poetry

Words are Like Water

Words are like water, washing

and washing us with their truth --

or otherwise drowning

us if we won't allow it, healing turned

to windswept tumult to get our

ever-wandering attention. They are

everywhere, reach everywhere, patient

enough to hollow out caverns

in the deep, strong enough to 

tumble down the thin and ruinous

beliefs we clutch the closest. In

time, with ruthless endurance,

everything they touch transforms.

 

"A story is like water / that you heat for your bath. / It takes messages between the fire / and your skin. It lets them meet, / and it cleans you! / . . . Water, stories, the body, / all the things we do, are mediums / that hide and show what's hidden. / Study them, / and enjoy this being washed / with a secret we sometimes know, / and then not."

- from The Essential Rumi

 

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I Want to Write a Poem Just for You

The idea first came as one of showing up in process. A table at our local weekly summer crafts market, selling art and custom poems hand-typed on the spot on a vintage typewriter. A chance happening for market shoppers to be deeply, magically met on their Saturday morning meanderings.

And then I thought -- why not offer this to my online community? Because I believe it will be even more beautifully received when offered right to you, my moon-loving, word-scribbling, intuition-diving fellow humans.

Basically, I want to write a poem for you -- just for you.

A custom, one-of-a-kind, intimate, intuitive gift of love and support from you to you (with me as the middle woman).

➳ So here's how it works: in the "notes to seller" section, share with me a few words/themes/ideas/images that you'd like me to incorporate into a poem for you. Or, if you'd like even more of an adventure, you don't have to share anything with me, but simply trust my intuition and God/fate/[insert your favorite divine guiding principle here] to write the words you need to hear.

➳ You'll received your poem typed via a vintage typewriter on 8.5 x 11" (letter size) paper 100% cotton paper in your choice of ivory or white. Poems are guaranteed to be at least 10 lines long, but may be far longer, depending on your prompts and where the poem takes us.

I can also create a custom poem as a gift for a loved one. In fact, these make deeply powerful and personal presents.

Poems normally take 1-2 weeks to write, and then will be shipped First Class (arrives within 5 days). For speedier shipping, check out the Priority (arrives in 2-3 days) and Express (arrives in 24-48 hours) shipping upgrades. All packages come with tracking numbers.

To view a free sample of Night Cycles, my poetry collection, and get a sense of my writing, please head over HERE.

☽ It would truly be my honor to craft a poem for you and yours! ☾

You in? Order yours HERE!

The Radical Exhale (a.k.a. Where I've Been)

So, I disappeared.

I had good reason, though, I promise. Or really reasons. Like: new job, change of address, family shiftings . . . and that's all on top of my preexisting #momlife and teaching dance fitness and all things She of the Wild.

Basically, I got really, really tired from all the new changes. Good changes, but still . . . exhausting ones.

And now? I'm trying to rest. To be gentle with myself. To live in the release of the exhalation rather than the active inhalation.

This is not easy for me (is it easy for any of us, really?). It is not my go-to mode. When things get hard, I tense up, muscle up, and try to bludgeon my way through to relief. Which has worked for me . . . sort of. But the older I get, the less effective it is, and I imagine that will only become more true the more years that I accumulate.

So I'm going rogue, taking the radical way -- I'm loosening my grip, unclenching my jaw, and exhaling. Like, a lot.

Last weekend I slept in more than I have in decades -- or at least, certainly since having children. Yesterday I spent a good portion of my day sitting and listening to the full soundtrack of Hamilton: The Musical (yum) -- but without doing anything else while I listened. I took days off exercise when my body needed it. I went to bed early (although you better believe that I'm staying up tonight to watch the newest episode of Game of Thrones).

I've been letting (read: trying to let) myself exhale, rather than holding my breath until some circumstance shifted toward ease. I choose the ease, as much as I could. Imperfectly, yes, but perfection is not the point.

SO. All this to say -- hi. It's me. I'm back, and trying to go gently while not giving up, which I was sorely tempted to do at times. Instead of running, I'm staying, but breathing, resting, exhaling, being.

How do you cope when it's hard and you just want to sleep through the hardness? I'd love to know. And, um, pick up a few tips. :)

p.s. Although I've been living in the exhale as much as possible, there are still a number of exciting She of the Wild updates I want to share with you. Check out what's been going on . . .

Write Yourself Wholly Alive

The Poetry Is e-course has gotten a significant makeover and is now called Write Yourself Wholly Alive. I feel that this better represents the content of the course, and it's just much yummier. :) Also, the price on the course is going up to $150 this coming week -- but you can still get it for $97 until Tuesday, June 1. If you've been on the fence about enrolling, this is your time. Hurry up and grab it before the new price goes into effect! Learn more and sign up HERE (and also enjoy the first full week of content for free!).

She of the Wild Shirts

Dude, these shirts are so comfy I can't even stand it. I'm practically living in mine (photos coming soon, I swear . . . watch Instagram!). Check out the current She of the Wild shirt HERE, available for just three more days.

 

SHE Zine

Issue two is out and issue three is in the works. You can subscribe or purchase individual issues HERE. And if you want to join in the conversation about the zine as you receive yours, be sure to use the tag #SHEzine on Instagram, Twitter, and your favorite social media platforms.

Holistic Creativity, Journaling, and More

SPECTRUM, the holistic creative journaling course that I'm teaching a part of, has gotten off to a delicious start. My workshop made its debut last week, and the students have created some really amazing work in response. Interested in learning about creative journaling with us? Check out all the details HERE.

A New She of the Wild E-Course

I've got something new brewing. I'm not quite sure what to call it (and this title? it's history as soon as I can figure out this new offering's true name). But I do know that it's going to be about developing artful rituals that are simple to access + fit in to our daily lives. When I think about this e-course, I think of quiet, of sacred space. Does that sound intriguing to you? Read more about it HERE, and then let me know in the comments what you think.

The She of the Wild Community

The members of the She of the Wild community on Facebook have been producing AMAZING work in #SheWritesPoetry2016, our year-long writing challenge. Want to be a part of it? It's free! Find all the details HERE.

Whew! That's about it . . . although I do have an exciting announcement coming this week. Tell me what have you been up to? I'd love to know!

Introducing She Writes Wild + Free Sample!

If you follow me on Instagram or Periscope, you may have heard me mumbling somewhat incoherently about a writing course that I've been working on. Incoherently because that's how I get when I'm in creation mode -- laser focused on the goal, with not a lot of energy to spare for extras like breathing or forming cohesive sentences. 

But I'm coming up for air now that the course is pretty much finished (!!!). She Writes Wild is a 6 week e-course in wordplay and self-discovery that will help you find your words, equip you to grow as a writer, and lead you into a deeper + more vibrant understanding of yourself. 

Sound intriguing? You can learn more HERE.

But that's not why I'm writing today. Nope, today is all about giving you the first section of She Writes Wild for free.

Yep, you get a whole week of the course FOR FREE, right here, right now. Are you ready? Let's go . . . !


She Writes Wild

Week One: Poetry as Play

“Poetry doesn't have to rhyme, it just has to touch someone where your hands couldn’t.”

— Rudy Akbarian (source)

I don’t know about you, but for the longest time, whenever I heard the word poetry my mind would recall agonizing over dense stanzas, trying to suss out their seemingly indistinguishable meanings, and attempting to recreate Shakespeare’s iambic pentameter. Meaning: poetry felt difficult, obtuse, and impossible to understand. It felt painful, like drudgery, like a whole lot of work with very little reward.

But — does it have to be? That’s what we’ll be exploring this week.

 

Poetry is For Everybody

“Poems hang out where life is.”

— Susan Goldsmith Wooldridge, Poemcrazy

Poetry wasn’t always an exercise in masochism. Think back to when you were a child, to the limericks your teacher had you pen and the sing-songing rhymes you sang and silly stories you were read in verse. Were these poems impossible, or headache-inducing? Probably not.

And yet, they are poetry.

Hang on. I can practically hear you thinking, “Well, sure, it’s poetry . . . but poetry for kids. That’s different.”

Nope. Not different. Poetry. And written by respectable, “real” poets. 

Take a few minutes to read Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s “Paul Revere’s Ride,” and then “Dream Variations” by Langston Hughes. Next, consider the following:

  • what do these poems feel like to read? 
  • how do they challenge your preexisting notions of what poetry is?
  • based on these poems, how might you redefine poetry?
  • how have your feelings about writing poetry changed, if at all?

Feel free to journal on any or all of these questions, and to chat about it in the Facebook group.

 

Poetry Doesn’t Have to be Impossible

What if we threw out the notion that so many of us picked up in high school that poetry has to be impossible, impenetrable, and pain-filled? What if we found ourselves free to write a understandable story in verse form, like “Paul Revere’s Ride,” or to communicate our experiences of nightfall as Hughes does so lyrically and accessibly in “Dream Variations”?

What if poetry wasn’t just for the ivory tower, for academia, but for all of us?

I believe that this is true. 

