Friday, December 2, 2016

I Wish I'd Written This

Children Unplug

By Tug Dumbly

Children unplug
this world isn’t virtual
dejack and eject
put down the control
don’t let a machine
hijack your mind
home invade
your nascent soul

Children unplug
this world’s not pixels   
the real liquid crystal’s
alive in that stream        
you don’t have to snap it
shoot or share it
your eyes are camera
to catch your dreams

Brother your fingers
and thumbs are wonders
hands to grip sticks  
shaped to fling stones
be dazzled be nuzzled
be roughed up by nature
get down in the dirt
of your earthy home

Sister you’re worth so much
more than devices’
iPhoney fantasias
of selfy esteem
those shuffling fields
of wilted-neck flowers
heads wired up
pinned to a screen

C’mon now kid
just put down the tablet
come out with your head up
check out the sky
pluck the buds from your ears
hear the birds of the earth
build bowers of beauty
in which to abide

Build bowers of beauty
nests of memory
a clandestine cave  
where sweet senses hive 
pluck the buds from your ears
hear the birds of the earth
and croaking creeks    
of creature cry  

Build bowers of beauty
nests of memory
come out with your head up
check out the sky
pluck the buds from your ears
hear the birds of the earth
and scroll to the end
having been alive 



I've introduced you to Tug before. Click here to refresh your memory. Doesn't pull any punches, this poet! And yet, with what beautiful language and images he makes his points. And with what passionate urgency! 

There's not a lot I need to add about this one, is there? The message is clear, and I can't see anyone arguing – nevertheless, it so much needs to be said.

The kids aren't going to discard their devices, of course. And what an irony that I first saw this poem on facebook, and now I'm sharing it more widely on the internet, where it will be appreciated by people using those very devices which we think we can no longer do without. Of course, many of us are on our laptops or even desktops, and will move away from them eventually. It's the tablets and phones that are so insidious; they are the things we can stay connected to pretty much non-stop. (Yes, I love mine, too.)

Well, it IS sad and horrifying if children and adolescents grow up permanently at a remove from the wonders of our natural world. It IS a real risk that they may too easily be manipulated and brainwashed by the stuff they ingest via the earbuds and screens. And, what happens when we are young shapes us for life – and therefore shapes the world.

That's one good reason for posting poems online!

But we may need to do a bit more than that. I think parents and teachers have a great responsibility – as always. So do we all. We are all the adults whom children are observing.

I am forever grateful to my Grandpa, who spent a lot of time with me, from my toddlerhood to his death when I was nine, going for walks and pointing out the many interesting and beautiful things we passed. I believe I have always loved nature – but perhaps that love was inculcated by my Grandpa and would not have existed otherwise. It's clear that he intended to impart it.

And it's true that, as we are often told, children learn by example. I suppose we might get our own heads out of the devices more often, and accompany the kids outside.

And please – share this post, or the link to it, all over the place!


Material shared in 'I Wish I'd Written This' is presented for study and review. Poems, photos and other writings remain the property of the copyright owners, usually their authors.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Poets United Midweek Motif ~ Social Stigma




Midweek Motif ~ 
Social Stigma

Social stigma is not ordinary fear, but rejection that is culture bound.  Except social stigma about some mental and physical illnesses is universal.


Group of people outside
source
December First is World Aids Day.  The World Health Organization's goal is to have no new cases, no more deaths and no more stigma attached to the disease by 2030. Social stigma surrounding the disease inhibits communication and treatment.  


Have you seen social stigma at work? 

Your Challenge: Compose a new poem with a motif of social stigma.  Don't feel restricted to stigma surrounding AIDS and HIV.
source

Some Quotes:



“The stigmatized individual is asked to act so as to imply neither that his burden is heavy nor that bearing it has made him different from us; at the same time he must keep himself at that remove from us which assures our painlessly being able to confirm this belief about him.”  ― Erving Goffman

“The animal part of him in pain accepted my caring. But the part of himself watching himself in that pain didn't believe I could ever respect him again.”― Diane Ackerman

“It is not our differences that divide us. It is our inability to recognize, accept, and celebrate those differences.”― Audre Lorde

