Saturday, March 31, 2012

The Sunday Challenge ~ Featuring Laura Hegfield

© Laura Hegfield 2012

Laura Hegfield is a lover of life with an artist’s soul. Diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis three years ago, she stays engaged with the world through photography, sharing her journey through poetry, prose, essays and an occasional song on her blog, Shine the Divine~Creativity IS a Spiritual Practice.  Along with her photos and writing, Laura offers Spiritual Direction, Creativity Coaching, SoulCollage® facilitation, meditation tele-circles and podcasts.

Portrait of the Artist
I open to whatever inspiration speaks to my heart. Sometimes I write from a photo. It wakes up a memory of the moment I was present to the light, texture, form that first caught my attention, or the image transcends the past and becomes the present moment. Then I write about that. 

© Laura Hegfield 2012

Bits and Pieces
                Laura Hegfield ©2012

bits and pieces
the wholeness of
who and what
we are
with each breath
we are
bits and pieces
continuous transformation of
who and what
we are
do we matter?
we are matter and
we are energy collected
one day to be scattered
bits and pieces
more or less
no one

© Laura Hegfield 2012

Other times I simply open to what I’m feeling releasing a story from my life that is longing to be told, either through poetry, prose, or as an essay. I search through my archives to find a photo that has been waiting for these particular words and reunite the kindred spirits held within them on my blog. 

© Laura Hegfield 2012

I rely heavily on intuition as most artists do, and simply trust that what arises is the truth of the moment and set it free. I do this with a conscious awareness that what I consider “true” right then will likely shift as my internal and external experiences do. Everything is in transition from one state of being to another. 

© Laura Hegfield 2012

MS has been an excellent teacher for practicing patience, compassion and being fully present to life’s unpredictable, heart-breaking-opening-healing and inevitable changes. I allow what I learn to soak into my core and search for the blessings that may be obvious or deeply hidden, in this way gratitude is always accessible.

© Laura Hegfield 2012

Thank you so much Kerry for inviting me to be a guest and share a little of my work and process with the other toads here in the garden.

Laura has generously offered these beautiful photos for our poetic inspiration. If you add an image to your post, please acknowledge the name of the artist.
The Sunday Challenge is posted on Saturday at noon CST to allow extra time for the creative process, so please do not link up old work which kind of fits the image. Members will only respond to poetry written specifically for this prompt: this is in the spirit of our Real Toads project to create opportunities for poets to be newly inspired.

Friday, March 30, 2012

Fireblossom Friday/ Bodies

Hello Toads and welcome to another Fireblossom Friday! For some reason, Toads doesn't want to let me play with colors and fonts today, but I press on cos I am just brave like that.

So sit back and let me give you the skinny on this week's challenge. Let's write about bodies; tall ones short ones big ones brown ones. I want you to think about the physical, whether you want to write about pleasure, pain, activity, physical restriction, medical situations, or anything else that centers on the body.

There are all kinds of different bodies to consider. Ain't that right, Adrian? May I tell ya that you lookin' quite beautiful today?

Bodies are beginnings. But, they don't last forever, and bodies are endings, too. maybe you want to write about that...while there's still time!

You might want to write about sexy bodies or strong ones. Bodies that inspire envy, lust, or some of those other deadly and covet-y sins.

You might even want to branch out into a little bit of fantasy. What if bodies could do things or be things they can't in real life, but can in your imagination?

And remember, looks can be deceiving...

...because both of these last two pictures are of the same person, actress Miriam Shor! Tricked ya. I'm sorry. Get even with me by writing something cool about bodies!

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Things We Now Know: an interview with Hedgewitch

What is a Hedgewitch?  According to Webster’s online dictionary and the Oxford dictionary, no such term exists, though they were kind enough to redirect me to Hedge Hog of Well Witch. 

According to the Great Wiki,

Hedge witchcraft is the shamanic art of crossing the "hedge" or boundary between this world and the Otherworld. A Hedgewitch is a mediator between spirits and people. They may also work as an herbal healer or midwife.  (and now for my favorite part of the definition….) Some claim it to be the continuation of the practices of the cunning folk and wise-women, while others say that it is a modern tradition.

