—I have been questioned about the lack of blogroll, links, photos on my home page. This is by intention. As much as possible I want a poem to stand without distraction. So I’ve decided to include this page of miscellanea—notes as side issues occur.
Derivation of the name of this blog? The old knock-knock joke:
A. “Knock, knock”
Q. “Who’s there?”
A. “Little Old Lady.”
Q. “Little Old Lady Who?”
A. “Wow! I didn’t know you could yodel!”
YODEL: a type of singing in which wide intervals of low “chest” notes and high “head” notes are rapidly alternated…..used as a means of communicating over moderate distances by the inhabitants of mountainous regions. It is associated with the Alpine peoples of Switzerland and the Austrian Tirol. But it is found also in other mountain regions (e.g. in China and the Americas) and among the Pygmies of Africa and the aboriginal peoples of Australia.
Hmmmm…chest notes and head notes…..heart and mind, and music calling out for an echo….
For those who have asked that I include more about my education and work……Immediately after graduating with an AB in French Language and Literature, I taught French in a private secondary school. Later, I taught English, Expository Writing and Theatre Arts in a public high school. After seven years I left that work because I wanted to “be a writer”. I soon discovered I could not write to please editors or mass markets, ie. make money at it. Anyway, I wanted to write poetry—so what next? Open a poetry store? In those years I did many odd jobs, worked in community theatre and learned the traditional craft of calligraphy, which satisfied the art as well as the word loves. My calligraphy became lucrative and moved into a professional enough niche to enable international commissions as well as fun instructing adults who wanted to learn it in evening enrichment classes. I went back to school for a master’s degree in art education, and beyond that earned a PhD. at the American Institute of Holistic Theology. My ultimate job, from which I finally retired, was as an adjunct professor of graduate students, lecturing in History, Aesthetics, and Research at the Massachusetts College of Art and Design. I still consider my vocation that of poet. And now, that’s what I do: I read and write poems.
Just a note….
August is, for me, the cruellest month. It was in August, 2010, that my soulmate and
domestic partner of 43 years died suddenly of a massive cerebral hemorrhage. My life was radically
changed. I don’t quite know how to look forward, and am still trying to re-imagine the universe.
We were newly retired teachers–one in mathematics and one in the arts–had just bought a home in New Hampshire midway between the mountains and the sea, were in good health and looking forward to many new, good things when, as they say, it hit the fan. I learned that grief is very much like fear–it gets you right in the gut. And so I proceeded to develop a cancerous tumor, right in the gut, the mind-body connection patently obvious. Surgery, a refusal of chemo and a good health regimen have returned a semblance of sanity to this big old houseful of me, my big, old dog, and my two old cats.
Memory has a way of causing one to relive traumatic experiences as anniversaries come around. So I give myself a more gentle time in August.
I plan to keep up the momentum of my weekly poem posting, but for this month I think I will re-post a few things from my archives.
One of the things my beloved friend had been planning to do was to help me to try and publish some of the many hundreds of poems I’ve written over the years…..and to not be such an Emily Dickinson about it. I always replied that poetry really has no marketability, and my work, especially, doesn’t exactly fit what is popular today, so why bother?
The adventure of this blog has been a good thing for me; I deeply appreciate and thank everyone who simply reads it, and blow a kiss to my faithful ‘liking” and commenting friends.
QUO VADIS II. (for QUO VADIS I see archives May, 2012)
When it comes to the assessment of a poem, whether it is “good” or “bad” or simply how it hits a reader in his own terms, there is usually no scarcity of opinion. Most real poets don’t want to be flattered, but they do want their work to be read, heard, appreciated–even admired. They are trying to communicate, in a creative enterprise, and at its best the creativity belongs to neither the maker nor the receiver of the poem….the creativity is anonymous. So poets invite response from readers.
Responses can wonderfully lift or flatten and dampen the soul. With so-called feedback, then, it is of ultimate importance to consider the source. A child’s delight may not be the same as the tears of an educated or wise elder. The worst kind of commentary is that which presumes to know the intent of the poet and then demean the intent itself or point out ways in which the poet failed to accomplish it. This is often the insecure ploy of arrogant academics or witless literary snobs who lean on the dead templates they learned in graduate school and like to hear themselves express.
Some poets really want to hear suggestions and criticism, not just response. They assume the pose of humility and invite others to help finish their poems. Perhaps they believe in the superior wisdom of the collective over the individual when it comes to writing a poem. They continually “workshop” their work. On that subject, Kingsley Amis Is quoted thus: “If there’s one word that sums up everything that’s gone wrong since the war, it’s WORKSHOP…”
The poet has to own his poems, the good ones and the not so good ones….even as he listens to the impressions made on his readers. Writing poems is difficult work, fraught with all kinds of possibilities to fail…but that’s because what we are trying for is something original. Therefore it is really in the beginning an alone thing, but then the circuit of creativity can be beautifully closed by the understanding of an attentive and appreciative reader.
Some of my calligraphy: word paintings in watercolor.
