Well written poetry heals souls.
Why bother using an Ivy League vocabulary when the truth is as simple as that?
When discussing great literature, I catch myself wanting to write as if I’ve graduated from Baylor instead of business college. That makes book reviews difficult for me sometimes. I want to match the intellect of the authors in question and write as if I were a scholar myself. My main problem with that however is the scholastic approach to writing does not match my day-to-day voice. I’m not an MFA graduate. I’m just me. Mac and Cheese as Molly calls me. Comfort food in many ways.
I went looking for my literary voice last year and found my heart. Granted my heart was at the time in a about a million pieces all over the floor. I was lost in the rubble when a ragtag band of modern-day poets and women’s rights activists invited me to internet tea last fall. We banded together as only women can and sifted through the debris of unmet needs, false hopes, unrealistic expectations of others and toxic co-dependency. Their love and acceptance breathes life into my battle weary soul.
I have no idea how long I’d been holding my breath; it must have been a while. I just know that it had been long time since I’d had fresh air. I found a respite and breathing place with these women. I took big gulps of air at first and gushed quite a bit over their acceptance and caring. I’ve settled in quite nicely now and my heart rate and oxygen levels have returned to normal.
Recovering from a broken heart takes more time than I am sometimes willing to allow. One of the unexpected bonuses, while I am picking up the pieces I discover that not all of them fit any more. This is good news. This means there is room for more –
I have officially turned the corner and the scenery is to die for.
I wrote my first poem of sorts in many years on September 12 of 2011. My poetic soul knows what I didn’t. You might say it was my battle cry.
The Fractured Mirror
To be handed one’s emotional ass on a silver platter and yet have so little regard for self, that the best revelation one can muster that anything is wrong are stomach issues, persistent blushing, and chest pain is a travesty. While it is true that artists are capable of being emotionally empathetic to a fault and that our souls can easily be a magnet to acts of spiritual terrorism, we still have choices.
Does one choose to succumb to this warped sense of reality, thereby being a victim of the fractured mirror of others as well as their own learned misogynistic views? Or can the false mirror be broken and a new paradigm created?
Some world views are nothing more than a fractured reflection of one’s own self-hatred and false dichotomies.
Unrealistic expectations and lies of others do not define me. I DEFINE ME.
Thus began my journey back to wholeness and life. Molly gave us the following poem during my very first week of writing classes – I’d never read The Journey by Mary Oliver before. As soon as I read it, I knew I was home.
one day you finally knew what you had to do, and began. though the voices around you kept shouting their bad advice, though the whole house began to tremble and you felt the old tug at your ankles, “mend my life!” – each voice cried, but you didn’t stop you knew what you had to do. though the wind pried with its stiff finger at the very foundations, though their melancholy was terrible, it was already late enough and a wild night, and the road full of fallen branches & stones. but little by little as you left their voices behind the stars began to burn through the sheets of clouds. and there was a new voice which you suddenly recognized as your own and that kept you company as you strode deeper into the world, determined to do the only thing you could do, determined to save the only life you could save. – mary oliver
I’m continuing my journey next week by attending Poetry Book Camp led by Molly Fisk which means I won’t be here. While I’m gone might I suggest reading a good poetry book or better yet – write your own poems. Like I said – Well written poetry heals souls. Your soul is worth it.
I’ll be back before the month is out.
Added 2:00 pm April 4. — Continuing with poetry month – my newest submission to the group — the prompt was “the cottonwood tree I lived in as a child.” In publishing this on my blog, I caused some confusion in my group — in light of that, I’m going to be more careful and probably keep my group writing separate from my blog writing. Learning a new thing means being willing to make mistakes.
The cottonwood tree I lived in as a child
sat on a hill
in a field far away.
Cattle lay with me
for respite from the heat.
A lone bull stood watch by day
and at night
hoot owls sang their song
while the moon rose
and cotton wisps
flew through the air.
Leather or Lace?
I used to be so afraid.
Of your size.
But your eyes speak peace.
You nuzzle my neck
I tickle your ears.
And we belong to each other.
The scoop swoosh scoop
of seamless motion
step by step
Hips in rhythm.
Fast or slow, we flow as one;
I brush your hair.
And you eat out of my hand.
Sometimes you thump me on the head with yours
A love tap between friends.
And when you try to knock over the outhouse when I am in it
I know you love me too.
Don’t be satisfied with stories, how things have gone with others. Unfold your own myth. ~Rumi
A Poetic Response by me.
Vicariously living off the wishes and dreams of others,
She spends her days lost in black and white.
Oblivious to her own pulse
Her life is spent like a cheap romance novel;
Gripping, yet void of real meaning.
Lost in fantasy;
Never truly loving
She dies a stranger
and to the world.
