Posts tagged ‘women’

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

 

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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.

December 10, 2016

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

by lisa st john

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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 

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.

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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.

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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

February 6, 2016

What’s Wrong with My Head?

by lisa st john

“You live too much in your own head,” she said.

I am still trying to understand what that means. Where else do I have to go?

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Ken Robinson explains that university professors, “look upon their body as a form of transport for their heads.” Why is that so bad?

I like the inside of my head—my mind. It’s safe there. I have friends there.

When I had my first kiss at age12 (yuck), I could go and complain to Meg. Any girl who can travel through wrinkles in time would understand.

When I had an abortion at age 16 I could go to Narnia and snuggle deep into Aslan’s fur. I had nowhere else to go.

My mind let’s me remember swimming in Isla Mujeres or walking through Central Park or rocking in my hammock. But spaces are not places and inside spaces are more difficult to navigate than outside spaces. So it’s not about where I am, it’s about where my mind is.

I can walk and walk and be back in Guanajuato when I was twenty-something traveling with the love of my life. And he was/is alive.

But it’s not just about confusion or comfort or memory. Isn’t it just one more place to travel? Not only can I go to the past, I can go to the future. Like AFP’s song, “In My Mind,” I can circle around to the almost-or-will-be places. Why not? I can spend a few hours visiting Future Lisa as she finally writes that novel or goes dogsledding in Alaska or becomes a grandmother or buys a house in Mexico. But after those couple of hours, I cannot tell you whom (who sounds better) Present Lisa was sitting next to on the train. Is that so bad?

I will never truly understand the phrase, “I’m bored.” I have never been bored. I don’t know what that means. Of course, I can define the word bored (lacking interest in a current activity? unoccupied?). But I am too busy wondering:

  • If Lolita came to life and wrote an answer to Nabokov, would it be as an adult looking back or in the voice of her child-self?
  • If we kept cats awake, would anything about them change other than their grumpiness?
  • Who is really the closest to my version of Sherlock Holmes? Benedict Cumberbatch, Johnny Lee Miller or Robert Downey?
  • If I could go into the world of American Gods, would I want to be Shadow or be his mate?

 

All I know right now is that when I Google the phrase, “too much in your own head” I get over 80,000 hits and too many of them are self-help garbage sites. I haven’t yet figured out what’s wrong with living in my head. Maybe I will walk some more and ponder the movement of light. IMG_3958

 

 

 

“Our minds are all we have. They are all we’ve ever had. And they are all we can offer others.” Sam Harris 

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You can visit my author page at Amazon HERE.

You can also buy by book of poetry, Ponderings, from Finishing Line Press.

September 15, 2015

Two for the Price of One

by lisa st john

 

Two for the price of one. What if I only want one?

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Life or death; prosperity or poverty; winter or summer; light or dark—no. We get both, not either or. As King Lear says, “I have taken too little care of this.” Tom o’ Bedlam may not be my problem to “take care” of, but my mindset sure is. Leave it to Shakespeare to create a “semi-apocalyptic” world hundreds of years ago. My own chaos is never black and/or white. Whose is? The glass isn’t half empty OR half full; it’s both. Paradox or no, it’s both. Maybe there are two of Schrödinger’s cats, but that’s a question for another blog post.

When I Google “two” I get “Two player games.” By the way, Google (the noun) doesn’t want us using Google (the transitive verb) unless we really mean we are using their search engine. I think that’s hilarious. As if I would stop saying, “I need to Xerox that handout,” or “Please get me a Kleenex.” Humph. Who do they think they are trying to control language? Good luck. Not going to happen. The word “too” gets me to ToonTown, and “to” is, of course, “To Kill a Mockingbird.” (Not “How to Kill a Mockingbird” unless, maybe you are one of Schrödinger’s cats.)

But if it’s about “and” instead of “or” why are questions like the following still coming up? Can we be both a mother and an artist? (Why don’t men have to ask this question?) Follow that last link to Amanda Palmer’s awesome open letter. Can’t mouse back over there? Try here. It’s worth a read. Kimya Dawson knows. Virginia Woolf knew (before she put stones in her pocket anyway). I guess we all know it’s possible We could get all existential (slash absurdist) over it and realize that, “What is called a reason for living is also an excellent reason for dying,” but Camus wasn’t a Goddess. What the fuck did he know about “and?” Women know “and” inside and out. lilygoddess

“Would you like to feed your child or get some sleep?”
Uhm…and.
“Would you like to have a job or stay home with your kid?”
Again…and.
“Are you depressed or joyful?”
Uh…yes.

I want to look both in and out of my windows. It’s not easy being human.

missy looking out

 

 

 

 

 

 

You can still buy my poetry book Ponderings, HERE.

May 3, 2015

Tip the Scales

by lisa st john

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“Why do you like gardening?” she asked.

“Because I’m not serious about it. Because it’s my own tangible metaphor.”

When I feel like killing, there are weeds to pull.
When I feel like changing, there are shrubs to move.
When I feel like dreaming, there are seeds to plant.

When I feel like crying, there are seedlings that need homes.

And when I just feel like letting all the images of the days sink in, I sit around and look at it all. Then, hopefully, I write.

I dig out a nasty raspberry invader and see a sprouting bleeding heart and I am reminded of the girls on the beach last summer. Looking longingly at the older girls with bigger, prouder breasts the younger ones, with their newly shaved legs, saunter by trying to look aimless. But then the same longing look falls on the little girls building a sandcastle. Their shoulders are bare because the straps just don’t matter—the building matters. Their sandy, matted hair falls wherever it wants. They don’t need mousse. And the in-between girls want both. And I want to tell them they are already both.

