Posts tagged ‘poetry’

June 1, 2018

Flying Through Time

by lisa st john

I have been living the writing life for almost 12 months. My time to return from my sabbatical as a high school English teachers draws nigh. Like many things I do, this year has been an experiment.

Can I work all day as a writer (instead of spending it binging television)? Yes. Have I learned from workshops, conferences, and–most importantly–trial and error? Yes. Have I made some progress in publishing as well as writing? Yes. Whew. All good.

Here are some snags:
When I am writing my memoir I am reliving the days, months, years of Kent’s cancer. So I can’t always write memoir all day.

When I am writing memoir I miss writing poetry. When I do write some poetry I feel like I am cheating on the memoir behind its back!

When I look at my calendar I am bewildered at the movement of time.

When I look at what I do all day I realize I won’t have this much time come September.

When I think about time it all revolves around Jack. (More on him in a later blog.)

It’s not all snags.

 

I have learned many things.

-It is okay to have two desks; one for emailing and editing and sending work out, and another one for actual writing.

-It’s okay not to write every day; some days are for reading.

-I can organize all of my information at my website, HERE, like when I am doing a reading or how to buy my chapbook.

-I can collaborate with fabulous artists like Anna Gilmore to create a new environment for my work. See DINNER video below.

-Thinking is writing without commitment. 

-Voice memos on my iPhone are surprising golden nuggets when I bother to listen to them.

-Not leaving the house for a day or two (or three or four) is somehow liberating.

-Finding writing venues at which to read and finding publishers for my poetry is a different Lisa than the Lisa writing the memoir. Sometimes they hang out on the same day, sometimes not. They are going to have to get together soon, though. They have to teach September Full Time Teacher Lisa how to cope. I have every confidence in them.

I have Tweeted and Instagrammed and Facebooked about some of these things that happened, but here is a run-down of the latest.

2Elizabeths published nine of my poems in their first anthology, Volume 1: Love and Romance.

Light: A Journal of Photography & Poetry published my poem, “Of Light and Mornings” in their Spring 2018 Issue (available in both digital and print versions).

Eyedrum Periodically published three of my poems in Issue 17: The Future.

I started a new blog for widowed people called Widows’ Words.

My updated publishing creds are on my website and here on this blog’s home page. What I am most impressed with, that aren’t listed here, are all of my rejections. I save them in an email folder and look at them and think, “I did that. I got that out there.”

This blog will always be about writing and poetry and random thoughts. I am enjoying the world of creative non-fiction though. When those pieces get published I will put them on the website.

Time is moving along at her own pace. I move at mine. Sometimes we meet up. The only thing I am certain of is that I am not done yet.

 

 

 

April 3, 2018

How Blue Can You Go?

by lisa st john

ontology:
1a branch of metaphysics concerned with the nature and relations of being  Ontology deals with abstract entities.
2a particular theory about the nature of being or the kinds of things that have existence

How real are Blue Spaces in terms of being good for us?

blue space is defined as; ‘health-enabling places and spaces, where water is at the centre of a range of environments with identifiable potential for the promotion of human wellbeing’. (“Blue Space Geographies: Enabling Health in Place” Foley and Kistemann).

Of course it seems obvious that looking at water or blue skies makes us feel better, but why? How much better? IMG_1610

According to Dr Saliha Afridi, a clinical psychologist and the managing director of The LightHouse Arabia in Dubai, studies show that spending as little as 15 to 30 minutes in nature can increase positive emotions and the ability to reflect on a life problem. “This is best explained by nature’s effect on physiology – heart rates decrease and blood pressure goes down when people spend time looking at nature. When this happens, we are psychologically in a calmer state,” she explains.
IMG_5819-2867282905-1522773783946.jpg
I like a scientific fact to back up what I already want to believe: the ocean makes me feel as good as I can get. In a recent Widow’s Words blog post, I talk about my connection to the ocean and to my late husband, Kent. There is a purity to the inevitability of waves, a homecoming. I also love the duality of the ocean–beauty and danger, calming and fierce.
Scientists are exploring the idea of blue spaces regarding our health and mental well-being. Groups like BlueHealth and other interdisciplinary research teams are paying more attention to blue spaces.
Here are some of the “what ifs” for me:
A virtual reality headset can put me in the ocean for ten minutes so I feel rejuvenated.
Businesses start giving people “blue” days in addition to sick days.
New stores are created where you can purchase “blue time” in individual IMAX rooms.
Doctors can prescribe “blue time” (and you thought medical marijuana was controversial!)
Urban areas start creating blue parks (intentional water spaces both as horizontal lakes and vertical aquariums). 
Fantasy? Maybe. For now. But the fact that the facts are backing up common wisdom gives me hope. Old wives tales, huh? 

