Thursday, April 28, 2011

Sound and Meaning

Laying in bed the past few days on the last leg of pneumonia, I have been listening to my surroundings. Curious I decided to try and write some poetry with sounds. I did some research and learned about onomatopoeia. Onomatopoeia is usually cited as a poetic effect. That makes sense because poetry is all about communicating emotion using the interplay between sound and meaning.

Playing with sounds in the first part, and then trying to let words make the sounds in the second, nothing serious here. Doubt I would submit this one.

I found a few good sites, and will look further by picking some poet friends brains.

The Sounds Of Spring

Eight AM mowers head the silent calendar call
as one by one they roll down the trailer ramps
   um          um
bu   mpp bu   mpp scrapping over the curb toward
the back of the condos and into the range of my

view where I lay sleeping with the window
slightly open phooosh phoosh phoosh goes
the breeze bringing in cool air softening the
upstairs hot existence from the days before

overcast skies off and on again peeking sun
holding in the earth’s rising temperature
swish swish swiiissshhh go huge tree
limbs rustling when the breeze picks up

blowing even darker clouds over birds
who right outside chirp chirp chirp in my
view are nesting their pieces of dead bush
and other particles needed for their young’s

to be born very soon HONK! HONK! HONK!
someone’s car alarm begins to sound when my
pillow is pulled over my head kakaa kakaa
nearby ravens have begun to pick the ground

for seeds along the stretch of freshly cut grass
kiii kiii kiii kiii the neighbor begins raking
her six by nine cement patio debris after
the gardeners have moved on to the other end

of the complex leaving moments for me to sleep
sniff sniff sniff cough cough go my spring allergies
rolling over planting my feet plunk plunk one by
one onto the floor saying hello hello downstairs.


Stepping out of the gym door into the cool evening
my wet hair after a swim then shower whoosh like
reentering the pool as croak croak croak frogs in
the distance animate my walk to the car click click

pop my key unlocks the door as I slip into the
leather seats sliding across closest to the middle
the door slamming behind me headlights come on
with the turn of the key in the ignition engine starting

chirp chirp chirp sings a cricket finding its way into
the van the radio drowns it out a bit as the window
rolls down inviting the sounds of passing cars the
wind rushing in my hair blowing wildly across the

view of oncoming traffic into my mouth causing me
to spit sputter when it becomes like dental floss
caught in my teeth thunder rolls across the sky like
bowling balls down wooden lanes striking pins

the gods have either knocked over a bit of water
quietly it hits the windshield and my left arm hanging
on the door laughing my left hand slaps back
a high five to how different night and day can be.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Poetry On The Porch

I had the honor of attending 'Poetry On The Porch' at the Alice Paul Institute, organized by Erika Kelly, a poet I met three or four years ago through blogging. She began working with me on my writing as an editor. Then we began to appear in local circles together. She is a wonderful writer in her own right and I am glad to be able to support her. Erika organizes this event-

National Poetry Month is a month-long, national celebration of poetry established by the Academy of American Poets. The concept is to widen the attention of individuals and the media—to the art of poetry, to living poets, to our complex poetic heritage, and to poetry books and journals of wide aesthetic range and concern. We hope to increase the visibility and availability of poetry in popular culture while acknowledging and celebrating poetry’s ability to sustain itself in the many places where it is practiced and appreciated.

The Alice Paul Institute is a not-for-profit 501(c)3 corporation based in Mount Laurel, New Jersey. It was founded in 1984 by a group of dedicated volunteers to commemorate the centennial of Alice Paul's 1885 birth and to further her legacy. The organization was operated by volunteers for more than a decade. Today, four staff members, as well as volunteers, oversee the daily business and special events at Paulsdale.

After Annmarie Lockhart, Joanie DiMartino, Paloma Amar, and Erika Kelly read I was given the chance to read. I chose a few new poems but decided to read a poem I had written when I was only 15 years old. A memory that stood out in my head still to this day, and had revised it a few times, but the original just works. Most of our mothers and grandmothers did not use dried seasonings, nor did we own any bottles. They used only fresh ingredients bought from the market, or used what they had on hand. It occurred to me my mom seasoned her food with 'Depression', something she suffered from her whole life, up until she passed away.

(Poems are removed after three days...)

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Poem Share Early

Debbie Fuller inspired this title and direction of my poem about this past Saturday assisting Ray Brown, Poet- hosting a workshop and teaching poetry to children at Classic Books in Trenton, something we will be doing at other local libraries in our area.