And, more to the point, I believe that it is true for you.

“Is this play, poetry, art or silliness? Who cares?”

— Susan Goldsmith Wooldridge, Poemcrazy

 

The Freedom to Write

I’ve wanted to be a writer for about as long as I can remember. And for me, “being a writer” meant writing fiction books. But interestingly, as an adolescent, whenever I gave myself freedom to write just for me, and not for a school assignment, I found poems tumbling from my pen.

At the very same time that I was struggling through poetry units in school, I was freely creating my own poems at home.

But I dismissed my poetry writing. It felt too easy, not at all like the poems I had to read for school. It couldn’t possible be “real” poetry, I thought, because it was far too opaque, too accessible.

Except — I was wrong. And since giving my poems a chance to stand on their own, I’ve found that they have the strength to do so. Even though they’re not brain twisters. Even though they’re written for you and me, and not only for the highest thinkers (whatever that means!).  

Maybe your story goes a little like this, too. Maybe you’ve long held beliefs about the legitimacy of your words, the value of your poems. 

I’m here to tell you — it’s time to release those beliefs. They are shackles to your creativity and, as a result, to your personal vitality. 

If you have poems that you want to write, or even if you just want to see if you can write poetry, then do it. Let yourself. And then let yourself believe that they are true and real and valuable, for yourself and the world.

 

Accessible Doesn’t Have to Mean Simplistic

I think that there is another common misconception that leads to us devaluing accessible poetry: that, if a poem is understandable, it somehow is less important, less meaningful, less powerful.

This is not the case. Take Shel Silverstein’s poem “Listen to the Mustn’ts.” Silverstein’s feisty, often-silly poetry was a huge craze in my school when I was ten years old. Kids were reading it on their own, unprompted by parents or teachers, for fun. 

And yet — this poem. It is comprehensible, accessible — but packs a punch. It hits me right in the feels. It is the encouragement that I need to read everyday of my life. 

Or consider another poem by Silverstein, “Forgotten Language.” This is from The Giving Tree, which we’ll come back to later in the course. Even though this is a very simple poem, without complicated vocabulary, obtuse imagery, or meticulous composed rhyme and meter, I find it hard-hitting. There is so much emotion here, and so many rich levels of meaning — yet, again, it is comprehensible to readers of nearly any reading ability. 

There is nothing wrong with poetry that is dense or hard to understand. But often the difficulties we had with poetry during our education negatively impact our abilities to write or believe in our own poems. 

How do Silverstein’s words inspire you? How do they challenge you?

“One day I will find the right words, and they will be simple.”

― Jack Kerouac, The Dharma Bums

 

Writing Assignment for Week One: Find Some Poetry

For our first assignment, let’s have some fun and create found poems. According to the Academy of American Poets, “Found poems take existing texts and refashion them, reorder them, and present them as poems. The literary equivalent of a collage, found poetry is often made from newspaper articles, street signs, graffiti, speeches, letters, or even other poems” (source).

Here’s one way I go about creating a found poem.

Found poetry is a great way to ease into writing poems. There is no blank page to face down, no words to conjure up. Instead, all you have to do is play. 

Have fun, and share your creations in the Facebook group!

 

Reading for Week One

Read sections one (Following Words) and two (Listening to Ourselves) of Poemcrazy.

 

Fill-the-Well Adventure Assignment

Go to the library and check out a children’s book. Read it. 

 

Bonus Reading

How to Be Creative When You Are Busy by Joe Bunting

How to Overcome the Fear of Sharing Your Writing in Public by Leo Babauta

Newspaper Blackout Poems by Diana Adams

My Inspiration Comes From My Weirdness by Ksenia Anske

Interview with Billy Collins from The Paris Review

 

Bonus Writing Assignments

Complete the practice activities from this week’s reading of Poemcrazy.

“Play around. Dive into absurdity and write. Take chances. You will succeed if you are fearless of failure.” 

Natalie Goldberg, Writing Down the Bones


Like what you see? Want more?

Check out all the details about She Writes Wild here!

Delicious Words: The Best of Books Devoured in 2014


I love reading.  L O V E reading.  Books have sustained me through some of the hardest challenges of my life.  They are inspiration, education, and sanctuary.  They challenge and uproot.  They uplift my whole person.

That said . . . I've been rather lax in my reading.  Part of it is that being a mama takes up a lot of time (in an awesome way), but then after my sweet boy goes to bed, it's honestly easier to take in some TV shows on Amazon Prime than it is to pick up a book.