We toads know which parts of that definition are apt to our very own Hedgewitch who graces our prompts with her unique voice and story craft.  Many more may know her work from her blog: Verse Escape.  I got in touch with Hedgewitch last weekend via e-mail.  I had questions, and she had answers that packed a punch.  Nevermind WHAT a Hedgewitch is...let's learn more about WHO Hedgwitch is....

It should first be said that Sherry Blue Sky wrote an amazing interview with Hedgewitch last year (found here).  I encourage you to read Sherry’s interview as a companion piece to my own, as I tried not to ask any of the same questions.

All right, get ready Toads, Hedgewitch is among us!

Izy: You live in the heart of Tornado do you spend your time in the storm shelter/basement?

HW:  Presuming we had one, I would be either reading, or writing, or else curled in the fetal position kissing my ass a fond goodbye. Since we don’t have such a convenient place to cower, we pack the dogs in the car and head for the hills, trying to guess the safest route away from the mesocyclonic cells that like to sprout those ominous black swirls of clouds spiraling slowly groundward, like milk going into strong coffee as it’s very slowly stirred. Our weather forecasters are extremely helpful and specific, so it’s not as difficult as it sounds, and it does keep you in touch with nature at her most interesting and impressive, which unlike humans, is usually when she’s pitching a fit.

Izy: Your perspective on nature and her spiraling fits is a poem in itself.   I can understand how being very weather aware is a must for you.  Let me inquire about another must have….You are about to be exiled to the edge of a dark, foggy forest where you will live alone for five years.  You can bring one of your own poems to keep you company in solitude:  which piece do you choose?

HW:  Honestly, I can’t even pick—it’s like saying, which of your children will you pull from the burning building? I‘d much rather have a notebook and a pen, and just write new ones. But assuming some draconian and omnipotent deity(I’m looking at you, Ms Gruye) is forcing this decision on me, I’d take one that’s suited to the environment, I suppose, like Asteria. (I was tempted to choose my sestina sequence, Hedgerider’s Lament, simply because that would give me the backs of four sheets of paper to write on instead of just one, but it sounded like cheating, and also, I spent so much time agonizing over those poems, I doubt they’d be much fun to pour over as my only reading material.)

Izy:  Isn’t it odd how the things we agonize over the most are sometimes the things we’d like to hold onto?  One of things I admire about your work is how accessible your poems can be to many readers.  Best case scenario:  what will a reader take from your work?

HW:  Some annoying or elating fragment that works itself under the skin and makes him/her look at something differently—I don’t really care what, some preconcieved attitude s/he’s never questioned, or a mood, place or person, or a state of mind, and that amazing shift will occur that happens in good poetry, that the words I’ve used will cause a connection to a new or a changed perspective on a relatable experience. I think of it as translating the particular to the general, the subjective to the universal.

 I’d also like the reader to take a sense of the comfort of words, of all the forms they can take and jobs they can do, that never-failing resource that we all have and which will dig us out of all kinds of holes, of our own making and otherwise.

Izy:  I definitely get those things every time I read a Hedgewitch poem.  I find it interesting that you strive to connect your reader to a broader sense (the particular), all the while making it a safe experience.  In your Poets United interview (link provided) you mentioned an affinity for role playing and gaming, how has this hobby contributed to your writing process?

HW:  That’s an interesting question with all kinds of little corners in the answer. My primary gaming interest is old fashioned 90’s style role playing of the fantasy sort, which derives heavily from myth, Tolkein and mediaeval cultural characterizations, reinforcing my relationships with archetypes—the Wizard/Witch, the Wood Elf, the Demon, the Prince(ss), the Hero(ine) the Preist(ess), the god or goddess of this that or the other. That goes straight into certain constructions I like to use in my writing, both about the nature of myself, others and the world.

I also like strategy games which focus on tactics and rapid, minute by minute shuffling through options and resources, a process which keeps my brain engaged in puzzle solving, which as poets and writers, we are constantly doing as we edit and rewrite and search for not just the right word, but the right progression to fit it in, the right totality of which it’s an increment, to produce the thing we want to say. And it keeps me from taking any damn thing too seriously—especially myself. Having one’s butt handed to one on a plate by a piece of software is always a humbling experience. I strongly recommend it when you need to fight with someone or thing and wish to do no real world damage. (You do have to learn not to throw things at the monitor, of course.)

