetry. She told me she’s seen tightly buttoned men cry at events and heard people saying, ‘I didn’t know poetry could be like that’.

Coming from a background of working in casinos and playwriting, William Ayot became interested in poetry, both reading and writing it, in the 1990s. He included poetry in rehab work he did in prisons and for many years he has used poetry as part of teaching leadership in boardrooms and business schools all over the world. Unable to find a poetry group when he moved to Chester some years ago, he started Poetry on the Border. The series offers accessible poets to large audiences, many of whom are not poets. Recently he set up NaCOT (National Centre for Oral Tradition) and poetry, of course, has a role in this.

Poet John Killick has done major work using poetry with people who have dementia. He writes down a person’s words and then shapes them on the page. The resulting text is then approved by the person and released for circulation among care staff, relatives and a wider public. Anthologies of these poems have been brought out by the publisher, Hawker. John is now mentoring other poets to work in the same way. He also gives readings from these poems and his own at events which link poetry and health issues. Earlier in his career he used poetry in full time educational work with prisoners and he has done poetry residences in hospices.

Other poets are making valuable contributions in healthcare areas. Rose Flint has used poetry in hospital wards, special units and community groups. Another example is Wendy French who has worked in various health areas and been chair of Lapidus, an organization concerned with writing for personal development which very much involves poetry. Survivors Poetry offers poetry and poetry writing to those have suffered mental illness.

It goes without saying that bringing poetry to children is of paramount importance and the Poetry Society see it an essential part of their role to send poets into schools. The work of Sue Dymoke and Anthony Wilson, poets and university lecturers who support teachers by showing them exciting ways of introducing poetry to their pupils, is immensely valuable.

The Internet also offers routes into poetry. In the Guardian Poem of the Week Carole Rumens presents a poem with detailed description and comment. Helen Ivory posts a daily poem on Ink Sweat and Tears, a site which sometimes includes reviews of poetry. Oxford Brookes Poetry Centre posts a weekly poem. Some enthusiastic poets have blogzines in which they regularly introduce poets, together with one of their poems, in an informal but informative way. These sites are helpful to those beginning to read poetry and experienced writers are likely to gain insights from them too.
Blogzines I particularly I admire are posted by Kim Moore, Anthony Wilson and Jamie Dedes.

Kim Moore begins her posts with a lively account of her poetry week, then moves on to her chosen poet and poem. She told me she hoped to normalize poetry as having a part of a working week. In his daily Lifesaving Poems Anthony Wilson (mentioned above) presents a poem which is key to him and includes the personal circumstances in which he came across it as part of his commentary. Jamie Dedes, a retired journalist who lives in California, loves and now writes poetry. She often features articles, poems and interviews with poets in her daily blogzine, The Poet by Day.

It is very clear that themes of wide general interest as well as an informal approach provide inviting routes into poetry. This was underlined for me by Kim Moore. She was asked, as a local writer, to take part in a reading by a visiting poet on the subject of pregnancy and breastfeeding. The evening, she told me, was very popular and though none of her poems had any connection with the subject and no one in the audience whom she spoke to her had ever been to a poetry reading before, she sold nine copies of her debut pamphlet.

Although the media view poetry as a minority art I take heart from the fact that there are organizations and generous individuals committed to fostering an interest in it. I would like to think their number is growing and also that some of those who read this article might consider developing their own ‘open house’ approach.

How might we contribute? Possibly by boldly offering our own creative and/or critical work to various media. Would a long poem or sequence of yours, adapted, suit a Radio 4 ‘Afternoon Play’. Have you considered such a submission? Are we willing to post reviews of excellent collections we have read? Do we dare to invite a book group that we attend – one that never trifles with poetry – to look at a suitably accessible, intriguing individual collection of poetry or an anthology?

I know that the editors of ARTEMISpoetry would welcome and consider printing any information about schemes for widening the audience for poetry. After all, we are worth it.

Myra Schneider

© 2013, essay and portrait below, Myra Schneider, All rights reserved; © 2014, illustration, Second Light Live, All rights reserved

References:

Amy Kate Riach, The Seafarer, Sylph Editions, 2010
Bloodaxe Books, http://www.bloodaxebooks.com
The Poetry Library, Southbank, London, http://www.poetrylibrary.org.uk
The Scottish Poetry Library, Edinburgh, http://www.scottishpoetrylibrary.org.uk/‎
Poems on the Underground, http://www.tfl.gov.uk/corporate/projectsandschemes/2437.aspx
The Poetry Society, http://www.poetrysociety.org.uk
Poems in the Waiting Room, http://www.poemsinthewaitingroom.org‎
Kaye Lee, http://www.secondlightlive.co.uk
Second light Network of Women Poets, http://www.secondlightlive.co.uk
Mary Macrae, Inside the Brightness of Red, Second Light Publications, 2010
Joanna Cameron, joannacameron@live.com
Deborah Alma, Emergency Poet, emergencypoet.com
William Ayot, http://www.williamayot.com
John Killick, http://www.dementiapositive.co.uk
Wendy French, wendyfrench.co.uk
Rose Flint, http://www.poetrypf.co.uk
Lapidus, http://www.lapidus.org.uk
Survivors Poetry, http://www.survivorspoetry.org
Anthony Wilson, http://anthonywilsonpoetry.com
Sue Dymoke, http://suedymokepoetry.com/books
Guardian Poem of the Week, http://www.theguardian.com/books/series/poemoftheweek‎
Oxford Brooks Poetry Centre, ah.brookes.ac.uk
Ink Sweat and Tears, http://www.ink-sweat-and-tears.com
The Poet by Day, http://musingbymoonlight.com
Kim Moore, http://kimmoorepoet.wordpress.com

How might you contribute? Possibly by boldly offering you own creative and/or critical work to various media. Would a long poem or sequence of yours, adapted, suit a Radio 4 ‘Afternoon Play’. Have you considered such a submission? Are you willing to post reviews of excellent collections we have read? Do you dare to invite a book group that you attend – one that never trifles with poetry – to look at a suitably accessible, intriguing individual collection of poetry or an anthology?

IMG_0032-1Myra’s long poems have been featured in Long Poem Magazine and Domestic Cherry. She co-edited with Dilys Wood, Parents, an anthology of poems by 114 women about their own parents. She started out writing fiction for children and teens. We first discovered Myra through her much-loved poem about an experience with cancer, The Red Dresswhich she generously shared with readers here in our Perspectives on Cancer series in 2011.

Currently Myra lives in North London, but she grew up in Scotland and in other parts of England. She lives with her husband and they have one son. Myra tutors through Poetry School, London. Her schedule of poetry readings is HERE.

The April issue of The BeZine will publish on April 15.

We’re celebrating interNational Poetry Month

in concert with Second Light Network of Women Poets (SLN)*

The BeZine is a publication of Bequine Again and The Bardo Group.

* Second Light Nework of Women Poets is open world-wide to women poets over forty. Details on SLN’s website.

BARDO NEWS: “Beguine Again” + “The Bardo Group” merging; Poetry Kudos; 100,000 Poets, Musicians and Artists for Change event; the People’s Climate March gone global …

800px-rafael_-_el_parnaso_estancia_del_sello_roma_1511-1STATUS ON MERGING  Beguine Again and our collective, The Bardo Group, continue with sharing of ideas and some modifications to site links already in progress. At this point the intention is to continue with daily posts. The official transition date is October 1st. On Saturday, October 4, Terri Stewart will post a more complete status report. Jamie Dedes will remain as a part of the core team and as poetry liaison.

We move forward with 100,000 Poets, Musicians and Artists for Change. However, we have streamlined the plan given the weight of work that is now upon us. We won’t be able to publish a book this year – a dream for next year maybe – but we’ll still have daily post/s and in the spirit of the occasion, we invite readers to link in their own relevent work to the posts via Mister Linky or in the comments sections starting September 27 and through October 3 inclusive. Shortly after the event close, we’ll collect links into a Page like the one we did for Poets Against War, 2013 Collection HERE.

The Bardo Group chosen area of concern for this year’s event is Peace and Justice.

The founders of 100,000 Poets, Musicians and Artists for Change are enthusiastically rolling forward. Founders Michael Rothenberg, poet and editor of Big Bridge Press and zine,  and Terri Carrion, poet, writer and associate editor and visual designer of Big Bridge Press and zine, have pages set up for all participating organizations. THE BARDO GROUP event page is HEREWe take this opportunity to thank Michael and Terri for their vision and their work.

