She Imagined Herself the Face on a New Dollar Bill…

This is my “winning” piece in the month-long #WildArtColumbus project organized by Wild Goose Columbus. Note, last post, that I was the September 2nd Guest Artist, and this piece, She Imagined Herself the Face on a New Dollar Bill, is the print that will be in this Wednesday’s one-day-only gallery show and art auction.

The piece is just one of my Synthesized Self-Portraits which you can search for on Instagram under #pjl_selfportrait. This one plays around a bit with gender identity, as the face very much resembles George Washington and the color and texture call to mind engraved portraits used on U.S. currency. The word “play” is, in fact, visible in the upper left-hand corner, and it is meant to be a playful image, but one which also explores more deeply concepts of gender and currency, specifically questioning whether women have real value in this country. How much are we paid compared to men, for example? How much money is spent on women’s health care? The subject here looks out with a steadfast gaze, awaiting answers.

The 20″ x 20″ print is double matted in sage green and gold,  framed in black. Overall dimensions 2′ x 2′.

It’s interesting to note that this image was originally created in April of 2015. On June 17, 2015, the U.S. Department of Treasury announced that a woman’s face would be featured on the newly designed ten dollar bill, which is planned for release by 2020.

Please join us all at Wild Goose Columbus, Wednesday, September 30th, 6:30-9:00 p.m. for the Art Opening and Live Auction. Proceeds from all art sold benefit BOTH Wild Goose Creative and the individual guest artists.

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Synthesized Self Portraits at #WildArtColumbus

Today, September 2, I am the featured guest artist on Wild Goose Creative’s Instagram page. I will be posting eight of what I call my “Synthesized Self Portraits”–highly stylized portraits which begin with an iPhone selfie and are then manipulated and layered using apps like Snapseed, Union, and Mextures.

The accompanying photo here, taken from the #WildArtColumbus calendar of artists, is from a piece entitled We Don’t Always Want to Face What We See in Ourselves. It is from the Duality Series. There are actually several categories into which I’ve broken down the portraits overall: a Water Series, Stone Series, Medusa Series, Map Series, Cage Series, etc. Many of the categories overlap, and the resulting portraiture–ultimately contemplative play–touches on surrealism and leads into a fairly complex study in the concept of selfhood. How, exactly, do we see ourselves? What are we afraid of seeing? Where do we think we are headed in our lives? Where do we fear we’ll end up? How might we stop taking ourselves so seriously and simply laugh instead?

I have long-term plans for a possible art book, with each portrait or series of portraits accompanied by an exploratory essay, but for now, I am enjoying the process of making the pictures and learning how to best print, mat, and frame them. I will soon be updating this webpage with a new design to include an “Art” tab with pieces available for purchase. The Synthesized Self Portraits, other art photos, and some mixed-media collage pieces will all be included.

Meanwhile, I continue to write as well, continue to submit and publish, and will continue to update the features and publications pages here regularly.

Do tune in to #WildArtColumbus, not just today but each day during the month of September to explore and enjoy the work of so many wonderful regional artists. And if you’re local and able to attend, join us for the Live Auction and Party at Wild Goose on September 30th!

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#WildArtColumbus !

I’m very pleased to announce I’ve been selected to participate in Wild Goose Creative‘s pop-up art show and fundraiser #WildArtColumbus. Here’s how it will work: each day in September, a new artist will post artwork on Wild Goose Creative’s Instagram account. I’ve been assigned Wednesday, September 2nd. On that day, I’ll be posting 8 pieces of original artwork. The piece that receives the most viewer interaction on social media will then be exhibited in the gallery and auctioned off at the Live Auction and Party on the evening of September 30th.

More detailed information to follow, so watch this page!

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41st Annual Writer’s Workshop, Sinclair Community College

What, exactly, is an editor’s job? In the workshop session I’ll be conducting tomorrow at Sinclair Community College’s annual Writer’s Workshop entitled The Author/Editor Relationship (and What a Small Press Can Do for You!) We’ll explore the nature of the relationship between authors and editors, touching on the often-far-more-personal partnership writers find when working with small press publishers.

Join us, won’t you, if you’re in the Dayton, Ohio, area?

Keynote speaker Gilbert King, author of the New York Times bestseller, Devil in the Grove: Thurgood Marshall, the Groveland Boys, and the Dawn of a New America will start things off, and other presenters include Katrina Kittle, Albino Carrillo, and Tim Waggoner. The workshop is free and open to the public.

Copies of my book, The Sudden Seduction of Gravity, and George Looney’s Structures the Wind Sings Through will be available at the Library Loggia from 10:00 a.m. till noon.

