Category Archives: Poetry

The Acceptable State of Busy

The other day I went into the staff room of the small college where I teach, and after I punched in the door code that lets faculty and staff in and keeps students out, I encountered a young staffer seated at one of the round lunch tables munching energetically on chips.

“How’s it going?” he asked loudly.

“Pretty good I guess,” I replied. I was lying. I was tired. I had a mountain of portfolios to grade in the upcoming week; each of them would take an hour. My checking account was overdrawn. I was currently working with my TMJ doctor to find the right mouth splint adjustment to relax my jaw joints enough while sleeping to keep me from biting my tongue off in the night.

“Me too!” he said, with seeming enthusiasm. “Pretty busy, which is good I guess.” He crunched another bunch of chips. “Makes the day go by fast,” he said, as I hustled into the bathroom to check my eye makeup and comb my hair. I was late to my learning center mentor shift.

“Agreed,” I called back from the bathroom door.

Inside the bathroom, I looked in the mirror and grimaced. Fluorescent lights always create a ghastly effect, making me look ten years older than I really am. A thought pounced on my mind.

“No you don’t,” the thought said.

What?

“You don’t agree. At all.”

My inner self was right. I didn’t prefer to be busy, or for my day to go by fast.

But, in my “congenial colleague persona,” I had just demonstrated how mindlessly our culture views busyness as a good thing. When did “busy” become the acceptable good? The desired state of being? The best and most successful modus operandi of our species? Sayings of busyness abound:

“The way to get started is to quit talking and begin doing.” Walt Disney

“Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.” John Lennon

“Rarely have I seen a situation where doing less than the other guy is a good strategy.” Jimmy Spithill

Productivity: produce, product, production, gross domestic national product (note the first word is “gross”)

Bottom line. ROI – return on investment

Get a move on. Daylight’s burning. For chrissake, hurry up. Get out of my way.

The early bird catches the worm.

The noise of busyness is ever present.

When I was a kid one of my favorite books was The Story of Ferdinand by Munro Leaf. Ferdinand does not headbutt, kick, and run about and try to get in good with the other bulls. Nor does he share their aspirations to be selected to go and fight in the bullfights. He just wants to sit under his cork tree and smell the flowers. For this he is viewed as extremely odd. Speaking volumes about this little book, Hitler and Franco banned it, while Gandhi embraced it.

How could I explain to this guy at the lunch table that what I really wanted was to sit in an open field all day long like Ferdinand the bull and simply smell the flowers? My vision of a good day, of success, was slow and quiet. Just being.

I am not advocating a life devoid of purpose, contribution, and meaning. But I wonder how modern society’s current trajectory, which most days seems bent on mass destruction, might change if we just slowed down—the way we talk, walk, breathe, drive, think, and do. What if we sat and listened? What would we see if we just looked at what is really going on all around us? How would it change what we DO?

What are we really accomplishing with all of this busyness? Is it what is best for ourselves, our family and friends, for society, for the planet?

I try to carve out time for slowing down and observing. Interesting words we use – to carve … cutting and slicing as if time were meat on a plate, or a tree to be fashioned into a wood carving statue. Rather violent, this idea of carving time.

When I do slow down and observe, I am often appalled and astounded at some of the awful things we do and say to each other, what we do to fish, birds, plants, oceans, forests. It takes guts to listen and look.

But I am also inspired and hopeful, enlightened. Always I see the most beautiful moments of the natural world. Sometimes I see the tiniest acts of joy and kindness between fellow humans.

I take a long, deep breath. And the fresh air is a delight.

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Three hours and twenty two minutes later—Why I hate looking for publishers

Hunting for publishers is just NOT a linear process—it is multi-directional information OVERLOAD.

…and you know how I love to be linear when it comes to accomplishing a task! [Note: nonlinear mode when creating is just fine. It’s necessary. Even fun!]

When hunting for publishers, I find, there are fields … acres and acres of them, simply littered with rabbit holes to go down. Fall down? Plummet head first? Deep, dark, twisting, rambling rabbit holes. Who knows where I will surface?

