Slice of Life: Hold On To The Positive (Comic)

(This is for the Slice of Life challenge, hosted by Two Writing Teachers. We write on Tuesdays about the small moments in the larger perspective … or is that the larger perspective in the smaller moments? You write, too.)

This is a comic slice, the latest edition to my collection of comics I have been making since the Pandemic began as a way to deal with the turmoil. With this school year over, I am in reflective mode.

Hold On To The Positive

Peace (in panels),

Book Review: Wintering (The Power of Rest and Retreat in Difficult Times)

I can only imagine the publishers of Katherine May’s book — Wintering (The Power of Rest and Retreat in Difficult Times) — rushing to get it out of the galleys and into the stores as the Pandemic hit us hard and retreat was a global movement, as was loss and grief and fear for many. How to make sense of it all was and remains a conundrum of the times. May’s book helps give us some context.

I read Wintering just as Spring arrived, and vaccinations were just underway, and while there was optimism that we might yet venture more fully into the outside world (as has now happened), the warnings were everywhere to be cautious and learn from experience.

Some of May’s passages are just brilliantly beautiful, full of shadowed repose to remember that the dark brings the possibility to nurturing yourself, a reminder that not all is bright and light and sunny. This book is about realistic resilience, and May’s work doesn’t sugarcoat her pains and anguishes and worries.

But it does remind us that the dark may not last forever, and what we do during those difficult times will help us heal on the other side. Her book is divided into the seasons of Winter, and although I read it within a few weeks time, I wish I had savored each section during the time of year from which she writes about. I suspect that would have given my reading of her prose even more power.

Perhaps some other time, when I need it, then.

May shares her own stories, and strategies, and insights about how to grapple with the cold seasons of our lives, and she deftly surfs the metaphors here, through conversations with friends and colleagues, and bringing her own stories into the mix. Her connections to noticing nature worked the best, for me, as she notices the world more acutely even as her world seems more insular as illness and change impact her.

Wintering is a reminder that it is OK to find time to pay attention to yourself, and to use the natural world as inspiration, and reminder, to what may yet come when the season recedes and another takes its place.

Peace (burrowed down but coming up),

Memory Drop and the Pandemic School Year

I Don't Remember When

This was inspired by a real conversation I had with my teaching colleagues on the last days of school … seriously, we were having trouble remembering when things happened. It was that kind of year.

Peace (recalling it),

Collaborative Poetry: Making a Poem in MidAir

I used Etherpad to invite some colleagues in a new National Writing Project social space to create a poem with me. The video documents the writing of the poem, via Etherpad’s cool time-lapse feature. Since Etherpad now removes all ‘pads’ after a time of inactivity, the full poem can be read here.

What I love about these kinds of activities is the unexpected, the way a fellow writer can take a few lines in a new direction, and how the next person tugs the thread and pulls the poem forward, too. It’s not always in complete sync but going into a collaboration like this means giving up preconceptions about where a piece of writing is going.

(and see how Terry created his own video version)

Peace (in poems),

Slice of Life: This Is How The School Year Ends

(This is for the Slice of Life challenge, hosted by Two Writing Teachers. We write on Tuesdays about the small moments in the larger perspective … or is that the larger perspective in the smaller moments? You write, too.)

In the short but provocative novel Flying Solo by Ralph Fletcher, the classroom of sixth graders has a tradition that they enact whenever someone is set to leave the class during the school year (either by moving or some other event). They conduct a Rock Ritual. The way it works is that the student who is leaving chooses a mineral or stone from a class collection, and then each classmates passes the rock around the circle, telling stories of the student who is leaving. That student takes the rock with them, with the idea that the rock has collected the words, stories and memories.

When we read Flying Solo in the middle of the year, my class of sixth graders all asked if we could do our own version of the Rock Ritual at the end of this crazy Covid year. I said yes, of course, and this morning, on our last day together, we will gather in the classroom to have our ritual (using Ring Pops instead of rocks).

Yesterday, we spent part of our morning with a sheet of all of their names, writing down ideas for the stories we would tell.  (Frequent Question: Can we write about ourselves? Answer: Of course). You should have heard the noise and laughter, and sharing, even though I suggested we wait until today’s actual Ritual to share (this is a rather boisterous and louder-than-usual class of sixth graders that is relentless in its socializing).

I’ll have to circle around another day to really reflect on this year of teaching and learning in the Pandemic, and all that I have learned and wished I had learned, and everything else. For now, I will settle into a final act of Community in the Classroom, as we tell stories of our time together in a year like no other.

Peace (and tradition),

Writing Down in Lexington (PoMo)

A Bucolic Poem...!!!“A Bucolic Poem…!!!” by Denis Collette…!!! is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

A National Writing Project friend, Deanna, mentioned the month-long LexPoMo (out of Lexington, Kentucky) so I signed up and have been sharing and reading and commenting with a bunch of other poets (lots of people in the mix). Fifteen days in, here are my poems (not sure what happened on June 1):

June 02, 2021 To New Eyes
June 03, 2021 Psaphonise
June 04, 2021 Tide Riders
June 05, 2021 Untethered Times
June 06, 2021 The River’s Footsteps To The Ocean
June 07, 2021 Bent Necks and Balanced Wings
June 08, 2021 Small World Explorer
June 09, 2021 Baby’s Eating Ink Again
June 10, 2021 Each Drop Drops
June 11, 2021 Redamancy
June 12, 2021 End Up Where They Will
June 13, 2021 The Poem Was In Your Pocket
June 14, 2021 Before The Hummingbird Sips
June 15, 2021 Memory’s Mad Curve Ball

Peace (and poems),

Book Review: Looking To Get Lost (Adventures in Music and Writing)

If you read books about music, as I do, then you likely know the name of writer Peter Guralnick, whose explorations of the blues, of Sam Cooke, of Sun Records, of Elvis, and many more go deeper than most books do to the heart of what music is and how strong the heart of performers beat.

In his recent collection of essays, entitled Looking To Get Lost (Adventures in Music and Writing), Guralnick keeps his attention on the music but also turns it on himself, too, as a writer who found himself on the music scene because of a passion and used his skills as an interviewer and a researcher to make visible the terrain of artists, particularly those from the South, and particularly those black artists whose work paved the way for rock and roll and modern music.

The book is a gathering of mostly shorter pieces, and some of the best take a look at the raw talent of Howling Wolf, the expansive innovative energy of Jerry Lee Lewis, and the soulful enigma of Solomon Burke, and much more. A consistent thread through the pieces here is the humanity and patience of Guralnick as he weaves in the stories and the impact these men (for they are all men that he looks at here) have had on American culture.

I also found the pieces about Guralnick as a writer intriguing, as he talks about his own feelings of inadequacy in talking with the musical greats he so admired, and how his father and grandfather (both doctors) supported his idea of being a writer at an early age, instilling confidence that following your passion will lead you somewhere (although sometimes, that somewhere is not always where you think your passion will lead you).

Peace (singing it),

CLMOOC Postcards After the Pandemic

CLMOOC PostcardsCLMOOC is ramping up its regular Postcard Project, connecting folks around the world through the mail. The prompt to consider is: what will you take and hold onto when the Pandemic is over?

You can learn more about the Postcard Project here.

I have ten postcards about to be sent out this week and as I mulled over the question (prompted by our friend, Karen F), I began to realize there are some aspects of the lockdown life that will make sense as we move forward into somewhat normalized times again.

Peace (on the post),