Michael and Terri have written: 

“The first order of change is for poets, writers, musicians, artists, activists to get together to create and perform, educate and demonstrate, simultaneously, with other communities around the world. This will change how we see our local community and the global community. We have all become incredibly alienated in recent years. We hardly know our neighbors down the street let alone our creative allies who live and share our concerns in other countries. We need to feel this kind of global solidarity. It will be empowering.”  MORE

KUDOS

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PEOPLE’S CLIMATE MARCH (HERE) The largest global demonstration for climate action in history is scheduled for September 21. In solidarity, Beguine Again will post spiritual practice relevant to the issues.

(c) 2014 Jamie Dedes
(c) 2014 Jamie Dedes

 

More than 100 organizations are taking part in an online recruitment drive to sign people up for the demonstration. In the first hours of the push, thousands of new sign-ups have already begun to flow in.

The People’s Climate March is expected to be the largest demonstration for climate action in history. The march takes place just two days before world leaders gather for an emergency Climate Summit at the United Nations. Marchers are demanding leaders go beyond rhetoric and commit to bold action at the summit.

More than 750 organizations around the world are supporting the People’s Climate March, from the largest transit workers union in New York City to a coalition of buddhist monks.

In total, the groups represent roughly 100 million people worldwide.

The scale of organizing for the march now rivals that of a major electoral campaign, with thousands of volunteers, daily phone-banks and canvasses in NYC, and a major online operation to turn out marchers. Updates from the field include:

Trains and hundreds of buses will be bringing people from across the country for the march. Including a dedicated train from San Francisco to New York, a dedicated train from D.C. to New York, and buses from multiple points outside of New York.

More than 45 labor unions have signed onto the march, pledging to turn out members in New York City and from surrounding areas.

Connecticut alone has over 40 different groups confirmed to attend.

Renowned artist Shepard Fairey, whose Obama Hope poster has become world famous, has donated a poster design for the march.

At a warehouse in Brooklyn, artists are creating giant sculptures, floats, and banners for the march.

The global campaigning group Avaaz has secured 10% of the subway ads in NYC for the month before the march. The ads were chosen after a poster design contest that netted over 400 entries worldwide. Groups are planning a major student recruitment push for college campuses as classes resume in September.

In New Delhi, thousands will take over the streets on September 20 to demand a renewable energy revolution.

In Australia, organizers are expecting hundreds of individual events to take place across the country, including a major march in Melbourne.

In London environment organisations and faith groups are combining forces to create a historic march through the city to the steps of Parliament.

In Berlin three parallel marches will combine forces in a colourful festival.

Events are already being planned in Ghana, Kenya, DRC, Nigeria, and Guinea, along with a major march in Johannesburg.

In Paris, local groups will create the “Paris Marche pour le Climat,” with parades, marches, and bicycle rides planned across the bridges of the Seinne.

Reports are also coming in of large mobilizations planned in: Kathmandu, Rio, Sao Paulo, Jakarta, Dublin, Manila, Seoul, Mumbai and Istanbul.

Organizers are confident that the sheer scale and diversity of the People’s Climate March events, from the headline demonstration in New York City to the simultaneous events worldwide, will show politicians that there is a massive, energized movement demanding immediate action to address the climate crisis.

In New York City, the message will be difficult to ignore: marchers have come to an agreement with the NYPD for the march to flow directly through the middle of Manhattan. The march will begin at Columbus Circle at 11:30am on Sunday, proceed over on 59th Street to 6th Avenue, down 6th Avenue to 42nd Street, then right on 42nd Street to 11th Avenue. The route passes by some of New York City’s most famous landmarks, from Rockefeller Center to Times Square.

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The march and the Climate Summit in New York mark the beginning of a busy 18 months of crucial international negotiations. Climate negotiators will head to Lima, Peru, in December 2014 to make progress towards a global climate deal. Then, in September 2015 world leaders will meet back in New York to adopt the Sustainable Development Goals, the global post-2015 development agenda. Three months later, the world will gather in Paris to try and sign a new international climate treaty.

BLOGGERS AND WEBSITE OWNERS don’t forget that September 10 is Internet Slowdown. This is all about NetNutrality. Our site host, WordPress, is participating.

In the spirit of peace, love and community,

The Bardo Group

The Real Mrs. Beeton

Isabella Beeton (1836-1865), known as the first and "best" cookbook author
Isabella Beeton (1836-1865), known as the first and “best” cookbook author

 Originally published by Second Light Live in ARTEMISpoetry  and shared here with the permission of both publisher and poet.

Heaving her enormous bulk onto a bookshelf high
above my bed, then pushing until she was out of sight
took all my strength and it didn’t dislodge her from my mind.

But I rebelled against the weight of her disapproval,
shut myself away every morning in that small room
of my own, the room which is me, to let imagination

run wild as brambles and grasses in an untended garden,
coaxed visions into scribblings on paper until desk
and floor were littered, until unblinking as owl eyes,

words stared from my screen. Of course, the moment
I emerged I came face to face with her large a life
on the landing. For years this matron, large-bosomed

and with a voluminous knowledge gathered from decades
of managing a household, followed me around tutting
because I hadn’t blanched or basted, couldn’t pluck a duck.

She snorted at unruly children sliding down the stairs,
at dust rollicking along skirting boards, rounded on me
for failing to keep a properly stocked linen cupboard.

Then the day I found out this paragon was Isabella Beeton,
a young woman who instead of devoting her life to home
and family like other Victorian wives, travelled by train

with her publisher husband to his London office, wrote
books fat with information, mostly magpied from other books,
about household management, became a money-spinner,

an authority for later generations. I also learnt she’d suffered
several miscarriages, bore two children who died in infancy,
two who survived, died herself after the second –

thanks to Mr Beeton’s syphilis. Yet for years books
in her name continued to appear. The matron’s ghost
still persists in my mind but what troubles me is Isabella.

For all the thousands of pages this woman produced
in her short life, the real Mrs Beeton didn’t leave
a single word about what she thought, felt, endured.

.

– Myra Schneider

© 2014, poem and poet’s portrait (below), Myra Schneider, All rights reserved, posted here with Myra’s permission; Mrs. Beeton’s photograph is in the public domain.

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IMG_0032-1circling_the_coreMYRA SCHNEIDER (Myra Schneider’s Poetry Website) ~ Myra’s long poems have been featured in Long Poem Magazine and Domestic Cherry. She co-edited with Dilys WoodParents, an anthology of poems by 114 women about their own parents. Myra started out writing fiction for children and teens. We first discovered Myra through her much-loved poem about an experience with cancer, The Red Dresswhich she generously shared with readers here in our Perspectives on Cancer series in 2011.

Currently Myra lives in North London, but she grew up in Scotland and in other parts of England. She lives with her husband and they have one son. Myra tutors through Poetry School, London. Her schedule of poetry readings is HERE. A video of Myra’s interview at Poetry East in London is HERE. The sound leaves something to be desired, so ear-buds or earphones are helpful. Other videos are of poems: The Red Dress and Goulash. Myra’s Amazon UK page is HERE and US is HERE.

Myra’s eleventh poetry collection, The Door to Color, will launch this September by Enitharmon Press, UK at their gallery in London.

Myra Schneider asks, “Who is poetry for?”

1815_coversNote: This full-length feature article is presented as an appropriate wrap after celebrating interNational Poetry Month (April). The feature was originally published by ARTEMISpoetry (13 November 2013) and is delivered here with the permission of the publisher (Second Light Live) and the author, Myra Schneider. Although Myra discusses poetry in Britain, we feel her observations apply to other countries as well. Jamaica only just appointed a poet laureate for the first time in fifty years. This month in the U.S. King Features Syndicate partnered with the American Academy of Poets to present poetry to the general public along with the news, which hasn’t been done in the U.S. for more than a generation.

Some months ago at one of the twice-yearly poetry readings, which I help organize for Poetry in Palmers Green, a woman I didn’t know, turned to me as she was leaving and said apologetically: ‘I’m afraid I don’t write poetry.’ It was as if she had been attending under false pretences. I told her we welcomed everyone and felt it important our audience didn’t only consist of writers. The conversation reminded me sharply that in Britain poetry is in the main seen as a separate world. Who would go to a concert feeling uncomfortable that she/he didn’t play a musical instrument?

Why is it that contemporary poetry is often viewed as a minority art form when there is often no more potent way of expressing and communicating vital aspects of life and thought?

One problem is the poor coverage of poetry by the media. BBC Radio 4 broadcasts the poetry request programme Poetry Please. The medium of radio is, in fact, ideal for poetry and Radio 4, which includes readings twice a day from prose books, could offer much more. However, there are some green shoots. Radio has given serious attention to some contemporary translations of classical poetry, such as Amy Kate Riach’s translation of The Seafarer broadcast with sound effects and music on Radio 4, summer 2012. This programme also included a discussion of the poem led by Simon Armitage. This year a Radio 4 play was based on the life of the poet Clare Holtham, drawing on her writing. Radio 4 is also due to broadcast in January next year, as an Afternoon Play, Pam Zinnemann-Hope’s adaptation of her book-length poem On Cigarette Papers about the lives of her parents. More programmes with a poetry focus would be valuable.

