July 31, 2017

Art is My Religion

by lisa st john

Art is our new religion and museums our cathedrals.” Theodore Zeldin

Art is everywhere.

This is not a new idea. Alain de Botton’s beautiful talk “Art as Therapy” expands on Zeldin’s idea. He says that art’s function is in “giving us hope.” It reminds us that we are “not alone in our suffering.” Sounds theological doesn’t it? Recently, I realized I have a religion after all: art.

I got a last minute invitation to an event by The Secret City (“Sincere and fabulous community celebrations of the everyday creative life. With outfits”) recently, and it was nothing less than … spiritual. Artists getting together and

Chris Wells

sharing what they do with the rest of us, but also engaging us, inviting us to join them.

 

This interactive event included music by the Secret City Band, dance by Energy Dance Company, guided breathing, a shared ice cream treat by Cashewtopia, an amazing musical interaction by Sxip Shirey, a powerful a cappella protest song by Prana, fabulous memoir excerpt reading by Chris Wells, the most wondrous “Ukulele Anthem” by Amanda Palmer, and visual art provided by Martyn Thompson: meditation, music, singing, mingling, recitation…sounds like

 

AFP

church. It felt much better than any church-going I have ever experienced. It was a truly joyful celebration. We weren’t celebrating our union with a separate-from-us god; we were celebrating art and artists and the harmony that our union with them can provide. We need this. We need to connect with art so we know there are others like us. We are not alone.

 

“In times of dread, artists must never choose to remain silent.” –Toni Morrison

 

This brings me to how we connect to the arts. What can we do to promote and enjoy and partake in the magical making of things? One way is Patreon. We do not have to be insanely rich Medicis to support the arts. With crowdsourcing and gofundme and kickstarter, indiegogo, et cetera, we can all make a difference in the world; we can all be patrons. I give a little + you give a little + someone else gives a little = an artist has the money to record an album. That’s about as mathematical as I get, so … .

Let’s be kind.

Let’s share art,

and let’s be fucking joyful.

July 15, 2017

My Atheist Soul

by lisa st john

Sophia is becoming more and more alive right now.”Susan Tiberghien

 

 

So much is possible. I am younger than when I arrived at the International Women’s Writing Guild Conference.

I am not alone. I am not alone in my own energy. I can connect to the whole whenever I am willing to listen.

I am not alone. I am part of the greater soul; keeping that door closed is no longer possible. I weaken the impact of anger by giving it voice. Writing.

But this is not soul work exclusively.

This is art.

In the joyous atmosphere of the IWWG, I opened myself up to the possibility of success (an ever-changing definition) in writing. Being among these powerful women gave me back a sense of power and purpose and connection.

It is difficult to express the true impact of these women’s workshops on my life, but I have to try.

Maureen Murdock’s workshop reminded me that, “Every woman has to learn where her true source of validation is.” (The Heroine’s Journey: Woman’s Quest for Wholeness)

Susan Tiberghien taught me that, “With [our] words [we] become light bearers in the world.” (One Year to a Writing Life)

Marj Hahne connected me to my poet’s voice through art, and Myra Shapiro rekindled a light within me.
Carren Strock showed me that I am not limited to one form.
Dorothy Randall Gray illuminated me—hugged me from the inside out, and Alyce Smith Cooper brought me home to my ancestors. Mary Beth Coudal smiled me alive, and Lynne Barrett brought me down to earth. April Eberhardt opened new windows and got me to see through them.

The laughter echoing through Muhlenberg College resonated the halls. The tears, for we need them too, were shared and new writing was born. I am excited for next year’s conference, for my writing, for art in general, and life majestic. Thank you IWWG. 

You can buy my chapbook of poetry, Ponderings, HERE.

July 7, 2017

Changing Culture

by lisa st john

“A nation’s culture resides in the hearts and in the soul of its people.” –Mahatma Gandhi

 

You don’t want this flag pin, do you?

Yes! It will be perfect on my new jean jacket.

Ugh.

What? It’s MY country. No semi-literate government official is going to change that.

 

I love that I don’t have to wear a veil. I love that if a woman WANTS to wear a veil, she can. This is the “land of the free,” so now it’s time once again to reiterate, rise, and remind this American Culture that women are people too.

