And indeed, with the publication of my book Prison Wisdom (due out this month), I leap into a new world, a world in which this book makes its debut and spreads its message near and far.
I invite my readers, friends and strangers alike, to help me pursue this goal, by letting others know about the book, and helping me distribute it to prison libraries, beginning in Florida and then radiating outwards. It is my dream, that indeed this book of inmate writing (and correspondance and art) be used as a textbook in corrections programs, in social work classes, and even as supplementary reading in literature classes, for the wisdom of the pen, in the hands of these writers, invites all to pick up their own pen and write.
Soon enough Prison Wisdom will be available through my publisher (EWH Press), (watch for link in my next blog, as soon as the books are ready to "roll")... but in the meanwhile, I haven't stopped writing -- stories, poems, mini-essays, because it is my nature to do so, and I hope this is the case up until the very end of my life. I include a recent Out the Window Poem as one example:
Outside the window
life goes on
and in the inside, same
What do we make
of the tick of the clock
time slippeth away
or courses through us
like every breath
Listen to the music
of the trees
oh how they serenade
the sky, the owls, the ferns
how they reach out with
branches and roots
to touch the under layers
and those above
while outside the window
you are invited to partake
of the bounty you've forgotten to see
And the garden grows, the vegetables establish roots, the tendrils grasp the lattice,
the bees buzz around, the flowers do what they know how to do so well -- they bloom --
hibiscus, geranium, petunias, salvia, marigolds, vinca, impatiens; the butterflies flirt,
the birds alight on the feeder, the rain falls, the sun comes out, the moon goes behind a cloud, the moon lights up the entire sky, the wind chimes rings in the breeze, the woman notices her world, which is so fecund, so nurturing to her soul. And she prays, for the immigrants, for the prisoners, for the hungry, for justice, for enlightenment of the powers that be, we too are powerful, we too give of our light to the world, never ever give up,
and as she writes these words, a stray sunbeam lights up the prism in her window, and the rainbows dance their shimmering magic....
Saying, now is the time to begin anew, to send out one's intentions, to add one's coin to the fountain, "May all beings be well, may all beings be happy, peace, peace, peace..."
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I have lived thru my first and hopefully my last Hurricane, with Hermine. We were fortunate that none of our very tall trees fell on house, car, or cat, though one tree fell thru the neighbor’s fence into their yard. However, the damage in Myer’s Park, across the road from us, was devastating. Many beautiful, ancient trees were uprooted, splayed with their roots exposed,their long torsos and branches downed forever. I could not avoid seeing the carnage, and the line of poetry that kept running through my brain was “open graves of beauty” as I gazed at the fallen giants. I finally sat on my back porch, opened my journal, and wrote my elegy to them.
After Hurricane Hermine
Even in this golden light
I see the fallen trees
in their open grave of beauty
no longer vertical,
but splayed upon the earth
bridges over nothing
How many decades, how many
hundreds of years
had they been standing watch
as we just blindly went on
until perhaps we caught
the moon in her branches
one crisp autumn night
You won't be holding the moon now
you'll be hugging the earth
your birth mother
until every shred of you
bark and twig and leaf
and yet I can see you
as you waved your branches
in the days of summer
before your slaughter
I saw you before you fell.
* * *
I have written poetry all my life, and I find it sustains and uplifts me. It’s also a gift one can share with others.
One of my pen pals up north, Eve, teaches a creative writing class, and she sometimes sends me the prompts. This one was My Life as a Book Poem. I sat down and the following emerged (thanks to the kindness of my Muse):
If my Life were a Book Poem
If my life were a book
I would want you to savor it
to turn the pages slowly
to revel in subtlety and
its counterpoint boldness
I would want you
to read my book with a lover
holding hands and stopping
now and again to gaze
into each other’s eyes
as if to say
yes, how true, how tender!
If my life were a book
it would remind you of grasses
blowing in the wind
and puffy clouds floating over
a serene blue pond
where a swan swims mutely
My book would lift you up
and make you cry
giving you every reason to
and then, as you weep
you can’t help also laughing
because everything meets in the middle
You could read any page at random
while sitting on a swing
or eating rocky road ice cream
or dabbling your feet in the lapping waves
or stirring homemade applesauce
My book is ripe for picking
never boring, always in style
both mystical and commonplace
like the evening sunset
You don’t want it to end
and I don’t want it to either
I just want to go on writing
my life as a book
and never ever run out of ink.