Television rarely gives attention to poets and poetry. Serious drama, art and classical music, are all featured on both radio and television. Over recent years national newspapers have cut down the space they give to poetry. At one time there was a daily poem in The Independent and a weekly poem in The Observer. These have been dropped. The Guardian usually features a very short poem in its Saturday Review and a long review of one collection by a well-known poet. It used also to include two or three short reviews. Few bookshops hold good collections of poetry.

The mainstream media’s focus on a very small number of ‘hyped’ poets disguises the great range of lesser-known but strong writers whose poetry deserves to be heard. A large number of poetry collections are published each year but potential readers have no pointers about what is on offer amongst this confusing variety. If they go into a bookshop which does have an extensive poetry section (rare!) they may alight on books in which the poetry is obscure, erudite or both and others which are streetwise or jokey. They may remember some poems from the past which they liked as children but have no idea how to make their way into contemporary poetry. Unless they chance upon a book they can relate to they will probably give up.

There are, however, certain organizations and individuals who are concerned to take poetry to a wider audience. The Bloodaxe anthology, Staying Alive, and its sequels include in themed sections a wide range of accessible contemporary, twentieth century together with a few earlier poems, that is poems whose language and rhythm communicate their general sense. In comparison with the normal sales of poetry books, these anthologies have had huge and deserved success.

In London the Southbank Centre offers a fair number of readings by acclaimed poets from the UK and overseas. These draw in some non-poets as does Poet in the City’s themed readings. The Poetry Libraries in London and Edinburgh are invaluable resources with their comprehensive collections of books for children as well as adults. Both stock magazines and leaflets, provide information and put on intimate readings by a wide range of poets. Poems on the Underground and the charity, Poems in the Waiting Room, both long-running, bring poetry to the many who are unused to hearing or reading poems. The Poetry Society, which sees part of its role as bringing poetry to the public and is the main organizer of National Poetry Day, helps promote Poems on the Underground.

Of prime importance is the work done, on whatever scale, by individuals who have found ways to introduce poetry directly to non-poets. I want to mention some of the very different examples I am aware of.

Deborah Alma, who wrote about her Emergency Poet Service in ARTEMISpoetry 10, is in great demand at city centre events and venues such as pubs as well as at poetry and arts festivals. She travels as a poetry ‘doctor’ in her adapted ambulance and comments, ‘What I do by “prescribing” a poem for their “empty-nest-syndrome”, their stress or heart-break, is show them that poetry has something to say, that it can speak intimately…I try to tailor the poem to their reading habits and taste. I really do believe that poetry is for and about everyone. I might recommend a Bloodaxe anthology…It works! And it matters.’

Poet Kaye Lee, who attends a WEA Writing for Pleasure class, was asked by the tutor, whose interest was prose, to run a poetry session. She told me it was difficult because although one member of the group had requested poetry most of the others were antagonistic, considering it outlandish and too difficult. She started by reading and discussing several accessible list poems by Ruth Fainlight and other poets as a lead-in to writing and gradually won the group over. Keeping to the format of beginning with themed poems, she now runs one very popular session every term. Some members of the group are reading poetry for pleasure at home.

This year the Second Light Network invited a few book-groups to accept copies of Mary MacRae’s posthumous poetry collection, Inside the Brightness of Red, to study her work and to send in reviews. Some book-groups had previously avoided poetry books and a typical comment was: ‘Only twice in the last fifteen years…have we ventured into poetry. The few reviews coaxed from our group suggest that we might do well to dedicate more evenings to poetry in the future.’ Though Mary MacRae was widely admired by fellow-poets, she did not have a high public profile. Nevertheless, the many new readers targeted by this project were able to appreciate both the power of her work: ‘This is a luscious book of poetry. It oozes beauty and wistfulness and is a joy to have by the bed – a poem at bedtime.’ Such enthusiasm makes you wonder what it would take to bring more people and more poetry back together (‘a poem at bedtime’?).

While she was manager of Palmers Green Bookshop Joanna Cameron, a non-poet who loves poetry, ran a series of successful poetry readings. Much of the audience was made up of customers who didn’t write poetry. Later, Joanna was a founder member of Poetry in Palmers Green and she has brought many non-poets to the readings. She now lives near Cambridge where she is putting on readings for Oxfam. She believes it is important to be inclusive while offering a high standard of poetry. She told me she’s seen tightly buttoned men cry at events and heard people saying, ‘I didn’t know poetry could be like that’.

Coming from a background of working in casinos and playwriting, William Ayot became interested in poetry, both reading and writing it, in the 1990s. He included poetry in rehab work he did in prisons and for many years he has used poetry as part of teaching leadership in boardrooms and business schools all over the world. Unable to find a poetry group when he moved to Chester some years ago, he started Poetry on the Border. The series offers accessible poets to large audiences, many of whom are not poets. Recently he set up NaCOT (National Centre for Oral Tradition) and poetry, of course, has a role in this.

Poet John Killick has done major work using poetry with people who have dementia. He writes down a person’s words and then shapes them on the page. The resulting text is then approved by the person and released for circulation among care staff, relatives and a wider public. Anthologies of these poems have been brought out by the publisher, Hawker. John is now mentoring other poets to work in the same way. He also gives readings from these poems and his own at events which link poetry and health issues. Earlier in his career he used poetry in full time educational work with prisoners and he has done poetry residences in hospices.

Other poets are making valuable contributions in healthcare areas. Rose Flint has used poetry in hospital wards, special units and community groups. Another example is Wendy French who has worked in various health areas and been chair of Lapidus, an organization concerned with writing for personal development which very much involves poetry. Survivors Poetry offers poetry and poetry writing to those have suffered mental illness.

It goes without saying that bringing poetry to children is of paramount importance and the Poetry Society see it an essential part of their role to send poets into schools. The work of Sue Dymoke and Anthony Wilson, poets and university lecturers who support teachers by showing them exciting ways of introducing poetry to their pupils, is immensely valuable.

The Internet also offers routes into poetry. In the Guardian Poem of the Week Carole Rumens presents a poem with detailed description and comment. Helen Ivory posts a daily poem on Ink Sweat and Tears, a site which sometimes includes reviews of poetry. Oxford Brookes Poetry Centre posts a weekly poem. Some enthusiastic poets have blogzines in which they regularly introduce poets, together with one of their poems, in an informal but informative way. These sites are helpful to those beginning to read poetry and experienced writers are likely to gain insights from them too.
Blogzines I particularly I admire are posted by Kim Moore, Anthony Wilson and Jamie Dedes.

Kim Moore begins her posts with a lively account of her poetry week, then moves on to her chosen poet and poem. She told me she hoped to normalize poetry as having a part of a working week. In his daily Lifesaving Poems Anthony Wilson (mentioned above) presents a poem which is key to him and includes the personal circumstances in which he came across it as part of his commentary. Jamie Dedes, a retired journalist who lives in California, loves and now writes poetry. She often features articles, poems and interviews with poets in her daily blogzine, The Poet by Day.

It is very clear that themes of wide general interest as well as an informal approach provide inviting routes into poetry. This was underlined for me by Kim Moore. She was asked, as a local writer, to take part in a reading by a visiting poet on the subject of pregnancy and breastfeeding. The evening, she told me, was very popular and though none of her poems had any connection with the subject and no one in the audience whom she spoke to her had ever been to a poetry reading before, she sold nine copies of her debut pamphlet.

Although the media view poetry as a minority art I take heart from the fact that there are organizations and generous individuals committed to fostering an interest in it. I would like to think their number is growing and also that some of those who read this article might consider developing their own ‘open house’ approach.

How might we contribute? Possibly by boldly offering our own creative and/or critical work to various media. Would a long poem or sequence of yours, adapted, suit a Radio 4 ‘Afternoon Play’. Have you considered such a submission? Are we willing to post reviews of excellent collections we have read? Do we dare to invite a book group that we attend – one that never trifles with poetry – to look at a suitably accessible, intriguing individual collection of poetry or an anthology?

I know that the editors of ARTEMISpoetry would welcome and consider printing any information about schemes for widening the audience for poetry. After all, we are worth it.