The thought of being sandwiched in between a Neo-Nazi's and Black Panthers rally kind of had the air buzzing. We lost two of our poets to the excitement. Heck I wanted to walk over to the rallies, and I did after it was over, but it began to rain. The last time I walked into a lions den, I almost came out armless. Another story...

Jessie Carty will be hosting the Thursday Poem Share, so mine is going up early. I am trying to spend every free minute writing this week. My homeless feeding frenzy group went well last week. The birthday party I catered Saturday night almost did me in. The eating gluten for which I keep away from at home, but virtually impossible when I am cooking it for others. I am also physically tired. Mentally tired in some ways. So it brings on thoughts of fraying material...

In The Fray

Behind the wheel of a driving machine
pulling off Route 1 south
a jug handle leading west
agitators of weather spinning circles
around the policeman
their silent and flashing lights scream force
turning into a pit of unsettling direction
towards a small bookstore with waiting students
poems in hand voices ready to speak
it’s ticking clock hangs on a dingy wall
and as minutes pass around other neglect
books gathering dust on the shelves
in a struggling old city along a side street
a lack of audience and fear
in a capital on the brink of ruin

Today Neo-Nazi’s rally along streets, shadows
First Amendment fists hit the open air
searching for the uneducated and neglected
a few blocks over the cheeks barely feel the sting
Black Panther gathered to voice majority
rubbing out opposite votes

Innocent children gather speaking favorite color
names, food, and what instrument they might want to be
drums beat wildly as laughter echoes out the back door
and down the alley
Caucasian, Asian, African American together
in the middle of musty old Classics
hanging by the thread of a progressive society

If you look at the cell phone photo above you might think it a prompt piece, but it was not. So it will sit for revisions...

Hangin On

Can you see the yellow jacket hanging on for dear life on my side mirror? In funny contrast to the yellow vehicle behind me right. Yeah, on a beautiful sunny day (what happened to those we are all wondering, sunny days) he was flying at my open window, but as I quickly rolled it up he settled on the side mirror. It was fate. Now it is residing in Washington Crossing's field of daffodils, or what else it may have found. Kind of like me and all the things I have going on.

This past week I was wrapping up my genealogy and decided to add my son's father's family, but then thought about my first husband. A marriage which lasted five years from the tender young age of 18 to 22. He was twenty seven. A church going happy go lucky sort of guy, or at least I thought, very handsome, many said he looked like Kevin Costner, or even Harrison Ford, but as they say, once your married, things change.

Drugs, sex, rock-n-roll, and cruelty were his vises. His mother failed to tell me he had tried to commit suicide three times. His parents thought I would help him. We were close, even until my kids were ten or so, then I lost touch. His grandparents were wealthy Austin'ites. If you have not visited that part of Texas, well, they say its the prettiest part of the state. They owned lots of cattle and land near Georgetown. His grandfather passed away in 08, and his grandmother passed in ex-husband passed away in 09, only a few months before his grandmother. After some investigation, I discovered his third wife had shot and killed him.

I suddenly felt like the bee, I had hung on to dear life those five years so long ago, and when our world stopped...I decided to fly away and find what else lay ahead. He married a seventeen year old before the ink was dry on our divorce papers. Then married again, same situation, both times. Narcissistic abusers with charm, who go after young girls usually don't change (my opinion).

He left behind a son. My heart does goes out to those he left in the wake (more Tsunami). A life with barely a father, now no father at all. Making sense of life is hard enough, but to do it without a parent, I know this all too well. Our parallels are not so far apart. I feel the son is now the bee, even though men handle things differently than women do, lets hope he figures out when to get off the emotional ride. I only hope his mom left in time. Otherwise his sting may be a deadly one too.

I have been trying to write a poem in reference to this piece I just wrote. Maybe I will come back and take some key elements out, re-arrange it, but I find it difficult to write where my feelings are on these things. Almost like there is no connection once I have moved on. Hmmm...

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Journal: Busy busy busy

I am not complaining either. My work load had halted almost to a dead stop a year ago, after years of working, sometimes two jobs, and now I have several offers for kitchen jobs. I went for an interview with the college, but they are not paying much. I do better with the catering gigs I get here and there, and would rather use my skills at the teaching job I have had in Trenton for quite a few years now. The kids are worth it.

I also am heading up a team of people to feed the homeless, and we start tomorrow. As I said before, the writing and such will be tricky, but I can do it. All the activity is helping me to lose weight. I have a reading and open mic to attend tomorrow by invitation, so excited about that. I am going to start video taping again, and share some of the poets work. I hear the two who open tomorrow are really 'funny', as well as good writers.