 

 

 

ON MAGRITTE’S THE VOICE OF BLOOD (Originally published in The Ekphrastic Review)

Art evokes the mystery without which the world would not exist ― René Magritte

I think we should listen more to
old wives and their tales.

Learn how not to get caught in a storm             (of fear),
not to enter the                                                       (wrong)
doors,
how to avoid the falling stars                               (or catch a ride).

How to let go                                                            (and know)
when trees are silent they are free.

The voice of blood is captured in the geometry of trees and the lie of open windows.

Meandering greys bend in
moonlight’s fortune-telling whispers.          Listen.

There is no color without light.

Listen
to the moonlight shape our
monochromatic truth.

Listen, old wives, to our prayers for fairytale endings ever,
ever,
after
grey is washed in morning, graffiti of the light revealed.

 
January 9, 2018

Gifts

by lisa st john

“Who is that pretty mask for?”IMG_0018
“For me.”
“You can give yourself presents?”
“Yes. We have to give ourselves presents.”
“Why?”
“To tell the universe how grateful we are.”

“I’m telling Santa.”

If giving feels so good, why don’t we give ourselves gifts more often? And why do we give people gifts on their birthdays? We should give the gifts to their moms, no?

ɡift/
noun
1. a thing given willingly to someone without payment; a present. “a Christmas gift”
synonyms: present, handout, donation, offering, bestowal, bonus, award, endowment; More
2. a natural ability or talent. “he has a gift for comedy”
synonyms:talent, flair, aptitude, facility, knack, bent, ability, expertise, capacity, capability, faculty; More

IMG_0020

I am Cleo, and I will be around 21 years old this August.

My old cat wakes up sometimes and yowls like a B horror movie beast. I think she wakes up and wonders where she is, who she is, and why she is still here. But what do I know? Cats can get senile I am told. I give her the gift of gabapentin; she’s lucky I don’t put it in my coffee instead.

The “gift-giving season” is a diabolical (irony intended) stressor. So this year I gave my family flowers. Bouqs was a hit for out of town people, but I like my local florist best. They are artists (gifted, if you will). The Green Cottage is like no other florist/store/magic place. For them it’s not just about making money–it’s about sharing beauty; and that is a gift we can give ourselves every single day. Like Blake said, it’s all about seeing … “a World in a Grain of Sand / And a Heaven in a Wild Flower.” The following two images are both extraordinarily beautiful to me. Why? In “The Neuroscience of Beauty,” authors Steven Brown and Xiaoqing Gao say that:
As much as philosophers like to believe that our brains contain a specialized system for the appreciation of artworks, research suggests that our brain’s responses to a piece of cake and a piece of music are in fact quite similar.

Louie Schwartzberg says that “We protect what we fall in love with.” Watch this video and see what he means.

 

 

The gifts we give ourselves are right here, right now.

I am on the hunt for the perfect, secular word for “grateful” and/or “blessed.” Please let me know if you find it. “Lucky” implies I have nothing to do with it, and I don’t buy that. I choose to see a bend of turquoise because if I don’t notice the magic of the world then I have nothing to give others. I send money to students in Mexico not because I feel guilty for some American white (ish) privilege reason. I give because I can. A new pair of shoes for me is a semester of college for them. I have all the Crocs I need.

My late husband, Kent E. St. John, used to get his college buddies to go out with him even if they had no cash. He’d say, “If I have enough for one beer, I have enough for two.”