Izy:  It is nice to have virtual enemies to take your aggression out on, and it’s even better when those enemies are in a world that draws parallels to our own in myth and psyche.  You have referenced Hans Christian Andersen, mythologies, and archetypes as a source of inspiration for your work and you mentioned above that you like to use some of those constructs in your writing...what is it about them that draws you in?

HW:  I suppose the unconscious at work, the identification with a more universal, potent and latent self, and not just self, a more primitive and mysterious world that’s passed and gone under the hill, where magic exists in every form, the word is spirit and spirit is power, and knowledge is truly control, where the Old Gods that inhabit our underbrains still come out to have their say, and where Nature is something as intricate and real as the science that inhabits and shapes her forms. Let me interject here that I am atheist, as people have taken me for a latter day pagan or Wiccan before because of my topics and approach. Nothing against such beliefs, but my interest is not in the religious aspect of these symbols, but the human one.

Izy: With poetry being one method that we use to tie in our everyday to the extraordinary, can there be such a thing as bad poetry?

HW:  Short answer: You’re kidding, right? I more often ask, especially when I’m writing, can there be such a thing as good poetry?

Longer and less snarky answer: I do believe bad poetry is out there, and by that I don’t mean inexperienced poetry, naive poetry or even obvious poetry—I mean disingenuous, dishonest poetry that exists solely to feed the ego of the writer and to pander to an audience. Obviously in any form of art, we as practitioners have healthy egos, or we wouldn’t be able to create a personal world out of whatever raw materials we’re drawn to and ask people to relate to it. But art that’s dishonest is bad in ways beyond quality.

It warps the creator and feeds weakness instead of strength, stagnation instead of growth, and it pacifies rather than inspires the audience and permits them to be intellectually lazy and dishonest themselves, and settle for less than they deserve.  Unfortunately, it happens often, especially in the world where people are concerned with making money, becoming famous, or as it manifests in the new fad, collecting ‘followers,’ because many writers don’t really want to spend the time it takes to learn the craft, and many audiences don’t really want to spend the time it takes to understand it. I don’t like to have to struggle every time I read someone’s work, but I do know I often get to some place, some understanding I otherwise wouldn’t have, by doing so. But I don’t think any of us gains much from a false slickness that gives nothing back, so it’s important that what we give has value and not be empty.

The corollary of this, of course, is the person who knows what he or she is doing may not be deathless art, but finds release and enjoyment in an honest rendering of feelings and experiences, of doing their best to express them for others, at whatever level they can achieve—that is giving back, and it’s every bit as valid, whether its hallowed by the NYT Bestseller’s List or the halls of academe, or just retweeted a lot by people who’ve enjoyed it, who’ve had their day broadened or load lightened by the sharing of a commonality, and a sense of community. This is the level I feel comfortable with and function at most frequently  myself.

Izy:  That is one answer I want to have cross-stitched onto a pillow or maybe just scrawled across the walls of my apartment.  Up next is a series of quick fire questions to end the interview…

Izy:  In a perfect world, what would Hedgewitch be doing?

HW:  Traveling to every prehistoric and historic site of archeological interest to her, from the neolithic  digs of Turkey, to Egypt (O to see the Cairo Museum) and Crete, to Viking sites in Europe and Celtic sites across the British Isles, MesoAmerica, too of course (with itinerary and daily hassles all handled by obliging minions,) to return to her  flower-surrounded white-walled cottage on the Mediterranean when travel became too onerous for an expertly prepared but simple dinner and a great wine. And never having to dust, vacuum or mop floors again.

Izy:  Things no one knows about Hedgewitch.....

My maiden name.
What happens when the lights go out.
My secret love of old country music and raunchy blues (though now they do)

Izy:  Your favorite thing to do on a rainy Sunday afternoon?

HW:  Assuming I’m in that mood, write a poem about a rainy Sunday afternoon, preferably with a demon or two thrown in. Otherwise, enjoy the rain, gloat over its benefits to the garden, and loll slothfully in the sense that nothing has to be done that can’t wait.

