“there is prayer in poem”

Sadly, we’ve reached the end of National Poetry Month. There are so many poets, so many beautiful words I wish I could share, but only 30 days in April.

Wait. That’s a good thing.

This month was crazy–all the end of the semester madness amplified by Zoom teaching, learning, meeting, and sheltering-in-place. Thankfully, I was able to find some time to think and write, and I wrote poetry almost every day.

I’ve enjoyed our daily excursions, and we end with the words of nayyirah waheed, whose book salt goes everywhere with me. The poem below is from nejma, her second collection of poetry.  It is appropriate for today.

(all i can do is rest.)
my body is the middle of a poem.

there is prayer in poem.

when i am writing
i am praying.

all the prayers that are too soft.
too young.
too old.
to say.

nayyirah waheed, from nejma

Thank you for taking this journey with me. Although we will move on to other matters, we will return to poetry often. For now, I hope you were inspired to pick up a book of poetry and savor the words or grab a pen to write your own. More importantly, I hope you are on the way to living your poem.


About the image: The postcard above features the artwork of Melissa Shutlz-Jones. It is entitled “Birmingham Summer.” The card was among those Irene Latham distributed to students when she visited our campus, and probably because of the sunflower, a student gave the postcard to me. 🙂

“I Am Looking at Music”

National Poetry Month is nearing an end and as I fretted [earlier today] over which poems I should share for the remaining three posts, I realized I haven’t shared a love poem. Gasp!

Love poems are tricky. There are many, many absolutely beautiful love poems, but I have a tendency to steer clear of  poems that overly romanticize love and ignore its complexity. If I am to enjoy the poem, the writer has to avoid cliche but still evoke some feeling and truth with which readers [or listeners] can identify.

I first heard the poem I’m sharing today as “Nina’s Song”–recited by Nia Long in the film Love Jones. The poem is actually the work of Louisiana’s first African American Poet Laureate, Pinkie Gordon Lane (1923-2008). Her skillful use of imagery–light, sound, color–to capture the subtle nuances of love is astounding.

I Am Looking at Music
Pinkie Gordon Lane

It is the color of light,
the shape of sound
high in the evergreens.

It lies suspended in hills,
a blue line in a red
sky.

I am looking at sound.
I am hearing the brightness
Of high bluffs and almond
trees. I am
tasting the wilderness of lakes,
rivers, and streams
caught in an angle
of song.

I am remembering water
that glows in the dawn,
and motion tumbled
in earth, life hidden in mounds.

I am dancing a bright
beam of light.

I am remembering love.


About the image: The image above is one of my own pieces. I crafted the original last summer with “leftover” paint. All the colors seem to pair well with Lane’s poem, so I’m sharing it today.

“Everything Is Waiting for You”

Last night I participated in a “Write Together” workshop with about 15 beautiful souls. The workshop was organized and hosted by Love Notes founder and coordinator, Jennifer Belthoff. I needed the time to write and think in the community of others, so I am grateful for Jennifer and her willingness and openness to offer the workshop during this challenging time.

After participants shared in response to one of the prompts, Jennifer read a poem by British poet David Whyte. I was not familiar with his work and I’ve had little time to process this poem, but it resonates with me.

Everything Is Waiting for You
David Whyte

Your great mistake is to act the drama
as if you were alone. As if life
were a progressive and cunning crime
with no witness to the tiny hidden
transgressions. To feel abandoned is to deny
the intimacy of your surroundings. Surely,
even you, at times, have felt the grand array;
the swelling presence, and the chorus, crowding
out your solo voice. You must note
the way the soap dish enables you,
or the window latch grants you freedom.
Alertness is the hidden discipline of familiarity.
The stairs are your mentor of things
to come, the doors have always been there
to frighten you and invite you,
and the tiny speaker in the phone
is your dream-ladder to divinity.

Put down the weight of your aloneness and ease into the
conversation. The kettle is singing
even as it pours you a drink, the cooking pots
have left their arrogant aloofness and
seen the good in you at last. All the birds
and creatures of the world are unutterably
themselves. Everything is waiting for you.

Even though pretty much the entire world is going through the Corona Virus crisis together, we are disconnected from much of our normal. This might make us feel isolated and alone, particularly as we grapple–in our individual ways–with the toll this pandemic is taking on humanity.  I appreciate the invitation to tune in to everything [else] that is waiting.


About the image: The postcard above was sent to me by my swap-bot/book-lover friend Geraldine J (Nannydino). It is the work of Australian artist, Loui Jover. Needless to say, I love this piece, and am looking forward to learning more about the artist.

A Boxful of Pooh!

Pooh and friends on the bridge watching as Eeyore floating beneath. Artwork by Susan Alena.

Way back in February—it seems eons ago, right?—I went to my mailbox a few times to find Winnie-the-Pooh goodies. There were envelopes filled with stickers, letters, postcards, tags, bookmarks, and even earrings. I was über busy when most arrived, so I oohed and ahhed over them for a moment and placed them back in their envelopes to enjoy later.

Later came today.

Pooh makes a great themed mail package–as the not one, two, or even three, but the four Pooh packages I received prove.

First came the envelope from Tess E (Vontak on swap-bot) filled with Baby Pooh stickers, washi tape, and note paper.

Aren’t they cute?! I am using these to send letters to a few baby nieces this week. I was supposed to write these letters weeks ago, but life really gets in the way of the fun stuff.

Then, a gorgeous Red Bubble envelope arrived with four Pooh postcards from Geraldine J (NannyDino on swap-bot). [Click an image to view larger]

I thought that was the swap, but a week or two later I received a fun package of even more Pooh goodies from Geraldine. [Click an image to view larger]

The handmade storybook envelope was packed with a Pooh birthday card, homemade stickers, and miniature classic Pooh book covers for crafting–all enclosed in a red polka dot envelope bedecked with Canadian Pooh postage. That’s a wonderful load of Pooh!

