Posted in Michael Dickel, Poets/Writers

Contributing Editor, Michael Dickel’s new collection, upcoming from Finishing Line Press



Congratulations, Michael. We’re so proud.

I’ve read Michael’s latest collection and will post a review, interview, and some sample poems shortly on The Poet by Day… Meanwhile NOW IS THE TIME TO PRE-ORDER Michael Dickel’s title, Nothing Remembers.
Jamie Dedes, Managing Editor, The BeZine


Advanced praise: 

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“He raises the question of whether the past can be preserved in memory, or whether memory is most effective in the face of loss. Either way, what does the past leave us, who are we with or without the past, and if poetry can occasionally fill gaps in our present, what if anything can it give us of our past? Is poetry anything at all — or is it nothing at all, and is the nothing of poetry the best memorialization? Dickel’s sensory, sensual, musical lyric roves across wet and dry landscapes, food and drink, family and friends, darkness and light, sleep and wakefulness, dreams and reality. His words hover between his homes in the Mideast and the American Midwest, conveying the fragility of present and past, enacting a memory at high risk of loss, maintaining faith against staggering odds. Nothing Remembers is a dream of peace, the peace that may come if and when persons and peoples live in a present comfortable with close and distant memory.
–Hassan Melechy, author of Kerouac: Language, Poetics, and Territory (Bloomsbury) and A Modest Apocalypse (Eyewear)
.
Michael Dickel combines powerful imagery and poetic beauty with a reality beneath life’s skin, that will gently shake the reader into an awareness, refreshing and engaging. He will take you through his pages to a ‘resting state’ where possibilities in your mind will feel endless.
–Silva Merjanian, author of Life and Legends
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Between knowing and dreaming, shattered screams, pulses, shadows and longing, Michael Dickel’s arresting fourth collection, Nothing Remembers, navigates an erotics of re-membrance renegotiating a Proustian ethos of things resonant, prescient, and the ghostly revenance of hope.
–Adeena Karasick, author of Salomé: Woman of Valor
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“I know so many wildly talented writers. It is one of the great privileges in my life. Michael Dickel is one of them: he uses language like layers of color in a complex painting — you can access experiences that you otherwise wouldn’t have. I’ve just preordered his upcoming collection, Nothing Remembers, from Finishing Line Press; poetry lovers, this is worth having.”

–Ina Roy-Faderman, author of 56 Days of August: an anthology of postcard poems

Posted in 000 Poets, 100, justice, Michael Dickel, Musicians, Peace & Justice, poem, Poems/Poetry, poetry, Poets/Writers, TheBeZine, Writing

The Poet as Witness: “War Surrounds Us,” an interview with American-Israeli Poet, Michael Dickel

Editors note: The theme for our September issue is poverty. It is part of our 100,000 Poets (and other artists and friends) for Change event (change being peace and sustainability) to be held here as a virtual event on 26 September 2015. Michael Dickel takes the lead on this project and the September issue. Here’s an opportunity to get to know him better. Michael’s vision: “… hope must/ still remain with those who cross/ borders, ignore false lines and divisions/” is consistent with the mission of Bequine Again and The Bardo Group, publishers of The BeZine.  The September issue will post on the 15th. J.D.

5182N5cYeEL._SX355_BO1,204,203,200_“That some of those labelled as enemies
have crossed the lines to offer condolences
at the mourning tents; that the mourning
families spoke to each other as parents
and cried on each others’ shoulders;
that we cried for the children who died
on both sides of the divide; that the
war began anyway; that hope must
still remain with those who cross
borders, ignore false lines and divisions;
that children should be allowed to live;
that we must cry for all children who die”

– Michael Dickel, (Mosquitos) War Surrounds Us

Jerusalem, Summer 2014: Michael Dickel and his family including Moshe (3 years) and Naomi (1 year) hear the air raid sirens, find safety in shelters, and don’t find relief during vacation travels.  In a country smaller than New Jersey, there is no escaping the grumbling wars that encircle. So Michael did what writers and poets do. He bore witness. He picked up his pen and recorded thoughts, feelings, sounds, fears, colors, events and concerns in poetry. The result is his third collection of poems, a chapbook, War Surrounds Us.

While some use poetry to galvanize war, Michael’s poetry is a cry for peace. He watched the provocations between Israel and Hamas that resulted in war in 2014 and he illustrates the insanity.

            And the retaliation
Continues, reptilian and cold,
retaliation the perpetrator
of all massacres.

Though the poems change their pacing and structure, they present a cohesive logical and emotional flow, one that takes you blood and bone into the heart of Michael’s experience as a human being, a poet, a Jew, a father and husband. He touches the humanity in all of us with his record of the tension between summer outings and death tolls, life as usual and the omnipresence of war.  Both thumbs up on this one. Bravo, Michael.

– Jamie Dedes

Poems from War Surrounds Us:
Again
Musical Meditations
The Roses

TLV1 Interview and Poetry Reading

813UAJBTpUL._UX250_

MY INTERVIEW WITH MICHAEL DICKEL:

Jamie: Putting together a poetry collection and ordering the work in a way that enhances the meaning and clarity of poems included is not easy. One of the first things to strike me about the collection as a whole is how it flows, so well in fact that it reads almost like one long poem. I found that quality contributed to the work’s readability. How did you work out the order? Was it consciously ordered or did it arise organically out of the experience of the war?

Michael: I’m very gratified that you noticed this about my book. I hadn’t thought of it quite in that sense, of being one poem, but I like that it reads that way. The sense of a book holding together, a collection of poems having some coherence, is important to me. I don’t think my first book achieved this very well, although it has some flow poem to poem. The whole is not focused, though. My second book has a sense of motion and narrative, from the Midwest where I grew up to arriving and living in Israel, and now being part of the Mid-East. However, War Surrounds Us, my third book, finally has a sense of focus that the other two did not.

Unfortunately, I probably can’t take too much credit for that coherence. Even more unfortunate, a real war raged in Gaza, with rockets also hitting the Jerusalem area, not that far from where I live. As we know now, thousands died, most apparently civilians, many children. Just across the border to the Northeast, diagonally opposite of Gaza, a much larger scale conflict burned and still burns through Syria—with even larger death tolls and even more atrocities over a longer time. These wars had, and still have, a huge impact on me and my family.

During last summer, the summer of 2014, this reality of war surrounding us had all of my attention. And it came out in my writing as obsession with the war, my family, the dissonance between living everyday life and the reality of death and destruction a missile’s throw away. So the topic filled my poems those months, as it did my thoughts. And the poems emerged as events unfolded over time, so a sort of narrative wove into them—not a plot, mind you, not exactly, anyway.

This gives a chronological structure to the book. However, not all of the poems appear in the order I wrote them. I did move some around, seeing connections in a theme or image—if it did not jar the sense of the underlying chronology of the war. Some of the events in our life could move around, and I did move some poems to places where I thought they fit better. I also revised the poems, reading from beginning to end several times, trying to smooth out the flow. A few of the poems I actually wrote or started before this phase of the ongoing conflict broke out—but where they also fit into a pattern, I included them. In the end, I moved and revised intuitively, following my own sense of flow and connection. I’m glad that it seems to have worked for you, as a reader, too.

Jamie: What is the place of the poet and poetry in war? Can poetry, art and literature move us to peace? How and why?

Michael: This is a difficult question. Historically, one place of poets was to call the soldiers to war, to rile them up and denounce the enemy. There is a famous poem from the Hebrew Scriptures. Balaam is called by Balak to curse Jacob and his army. The story sets a talking donkey who sees an angel with a sword and other obstacles in his way, but long story short, he arrives and raises his voice. He is the poet who is supposed to curse the enemy. Instead, he begins, “How beautiful your tents, O Jacob…” and recites a poem that is now part of the Jewish liturgy. This is not necessarily a peace poem, but it shows words and their power to curse of bless. I think the place of the poet is to bless and, rather than curse, to witness with clear sight.

There is a long history of poet as witness and observer. Czeslaw Milosz in The Witness of Poetry and Carolyn Forché, following him, in her books Against Forgetting: Twentieth Century Poetry of Witness and Poetry of Witness, which goes back to the 16th Century, argue that the poet’s role is to observe and bear witness to the world—to the darkness, the atrocities, genocide, war… Forché quotes Bertolt Brecht: “In these dark times, will there also be singing? / Yes, there will be singing. / About the dark times.” I think that is what we do as poets. That’s what I hope that War Surrounds Us does at its best, albeit as much a witnessing of my own family and context as of the Other. Then, as feminist theory has taught me, the personal is political, the political personal.

A1oKsOxRrJL._UY200_Can art and literature move us to peace? I don’t know. I hope it can move us to see more clearly, to feel more acutely, and to embrace our humanity and the humanity of others. Perhaps that will move us toward peace. There is so much to do, and it is as the rabbinic wisdom says about healing creation: it may not be ours to see the work completed, but that does not free us from the responsibility to do the work. As poets, we make a contribution. I hope the songs about the dark times will also be blessings for us all.

Jamie: Tell us about your life as a poet. When did you start and how did you pursue the path? How do you carve out time for it in a life that includes work, children and community responsibilities. You live on a kibbutz, I think.

Michael: Well, starting at the end, no, I don’t live on a kibbutz, I live in Jerusalem (the pre-1967 side of the Green Line). I do teach English at a college that was started by the Kibbutz Movement as a teacher’s college in the 1960s, now Kibbutzim College of Education, Arts and Technology. That appears in my email signature and confuses some people outside of Israel, who think I teach as part of living at a kibbutz. I’m actually more like adjunct faculty, but no one at the college works directly for a kibbutz as far as I know, and the college is open to anybody who qualifies.

While I only have a short day, from when the kids of my current family go to pre-school until I pick them up, I also usually only teach part-time. Some semesters I teach full-time or even more, but usually not. And, many of my courses in the past couple of years have been online, meeting only a few times during the semester. This helps.

