Monday, April 23, 2018

Writing Our Angels, Home and Abroad

Artwork by Tania Pryputniewicz
I could use an angel right now; how about you? I lost my mother in January and I’ve been two months blessed with caring for her with my siblings and four months grieving after her passing. As is always the case during times of intense sorrow, through the tears, many miracles, much beauty. Like this drawing of the angel I did last year for a friend of mine before I knew the cancer was returning, maybe in some kind of instinctive premonition that the ceiling of heaven was coming down a little closer than usual.

If you, like me, are feeling pulled heavenward lately and would like to explore your relationship to angels in writing, join me. I’m eager to get back to my teaching and my life as a writer. It’s just how I function, how I heal, and how I grow.  I’d love to work with you. 

Here’s what I put together for next month:

Writing Our Angels 

Have you ever wrestled with angels? Named an angel? Loved or raged in the absence or presence of an angel? Whether you believe in angels or not, you will find them throughout literature, from Blake’s time to our time in poems like, “Questions About Angels” by Billy Collins and “What the Angels Left” by Marie Howe and “For Each of You” by Audre Lorde and “The Angels" by Fanny Howe: I met them / in the Fields of Mourning.

What do angels give us? Are they to be revered in all their Hallmark glory? Or should we, as Linda Pastan writes in “Angels,” be weary of them? I am tired of their milky robes, / their star-infested sashes.

Whether you’ve had your own encounters with angels or have longed dreamed of meeting your guardian angel or have a question or complaint to lodge with a particular angel, come write with us as we examine our assumptions about angels and look at angel poems together. You’ll come away from our class with reveries and poems towards the creation of a personal Book of Angels. 

All levels of writing welcome; class structure includes weekly prompts and video calls in a loving and supportive virtual classroom environment. We start at the end of this month on Monday, April 30 and run six weeks through Friday, June 8. Cost for the six-week session is $350. Please contact me for more information through the contact form on this website (use the link under my photo, which is accessed by clicking on my full name).

Snow in the morning garden!
My husband the Angel…

…gifted me a trip to Denmark when he heard I was losing my mother. In March, I flew to visit the beautiful host family I lived with as an exchange student when I was just eighteen years old. What a blessing to fall into the arms of my host sisters and host brother and my host mother and to fill in the narrative of the years apart. To sleep in the same house I slept in so many years ago, to wake to the kinship of loving voices, to peruse the home's artwork, to discover the Danish artist, Ovartaci. And to fall in love with of course, the colorful wings of his butterfly woman hanging in the hallway outside my bedroom and the pale blue floating figures and their equally pale blue mystical horses pulling the chariot of his "Tankens flugt" (Thought's flight). 

The Key to the Future
Thanks to poet Cindy Lynn Brown I joined the Odense Lyric 2018 Tech and Tekst poetry festival. I got the chance to hear several hours of Danish poetry and show three poetry movies. My Danish came back (enough) to introduce and read the corresponding poems from November Butterfly (in Danish). But this was largely thanks to Cindy's translations and my host sister Ulla Krogh Henriksen's coaching. Here's a sweet recording of Ulla reading Corridor for me:

The Little Mermaid
It snowed while I stayed with Ulla in Copenhagen; we had a beautiful day walking beside the waterway revisiting the Little Mermaid and discovering a fabulous scrap metal figure titled, “The Key to the Future.” He sits on a giant silver key overlooking the water in pensive pose, finger to forehead, reminiscent of Rodin’s Thinker. I loved fantasizing about the key to the future, what the door would look like, what massive lock might turn…what threshold we might cross, what angel meet there.

Hospice Angels at Tarot for Two

My tarot co-blogger and dear friend Mary Allen read cards for me several days before I lost my mother in early January. By January’s end, with Mary on the far end of the telephone in Iowa, I was able to write a bit about the long goodbye and the hospice nurse my mother loved so much:

Photo by Robyn Beattie
The day she decided to ask for end of life meds, she named the rose Gabriella after her hospice nurse and I cried with her as I pushed her in the wheelchair to the flower stand on the corner where we could buy Gabriella a “thank you” rose as red as the one we’d name after her and left alive in the garden.

Read the rest of The Hanged One here

Mary had travails of her own. She writes about the Two of Wands in relation to her month here:

My first thought about the two of wands is that in the Thoth deck it looks like bones—two bones crossing—even a tiny bit like the shadowy broken bones in the x-rays of my shoulder…I read online this morning that the two of wands is the card for partnerships, two people working together successfully, and that makes sense to me in terms of what’s been going on since I’ve had this broken, trying-to-heal shoulder.

Tania's Tarot Sketchbook
Read the rest of The Two of Wands here

Here's my companion post to Mary's; I am still circling grief, and writing here about the Ten of Swords and Four of Disks:

When Mary and I pulled cards in January just two weeks after my mother died, I pulled the Ten of Swords, “Ruin” with its image of ten sword handles ringing the periphery, points poised to pierce a central heart, the main and thickest sword breaking apart. I didn’t want that card for the month and tried a Mary tactic: I chose a second card. I’m grateful Mary has taught me it’s ok to do so.

Poetry News

This past weekend I made it out to read at the celebration for the Kowit prize, a poetry prize bestowed by the San Diego Entertainment and Arts Guild and given in honor of the late much-loved poet and writing teacher Steve Kowit. I am honored to be one of a group of honorable mention honorees. I dedicated the poem, “Moscow Road” to my mother. 

Can it really be the first poem I’ve ever written with the “f” word in it?  (I reference a phrase in one of the books my mother kept in the house when I was growing up, Erica Jong’s Fear of Flying.)  I lost my nerve a bit when I found out my husband couldn't accompany me to the reading, but God bless my teenage daughter. She shook her pony-tailed head at me and said, “Oh Mom, come on, just own it!” 

And so I did. Here’s a link to where you can submit your own poems (June 15-October 15) and order the San Diego Poetry Annual (or you can find a copy of it in the public and college libraries in San Diego ). This volume contains special sections: Poems from Juvenile Hall, Poems by Veterans, Native Poets, and the Steve Kowit Poetry Prize honorees.

I owe the following thank yous:

To the editors of San Pedro River Review and Blue Horse Press, Jeffrey and Tobi Alfier, for publishing "Silhouette" and "Strawberry Wine," in their Spring Music Themed Issue.

Founding editor of the Rockvale Review Sandy Coomer; "The Marriage Counselor Channels King Solomon" and "City Boys" are forthcoming in May.

Poetry editor Lindsay Wilson of The Meadow; "Stupid Californians" forthcoming this summer.

Editor in Chief Matthew Anderson of NILVX: A Book of Magic; "Tower" and "Fortune" linked haikus are forthcoming in Summer 2018 Tarot Series 2 issue.

Sunday, October 22, 2017

Steering for Joy: The Ship’s Wheel, Marriage, and Writing

An omen hunter and rapture reveler for life, I had to share this metaphor thread with you. This is a photo I took in early October on mini-retreat with a group of my larger-than-life writing loves (we met for four scant days to fill our hearts, and to read from Unmasked: Women Write About Sex and Intimacy after 50). Running away to play with these writers keeps me sane and helps me see my world in a way in which I can thrive. I love that in this photo the mirror sits framed inside of a ship’s wheel, that I’m finally in a place in my life where I feel I can think about putting myself at the center of the steering wheel of my joy again.

Remember this post and image from September September 2, 2011: Why Every Wife Could Use Her Own Hmong Tribe (and a Thundershirt)The mirror in my room, the room of my first AROHO retreat (where I very first met the very women I met this October to write with) spoke to me of the yin-yang stress of feeling forgotten and invisible in my marriage due to a convergence of high-energy factors, including a joyful one: a wedding, and an incredibly stressful one: loss of twenty-three lives overseas, and a confusing one: trying to make sense of the impact of two-city living on my marriage.

Remember this post and image from September 14, 2013: Emerging From the Cocoon: Sisters Real and Imagined? I had the same room, two years later on AROHO summer writing retreat, and this time instead of division, I captured in the mirror an open door. Our family was living under the same roof, no longer split between two cities. And I was on the verge of seeing my first poetry book, November Butterflytake form thanks to Saddle Road Press, learning to trust my writing process and myself again, again in large part due to trusting that in order to heal and grow, I had to be willing to risk letting my family take care of themselves while I took care of my inner calling. My extended writing support network helped me believe over and over again that I needed to take time for my work.