Don’t be that woman.
Open your eyes to the life
and pulse of the women you are.
Breathe in the sensual poetry
of motion and living.
Not allowed to ride horses or bikes, doc says I have to rest. So I’m getting caught up on my reading.
There are truly some things I wish I could unread – like Ron Paul’s idiotic thought process. Why are people voting for him? He’s a moron.
There are other things I’ve read that truly have me fascinated like the article linked below. I’ve never given much thought really to the connection between poetry and science or how the brain responds to poetic verse.
Either my left brain is jonesing for some action and is thrilled to get it, or this is really a good article. Enjoy.
Though cattle low while birds sing
And the owl calls out its mourning song
The sun waits.
The gifted hours of evening’s slumber
Silently give way to morning’s heed.
Nature stirs with a half opened eye,
Waiting for the sound of the sun upon still waters.
Nature knows what I do not.
Try as I might,I cannot chase a sunrise.
Drinking from dry wells is a waste of time and energy. Poetic interpretation is as much about the state of mind of the reader as it is the writer. Huge shakers full of salt grains really do come in handy when laying your heart on the line. I remember sitting in the school library on October 27, 1982 writing the following poem. Moved by the beauty of the frost outside the window as well as the reality that my old life, high school, was ending and having spent the previous year in Sweden I was more than ready to get on with living. My heart and my mind traveled ahead while my body endured one last winter. — contrary to my mother’s belief that this was a poem about suicide (she almost put me in therapy), it is really about coming of age and the importance of waiting.
And I Wait for Spring
Morning frost covers the ground,
remnants of the night’s cold.
The crimson sun shines brightly, illuminating the morning.
Leaves shed their disguise of green and take on colors
which are better seen silhouetted again the pale blue sky of day.
The sun shines on the parade of wonderous colors
preparing for time of painted sleep.
The bubbling brook once fast and full of life
slows its course to better carry
A joining of life and placid rest
A time of time of celebration and endings
waiting for a new beginning.
He (sic My father) used to hold his breath and pass out on the streets of Tokyo where his parents were Presbyterian Missionaries. I think he was a little angry: Held breath is the ultimate withholding; you’re not taking anything in, you’re not putting anything out. – Anne Lamott, Plan B Futher Thoughts on Faith.
Has it really come to this?
Freud will have a field day.
I’m having a field day.
Every year I pray and meditate and choose a new word, or scripture verse or phrase for the coming year. After two weeks of semi-fasting from the internet, prayer, retreat, and journaling THE word that resounds in my deepest of spirit for 2012 is “Breathe.”
It’s not that I’m disappointed really , okay maybe a little, it’s just that most years my phrases have been, well I’ll just say it, more encouraging than something as simple as “breathe.”
Here is an example of what I mean:
- 2003 when I just began working in a church -– Deuteronomy 31:6 (NIV) “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the LORD your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.”
- 2004 (Isaiah 41:9) – “I took you from the ends of the earth, from its farthest corners I called you. I said, ‘You are my servant’: I have chosen you and have not rejected you.
- 2005 – My word was forgiveness and letting go. It was truthfully a year spent grieving the loss of friends through death and learning how to forgive others. It was a dark night of the soul kind of year for me. I deleted all my writings and former blogs and got about the busy work of recovering from severe depression.
- 2006 – “Baptize me, oh Lord, to the criticism of man, that I might one day become immune to it.” – Beth Moore
- 2007 – Hebrews 10:35-36 – “So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded, you need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what He has promised.”
- 2008 – Romans 31-39 - “in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
- January 1, 2009 – Ephesians 3:17-19. “I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge – that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.” – that was a year of exploring what it meant to LIVE with Intention. A year of celebration. It was also the year that I started doing stand up comedy and intentionally studying and growing my gifts/abilities as a speaker.
- 2010 – “Stand at the crossroads and look; ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is, and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls.” – I spent a year studying ancient liturgy under the auspices of a local pastor and reading authors such as St Augustine.
- 2011 – Live with Intention which for me translated to Love/Laughter Inspiration Volunteering Encouragement/excercise. – okay notsomuch on the exercise thing, but the rest – I totally nailed that.
- 2012 – I get one word. Breathe.
I’m not really amused. My ego wants something grander or more grand whichever than breathe. I want something that will make people stand on their heads and listen to me as if I were EF Hutton himself. “Breathe.” feels so bourgeois really. So ordinary. I’m an artist and a poet, I don’t want to be ordinary I want to be captivating. Shooting a loving smile at my artsy fartsy neurotically insecure yet comical self – Grown up me responds – Yeah well suck it up baby girl – you get to be real this year. Welcome to planet earth. – Grown up me can be a real downer sometimes can’t she?