Izy:  Matinee or Late show?

HW:  Netflix

Izy:  What keeps you up at night?

HW:  Old people’s insomnia, embryonic dreams, and the beauty of the moon and stars.

Izy:  You can have dinner with any 5 people (living or dead) who and why?

HW:  First, Fireblossom(Shay) and Mama Zen(Kelli) for the conversation, snark and laugh factors, because Girl’s Night Out is the best dinner there is, and then to keep things interesting, I’d like Edgar Allen Poe and Emily Dickinson to join us, two poets whose life stories, experiences and thoughts I would most desperately like to know. The fifth, well, that’s a secret. (You’ll notice I don’t include my personal favorite poet, Wallace Stevens; this is because he was a Taft Republican and we would end up fighting about politics.)

Izy:  4 things you never write about?

HW: My mother, anatomically correct sex, christianity, my mother

Izy:  3 favorite words?

HW:  indigo, cyclopean, glissando (but I have many more)

Izy:  2 things which keep you from writing even when you’re inspired?

HW:  My back pills and lack of privacy

Izy:  The secret to life and answer to everything is......

Read, learn, listen, try to never stop laughing, loving or growing. Or as James Taylor once said, “The secret of life is enjoying the passing of time.”

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Poem Sketching

I discovered a book a couple of days ago. It is a book,  that dares you to take a peek, but you know you are going to get sucked in. "Writing Poetry From The Inside Out: Finding Your Voice Through the Craft of Poetry" by Sandford Lyne. Sandford has written poems for thirty-eight years. He has taught poetry writing for over twenty-five.  In 1981, during a seminar about personal growth, he had a dreamlike vision of an Inner Master.  His vision:  "His head was shaved and he wore an embroidered robe. He stopped in front of me. Sandford says, "I instinctively cupped and lifted my hands. From his cupped hand, be began to pour a stream of diamonds into mind, thousands and thousands of diamond quickly spilling over onto the floor, forming an expanding lake of diamonds at my feet.  I understood these diamonds represented poems.  I kept thinking, I can't write all these poems.  He smiled and bowed and kept pouring, when finished he bowed and left.  When I had this vision, I had already decided to leave teaching. I had been a lecturer in poetry writing, but did not like fixing student's  poems."  

In 1983, he was invited as a visiting poet to a public school.  "I was working with "remedial English students" the first three days were Seniors. The first poem I received after guiding them not to rhyme, just play with words...moved me  so much I put it in my first poetry collection by young people, "Ten-Second Rainshowers".  I remembered my vision years later, when I found a  journal I wrote it down in."  He has since then, taught poetry writing to over 50,000 young people and several thousand adults.
Sandford shares how when you write a poem your circle of awareness changes. "It can grow by a mite or a mile." He suggests a journal to write in, to gather your words or thoughts. He calls his journal his writer's studio. Today we are going to try out his concept called, "Poem Sketching".

When artists want to paint, they usually sketch first. Sandford uses his journal to sketch words. He uses phrases he loves, words, fragments, anything that catches his eye. He believes that everyone who writes a poem reinvents poetry. He states writing poetry sharpens our inner and outer vision. 

Poem sketching is taking a group of words, usually four, but can be any number and develop them into combinations of sentences that "feel" like poems. This helps awaken your ability to produce images in words. 

