Point and Click

It happens this way …

In their author’s questionnaire, Unsolicited Press, the publisher of my next poetry collection, asked a number of engaging questions. For example:

What’s your favorite punctuation mark? (Question mark).

What book were you supposed to read in high school, but never did? (I was a good Catholic girl in a Catholic high school and read everything assigned!).

What inanimate object would you thank in your acknowledgments?

It took me a few seconds to answer to that one. Then, the obvious: my Sony digital camera. Since I only have a “dumb” clamshell phone, I rely on the Sony to be my companion as I walk the garden each morning and evening or go on trips near or far. In fact, I panic if I arrive somewhere special and don’t have the camera with me.

Some people think taking photos detracts from the experience of a moment. On the contrary, it helps me focus. The sun filtering through a red maple and splashing pink begonias in a hanging basket, the feral cat sitting in a pot of jasmine, the varied blues of crashing waves off the California coast: I photograph, therefore I am.

I used my experience with a camera in a poem about one of my favorite poets, Wislawa Szymborska. She was a Polish writer who lived through the brutal Nazi occupation of her native country during World War II and then four decades of Stalinist Communism. The reward for such brave perseverance? The Pulitzer Prize for Literature in 1996.

Her poems are witty, subtly subversive, and intellectually delightful. She once remarked, … the word ‘why’ is the most important word in any language on earth, and probably also in the languages of other galaxies … . She, too, likes question marks!

In her Pulitzer Prize acceptance speech, Szymborska proclaimed, “Whatever else you might think of this world, it is astonishing.” For a woman who lived through so many challenges under oppressive regimes and risked imprisonment for her writing, that is an astonishing statement. And it’s this world that my camera yearns to capture.

For lovers of poetry who would like to read how my camera focuses on Szymborska, check out “An Amateur Photographer Reads Szymborska’s ‘No Title Required’,” published in Open: Journal of Arts and Letters. The poem will also appear in A Penchant for Masquerades, my next collection.

If you’d like to read the Szymborska poem that inspired mine, click here.



Morning Alert

It happens this way …

That old saying about early birds and worms? Our yard must be rich in worm protein since a half-dozen robins visit every day. I enjoy watching them stand still and tilt their heads intently – like a doctor listening to a patient’s heartbeat – as they track down their meal. Something I learned this season: They repeat this process not only for breakfast but for lunch, dinner, and in-between snacks. Probably a lot of mouths to feed in their nests!


Which brings me to the haiku they inspired.

I’ve always rooted for the underdog. I’ve been known to cheer for calves at rodeo events and for sports teams that have no chance of winning. I’ve even focused intently on kids in high school musicals who sing and dance behind the leads and admirably stay in character. That takes discipline, like the kind I needed in third grade to keep my silver-tinseled halo from falling off as we angels balanced on a rickety riser behind Mary, Joseph, and Jesus.

There’s no contest without calves or striving teams. No richness of production without a supporting cast.

So here’s to all the worms that, in the circle of life, support bird-life. A confession however: Whenever I catch sight of a crawly critter, I hide it beneath our Chinese wind flower leaves and dare robins to find it.



Karma at Work

It happens this way …

Back in the early ‘70s when I was a Sister of Mercy teaching English at Mt. St. Mary’s Academy in Watchung, NJ, I met the most extraordinary teens who have grown up to be the most extraordinary women.

Thanks to Facebook, I’ve reconnected with a number of them and thrill to see their family photos and hear about their accomplishments. All of them have traveled far from those learning days on the hill, and it’s inspiring to see where they’ve landed.

One of the many talented young women I taught was a precocious “beyond-the-box” creative I reconnected with a few months ago. Rhonda Fabian is now the editor of Kosmos Quarterly, journal for global transformation, the online version of Kosmos Journal which celebrated 17 years as a print publication.

Kosmos header

This publication is amazing in many ways. Its mission:

To inform, inspire and engage individual and collective participation for global transformation in harmony with all Life. We do this by sharing transformational thinking and policy initiatives, aesthetic beauty and collective wisdom, local to global.

Each issue will have a central theme – this quarter it was “unlearning together – and an editorial circle of writers, artists, musicians, educators, technologists, videographers, healers, philosophers, visionaries, and activists from around the globe. As the themes and editorial circles change, so do the voices and visions of the journal.

An opportunity

A few months ago, Rhonda asked me to send some poems for the Quarterly because she wanted to add this genre to the publication. After she accepted them, she invited me to be her poetry editor. A no-brainer!

When the first issue comes out today, Kosmos Quarterly will have its first poetry section with work by local poets Andrea Hollander, Tricia Knoll, and me; New Mexico poet Anne Haven McDonnell, California poet Larry Robinson, and Brooklyn-based performance artists, Climbing PoeTree. You can hear Anne, ClimbingPoeTree, and me read our work.

Kosmos Quarterly is a subscription-based publication, but Rhonda has generously set up a sliding scale – from $0 to $60 ­– so everyone can afford it. If the journal’s not for you, try the newsletter and podcasts. I  know you will be as inspired by the beauty, passion, and intelligence of the contributors as I am.

The lesson: Be good to your students, employees, kids, neighbors. You never know how or when they’ll impact your life in the future.











The gift of being late

It happens this way …

Two years ago I made my annual May pilgrimage to Crystal Springs Rhododendron Garden a week too late. I missed the height of the rhody and azalea blossoms, but met a group of third graders on a field trip. My interactions with them were as much a gift as the garden itself. The result was the prose poem above published in Postcard Poems and Prose Magazine.

Lesson: Sometimes too late is right on time.

What have I done?

The five hours I spent yesterday trying to figure out how to create a WordPress site were somewhat entertaining. I patted myself on the back when I discovered what “theme” I wanted, what fonts and background colors would be dramatic yet readable, how to insert my own photos, etc. The problem is that now I have the basics up and running, I’m committed to do something with it — like write!

To tell you the truth, the reason I started this journey was because I have a new publisher, Unsolicited Press, who will release my fourth collection, A Penchant for Masquerades, in February 2019. They gave me my own editor and outlined due dates for the manuscript, editing, proof reading, and publication. But, then yesterday, they emailed me five pages of marketing tips that I’m supposed to doing something with. As any writer knows, we’re great at creating, but not so much at marketing.

Basically, I now have in my possession a “master class” on doing PR for my book.  Sure, I’ve done readings around town before and a couple of radio interviews. I have a Facebook page, but I don’t tweet, text, or Skype. I have no idea what a SEO is and am not enamored with the thought of going on a regional book tour. In fact, most of what they recommend to achieve their goal of selling one book a day is not attractive. I’m ready to flee to my garden.

But the wake-up alarm has sounded. If I want to be a writer who honors her work, there’s a lot of work to do. This blog is a first step toward creating a community of writers and readers who also honor the beauty of language and want to share some time together.

So, I think I can handle a post a month – maybe two or three, if inspiration is kind. We’ll see how long my resolve stays strong. Maybe I can be as disciplined with this site as I have been planting and tending my garden. I can dream, can’t I?