My wife works full-time in high tech, which allows us to survive on my irregular, adjunct pay. She also has some flexibility, which allows her to usually be free to pick up the kids as needed around my teaching schedule, and we have on occasion hired someone to help with the kids so I could teach, not so much for my writing. But that has allowed writing time on other days.

Mostly, I write during those few hours when the kids are at pre-school, after the kids have gone to bed, or even later, after my wife has also gone to bed. If I’m working on a deadline or a large project, such as some of the freelance work I do for film production companies, I write after my wife gets home from work even if the kids are still awake. Usually, though, I write when I find time, and I find time when I don’t have other obligations.

Perhaps of relevance to this book, the writing took over. I was late in getting papers back to students and delayed other obligations and deadlines, even canceling a couple of other projects—although it was not just the writing, but the whole experience of the war, dealing with it and wanting to be very present with my children. As the poems relate, we went to the Galilee, in the North, for a month, a vacation we have taken before. Last summer, though, it had extra urgency because of the war. Unfortunately, during an outing picking apples in the Golan Heights, we heard artillery across the border in Syria, and that’s when I wrote the title poem of the book, “War Surrounds Us.”

The summer before, on that same month-long getaway, I wrote a lot of flash fiction, which makes up most of my next book, which should come out by the end of the year. I wrote during both summers when the kids were napping or after their bedtime, mostly. The place we stay in, a friend’s house (he travels every summer), has a lovely courtyard, and after the children went to bed, Aviva and I would sit out in it, usually with a glass of wine. She would read or work online and I would write on my laptop into the night. It was lovely and romantic.

I have to say that I almost don’t remember a time when I didn’t write poetry or stories. I recall trying to stop on a few occasions, either to work in some other aspect of my life, or when I did a different kind of writing, such as for my dissertation (which devolved into creative writing for more than half of it). But really, going back into my early years, I wrote stories or poems of some sort—influenced I suppose by A. A. Milne, Sol Silverstein, Kenneth Grahame and, later, Mark Twain and even Shakespeare. I had books of Roman and Greek myths, the Lambs’ bowdlerized Shakespeare for children, and some Arthurian tales as a child, not to mention shelves of Golden Books. Later, I read Madeleine L’Engle and a lot of science fiction. And everything I read made me also want to write.

I owe the earliest of my poems that I can remember to exercises from grade school teachers, one in 3rd grade, maybe 4th, the other in 6th grade. However, I’m sure that I wrote stories and possibly “poems” earlier. My first sense that I could become a poet arrived via a junior high school teacher, who encouraged me to submit some poetry to a school contest. I tied for first place.

So, I started writing forever ago. By the time of the junior high contest, I had read e e cummings, Emily Dickinson, some Whitman. By 9th grade, I discovered the Beats through a recording of Ginsberg reading “Kaddish” and other poems. Hearing him read the poems, then reading them myself, changed everything.

Alongside this development, one of my brothers brought Dylan records home that I listened to. All three of my brothers, with my parents’ tacit approval, played folk music and protest music in the form of songs of Woody Guthrie; The Weavers; Joan Baez; Peter, Paul and Mary; in addition to Dylan. These influenced both my writing and my world view. The same year that I came across Ginsberg’s work, I was involved in anti-war activity in my high school. That spring, four students were shot at Kent State. In another way, that changed everything, too.

Writing, activism, and politics, for me have always been interwoven. I also heard that year about “The Woman’s Movement,” which today we call Feminism. Later, much later, I would read and take to heart the idea of the personal being political, the body being political. I think my poems, even the most personal, always have a political and theoretical lens. And the most philosophical or political or theoretical, also have a personal lens. I don’t think that we can help but do that, but I try to be aware of the various lenses, of using their different foci deliberately as part of my craft. I’m not sure that is the current trend, and much of my work doesn’t fit well in spoken word or slam settings (some of it fits). However, this is my poetry and poetics—and they arise from a specific cultural context, the complexity of which I could not begin to convey in less than a lifetime of writing.

My development from those awakening moments looked like this: I read. I wrote. I shared my work with other people who wrote. Sometimes I talked with others about writing. My first degree in college was in psychology, not English, because I naively thought that psych would help me understand the human condition and that English would “ruin” – suppress – my writing voice. However, I took a lot of literature courses and my study abroad term focused entirely on literature.

After college, I had a career as a counselor working with runaways, with street teens, with children undergoing in-patient psych evaluations, and in a crisis intervention and suicide prevention center—a career that taught me a lot about politics, gender, race, and justice. I continued to write, often about some of the most disturbing realities that I encountered, but not well.

I had been out of college nearly a decade when I took some courses in creative writing at the University of Minnesota, at the suggestion of some friends in a writing group who had also taken some. One of the professors encouraged me to apply to the Creative Writing Program, where I was accepted. The acceptance was a poignant moment—I was out of state at my father’s burial. My now ex-wife remained back with our then 2 year-old daughter. She saw the letter in the mail, so called and read it to me. It was also my 32nd birthday. So many emotions all at the same time. Mostly, I remember wishing I could have told my father—from when he first heard that I’d applied, every phone call we had included his asking if I had heard yet if I had been accepted. It was the most direct way he had of saying he was proud.

IMG_1250

Jamie: Tell us a little about 100,000 Poets for Change (100TPC) in Israel and how people can get in touch with you if they want to participate this year. Are you able to manage a mix of Arabs and Jews?

Michael: The thing about 100TPC is that it’s pretty loose, as an organization, and very anarchic in governance. Which is to say, I’m not sure there is something I could call 100TPC in Israel. There’s a wonderful poet in Haifa who does some events, I don’t think every year. She is very active in peace activism and poetry. There’s an Israeli mentor of mine, Karen Alkalay-Gut, who has organized 100TPC events in Tel Aviv since the first year. For the past two years, I organized a poetry reading in Jerusalem. The first one was small, a few people I knew and cajoled into reading. The second one was much larger, over 25 poets. We had one Arab writer, who writes in English, at the second reading. Her poetry is powerful and personal, written as an Arab woman, a mother, and an Israeli. An Arab musician was going to join us, but he had a conflict arise with a paying gig. It is difficult to manage the practical, political, and social barriers, but people do it here. I am just learning a bit how to do this now.

For this year, I am working with two other organizations—the Lindberg Peace Foundation, which has held annual Poetry for Peace events. This year will be the 40th anniversary (yartzheit, in Hebrew) of Miriam Lindberg’s tragic death at the age of 18. She wrote poetry, was a peace activist, and also an environmental activist. Her mother was a poet and professor, and passed away a few years ago. Joining us in planning the Jerusalem event will be the Interfaith Center for Sustainable Development. Their mission as I understand it is to develop interfaith leadership for common goals related to eco-justice that would also provide a model for solving the Middle East conflicts.

The Jerusalem events won’t be the same date as the national event (26 September)—our dates will be 15–16 October, to honor the 40th anniversary of Miriam Lindberg’s death. Dorit Weissman, a Hebrew-language poet and playwright, also has become part of 100TPC this year, and she and I are having a smaller reading on 8 October with other poets.

We are just setting up a Facebook page for organizing with the three groups, 100TPC, the foundation, and the center. People could look for me on FB and send me a chat message there to be in touch. I hope that we will have the events posted on FB in the next few weeks, but we are still working on the details. The devil is always in the details, as the saying goes.

Michael will host The BeZine‘s virtual 100TPC this 26 September 2015.

Be the peace.

© 2015, book review, Jamie Dedes, All rights reserved; words, poetry, photographs of Michael, Michael Dickel, All rights reserved; cover illustration, The Evolution of Music, by Jerry Ingeman, All rights reserved

Posted in Contributing Writer

This is not a poem

Editor’s Note:  The gremlins are hard at work behind the scenes preparing the July issue of The BeZine – to be published on the fifteenth.  Meanwhile we present a poem by Michael Dickel, for your Sunday reading pleasure.  

Michael Dickel shared poetry from his newly published chapbook, War Surrounds Us (Is A Rose Press), in the last two issues of The BeZineWe welcome Michael today as a new member of our core team.

This is not a poem

(cubist poem in entangled form)

Fake Sunset Music Digital art ©2015 Michael Dickel Fake Sunset Music
Digital art ©2015 Michael Dickel

i

This is not a poem; it’s a fake.
Someone else’s words, images, metaphors
creeping on cat’s feet into my mind,
clawing their way to the top of my consciousness
as though they were mine, mined
from some experience unique at once,
universal twice, useless thrice.
This is not a poem. It is a fake:

a book of chords, some sketch of the words,
a chorus. Fake the melody, fake the rhythm
fake the music of sensory language
abstracted to censor sexual pleasure
of the mind. Or something like that.
Or nothing like that. Or nothing.

Fake spring flower sunset Digital art ©2015 Michael Dickel Fake Sunset Flower
Digital art ©2015 Michael Dickel

ii

This someone: creeping, clawing as though from a universal.
This—a book, a chorus, fake, abstracted of the mind or nothing—
is not, else is, on cat’s feet, their way. They were mine, some experience
twice useless, not a poem of chords. Fake, the music to censor or something like that.
It’s a fake: words into my mind, to the top, mined, unique. Thrice: it is a fake.
Some sketch, the melody, sensory language, sexual pleasure: like that. Or nothing.
Images of my consciousness at once sketch, fake the rhythm. Metaphors.

Fake music flower sunset Digital art ©2015 Michael Dickel Fake Sunset Flower Music
Digital art ©2015 Michael Dickel

iii

This is not a poem; it’s a fake:
A book of chords, some sketch of the words,

someone else’s words, images, metaphors,
a chorus. Fake the melody, fake the rhythm

creeping on cat’s feet into my mind,
fake the music of sensory language

clawing its way to the top of my consciousness,
abstracted to censor sexual pleasures

as though they were mine, mined
of the mind. Or something like that.

From some experience, unique at once,
or nothing like that. Or nothing.

Universal twice, useless thrice.
This is not a poem. It is a fake.