Myra Schneider

© 2013, essay and portrait below, Myra Schneider, All rights reserved; © 2014, illustration, Second Light Live, All rights reserved

References:

Amy Kate Riach, The Seafarer, Sylph Editions, 2010
Bloodaxe Books, http://www.bloodaxebooks.com
The Poetry Library, Southbank, London, http://www.poetrylibrary.org.uk
The Scottish Poetry Library, Edinburgh, http://www.scottishpoetrylibrary.org.uk/‎
Poems on the Underground, http://www.tfl.gov.uk/corporate/projectsandschemes/2437.aspx
The Poetry Society, http://www.poetrysociety.org.uk
Poems in the Waiting Room, http://www.poemsinthewaitingroom.org‎
Kaye Lee, http://www.secondlightlive.co.uk
Second light Network of Women Poets, http://www.secondlightlive.co.uk
Mary Macrae, Inside the Brightness of Red, Second Light Publications, 2010
Joanna Cameron, joannacameron@live.com
Deborah Alma, Emergency Poet, emergencypoet.com
William Ayot, http://www.williamayot.com
John Killick, http://www.dementiapositive.co.uk
Wendy French, wendyfrench.co.uk
Rose Flint, http://www.poetrypf.co.uk
Lapidus, http://www.lapidus.org.uk
Survivors Poetry, http://www.survivorspoetry.org
Anthony Wilson, http://anthonywilsonpoetry.com
Sue Dymoke, http://suedymokepoetry.com/books
Guardian Poem of the Week, http://www.theguardian.com/books/series/poemoftheweek‎
Oxford Brooks Poetry Centre, ah.brookes.ac.uk
Ink Sweat and Tears, http://www.ink-sweat-and-tears.com
The Poet by Day, http://musingbymoonlight.com
Kim Moore, http://kimmoorepoet.wordpress.com

How might you contribute? Possibly by boldly offering you own creative and/or critical work to various media. Would a long poem or sequence of yours, adapted, suit a Radio 4 ‘Afternoon Play’. Have you considered such a submission? Are you willing to post reviews of excellent collections we have read? Do you dare to invite a book group that you attend – one that never trifles with poetry – to look at a suitably accessible, intriguing individual collection of poetry or an anthology?

IMG_0032-1Myra’s long poems have been featured in Long Poem Magazine and Domestic Cherry. She co-edited with Dilys Wood, Parents, an anthology of poems by 114 women about their own parents. She started out writing fiction for children and teens. We first discovered Myra through her much-loved poem about an experience with cancer, The Red Dresswhich she generously shared with readers here in our Perspectives on Cancer series in 2011.

Currently Myra lives in North London, but she grew up in Scotland and in other parts of England. She lives with her husband and they have one son. Myra tutors through Poetry School, London. Her schedule of poetry readings is HERE.

BARDO NEWS: Enitharmon Press Launches 3 Poetry Collections; Connotation Press Call for Submissions; Plum Tree Books’ Children’s Imprint; interNational Poetry Month celebrations… and more…read on…

KUDOS FIRST Terri Stewart has been selected to present a first person monologue at the Network of Biblical Storytellers Conference in Los Angeles in August. She was also selected to teach a workshop titled “Developing First Person Monologues with Integrity.” She will be the keynote speaker at the United Methodist Women’s (Pacific Northwest) conference in October. She is speaking there on Creating Safe Space.

interNATIONAL POETRY MONTH is coming to an end. We recreated this annual April event, which is national in Canada and the United States, into an international celebration inclusive of everyone in our collective and consistent with our philosophy. Poetry – as all art – knows no borders.

What a good time we shared with readers and writers as we enriched one another’s lives. We published ten poems on the blog, were introduced to the lives and work of two poets, the Bulgarian Blaga Dimitrova (courtesy of Blaga Todorova) and the American Chirlane McCray (courtesy of Jamie Dedes), and sponsored two reader-participation events: Writers’ Fourth Wednesday hosted by Victoria C. Slotto and A Poem in Your Pocket hosted by Corina Ravenscraft.

We are pleased to share the news that Elegy to Damascus from the exquisite pen of Algerian Imen Benyoub garnered much attention, including two re-blogs and nearly fifty Facebook “Likes.” The poem is very much in the spirit of Bardo.

WHO IS POETRY FOR? This coming Wednesday as we put closure on poetry month – but not poetry – we share an essay from Bardo friend, Myra Schneider, who is much appreciated for her work as a poet and teacher, a consultant to Second Light Network and for her encouragement of others to read and write poetry for well-being. Myra asks, “Who is Poetry For?” and invites suggestions on how we might widen the audience for poetry. Feel free to offer suggestions in the comments section whether you are invested in this art as vocation or avocation or as an enthusiastic reader.

SECOND LIGHT NETWORK‘s next issue of ARTEMISpoetry is due out in May. The network’s anthology Her Wings of Glass is forthcoming this October. On Wednesday a review of the November issue by Jamie Dedes will post on The Poet by Day. Note: Second Light Network was founded and is based in England but its membership is open to women world-wide. See the site for more info on membership qualifications, membership costs and benefits.

PLUM TREE BOOKS (PTB) Niamh Clune announced this week that PTB had a face-lift. “We are focussing on DR. NANA PLUM’S AMAZING BOOKS FOR CHILDREN and have updated our web-site accordingly.”

The launch of the new web-site is on Saturday 3rd of May. “We hope you will join us then for story-telling and more.” Niamh has invited us to visit, so do save the date and lend your support. For a taste of what’s to come, visit Dr. Nana Plum’s Story Corner.

PTB Anthology in the works: Niamh reports thatwe have received some wonderful poetry submissions and art for our Mother anthology. There is still time to send in yours.”

BRAVO! A pat on the metaphorical back of Jamaica, which just this month named its first National Poet Laureate in fifty years. Read all about it HERE.

YOUTH POET LAUREATES: Los Angeles County Youth have until May 19th to submit work to Urban Word, which will name one talented person (aged 14-19)LA Youth Poet Laureate. Details HERE.

In January at Mayor Bill de Blasio’s inauguration, New York’s Youth Poet Laureate, Ramya Ramana, read her poem entitled New York City, a poem dedicated to Mr. de Blasio.

YOUTH CORNER: The Bardo Group is still looking for a youth – aged 19-24- to run a Youth Poetry Corner. Email us at bardogroup@gmail.com if you are interested.

ENITHARMON PRESS: The media team at Enitharmon Press alerts us to the publication of three new books of poetry in May with announcements of book launches in London for those in our collective who live or are visiting the area.

BOOK LAUNCH INVITES, 1, 13, 22 May 2014

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SOME LETTERS NEVER SENT by Neil Curry ~ “Deceptively relaxed in tone, these verse letters – sometimes serious, sometimes whimsical – are addressed to such figures as Angelea Carter, the Venerable Bede and from Odysseus to Gilbert White’s tortoise, on topics as diverse as smallpox and the paintings of Vermeer, landscape-gardening, the King James Bible and Eddie Eddi Stobart’s lorries on the M6. There has not been a collection of verse letters of this nature since the Epistles of the Roman poet Horace and, fittingly, it is to Horace that the final letter is addressed, partly by way of apology.”

SOONER OR LATER FRANK by Jeremy Reed “Sooner or Later Frank finds Jeremy Reed optimising his London quarter of Soho and the West End, its outlaws, opportune strangers and rogue mavericks condensed into poems coloured by an imagery that pushes pioneering edges towards final frontiers. Right on the big city moment, and with an eye for arresting acute visual detail, Reed makes the capital into personal affairs. His characteristic love of glamour, rock music, seasonal step-changes, and a Ballardian preoccupation with the visionary render this new PBS Recommendation, in John Ashbery’s words on Reed’s recent work, ‘a dazzling tour de force.'” You’ll find the poem that lends its name to the book HERE.

THE ORCHID BOAT by Lee Harwood ~ “A weave of stories: some personal, some historical, some real, some imaginary. Often these stories may co-exist in a poem just as they do in one’s everyday mind, as a collage mirroring our own perception of the world. It is a mix that can include Alexandria or China or Brighton or North Wales. These interwoven stories insist on the acceptance of contradictions and complexity in people and in life; a recognition characteristic of Harwood’s poetry and shaped by his acknowledged influences: Gide, de Montherlant and Cavafy, John Ashbery and Frank O’Hara. In Harwood’s poems the richest material and tone is found in ‘the ordinary’, and in The Orchid Boat this focus is thrown into even greater relief as he explores the power and weight of memories.”

CALL FOR SUBMISSIONS: Robert (Bob) Clark Young tells us that, “As the creative nonfiction editor for Connotation Press, I’m always looking for new essays. I invite you to submit nonfiction on a topic of your choice. I’m looking for creative nonfiction, narrative nonfiction, memoirs, and personal essays–with the understanding that these categories often overlap. Up to 10,000 words. Please submit work directly to me at robertclarkyoung@connotationpress.com. I look forward to reading your work.”

Bob was a guest writer on Bardo. In his piece, Escape from the Nursing Home, he shared his story – and the rewards – of caring for elderly and infirm parents.