With everything going on in the world, we need more gifts for ourselves and each other. We need humor

and music and art and gratefulness and dessert before dinner and swimming and snuggling and reading and cookies and things. Let’s share them. Let’s Tweet our gifts as well as our arsenals.  Right now, we need both.

 

You can buy my chapbook of poetry HERE at Finishing Line Press. This is Genevieve. She is asymmetrical but still wants treats.

September 8, 2017

What is There to Know?

by lisa st john

There is no other system that responds to aerodynamics and fluid dynamics quite like shifting sand.

Physicists have formulae for the behavior of solids, liquids, and gases but do not have an adequate scientific description of granular motion. Granular behavior doesn’t fit neatly into a single physical theory.

 

Long Beach Island

Why do you like games so much?

Because when I’m playing Bocce or Canasta or Scrabble I know there are rules, and if I play by these rules, with a little luck there is a chance I can win. Unlike real life, where you can do everything right and still get screwed.

 

Scrabble tile lost to the bushes

Games have a science behind them. They are analytical and organized, unlike shifting sand. But the beauty of science is that just because something doesn’t fit into a neat little theory is not to say that we know nothing about it. Knowing is not the same as universal truth. Science is based on change. Did the Sun and planets all revolve around the Earth back in Ptolemy’s time? Of course not. But was it “true” (scientifically) back then? Sure.

As artist Tim Minchin says, “Science adjusts it’s views based on what’s observed/Faith is the denial of observation so that Belief can be preserved./If you show me/ That, say, homeopathy works, Then I will change my mind” (Storm).

I do not mean to discount belief. We must believe that sand moves in mysterious ways in order for us to know it as a fact. We can’t know something and not believe it. Aside from Gettier, knowledge must be justified, true AND believable. This is the logical analysis of knowledge.

Logic is important to me because without it, all we have is guesswork and belief. Logic isn’t always easy though. Take the Gambler’s Fallacy. If I throw two dice ten times and I don’t get a 7 then I am “due” to get a 7 soon, right? Wrong. The dice do not know (or remember) what the previous throws were. Every time you throw it will still be  6/36 chance that you will roll a 7. We tend to believe that we are “due” to get a 7 because it’s instinctual; it’s intuitive. Why do we believe weird things? Watch this 14 minute fun video:

Why am I going on about all of this? Because of fake news and social media and a HUGE lack of scientific, logical thought in our world today. We need sites like Snopes (no, we are not putting Robert E. Lee on the $20 bill) and Politifact (no, Katy Perry did not convince ISIS to lay down their guns) because we aren’t taught to think critically, and it’s a critical time to start.

We need knowledge.

We also need belief.

Crash Davis does not, “believe in Quantum Physics when it comes to matters of the heart,” nor should he. What does he believe in, you ask?

“Well, I believe in the soul, the cock, the pussy, the small of a woman’s back, the hangin’ curveball, high fiber, good Scotch, that the novels of Susan Sontag are self-indulgent, over-rated crap. I believe Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone. I believe there oughta be a constitutional amendment outlawing AstroTurf and the designated hitter. I believe in the sweet spot, soft-core pornography, opening your presents Christmas morning rather than Christmas Eve. And I believe in long, slow, deep, soft, wet kisses that last three days” (Bull Durham).

It’s a great writing/mindfulness exercise. Rewrite Crash’s speech for yourself. I tried it. Here it is:

http://bovano.com/

I believe in double rainbows, the cock, the cunt, the wonder of the universe, the buzz of hummingbirds, real ice cream, red wine, that the poetry of my teenage years was angst-ridden garbage. I believe that Trump did “grab pussy.” I believe there should be a constitutional amendment making rape a high crime like treason and punishable by death. I believe in true love, soulmates, fuck-buddies and that only christians should celebrate Christmas. And I believe in the power of art.

What if we balanced every minute of mainstream media watching with an equal amount of poetry reading?

What if we didn’t comment on social media as much as we danced in our kitchens?

I would like to know.

