Tuesday, November 6, 2012

November Notes from a Closet Art Pirate: The Wicked Witch, Poetry Sculptures, New Perhaps/Maybes

woodcut by Peter Pryputniewicz
The Witch’s fingers dug into the bark of the tree. She still could not see the girl’s face, just her strong forearms and the crown of her head where her dark hair was pulled back into pigtails. Was she to be taken seriously, or was she merely a blow-away dandelion seed, caught on the wrong side of the wind?

 —from Gregory Maguire’s Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West

Lately in relation to my creative endeavors (as evidenced by my last post on the obstacles I faced leaving town to go to an art opening) I feel stymied. Trying to take my creative life seriously, but in fact, spending more time “on the wrong side of the wind” as light and transportable as a dandelion seed.

In actuality I do not have the Wicked Witch of the West breathing down my neck nor her host of emotional under-pinnings and murky cross-purposes one discovers upon reading Maguire’s semi-sympathetic portrayal in Wicked (how risky, but clever, to take her on—the dark horse to Dorothy’s eventually unbearable bright). Though I  may not, during this intense time of teaching online and in person courses, have as much raw writing time as I’d like to go around after the three children, Husky, feral cats, and two indoor cats are fed, watered, and put to bed, I can stop and appreciate the fertile results of prior and ongoing collaborations.

My co-collaborator Robyn and I did escape to Stockton to view the 2D3D poetry show up featuring our photo poem montages (which took Juror's Best of Show)  at the LH Horton Jr. Gallery at San Joaquin DeltaCollege (their Center for the Arts) at the attentive side of curator Jan Marlese. In our usual “secret art pirate” mode, Robyn and I came home with a plethora of new photos of the artwork there (of course we asked permission first!). We’re hoping to secure further permission to use some of the images for our Guinevere series of photo poem montages.

I’m including the visual postcard again as it sports the Sir Gawain (Gallery Award Best of Show) and Green Knight works by CJ Hurley. In person, the full-body size work dazzles with its intricate use of thin braided rope, wax, jewel work, mottled copper and bronze. In his artist statement, Hurley writes: “Although Sir Gawain represents Chivalry, Christian ideals, and, civilization, his counterpoint, the Pagan Green Knight is no polar opposite. The Green Knight represents the Pagan gods, the forces of nature, and the untamed wild. Yet he is no savage, he is neither barbaric nor deceitful. In fact he displays as much honor, and integrity, if not more than Sir Gawain.” Read Hurley's full statement here.

Applying to the 2D3D poetry show came via a nudge from sculptor Sandy Frank. Several years ago, we started playing with the idea of putting poems and sculpture together. At that point, she penned some lines from one of my poems  across a male torso. Though we were not in position to enter this year’s show together, the occasion of the 2D3D poetry show did remind us to pick up the thread and play some more. So here Sandy has tried collaging stanza’s from the poem The Painter’s Wife across the sheer wall of the side of one of her sculptures. We are mid process but I wanted to post the image to show you what we’re up to for now.

In other news: stop by to read new collaborations up at Liz Brennan’s Perhaps Maybe blog—I meant to post these links by Halloween, as they were slightly darker than my usual mildly dark side, especially “Some Human Actions” and  Ley Lines , less so, though still appropriate potentially for this belated All Hallows Eve timing.

I also just finished teaching a section of Transformative Blogging for women writers at Story Circle Network--still riding the creative play high--and will be teaching it again in January. I remain in love with the flow of exchanging information and I’ll be sure to post a link to the next class.

I am presently in search of writing mothers curious about blogging--I ran a guest post over at Mother Writer Mentor about the class (the post also links to example blogs written by mothers). When I get enough students, I'll run the course. I would be the last person to urge a mother away from her child, but I believe one can write and one can mother, just as one can mother and one can blog. Sign up with a friend and come out to play--I'd love to work with you.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Ladder to the Moon: Child vs. Art, Mother vs. Writer, 2D3D Best of Show Award

Close up from Nefertiti Among Us
Painting the ladder had been in my mind for a long time and there it was—with dark Pedernal and the high white moon—all ready to be put down the next day—Georgia O’Keeffe (Penguin Books)

A reproduction of Georgia O’Keeffe’s painting of a tan-veering-peach ladder suspended in a deepening turquoise sky between a white half moon and the dusk blackened outline of the desert cliff-line sits on a small balsawood side table in my writing cabin. Her un-peopled scape invites calm. And multiple identifications: are you moon, sleeping cliff-line, or ladder floating noncommittally between earth and moon?

I choose ladder, substitute body, of any working artist or writer. An image of that perpetual reach for the celestial, rung by rung, met by opposing pull of  gravity, a side-effect of incarnation and the need to ground one’s pathway to beauty.

And one’s pathway through pain. Last week’s gravity took my six year old off the end of a rope swing and onto the hill so hard that he broke his elbow. One-hundred yards below him in the house, I heard the unmistakable ER scream and fled to retrieve him.

Shortly before midnight, x-rays endured, temporary cast hotly hardening, my son asked me to pull over on our way home to give him pain medicine. Thus began our seven night vigil, wee morning hours of movies, so many times he watched Clone Wars to distract him from the itching brought on by the narcotic grade Tylenol that I caught him watching the series in French.

Tension remains high in my internal world. I am hands down a mother. And hands down a writer, my husband out of town for the accident and for the ensuing weekend as he’d signed up to take an extra shift at his military job to help out with Hell Week (that grueling no-sleep training nightmare week aspiring SEALS attempt to survive). When my husband calls, I can hear the sound of grenade simulators, the panicked din of male voices. Lost in my own world of 2 a.m. advice nurse blues, I don’t have much empathy for his exhaustion given mine, my plaintive refrain, “When are you coming home?”

The following week, the scheduling gods play a cruel joke, landing my son’s elbow surgery on the same day as a reception for the 2D3D poetry show where my collaborator Robyn and I were long anticipating meeting the makers of the various works of art comprising the show, for which three of our photo poem montage micro movies had been chosen.

Every mother writer knows the push and pull between her soul work (for me, writing) and her other soul work (for me, childrearing). I’d decided to let go of making it to the reception. Until the very night of the surgery, when my son woke at 3 a.m. His pain subsided with the appearance of the i-pad. Drugged by video play, he thumbed his way merrily past sunrise and beyond the day of his surgery. I felt trumped by video game, invisible, though grateful.

