Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Breakfast With The Muse

           Balancing my writing and personal lives is a constant struggle for me. I promise myself I will use an afternoon off, or an evening alone to “get some writing done,” as if inspiration is a switch that can be turned on and off. It is true that I have several long-term projects in various stages laying around at all times, and even a half hour of filing would be a constructive way to spend my time, even though it doesn’t feel very “poety.” 

            I think I scare myself by making too many plans for large chunks of time. We all have something else to do with those minutes, things that somehow seem to take precedence, but don’t hold up when I apply my Hundred Year yardstick (“What will really matter in a hundred years?”). Ultimately, I end spending no more than an hour or two doing what I intended to spend the whole day doing, if that, and beat myself up for “wasting” time on anything else. 

            I have finally accepted that the structure of my days is not going to change in the near future. I need a 9 to 5 job not only to keep myself afloat financially, but to give my days a framework. Freelancing left me with too much leeway, and perhaps I need a little imposed distraction to make me appreciate time away from work (sad but true). Luckily, my current position is overall a pleasant endeavor, and I don’t come home wounded and depressed as I had in the past. 

            One thing I have learned over the years is that I work best, words flow best, in the morning, before I’m bombarded with sunlight and radio and all the other sensory stimuli that seem to cloud my early visions. Therefore, I have begun a routine at 6:00 a.m., the time my alarm clock is set for anyway. I get myself out of bed (perhaps after the weather report. Weather has been a big issue lately, and I gain some false sense of control and security by listening to the daily guess at what’s ahead), go to the bathroom, grab a cup of coffee which I may or may not finish, and head back upstairs to my desk. 

            After all that, I may only get twenty minutes to get something done, maybe half an hour. It depends on whether I plan a shower before work, packed my lunch or picked out my clothes the night before, or even on the blasted weather itself. But in that twenty minutes, I can put down a first draft of a poem, type out a few first drafts I’ve accumulated, or even do some revising. I have several years worth of feedback from my faithful Goat Hill Poets salon that I’ve yet to consider in the revision process. It’s twenty minutes more a day than I’ve been spending, and I’ve quickly seen work begin to pile up. I’m even inspired to sometimes grab twenty minutes in the evening to file or get submissions together. 

            I prefer most nights to spend most of my nights with my Roommate. That is why we live together in the first place. Quality time with Michael is beyond the Hundred Year test. We will never have enough time. But he goes his way and I go mine at some point in the evening, and after doing a token few dishes, sorting socks or unpacking my lunch bag, poetry is finding a place in my day. It’s only been a couple of weeks, but what do studies say about creating a new habit? I am hopeful. And the bottom line is, it’s up to me. I cannot continue to bullshit myself about some future time when it’ll be more convenient. It truly is now or never…

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

**ME & GLENN WERNER - WPS Reading**

"Poets CHERYL A. RICE and GLENN WERNER will be the featured readers, along with an open mike, when the WOODSTOCK POETRY SOCIETY & FESTIVAL meets at Golden Notebook (Upstairs), 29 Tinker Street on Saturday, February 14th at 2pm.

The readings are hosted by Woodstock area poet Phillip X Levine. All meetings are free and open to the public.

CHERYL A. RICE'S work has appeared in Baltimore Review, Chronogram, Florida Review, Home Planet News, Metroland, Poughkeepsie Journal, The Temple, Up The River, and Woodstock Times, and in the anthologies, Wildflowers, Vol. II (2002: Shivastan Publishing), Riverine (2007: Codhill Press) and For Enid, With Love (2010: NYQuarterly). Recent publications include Kingston Is Burning (2013: Flying Monkey Press) and My Minnesota Boyhood (2012: Post Traumatic Press), and the CDs Nobody Slept Last Night (2003, Another Poor Bastard Productions), and Girl Poet (2007, Flying Monkey Productions). She has presented her Random Writing poetry workshops for over a decade. Rice, founder and host of the notorious Sylvia Plath Bake-Off, is a Long Island native, but has spent the last 35 years in New York's Hudson Valley. Her poetry blog, Flying Monkey Productions, is at: http://flyingmonkeyprods.blogspot.com/.

GLENN WERNER has been part of the Hudson Valley poetry community for a little over 15 years. His work has been published in Chronogram, The Waywayanda Review, The River Reporter’s Literary Gazette, Up The River, A Clean, Well Lighted Place, 4th Street, Snow Monkey, and Home Planet News, where his poem "Anfortas Waiting" was nominated for a Pushcart Prize. He is a member of the board for the Calling All Poets Series in Beacon, NY."

Saturday, December 6, 2014

**The Stuff That Poems Are Made Of... Supposedly**

    I just got back from an unexpected trip to Florida on Thursday. My father, who has been ailing for some time (both parents have actually) has been in the hospital for over two weeks now. His long-term prognosis isn't good, and it could be weeks, or longer, before he is even able to return home.

     I haven't seen him in person for a couple of years, since his last visit to Long Island. Finances don't allow me to travel that far very frequently, and until recently I have counted on their visits to New York for my chance to see them. Probably they won't be coming back to New York anytime soon. I'm not sure when I'll be able to go back to Florida, either.

      I won't go into detail here, but I am relieved that I have been completely free of the urge to write about all this in poetic form. I'm guessing it'll all be fodder for the poetry furnace later on, if I continue to write. Not in the mood for any of that. I am inspired to get to projects that I've been putting off for decades, doing what needs doing now, or crossing it off my list, the never-ending list of 'things I'd like to do some day.' THERE IS NO SOME DAY!! I have to be reminded of this from time to time, and usually in the worst ways.