Still, my goal was to read ten books in 2014 (I know, I know, such a small goal for a woman who professes to L O V E reading), and I exceeded that.  So yay me.  And also yay to the fact that reading, even what feels like a paltry amount, has reminded me of just how much I need to be reading.  Not just because it is awesome and good for your brain and nourishing to me on a personal level, but also as a writer.  If I want to be a professional writer, I need to be a professional reader, too.

Here are some of my [highly professional?] favorite reads of 2014.


Non-fiction

The Dance of the Dissident Daughter by Sue Monk Kidd.  This was my first read of the year, and oh man, was it a good one -- and kind of perfect that it was my premiere book of 2014.  It's an autobiographical account of author Kidd's journey out of patriarchy and into her own self.  Perfect for any woman seeking to embrace her own woman-ness in a deeper way.

“I often went to Catholic mass or Eucharist at the Episcopal church, nourished by the symbol and power of this profound feeding ritual. It never occurred to me how odd it was that women, who have presided over the domain of food and feeding for thousands of years, were historically and routinely barred from presiding over it in a spiritual context. And when the priest held out the host and said, "This is my body, given for you," not once did I recognize that it is women in the act of breastfeeding who most truly embody those words and who are also most excluded from ritually saying them.” 

- from The Dance of the Dissident Daughter


Immortal Diamond: The Search For Our True Self by Richard Rohr.  If you follow me on social media, you may already know that I read a good deal of Rohr's works this year.  I even started a free book on Facebook for other Rohr readers.  So I probably don't have to tell you that I really (really, really) like what Rohr has to say.  Reading this Franciscan's priest's words helped move me from seeing the world, and specifically matters of spirituality and faith, in black and white (otherwise known as dualism) to opening up to a greater and more mysterious spectrum of existence and possibility.  Read it if you're weary of spiritual shoulds and are looking for another way.  I also recommend The Naked Now, Job and the Mystery of Suffering, The Enneagram: A Christian Perspective, and Falling Upward, all by Rohr and all among my 2014 reads.

“Metaphor is the only possible language available to religion because it alone is honest about Mystery.” 

- from Immortal Diamond


Red, Hot, and Holy: A Heretic's Love Story by Sera Beak.  I have something of a love/hate relationship with this book.  I felt like the book's description made promises that the book itself did not deliver on.  However, I have to put it on this list anyway because I love how committed Beak is to finding her whole self, no matter the cost.  Don't read this is a self-help book (that's what messed me up, I think -- read her The Red Book if that's what you need) but as an autobiographical love story between one woman and her Holy.

“Ideas aren’t helping you anymore, Sera. Concepts have run their course. Paradigms pop. Theories leak. Techniques are only top-offs. Beliefs brush away. Books close. Workshops end. What truly transforms is this Closeness with Me. You gotta hug Me so tight that nothing comes between Us.” 

- from Red, Hot, and Holy


Women Who Run With the Wolves by Clarissa Pinkola Estes.  I haven't finished this yet, despite having started it at the end of 2013.  It's not the kind of book you can rush through.  I find it hard to read more than a few pages at a time, because it is rich and healing and alive.  It is a collection of retold myths and fairytales.  Required reading for the awakening woman.

“If you have yet to be called an incorrigable, defiant woman, don't worry, there is still time.” 

- from Women Who Run With the Wolves

Fiction

A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness.  This book.  This book.  It is perhaps the best book I read this year.  It is a work of art, leaving me breathless like few works of fiction ever have.  It is hard, and lovely, and challenging, and sacred.  Go.  Read it.  Now.  I'll wait.  (And read Ness's other works afterward, because those are really quite good, too.)

Stories are wild creatures, the monster said. When you let them loose, who knows what havoc they might wreak?” 

- from A Monster Calls


The Grisha Trilogy by Leigh Bardugo.  This trilogy isn't high art like Ness's book.  But it is really, really fun.  And it's set in a fantasy world based loosely in Russian culture, which I found unique and refreshing.  The story can be a little predictable, but Bardugo makes up for that with lots of engaging adventure, bloodshed, characters that you care about (pirates!!!!), and romance that I didn't hate.  Like I said,  I had a blast reading these, and couldn't stop until I'd consumed all three back to back to back.

“Anything worth doing always starts as a bad idea.” 

- from Siege and Storm, book 2 of the Grisha Trilogy


His Fair Assassin Trilogy by Robin Lafevers.  I started this series in 2013, but the final book only released this November.  I have been practically panting for it all year, and per-ordered it so I'd get it on release day -- I never pre-order books.  I basically love this trilogy with all my heart.  It's about assassin nuns (assassin nuns, people!!!) set in medieval Burgundy.  Snarky, deliciously dark at times, full of ass-kicking women, they are SO GOOD. 

