In honour of International Women’s Month, a mini-blog fest featuring women around the world. Thanks to everyone who participated in this gathering — your art and your words and your lives inspire.
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Dance. Resurrect. Survive.
Dancer and yoga teacher Maré Hieronimus reflects on life’s essence — the inner and outer paths we take — in her poem thoughts on topology. Often working as a solo performer, Maré creates abstract and psychic landscapes using the body in motion as the primary impulse. As a performer she is currently working with site-specific choreographer Noemie Lafrance, and dance artist Sharon Mansur. I’ve known Maré for years, and she never fails to inspire me with her beauty and grace. If you’re ever in Brooklyn, go see her dance. Or just sit in a room with her and breathe. It’ll do your body and spirit some good.
Poet Helen Vitoria surprises, always. Consider this short poem “When the Magnolia Speaks” (first published at decomP). And consider, also, how she brings to life the voices of Athena, Atlas and Narcissus in three poems that offer glimpses into past worlds and a possible (but probably fleeting) sense of self-awareness (first published at The Offending Adam, with introductory comments by Ryan Winet). The author of six poetry chapbooks and a full length poetry collection Corn Exchange, forthcoming from Scrambler Books, Spring 2012, Helen is the Founding Editor & Editor in Chief of THRUSH Poetry Journal & THRUSH Press. Helen blogs here.
Leslie Marcus’s art inspires. I’ve had the pleasure of lingering over her artwork many times at Blue Five Notebook. And now I’m so glad to show more of her work here. Because it lifts you up and celebrates life in all its colourful layers. You can find many more of Leslie’s work at her website, too, where her artwork is available for purchase in various forms.
In the short story “Miss”, Kari Nguyen shares an encounter and wonders who holds the secrets to the meaning of life: “…and now she’s close to me and I watch as she comes up, and she’s smiling, and I realize I’m not holding my breath anymore.” Kari lives in New England where she is a writer, editor, and proud mama to a new little girl.
Marta Sanchez plays an inspiring role in a “revolution of word and color”. Deeply dedicated to the mission of healing through sharing stories, Marta takes us on a personal journey in her essay “Throwing Down the Drums: Dancing the Lessons of Boundaries and Violence”, first published in The Scholar & Feminist Online. I first knew of Marta’s art from her association with the Glass Woman Prize, and I contacted her last year when we solicited her art for the Blue Five Notebook Glass Woman Special (our 2011 tribute to International Women’s Month). This beautiful essay takes us through Marta’s dance journey, from early days of the salsa and merengue in her grandmother’s house in Panama through process and flow and empowerment.
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Quiet. Night. Nothing.
Sara Lippmann knows how to tell a quiet story that lingers long after you’ve read it. In “Talisman“, first published at Jewish Fiction.net, an unlikely encounter takes place and shakes us, ever so slightly. “’Angel,’ he says, soft as a kiss, and I know what comes next….” Sara holds an MFA from the New School and she co-hosts the Sunday Salon, a monthly NYC reading series, and lives with her family in Brooklyn.
The quiet of night comes alive in Lola Elvy’s poem “Nightfall”, first published at 52|250 last year for the theme “silence”, and accompanied here by a pencil sketch offered by her sister Jana Heise:
The sun melts
behind purple hills
The moon climbs
on a ladder of hidden stars
A quilt of snow cloaks
the forest floor
in the bushes
The day’s last loon cries
to her young
And then silence.
An owl hoots
The night awakens
Jane Hammons explores the feeling of nothingness in a beautiful, haunting short story, “1053”. In only 100 words, she captures one woman’s world. Jane teaches writing at UC Berkeley and is the recipient of Derringer Award 2011.
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Poetry. Place. Passion.
Poet and singer-songwriter Hinemoana Baker sings about Christchurch in “Remember”, a song she dedicated on February 22 to the people and the place and the 2011 earthquake whose tremors are still shaking their world, here, and shares another poetry experience as she recites “our children have run away to fiji” at the July 2010 launch of kōiwi kōiwi | bone bone in Wellington. Paula Green reviewed kōiwi in the New Zealand Herald:
“I see this poetic spine as made of musical notes, silence, a generous revelation of the personal and a creative use of found material. Each poem is not an exercise in what words can do but is a carefully crafted lyric that sings small parts of the world into shimmering life.”
