Finding Your Voice(s): Writing Outside Yourself

~ A Poetry MasterClass ~

with poet/singer-songwriter Nathan Brown

Nathan Brown

Wednesday – July 10

9:30 a.m. > 5:00 p.m.

Cost $60

Registration limited to the first 24

Embassy Suites

Denton, TX

Pioneer II Room

We often hear the phrase “finding your voice” in writing circles. In this workshop, Nathan proposes that poets, in particular, should seek out and work with many different “voices”—tones, dialects, characters, and personas. Good poems will often employ dialogue (two, even three voices) in order to convey a more powerful message. So join us as we explore bringing into our verses the “others” who live inside, around, and with us.

For Availability contact Richard Kushmaul

richardkdpa@gmail.com

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The Seeress

conspiring-with-ravensAlison Jardine greeted us today at the d’Verse Poets’ Pub by introducing Jacquline Hurlbert’s art as a prompt for the next poem.  Lately, I’ve been watching the TV show Vikings, in part because I am enamored of all things raven.  Imagine my delight in discovering Jackie’s evocative Conspiring With Ravens.  My fascination with the Norse gods creeps into my poem, but I’ll let you look up Odin, Fenrir, Hugin and Munin yourselves so as not to deprive you of the pleasure in their discovery.

                    raven 2 The Seeress57985d0aee5aae0218a4fd6d01cde6d2

Hugin and Munin

sit on her shoulders

croaking secrets in her ears.

After Odin,

eaten by the wolf Fenrir,

left them lonely,

they roamed this world,

finding in every other generation

some forgotten aspect of their god,

pared from his own soul, ages since,

by the All Father

who set his  avatars to seeking

wisdom from the world.

Here and there, those shadows

manifest, reborn human,

bearing Odin’s tells–

auburn locks and eyes so black

iris melds with pupil

in indistinguishable

ebony configuration.

Viking shield, decorated with a Scandinavian pattern and Ravens of God Odin.

Such ones become

our seers and shamans,

wearing mystery like a cloak,

carrying an aura of sadness,

sacrifice and poetry.  They

speak in slanted rhymes and

rhythmic phrases, each word

enunciated clearly enough to ring

inside a mind, turning memory

upside down, side-tracking thought;

opening heart to something older

than language,  hungry

as a new-hatched chick

awaiting its first feather.

Posted in Animals, Archetype, Birth-Death-Rebirth, dVerse, Myth, Poetry, wisdom | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

Memorial

This is my dad, my haibun today is about him.  He was a decorated soldier and career military officer.  He was buried at Arlington Cemetery with full military honors.  It’s a good day to remember him.

LT Col Henry G. Phillips

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Henry Gerard Phillips was born in Portland, Oregon on May 10, 1922.

From the Infantry Officers Candidate School, 2nd Lieutenant Henry G. Phillips, now known as “Red” Phillips, joined the 47th Infantry Regiment at Fort Bragg, North Carolina in August 1942, where he was assigned to “M” Company. He participated in the Regiment’s amphibious assault on Safi, Morocco a few months later and after that, was wounded at El Guettar, Tunisia while leading a machine gun platoon.

He took part in the Allied amphibious landing on mainland Italy and landed on Utah Beach on D-Day in “Operation Overlord,” part of the combined the forces of 156,115 U.S., British and Canadian troops, 6,939 ships and landing vessels and 2,395 aircraft and 867 gliders that delivered the airborne troops into France.

He subsequently served as company executive officer and commander and as a Battalion staff officer, participating in the Sicilian, French and German campaigns of the 9th Infantry Division.

He was wounded again in Belgium and Germany and was twice awarded the Silver Star Medal for gallantry in action. He was also awarded the French Legion of Honor Medal for his service in France during World War 2.

Red Phillips was commissioned in the Regular U.S. Army following World War 2, retiring in 1967 as a Lieutenant Colonel. His postwar decorations include the Legion of Merit and the Army Commendation Medal with Oak Leaf Cluster. In the course of his service he graduated from the University of Maryland (BS) and Illinois (MS) and the Army Command and General Staff College. After Army retirement, he was employed on the faculty of PMC Colleges (Widener University) at Chester, Pennsylvania, and later moved to Lake Wildwood in California where for ten years he published and edited his community’s newspaper.