This poem originally appeared in Drash Pit, April 2013


Dust Storm Sunset Digital image ©2015 Michael Dickel Dust Storm Sunset
Photo ©2015 Michael Dickel

Posted in Bardo News, General Interest, Islam, Paula Kuitenbrouwer, poem, Poems/Poetry, poetry, Poets/Writers, Spiritual Practice, Terri Stewart

BARDO NEWS: Blessings on Ramadan; “Begin Again” blog expands its writer base and gets funding; artfully eco-friendly . . ….

Islamic Center of the U.S. in Washington by agnosicpreachers kid under CC BY-SA 3.o license
Islamic Center of the U.S. in Washington by agnosicpreachers kid under CC BY-SA 3.o license

BEST WISHES to our Moslem contributors, readers and friends all over the globe on this: the first day of Ramadan. ~ During this month, 1.6 million Muslims – or 23% of the world population according to Pew Research Religion and Public Life Project – observe a strict fast if they are of an age and healthy enough to do so. The fast extends each day from sunrise to sunset. The month-long fasting ends with a feasting celebration, Eid al-Fitr (the breaking of the fast), which falls on 28 July this year.

Britain’s David Cameron has this to say:

Kul ‘am wa enta bi-khair!

May everyday find you in good health!

Kazim Ali (b. 1971) American poet
Kazim Ali (b. 1971) American poet (c) Kazim Ali

CELEBRATING POET, NOVELIST, ESSAYIST and EDUCATOR, KAZIM ALI ~  who was born in the UK, is from an Indian Islamic household, and was educated at State University of New York (SUNY) and at New York University. Currently he lives in Oregon.

Of his most recent poetry collection, The Fortieth Day, the Library Journal review says that Ali …

“continues his task of creating a rejuvenated language that longs to be liberated from the weight of daily routine and the power of dogmatic usage . . . writing in the tradition of Wallace Stevens, Ali is clearly a poet of ideas and symbols, yet his words remain living entities within the texture of the poem.”


Of his essay collection, Fasting for Ramadan, Notes on Spiritual Practice, Tupelo Press states …

“Kazim Ali’s searching descriptions of the Ramadan sensibility and its arduous but liberating annual rite of communal fasting is sure to be a revelation to many readers — intellectually illuminating and aesthetically exhilarating.

“Fasting for Ramadan is structured as a chronicle of daily meditations, during two cycles of the 30-day rite of daytime abstinence required by Ramadan for purgation and prayer. Estranged in certain ways from his family’s cultural traditions when he was younger, Ali has in recent years re-embraced the Ramadan ritual, and brings to this rediscovery an extraordinary delicacy of reflection, a powerfully inquiring mind, and the linguistic precision and ardor of a superb poet.”

Unknown-8Ali’s poem Ramadan is from his collection, The Fortieth Day.

You wanted to be so hungry, you would break into branches,
and have to choose between the starving month’s

nineteenth, twenty-first, and twenty-third evenings.
The liturgy begins to echo itself and why does it matter?

If the ground-water is too scarce one can stretch nets
into the air and harvest the fog.

Hunger opens you to illiteracy,
thirst makes clear the starving pattern,

the thick night is so quiet, the spinning spider pauses,
the angel stops whispering for a moment—

The secret night could already be over,
you will have to listen very carefully—

You are never going to know which night’s mouth is sacredly reciting
and which night’s recitation is secretly mere wind—

– Kazim Ali
“Ramadan” except from The Fortieth Day. © 2008 by Kazim Ali, posted here under fair use

“Poetry is the smallest way – it is a small, small way, but it is a way indeed – that the individual body can express its own personhood and value in the face of faceless systems.” Kazim Ali

Terri Stewart
Terri Stewart (c) Terri

TERRI STEWART REPORTS on the expansion of Begin Again, the blog she started and hosts ~ “First news, welcome Bruce Chittick to the team of writers! Woot!! He will bring an awesome perspective to Sundays and inspiration. I can’t wait to get to know his writing. I experience him to be a thoughtful, gracious, inclusive kind of guy. His first post went live on the 22nd!

“And, in other exciting news, we got some funding. The United Methodist Church, in an expansive move towards trying new things (although we aren’t exactly NEW) has decided to fund my position at BeguineAgain.com AND all the technology for the next year and a half. This gives me & us time to build a class & subscription base to move towards an independent funding mechanism. This is awesome on so many counts. They know what we have been publishing and are willing to sit in that tension. Amazeballs! And it also lets the pressure off of me regarding all the work I am doing to create alternate funding mechanisms for my own family’s subsistence. Whew. Chaplaincy pays like zero. It is being billed as an online spiritual community. Very vague.

” … I can’t wait to try some of the new technology that will be available now that I can upgrade us to WordPress pro!”

Rose at Dusk (c) Jamie Dedes
Rose at Dusk (c)  Jamie Dedes

ARTFULLY ECO-FRIENDLY

Dutch Nature Artist, PAULA KUITENBROUWER (Mindful Drawing) ~ a long-standing member of The Bardo Group and a contributor to the blog has sent out a call to all of us  – team members, bloggers and friends – to initiate discussions of how and why we are living and working in an eco-conscious ways and how we can use our art and our blogs to encourage environmentally sound practices. Paula shares on her Guilt-Free Art Page …

“My original drawings are drawn on acid free paper. In the process of making acid free paper fewer corrosive chemicals are used, which makes acid free paper significantly environmentally friendlier than normal paper.

“For packing my fine art cards and reproductions, I use biodegradable plastic. I like my art work to be as environmentally friendly as possible and I select my products carefully. My paint-brushes are synthetic without animal hair.”

Other eco-friendly living practices that might be shared would include the ways in which we order our lives to enable no-or-minimal use of cars, mindful shopping (buying only what we need and buying from bulk containers rather than packaged items, buying locally produced food and other products), using biodegradable cleaning products and reusable shopping bags. Yes! All this and how about telling us about your advocacy efforts?

We invite you share your thoughts on this in the comments section here, on your own blogs (then leave us a link under any current post so that we can publicize it in the next Bardo News) or as submissions to The Bardo Group blog this month. (If you are not a core-team member, please email us at  bardogroup@gmail.com.)

Coming up:

… and many more goodies from our Core Team, readers and guests. This month’s guests will include:

Poet K.A. Brace (The Mirror Obscura) and Jewelry-Maker, Writer, Photographer Isadora (Inside the Mind of Isadora)

bardogroup@gmail.com

The Bardo Group Facebook Page

In the spirit of peace, love and community,

THE BARDO GROUP

Posted in Buddhism, General Interest, Jamie Dedes, Peace & Justice

The Garden of My Heart

With all the strife in the world now, it seems a good thing to post something healing and peaceful.

Thich Nhat Hanh (b. 1926) Zen Monk, Dharma Teacher, Social Activist, Writer, Poet, Peacemaker

Thich Nhat Hanh is now recognized as a Dharmacharya and as the spiritual head of the Từ Hiếu Temple and associated monasteries. On May 1, 1966 at Từ Hiếu Temple, Thich Nhat Hanh received the “lamp transmission”, making him a Dharmacharya or Dharma Teacher, from Master Chân Thật. MORE [Wikipedia]

Though a Zen Buddhist monk, Thich Nhat Hanh combines traditional Zen with techniques from Theravada Buddhism, the wisdom of the Mahayana tradition, and ideas of modern Western psychology to teach meditation and spiritual values and practices in a way that resonates for people from diverse religious, political, and cultural backgrounds. He is a writer, poet, and peacemaker with over one-hundred books published, many in English. He was suggested for the Nobel Prize for Peace by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in 1967. He was nominated again 2013.

Since 1966, Thich Nhat Hanh has lived in exile. Based at Plum Village, a meditation community in the south of France, he is a leading Buddhist teacher, encouraging engaged Buddhism, a movement for social activism that he founded. He organizes and supports many worthwhile humanitarian efforts.

Thich Nhat Hahn coined the term “interbeing,” a pointer to the Buddhist principles of impermanence and non-self, which bring light to the idea and ideal of the inter-connectedness of all things. He founded The Order of Interbeing, the members of which include lay people. Link HERE to brief summaries of each of the fourteen mindfulness trainings of the Order of Interbeing.

“If in our daily lives we can smile, if we can be peaceful and happy, not only we, but everyone will profit from it. If we really know how to live, what better way to start the day than with a smile? Our smile affirms our awareness and determination to live in peace and joy. The source of a true smile is an awakened mind.” ~ from Peace is Every Step by Thich Nhat Hanh

Here is  a meditative interlude. The title of this post is a quote from the meditation, which is an excerpt from an album called Graceful Passages: A Companion for Living and Dying. It features spiritual teachers from many traditions offering advice to the dying … in other words, advice to all of us.

Photo on 2014-03-31 at 17.16 #3unnamed-18JAMIE DEDES (The Poet by Day)~I am a medically retired (disabled) elder and the mother of married son who is very dear. I started blogging shortly after I retired as a way to maintain my sanity, to stay connected to the arts and the artful despite being mostly homebound. My Facebook pages are: Jamie Dedes (Arts and Humanities) and Simply Living, Living Simply.

With the help and support of talented bloggers and readers, I founded and host The Bardo Group because I feel that blogging offers a means to see one another – no matter our tribe – in our simple humanity, as brothers and sisters and not as “other.”

“Good work, like good talk or any other form of worthwhile human relationship, depends upon being able to assume an extended shared world.” Stefan Collini (b. 1947), English Literary Critic and Professor of English Literature at Cambridge

Posted in General Interest, Jamie Dedes, poem, Poems/Poetry, poetry

A Madwoman, A Madonna, A Medusa

640px-Medusa_by_Carvaggio-1What’s it to me?
A knotted and nasty old poet of introverted time
wearing five-dollar sweats
dressing in black on black,
silver earrings tinkling softly in the winter breeze
What’s it to me? …

A Madwoman, A Madonna, A Medusa
Traipsing neighborhood streets, city parks, country lanes
Nibbling on sharp yellow cheese and glossy red apples
Sitting down on some wayward curb to sigh in wonder at
noisy birds, children, wizened old men, whiskered grandmothers
Dogs walking their humans by the side of the road
Feral cats scratching a living of pigeon stuffed with stale bread

Muttering, muttering, whispering, watching, writing
Writing long poems and short about what it was to be us
through clocked days trapped in pointless, punctilious youth
Enjoying now the wild, gnarly randomness of life
and the music of our dusty blue souls jingling as we walk …
What’s it to me? What’s it to this so lately untamable me?