When I think about it though, it’s actually pretty deep. Held breath IS the ultimate withholding just like Anne writes. I can’t help but wonder, how often do you or I forget to breathe in the moments of life? I hold my breath a lot. Beauty can capture my breath, so can anger and fear. All last week I dreamt nightly of people trying to hug me and my holding my breath. I would write it off as just a silly little dream (or three) but then last night someone I hadn’t seen in a few years grabbed me in a spontaneous hug and — you guessed it – I held my breath until they let go.
I really forgotten how to breathe. No wonder my gut is a mess and my shoulders are in my ears. I will have you know that this doesn’t come as some great and welcomed epiphany. This self-knowledge comes to me with bits and spurts of denial and a great deal of fighting back. While I know how I feel about this new word that landed in my heart, I’m not sure what to think yet – and so I simply offer some thoughts by some of my favorite poets on this whole “breathe” business.
To one who has been long in city pent,
‘Tis very sweet to look into the fair
And open face of heaven, – to breathe a prayer
Full in the smile of the blue firmament.
~John Keats, Sonnet XIV
He lives most life whoever breathes most air. ~Elizabeth Barrett Browning
You know that our breathing is the inhaling and exhaling of air. The organ that serves for this is the lungs that lie round the heart, so that the air passing through them thereby envelops the heart. Thus breathing is a natural way to the heart. And so, having collected your mind within you, lead it into the channel of breathing through which air reaches the heart and, together with this inhaled air, force your mind to descend into the heart and to remain there. ~Nicephorus the Solitary
Now — tell me, how was your Christmas? What did you do? Did you have a good New Years? Do you make resolutions or do you pick words or phrases for the year? Please drop a comment and let me know. Thanks.
This post written by Deana O’Hara for Redemption’s Heart. All rights reserved. January 1, 2012. No goods or services were given in exchange for quoting Anne Lamott — I just totally dig her vibe as an author – thought you might too. — and yes son, I really used the words “dig’ and “Vibe” in a blog post. HA!
A brag poem, written for Poetry Boot Camp.
I’m not supposed to be here.I’m only 15 and an average student.Broken HomeMissing FatherAlcoholic motherWorking to pay my way.Kids like medon’t get scholarships over seas.Until now.I’m in the middle of nowhere,Grimslov College in Sweden.Which is somewhere reallyWhen I think about it.A holding place with 50 othersfrom around the world.I’m in orientationWaiting to be set free andchomping at the bit.The scent of Polo CologneAnd expensive cigarsSends me over an edgeThat I never recover.I can close my eyesAnd still drink deeplyThe scent of a man.Leather, WoodTobacco and mossMingled with sweat,fills every waking pourAnd I believe I’m finally alive.I haven’t forgotten herHalf womanHalf child.Sheepishly,I remember him.Eyes so blue they melt the soulA countenance so kindThat girls swoon.Yale Boy: A sheep among wolves.He is wise beyond his yearsHe satisfies nothing immediateAnd points me rather to life.There will always be boys.This year is a gift.Live it.The fact that I am only 15And he is 18May be aiding his wisdom.Oh, what a year to live.I live a year of museums and artOf the pomp and circumstance of the Nobel AwardsAnd meeting the kingEven if I do accidentally call him short.I live and swim in the Baltic SeaTumbling backwards down a hillWhen I my host family strips nudeIn front of me.I live trying wine and Italian foodIn Stockholm with friendsOnly to throw it up whileWatching The French Lieutenants’ WomanBecause I’m too young to live so quickly.StrandedWith no money or cell
I live hitchhikingBack to my town.Picked up by Iranians,I live and lie like a rugconvincing them I’m from Australiaand not an American.I live beneath the Northern lightswearing only baby doll jammies and ski boots,because at 16on top of the tallest mountain I’ve ever seen,that seemed the appropriate attire.I live to face down a drunken lumberjackwho doesn’t yet know he’s in drag and tries to kiss me,by kicking him in the shins with those same ski boots.I live to see the boyswho weren’t supposed to be in our cabinjump out of the second story windowlike lemmings off a cliff when I run to be rescued.I live to see Duffyfoolishly stay behindand receive a black eyedefending my honor.I live to come home again and chomp at the bit.I live many yearsThrough careersThrough marriageThrough sickness and health.I live in the middle of nowhere Oklahomawhich is somewhere really.Raising a familyThat’s almost grown.I live and I wonder what’s next for me.I remember the scent of a man,wise beyond his years,and it does nothing to satisfy the immediate.It just points me to life.There will always be boys.This life is a gift.Live it.
This post written by Deana O’Hara for Redemption’s Heart. All rights reserved.