“I got tested for AIDS. I know Barack got tested for AIDS. There's no shame in being tested for AIDS.  It's an important thing.”  Joe Biden


"AIDS occupies such a large part in our awareness because of what it has been taken to represent. It seems the very model of all the catastrophes privileged populations feel await them."― Susan Sontag



Some Poems:


excerpt from The Four Humours

Related Poem Content Details

I. Blood                                 
We wondered if the rumors got to her.
I’d seen her with that other girl behind
The Stop and Shop when I was walking home
from school one day. I swear, the two of them
were kissing, plain as that, the grass so high
it brushed their cheeks. I told my teacher so,
and maybe it was her who called their folks.
Before too long, it was like everyone 
in town had heard. We waited for them at
the dime store once, where Cedric grabbed her tits
and said I’ll learn you how to love how God 
intended it, you ugly fucking dyke.
Thing was, she wasn’t ugly like you’d think.
She had a certain quality, a shyness
maybe, and I’d describe the way she laughed 
as kind of gentle. Anyway, we never saw her with 
that girl again. They say she got depressed—
shit, at the service all of us got tearful.
I got to thinking what an awful sight
it was, all that red blood—it wasn’t in 
the papers, but I heard Melissa’s mother,
who was the nurse in the Emergency
that night, say how she was just covered up
in blood. I can’t think how you bring yourself
to cut your throat like that yourself—I asked
the counselor they called in to the school,
and she said something like, What better ink
to write the language of the heart? I guess
it proves that stuff from Bible school they say, 
that such a life of sin breeds misery.
. . . . 
(Read the rest HERE.)

“Hope” is the thing with feathers - (314)

Related Poem Content Details

“Hope” is the thing with feathers - 
That perches in the soul - 
And sings the tune without the words - 
And never stops - at all - 

And sweetest - in the Gale - is heard - 
And sore must be the storm - 
That could abash the little Bird 
That kept so many warm - 

I’ve heard it in the chillest land - 
And on the strangest Sea - 
Yet - never - in Extremity, 
It asked a crumb - of me.
Excerpt from  The Bell Jar
BY SYLVIA PLATH

My mother smiled. "I knew my baby wasn't like that."
I looked at her. "Like what?"

"Like those awful people. Those 
awful dead people at that hospital." 
She paused. 
"I knew you'd decide to be all right again.” 

#

Please share your new poem using Mr. Linky below and visit others  in the spirit of the community.  AND: please put a link to this prompt with your poem.  

(Next week Susan's Midweek Motif will be Aviation )


Monday, November 28, 2016

BLOG OF THE WEEK - AN UPDATE WITH KARIN GUSTAFSON

Today, my friends, we are chatting with Karin Gustafson, who blogs at ManicDDaily.  We last spoke with Karin, whom you have likely come across here or at our sister site, Imaginary Garden With Real Toads, in 2014, so I thought it was time to see what she has been up to in the meantime. Rumor has it she has a new book out, so let's order coffee all around, and settle in.








Sherry: Yay! I am so happy to be chatting with you, after all this time. I have been following your progress with interest. Karin, for our newer members, would you give us a little snapshot of your life in the Catskills, and commuting  into New York for work? You have the best of both worlds. What are the joys?

Karin: Dear Sherry,  First, thanks so much for having me back to the wonderful site that is Poets United.

I do split my time between the mountains in Upstate New York and midtown Manhattan. I am not sure I have the best of both worlds though! I am truly based in the country and my once-a-week trip to the City takes nearly four hours each way! I then typically spend three days and two nights down in Manhattan, where I stay with a good friend.

The joys of the life?  Well, it enables me to live most of the time in a somewhat remote and magical area of the country (which also happens to be where my husband is based) while still keeping my day job!  The bad parts—it can get very discombobulating to drag around so much!

That said, there are, of course, many joys—my train ride along the Hudson River is one of the most beautiful in the world—the banks of the river are full of hills and cliffs and mountains and mist and is just lovely every time of year.

Sherry: I envy you that lovely train ride!

Karin: I tend to be pretty busy with my job in the City so don’t get to go to as much City “stuff” as I’d like, but my dear friend there twists my arm to go to music performances every so often.  Then, usually my husband comes down too, and we go to the opera or Carnegie Hall, where I am always just astonished by the level of musical genius in the world.