© 2013, poem and photographs, Jamie Dedes, All rights reserved; “Medusa” is in the public domain

Photo on 2014-03-31 at 17.16 #3unnamed-18JAMIE DEDES (The Poet by Day)~I am a medically retired (disabled) elder and the mother of married son who is very dear. I started blogging shortly after I retired as a way to maintain my sanity, to stay connected to the arts and the artful despite being mostly homebound. My Facebook pages are: Jamie Dedes (Arts and Humanities) and Simply Living, Living Simply.

With the help and support of talented bloggers and readers, I founded and host The Bardo Group because I feel that blogging offers a means to see one another – no matter our tribe – in our simple humanity, as brothers and sisters and not as “other.”

“Good work, like good talk or any other form of worthwhile human relationship, depends upon being able to assume an extended shared world.” Stefan Collini (b. 1947), English Literary Critic and Professor of English Literature at Cambridge

Posted in Essay, Guest Writer, Poems/Poetry, Poets/Writers

The Burden of a Shared Name

571px-Blaga_Dimitrova_YounI used to hate her, foolish, a teenager’s hate that can only be explained in a parallel universe where logic doesn’t exist. I was a sixteen-year-old girl in a class with additional studies of mathematics. I was supposed to have the sharp brain, the emotion-free behavior required for someone who was a shining star in solving mathematical problems. Then suddenly there it was: the literature lesson about her and one of her poems I don’t even remember. The teacher decided that I was the one who should talk about her that day because of the first name we shared. 41GHNKWJ10L._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_

It was a disaster! I hadn’t read a word from what was written in the school books about her and her poetry. When I was asked the question ‘What do you think Blaga Dimitrova’s poem symbolizes?’ all I could think about to answer was, “The only person who really knows what the words in a poem meant is the author herself. We, as readers, can interpret as we feel right and only hope we’ve reached close enough the thoughts of the writer.’ Wrong answer! A bunch of literature critics that wrote the school book of literature, had already decided what her poetry signified, just like they had decided what every other writer we had studied represents with their work.

I got a bad mark that day and I had come to a conclusion that no one should want to be a poet in a country where we are told what to think. The bad mark wasn’t the worst. After the lesson everyone started calling me Dimitrova. I didn’t like it, I could feel it was meant to be a joke with my personality; to label me with the weakness of feelings only poetry could carry because this is what I used to think about poetry and poets – weak people spilling their weaknesses… Ridiculous, isn’t it? And who knew that I would become one of those weak people. Who knew that one day I would learn  to squander my emotions elegantly on a piece of paper and love doing it too?

At the same time Blaga Dimitrova was vice president of my country, Bulgaria. That was another reason to dislike her. I didn’t dislike her because she was in politics. Who was I to judge someone I have seen only on tv? I disliked Dimitrova because I couldn’t understand why a sane person would stand to support the President we had at that time, and I just couldn’t understand why he was elected. I didn’t know him either. I was way too naïve and young to have the maturity to understand the political situation, but on his face was written all over “I’m capable of nothing.”

When a year later Blaga Dimitrova resigned from her post as a Vice-President due to a disagreement with the President she gained my respect and with that come the urge to re-evaluate her poetry. It was a shock to find that I actually loved her style, her words. The first poem I read and understood from her was:

Tag

I keep forgetting my clock
to escape the time.
But it catches up with me and I whirl
with the whopping, falling leaves.

I enter the sea with the clock on my wrist
to drown the time.
But it slaps me in the face
with the bells of the foam.

I’m not counting the beats of the pendulum;
I want to put the time away.
But it lands right on my nose
with the first snow.

At night I don’t set the alarm
with the hope the time will stop.
But it’s waiting for me in the cold bed
with love already gone.

– Blaga Dimitrova

Then I read her novel Journey Toward Myself.  It’s a book about a girl who tries to escape her past, which is not an easy task in the years of communism, especially if you were born in the wrong family. The message is rather strong and easy to apply to anyone of us. No matter how much we travel and how much we search for the person we are supposed to be, sometimes what we are meant to be is right there where we started our journey.

My favorite quote from Blaga Dimitrova’s book is: “I blessed him with a smile. It dissolved him completely. There was no need for words. I should have tried with a smile at first. I tend to forget that this is my most faithful weapon. I have never thought what impact a smile can have. Only here in the land of rocks and coarse people I found the strength of my smile. It’s worth to travel so far for such a discovery of your own possibilities.”

It’s somewhat hard to explain Blaga Dimitrova’s work and to try to extract a short conclusion that could fit into one review. There is always that special feeling left in the heart after you read her. Maybe that’s why I grew very fond of her poems and stories over the years and maybe that’s why it’s really difficult to fit everything I want to say about her in one blog post.

I can tell you that she comes from a family with professional parents. Her mother was a teacher and her father was a lawyer. She attended a roster of prestigious schools and gained an education that supported her talent. She was honored with many literature awards.

One of her books, Avalanche, was made into an acclaimed movie,  one of the best Bulgarian movies ever in my opinion. Some of Blaga Dimitrova’s work was forbidden in the 80s, because of the strong anti- communism touch. I could tell you that some people liked her and some not. Be it for her political views, be it for her writing, it doesn’t matter to me. On the 2nd of May in 2003 after a long battle with cancer, Blaga Dimitrova died. She was eight-one years old.

I believe on that day Bulgaria lost a great talent. Many years have passed. I am no longer the sixteen-year-old girl who didn’t know how to appreciate the good things in life. I have left Bulgaria for my own reasons and maybe I am still traveling towards myself to find who I really am. It hurts sometimes when I go back home to see that nothing from great people like Blaga Dimitrova was passed on to the new generation. Sometimes I still feel the burden of the shared name with the poetess, not because I am embarrassed to be connected to the weakness of poetry, but because I am afraid I will not be able to stand up worthy of the name Blaga like Ms. Dimitrova did with her talent. I love so many of Blaga Dimitrova’s poems, it’s hard to choose the best, but this one I had written on my wall in the room where I was living during my years at University. It is the one I cherish most.

Lyrical

In the sunset of every love
occurs pain and sadness.
After sunset every night
comes darkness and silence.

When somebody leaves you,
you don’t have the strength to stop him.
When you see that love dies
you can’t die along with it.

You understand that the dreams have never been real
that you have loved, but there wasn’t love,
that the memories are a pain that has fled already,
that you were happy, but you didn’t notice it.

– Blaga Dimitrova

For everything I have translated in this post, there probably could be a better translation. I’ve said it many times, some poems are best to be read in the language they have been written, but I did the best I could. My thanks to The Bardo Group for the opportunity to share the story and poems of a great Bulgarian poetess with readers here in honor of interNational Poetry Month.

© 2014, essay, Blaga Todorova, All rights reserved
Photo credit ~ Merolina under CCA-SA 3.0 Unported license via Wikimedia Commons

unnamed-6BLAGA TODOROVA (Between the Shadows and the Soul) ~ was born in Bulgaria, lives in Greece and doesn’t stop dreaming about finding new country for herself. She doesn’t consider herself a writer, but just someone who sometimes is lucky enough to be at the right place, with the right person, with the background of the right music that will bring the right words. Blaga has been blogging for many years now and has won the friendship and following of other poets and writers for her insights, humor and sense of romance and of justice. English is not her first language, but she uses it well and it is her favorite language for her favorite artistic pursuit, writing. She has a novel in progress. She is also a rather accomplished photographer.

Posted in General Interest, Jamie Dedes, poem, Poems/Poetry, poetry, Poets/Writers

because a poem is everything you can be …

Chirlane McCray by Kelly Weill, NYU Local.com
Chirlane McCray by Kelly Weill, NYU Local.com

CHIRLANE McCRAY is a writer and poet, a speechwriter and wife of New York City’s new (as of January 2014) mayor, Bill de Blasio. She is also the mother of two children, Chiara and Dante.

According to her bio on de Blasio’s website, “Chirlane began writing at a young age. In high school she discovered ways to use writing as a tool for activism. While studying at Wellesley College and the famed Radcliffe Publishing Course, Chirlane became a member of the Combahee River Collective, a pioneering black feminist collective, which inspired her to write groundbreaking prose and poetry.”

I’ve triend to find poems by Chirlane other than the one below, which is being featured by just about everyone in the New York blogosphere. No luck. The poems are probably out in the world somewhere, but try to bring one up in a search and you get bombarded by the overriding political effluvia and razzmatazz. Nonetheless, this is extraordinatry poem and the one – according to the man himself – that made de Blasio fall in love with her. It is from Home Girls: A Black Feminist Anthology. I happen to have a copy of Home Girls, so I know it’s the only poem of hers in that collection. I was unable to find Chirlane McCray’s poems in the other anthologies I own.

NEW YORK, NY - SEPTEMBER 10: Public Advocate and mayoral candidate Bill de Blasio kisses his wife Chirlane McCray after voting in the New York City mayoral primary on September 10, 2013 (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
NEW YORK CITY: Public Advocate and then mayoral candidate Bill de Blasio kisses his wife, Chirlane, after voting in the mayoral primary on September 10, 2013 (photograph by Spencer Platt via Getty Images)

I Used To Think

I used to think
I can’t be a poet
because a poem is being everything you can be
in one moment,
speaking with lightning protest
unveiling a fiery intellect
or letting the words drift feather-soft
into the ears of strangers
who will suddenly understand
my beautiful and tortured soul.
But, I’ve spent my life as a Black girl
a nappy-headed, no-haired,
fat-lipped,
big-bottomed Black girl
and the poem will surely come out wrong
like me.

