Soar, Sister!

Believe it or not–I actually made a general plan of poems/poets to share on the blog this month. However, I can count on less than one hand the number of times I stuck to the plan. Today, my plan for sharing a longish poem by Nikky Finney transformed to sharing the shortish poem below by George Douglas Johnson (1880?-1966).

Johnson was one of the writers featured in my [so-far-unfinished] Women of the Harlem Renaissance series a couple of years ago. The poem seems fitting for my present circumstance and mood–cooped up in a small space in my home office–cornered by books, research, notes, and creative projects–working feverishly toward freedom from all the demands, ready to fly.

Your World
Georgia Douglas Johnson
Your world is as big as you make it.
I know, for I used to abide
In the narrowest nest in a corner,
My wings pressing close to my side.

But I sighted the distant horizon
Where the skyline encircled the sea
And I throbbed with a burning desire
To travel this immensity.

I battered the cordons around me
And cradled my wings on the breeze,
Then soared to the uttermost reaches
With rapture, with power, with ease!


About the image: The postcard featured in this post was sent to me a decade ago by a swapper named Noni, an artist who seemingly no longer participates on swap-bot. I don’t know much about the art, but I assume Noni made the postcard. She wrote on the back of the card our beloved Maya Angelou’s poem, “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings,”–a poem that doesn’t feel as hopeful as Johnson’s but is nevertheless moving.

“I Am Becoming My Mother”

“Flowers of North America” by Lou Paper

Today’s offering comes from Jamaican poet Lorna Goodison. I am currently reading I Am Becoming My Mother, her second collection of poetry. I struggled with the decision over which poem to share. I would have been satisfied with any poem in the book, but was literally torn when it came to works like “Guinea Woman,” “We Are the Women,” and “Garden of the Women Once Fallen.” I was driving myself crazy, so I decided on the one below on the basis that it is the title poem.

“I Am Becoming My Mother” by Lorna Goodison

Yellow/brown woman
fingers smelling always of onion

My mother raises rare blooms
and waters them with tea
her birth waters sang like rivers
my mother is now me

My mother had a linen dress
the colour of sky
and stored lace and damask
tablecloths
to pull shame out of her eye.

I am becoming my mother
brown/yellow woman
fingers smelling always of onions.

I am drawn to Goodison’s writing for a few reasons. Among them the cadence that makes me want to sing rather than just read the words and her masterful use of imagery, which makes the ordinary deeply striking.


About the image: The postcard above came from my swap-bot pal, EricB. I was randomly selected to receive this postcard via a giveaway on Instagram. Yay, me! The postcard was designed by Lou Papers, and was bedecked with even more flowers on the back.

Woman Inspired! | Stella Gibbons and Carson McCullers

One of my favorite bookish swap series to host is “Literary Wisdom” on swap-bot. Through the swaps, participants select a bookish postcard and write on the back a quote which inspires them. The quote must come from imaginative literature (poetry, prose, plays)–not sacred texts, self-help books, or non-fiction. For Women’s History Month, I decided to dedicate the swaps to women writers, since, unsurprisingly, male writers often dominate the swaps.

I created swaps for the Cup and Chaucer and Book Lovers Congregate groups. Lucky me! My randomly chosen partner for both swaps was Geraldine J (Nannydino). I always enjoy receiving postcards from Geraldine. Not only are the postcards well-selected with my varied interests and tastes in mind but the presentation of the written side of the postcard is always clean and inviting–very neat handwriting and unique placement of stickers, stamps, and postage. Somehow, Geraldine packs a lot of information on the 4×6 postcard backs, always including the date and weather.  Bonus–we have some of the same postcard collections so I get back the very postcards I love.

Now, for the literary inspiration:

Stella Gibbons (1902-1989). Photograph, Mark Gerson/National Portrait Gallery, London

Stella Gibbons was a British writer with poetry, short stories, and 25 novels to her credit. The inspired quote Geraldine chose to share comes from her first novel, Cold Comfort Farm, which is a parody of the “loam and lovechild” rural genre.