Don’t “believe” in abortion? Uhm…it exists. Don’t believe in having one? Don’t. It has existed since well before this country was “discovered” by Europeans, and it will exist as long as women can get pregnant.

Reproductive freedom is just one issue, however, in this sexist rape-culture we have found ourselves in. “No need to call yourself a feminist—you are a human being or a sexist human being.” I don’t know where this quote came from (hard to attribute memes—someone should come up with an app for that) but it resonates with me. Our language is more than a reflection of culture; language creates culture. We have the power to change it.

I watch my friends’ daughters and sons playing side by side in soccer, and wonder what they will feel like when teams split into boys and girls. Reviving Ophelia and Raising Cain will help us understand stereotypes and (hopefully) how to raise centered and loving human beings, but what will help the girl who is (suddenly) shunned by her friends (for either being too girly or not girly enough)? How can we Keep Her in the Game?

Be careful what you say, my brothers and sisters. Little girls are listening. Can we change the conversation?

“Wow! You look GREAT! How did you get so thin?”
Yes. Yes we can.
“Wow! You look GREAT! How did you get so healthy?”

We have the language; therefore, we have the power. It might seem like a tiny thing sometimes.
e.g.: “I don’t mean it like THAT. I have lots of gay friends.”
“Yes, but when you say, ‘that’s so gay’ it really turns ‘gay’ into a negative thing.”
“I guess so… .”

 

Tiny things make ripples. Language reverberates and mutates and is recreated every day. It happens fast. When was the last time you said (or heard), “Groovy, man”?

Next post: The Artist’s Role

 

Comment with your favorite sources for changing our culture.

Just the Start of a List*:

She’s Beautiful When She’s Angry is an honest and important history of the Women’s Rights Movement.

Women’s Voices Now “promotes the free expression of women’s struggles for civil, economic, political, and gender rights worldwide. Through the power of film [they] inspire and challenge … viewers to change the world.”

The Gina Davis Institute on Gender in Media: If she can see it, she can be it. It is the “only research-based organization working within the media and entertainment industry to engage, educate, and influence content creators and audiences about the importance of eliminating unconditional bias, highlighting gender balance, challenging stereotypes, creating role models and scripting a wide variety of strong female characters in entertainment and media that targets and influences children ages 11 and under.”

 

*Speaking of lists:
“Racism isn’t born, folks, it’s taught. I have a two-year-old son. You know what he hates? Naps! End of list.” –Denis Leary

I just love him. Check out his important foundation, The Leary Firefighters Foundation.

July 5, 2017

Little Things

by lisa st john

Very little is needed to make a happy life; it is all within yourself, in your way of thinking.

-Marcus Aurelius

It really is all about the little things. Cigarette machines repurposed as little Art machines, for example. Art-O-Mat is part of The Cosmopolitan’s fabulous, changing Art Program. This is only one of the many wonderful things about this hotel–the only one on the strip (I believe) to have balconies. Las Vegas is opulent and ostentatious, welcoming and lonely.

The nighttime lights of this city laugh at the vast desert, but the mountains hush the neon into submission at sunrise. Oh, Duality.

 

 

Back to little things.

Here is a brief list of little but magnificent.

-campfire light in the backyard
-roses and daisies together in a vase
-watching your son live a life all his own, beautiful as his birth almost thirty-one years ago
Halo Top ice cream
-landing on your feet again
-loving your tribe and feeling the love back
-Art
-romping dogs
-just…landing

 There will be time; oh yes Mr. Eliot. This year there will be gorgeous amounts of time.

sabbatical (adj.) 1640s, “of or suitable for the Sabbath,” from Latin sabbaticus,

from Greek sabbatikos “of the Sabbath” (see Sabbath). Noun meaning “a year’s absence granted to researchers” (originally one year in seven, to university professors) is from 1934, short for sabbatical year, etc., first recorded 1886 (the thing itself is attested from 1880, at Harvard), related to sabbatical year (1590s) in Mosaic law, the seventh year, in which land was to remain untilled and debtors and slaves released.

And where is my metaphorical untilled land? Who are the debtors and slaves of my heart?

This too, I will explore. Adding to the little list: gratefulness.

 

I just landed. I’m a little rusty. It’s time to let the writing genie back in (or at least unlock the door).

 

January 22, 2017

So, I took a walk…

by lisa st john

So I was taking a walk with 500,000 of my friends the other day… .