My husband, finally home from hell week to intercept mine, tried to convince me he could handle the post surgery care for 6 hours until I’d return from the reception.  “I’m his father…I’m here. You be here for when he goes in to surgery and I’ll be here when he wakes up.” Trying not to either over or under inflate my importance, operating on the dimmed batteries of a sleep-deprived brain, I called Robyn and asked her if she’d be on standby in case the surgery timetable shifted enough for me to kiss my child when he woke up from anesthesia and sprint to the reception.

 Which is in fact what happened—the surgeon finished earlier than expected…so I tarried long enough to see my son wake up, to kiss him, to hold his hand while they controlled his pain enough for him to fall back asleep. My husband and daughter then took over.

But even as we drove out of the hospital parking lot, dress, heels, spare dress and spare heels rolled up in my purse (“the last thing you need to do is break a heel!” joked Robyn “so bring spares”), time had advanced to 3:00, with a 3 hour drive to Stockton ahead of us, putting us an hour into the reception. Robyn, sensing my hesitation, asked me what I wanted to do. We even considered keeping it simple by stopping instead at Paradise Ridge to see the new sculptures in the garden.

Vacillating, with each mile we drove away from my son and despite the smiling photo my husband texted along with, “He’s fine, just go!” my body began to register the stress. I realized my car would be locked in the hospital parking lot. By the time I contacted hospital security, nausea kicked in to looping images of my son’s IV momentarily backing up with blood and his face once the morphine finally eased his pain.

As if on universal cue, traffic came to a halt on Highway 121 due to an accident, followed by miles of glittering semis backed up before we could get on Highway 80. We did our driving math and realized by now we’d get to Stockton with fifteen minutes to spare before the reception ended (if we were lucky). We took a deep breath and turned around.

Immediately, the nausea backed off. In further universal collusion, as if to say, you can do right by your child and do right by your art, we received a message from the Gallery Director telling us she understood we couldn’t make it, followed by the news that we’d been awarded Juror's Best of Show. Once we got within a half hour’s distance of home, we stopped and celebrated our achievement by going out to dinner, where we found great delight in the rush and swirl of the short-staffed restaurant, the chef racing out eventually to help, sweating but good naturedly delivering our bill, dessert, and fortunes seconding the award we’d received.

That night, the Siberian Husky and the husband sequestered three-quarters of the bed. With our cast-elbowed child between us, I found myself on the usual end rind of the bed. I fell blissfully asleep relieved to be within my son’s earshot, quietly grateful for the cold air coming in through the screen, the sky where we live as black as the Pedernal mountains in O’Keeffe’s painting. I could easily conjure the sensation of climbing her ladder towards the moon.
Further Reading:
Awards for the 2D3D Visual Poetry: Works Inspired by Literature and Poetry at San Joaquin Delta College, Delta Center for the Arts, LH Horton Jr. Gallery, 2012:
To view the entire 2D3D Poetry Show: visit the website. From there you can read Chandra Cerrito's Juror Statement as well as visit participating artist statements and see images of the work interpreting lines of poetry from a wide range of sources.
Juror's Awards:
Best of Show: Tania Pryputniewicz and Robyn Beattie (Amelia, Nefertiti Among Us, She Dressed in a Hurry for Lady Di).
Ellis characterizes her work in her artist statement as "Inspired by Islamic design (and the challenge of creating human form without people)" which  results in artwork she hopes will " add another layer of humanity and meaning to the beauty of Islamic gemoetric design, while also seeing a place and the people who live and work there, in a new, perhaps more poetic, more humanstic, way."
From the artist statement of Stephens: "I find myself drawn to mechanical processes, vintage equimpment, sotries of exploration and innovation, and popular culture."
Gallery Awards:
From Hurley's artist statement: "My artwork compares and contrasts the Pagan, Christian, historical and literary symbolism of the poem (14th Century Sir Gawain and the Green Knight)." (Image appears on the visual postcard.)
Best of Show 3D: Doug Thielscher, "Babble"
From Thielscher's artist statement, "...I want to capture the moment of greatest tension in a story. I find that by reducing the composition to only the most expressive gestures of a scene I am able to better highlight the emotional intensity at the climactic point in time."
Thielscher's other work, "Ninth Circle," (based on Dante's "Inferno" appears on the visual postcard).
To view all four of our photo montages: visit my website.
Here you will also find a link to view the first Nefertiti montage we made, titled, Nefertiti on the Astral.
To view photographer Robyn's work: visit her website.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

2D3D Poetry Show Featuring Lady Di, Amelia, Nefertiti Photo Poem Montages

Photographer Robyn Beattie and I are very proud to announce that three of our photo poem montages were chosen to be featured as part of a 2D3D visual poetry show hosted next month by the LH Horton Jr. Gallery at San Joaquin Delta College (Center for the Arts, curator Chandra Cerrito). Authors included as point of departure for the artwork range from Ovid, Rilke, Dickens, Coleridge and Tolkien to more contemporary authors such as Neruda, Ashbery and Alexandra Teague.

Robyn and I will be driving to Stockton for the opening reception on October 4th, from 5-7. We are thrilled to have this chance to share our work with a larger audience and excited to meet the rest of the exhibiting artists.

 In lieu of the haul to Stockton, the entire show can be viewed via the website.

Our montages chosen for the show: “She Dressed in a Hurry, for Lady Di,” “Amelia,” and our most recently finished montage (just last month), “Nefertiti Among Us.” “Lady Di” and “Nefertiti Among Us” feature my father on piano performing the work of Scriabin and Bartok while “Amelia” features the voice of Lori O’Hara and an original guitar score written and performed by Michael Greenberg.

As I’ve mentioned in the past, while I’ve been somewhat (joyfully) confined to the domestic monastery, Robyn’s burgeoning life as an artist and photographer means we have beautiful crossover and opportunity to include works by other artists as she ventures out into the world with her immaculate eye and records a trail of where she’s been for us to harvest.

Featured within the photo poem montage “Nefertiti Among Us” we have an amazing mummy mask by E. McK. Filmer, dolls by Margaret Keelan, and a detail from Michael Cookinham’s painting, “Mummy Dreams.” “Amelia” contains artwork by Loreen Barry (a frail butterfly and markings we borrowed to imply hieroglyphics) as well as the bronze airplane sculpture and shadow of the same by Monty Monty.

Robyn and I are mid-process creating new montages for a series of poems based on the imagined life of Guinevere as well as a montage to accompany a poem based on the Italian fairytale, The Three Oranges. I hope you’ll stop by the gallery site, either in person or via virtual tour, to celebrate with us and check out the range of artistic response to poetry.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Honoring Malinda Markham

“Markham’s is a poetry of scrims and scarves, of meaning held just out of reach—not to frustrate, but to build a sense of wonder with layers of feeling and image without concretizing either, which would diffuse their magic.” –Mari L’Esperance, Connotation Press, Review of Malinda Markham’s Having Cut the Sparrow’s Heart

In response to loss of all kinds, we often turn to poetry for solace.