And, I don’t want everyone looking at me.

If I could be a cream-colored lovely
with gypsy curls,
someone’s pecan dream and sweet sensation,
I’d be

poetry in motion
without saying a word
and wouldn’t have to make sense if I did.
If I were beautiful, I could be angry and cute
instead of an evil, pouting mammy bitch
a nigger woman, passed over
conquested and passed over,
a nigger woman
to do it to in the bushes.

My mother tells me
I used to run home crying
that I wanted to be light like my sisters.
She shook her head and told me
there was nothing wrong with my color.
She didn’t tell me I was pretty
(so my head wouldn’t swell up).

Black girls cannot afford to
have illusions of grandeur,
not ass-kicking, too-loud-laughing,
mean and loose Black girls.

And even though in Afrika
I was mistaken for someone’s fine sister or cousin
or neighbor down the way,
even though I swore
never again to walk with my head down,
ashamed,
never to care
that those people who celebrate
the popular brand of beauty
don’t see me,
it still matters.

Looking for a job, it matters.
Standing next to my lover
when someone light gets that
“she ain’t nothin come home with me” expression
it matters.

But it’s not so bad now.
I can laugh about it,
trade stories and write poems
about all those put-downs,
my rage and hiding.
I’m through waiting for minds to change,
the 60’s didn’t put me on a throne
and as many years as I’ve been
Black like ebony
Black like the night
I have seen in the mirror
and the eyes of my sisters
that pretty is the woman in darkness
who flowers with loving

– Chirlane McCray

Photo on 2014-03-31 at 17.16 #3JAMIE DEDES (The Poet by Day)~ I am a medically retired (disabled) elder and the mother of a married son. The graces of poetry, art, music, writing and reading continue to evolve as a sources of wonder and solace, as creative outlets, and as a part of my spiritual practice. My Facebook pages are: Jamie Dedes (Arts and Humanities) and Simply Living, Living Simply.

Posted in poem, Poems/Poetry, poetry, Writing

One Poet, “One Art,” One Villanelle…the practiced precision of poetry

51yTZd+toIL._SY300_When people are good at what the do – no matter what their jobs are – their work seems effortless. We never see the hours of practice behind the dancer’s bravura performance or the pianist’s breathtaking delivery nor the years of experience behind the actor’s overnight success, the accountant’s instant analysis or the cook’s fabulously original meal pulled together with left-overs and pantry odds-and-ends. And so it is with the practiced precision of poetry …

Elizabeth Bishop’s One Art  seems effortless but over the course of years she rewrote it seventeen times. It’s humbling to note that someone this brilliant still struggled. One of the reasons that I tend to take down the poems on my blog is that they’re often drafts, even when I delude myself into thinking they’re not. I come back to them sometime later and small important things make me cringe and seem to shout for attention: the glaringly misplaced or missing comma, the inappropriate or inaccurate word and the major issues like overheated emotion, flawed logic or the disordered stanza. In my own small, insignificant way, I relate to Elizabeth Bishop’s struggle to get it just right.

In the short video that follows Professor M. Mark at Vassar College (Bishop’s alma mater) discusses Elizabeth Bishop, her work, and her only villanelle*, the renowned poem, One Art, which is included in The Complete Poems 1926-1978 (recommended reading). .

– Jamie Dedes.

One Art

The art of losing isn’t hard to master;
so many things seem filled with the intent
to be lost that their loss is no disaster.

Lose something every day. Accept the fluster
of lost door keys, an hour badly spent.
The art of losing isn’t hard to master.

Then practice losing farther, losing faster:
places, and names, and where it was you meant
to travel. None of these will bring disaster.

I lost my mother’s watch. And look! my last, or
next-to-last, of three loved houses went.
The art of losing isn’t hard to master.

I lost two cities, lovely ones. And, vaster,
some realms I owned, two rivers, a continent.
I miss them, but it wasn’t a disaster.

—Even losing you (the joking voice, a gesture
I love) I shan’t have lied. It’s evident
the art of losing’s not too hard to master
though it may look like (Write it!) like disaster.

– Elizabeth Bishop

Video uploaded by Vassar College.

* Vinanelle ~ a nineteen-line poem with two rhymes throughout, consisting of five tercets and a quatrain, with the first and third lines of the opening tercet recurring alternately at the end of the other tercets and with both repeated at the close of the concluding quatrain. New Oxford American Dictionary

photo-on-2012-09-19-at-19-541JAMIE DEDES (The Poet by Day)~ I am a mother and a medically retired (disabled) elder. The graces of poetry, art, music, writing and reading continue to evolve as a sources of wonder and solace, as a creative outlet, and as a part of my spiritual practice.

Posted in Bardo News, General Interest

BARDO NEWS: Argentine poet Juan Gelman, Creative Collectives, Year-End Report, Terri Stewart’s work on behalf of homeless and youth

Juan Gelman (1930-2014) Argentine poet, jounalist and activist
Juan Gelman (1930-2014) Argentine poet, journalist and activist

WE SALUTE THE ARGENTINE POET and SOCIAL ACTIVIST, JUAN GELMAN, who died on the 14th in Mexico City where he moved after his exile and lived for the last twenty years.

A bird lived in me.
A flower traveled in my blood.
My heart was a violin.

Gelman was revered in Latin America and in Spain for his work against the junta of Argentina, his subject matter largely addressing injustice and oppression, but he was renowned the world over for his excellence and his ethic. He became a symbol of the “disappeared,” when he began a search for his granddaughter after his son and daughter-in-law were disappeared and killed. If you don’t know his story, you can read it HERE.

Shelley wrote that poets are the protectors of moral and civil laws, “the unacknowledged legislators of the world.” Gelman certainly wrote in just such a spirit.

Professor Ilan Stavens (Amherst College) reads Juan Gelman’s poem End.

 

Photo credit ~ Presidencia de la Nación Argentina under CC A 2.0 Generic license.

800px-Rafael_-_El_Parnaso_(Estancia_del_Sello,_Roma,_1511)

OUR YEAR-END REPORT FROM WORDPRESS: The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed over 38,000 times in 2013. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 14 sold-out performances for that many people to see it. In 2013 there were 354 new posts. There were 412 pictures uploaded, which is about a picture per day. The busiest day of the year was January 18th with 524 views. [LAUNCH AT LAST! … Rhineo & Juliet, Love & Tragedy in Africa – unfortunately the two videos that were included in that post are no longer available for review.]

MORE ON CREATIVE COLLECTIVES: In another Bardo News post we wrote:

We are nurturing a growth that goes beyond the simple idea of “connectivity” to a more productive virtual “proximity” … think in terms of artistic gatherings  – not always formally organized – that you’ve read about and perhaps loved –  Bloomsbury in England or the cafe gatherings of the so-called Lost Generation in Paris of the 1920s or even the Algonquin Round Table in New York, also the 1920s, though we will forego the pranks and practical jokes of the latter.

We received a response to that from a Bardo friend who wishes to remain anonymous: “I had developed some additional thoughts or elaborations I’m passing on to you.

“Prior creative and intellectual movements benefited greatly from geographic proximity. It wasn’t enough to be part of community, but that the community shared and debated some essential values and were in constant contact. The idea is that fervency, serendipity and discovery arise out of actual physical proximity.

“This is why artists still flock to cities. Despite the Internet, we still go to Mecca.

“Connecting technologies have always strengthened the bonds between people with like-minded interests (letter-writing, magazine letter columns, BBS, chatrooms, message boards, social networking, etc), fostering community. But, in the last 40 years, I haven’t seen technology yet truly replicate the creative synergy that occurs with physical proximity.

“Which led to my conclusion: any creative person who is working via connected technologies (Internet, etc), needs to focus on how they can go beyond mere community and replicate the qualities caused by physical, geographical proximity.

“I think those qualities, include:

1. regularly scheduled contact
2. opportunities for random contact
3. an agreement on the values under discussion (not necessarily in agreement on the rightness or wrongness of the values themselves).
4. diversity of interest and perspective on those values.

“Several recent groups are decent examples (these are not necessarily endorsements), including:

• The Beats (rather amorphous really, but SF, NY, and Tangiers at various times)
• The Objectivists (in NY, prior to the broader expansion)
• Maybe, the “Fog City Mavericks” in film; Lucas, Spielberg, Eastwood, Coppola, Kaufman, Zaentz.
• The Inklings
• The Futurians

“Of course, as I read this, I also recognize that the ultimate failure of these groups and collectives was often caused by a descent into orthodoxy that stifled creativity and diversity.”

Hesch ProfileINTRODUCING JOSEPH HESCH (A Thing for Words): Joe joined us as a member of the core team late last year. He is a writer and poet from Albany, New York. Many of his poems and stories are inspired by his almost 400-year-old hometown, but most spring from his many travels between his right ear and his left ear. A former journalist, he’s written for a living more than thirty years, but only recently convinced himself to rediscover the writer he once thought he was. Five years ago, he began to write short fiction. Two years later, in a serendipitous response to a blinding case of writer’s block, he wrote his first poem…ever. He hasn’t looked back.  

Since then his work has been published in journals and anthologies coast to coast and worldwide. He posts poems and stories-in-progress on his blog, A Thing for Words (http://athingforwordsjahesch.wordpress.com/).  An original staff member at dVerse Poets Pub website, he was named one of Writers Digest Editor Robert Lee Brewer’s “2011 Best Tweeps for Writers to Follow.”