The place where I really do get a certain “bestness” is the country. I work some days a week from upstate, and try to spend a great deal of time outdoors even when I am working, talking on the phone from the driveway, etc!  I feel just tremendously lucky to be able to be there while also keeping up a pretty urban type of job.

Sherry: It does sound a magical mix! Especially your cottage in the country. Would you bring us up to date with what’s going on in your life since we last spoke?

Karin: The very bad news has been the death of a close work colleague. This brought not only his loss, but a great deal more work and responsibility. So, it’s been a sad and rather stressful time with regard to my work life.

Sherry: I am so sorry to hear that, Karin.

Karin: The good news is that I did publish a new book called Dogspell, a children’s novel about a girl and her dog that I also illustrated.





Sherry: I have a copy, have read it and enjoyed it very much. Not only are the illustrations adorable and amusing, but the story has a very good message in it for middle school children. It is enjoyable for adults as well, especially those of us who find dogs and kids irresistible! (It is available here, kids, and is a delight!)

Speaking of dogs, I am wondering if you might have added another dog to your life? Or is it still too soon after Pearl? Her passing was so sad, and I still think of her every time I come to your site.




Karin and Pearl


Karin: We’ve thought about getting another dog! Anyone reading Dogspell will know that I heavily relied on direct canine contributions for that book!  Right now, all my travel to the City would make getting a new dog a bit difficult, but it would still be pretty nice.

Sherry: All that puppy-love on your return home! Visitors to your blog enjoy your wonderful sketches as much as your poetry. Would you tell us a bit about your journey through art and writing? I remember you began very young.

Karin: I’ve wanted to be a writer my whole life.  Though, unfortunately, it’s never been my “day job,” it has always been my star.

I became very interested in drawing and painting in high school, but never took my own art work seriously (perhaps because I was close to people who were extremely dedicated visual artists.)  But then, years later, when I had my children, I found myself making little playdoh sculptures for them, especially little playdoh elephants.  This led me to do my first book--a children’s picture book called 1 Mississippi, which features a lot of watercolors of elephants. 




1 Mississippi (available here), led me to start my blog--initially as a way of promoting the book!  That didn’t work out so well--I’m not a great self-promoter--but it did lead me to do a lot more drawing and painting to use with my blog.

I am hoping, if I can ease up in my job life, to spend a lot more time doing illustration as I would love to do more children’s picture books.

Sherry: That would be wonderful. Tell us about Dogspell, won't you?


Seemie and Sally


Karin: I am honestly quite proud of my latest book, Dogspell.  It is a book that I started years ago, when my own children and our beloved dog Pearl were young.  As a result, it’s a book that has been in my life for an embarrassingly long time!




It is the story of a girl and her dog.  Or, maybe I should say it’s the story of a dog and his girl.  But really it is a story about friendship, with the added sweetness of dog friendship. 

I did a large number of illustrations for the book.  On one level I am not completely happy with the illustrations, as I would like to have used “higher tech” means of inserting them into the text—they are a little clunky—but even so, I think they are one of the nicest aspects of the book.



Illustration (for me) is a thorny issue as my best drawings are done in pencil with a rather sketchy quality. This does not always reproduce well on paper. In the case of Dogspell, I finally gave up on the idea of re-doing all the drawings digitally, but I have thought a lot about trying to get better with digital media, as it would certainly make it a lot easier to get to a final product.


Sherry: I think your illustrations are delightful! You have other books, as well. What do you love about writing books for children?




Karin: Ha! I actually have four other published books (five in total) - 1 Mississippi (little children’s counting picture book written and illustrated by me); Going on Somewhere – a book of my poetry illustrated by Diana Barco and Jason Martin; Nose Dive - a young adult novel written by me, but illustrated by Jonathan Segal; Nice – an adult “literary” novel written by me and cover by me; and now Dogspell, a children’s novel written and illustrated by me.)  






I love writing books for children, in part, because I have a bend in my work towards the “cute” which may be more acceptable to a young audience, but mainly because I also just love children and love children’s books! The experience of reading as a child, or being read to, are to me among the most important of a lifetime.