And when poets lose other poets, we turn to the words of the particular poet we lost. So I will start this post with a link to former poet and translator Malinda Markham’s poem: Just Past this Road Lives a Figure Imprisoned in a Tower (Verse Daily, 2010).

 Several lines in the closing stanzas of this poem read:

How many times

People set out to reach you.

Facing the day, the myriad steps and missteps of a poet’s life, I am reminded by this loss to persevere towards connection in all my relations, making contact, sustaining contact and connection. As a poet, I do not necessarily view death as a barrier to communication, listening, and connection, poetry itself--like night time dreams and astral travel—a bridge to the other side if you believe in such comfort. I do.

Yet tangibly, in the frame of disparate bodies day by day, I share the grief of your particular loss, Mindy, (with utmost condolences to your family) along with those of us who spent our MFA years with you in the heartland. Blessings. My prayer is that you rest sweetly in peace knowing you have left a trail of beautiful poems behind you.

Further reading:

Here is a lovely review of Markham’s second book, Having Cut the Sparrow’s Heart by Mari L’Esperance, Connotation Press, Sept 2012.

And here is the announcement posted last week at the blog Freedom in Harmony, complete with review quotes and Amazon links to Markham’s first book, Ninety-Five Nights of Listening (winner of the Bakeless Prize, Mariner/Houghton Mifflin, 2002) and her second book, Having Cut the Sparrow’s Heart (New Issues, 2010).

March 2015 addition: Malinda Markham: Felt Intelligence, Compassionate Interiority, also by Mari L’Esperance

Friday, August 24, 2012

Fall Classes, Fall Poem: Transmigration

Can I just confess, here it is fall, and I'm falling...falling behind on some goals, making progress on others. I'm still gearing up to work live with my Transformative Blogging book, sharing as I go over at my new website. I still plan to shortly have my first post up there, it is just that...I'm so comfortable blogging here at Feral Mom, Feral Writer...I'll just have to stretch to grow into my new site.
In the meantime, the prose poetry collaborations continue at Perhaps, Maybe, though the teaching year has kicked in for both Liz and I. Here's our final summer offering, and here's Liz preparing the deck chairs for the "filming" of our micro-reading of Transmigration.
If you are foot loose and fancy free this fall, or at least somewhat on the loose and hungry for poetry, I invite you to join me for one of my upcoming classes. Here are the latest:
Reading and Writing the International Poetry of Motherhood and Fatherhood
(begins September 10, 2012).

Join this writing group to mine the globe, reading and writing poems, journal entries, or prose based on the universal experience of birth, labor, fertility, adoption, or parenthood (or the experience of having parents). We will read poems and selections of prose from a number of different countries each week, and in response, we will write poetry or prose reflecting our experience of birth, labor, fertility, or the gifts and challenges of parenting. We will start with Finland, in honor of A Finnish Mother Writer in our family. For full description or to sign up, visit Mother Writer Mentor's Poetry Workshops.

Transformative Blogging for Women
(begins October 8th, 2012)

This course offers beginning bloggers the chance to launch a blog and get feedback, and for more experienced bloggers, this course offers the chance to take stock of one’s blogging mask, reach, and other goals and provides a path to recalibration. As is the case with good writing of any kind, the details you choose to present as a blogger make all the difference. You’ll need to make decisions about which parts of yourself or your topic you’ll reveal or explore and who you are striving to become through the process of committing to blogging (since the consistent practice of writing around a focused topic leads inevitably to transformation of various kinds). For full course description or to sign up, visit Story Circle Network.

Blogging for Writing Mothers
(begins November 5, 2012)

In the wake of motherhood’s potentially all-encompassing submersion, blogging offers a unique way to stay connected during the natural, necessary isolation that can occur when one steps out of former orbits of relation and habit to raise children and lay down new routines (or the sudden quiet arriving when children leave the nest). How do you stay connected to your writing self? This gentle blogging workshop offers a chance to create material towards a future blog or support you as you blog and raise children or redefine your relationship to self and children. For full course description or to sign up, visit Mother Writer Mentor's Poetry Workshops.


Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Three Stars and Atlantis: Micro Readings with Liz Brennan

Summer time: time enough to fold cup after cup of blackberries into muffin dough, pancake batter, home made pie shells.

Time enough, once the rest of the household snores, for a mother with insomnia to grab and eat raw by the chilled handful the remainder of the crop…

And time enough, mercifully, to slip into Perhaps, Maybe, play with Liz Brennan.  

Three stars (on longing and flowering plums):

Micro Reading and Text of Poem: Maybe, when peering into the depths of my own shadow, every beginning...

Atlantis (on fathers and daughters):


Text of Poem: Perhaps the female body, at point of conception...

Liz is currently looking for others to collaborate with her... Perhaps once you start, maybe you'll find it hard to stop...

Friday, July 13, 2012

Announcing Website Launch, Upcoming Classes and Blogging Book Project

In the kingdom of hope there is no winter--Russian proverb

This winter I spent a good deal of time working behind the scenes on preparing a new website, the latest in a series of steps along the way to developing my life as a professional writer. With my youngest child finally in school, I spent this last year devoting time to editing, interviewing, cross-posting and promoting the work of other writers, all valuable and worthy work I intend to continue. But with our family at a financial cross-roads, perched on the cusp of choosing one city to live in so we can potentially forgo the two city insanity, it is time for me to fund that writing life.

Additionally, I began to feel Feral Mom, Feral Writer’s usual focus (on the changes of heart and hearth as I write and raise children) became diluted with posting announcements for classes and forthcoming published writing. So I’m attempting to allow Feral Mom her due and let my other site be the new hub for published work, classes I’ll be teaching, and a new blog I’ll be starting in August about the transformative blogging book I am in the process of writing for women bloggers.

Teaching a subject, of course, always pushes one to grow; teaching Transformative Blogging continues to be rich. In the networking world, I’ve come across the work of writer and blogger Nick Thacker (thanks to research expert and blogger Marlene Samuels). I bought Thacker's book and am working my way through it (actually answering his questions, putting in the footwork to look around the net), as he provides very tangible ways for understanding the business side of blogging (something I am definitely not savvy about) as well as how to grow one’s roots and connect to others. Here’s a link to his blog: Nick Thacker and a link to his book on Amazon ($4.99 on Kindle, and you'll see I wrote him a review) Building a Blog for Readers: 101 Questions to Ask Before you Launch your Blogging Empire.