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This is part one of several blog posts about the Women’s March.

 

Right now, it’s been less than 48 hours since I took a walk. I have a poet’s brain so I’ll give you a few fragments since it will take more than 48 hours to digest and process the beauty of January 21st 2017.

 

SHOW ME WHAT A FEMINIST LOOKS LIKE!

THIS IS WHAT A FEMINIST LOOKS LIKE!

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Beautiful men from newborns to the elderly, holding their signs, hugging their women, walking. Standing. BEING feminists.

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SHOW ME WHAT DEMOCRACY LOOKS LIKE!

THIS IS WHAT DEMOCRACY LOOKS LIKE!

 

We are here. We are here together. We are holding signs and singing, “This Land is Your Land.” We are chanting. We are smiling at each other and giving what is needed and taking what is offered. We are holding each others’ babies and wiping each others’ noses and taking each others’ pictures and laughing at this…feeling…this connection. We are here. We are safe. We are powerful.

 

SHOW ME WHAT AMERICA LOOKS LIKE!

THIS IS WHAT AMERICA LOOKS LIKE!

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Pink PussyHats. EVERYWHERE. Men in trees with rainbow flags. Three generations of women marching together. Chants of, “BLACK LIVES MATTER!” Chants of “TRANS LIVES MATTER!” People in homemade vagina outfits (not as easy as it sounds to make…). People in rainbows. People in pink pussy hats. People draped in signs and symbols. People SEEING each other. People born three months ago. People who have been alive for more than 80 years. People in wheelchairs and people in high heels. People just BEING together as human people.

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Oh, if there are gods and goddesses they were there. They blessed us all. I do not tear up at Hallmark cards or sad movies. But yesterday I wept. Today the tears of power are still falling, and I hope I never stop crying again.

Watch the speeches.

See the pictures.

These links will be old before I hit POST. But there are others. There always will be. We are here. We will not be silenced…ever…again.

December 10, 2016

More links than content, but isn’t everything connected?

by lisa st john

Some things happened recently that made me remember that not everything is okay. Not everyone is okay. And I am not even talking about the elections. I teach English Language Arts in high school. B…

Source: More links than content, but isn’t everything connected?

December 10, 2016

More links than content, but isn’t everything connected?

by lisa st john

censorship-quotes-85

Some things happened recently that made me remember that not everything is okay. Not everyone is okay. And I am not even talking about the elections. I teach English Language Arts in high school. But really, I teach kids. I try and teach kids how to be good adults. I do not always succeed. And that knowledge hurts, because I forget sometimes. We all have choices.

But I have noticed over the years that physical pain can take me away like fucking Calgon. So thanks, Doc, for the cortisone shot in my thumb that brought me to tears. Yes, there is crap and Trump and Orwellian cabinet positions but there is also Art.

I can go an hour south and see Modigliani at the Met or Clyfford Still at MoMA. I can re-read American Gods (again) and visit Roland in his Dark Tower quest again and again.

Until they close the museums.

Until they burn the books.

orwellian

I can go hear live music like the amazing Joanna Teters and Amanda Palmer. I can go to poetry readings and workshops like Word Café, and I can even occasionally get published (thank you Chronogram).

 

Until they close the theaters and the clubs.

Until they round up the artists and intellectuals.

The fear of being helpless is dangerous. We are not weak. We are more connected to each other than any time in human history. When we feel powerless, we can go to real places and virtual places and listen to each other, and share silly cat videos and remember to smile and to see.

My mantra for today: Make Art. SEE. Join. Don’t give up. Don’t go back.

And we will not go back (to the kitchen or the closet or the back of the bus). Will we?

 

This is just a little list. There is SO MUCH MORE out there.

American Civil Liberties Union
LAMBDA Legal
Planned Parenthood
NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund
NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund
Human Rights Campaign
Human Rights Campaign

 

Look at the beautiful things going on in the world that we can ALL be a part of!

Crowdsourcing, Crowdfunding so, so many.

 

See you in D.C.

pussy                                      a new poem 

August 28, 2016

Nesting into Fall (or) those philosophy books I took out of the library were worth every late fee.

by lisa st john

“I believe you are your work. Don’t trade the stuff of your life, time, for nothing more than dollars. That’s a rotten bargain.” – Rita Mae Brown   Nesting is that weird thing that…

Source: Nesting into Fall (or) those philosophy books I took out of the library were worth every late fee.