This morning’s goal:

Find 10 potential publishers for my haiku book, Where I Go Walking: Vermont Haiku Around the Year, to add to my orderly, linear table of publishers in Google Docs, so that I can continue to send this manuscript out!

Seems easy enough, right??

I emerge, dazed, hours later. All the blood has drained from my rear end from sitting in one position; my neck is permanently craned forward. I pry my teeth apart to take a deep breath.

My brain is scrambled. So many jigs and jags—online journals that publish haiku, broken links to presses that no longer exist, windows and deadlines for submissions, haughty book reviews, snarky submission guidelines that talk down to writers as if they were only ten years old or lack any meaningful education whatsoever. Lofty proclamations of what “good” haiku should look like. Tantalizing retreats in forested places to study haiku … images of steaming coffee, literati hobnobbing, smell of pine, consciousness-elevating conversations … Oh, wait. That’s maybe for next summer. Back to the task at hand.

Three hours and twenty-two minutes later, I now have added only ONE new possible publisher to my list. Really? Oh, and 6 online journals with submission details, because, well, if I am any good, of course, I DO need to submit to those regularly as well now. And I bought two more books to read, adding to the already teetering piles on desks and coffee tables around my house.

My heart feels squished. The Imposter Syndrome looms large. Who am I anyway? Is this even worth my time? Who cares?? I just wasted so much time. My Sunday afternoon.

Suddenly I want to go and pull weeds from the garden, feel my fingers in the dirt. Feel the cold wind on my face.

My manuscript turns over in my desktop file folder and yawns.

 

 

 

Losing a Pet: Healing Through Poetry

Losing an animal companion is one of the hardest losses. I have had the good fortune to have one of my poems, “Drool,” published in this beautiful collection of poetry: Our Last Walk: Using Poetry for Remembering and Grieving Our Pets. Louis Hoffman, Michael Moats, and Tom Greening, Eds. University Professors Press.

Link: http://universityprofessorspress.com/project/our-last-walk-using-poetry-for-grieving-and-remembering-our-pets/

A perfect gift if you know an animal lover. I’ve read many of the poems in the collection and they are wonderful! But have a tissue handy!

 

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Old Mr. Mingus always loved to “go for a ride!” 

 

Once a Siren

A spring pond
adorned with water lilies,
minnow-tickled.

Sweet, wet life drip,
ripples in the mist.

Water nymphs
skate on mirrors
of flat grey sky.

Desire feeds
experience which feeds
desire.

Ten bare toes
sinking in soft silt.

Two white arms and two
white legs exposed,
fresh air goose bumps.

Ten red fingernails draw
circles on the surface.

Diving under
sound ceases
except for bubbles and
swish, she glides,
silver hair undulating
like a water weed.

Her blooming resurgence a
surrender to cloudburst.

Surfacing, cleansed and shivering
she cocoons the coolness
in a turquoise towel.

Treading slowly through
wet green grass
towards a solitary
naked evening.

Need manuscript feedback?

One of my favorite writing gigs is to help other writers revise and strengthen their creative works. I’ve helped those who write fiction, creative nonfiction, and poetry by providing in-depth page by page comments. If you have a manuscript draft and would appreciate another pair of eyes and ears for your words, email me at word.artisan.vt@gmail.com and we can work out a plan that suits your needs and budget. I have an MA in Fiction Writing and an MFA in Poetry, along with years of experience with various kinds of writing and editing. I’ve also been a teacher. My writing has been published in online blogs, online magazines, books, and newspapers. Writing is a solitary act, but it can be a wonderful process to work with another writer!

Love this fall poem by Rilke!

Autumn Day

Rilke

 

Lord: it is time. The summer was so immense.

Lay your shadow on the sundials,

and let loose the wind in the fields.

 

Bid the last fruits to be full,

give them another two more southerly days,

press them to ripeness, and chase

the last sweetness into the heavy wine.

 

Whoever has no house now will not build one anymore.

Whoever is alone now will remain so for a long time,

will stay up, read, write long letters,

and wander the avenues, up and down,

restlessly, while the leaves are blowing.