Enter stillness to practice listening

IMGtreesBerkshires2On a stretch of highway near Great Barrington, MA, I was called to stop at a dirt road framed by trees (pictured above). On one side a cemetery hid in the shade and on the other a green, grassy lawn stretched into the sunlight. The road felt majestic like the trees were tall knights guarding a secret passage. And the road’s existence itself felt hidden, especially to me as someone who wasn’t from the area but rather enjoying an extended stay one hot July.

Very few people traveled the road. It was quiet. Surrounded by these tall, beautiful trees I felt an invitation to be still, to listen.

When I look at images from my time on this small stretch of road, I’m reminded of one of my favorite poems by David Wagoner, Lost, from Collected Poems 1956-1976, Indiana University Press.

It begins,

Stand still. The trees ahead and bushes beside you
Are not lost. Wherever you are is called Here,
And you must treat it as a powerful stranger,
Must ask permission to know it and be known.

Reading the poem alone brings a sense of stillness and calm but above that it captures the knowingness of the trees and what exists in the space of the present moment. 

Read the entire poem on the Writer’s Almanac site.

Pensive

Books that fill the sky with color

IMG_MayaAngelouSky (1)Some books fill the sky with color. Some authors leave a distinct hue, their indelible mark in the space beyond the clouds. When Maya Angelou passed on May 28 in 2014, I watched a gorgeous sky(pictured above) take shape at sunset in Salinas, Ecuador. The clouds stretched across the sky and shades of pink lingered before giving way to gold then yellow then orange.

It was her sky that evening, a majestic tribute in her honor. That evening I began a Maya Angelou reading marathon of sorts. While familiar with her poetry, I hadn’t read her autobiographies. I started with I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, which opens with a vivid scene of a young Maya in church. She evokes feelings of displacement and not being enough through a description of an ill-fitting, faded lavender dress.

“It was old-lady-long too, but it didn’t hide my skinny legs, which had been greased with Blue Seal Vaseline and powdered with the Arkansas red clay.”

She goes on to compare her skin to the color of mud, the minister’s wife has a long yellow face, and then a green persimmon or a lemon catches her between the legs after she trips on her way to the bathroom. Angelou manages to work every color of the rainbow into her story.

By the time I finished reading all of her autobiographies, she had taken residence in our home on the beach. I felt her presence in the hammock, in the bedroom with the green decor, and at the kitchen table. We had many visitors come and go during that extended stay but the one person I felt most connected to was Angelou.

Her stories were like the clouds in the sky floating in and around me, coming and going. Now each time I think about Salinas, I can’t help but remember her life experiences. For me Salinas belongs to the ocean, the sea lions, the sunsets, and Maya Angelou.
South

Poem selected for publication

IMGbooks2

I’m happy to share that my poem, “Anoche,” was selected as the top poem for a National Poetry Month contest held by the Jersey City Independent (JCI) and Jersey City Writers. The poem is one of three that will be featured and published by the JCI during the month of April.

I’ll also have the opportunity to read the poem on April 13, 2016 at a literary reading being held at Barrow Mansion at 7 p.m. The event is being hosted by JCW, JCI, and Art House.

The event will also feature Claudia Cortese whose first full-length book, “Wasp Queen,” will be published by Black Lawrence Press in 2016.

Other poets selected to have their poems read that evening include: Abigail Pillitteri, Rachel Poy, Kevin Singer, Simon Pereira Shorey, Holly Smith, John Trigonis, Beth Bentley, Carol Lester, Joe Del Priore, Aileen Bassis, and Kay Dominguez.

This April marks the 20th anniversary of National Poetry Month, which was inaugurated by the Academy of American Poets in 1996.

 

 

Movement to unlock creativity

Yoga and Writing Series in Jersey City

I am guiding a Yoga and Writing Class Feb. 22 at 12:30 p.m. at Yoga in the Heights in Jersey City.

When I close my eyes and settle into savasana at the end of a yoga class, the final relaxation pose, I am often flooded with scenes from future stories. In this state of total relaxation, creativity blossoms, characters manifest, and ideas multiply.

To explore this state of creative inspiration with fellow writers, I am leading a series of Yoga & Writing classes for Jersey City Writers beginning on February 22, 2015 at Yoga in the Heights from 12:30 p.m. to 2 p.m.

The class is open to beginners and new and/or experienced writers. Movement will be gentle and will include focused breathing and relaxation. The writing prompts will incorporate techniques that allow writers to inhabit a moment or experience through guided visualizations. The warm-up exercises include positional therapy exercises to loosen tight shoulders and tense wrists.

February’s theme is trees. We will open up to trees in our writing and movement.

To register, visit Jersey City Writers on Meetup or Facebook.

For those participating, please remember to:

  • Wear comfortable clothing
  • Bring a pen/notepad
  • Bring a yoga mat (rentals available at studio)
  • Bring $15 cash payable at the registration desk

Parking is available at the municipal lot across the street — off of Griffith. The location is a ten-minute walk from 9th and Congress Light Rail station.

I hope you will join us to move, listen, breath, be, and write.

On love, days later

Love days later

Love days later

What happens when you peel back the layers of long-lasting love? What do you find when you step outside of the experience of love and examine it from a distance? What does it look like from the sky?

When I read Pablo Neruda’s “100 Love Sonnets: Cien sonetos de amor,” I get the feeling that he traveled to the depths of his soul and to the ends of space as he explored his feelings on love writing to his muse, his wife, Matilde Urrutia.

He tells her at the beginning as translated by Stephen Tapscott, “My beloved wife, I suffered while I was writing these misnamed “sonnets;” they hurt me and caused me grief, but the happiness I feel in offering them to you is vast as a savanna.”

Neruda manages to capture the expansiveness of love, its infinite nature, as he embraces universal elements to give it shape when it truly has no shape.

Here is an excerpt from one of my favorites, “XLVIII.”

Two happy lovers make one bread,

a single moon drop in the grass.

Walking, they cast two shadows that flow together;

Waking, they leave one sun empty in their bed.

 In Spanish:

Dos amantes dichosos hacen un solo pan,

una sola gota de luna de hierba,

dejan andando dos sombras que se reúnen,

dejan un solo sol vacío en una cama.