Across the Pacific and way up north in Sitka, Alaska, award-winning poet Vivian Prescott writes about “Snail Women”. She says of this piece: “In my children’s clan, the T’akdeintaan, the spiral symbolizes the snail. Tax’ is a word describing the pattern of the snail shell, and explains the way something goes around. This same word is used to describe the benches, or planks, surrounding the fire pit inside a tribal house. The benches around a fire pit are annular and spiral, thus the origin of the word. The spiral also symbolizes ‘new beginnings’ as in the unfolding fern-frond in spring. It also shows up in my hometown carved on an ancient petroglyph. And this spiral is a symbol for the Snail House people. Our names are fixed within the landscape.”
Meanwhile, Stella Pierides sits under a mulberry tree in Alexandroupolis, Greece, contemplating the water in front of her and the roots beneath. At a crossroads, she tells us of her day under “The Tree”. Stella’s work can be read in many places, and she most recently edited a very sensual March edition of the Language/Place Blog Carnival.
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Colour. Chablis. Celebration.
In her “Sky Diary”, Dorothee Lang celebrates the view from her window in a special post including photography and words. And through a sky diary like this, she also celebrates every day. I first met Dorothee through BluePrint Review (which is just launching its new “Diary of…” issue). An energetic writer, web freelancer and traveller, Dorothee’s fascination with languages, roads and the world shows in all of her work. Halfway around the world from me, Dorothee is my German co-editor at the Aotearoa Affair Blog Fest. For more about her, visit blueprint21.de.
May You Live in Interesting Times, JP Reese‘s colourful account of Miami in the 1980s, begins with a blue Mercury Capri and wanders through stories of cocktail management, Kings of Cocaine and reality, thirty years on. Creative non-fiction, served just right. JP Reese is a poetry editor for THIS Literary Magazine and Associate Poetry Editor for Connotation Press: An Online Artifact. Her poetry chapbook Final Notes was published by Naked Mannekin Press in spring 2012.
Angelique Moselle Price sets the bar high in her own personal manifesto on life and celebration. I first met Angelique when she collaborated with poet pal Walter Bjorkman; her painting “With You, I Can Become smaller” (pictured below) collided with his poetry. Angelique’s gorgeous art, for sale at her website, is a celebration, too.
I set myself free from the tyranny of self judgement.
I allow myself the gift of seeing the magnificent big picture. The magnitude and awe of life and people.I create myself free and loving, giving and accepting of all things, places, people and me.
I release me from the idea that I know what is right and best, pretty and ugly.
I surrender to the understanding deep in my heart that I know nothing and that the human spirit is so full and grand there is no word to describe it.
And deep within me I see me in truth, in beauty. Bypassing my percieved physical imperfections, my percieved wrongs. There are no wrongs. There is no reason to forgive myself. Rather only a vast loving space inside me of gratitude for allowing myself the experience to grow, expand and truly know me in my brightness of self love.
Sian Williams, writer of flash, mother of two and weeder of her own Garden of Eden down in Aotearoa (usually clothed), has a way with painting a scene. The tone and colour are just right. See for yourself in “The Vicarage Garden Party”, first published in Flash Frontier’s HEAT issue, where Sian is editor extraordinaire.
The Vicarage Garden Party
Finishing her round with the sandwiches Mrs Stanton stood for a moment in the cool shade of the big magnolia. Groups of people dotted the lawn. Flowery dresses, cheap shoes, big hats – the congregation at its most pretentious. Never mind, at least the garden looked lovely. The hydrangeas, in particular, were superb this year. Her husband, the vicar, strolled amongst the frothing bushes, arm in arm with the organist’s unmarried daughter. His hand clasped her golden forearm; he was noticeably flushed. The girl nodded earnestly at something he said.
Mrs Stanton ate the last remaining sandwich on the plate she was carrying. Already curled at the edges, it was unappetising, dry. Looking up, she spotted a dandelion she’d missed in the blue border. How vexing.
She wondered who had done the weeding in the Garden of Eden. She couldn’t imagine Eve getting her pretty knees dirty and breaking her finger nails, with her bare arse waving in the air. And Adam would’ve been much too busy being tempted by Eve. It couldn’t have been the serpent, as snakes have no hands, and anyway Mrs Stanton didn’t believe there was a serpent in the Garden at all; she felt certain Eve had invented it – as an excuse. That would only leave Adam’s wife, in sensible shoes and gardening gloves, to keep things in order. Yes, that sounded about right, she concluded, as she set off for another circuit, with the devilled eggs this time.
