Saturday, April 25, 2009

Big Happenings At Emily's House

Emily Dickinson is, as many of you know, one of my favorite poets. There are BIG happenings at her house that began this month and will continue throughout the summer. The Big Read celebration not only will bring visitors the joy of poetry, and will allow them a glimpse at Miss Emily's life but also introduce several new books by local writers.

The following event, I highly recommend.

Jane Yolen is a prolific writer. I have been blessed to participate in a seminar in which Jane was a featured speaker. I learned so much from her! I also love that she wrote a book in collaboration with her daughter, Heidi E. Y. Stemple. What a great way to share what you love best!

In May, Jane will delight her readers with a visit to the Emily Dickinson Museum

The following is a press release from the museum:

Award Winning author
Jane Yolen
reads

My Uncle Emily
Saturday, May 2, 10 a.m.
At the Emily Dickinson Museum
280 Main Street, Amherst
www.emilydickinsonmuseum.org

Join us for a reading and booksigning to celebrate Jane Yolen's new book, My Uncle Emily, a children's story based on the relationship between Emily Dickinson and her young nephew Gilbert. Light refreshments will be served. The event is free and open to the public.

In My Uncle Emily, Yolen spins an imaginative story of Emily Dickinson's young nephew Gilbert as he struggles through a difficult day at school and at home. Gilbert calls his Aunt "Uncle" because it is a family joke, but it is just the beginning of his problems as he attempts to defend his creative and unusual Aunt to his schoolmates. Through his battles and his Aunt's poetry, Gilbert learns a lesson in what matters most.

Jane Yolen and illustrator Nancy Carpenter bring to life 19th-century Amherst and the Dickinson family homes--the Homestead and The Evergreens--in this beautiful and charming children's book.


I hope I see you there!

Monday, April 20, 2009

Through Endangered Eyes


Yes, there is a great deal to howl about today!

I am honored to have as a guest to the blog, Rachel Dillon, the amazingly creative, poet and illustrator of the book, Through Endangered Eyes: A poetic journey into the wild.

Let me begin by introducing Rachel Dillon
~~


"Rachel Dillon was born and raised in Madison, Wisconsin. She attended the University of Wisconsin, Madison and graduated in 1994 with a Bachelor of Science in Art, emphasizing in Graphic Design. Outside of art, Dillon held a special interest in evolution and extinction and took several classes in paleontology, and geology. Her passion for animals grew as she learned more about endangered species."

As part of the Women on Writing celebration of Poetry Month, a blog tour was created for Rachel to help get the word out about her exciting new book. I was fortunate to be chosen as one of the blogs she visited!

So, without further adieu, let us begin our interview:


Linda:

Hi, Rachel! Happy National Poetry Month! It is an honor to have you be part of my month-long celebration of poetry. Congratulations on your beautiful new book, Through Endangered Eyes: A Poetic Journey into the Wild. I'm curious; who are the poets that have influenced your writing?



Rachel:

Most of the poetry that inspires me right now is found in children’s books. I love Dr. Seuss and his creative poetry, especially how he made up words to make things rhyme. Shel Silverstein is magical in his rhyming. One of my favorite books to read to my kids is by Julia Donaldson, called “Room on the Broom,” the story is told all in poetry, very clever and well done!

Linda:

The gallery of pictures in your book just takes my breath away. I am so intrigued by your art. Wisconsin is a long way from Australia! How did you come to use Australian Aboriginal dot painting?


Rachel:

My Aunt and Uncle are in Ulladula, Australia. My Aunt moved there over 40 years ago and married an Australian man. I took my first trip to Eastern Australia when I was seven years old. Going to such a faraway country was unique at a young age. My teacher made a big deal about my travels and I started to fall in love with Australia once I had been there. I went again when I was 16; and then when I was 19.