The main problem for me in writing books for children is that it is an incredibly difficult commercial market, particularly for an unknown writer.

What also makes it a bit hard to self-market is that many adults immediately assume that a book written with an eye towards children or young adults wouldn’t be interesting to them.  As a result, a lot of my adult contacts won’t even open a book like Dogspell or Nose Dive!  (Even though I think that adults would actually find my books fun.  I hope anyway!) 





Sherry: I certainly did! I enjoyed every page and smiled all the way through. You captured the tone of a conversation between a child and her dog to perfection, I thought.  In your interview in 2014, you were at work on the novel titled “Nice”. Tell us about that one. 

Karin: Nice has been out for some time!  It has a rather dark subject matter - child sexual abuse as well as the types of societal abuses going on in 1968. I love the book and was happy with the final version.  One annoying issue for me has been that many people reading Nice have assumed that it is autobiographical.  While 1968 was certainly a time I knew (and the book reflects my experience of the era), it isn’t autobiographical. That said, I think it’s my strongest book, and would urge you all--especially those who don’t like children’s books--to read it. 

  
Sherry: It does sound like a deep read, and certainly topical for these times.  Are there two or three of your poems that you would like to share with us?

Karin: Here are a couple of poems.  I chose the first “June Upstate” because it describes the glory that is the shared experience of a children’s book, and the second, “The Year of Weeping Dangerously” because I know that you, Sherry, personally like it!  Thanks again so much for having me.  

June Upstate (Beginning of Vacation)

I call it spring,
because my children were
still lamblike
and we uncurled on a wool blanket
edged by grass that sprouted as wisps
rather than blades

and their hair downed
my arms, their heads resting so they too
could see the book, which I sometimes held aloft
like our own cloud, but more
like our own sun--what we
revolved around
as we moved the blanket about
an apple tree, in and out
of heat and cold,
brightness and wind,
the way the sky itself moved--
sometimes holding
our breath--for it was an exciting book,
a novel--
sometimes not speaking
in a way that was different
from listening, even me not speaking,
who read aloud---for it had sad parts
too--

afterwards,
after words,
in a stiff unfold (as if our spines
had become the book’s spine),
our skin prickling (as if just then feeling
wool’s scratch),
and blinking at the overclouding blow
of afternoon,
we pulled ourselves back
into this single, unpaged, world, kneeling
as we rose.  


***************************************

The Year of Weeping Dangerously

It made it hard to see
where she was going,
harder to see
where she’d been.

When she walked, she seemed
to squeegie,
shoe leather sodden,
even rubber soles
losing their grip.

Old friends stayed out of her way,
only animals
never strayed,
liking, she assumed,
the salt.

These things tend to come in waves,
maybe because we’re part sea
and Time part sand (the other part tide).
But caught in that divide,
she cried,
sometimes beside
herself, sometimes,
like a small animal,
beside herself.

**************************

Oddly, I think each poem was written during the 30 poems in April period—so they each kind of show how you can come up with material when pushing yourself.

Sherry: Both are wonderful poems. I love the children's heads "downing" your arms. I do especially like "The Year of Weeping Dangerously". I resonate with the tone, and with the weeping. Smiles.  

Tell us what you love about blogging, won't you?

Karin: Well, I love the camaraderie, the sense of sympathetic readers that one has whenever posting.  This has been a great help to me in getting work done, and in particular, in thinking of myself as a writer, i.e. in feeling some kind of claim to that identity.  Of course, I wrote for many years before blogging, but even with six or seven manuscripts stacked up, it’s hard to feel like a writer if you don’t feel anyone else granting you that role.  Blogging—the camaraderie with other writers, the sharing of material, the back-and-forth—has just been terrifically helpful in feeling more publicly myself.


Sherry: That is a wonderful description, "feeling more publicly myself". I love it! Is there anything you’d like to say to Poets United?

Karin: Thank you!  You are always (all of you over here) kind, welcoming, creative, accepting.  It is such a pleasure and comfort too that you exist!


Sherry: Thank you, Karin, for this opportunity to catch up with you. And for all of the wonderful illustrations!

Wasn't this fun, kids? It inspires me to get more of my own books on the go. Do come back and see who we talk to next. Who knows? It might be you!