Lt. Colonel Phillips was a Fellow of the Inter-University Seminar on the Armed Forces and Society and a Distinguished Member of the 47th Infantry Regiment.

Henry was married to his wife Lee for nearly 68 years, when she passed away in 2010. He was also the father of two daughters, Christine Irving And Kathryn Farmington Phillips.

Red Phillips wrote several books about the 9th Infantry Division. He is the author of Heavy Weapons, a chronology about the World War 2 adventures of his Company; El Guettar: Crucible of Leadership, an oral history of the 9th Division’s first encounter with German Army in North Africa; Sedjenane: The Pay-off Battle, about the 9th Infantry Division’s actions against the German and Italian forces in Africa; Remagen: Springboard to Victory, about the 9th Infantry Division’s fight to keep and widen the bridgehead near Remagen in Germany, and the book The Making of a Professional: Manton S. Eddy, an examination of the life of 9th Infantry Division General Manton S. Eddy. Red Phillips also was the “Official 9th Infantry Division Historian” and the former president of the Ninth Infantry Division Association. Red Phillips also was named the “Official 9th Infantry Division Historian” and was a president of the Ninth Infantry Division Association.

Lt. Colonel Phillips passed away on August 19th 2011, but will never be forgotten.

Bedrock

My dad stands up to face the four directions.  He is tall – at least a head above the crowd.  His arms stretch toward the ceiling and he turns with the crowd as chants ring out invoking The Goddess, the spirits of this land, the guidance of eagle, coyote, bear and white buffalo.  An intelligent private man, he is skeptical and cynical, humorous and generous of heart.  Today my father trusts me enough to engage unabashedly in an uncomfortable, unfamiliar ceremony, just because I hold it precious.  He honors me, his daughter, takes my esoteric customs and beliefs on faith, because he commits wholeheartedly, unshakably to fatherhood.

many pathways wend

the no-man’s-land between worlds

honor all, choose one

Posted in Community, Gratitude, Poetry, Ritual, War | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

A Word To Live By

I received a prompt today from De Jackson at the dVerse Poets Pub.  He suggested “change” as the topic for a forty-four word quadrille.  Ha!  Who couldn’t write a book on this topic?  You might as well tell us to write about the universe.   Hard science, soft science, fiction,  car maintenance, money, childbirth, sports – the list is endless, everything deals with change.

However, there is one event that always comes to mind first when I hear this word.  My quadrille gives you the gist.  Not the facts, which are different (I now love blue eyes) longer and more colorful; full of scents, sight and sounds, high drama and angst.  But this is the essence and I’ll always be grateful to Norma Cordell, she gave me words to live by…

 

An Unsolicited Epiphany

 

“ Change or die,” she told me.

Her calm blue eyes held neither

judgement nor compassion.

I’ve never liked blue eyes.  My own

are clear, brown as hazelnuts.

Rage followed fear.   Prophecy?

Curse?  What?  Why?

She didn’t know my story.

But she was right.

Posted in Consciousness, dVerse, Poetry, quadrille, wisdom, Writing | Tagged , , | 11 Comments

Association

It’s open link night at the dVerse Poets PubGrace is behind the bar and any one can belly up to tell a tale, old or new.  She began the telling with Lines for Winter by Mark Strand.  I didn’t know Mark Strand, but I liked his poem so much I stepped out to google and found another poem about black maps with a line – …not the attendance of stones, that I cover picliked.   All the while, simultaneously,at the back of my mind is wondering what story I should tell.  Studying Mark’s Black Map  the place (that wasn’t a place) felt to me like an island and reminded me of a Irish poem from my book Sitting on the Hag Seat: A Celtic Knot of Poetry.  The poem is about friendship and maintaining it across space and time.  And here we are meeting in a virtual barroom, socializing across unknown times and distances, connecting the way stones connect, and places connect, and maps connect people to places and… and… and the list goes on and Indra’s net continues to twinkle and shine as we dance across his ancient endless web of connections… Que milagro!

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A Piece of Irish Earth

She walks the muddy shore alone

searching for just the right stone.

Her friend, a mesa carrier, initiate

of a cosmology indigenous to far away Peru,

has asked for a rock. It seems a small request,

but ordinary Irish earth is hard to come by.