Gather AB -1INTRODUCING LIZ RICE-SOSONE a.k.a. RAVEN SPIRIT (Noh Where): Liz is probably the most long-standing friend of Bardo. She guested here on several occasions and late last year joined us as a core team member and as the point person for our Voices of Peace Project. Liz began writing when older and housebound due to illness. HIV/AIDS work was the most rewarding work of her lifetime.  Her animals are the loves of her life.  Her husband is her best friend and also the love of her life.  She received a master’s degree in 2008 in gerontology and creative writing at the age of 62.  She started her second blog Noh Where in 2012.  She has a deep connection to all things Corvid.

terriIF YOU ARE IN THE SEATTLE AREA, TERRI STEWART (Begin Again) is co-hosting “Exploring Spiritual Identity with heART.” It is a mandala exercise facilitated with Julia Weaver at mandalaweaver.com. You can find more about the event athttp://beguineagain.com/events/ .
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Additionally, let’s celebrate with Terri as she was invited to provide testimony at her state legislature on January 29th. She will provide witness regarding the effect of having confidential juvenile records. Her state does not consider juvenile records confidential and any court proceedings are subject to the open records act. Additionally, the state she lives in sells juvenile records before the youth is even an adult and able to follow the steps to sealing their record. Making the records confidential is a huge step forward in providing peace and justice in the youth’s lives.
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CHARLIE MARTIN’S BOOK: Bea In Your Bonnet: First Sting is now available through Lulu and Amazon. We all love Aunt Bea and this is a long-awaited volume. Charlie (Read Between the Minds) says:
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product_thumbnail-4.phpBea In Your Bonnet: First Sting is a collection of germinal poems featuring Aunt Bea. Aunt Bea’s voice is one I’ve heard almost every day of my life. Family observations, lessons, and advice given to me and every other family member who had the good sense to listen. Her homespun philosophy most likely will not be found in any collegiate textbooks or for that matter in any local town crier newspaper catering to city dwellers. Indeed, she has a different way of viewing the world; a bit old fashion, sassy, and steely at times but a viewpoint which has engaged my imagination and heart. I sincerely hope you too will find some morsel of wisdom in her personal observations and interpretations of life’s events, but do watch out for her stingers.”
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FEBRUARY BLOG EVENTS: Please join us on February 14 for Bloggers in Planet Love. Mr. Linky will be open for 72 hours begining on the 14th. We hope you’ll share your post on nature, environment and environmental protection, food and farming, climate change and any other earthy subject. We welcome all forms of artistic expression: poems and photography, visual and video art, music, fiction, creative nonfiction and essay. We hope that you will also visit the other participants so that we can support one another while we all encourage appreciation and care of this beautiful planet of ours. The next Writers’ Fourth Wednesday prompt with Victoria Slotto (Victoria C. Slotto, Author/Fictionn, Poetry and Writing Prompts) is on February 26th. Thanks to those who joined with us last week. We look forward to seeing your participation again.
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JAMIE DEDES (The Poet by Day) posted three short stories as Pages on her blog:
  1. The City of Ultimate Bliss, one girl’s faith in the magic of her city to bring her a singular precious bliss.
  2. The Time of Orphaning, “It’s tough when your’e orphaned at seventy,” says the narrator.
  3. Señora Ortega’s Frijoles, a woman shares the dichos (sayings) of her foremothers with her daughter.
JOHN NOONEY’S (Johnbalaya) post, Some Thoughts on Adoption, drew considerable – if quiet -traffic and garnered fifty Facebook “Likes.” We’re thinking maybe there’s potential for a book in the expanded version of the story, John. Just sayiing!
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GOT NEWS? Please feel free to leave any news you may have in the comments section today. The next Bardo News is scheduled for Sunday, February 23 at 7 p.m. and the deadline for submitting your news is Friday, February 21. If you have news you’d like shared in that post, please leave a message in the comments section of any post between now and then and someone will get back to you. Thank you!
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Thank you for your readings, writings, sharing, “Likes,” and comments. All valued, as are you.
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With loving kindness,
– The Bardo Group
Posted in Jamie Dedes, Poems/Poetry

Our Cassandra

 ♥

Our Cassandra’s agony

torments

in poems of prophecy

and breaks our hearts

upon the stone

of her insanity

She calls on death

to visit

one self-appointed night

And we,

her guardian angels,

wearied by her fight

Still

we soldier on

with all our might


©2012,poem,Jamie Dedes,All rights reserved * Illustration ~painting/Cassandra by Evelyn De Morgan (1885-1919), U.S. public domain photograph

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

Posted in Essay, Guest Writer, Music, Poems/Poetry, teacher

MY TRUMPET TEACHER IS A POET: Is that cool?

Trumpet_in_c_germanthe work of Kim Moore (Kim Moore, poetry), originally published in Artemis poetry and posted here with Ms. Moore’s permission and that of the publisher

When I was first asked to write an article exploring the links between being a poet and a trumpet teacher, my first reaction was panic. How could I possibly link my poetry life and my teaching/music life together? In my head they occupy two very separate spaces. Whilst pondering this, I grumpily thought of how often they seem to leech time and energy from each other, and it was this thought that made me realise they must be linked in some way and gave me the confidence to start writing.

I’ve only just started telling pupils that I write poetry – they often just look at me strangely. Then they ask what I write about – I usually change the subject and make them play a scale or something – because what poet likes to be asked what they write about? Especially when you are asked by a ten year old who is not going to be impressed by an airy flourish of my hand and a vague reference to gender politics.
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At the beginning of 2012 I told one of my teenage pupils I’d got a job working as a poet in a men’s prison for ten weeks. He looked at me in disbelief, then did that clicking knuckles thing that’s all the rage with young people, before exclaiming with delight ‘You’re gonna get stabbed!’ followed by another click of his knuckles. When I appeared the next week with no puncture wounds, triumphant, he’d forgotten about the conversation already.
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I’ve been working as a full time brass teacher for seven years – but in September 2012 I decided to reduce my contract down to four days a week to give myself more time to write. I teach in about 16 primary schools a week delivering a programme called ‘Wider Opportunities’ where every child in the class gets a brass instrument as well as the teacher and teaching assistants. I also run two brass bands and teach small groups of children as well.
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I think the most important part of my job is to show both adults and children that music is for them. I can relate to thinking that it is not you see – being the only child in the school not allowed in the choir age eleven. The same thing happens in poetry – people think it is not for them – but it is surprising how many people in conversation will admit they have written a poem or ‘always wanted to learn to play a musical instrument’.
.
As I’m writing this article, I can see more and more connections. The role of peripatetic teacher is always that of an outsider – I’m not attached to any school and this loneliness is reminiscent of the work of being a poet, or a writer. My two worlds creep closer when I think of the way I had to learn as a new teacher, that my hope of guiding young players who spent every spare minute practising (as I did) off to music college was unlikely. I had to learn to let go of what I wanted, to understand that if my enjoyment of my job, my success, was measured by how much my pupils practised and whether they went off to music college, I would be a Very Miserable Teacher. I had to learn to listen to what my pupils wanted – and this transaction is often non-verbal because sometimes they don’t know either. Doesn’t this sound like poetry? The act of letting go, of relinquishing control is precisely what writing is to me. I learnt as a poet as well, that if I measured success by publication or prizes I would be a Very Miserable Poet.
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Another part of my job is conducting a junior band. This is going to sound harsh, but conducting is all about imposing your will on the group. There is no room for anyone else to be creative. In fact, rehearsing is more like editing a poem – practising the same section over and over again, breaking the band down into parts so you can hear the weakest links – is exactly like reading your own poem over and over again, to find a line that will give way under scrutiny.
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Teaching music and writing poetry are ultimately an act of balance – they both have that feeling of walking a tightrope, of words being vastly important. I often find myself using the same catchphrases when I’m teaching – they almost become your own personal clichés. I made a list of mine and turned it into a poem – it made it into my first pamphlet at the last minute and on the advice of my editor, Ann Sansom rather than any passion for it on my part – maybe it reminded me too much of work – but it is often the poem that people comment on – the most surprising people will confess they used to play a brass instrument or will say ‘I remember my trumpet teacher saying that to me when I was small’. And of course, the lines in my poem are not mine at all, really. They were given to me by my trumpet teacher and I remembered them, and repeated them to my pupils, like a poem, learnt by heart.
.
Teaching the Trumpet

I say: imagine you are drinking a glass of air.
Let the coldness hit the back of your throat.

Raise your shoulders to your ears, now let
them be. Get your cheeks to grip your teeth.

Imagine you are spitting tea leaves
from your tongue to start each note

so each one becomes the beginning of a word.
Sing the note inside your head then match it.

At home lie on the floor and pile books
on your stomach to check your breathing.

Or try and pin paper to the wall just by blowing.
I say: remember the man who played so loud

he burst a blood vessel in his eye? This was
because he was drunk, although I don’t tell

them that, I say it was because he was young,
and full of himself, and far away from home.

– Kim Moore

© 2013, essay and poem and portrait (below), Kim Moore, All rights reserved
Photo credit ~ trumpet by Benutzer:Achias under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported license

Society of Authors Awards June 2011 Kim Moore  Eric Gregory AwardsKIM MOORE (Kim Moore, poetry) ~ works as a peripatetic brass teacher in Cumbria. In 2011kim-moore-if-we-could-speak-like-wolves_1 she won an Eric Gregory Award and the Geoffrey Dearmer Prize, and in 2012 her first pamphlet  If We Could Speak Like Wolves was a winner in the Poetry Business Pamphlet competition, judged by Carol Ann Duffy. It was selected as one of the Independent’s ‘Books of the Year’. Kim has been published in various magazines including The Rialto, Poetry Review, The TLS, Magma, and ARTEMISpoetry. She is currently working on her first collection. You can sample more of her poetry on her blog HERE.

,

artemis-1ARTEMIS poetry ~  the bi-annual journal (November and May) of the Second Light Network , a professional association of women poets. The journal is published under their Second Light Publications imprint. Members receive a copy as part of their membership benefits. Issues are available to non-members by subscription at £9 p.a. or as a one-off purchase at £5 a copy (plusp&p).

