Monday, March 18, 2019

LIFE OF A POET ~ KAREN (KB)


Today we are visiting one of our newer members, Karen (KrazyBlonde), who blogs as KB at KB's Place. Karen lives in the very beautiful country of New Zealand, which is reeling in horror right now after the terrible shootings at mosques in Christchurch on the weekend. I contacted Karen right away to see how she is doing. 






Sherry: Hello, KB. It is good to be chatting with you. What would you like me to call you?

Karen: Hi Sherry, I am happy for you to call me Karen. My original internet name was KrazyBlonde but I shortened it to KB for convenience when I started blogging. My husband’s surname begins with B so now that we’re married my initials are actually KB.

Sherry: Karen, we have all been shocked and horrified at the terrorist shootings at the mosques in Christchurch. Do you live anywhere near where these terrible events took place? How are you doing?

Karen: I think I'm still in shock really, as the rest of NZ is, I'm sure. Nothing like this has ever happened before. NZ is made up of two islands. I live in Auckland in the North Island, and Christchurch is in the South Island, so we are far from the attacks.

Thank you for checking in on me. I don't really know what to say. I am speechless really. My heart goes out to the victims and families of this vicious attack. Steve and I are safe, but still in shock. One of the great things I always loved about NZ was that I believed it was a safe place to live. That has been taken away from me now.

Thank you all for the love and support you have sent New Zealand during this devastating time.



Sherry: We are so sorry, Karen. It seems there are few safe places left any more, given the spread of white supremacy and racism across the planet.

So now, to get to know you better, let's proceed with our interview, difficult as it is to think of ordinary things at the moment.

Tell us a bit about yourself, won’t you? Who do you share your life with?  (don’t forget any critters!) Tell us whatever you would like us to know about you and your life.

Karen: I am 50 years old; I live in New Zealand with my husband Steve, (Whitesnake). Our dear dog, Coco, was part of our lives for many years but unfortunately she passed away two years ago.




Steve and I met via a mutual friend’s blog. Steve was living in Australia and I in New Zealand. We were friends for a year before we met in person. Steve came to New Zealand for a holiday for a couple of weeks and that’s when we knew we definitely wanted to be together. It took a couple of years but we have now been together for ten years and married for six next month. Best years of my life too!




Sherry: A blog romance! How wonderful! There have been a few of those in the years I have been blogging. Smiles. Where did you grow up, Karen? When you look back, do you see anything in your earlier life that you think may have led to your becoming a poet?

Karen: I grew up in Manchester, England. I loved to write short stories and keep a journal when I was younger. I always believed I was the only writer in my family until a visit with my Grandma not long before she died. She showed me a notebook she kept in her bedside drawer and it was full of poems. I was always close to my Grandma as a little girl, but it was lovely to share that special moment as an adult.

Sherry: Oh, that is special indeed. I hope you still have her book of poems. When did you move to New Zealand? I know it is very beautiful there. It is supposed to be much like my home province of British Columbia in Western Canada. What do you love about it?


Lake Rotoiti

Karen: I moved to New Zealand with my parents and sister at the age of 15. As you can imagine, being a teenager is hard enough without the added pressures of being away from family and friends. It was an extremely difficult and depressing time for me but I consider NZ my home now and am thankful to my parents for bringing me here. 

I have travelled extensively around NZ, and it’s a truly beautiful place. I love the fact that you can experience anything here without having to travel too far; hiking in the forests, skiing in the mountains, swimming at the beach, the list in endless. The thing I love most about where I live is the people, they are friendly and easygoing. My neighbours are some of my closest friends.

Sherry: It sounds like a lovely life indeed.  When did you begin writing? And what do you love about poetry?

Karen: I began writing in my journal about my thoughts and feelings from about the age of 10 and I still do! I have always been a reader and started writing short stories of my own when I was a teenager. Poetry didn’t come until much later; I started writing poetry as a way to express my feelings at a time in my life when I was struggling to do so.