His idea is to get the (word group) words into sentences or fragments that fit together, that make sense to create a poem. YOU can change the form of the words, instead of silent, use silence. You can use the words in any order and repeat them. You can also add sentences that don't use any of the words or substitute a word, instead of bird, perhaps crow. You can create your own word group and make it larger a dozen+.  The author suggests you think of this process as an uncarved block.  YOUR challenge is to pick a word group and see where it leads you. If you see a second word group you would like to use, add it on.  You might want to pick one that doesn't fit with your poem. "One of the purposes of writing poems is to surprise ourselves." if you prefer to write your own poem-sketch words.  Here is how:  Word groups used for poem sketching have three things in common: variety, concreteness(the reader sees a picture in their mind), and surprise(an unexpected word that pushes the writer's imagination).  He divides the words into categories: emotions-angry, sad; human conditions-
 blind, homeless; pick  indoor or outdoor places-porch, kitchen or mountain, beach. He doesn't recommend proper nouns. Pick a season and select some weather words-rain, wind; select a specific creature-a butterfly, a crow, fox; general or specific plants-dogwood, trees, flowers, roses; minerals objects-stones, silver, diamond; man made items-fence, chair, overpass;  spiritual things-God, angels, a cross; celestial things-moon, sun, stars, comet; things from literature, history, or the imaginary world-warrior, dragon and add an earth, air and fire elements-ice, flame and dust.  Ideally he suggests you want three words from different categories, but they could fit.  Now add a fourth surprise element word and an energy one.  He suggests Emily Dickinson poems are rich with word-group ideas, as well as Basho and Issa, and Pablo Neruda.

Here is a poem sketched by one of his students, Jalyn Ayo

Word group:  wheelbarrow, soil, compost, seeds


My mother
was hauling soil
into a wheelbarrow.
To me
she was
hauling a heavy
My mother
mixed the soil
with the compost.
To me
she was 
mixing her happiness
with her
My mother
was planting seeds
in the ground.
To me
she was
hiding her fears
under lies.
My mother
was watering
the seeds.
To me
she was 
My mother
gave the flowers
time to grow.
But to me
she was 
trying to find
out who
 she really was.   

Here is one of the author's poems:


Soon, soon,
you will be free,
ancient boat,
your hour come
without the dread,
without the weight,
your ropes as soft
as rain-soaked bread-
and then the light.

He recommends keeping your poem sketches in a journal and come back to them.  "Some poems need time to ripen, to bring in associations not available to the first draft. The wait can be worth the rewards." 

His tip:  "...the most important work you will do as a poet is the work of watching and listening-watching your inner and outer worlds, listening for the voice of the Knower within." 
When you write your poem, be sure to share your word group with us.  It can be from the list or create your own.  The author mention one  inner and outer poem he loves is from Mary Oliver, "Why I Wake Early".  He suggest after reading five of her poems you are longer the same person.   I look forward to your sketches! 

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Depth Charge With Marian (runawaysentence)

Hey Toads....Herotomost here and it is my very definite pleasure to provide the Tuesday Challenge this week. I so can't get over how fun it has been to be a part of this site. The happiness I feel revolves around the wonderful people and outstanding talent I have met here. This week, I had the fortune of getting to know Marian Kent, a.k.a. runawaysentence a little bit better.  I read through many of her past poems that I hadn't read to date and enjoyed her interviews and her prose, all amazing. She is as prolific as the day is long.  I am always impressed with writers who can navigate a sweeping description, conjure emotion that could drape the entire surface of the earth and float on rafts constructed of angry metaphors.  Add the atomic real bomb.....a little nugget that everyone can immediately identify with, a punch in the mouth, a "hey that is so my life" and you have poetry that encompasses span (horizontal) and depth (vertical). Going deep is what Marian does very well and it stems from her outstanding sense of what's real and how people react to that reality. challenge to her was to read the following quote from Stephen King's Duma Key ( I so love it) and write a poem inspired by the quote:

"Be prepared to see it all. If you want to create--God help you if you do, God help you if you can--don't you dare commit the immorality of stopping on the surface.  Go deep and take your fair salvage. Do it no matter how much it hurts."

                                  - Stephen King, Duma Key

For all you King haters....pretend someone else said it...cuz...that is a killer quote I think.

Marian didn't just show up for the contest, she came in pen blazing, a pocket full of depth charges, and a map to China via a straight line right through the center of the earth.  I am super proud of her and hope you all will welcome this one with open arms and open we go.

Like that desert rock I long
to sprawl across, arching my spine,
fire radiating from back to belly,
my heat rising, you're hard, strong,
of the earth.               
                But you are cold,
flinching at my joyful tug on your
heartsleeve at the moment he said
I can't feel this way much longer,
expecting to survive, and he's right,
I cannot.        
            Regularly you play me
like Elliott Easton's guitar, loud
and with power.              
                  Then like a peony
bud, tightly wrapped, heavy with ants,
I heave and fling open, showing off,
reaching for the ground.                       
                           I can hear
no song but yours, my bouquet tuned
to your sun.             
               Those are my salad days.

