Posts tagged ‘writing’

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 30, 2018

Do We Really Need Definitions? In Defense of Michelle Wolf

by lisa st john

 

I really wanted to write about television binging this month–how I love it. The pros and cons, but I am too flummoxed by the news. Ironically, I was also going to post an analysis of Hulu’s The Handmaid’s Tale Season Two Episode One, but what is distracting me?

The White House Correspondent’s Dinner controversy. Apparently, we actually need definitions of some of these terms, WHY?

So critics of Michelle Wolf can catch up a bit. And then class, after we learn the words we can explain what they mean, okay?

First Amendment: Freedom to say what we want to say (specifically allowing the PRESS to say what it wants to say).

Satire: Using humor to expose stupidity IN ORDER TO PROMOTE CHANGE AND HELP HUMANITY SEE ITS FLAWS.

Sarcasm: Witty language used to insult. Often used in satire.

Sarcasm is the lowest form of wit but the highest form of intelligence –Oscar Wilde. 

Okay. What I find so disconcerting about the backlash of Michelle Wolf’s correspondent’s dinner speech was that people misunderstood the Sarah Sanders eyeliner joke yet totally missed the Aunt Lydia reference.

I actually really like Sarah. I think she’s very resourceful. She burns facts, and then she uses that ash to create a perfect smoky eye. Like maybe she’s born with it, maybe it’s lies. It’s probably lies.” (Wolf transcript)https://www.visitcharlottesville.org/listing/charlottesville-historic-downtown-mall/337/

Now we need to explain the joke, apparently. This is NOT a joke about Sanders’ looks.This is a joke about Sanders’ LIES. Sarah Sanders always has great smoky eye make up. I love it. She burns the facts and uses the ash to make her perfect eyeshadow. Get it now?

I have to say I’m a little star-struck. I love you as Aunt Lydia in The Handmaid’s Tale. Mike Pence, if you haven’t seen it, you would love it.” (Wolf transcript)

Okay. Aunt Lydia is one of the scariest villains ever. If you haven’t read the book by the incredible Margaret Atwood, you must. In the novel, she is in charge of indoctrinating (here is the definition of indoctrinating for those of you who need help getting Wolf’s jokes) the sex slaves (handmaids). The Hulu version of Aunt Lydia is even more terrifying because in the novel, we never know if Aunt Lydia is just going along with the new regime (albeit extremely) in order to stay alive and in power or if she is a believer in the new tyrannical police state. Hulu expands her character to show just how bat shit crazy she has become.

“She’s most comfortable making room in the world so violence can flourish. Actress Ann Dowd takes full advantage of the role, heightening Aunt Lydia’s zealousness to a point where it almost seems like a caricature … Aunt Lydia is carved in the lineage of villainesses like Nurse Ratched from One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, Annie Wilkes in Misery, and Mrs. Danvers in Rebecca. Cold, brutal, and obsessed … .” ()

But that’s not what critics are complaining about, no. They are complaining about an eye shadow joke they didn’t get, the use of the word “pussy” (WHO SAID IT FIRST?) and “tampon.”

[Ivanka] is about as helpful to women as an empty box of tampons.” (Wolf transcript) OMG, did she say (whisper) “tampon”? Women use tampons. An empty box does not help a woman when she is menstruating. Get it?

It’s up to comedians to shine the light on what’s wrong in the world, and we don’t want things swept under the rug.” –Jeff Ross

I almost forgot the Uncle Tom reference! Okay kids, Uncle Tom refers to a subservient character in Harriet Beecher Stowe‘s infamous novel Uncle Tom’s Cabin. It is not a compliment to call someone an Uncle Tom.

So when Wolf said, “…what’s Uncle Tom but for white women who disappoint other white women? Oh, I know. Aunt Coulter.” She meant that Ann Coulter betrays her people (women) by sucking up and being subservient to the conservative agenda (men). Get it now?

“One of the most bizarre uses of Uncle Tom as an insult, directed at women occurred…when Jane Fonda wanted to criticize conservative women for not performing the women’s movement.” “She said, ‘Let’s face it, you’re all a bunch of Uncle Toms,’” (“Uncle Tomisms” from Accuracy in Academia)

 

 

You’ve just made yourself a new fan Michelle Wolf. You comedian, you funny, me laugh. I’m in.* Can’t wait for THE BREAK on Netflix!

 

 

 

 

 

*Sorry about the multi-syllabic content in this post. If you need moe definitions here you go: Dictionary.

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.

 
March 1, 2018

Writers’ Paradise

by lisa st john

#ebags #eaglecreekWelcome to March 1st. From now on, I am going to post here on the first of every month. Not that often, right? Except that I now have another blog: Widows’ Words. This one is focused on my memoir, The Beds We Live and Die In. It’s about loss and widowhood and moving through it all.

I also launched a website to keep everything together: lisachristinastjohn.com

I hope you check them both out. I am excited. I really am living the writer’s life and I wake up every day full of energy and ready to work/write.

I am forever grateful to the International Women’s Writing Guild for starting me on this path. If you haven’t been to their amazing online webinars and real-life conferences you are missing out. They are “a global powerhouse & digital village for mighty, soulful women writers.” I can’t wait for the Boston Retreat in April. The summer IWWG Conference is where I heard about the San Miguel Writers Conference in February. I got to attend, and it was like a gift from the ancient gods.

Parish Church

San Miguel de Allende is not only a UNESCO World Heritage site; it’s a mecca of culture and beauty. I have been to this amazing city before–once with my late husband and our son, twice to visit friends, and now to experience the writing community. It was beyond amazing. Workshops in tents outside the gorgeous grounds of the Hotel Real de Minas, round table discussions with authors, pitch sessions with agents, excursions, and fiesta! The keynote speakers are world famous: Rita Dove, Sandra Cisneros, Wally Lamb, and Joseph Boyden just to name a few. 

The air was electric with creative energy. I re-focused, rejuvenated, remembered, and released. I worked on the memoir, but also crashed into some poetry with the astounding Judyth Hill. Here is an excerpt of a fragment that will someday grow into a poem, thanks to Judyth’s prompts.

“Blue brushstrokes of longing
are the impasto of my memory,
and my heart is in Orion’s star.
La Llorona comes for me in a blood moon the texture of hunger.”

Hill was so right when she said that “poets are the grievers of culture.” It’s our job as artists of all kinds to bear the heart of our time.

Check out the CDC Poetry Project, for example. Check out Amanda Palmer’s “Strength Through Music.” Dictators fear artists and intellectuals. Why?

“Art creates pathways for subversion, for political understanding and solidarity among coalition builders. Art teaches us that lives other than our own have value.” (Eve L. Ewing)

There are beautiful, loving groups everywhere who believe in art, who promote art, who value voice. Check out this Children’s Art Foundation in San Miguel. Check out the American Library Association. They need us now more than ever. 

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By the way, loved Interjet Airlines. I left San Miguel to fly to Puerto Vallarta to visit a jungle village they don’t want me to talk about (even though it’s all over the travel sites). I guess I’ll just say I may not miss the Chachalaca birds in the early morning. 

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).

 

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 

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

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