Reading Recommendation: Joy, Interrupted: An Anthology on Motherhood and Loss.

joybest

Cover Design by Fat Daddy’s Farm

Front: “Adieu Maman” by Jemila Modesti – Oil

Back: “Broken Chain” by Grace Benedict – Mixed media


The plain truth is, you do not have to be the parent of a lost child to appreciate the shared stories in Joy, Interrupted: An Anthology on Motherhood and Loss ISBN 9780985235604, a new collection of works edited by Melissa Miles McCarter of Fat Daddy Press.   The seeds of separation are sown at conception; our first loud and audible breath nothing short of a full-throated attempt at explaining the shock of lost connection.  The acknowledgement of that tiny knot in our lower abdomen  all that is necessary as frame of reference.

Aside from the candid honesty and epiphany found in these poems, prose and illustrative works, the thing that I most admire about Joy, Interrupted is its inclusion of voices from a landscape of backgrounds and personal  histories.  Missing from this anthology is the mindset that insists on a resume and a list of publications as validation for the act of putting words to human experience.  Each work  stands on its own merit in terms of articulation and expression. While  some of these pieces read like masterworks,  others provide the raw insights and vulnerabilities found upon pages from a day in the life of a grief survivor.

The common thread running throughout is the expression of a need to connect and find temporary shelter in shared experience.

In the words of its editor, herself the parent of an infant lost to SIDS:  “In reading about other dimensions of loss, I saw new opportunities for coping, for making meaning out of  pain and for healing. I watched as the contributors processed (or didn’t process) their grief and it helped me see that my own space between grief and joy was wider than I had imagined, with me moving closer and closer to the other side of joy. The contributors to this anthology helped me, as Shakespeare wrote, “give sorrow words.”

Baby Blue and the Missing Part,  Michèle Aimpée Parent

Baby Blue and the Missing Part, Michèle Aimpée Parent

From Joy, Interrupted, various authors and excerpts:

She, lying on the couch, shrouded

by an army surplus blanket, never spoke and stared

directly ahead at the nocturnal painting

of Christ Watching over the City of Jerusalem.

Nauseated by the smell of sweat and cod liver oil,

I relished digging my jagged nails into the jellied flesh

of her freckled upper arm, pinching her and telling her

she was faking because she didn’t want to divide fractions

or help her mother dry the dishes. She never flinched. Did I learn

she had been struck by lightning or did I make it up?

Now all I can think is “Christmas is a time of miracles”

as I listen to the hiss whir of the baby’s ventilator.

Already pneumonia has scarred his lungs

and now they babble about tracheotomies,

laser shavings, and Amoxicillin.

A lightning strike might take him home.

— from Struck by Lightning, Liz Dolan (24)

~~~~~

Marc twitches his nose and his bushy mustache lurches—

the most “him” thing left. That, and the lift of creases in his forehead.

And the small pursing of his chapped lips. His throat clears

and coughs still hold his sound, too.

Thomas has hiccups. “People were looking for Scream

this weekend at the box office,” says TV. Why do we want

to scare ourselves when life already provides the horror?

And more of Lindsay Lohan’s ongoing drama of jail and rehab.

This is news we care about. Not my stepfather dying of cancer,

unknown by most. Even I like celebrity news—flipping back

on my iPhone from Perez Hilton to TMZ. I crave

the nonsense; the non-scream.

–from “Celebrity News,” Sheila Hageman (25)

                                                                                            ~~~~~

A little girl smiles at me from the photo – a smile as bright and carefree as a summer day. Her hair is brown and long, just like the woman’s. I can almost hear this radiant little girl with an infectious smile giggling joyful delight, secure in her mother’s love as she relishes each day’s adventure. But the agony of the woman standing before me explodes in my brain, cruelly silencing the little girl’s laughter. The distance from the photo to this street corner – and the painful loss that brought her here – is beyond all measure.

Somehow I know, even before I read the words. I know the message. I know the pain and agony. I know the fear and desperation. The sign reads “Have you seen this child?” Suddenly, a lump in my throat makes it hard to swallow and tears sting the corners of my eyes, running down my cheeks. I can’t stop myself from being pulled into a flood of emotions. For a fleeting moment I see my own children, my daughters. The cardboard mirror exposes my worst fear as a mother. It has been said that to lose a child is to lose a piece of yourself.

I believe that the bond between a mother and her children is primal, instinctive, and even intuitive. My girls are the very heart and soul of my being. There isn’t anything within my power that I wouldn’t do for them or to protect them. I would fight for them to the end. If they were hurting, I would comfort them as long as they needed. And if they were lost, I would never rest until they were found.

–from  “The Sign,” Rebecca Manning (30)

~~~~~

Fragments lure her–

water snake head

shiny link chain

tender pink sole

damselfly wing . . .

The child, bands of sunburn

down her peeling back,

the scars of cigarettes

on the reticulated spine,

notes the quiet

revolution

in the earth,

and half recalls

the rules, rude and sly.

But Lilia and Marie

have fled the pond,

clambering from the

ooze, shrieking gaily,

eluding phantasmal foes.