SAVE THE DATES

From Oxford Brookes Poetry Centre and the Arts Council of England

10157346_646561198748661_273577449520339020_n-1

From The Bardo Group: While we don’t have a striking poster such as the one above, we do have some fun and interesting virtual events coming up:

  • WRITER’S FOURTH WEDNESDAY prompt hosted by Victoria C. Slotto is scheduled next for May 28th.

  • VOICES FOR PEACE PROJECT in concert with 100,000 Poets for Change (Michael Rothbenberg and Terri Carrion organizers) is hosted by Liz Rice-Sosne and scheduled for September 27, 2014. We are officially partnered with 100,000 Poets of Change as of April 10, 2014.

Join us on our Facebook Page

BARDO NEWS: Thanks to everyone who contributed today’s news. The next news day is May 25, 2014 and the deadline to get your news into the next post is Friday, May 23, 2014.

Email: bardogroup@wordpress.com.

If you missed the deadline for this post, please feel free to share your news in the comments section.

– The Bardo Group

BARDO NEWS: April celebrations of poetry and poets, a shared heritage that knows no borders

Quatrain on Heavenly Mtn.
Quatrain on Heavenly Mountain

Both Canada and the United States celebrate April as national poetry month. Since Bardo is an international effort, we will celebrate the month as an international event. Poetry is a shared heritage that knows no borders.

Among the blog posts we’ll publish during this month is a piece by Blaga Todorova (Between the Shadows and the Soul) on the Bulgarian poet and former Bulgarian Vice President, Blaga Dimitrova. Included in our line-up is a memorable poem by New York’s first lady, wife of Mayor Bill De Blasio, Chirlane McCray. There will be a piece on writing poetry by English poet, Myra Schneider (Myra Schneider’s Poetry Website), and an article on the Lebanese poet, Khalil Gibran. Corina Ravenscraft (Dragon’s Dreams) will start us off on April 1 with some ideas for celebrating with family and friends.

While we don’t plan to post poems and/or essays on poetry every day, we’ll do so quite a bit. Also, along with the Academy of American Poets, we’ll celebrate A Poem in Your Pocket on Thursday, April 24, when everyone is invited to share a poem and/or a piece about a favored poet no matter the poet’s time or place. Mister Linky will go up and you can link in your own work or share a URL to work you admire. Or, if you prefer, you can share a poem or comment on a poet in the comment section of that day’s post. Mister Linky will open at 12:01 a.m. on the 24th.

This evening we kick-off poetry month – a day-and-a-half early, yes! – with award-winning Canadian slam poet and writer, Shane Koyczan, who first came to the wider world’s attention with his poem We Ae More at the 2010 Olympics opening ceremony in Vancouver. This video begins with Death Be Not Proud by British poet John Donne (1572-1631) and moves into Shane’s performance of one of his early poems, Move Pen Move.

CELEBRATE INTERNATIONAL POETRY MONTH WITH US

“Poets are the unacknowled legislators of the world.” Percy B. Shelley (1792-1822), English Romantic poet, In Defense of Poetry

HAPPY MOTHERING SUNDAY TO OUR FRIENDS IN THE UK

from The Bardo Group

tomorrow’s post by Niamh Clune (Plum Tree Books) will honor the day

and don’t forget to join us on Wednesday, April 23, for Victoria Slotto’s (Victoria C. Slotto, Author/Fiction, Poetry and Writing PromptsWriters’ Fourth Wednesday prompt. Mister Linky will go up for sharing your work at 12:01 a.m. P.S.T. on the 23rd.

Join us on our Facebook page, THE BARDO GROUP

Illustration ~ Fan with quatrain poem attributed to Emperor Gaozong of Song (1107-1187), the tenth Chinese emperor of the Song Dynasty, part of the John B. Elliott Collection at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York City. The photograph is by Neutrality and generously released into the public domain.

– The Bardo Group

The Red Dress

English poet, Myra Schneider, is a friend of The Bardo Group. Her website is HERE.

Inside the Brightness of Red

This month Victoria Slotto will host “Writer’s Fourth Wednesday” writing prompt on January 22 at 7 p.m. here at The Bardo Group. She invites any and all to participate. Victoria will set up Mr. Linky and leave it up for three days so that we can all link in our scribbles whether poems, fiction or creative nonfiction.

I hope this reblogged piece on the English poet Mary MacRae will help to start the creative juices running and perhaps inspire some confidence in those others who are also coming to their art late in life. J. D.

THE POET BY DAY

NOTE: Originally published here about two years ago, this post is worthy of a wider audience and more than one read; and so, with some additions, I post it again for the benefit new readers and old. Among other things, the evolution of Mary’s poetic grace in her maturity is certain inspiration for those who come to their art late in life as she did. Enjoy …

Mary MacRae “wrote and published poetry for only the last ten years of her life, after ill-health forced her to take early retirement from teaching. She taught for 15 years at the James Allen Girls School (JAGS), Dulwich, London. Her commitment to writing led to her deep involvement with the first years of the Poetry School under Mimi Khalvati, studying with Mimi and Myra Schneider, whose advanced poetry workshop she attended for 8 years. In these groups her exceptional talent…

View original post 1,298 more words

Pigeons

1358915503p2230The morning is swallowed by its headlines:
an old man in Bosnia shot as he scurried
along a path to feed his pigeons.
I try not to see the open mouth
jutting from a black heap of coat.

Going into a room upstairs, I remember
two white pigeons I saw in Ravenna.
How they startled with life,
orange claws gripping the stone rim
of a bowl on a wall in a mausoleum.

For fifteen centuries one has dipped
its beak to drink cool aquamarine;
the other’s turned towards a cobalt sky.
What will soothe the cooped pigeons?
In a book I look at the hundreds of tessarae,

follow the shadow lines beneath
wings, the breasts shaped by fingers;
think of two hands blue-rivered
with veins, papered with skin, cupping
the feather softness over beating hearts.

Then I see faces grazed by fear,
slippered feet scrambling up a hill,
a bag of seed split and scattered,
birds’ wings frantic behind mesh,
an old man coffined in mud.

– Myra Schneider

from ‘Exits’ (Enitharmon 1994)
previously published in ‘The Observer’
‘Klaonica, Poems for Bosnia’ (Bloodaxe 1993)
and broadcast on ‘Stanza’ Radio 4 in 1994

© 2009, poem, portrait (below), and book cover art (below), Myra Schneider, All rights reserved and presented here with the permission of the poet.
Photo (Pigeon) courtesy morgueFile

IMG_0032-1circling core_22MYRA SCHNEIDER ~ is a poet, a poetry and writing tutor, and the author of Writing My Way Through Cancer and, with John Killick, Writing Your Self. Her poetry collections, Circling the Core and Multiply the Moon, were published by Enitharmon Press. She has eight published collections. Her most recent work What Women Want was published earlier this year by Second Light Publications.

Myra’s long poems have been featured in Long Poem Magazine and Domestic Cherry. She co-edited with Dilys Wood, Parents, an anthology of poems by 114 women about their own parents. She started out writing fiction for children and teens. We first discovered Myra through her much-loved poem about an experience with cancer, The Red Dresswhich she generously shared with readers here in our Perspectives on Cancer series in 2011.

Currently Myra lives in North London, but she grew up in Scotland and in other parts of England. She lives with her husband and they have one son. Myra tutors through Poetry School, London. Her schedule of poetry readings is HERE.

BARDO NEWS: What Leibniz Never Learned; Paula’s “three minutes” of fame; Niamh’s new FB page; an opportunity for women poets … and more

sllwomanreverseVia contributing poet and good friend to Bardo, Myra Schneider for Second Light Network of Women Poets: AN INVITATION TO WOMEN POETS TO SUBMIT TO A MAJOR NEW ANTHOLOGY FUNDED BY THE ARTS COUNCIL ENGLAND and open to contributions from any women anywhere in the world …

The Second Light Network of Women Poets have recently received Arts Council funding to bring out an anthology of poetry by women poets. It will be called Wings of Glass. The book will focus on ambitious writing and be published next autumn 2014 and launched at the Second Light Festival in central London in late November. The editors are Penelope ShuttleMyra Schneider and Dilys Wood. Submissions will be accepted between 15th November and 15th January. Please see full details for submitting : www.secondlightlive.co.uk

51rk8frRwfL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_Her Wings of Glass (the title a quotation from Sylvia Plath) is to be a 200 page anthology that will complement but not repeat Second Light’s previous anthology (with Arrowhead Books), Images of Women. The focus of this anthology is ‘big issues’, for example the future of the planet, good and evil aspects of our relationship with the natural world and with each other, different aspects of our imaginative understanding of ‘who we are’.