THE PROCESS: letters are sketched-in lightly, then watercolor is washed all over. When dry, a “resist”, usually frisket or rubber cement, is painted over the letters, then more saturated watercolor is painted all over. When dry, the resist is removed from the lettering.
Related to the poem “To A Tulip” (April 2014 archives) is an art project by photographer Sheila Creighton who is watching and visually documenting the process of aging in tulips. Sheila blogs at email@example.com
_”Last Hurrah” ©Sheila Creighton, 2014
September 6, 2014
I was recently asked to provide a photo to go with a brief bio and couldn’t decide which of the many moments of my life presented me to the best advantage….Here are only four of them. The styles of eyeglasses date them.
Perhaps the Buddhists are right, and there is no such thing as the “I” who is a static, fixed self that stands completely separate from the flux of actual life.
September 14, 2014
I have just had to deal with a printer who received a copy of one of my poems, where the format was “justified left margin…..and who changed it so that it became one of those poems that visually meanders down the page, tethered to a center line. I HATE THAT!
Before the computer word processing ease of centering a bunch of words down the page, I ask, how would anyone have known that bunch of words was a poem? They wouldn’t. It’s become totally visual— like pornography–and grocery lists are now poems; random pretty phrases are now called poems, abstract words from clichés are now poems…as long as they flow down the page…..centered. There is a sad absence of the English sentence. It has always been composed of a subject and a predicate, ie, you name something in this world, and then say what you think it is about…but the sentence is disappearing, in favor of floating images, lists, overused (and therefore meaningless) abstract nouns, all breathlessly flowing down the center of a page to “look like” a poem. The onus is on the reader to understand, and if he doesn’t, well, he just must not be as gifted, sensitive or smart as the delicate poet. Communication leaves the room, because self-expression makes the place unbearable.
December 9, 2014
My old cat, Beau, who was dying last year at this time, and about whom I wrote a little poem (see “BEAU” in archives) is still alive, probably on his eleventh or twelfth life by now. He’s full of mats,scruffy and very thin, sneezes all over the place, but still races out to the kitchen, nearly tripping me, every time I go there, and crying “now! Now!!”
January 2, 2015
There are several reasons why an author might choose simply to go straight to a printer, and publish his or her own work. Among them are: (1) it may have been rejected several times by trade publishers, but the author has faith in it and wants to see it in print; (2) it may appeal to a limited audience only; (3) the author wants to retain both artistic and legal control over the work.
Some famous poets and writers who self-published: Mark Twain, Walt Whitman, Beatrix Potter, Edgar Allen Poe, T.S.Eliot, Carl Sandburg, D.H.Lawrence, George Bernard Shaw, Henry David Thoreau, e.e.Cummings, Rudyard Kipling, Ezra Pound, Marcel Proust, Gertrude Stein, James Joyce, Virginia Woolf, Robert Frost….
May 23, 2014
I wonder, when you hit the “like” button, what does it mean?
1) I just found your blog and I like what I read here
2) I like what I read here.
3) I’m checking-in to say I’m still a follower but don’t want to comment now
4) I really like this but have no time or words for you now
5) I like! See my comment below
6) I’m a creature of habit..notice of your new post comes, I hit the “like” button, period.
7) I have something to sell
The “like” button is a good thing; I’m glad it’s there!
May 25, 2014
Light Verse. What is the opposite of “light verse”? “heavy verse”? “dark verse”? Just plain “verse”?
And is it also the reverse of “lite verse”, higher in fat and calories? It’s quite a conundrum to figure out
what the antithesis of “light verse” might be, except that it is taken more seriously by some people.
“What is light verse?” Good question. I like the way some of our serious, heavy versifiers have joyfully published light verse. Without pausing, I think of Eliot and Auden; Dylan Thomas too. But I could name one or two very earnest poets who don’t seem to do light.
Oh yes, John. I could name them also. Maybe no sense of humor. I never think in terms of “now I’m going to compose some light verse”! “Occasional verse,” maybe, or “vers de société”. But I like it all. What I don’t like is the dismissive undertone that often accompanies that verdict of “light verse”…. it’s often delivered by someone who is probably incapable of writing such a thing, I think.
Light verse? K. Amis had the knack. His case suggests a mastery of English, both King’s and demotic, is required. I cut my poetic teeth on translating Horace, and he often seems to reach a synthesis of light and heavy. I trace that back to Alexandrian style. We used to argue about this in grad school. Russell Baker’s prose had some of the precision and wit of light verse. I seem to remember he composed an anthology. This is one of my favorite topics. I can see why both John and Cynthia are interested, since both write poems that have some of the qualities of light verse. Cynthia’s rueful persona and sense of craft certainly inform the genre.
Thanks for bringing this to mind, again, Tom. One of my favorite definitions of light verse: “peculiarly funny poems.”