Crannogs, castles, standing stones, hill forts,

faerie trees, tumuli and towers dot

every mile of countryside from Malin Head

to Bantry Bay, from County Down to Dingle.

mesa

The woman who gathers for her friend

will not loot some treasured site, instead she picks

around the Nile green excrement of swans,

bits of snow white, feathered fluff, an empty

mussel shell or two, trusting that the palm-perfect

pebble will rise to stub her toe or send a sunbeam

bouncing from a facet to glance across her gaze.

mesa

She hefts a shard of granite, more ancient

than any man-made artifact, old as air and water,

more traveled than the woman, her friend, or Ireland

adrift upon tectonic currents, and wonders at the gossamer

ties, strong as spider silk, that float across the hemispheres

of planet earth connecting us, each one to another.

Posted in Dance, dVerse, Myth, Poetry | Tagged , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Why I Keep This Stuff

Yesterday at the dVerse Poets Pub, Lillian asked us to write about some object we have hanging in our homes.  I have so many things hanging from all sorts of places.  My walls are full, as is chris's wallevery vertical surface.  But, it was something sitting, not hanging, that insisted on First Voice.  She’s a little darling about 6 inches tall,  who sits on my computer desk next to the printer and blesses my writing.  I actually found her years ago,  on a writing retreat in Oaxaca, Mexico with Donna Hanelin.

Contemplating all this stuff I have to wonder why I keep it.  Basically it makes me feel good.  My stuff is full of meaning and magic, each piece a doorway to another place and time, most of it is lovely to me in some way so that I always find something pleasing upon which to rest eyes, heart or soul.  Everything hanging  in my house shimmers with symbolic significance forming connections to other realms.  Much of it makes me smile.  Did I mention that Rabbit is my totem animal?  But enough – the picture – the poem – Ta da!

 

chris's rabbit

Rabbit Mother

She came with me from Oaxaca of her own accord,–

this biscuit colored goddess

smoothed by deft brown fingers from cool river mud.

A traveler like me, calla lily skirt hiked high,

sleeves rolled up above the elbow,

a calf tucked tight beneath each arm,

two more hugging hidden legs.

 

I knew she had anticipated me – stringing

cobwebs between her lofty ears, cloaking

herself in dust till I could find her in that crowded shop,

hiding behind the potter’s newest figurines,

and carry her, wrapped in the Spanish-flavored ink

of old newspapers, out of the shadow of Monte Albán,

away from ruined pyramids, enfeebled gods,

hanging high above the tree-lined streets

of Santa Maria Atzompa.

 

Ready to go, whiskers combed neatly

back against her cheeks, breast

pointing firmly forward, eyes

wide-set and open; she looks as modern

as the morning, but she is older

than those ancient ones whispering above –

a creature of the jungle people,

predating priesthood, flaunting the powers

of vine, blossom, pistil and stamen,

surrounding herself in heady perfumes

protected from intoxication by deep grounding.

 

Tidy nostrils disclose her animal nature:

a small sturdy muzzle split slightly open

neither smiling nor frowning.

She is the Creatrix: rabbit mother,

midwife to poems and pictures,

waving me into the forest,

awaiting my return.

Posted in Animals, Archetype, Art, dVerse, goddess, Latin America, Rabbit, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , | 6 Comments

“Justice is what love sounds like when it speaks in public.”

We just finished binging on True Detective, season one, with Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson.  The story line is flawed, but the character development, acting and directing is superb.  McConaughey’s character, Rustin Cohle is an existential nihilist.  It fascinated me, not only because one rarely hears this philosophy true_detective___rust_cohle_by_p1xer-d77kmnw-1024x643espoused on TV by a protagonist, but also because he pretty much describes my own take on the human condition.  Except, unlike Cohle, who describes himself as a pessimist, I find the whole of nature so miraculous; so utterly, ineffably, paradoxically, rationally random that I succumb in awe to spiritual wonder.  I suppose that’s why I’m an optimist.

It interests me mightily that Rust and I, while inhabiting the same philosophical ground, hold such different perspectives.  Yet, we share one overriding characteristic – a compelling drive to understand whatever’s going on around us, to us, with us.  It results in a highly-honed sense of justice.  Which brings us to the above quote by Michael Eric Dyson that synchronisticaly appeared on my virtual doorstep just as the last credit rolled.