When I feel like shaking people up…well, I haven’t found a gardening exercise for that yet. We take so much for granted. An amazing documentary about the feminist movement, She’s Beautiful When She’s Angry, shook me up—woke me up. I remember my older sisters burning their bras and going to rallies. My students and I live in a world paved by these women, and we forget.

My mother was very proud of having participated in suffrage marches around Chicago, and when I was a little girl she would always take me with her to vote. I decided later on that the two emancipators of women were the vote and birth control…” Virginia Whitehill

The feminists of the 60’s forgot the suffragists, and now we have forgotten the revolutionary women who forged Title IX (usually we think of Title IX in terms of sports, but it also ensures equal access to higher education like law school). The entire world is better because of the Women’s Liberation Movement. To paraphrase the film, “The Supreme Court didn’t hand us Roe v. Wade, individual women fought for it.” It’s 2015 and we are losing.

But somewhere along the road the word “feminism” got a bad rap, and our future is going to pay for it.

Now that I am all shook up—what to do? So I made a list.

Educate. Talk. The Equal Rights Amendment has not yet been passed. It’s three sentences long.

Check out places like:

Ms. Foundation for Women

Center for Reproductive Rights

List of Supporters of the E.R.A.

Women Organized to Resist and Defend

Feminist.com

Listen to more Aretha Franklin and Janis Joplin and Amanda Palmer and Adele and Ricki Lee Jones.

Love the men and boys around you and let them know that they are as necessary to this movement as any woman. Be proud to call yourself a feminist regardless of your gender.

p.s. (If you are male or female or non-binary and you are against abortion, then don’t fucking have one; just know that abortion is an equal rights issue, a health issue.)

PLEASE buy my first chapbook, Ponderings. In case you did plan to purchase a copy but haven’t gotten around to it yet– now would be a propitious time to do it.

If you have signed up for a copy already I THANK YOU and hope you enjoy it. They will be shipping in July 2015.

You can click this link, or go to the website athttp://www.finishinglinepress.com/ (new releases) or send a check to:
Finishing Line Books PO Box 1626 Georgetown, KY 40324

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April 30, 2015

Poetry is a Deserved and Necessary Extravagance

by lisa st john

PoetryIsTheShadowCastByOurStreetlightImaginationsByLawrenceFerlinghettiInJackKerouacAlley

For women, then, poetry is not a luxury. It is a vital necessity of our existence. It forms the quality of the light within which we predicate our hopes and dreams toward survival and change, first made into language, then into idea, then into more tangible action.
Poetry is the way we help give name to the nameless so it can be thought. The farthest external horizons of our hopes and fears are cobbled by our poems, carved from the rock experiences of our daily lives. (
Audre Lorde)

The workshop guru said we must fight. Poetry is dying because we over-test the students. “Where is the short story? Where are the poems in your curriculum?” she demands.

I teach high school students. I try and also integrate the language arts. I cannot do a poetry unit for the same reason that I can’t really buy into Black History Month. Poetry is embedded in all my units. Black history is American history, isn’t it? Do I wait to teach the syncopation of Langston Hughes until February? Do I hold off on Zora Neale Hurston or Toni Morrison until “their month” arrives? How do you read Frankenstein without reading Percy Bysshe Shelley or looking at the paintings of William Blake? How do you read Tim O’Brien without writing collage and found poetry? I guess I m not good at separating the arts into little egg cartons. Eggs are too easily broken.

So I go to writing workshops like Nina Shengold’s Word Cafe, and rejoice in the publication and popularity of Chronogram (in print no less). And I nod in understanding when Gretchen Primack describes poetic form as a “lattice for your roses.”

I smile at the incredulity of teachers when they find out my oh-so-optional Poetry Elective (pass/fail—no credit) is full.

I laugh a full belly-laugh when a students says, “Look at that kid—he looks like a purple crayon!” And then I tell the student that he has the start of a poem.

I take them on field trips to hear poets like Tina Chang at SUNY Ulster. I am thrilled when they buy her book or want a picture. Who says poets cannot be celebrities?

When I Google the phrase “21st century poetry” I get 11,200,000 hits. That’s not so bad. Google used to be a number spelled googol and then it was a noun and now it’s a verb. Poetry used to be oral, sung; it changed to include the written, recited, slammed, recorded (audio and visual), animated, mashed, digitized. The word “poetry” comes from the Greek, meaning “to create.”

It’s not going away any time soon. I need poetry like I need cooked food. If I only ate grass, I’d be a sheep.

My first chapbook, Ponderings, is being published by Finishing Line Press. In case you did plan to purchase a copy but haven’t gotten around to it yet– now would be a propitious time to do it.

The number of copies sold before May 8th determines the size of the pressrun, which explains this gentle reminder.

If you have signed up for a copy already I THANK YOU and hope you enjoy it. They will be shipping in July 2015.

You can click this link, or go to the website at http://www.finishinglinepress.com/ (new releases) or send a check to:
Finishing Line Books PO Box 1626 Georgetown, KY 40324

I wrote the following poem at a Word Cafe Workshop with a collaboration of teaching and writing and not separating in mind.

“Sonnet for Adam: Denied Donation”

I would leave off a line for you,
not a whole couplet, obviously, but—
a line. Oh Adam, you are not the first.
So many bled—ahead—to pave this way.

At least you had the guts to tell the truth.
You say, “Heighten your attention. See Me.”
“Come back next year,” they told you yet again.
You say, “Listen to truth with wider eyes.”

To savor your story will take longer
than one Stonewall and a few thousand lives.
For you, Adam, for you—oh! Not the first.
For you, the blood will come around again.

See me. See me. Anapest just this once.

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