Derek Walcott on Life

The time will come 
when, with elation 
you will greet yourself arriving 
at your own door, in your own mirror 
and each will smile at the other’s welcome. 

–Derek Walcott

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Derek Walcott writes about being comfortable in your own skin. In a world of war and international pandemic, sometimes we have to be our own friend.

As writers, we need to nurture ourselves. There is plenty of rejection and criticism out there for the writer, so being our own cheerleader is sometimes necessary.

We crave praise, awards, good reviews, and the affirmation of the publisher, but if we remember the joy of the creative process, we don’t need the positive feedback of others.

As a poet, I work often alone and in solitude. Books tend to be published quietly also. There may be a book launch, but aside from that, people buy and read our books on their own. This doesn’t mean that our books don’t touch people or have a lasting effect. A writers, we know the books that have made that special impact on us and we have to trust that our writing will have an effect on our readers.

Or as Derek Walcott so aptly put it “…peel your own image from the mirror. Sit. Feast on your life. “

I will be posting on Thursdays about the writing life, with announcements, as they come, on Tuesdays. Follow me at WordPress.

Writing as an Antidote to a Crumbling World

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I woke up last night in the middle of the night and couldn’t get back to sleep, war on my mind. The new poem I had written that day needed a title. I got out of bed and added the title to the poem.

This act of writing can be a savior in these dark times. The writing is a form of sanity for me. If I am writing about current events or not, it is a way of keeping myself focussed on something positive.

My creative visualizations are on world peace these days. My creative writing takes me anywhere it leads me.

I will continue to blog on Thursdays, with announcements on Tuesdays.

The Best Friend of the Writer

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The best friend of the writer can be the writer her or himself. As writers, we crave praise, awards, good reviews, and the affirmation of the publisher, but if we remember the joy of the creative process, we don’t need the positive feedback of others.

As a poet, I work often alone and in solitude. Books tend to be published quietly also. There may be a book launch, but aside from that, people buy and read our books on their own. This doesn’t mean that our books don’t touch people or have a lasting effect. A writers, we know the books that have made that special impact on us and we have to trust that our writing will have an effect on our readers.

We entered into the art of writing for deeper reasons that passing attention and it’s best to get in touch with those internal reasons, rather than looking for external affirmations. That way, when the praise comes, it will be a pleasant reminder of our internal worth as writers, and we truly will be our own best friends.

I’ll be blogging on Thursdays and posting announcements on Tuesdays, as they come along.

Writing and Technology: Does Personal Writing Matter at this Tech-Driven Time?

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Whether writing pen to paper or sending a text or email, writing and reading is different today.

We can listen to a podcast, watch the news on television or our computer, or still read a book or newspaper. But what of the skill of writing? Employers complain that resumes are filled with typos and a well-written resume still draws a better job application response. The written word can be a powerful tool for a business leader affecting employees. Studies show that people disregard messages when they have glaring typos and mistakes.

And what about the power of a hand-written message. When was the last time you got one? Did you read it? Did it affect you? How about a letter sent by snail mail, rather than email or text?

A personalized message has a way of making the person receiving it feel valued and recognized.

It wasn’t sent to the masses, but written especially for the receiver.

Writing has a way of developing relationships between people. I know at holiday times when I get hand-written cards, I always respond positively to them and pay attention, be they a simple,

“Best wishes for the New Year” or a whole report on the last year.

And what of the creative writer? Julia Cameron in The Artist’s Way suggest starting the day by handwriting with pen to paper. This is supposed to access the creative side and also gives the artist the freedom to write without rereading or censoring. Many writers use pen and paper as a different way into their writing that their computer keyboard just doesn’t do.

When I wrote my most recent collection of poetry, Touch My Head Softly, I tried all different ways of writing: pen and paper, keyboard, dictating into a recorder, an old typewriter.

Check out this collection at:

https://www.finishinglinepress.com/product/touch-my-head-softly-by-eileen-kennedy/

I will be blogging on Thursdays, with announcements on Tuesdays. If you have anything to announce: readings, new publications, literary events, let me know and I’ll blog them for you.