Sherry: Are there three poems you would like to share with us today, and tell us a little about each one?

A Private Ordeal – One of my first poems. I was experiencing anxiety attacks at the time so I decided to write about how having an anxiety attack felt to me.

Sometimes I feel so anxious inside
I need to run, I want to hide
It's hard to explain just how I feel
It seems like a dream yet also so real
My friends think I'm so terrible rude
I have to leave early, they think it's a mood
If only they knew just how I feel
It's not for sharing, a private ordeal
Starting to sweat now, starting to shake
I knew coming out was a big mistake
It's hard to move with the walls closing in
My heart is pounding, a terrible din
I have to leave now before they find out
Feeling quite sick, I have to get out
I wish I could tell them but they'd think I'm mad
They'd know how I've missed all the great times we had
Sherry: I know someone who experiences this, and it is very debilitating. You have written this so well.

Consequences – Finding the courage to face the consequences of leaving a destructive relationship.

Twisting turmoil
emotions run amok
feelings laid out
like an open book

Nowhere to run
nowhere to hide
some secrets should
remain inside

The prison consumes
time to break free
no-one to lean on
I must depend on me

The heart is willing
the time is now
a little faith
takes care of the how


Sherry: A poem so many of us can relate to.

Good Times –written to remind me of the good times when times were tough when Steve and I were apart

Remember the good times
They'll serve you well
When life is hard
As tough as hell

Hot summer nights
Lying in bed
His strong shoulders
Resting my head

Laughing and loving
Wasting our days
Entombed in our room
Set in our ways

You doing your thing
Me doing mine
Coming together
For beer and wine

Life carries on
Memories remain
Don't let bad times
Leave their stain



Blue Lake


Sherry: I'm glad he finally made it to New Zealand!

I notice you have an interest in health and wellness and have a blog titled KB’s Health and Wellness Journey. There are some very informative articles in there.

Karen: Many years ago I was asked to assist in managing the health and wellness section of a writing site. Writing and reading about health and wellness on a daily basis furthered my interest in the topic. My blog is about taking that knowledge and incorporating it into my life. I must say, it’s easier for me to write about that than actually do it, but I’m getting there.

Sherry: What other interests do you have besides writing? You list singing and music on your profile. Do you sing publicly, or for your own pleasure?



Karen: Give me a glass of wine and a microphone and I’ll sing till the cows come home. I also enjoy reading, puzzles, music and eating my husband’s delicious cooking.
  
Sherry: Smiles. Sounds like it's a lot of fun at your house! When did you come to the world of blogging, and how has that impacted your work?

Karen: I came to the world of blogging in 2007 as a way to express myself and communicate with others. It was a time in my life during a relationship where everything I did was controlled. I felt the only way to be myself was through poetry and writing.

Sherry: Is there anything you’d like to say to Poets United?

Karen: I love Poets United, a wonderful group of people sharing poetry, what could be better than that!

Sherry: Thank you, Karen, for allowing us to get to know you better. We're happy you found us at Poets United!

Wasn't this a lovely visit, friends? Come back next week,and see who we talk to next. Who knows? It might be you!





Sunday, March 17, 2019

Poetry Pantry #443


Protect What You Love
Warren Rudd photo


photo by Katherine Loiselle ~ 
at the Youth Climate Action Strike for
Pacific Rim


Happy Sunday, fellow poets! In a week full of lost lives, in the jet that crashed in Ethiopia, and the abominable attack in mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, there was one note of hope: the rise of school children all over the world, marching in the millions for climate change. Here in Tofino, we gathered on the beach, carrying banners and signs, and walked to the tombolo, in support of the kids and their future, and for love of Mother Earth.  

This past Friday, Rosemary's Moonlight Musings sparked a cool discussion around the topic: poetry or prose - which is your first love? Do scroll back, if you haven't seen it. It is not to be missed. I love Moonlight Musings.