The invitation is for up to six poems per submission, not more than 200 lines in total, with three copies of each poem to Dilys Wood at 3, Springfield Close, East Preston, West Sussex, BN16 2SZ, by January 15th 2014 together with the administrative fee of £5 (Second Light members) or £8 (non-members). Cheques payable to ‘Second Light’ or pay online at the poetry p f (online shop (filter to ‘Wings’). Non-UK submissions may be sent by e-mail as .doc or .pdf attachments, only to Second Light Administrator (poet Anne Stewart. ) Anne Stewart is a fabulous help with your technical questions. [Check out Anne’s poems HERE.]

The adjudicators will advise those selected by 30th June 2014 and those poets whose work is selected will receive a copy of the anthology when published. Submitted poems may be published (details on poem please) or unpublished or otherwise out in submission. Second Light may also publish a short spin-off anthology if funds allow.

FULL SUBMISSIONS GUIDELINES HERE

artemisEditor’s note: Poets of the distaff side, don’t forget Second Light Network of Women Poets as a primary professional association with an excellent bi-annual journal ARTEMISpoetry, which is published in November and in May. Membership in Second Light network is not restricted to residents of England.

terriREV. TERRI STEWART (Cloaked Monk) is the founder of the Youth Chaplaincy Coalition in Seattle, Washington. Don’t miss tomorrow’s post for details. You will find Terri’s philosophy of Extreme Accompaniment of interest and applicable to the many situations we encounter and have the impulse to heal.

PAULA KUITENBROUWER (Mindful Drawing) was honored by Boeddhistisch Dagblad, the premier Buddhist magazine of the Netherlands, with an interview and photographs … in Paula’s words her “three minutes of fame.” The feature is HERE in Dutch.

bd

1012862_450201838416190_1876830770_nNIAMH CLUNE (On the Plum Tree)  has set-off a virtual explosion of activity and inspiration on her Plum Tree Books Facebook Page.  She is hosting posts by a bevy artists and writers including Shawn MacKenzie (Dragonsnest) with Editor’s Corner and Jamie Dedes (The Poet by Day , the journey in poem).  Jamie’s Corner, Soul Speak with Jamie Dedes, is about matters concerned with the inner life.

Niamh’s Plum Tree Books (PTB) is a small book publishing company and will publish material on FB based on the creative collaborations of team members. PTB encourages participation and comment on many subjects from technical advice on how to make a recording, to poetry, social comment, inspirational quotes to inspire your poetry, and how to illustrate children’s books. PTB is always looking for new talent to showcase.

twavatarKAREN FAYETH‘s (Oh Fair New Mexico) latest short story What Leibniz Never Learned was published by The Storyteller, a literary magazine of the print variety. Here’s a snippet with a link to the complete story:

“Anton dropped his head into his hands and, with a deep sigh, allowed frustration to wash over him. He had so many things to say, deep, powerful, urgent emotions, and all he could squeeze out on the pages of his quadrille lined laboratory notebook were gibberish lines and jumbled words.

If only expressing words of love was as simple as the calculus that flowed so easily for him. Figuring derivatives of complex equations happened with ease and grace. Math made sense. Feelings did not.

He turned to a clean page and wrote down a problem. He crafted the most difficult math he could think of and then solved the equation without breaking a mental sweat. Math – in particular, calculus – made him feel better.

That’s because: Math = Easy2 + Clean + Pure

Words sucked. They could be misinterpreted and get all jumbled up and used against a guy. Especially with girls.” MORE.

REENA PRASAD (Butterflies of Time, a convas of poety) ~ is an Indian poet, blogger, and blogging-community friend based in Sharjah. She works tirelessly on her poetry and on getting her work published. Congratulations to her on her most recent success, the publication of Seasons on Thanal Online.

CALL FOR SUBMISSIONS: We are delighted to be introducing some new talent into the mix over the next few weeks and we continue to work on the submissions received from the Call for Submissions, which is now closed. If you have not heard from us yet, do not despair. The project is simply taking more time than anticipated.

POETS AGAINST WAR was certainly a successful effort and we continue to receive submissions, which will be posted and then also added to the collection Poets Against War, 2013 collection.

POETS AGAINST WAR, the book: Several among the Core Team members, contributors, readers and friends have indicated an interest in publishing the poems in anthology with the proceeds from sales going to an international charity to be named. We are researching the details on this and will share information and plans as they become clarified. The short-term plan is to host another peace event in September 2014 to include artists, photographers, story-tellers and essayists. It will be implemented in concert with the 2014 global 100,000 Poets for Change. If all works out, we’ll electronically publish the combined collection (2013, 2014) during the first quarter of 2015. If you have suggestions or technical skills to share, please let us know and they will be factored into our considerations and/or into the planning process. Just leave a note in the comments. Thank you!

BLOGGERS IN PLANET LOVE: This is a heads-up on an event in the planning for Valentine’s Day 2014. Details to be determined and announced. Look for more news about this collaborative effort addressing climate and environmental concerns and the meaning of nature in our lives.

NEWS TO SHARE?:  Please feel free to do so in the comment section.

– The Bardo Group

Goulash

687px-2009-09-gulasch-pörkölt-paprikas-3

the work of Myra Schneider

A crucial ingredient is the right frame of mind
so abandon all ideas of getting on. Stop pedalling,
dismount, go indoors and give yourself masses of time.
Then begin by heating a pool of oil in a frying pan
and, Mrs. Beeton style, take a dozen onions
even though the space you’re working in is smaller
than the scullery in a Victorian mansion. Pull off
the papery wrappings and feel the shiny globes’ solidity
before you chop. Fry the segments in three batches.
Don’t fuss about weeping eyes, with a wooden spoon
ease the pieces as they turn translucent and gold.
When you’ve browned but not burnt the cubes of beef
marry meat and onions in a deep pan, bless the mixture
with stock, spoonfuls of paprika, tomato purée
and crushed garlic. Enjoy the Pompeian-red warmth.
Outside, the sun is reddening the pale afternoon
and you’ll watch as it sinks behind blurring roofs,
the raised arms of trees, the intrepid viaduct.
In the kitchen’s triumph of colour and light the meat
is softening and everything in the pot is seeping
into everything else. By now you’re thinking of love:
the merging which bodies long for, the merging
that’s more than body. While you’re stirring the stew
it dawns on you how much you need darkness.
It lives in the underskirts of thickets where sealed buds
coddle green, where butterflies folded in hibernation,
could be crumpled leaves. It lives in the sky that carries
a deep sense of blue and a thin boat of moon angled
as if it’s rocking. It lives in the silent larder and upstairs
in the airing cupboard where a padded heart pumps
heat, in the well of bed where humans lace together.
Time to savour all this as the simmering continues,
as you lay the table and place at its centre a small jug
in which you’ve put three tentative roses and sprigs
of rosemary. At last you will sit down with friends
and ladle the dark red goulash onto plates bearing
beds of snowhite rice. As you eat the talk will be bright
as the garnets round your neck, as those buried
with an Anglo-Saxon king in a ship at Sutton Hoo,
and the ring of words will carry far into the night.

– Myra Schneider

Circling The Core (Enitharmon Press 2008)

© 2009, poem, portrait (below), and book cover art (below), Myra Schneider, All rights reserved and presented here with the permission of the poet. Photo credit ~ Pot of Goulash by Ralf Rolestschek via Wikipedia under Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NonDiriviative 3.0 U.S.

IMG_0032-1circling core_22MYRA SCHNEIDER ~ is a poet, a poetry and writing tutor, and the author of Writing My Way Through Cancer and, with John Killick, Writing Your Self. Her poetry collections, Circling the Core and Multiply the Moon, were published by Enitharmon Press. She has eight published collections. Her most recent work What Women Want was published earlier this year by Second Light Publications.

Myra’s long poems have been featured in Long Poem Magazine and Domestic Cherry. She co-edited with Dilys Wood, Parents, an anthology of poems by 114 women about their own parents. She started out writing fiction for children and teens. We first discovered Myra through her much-loved poem about an experience with cancer, The Red Dresswhich she generously shared with readers here in our Perspectives on Cancer series in 2011.

Currently Myra lives in North London, but she grew up in Scotland and in other parts of England. She lives with her husband and they have one son. Myra tutors through Poetry School, London. Her schedule of poetry readings is HERE.

The Lives of Women


… For when I shut myself off the outer tick
I find myself listening to the quickening beat
of this dear planet as if it were my own heart’s clock.”
The Composition Hut, Myra Schneider in What Women Want

www-cover
In this short collection of nineteen poems  – including the ten-page narratively-driven long-poem, Caroline Norton – Myra Schneider manages to cut through our many-layered lives. Her poems often move from the intimacy of  personal experience to a broader frame of reference. The opening poems are nature-and-spirit driven and bespeak a love of and concern for environment. The second part of the collection fulfills the polemic promise of the title to present hard lives and harder times in a clear and righteous outcry.