Using Common Interactions in Our Writing

Since the pandemic, I have been much more inclined to interact with strangers. The isolation taught me the power of human interaction. Some of the most interesting interactions have been chance, at the supermarket check out or the farmer’s market. I write at coffee shops and I’ve used some of the dialog I’ve overheard in my writing.

It’s good to interact, connect and appreciate each other. It makes for better writing, remember Robert Frost’s “Mending Wall,” about the wall between his property and his neighbors. This will make for a better world generally. If you use dialog in your writing, it makes your writing more authentic. It’s also good to meet periodically with writer friends to compare notes and get advice on what you’re submitting, etc. I’m in several writer’s groups.

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I published a collection of poems about my partner who died of Alzheimer’s, and it’s led to many interesting discussions with people I didn’t know who were affected or had loved ones affected by this disease. Check it out:

https://www.finishinglinepress.com/product/touch-my-head-softly-by-eileen-kennedy/

Thank you for reading. I’ll be posting my blog on Thursdays and announcements on Tuesdays, if I have them.

Writing the Landscape

One thing I love about winter in the Northeast is the snow. This is the view from my back porch.

I love the quiet, the writerlyness of the whole thing. But how does this affect my writing? I wrote a collection of poems about my partner who died of Alzheimer’s. We had spent a lot of time in Mexico, so this landscape came into my poems:

“When I think of Oaxaco

I remember the Zocolo

where they sold pipa del agua

and chocolate dripping from paper cups.”

The setting just naturally came into the poem. Does this happen with you?

Take look at my collection:

https://www.finishinglinepress.com/product/touch-my-head-softly-by-eileen-kennedy/

New Year’s Resolutions

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It’s getting to be New Year’s and the custom is to make resolutions. As writers, it’s important that we have goals. It’s also important to look back and acknowledge what we accomplished. Here are some of my goals for the upcoming year:

.to plant bulbs in my garden.

.to see more of my close friends in small combination

.to read more Japanese poetry

.to teach at least one poetry workshop.

.to write a longer narrative poem.

.to downsize and shed some clothing and books.

I may not get to all of these, and that’s ok, but it helps to have goals.

The feeling of having done everything one wanted is elusive. Accepting one’s limitations and shortcomings is part of the process.

I also look back at the year and acknowledge what I’ve done. I published a book this year about my partner’s death from Alzheimer’s Disease. I donated some of the proceeds to the Alzheimer’s Association. I also volunteered and taught a poetry workshop in haiku and tanka. I find a sense of calmness and accomplishment about these things. Check out my 2021 book:

https://www.finishinglinepress.com/product/touch-my-head-softly-by-eileen-kennedy/

Polish Your Writing

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The word polish means to make something smooth and shiny, like leather shoes So what does it mean to polish your writing?

Does it mean to go through your piece and get rid of minor errors? Or does it mean to improve or perfect? To me it means go over your writing and make sure that it all makes sense. This differs from editing in my mind, which refers more to going over your piece for minor errors in punctuation or grammar.

I am currently writing a long narrative poem, about the drowning earth, interspersed with haiku. There’s a lot to follow. I do a draft and then read it over once, revising as I go. It’s not yet polishing, which I do at the end.

My most recent collection of poetry that I published was a different process. It was a highly emotional collection about the death of my partner to Alzheimer’s. It was painful to write, and I just got it out on paper periodically over a number of years. I then polished it at the end. Take a look:

https://www.finishinglinepress.com/product/touch-my-head-softly-by-eileen-kennedy/

Rejection Therapy in Writing

Ok, so your piece has been rejected. As writers, we all go through it. Rejection can be defined as the act of pushing something away. We submit a piece or a manuscript somewhere where we think it will be a fit, and the powers that be don’t see it that way.

One thing I find that helps is knowing that publishing is just a business. A publisher is looking for something specific and your writing may not fit the bill. It doesn’t mean that it’s bad, it just means it’s not what the publisher is looking for.

Most editors don’t comment on their rejections, but if you do get feedback, you may learn from it. I had an editor tell me I was using too many adjectives and adverbs. I took the advice to heart and started editing them out, and it made my writing stronger.