While Thacker and I share some similarities in terms of questions and the inventory approach to the blogging process, I find the worksheets I'm using and developing for women cover what I'd loosely define as emotional and spiritual aspects of the blogging process. But I wanted to spend the next year inviting women bloggers to work with me so that what I offer extends past my own potentially myopic view of what we face as women bloggers. I invite you to come along with me--I will be blogging at my new site (www.taniapryputniewicz.com) and offering sample worksheets to subscribers starting in August.

But until then, I have worked to make the site visually appealing, so I hope you'll visit. You’ll find links to the projects I’m enjoying, including the collaborative photo poem montages. Robyn Beattie and I just completed our fourth montage, “Nefertiti Among Us,” a companion montage to “Nefertiti on the Astral.” We are also very excited to have submitted our montages to a gallery—a goal we have long had in the back of our minds. I’ll be sure to let you know when we do finally find ourselves with a gallery opportunity.

I’m so grateful to be a writer, today, now, given the many ways we have of connecting (as a writing mother, I’m thrilled we have the venue of online teaching). I get so much pleasure out of coming up with on-line classes, and then having the chance to work with my students. You know the saying, that the map is not the terrain--I start with the course map, and we veer where we need to go given who arrives to take the class. I’m excited about the scope of the International poetry workshop, as well as the new class for couples recovering from parenting (class structure will include the usual sharing of poems in progress, but the secret assignment: writing a poem we won’t share, to be mailed to the better half by Valentine’s Day).

Over at Mother Writer Mentor, here’s the forthcoming class list:

Around The World in 30 Days: Reading and Writing the International Poetry of Motherhood and Fatherhood: September 10-October 5th, 2012

Transformative Blogging for Writing Mothers: November 1-November 30th 2012

Send Me a Letter: Love Poetry for Couples Recovering from Parenting: Jan 8th to February 1, 2013

Excavating and Writing the Poetry of Motherhood: April 1-April 26th 2013

Excavating and Writing the Poetry of Fatherhood: May 6-May 31st 2013

For a blog post about the support I’ve received from other women writers and a link to an interview with writer Julianna Baggot: Mother Writer Mentor Blog post by T

Or to go directly to full course descriptions or to sign up: Mother Writer Mentor Workshops.

Look forward to our writing lives crossing. As always, we are ever on the lookout for guest posts written by writing mothers about any aspect of that dual role.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

The Three Percent Girl: The Chrysalis and the Coffin

artwork by Jaime Zollars
In its first moments out of the chrysalis, the butterfly voids a drop of excreta that has been accumulating during pupation.  This drop is frequently red and sometimes voided during first flight….A shower of butterflies may produce a shower of blood. The Pregnant Virgin: A Process of Psychological Transformation by Marion Woodman

 I’ve missed blogging from my heart. I’ve been quiet, observing, waiting until I could say what I need to say with equanimity, taking the advice I give my women blogging students.

 And so, here goes. I’m recovering recently from marital tension (particulars best left undisclosed, but entirely understandable after two, going on three years of two-city living). And so, my body has been the 3% host of my presence, with 97% of my awareness drifting in search of viable ground in an attempt to anchor my family again to the homestead where I try to restore the joint heart of the entity my husband and I created thirteen years ago when we said I do.

I do wonder what happens next. I do wonder why I’m at this juncture. Except it must be exactly where I need to be to grow, even if arriving at first flight involves the red rain Woodman refers to in the quote above. You can focus on the rain, or you can focus on the view from above, the wet, so newly unfurled wings.

But more likely, I need to position myself in the middle, neither observing the wings from an aerial perspective nor observing the fallout, but resting calmly, blindly, in the long black root of the thorax, where I do nothing but sense where wings begin and the rush of air on the downbeat and the up.

I see women’s fragility everywhere I go. In the locker room at the gym, a beautiful graying blonde in her sixties shyly tells me she loves my green dress, the thin black sandals I’m wearing. She used to wear sandals, she says. “But I can’t wear them, now,” she confides… “you know, varicose veins…” I watch her from the mirror where I’m Nefertiti-ing my eyes so I exist a little more, eye-liner for the self-esteem, her pale blue eyes darting away from mine.  On my way out I touch her shoulder, say to her, “You enjoy those strong legs of yours.” She laughs, and I hope she thinks about all the places they’ve carried her.

A female poet friend of mine, in response to my confusion, suggests burying something or a version of someone (metaphorically, of course) in response, to plant something new, to start over in order to restore trust. Her words drive me down to my writing cabin, where I stand in front of a piece of artwork my brother gave me three years ago by Jaime Zollars.

It used to hang in my bedroom, until a friend said to me, “I would never hang that image where I sleep.” I suppose for its graphic underworld content, how it might invite one’s dreamer to soak in the image, lead one into strange forests. But I am in a strange forest, and I find the image comforting.

I had some assumptions backwards when I first saw it, a little afraid, I was, just like my friend: why the red coffin beneath the little girl, the pale pink flower on the earth’s surface losing a petal in the wind, why does the child float innocently towards the flower, totally unaware that mere yards beneath her bare feet, the white spider of rootlets siphon a shade of pink from the coffin’s red for each pale petal above.

This time, I don’t fear some force swallowing the girl child from beneath, but marvel instead how the umbilical root cord releases her out of the blood coffin to the sky, ever a flower, primally, eternally in bloom, meeting a mirror image of herself on the earth’s surface.

There’s little left to do for now. Wait it out. Observe the heart mending. No seeing yet where the path leads from here. I can walk it alone but I would rather not. But is that either/or opposition accurate anymore, or useful? Time to grow up, again. Differentiate, but not fear it means the end, signals instead a beginning.

Which, in the course of a healthy marriage, I imagine you do—differentiate, take stock, take responsibility for power you may have relinquished, revisit the ground rules--over and over again. When you are both willing to grow.

 Hello underworld, hello fairytale perfectly suited to us both in this marriage. Classical music, to and from, everywhere I drive--the silver serenade of violins--traces the tiny fractures where adrenaline courses. I sleep with curtains open, the slight night wind pushing aside the tree branches just enough to give me a trio of stars, dual physical and astral anchor points, destinations from which I draw strength.