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The Furcula Project, Honoring Malala Yousafzai

In honor of Malala Yousafzai and Kailash Satyarthi being jointly honored with the Nobel Peace Prize today, October 10, 2014, I am reprinting my poem here “Anatomy of Birds, Part 1: Furcula.” Please note that I first posted it on July 14th, Malala Day, in announcement of The Furcula Project, by Full/Crescent Press: “we’ve turned my poem, ‘Anatomy of Birds, Part 1: Furcula’ into a beautifully illustrated broadside.  The poem is dedicated to Malala, and was written for her. It is intended to celebrate the strength and power of resilience all women possess. 100% of profits from posters sold will directly benefit The Malala Fund.”

Anatomy of Birds, Part 1: Furcula
for Malala Yousafzai

The work of soaring is arduous,
requires more than muscle alone,
requires the delicate architecture
of mostly hollow bone. The fused
and forked clavicle of a bird—
we call it the wishbone—
allows her to bear the rigors of flight,
stretching and then recoiling
with each powerful wingbeat. (Can
you hear it? The fiercely whispered
whoosh slicing air?) Downstroke
and release. Let’s call it resilience,
what pushes the songbird forward,
what propels the hawk! Oh, let’s
remember this living bone can flex!

Originally published in Future Cycle Press‘ “Good Works” anthology, Malala: Poems for Malala Yousafzai, I wanted to keep the poem in circulation, following Future Cycle’s lovely example of putting “Good Works” into the world. We decided to turn it into a broadside, and have created this truly beautiful 11″ x 14″ poster.  Sue Demitriou of Dark Nature Photography contributed the image, and Ali Wade, graphic designer for Full/Crescent Press, helped with the overall broadside design. This has been from the start a project of women helping women. We believe in the power of poetry, that it can be a changing force in the world. We’re proud to support The Malala Fund in their effort “to bring awareness to the social and economic impact of girls’ education and to empower girls to raise their voices, to unlock their potential, and to demand change.”

You can help, too, by ordering your copy here. And we thank you, so much.

Malala said today, in a letter sent out to supporters, that:

I believe the Nobel committee didn’t give this award to me. I believe they have done this because they believe education is the best weapon through which we can fight poverty, ignorance and terrorism.

I believe they did this because they don’t believe in just one girl, but in all the girls whose voices need to be heard, who are under the darkness of conflict or poverty. This award is for my powerful sisters who have not been listened to for far too long.

And I raise their voices, I stand together with them.

Please stand with us as we continue to help the Malala Fund.

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On the Importance of Keeping (Some) Revision Intact

Sharing this post today with a particular friend in mind, but it might just as well be for all of us…including, of course, me. These are two poems from my book The Sudden Seduction of Gravity, and you’ll notice that the second is a revision of the first. Why did I include both versions in the final edition of the manuscript? Because the thought process behind the revision was itself so important. Both are from the final section of the book “Falling Into Place.” By itself, the first version of the poem might fit better in the Part 3, “Falling Apart,” which is largely comprised of a series of depression-related poems. But I was already far enough along in my process of recovery to realize, almost as soon as I had finished the last line, that it had ended with a lie:

Fall

…the space that the mind is terrified to enter is the beginning of all life. It’s the womb of being. —Byron Katie

Close your eyes. Reach out with your toe—take a step.
Feel that nothing is there, and let yourself fall. And fall
and fall. Don’t think of Alice, what she found when
she landed. You might not land. Ever. Keep your eyes
closed and feel the falling. It’s all right. It’s all right.
It’s all right. Darkness is cradling you even as it happens.
It loves you no less than light. It’s no less benevolent.
It’s more. It’s more. It’s more.

I’d spent so much of my life wrapped up in the oddly-comforting blanket of darkness and depression, but had come too far and learned too much not to recognize that it wasn’t true that darkness somehow loves you (me) more than light. And I knew for doggone sure Byron Katie would raise an eyebrow: “Is it true?” No. It’s not. And I launched immediately into the revision, which wound up being a blessing of comfort and learning:

Fall: A Revision

…the space that the mind is terrified to enter is the beginning of all life. It’s the womb of being. —Byron Katie

Close your eyes. Reach out with your toe—take a step.
Feel that nothing is there, and let yourself fall. And fall
and fall. Don’t think of Alice, what she found when
she landed. You might not land. Ever. Keep your eyes
closed and feel the falling. It’s all right. It’s all right.
Darkness is cradling you even as it happens. It loves you
no less than light. It is no less benevolent. Feel the darkness.
Feel the terror. Call it laughter. Call it love. Call it.
You are darkness. You are light. You are falling.
You are terror. You are laughter. You are love. You are
everything you are. Let yourself feel it. Call it love. Call it
you. It is you. Let yourself feel it. Let yourself fall.

