“I believe the world is beautiful and that poetry, like bread, is for everyone, and that my veins don’t end in me but in the unanimous struggle for life, love, little things, landscape and bread.”
-Graffiti on a wall in the Mission District of San Francisco
I believe poetry is for everyone. Although many people who read serious print matter and quality fiction do not read poetry, I think that this is their loss. The poetry coming out today is accessible, relevant and enjoyable in concept and sound. Take look at Billy Collins, Natasha Trethaway or even Louise Glück, the 2020 winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature.
MAVEN REACHES MARS: Home Poems and Space Probes in Four Fascicles looks around at a world in crisis and asks, “Where am I?” and “How did I get here?” and by the way, “Who am I?” The answers come wryly, ruefully, sometimes playfully, in poems prompted by the day’s news, by fading family photos, by existential fears and poignant twin grandchildren. Johnson’s poetry reaches out in a conversational style and, like Robert Frost and Emily Dickinson, she writes the reader into the poem. These were the poets her grandmother and mother quoted so often in Kansas and Colorado, decades before Jane moved to Amherst, where Frost and Dickinson are part of the local landscape. But Johnson’s background is beyond fandom. Her early leadings coalesced in the MFA writing program at Goddard College, where she learned from such mentors as Stephen Dobyns, Thomas Lux, Louise Gluck, Robert Hass, and Donald Hall. Jane McPhetres Johnson’s first published book is a life’s work—more than 90 poems all in one place, painstakingly edited and carefully curated over a 50-year pursuit that has largely been a solo flight. Now, with intricate drawings by Portuguese artist Maria Greene, Johnson’s compelling personal and political opus arrives.
There are things known and there are things unknown, and in between are the doors of perception.” ― Aldous Huxley
For the artist, the world is shaped by perspective. It is that ability to view things from their own unique point of view, yet contextualize this point of view in factual reality. Can everything be defined in a limited world? Can the artist place his/her/their work in the larger framework?
As a writer, I try to contextualize my work in the larger world, but it changes so rapidly. I find I have just gotten my pen around one situation when another arises to contradict the first.
I have been doing phone banks these past few weeks to get out the vote for the presidential election. I try to listen to other people’s perspectives when I speak with them because if there is no dialogue, there is no bridge to unification and understanding between people. If I can’t listen to someone, I can’t convince them of my point of view. The country is so divided that I fear we will never come together again. There are so many signs in front of people’s homes, even in my own community, that advocate different philosophies. How will we all find a common voice after the election?
The dream state is sometimes a source of inspiration for writers, but this is the opposite of reality. But writes thrive on illusion, on an alternate view of what is.
As we pass through daily living, we pass through many―colored lenses that paint our writing with its own view. Yet how do we bring our view back to the world view, so everyone can relate?
My book, Touch My Head Softly, was recommended by Brilliant Light Publishing. It is my perspective on Alzheimer’s Disease. Take a look:
Madlynn Haber lives in Northampton, Massachusetts. Her work appears in Letters to Fathers from Daughters, Anchor Magazine, Exit 13 Magazine and onwebsites including The Jewish Writing Project, Hevria, Right Hand Pointing, Mothers Always Write, Random Sample, Club Plum Literary Journal, Ariel Chart International Literary Journal, The Sunlight Press, Sparks of Calliope and Adelaide Literary Magazine. You can view her work at www.madlynnwrites.com
Contribute to her efforts to raise money for immigrants at the Center for New Americans at:
What writing releases for me is multifaceted. It gives me permission and justification for my sorrow, frustration, anger. I can put it onto the page, and it may stay there, in my ongoing journal, but even if I am the only one to see it, it’s still a release.
It’s a spiritual path, practiced through writing. I’m not talking about God necessarily. I’m a recovering Catholic who is currently agnostic, letting in the possibility, but not really knowing.
Creativity is a natural process and blocks to it are unnatural. Writing unblocks those pathways and gives us access to our true selves.
I took a spiritual journey in writing my latest book of poems, “Touch My Head Softly.”
I released my pain and frustration about having a partner who was stricken by Alzheimer’s Disease and eventually died, leaving me devastated. Releasing those feelings in the vessels of those poems has been healing for me.
“Touch My Head Softly” is in pre– sales at Finishing Line Press:
“Act as if what you do makes a difference, it does.” William James
Can a book make a difference? We are told our actions make a difference, but can a book, with diminishing print sales, lack of readership, and confusion about meaning, make a difference. This topic has been on my mind ever since I decided to donate part of the proceeds of my book of poetry about my partner who died of Alzheimer’s to the Alzheimer’s Association.
When I approached my publisher about it, she didn’t respond. When I approached the Alzheimer’s Association, they had never heard of such a thing and thanked me for the donation. When I told my friends, they asked if I thought I would sell enough copies to even form a decent donation.
So why do it? Some five million people are living with Alzheimer’s, and the number is growing. I never had it, but the disease killed my partner and wrecked my life ten years ago. It’s strange to write, publish and then read about this experience. I thought if I contributed something to the research, it might ameliorate this whole process.
I also found it hard to talk to people about the donation, because they may see it as some strange hero thing. On the other hand, it can also be viewed as self-serving as people may buy the book because part of the proceeds will go to the Alzheimer’s Association, but as Adele, when she was asked if she was nervous hosting Saturday Night Live, recently said, “But if there was ever a time for any of us to jump head first into the deep end with our eyes closed and hope for the best it’s 2020 right?”
Patricia Lee Lewis, Writer Extraordinaire, is writing 30 Poems in 30 Days for the Center for New Americans for their Family Literacy Project. Patricia is the author of High Lonesome and a Kind of Yellow, which was awarded first place by Writers Digest International. She is the former director of the Patchwork Farm Retreat and has been the beloved mentor of many writers.
Check out Patricia’s donations page and give a contribution to this important cause: