Perpetuating Poetry

I love writing what I call “spontaneous poems.” Meaning, I love to write a little poem in a moment or for or about a person. I don’t edit them much, or at all, just kind of let them live however they come out. They might be OK, they might be crap. They might even be quite lovely. It doesn’t matter much, just that they are.

PoetryStickers

You can see a couple of old examples on an earlier post in this blog. I remember one night a few years ago hanging out with some girlfriends, writing a few little ditties on the spot for each of them.  It was fun. One Valentine’s Day I wrote a Haiku for everyone in my family and sent them a little card.

Basically, I’m not a serious poet, but it’s fun and I’d like to do some more of it this summer, but could use a little help/inspiration!

We’ve been doing this poetry thing at work all year. Poetry contests, events with poets (more on erasure after I finally finish the book I am working on), we created a crowdsourced Tumblr all about poetry.

For our final spoken word event of the season, David Sedaris, we had a live “poetry bureau on site.” A dozen student writers banged out spontaneous poetry based on a few simple prompts that the perfect strangers filled out.

It was a lot of fun. Granted, I know that some people wouldn’t put the words “fun” and “poetry writing” or “poetry reading” in the same sentence. But, if you’re reading this, you’re in my world baby….and that shit’s fun to me.

The student writers were very clever and seemed to be having a blast. The writees eagerly awaited their personal poem to come hot off the old-school typewriter press.  (They seriously used typewriters, it looked cool).

Anyway, I’d like to volunteer to be a poet in YOUR life and institute my own little virtual poetry bureau.

Send me an email: jessicaelizabethwolf  (at) gmail (dot) com. (Or fill them out into the contact form here)

Include answers to the following questions.

  • Favorite Color:
  • Favorite Word:
  • I wish:
  • I’m hungry for:
  • I love:

At some point (I won’t promise absolute immediacy, but I WILL get to it) you’ll get a lovely little poetic surprise in your inbox from yours truly.

And yes, I did requisition not one but TWO poems from our intrepid typewriting poets.

Here they are below.

XO

poem2 poem1

Words

I’ve been ruminating on a topic since I heard this interview between Michael Silverblatt and Aleksander Hemon last week.

The Bosnian author was talking about his book, The Book of My Lives, which contains a personal and very emotional remembering of the loss of his daughter. In the interview the author talked about how he was confronted by a friend at that time who said: “words fail in these situations.”

No, Hemon said. Being a writer, he has belief in words. Words don’t fail, he said. Platitudes do. Empty phrases that don’t instigate connection or communication fail.

I totally agree. Words are power. Words are what will help us get through any feeling state, any situation, whether they are spoken aloud to ourselves, whether they come to us from others, or whether we sit and write them down.

This hit home to me because I recently watched some of my best friends struggle with the sudden death of another beloved friend, a woman who I did not know well, but who touched many of the lives of people close to me. It’s a horrible time, burying a loved one. I wish I were more naive on the subject, but I grok the shit out of everything they were going through.

I remember those times in my own life and the words that people chose to say. I’m grateful for the good intentions of everyone who tried to say things that they thought would be comforting, but was also bemused at the multitude of platitudes that people fall back on. “Everything happens for a reason.” “She’s in a better place.” He’s at peace now.” All those words are meaningless when strung together like pearls of wisdom and offered up to a person whose heart is breaking in grief. You accept them, absorb them, because you know they come from a good place, not because they have any real value of their own.

Really I think the only thing we can say in those moments is this: “This sucks. It sucks that your mother, brother, sister, friend, lover is gone from this life right now. It sucks that you will have to wake up every day and know that they no longer see the same sky as you, breathe the same air. It’s not OK that they won’t be there for births and weddings and celebrations and drudgery. It’s not OK that you will never hear them laugh again. It’s not OK, because you love them and you will miss them. You will miss them every day. It will suck, and it’s not OK, but you, yourself, will be OK. You will.”

I know there are those who believe we will see our loved one again someday. That’s a lovely thought, but no one, no matter how righteous or how faithful, no one can prove to me that that is the case. And even if they could, it doesn’t exactly take away the pain of the now. Today I live without the loved ones I have lost. And today comes every day.  Until it doesn’t.

And that belief, that beyond death, that at the end of all my todays all will be well, to me, becomes a platitude itself. And platitudes are empty in the moment.

I think the reason platitudes fail is because what we’re really trying to say, what we really want to ask and answer is—why? And that is a fruitless question to ask because the answer is simply—because. Because, we all, some how, some way, some day will die.

There is no why about it. It just is.

But when you’re in pain, when you’re experiencing loss, when you’re trying to console a friend who is in that situation, you don’t want to think that, you don’t want to say that. And yet, you know in your heart that you cannot ask and answer the question “why” so out come the supposedly comforting phrases that are really more about numbing the pain than dealing with it, or healing it.

I really believe that the only way to heal from this kind of pain is to face it with raw honest human emotions and raw, honest words that don’t just serve to anesthetize, but that tell the truth as each one of us knows it, and rip open wide the fears we all have inside. That’s where the connection comes, that’s how the understanding comes, that’s where acceptance will start to creep in. And that’s where healing starts.

This, as in most things in life, can be illustrated by a choice moment from Buffy the Vampire Slayer. (I have Buffy on the brain, well, pretty much all the time, but especially this week). A 1,000-year-old demon recently turned human had no platitudes to share as she and her friends were suffering the loss of Buffy’s mom. She only had words.

Oh and later? Anya said to Buffy: “I wish Joyce  didn’t die…because she was nice….and now, we all…hurt.” And it’s really kind of that simple.

We’ve all been there. We all miss someone who would probably rather be here, enjoying fruit punch, sneezing, watching her children grow up, getting excited about the new Superman movies. Or at least, WE would rather they were here doing those things with us.

And it’s not OK that they’re not.

But we can all be OK. Today. For as many todays as we get, making them as real and true as we can make them.

Moments in Santa Monica: Impromptu Shopping and Uncontrollable Rage

I’m not sure why I’ve been up since 7:30 a.m. on a Sunday morning, but I figure why not make use of it. Been puttering around, digging through fabric and thought I’d sit for a minute and share a few random things that happened over the last couple of days.

Yesterday in yoga I realized (for the second time this week actually) that I was wearing a pair of leggings that really need to be retired from practice. They’re getting a little threadbare. I only figured this out though, whilst in the bathroom AFTER practice was over.

Usually I wouldn’t think too much of it. My normal spot in the room is right in front of a wall, in this little notch in the corner of the room ( a strategic position wherein I cannot see too many other people around me, limits the ability to compare and contrast). Yesterday, however, I was slightly to the left of said wall, my back side left open to view. I sincerely apologize to the woman whose mat was snuggled almost directly behind mine. She certainly got more of a view than she bargained for. At least I was wearing dark underwear, so she was spared too much ass-viewing induced trauma.

At any rate, there is inherent pleasure and pain in practicing yoga within shouting distance of the shops on Third Street in Santa Monica. Pleasure in that it is awesome to practice by the beach and with the beautiful people who populate that city, and pleasure in the proximity of lunch and shopping after a wonderful practice. The pain comes in with the crowds of people, especially this time of year on nice days. (Side Note: I always feel sorry for the June tourists, watching them shiver around the area in beach attire, when really the weather often calls for scarves and parkas. I guess June Gloom isn’t covered in most travel guides).

The pain also hits the pocketbook, it’s just so EASY to slip on over to the shops and buy something frivolous while in a benevolent yoga afterglow. While this is a tight month and I really didn’t need to be spending money, I trotted over to one of my favorite shops and treated myself (and my fellow yogis) with some new yoga pants. It didn’t feel that frivolous and I miraculously managed to refrain from stopping in Brandy Melville. I swear I could buy a shirt a day in there.

Friday morning I went to class at the studio, taking advantage of the current work calmness to practice in the morning. It was glorious.

I was walking to my car awash in the aforementioned afterglow and witnessed something rather disturbing. The lots in Santa Monica are those unmanned situations, you know, where you take your ticket and pay at a machine before getting back to your car? There’s no attendant at the exit, you just put your paid ticket in and the mechanical arm sets you free. (You can also pay right there instead of before you get in your car, which is convenient but also kind of holds up the cars behind you….I admit I do that sometimes).

Anyway, there’s a little call box that allows you to talk to the disembodied voice of the skeleton crew of parking lot attendants who I assume are ensconced somewhere in the structure. Unseen, but sometimes heard.

As I walked toward the staircase to head to my own car, I had to pass the exit station where a woman was literally screeching into that call box. The voice on the other end sounded far less troubled than the woman in the car. I think I heard it say something like: “M’am, I’m just trying to help you.”

I don’t know what happened to set this car woman off but she was HOLLERING at the parking lot speaker box, howling in primal rage. I’m thinking the only thing that could really have happened is the woman lost her ticket and was therefore having trouble getting out of the lot and was probably pissed at the small fortune a “lost ticket pays full price” policy was going to cost her. “Small fortune” is hyperbole, of course but it does suck to pay $20 bucks to park because of your own damn stupidity or absent-mindedness in losing a parking ticket. We’ve all done it. I once spent more to park at Trader Joe’s than I spent on groceries inside due to said stupidity.

At any rate, I wasn’t listening intently (trying not to disrupt the mellow afterglow and all), but I could hear the increasingly inflammatory back and forth between the speaker box and the raging woman locked in place by a mechanical parking arm.

At one point I saw her thrust her face toward the box and scream: “I WAS NOT PUT ON THIS EARTH TO ANSWER YOUR QUESTIONS!!!!!”

How odd. How odd on so many levels. I found myself wondering, would she be THIS enraged if a real life human being was looking  back into her eyes? Would she be MORE enraged? What the hell happened in her day, her life to inspire such fury at an attempt to exit a parking lot?

And really, what, in fact, in her mind does she think she was put on this earth for? Screaming at parking lot speaker boxes seems to be part of it.

I walked to my car wishing I could go give her a hug and wondering if it would have even helped.

By the time I was at the exit, she was gone and all was quiet.

I wonder where the rest of her day took her and I hope it was less infuriating. Then again, there are few things in LA life that can set you off like parking and traffic.

Maybe she needs some new yoga pants and the stuff you do in them.

Dreams and the Mean Girl

I had a bad dream last night. This is not uncommon. My brain is a scary and brutal place sometimes. Sometimes they are truly fucking scary nightmares–death, disaster, destruction, apocalyptic scenes, family members in danger, you name it.

Other times they are more subtly brutal, like a dream last week I had in which I made a new female friend. She was cool. We were having a lovely time, chatting, laughing, drinking wine and generally enjoying ourselves until she came close to me and whispered in my ear “You know, you are really quite beautiful, you just really need to lose some weight…mostly here, and there, and maybe a bit there” while waggling her finger at places on my body.

What a bitch, right?

The thing is, that bitch is me.  But she’s only really a bitch TO me. I would NEVER say something like that to a new friend, nor to an old one, nor to a stranger, not even to an enemy.  I can’t even think of someone I would call an enemy.

That shit came from inside me, and it’s been going on longer than I care to remember.

I know I’m not alone in this. I’m aware enough of human (woman) nature to know that. And more importantly, I have so many awesome females in my life, I know firsthand that they struggle with it too and I wish they didn’t have to because they are amazing and I have complete compassion for it when they do. Because I am pretty awesome and amazing myself, and yet, I have brought my own self to tears over the years.

I have had an evolving relationship with my internal mean girl. There were many years during which she was very much in control, very much the internal power figure of my psyche. Gladly, she’s lost most of that control and power in the wake of some hard work.

It was a brawl there for a while, I admit. There was some bloodshed. Now it’s more like a chess match. One she never wins, but sometimes I don’t either. Sometimes we just sit there stalemated, waiting for the other’s move. But, most of the time, she can’t check me the way she used to.

For the record, her greedy power plays for my soul are not only about my physical attributes. She regularly heckles me about how I’m not smart enough, not talented enough, not clever enough, not financially stable enough, basically not…enough. She’s completely wrong, I know. But boy is she mouthy, and you know how it is when you hear something over and over. Even if it’s only in your head…it starts to plant roots.

The good thing is, while I’m still working out why she’s here and why she really truly doesn’t need to be, I don’t see her getting any of the power she has lost back either which is a relief, and progress. But man, does she try! Invading my subconscious…bitch.

I don’t really think she’s a bitch by the way, it just looks funny to type it that way. And I like to be funny. But she’s not really a bitch. Because she’s me and I’m certainly not a bitch. And I have compassion for her too because of all the things that made her the way she is. After all, I experienced it all alongside her.

These days it’s actually more like she’s a petulant child. I like to visualize her that way. When she’s throwing a fit, I hand her a rattle, throw her in a playpen, tell her to go ahead and scream and shake herself tired.

Meanwhile I retreat to some other part of my brain where there’s music and beauty and poetry and love….and where she is more than welcome to join me when she grows up a little bit.

Girldom

I got a call from my sister last week warning me that I might be hearing from my niece very soon about certain girlythings. Apparently 10-and-a-half is now the age wherein one is exposed to the school-board-approved approach to explaining the joys and mysteries of womanhood.

Apparently, whatever school presentation went down weirded my niece out a bit and my sister told her she was allowed to talk about it all she wants with the women she is close to like herself, me and our sister-in-law.  I don’t blame her for being weirded out. That school stuff freaked me out too. I remember getting a brochure titled “Growing Up and Liking It,” which was horrifying to me because at the time I remember I was also pretty melodramatically focused on the fact that one day I would grow old and die and I was having a rough time with the concept of mortality.

So the thought of liking growing up was difficult to wrap my head around, especially when this well-meaning material was accompanied by a video of flowers unfurling, dewy grass, girls on bikes and drawings of the uterus and fallopian tubes that looked like some weird alien creature wearing headphones. I was fairly confused and clueless until I read more Judy Blume.

My mother was little or no help as she seemed to approach the existence of my girl organs and what they naturally do as alien invaders who must be hidden from view and discussion and protected from other creatures that would seek to invade my alien parts. (She debated about whether or not to “let” me use tampons because that might make me want to have sex. True story.)

I know my sister’s already doing a WAY better job of it than our mom did. She’s just better equipped in general and we had each other to talk about all this girly stuff when it came time, which helped. And we’ve been talking about it for a couple of decades now.

If and when I do get a call or a text or an email from Jayden saying “just how bad is this menstruation thing I’ve been hearing so much about lately?” I figure I will refrain from telling her about the massive hormonal shitstorm I was ironically embroiled in even as my sister was calling to tell me about my niece’s nascent entré into the dirty details of just what being a woman entails.

And I do mean hormonal shitstorm. For two days my body does its level best to help me lose my mind… I get the cramps, the bloating, nausea that my doctor says is probably the equivalent of morning sickness, the headache, the sometimes migraine and I destroy some article of clothing pretty much every month.

The joys of womanhood indeed. I’ll save the gory details for later. Because really, overall, in the grand scheme of things it ain’t that big of a deal, just something to deal with. I think that’s what I’ll tell my niece.

None of this body stuff is that big of a deal. I think when you MAKE it a big deal early in pubescence is when girls get uncomfortable in their own skin. There is nothing wrong with having your period. In fact, having your period kind of means that everything is working just as it should be. Girls aren’t oddities because of their cycle. They are NORMAL because of it. There’s nothing to be embarrassed by or to hide from. It can be annoying and gross, but so can boys and we put up with them all the time.

Along those lines, I don’t know how my sister will handle the sex stuff, but I also think it’s wrong to make a big deal out of it too. I say this having been raised by a sexually repressed woman who made feel like she believed there was something wrong with these parts, even as her religion purported to tell me that all of me was carefully created by an all-knowing and all-powerful God. If God as creator is the be-all if intelligence, then don’t you think maybe he designed sexual parts with an inherent pleasure principle for a reason?

If I had a daughter I would tell her there’s nothing wrong with sexual pleasure or the parts that produce it. However, I would also tell her there’s nothing wrong with being smart, being safe, being patient and logically explaining how making good sexual decisions will allow her to stay healthy in a way that will allow her to enjoy sexual pleasure without physical problems or mental self-recrimination for the rest of her life.

I don’t believe that having a moral code/being a moral person and experiencing sexual pleasure (even outside of marriage) are mutually exclusive.

Mothers really have the power to either fuck up their daughters on this issue, or empower them to be smart, to be unafraid, to listen and to talk.

If we come across as though we are uncomfortable about the realities of sex and womanhood,  or take an accusatory stance on those body parts and what they do (like my mom did for whatever reason…maybe she didn’t even know that’s how she was coming across?), a little one on the cusp of these things might rightly equate that uncomfortable-ness with her own beautiful little self, and that sucks. Because nothing is wrong. All is right in the world if you are growing up healthy and changing hormonally and experiencing weird mood swings and desires. That’s what’s supposed to happen.

Let’s just be honest with the little women in our lives. Yes, you’re going to get your period. Every month. For most of the rest of your life. Tell them why. Tell them what it means. Tell them it’s all OK. It’s not a big deal and it’s nothing to be ashamed of.

Yes, pretty soon, you are going to WANT to have sex with your boyfriend. It’s also nothing to be ashamed of. Tell her how those feelings are normal and natural, but that doesn’t mean she has to act upon them every time they are there. Tell her how we have the power to make choices that will make us feel good, and that sometimes the choice NOT to have sex with a boy is the one that will actually feel better for longer (MUCH longer, remind her of THAT too).

I think we should just tell them true stuff. Not project what our own mothers might have felt or done or said. Hopefully most of us have gotten past all that. (I have). Let’s stay there. Let’s try and leave our own baggage out of it and just be factual and logical and supportive.

Let’s just tell them the true stuff, because when looked at logically, it all makes sense. And we can remind them that they are great and perfect just by virtue of experiencing it all.

And then we teach them the joys of warm baths, naps and Midol. (My niece has already figured out chocolate). And it’s all gonna be OK.

Art and Pain in the Summertime

So I’m sitting here at work, writing a sort of year-in-review retrospective  blog entry for my work blog (which I am woefully behind on, hopefully  my boss is not reading this) and it made me think, as I often do, of all the blogs I have started and left to rot over the years…from the most prolific, my LiveJournal, which was an interesting place from about 2005-2007. And I had a great run with a MobileMe account for a while there. That’s dead and so is the hard drive that stored the content for it. The short-lived Brunettes Unleashed was fun and may live again someday if Dana and I can get our acts together.

If not?

Eh. Life is loss.

At any rate, since my job is so nuts in the spring, I look forward to summers for my own creative pursuits. There’s still lots to do at the day job, it just doesn’t feel so much like you’re staring down the headlights of a Mack Truck. It might sound odd to hear that so much pressure can arise in the nonprofit performing arts world.

But art is pain people. Joyful, wonderful pain.

Which brings me back to this summer. I’m very glad to have a job that allows me to harness my not-so-insignificant persuasive writing skills and personality in service of artists and art, because I truly believe art is integral to not only the cultural vibrancy of any given community, but also to the energetic makeup of the entire human condition. And my own contributions to that condition, while admittedly humble in the grand scheme of things, are meaningful to me.

Summers are my time to make a little art of my own. Last summer, that involved a massive project in service of one of my favorite people on this planet and my now-sister Ashlea. I’m taking a moment to clarify the joy part of that project because, as my boyfriend Mike reminded me not too long ago….I often talked about the pain part of it.

What I’m not sure I have said often enough, so I am putting it out there now…was just how much I loved making all of the bouquets, boutonnieres and flower art for my brother and sister-in-law’s wedding. It was painful in that the idea for it all came from a picture on the internet and spiraled into a massive dream idea that really only lived in my head, which I then had to translate into technique that would produce something that didn’t look like a cat ate a bunch of lace and barfed it on the table.

It turned out well. No cat barf to be seen anywhere. (Though when I look at my earliest elements of the projects, I see every flaw that I eventually worked out in the end and part of me wishes I could go back and re-do a few things)

I wish I had more pictures of the end product, but if you’re so inclined you can check out the Tumblr I started to keep the bride apprised of my progress as I went along.

It was a lot of work, and sometimes it was hard, because I am hard on myself about things, but that whole universe of invention actually yielded what I think is one of my favorite things I’ve ever created…Ashlea’s bouquet, which was made with love by my own two hands and incorporates little items of meaning from many women in her life. She’ll have it forever, and it has meaning.

This summer, with no major project for someone else on hand, I have a few ideas that have been floating around that I’d like to see come into the world. Not sure if I will love them right away. I’ve been known to birth a few ugly crafting babies before getting an idea right, but that’s OK too.  I love the ugly babies for what they teach me in the process.

This week, I made my first piece of jewelry. And thanks to a quick tutorial from a master, Felicia Willow, I now know how to open a jump ring with out mangling it beyond recognition. BTW…that’s about ALL I know how to do at this point. But it was enough to get me started with this little feather mini-bib necklace.

BnW_Bib

And, as I learned almost immediately and Felicia verified…. Feathers are jerks. They don’t lay the way you want them to once you pick them up off the surface where you have prettily spread out the design. It’s almost like they think they should be attached to a living creature or something. Jerks.

Anyway, it’s not perfect, but I like it. Which, coincidentally, is pretty much how I feel about myself most days. We’ll talk more about that later.

More to come.

If you’re reading, I love you.