For an orgy of wit: THE NORTON BOOK OF LIGHT VERSE by Russell Baker
and THE NEW OXFORD BOOK OF LIGHT VERSE by Kingsley Amis
Have you tried Wendy Cope? She has a collection called, if I recollect properly, “Making Cocoa for Kingsley Amis”. She has a wonderful collection of “Waste Land” llimericks. She has a lot of poems you can easily find on the Internet.
Thanks, Natalie…I’ve found Wendy Cope and enjoyed!
Yes, I had that book some years back. Very enjoyable. The Brits generally do light verse better than the Americans. Less pretentious, perhaps; less anxious, certainly. Cynthia often nails it.
Interesting conversation going on here….
Ho ho ho. I just found this page. I ‘like’ it! I didn’t realise you had published a book, though! Congratulations!
I have just stumbled upon your page but am grateful that I did 🙂 I laughed when I read your post from May 23, 2014 about the “Like” button. I, too, have often wondered what motivates readers to push the button, knowing full well that I have multiple reasons myself!
Thank you for visiting! It’s unusual for me to find new visitors to this miscellaneous page—and fun. I’m glad we have that “like” button; It covers a multitude of sins, doesn’t it? 🙂
I can’t help smiling as I push the “like ” button. Have a great day 🙂
As a middle-aged woman who just completed graduate school, I truly appreciated your criticism of criticism as ” the insecure ploy of arrogant academics or witless literary snobs who lean on the dead templates they learned in graduate school.” In my own journey, I’ve became aware that submission to literary journals was changing my writing into something that would appeal and be accepted by such academics. I’m only beginning to break free from that yoke now. You liked a comment that I made on another blog, and as I am insatiably curious here I am to discover your work. I like because I like. I’m looking forward to reading your work.
Thank you, Laine for this comment. It’s always heartening to know that one’s own perceptions are shared by others on the same journey. I stopped writing for a long while because I thought that “yoke”, as you put it, was the only way. Now, in my elder years, I’ve come back to writing poetry and find great fun in the readership I discover by blogging. Completing graduate school at a more mature age (as I did too) has it’s advantages. As Ernest Hemingway is reported to have said, you need a good ‘crap detector’ to be a good writer, and having more life experience helps with that. Thank you. I will visit your blog soon, and hope you find something to amuse if you visit mine!
I’m simply meandering around relatively aimlessly this morning and ended here. I wondered why I had not hitherto wandered thus. Very interesting bits and pieces. I concur with the spectacles in the photographs delineating one era from another. Hair doesn’t do it. Not a tress has changed! I’m delighted to give a like.
Hi Bruce….welcome to my world. I certainly trust your opinion about eras of photos, given that I almost used one of my early self as a gravatar. Of course, I didn’t have all those marvelous colored rays of yours on which to mount it, so it’s just as well I stuck to the current one. About hair….I have naturally curly hair, and always hated it, as a young person; was always trying to straighten it and look like the smooth pageboy style of the ad for Breck shampoo. As you can see, I finally gave up. A good thing about aging is that you learn to be more of yourself, if you’re lucky. Thanks for the visit!
While looking for your gravatar and your email, I stumbled on this and am so glad I did! I’m sorry for your loss. Such losses leave a void. My daughter died in 1976 and yesterday. When it rains, she is right here with me.
Bisous et calins, Léa
“my daughter died in 1976 and yesterday….” Truer words were never spoken about loss. ❤
(I am saving your email and editing it out of here, in case you might not want it to be public info.)
Thank you. I don’t include the email info often but it is on the gravatar if anyone really wanted to find it. As you know, some of us go beyond the ‘comment’ space. 😉
I’m so glad I found this page. Look at that beautiful calligraphy! I taught myself back in the ’80’s (about the same time period as that photo of you with the big hair and glasses) and it was so satisfying. Yours is art – just like your poetry.
Hi Susanne! Calligraphy is very satisfying. For me it began as a self-taught time-filler in a slack time between jobs….cigarette in one hand, pen in the other, tv soap-operas playing in the background, as I learned one historical alphabet after another by sheer brute repetition. I did finally find a teacher who could help me, especially with gothic and uncial forms, and then it sort of took off, as a way to make money. Now I wonder if anyone can even read it; certainly cursive handwriting is becoming obsolete for the young. I’m happy to know we share a love of this wonderful craft! Thanks for stopping by…..
Oh, wow! Someone else whose hair is white!! YAY!!!!! Well, I went back to dyeing mine, but underneath? Whitewhitewhite. I wore those big glasses, too, and was thrilled to be “with it.”
I’m 64. Have been online — WP, in fact, but several blogs ago — since 2006.
Your education and career differ from mine but I suspect that we share a deep respect for words and learning.
Hi Robin—I found you through Lance’s blog. When I visited your site, I was struck by what I call the maturity/authenticity/intelligence factors I am always looking for, among blogs. It’s so easy to waste time blogging, and there’s plenty of junk to waste it on; but I’ve been learning to cultivate what I consider worthy, rich and rewarding, and to slowly winnow my following down to that. I will follow your blog. I like what I’ve seen and read there so far, and I agree that there may be much that we share. Cheerio! 🙂