I agree with Rustin Cohle that the human condition is not a pretty one.  I cannot escape the conclusion that I, along with everyone else, am capable of enacting our entire panoply of good and evil.  To my mind, the only choice left after mapping our situation is to embrace (love) or reject (despair) ourselves.  I think Michael Dyson’s sentence could substitute ‘despair’ for ‘love’ and still be true.  But, love allows us to transcend the despair engendered by full knowledge of human inequity and cruelty.

The great spiritual teachers tell us that to know God, one must first know oneself.  To know oneself equates to accepting the entire range of human nature for what it is.  The spectrum of good and evil is only a part of it.  Our human nature includes every little quark of creation in this universe, from the stardust we are made of to our intimate genetic connection with all the beings of this world.  Thus we come full circle back to the ineffable something some beings call ‘God’.imagesThe thing about insisting on understanding is that one tends to think and act more fairly because understanding includes motive.  Notice that the US justice system may take both circumstance and intent into account.  Some other systems can’t.   Consider “an eye for an eye” or “one strike, you’re out.”

maat-icon

heartThe justice system that I follow boils down to “what comes around goes around.”  It accords well with that of ancient Egyptians who believed in an aspect of God called Ma’at.  She represents the laws of the universe i.e. harmony and balance.  When chvrsw40_1people die they stand before her to be judged for how well they maintained balance with themselves, their families and their community.  Setting the heart on her scales, she weighs it against a feather.  If the scale remains stable or the heart proves lighter, the soul moves on to rebirth.   If one’s heart outweighs the feather, the soul is thrown to a crocodile to be utterly devoured .

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The Beatles were right, “All you need is love.”  Love enlightens the heart.  I experience it as the choice to transcend despair by embracing all that we are, which means loving it all – plants , animals, humans, rocks and stars – every element.

The Christian mystic, Hildegard of Bingen compared her humanity to “a feather which has no weight from its own strength and lets itself be carried on the wind.”  A feather is to a wing as wing is to bird, is to sky, is to cosmos, is to universe and what is our universe but an enormous balanced wheel of being?

If justice equals balance, than may we listen to love, enlighten our hearts and be carried aloft on the winds of change.

 

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I’m No Scrooge, But…

…too much sentimentality and I tip towards the dark side.  Christmas walks a fine line.  I do still love the traditional carols – mostly the hymns with a few dollops of Victorian cheer.  I’ enjoy a rousing Fa-la-la-la-la, but Frosties, Rudolphs, little drummer boys, and mamas kissing Santa push me right over the edge.  It’s why I do my Christmas shopping early and spend more time hanging out in the Poets’ Pub and other dives.

I do agree with Gina, that the ordinary things hold a special kind of magic.  I loved the poem by Pat Schneider.  I would have liked to write something that fresh and simple, but suddenly These Are a Few of My Favorite Things started looping in my head and I had to switch gears.

 

In the Cardspan am playing card

A playing card’s a mundane thing

commonplace and dull.  This one

was the five of hearts, a low number

unweighted with great significance,

though all numbers carry some magic.

The card was well-worn with a scuffed

Pan Am logo on its back. It knew

a bunch of games – poker, gin rummy,

Go Fish!  Money had been won and lost

on its say so. Once or twice the card

had even been kissed.  More often

someone slammed it face down

on the kitchen table.  But no one

had held it for a very long time.

One day, on the day her heart lay broken

in pieces on the kitchen floor, she remembered

the deck at the back of the drawer, remembered

how Grannie used to tell fortunes with that deck

to women who knocked quietly on the back door.

The girl always figured Granni knew she hid in the pantry

listening to secrets, learning what king, queen, jack,

joker and every number stood for, how they combined,

complemented or opposed.  Granni had a way of teaching

without teaching the heritage her daughter hated.

Five of hearts – loss, sadness, depression, grief, jealousy.

It was the first card she turned over.  The table wobbled,

2000px-Playing_card_heart_5.svgshifting her carefully laid spread out of alignment.

She grabbed the card, folded it in half again and again,

shoved it under the wonky leg steadying everything.