Among the opening poems is Losing, written for her publisher. Myra starts with the unimportant lose of socks and moves on to finding what is valuable:

“a sparrowhawk perched on your gate, eyes alert
for prey, words that toadleap from imagination,
from heart – to make sure every day is a finding.”

In two poems she hints at the symmetrical beauty of mathematics, “… the square root of minus one you once grasped, dumbfounded.” A visit to the Garden is bursting with color and movement and triggers speculations …

“but what does it matter? You know too well
how the years have shrunk your future,
that the past is an ever expanding suitcase.”

… and further along in the poem she closes with …

“to your feet, to the bees still milking
flowering raspberries. You free a frog
watch it hop back to its life.”

I was riveted by the story of Paula Schneider in Crossing Point, as Paula (probably Myra’s mother-in-law) crosses with her children from Germany into Holland during World War II. This is included in the second half of Myra’s book, which comes to the business at hand: injustice as it affects women and children.

Interesting that this book came my way when I am standing by two friends whose physical and emotional frailty are much entwined with their relations with fathers and husbands or boyfriends. It’s not that things haven’t been improved since our parents’ days…at least for many of us it has. It’s not that there are no kind and enlightened men. Certainly there are. It’s not because women and society are without culpability, because they are not.

The complexity of the gender and social issues examined are clear in Myra’s long poem, Caroline Norton, about the nineteenth century writer and poet,  social reformer and unwitting feminist. Caroline came to the latter two occupations, not so much by choice as necessity. As the poem folds out, we see that the brutal husband who separated Caroline from her children (with tragic results for them), was abetted and aided by the women in his life, influenced as they were by a social context in which women and children are property with no legal rights of their own. No doubt those women were numb to the implications, threatened by the hint of change, and anxious to bolster the sense of surperiority they got out of putting this woman down.

Myra stands firm in her poetic commitment to continue the fight started with Caroline Norton, since half the world is still under siege and the other half still begs improvements. We read about the child-bride (Woman) and the woman who is stoned (Her Story). One wonders what happens to the children – boys and girls – of such women. The short story here is that: What women want is justice.

For two years, I have enjoyed Myra Schneider’s work and appreciated her commitment to encouraging others to honor their inner artist, through her books on writing, her classes, and her support of Second Light Network (England), an association of women poets over forty. I suspect that her work doesn’t have the audience it deserves. I hope the day comes when that is remedied.

The closing poem in What Women Want:

WOMEN RUNNING
by Myra Schneider, 2013, All rights reserved
posted here with Myra’s permission

after Picasso: Deux femmes courant sur la plage
Look how their large bodies leaping
from dresses fill the beach, how their breasts
swing happiness, how the mediterraneans
of sea and sky fondle their flesh. Nothing

could rein them in. The blown wildnesses
of their dark animal hair, their hands joined
and raised, shout triumph. All their senses
are roused as they hurtle towards tomorrow.

That arm laid across the horizon,
the racing legs, an unstoppable quartet, pull
me from my skin and I become one of them,
believe I’m agile enough to run a mile,

believe I’m young again, believe age
has been stamped out. No wonder, I worship
at the altar of energy, not the energy huge
with hate which revels in tearing apart,

in crushing to dust but the momentum
which carries blood to the brain, these women
across the plage, lovers as they couple,
and tugs at the future till it breaks into bloom.

What Women Want, publisher (Second Light Publications)

© 2013, essay, Jamie Dedes, All rights reserved
Cover art and poetry, Myra Schneider, All rights reserved

Photo on 2012-09-19 at 20.00JAMIE DEDES ~ My worldly tags are poet and writer.  I’m in my fifth year of blogging at The Poet by Day, the journey in poem, formerly titled Musing by Moonlight.  Through the gift of poetry (mine and that of others), I enter sacred space.

THE LIFE AND POEMS OF MARY MacRAE

Mary MacRae (1942 – 2009), English poet

[Mary MacRae] wrote and published poetry the last ten years of her life, after ill-health forced her to take early retirement from teaching. She taught for fifteen years at the James Allen Girls School (JAGS), DulwichLondon. Her commitment to writing led to her deep involvement with the first years of the Poetry School under Mimi Khalvati, studying with Mimi and Myra Schneider, whose advanced poetry workshop she attended for eight years. In these groups her exceptional talent was quickly recognised, leading to publication in many magazines and anthologies. MORE [Second Light Live]

Elder

by

Mary MacRae

This poem is  excerpted from Mary MacRae’s book, Inside the Brightness of Red.

Reprinted here with permission. All rights are reserved by the publisher, Second Light Network.

·

A breathing space:

the house expands around me,

·

unfolds elastic lungs

drowsing me back

·

to other times and rooms

where I’ve sat alone

writing, as I do now,

when syncope –

·

one two three one two –

breaks in;

·

birdcall’s stained

the half-glazed door with colour,

·

enamelled the elder tree

whose ebony drops

·

hang in rich clusters

on shining scarlet stalks

·

while with one swift stab

the fresh-as-paint

·

starlings get to the heart

of the matter

of matter

·

in a gulp of flesh

and clotted juice that leaves me

·

gasping for words transparent

as glass, as air.

♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

My profound gratitude to poet Myra Schneider for the introduction to a new-to-me poet, Mary MacRae, and to poet Dilys Wood of The Second Light Network (England) and editor of ARTEMIS Poetry for granting this interview. J. D.

JAMIE: Clearly, and as has been stated by others, Mary was profoundly inspired by art, nature (particularly flowers and gardens), and love. What can you tell us about her life and interests that would account for that?

DILYS: Mary writes tender and accurate poems about wild nature, creatures and landscape, drawing on her stays in a cottage on an untamed part of the coast in Kent, England and visits to her daughter living in remote West Wales. In her London home, it’s easy to guess from her poems about garden birds and flowers how much time she spent at the window. She almost always sees nature in flux, changing moment by moment, unpredictable, mysterious, a spiritual inspiration. One of her great strengths as a poet is catching movement.

Many of Mary’s poems focus on love between close family members. This may relate to a difficult relationship with her own father, which she sought to understand, and the relationships which compensated (with mother, sister, husband Lachlan, daughter and grandchild). A back problem prevented her from holding her baby daughter and she often refers in her poems to young children. She clearly has a yearning towards them.

JAMIE: She wrote poetry apparently only at the end of her life and for ten years. What were her creative outlets before that? How did she come to poetry?

DILYS: Mary was a dedicated teacher of English Literature and language in a leading girls’ secondary school. She was also deeply interested in music and painting (these are strongly reflected in her poetry). Though she had written as a young woman she followed the pattern of many women creative artists in becoming absorbed into her home life and her paid work, only turning to writing when her illness released her from the daily grind of intensive teaching. The remarkable, rapid development of her poetry shows how strong her latent powers really were.

JAMIE: Was writing poetry a part of her healing process when she was diagnosed with cancer? If so, how did it help her?

DILYS: I’m confident that Mary’s diagnosis with cancer enabled her to change her life-style and from then on concentrate on her poetry, urged by the sense that she might be short of time. There is no evidence that Mary wrote therapeutically to come to terms with her cancer. In fact she only ever addressed her illness in relation to the possible unkindness of fate in cutting her off from beloved people and life itself. The poems written in the last 2-3 years of her life give the impression that her dedication to writing, with the spiritual experiences which accompanied it, enabled her to bear terrible distress. She records this distress, using imaginative and metaphorical approaches to focus it, and these poems make heart-wrenching reading.

JAMIE: Can you tell us about her process? When did she write? Where? For how long?

DILYS: I have the impression that Mary’s life revolved around three things, people she loved, gathering experiences that would feed her poetry (travel, listening to music, visiting galleries) and very hard work in direct furtherance of her writing (extensive reading, attending workshops with other inspirational poets, writing, revising and submitting her poems to criticism from critics she respected). She used notebooks to make a full, accurate record of those experiences – landscapes, human encounters, thoughts – that would feed her work. There is an extract from one such entry in the section about keeping a journal in the resource bookWriting Your Self, Transforming Personal Material by Myra Schneider and John Killick. This book also includes a contribution in the chapter on spirituality which reveals much about Mary’s attitudes to life, nature and also her writing process.

JAMIE: Do you have any advice from her for other poets and aspiring poets?

DILYS: Mary was a dedicated writer, entirely sincere in her commitment to poetry as opposed to ‘career’ as a poet. She was always ready to enjoy and praise the widest range of subject-matter, approaches and styles from other poets, providing she thought they were ‘busting a gut’ to get their poems right, and not indulging in the trendy or superficial, which she despised (whether from well-knowns or unknowns). She put much emphasis on wide-reading of both past and contemporary poets and she herself had absorbed a huge amount of other poets’ work, always quoting fully and accurately. She liked using another’s work as a starting pont for her own (the Glose) and particularly admired the work in strict form (includingSonnetVillanelle and Ghazal), which began to be more acceptable from the mid-1990s (eg from such poets as Marilyn Hacker and Mimi Khalvati).