The weather here is off and on cold, warm, cloudy and sunny. Make up your mind Mother Earth. I managed not to use it as an excuse and went to church today. My second week in a row. We are hoping this place is a good fit for our spiritual needs. They are a liberal congregation, accepting of all beliefs and lifestyles. Today during the service Bernie, one of my new friends read a poem he wrote about a fifteen year old girl who is buried in a local cemetery. It bothers him a child would die before their parents, and he wanted to immortalize her, and the band turned it into a song; it was kind of a bluegrass medley. I was in tears.

As you know I miss my daughter so much, and also think of the lost when I see a tomb stone as Bernie did. Which brings me to my client, her daughter passed away and it was hard on me too. She is pregnant again, and I will be going back to work for the family as their personal chef in the fall, so my life is getting back to busy, the way I like it. I also have begun to submit my writing, so the next weeks will be mixed with nervous, but I am hoping to grow from my experiences. Like ridding the negative, and replacing it with positive.

I believe if you have a talent and are not doing anything with it, why waste it. You should do something with it, even if you volunteer once a month or more. Keeping busy around the house, having a hobby, and expanding your mind is good for the soul. Something my grandfather proved to be true. Well, hubby put his Dilbert DVD in, so I guess its a message to go do something else!

(Photo- Something I took in the Washington Islands, 2008)

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Poetry Work-shops

Today I am recommending writing work-shops, but three years ago I was afraid of them. Fear and feeling intimidated by people who have spent more of their life writing professionally or working as teachers was my excuse.

Why are work-shops important?

The writers workshop format is an effective method to review, evaluate, and improve writing skills. The general structure of a writers workshop has a group of ``discussants'' who listen to you reading your work before the session. During the workshop the discussants examine the strengths and weaknesses of each person's paper, accentuating positive aspects and suggesting improvements in content and style.

The Delaware Valley and US-1 Princeton Poets meet once a month, and on different days of the week. I took several of my previous published poems to the workshops. Tonight I returned after two years. Funny Joe who mediates DVP, he called me the prodigal daughter. They had wondered what happened to me, since many said they enjoyed my writing.

The group work-shopped one of my newer poems 'At The Root Of The Willows'. Jessie had already told me she felt it was complete, and to sent it out for submission, but I was still up in the air about my punctuation. Several of the poets are teachers, and retired teachers, so they helped me with punctuation. It was unanimous, the poem needed no other work, and they really liked it. Again I walked away feeling confident in my writing.

Jessie will be glad to know I also felt more confident to add suggestions to the other poets work as we went around the table.

Why am I sharing this? Because I am returning each month, along with my writing partner Marybeth. I will also be attending the open mics held at the Princeton college. I had felt they were to upper brow for me, but now I feel like an equal. It also helps that I learned one of my fathers uncles was a Princeton graduate; as well as my MFA instructor from the class I have been auditing encouraged me to read- Jean feels my writing should be heard.

I have not written much the past weekend because of work and social activities, but this weekend I will be working on some older pieces for class and my workshops. I really appreciate all the help I have gotten from readers, poets, and new friends from class.

Balance has been a tricky thing these past weeks. I have been asked to consult with a new kitchen, and we will be making food for local homeless groups. I am sure I can manage it all, I like being busy!

Here is also a great blog on writing- Author Culture has a piece of this week about critiquing others work- How to Offer Beneficial Critiquing by Lynette Bonner.

Jessie also (I would think) has tips on critiquing others works in a professional and courteous manner, and maybe she would consent to guest blog for me on the subject!

Saturday, April 2, 2011

My Genealogy Paths

I have been MIA on here for the past week. Something has been bothering me for a while, and I decided to act upon it. Family heritage...was I Irish, or Scot-Irish? Since my visit with my Aunt Erlene a few years ago and we took a trip to see my family land and last living relatives, I had begun to ask questions about where we originally came from, or who we descended from.. In spite of her short term memory loss I was able to get key information about some of the family names, but needed lots more to begin my search. In my search I discovered my aunts name was not spelled 'Earlene' as I had always thought, but birth records showed the above spelling.

