i remember when i thought twice, thrice, a dozen times moreover whether to call myself writer, a title hallowed in my heart throughout my childhood years, the ones who wrote the books i devoured with my every free hour, my escapes into worlds of make-believe, my gateway to learning beyond what adults prescribed for me
i’ve known too many writers to be intimidated by the title, known their kindness and generosity, heard of others’ lack lucky enough not to experience it myself
i remember when i hesitated to call myself poet, the title seemed too pretentious, too artistic to apply to just anyone, like lumping Van Gogh in with the man who graffitis the roadside in the dead of night. but why not? why should a canvas command more respect than the underside of an overpass? why should the verse of authors long gone hold more esteem than the coffee house clique reciting their rhymes in the meeting place of modern minds? the old and new both live
i’ve known too many poets to be awed just by the word when their humanity alone humbles me my own attempts to grasp each abiding image, each emotion collaged upon these pages like flowing script, rivers of ink and electrons imprinted upon our collective minds
with or without title, i’ll write these words, this verse, hope someday they will be read, felt, imbued with life
words change form throughout time as organic as a climbing vine growing with each age titles are more specific, rigid like concrete i call myself the words the titles themselves unknown
“She Who Was the Helmet Maker's Once-Beautiful Wife"
you didn't know what awaited you
when you began the long trek to see your son
bare feet and fallen arches old bones aching
with miles of marching your final journey
all for one more glimpse of your boy
become a man
why bare yourself for the artist's art?
how much more could you have to give?
the tragedy of your worn form outlives your mortality,
the young girl you were forever trapped in iron gray.
*Rodin’s model for She Who Was the Helmet Maker’s Once-Beautiful Wifewas the mother of one of his male models. The photo I used reminded me of a younger version of Rodin’s model, since I was unable to obtain permission for an image of the original sculpture. You can find an image of Rodin’s masterpiece here.
--in memory of Winnie-cat
the Milky Way empties itself
of pure white light
into the moon's shining bowl
the cat stretches languid
her body liquid smooth
she reaches for
silent and thirsting
Her head dips into
the cosmic saucer
rough pink tongue
darting in and out
lapping up this lunar feast
Luminosity fills her
beneath each fluttering eyelid
*Although this poem was inspired by a tweet, I’m posting and dedicating it to my sweet kitty, who died January 2nd. Rest in Peace, Winnie.
on the eve of my mother’s birth and the swearing in of a new leader
last night i dreamed: i came upon a strip mall and stumbled upon the store my father had built from scratch all those years ago
i did not dare believe my eyes though it seemed too real not to be believed i ran inside hoping for a glimpse of the man that ruled my childhood my hero who taught me chess gave me his own bike to ride
today i thought i saw another gone silhouette perched upon the windowsill
he died so long and yet not so long i longed so to see his familiar face i could not help but catch a glimpse his bald(ing) head and bright brown eyes
today my mother opens chocolates “her president” as her present she says as each morsel melts washed down with a cup of steaming Lady Grey
i couldn’t quite catch a glimpse of another dear departed, gold fur and eyes brown as warm caramel, i couldn’t quite help but wonder what else dies and is born today
sometimes we need to coat our tongue with warm sugar, sweeten our swallowed bitterness
is this a new beginning or another end?
**In my previous post I said I was going to resume regular scheduling in February, but since this poem is topical I decided to post it today. Normally I let poems sit between edits, but obviously that would not work for a timely posting, so (although edited) this poem is more raw than what I normally share.
Happy New Year! Hopefully, 2021 will be less problematic than 2020.
In the meantime, I’ll share the books I’ve read in the past year. Due to the recent interesting times, many of them are books I’ve read before. When I want a comfort read, I’ll often reach for old favorites: Cyrano de Bergerac and The Walking Dead graphic novels are among my favorites. Since the list is pretty long (I’ll reach 100 one of these years!), I’m listing them by title. If you would like me to go into detail about any of these books, just leave a comment or contact me on social media. I love discussing books!
If you’d like to read one of these selections yourself, I’ve included links. Many of the reads were ebooks and audiobooks via various platforms, often through local libraries. I’ve always loved digital format, but in the past year it’s been more important than ever. Enjoy the list! Maybe you’ll find something you’ll like too.
Every December for the past couple years, I’ve posted my New Year’s resolutions. I do this as a way of holding myself publicly accountable to ensure I stick with them for the next twelve months. Since starting this tradition, this is the first time I’ve failed to accomplish them all.
That sounds bad, and it is–but it’s also understandable. Despite unforeseen complications, a worldwide pandemic, and some personal crises, I accomplished some of my goals–not all. Honestly, I may have been able to if I really pushed myself, but I decided against this for two reasons: my mental health and the quality of my work. I felt that under the hellacious circumstances of this year, if I pushed myself too hard, they both would suffer. I wasn’t willing to make that trade to meet a self-imposed deadline.
SOME. In a limited capacity, I did. Last year, I promoted my poetry book, Soul Picked Clean, by reading at bookstores and libraries across Northeast Ohio. I had several events each month, sometimes many the same week, and anticipated the same type of schedule for my newest book. Unfortunately, social distancing due to the pandemic forced a different approach.