I was introduced to Aboriginal Acrylic Dot Painting in Canberra, the capital city of Australia in 1992. The colors, patterns and textures inspired me. When I returned home and started one of my art classes, I just had to try out the dot painting method. I went to the library to find books about Aboriginal Acrylic Dot Painting, and they were sparse. I couldn't figure out how they made dots so perfectly round, until I saw a picture of an Aboriginal man sitting under a tree, dipping a stick into paint. I flipped my paintbrush around and used the other end to create the dots I was looking for. The dots are raised and create a Braille-like texture to the paintings. The paintings for the book were done on 9" x 12"canvas board. Most paintings took me 8-12 hours to complete.

Linda:

You stated in the WOW (Women on Writing) interview that you began this book when your daughter was six months old. Could you tell our readers a bit about how you managed to juggle writing a book and caring for your daughter as well as managing all the other demands in your life? Do you have any tips for other writer moms?


Rachel:

Since I have become a mother, I have become creative with my time, and take any free time I can get. I am distracted more easily when I write versus when I paint, so I have to find a quiet place to concentrate. Sometimes, I couldn’t be picky. I wrote many of the first drafts of my poems for my book while I drove to and from work and daycare. My favorite place to write is outside. But, most of the time, I write late at night after the kids go to bed.

For my painting process, I mix my paint for a new piece in containers so that I don’t need to repeatedly mix my colors. This allows me to paint for shorter periods of time. I don’t mind minor distractions when I paint. In fact, I love having my kids watch me paint, because it is important for them to experience the process.

I make time to paint and write because I understand how important it is to me. I feel that if I show my kids that it’s important to make time to do what you love, then maybe they will do the same for themselves as they grow up.

Linda:

Selling yourself, as well as your manuscript can be daunting to a writer. What assisted you in getting your manuscript accepted (twice!)? How did you choose who to send it to?

Rachel:

I started shopping for a publisher in 2003. I sat down for an entire weekend with the Children’s Writer and Illustrators Market guide. I read every publisher’s information in that book and chose about 15 publishers whose submission criteria I met. The first round I only submitted to four publishers. All the publishers I submitted to: accepted unsolicited manuscripts; approved of an author that was an illustrator; wanted non-fiction for children; and each year they were devoted to publishing a first time author.

Stemmer House was the first to give me a contract, and then they dropped my contract in 2007 when a new editor came on board. I went through the process all over again and this time I submitted to 14 publishers. Finney Company contacted me in 2008, and I signed a contract with them. Within a year my book was completed. It was a roller coaster, to say the least!

Linda:

The intro to this blog states, “Words are power...” The words in your book have a great deal of power...to enlighten, to challenge, to inform and to nurture. How does your book speak to the reader about endangered species?



Rachel:

When I sat down to write a poem about an animal, I read all of the factual information first. I picked out unique and interesting qualities about the species and created the poem from there. I don’t sugar coat the fact that these species are in trouble and need help. I think it is important to get my audience amazed by how special animals are to the balance of the earth. These species are rare and I think if people feel connected to something they will really want to help.


Many children hear of a problem and have instant hope that they can fix it. I want people to feel hope that things can change, even though the work ahead of us will be challenging.


Linda:

I read that you are beginning a new book Through Desert Eyes. How do you do your research for creating the pictures of these animals as well as writing the poems?


Rachel:

For my next book, I am going to try to use as many of my own photographs of the animals as references for my paintings. I have many photos of animals, but mostly in zoos. Those species I can’t photograph myself, I will purchase stock photography to work from.


I want to start contacting people that might specialize in desert species to gather my factual information. I have relied on the Internet for most of my facts, it would be nice to actually talk to people that really know a species.

Linda:

You added pages for parents and teachers to your book. What type of information might they find there?


Rachel:

I wanted to add more than the facts in the back of the book. I enclosed a list of conservation groups, in case someone was looking to make a donation to help. I really believe that it is important to teach children at a young age to donate a percentage of their earnings to help something outside of themselves. I also have a list of activities parents might like to do with their child that continues to increase a child’s awareness of endangered species. The activities range from making a list of endangered species in zoo to making a scrapbook of them from magazine clippings or photographs you take.


For teachers there are several lesson plan ideas in the subjects of writing, science, math and art. My mother-in-law is a retired elementary school teacher and she helped me create a list of activities for children in classrooms.


Linda:

Finally, is there anything special you would like to share with our readers during our celebration of National Poetry Month?


Rachel:

Keep writing! Poetry is a beautiful form of expression! Thank you for having me on your blog, I truly appreciate it!


Many thanks to Rachel Dillon, all the wonderfully, wild women at WOW! and to my beloved Roger, who supports and celebrates all my writing endeavors.

Namaste!

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Hyacinths to Feed Thy Soul

As we progress through Poetry Month, I have been reading many of my old poetry books. Some are journals into which Momma placed her favorites poems, which are now my favorite poems. One of my absolute top ten poems is:

If of thy mortal goods thou art bereft,
And from thy slender store two loaves alone to thee are left,
Sell one, and with the dole
Buy hyacinths to feed thy soul.

This beautiful verse was written by MOSLIH EDDIN (MUSLIH-UN-DIN) SAADI (SADI), who was a major Persian poet of the medieval times. It is just one of the many beautiful verses in his book Gulistan ("The Rose Garden").


~~~~~~

Also from Gulistan, is the verse which visitors find at the entrance to the United Nations Hall of Nations. It reads:

Human beings are members of a whole,
In creation of one essence and soul.
If one member is afflicted with pain,
Other members uneasy will remain.
If you have no sympathy for human pain,
The name of human you cannot retain.

~~~~~~

Every year at this time, I go out and get myself a hyacinth plant. Often, if visiting friends, I purchase one as a gift, adding the verse, printed out and tied to the plant.

Momma read this often. I think because it helped her to remember to see the beauty in life, even when things felt like they were falling down around her ears. Funny thing, this is exactly what it does for me, too.

Concentrating on the beauty of the hyacinth...its smell, its color, the perfection of its flowers...takes away stress, "feeds the soul," and helps make life a wee bit brighter. Combine the beauty of the hyacinth with the beauty of Saadi's poem and you have the best stress relief outside a bottle!

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Poetry and Healing

Often, I have used poetry as a means to heal. Something about reading words that paint a particular picture of life resonates with my heart and soul, quelling pain like nothing else will do.

Several poets have this ability for me - Edna St. Vincent Millay, for instance. Her poem, "Tavern," in which she writes about "grey-eyed people," always reminds me of Momma.

The last lines tell our story, "Aye, 'tis a curious fancy --/But all the good I know/Was taught me out of two grey eyes/A long time ago."



Tears well up in my eyes each time I read this poem. Not simply because Momma had grey eyes, but because it places Momma beside me in a way nothing else does. It is as if she is reading the words, again, with me...I can hear her and feel her presence. It is balm for my grief.

Perhaps it was because Momma was so sick that poetry was a passion for her; a passion she gave to me. I have often wondered if her doctors had been poets would she have received better care; would she have been "healed" of her illnesses; would she have found more joy in life?

Healing, as I have written before, takes many forms. It is not necessarily the absence of disease. More often than not, it is the ability to deal with a chronic illness in a way that allows the patient to find hope and joy and contentment, in spite of whatever is ravaging their body. Too often, medical practitioners concentrate their attention on "curing" (making free of disease) their patients. It is a futile practice. If, however, their attentions were given to "healing" (helping to bring harmony/balance to mind-body-spirit) I believe everyone would be better.

Not long ago, I came upon an extraordinary young poet. He is the quintessential healer, both with the beauty of his words and with the skill of his knowledge. He is a medical doctor, yet, he has not lost sight of the humanity of his patients, many of whom will never be "cured." However, in his own gifted manner, he brings them, and us as his readers, such great healing.

Poet/Healer - Dr. Maithri Goonetilleke

I invite all my readers to visit Dr. Maithri Goonetilleke's website, "The Soaring Impulse." Each entry is a poem unto itself. Indeed, his life is a poem of great impact; an epic yet to be complete; an epic which touches both heart and soul.

Healing and poetry have never had a better advocate.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

The Challenge

The poet at work

I cannot remember how I found the Poem-a-day challenge. It came, I think, in an email from one of the writing groups that email me regularly. It has changed everything I held true about myself and writing poems.

For years, I have said I could not write a poem unless I was "inspired." No poems on demand, for me. I only worked through the Muse, who, thankfully has been my constant companion for the past fifty years. After entering, on a whim, the Poem-a-day (PAD) challenge, I humbly admit that I had put great limitations on the Muse. Limitations that have, it would appear, only served to limit me! Shame on me! Mia culpa!

Robert Lee Brewer, the genius behind PAD, began his blog, Poetic Asides, in June of 2007. Since that time, he has shared wit and wisdom with fellow poets and readers, as well as, inspired others to write with great prompts. I have to say, it was his gracious and welcoming manner that gave me the courage to attempt the PAD for 2009.

So, how am I doing? Great! I have posted every day. The prompts have been fun, interesting, inspiring and easy to use. Today, (Two for Tuesday) we had two prompts. I have to admit, I had to sit with them from a bit before I could write, but, sure enough, when I sat down at the keyboard, the words came tumbling out. I am so blessed!

If you have never written a poem, this is a great time to start. Forget everything you have ever been taught or told about poetry. You do not have to have rhyme. You do not have to have a particular format. You do want to use words to paint a picture of whatever it is that comes into your mind.

Like art, you can use words to paint clear and realistic pictures...pictures that have the reader feeling as if they just fell into your poem. Or, you can use your words with the scarcity of an abstract artist...only hinting at what you see, allowing the reader to find their own sense of the subject.

The point is, try. If creating a poem seems too daunting, then simply write. Put words down in sentences, or in lists, or in phrases, but paint your picture. After a bit, you will begin to see a pattern, a glimmer of what could be.

Visit Poetic Asides, read the posts and the comments (comments include the poems other writers have sent in for the day's prompt) and then give it a try. After all, that's why they call it a "challenge!"

This is what I posted for today's prompt of "write a poem about clean and a poem about dirty."

CLEAN

A perfect white crocus
opening to the glories of
spring's sun as a fresh
zephyr gently kisses
its delicate petals,
upturned to receive
April blessings.

DIRTY

In thousand dollar suits,
they gather to discuss
the fates of lesser men
carefully washing their
hands of the filth that
clings invisibly to them.
In times past, their kind
were driven from the
temple grounds by the
prophet digusted by
the co-mingling of
sacred and secular.
In thousand dollar suits,
they gather to greedily
collect the bounty of
their slick deals, while
children die infected
with preventable diseases
and people starve
victims of a life without.

Linda M. Rhinehart Neas
© 2009

Saturday, April 4, 2009

In Praise of Miss Emily

I am fortunate to live in an area of the world that is rich with writers, especially poets. Many of their homes are now national landmarks and/or museums. I have traveled to several of these illustrious, yet humble, places over the years.

Robert Frost's farm
in Derry, NH is a typical Yankee farm. It is in the simplicity of being present there that Frost wrote many of his most famous poems.

Writer, Louisa May Alcott's home is open to the public. Not far from the center of town in Concord, MA, it offers guided tours by docents portraying Louisa May, herself!

There are other wonderful sites throughout New England. You can read about several in the Boston area on this site: Historic Homes. I highly recommend taking the time to stop and visit, especially if you have young aspiring writers with you. Seeing how the writers of the past lived, without the modern conveniences we have, is an eye-opener to the young. Being in the actual homes of other writers, for me, brings them into perspective. You realize quite quickly, that they were simply other humans struggling along life's path exactly as we are doing now. In some ways, their struggle was greater. Yet, they left behind such a legacy!

Several homes in Connecticut offer programs as well as tours: The Eugene O'Neill home and Harriet Beecher Stowe's home. In addition, back up in New Hampshire, The Frost Place in Franconia offers workshops and conferences for writers and teachers.

However, my favorite place to visit is the home and gardens of Miss Emily Dickinson. Her poems were stepping-stones from childhood into adolescence. I have seldom been without a book of her poems nearby since I was quite young. The fact that I live not more than a fifteen minute drive to her home simply makes our relationship all the sweeter. We are like old friends who have shared each other's secrets for quite a long time.

Roger reading at the poetry marathon

Over the past six years, I have had the most splendid opportunity to participate in the annual poetry marathon at the Dickinson Homestead.