Every year, in the fulness o’ summer, when the sukebind hangs heavy from the wains. . .’tes the same. And when the spring comes her hour is upon her again … ‘Tes the hand of Nature and we women cannot escape it.

What seems to be most inspiring here–besides the hilarious novel itself–is “sukebind,” a word Gibbons coined. According to the Oxford English Dictionary “sukebind” is an “imaginary plant associated with superstition, fertility, and intense rustic passion.”

Check out two of The Guardian‘s reviews of Cold Comfort Farm:

If you’re interested in reading the novel, you should have no problems borrowing it from many of the e-libraries.

Carson McCullers (1917-1967). Photograph, Bettman/Corbis

Carson McCullers, born Lula Carson Smith, also wrote in many genres–plays, essays, short stories, poetry, and (of course) novels. The Heart is a Lonely Hunter, her debut [though not first] novel (at the age of 23), remains her most popular work.

The inspiration Geraldine shared actually comes from McCullers’ commentary on her characters. “She felt her characters powerfully, once stating:”

I live with the people I create and it has always made my essential loneliness less keen.

And one of the inspired quotes form The Heart is a Lonely Hunter:

My advice to you is this. Do not attempt to stand alone. …The most fatal thing a man can do is try to stand alone.”

For more about Carson and her works, see the links below:

The postcards come from the collection, Postcards from Penguin Modern Classics: One Hundred Writers in One Box. I actually have the collection and mentioned it [or its lack of diversity] in a post on Eileen Chang. Despite the shortcomings of the collection, the photographs are stunning, and I’m happy to have two of the women writers “return” to me

Before I go, I leave you with a little homework. On the back of the McCullers postcard was an equally stunning fierce and inspiring woman postage stamp–featuring Elsie MacGill. If you don’t know who she is, you must do a little “research” and come back and report [in the comments] three things you’ve learned about her.

Until next time…

International Women’s Day | Keep Showing Up

You might have heard about Aleta, my amazing bestie, in earlier posts. Well, she once again sent me a fierce, woman-empowering package. This one for my birthday (in October)–which her hubby delivered to me early December when he visited.

Three of the items rest in “my happy place.” One of the items has a quote on the front that I am compelled to share today:

There are women who make things better…simply by showing up. There are women of wit and wisdom who–through strength and courage–make it through. There are women who change the world every day…women like you.  –Ashley Rice

In your search for whatever it is you’re searching for, remember there is greatness in you. Through the ordinary of your every day, you do amazing things. Keep showing up. Keep showing out. Chin up, shoulders back to tackle the daily grind, the little things you do that make a world of difference in a life or two or maybe 100.

Happy International Women’s Day!

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.

You’re Entitled to You!

Some of the most exquisite sunflower postcards in my collection were made by Love Noter Lori-Anne C. The intricate details of her paint and ink cards always fascinate me. The card she designed for International Women’s Day 2019 did not disappoint.

“Better the Balance, Better the World.” Art by Lori-Anne C.

I did not miss her message about balance:

If you have the power to make someone happy, do it. The world needs more of that. Know that the “someone” can be you!

I’ve noticed [lately] that women, in particular, must be constantly reminded to take care of themselves. All my life, I’ve watched women put their needs and desires on the back burner while they pretty much served up every part of themselves to everyone else. We extol the virtues of sacrificial mothers and wives as if martyrdom is necessarily their calling, as if any attention to self makes them less selfless–or, worse, selfish.

Some of us are wired for such giving of ourselves, but just in case you have convinced yourself that everyone is entitled to all of you and all of your time, let me be clear: It’s not selfish to put on hold for a moment all the things and all the people vying for every bit of you. It is imperative that you pour some of your time and energy into yourself–to do something that makes you happy, that frees you, that heals you, or makes you giddy.