* * *
Finally, some Autumn Haiku (and a few others tossed into the mix):
Sweeping the courtyard
to tidy my life again
tomorrow, the same
know how to climb the wire fence
the sun teaches them
Pens around the house
in case I want to scribble
a sudden haiku
To shiver is good
I’ve waited the long summer
for this cool moment
Brushing my long hair
while my cat stares at me – hmm
how strange Ka’s fur is
A few pink blossoms
on ragged zinnia stems
not ready to quit
on spiky autumn flowers —
but my pen is too slow
* * *
In this harvest season, and in the Jewish New Year number 5777 (!), I take stock of my life.
My book Prison Wisdom is currently in the able hands of my graphic designer, and it will
no doubt be out by my birthday (Jan 23). I anticipate several launch parties, a potential sermon at my Unitarian Church, a Go Fund Me campaign to get copies of the book into Prison Libraries around Florida, etc. The timing is right for this book to be valued as the testimony of those locked up behind bars, or of what one inmate anthology called “Beauty Behind Walls.”
I continue to generate 700 word stories with various pen pals, including a linked novella of 34 episodes (followed by “the author” interviewing her characters) called The Greta Tales, which hopefully will be made available in the near future…I’ll keep you posted.
I praise the wild daisy blooms of the swamp sunflower in my garden, the burgeoning fruit on “Grandma Rose’s Grapefruit Tree,” the butterflies and hummingbirds cavorting around my spiky fire bush shrub, the shivery cool breeze that calls for a robe and slippers as Tom and I read the morning newspaper on the back deck and sip strong French roast coffee…
May all of us be safe from storm, from sadness, divisiveness, self-doubt. May we each find ways to cheer each other on through the many challenges we face as the year 2016 comes to completion. May our dreams find fulfillment, and may the fruit of our labors taste sweet.
Autumn wind chimes ring /summoning the bird duets/ harmony calling
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The good news is that Prison Wisdom is in the hands of my publisher, Jeff, of EWH Press,who is currently going over the manuscript with a fine-tooth comb, soon to be passed on to my graphic designer to upgrade and highlight the artwork and other graphic elements, to finalize the more than 330 pages that make up the volume. My dream is to send copies to Oprah and Obama, to help grow the numbers of individuals who will finally hold Prison Wisdom in their hands, and be moved by its eloquent and poignant message. A message that says we all long for liberation, we can all hear the voice of the muse when we take pen in hand to tell our unique story -- whether of pain or pleasure, sadness or joy, hope or discouragement. As one of my early readers of one sample anthology put it, "When you read this you won't say there but for the grace of God go I, but rather there I am."
With a world full of violence and polarization, we long for antidotes, we long for a healing balm to offset the mind-numbing atrocities that fill our media and our neighborhoods. What will this healing balm be? How can we unify in the face of suffering rather than add to it? Oh, these eternal and existential questions, tormenting in their frequency. If I had the answer, I would weave it into every poem, essay, and story, I would plant it with every seed, and watch it grow, and flourish. If I had the answer I could be "Queen for a Day," or the Goddess of Rebirth. How trite, how sentimental, to think one can counter misery with love, with bouquets of flowers, with baskets of red tomatoes, with friends dancing freely celebrating their right to exist.
Let me then be sentimental, let me add my voice to the peace-makers of the world,
let me bless newborn babies with a homeopathic vaccine against fear, let me rejoice
when sanity, justice, and a life's purpose for each human, finally exists, as the unbroken promise, guaranteed each one of us, through the long arc of our journey on earth.
"You may say I'm a dreamer, but I'm not the only one."
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It's hard to believe it's Spring -- the entire winter went by without a single entry.
That's because I was working hard on my book Prison Wisdom -- and still am --
I was off to St. George Island for my annual February holiday/vacation with my college roommate Ann, I was planning my husband Tom's 68th birthday party (vegetarian chili and cornbread, and a big tropical fruit tart for dessert), writing installments on my Greta Tales (700 word linked stories, created in tandem with my writer friend Eve who was creating her own tales), beginning to plan my garden, and writing a few sonnets with another pen pal, from Ecuador, Mimi.
I'm excited that in May I'll be teaching a three part "Fables and Fantasies" class thru OLLI (Osher LifeLong Learning Institute , offering non-credit courses to anyone 50 or older.)
I had a love affair with Fables for a few months (I love obsessions such as this), and I hope to put together a "chapbook" or anthology of them once Prison Wisdom is off to the printer.
It's hard to believe I'm 72 and I still have so many manuscripts waiting for my attention, or
waiting for my creative energies to zoom in and launch them.
