Who is Charles Wright?

Did you know a new Poet Laureate was just name by the Library of Congress?

What is a poet laureate? Wikipedia describes the United States Library of Congress Poet Laureate, formerly the Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress duties and remuneration;

“Laureates receive a US$35,000 stipend and are given the responsibility of overseeing an ongoing series of poetry readings and lectures at the library, and a charge to promote poetry. No other duties are specified, and laureates are not required to compose for government events or in praise of government officials. However, after the terrorist attacks in New York, Washington, D.C. and Pennsylvania on September 11, 2001, the then Poet Laureate, Billy Collins, was asked to write a poem to be read in front of a special joint session of Congress. Collins wrote “The Names” which he read on September 6, 2002, which is available in streaming audio and video..<..> When the $35,000 stipend was instituted, the amount was quite large and was intended to allow the poet laureate to abandon worries about earning a living and devote his or her time entirely to writing poetry. That amount has remained the same, so the intent of making it a nice living for a poet is no longer being fulfilled. Now it functions as a bonus for a poet who usually is teaching at a university and earns the bulk of his or her living that way.”

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Charles Wright (Photo from the Poetry Foundation website)

The newly minted American Poet Laureate is Charles Wright from the state of Tennessee. He and previous laureates are described in a New York Times article;

“Mr. Wright, who was born in Pickwick Dam, Tenn., not far from the Civil War battlefield at Shiloh, succeeds another Southerner, Natasha Trethewey. But Mr. Wright’s work — oblique meditations on “language, landscape and the idea of God,” as he once summed up his themes — could not be more different from Ms. Trethewey’s evocations of the forgotten African-American lives, or from the Whitmanesque poems about working-class Detroit by the previous laureate, Philip Levine.”

“Mr. Wright, 78, a retired professor at the University of Virginia, has already won just about every other honor in the poetry world, including the Pulitzer Prize, the National Book Award, the Bollingen Prize and the Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize.”

Until now I’ve never read Mr. Wright’s poetry nor to be honest heard of his work, which given his prolific writing and obvious success is sad. But now that I am writing a few poems and rhymes I feel compelled to seek some of his writing out along with that of the previous poet laureate’s. I like that our government is supporting this type of artist, even if it is very modestly in this age of big paychecks. I wish him luck and hope that he inspires a few more poets to start on their writing path.

Do you have a favorite poet?

Dad

For father’s day I will tell a tale,

of the man who tries hard without fail.

He has an artist flare and a linguist tongue,

he cures the back and is a proprietor for fun.

 

His father left when he was ten,

a father’s love that never began.

That father dropped by once, out of the blue,

no one knows why and why we never knew.

 

He worries a lot and pisses off a few,

some friends for life but only those who’ve paid their dues.

So much to do when he was young,

but there was always time to camp, and fish and run.

 

He has a hearty laugh and can tell a tale,

he knows everyone in town and can make a sale.

He can build a house and a make a home,

just never ask about the unfinished zone.

 

He has traveled far and near

enjoys his food and likes a Stella beer.

Always a friend to sweets,

tiramisu is a favorite treat.

 

A day with dad I’ll always remember,

we fished all day at the rivers edge one cold September.

No work for him, no school for me,

a lovely memory it will forever be.

 

 

 

Grandfather

Andy and Grandpa My grandfather! (with my little brother)

I recently spent the day visiting my 86 year old grandfather. He told me about his winter in Arizona, his plans for fishing trips and a cruise to Alaska over the summer and the goings on of my little brother. It was a fun, relaxed conversation until we touched on the subject of my grandmother. I mentioned that I had had a dream about her the night before, likely because I knew I was driving up to see him the next day.  In my dream my grandma was younger, probably the age she was when I was a little girl, younger than I am now. She was giving me advise and telling me what not to do and that she was glad I had visited. His eyes darted away, but he told me that sometimes he dreams she is still there in the house with him on nights when he is in a deep sleep. He seemed a bit sad and changed the subject, but it was a lovely little glimpse behind the man that is always so stoic.

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Grandma and Grandpa Land in Hawaii!

We also talked about some of the trips he had taken with grandma. One trip was on a rickety train from Arizona to some resort in Mexico where the train was so rocky and the tracks so poorly maintained that the train rocked and rolled, you had to wear seat belts in the beds and you couldn’t even walk from one train car to another because it was just too dangerous. He also told me about trips to Hawaii in the good old days where you could golf all week for a $100 and all their friends came over with tee-times every day, evening cocktail hours and days spent at the beach.

He told me about some of the work he had done as a young man, advise he was given by his bosses. He told me about his first car, a model T that he suped-up with a new engine that made it go so fast that if you turned the corner too quickly the wheels would come off.

He fixed lunch for me; homemade clam chowder and a tuna sandwich with red velvet cake for dessert. Grandpa is a wonderful cook, his clam chowder and oyster stew are so good and no one in the world smokes a salmon like him.

I am so thankful for his good health and his positive attitude. I feel lucky for everyday I get to spend with him. It’s sad that I waited this long, but I am trying to ask those questions that are sometimes hard to ask and to talk about those things we share even when it can be a difficult conversation.

Have you been waiting to have those conversations?  Are you figuring there will always be tomorrow?

Boy Loves Dog!

IMG_0051I was recently waiting for my plane to board at the Omaha airport and overheard a little boy who was maybe 7 or 8 speaking to his mother on the phone while he and his dad were waiting for their flight to depart.