 Further Reading/Image Hunting:

The talent of Jaime Zollars moves me across selves, if that makes sense—the images, for me, bypass the rational, right to the soul, and accurately depict an array of emotional states we’ve inhabited as human beings, are inhabiting, fear inhabiting, love inhabiting, wish we could shift, and/or wish we could more fully inhabit. Whimsical and archetypal (fairytale meets totem meets high desert meets inner city), settings are often crowned with childlike folk, fragile but sturdy, the promise of resilience barely masked by their beautiful and deceptively innocent faces. See more of Jaime's work: Jaime Zollars.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Beautiful Unity and A Fine Disinterest: Micro Readings with Liz Brennan

Here are the latest two collaborations posted on Perhaps, Maybe, composed with Liz Brennan (one on roses and motherhood, and one on the reverse kaleidoscope of aging--the spiral back to birth). We meet, we drink tea, we step out on the back deck in the perfect light of late summer dusk and record. The challenge: to get through both verses before the roar of random motorcycle or pickup truck surging up the hill.
1) Beautiful Unity: Perhaps just after the rose is cut and set into a crystal vase it brings summer into any room… Text of Poem and Micro Reading

2) A Fine Disinterest: Perhaps as we age, we cultivate a fine disinterest in the attraction of objects until they no longer catch at us like brambles… Text of poem ,

Thank you Liz for the invitation to play.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

AROHO Speaks, Writer to Writer: Interview with Mary Johnson

Photo by Jamie Clifford
I've had the continued fun and luxury of interviewing the women of AROHO (specifically from the group attending last year's summer 2011 retreat). Here's a look at the intense but rewarding journey Mary Johnson has taken not only with AROHO (as Creative Director), but with the publication of her book, An Unquenchable Thirst: Following Mother Teresa in Search of Love, Service, and an Authentic Life.  I've pulled out a couple of questions midstream, hoping to entice you to check out the rest.

Do you feel Unquenchable Thirst has given you a greater ability to leverage influence on behalf of sisters inside the church system, for example, in terms of the current conflict facing the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR) you outline in the article published at the Huffington Post (sisters “underfire for radical feminism” for issues regarding birth control and marriage)?

Certainly my experience as a sister for twenty years gives me an insider perspective that allows me to understand what’s going on behind all the jargon. And my position now as an outsider means that I can say what I think without fear of retaliation. As I’ve watched the drama unfold, I feel very closely involved. When I was a sister I couldn’t speak my mind and hope that anyone would hear.

An influential sister--someone who had read my book and loved it--recently told me that sisters have been heartened by my articles, and that makes me feel good. Another told me that it’s important that the Vatican not be allowed to continue to operate in the dark, and I’m happy to shed what light I can. These sisters are being attacked for thinking seriously about important issues and sometimes coming to conclusions that differ from those expressed by the hierarchy. I think they ought to be applauded for their commitment and courage.

Thinking back to the 2011 AROHO retreat, can you tell us about an idea, exercise or conversation that had either an identifiable impact upon your writing habits or became a finished piece of writing or one in process?

Bhanu Kapil’s question, “What is the cause of the suffering of your mother?” continues to resonate with me. What is the cause of the suffering of my sister, my mother, that woman behind the counter, that character in a novel? What can we do to accompany and alleviate that suffering? When is my sister’s suffering oppression and when is it opportunity? Read more here at AROHO Speaks.
Further Reading:

Here's an additional reverie I wrote about the experience of personally connecting with Mary's book:

The Salve of Secrets

And a post about a poetry intersection between Mother Teresa and Lady Diana I share with one of my writing buddies, Liz Brennan:

Mother Teresa meets Lady Di

Friday, June 8, 2012

Perhaps, Maybe: The End and The Search with Liz Brennan

Our latest collaboration, The End, appears on Elizabeth's Perhaps, Maybe blog. I hope you'll enjoy it, the text version, and that you'll enjoy it again as the three-d version, here, as a live micro-reading (recorded still very much under siege of mosquitoes, and beneath the canopy of the family redwoods, on my back deck). 

Since we are both poets, of course, the end doubles as a beginning (for nothing incites, invigorates, or inspires a poet more than a shut door).

Earlier this month, I failed to post a link to The Search, another one of our collaborations. Are you in search of  ideas? Love? Both? ...Neither? Let me know...

Photo by Robyn Beattie.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Beauty to Memory: A Micro Reading

Neither the mosquitoes (skimming our arms in droves) nor the chill (brought on by the sun's fair clip at descent) deterred our first tiny recording session. Liz's husband came to the rescue with four yellow rockets of incense (which he tucked in disarray into the perimeter of our wicker table) providing enough cover for us to record our collaboration, "Beauty to Memory" while the feral cats romped in the knee high grass.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Transformative Blogging for Women Bloggers

Thinking about finally getting around to launching your blog? Or want to spruce up your existing blog, recalibrate, re-invigorate? We will cast a large net and write fiercely and freely and eventually winnow down to crafted posts. Come join a growing group of like-minded women in a supportive, dynamic on-line classroom setting (offered through Story Circle Network--members and non-members welcome). Starts next Monday, May 14, 2012. Visit here for course description and testimonials: Transformative Blogging.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Strange Attractors: Absence of Presence and A Choice of Wings live at Perhaps Maybe

I mentioned last post my writing companion Liz Brennan and I decided to collaborate, using her mobius strip format, call and response, each of us positing a “perhaps” stanza and each of us answering with a “maybe” stanza. Here are another set of prose poetry collaborations (parked on Liz's blog):

1) Absence of Presence: Perhaps it is the absence of presence that leads us to question the coin….

2) A Choice of Wings: Perhaps chivalry, hive and liver belong in the same vase on a fur-lined mantle.

And I can’t help but invite you down this rabbit hole, come with me…

In the poem, “A Choice of Wings” the phrase “three-winged birds with indigo feet” found its way to the page. Liz, large of heart and granting me far more intentional acuity than was present, looked up “three winged birds” and here’s what she found: a woman run company using an image of three wings, bearing a link to an interview with author Margaret Wheatley, which lead Liz to find, and hand me, Leadership and the New Science: Learning about Organization from an Orderly Universe.

The three wings appear on the cover, reminiscent of Ariadne’s thread, the nested string (all one?) coheres as a shape to the mind’s eye, though with space between each layer (solid when viewed from a distance like Saturn’s rings). Wheatley writes about this three-winged image in the context of positive restructuring of organizational process (business, institutions, etc., in Leadership and the New Science) via messy (but ultimately productive) collaborative processes in which each member of the organization brings their skills to the table.

A few lines from the paragraph of text beneath the image inside the book read, “Three-Winged Bird: A chaotic Strange Attractor: This image records the journey of a system in chaos…Chaotic strange attractors reveal the order inherent in chaotic systems, order that is only visible over time and history—" Mario Markus and Benno Hess, Max-Planck Institute, Dortmund, Germany.