I think it’s okay to occasionally let ourselves feel embraced by what seems like darkness. It is, at any rate, rather a fact of my life. Those really bad feelings sometimes still happen. But I fight them less. I don’t quite embrace them–can’t say that, not yet–it’s still a pretty frightening process. But it’s easier, and it’s okay, to let myself feel the terror. It’s much less exhausting. And I am able to get back that much more quickly to knowing it’s part of my being alive…just exactly as much as laughter and love.

I was introduced to Byron Katie’s work only relatively recently, by my husband soon after we met. I was quite interested to learn she was connected to Stephen Mitchell, who had written my favorite translation of the Tao Te Ching. And the following is one of my favorite parts of the Tao, one that I’m sure was an unconscious influence on the final revision of the poem. Isn’t it lovely?

When people see some things as beautiful,
other things become ugly.
When people see some things as good,
other things become bad.

Being and non-being create each other.
Difficult and easy support each other.
Long and short define each other.
High and low depend on each other.
Before and after follow each other.

Therefore the Master
acts without doing anything
and teaches without saying anything.
Things arise and she lets them come;
things disappear and she lets them go.
She has but doesn’t possess,
acts but doesn’t expect.
When her work is done, she forgets it.
That is why it lasts forever.

 

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On Intimacy, On Gratitude, On Being Afraid

Fear teaches us things, or can. And I’ve been thinking lately that this is the core of what real intimacy is. We tell someone a secret, we care for them when they’re ill, we offer our up our hearts, we trust them to be both tender and strong. It takes giving and receiving, these bonds that tie. And what an honor to be on either end of that.

Much of this thinking has stemmed from caring for someone who was ill and from thinking about those who have cared for me when I was. It has also connected to deep and wonderful conversations with others who have been caregivers, and what a gift is that. (A lovely reason that caregiver support groups  can be so important.) But the things that come into play during critical times are, I think, the same things that come into play in other parts of our more normal and everyday lives. “Intimacy” is a word that touches most often on romance, on love, on the physical, perhaps. But isn’t it all much the same?

Sometimes illness requires that we place ourselves literally into someone else’s hands. Feeding is an intimacy. Bathing is an intimacy.  Expelling waste. Administering medication. But it’s much the same as putting ourselves more metaphorically into the hands of a friend, a sibling, a parent, a lover, a spouse: Here is part of me, tender and afraid. Treat it gently. Be good. Be kind. Implicitly, what is added, is this: I am trusting you.

What an honor. The bond is timeless, its strength, limitless. Sometimes we have to dare ourselves to trust a caregiver. Sometimes we are forced to. But when someone, anyone, says, “I give myself to you,” the gratitude that comes should come from us, not them. That someone did dare to make this offering–or yes, sometimes, that they were forced to–truly: it’s an honor. It’s an opportunity. It’s a gift.

Best, I think, to accept such things, and to return them with an offering of your own. I accept you. I thank you. And I offer you, me. This is who I am. This is what I can do…and will.

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Raising Voices, Celebrating Resilience: Malala Day 2014

Malala Day, July 14th, “is not my day,” says Malala Yousafzai. “It is the day of every girl and every boy. It is a day when we come together to raise our voices, so that those without a voice can be heard.”

I’m proud to be “Raising My Voice” with Full/Crescent Press on a project to benefit the Malala Fund. Called The Furcula Project, we’ve turned my poem, “Anatomy of Birds, Part 1: Furcula” in to a beautifully illustrated broadside.  The poem is dedicated to Malala, and was written for her. It is intended to celebrate the strength and power of resilience all women possess. 100% of profits from posters sold will directly benefit The Malala Fund. Here is the full text of the poem:

Anatomy of Birds, Part 1: Furcula
for Malala Yousafzai

The work of soaring is arduous,
requires more than muscle alone,
requires the delicate architecture
of mostly hollow bone. The fused
and forked clavicle of a bird—
we call it the wishbone—
allows her to bear the rigors of flight,
stretching and then recoiling
with each powerful wingbeat. (Can
you hear it? The fiercely whispered
whoosh slicing air?) Downstroke
and release. Let’s call it resilience,
what pushes the songbird forward,
what propels the hawk! Oh, let’s
remember this living bone can flex!

Originally published in Future Cycle Press‘ “Good Works” anthology, Malala: Poems for Malala Yousafzai, I wanted to keep the poem in circulation, following Future Cycle’s lovely example of putting “Good Works” into the world. We decided to turn it into a broadside, and have created this truly beautiful 11″ x 14″ poster.  Sue Demitriou of Dark Nature Photography contributed the image, and Ali Wade, graphic designer for Full/Crescent Press, helped with the overall broadside design. This has been from the start a project of women helping women. We believe in the power of poetry, that it can be a changing force in the world. We’re proud to support The Malala Fund in their effort “to bring awareness to the social and economic impact of girls’ education and to empower girls to raise their voices, to unlock their potential, and to demand change.”

