Saturday, February 25, 2012

facing demons

to the city then. it's part of the taking back my life regimen i have begun in earnest. today is windy and the trees are alive.

a student of mine asked me to journal, so i am, this may be ill advised, but here goes.

i'm going into the city today, to meet with a group of ten other poets for a poetry thesis critique group. my poetry thesis (or manuscript) is up for critique today. the last time i was at this group was during the fall semester. the critique was ruthless. i sat there while the group proceeded to tear into my work with things that i felt weren't necessarily on point. i likened the experience to me going for a moonlight swim and the group leader chumming the waters. i sat there, stoic, or trying to be, for about 45 minutes, then i began to cry. not bawl, just tears streaming down my face. i left as quickly as i could and haven't been back.

when i got home that day, i cried, and hoped i had never made a student feel this way. that their work, their words, were unappreciated. it hurt a lot. but i also looked long and hard at my manuscript, at the comments everyone made, and i revised the entire thing. today will be interesting because i don't know if they will value what i have done, or not. but it's not really up to them to decide what i do with my work. i am the poet. this is my manuscript. there is a fine line in the creative arts between creating by committee (taking everything everyone has to say and incorporating it--thereby watering down your work) or being so staunchly rigid about artistic integrity that you cannot hear the constructive bits of criticism.

ultimately i believe that there is some truth in everything that is said, no matter how hurtful. the key is, determining what is true and what is garbage. throw the garbage out and grow from the truthful bits. so as i revised my manuscript, i stayed true to my artistic vision. i held my line so to speak.

i'm getting ready now, and will be seated in that room, listening to the other poets speaking about my work. my aim is to remain open and vulnerable. to accept their words as their perspective on my work, not necessarily their judgment or mandate. i am still in control of my poetry manuscript. it is still my baby and i stand by it.

now, to face my peers.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

hiking today

i'm going to be trudging through the rocky new jersey mountains with a group of women today. i'm excited about it. it helps me to feel alive, getting out, getting active. yesterday, i walked over the hudson river, there is a walkover bridge in poughkeepsie that i had been to once before, and i went there yesterday to reclaim it. to see it afresh.

i found myself thinking about what has been, what will come, and making a choice. as i watched couples, old and young pass by, i could have envied their togetherness, but i did not. i smiled at them and wished them well. i'm at a different place in my life now. i am choosing to be single. i am choosing to own my own life, entirely. to take it back one step at a time.

there is much to do, much to be done, always. but i intend to enjoy it all. somehow, the goodness of my life turned to something other than that. and i want goodness. i want peace. i want to manifest abundance in my life, for myself and those around me.

reading a book that is wonderfully affirming. in it the authors write:
many problems can be eliminated by the following intention: i am willing to expand continuously in positive energy with totally positive consequences for myself and others. --gay and kathryn hendricks, conscious loving.

which follows closely on the heels of another quote i read:
often we take our partner for granted when we should be seeing them as a principle object of our compassion. the tibetan word for compassion is nyingje, which can be more directly translated as 'noble heart.' this is a helpful term when thinking about bringing compassion into our most intimate relationships: we need to fully offer those closest to us our noble heart. --lodro rinzler

sometimes i get to wondering if i'm delusional. if relationships can actually be good. and yes, i believe they can. i still believe they can. i have never seen a functional relationship up close, but that doesn't mean i don't believe they exist. i've never seen a koala up close, but i believe they exist. this is no different.

i was reading a book by elizabeth gilbert, committed, where she tells a story about porcupines. she had a particular name for it, but i forget what that is. the story goes, when porcupines get cold, they huddle together. when they get close enough to benefit from the warmth, they also feel the others' quills. this causes them to retreat from one another, though they get cold again and commend huddling up again. this dance continues endlessly for the dear porcupine.