Could we stop there? Of course  not…so Liz generously placed additionally into my hands, a second book (written by Wheatley and Myron Keller-Rogers) titled a simpler way. The book opens with images of light and dark, shadow and sun, outlines of children cartwheeling on the ocean shore, the zig and zag of a thicket of zebras from an aerie’s eye view, the close up of the tines of the underside of a mushroom.

Prose follows, though I’d argue the book is more like a prose poem. Wheatley and Keller-Rogers marry image with idea, positing that we might have Darwin’s assumptions backwards, that we in fact live in a world that supports surivival of the widest diversity, not survival of the fittest after all. Doesn’t that drop your shoulders down away from your neck? No need to strive. Just be. True? My body says, yes, yes and yes.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Beauty to Memory and The Scarf Prose Poetry Collaboration with Liz Brennan live at Perhaps, Maybe

Poet Liz Brennan (who I’m happy to claim as my writing buddy for the last five plus years) and I have finally gotten around to collaborating with poetry, thanks to Liz’s gentle invitation and perseverance (I’m eternally grateful as I’ve been suffering from a poetry lull, having allowed the hats of editing, blogging, interviewing, teaching, to eclipse the midnight muse).

Liz’s blog reminds me of a mobius strip; she’s arrived at an ingenious structure, each week posting a tiny prose poem that begins, Perhaps….Followed by a second prose poem that begins, Maybe…

Here are our first two collaborations, with others in the wings:

Beauty to Memory

The Scarf  (here, the obsession with Amelia Earhart—how could it not—goes on, so if you liked this poem and you haven’t seen the photo poem montage yet—a prior collaboration with photographer Robyn Beattie, check it out here: Amelia

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Rescue of Ophelia and Nefertiti Among Us live at Stone Canoe, Online

Painting by Christine DeCamp
I’m happy to announce two poems up at Stone Canoe, Online. I’ve given you the url to the table of contents, in hopes you’ll give the whole line-up a read, for such line gems buried in the poems of my fellow contributors as “the sculpted mothers/who stood on the lawn amid maple leaves/ in fetal denial” (Nikolae Babuts, Lockerbie), “farm roads are clothes on other people” (Paul Doty, Pink Barn Eye), “jonquiled moon” (Gayle Elen Harvey, In Praise of the Dark), “Color your hair, darling, if you must” (Jay Rogoff, Dyeing), “calling the girl I was” (Kathleen Tenpas, The Calling), “Often I’m as helpless as a sleeping cowboy” (Thom Ward, And There is Beauty in Cracked Sidewalks).

Poem 1: The Rescue of Ophelia was inspired by one of Christine DeCamp’s paintings. I lived with the image in my house for several years before writing the poem (an earlier blogpost chronicles this process). Between then and now, DeCamp embarked on the journey of creating her own tarot deck. Ophelia now features as one of these cards. Visit DeCamp’s site to learn more about this beautiful project.

Poem 2: Nefertiti Among Us under-girds a parallel project as well. Robyn Beattie and I are fast at work making the companion photo poem montage, featuring Steve Pryputniewicz on the piano with another Bela Bartok selection and as always, Robyn’s mesmerizing and intricate photographs (featured in our three prior movies).

The print version of Stone Canoe just arrived in my mailbox; last weekend waiting for my daughter to emerge from an Easter Egg hunt, I sprawled out in the grass under a no-cloud sky and immersed myself in a rich field of poems, interrupted only by the occasional misjudged hops over my midriff (the two sons, 6 and 9, heavy enough now to efficiently knock the wind out squarely out of me…"just…let me…

…finish…this stanza…")

(after I’d said to my husband, “Why don’t you put away the iphone and just Be With Us…”

…the 6 year old slyly remarked, “Mom, why don’t you put away that book…and…

 …just Be With Us…”)

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

AROHO Speaks, Writer to Writer: Interview with Jan La Roche

A Room of Her Own Foundation is gearing up to accept applications for its 6th Gift of Freedom Award. The most recent Gift of Freedom Award winner, Summer Wood, (author of Wrecker) speaks about the award on She Writes this week here.

Here’s the latest gem in our series of interviews celebrating A Room of Her Own Foundation's Summer 2011 Retreat (from the interview team: Lisa Rizzo, Marlene Samuels, Barbara Ann Yoder and yours truly). In the following interview excerpt, writer Jan La Roche turns her poet’s eye on a brief history of photography and explores how the metaphors of photographic process lend inspiration to her work.

Jan La Roche
Can you describe for us what you’re currently working on?

For the past four years I have been working on a manuscript titled, Vernacular. It is a title with two meanings. Most people first think of this word associated with language currently being spoken in a region of the world. Being a photographer who has studied art history and photo history as an undergraduate and as a graduate student, I first learned the term vernacular as a turn of the twentieth century reference.

Kodak introduced the Kodak #1 camera in 1888 with a 100 exposure roll of film inside it. Americans went wild shooting snap shots of everyone and everything around them. Simple everyday moments of life in pictures were done for the pure joy of something new without restrictions of art trends, commerce or advertising. Alfred Stieglitz, Georgia O’Keeffe’s husband, started the Photo Succession and Pictorialist movements in rebellion to the random pictures of the masses. As an advocate of the aesthetic, he made photography into an art form.

My poems are written for the pleasure of discovery. I never know how they will turn out until written on the page. My spiral notebook is a playground where all ideas run free. Margins have more points and additions scribbled in. The surface of the page is covered with possibilities. It all hangs out there until transcribed on the laptop into stanzas. The process is similar to pre-digital photography because back then I knew what I was trying to capture, but didn’t know if the picture was successful until printed and scrutinized for detail.

Over the years I have added more poems to Vernacular that pertain to different aspects of the photographic process such as when I managed a one-hour lab in the ‘80’s, “loads of film piled up/on my left like linguini.” When I described using a camera that “memoirs light” and “sees what is invisible,” I transformed a technical object into a magical art form. In the darkroom tray “an idea floats on water” and those pictures “outlive their biological cameras.” Another poem talked about conducting light as if it were music in an orchestra. The photographic poems emerge when the muse develops another idea. I cannot rush this collection, it would show. As it continues to grow, each poem is a nuance of photography that was, or is, a part of my life. Read more here.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Poetry of Fatherhood On-line Workshop with Tania Pryputniewicz

Heavy in pursuit of building the life of my dreams, I've spent a month teaching our first ever on-line course at Mother, Writer, Mentor: To the Cradle and Beyond, Writing and Excavating the Poetry of Motherhood. The course exceeded all expectations, for me, as an instructor, because these women wrote fearlessly and held nothing back and came up with some beautiful poems. I am so grateful and so moved to have had the opportunity to share their process. Beyond that, it was a gift to mine the poems Jessica and I have published at The Fertile Source, to stop and appreciate the work archived there and to use it as inspiration for present work. We are working on ways to showcase student work at Mother, Writer, Mentor. More on that shortly.