“I comfort myself with the knowledge that if Duval ever feels smothered by me, it will be because I am holding a pillow over his face.” 

- from Grave Mercy, book 1 of the His Fair Assassin Trilogy


Magdalen Rising by Elizabeth Cunningham.  This book is the first in The Maeve Chronicles, a series retelling the story of Mary Magdalen.  Under Cunningham's care, Mary becomes the fierce and fiery Celtic (eeek!) Maeve, who is raised by seven mothers and goes off for training under the Druids once she comes of age.  Trigger warning: there is sexual violence which, while not explicit, is nonetheless devastating.  Honestly, although it took me awhile to come around to it, this is one of the reasons I love this book.  It's the best fictional representation of sexual violence I've seen because, as with true life sex crimes, it completely stops and reroutes the story.  Nothing is the same after this intimate shattering.  I'm looking forward to reading the remaining books in the series.

“I've outgrown my childhood name, and I haven't found a new one yet.”

- from Magdalen Rising
Poetry

Rilke's Book of Hours: Love Poems to God by Rainer Maria Rilke.  No best-of-books list would be complete without poetry.  And Rilke's poetry is so, so rich.  It is just what I needed to read: the words of a mystic, questioning, reaching into the darkness, and learning to be satisfied with not-knowing.  Rilke's poetry echoes my own heart's throbbing.

“I circle around God, that primordial tower. / I have been circling for thousands of years, / And I still don't know: am I a falcon, / A storm, or a great song?” 

- from Rilke's Book of Hours


The Anatomy of Being by Shinji Moon.  I'm still working my way through this collection of poetry, but it is powerful.  Visceral, electric, and full of emotion.  And I love that Moon independently published it.  Basically, yum.

“You will lie to everyone you love. / They will love you anyways.” 

- from The Anatomy of Being

Friends' books

This list would not be complete without mentioning the bravery of my friends who published books in 2014.  I've blogged about a couple, but here they are in their totality, all gorgeous and worth reading(I feel pretty sure I'm forgetting someone . . . if so, my deepest apologies! pregnancy brain strikes again -- remind me and I will happily add yours to the list!)

For 2015 . . .

I've already started reading some of the books that will become my best-books-of-2015 list, I can just feel it.  Like A Discovery of Witches, for example, which I'm currently devouring.  I'd like to read more fiction across a variety of genres, styles, and topics, both for fun and for my edification as a writer.  I tend toward reading a lot of more self-help-y kind of books (usually spiritual ones), particularly when I feel like my heart is spinning.  So more fiction for 2015.

I'd also like to read more parenting books.  I've bought a decent bunch of them over the past two years, and have barely touched them.  I'd like to finish one or two.

Similar to my accumulation of parenting books, I've accumulated even more books on writing over the years -- and again haven't read most of them.  So I'm planning on reading more of those, particularly Writing Begins With the Breath because, well, writing tends to bring out the worst of my neuroses, so writing + breathing sounds like a better plan than writing + emotional eating, or writing + floundering in self-doubt, or writing + depression.

Looking back over this list, I notice that the authors mentioned are predominantly white.  This isn't necessarily a bad thing, but it is curious.  I'd like to widen my range of authors, to take in the experiences of those who don't look like me.  I think it's important, as a person and as a writer.  I've already started doing this with my son's books, expanding our picture book collection with stories featuring non-white characters and both male and female main characters, as well as purchasing toys that aren't all male, or the kind of toys marketed only for males.  It's time to challenge myself and expand my mind in some of the same ways as I'm doing for my son.  One book I'm particularly looking forward to/nervous about reading is Writing the Other, which delves into penning characters of a different ethnicity than the author.

And more poetry.  Because poetry = awesome.

On top of that, a number of my friends are publishing new books in 2015, so I'm also looking forward to getting my hands on those.

Most of all, though -- I've purchased a TON of books I haven't read yet in the last year or two.  So my main book goals for 2015 are to a) read a bunch, and b) buy no more books!  (Anyone else have a book buying problem?)

I'm also having a baby in the spring if all goes well, so I'm setting these book (and all 2015) goals with fluidity and grace.  Who knows how much time I'll have to read/create/brush my teeth in the second half of the year, so I'm holding everything quite loosely (or trying to). 

Okay, enough from me.  Your turn!  What were some of your favorite reads of 2014?  Anyone with me in the assassin nun fangirling?  How about your reading hopes for the new year?


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