Monday, June 30, 2014

MARY OLIVER

Mary Oliver is one of my favorite poets

And this is one of my favorite poems:

The Summer Day

By Mary Oliver


Who made the world?
Who made the swan, and the black bear?
Who made the grasshopper?
The grasshopper, I mean-
the one who has flung herself out of the grass,
the one who is eating sugar out of my hand,
who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down-
who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes.
Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face.
Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away.
I don’t know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,
which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell, me, what else should I have done?
Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?

 **************************
            Each of her poems is a perfect prayer. Her powers of observation are remarkable and I've often said if I could write poems half as strong as hers I would be a happy poet. Only a poet who spends hours and hours of contemplative time in nature can produce such beautiful imagery and relate it to the universal in a way that touches the hearts of all her readers. I offer you a photo I took recently that reminds me of the detail in Oliver's poems and then an essay I wrote about my favorite poet.


            Though I spend my days in a windowless office inhaling recycled air, Nature’s sounds, scents and sights sing to my soul. On weekends and days off I can sit on my front stoop and watch the row of Bradford pear trees change clothes with the seasons, watch the scarlet plumage of the cardinal and hear his screech. I can count the cadre of mourning doves roosted in the bare branched maple tree. And in between those moments of wonder I turn to the poems of Mary Oliver to perk up my senses and give me a dose of fresh air.
            My favorite Oliver poem is “The Summer Day.” Oliver’s detailed description of the parts and practices of a single grasshopper, and her unique attention to the instinct, are compared to a moment of prayer. All of Oliver’s poems come from the pen of a woman who clearly has spent hours at a time, still and silent, observing the flora and fauna that live in the natural world of her home. Her attention to detail, and the poems themselves, are prayers she offers me to help me through stale days at work.
            It’s the last sentence of “The Summer Day” that thrums in my skin and in my heart. The lines are posted on the wall of my office and at home on my writing desk. I ask myself the question several times a day as I plot and plan a route out of my stagnant office and into Mary Oliver’s world of poetry and the enervating life forces of Mother Nature . . .
                        “Tell me, what is it you plan to do
                        With your one wild and precious life?”

            

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Haibun and Tanka Prose

I love writing my free-verse, stream of consciousness poems but I also like playing with different forms. I want to experiment with some truly structured poetic forms such as sonnets, villanelles, triolets, and others but at the moment I am looking toward haibun and tanka prose, two Japanese forms that I think will work well with my art. They have a magical, mystical quality that lends itself to exploring mixed media techniques in illustrating or creating backgrounds for the poems.

Here is a haiku art piece I created a while back that I'd like to share to give you an idea.



I am writing poems for a future collection and I am leaning toward making it all haibun and tanka prose or perhaps just one section will be in that form.

Haibun are a combination of prose poem and haiku linked together to tell one story. I've seen them with one prose piece followed by one haiku, or a series of alternating prose poems and haiku.

Tanka prose is similar except instead of having haiku intertwined with the prose poems, there are tanka, which are essentially  five line poems starting with a haiku and expanding by two lines of roughly seven syllables.

I want to read more of all these forms, read about them, and try my hand at mastering the technique and incorporating my art in the pieces. I can't say perfecting the poems because in eastern practices there is no perfect, simply a process moving toward the perfect. In fact, it is happy little mistakes that create the most engaging poems and most fascinating pieces of art.

Here's to mistakes and exploring new territory.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

TRYING TO DEFINE MY STYLE

I am attempting to develop an art style to use when combining my art and my poems and I am getting closer. I think mixed media will work--using a combination of paint and collage and interweaving several layers to get a final look I'm happy with. I want to work toward some consistent look to the pieces and perhaps narrow down the palette to two or three different color combinations. I'm considering maybe a peach-beige-brown combo and a blue-purple-mauve look. Considering some others too. I'm not so happy with this one as it's a bit too brightly yellow, but the composition seems right and I took the lines from one of my poems that still needs a bit of work but I liked how these fit. 

I'd love comments and suggestions and hope you'll come back to see what else is brewing.


Saturday, June 14, 2014

BRAVE POETRY READING







On June 12 I held my first book signing event. It was hosted by Julie Hernandez, a good friend and fellow Tapestries Writers' Group member. The signing was held in Julie's space in the yoga studio in Huntington Station and was attended by close friends. It's a good start. Maybe one day my signings will be attended by other poets, new and established writers, and others who will become my future friends.

I am very thankful to Julie and to all who came to see my book, share in some wine and cheese and hear me read. I had not planned to read at the event as I am a bit shy about speaking in front of groups of people. It's a phobia of mine even though I have taught classes of adults and children and presented workshops to my staff and to parents at the special education preschool where I work. In the end it was pretty easy and I'm glad Karen, Lori and Julie encouraged me to do it. Once I got started it was so natural and not anxiety producing at all. I just let myself enter the poem and share the words that come from my heart and soul.

I need to practice doing this so in the future I can be more comfortable and choose my poems and presentation with a purpose in mind. I also want to share some personal stories as background to the poems I read. I should have been better prepared.