With a  month's breather inbetween (to sit in on Jess's Sexy Mommy Stories: Writing Romance Back into Literature course,), I will be teaching The Poetry of Fatherhood in April. Jess and I shortly figured out at The Fertile Source that the planet-sized domain of pregnancy, labor, birth, fertility, abortion, miscarriage, adoption and related tangential topics related to sexuality (obviously, right?) is not solely occupied by women. It took awhile, but gradually, I was receiving a fair number of submissions from male writers.

As we prepared to launch Mother, Writer, Mentor, while we wanted to offer writing mothers some respite on our blog and in our on-line classes, we again realized that we share this room with our male contributors and wish neither to exclude nor overlook them. In looking for teaching materials for The Poetry of Motherhood, I came across material for The Poetry of Fatherhood (the course had already written its outline, once again, in archived material at The Fertile Source). I hope you'll come out to write with me for the month of April. Perhaps by next year we will have ourselves in sync, offering Poetry of Motherhood in May in time for Mother's Day and Poetry of Fatherhood in June in time for Father's Day. This go around, the poems celebrating each came a month early.

Excavating and Writing The Poetry of Fatherhood

Instructor: Tania Pryputniewicz
Dates: April 30- May 25
Fee: still at our opening discounted rate of $100 (from $125)

You’ve watched the wife’s body transform before your eyes, witnessed first-hand her incremental emotional, psychological and spiritual migration to places you may or may not be able, though willing, to follow. Your own metamorphosis, while less physically apparent, is in actuality no less arduous or multi-layered. Or you and your partner have gone through longer gestations: reams of applications, false leads, interviews and further scrutiny while attempting to adopt. Or you’ve chosen not to father, but find the words of your own father coursing through your mind. Join this on-line poetry class for a chance to mine poetry of the past as well as contemporary poems (including those we’ve published at The Fertile Source) for structural and thematic inspiration towards the writing of a new crop of poems reflecting the continuum of experiences that comprise fatherhood. Sign up here.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Beginning Transformative Blogging: For Women Writers Contemplating Blogging

This January, I had the opportunity to teach a course I designed, Transformative Blogging, for Story Circle Network. We did inventories, read up on the net, wrote up sample posts, actual posts, guest  posts, and shopped around the blogosphere to see how and where and why we should network with other bloggers of like mind, which made for a fabulous month-long brainstorm with a talented, bright group of writers, many of them working actively on their blogs, preparing to launch, and actually launching new blogs in some cases by the course's end. The Transformative part of the Transformative Blogging title derives from my teaching philosophy regarding the transformation we undergo as writers when we sustain a focus on our writing dreams and translate those dreams into action.

Taking to heart feedback from my students who took that course (we covered a lot of ground in four weeks!) I decided to teach a beginner's version and slow the material down over eight weeks, shifting the focus from active bloggers to beginning bloggers (slated to start this coming Monday, March 12). Hence, Beginning Transformative Blogging welcomes women writers curious about blogging, as well as women writers on the brink of blogging, or any woman writer with a desire to work towards a future blog in a supportive writing group setting without the pressure of online posting yet.

Partial course description:

If you have been curious about blogging and have the urge to join the blogosphere but would like a little more grounding before you begin, join us to explore the ins and outs of blogging. Coursework will include the keeping of a weekly journal around blog related inquiries and the completion of a number of inventories and free-writing exercises designed to help you further explore the concept of blogging without the pressure of posting on-line yet. In addition, some of our time will be spent scoping out other blogs to get a feel for the pulse of the blogosphere.

At the end of the class, students will come away from the course with an understanding of the blog genre and a basic understanding of what the blogosphere offers writers. Students will complete the course with a working notebook full of journal entries and draft blog posts meant to be mined at a later date towards the creation of a future blog.

To sign up or read full course description, visit Beginning Transformative Blogging.

Comments from former students (Transformative Blogging in January, 2012):

Tania Pryputniewicz is a wonderful teacher! She creates a warm, stimulating, supportive environment for learning and sharing and offers thoughtful, detailed feedback on participants’ work. Her assignments are top-notch. Tania’s blogging class is the first online class Ive ever taken, and it’s been 100% positive! I got a lot of great ideas for my blog and am motivated to launch it soon. Ill study with Tania again and will recommend her classes to my friends.—Barbara

When I met Tania at A Room of Her Own Foundation's summer writing retreat, she encouraged me to start my own blog. So when I found out she was teaching an online blogging class through Story Circle Network, I jumped at the chance. I'm so glad I did. Tania's assignments were well designed and encouraged me to branch out as a writer. She also responded in depth to all assignments from the class participants. Even though everything was conducted online, I felt like I getting personal attention from my instructor. I also appreciated that Tania was open to students adjusting the assignments and timelines to our own very busy lives. It was a great experience, and I wouldn't hesitate to take another class taught by Tania. .—Lisa


Saturday, March 3, 2012

Lessons from the Body: Paper Boats, Poison Oak, and Kites

Cover Image: Pluto and Persephone
by Tennessee Dixon
The early splitting off of the body in order to survive is revealed in midlife in body/soul work and dreams. The Ravaged Bridegroom: Masculinity in Women by Marion Woodman

In midlife, for the first time, my body is beginning to talk. Literally. In a quiet voice, when I least suspect it: physical sensations from a past I don’t recognize. I’m not even sure they belong to this lifetime. As a mother, I rarely feel much beyond the orbit of responsibility for my three children. I don’t mind, the life I live is worth living (I have tremendous support) and on an average day it goes something like this, in reverse order, on day 10 of 14 of my husband’s frequent absences on business:

5 am: The sound of the garbage truck jars me awake. I’ve forgotten to take the trash out, again. At bedtime I’d remembered midway through Curious George just as we read the page explaining precisely how to fold and make paper boats. I could neither put down the book nor coerce my 9 year old son to come with me as he often does in the pitch dark, one flashlight between us, barreling down the pocked and rocky driveway at breakneck pace goaded by fear and the toppling weight of the cans on wheels.

A second surge of adrenaline fuels our return trip whether I keep the orb of light trained behind us to pacify the sneaking fringe of night or whether I train it just ahead on our pumping knees. Two backs to the night are far better than one, so I thank my son every time.