Needless to say, but I am having so much fun! Maybe too much fun (my sister and husband say) discovering who and where I came from. William Eakin started it all- his son changed it to 'Akin', but the first born son kept the original spelling. Many census reports have one or more spelling*. He was brought over on a ship in 1747, after being labled a 'rebel' in the Battle of Culloden-1746. Once in New York he married a fellow Scottish woman, Eleanor McDaniel. His grandsons fought in wars and one was a Reverend. A church still stands in Maury County Tennessee and is credited to the Akin name. That ended when his son came to Texas. Not sure what happened to the Presbyterian influence. My grandfather and grandmother did not attend church, but took my father. He stopped going after his first divorce. My mom's family was Catholic and Pentecostal, which is what I was brought up in. Gosh so much, so much! I saw my grandfather was married to someone before my grandmother, and I saw my dad's ex-wife's name, something all hush hush.

Then there are the Stokers. A family I grew up hearing about. I was always told my looks, humor and strength were that of my great grandmother, Martha Susan. Turns out this branch of my family tree has ties to Virgina and Jamestown, as does my mothers family as well. Which brings me to the Kennon side (my mom), also Scottish. My journey through my mothers family is what surprised me. What happened. My sister and I found ourselves asking that question this week. From riches to rags. Not to mention both sides of the family had from nine to thirteen children. I have so many cousins from Virginia to Tennessee, to North Carolina, and finally in Texas. Phew!

Did I mention my mothers mother's family? Carrol- 'Mulatto' was the final word, and after her great great greats...nothing, well outside of the cousins having married it all went cold. I am guessing slaves, and who had children with white owners. I heard rumors about this from my grandfather, but grannie was not telling. All hush hush, and she was not very nice. My sister, Mary and I had a good laugh about that one. Not because we are ashamed of it, but because my mother and her family were so racist. Maybe because my father was too. I never found the Native American ties on this side of the family either. Maybe they explained the African American heritage away with the tale of Native American blood...who knows!

My moms father's side of the family owned slaves and were in the Confederate Army (Union on the Akin side). I am not surprised. They owned lots of them, along with land in North Carolina. I found list, but only one name was mentioned, a cook is mentioned on the census. I even made a family tree for her (maybe out of guilt), Tennie Tellus, or Tullus, or Telles, or...I found so many variant spellings in the census reports, so I am not sure. Well I hope if Tennie's family are looking, they will see I left a trail for them. She was married to Samuel Tullus, and had five children.

Oddly, Telles was also a name associated with my great grandmother, in parentheses; my dad's mom's mom. Then that trail just went dead, well sort of. Something kept popping up, a Hispanic trail to Mexico for Delia Telles. She did not look like she could have come from Mexico like the father listed. Odd??? Maybe it will pan out.

The Native American heritage I was told about by my father, and his grandfather? Stone cold. Dead in the water. If my great grandfather was indeed Native American, how do I find out? He was born in Kentucky. Only stories floated around. He told my dad his great grandmother was taken by Indians, and the family went after her. She was finally found two years later, and returned. After having a daughter, my grandfathers mom. I saw 'Lightfoot' in that family link, but I will have to take some more time to go in that direction.

That is the problem...this takes lots and lots of time...and even more time in my future. I still need to do my son's fathers family- Dillion/Adams, and my current husband- Stelling/Kane. As I said, what a journey the past two weeks have been. And I still find time to cook, clean, and work. Oh and I have a husband! He works a lot of hours lately, which is why I decided to distract myself with the genealogy quest. My son? Oh he is doing great. He is in Korea teaching with his girlfriend. They are on quite an adventure themselves. I talk to him more now via skype and other than I did when he lived in the states. Funny huh?

And the family names! First of all, Elizabeth was a name that was seen all through the centuries in my families, and on both sides. Mary, my sisters name, did not show up until my great grandmother. I had always wished my name was more exotic, but what can you do? Heh! There were some strange names that did not make it past 1800, and thank goodness. Gave me a few laughs!

Now I have to go begin my days adventure. I am catering a party for thirteen people. Most of the food is done, but I have to finish the scallop ceviche, black beans, and mango masa boats. The chocolate brownie mousse parfaits too. I am not sure why, but when I serve those dinner guest tonight, I will be thinking about the women along the pioneer and other trails who had all those children. Goodness! A lot of mouths to feed.

*I have heard, no real records are out there to indicate this, and I am no expert, am taking a stab here; through my own family history they dropped the 'E' off of the name because of our own (United States) version of the English language, and simplicity. The 'E' provided a longer A sound of Akin in the Scottish tongue...therefore Eakin.

(Above- Scottish Flag of the Highlands, William Eakin's family records/Below- Jamestown emblem, bestowed upon member- Robert Kennon in family records)