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Caress. Care. Kitty Kat.
Beate Sigriddaughter, founder of the Glass Woman Prize, has travelled from Germany to Colorado to Vancouver, dancing and writing her way across oceans and continents. Her poem “That Day”, originally published in Le Nouveau Monde Vert, whispers and caresses with a burning passion that threatens never to go out.
In her quiet story “Heart on Fire”, Abha Iyengar shares a moment and a surprising small thing from a hospital room at Christmas. Abha’s stories and poetry have been nominated for many awards, including the Story South Million Writers Award, the India Today Travel Plus Award, the Lavanya Sankaran Writing Fellowship 2009-10 and the Special Jury Prize at Patras, Greece. Her collection of poems, “Yearnings”, and an e-book of flash fiction,“Flash Bites”, have been published.
Susan Tepper’s book From the Umberplatzen is quiet and compact, and yet it makes a big impression. Here’s one of the 50 stories included in this collection, which has received many wonderful reviews, including one by JP Reese and one by Christopher Allen.
Kitty Kat we should get married. I can’t. Why not he said. Well for one thing I’m still married. Oh that. M had shrugged. But not in Germany. We were strolling through the springtime Umberplatzen. Everything around us bursting. M suggested we marry right there. Right in this spot he said. Tapping the ground with his foot. You could wear a filmy dress. See-through I said. Not quite said M. And we could both wear wreaths of Umberplatzen. Imagine how nice. I could tell he was serious. It caused my neck to constrict. I said I don’t want Umberplatzen in my hair. It could have gnats. Besides it all sounds Grecian movie style. What’s wrong with Grecian movie style. Nothing. But. But. But what Kitty Kat. I began feeling exasperated. Saying let’s go shopping. For a filmy dress said M. No. For toilet paper and dish soap and other things we need. Well did you make a list. And it was like the wedding subject floated away. And all at once I wanted it back. I wanted to see a filmy dress. Touch it. Try it on. Pirouette at the mirror. OK I said. OK what. I’ll get the dress. Really. No. You have no stars left he said. When we met you were all stars. They have fizzled and fallen to earth I said. Pity. Then let’s get drunk said M. So we did. We drank outside on the boathouse café veranda. When it got cooler we drank inside the café. We had schnitzel when it got dark. Salad with cucumber. See said M. This could be our wedding food. And what color for the dress I said. Your skin tone. Pale pinky beige. Today he sends a pale filmy scarf. Observe it’s the color of your skin says the post-it note. Wear it when you take me to bed he has also written.
Whanau. Wrinkles. Nudes.
Born in Tauranga, New Zealand, Rachael Weti creates art that connects family and her sense of home. I first discovered Rachael’s art when I was writing a couple months back about reading and being in En Zed, about finally feeling at home here.
Jules Archer takes a jaunty road tripwith her sister and recounts it, wrinkly elbows and all, for us in this amusing travel account, complete with mystery photos and other things I dare you to read. Somewhere between being born and raised in the backwoods of Montana, Jules Archer developed a craving for the written word. Today, she writes random stories of heartbreaking torpor and domestic bondage while keeping her day job in marketing. She enjoys reading Playboy and sipping Blue Moon in her spare time.
Linda Simoni-Wastila crunches numbers by day and churns words at night. In Kitty D, she paints a loving and memorable portrait of her grandmaand reveals a trick up her sleeve using the King of Hearts as well. Linda’s poetry, short stories and novels explore health, in particular the societal and personal facets of medication and medicating. She lives and loves in Baltimore, a town where her Northern birthright and Southern breeding comfortably commingle.
In this unconventional interview, Auckland writer and artist Rachel J Fenton paints a portrait of prize-winning Irish writer Nuala Ní Chonchúir, whom the Irish Times called Writer to Watch in 2009. Questions and answers leave you wanting more, of both Fenton and Chonchúir.
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Words. Wishes. Roads.