You can’t help others with only bits and scraps. You have to be balanced and whole–well, healthy–to help others, and you won’t be if you’re only serving others.

So go on. Plan to do something just for you–even if that means doing absolutely nothing.

The world around you is not going to fall apart if you take a little better care of yourself.  –S.C. Lourie, Butterflies and Pebbles.

The Wind of Change

“The secret of change is to focus all your energy, not on fighting the old, but on building the new.”
–Socrates, character in Way of the Peaceful Warrior, Dan Millman, 1980–

About the Image: My Love Notes pal and literary twin, Bianca, sent the postcard above for International Women’s Day. I admired the postcard on Instagram, but had no idea it was winging its way to me. It fits perfectly with the Words and Art series. The purple, happy naturalista dance for me!

“such are daffodils/with the green world they live in”

“Daffodils,” Photo by Sheila L.

Lead by example: Support women on their way to the top. Trust that they will extend a hand to those who follow. –Mariela Dabbah

I tried and tried to capture the daffodils this spring, but they were a bit wonky and difficult to photograph, so I am grateful for the perfect bunch of daffodils my Love Notes friend, Sheila L, sent along with Mariela Dabbah’s quote encouraging women to empower each other through reaching back and extending a hand.

Daffodils make me think of spring and poetry, so that’s where my head went when I received this card.

William Wordsworth’s “I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud” is the “daffodils” poem familiar to many, but since I used that poem on the blog (twice) already, I’m turning to my favorite Romantic poet, John Keats. He mentions the daffodils in the first lines of his “Endymion, Book I,” a treatise on the potency and timelessness of beauty.

A thing of beauty is a joy for ever:
Its loveliness increases; it will never
Pass into nothingness; but still will keep
A bower quiet for us, and a sleep
Full of sweet dreams, and health, and quiet breathing.

Therefore, on every morrow, are we wreathing
A flowery band to bind us to the earth,
Spite of despondence, of the inhuman dearth
Of noble natures, of the gloomy days,
Of all the unhealthy and o’er-darkened ways
Made for our searching: yes, in spite of all,
Some shape of beauty moves away the pall
From our dark spirits.
Such the sun, the moon,
Trees old and young, sprouting a shady boon
For simple sheep; and such are daffodils
With the green world they live in; and clear rills
That for themselves a cooling covert make
‘Gainst the hot season; the mid forest brake,
Rich with a sprinkling of fair musk-rose blooms […]

If you’d like to read the full poem, find it here: Endymion on Bartleby

I hope your week is filled with sunshine, poetry, and brilliant blooms.

Can We Speak in Flowers? | #WordlessWednesday

can we speak in flowers.
it will be much easier for me to understand.

–other language

——————————————————–

flower work
is
not easy.
remaining
soft in the fire
takes
time.

nayyirah waheed, poems from salt.


About the image: The pansies above were captured last spring during one of my photo walks. I gave the “flowers” (poems included) to sisters and friends for Women’s History Month. Since most have received them, I’m sharing them here for #WordlessWednesday. You need flowers too.

Sneak Peek: An Inspiring Arrangement

March is over, but I still have a stimulating bunch of woman-centered art/words/postcards to share!

Here’s a sneak peek at most of the yellow and purple flower postcards I received for Women’s History Month. I’ll be sharing them on the blog throughout the next month or two (or three) because they deserve a closer look.

Speaking of [purple] flowers, look at the lovely tulip done by my friend Holly over at ThreeSixFiveArt. Holly was inspired by the purple tulips in my latest #WordlessWednesday post. She did a fantastic job! Stroll over to her blog to read about her process. [Click image below].

Purple Tulip. Watercolor by Holly M.

April is an insane month for those of us in higher education, so I’ll either blog less (because of time constraints) or more (because of self-imposed “time outs”).

I hope your week is filled with sunshine and flowers!