Fast forward to fours years later, and I’m happy to be moving into the full spectrum of color again and waking up in so many ways and writing, always writing, to clear the debris of the past to be more fully awake now. I’m grateful to have a practice of writing, companions of heart, readers who care, and this blog, like a steady, familiar friend, where I’ve been able to quietly write, post, reflect, and converse with the listening hearts Feral Mom, Feral Writer has so steadily brought into my orbit.

Zoetic Press Write Like Your Alive 2017: Free Fall Poetry

Zoetic Press challenged writers during the month of August to see if we could turn in work every day for 31 days, otherwise known as the Write Like You're Alive Challenge. Many of us came close, and thanks to Lise Quintana and the Zoetic Press staff,  you can download a PDF of the WLYA anthology of selected works created during the challenge. 

The download is free; I have a poem titled, “Grand Canyon” and below you’ll find a word cloud, a word or phrase per entry, just to get your curiousity going.  I found particularly moving the works that focused on looking at various forms of mental duress—one in particular is a short story, "Out of true," by academic surgeon David Hoenig, written from the point of view of a narrator trying to keep his schizophrenia in check so he can love the woman he loves. So poignant. Here’s the world cloud from the collection as a whole:

stepford composure             marginalia      opposing moons  
custody           experiment    Mimosa           future            civil rights      

bourbon        cad

fiction gal       lifeline                        papillae                                  

target              pita dough     return-to-sender

rumpled suede of your voice           broom             fissure                        


green shoes   God     hotline            forbidden magic                    

coyote             dragonfly       Grand Canyon           coffee              

wooden teeth                       

Adam and Eve

marimba        scribe  quarantine     bullseye

Friday, October 6, 2017

Love and Spirituality: Trusting Your Inner Compass

Unmasked: Women Write About Sex and Intimacy After Fifty

What does a love life look like for women after fifty? Lover or no? Online dating or no? Love of friends eclipsing lover love? You’ll find fifty-three views in a new anthology, "Unmasked: Women Write About Sex and Intimacy After Fifty." I’m honored to be included, writing that I first posted here on Feral Mom, “Sex, Hammers and Self-Care in a House with Three Children.” 

Editor Marcia Meier will give a brief introduction, followed by those of us reading from the book: readers Lisa Rizzo, Barbara Rockman, Renate Golden, and yours truly. 

Editor Marcia Meier answers a few questions about Unmasked over on the SDWI blog.

Come out if you can tomorrow night (Saturday, October 7th) to San Diego Writers, Ink over at Liberty Station 5-7 p.m. for the reading and signing and refreshments.

Trusting your Healer’s Compass: Amazon Wisdom Keeper Van Tuyl

As I keep working slow and steady on writing prose about an Illinois commune I lived on as a child, I’m reading memoirs voraciously—for inspiration, for strength, for joy. I met Loraine Van Tuyl on-line last year and fell in love with her forthcoming memoir, “Amazon Wisdom Keeper: A Psychologist’s Memoir of Spiritual Awakening,” which comes out at the end of this month with She Writes Press.

In “Amazon Wisdom Keeper,” Loraine anchors us in the physical landscape of her native Suriname, the fertile green and heat a backdrop for her childhood experiences and family lineage of teachings (a quality of light and heat that prepares Loraine for later trials when her deepest visions are questioned). To escape the turmoil of the changing political power-scape in Suriname, Loraine’s family moves to the United States where adolescence’s lessons arrive through Western belief systems. Intuition’s early lessons came through love, and later, through college psychology classes with their fixed ways of approaching healing as well as spiritual groups with rigid understandings of the ways to access healing power.

The gift of Amazon Wisdom Keeper is the intimate look at the very push and pull of different ways of believing and healing and what it takes to undergo rejection and somehow find the strength to trust one’s internal compass to navigate life, to know when to stay, when to let go, when to change mentors or groups. Van Tuyl reminds us that in our deepest moments of personal and spiritual rejection lie the seeds for self–love. We learn that by confronting our obstacles and trusting the process, we have the potential to awaken beautiful parts of ourselves otherwise left untested and dormant. Thank you so much Loraine, for your beautiful book. For more information, here is a link to a short video about Amazon Wisdom Keeper and a link to Loraine's page on Goodreads.

Keep your eye out for an interview with Loraine later this month--I will post the link here when it is live. 

**October 19 update: Here is the link to the interview: Amazon Wisdom Keeper and Spiritual Awakening.