2 a.m: The paper fleet sails in its perfect spiral to the center of its smallest fate, 36 boats long, folded before dinner by the hands of my children, Grandma, and Grandpa and arranged from biggest to smallest vessel across our kitchen table that is five planks wide from trees long since milled, over the dull blonde floor, also of trees (from a different forest, delivered, I imagine, by boat across the sea).

The blue light of the moon silts the hills. I’ve come out of bed for this, words that won’t leave my mind: “the paper fleet sails in its perfect spiral…” and with it, some small part of me. Gleeful, as if I took part in the folding, while truly that night I couldn’t sit and fold--dishes to do, my daughter’s homework to witness, Mom, please sit with me on the couch, emails to compose in my head to my writing students strung across the states, their questions blinking across the miles my way and me longing to answer.

The kitten strolls in the dark ahead of me, the black spoke of her tail against my bare shins as I stoop to pick her up. So weightless, the pink bean pads of her paws on my shoulder, the frail sluice of her whiskers. Down she hurtles, hunting moths, licking the floor, eating the remains of spilled dog food.

Beside the tiny fleet, I take out my journal and write my way to peace, tracking the body memories that surfaced during a half an hour when the kids and husband left me to rest earlier in the month. I floated in liquid state, trying to let go and hold fast, to descend but not disappear, to allow but not relent, to release but not evaporate, to ground but not split, to center but not centrifugally, to calm, to cry, on the far side of my husband’s business trip. When he’s gone, we fill the hours, as all solo mothers do, with joy, with sparring, in equal measure.

3:45 in the afternoon on a school night:

My son’s begging me to fly the kite he just got for his birthday. I’m gauging how much of me is left to parent, navigate bedtime after an ocean trip, etc. I’ll need all of me, for unbeknownst to me, facing me the next day: Kaiser for my daughter’s face, puffy with poison oak skirting both of her eyes. “Prednisone for ten days”, the young doctor orders. “Oh,” he adds, “If you get poison oak again, let’s say a spot on your hand, it’ll reappear in sympathy in all the places you had it before. Your body remembers.”

 Then he warns that prednisone causes irritability. “We come by that easily,” I say and ask if there’s any hope for a homeopathic effect. He stifles a laugh on my girl’s behalf, moves smoothly on. The remark is not lost on my daughter; I get the look of death I deserve. Given my husband’s absences we are all on edge. All she wants is time, love and 100 percent from whoever she’s with, and I’m craving the same from my husband, at deficit, and praying for relief.

Back in real time, my son asks again, please, let’s fly the kite. Can I refuse? To the ocean we go for the last hour of sunlight and the intermittent wind. For ten minutes there’s no getting the kite off the sand. “Use your body,” I finally say, having only recently returned to inhabit mine. “Your face. Where does the wind push strongest against it? That’s the direction you run towards to lift the kite from the ground.”

My writer self skims peripherally beside my mother self, any self, I occupy during the day. In the void of parenting mostly alone, I can’t see if I’m doing a good job or not. Against it all, I take hold of the metaphor: flight in the case of a kite requires opposition. Might the same be true of the star of my little family? I’m heartened by the thought and suddenly the drive at this dusk hour redeems itself, if only for the kite’s rippling whip as the ocean air pushes taut the dragon’s wings and the happy face my son dons as he grips the yellow spool of string.

In the sliver before sleep, I mull the body memories, but not overmuch. There they bloom, like sympathetic patches of poison oak, full of itch, scratch, myth. So what. The riddle remains to be lived. What kind of God would spell it all out for us? I would hate to find the “great and powerful Oz” behind the curtain after all. I still believe.

And dear body, I’m listening. Just remember I have kids to raise in the meantime. And many hours to walk in the sun.

Further Reading: The Ravaged Bridegroom: Masculinity in Women by Marion Woodman, Inner City Books (out of Canada). I’m only half way through this amazing book, in which Woodman calls women to be responsible for understanding, healing, and loving their inner male in such a way as to empower not only themselves, but to encourage shifts in the power balance of the outdated patriarchal model we still can unwittingly fall in love with reacting blindly to and blaming for our problems as women. She weaves a powerful discussion of poetry and myth with very detailed dissection of client dreams. Another favorite quote so far, “Transformation takes place through metaphor. Without metaphor, energy is trapped in repetitive patterns…” I recommend her to women poets in particular, but to anyone, male or female.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Photo Poem Montage for Amelia Earhart live

Amelia (both the poem, and the photo poem montage) in honor of Amelia Earhart, is up at V’s place, a new website hosted by E. Victoria Flynn. (updated May 2014: is up now at YouTube).

I met Victoria several years ago over at She Writes when I joined the invaluable writing thread she hosts at She Writes, titled Mother Writer!, and conversely, I invited Victoria to put up our very first guest post at Mother, Writer, Mentor: A Straw Hat for Mama; I hope you’ll stop by and give her a read and a comment if you are in the mood.

To create the photo poem montage Amelia, I had the continued luxury of working with the beautiful photos of Robyn Beattie. How to convey an expansive sky, but without using sky photos per se? How to imply the body but not use the human body? We are up to our usual tricks in this montage, abalone sky, metal sculpture for body, the work of several Sonoma County artists slipped in too: Loreen Barry (butterfly) and Monty Monty (look for his tiny dark bronze-colored airplane, as well as the shadow of one of his other sculptures across a wall in muted beige tones). I may be somewhat tethered to the domestic monastery, but Robyn—her eyes do the ferreting when I can’t during these projects.

New to this collaboration: original guitar music by Michael Greenberg, who I have to thank here for recording the tracks for She Dressed in a Hurry (for Lady Di) and Nefertiti on the Astral as well as a number of tracks for upcoming photo montages in the works. Not only did we pull Michael into our creative process with his original guitar score, but his wife (our friendship goes back to high school), as my voice was shot the day we went to record. Lori O'Hara , a talented writer and blogger herself, stepped up to the plate and hence we have her dreamy, smooth voice reading the poem.

At one point in our process last year, a sensationalist article made it into Yahoo’s headlines reporting the possible discovery of Amelia Earhart’s remains on a South Pacific island, but when I “fell for it” and followed the link,  the article quickly degenerated into trivia:  were the remains in fact turtle parts, and what to make of the random make-up found nearby, raising questions concerning Earhart’s make-up product use…
I have little faith our Amelia would bring such vanities onto her airplane; she doesn’t strike me as the type, rugged beauty that she was. But Robyn and I both enjoyed the nod to the montage we were quietly, secretly making. Perhaps, more likely, Amelia would don a scarf…if you want a bit of the read deal, here’s her actual scarf (San Diego Air and Space Museum), though it’s a shame it isn’t gracing the neck of an aviatrix right now…