Just one arrives

too late in the game

and shrugs: no wonder,

where rift and wrack

of cloud in coming night

glow, lurid as arsonist’s fire.

–from “Dandelion Child,” Carol Alexander (32-33)

mothersbond


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Hot Fingers Close Around the Stem: The Erotica of Flowers in Prose, Poetry, Paintings

John William Waterhouse, "Gathering Flowers"

How can one help shivering with delight when one’s hot fingers close around the stem of a live flower, cool from the shade and stiff with newborn vigor!  ~Colette

Such is inspiration that gives one more reason to spend time as supplicant of the garden again.

When you have only two pennies left in the world, buy a loaf of bread with one, and a lily with the other.  ~Chinese Proverb

The flower is the poetry of reproduction.  It is an example of the eternal seductiveness of life.  ~Jean Giraudoux

Even if you think the Big Bang created the stars, don’t you wonder who sent the flowers?  ~Robert Brault, www.robertbrault.com

--Berthe Morisot, L'hortensi

Inspired by all of these, I made some flower art too:

Shakespeare Called the Moon a Moist Star 

When the earth laughs, a flower is born

Emerson once said something

to this effect—Think of a river somewhere—

anywhere. . .the hillsides painted

in guffaws, titters, tulips. Silk chapeau

and bawdy cackle.  The Turks say tulbend

or turban.  At the time of tulipmania,

one might have sailed across an ocean

or the English Channel—simply for a love

of tulips.  The Wind Trade they called this

tuberous pearl, spring-blooming,

unearthed and exchanged for its weight

in seventeenth century florins.

I once read having an orgasm

is like laughing out your legs.  When the sky laughs

might we expect an exhalation

of small planets? A star shower preceded immediately

by a gravity of salmon underneath our skins

Somewhere somebody is thinking,

Perhaps it is the moisture that makes

all the difference

Snowflake, raindrop

silk tassel, periwinkle—

you see? Oh, yes—milk thistle, day lily

and sweet sweet William.

–Tess Farnham (MIdwest Quarterly, 2003)

A bread and butter fashioned of flowers. 😉     http://www.etsy.com/listing/97529448/floral-abstract-impressionist

For the Students at the Back of the Room, the Faith-Based Believers from the “Writing God” Experiment

Chagall's Window at All Saints Church Tudeley,...

Image via WikipediaImage via Wikipedia

A day or so ago, I wrote about the “God” creative writing experiment and mentioned how illuminating it was to listen as my  students read their free-writes and spontaneous poetry aloud.  And also how it began with one student sort of expressing reticence about speaking his mind because he seemed to fear it would lead to judgement and criticism, but that as he read, he just grew stronger and more grounded in his personal beliefs and was reassured by several other students who more or less shared similar feelings.

I also explained that my next goal was help draw out the shyer students at the back of the class, those who seemed to fear the same thing.  The latter pair also struggling to share as well.

I had left the class feeling like I needed to validate where they were coming from as we had spent quite a bit of our discussion time on fears and doubts and breaking free of what many saw as a form of forced faith. . .something that was more or less handed down from generation to generation, strong in traditional adherence to a set of rules that didn’t always resonate.

We were able to establish common ground and caring, looking to core beliefs such as the practice of love and compassion. . .it was the dogma that more or less got in the way of a meeting of the minds.

Some students admitted that while they felt uncomfortable with the inconsistencies and hypocrisy practiced by others of their chosen faith, they themselves were still able to find peace and freedom in another kind of upbringing, one wherein those core beliefs remained the basis for their spiritual existence,  and this at times within the same setting that had left so many feeling oppressed and questioning.

And I left class feeling kind of sad for them, as it seemed as if they too were struggling to be heard.

So this motivated me to search for poems to help draw them out a little, maybe explore some ways to write about their own journeys, as these like-minded writers had done.

And so here then is some inspiration and validation for them:

Gerard Manley “Hip” Hopkins, “Spring”

http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=endscreen&v=WhQwFf6Qb9U&NR=1

William Blake

The Angel that presided ‘oer my birth
by William Blake
The Angel that presided 'oer my birth
Said, "Little creature, form'd of Joy and Mirth,
"Go love without the help of any Thing on Earth."

Bob Dylan, sung by Emmy Lou Harris:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HHgzOkeCgVY&feature=related

direct link to “Every Grain of Sand” in case the above imbedded one malfunctions.  🙂

We Shall Overcome  😉

Love,

Professor Tess

And Now for Something Completely Strange! Poetry in Motion Clips. . .Tom Waits’ Smuggler’s Waltz and Ginsberg Can Dance!

Poetry in Motion   --Ron Mann, 1982

Anytime I want to light a funny fire under my creative writing students, I just bring this video to class.  It has everything:

comedy,

(this is long, I know, but insanely worth it for the last line and the story. ..and you won’t forget it. ..EVER)

drama,

tragedy. . .

Seriously, I love this clip. . .even if it is kind of the pinnacle of silliness.  Ginsberg is amazing!

and Micheal Ondaatje, the author of “The English Patient

. . .like a. . .desert romance. . .only ten degrees hotter. ..

and this is just complete insanity, but worth the ride. Enjoy ! :

(OK, that’s all I have for today.  If you are a girl, I HIGHLY recommend a second viewing of Ondaatje, just for the fantasy factor!)

