A travel story in poems

Here is the travel story I submitted to the Facebook group, We Love Memoirs' travel story contest. Alas, it didn't win, but I thought I'd share it here anyway. ​It was fun to put together. Also, our African safari in the fall of 2013 was amazing. As usual when I travel, my goal is to write a poem a day. A Travel Story in Poems    Preparing to Go Even while I am on the elliptical reading my New Yorker I wonder: should I add more shirts? should I pick out some silver jewelry? do I need a pair of high heels? While my Pilates trainer says my form is excellent, I visualize the piles of shirts, pants, undies, jackets on the sofa, shoes scattered on the floor, and stuff bought especially for this Kenya and Tanzania trip: insect repellent, bite itch eraser, and a new camera with built in telescopic lens. Even while I do my last stretches I know I have more to do: put my toiletries in travel containers, get out my contact lens solutions, lay out my travel cl … [Read more...]

Can grief be contagious?

I met Martha Clark Scala at one of the first Esalen Institute workshops I took after our son died by suicide. And it was in that workshop where I found my voice in poetry. "Aftermath," the simple poem I wrote resonated such with Martha, that she wrote the following piece about her brother's death. The poem and the article both appeared first in the Summer 2001 issue of "We Need Not Walk Alone," published by The Compassionate Friends, an organization that provides friendship, understanding, and hope to those going through the natural grieving process. Martha and I have been friends ever since. I’m Not Contagious By Martha Clark Scala​ In the two or three weeks immediately following my brother Nick’s death, I received numerous calls, cards, plants, flowers, and offers of help. My loss sat on the front burner of many wonderful people’s stoves for about 21 days. I was in their thoughts, prayers, and blessings. Unfortunately, many issues and events vie for front-burner status … [Read more...]

I’m celebrating National Poetry Month. Are you?

National Poetry Month was inaugurated by the Academy of American Poets in 1996. Over the years, it has become the largest literary celebration in the world with schools, publishers, libraries, booksellers, and poets celebrating poetry’s vital place in our culture. I'm fully involved in the celebration in several ways: Writing a poem a day to Robert Lee Brewer's prompt. He's the poetry edition at Writer's Digest and has been holding poem a day challenges in April and November for years. I just wrote to his fourth day prompt a few minutes ago. Please join me. It's not too late to catch up. (Robert also gives us prompts every Wednesday the rest of the year.) Reading a book a poetry. Currently I'm reading Yevgeny Yevtushenko's little book of selected poems. I had the book in my library several years ago, but it disappeared. So I bought a new copy and am thoroughly loving rereading his poems. He writes vividly - without any flowery words or des … [Read more...]

Now, there’s a poem

If you've been here a time or two, you know I’ve always believed there is a poem out there everywhere. So many of my ideas for poems come from people I see and places I go that I’m really never at a loss for something to write about. I’m constantly saying, “Now, there’s a poem.” Still I like to work with prompts. I keep a list of them that I get from the Writer’s Digest’s poetry editor, Robert Lee Brewer and his Poetic Asides blog. He posts a prompt every Wednesday. Sometimes he’ll combine it with a request that we write in a specific poetry form, e.g., Haiku, Nonet, Luc Bat, Tanka, Ekphrastic, Quatern, Tritina. So I get a prompt, but a poetry lesson as well. Robert writes about things he knows and loves. The words are simple, homey, about his wife and children. I relate to that. He also conducts two poem-a-day challenges a year in April and November. I’ve participated for the last several years. At the end of the month he asks us to submit a chapbook of our best few poems … [Read more...]

A well worthwhile workshop on metaphor

Now that the Women’s March is over, it was time to get back to my writing life. And I didn’t waste a minute to do that. I went to a metaphor workshop yesterday morning – the very next day after the march. And it was well worth it. It helped me look at the metaphors we use every day, and it gave me exercises to use for finding metaphors in my writing – especially my poems. Here I’d like to share a few quotes about metaphors and a poem that we read during the workshop. Sorry, the three short poems I wrote while trying my hand in metaphor are nowhere near ready for public eyes. Quotes: “One of the deepest pleasures of metaphor is that it says both things at once. It runs two tracks simultaneously.” ~Lia Purpura “Similes are stronger than adjectives and metaphors are stronger than similes.” ~Kaveh Akbar “The greatest thing by far is to be a master of metaphor. It is the one thing that cannot be learnt from others; and it is also a sign of genius.” ~Aristotle … [Read more...]

Some recently published poems

I recently had a poem published. So, I've decided to post that, and some of the others published in the last few months. Lately, I've been fooling around with 5-7-5 poems - like Haikus - but not confined to nature subjects. That's been a lot of fun - like writing 140-character poems shown below. Enjoy. Last Chance My last chance for a hug and the words, I love you died with him as he walked down the hall, into his dark room, and forever out of my sight. One Afternoon We turned left on 24th Street, driving slowly as the narrow road wound up and up. There was a light rainfall, just enough to sprinkle our windshield, but not enough to put our wipers on. The hills were bright green, like technicolor, and flecked with dark green clumps of trees and patches of mustard. When the sun appeared, they had an iridescence like mounds of emerald chips. Soon we were in wine country outside of Paso Robles, with rows and rows of budding vines surrounding us. We … [Read more...]

Poetry lessons learned at Esalen, Big Sur, Part 2

As promised from my earlier post, here's Part 2 of the lessons I learned while attending Ellen Bass' Life of Poetry workshop at Esalen, in Big Sur, California, during the first week of December. Please click here to read Part 1. Long-armed poem: The third craft talk was about the "long-armed" poem, where we scoop a lot of disparate material into the poem, but all is related ultimately. To do this, Ellen suggests: Be as open as possible, allowing the world to intrude, allowing in things I don't know Start with disparate things Make a list of words, such as names of foods, books, movies, pieces of clothing. Or gather poems and take a word from each poem. Frank Gaspar, in his long-armed poems starts with a time and place and within that goes other places. But then he comes back to his starting point. Here's a long-armed poem I wrote a couple of years ago that was published In The Words of Womyn International 2016 Anthology. Stop and Go On the drive up the … [Read more...]

Fellow poet, Jennifer Payne, welcome to Choices today!

That I love poetry should be no surprise to my readers here, so it pleases me to no end to host the author of the book of poetry, Evidence of Flossing: What We Leave Behind, today during her WOW! Women on Writing blog tour. Jen has also provided us with her thoughts about meditation, something I've dabbled in over the years and always feel guilty about when I don't do it. I thank Jen for her guest post below.  Exploring Mindfulness by Jen Payne 1. A Meditation on Bugs I hadn’t walked five minutes up the trail before they ambushed me. A swarm of gnats dropped down in front of my face like a thin, black veil. Two flies laid claim to my ears—bzzzzzzzzzzzzzing in stereo. Their siege left me breathless—afraid to inhale. My swatting—swat, buzz, swat, buzz, swat, buzz, buzz!—was moot. By coincidence, I had recently watched that scene in the movie Eat Pray Love in which the Julia Roberts character successfully sits in meditation for a full hour despite an enthusiast … [Read more...]

Poetry lessons learned at Esalen, Big Sur, Part 1

I just spent five days at The Life of Poetry workshop with Ellen Bass and Roxan McDonald at Esalen, in Big Sur California. The workshop structure is to hear a craft talk in the morning and then have about three hours of writing time, before we meet in the afternoons in smaller groups to share and discuss our new poems. Throughout the week I wrote four poems* in keeping with the four craft talks Ellen presented. I'll discuss the first two craft talks today, and continue on with the other two later in the week - so as not to bore you too much. Metaphor: Defined as similarity between things that are otherwise very different. Use of fresh vital images to jar us, to heighten the emotion and achieve intimacy. Through quality of the metaphors, the poet can grab the reader. Try to find metaphors in your junk drawer, your garage, your closet, your throw rug (look at the fibers in the rug rather than whole). Here is an example of a poem with great metaphors: My Father’s Tie Rack … [Read more...]

Writing poetry again

I’ve been writing poems to Writers Digest Poetic Asides blog editor, Robert Lee Brewer’s prompts for years – at least since 2009 when I first entered his poem a day challenges in November and April. As a result, I have reams of poem-a-day poems, and poems to his Wednesday prompts. Right now, my Wednesday prompt document is eight-three pages and has 27,084 words. So when I decided to declare victory on my novel – at least for now, I thought: why not go back to my Brewer poem document and write poems for all the prompts I’ve skipped over? I missed quite a few in the last few weeks because I was working, and I’m sure there must be many throughout the document as a whole. Another thing I want to look at is: are there any good enough to submit for publishing? As far as I know there is only one – the first one on the list – that’s been published (actually twice). Here’s the prompt and poem. For this week’s prompt, write a box poem. This poem is either about a b … [Read more...]

Where I’ve been

I apologize for the scarcity of my blog posts lately. I've gotten very involved in a consulting job over at the aerospace company I used to work for and that has taken up most of my energy. And the problem  is, I don't see an end of the work in sight. Although I don't want to go on a complete vacation from blogging, I feel I have to cut back. I've already done that to my small stones writing regime, my work on my novel, and my attendance at  writing group meetings. Unfortunately, when I accept a consulting job, most everything else suffers. However, some interesting things have happened as well. I belong to a wonderful group called South Bay Cares that was founded as a source of education and to be an arbiter of positive action so that members can be the change that we want to see in the world. Our motto is: Educate. Empower. Engage. And a couple of weeks ago we hosted an event at our local independent bookstore: Pages: a bookstore with the cinematographer and two of the … [Read more...]

July Journeys – small stones yet again

In July we were asked to write small stones about our journeys. That put me in a bind, since I don't like to announce on social media when I'm traveling. It turns out we did travel in July - to Chicago, Green Lake WI, New York City, and Washington DC, but none of my July small stones refer to that trip at all. I must say it was a great trip - one for seeing friends and family. We also went to the Art Institute to see Gaugin, Millennium Park, the Yale art museum, the Morgan Library, the Modern Museum of Art, a couple of great New York plays, and a most special adventure - a visit to the new National Museum of African American Culture on Constitution Avenue in DC. Since I'm working part time this month and taking a writing class, I've decided to take a little break from small stone writing. I'm happy I was able to keep it up for eleven months. For sure I'll get back into it when the rest of my life relaxes a bit. In the meantime, here are my July small stones, called July J … [Read more...]

Three things

First. This is the last day the Kindle edition of my memoir, Leaving the Hall Light On: A Mother's Memoir of Living with Her Son's Bipolar Disorder and Surviving His Suicide, will be on sale for $.99. So please grab your copy before midnight. Here’s what a few reviewers had to say about it: ...Leaving the Hall Light On left me in tears. It is a heart wrenching book; I could not put it down.  Anyone who wants to learn how to live with children or adults with bipolar disorder, must read this book. ...I could imagine that this book might be helpful for those dealing with bipolar disease or suicide in the family, but for those of us fortunate enough not to have yet experienced those problems, it also provides a very real look into how good but human people deal with the cruelty of fate. ...Suicide does not just end one life, it can destroy others. Leaving the Hall Light On: A Mother’s Memoir of Living with Her Son’s Bipolar Disorder and Surviving His Suicide is the … [Read more...]

Meet Susan Day – grand-parenting expert

I fell in love with poetry as a child. I loved reading it and having it read to me. And as I got older I loved learning what the poems meant. Now I am a published poet. My guest today, Susan Day, an expert on grand-parenting and author of the soon to be released book, The Top 10 Things Happy Grandparents Never Regret Doing!, writes about how important it is to teach children to memorize, read aloud, and write poetry. Please  welcome Susan Day to Choices. The Importance of Teaching Children Poetry by Susan Day By studying poetry, memorizing and learning how to create poems, children can increase their language skills immensely. When studying poetry children are required to remember the words, and the rhythm or meter, in which the poem is meant to be said. This skill actually plays a powerful part on a child’s ability to learn and recall information from a wide range of subject areas. Sadly, many classrooms underestimated what an important learning tool poetry is. A poem m … [Read more...]

April is National Poetry Month

I started reading poetry in grade school although I didn’t start writing poems until much later. Once in a while I’d write a poem or two when I was upset emotionally or feeling lonely, but not regularly until after my son’s suicide. It was the only way I could deal with my grief. It still is. Reading poetry regularly is a given. During April, National Poetry Month, Knopf sends me a poem a day, and the website Poem-A-Day sends me a poem every day all year round. Sometimes over a dozen poems are in my reading queue. I also write poems regularly - this month especially since I'm participating in a poem a day challenge. Poetry is my favorite writing genre. It's hard to know if my poems live up to Lori Anne Ferrell’s criteria as discussed in her LA Times Op Ed piece below, but many have been published, so they must resonate somewhere. “A book of poetry that's worth $100,000, and so much more” by Lori Anne Ferrell "A few months ago, I was talking to a for … [Read more...]

Writing poems in April

As I usually do every year, I’m again writing poems for Robert Lee Brewer’s poem a day challenge. And as usual I’ll share a few that I’ve written so far. Here are the prompts and my first attempts at poems for days 5, 6, and 8. Remember these are first drafts, so please be kind.   5. Pick an element (like from the periodic table), make it the title of your poem (or part of the title), and then, write the poem. Anything goes from hydrogen to oganesson. (For me, this was like a found poem.) Platinum Chemical element with symbol Pt And atomic element number 78, My favorite metal, Platinum, is primordial, Which means it has existed in its current form, Since before the earth was born. It is transition metal and solid With a noble stature. Platinum has remarkable resistance To corrosion A good thing for holding Precious stones in its hands. For it is precious itself, Gray-white in color It is dense, malleable, ductile And highly unreactive, … [Read more...]

Author Rebecca Fitton finds writing is healing

I'm pleased to introduce Rebecca Fitton and her new book of poetry, Wave Rider, as she embarks on her WOW! Women on Writing book tour.   Wave Rider is a poetic reflection of author Rebecca Fitton’s long journey to heal from sexual abuse, abandonment, and neglect, building a new world based on wholeness of body, mind, and spirit. Her journey has taken a lifetime. To use the metaphor of waves, sometimes the undertow nearly drowned her—but she survived. Now her beautiful and profound book offers inspiration to others who have also suffered greatly from abuse. Here's my Review Rebecca Fitton’s Wave Rider, a book of poetry, shares her beginnings as an abused child and her rebirth later in her adulthood. She divides her book of poems into three sections: Darkness: her poems of her life with a mother who doesn’t want her and an uncle who abuses her. She lived in this frozen, silent darkness until she was forty years old. In a poem early in the book, she writ … [Read more...]

Poems from the latest Poem A Day challenge

I have to confess right from the start that I didn't finish the November 2016 Poem A Day (PAD) challenge. I was so caught up in my husband's recovery from his Grand Canyon accident that writing poetry during that time was the last thing on my mind. However, I wrote a poem a day for the first fifteen days. Here's a couple, including the prompts I wrote to. Write a wire poem. A wire poem could be about something that needs wires–like maybe a robot, TV, or automobile. But birds huddle on telephone wires, people wire money to each other, and kids can get wired off of too much candy and/or caffeine. In fact, I’m surprised I haven’t written more wired poems over the years. Birds on the Wire It fascinates me To see those birds Up there on the electrical wires. Don’t their little bird claws Perched around those strands Of metal get hot? They don’t seem to mind their perch. It’s where they come to meet their friends, Learn the latest gossip, And take a short bre … [Read more...]

More small stones

As the year winds down, I'm still in the throes of my husband's reduced physicality as a result of his Grand Canyon accident a little more than one month ago. He's been suffering pain in his back for about ten days, though today he has said for the first time he's feeling much better. After writing small stones every day since last August I stopped writing them on November 16 - the day of his accident, and I didn't resume until exactly one month later - December 16. Here are my November small stones - that our group named November Pearls. November Pearls My stress level is at its peak, this being the last week before the election. I need massage, meditation, Yoga, Pilates, and a sauna. Did I leave anything out? A power outage today inspires me to take some time away from the internet. I celebrate the Cubbies winning the 2016 baseball World Series. They last won in 1908, the year my mother was born. Another hot, still, sunny day in southern California. Will s … [Read more...]

Election day thoughts

Maybe Robert Lee Brewer meant to give us prompts associated with the election of Donald Trump on Tuesday. But whether he did or not, I turned yesterday's and today's  November 2016 Poem A Day challenge prompts into poems about the election results. I'm still in mourning. I'm still in shock. And I feel it's a poet's role to put our thoughts down on the page - especially at times like this. As a poetry friend wrote me yesterday: 'Regardless of how you feel about the election results, I think it is important to remember we need POETS now more than ever. That poetry is both power and peace. It is up to poets to “build a citizen of something new.”' The prompts for November 9 and 10, respectively are: Take the phrase “Call Me (blank),” replace the blank with a word or phrase, make the new phrase the title of your poem, and then write the poem. Possible titles include: “Call Me Al,” “Call Me Crazy,” “Call Me Batman,” “Call Me at 3 O’clock in the Morning … [Read more...]