The Dim Light of Understanding

Waking up by 6 a.m., tending to the dogs, making certain the bills get paid and I brush my teeth regularly would be responsibilities even if I didn’t have a day job. The following is a repeat of a pep talk I have given myself before. Maybe you need it, too.

I long to work for myself, from home. Many times during a single day I fantasize about possessing the funds to stay in the house and write.  Many times during a single week I suffer bouts of bitterness as I drive through traffic toward the lowly day job. And only once or twice in a single year will the dim light of understanding settle on me: I need this right now.

I need the structure of it, the added responsibility, the accountability, the socialization. I need to be needed as a problem solver, a friendly face, a voice of reason. Imagine that. And yes, I need group health insurance, a tiny tiny 401(K), and a dental plan. I need to continue learning, absorbing productive structure, creating inter-office administrative organization that is efficient and pleasing to the eye. All of this will prepare me for the future in which there is no boss to answer to other than myself.

Daily reminders to be grateful for what I have need to be a thing today, tomorrow, and ten years from now regardless of whether my paycheck comes from the corporate beehive or a publishing house.

Get up, Kathy. Write in the early hours, feed your dogs and let them run in the backyard while you shower and prepare for that drive in rush hour. Go be a grateful person.

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Rain Rain Rain

Last year I e-published two poetry collections and a short story. My goal was to follow up with ad promotions and social media blitzes in hopes that reviews would roll in but life kind of got in the way. Without promoting the ebooks,  25 copies sold and Kindle Unlimited users got another 125, which pleased me. Still no reviews, though.

I’m one of those weirdos who believes just about any criticism can be constructive (especially when given by other writers), so the lack of reviews have been disappointing.  Now that I’m working up a list of agents to send my novel to in hopes of traditionally publishing, my mind is clouded with lack of feedback and my sporadic social media presence. (Apparently a writer is supposed to have stuff like that in their bio.)

So, now I’m going to start what I should have done a year ago: Whoever out there is a Kindle Unlimited user and hasn’t read and reviewed my titles yet, I’ll be glad to return the favor. Hit me up with the links to your stuff poets and novelists! All it does is rain here and I’ve got a comfy chair to sit in while perusing books 🙂 All of my titles available for Kindle

Memory Fades

There is a fifth season. Autumn has its golden light and breezes that sift away bright leaves. Winter has its dreary skies, slick roads and frozen windshields. Spring births greenery and multicolored blooms, brand new allergies. Then there is Summer’s damp blanket heat and late concerts of insects wanting more.

Weather forecasters don’t mention the fifth season much, because it is an anomole that can bring itself forth betwixt any of the big four. In the past Mudhole Days have swallowed up entire Tennessee Springs and Summers. Confused Autumn and Winter so badly one year the harvest moon showed up in a three hour long hard freeze and mosquitos swarmed on Christmas Day.

The Mudhole Days have no celebrations, only the solemn rituals of floor mopping and staring at bad hair. Some parents warn their children that this is a time of dreadful suffering, so eat your vegetables or else.

The old folks say that back before the internet happened, one fifth season lasted an entire year. But the weather channel claims not to have any record of such a thing.

How To

How do you get over this? How do you go through the motions of being a responsible adult? Pay the bills, clean the kitchen … carry on as if you didn’t just create a living breathing multi-faceted heart racing story rich with blood and bones and human foibles. How do you step away from the page?

How do you stay with the page and fight off the creeping sensation that you are the only fan of this story? All that will ever be, because it won’t see the light of day. You’ll fail somehow. Fall on your face when an agent rejects it. Maybe never send it to an agent or a writerly reading friend, or anywhere at all.

The story full of fear and hope and shame and memory will sit in a doc file until doc files are obsolete, and you never really accomplished anything other than spending hours, weeks, a year of your life wanting. In between the day job days and the chores and hitting that submit button for yet another of all the online payments in your life, maybe what you really did was waste daylight and ink.

In between sporadic bouts of self-care and wish lists, and allergy attacks, you have handmade characters so real all there is to do is reach out and touch, say good morning. Good night. Sweet dreams until tomorrow. Everything will be okay, eventually. Tell me how to keep them alive.

Tell me how to get to the end. Not THE END. That’s just around the corner. But the end of the process, the culmination of imagination, inspiration, hard work. What’s next? What comes after the end?

Expert Advice Aside, Maybe I Should Just Go Take A Nap Soon

Time and I haven’t been on friendly terms for a while now. I yell a lot, but I don’t think it matters. May 2018 snuck up on me, now it’s whizzing by. Pollen is clogging up this town. I’m very sleepy.

Since January I have indulged in audio books on writing by writers. Now I’m on to interviews of authors, podcasts by authors, and I have to say, these have been incredibly inspiring. Natalie Goldberg, Ann Lamott, Stephen King, to name a few, have been in my ear since the mid-December ’17, explaining to me how I can’t continue to call myself a writer if I’m not actually writing. Being a writer requires a few late nights.

So, I’ve been writing because I just don’t want to let these folks down. Is that it?

James Scott Bell convinced me e-book publishing is a thing that is happening (I think he tried to nudge me a couple of years ago, too, but the memory is foggy). Joanna Penn convinced me I should make more writing friends and lay off the coffee (I haven’t made great strides in doing either, yet), and all those poems stacked in my desk drawer made me promise to let them out.

The poems are out. So far the coolest results after deciding on Kindle Direct Publishing are: dear old friends now have my poems on their Kindle devices, and my name is searchable in the Amazon browser bar!

I’m so excited for the day that I’ll get notification that a review has posted! (Yes, I’m dealing with that.)

Since the poems have been loosed from my desk drawer, I have been racking up some fiction word count (not fictional … ). As usual I’m also racking up household chores, nightly meals, yard work, day job, and puppy training hours. It’s a good thing they don’t have more comfortable chairs at the day job. These allergies make me snore something fierce.

At home, I’ve got to stay awake, because I’m halfway finished with this novel I’ve been wanting to write since 2009. Will I put exclusively in e-book format? Haven’t decided yet.

Writing friends, are you there? Just click the follow button. Okay? I’ll eventually get this blogging thing going on. Maybe. Meanwhile, do you have any experience writing e-book reviews?

Ramshackle Houses & Southern Parables, and No Voice of Her Own Available on Kindle

Road Sounds

The dream of small towns being miles off, cities being hundreds of miles off, hearing none of their road sounds or the blustering voices of their inhabitants, that dream belonged to my grandfather. He wanted to walk out onto his porch in early light, sipping coffee, and hear nothing but the occasional noise chickens make when wrestling breakfast from the soft ground above the creek. By then, the roosters would have hushed their wake-up calls and whatever night critters had been scuttling around had long since gone off to bed. His dream was dark nights turned daylight unpolluted by traffic or socializing with people who liked to make traffic. People who liked car radios, guzzled fuel and convenience store snacks, and always seemed to find places to go to later complain about.

He wanted none of it. He claimed this was perfection, but still considered moving out past his quiet green hills upon discovering a “neighbor” had gotten the gumption to start building fences and running a tractor just a mile away. We were concerned he wouldn’t get over the insult.

Being out there frightened me, thrilled me, centered me. The trees were full of racket at nightfall, not always musical. And beyond the creek, where sunlight never dared to drip down, came threatening feline screeches that froze my blood. Those screeches made my grandfather laugh softly. Whatever animal could make such blood freezing noise, though unseen, unnamed as far as I knew, gained his admiration. He liked the mystery of it, the threat, and didn’t have to warn me twice to stay within sight of the house. His land was wild, bounding with the kind of quiet he cherished. A property split in half by a skinny dirt road no one seemed inclined to travel, and if they did, oh Grandpa made sure to watch their taillights until they disappeared for good. He’d more likely invite one of those screeching wildcats onto his porch than wave at passersby.

I still remember the scent of the soil. The feel of that creek water, wintry cold even in the leaden heat of August. I remember the feel and scent of sweat wetting my face and forearms as I climbed tree limbs, or tried to walk carefully between the rows of a summer cornfield. To say those memories are precious is an understatement. To say that I still love the scent and feel of rich black soil and my own sweat is absolute truth. How I would love to be there now, as an adult, listening to chickens feed themselves and wondering what thing hid beyond the darkness of the creek bed as I put seedlings into the ground right on the spot where he once had his garden.

I do wonder what Grandpa might think about my equal love for city life. The rush rush and abrupt halts, the voices, the bridge lights and tall buildings and narrow streets. At this moment I’m listening to cars rounding the bend of Riverside Drive, way too fast. Rain has fallen for almost twelve hours, nonstop, and the sound of speeding tire rubber splashing past reminds me of marching band cymbals. Exuberant road sounds punctuate voices carrying from the sidewalks and parking lot, laughter sometimes, sometimes arguments, complaints, conversation via speaker phone. Saxophone music, blues guitar, birdsong, motorcycles growling, the screech and whine of sirens. It’s all mine.

APAD:Sonnet XXVIII, by Elizabeth Barrett Browning

My letters! all dead paper, mute and white!
And yet they seem alive and quivering
Against my tremulous hands which loose the string
And let them drop down on my knee tonight.
This said—he wished to have me in his sight
Once, as a friend: this fixed a day in spring
To come and touch my hand. . . a simple thing,
Yes I wept for it—this . . . the paper’s light. . .
Said, Dear, I love thee; and I sank and quailed
As if God’s future thundered on my past.
This said, I am thine—and so its ink has paled
With lying at my heart that beat too fast.
And this . . . 0 Love, thy words have ill availed
If, what this said, I dared repeat at last!


 

Today I reach way way back to Browning. Though,  if you know me, you know I am not a fan of romance (of the traditional sort) the love letter, or the idea of swooning women. No, this poem lets me explore a fire-lit study, an old scarred desk holding up an inkwell and stacks of fading  papers. This poem allows me to visit the confines of form in an era when women were not lauded for taking command of such form.

The Petrarchan Sonnet fascinates me; so does Browning. That first line … all that dead paper, mute and white — a great line to borrow for cento. A great writing prompt in itself. What do you see here?

#gowrite

 

APAD: Courbet, by Debra Allbery

Saturday afternoon in the two-hearted woods. Clouded brow of the upper midwest, sepia season stalled again at February. Out my window, scrim of hardwoods, a dark choke of pine. I’m in a lamplit corner, reading a book on Courbet.

Then a memory like opening to a random page—a café back east, early, a window table. I saw myself looking out at the courtyard, sprinklers fanning the green lawn, and closer, the loose stacks of white patio chairs, cabled and locked together under the half-awning. Sparrows would fly into the spaces between the metal lattice seats. They’d stay there for minutes, as if they were safe, invisible.

There’s nothing of Courbet, no grottoes, no half-canvas sky. Here the sky hovers close, its gray blanket flying just over our heads as if it’s been fastened down a few miles to the north. It pulls away along the horizon at sunset, the light there flaring riotous or else blind mute yellow. A raised window, a breathing space. Some mornings a low roof of fog traps the cattle, their dark bulks folded beneath its drift.

Though I recall one wide autumn dawn. I had driven down a deep-rutted road to see the horses. It had stormed the night before, water standing in the fields, the last of the low bruise-black clouds were dragging eastward. And through them, beneath them, in their wake, the clearest wet light. Every blade of grass caught it. The horses stood close together, a dark S-band against the gold, held still by the stillness, their heads bowed.

Like Burial at Ornans. The dense curve, the tight frame, every face a page torn loose. The mourners pressed between the firmaments.


I am a lover of narrative and striking imagery. No question, then, why I enjoy this poem. A novel exists here, between every line. Allbery is particularly talented with narrative and striking imagery. Another poet encountered late in my reading years.

This single piece could be used to inspire a month of writing prompts, or more. Just another reason to save it and  savor it.

#readingLOVE

APAD: Imaginary August, by C.D. Wright

If one stood perfectly still. Even in the withering hours

of then. Hair down to here. Being alive and quiet.

One could forget oneself. Forget what one didn’t even recognize.

How mad it felt. Subliminally. One could pick out goldfinches

and mourning cloaks among the dying stalks of cosmos,

and across the ditch of gray wastewater they use to irrigate

the burial ground, a young man in a late-flowering tree

taking our photograph.


One of my favorite things about poetry is, regardless how much I pride myself on studying the genre, it’s possible to encounter a different writer, a different style, every time I pick up a book or magazine, or scroll through the internet. Poetry is forever changing, forever expanding. You just have to love that.

According to the write up on the late C.D. Wright over at The Poetry Foundation, her writing is “experimental, Southern, socially conscious, and elliptical… and has not cleaved to any one voice or form …”

Wright went the way of many 20th century artists — she left us in the early hours of 2016, months before I experienced the pleasant surprise of this poem while leafing through the March issue of Harper’s. I would have liked to read her while sitting  circled together with other poetry students; maybe stumbled over a podcast and run out to purchase Steal Away, then send her athank youemail for the pleasure of that readBut this really isn’t about me or all my could-haves-if-only, is it?

“Imaginary August” is beautifully mysterious, yet simultaneously grim and solid. I heard the southern twang in it long before I read the writer’s bio and learned she hailed from the Ozarks. Excuse me while I go read it again.

#MonthofthePoet