From my poetry and art will come a journal writing workshop. It is in the planning stages, but I have a year until I retire to get this business launched. In the meantime my new short story collection is now available at

http://www.amazon.com/Looking-Through-Windows-Howard-Cassese/dp/1500129623/ref=sr_1_2?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1402760139&sr=1-2&keywords=looking+through+windows

I look forward to having signings for both books and reading from each book as well.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

BREWING SOME IDEAS FOR THE FUTURE


a page from my art journal-not my real artistic work but more informal and laid back processes of using magazine pictures, simple background and doodling


A few ideas have been swirling in my head and beginning to come together to make a plan. I've been listening to Jack Canfield's audio CDs of his book "The Success Principles." Lots of great and encouraging information and it makes the commute to work seem shorter and much more interesting. Listening to him speak really encourages the listener to shoot for the moon and aim for the farthest stars. I am beginning to believe I can do what I set out to do.

One of the most telling "principles" in Canfield's book is the one about "being willing to pay the price," meaning implementing the time and effort and energy required to achieve your goals. And it means being willing to give up doing and having all the other things in your life that do not catapult you in the direction you want to go. That's difficult for me and will take discipline and effort, but I am starting to gain some focus so that will help.

I've been looking for a retirement career and always thought I'd like to teach "Journal to the Self" workshops, which is something I've been trained in and am now a Certified Journal Instructor through the Center for Journal Therapy. But of course I also love writing poetry and making art to go with my poems. Yesterday the idea began to gel about how I can bring this all together.

I want to create workshops that empower women through journal writing, art journaling and poetry. I can form a curriculum around the techniques in the Journal to the Self program and some point in the future further train at the Center for Journal Therapy to be a Facilitator which would allow me to create my own curriculum.

The first thing I did was get a notebook to work out my plan in. Now the next steps are:

  • map out my goals for one year
  • start posting things on this blog about this journey and about the processes I will teach in my workshops
  • read all I can about marketing and promoting this business
  • network
  • write a book that follows the workshop sessions through the "Blog-a Book" method.
  • come up with a title for the workshops and a website
  • get a website for the business that attaches to my blog
  • read "The Success Principles" book chapter by chapter and complete the tasks
  • look into "kickstarter" and other avenues to get funding for this project

will keep you posted on my progress and share more poetry and art.


Saturday, June 7, 2014

CREATIVE DREAMING

Still figuring out different ways to incorporate art and poetry. Sometimes the poems lend themselves to certain artistic styles, other times it takes some manipulating and pondering. Not totally happy with this particular piece but I want to share the process with you.

I began by painting a base of ivory acrylic to the paper then stamped the script background using tan and gold paint. I used a flower stencil to add another layer and outlined the petals with a black permanent Sharpie marker in fine point. I also used a stencil that created polka dots in a blend of dark coral and orange in the underlying background.

I searched through a journal of my poems to find something that hit me as usable in an art piece and ended up choosing a few lines of one poem. I had to do a bit of revision even on those till it felt right. I was drawn to this poem because it speaks to the mode I'm in right now in my life. Exploring different avenues for creativity and growing some sort of retirement business where I can make art and share it with the world. As ideas flow and I begin to plan for my retirement I see that I am a story with many chapters and as the poem says, I don't want to skip a single one.

I printed the lines of the poem on beige cardstock and cut out each line separately with a deckle edge scissors. Then I chalked the edges with bronze Color-Bok ink. 

As I was pulling out cardstock I came across some acetate images of women from years ago when I was making more collage pieces and decided this face needed to be in the piece as it emphasizes the idea of a woman telling her story.

The butterflies were an added afterthought that I cut from some specialty paper I had laying around. I think they convey my belief that we are all free to pursue our dreams.

Creating pieces like this is a fun process and it always surprises me how parts of a piece are planned and other parts just sort of emerge during the process. 

Today I'm off to a preserve to take some photos of nature. I'll write poems to go with them and then create some collage pieces. I love interweaving art with words and I'm grateful my creative mind offers lots of inspiration. 

Sunday, June 1, 2014

ANCHORS

I'm getting into focus again with poetry and art. Yesterday I reorganized my art supplies and started a layered background piece to mount a poem on. Art and poetry are definitely anchors for me. They bring me closer to my heart and soul and I turn to them for grounding and support. But today I want to talk about other anchors in my life.

Last week at a Weight Watchers meeting my leader Patty asked us to choose an anchor to use when we encounter struggles with staying on program. At first I couldn't come up with anything. Later that night it dawned on me that of course I could use my mother's wedding band and diamond ring that I have been wearing for the past six years. I often spin them around my right hand ring finger or play with them when trying to figure out a puzzle or make a decision. So I decided to use that anchor to also help me stay on track. It was a good choice because I can still here Mom's voice telling me to lose weight so I can be healthy.

That night I had a dream that further reminded me of who my true anchors are. I dreamed about Mom and Dad, not together but in separate dreams. Each dream was vivid and memorable. I woke up at 4:00 at the end of the dream about my father when he was fading away and I was begging him not to leave. I got up right away, wanting to get to my journal and write all the details of the dreams down so I wouldn't forget them. And it came to me like a cliched bolt of lightning.


MY ANCHORS ARE MOM AND DAD



Not only do I have imaginary conversations with them when I'm looking for guidance and answers to life's questions but when Mom passed my brother Lee and I both said we lost our anchor. How much clearer could it be? When Patty asked us to choose an anchor I should have immediately gone to Mom and Dad. But those dreams came to remind me who my anchors still are even though they are gone, they are still here in spirit leading me in good directions.

I've printed a picture of Mom and Dad and also one of them with Lee and I in front of the house in Levittown to carry with me and be my anchors when I need a bit of stability to keep me on target.