On Monday, our featured guest will be Karen of KB's Place. Karen is one of our newer members. She lives in New Zealand, and I contacted her after the terrible events in Christchurch. She will share with us how she is doing in the wake of the shootings. Do check in and leave her some words of support.

On Wednesday, Susan's prompt will be Empowerment. With women rising in positions of power, and young people marching for climate change, this is a timely topic.

Let's see what goodies await us in the Pantry today. Link your poem, and do visit your fellow poets, in the spirit of reciprocity. Enjoy! And thanks for being here. It would be an empty Pantry without you!


Friday, March 15, 2019

Moonlight Musings















Which is your greatest love – poetry or prose?

I was going to ask, 'Which is your first love?' But then I realised, the first love is not necessarily the greatest. So I changed it to, 'Which is your true love?' But then I bethought me, all loves are true ... though not necessarily equal.  Then again, they could be equal, so perhaps I should be asking: 'poetry or prose – or both?'

Need I explain, to this audience, that I mean 'Which has your heart as a writer?' (not as a reader)?

When I was younger, and learned that various wonderful novelists had been poets first, I used to smile smugly to myself. Of course they were! Fiction was what they had to do to earn a living by writing, that's all. Not that the fictions weren't brilliant and beautiful, not that they didn't nourish me – but still, it was obvious to me that poetry is really where it's at. After all, I started writing mine when I was seven. I knew in my soul that it was the ultimate gift from God.

Then Australian writer Carmel Bird (whom I knew when were children in Tasmania and again some decades later as rising literary figures in Melbourne) expressed some frustration with me for only writing poems.

'If you can write poetry like that,' she said, 'think what you could do with fiction!'

It took me aback. I already knew that she could write excellent poetry, though she didn't do it very often. And I enjoyed her fiction enormously, partly because of her beautiful and very individual writing style (I recently told her that her prose is poetry) and partly because it was often set where we had both grown up. But it was a revelation to realise, from that exasperated utterance, that she gave fiction priority!

Later I made what was to become a very long and close friendship with a young poet called Helen Patrice. She writes wonderful poems. I envy her talent! And she values poetry. (She's very good at articles and memoir too.) But it has become clear to me – because she often tells me so – that fiction is both her first and greatest love. Not that she has to choose; in fact she might come close to saying 'both' in answer to my question, and is surely not about to stop doing either. Still, I now know that fiction has first place in her heart. It has finally dawned on me that this is a real possibility for many writers. We are not all alike. Just because poetry is MY greatest love....

Carmel was wrong about me. The gift of poetry does not mean I can also write fiction. I am actually pretty hopeless at it! Believe me, I have tried. I do love to read fiction, and have broad, eclectic tastes – from Henry James and George Eliot to Blair Babylon's erotic romances, and everything in between. I do know what things make for good fiction. Both as an editor and a teacher of creative writing, I have to know, so as to steer people aright. It's just that I can't do it myself. 

I can write prose. I know these weekly articles work; people keep telling me so. And I know how they work; after all, I am the one crafting them. (They don't just spill out, higgledy-piggledy.) I even had a couple of short stories published in obscure anthologies a long time ago. But they weren't fiction; they were disguised autobiography, and the writing was kinda 'experimental'. I have twice attempted novels. The first time, I got bored with it pretty quickly, and had enough sense to realise that if it was boring its author it was unlikely to enthral readers. The second was my only NaNoWriMo experience. It was fun to do that, just once, and I did finish it. The trouble is, it's really bad – you can trust me on this; it is not an isolated opinion – and I have no incentive to try and improve it. (But you should see the painstaking patience I have for every detail of a poem.)

People have been asking me for years to write my memoirs, and I have tried. But I'm not thrilled with the way that writing turns out either – and besides, I experience it as a chore. I finally decided I don't have to do that, no matter how much people might want me to. What a relief! What liberation! And I guess that's the crux of it. I just don't want to write stories, whether lived or imagined. Poetry is my passion, my true love, which 'age cannot wither ... nor custom stale'. (It may even include stories sometimes, whether lived or imagined). And I am happy enough to write articles about poetry, too. When I am not with the beloved, it is a pleasure to at least discuss the beloved.