Your untouchableness and my
frailty are difficult to think about,
harder to write.               
                   I move through days
contained and staid, a juniper bonsai
with cello and piano soundtrack,
occasionally bursting out in song and
dance, k-pow! like a Jet jonesing for
a rumble.     
            Mostly, it's better to
pretend all is well, steady on like
hardy perennials, reliable for spring
fireworks, like dogwood, lilac, or my
favorite, forsythia, year after year,
no redress necessary.                                  
                        But sleeping
alone means slow death.                      
                          So I'm
composing you a ripe symphony in
rainbow colors, tracing like hyacinth
and needing to be tended.

Haaaaaaa!!!!!!! Yeah baby!!! I told you, I told you, but you wouldn't believe!

Marian...thank you so much for putting up with my nonsense....and for being one of my favorites around these parts. Big round of applause, and keep on writing Girly Q...cuz we deserve it!

Monday, March 26, 2012

Open Link Monday

Calling all toads to the garden...

Magenta Park ~ Favim
Welcome, once again, to the imaginary garden with real toads.  I hope you all had a restful weekend, and are ready for Monday again.  I am on a two week break from work, and am looking forward to doing as little as possible today.  
Okay, if you are here, you know the rules: there are none! Please link up whatever is your pleasure to share with us today, and visit a few of the other sites of the poets whose names you see alongside your own.  Enjoy your time spent in the garden!

Saturday, March 24, 2012

The Sunday Challenge ~ Featuring Kat Mortensen

Today, I am pleased to introduce Kat Mortensen, of Poetikat, to Real Toads.  
She is a mid-life poet/photographer who lives in small-town Southern Ontario, Canada with her husband, her mom and their three cats. She writes in the morning after her coffee, but will often respond to prompts on the spot. She likes variety.  

Portrait of the Artist

“Don’t worry about cool.  Make your own uncool.  Make your own, your own world.” 
These words by Sol LeWitt are to be found on Kat's blog, and I can see that she has taken them to heart.

Kat Mortensen©2012 

The Jump
                          by Kat Mortensen

Race you to the other side,
she said, toeing off her
beat-up sneakers and tearing
barefoot through the tunnel
without looking back.

He had other ideas.

Over his head, came
the old, worn tee-shirt
from his boyhood years,
and he squirmed out of
grungy jeans,
going down as far as
his under-pants.

Flip-flops kicked off
with ease.

He placed first one,
then the other foot,
on the cold iron


Breathless, and grinning ear to ear,
(at last! she'd beat him
to the end),
she turned around,
but he was gone.

Kat has generously offered these beautiful photos for our poetic inspiration. If you add an image to your post, please acknowledge the name of the artist.

Kat Mortensen©2012 

I’m rediscovering my world from new angles...

Kat Mortensen©2012 

I’m not a photographer; I’m a poet who takes pictures.

 Kat Mortensen©2012 

You are welcome to view more of Kat's images on  her blog, My Little Town, Elora.  However, we ask that you do not select one of those photos for this prompt without the express permission of the artist.

Kat Mortensen©2012 

The Sunday Challenge is posted on Saturday at noon CST to allow extra time for the creative process, so please do not link up old work which kind of fits the image. Members will only respond to poetry written specifically for this prompt: this is in the spirit of our Real Toads project to create opportunities for poets to be newly inspired.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Poetry of the Ordinary

Hi Toads and Friends:

I'm Mary with another Mary's Mix Bag Friday.  You don't know how much I look forward to thinking of a prompt that I hope inspires many of you.  This week I hope you will be inspired by "the ordinary."

A poet I enjoy is Stuart Dischell. I have his book Dig Safe.  It is one I often reread. I love his work He can turn the most ordinary happenings into poetry.  Good poetry! He really is so down to earth!