He spoke to his mom about the usual things; “We saw a boat,” “We drove really far,” “Dad bought me a toy” and “We just ate a cheese burger and fries.” But then he asked his mom about his dog, Cooper, was his name. “Where is Cooper?” he asked. Then he asked the cutest thing; “Mom can you put the phone near him so that he could hear him snore“. He was quite for a few moments, apparently listening to his dog snore, and then he spoke again; “It’s nice to know I’ve got a dog waiting for me at home” “He’s going to jump all over me“. He giggled a little and then said “Okay, bye” and hung up the phone.

It was so touching to hear his voice change when he spoke about his beloved Cooper; getting a little bit quiet with a giant smile on his face. I don’t know what kind of dog Cooper is, but in my mind he is a frenchie like my Maddie(pictured above) because there is no sweeter sound than her happy resting snore and no one I am happier to come home too(well besides my husband, of course).

Do you have a pet waiting for you at home?

Life is good Pet Tees

No Breath

He has no breath and he takes it slow,

it frustrates him because he so wants to go.

He’s always played hard and was a ladies man,

his charms are not gone, someday he’ll understand.

 

He packs his air and works to breathe,

So young of heart he still wants to speed.

For one “born ready” this is a bitter pill,

these golden years suck and are going to take some skill.

 

Change has come to the one I love,

he’s out of breath and his lungs are done.

The virile man he fears has gone,

but I assure him he is very, very wrong.

 

Sometimes he fears this breath will be his last,

those player days are catching up from his checkered past.

It worries him that he might hear death,

still he says “fuck you” and catches his breath.

 

He’s watched the others who’ve gone before,

he’s seen the future and the prognosis can be poor.

Enjoy this day, its a gift to you

Waste it away at your own peril,  fool.

The Fear Effect

Fear is a familiar friend,

it sucks my life without end.

Fear of what I don’t always know,

it’s always there, a common foe.

 

As I write these words I have my doubts.

Don’t write, it’s crap. Will fear win out?

Is fear my excuse or why I fail

or why I don’t make the attempt and chase my tail?

 

Everyone gets scared at times, of this I’m fairly certain,

but the ones who win the game are those who show fear a hurtin!

 

Awhile back I wrote a post about my Nagging Omission with my husband. Well recently I pulled off that bandage, faced my fear and went all in with a quick rip. First I showed my blog to my husband, letting him read several of the stories. And then I emailed most of my family about my writing and gave them a link to my site.

The good news is my world did not crash in, my husband didn’t ask for a divorce and now knows I do not have an internet lover. I haven’t had any irate calls from family or friends, yet. My husband has shown a tentative curiosity about what I’ve been writing and said he admired my ability to express myself and tell a story, but at first didn’t realize that my blog was open to anyone to see. That part I don’t think he is completely comfortable with and has some fears of his own that we will have to work through.

The only other person to comment about my blog has been my dad(technically my step-dad to those who read my blog and are confused) and he commented on a few of the posts and recited a couple of the poems he has written that are very good. He has one about fishing that is amazing and he has sold some copies of it, but he recited two others I didn’t remember. Maybe we will write a father-daughter poetry book some day.

But now that my husband and my family are aware of this blog and some of my writing; I find that a different type of fear is at work now; I am self-censoring and self-conscience about what I am writing.  Because if there are any people I “people-please” for its these people.  This is going to be tough!

Do you share your writing with your friends and family? Is there anything you keep just for your self for just this reason?

 

Self Criticism and Some Instructions on Life

I recently started reading Anne Lamott’s, Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life and coincidentally one of my favorite blogs, BrainPickings posted an article, The Definitive Manifesto for Handling Haters: Anne Lamott on Priorities and How We Keep Ourselves Small by People-Pleasing. The article calls out items from the book and some commentary from Ms. Lamott’s Facebook page.

What makes Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life (public library) so timelessly rewarding and one of the greatest books on writing of all time is that besides her wisdom on the craft, Lamott extends enormous sensitivity to and consolation for the general pathologies of the human condition — our insecurities, our social anxieties, our inner turmoils. Among her most powerful and memorable meditations in the book is that on how our perfectionism kills the creative spirit — something she revisited recently in a short essay on her Facebook page, spurred by a surge in negative comments and vicious troll attacks.

I just finished reading the chapter on “Perfectionism” and I certainly recognized my self as I read those pages. My perfectionism has kept me from doing and trying so many things in my life; if I don’t think I can do something well or know how it works ahead of time I just don’t attempt it. I hate that about myself and want to jump in and try things that I never have and experience things that I have been too driven by the perfectionist tendencies; worrying about making mistakes, failing, looking foolish and so on, to get out there and just do them.

And another quote the article pulled from Ms. Lamott’s Facebook Page really struck this people pleaser.

 “Do you mind even a little that you are still addicted to people-pleasing, and are still putting everyone else’s needs and laundry and career ahead of your creative, spiritual life? Giving all your life force away, to “help” and impress. Well, your help is not helpful, and falls short.

People pleasing and perfectionism go hand-in-hand and I know began at an early age for me. As the first-born your every moment is watched, recorded, critiqued, praised or scorned and corrected.  There is a little note in my baby book (see below) written by my mother that I came across awhile ago and this illustrates nicely how early my perfectionism and self criticisms started.

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Self criticism started early.

Since my mother’s last entry in the book was around age three or just when I turned 4 after my brother was born; this “amusing saying” likely occurred around age 3. I spilled my coffee and milk (more on why my mother was giving a three-year old coffee in another post) and said to my self; “Christ sakes Shari” (more salty language). And I have certainly improved over the last 40 years, never really giving myself a break on anything.

I am going to get that “shitty first draft written“, keep writing and posting here and not let those voices in my head that are telling me I’m not good enough win.

I plan on releasing my copy of “Bird by Bird” on BookCrossing when I am finished, because I’m sure there is another aspiring writer or perfectionist that could use the help.

Do you suffer from perfectionist tendencies?