Posted in Jamie Dedes, Poems/Poetry

The Poet

478px-The_BardNo hesitation to break the silences,
to unite others with his verses, to
pierce sleep with the sharpened lance
of his reason, weaving his stanzas
and schemes into the warp and weft
of a marriage, with a single purpose ~
Peace. He tore at the knotted rhizome
and adventitious roots of hate and
despair, pressing on for the renewed
rootedness of hope and its fresh bright
blooms of honesty and courage, it was
his job to husband the survival of the
most refined proclivities of the heart
He planted his poems as seed in the
fertile ground of our best sensibilities

– Jamie Dedes

© 2013, poem, Jamie Dedes, All rights reserved
Illustration ~
The Bard by John Martin (1789-1854), English romantic painter and engraver, via Wikipedia and in the U.S. Public Domain.

Photo on 2012-09-19 at 20.00JAMIE DEDES ~ My worldly tags are poet and writer. For the past five years I’ve blogged 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.

Posted in Essay, Terri Stewart

Christine de Pizan, Part 3 of 3

This series is an academic article that I wrote on the life of Christine de Pizan, an extraordinary woman of the medieval era. This is part 3. Part 1 is here. Part 2 is here.

Christine de Pizan lecturing men Image from Wikimedia Commons
Christine de Pizan lecturing men
Image from Wikimedia Commons

In her poems on courtly love, she was able to express her deeply held conviction that “society obliged a woman to pay far too high a price for any momentary pleasure experienced from love outside marriage.”[1] So begins her championship of women aptly captured in “Cupid’s Letter.” During this time of growth for Christine, misogynistic attitudes abounded in the Universities, in court, and in the clergy. Aristotle’s influence held sway over the common understanding of what it was to be female. Every ill of the world was laid at the feet of women. As Christine aptly said in “Cupid’s Letter,”

There are women vilely named,

And often without cause are blamed,

And even those of noble race,

However fair and full of grace.

Lord, what company, what talk—

Women’s honor they freely mock.[2]

“Cupid’s Letter” enjoyed immediate success and was translated into English by Chaucer’s disciple, Thomas Hoccleve.[3] Her work of defending women and removing the tarnish that had been applied to their honor continued in other works including “The Debate of Two Lovers” which showed that true love is joyful, not deceitful or jealous, The Book of the City of Ladies that showed women’s contributions to history through time, The Book of the Three Virtues that sought to inculcate feminine virtues to counteract the misogyny of the time, and concluded with a eulogy poem in honor of Joan of Arc, “Ditie de Jehanne dArc.”

Throughout the time of her writing of poems and books, Christine became embroiled in a literary feud with Jean de Meun who wrote the second half of “The Romance of the Rose.” This became the “first recorded literary quarrel in France.”[4] Christine was inclined to blame the deceit and trickery of the men of her day at the feet of Jean de Meun.[5] “The Romance of the Rose” encouraged men to use whatever means necessary to acquire the woman they wanted in whatever way they wanted.  Jean de Meun belonged to another generation, another social world (not the courtly world of Christine de Pizan), and was primarily a philosopher.[6] He is crude and rude in his references to women and their body parts and advises “opportunism in relations with women, who are seldom virtuous, debauchery being the least of their crimes. The fine clothes of women do not really enhance them, for a dungheap covered with a silken cloth is still a dungheap.”[7] It is with this man and his very popular poem that Christine feels compelled to specifically defend womankind. Interestingly, she counters both in a poetic literary form, written letters, and politically through the official circle of Tignonville and the queen.[8] The chancellor of the University of Paris, Jean Gerson eventually entered the fray, siding with Christine de Pizan.[9]  Eventually, he wrote a treatise against “The Romance of the Rose.”[10] Chancellor Gerson and Christine de Pizan as literary allies were unbeatable and the argument ended (although it was not resolved.)[11] Christine was able to, for the first time, remove the discussion of women “from intellectual circles and [make] it possible for a lay-person, and a woman at that, to take part.”[12] From this point on, she leveraged her fantastic intellect, writing skill, and fame to continue writing about her major concern-“the defense of women against…unjust slander and…hypocrisies of contemporary society.”[13]

Christine de Pizan was a child and woman of privilege. She moved in circles that most people could not enter. She was affected by Petrarch, the University of Bologna, the University of Paris, and by the French Court of Charles V. Typically, a woman of her lifestyle would marry a man, have children, and live on. If her husband died, her task would be to re-marry. Christine did not do this. She educated herself, honed her literary skills and became an unlikely champion of women.

© 2013, post, Terri Stewart, All rights reserved

Terri StewartTERRI STEWART is Into the Bardo’s chaplain, senior content editor, and site co-administrator. You can expect a special post from her each week. She comes from an eclectic background and considers herself to be grounded in contemplation and justice. She is the Director and Founder of the Youth Chaplaincy Coalition that serves youth affected by the justice system. As a recent graduate of Seattle University’s School of Theology and Ministry, she earned her Master’s of Divinity and a Post-Master’s Certificate in Spiritual Direction with honors and is a rare United Methodist student in the Jesuit Honor Society, Alpha Sigma Nu. She is a contributing author to the Abingdon Worship Annual.

Her online presence is “Cloaked Monk.” This speaks to her grounding in contemplative arts (photography, mandala, poetry) and the need to live it out in the world. The cloak is the disguise of normalcy as she advocates for justice and peace. You can find her at www.cloakedmonk.com, www.twitter.com/cloakedmonk, and www.facebook.com/cloakedmonk.  To reach her for conversation, send a note to cloakedmonk@outlook.com.

[1] Willard, Christine de Pizan: Her Life and Works, 61.
[2] Ibid, 62.
[3] Ibid 63-64.
[4] Ibid, 73.
[5] Ibid, 63.
[6] Ibid, 75.
[7] Ibid, 75-76.
[8] Ibid, 77.
[9] Ibid, 80.
[10] Ibid, 84.
[11] Ibid, 86.
[12] Ibid.
[13] Ibid.

Posted in Essay, Terri Stewart

Christine de Pizan, Part 2 of 3

This series is an academic article that I wrote on the life of Christine de Pizan, an extraordinary woman of the medieval era. This is part 2. Part 1 is here.

Christine Presenting Her Book to Queen Isabeau, WikiCommons Images
Christine Presenting Her Book to Queen Isabeau, WikiCommons Images

Christine married Etienne de Castel, a son of a court official, in 1380.[1] It was a love match. Then things took a turn for Christine and her family. Charles V died and the crown’s close association with the academic world came to a close.[2] Tommaso became embroiled in a controversial cure that he had prescribed that “went awry.”[3] This caused the de Pizan family’s economic situation to deteriorate. Tommaso died in 1387.[4] Then in 1390, Christine’s husband died in an epidemic.[5] Christine became the head of a family with three children (one would die in childhood), a widowed mother, and a niece that was living with them. Furthermore, when she tried to settle the estate of her husband, she was met with deception, dishonesty, and lawsuits trying to strip her of her property.[6] Adding to her grief, money that had been reserved for her children’s future and invested was stolen.[7]To make matters worse, she became very ill, describing it as succumbing “like Job.”[8]

Given that Christine was now the head of her family, in France away from other relatives, without income, she had to create a way to support her household. Christine was still welcome at court and witnessed the frivolity of the court of Queen Isabeau and Louis of Orleans.[9] Here, poetry was one of the “principal social accomplishments”[10] and Christine turned her hand to poetry that reflected the Parisian social scene in its glory and ugliness. She proceeded to write poetry that reflected that scene, the grief she was still experiencing, and fond reminiscing of the reign of Charles V. Slowly, her poetry began to gather attention in the rarefied air of the court. Her fortunes began to turn when she was able to meet the earl of Salisbury in 1398.[11] They formed a bond based on love of poetry and he took her son into his own home to raise him with his own son. Then, in 1397, through Charles VI’s aunt, Marie de Bourbon, she was able to secure a place for her daughter at the Abbey of Poissy.[12]

Christine started writing poetry as early as 1394, but speaks of her literary career starting in 1399 after several years spent on self-education.[13] She studied ancient history, sciences, and the books of poets.[14] When she started studying the poets, she said to herself, “Child, be consoled, for you have found the thing that is your natural aspiration.”[15] She found her place. However, she did not take her early poetry very seriously. Her early poetry consisted of ballades, rondeaus, and the virelay.[16] These were well respected forms during her day. In addition, she started growing her own library of books by copying books in her own hand.[17] Christine also started writing letters purely for literary purposes.[18] She was becoming skilled at poetry, letter writing, and at common rhetorical devices used among the educated and courtly elite. Leaning on Plato’s view of women, Christine wrote in “The Mutation of Fortune,” that her change in status caused her to “become a man.”[19] It is this educated, courtly-adept woman that became a powerful voice for the fair and honorable treatment of women.

Christine’s poetry began to be known beyond the French court by approximately the year 1400.[20] She claims that it was because she was such a novelty—being a woman poet—that her work spread widely and rapidly.[21] However, it was probably because she wrote from her own point-of-view, a widowed woman. Her early poems used the court and its characters for the basis of her stories. She discovered that she had a particular talent for working with words and fitting them into poetic forms.[22] But her most striking skill was in expressing her own emotions and experience via literary devices.[23] The theme of grief and widowhood arises frequently in her writing.

© 2013, post, Terri Stewart, All rights reserved

Terri StewartTERRI STEWART is Into the Bardo’s  Sunday chaplain, senior content editor, and site co-administrator. She comes from an eclectic background and considers herself to be grounded in contemplation and justice. She is the Director and Founder of the Youth Chaplaincy Coalition that serves youth affected by the justice system. As a recent graduate of Seattle University’s School of Theology and Ministry, she earned her Master’s of Divinity and a Post-Master’s Certificate in Spiritual Direction with honors and is a rare United Methodist student in the Jesuit Honor Society, Alpha Sigma Nu. She is a contributing author to the Abingdon Worship Annual.

Her online presence is “Cloaked Monk.” This speaks to her grounding in contemplative arts (photography, mandala, poetry) and the need to live it out in the world. The cloak is the disguise of normalcy as she advocates for justice and peace. You can find her at www.cloakedmonk.com, www.twitter.com/cloakedmonk, and www.facebook.com/cloakedmonk.  To reach her for conversation, send a note to cloakedmonk@outlook.com.