I’ve worked hard over the past few years to become more comfortable reading and performing my work in public, but I’m really uncomfortable with a lot of the technology we’ve been forced to use the past nine months. ZOOM has had security issues, and although they are supposedly resolved, I’m reluctant to use their platform because they have not been forthcoming in the past. Unfortunately, almost all the poetry events seem to use that platform.
However, I was able to work around this issue with some help from very understanding people. Instead of attending a local author fair at the library, I recorded video of my author talks and readings. Instead of attending workshops and cons, I shared on social media. Instead of having a Book Release Party, I organized and participated in a Halloween-themed multi-author event via FaceBook Live. I was invited to read for a December event, and the host kindly let me phone in instead of using ZOOM. Instead of selling my books in person, I offered online deals via social media and PayPal.
NOT DONE. Pre-pandemic, I volunteered as an usher on a monthly basis for Ohio Shakespeare Festival, and I wanted to contribute to other things too. For example, years ago I had read for Librivox.org and thought if I reorganized my schedule I could do that as well.
I managed to volunteer this year up until the quarantine began at the end of March, but that was it. Instead, I increased my posting schedule on my Patreon (and made the posts free to view during the pandemic) as a way to contribute supplementary reading material during a difficult time. Little did I realize how long that time would be, and I was eventually forced to scale back to my previous posting schedule.
Submit another poetry collection to a publisher.
NOT DONE. I attempted to compile my second poetry collection earlier in the year. I picked out the poems, printed and gathered them into a folder to experiment with physically rearranging them, and made some progress before the proverbial feces hit the fan. I tried to get back on track a couple times throughout the year, but each time other things came up which took priority.
Publish my poetry collection.
NOT DONE. See above.
Do things that frighten me.
SOME. I am very nervous doing online video, especially live video, but in lieu of a book launch or author events, I participated in several live video and/or audio programs, including some new (to me) such as SpoFest Poetry & Prose and (online) Second Sunday Poets. My anxiety soared before each one, but I was able to disregard this while they were in progress by focusing on what I read and on the other participants.
I did not do any events using the ZOOM app, which I’m afraid to use because of their security issues and lack of transparency. However, I was able to participate in events where other people used ZOOM while I phoned in.
MY 2021 RESOLUTIONS (and my plans to accomplish them):
Finish compiling my second poetry collection.
I’m already partway to this goal, but I need to regain the momentum I lost this past year. But to do that, I need to regain my peace of mind first, which 2020 has shaken, so I’m giving myself a hiatus in January. Then starting February 1st (at the latest) I will start fresh on my already printed poems. I’ll create a schedule with a firm deadline which I’ll stick to religiously. Pacing is important, so the schedule will be light but strict, that way I can always work ahead as I’m inspired.
Submit my second poetry collection to a publisher.
I’m fond of indie presses, for obvious reasons: both my books have been published by them. Also, I know and respect a lot of people who run their own small presses, so I plan to submit to an indie press.
Regain my former schedule.
I’ve lost a lot of steam this year, as well as many of my traditional outlets. With the vaccine on the horizon for the general population, I’m hoping things will slowly get back to normal. When social distancing restrictions relax so libraries, bookstores, and other venues resume their former hours, I will return to my previous monthly activities: volunteering at Ohio Shakespeare Festival and attending poetry events. Obviously, this one depends on forces beyond my control, so I’ll have to see what happens.
Do things that scare me.
I promise to be open to opportunities and not resist them simply because I’m afraid. I started this one when I honestly looked at myself and realized the main thing holding me back from my goals was my own fear. Since I first made this resolution several years ago, I’ve never regretted it.
This year has been hellish for a lot of people, myself included, and while I don’t think the New Year will magically make everything better, I do think things will get better. Although I did not accomplish all my goals, I did the best I could under the circumstances. Venetian Spider Press published my second book, and although I wasn’t able to promote it in person, I did promote it and made some sales. Despite social distancing, I kept in touch with my friends and family.
I know this is a dark time for a lot of people. I really want to end this post on a high note, but I also think it’s important to recognize that; even though you try to focus on the positive, sometimes things just suck. It’s okay to feel bad, and if everything gets too much, it’s okay to seek help.
I’m not ashamed to say I needed help this year. What tipped me off was when I lost interest in books, in reading poetry, and in writing. I’ve loved books since before I could read. I remember annoying the hell out of my mother by asking her to read every sign on the highway, instructions on boxes, and anything else that would help me learn. So when I lost interest in books, I knew I needed professional help.
If you notice yourself having symptoms of depression (such as loss of interest in things that normally give you joy), please seek help. You’re worth it.
Thank you for visiting my blog, and I hope you’ll return in January. I’ll start 2021 with a post about the books I read in 2020, so maybe you’ll find your next great read! In the meantime, stay safe and well, and Happy New Year!
Since today is Black Friday, traditionally the beginning of the holiday season, I thought I’d post something a little more lighthearted. Please, if you need to go out this weekend, be careful. Stay safe and well!
In the interest of Black Friday, I’m also offering