JAMIE: Are any other collections of her poetry planned? If so, when might we look forward to them?

DILYS: When putting together ‘Inside the Brightness of Red’, Myra Schneider and I went through the whole of Mary’s unpublished work and selected all those poems we felt were both complete and would have satisfied her high standards. What remains unpublished would be mainly fragments and early versions of poems she did more work on. There will not, as far as we know, be a further book, but Mary did achieve her aim of being a significant lyric poet, whose work is very attractive, polished and, above all (as she would have wished) deeply moving and consolatory.

The Second Light Network aims to promote women’s poetry and to help women poets, especially but not only older women, poets develop their work. It runs weekends of workshops and readings in London usually twice a year, a residential extended workshop with readings and discussions at least once every eighteen months and occasionally other events. It is nationwide (England). Dilys is the main editor of ARTEMIS Poetry, a major poetry magazine for women produced by Second Light twice a year.  It includes a lot of reviews and some articles as well as poetry by Second Light members who receive it free as part of their subscription. An e-newsletter is sent out every few weeks. A few anthologies of poetry have been published by the network but now this magazine developes books under special circumstances only – such as Mary’s collections.

Thanks to Second Light Web Administrator, poet Ann Stewart, for the following: The books (Inside the Brightness of Red and As Birds Do) can be bought: via order form and cheque in post: http://www.secondlightlive.co.uk/books.shtml or here online: http://www.poetrypf.co.uk/shop.php (typing  ‘ Mary MacRae collection ’ in the filter box will reduce the list to just those two books).

PERSPECTIVES ON CANCER #33: Writing Your Self, Transforming Personal Material

WRITING YOUR SELF

Book Review

by

Jamie Dedes

We feel this book review puts a fine close on our series, Perspectives in Cancer. Writing as a healing art, whether as a purely personal exercise or for publication, is powerful. One of the authors of Writing Your Self, Myra Schneider, learned that with her much appreciated work,Writing My Way Though Cancer. That effort informs much of Writing Your Self.

This review was originally published at Musing by Moonlight.

Four of Myra’s poems were published earlier in this series.

We wrote the book because we believe that personal writing is very potent both for the writer and the reader, because some of the greatest literature is rooted in personal material. Myra Schneider in an interview HERE.

The subtitle of this book about writing is “transforming personal material.”  I think it is implicitly also about personal transformation. It always seems to me that writing and reading about life is a healing activity, a way to live hugely, and a way to empower ourselves and others. If we can do it well enough to engage others, whether our purpose is to leave a record behind for family, to set the record straight, or simply to share and entertain, the experience is rewarding. Writing is a powerful healing path.

Writing Your Self is the most comprehensive book of its type that I’ve yet to read, and I’ve read many. It is organized in two parts:

  • Part I: Here the focus is on life experiences, the exploration of those human experiences that are universal. These include childhood, self-conceptions, relationships, displacement, physical and mental illness and disability, and abuse.
  • Part II: Here the focus is on writing techniques, recognizing material that is unfinished, working on refinements, and developing work projects.

Writing Your Self is rich with examples from known and unknown writers including the authors. By example as well as explanation the authors reinforce what we all intuitively understand to be true: that telling stories preserves identity and clarifies the human condition. It helps us understand what it means to be human. The experience of working through the book was something like a rite of passage.

I very much can see the use of this book by individuals training themselves and by teachers of adult learners who wish to write memoir, poetry, fiction, or creative non-fiction. It would be useful in hospital therapeutic writing programs or in writing programs for active seniors.

Memories, both recent and distant, tell us who we are and so play a crucial role in our experience of life…

You may have memories which you want to plunge into or you may have material like a diary or letters which summon them up. There are other ways though of triggering memories. We offer a series of suggestions. Chapter 13, Accessing memories, secret letters, monologues and dialogues, visualizations.

I think Chapter 13 alone is worth the price of admission. I work a lot off of childhood memories and even the event that happened two minutes ago comes back to me with dreamlike qualities when I sit to write. I have not thought of the things I do naturally as triggers, but indeed they are. It was quite interesting to see these natural aids laid-out and organized on the page to read: objects and place as starting points, physical sensation as triggers, people in memory, and predominant feelings. The section on secret letters – that is, letters that you write someone and never send – was particularly interesting. I’ve only done this twice in my life, but I know some folks who do it all the time. I’m sure it is a common practice and would make a fine jumping-off point for some and a satisfactory exercise – complete in itself – for others. The authors go on to monologues and dialogues, which certainly everyone spins in their heads.  They discuss visualization. Hey, if you can see it, you can write it.

I’m an experienced writer and I enjoyed the book and the exercises and learned a few new things, got a few new ideas. If you are inexperienced or stuck midway in a transition from one form of writing to another, you’ll benefit from the exercises, ideas, and instruction in Writing Your Self: Transforming Personal Experience. This one’s a definite thumbs-up.

Myra Schneider  is a British poet, a poetry and writing tutor, and author of the acclaimed book: Writing My Way Through Cancer. Your can visit her HERE.

John Killick was a teacher for 30 years, in further, adult and prison education, but has written all his life. His work includes both prose works and poetry. You can visit him HERE.

© essay, Jamie Dedes, 2011 all rights reserved

Copyrighted cover art, fair use.

♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

Jamie Dedes ~ Jamie is a former freelance feature writer and columnist whose topic specialties were employment, vocational training, and business. She finds the blessing of medical retirement to be more time to indulge in her poetry, creative nonfiction, and fiction. She has two novels in progress, one in final edits, and is pulling together a poetry collection. Her primary playground is Musing by Moonlight. She is the founder and editor/administrator of Into the Bardo. Jamie’s mother was diagnosed with cancer the first time at thirty-six. She went three rounds with breast cancer, one with thyroid cancer, and died at seventy-six of breast and colon cancer.

PERSPECTIVES ON CANCER #11: The Red Dress

Myra Schneider

THE RED DRESS

by

Myra Schneider

My first reaction is: I want it,
can’t wait to squeeze into
a scarlet sheath that promises
breasts round as russet apples,
a waist pinched to a pencil,
hips that know the whole dictionary
of swaying, can’t wait
to saunter down an August street
with every eye upon me.

But the moment I’m zipped in
I can’t breathe and the fabric
hugging my stomach without mercy
pronounces me a frump.
Besides, in the internet café,
where you can phone Tangiers
or Thailand for almost nothing
fourteen pairs of eyes
are absorbed by screens.
No one whistles when I smile
at boxes of tired mangoes
and seedy broccoli heads
outside the Greek superstore.

By now I’m in a fever to undo
the garment and pull it off.
And for all its flaws, for all
that it only boasts one breast,
I’m overjoyed to re-possess
my body. I remember I hate
holding in and shutting away.
What I want is a dress easy
as a plump plum oozing
juice, as a warm afternoon
in late October creeping
its ambers and cinnamons into
leaves, a dress that reassures
there’s no need to pretend,
a dress that’s as capacious
as generosity, a dress that willingly
unbuttons and whispers in the ear:
be alive every minute of your life.

© copyright, Myra Schneider, all rights reserved

The Red Dress from Circling the Core by Myra Schneider, 2008

 ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

In 2000, Myra Schneider was diagnosed with breast cancer. Writing for her – as for many – was a part of the healing process, if not the cure. She journaled two weeks after diagnosis:

I have to hang onto the thought of friends and the relatives and friends of people I know who have survived for years and years after breast cancer. I owe it to myself to manage my panic and to make this a life experience not a death experience, to concentrate on possibilities, to grab every moment of life I can, to use what has happened for writing, to include the awfulnesses but also the plusses. I mustn’t forget the moments of joy: the sun lying in swathes on the grass, the sharp clean cut of the air, the disc of the sun on water. I must keep the words that came into my head about the snowdrops I saw in a garden when we walked to the shops a couple of hours ago. I think it’s the starting point of a poem. MORE

 ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

Myra Schneider ~ Myra is a poet, a poetry and writing tutor, and the author of Writing My Way Through Cancer and, with John Killick, Writing Your Self. Her poetry collections, Circling the Core and Multiply the Moon, were published by Enitharmon Press. She has eight published collections. Her long poems have been featured in Long Poem Magazine and Domestic Cherry. She co-edited with Dilys Wood, Parents, an anthology of poems by 114 women about their own parents. She started out writing fiction for children and teens. Currently she lives in North London, but she grew up in Scotland and in other parts of England. She lives with her husband and they have one son. She tutors through Poetry School, London.