     This is one of those worst way times. Here's a picture of what I've been working on today:

For twenty years, I've been planning to use my great-grandmother's doilies to decorate a set of blue sheets and make a duvet cover. I have been trying to figure out for twenty years how to attach the doilies to the sheet. Sewing seemed too complex. The doilies are fragile, old cotton thread, and some are even ripped in small places. Suddenly I remembered a fabric glue from Youtube that might work. I did a little research and settled on another product, Mod Podge for Fabric. It's working so far.

     It's nonverbal, it's creative, and it's long overdue. As Maureen O'Hara says in, "The Quiet Man," I want to have my things about me. I want to do more in my home with what I have. I don't want to waste any more time. I want to pretend that everything's OK.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Online or In Hand?

I used to be tremendously prejudiced against online literary magazines, likening them abstractly to online dating services. In the early days, websites were awkward, intermittently updated, and just not "real" to me. I was a strict traditionalist, and continued to submit to publications that only published "real" magazines, on paper or, in the case of Home Planet News, newsprint.

Truthfully, I still have a hard time sitting down and reading a whole "issue" of an online 'zine, but my harsh opinion of them seems to have softened a bit. As the technology becomes more user friendly, the looks of them has improved, and if I had a tablet, I might even be tempted to crawl into bed with a couple one night, Roommate be damned.

I am certainly aware of the tremendous start-up and maintenance costs of keeping a literary magazine afloat. There is still something about the feel of paper in the hand, the seductive variety of papers hanging in the art supply store, that inspires me to bang together a homemade chapbook every year or so. But that’s not for profit. That’s not even with an expectation that I’ll break even when the cost of supplies and labor is figured in. It’s art. It’s an expression, made all the easier by my handy dandy HP printer.  

I suppose the Web is here to stay. I might as well make myself comfortable. Look up a few attractive candidates. Reminisce about the old days, when it took more than pressing a few buttons to send your poems out for the world’s consideration. On the other hand, isn’t it nice to get an email response in just a few days, yay or nay, rather than a few months?

Saturday, October 11, 2014

I Get Such A Kick Out Of Kevin Bruce's Painting...

**Three Poems from Katrinka Moore's Workshop**


Picasso’s a lie that helps us see truth.
His audience permits desired impact,
sensibilities convey pauperization of Mexico.
Bare feet rustle the water jar,
surprising image moves by quality intended.
Carefully chosen parts imply by analogy
transmit subject directly.
Synecdoche less than science, essence of art.

Single stem with twin flowers, Mexico,
dos flores gemelas, vida y muerta,
truth more secure, las aguas del bautismo.
Visions of unity easily proved wrong,
practical advice a resolution not offered.

Petrified field a fountain!
Dust of tall trees’ rustling bark!
Taste of such splendor, sound of panting!
A cold volcano, bare hills of stone!

How Little the Power, Emily

How little the power, Emily, over ourselves,
the size of our lives, the tangled stars
that incline our futures towards this or that
end point?
How far the page’s edge, how soon
the corner’s narrow end?

Stars, Trekking

Stars, trekking across the table,
urging on in every direction,
fixed in a single starting place,
suggest the many possibilities before us,
laughing, while they stay safely
at home.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Notes on Process, Part I

    Last year I tried to write a chapbook about horses. It seemed like a natural subject. I grew up surrounded by horses. As a kid, my grandfather exercised thoroughbreds at Aqueduct. My father got a 
license to train thoroughbreds in middle age, and for a few years pursued that dream pretty actively, with
mixed results. There was a corral next to the house where I spent the second half of my childhood. Horses were as common as squirrels or sparrows. So, naturally, one would think I had a treasure trove of memories to draw from, and combined with the hindsight of 50+ plus years, several volumes of horse poems were surely just waiting for me to extract them from the depths of my subconscious.

     As it turns out, not really. I have rarely written with a theme in mind, although I respond well to prompts. Prompts, however, only lead me back to myself. I am an expert at making a conversation come back around to me, me, me, and prompts are the first sentence of poetic conversations. For this chapbook, I started with only the vaguest idea-- something to do with horses. The few poems I attempted that dealt primarily with horses were drawn from my memories of them. I do not see many horses in my day to day life at this point. The poems are imprecise, dreamy and totally rootless. I always meant to go out and find some real horses, to add some fresh observations to my ancient memories. I never even got around to Googling the damn things.

     What I discovered is that my connection to horses is superficial at best, despite close proximity for almost two decades. My sister turned out to be the cowgirl in the family, and still rides today whenever she gets a chance. She has a beautiful barn in her backyard, and her property is adjacent to a state park. She's got an amazing amount of room to ride in a suburban Long Island neighborhood.

     I was afraid at first, and never overcame that fear. As a kid, we were led around my grandparents' corral on Princess, an sedate Palomino who was the last of the many horses my father and his siblings grew up with. I'm sure I pulled out a few hairs from her brittle blonde mane, I held on so tightly. Now that I'm older, and that much more aware of the consequences of a fall, I am all the more frightened.

     The best poems to come out of this effort are not about horses at all. They are about horse people, family, friends. They are about the affect horses had on others, and about the affect others had on me. One
poem is about a gold charm I have in the shape of a horse, and what it symbolizes. Another is about my grandfather, who died when I was 13 at the age of 57. We had very little in common then, and less now. Of the group, maybe five poems are worth reworking and sending out to find a home somewhere.

     Ultimately, they are Long Island poems, which I will never stop writing. They fall in line with the theme of my life. Poetry, writing is the way I explain myself to others, and to myself. It's a way of sorting out the pieces of the past, and clumsily ordering the future. Horses are certainly a part of my life. Just not enough to inspire more than a few poems to add to the archives.