i have been called a porcupine in the past. i have known it takes a certain kind of person to handle me. i understand relationships to be about what we can handle from one another. not that we look for flawed people, but, i have come to understand we are all flawed people. each and every one of us. so when you find that person who can tolerate your stuff, and i find that person who can tolerate my stuff (and not just tolerate, but truly love you for it and through it), that is gold baby. not to be taken lightly.

having been through so many ups and downs emotionally, relationally, i feel equipped to say this: love is the most powerful force there is. it can revolutionize lives. do i want to prove this to someone, fight them to believe this. absolutely not. i am out there to do what i do, i understand that i have a capacity to love my people. those poor dear souls who find their way into my presence. poor, you see because they too have to endure me.

i'm grateful for this opportunity to learn. to grow. to become. that is what it's all about.

Monday, February 13, 2012

untangle these

our waters ran freely today, it was as if two brooks converged as we tried to sort it out. to keep clear, for we had merged so freely for so long. it is time to untangle these waters. to separate streams then, or pools of our own. though waters never seem to be entirely free of each other. even the salt tears which poured from my eyes. how many of her waters i have known.

i am reminded of the river where she offered up her favorite red shoes.
take me to him,
she said to the river. she climbed in the boat, and the river took her there. to the castle of the ice queen where he was being held captive. the ice queen's gaze fell upon her. she knew it was her task, to liberate her captive boy. i leapt to the middle of the story, bad form. let me tell you how it goes. they were friends, the boy and girl. he ran her off. he was cruel. times changed and he fell out of favor with the community, so he wandered away into the forest, deep. where he met the ice queen. she beguiled him. he was there, captive in her castle, out of his mind with her tonics. his friend, the girl, still loved him, and remembered him. long after others had forgotten. and she went to seek him out. it was the river that made the finding possible. so that is how we find the three. she, endeavoring to free him by remaining free herself when the ice queen's gaze fell upon her.

the story ends rather abruptly. i guess it is up to the reader to interpret the end. fatal optimist that i am, believed in the girl and found the boy restored to her after she dispatched the queen straight away. how is that possible. i do not know. i do not need to know. but when trouble comes the way is clear.

i believe in the strength of one girl.

Friday, February 10, 2012


i got the sweetest note from a student today. i almost cried when i read it.

the most curious thing has happened in my classes, i am finding i am engaging the latent writers in my students. how am i doing this. by being their audience. today we embarked upon our second essay and i ran smack dab into a wall. you see, i draft an entire sample essay on the board from one word. any word that they provide. understand that i never know if this is actually going to work out. if there will actually be an essay at the end of the road. but i figure, if we are asking these students to generate essays on the spot, for midterms and finals, we damn well better show them how to do that. i demonstrate that activity no less than six complete times in my class, four times before the midterm, and twice before the final.

when we first started the semester i was excited, because at least i knew what was coming and the cadence of the class. i could venture away from the text a little bit further than i had in the past because i know what they need to know.

so today, essay number two.

they give me a topic, and off we go. i skip step number three. my bad. but when i got to step four, i stalled out, presumably because i skipped a step. i looked at them and said,
i've got nothing. so what do we do?

i've told them endlessly to go back a step or two if they get stuck. it had never actually happened as i am, dry erase marker in hand, standing before the class. but i'm glad it did. if i can get unstuck, they can too. and those students who generally snooze in the back of the room were the ones who were chiming in a lot today. it was nice.

so, unstuck we move on to step five. where i proceed to get bogged down in the details again. so we discuss how we can rearrange paragraphs and flesh out things out of order, that is, create an idea map and flesh out our ideas there.

i asked their opinions on what the topics should be for the essay coming up and they chimed in. so we have a couple topics, now i have to settle on angles.