One of his poems is "Thin Song of the Leaky Faucet."  It is too long to share here. He writes it in short lines that cover two-and-a-half  pages.  (This poem is not linked anywhere online, or I would share that way.)  Here is the beginning of this poem:

Thin Song of the Leaky Faucet
Drop by drop
Or drip by drip

Each drip or drop
In the open rain

Sounds the note
That cannot hold

Back, builds up
A calculus

On the otherwise
Stainless steel

(It continues....)

As I read this poem, I can really experience this and actually HEAR the dripping in my mind.  I can also identify, as I have had a dripping faucet that has driven me crazy!

Another Dischell poem about a very ordinary experience  is "As I Dispose of an Old Encyclopedia."  I find myself wondering how many people even have encyclopedias anymore. ( I do remember having disposed of mine as well!)

In this poem Dischell wrote his thoughts as he was getting rid of this outdated reference.  I will share a few lines:

As I Dispose of An Old Encyclopedia

I think of the territories
With their changed names
Like some married women,
Aliases of politics and faith,
The sinuous borders that keep
Cartographers in business,
Undertakers too,
Appellations of deposed monarchs
or gods no longer relevant

(It continues)

All right, this is what I would like to do.  Think about some of the ordinary tasks, items, aspects, annoyances, joys, etc.  of your life.  Write about one of them.

I will mention a few ideas that may  trigger your muse:  A squeaking door, peeling carrots, internet access frustrations, misplacing your wallet,  a power outage, running out of gas, a friend's visit, brewing coffee, going to the grocery store and forgetting to buy one of the things you needed, deciding to part with a pair of shoes you always loved, realizing that you threw away or lost something important to you.

I look forward to reading about something ordinary in your life.  Sometimes the ordinary can inspire the most extraordinary poetry.  Please write and link a new poem written specifically for this challenge  rather than pulling one out from the past writings, and  visit and comment on as many poems of others as possible.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Interview with Isadora Gruye

Hello, fellow Toads, it's Ruth of turtle memoirs, all excited because I got to interview Isadora (Izy) Gruye, the talented writer and photographer behind The Nice Cage Blog and Isadora Gruye Photography.

Lady Godiva's Operation, by Isadora Gruye

Austerity Measures
by Isadora Gruye

He will leave,
or I will leave when the thaw comes,
when the sun freckles and burns the bridge of my nose.

Until then, we are gargoyles,
perched on our cathedral couch
with hands cold and noses running,
our cuticles swollen and stained yellow
with the ever expanding promise to be better,

RUTH: I'm intrigued by the title and subtitle you've given your blog, and the banner too speaks to me. How did you come to choose these as (presumably) the aptest characterization of work you post here?

IZY: You know, until you asked that question, I had never given it much thought. Nice Cage has been my website domain for a while now. Its origins are steeped in one of my favorite Homer Simpson quotes. In one episode he helps an island tribe build a church. When the construction was completed, Homer turned to tribes people and said, “I don’t know much about God, but we sure built him a nice cage.” I like the way those last two words resonate.

“Writings from the underbelly of comfort” popped in my head as the best description of where I write from. At the age of 21, I was diagnosed with stage 3C ovarian dysgerminoma (cancer). I did six months of rigorous chemotherapy, all of which was one big smear of vomiting, fatigue, sweating, muscle weakness, and hair losing, after which I saw no reason to make life any worse for myself. I constantly strive for comfort as a reflex. I hold down a good paying job that keeps me in rent and shoes and medical benefits in the event I ever get sick again. From time to time, that comfort and what it takes to sustain it can be smothering to my creative side.

The blog banner was a gift from a dear (and very talented poet) friend, Stacey Gruver. I am glad you enjoy her design. The long red line reminds me of a tongue or tail slithering out of cage, one free muscle seeking refuge from refuge.

RUTH: "Seeking refuge from refuge" - ah yes, I see the importance of allowing ourselves that out. One of the things that first drew me to your writing is what I think of as its what-you-see-is-what-you-get quality. Have you always written as freely as you do now, as openly?

IZY: As far as writing openly, I am happy to hear you perceive my work that way. The best writing advice I was ever given came from a Scottish novelist I knew: write to learn what you know is true. When I write a poem, that is me digging for fragments of truth, some great treasure I can put under my pillow to bring good dreams. I think people can relate because, hell, we are trying to find our truths that can keep us warm at night.

I have not always written this way. I wrote some terrible, terrible poems in my late teens/early twenties. My friends were devastatingly talented with poetry. I wanted so badly to write like these girls, their syntax all perfect and content glistening with imagery and metaphor, however I was squeezing out these turds of poems: weak grey droppings that no one wanted to read. My words were just flapping around like useless limbs. I didn’t know what I wanted to say, I just knew I wanted to be like my friends.

RUTH: I know that feeling. Somewhere I read that you used to write only prose. What birthed your first poem? Did its colour, texture, etc. surprise you?

IZY: With poetry, I’ve had a bit of a rebirth. I did use to write only prose. 2005-2008 I spent writing a novel, and afterward, I wanted to try poetry again. I figured “hey I wrote a novel. First, good job and second, I bet I can write at least one good poem.” The first piece I scrawled out was The Sailor’s Girl. (I cannot post it on my blog, because I have sold the rights but it is now published at Katherine Press and can be viewed here.) I wrote it while staying at a hotel on a business trip. Here I was, sitting in this room tailored to be as nondescript as possible. I tried to listen to what the sheets were telling me, what the table wanted to say, and what the white walls wanted me to know. I put pen to paper and jotted the first things that jumped from my brain. The voice of the thing shook me.

RUTH: When you sit down to write, are you thinking 'prose' or, conversely, 'poetry' (and if so, does the product necessarily comply with the preconception)? If not, how does the particular genre announce itself (if it does)?

IZY: When I sit down to write I don’t think in terms of prose or poetry. I am writing a narrative which reveals a form to me later down the line. Lately, I have conjured up poetry and want deeply to get back into the habit of prose. I have started a second novel which I want to complete this summer.

RUTH: In your Writer's Statement, you claim: "My poems are the girl at the bar who can hold an intellectual conversation while drinking your whiskey, then sucker punch you when the brawl starts." That is a wonderfully apt statement of how your writing (prose as well as poetry) hits me as a reader. Is this an effect you consciously work to achieve?

IZY: Ahhh, whiskey. I cannot convey enough how much I have worked to get my poems to have a gut reaction, only it was inner work. I didn’t read a lot or practice writing poems. I had to get comfortable with me as an instrument.

RUTH: In many ways, your writing appears effortless, as if it burbles up unasked from the writer's gut. This gives your work an immediacy, even an autobiographical feel. And I notice you have a poem (Bed: An autobiography) that reads no more nor less 'true' than the rest. Do you want to comment on this? What is your opinion on any (real or imagined) demarcation line between truth and fiction in writing?

IZY: First of all, I have to admit, I am a little unnerved at how you have pegged my writing process. I could not have described it better. Sometimes I will let a line simmer in my brain for weeks, months even until it surfaces and when it does, I can write the whole thing in about 10 minutes. With Bed: an autobiography, the title came to me, and I knew I wanted to work with it. At first I considered doing a long piece describing my beds through out my life (from my twin bed I had as a girl which was decorated with stuffed animals and dollies, to the stranger’s bed I slept in my twenties, to the bed I bought myself for my apartment), but that seemed too rehearsed and expected. So I wrote the title at the top of my writing journal and left a blank page until I was ready. The poem itself may read with the same tone as my fiction, but the autobiographical part lies in what the reader doesn’t see: the fact that I erased my own history and wrote instead in the moment. It’s all very meta.

For me, the line between truth and fiction is obliterated because if done right, they are the same thing. One of the most autobiographical pieces that I have written is For Magpie and Others. In fact that entire poem is one fact after another and nothing else.

With that being said, I want it to be known that I edit the fuck out of my poems. I write them quickly but can spend months refining them, adding and detracting lines. All of them are works in progress, because what isn’t?

RUTH: Indeed. Izy, it's been my privilege to interview you for Real Toads, and a pleasure getting to know you better. Thank you for being so willing to share with us these aspects of your life and writer's process.

IZY: Thank you. And I want to thank the entire Real Toads Community (and Kerry O'Connor specifically). I cannot convey the comfort and hope their friendship and readership has brought.