The Reluctant Writer: Something Else to do When I Should Be Writing

March 17, 2010

Blogging, ballet & beer — with a perturbed poetry mention

I remember when I used to blog.

I know, it’s been a while.  Coming up on a month, actually.  So many cool things to write about and yet I don’t seem to be doing my job.  When we left off, Bonnie and I were just returning from New York City where it was cold and all Alan Shore-y.  Oh yeah, and a nice man in a bar bought me a drink while I was talking to the Beer Doc on the phone.  That still feels good.  I went out to the Art Bar last night to check out the final poetry slam competition — scouting for an upcoming undefined poetry reading (and by the way, Chris McCormick was robbed!) — and couldn’t find anyone to go with, so I put on my big girl panties and went alone.  Lo and behold, another dude tried to buy me a drink while I was talking to my friend Gillian on the phone.  He was creepy though — cowboy hat creepy, to be precise — so I gave him the Nora look and moved into another room.  (The Nora look is this “eat shite you pathetic fool or I’ll burn your house down” snarl that is passed genetically through the Boiter side of my family.  My dead grandmother Nora had it, and my also late Dad had it, then me, then Bonnie.  Bonnie has actually perfected it — you’ve probably seen it before from one or both of us.)

  In the interim since my last post, the Beer Doc and I spent Spring Break doing some final research on NC and SC beer.  Actually, I’m working on a story for Sandlapper on SC micros and brewpubs — focusing on COAST beer in North Charleston — a wife/husband team who are brewing organic, environmentally conscious beer that absolutely rocks; RJ Rockers in Spartanburg — home of the Son of a Peach summertime sensation; Thomas Creek in Greenville — home of the Deep Water Double Bock which is sumptuous; the Aiken Brewpub, which is in Aiken; and our own local Hunter Gatherer — the place I keep calling “our” pub and for some reason, people who don’t know it think it belongs to us.  I tend to get a little proprietary, I guess.  People who don’t know the Cellar may think I own it, too. 

In any case, much has been written about beer lately and less about my beloved arts.  (No, I don’t own them — it’s a figure of speech.)  However, I have done a couple of reviews for the Free Times of local Columbia dance companies over the past few weeks.  Here’s the piece on Columbia Classical Ballet’s Aladdin, in case you missed it.

And I’ll try to be a better blogger in the future.

 

Issue #23.10 :: 03/10/2010 – 03/16/2010

Aladdin Gives us More — and Less — of What We Expect from Columbia Classical Ballet

BY CYNTHIA BOITER

   

Columbia Classical Ballet’s Aladdin presented itself last Friday at the Koger Center as something big — something spectacular. In many ways, the company met its objective. Resplendent costuming in shimmering warm shades; a multiplicity of dancers at various stages of training; informed choreography courtesy of the rare former dancer who actually knows how to choreograph; delicate women; threatening thieves; and a plethora of adorable children littering the stage.  There is no arguing — it was a big show.

Based ever-so-loosely on a Middle-Eastern folk tale taken from One Thousand and One Arabian Nights (though the characters of Jasmine and a blue Genie do not appear in the story’s history until Walt Disney Pictures adapted the tale in 1992), Aladdin is a classic tale of boy meets girl, boy loses girl, boy wins girl back and defeats the evil sorcerer with the help of a genie in a lamp. Choreographed by Classical Ballet resident choreographer Simone Cuttino — a John Cranko Ballet alum — the ballet Aladdin offers quite a lot of dancing.

In the first act, some might argue, it offers too much.

It’s not that exposition in a narrative ballet is a bad thing, but Act I could have used more of the fine-tuning — the winnowing out of superfluous movement and detail — that Act II demonstrated.

In a word, the first act was long.

That said, one of the most aesthetically pleasing parts of the ballet came in Scene Two when Aladdin, danced by Aoi Anraku (a Gold Prize winner in the All Japan Ballet Competition in Nagoya), encounters Lauren Frere’s Goddess of Diamonds and her accompanying attendants (danced by Anna Porter, Renata Franco, Kaori Yanagida, Akari Manabe and Dee Dee Rosner).  Though Anraku rarely demonstrated much commitment to his character, stepping in and out of choreography as if it were a series of disconnected exercises, the women accomplished their parts exquisitely.

It can also be argued that the ballet itself didn’t fully take off until the very end of Act I when the character of Jafar, danced by the Ukrainian Oleksandr Vykhrest — who heretofore had lacked the menacing energy one might expect from a villain — came alive with malice as he danced the lights down on the act. Once the ballet found itself, the remainder of the program was a delight.

The highlight of the night was the desert scene in Act II, when the company rallied to produce a mesmerizing scene of conspiracy and deception. Jasmine, danced by Kaleena Burks (former student of Magda Aunon and Magaly Suarez), demonstrated particularly stunning pointe work and arabesques while committing to her character in a manner she had previously yet to reveal. Vykhrest’s Jafar exhibited not just a capacity for peril, but also for affection, as he pined hopelessly for the princess. Kazuki Ichihashi, in the role of the Genie, might have relied excessively on his turns to wow the audience, but he executed them spectacularly. The lighting, courtesy of technical director and lighting designer Aaron Pelzek, painted the desert scene with subtle, yet beautiful changing hues suggesting the passage of time as the scene progressed.

Why did this simple scene with few props and no stage clutter satisfy so?

Because big isn’t always better. Give me the respect for the aesthetic of dance, the purity of exquisite technique, the confidence of simplicity audiences have come to expect from director Radenko Pavlovich’s classically trained and, usually, impeccably coached dancers, any day. My favorite Pavlovich productions are the ones with little production at all — beautiful, proficient dancers on a bare stage with nothing but a capable lighting director to illuminate their prowess.

We got to see a peek of this local treasure Friday night — but only a glimpse and not nearly enough to last until next season begins.             

Let us know what you think: Email editor@free-times.com.

   

 

 

February 9, 2010

Valentine’s Day = Pressure; What’s Love Fest = Pressure Release

As a woman of a certain age, I’ve suffered through many a Valentine’s Day.

Suffer, you say?  Why, I thought you had married your high school sweetheart — a boy you met on the football field when you were but fifteen years old?  I thought you had never dated another boy since and that you were living happily ever after in a little white house in an enchanted forest? Isn’t all of this true?

Why yes, yes it is. So if someone like me, who is married to the Beer Doctor, who just happens to have exquisite taste in all things romance, jewelry, wine, chocolates, flowers — the whole bit — if someone like me has suffered through Valentine’s Days galore, then please do pity the poor girl or boy who:  doesn’t have a love interest; only has a like interest; isn’t sure where she or he stands on the like/love scale.

The fact of the matter is that, more than anything, Valentine’s Day means pressure — even for those of us long in-love.  If it’s not deciding what to do, because God forbid you act as if it’s just another night, then it is deciding what to do soon enough lest every table in town be booked.  Pressure.  Then there is the question of gifts.  Women are easy — there is tradition behind what women expect from their beloveds on Valentine’s Day — gentlemen may make their choices from any variety of candies, jewels, and floral designs.  For women of the enlightened sect however, (those who recognize that loving and cherishing is a two-way street and that boys like to have love professed to them as much as girls), it is slim pickings.  We can only give so many wallets, money clips, and boxers with hearts all over them.  Women have to get creative.  Personally, I’ve given the Beer Doc so many baskets of craft beers by now that I just can’t go that direction again.  Pressure.

Don’t even get me started on Valentine’s shopping for parents, grandparents, and kids; what to wear over & what to wear under; performance anxiety; and the fact that a major candy holiday comes around in the middle of the biggest diet season of the year.  Pressure.

At least there is something we can do in Columbia that is pretty much pressure-less for those who just have to show up, and a pressure-release once we get there — the What’s Love Fest at 701 Whaley Street — one of the best arts events of the year.

With too many artists to mention — but I will say a few names like Bonnie Goldberg, Anastasia Chernoff, Michael Krajewski, Alejandro Garcia, Caroline Hatchell, and Billy Guess; plus performance art à la Wideman/Davis Dance, Unbound and more; music from Danielle Howle, Unresolved and Les Paramours; food, including an offering by Chef Kelly and a cash bar with Magic Hat brew; plus all kinds of surprises, I’m sure — The What’s Love Fest is the answer to the second most stressful holiday of the year.  Simply suit up in something sexy (ok, a little pressure there), and show up.

Below are the details lifted from the What’s Love Fest Facebook page — I hope I get to see you there.

What’s Love? This is What’s Love!
Over 40 visual and performance artists showing You the Love!

SAT. February 13th @ 701 Whaley
The main event:
“What’s Love Fest 2010”
7pm-midnight

Sun. Feb. 14th CLOSING
2pm-5pm

Tickets are $15 advance $20 at the door
Advance tickets:
Sid & Nancy – 5 Points
S&S Art Supplies – Rosewood Dr
Frame of Mind – Main St.
WEB – http://www.palmettonluna.org paypal

It’s Valentines weekend and whether you are single or have a love to bring you won’t want to miss this night of tantalizing art and entertainment!
Sponsored by:
Free Times
Baileys
Magic Hat
Sid & Nancy
Comunicar
Smoke
L.A.Kornegay, Media Productions

SAT. FEB 13th 7-midnight

Music by:
Les Paramours featuring:
Don Russo: Vocals/Guitar
Nick Brewer: Piano
Reggie Sullivan: Bass
Tony Lee: Drums
PLUS
Danielle Howle
Unresolved

Performances by:
Unbound Dance Company
Wideman/Davis
Sherry Warren & Kirrill Simin
Penthouse Playhouse

Also enjoy DR SKETCHY! The most rambunctious sketching session you’ll experience.

ART ART ART ART ART
With sexy, humorous, erotic and romantic art – starting with return artists or “The Love Hangovers”
* denotes part of juried show
Heidi Darr-Hope
Anastasia Chernoff
Melissa Ligon
Britta Cruz
Jeff Smith
Alejandro Garcia
Molly Harrell *
Michael Krejewski *
Melinda Register *
Bonnie Goldberg
Leslie Pierce *
Diana Farfan
Lee Ann Kornegay
Travis Teate
Billy Guess *

“Puppy Loves”
Betsy Newman *
Wade Sellers *
Michael Dixon *
Half & Half – Nick & Sarah *
Ted Sbardella *
Melissa Buckner *
Lindsey Wolf *
Izms of Art – Cedric & Mustafa *
Shannon Purvis *
Roe Young *
Caroline Hatchell *
James Shealy *
Lucy Bailey *
Dawn Hunter *
Sarah Kobos *

Kelly Courtney of Sugarhill will have something yummy and chocolate!

You can also shop for the perfect Valentine’s gift with:
Sid & Nancy
Bohumila Augustinova
Tom Chinn – Love Taps
S&S Art Supplies
Frame of Mind
Danielle Howle – Jewelry

Looking for the perfect Valentines Experience?
How bout the DELUXE LOVE package?
Details coming soon!

What’s Love Fest 2010
Jurors

1. Todd Herman, Chief Curator of the Columbia Museum of Art.
2. Karen Watson, Director of the Sumter Gallery of Art.
3. J.J. Ohlinger, Director of CAFfeine, Contemporary Art Forum in Greenville, SC.
4. Alejandro Garcia-Lemos, What’s Love Jury Coordinator.

This year’s event supports Palmetto & LUNA, a non-profit organization promoting Latino arts and culture in South Carolina. Latino theme not required.

FREE TIMES, Sid & Nancy, BAILEYS, Magic Hat and COMUNICAR are sponsors of the event.

For more information
lakorn@bellsouth.net

January 16, 2010

Poetry from my 30s

Filed under: Cynthia Boiter,poetry,writer's life,writing — cynthiaboiter @ 01:02
Tags: ,

A little something today because I’m feeling brave.

~~~~~

Home No. 5

~

I know the harnessed poet in the

wild-eyed boy, Southern man.

The lips of his woman taste of

honeysuckle and late-August muscadines.

Her back sways like the loblolly,

quivers like cane,

arches like that old barn cat.

~

His woman’s arms wrap as warm as Granny’s

line-aired crazy quilt, stitched from

Momma’s white baptismal gown,

Aunt Ellen’s faded calico-peach apron,

Great-granddaddy’s worn broadcloth shirt.

~

I know the Southern poet man — the way

he eats his supper like a sacrament.

Sopping up pot-liquor with powdery flat biscuits

until his tin plate shines.

Holding blackberry seeds on the

tip of his tongue until the bitter cuts

through the sweet and he has to swallow,

but he knows he has eaten it,

good.

~

He breathes in heady chow-chow, pickled preserves, cayenne

and smiles as the blazes rush through his chest

and lap at his nostrils and toes.

He wants to turn to the river and dance in the

must of the leaves and the left-fruit

beneath the coppice of trees.

He wants to

dance.

~

The wide-eyed Southern man-poet

loves his children

like good dogs.

His momma

like Jesus.

His home

like a well-shifted shed.

~

I know the southern boy-poet and his stars.

How, each evening, he takes them

from an icy Mason jar,

buried by the chimney at the old home place —

bricks asunder, foundation nearly gone —

and places them,

just so,

in the pitch-black Southern sky,

where he commands them to

shine.

~

And for years, they would.

~

I know the Southern poet-man,

whose travels have led him into and out of the woods,

long past pondering the mystery,

to the place where old boys

die.

January 6, 2010

McCormick, Hartvigsen, Buckner, Dickey — the art of the spoken word at FOM

I’m pretty excited about the presentation of spoken word art this Thursday night at Frame of Mind.  In addition to Cassie Premo Steele’s readings, which I recently told you about, three exceptional poets in their own rights will be sharing their work — and each has an impressive background in poetry with unique experiences to offer the listening audience.

In all likelihood, those of you who are into Columbia poetry will have already heard Christopher McCormick read.  Chris created the Art Bar’s VerseWorks poetry series back in September 2007 and, still today, Tuesday nights find Chris and his family of brethren and sister poets offering up the spoken word to the drunk and sober alike.    A self-professed combo meal of science nerd, IT geek, and  juggling poet, Chris is also a single father who still finds time to lead zombie parades about the city when the need arises.  Like many good poets, he has written all his life and even studied poetry under the late, great, and oh-so-straight James Dickey who, despite his bad comb over,  (I’m sorry — there’s a good comb over?), was the recipient of a number of honors including a Guggenheim Fellowship, a National Book Award, and an invitation to read his poem, The Strength of Fields, at the inauguration of my favorite president, Jimmy Carter.

According to Chris, who visits the Lord every Tuesday night during VerseWorks at Columbia’s Church of Free Speech, “I used to write to get the attention of girls.  Now I write because spoken word poetry is my favorite form of honesty — because I have found a true diversity and acceptance in this community that doesn’t exist anywhere else.  Oh, and also to get the attention of girls.”

What say Ladies?  Let’s give the boy what he’s looking for on  Thursday night at FOM.

~~~~~

Kristine Hartvigsen came to poetry later in life, having her first poem published in Brett Bursey and Becci Robbins’ The Point, in 1993.  Like Chris, Kristine also developed a relationship with the Art Bar and took over hosting their Open Mic poetry nights from 1997 – 1999, during which time she also published a monthly newsletter for poetry called Aurora Borealis. Since then, Kristine has built a career in prose, serving as editor of South Carolina Business Magazine and Lake Murray – Columbia Magazine, in addition to single parenting her exceedingly creative son, Colin.  A regular by night at local readings, Kristine spends her days fighting the good fight for the environment as marketing communications manager for the South Carolina Chapter of The Nature Conservancy.  I can’t wait to hear what she brings to the event on Thursday.

~~~~~

The final poet offering up her wares of words is Zen massage therapist, Melissa Buckner.  Poetry has been a part of Melissa’s life as long as she can remember, her first poetry seeing print in the USC -Sumter literary magazine, Sandhill. Hiker, songstress, Usui Reiki healer, Melissa describes herself as a Bohemian hippie living the life she wants to live.  She spent five years living in Prague, learning the Czech language while teaching English as a second language to impressionable Czech youth.  It was during her ex-pat days that Melissa published her first book of poetry, Little Bruises and Bits of Jade.

Here is one of my favorite poems from that collection —

~~

Yes, It’s Me

by Melissa Buckner

~

yes, it’s me

whispering poetry

slipping lines fluidly

one by one

counting lips

strands of silken

sleepy halo

speaking to each

curling sigh

~

calming skin

wishing words

spread willing

beneath

~

forefinger crisp and pink

smile closing upon the spine

knuckles kneading a song

~

one in two part harmony

swoon

I pretend to rest

~~~~~

Looking forward to seeing your smiling faces on Thursday night for Susan Lenz, Cassie Premo Steele, Chris, Kristine, & Melissa, and Heidi Carey playing the cello.

~

Until then — here is James Dickey’s poem delivered in honor of President Carter.

~

The Strength of Fields

by James L. Dickey

… a separation from the world, a penetration to some source of power and a life-enhancing return …

Van Gennep: Rites de Passage
Moth-force a small town always has,
Given the night.
What field-forms can be,
Outlying the small civic light-decisions over
A man walking near home?
Men are not where he is
Exactly now, but they are around him    around him like the strength
Of fields.    The solar system floats on
Above him in town-moths.
Tell me, train-sound,
With all your long-lost grief,
what I can give.
Dear Lord of all the fields
what am I going to do?
Street-lights, blue-force and frail
As the homes of men, tell me how to do it    how
To withdraw    how to penetrate and find the source
Of the power you always had
light as a moth, and rising
With the level and moonlit expansion
Of the fields around, and the sleep of hoping men.
You?    I?    What difference is there?    We can all be saved
By a secret blooming. Now as I walk
The night    and you walk with me    we know simplicity
Is close to the source that sleeping men
Search for in their home-deep beds.
We know that the sun is away    we know that the sun can be conquered
By moths, in blue home-town air.
The stars splinter, pointed and wild. The dead lie under
The pastures.    They look on and help.    Tell me, freight-train,
When there is no one else
To hear. Tell me in a voice the sea
Would have, if it had not a better one: as it lifts,
Hundreds of miles away, its fumbling, deep-structured roar
Like the profound, unstoppable craving
Of nations for their wish.
Hunger, time and the moon:
The moon lying on the brain
as on the excited sea    as on
The strength of fields. Lord, let me shake
With purpose.    Wild hope can always spring
From tended strength.    Everything is in that.
That and nothing but kindness.    More kindness, dear Lord
Of the renewing green.    That is where it all has to start:
With the simplest things. More kindness will do nothing less
Than save every sleeping one
And night-walking one
Of us.

My life belongs to the world. I will do what I can.


January 1, 2010

The New Year, Cassie Premo Steele, The Poemgranate, & my favorite poem from Ruin

Educator, author, creativity coach, and poet, Cassie Premo Steele has a multitude of gifts that she generously shares with her community, near and far.  Next Thursday night, January 7th, Cassie will be the featured poet reading a selection of her poetry as part of the entertainment component of the FOM series on Main Street.  Her work will focus on relationships and intimate issues — such as parenthood, marriage, and family & work struggles — and she’ll be reading and signing her books at 7:30 pm.  Poets Melissa Buckner, Kristine Hartvigsen, and Chris McCormick will be reading at 6:30 and 8:30 pm, as well.

Cassie’s poem, The Poemgranate, was recently nominated for the 2009 Pushcart Prize. The first time I heard this poem, the author was standing on the front porch at Muddy Ford on a cold and drizzly autumn day, speaking the words intimately to our group of 8 women who were participants in the first Women Writing Naturally Workshop.  The day was all crisp and spicy and promising despite the gray dormancy of the woods around us.  After the reading, Cassie broke apart a pomegranate and shared seeds with all of us, then invited us each to commit our seeds to the ground with our own personal wishes and blessings.  If you can imagine how special that moment in time was for our small group, you’ll know how important it is that you come and hear Cassie read next week.  Here is the poem below.

~~~

The Poemgranate
By Cassie Premo Steele

It is fall, the time after the beginning.
Not spring, not one thing in its infancy.
No fantasy of pregnancy or baby again.

I am in a hotel room, far from home.
Next door a baby cries. The mama
Coos her sweet southern comfort.

I did this with you, when you were young.
I ran like Persephone, but with a baby,
Smoky Mountains, New Mexico plains,

Boston, and beaches—we’ve seen the insides
Of hotel rooms turned tombs as I tried
To get what all mothers want, peace

And quiet. I would put you on the floor,
My lily, my orchid, my crocus, let you
Play with plastic cups, suck from multiple

Bottles, anything for one moment
When I could look away without fear
Of falling or choking or hurt.

It is fall, the time after the beginning.
Not spring, not one thing in its infancy.
No fantasy of pregnancy or baby again.

You are no baby anymore, at eight
You have fallen from grace
Many times—not from your mother

But from yourself, which is worse.
I mourn like Demeter, even though
You are still here. You inherited

More than my eyes: my vision,
My moods, my hungers, my cycles
And sins. They live in your skin.

You told me last week you had waited
For thousands of years in the sky
For a mother who would take you in.

Me, I said, smiling, I was the best one.
And then you stuck in the pin: No,
You were the only one to be so dumb.

It is fall, the time after the beginning.
Not spring, not one thing in its infancy.
No fantasy of pregnancy or baby again.

I have no flowers to welcome you back,
No seeds to plant, no chants to make
You whole again. I am human.

Not a goddess with magic or power
To create seasons that mirror
My immense sorrow, your great need.

All I can do is to feed my desire
For solitude, find a way back
To myself through these words

That I harvest like fruits, plucked
From my head, cut open in bed,
And eaten, forbidden or not.

Seeds and core, peel and stem, entire.
It is with this poemgranate that I might
Make myself, mother, whole again.

~~~

Cassie is also the author of five books, one if which is Ruin. Here is my favorite poem from that collection.

~

What Woods

by Cassie Premo Steele

~

What woods are these, that would begin

with this bitchy little seed, so ferocious?

What good is this mean tree that tries

to cut my fingers until they bleed?

Podlike I crawl back into the earth’s

prehistoric sandied shore, and let her take these

teeth from me, let her keep me

from biting back, or biting more.

There I listen, earlike, for the crowned

dawn so I can emerge from this

horrible beginning, so I can split

from my nightmare heritage

and learn to stand where I belong.

~~~

For more information on Cassie, to follow her blog, listen to her radio show, or order books that you may have signed at the FOM event, visit the following link:  http://www.cassiepremosteele.com


December 26, 2009

Poetry from a younger me

Filed under: poetry,writer's life,writing — cynthiaboiter @ 22:18
Tags: , ,

As I’ve said time and time again, I am not a poet.  But I’ve always liked to dabble in poetry for fun.  When I was a kid, the occasional poem was a much-needed outlet for quite a bit of my outsider angst.  I won my first poetry contest when I was in the third grade — can’t recall the poem, but it was awarded by a publication called Read Magazine and I won a cheap little charm shaped like a scroll.  Thanks Read Magazine — validation rocks.

Then when I was in high school, freshman year, I started entering a poetry contest that the University of South Carolina – Spartanburg, now called USC Upstate, sponsored.  The first year, one of my poems was published in their literary magazine, quirkily called Maggie’s Drawers, (from the frontispiece of the magazine are the words — For those not acquainted with the term “Maggie’s Drawers,” it signifies a complete miss of the target on the rifle range), but I didn’t win anything.  The next year, I lucked up and won an award of special merit for a poem I’m too embarrassed to re-print — although I do recognize early Pagan interests in the lines and am amused by the fact that my insecurities clearly required me to include a nod to Jesus near the ending, lest my spiritual uppitiness land me burning forever in hell.  (I’ve always recognized the utility Pascale’s wager, which says that if you believe in a supreme being but you turn out to be wrong, you’ve lost nothing — however, if you don’t believe in one and there actually is one, well, you’re just screwed.)  Shift and dodge, dodge and shift — ain’t religion grand?

Finally, by my junior year, one of my poems was awarded first place in the contest.  It’s funny now to look back and see myself as the little drama queen I was — given my distaste for such creatures as an adult.  But it won out of 500 entries, (granted 500 entries that likely originated from upstate South Carolina — not exactly the arts capital of the Southeast), so here it is, in all it’s dripping drama.  (note the lack of capitalization — e. e. cummings was my hero)

~~

doodle my name

on the place mat

set under cold bacon and egg

and warm memories

of other mornings.

I don’t ask for

clean or silent thoughts

just as long as they’re

of me and not

the ones before.

Lean on my wallshadow

and cherish yesterdays

like

8-year-old new bike Christmases.

Pretend

hours are minutes

I’m but seconds away.

~~~~~

Personally, I’m much more fond of the following poems, which were published in the same issue, but not recognized.

~~

i wear new shoes

like a dog eats grass

casually at first

taking for granted

the fields of choroglory

and soles of leatherbetter.

~

now and then i

wonder almost hope

that both would turn

to cindergravel.

~~~~~

(Quite the budding socialist there, huh?)

and this clever little gem …

~~

If you write poems

day after day

eventually you

write one you

believe in.

~

About truth

or faith

or promises –

wait – that’s not right …

~

If you write poems

day after day

eventually you

write one you

believe in.

~~~~~

By my senior year in high school, I had already won first place but I entered anyway and, this time, was awarded second place in the contest.  It’s funny now to look back and see how much difference a year makes in the growth of a young person.  It’s not that the poetry is that much better, but it is braver — and that makes me happy.  Here’s the second place winner, and it has a title.

~~

No Imitation

~

I don’t want to write down

love words or nature phrases

or spell myself with little letters

or substitute silly exclamations

where a simple word belongs.

~

And I don’t want to write of sex

as an ocean and God as a brother

or his another

or the way Mr. McKuen

makes poems into songs.

~

I just want to write of me

and my yesterdays and

next years and burst bubbles

and plan the ones I’ve yet

to purse my lips for.

~

I’m too interested in acquainting

me with me to try to imitate

you, the man who died

fifty years past, or some sea-gull

who learned to soar.

~~~~~

Cute, huh?  This was in 1975 when Rod McKuen was all the rage — he had teamed up in the fifties with Allen Ginsberg and Jack Kerouac and moved spoken word poetry into popular culture.  Then in the sixties, he was responsible for translating much of the work of French singer/songwriter/poet, Jaqcues Brel into English before his death. I still have a few of his LPs, despite the fact that I soon learned — and may have been learning even in high school — that his work is uniformly considered pretty iffy.  Still, it meant something to me at an important time in my life — so there! to critics and idiots alike (and sometimes one in the same) who think they can determine what is and isn’t art based on their own world views alone.  As for the sea-gull reference, Richard Bach’s beautiful but naive novella, Jonathan Livingston Seagull, had been published in 1970, aiding and abetting in the non-conformity movement of the time,which, as my previous poetry so well illustrates, I was all about even as a child.  This fact could not be better illustrated than by the following self-righteous little ditty of mine that served to close out the 1977 issue of Maggie’s Drawers.

~~

… After my words have pleaded

with you,

if you still believe yesterday

can carry the weight of eternity —

~

then never shade your eyes

against my sun again …

~~~~~

Well, that was a fun little trip down the pot-holed, briar-ridden, tar and gravel path of Memory Lane.  It’s hard to not find oneself introspective at the juxtaposition of old and new years.  Funny though, I found this last poem printed in the pages of Maggie’s Drawers today, coincidentally entitled December Twenty-Six, which is the self-same date as today.  It’s a sweet little poem and I still like it a lot.  So, here’s a gift to today’s readers from an 18-year-old me.

~

Happy holidays to the children we were and will always be.

~

December Twenty-Six

~

Packing away ornaments

I store a month of memories

of crowded stores

and anxious eyes

beside a dry and brittle tree,

icicles still intact,

in a full and contented attic.

Outside, G. I. Joe spies

pink ruffled undies

mounted on a chrome horse

who toots to me at the window.

And I turn, lost in thought,

to toss away an age-old Madonna

and reach for Santa’s tiny sleigh

to gingerly wrap in tissue.

December 22, 2009

Reflections brought to you by Susan Lenz and FOM, with Cassie Premo Steele, Melissa Buckner, Kristine Hartvigsen, & Chris McCormick plus Treadmill Trackstar’s Heidi Carey

If you’re like me, it’s hard to think about anything but Christmas these days — wrapping, eating, unwrapping, eating some more.  But the calendar does go on after Christmas Eve, and just two weeks beyond today, there’s an arts event you want to go ahead and mark on your calendars.  I’m particularly partial to this event because I got to help put it together and, consequently, I get to show off some of my favorite people whose works help make your city such a great place to live.

I’m talking about the January edition of Mark Plessinger’s FOM series — titled for this month only, Reflections.

(I know it’s a little trite and constructed to always make January the month for contemplation, assessment, and resolutions.  But given that our culture is, in so many ways, devoid of these very necessary components to a healthy and happy life, I say, take it where and when you can find it.)

Frame of Mind’s  featured artist for the month of January is Columbia’s own internationally renowned fiber artist, Susan Lenz.  Susan, who references herself as a contemporary embroiderer (a term which seems too limiting for the magic this woman comes up with to me), brings us creations like art quilts, amazingly symmetrical bowls made from acorn caps and moss, embellished images of graves she has hand rubbed onto silken cloths, beautiful found objects captured onto unique canvasses — the kind of thing that puts the art into artifact.

In the days to come, I’ll be writing more about this upcoming event — telling you more about what to expect from Susan’s show, and offering a bit of information about the performance art scheduled for that evening.  But here’s a preview — Cassie Premo Steele reading her poetry and signing and selling books, with additional poetry readings by Melissa Buckner, Kristine Hartvigsen, and Christopher McCormick.  And when these guys aren’t enlightening you, Treadmill Trackstar’s own Heidi Carey will be serenading us with her sweet cello sounds, persuading us all to look inward a little — to reflect.

Sounds like a lovely night — and a wonderful way to start the new year in Columbia arts.

September 22, 2009

Judgment of the Phasmatodea

Filed under: not writing,poetry,writer's life — cynthiaboiter @ 20:08
Tags: ,

I had a stretch-my-legs moment while working on the beer book today and wandered outside for some air and a dose of the mysteriously energizing vibe that always seems to emit from the woods we insensibly call our own.  (If anything, we belong to the forest — it certainly doesn’t belong to us.)  Earlier, Bob had noticed a walking stick bug on the porch screen and wondered aloud whether these amazing insects had come back to Muddy Ford this year. 

Sure enough, there were several to be seen.  And I pondered how funny it is that when we couldn’t see them, these brilliant mistresses and masters of camo, we assumed they were gone. 

They weren’t gone; they were successful. 

So a little ditty came to my head and, since I’m feeling a bit brave today, given my hefty helping of the Muddy Ford magical mystery woods, I guess I’ll share it with you.

 

Judgment of the Phasmatodea

 

I laughed at the walking sticks

at my house in the woods

noticeably hiding

their twiggish bodies

against the white fence post,

the back door screen.

I can see you,

I smiled quietly,

shaking my head

like an all-knowing god.

But it occurred to me

as the obvious does

and I had to laugh once more,

when from the woods

there came a knowing

of those more cunning

smiling just as silently

down upon me.

April 15, 2009

Dying in spring at fifty

Filed under: aging,poetry,writer's life,writing — cynthiaboiter @ 23:29
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My head has been all about high school lately — a place and time to which I seldom hearken back.  The bad old days.  But they’ve been steadily in my head since last Thursday when my old friend Marguerite emailed me that Allen, our mutual old friend, had died.  So this is how my generation will learn of its passing.  Via email.

I’ve known Allen since elementary school — another sad and oppressive period of my life that I like to keep at a mental and emotional distance.  We didn’t become friends until high school though.  Allen was a trumpet player in the marching band and I was in the flag corps.  (Yes, I was one of those girls, skimpy costume and all, advancing to team captain by my senior year; Allen became the drum major.)  We lived relatively near one another out in the vast expanse that used to be rural Spartanburg County before BMW carpetbagged in, and it came to be that we often drove into school and band practice together.  He was a sweet boy  — a furtive blusher — shy, kind, funny, big old grin.  We talked a lot. It was sometime during high school that Allen learned he had been diagnosed with juvenile onset diabetes.

Allen was in the second group of our friends who came to USC for college; my husband Bob being in the first group, with me in the third. When I finally came to school my roommate was Diana, Allen’s girlfriend, also from our old school.  A group of the boys from high school roomed together and down the hall from one another in Maxcy, just off the USC Horseshoe, and Allen was one of them.  So was Bob.  They played Rook almost every Sunday night.  They watched TV together, went to ballgames together, drove back and forth on weekends from the various mill villages where their homes were together.  And being typical college students, they partied together, as well.

More times than I care to remember, Allen, like a lot of the guys, overdid it.  But the problem was that while the other boys would bounce back in the way that 18 and 19 year olds do, Allen did not suffer his hangovers so easily.  Drinking was not the best thing for a severely diabetic adolescent.  He did a lot of damage to his body during those years.  And in the years to come, after we had lost touch and only heard bits and pieces of one anothers’ lives from relatives and the few friends we kept up with, we heard that health wise, Allen continued to suffer.  Eventually, he underwent a kidney and pancreas transplant. There were other hospitalizations as well.

So when I saw the subject heading listing Allen’s name in Marguerite’s email, I thought the worse before I even opened it.  I was right. 

I wrote a little something to honor my old friend Allen.  It’s not a very good poem, but it says what I feel, and that’s the point then, isn’t it?  Here’s to my old friend — and here’s to youth.

~~~

                                   Dying in Spring at Fifty

 

He was the first of us.

 

The boy we called Jaime

who raised the Reidville flag

and sold us pencils

two for a nickel

at the student store.

 

Smart and sweet and bespectacled

not an athlete or a pretty boy

but destined to the part

of the boy who was not

and thereby, to become himself.

 

An unlikely drum major

but they followed him

more than a hundred

onto the Friday night chalk

with reluctant, begrudging respect.

 

His body was less the legionnaire

betraying him like a bandit

sending him teetering

to brinks and bottoms and quandaries

no man, no boy should wander.

 

College taught no mercy

for fickle bodies

punishment that would

last a lifetime

a lifetime that would not last.

 

Then there was time

twenties and thirties and more

the preacher said he’d been happy

the preacher said he was loved

amen.

 

And so in spring and at fifty

the boy we called Allen

who raised the Reidville flag

smart and sweet and bespectacled

is dead and dead so soon.

 

He was the first of us.

 

 

 

 

April 1, 2009

Anne Boudreau and Jesus Bugs

Filed under: poetry,procrastination,SC Arts,writer's life — cynthiaboiter @ 19:21
Tags: , , ,

I’ve spent the day trying to write an article for Lake Murray Magazine about the artist, Anne Boudreau.  Anne is a glorious textile artist whose fabric sculptures mesmerize me.  Her abstract pieces are stimulating and intriguing — it’s hard to take your eyes away from them.  And her more expressionist pieces, the ones she is working on now for her exhibition opening in May at 701 CCA, seem to almost embody life.  I look forward to seeing them balanced, as they will be, in the air around them — moving with the environment, with the breeze.  Should be lovely.

But I write that I’ve been trying to write and I mean that literally. Today I have most certainly been the reluctant writer.  Spring, house painters, a noisy skill saw — all these distractions have championed me as I’ve tried to give Anne’s art the words it deserves.  At one point, I stopped and took a walk down the lane that leads to Muddy Ford.  I spent a few moments peering over the cedar fence Chuck built for us to bridge the small creek on the front of our property.  These are the words that came so easily then.

 

Jesus bugs walk across the water

of the creek below our house.

Yolk colored pollen drifts from a sky

the color of baby powder

and I raise my hands

like a supplicant

to feel on my fingertips

the sensation of talc.

 

The wisteria has been born again, I see.

And in the dogwood blossom

carmine corners remind me.

Miracle.

 

The article isn’t finished yet, but at least something is.

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