 

Buy my poetry chapbook, Ponderings, HERE.

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… .

img_5253

 

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!

img_5256

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

img_5212

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!

img_5247

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.

img_5264

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

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

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.

May 30, 2016

Some Things I Know

by lisa st john

 

I may not know the difference between a rosebush and raspberries, admittedly. But there are some things I do know.

DSCF1086

I know rain at an outdoor celebration staved off by kindness.
I know the universal joy of sharing a meal with the blurred line of friends and family.

I may not know why Pi can do what it does, or why ferns speak fractals and they, in turn, speak chaos.

But I know the blissful tears of the father and the harmonious tears of the mother. I know that the tenuous strands of young love spin and weave, creating the strength of an unbreakable union.

With the multitude of horrible things in this world—things I do not want to know—I am indebted to the goddess of perspective for allowing me to also see the first hummingbird of the season, and to hear the “wild rumpus” of worshipped children.

And if there is a secular word for “blessed” then please, someone tell me. Because I am.

I know pain, but also gracious healing. I know fear, but also comfort. I know the darker side of turmoil and the gentle light of peace. And right now, in this moment, I am alive with all I know.

DSCF1082

Ponderings is available at Finishinglinepress or you can get a signed copy from me directly 15.00. paypal.me/lisastjohn

May 1, 2016

One of Those Days

by lisa st john

Maybe it’s the rain. Maybe it’s my internal work clock (quarter four has begun). Maybe I really, honestly, thought I would get my sabbatical. Strike that last one. That would mean I no longer expect the worst in order to appreciate what I actually get. That hasn’t changed. Has it?IMG_4422

I could have gone to a writer’s retreat this weekend but I was beyond tired. I am glad I stayed home to rest but at the same time I am angry for not pushing myself.

Pushy Me versus Tired Me: A Conversation

“How are you going to be a writer AND a teacher if you can’t muster up the energy to drive four hours to Boston?”
“My hematocrit was 33! They wouldn’t let me donate blood. I must be anemic again.”
“Blah, blah, blah… .”
“I just got back from a long weekend in Cincitucky
           “Did you get any writing done?”
“No, but it was such a beautiful time—it felt so good to hang out with my son and see him thriving in his adult world and—
“Travel is good. Travel is fodder for writing.”
“Gee, thanks. I am going to Isla Mujeres the day after graduation, and to Provincetown in July, and to San Miguel de Allende in August and LBI after that and–
“What the fuck are you running from?”
“I am not running from. I’m running towards.”

Anaïs Nin said that we write to “taste life twice, in the moment and in retrospect.” Maybe Iraintulip2’m not ready. Maybe I’m too ready. Maybe Stephen King was correct about writing and teaching (not compatible). We’ll just have to see.

Until then, I live off the crumbs of what I can muster. A blog here, a poetry reading there, the Chronogram Word Café series, The Bard College Institute for Writing and Thinking, you know. Here and there.

  1. POETRY READING Friday, May 6, 6 pm in the Reference Room of Stone Ridge Library. Join us as Tina Barry, Patricia Carlin and Lisa St. John read from their latest works. A reception will follow the readings!
  2. TRAVEL, write, rinse, repeat… .

p.s. (Was SO PROUD to be a part of Chronogram’s Poetry Roundup. Thank you Ninraintulipa Shengold, for your fab review. My favorite line: “Ponderings debuts a nonpareil poetic voice, lithe, quirky, and fanged.” I’ve always wanted fangs.)

Snippet from a poem that doesn’t quite exist yet:

I will buy the $110.00 bra without a coupon—without even checking with Ebates. Feel the power? The dollars I

give

away don’t count somehow. This much to the students in Isla Mujeres whose mother is homeless; this much to GOFUNDME so Mrs. ___ can stay home with her husband while he dies; this much to Amanda Palmer’s latest Kickstarter because without art what’s the fucking point?

This phase is supposed to be over. Hospice therapist said so.

Ponderings is available at Finishinglinepress or you can get a signed copy from me directly 15.00. paypal.me/lisastjohn

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