You can help, too, by ordering your copy here. And we thank you, so much.

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On Spring and Storms and Saturn, and All the Ways We Wake and Rise

Lovely spring storm last night. Woke at 3 a.m. with the thunder and lightning–that wonderful, cozy kind, loud as it is, that helps you trust the earth is being quenched and nourished and that everything is going to be all right. Having been so busy lately promoting Full/Crescent Press’s new Community Reading, “Poetry at Perkins: In Celebration of the Night Sky!” as well as attending lots of spring concert events at our daughter’s school, when I finally fell back to sleep I dreamed I was on tour promoting the show in a high school gymnasium–at a pep rally, no less, huge telescope in the middle of the basketball court floor. I was being helped by a group of boys (men, in the dream) whom I’d gone to elementary school with and remember especially from sixth grade, when one of them sat next to me in home room. The one who was my partner in the dream–partner in charge of promoting the show–was someone who visits my dreams periodically, someone I always thought sweet and special, someone who died in a motorcycle crash at far, far too young an age.

We were walking off stage together, off the basketball court, and I confessed to him that though I was really looking forward to this show and knew all the poetry read would be wonderful, I had never actually looked through a telescope, didn’t really know what the night sky looked like up close that way. He and the other boys all stopped short, surprised, and said, “Well, let’s go back. She’s gotta see!” The room was empty now but for the telescope and the small wooden step ladder that led up to where you could peek through it, and I was terribly afraid we were doing something wrong or would somehow get into trouble. David–his name was David!–put his hand on my shoulder and encouraged me to look through, that it would all be all right.

When David shows up in my dreams, it is nearly always a message that things are all right. He is connected, in my mind, to my grandfather, who I found out some years after high school had worked with him in one of the mills in town. My grandfather, a weaver, had worked there for decades, and it turns out had been fond of him, thought he was a nice boy (as did pretty much everyone I know who knew him), enjoyed working with him. So when I think of Dave, it is always in tandem with Pepe, and thinking or dreaming of Pepe is nearly always being told, gently, that “Better days are coming.” Or that, in fact, they are already here.

When I finally peered into the telescope, I was unprepared for what I saw: a perfect image of Saturn, just as I’d ever seen it in photographs or on television, the perfect image of the ringed planet! Dave smiled, laughed a little, as he put one hand on the back of my shoulder and encouraged me to keep looking. So then I could see all the way into Saturn, that there were people there who looked human, like all of us, except maybe just slightly “off,” like people in a colorized 1950′s sit-com. And then I was just in the scene, part of it all, and Dave and I were together on the top floor of a house, in a small bathroom painted white, standing between the small white porcelain sink and an open window, white cotton curtain billowing slightly with the breeze, first in, gently, and then more strongly out, to where we followed it past the tree branches and yard and down below, where we could see again the big telescope on the basketball court floor and realized together we’d better hurry to get back where we’d been, that they’d be closing the room soon and we had more so much more work to get done from here.

And just as we realized that, my alarm went off, and I was lying in bed alone-and-not-alone, rain still steady outside, Dave still somewhere nearby–somehow, somehow!–and I felt, as I so often do on waking, fully present in both worlds: Dream and Reality, Past and Present, the worlds of Synchronicity and Timelessness and Wonder, where there is no question about how all the pieces of the universe fit so pleasantly together.

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When All Is Cold and Ice, and We Are Winter Weary

The fall book tour was good, it was very good, and on its heels came a flight to New York City, and after that pneumonia, and on pneumonia’s heels came Christmas, and after that the polar vortex and after that, well, here we are in the midst of a new vortex–yes? Such is life.

I am posting this poem as placeholder, to keep the blog here current. I am in the midst of new poems, a  new book, and new submissions, but for now, I offer this, “A Thousand Rumis,” and the blue-white sparkle of sunlight on snow. It’s from my last book, page 29, and remember you can still buy that here or, if you must, here. And it would be just lovely of you to review it here.

A Thousand Rumis 

The blue-white sparkle of sunlight
on snow—it’s like that. Too much
to take in, too achingly beautiful.
Like starlight: sharp. You shield your eyes
against what is most wonderful
hide from what hurts. It all hurts.

Better to be blind, and deaf
and dumb to it all. No hands
no face, no way to love.

Still, stumps and wounds, weary
you would take in more than
a thousand Rumis could sing in chorus
need to protect yourself from the wonder
of so much beauty in this lost world.

I’m sorry, and sorry, and sorry
for what you must bear, and still
there is this: you must.  

 

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