When a piece has been rejected several times, I try revising it. Language in its uneducated, natural form, reveals if we uncouple our own judgment and explore linguistic vehicles, the piece may be better. In poetry, it sometimes means trying a different format. If it’s a free verse poem, I’ll try something more formal, like a pantoum or sonnet. It sometimes can provide a different, more successful vehicle for the piece.

Another thing I sometimes try is reordering the piece. The last line might not be right. The last line might be found a stanza or two up. Maybe I’ve done too much explaining, and it wants cutting. Or the beginning of the piece might better serve it in the middle.

When I did my last collection, “Touch My Head Softly,” I kept rearranging the order of the poems. Then I realized nothing fit the beginning. So I wound up writing a prose poem to start off the collection.

When I’m going through rejections, I sometimes remind myself why I like to write, and this often makes me feel better. I wrote the poems in Touch My Head Softly, about my partner who died of Alzheimer’s in his sixties. It helped me to get through my grief by doing this and this became an end in itself.

You can view my collection Touch My Head Softly, at:

https://www.finishinglinepress.com/product/touch-my-head-softly-by-eileen-kennedy/

Touch My Head Softly can be viewed on Goodreads at:

Photo by Ylanite Koppens on Pexels.com

https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/3609820860https://www.finishinglinepress.com/product/touch-my-head-softly-by-eileen-kennedy/

Using the Four Elements in Your Writing

The four elements: earth, wind, fire, water in your writing can be exhilarating.

The four elements can be nurturing, but they an also destroy. There is much possibility in these primitive forces. Fire, for instance, can be cleansing or destructive at the same time.

There’s a scene about a fire and the seeds. I actually had that dream, where there was a fire, and I dreamt that I was carrying those seeds, that they’re what had to be protected. I thought about that later, that those are the instincts that these women had, the instinct to protect your food source, no matter what, because you didn’t have a Costco, you didn’t have Cub, you didn’t have social services or food shelves or anything else to rely on except yourself. Fire, to me, it’s got the two sides of it. It’s the simultaneous purging and cleansing, but it’s also destructive. But then you see what happens after a fire out in the forest and the deadwood’s gone and all of a sudden, there’s all these wildflowers coming up. I love that. I love that cycle of renewal that happens with fire. That was a really key element in the story.

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Yes. To me, that’s Western science that has made that very arbitrary distinction. I think the extent to which we can consider ourselves “objective” is something of a myth because we bring all of our filters, we bring all of our experience, and while I believe you can have a rigorous process that really does your due diligence in research, it’s never separate from who you are and it’s never separate from everything around you. So that Western understanding of science is very different from an Indigenous understanding of science, which is all about place. There is a great book called Native Science by Greg Cajete. It’s one of my favorite books. I’ve got it underlined, I’ve got it marked up. He talks about the metaphoric mind. He talks about how science has to be relational as well. You can’t take it out of life and its context with everything else around it and say, “There’s just this.” That’s why I think technology has gotten so out of control, because it never takes into account what’s going to happen in the future. It doesn’t take into account the consequences of it, meaning some of the pollution or the using up of resources or nuclear power, when we think about waste that’s going to last for thousands and millions of years. That’s unethical in my mind. What you’ve done is borrowed or poisoned the future for your grandchildren. That’s not right. So science has to have ethics. It has to have a relational connection to the world around it. That book is just a beautiful way of understanding science. That’s my foundational book.

Where are you finding hope or joy or inspiration right now?

Plants, seeds, food, anything to do with the outside world. To go out and garden, to have my hands in the soil, to walk out the door in Minnesota in March and hear birds singing, because our winter is very, very quiet. So to hear birds singing as they’re returning on their migration, and the fact that when all that craziness was happening, the political coup and everything, they didn’t care. The birds keep singing. The world around us is just profound in its disconnect from what humans get so excited about. I think of that as a really good check and balance for our priorities. Writing, reading, working with native writers: those are all joyful places to me.

Witchcraft is thought to date back to the Stone Age and for several millennia witches and their male counterparts Warlocks, were the village doctors, herbalists and counselors. In this day and age, true witches and warlocks still revere the earth and all its inhabitants and work for the highest good of all.