Magic Moment in Miss Emily's Garden

Readers come and read all of Miss Emily's poems from early morn to late at night. People come to listen; readers come and go. It is a lovely time of community for all those who love the workings of words strung together to create and re-create magical moments of time and space.

After one such reading, inspired, I returned home and wrote the following:

In Praise Of Miss Emily

Reflecting on my sister/poet...
The Belle of Amherst

Contemplative collaborator cloistered
High in the tower of self

Prolific writer born out of sync
Her words echo off high thoughts

Tenacious daughter/sister
Closing her door to the father's world
Safe within the walls of her own imagination

Matters of the heart
Imprinted on pages of parchment
Testimony to tenacity...witness of loss

"Love--thou art high"

Her God...her Companion...
Not church bound deity
Her soul not property or chattel
Slave to no mind or will
Freely thinking, she touched the ethereal with her pen

Not "tinted" in life by what "Scholars leave"
Her verse lives on
Well read and memorized by those who
Seek to "clarify the sight"

Her pen painted pain
In shades of understanding--
Death deliberately discerned
"This is the Hour of Lead-"

Grasping each word
Digging for meaning...felt or perceived
Until "dwelling in Possibility"

I "recollect the Snow--
First -- Chill -- then Stupor -- then the letting go --"

Linda M. Rhinehart Neas
© 2005


~~~~~~~


Writers and Poets should check out the Poem-a-day challenge. This is an excellent opportunity to practice writing using prompts. No expertise needed. Simply check in, read the prompt, and write what comes to your mind. Some of the entries have been amazing! We are only on day 4, so there is still a great deal of opportunity to hone your skills.


Wednesday, April 1, 2009

National Poetry Month

As many of my readers already know, my love for poetry came by way of my Momma, who often times recited and sometimes read poems to me from the time I was very little. It was her passion that lit the flame for my passion. It was a gift we shared right up until her recent death.

April is National Poetry Month. When I first learned this, several years ago, I thought it was so appropriate. Momma's birthday was April 21. This year, the celebration of Poetry Month will be even more bittersweet.

Throughout the month, I will be posting poems, resources, interviews and links for parents and teachers to use. If just one person finds something beautiful, profound, inspiring, healing or delightful in the post this month, I will have honored Momma is a way that is more than meaningful.

So, without further delay, let us start the P-A-R-T-Y!!!

~~~~~~

Several years ago while studying for my graduate degree, I created a wiki for poetry - specifically, international poetry. ("A wiki is a collection of Web pages designed to enable anyone who accesses it to contribute or modify content, using a simplified markup language. Wikis are often used to create collaborative websites and to power community websites. The collaborative encyclopedia Wikipedia is one of the best-known wikis." Resource: Wikipedia.com)

The creation of this wiki had a very specific purpose. It was to become a tool for classroom teachers in elementary and middle schools. It would allow them to access, from the classroom computer, poetry from around the world, often times in both English and the language of origin. Additionally, it gave teachers links to biographies of international poets.

The reason behind this, was that I found that while elementary and middle school classroom teachers were tasked with offering students international poetry, especially if they had international students in their classrooms, there were little to no resources. Ask any teacher, and they will attest to the fact that finding classroom resources can be daunting at best.

Click here to access PoetryEd Wiki . It is my hope that reader's, teachers and poets will make contributions to the pages. Directions on how to do all this are found on the Front Page.

~~~~~~~

The following poem was written by me to celebrate both Momma and myself as women as well as give my daughters a positive view of the female body.

BODY-IMAGE
Momma

Isn’t tall and skinny

With blonde hair swaying

Or make-up perfectly painted

Designer clothed


Momma
Is soft and cuddly

Gray curls cupping her chin

Laugh lines and wrinkles
Clothing her face


Me

I was a carpenter’s dream

Surfer’s delight

Flat as a board

Twiggy


Until four babies later


Now
The roundness of my body

Delights me

Ruben-esque

Goddess-like


I
Find comfort
In the curves
Pleasures radiate in

Their softness


Like Momma, I am a real woman

By Linda Rhinehart Neas © 2005

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