Scantily Clad Insanity, Provocative Tagging and Poetry!!! Testing One, Two, Three

(this post is dedicated to my church-going friend, Nicole)

So a couple of weeks ago, I was facebook wall chatting with a friend whose initial status was questioning the integrity of people will go to great lengths of craziness. . .to gain a readership online. I can’t remember the actual conversation per se, only that I wanted to write a blog about it so here I am. . . with this experiment.

OK, I confess this is post is inspired in part by a very needy desire to increase readership  (a very large part so go ahead and shoot me already, I deserve it. . .)

but also (to continue with what I was saying before that last parenthetical). . . also a furious curiosity to see what will happen after I’ve attached the following tags/links and/or language to this artist’s blog:

nudes,

reclining nudes,

naked ladies,

burlesque

erotic poetry.

bipolar illness

You could call  it a hypothetical experiment, or some other kinda sciencey thing that indicates scholarly involvement, experiment in which a part of me finds itself feelin kinda jazzed about making waves in these otherwise calm waters (so far the seventh biggest day I’ve had around here was an artist interview that included a couple of nude paintings. . . accompanied by a buxomy shot of the budding and lovely young artist 😉  )

and the other part finds itself feelin kinda nervous. . .about what to expect in the aftermath of such a blatant attempt to draw attention to oneself.

http://grumpygardener.southernliving.com/photos/uncategorized/2008/10/13/tree2.jpg

Introductions first perhaps and check out this sclera slash aqueous matter in the baby blues up here. . .”hi, i’m tess; part-time artist/ part-time community college instructor . . .

And truth be told, I kind of had to draw the line at actual pornography as mostly I find the stuff to be boring and exploitive. . .and so as not to throw my unsaved soul completely overboard.. . .and end up getting devoured by a drunken boat at the corner of Scylla and Charybdis, I’ve decided to limit my tagging vocabulary to “art” and insanity words.

So here I am at any rate, having tied myself to the mast. .. seasick with sirens blaring loud in cyberspace. All kinds of things to worry about now and fodder for serious neurosis.

Anyway, here goes nothing.

Exhibit A, some original art with an erotic theme followed by exhibit B, a poem on the topic of a semi clad exboyfriend, one having sold himself out to find work as a model for phone-sex.

"Orchestral" 9x12 mixed media on paper, piece inspired by the poetry of Mary McCrary Ladd, --Tess Farnham, 8/2011

http://www.etsy.com/listing/80849466/mixed-media-fantasy-lavender-glitter

At any rate, I have just discovered what would happen to my experiment by posting this title in the WordPress promotional forum. 

And that is a swift reprimand about the misuse of tags. . .which is kind of embarrassing even when you are just kidding around. 

So I won’t actually be attaching any of the tags I said I would use.  And truth be told, I never did.  Even from the beginning.

In some future post, I guess maybe I will write about about PRETENDING I attached too many provocative tags, and then admit I totally chickened out in the end. 

 

exhibit b: to be continued at a later date

 

Like Butter, An Introduction to the Language of Flowers

photo by Tess Farnham

“And the wand-like lily which lifted up,  As a Maenad, its moonlight-coloured cup,    Till the fiery star, which is its eye,      Gazed through clear dew on the tender sky.”
–Shelley

Close your eyes if you will and imagine the enclosure around a bowl and fountain, its  gray painted sides alive with the hieroglyphics of those come to baptize the blank slate. ..

sequestering themselves away with only the sound of running water to inspire…

as they peed and pondered the mysteries of the universe,

sharpies at the ready and poised to scrawl those innermost thoughts. ..those odes of undying devotion.. those offers of meaningful connection at the click of a couple of digital buttons. ..

Consider too  the lowly scoreboard. .  .

the blatantcy of facebook page and relationship status,

the mobile’s greenish screen and keyboard. ..

if only to name a few of the places where alliances are forged, born, and broken these days.

But have you ever wondered what the pioneers did for PDA/PDBreakup before the saturation of mass technology?

Before the bells and whistles,

before the misspellings and abbreviations, the glows thrown off by text message light. . .

And what of those gentle Victorian ladies who hid their hands and ankles,  lacing themselves up so tight, it tournequeted the circulation from heart to head. ..

so much so that the menfolk were put upon to fashion special couches for them to fall on. . .

The few the proud, the ones who got there first. . .  nevermind this modern shock and awe delivered at the door of  far flung incontinents. . .here was hand to hand interacation.

Hold your fire until you see the whites of their eyes kinda stuff.

Here lies beloved, her poor corseted form flung across the velvet upholstery and hands kept dainty inside  silk gloves. ..till he arrives extending his intentions all neatly arranged in a bouquet. ..Depending upon the intent of the sender, a man could make or break his relationship with just one trip to the florist’s shop.For Next Time:Like Butter. ..Lily in the Language of FlowersMeanwhile, check out theImpressionist and flowers-inpired art here:  http://www.etsy.com/shop/tessilu?ref=si_shop

Cosmos and Iris, acrylic on canvas, Tess Farnham