August 28, 2016

Nesting into Fall (or) those philosophy books I took out of the library were worth every late fee.

by lisa st john

“I believe you are your work. Don’t trade the stuff of your life, time, for nothing more than dollars. That’s a rotten bargain.” Rita Mae Brown

philosophy

 

Nesting is that weird thing that happens to some pregnant women towards the end of their nine-month ordeal, glow-time, happiest fatness, hemorrhoid awakening, pleasetakeitoutnow uhm, term. But teachers get it too, and it starts in August. Sadly, New York State doesn’t start school until after Labor Day (I’d much rather have June off than August) so I am getting the nesting urge a bit late this year.

I am cleaning and filling the hummingbird feeders, catching up on all laundry, emptying sand as best as I can from the car, looking for clothes that don’t show cleavage, stocking up on everything from cat food to toilet paper, and OH how I wish I could pee ahead of time. I’d save up, like, thirty pees just for September. Urinating any old time you have to go is a blessed luxury; it’s one of the best things about summer break. Truly.

Don’t believe me? Ask a teacher.

Rookie Teacher First Day Worries:
What if the kids don’t like me?
What if the kids won’t listen to me?
What if I am boring?
What if the principal comes in while I’m teaching?
What if a kid acts out or misbehaves?
What if I am no good at this?

Experienced Teacher First Day Worries:
I’m not here to make friends. Where’s the free coffee?
How do I listen to (and learn) the names of 50 kids named Megan and 80 named Tyler?
What if the kids are boring and won’t talk and just want to take tests and stuff?
I hope the principal comes in while I am teaching; I could use help with this year’s group.
Unless someone has a knife and tries to use it NO ONE is leaving this room.

I hope I can sprinkle some love of poetry on them while I teach them how to be good humans.

Empathy 101 anyone? That degree in Comparative Literature can sit in the back for now.

Goodbye long, slow mornings. Goodbye midnight (I’ll probably see you in a week or two while I reach for the insomnia pills). Goodbye drinks before five. Wait. Scratch that.

See ya’ Summer. Thanks for never really leaving me. I will tuck you in well. We’ll share some sweet dreams with Fall when she wakes up. Until then, I have some teenage minds to warp.

ponderingsYou can buy my chapbook, Ponderings, HERE at Finishing Line Press.

July 23, 2016

Mystery and Majesty

by lisa st john

DSCF1564

There are horrors all over the world. It’s as if the news just smells of death. Part of me wants to delete my AP News app. Part of me knows I need it to … just know. But knowing doesn’t mean bowing down. Knowing doesn’t mean giving in to only a small part of the reality we share.

Sometimes knowing means cathartic, empathetic crying. Sometimes knowing means sending supplies, or helping a crowd funder, or signing a petition, or starting a petition, or fighting back. Knowing also means not forgetting.

If I forget to run outside at the possibility of a rainbow after a summer storm, what am I knowing then? If I forget to smile at sun-blonded boys diving in the sand to make the catch, or to laugh as a puppy braves the waves in sheer puppy-joy excitement, then what do I know?

The poetry of the Counting Crows says it well. Sometimes there is, “…the feeling that it’s all a lot of oysters but no pearls/All at once you look across a crowded room/To see the way that light attaches to a girl… .”

“Survival is insufficient”

(“Survival Instinct Star Trek: Voyager qtd. Station Eleven).

Jack and Amanda Palmer with Thor and Friends put on a fabulous show at Le Poisson Rouge Wednesday night. In answer to her unspoken questions, all I can say is that we need to keep making art. Without art, what’s the point?

Remember the animal cracker scene from Armageddonanimal_cracker

Grace Stamper: Baby, do you think it’s possible that anyone else in the world is doing this very same thing at this very same moment?

AJ: I hope so, otherwise what the hell are we trying to save? (Armageddon)

We need to remember things like:
-The majesty of whales right beneath the boat who come up to breathe with us.
-inevitable sunrises
-soft breezes
-libraries
Modigliani

Beauty is here–maybe not on the surface all the time, but it’s here. Babies are being born and people are still falling in love. Life is a lot like whale watching. You look out at the sea waiting for a glimpse of the magic and your heart knows it’s always there but we don’t always see it because we don’t take the time to look.

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