After writing flash fiction in traditional and hypertext form for 100 Days Projects in 2009 and 2010, Susan Gibb decided to write a story every day through 2011. She says of the project: “Didn’t always meet deadline, but stories came flying through the air and if I was quick, I’d catch them and write them down. On the very last day, #365 seemed to be a reflection of a writer, of a woman, and of a life that breaks into pieces to glue themselves together in new ways.” Here’s Day #365.
Art writer, writer of prose and poetry and also editor of A-minor Magazine, Nicolette Wong writes of her days and what she does and does not do with them in “My Days“. Monologues, hot Hong Kong streets and the search for bubble tea.
California writer and editor Gay Degani looks forward and backward on “Resolution Road”. Gay is editor of Flash Fiction Chronicles for Every Day Fiction and blogs at Words in Place. For a recent interview with her about the nuts and bolts of excellent flash, see her recent interview at Flash Frontier.
And in a story originally published at The Medulla Review, Meg Tuite asks “What Was That I Was Searching For?” and leads us back through a labyrinth of memory and men. Meg’s latest book is Disparate Pathos.
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Mystery. Masquerade. Monster.
Didi Menendez is a Cuban-born American artist. She parents, paints and publishes. Not necessarily in that order. I first met Didi through the publications OCHO and Poets & Artists, and recently I’ve seem more of her work like this, which is a a digital drawing on the iPAD using Brushes app.
Linda Hofke offers us a glimpse of beauty and mystery in photographic form. In January 2011, she joined the Gathering of Stones challenge and wrote a stone every day — a “small stone is an observation or a polished moment of proper paying attention.” Here’s one of her observations, something small and wonderful. Linda lives in Germany, where she enjoys writing and photography. Several of her photos were featured in the Winter 2012 edition of MiCrow. She blogs at Linda’s Life on the Other Side and Lind-guistics.
In her discussion, “How Did We Get Here?” Megan Corcoran Doyle starts with a weather bomb and moves into 21st century American politics. Originally from California, Megan lives in Wellington where she writes and rides a bicycle and maintains a blog Letters to the Weather, where she discusses politics and books and other things that go KAPOW.
Cecelia Wyatt has taught classical piano, for as long as I can remember, to fifty students a week (that’s 500 fingers running up and down the keyboard every Monday thru Friday). She got her first Baldwin at sixteen and has been teaching and performing ever since. I grew up with Bach and Brahms and Saint-Saens and Rachmaninoff. Today, my mother’s studio hosts two Bösendorfers and a Brodmann (and, as I wrote once before: if you don’t believe Cecelia about the sublime nature of the Bösendorfer, just ask Tori Amos who doesn’t go anywhere without hers). Here, we learn something about the Monster Concert Cecelia organises each year. We only played on two pianos back when I was in high school — but this looks monstrously fun.
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Finally. Food for thought.
There’s so much beauty in the world. All of these women. Their art and humour, their strength and spirit and sense of self. And yet, even as we are surrounded by everything we expect in a post-enlightenment, post-feminist era, there’s this too. In an article written on the Huffington Post Blog, Soraya Chemaly addresses what she calls “10 Reasons the Rest of the World Thinks the US Is Nuts”. The title of this article is misleading, and it’s a political issue in a place I don’t live. But the message is universal, and clear. And really: how can I ignore this topic in a post inspired by International Women’s Month, a celebration today that started with fervent workers’ and women’s rights activist Clara Zetkin (dare I say the word Socialist here? Yes, I dare. For a little more on Zetkin and her early 20th century comrades, go here). Because this article reminds us that our freedom is still at stake. It’s about
The right to life.
The right to privacy.
The right to freedom.
The right to bodily integrity.
The right to decide when and how I reproduce.
And now I leave you with my childhood pal Anna Ball and her inspiring bicycling mama, along with something practical: a list of don’ts for women on bicycles, posted by the brain-picking Maria Popova. Written in 1895, this list includes tips that are still quite relevant for the 21st century emancipated cyclist: “don’t wear tight garters” (well, yeah: I eschewed garters altogether many years ago and I tell you it’s much better this way) and “don’t wear laced boots, they are tiresome” (though she should have added “don’t cycle barefoot” as well; I learned that the hard way when I was ten). Of course, it’s easy to disagree with some, such as “don’t discuss bloomers with every man you know” (seems like a perfectly good topic of conversation to me) and “don’t use bicycle slang, leave that to the boys” (Um, I don’t fucking think so).
Good night. And good going, girls.