I hope to live to be 99. What a birthday that will be! But let's not rush things, OK?
For those of you interested in knowing more about Prison Wisdom, please visit
EWH Press, click on authors, find my picture and name, and read my bio and the
blurb about the book. I haven't actually counted how many inmates - and prison pen pals - have their writings shared in this book, but it's got to be close to 100. I wish this collection was mandatory reading in all Criminology and Corrections curriculum, Literature classes, Social Work programs, in all prison libraries and public libraries, and definitely that Oprah will choose it as one of her book club selections. Hear, hear!
In the meantime, spring is here, the garden is looking good -- the compost added to the planting bed spawned about 75 cucumber/squash? seedlings, some of which i pulled out in order to plant tomatoes, cucumbers, banana peppers, etc. and some of which i left, to see what would happen. I may be making pickles this year, or zucchini bread!!!
I for one willl be very happy once election season -- campaign season - ends, and hopefully we will have someone in office who will allow us to be glad to be Americans, yes? I am holding that thought.
And composing Haiku that praises Spring -- this green growing time -
This green growing time
hands in soil, sun on my face
planting my future
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a delightful session for writers who really want to enjoy themselves, not sweat over revision, craft, or anything else to deter their vivid imaginations from taking flight! Here's a fun exercise for anyone reading this blog today. Find a partner, one of you choose an animal (say, a rhinoceros) and the other an inanimate object (say, a washing machine). You each take these prompts, and begin your fable with Once upon a time (a rhinocerus found herself tired of washing her garments in the muddy river, so she set out in search of.... etc!).. Once you have written your fables, you share them with one another, and laugh at the differences in your stories or even at the amazing similarity (one never knows).
... But aside from the joy of my classes, and soon, the pleasure of compiling the literary reviews for each group of students, there is "the rest of my life," which, if you have visited my blog before, you know means time in the garden, my big wonderful yard filled with stone pathways, planting beds, container flowers, statues and temples, a victorian cottage (once my daughter's play hut), adirondack chairs, a mighty and fecund grapefruit tree (that my mother planted, 3 months before she died, 13 years ago), camellia bushes and trees galore, and so much more, a homestead I tenderly refer to as "Haiku Garden" for all the Haiku I have written here, in the last 25 years, and to the future poems too, that will one day emerge. Time in the garden, yes, but much time reading too, and visiting Tallahassee's public library, time cooking, or as mom always said "arranging food", time changing sheets, throwing in a wash, feeding my cat (and bird), visiting with my daughter (still local, a working architect), going dancing with my husband, or to a movie or play, or for a brisk walk down to Cascades Park, the newest addition to public space, just ten minutes from us.
I confess I also read news magazines, and the New Yorker, and get the Sunday New York Times, and tune in to the machinations of advanced 20th (or is this 21st?) century problems, adventures, crises, -- such as the current campaign for president, or the refugees fleeing war-torn nations and other privations, fleeing with just a small bag of possessions, children in hand or in their arms, looking for a place that will take them in and give them a new home. All this is happening, along with the weather - the storms, the hurricanes, the flooding, the droughts, the earthquakes, as well as gorgeous sunshine, tender rain, full moon radiance, shining stars -- it's all happening, but you could never possibly describe it all, you can only go on living your life to the best of your ability, and feel compassion for the world's sorrow and the world's suffering peoples...
Yes, it is autumn, that exhilarating time of year, that I so love -- when leaves change color, even "down here," and one can actually put on a sweater, and use a quilt on one's bed. Fall is full of energy, of focus, of, in my work, passing on my devotion, my enthusiasm, for the
wisdom of the pen, inviting all my students to share their voice, to know it is of value, that they are of value, and that our collective force field is a powerful gift not just to us, but to all who our words touch now, or will touch later.
I reach out to you - my readers - friends - colleagues - strangers - who could be friends - and wish you the best of this harvest season -- homemade pumpkin pie, blooming chrysanthemums, hot apple cider with cinnamon, a good book, a hot shower or bath,
a walk thru the leaves, a contemplation of autumns past which have brought you to
this autumn, and ask that you add your voice to this human serenade, this travelogue of possibility, of heartbreak and ecstasy, just pick up the pen, it will always be ready to accompany you, as you jot down the notes of today, in its ever expansive catalogue of
Autumn wind chimes blow
casting a magical spell
on the one who types
Lift me higher now
let me spill my poems for you
golden like your leaves
to guide my contemplation
into fall's mirror
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