Her heart rate returned to normal.  She read the cards

one by one, scribbling notes on the tablecloth.

Two hours later the telephone broke her focus.

“Hi Mrs. M.   No, Granni died a while ago, but I read.

Yes’m, she taught me.  Ok, that’ll do.  See ya Monday.”

Posted in dVerse, Poetry, Writing | Tagged , , , , , | 13 Comments

To Write a Terzanelle: Challenge by Jilly

Our times are so fraught.  Whether at home, on a bus or hanging at the dVerse, I haven’t had a conversation in years that doesn’t circle back to the state of the union and leave everyone distraught.   The huge anger that Donald Trump’s infamous base (has there ever been a more appropriate designation?) clearly feels at being dispossessed, disregarded and dismissed, catapulted him to unprecedented power.   That same anger, with ten times ten better and more bitter cause, permeates the African-American community.   Writing the poem, racism was heavy on my mind.  Reading it aloud to myself afterwards, I realized that the words apply equally to anyone feeling deliberately outcast and disposed.

I realize by using “they” I add to the polarization process.  But, I cannot deny my state of privilege or ignore the implications of that privilege without hypocrisy.  This is one of the conundrums of the evil mess we Americans have wittingly and unwittingly inherited and perpetuated.

All I can do is stand as an ally to social justice, equal rights, and the sisterhood and brotherhood of humankind.  Genetically our only differences lie in that tiny touch of snowflake effect which makes each one of us unique, while all the rest of us nestles into commonality.  Like it or not we are all members of the same pack.  What a waste that some spend all their energy and talent denying the undeniable.

             Death by a Thousand Cuts

The best of times?  Or worst?  I fear the worst,
we brought upon ourselves with our neglect.
Now selfishness and greed have left us cursed.

Too many slights, a thousand cuts unchecked,
too many left behind in hatred’s throe
we brought upon ourselves with our neglect.

The racist slurs felt daily, blow by blow,
unchecked for decades, proved the guilt of all
to many left behind in hatred’s throe.

Unkindness unaddressed will prove our fall.
Endemic selfishness and greed gone wild,
unchecked for decades, proves the guilt of all.

Injustice, once inflicted on a child,
will finally make the child turn and fight
endemic selfishness and greed gone wild.

Power corrupts.  We waste our wealth on might.
The best of times?  Or worst?  I fear the worst
will finally make the child turn and fight.
Our selfishness and greed will leave us cursed.

 

Posted in Community, Consciousness, dVerse, Poetry, Politics, Writing | Tagged , , , , | 10 Comments

Secret Ingredients

Gospel Isosceles posted a lovely prompt at the dVerse Poets Pub encouraging us to write about a secret ingredient.  I had a hard time thinking of a response because I already have a strange poem I wrote several years ago.   I know it’s cheating to post an old poem, but I’m well aware that poets are forever ready to extend a little license.  My poem has a dark twist – or so I thought until my fellow artist and friend Michelle asked me if she could switch the genders in the poem and read it at Thanksgiving dinner !! And she did.  So maybe my twist is too subtle.  Let me know…

 

A Morel Tale

 

Wild mushrooms simmer in sauce

brandy, cream, saffron shallots…

She fills a pork loin with apricot and fig

sliding a thin sharp blade into pale flesh

twisting his knife ninety degrees to form a cross,

stuffing dry fruit toward the center

with the blunt end of a wooden spoon.

Sliced the roast will fall in rows

hearts marked out in juicy black or orange,

pretty bull’s eyes ready for an arrow.

                           morel mushroom

The table sparkles, laid for two

hand-rubbed silver, crystal goblets

frosted blue and glass Italian plates

veined in glowing leaves and holding,

in their clear depths, a purple droop

of delicate wisteria.

           morel mushroom

She gathers morels in the morning

quartering the apple orchard,

fingers thrust down knuckle deep in dirt

to break stems off  beneath the soil.

                                     morel mushroom

Morels can fool you, presenting

false faces to less than careful eyes;

cunning as a woman harboring secrets.

     morel mushroom

She will eat the morels,  so will he.

                            morel mushroom

Later they will lie down together

on crisp sun-scented sheets

with time enough to dream

before the first spasm wakes them.

 

 

Posted in dVerse, Eros, Love, Poetry, Writing | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment