Aging Gracefully? Who Needs It? Check out this inspiring poem by Moyra Donaldson

Who says we can’t write poems that break open cliches about being a woman!? Well, no one really, no one worth listening to. If you are writing about aging, check out this great poem and be inspired to speak freely, and think out of the box!

When I Am Old
by Moyra Donaldson

I’ll have dewlaps and a hump and say what all the time
in a cross voice: on every one of my bony crony fingers
a ring. My lips painted with a slash of bright fuchsia,
I’ll drink margaritas by the tumbler full and if my dealer
dies before I do, I’ll just have to look for younger suppliers.
I can’t imagine not being interested in sex, but if it happens,
so be it, really I could do with a rest, complete hormonelessness.
I may forget who I am and how to find my way home, but be
patient, remember I’ve always been more than a little confused
and never did have much of a sense of direction. If I’m completely
demented, I’m depending on friends: you know who you are.

“When I Am Old” by Moyra Donaldson from Selected Poems. © Liberties Press, 2012.

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Writer’s Retreat

Retreat

IMG_5543Cheryl, Wanda, Libby, Gwen, Pat, Beverly, TJ and Patrise
We all decided to come to Matthews, VA to release
Eating, talking, sharing and caring
Simple minds with one common goal in mind

We have bonded and learned
I’ve discovered some news that I never knew
Libby you’re an amazing you
Fighting the C and never looking back
It’s an ugly thing that loves to attack
Pat what a noble thing to do
Having a voice for a culture that most don’t have a clue
Cheryl always with a funny tale
I’m glad you didn’t bring the sexy spell
IMG_5530Wanda always the voice of reason
So glad you got to let loose and be you for just a season
Gwen the MacGyver who came in the still of the night
With her bright shining light
Beverly with all the wisdom and knowledge
She’s a walking college
Patrise I learned something new
Therapy is all about you
TJ you are a damn hoot
I swear I almost peed in my boot
Whatever the reason God has bought us together
We will never know
But this RETREAT will always remind us
That we are women but writers first!

GL 2015

Rewriting Myths: A Worthy and Challenging Writer’s Exploration

tumblr_m0sacwHAsz1r9xp88o1_500Tigers Above, Tigers Below

In a way, that old cliche that there are no new stories is true. The web of story vibrates with human nature, and the millions of stories we’ve told ourselves. The trick is to transform the story we’re telling so it’s fresh, so it sings! Here’s a great example, a poet who takes an ancient Buddhist story and makes it her own.

I’ll let Pema Chodron tell you the ancient story:

“There is a story of a woman running away from tigers. She runs and runs, and the tigers are getting closer and closer. When she comes to the edge of a cliff, she sees some vines there, so she climbs down and holds on to the vines. Looking down, she sees that there are tigers below her as well. She then notices that a mouse is gnawing away at the vine to which she is clinging. She also sees a beautiful little bunch of strawberries close to her, growing out of a clump of grass. She looks up and she looks down. She looks at the mouse. Then she just takes a strawberry, puts it in her mouth, and enjoys it thoroughly.

Tigers above, tigers below. This is actually the predicament that we are always in, in terms of our birth and death. Each moment is just what it is. It might be the only moment of our life, it might be the only strawberry we’ll ever eat. We could get depressed about it, or we could finally appreciate it and delight in the preciousness of every single moment of our life.”
From The Wisdom of No Escape and the Path of Loving-Kindness by Pema Chödrön, page 25

Now see what poet Eliza Griswold did with it:

Tigers
by Eliza Griswold

What are we now but voices
who promise each other a life
neither one can deliver
not for lack of wanting
but wanting won’t make it so.
We cling to a vine
at the cliff’s edge.
There are tigers above
and below. Let us love
one another and let go.

“Tigers” by Eliza Griswold from Wideawake Field. © Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2007.

Pretty powerful, right? Inspiring! This week’s assignment is to choose a story and make it new, however you can in whatever genre you write.

If you’re interested in Writing Coaching or editing, contact me at cburbank@carolburbank.com.  My new workbook, Storyweaving Playbook One: Answer the Call to Adventure, will be published in October 2015.

A Poem from James Tate

Consumed

James Tate

Why should you believe in magic,
pretend an interest in astrology
or the tarot? Truth is, you are

free, and what might happen to you
today, nobody knows. And your
personality may undergo a radical

transformation in the next half
hour. So it goes. You are consumed
by your faith in justice, your

hope for a better day, the rightness
of fate, the dreams, the lies,
the taunts. —Nobody gets what he

wants. A dark star passes through
you on your way home from
the grocery: never again are you

the same—an experience which is
impossible to forget, impossible
to share. The longing to be pure

is over. You are the stranger
who gets stranger by the hour.

James Tate, poet and distinguished professor at U. Mass Amherst, died yesterday at age 71. 

Happy Birthday Allen

Today is Allen Ginsberg‘s birthday.

Allen-Ginsberg-Quotes-5

I must confess, the naive midwesterner I once was once dismissed him as a pervy sensationalist. That was before I read his work. Like this one:

SONG

The weight of the world
is love.
Under the burden
of solitude,
under the burden
of dissatisfaction

the weight,
the weight we carry
is love.

Who can deny?
In dreams
it touches
the body,
in thought
constructs
a miracle,
in imagination
anguishes
till born
in human–
looks out of the heart
burning with purity–
for the burden of life
is love,

but we carry the weight
wearily,
and so must rest
in the arms of love
at last,
must rest in the arms
of love.

No rest
without love,
no sleep
without dreams
of love–
be mad or chill
obsessed with angels
or machines,
the final wish
is love
–cannot be bitter,
cannot deny,
cannot withhold
if denied:

the weight is too heavy

–must give
for no return
as thought
is given
in solitude
in all the excellence
of its excess.

The warm bodies
shine together
in the darkness,
the hand moves
to the center
of the flesh,
the skin trembles
in happiness
and the soul comes
joyful to the eye–

yes, yes,
that’s what
I wanted,
I always wanted,
I always wanted,
to return
to the body
where I was born.

Allen Ginsberg
San Jose, 1954

When writers “hear what’s going on/not in my own head?” Inspiration and prompt from Louise Erdrich…

I’m proposing this poem, posted today by the Writer’s Almanac as both inspiration and as a prompt. First, it’s an amazing poem — simple, layered, evocative. But it also proposes something radical, even paradoxical. What if we listened to the world instead of our own brainheart ramblings? Could we write about what is not in our heads?

Well, see what you think…

two-horses-3Spring Evening on Blind Mountain
by Louise Erdrich  

I won’t drink wine tonight
I want to hear what is going on
not in my own head
but all around me.
I sit for hours
outside our house on Blind Mountain.
Below this scrap of yard
across the ragged old pasture,
two horses move
pulling grass into their mouths, tearing up
wildflowers by the roots.
They graze shoulder to shoulder.
Every night they lean together in sleep.
Up here, there is no one
for me to fail.
You are gone.
Our children are sleeping.
I don’t even have to write this down.
“Spring Evening on Blind Mountain” by Louise Erdrich from Original Fire. © Harper Collins, 2003.

Clearly, words written down map the world and the world inside. Today, try the exercise she models. Sit and observe, and write the world down on your page. If you want to share your experiment, post it in the comments section so we can all see what you’ve seen!

Write on!

Carol

If you want more inspiration and support, contact me at www.carolburbank.com to find out about how writing coaching, editing and manuscript evaluation services can jumpstart your creativity and get that project into the world!

Tell a New Story about an Ancient Myth: Ansel Elkins’ Autobiography of Eve

One of my favorite tricks (if trick is the right word) that poets do really well is shifting the perspective of an old story we think we know, and showing us something entirely new! Here’s a new way to look at Eve — fierce, powerful, free!

HFCZ54135181083015628

Autobiography of Eve
Ansel Elkins

Wearing nothing but snakeskin
boots, I blazed a footpath, the first
radical road out of that old kingdom
toward a new unknown.
When I came to those great flaming gates
of burning gold,
I stood alone in terror at the threshold
between Paradise and Earth.
There I heard a mysterious echo:
my own voice
singing to me from across the forbidden
side. I shook awake—
at once alive in a blaze of green fire.

Let it be known: I did not fall from grace.

I leapt
to freedom.

***

If you’re feeling stuck, or want to expand your writing mind, stretch your writing muscles, why not try retelling one of the ur stories of your particular culture? Take the leap!

Bloggers & Poets!! Great free course

Writers, the folks behind WordPress are launching a free poetry course. I’ve participated in their blogging workshops and they’re great! Free, participatory, as much or as little work as you want to put in, and did I mention, FREE?

Poets of the world, unite!

The idea behind Writing 201: Poetry is to bring together poets of all styles, temperaments, and experience levels in a way that encourages writing, sharing, and discussion.

You get to decide how laid back or challenging you want the course to be.

Each day for the duration of the course (not counting weekends), you’ll receive an assignment, made up of three parts: a word prompt, a poetic form, and a poetic device. You get to choose which of these you want to explore (if any).

Read more: https://dailypost.wordpress.com/2015/02/05/writing-201-poetry-signup/

Poem: Recipe for a Broken Man

By Pat Crews ©2015

He is a man who wings
never fully expand
Whose frozen smile
and toasty reception
greet you at the door and
attempt to penetrate your trust
He is a man
who does the bidding of others
and knows not of any
system he would dare to buck

He is a Shepard
with an obscured vision
who does not see the saddened eyes
and broken spirits
of those in his flock
He is a captain
who comes upon deck,
only, after the rough seas
have subsided and the ship
is back on course

He is a pioneer
setting foot on frontier lands
who will never have the weight
to leave one footprint behind.

Fabulous Poem about FAMILY! Mary Jo Salter’s The Age of Reason….

Check out this wonderful poem about coming of age (7 being the “age of reason” in the traditional Catholic church). I love the way it turns, integrates family stories and childhood experiences, through the eye of the mother, who is the bridge and the observer and the teacher and the guardian, all at once! Enjoy….

birthday cake

The Age of Reason
by Mary Jo Salter

“When can we have cake?” she wants to know.
And patiently we explain: when dinner’s finished.
Someone wants seconds; and wouldn’t she like to try,
while she’s waiting, a healthful lettuce leaf?
The birthday girl can’t hide her grief-

worse, everybody laughs. That makes her sink
two rabbity, gapped teeth, acquired this year,
into a quivering lip, which puts an end
to tears but not the tedium she’ll take
in life before she’s given cake:

“When I turned seven, now,” her grandpa says,
“the priest told me I’d reached the age of reason.
That means you’re old enough to tell what’s right
from wrong. Make decisions on your own.”
Her big eyes brighten. “So you mean

I can decide to open presents first?”
Laughter again (she joins it) as the reward
of devil’s food is brought in on a tray.
“You know why we were taught that?” asks my father.
“No.” I light a candle, then another

in a chain. “-So we wouldn’t burn in Hell.”
A balloon pops in the other room; distracted,
she innocently misses talk of nuns’
severities I never knew at seven.
By then, we were Unitarian

and marched off weekly, dutifully, to hear
nothing in particular. “Ready!”
I call, and we huddle close to sing
something akin, you’d have to say, to prayer.
Good God, her hair-

one beribboned pigtail has swung low
as she leans to trade the year in for a wish;
before she blows it out, the camera’s flash
captures a mother’s hand, all hope, no blame,
saving her from the flame.

“The Age of Reason” by Mary Jo Salter, from Sunday Skaters. © Knopf.