My late friend Philip Martin was like me, as this poem (from his A Flag for the Wind) attests:

Muse

For a whole year
Nothing. You don't come near.
Verse drags its feet, stumbles.

Try prose then, start a novel.
Take out someone else. 
Maybe I'll 'learn to care'.

All at once you return,
And the words dance again
To rhythms not my own.

Ah my true love,
You must have known!
Prose would have been a mere
Casual affair.


Nevertheless I was excited, like the rest of our Poets United team, when Magaly came on board with a monthly Prose Pantry. I knew what poem I would like to retell as a story. I thought I could do it. I thought I'd enjoy it.
Nope! I still have my old problem. My tale dragged on boringly, with no real spark of life – though the poem I was basing it on was full of spark and sparkle. I know what kinds of things might bring it to life; I just find that, when it comes to the crunch, I can't write it that way.

Well, never mind, it's not a major tragedy. I get to do what I love, and not what I don't love. One of the things I love is reading stories which other people have written, so I am in for lots of yummy monthly treats, thanks to all of you who do cook up goodies for the Prose Pantry. Bring it on!

Only it has made me curious. I already know that Magaly, magical poet as she is, loves story-telling even more. We've been discussing all this behind the scenes (and perhaps she will expound further here). What about the rest of you? I am fascinated to know if you fell in love with poetry first, or with story-telling? And did you stay faithful or move from one to the other? Perhaps you share your affections with both? (Is that exacting? Do they get jealous and demanding, and fight for your attention? Or are they content to share, gracefully taking turns?)

Come on – tell me your stories of your relationships with your Muses, do!



Material shared in ‘Moonlight Musings’ is presented for study and review. Poems, photos and other writings remain the property of the copyright owners, usually their authors.

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Poets United Midweek Motif ~ Neighbors



 
“….O stand, stand at the window
As the tears scald and start;
You shall love your crooked neighbour
With your crooked heart.'’—
W.H. Auden, As I Walked Out One Evening

IMPORTUNATE NEIGHBOUR: By William Holman Hunt


“I once asked a hermit in Italy how he could venture to live alone, in a single cottage, on the top of a mountain, a mile from any habitation. He replied, that Providence was his next door neighbor.”— Lawrence Stern


Midweek Motif ~ Neighbors


Everyone on this planet desperately needs a peaceful living. A good neighbor assures that. How well connected people are with those close by?


A few years ago a Spanish town granted cats and dogs rights as ‘non-human neighbors’. They definitely sought to dignify the lives of our furry friends.

A single date-palm tree was once my neighbor. It invited birds and even humans during winter mostly for its sugary juice. Then a day came. There was much hacking and chopping and it vanished.

I wonder if humans make good neighbors to all surrounding them?

Write a neighbor poem today:

Deep autumn
by Matsuo Basho

Deep autumn
My neighbor,
How does he live, I wonder

The People Upstairs
by Ogden Nash

The people upstairs all practise ballet
Their living room is a bowling alley
Their bedroom is full of conducted tours.
Their radio is louder than yours,
They celebrate week-ends all the week.
When they take a shower, your ceilings leak.
They try to get their parties to mix
By supplying their guests with Pogo sticks,
And when their fun at last abates,
They go to the bathroom on roller skates.
I might love the people upstairs more
If only they lived on another floor.


Poem of the Neighbours
by Charles Tomlinson

Bird neighbours the rising tree,
Leaf neighbours the waiting soil,
Flesh, fish, foal, all-kingdom-kind
Neighbour the other, sun to stone.

Man neighbours the sun in life,
Man neighbours the horse in life,
Horse neighbours the trodden grass,
Oak neighbours untrodden sky;

That life shall know increase.