Then, surprise! My swap-bot-“Cup and Chaucer”-artist-blogging friend, Holly M sent a handmade tag and card “just because.”

Holly has the neatest Pooh supplies. Check out the stamps and the hand-lettering. Her stamping skills almost inspire me to pull out my rarely [and/or never] used stamps and put them to use. Almost. I really don’t like the cleanup part.

I recall Holly was kind enough to send some adorable Pooh mail a couple of years ago: Holly Art!

Finally, Susan Alena (postmansdaughter on swap-bot) sent a package that floored me.  All of it:

The hand-drawn art on the envelope.

The shrinky dink bookmark…

and earrings.

The watercolor that leads this post? Also, created by Susan.

If you ever wondered how much Pooh-love can be packed into an envelope, now you know. A whole lot.

Each sender gave her envelope so much time and attention. I know some people see it as “only mail,” but the mail often tells a story about the person’s heart. And–I do not take for granted how incredibly blessed I am to interact with so many beautiful people.

Letter from Lu! | Snail Mail Quick Tip

Squeals!!!

I received a “letter” from my little great-niece Lu [my niece Tiffany’s daughter]. Isn’t it adorable? I know you don’t understand the special language she used to write her letter, but trust me. It is full of ❤ for her favorite [great] aunt–me, of course! She even used my favorite colors!!!

Thank you for sharing your spectacular work, Lu!

Lu is the adorable baby in this post and this post. She’s now a whole two years old, grown enough to make art and send mail!

We’ll be spending a lot of time indoors over the next few weeks, and kids will probably be making art almost daily–drawings, sketches, paintings, crafts, and more. If you’re like me, you already have an entire museum of your kid’s art in albums, on the walls, in piles on your desk, and in a sealed bin beneath the art table. 😀  Do you really want the task of finding ways to display or store weeks more of artwork?

Of course not!

Lu’s special letter prompted me to offer another snail mail quick tip: Art in the mail!

Sending art mail is a cute way to dispose of  share some of the precious art your kids make. Simply place those one-of-a-kind masterpieces in an envelope and send them to grandparents, aunts, uncles, godparents, friends, and/or the kind senior citizen who has a soft spot for your family. This will not only let them know you’re thinking about them but will also provide a bit of  sunshine while we’re all sort of “stuck.”

If you’ve been reading my blog for any length of time, you know that I send and receive a lot of art mail. So–even if you don’t have children, you can send your own art.

It is so easy, but yields so much joy!

Out of the Zone…

Last week, during the spring break that didn’t feel much like a break, I stepped out of my comfort zone. Gasp!

I did three things that required a bit of a nudge and a bit of courage:

  1. I participated in a two-hour online “intentional creativity” class. I thoroughly enjoyed the class, especially the tools and techniques offered. I even created a piece of art (which I will not be sharing here).  😀
  2. I completed and submitted a tiny sketchbook for the Brooklyn Arts Library Sketchbook Project!!! If you know anything about how I feel about my artistic skills, then you know that this required a huge PUSH. The first push came when my friend Christine B sent me a sketchbook to complete. Then, she made sure to remind me periodically of the March 5th deadline. I finished almost half of the book during a church service one afternoon. Doodling helps me to focus and listen, but [still] shh…don’t tell. I’ll share more about the project and a link to my sketchbook when it is digitized and uploaded to the site.
  3. I put a couple of my doodles up for sale!!! I designed two coloring cards [see image above] for Women’s History Month “just because,” but I realized they are really cute enough to sell.  Plus, this parent of a teenager who has 8th grade graduation and a class trip coming up could use a few extra dollars! I decided to sell the set of two cards for $3. My “little sister,” social media influencer, Brittany of Ordinarily Extraordinary Mom, shared to her page. I saw lots of positive feedback and interest there, and guess what! I sold ONE WHOLE SET! 😀

It’s a start. Besides, marketing and selling any type of creative work takes a lot of time and effort.

My friend Cy is encouraging me to keep at it. She strongly believes in the power of my doodles. As a matter of fact, she had me design her business card with one of the doodles. Wanna see? [I “erased” her personal details]

I crossed off very few of the items on my extensive “to-get-done-during-spring-break” list, but I can’t even feel [too] bad about that. Life is so much more than the lists, and look at what I did accomplish!

What about you? Have you stepped outside your comfort zone lately? Tell me all about it…

She Dances: Working on My Sway

“Flamenca Blanca”

To dance is to be out of yourself. Larger, more beautiful, more powerful. This is power; it is glory on earth and it is yours for the taking.  –Agnes De Mille

My friend Cy sent this amazing postcard a few weeks ago. She found this beauty in Madrid during her travels there. I fell in love with it. The lone woman dancing reminded me of my favorite part of Louis Delsarte’s mural “Spirit of Harlem.”

“Spirit of Harlem” [I was fortunate enough to be in residency at NYU the same time as the artist. Weeks after its unveiling, the whole group of “Scholars-in-Residence” took a trip to Harlem to see the mural].

I’m intrigued by these women who sway their hips without apology and dance solo in spaces obviously peopled by many. It seems the musicians—equally surrendered to their muses—play only for each woman.

I don’t have their gift. As part of the “rhythmless nation,” I’m not sure I will ever dance in public.

But—

I have been reaching for a metaphorical moment like this—of pure freedom—of yielding completely to the rhythms of life without fretting over consequences–“what ifs” or “therefores.”

I’m tuning in and working on my sway.