Empowerment through Language...

Saturday, June 25, 2011

No Crying in Baseball or Over Spilt Milk...

My week started with the disappointing news that I, among many who applied, did not receive a NY Foundation for the Arts Independent Artist Fellowship once again. I was so disappointed for any number of reasons and frustrations, not the least of which, the leg up that $7,000 of unrestricted funds would have provided at this point in my life. But the other significant disappointment was the artistic let-down, the competitive fear factor of not being "good enough" to warrant the award. That doubt preys at the back of my psyche, nagging in a raspy whisper, while logic attempts to talk louder, reminding of the crap shoot, the numbers game, and how many colleagues with bigger "names," tenure track teaching positions, and impressive publishing deals are also not receiving fellowships this round.

I indulged my perch on the pitty pot for about 24 hours of lingering pouts, several hours of really mourning the death of my hope. Then I got busy with next steps. 

It was still a productive week in moving forward. I have a support team of colleagues who believe in me and I am taking steps every day to push the course of my career and my writing along in a positive direction. I have concrete action items to complete as I strive for the national recognition of the work I do independent writer/educator, as well as a collaborator with Quraysh Ali Lansana and our work with Our Difficult Sunlight. I am blessed in countless ways to be surrounded by the astounding talent and generosity of my friends and colleagues; I search for ways that we can work together to support and foster each other's successes.

I also have skills to share. I teach workshops, I help friends edit their materials and creative expression, I connect people who need to know each other, according often to my intuition more than anything. In the dry time of summer for my work, I will likely have to turn these skills into temp work because the bill collectors don't care about my community networking.

The end of the week, when I was just about resolved to my fate of no fellowship, I received notice that I did not get the adjunct position I applied for, again a stretch and a hope in even applying. I indulged my place on the pitty pot again for about an hour, and now I am back at the next phase of "Okay, what next?" This is the resilience that is required of any independent artist, teaching artist, contractor, consultant, and/or entrepreneur.

This resilience is a necessary armor. And when all else fails, loud rock 'n roll and r & b from back in the day, ignoring the phone, avoiding any email or text message provide the rebound. Lou Reed says it best, "Some people like to go out dancing; there's other people like us, we gotta work...She started dancing to that fine, fine music; her life was saved by rock 'n' roll..."

Friday, June 24, 2011

Random Thoughts on Language for a Friday Afternoon

This summer I am more focused on teaching adult writers than on K-12 classroom experiences. This is a shift in my own consciousness as I am only teaching elements of writing and revision instead of ways to be a better reader. There is something I keep coming back to in this teaching, as the summer storms keep swirling around the house: we cannot be good writers if we hide the full intention behind our language.

I have had several discussions on the big words, those abstract universals such as happiness, sorrow, beauty, humility, the universe, joy, etc. When we use these terms, we are also relying a great deal on our reader's back knowledge and programming. If we do not illustrate what we interpret these words to be, in metaphoric and imagistic connections, we ask our readers to do all of the work. I liken it to Pavlov and the pooches. When this happens, we ring bells that our readers respond to in patterned ways, rather than navigating our readers to a unique landscape in which these big words can be experienced rather than conjured, crafted by our own imaginations and then shared. 

This evasion of the true message, or relying more on the reader than our own sensibilities to derive the essence of the poem (or any written piece), makes for dull writing. It does not say anything of consequence that will make me, as a reader, want to go back and back again to the piece. It is also a way to be very safe but not captivating. If something cannot be exposed fully, don't write it until it can, until you feel safe as a writer to be open as the sky. Wait...there is no rush. But be authentic and be tangible and clear with your writing, as well as inventive and engaging.

TGIF...and what a magificent thunderous sky!

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

The Symphony of Summer Rain

It is the second day of summer; at 5:30 this morning, a spectacular thunderstorm marched through Central New York, depositing more rain than the remainder of June has afforded us. I woke to open the blinds and watch the lightning and sheets of water from my bed, then fell asleep to the rhythm of the rain once the excitement died down.

Now I am moving slower than a slug, and I have resisted any sound but the raindrops. Periodically, the clouds let loose with curtains of rain falling straight down, soaking the soil and the roots of all the lilies, hostas, bee balm, and other perennials waiting to do their dance. 

I am being intentional in my slow pace as well. I read 30 pages of Patti Smith's "Just Kids" while nursing a tumbler of iced coffee. Once in awhile, just enough breeze jostled the wind chimes into performance. Now I am upstairs in my office that resembles the inside of my informed chaos.

This is the beginning of my summer. I have no book deadlines to meet this year. I hope to attend to my poems and the stack of memoirs I want to read. I need to weed and reorder the gardens front and back. And I am teaching a couple of workshops that will be most fulfilling. I hope that work centered on "Our Difficult Sunlight" presents itself soon and that all stabilizes for my bank account. 

But this morning, I am being slow and conscious of the blessing of rain.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Summer Solstice & the Poet's Life

First of all, I can't believe that it has been nearly 8 weeks since I last posted an entry. In that time I have had book launch events in Syracuse, my hometown, and NYC, when it was nearly 100 degrees and the city was already a bit limp, I have started two salon classes in my home, pulled a few handfuls of weeds when I need to do major excavation of unwanted growth, journaled nearly 100 pages, and started at least six poems that lay fallow on lined white paper waiting for me to concentrate. 

I am not sure how the world is to be negotiated all the time but I know that, if I am to succeed in meeting my goals, I must be diligent in constantly putting one foot in front of the other.

There are people who say they can help, they want to help, they intend to help in our lives. There are people we pay to help us. There are people we ask to help us. But it is always really about how we help ourselves.

I have embarked on this path of full-time poet, as a teaching artist and a writer, after years of losing faith that I could always be anchored in this identity. I developed a lot of skills in the process and now, more than ever, is the time to put my skill set to good use in marketing my work and my books. I have what it takes to sell the concept of my work and I am certain every day to make at least two strides in so doing.

And I am constantly trolling for opportunities, searching the web, reading blogs and posts by friends, sharing my passion about my work with other people in the hopes that they have ideas that will guide my progress further. 

Many years ago, a wonderful woman of faith, my dear friend Mrs. Gainer, and I would talk of God. She would say to me over and over in our discussions, "Like I always say, Georgia, you take one step toward Him and He will take two steps toward you." I have to echo that to myself constantly.

Yesterday, I had a moment of disappointment. Months ago, I applied for a particular fellowship, AGAIN, and got the email that said I was not one of those awarded, AGAIN. The list of things I would have put that $7,000 to good use in resolving was quite long. I really could have used the leg up that the award would have provided. I prayed about it for months. I tried not to be too attached to the outcome and certainly not to rely too heavily on the potential. 

But it hurt to be told no once again. It hurt as an artist and it hurt as a human. But today, I am grateful that I woke up to this first day of summer. I will figure out a way to pay the mortgage, all the bills, etc. I always do. Sometimes because friends help me, generously believing in me and aiding me to believe in myself. And sometimes, I just have to keep walking forward.

Here's to a beautiful summer and all we will discover in this season of sowing and growing. It is the journey, not the outcome, in which the real poetry resides.