Cat neighbours the bird in death,
Lion neighbours the doe in death,
Snake neighbours the hidden toad,
Hidden toad neighbours the fly:

That life shall know increase.

Hello, How Are You?
by Charles Bukowski

this fear of being what they are:
dead. 

at least they are not out on the street, they
are careful to stay indoors, those
pasty mad who sit alone before their tv sets,
their lives full of canned, mutilated laughter. 

their ideal neighborhood
of parked cars
of little green lawns
of little homes
the little doors that open and close
as their relatives visit
throughout the holidays
the doors closing
behind the dying who die so slowly
behind the dead who are still alive
in your quiet average neighborhood
of winding streets
of agony
of confusion
of horror
of fear
of ignorance. 

a dog standing behind a fence. 

a man silent at the window. 

       
Please share your new poem using Mr. Linky below and visit others in the spirit of the community—
                (Next week Susan’s Midweek Motif will be ~ Empowerment)
        

Monday, March 11, 2019

POEMS OF THE WEEK ~ FOR LOS ANGELITOS


When the two small angels, Jakelin Maquin and Felipe Alonzo-Gomez died after crossing the Mexican border, Brendan, at Oran's Well , and  Priscilla, of Priscilla's Zine and Bookstoreeach wrote a poem straight from their hearts to ours. How many times can our hearts break? These days, as many times as are required of us. It is hard to hold the pain of so much that is wrong. These poems bear witness to the plight of children in this world of social injustice. We read them and weep. And hopefully raise our voices on their behalf as well.






Jakelin Maquin




She was just a little girl - so
small, so everywhere,
expendable as crossing air.
Behind her the past soured
like bear rot in a trapper's lair: 
 
Ahead no future flowered,
no choices one would swear.
Just Papa’s hand through
a raw ribbed dawn, scrub
desert coiled everywhere.
Run, then hide; gasp and fear
of vipers ever nearer there.
Where would you go
but follow, trying not to lose
your little girl forever stare?
She died two days in custody
like so much desert fare.
A little girl, not worth saving
with American prayer.
Such small humanity
we feed to the nowhere
which keeps this suburb square.
The morning lifts from
the desert, leaving ghosts
tucked here and there.
Among them a little girl
which time ran past 
greedy for gilt Christian fare.
January 2019


Sherry: Her weary "forever stare" really gets to me, every time I look at her photo, Brendan. No child should have experienced what she did in her short life, to have that look in her eyes.

Brendan: Happy that you share the poem. Writing it felt like a civic necessity in response to your prompt. (I hope you add "This Poem is a Tired Grandmother" to complete the trio.) 

Sherry: I agree. So much of what is happening feels like our civic responsibility: to respond, to  bear witness, to protest.





Brendan: I've read accounts of the desert leading up to the border, how many have died in crossing there, and seen very sad pix of the things they carried, the things they left behind. (Like the child's backpack in the image.) In many ways these people are climate refugees, the political chaos resulting from a fast-heating environment. 

But of course the loss of the children is nigh unspeakable and hence so needful of our poems. "Morning in America" was taken from Ronald Reagan's 1984 pitch for the resurrected American Dream, the reactionary conservative impulse which is the racist mortar in Trump's Wall. But there's a ghost in the title, and it is "Mourning." 

Side note, when looking for pic of Jakelin, there were the familiar face shots, but it was the zoomed back picture of her complete with those tiny pink sneakers (unlaced, even) -- that broke my heart.

Best, thanks for all you do and care about and sustain.

Sherry: Refugees from climate change and dire poverty, yes, enduring incredible hardship in hopes of a better life. They must be shocked, on arrival, to find little hope here. Thank you, Brendan. Your poem touched my heart.

Priscilla also wrote about these two small angels. Her lullaby is so beautiful.