[1] Willard, Christine de Pizan: Her Life and Works, 34-35.
[2] Ibid.
[3] Ibid, 38.
[4] Ibid, 39.
[5] Ibid.
[6] Ibid.
[7] Ibid, 40.
[8] Ibid.
[9] Ibid, 42.
[10] Ibid.
[11] Ibid.
[12] Ibid, 43.
[13] Ibid, 44.
[14] Ibid.
[15] Ibid.
[16] Ibid.
[17] Ibid, 45.
[18] Ibid.
[19] Ibid, 48.
[20] Ibid, 51.
[21] Ibid.
[22] Ibid, 53.
[23] Ibid.

Posted in Essay, Terri Stewart

Christine de Pizan, Part 1 of 3

This series is an academic article that I wrote on the life of Christine de Pizan, an extraordinary woman of the medieval era.

Christine de Pizan from Wikispaces.com
Christine de Pizan
from Wikispaces.com

During the lifetime of Christine de Pizan (1364-1430),[1] women were not well respected.[2] However, Christine managed to carve out a unique spot for herself among authors of poetry and rhetorical letters. Along her journey, she also became an unlikely champion of women, women’s roles, and the honorable treatment of women. Unlikely champion because Christine came from a privileged, comfortable background and was discouraged from stepping outside of traditional female roles by her mother.[3] I am going to show that Christine’s background peculiarly gave her the gifts to become not only a gifted author, but the unlikely champion of women. Then, a brief exploration of the misogynistic attitudes present during her lifetime that called forth a response and thrust her into the role of France’s first woman of letters.[4]

Christine de Pizan was born in Venice, Italy.[5] At the time she was born, the city was just recovering from two horrific events – an earthquake followed by the first outbreak of the bubonic plague in 1348.[6] It was thought that these events were punishments from God for Venice’s wickedness at warring with its neighbors and with Genoa.[7] Venice was a port city that was among the first cities hit by the plague due to its status as a maritime trader.[8] As the downfall of Venice was seen to be attributable to the movement of the planets and stars (earthquake), astronomy and astrology were respected and revered sciences.[9] The potential for ad4vanced study in these fields is what drew Tommaso da Pizzano to Venice.

Tommaso da Pizzano arrived in Venice in 1357 from Bologna. He had been studying there towards his degree of doctor in medical studies which would have included studying astrology.[10] Bologna had a reputation as an intellectual center of Europe, a book production center, and a center of secular thought.[11] That is the rarified air that Christine de Pizan’s father came from. Here, Tommaso met Christine’s mother, they married and soon had Christine. It is also in Venice that Tommaso became acquainted with Petrarch, one of the most influential poets[12] of his day.[13] Here the thoughts of Bologna-based on Aristotle’s writings-collided with Petrarch’s thoughts that were grounded in Plato.[14] Plato believed that women had a place in society—they had strengths that differed from men, but strengths none-the-less. Aristotle, however, had a much more subservient view of women.

In the Republic, Plato argues that women must be assigned social roles in the ideal state equal to those of men. Only one generation later, Aristotle, in his Politics, returns women to their traditional roles in the home, subserving men. Plato’s position in the Republic is based upon his view that “women and men have the same nature in respect to the guardianship of the state, save insofar as the one is weaker and the other is stronger.” Nature provides no such equality in Aristotle; in the Politics he flatly declares, “as regards the sexes, the male is by nature superior and the female inferior, the male ruler and the female subject.”[15]

I must say that Plato was not perfect on women, but he was more charitable in his views that Aristotle. Women, for Plato, degenerated from perfection while for Aristotle, they were inferior by nature.[16] Christine de Pizan was born into an environment more influenced by Petrarch and Platonic thought than by the University center’s reliance upon Aristotelian thoughts on women.

Tommaso soon re-established his family in Bologna because of the prestige that being at University brought him.[17] However, he was soon invited to join the courts of both Paris and Hungary. He chose Paris.[18] He left his family for two years in Bologna while he established himself at the French court of Charles V. This allowed him to have the prestige of being at court and being near the University of Paris. In December 1368, Charles V “received at the Louvre the newly arrived family of Tommaso, now transformed into Thomas de Pizan.”[19]

In the courts of Charles V, Christine was given quite a lot of freedom. Charles V has a propensity for intellectual interests.  He cultivated contacts with the University of Paris and built an impressive library. He contracted Nicole Oresme to translate the entire works of Aristotle into French.[20] Christine had access to the king’s library and to his personal study.[21] She later recalled the king with fondness saying, “In my youth and childhood, with my parents, I was nourished by his hand.”[22] Christine was enthralled with intellectual pursuits from a young age.[23] Her father encouraged her in her studies (he had very liberal views on the education of women) while her mother was more traditional.[24] Christine managed to walk a line between her two parents—tending to her traditional roles as a female and pursuing intellectual curiosities at every opportunity.

© 2013, post, Terri Stewart, All rights reserved

Terri StewartTERRI STEWART is Into the Bardo’s  Sunday chaplain, senior content editor, and site co-administrator. She comes from an eclectic background and considers herself to be grounded in contemplation and justice. She is the Director and Founder of the Youth Chaplaincy Coalition that serves youth affected by the justice system. As a recent graduate of Seattle University’s School of Theology and Ministry, she earned her Master’s of Divinity and a Post-Master’s Certificate in Spiritual Direction with honors and is a rare United Methodist student in the Jesuit Honor Society, Alpha Sigma Nu. She is a contributing author to the Abingdon Worship Annual.

Her online presence is “Cloaked Monk.” This speaks to her grounding in contemplative arts (photography, mandala, poetry) and the need to live it out in the world. The cloak is the disguise of normalcy as she advocates for justice and peace. You can find her at www.cloakedmonk.com, www.twitter.com/cloakedmonk, and www.facebook.com/cloakedmonk.  To reach her for conversation, send a note to cloakedmonk@outlook.com.

[1] Danuta Bois, “Christine de Pisan,” Distinguished Women of Past and Present, http://www.distinguishedwomen.com/biographies/pisan.html (accessed March 12, 2013).
[2] Charity Cannon Willard, Christine de Pizan: Her Life and Works (NY, Persea Books, 1984), 15.
[3] Willard, Christine de Pizan: Her Life and Works, 33.
[4] Ibid, 15.
[5] Ibid, 16.
[6] Ibid.
[7] Ibid.
[8] Cara Murphy, “The Bubonic Plague and the Impact on Venice,” FluTrackers, http://www.flutrackers.com/forum/showthread.php?t=23196 (accessed March 12, 2013).
[9] Willard, Christine de Pizan: Her Life and Works, 17-18.
[10] Ibid, 17.
[11] Ibid.
[12] Petrarch was an Italian humanist.
[13] Willard, Christine de Pizan: Her Life and Works, 19.
[14] Ibid.
[15] Nicholas D. Smith, “Plato and Aristotle on the Nature of Women,” Journal of the History of Philosophy 21.4 (1983): 467-478. Project MUSE. http://muse.jhu.edu/ (accessed March 13, 2013).
[16] John Wijngaards, “Greek Philosophy on the Inferiority of Women,WomenPriests.org, http://www.womenpriests.org/traditio/infe_gre.asp (accessed March 13, 2013).
[17] Willard, Christine de Pizan: Her Life and Works, 20.
[18] Ibid.
[19] Ibid.
[20] Ibid, 21.
[21] Ibid, 28-29.
[22] Ibid, 23.
[23] Ibid, 33.
[24] Ibid.

Posted in Book/Magazine Reviews, Jamie Dedes, Poems/Poetry

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.

Posted in Marlene McNew, Poems/Poetry

MARATHON

Our treasured Marlene is not to be undone by Parkinson’s Disease. A former professional accountant, she is a master-level skier, participates in marathons, is an award-winning dancer, paints, writes poetry, and  . . . that’s just the short-story.  J.D.

MARATHON 

by

Marlene G. McNew (Strange Gift)

·

Decay’s process cannot be stopped.
In dark shadows of age, watch illness burn
all signs of pink that we treasure.
We become a residue of memory.

·

Ravaged, by the weight of the thought
we seek a path of the heart
lit by fire that burns within,
the will to endure anything,
a power to persist.

·

A marathon holds a promise of pain,
a challenge built upon reason, a test
for mind and body; a sacrifice
a vow of suffering in the name of hope.

·

A marriage of preparation and outcome,
of cooperation of heart with mind,
it is emergence from a cave,
the acceptance of help.
Is is a war against defeat

·

the making of a miracle.

·

© 2012, poem and video, Marlene’s and Carmen’s photographs, Marlene G. McNew, All rights reserved

Photo credit ~ Athletic Shoes, Vincent van der Heijden via Wikipedia and licensed under Creative Commons Attribution Generic 2.0

 

CARMEN McNEW

MARLENE G. McNEW ~ began exhibiting symptoms of Parkinson’s Disease (P.D.) eight years ago. Her blog (Strange Gift) is a vehicle for sharing her experiences with P.D. and her many, many interests. She maintains a lovely home in Northern California where she lives with her husband and a much-loved rescued golden retriever, Carmen.

Marlene is a master skier, but for the past several years she’s been able to incorporate into her life increasing involvement in the arts. She expresses her beautiful spirit through poems and paintings.  She also has a strong interest in dance, having been a competition level ballroom dancer.  Other interests include cooking.  

She is currently preparing for a marathon and is registered for the Mighty Mermaid sprint triathlon (1/4 mile open water swim, 12 mile bike, 2 mile run/walk) through Team in Training with the Leukemia Lymphoma Society. Marlene originally started her blog when she was getting ready for the Nike Women’s Marathon (half marathon walk) and raising funds for the Leukemia Lymphoma Society. Her YouTube channel is SkiDisiple. J.D.

Posted in Jamie Dedes, Poems/Poetry

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).