it's not that my class is a democracy, far from it. i'm a tough teacher. i had a lot of surprised students today, in good and bad ways. but i accept revisions. and i told them,
i will read that essay again and again until you get a grade you are satisfied with.
it is not about me giving them any particular grade, it is about them learning how to correct their errors. revision is *gulp* part of that process. let me be clear. i have never revised, not anything in this manner, but i understand why others need to. they have been turned on to my writing process but it is not their writing process. i aim to teach those whose styles are different than mine as much as i want to teach those strange birds who are just like me.

i love my classes. i love my students. i'm grateful for every moment in their lives. i never imagined teaching could be so rewarding.

i am also offering a poetry class in april. i will be reading at massachusetts poetry festival. and i'm finishing up my thesis class in the city this semester, with the hopes of publishing in one way or another when i am done. oh, and i'm going back in the studio to record a second cd. i love doing that!

there will be more readings, more writing, more teaching.
and i couldn't be more pleased.

Tuesday, February 07, 2012

love stories

i cut my teeth on love stories. i believe in love completely. even love that doesn't work out, for whatever reason. i believe we are in each other's lives for a season and when that time ends, we move on. no hard feelings. it's just time. let go. the thing about it is, there is always someone else to love. there are so many someones that there is really no time to mourn the past as long as we were present in it. as i was. i was entirely present. that time has passed. time to move on.

i hear my daughter singing in the other room and this brings me joy. i think being with those we love, experiencing the ups and downs, feeling their grief and elation, it makes it all worthwhile. the low times don't stay that way forever, and the good times never last, but they are sure fun when they are happening. i want more good times, who doesn't. but i am willing to endure the bad times with as much presence. i have learned not to fear the change of season.

i'm reading a book that is stunning to me. it is the most affirming book i've read in a great while. it makes me believe that what i am doing in love is what i am supposed to be doing. it is an intuitive road i follow but when affirmation comes it bolsters me that much more. sophie said the other night,
don't close you're heart.

i heard my insides respond,
i don't intend to.
because i don't. not ever.

we were in half moon pose, where one foot is pointed forward, say the left foot, and the left hand is reaching to the ground, while the right foot is stretched out and up and the right arm is reaching toward the ceiling. to maintain your balance you have to abandon yourself, or as sophie says,

it came to me that i can't depend on sophie, or anyone else to find my center for me. if i don't find my center in that balance pose, i fall over, or drop out of it. if i can find my center, i can stay in the pose, heart open, for as long as i need.

and my best friend adds,
if you fall forward in the pose, you are fearing the future, if you fall back, you are living in the past. only the person in the moment is able to find their center.

i trust this.

not entirely sure what the future holds, certainly not going back, i abandon myself to the moment. to not closing my heart. to remaining wide open and finding my own center. for no one can find it for me. no one can maintain my balance, save me. me alone.

this is the best love story yet.

Saturday, February 04, 2012

the post

brings me news today of troubling things. the post is not so much letter in hand of carrier, as a technological blip, leading to a phone call, leading to tears. how i love my friends. how i want to shelter them. to support them in whatever ways i can. i guess to be called upon in an hour of need is testament that they understand my desire to be there, to be present to their pain. and as i sat there tonight wiping tears from my eyes, i could not even utter, how much, how deeply, i want to just make things all right for those i love. this trial, twice removed, sits upon the shoulders of one i love, and i can only listen. only love. it is my task, that much i know, to love in spite of the news. in the face of tragedy. to believe unswervingly in the one i love. it is what i do best.

so i sit there, trying to reengage in the moment and yet feeling at a loss for how to do that.

so i let the tears fall, i did not try to stop them, or hide them. i just wiped them away as they came.

are you okay.

yes. just thinking of my friend.

and the conversation turned to the business at hand, what to order for dinner. i did not want to be the sole downer since i had just drug them, my dear ones to a movie that they found depressing. i found it honest, that's all.

i'm glad i don't have a smart phone and access to all the information i used to, it's easier this way, to be slightly detached. but if my dear ones need me, i'm glad they call. glad they reach out.

ultimately, i understand, we need each other. that's the bottom line.