Felipe Alonzo-Gomez


Bad Poetry: Para los Angelitos Jakelin and Felipe


Last fall, after recognizing local tap water as the source of ongoing glyphosate poisoning, I drank the bare minimum of Aquafina to sustain life. My brain dried out. Hack writing became a chore. Feeling somewhat better now, as the pollution level in tap water subsides, I resolved to resume posting Bad Poetry. So I clicked on the link from the writing site Real Toads: What We Save, Saves Us.

Ouch.

What came to mind is an old song traditionally sung to children as a lullaby. So the lines below begin with that song, and go on from there:

A la puerta del cielo venden zapatos
Para los angelitos que vienen descalzos...

At the gate of Heaven they sell little golden slippers
For the little angels who had no shoes while living,
And other pleasant things, and other pleasant things,
and other pleasant things they never had.

And of course these little souls know nothing of money,
But the tears we shed for children turn into silver,
So for the pleasant things, for all those pleasant things,
the cost of those pleasant things is paid in full.

Little Jakelin Maquin, Felipe Alonso,
Were so young and looked so old, so weary and homesick...
Where they are going now, where they are going now,
where they are going now is like their homes.

A large part of Heaven looks just like Guatemala,
And another large part looks just like Nicaragua,
And other places, beautiful places,
heavenly places that men's greed befouled.

Grandparents, great-grandparents, pet dogs and chickens,
Meet them at the front gates of the homes they remember;
They play and tell stories, they hug and reminisce,
they tend their gardens and they sing old songs.

And who knows how long it takes for such little children
To remember that their homes were not quite Heaven,
Or that they were dragged away, 
when they would rather stay,
because of things they were too young to understand?

After all in Heaven no child cries for its mother;
If their mothers are not there, they have Mother Mary.
If their parents come in late, held back outside the gate
by their sins' dragging weight, all's understood.

But the ones who told their parents to leave their homelands,
Those who planned to use the children for their agendas,
Those people are not found, they never will be found,
their souls were never bound for Heaven at all.



Jakelin's home, where the family
subsisted on $5 a day


Sherry: I am struck by how Heaven must look like Guatemala and Nicaragua, where there is such beauty. I am so moved by this poem, as lullaby. May it comfort the grief of those who read it, living, as we are, in a world of social injustice that is purely man-made.

Priscilla: I learned "A La Puerta del Cielo Venden Zapatos" around age ten and always wondered where the original composer of this folk song imagined the money would come from. A metaphoric answer came to me when I looked at your report with the photos of the two children.

Someone commented at my blog, in an indirect and poetic way, that person thought this view of the afterlife is too Christian. It's not only Christian, but specifically Catholic, and specifically the way Catholics encourage children to imagine the afterlife, because that's the culture from which the song comes.

I remember being moved from house to house as the big trauma of my childhood (I wasn't abused in other ways so I suppose everybody has to feel traumatized by something). I think parents should think long and hard before dragging children even to a different house at the other end of the block. A different country? Where people speak a different language? Where people may ridicule their religion? Where the jobs their parents do well may not exist? ??? There may be conditions that would justify doing that to children, but they're hard to imagine.

Sherry: I imagine the daily desperation of their lives leaves them with limited choices. They can't know that there is now no welcome or help waiting for them at the end of their journey. 

Thank you, Priscilla, for caring about these children, and for your very moving lullaby. May they sleep well, they who barely got the chance to live. 

I had not thought of adding my tired grandmother poem about the children to this feature, but since Brendan requested it, I will include the link. Smiles. This Poem Is a Tired Grandmother. This grandmother is growing very tired indeed at the state of our world. Greed is winning at the moment. I have to hope we can somehow block its path, as it marches us past the tipping point of planetary survival.

Thank you, Brendan and Priscilla, for your beautiful poems and for speaking for the children so powerfully. Through your words, they will be remembered, will not fade away.

Do come back and see who we talk to next, my friends. Hint: it is one of our newer members, who is sharing her poems and her life in New Zealand with us.