New Again

Good morning, and happy June!

Yesterday I did something I haven’t done for almost a year and a half. I saw a film in a theater with my family. It was such an odd feeling – one part anxiety, one part excitement, and one part oh-yeah-I-remember-this. Discussing the film on the way home was almost like watching a flower thought to be extinct blossom again. Maybe that’s excessive, but it’s very odd to do things we haven’t done in a long time that we used to do so casually.

Speaking of… I’ve been invited to be the featured reader at an in-person reading series. I think it will be their first in-person event in a long time. It will be my first opportunity to give an in-person reading from questions for water. Just like going to the movie, I feel a little anxiety, some excitement, and I’m really looking forward to that sensation of oh-yes-I-remember-this!

I will share the date when I have it, but I expect it will be a Sunday afternoon in June. If you’re in the Annapolis, MD area, I hope you will stop in and enjoy that new-again feeling of being with poets and sharing work.

Hoping you, too, are enjoying familiar things that are new again.

Books…

I can’t tell you how wonderful it is to finally have them in the world, to see other people with them, to read the poems to others!

The events I’ve had so far have been wonderful in a way that’s hard to describe. Even though they’ve been virtual and not at all what I had imagined more than a year ago. My poems come from my true self, so to have people listen and discuss them with understanding is deeply satisfying. Maybe it’s silly to say that. But the feeling of sharing something personal, intimate, and sensing the audience’s reaction is one of my favorite experiences. Deep sharing, that’s what I call it.

Isn’t that what all art is about? for?

So packing and sending them out to friends and family in the last week has been great and also surreal. My Aunt once told me that having a child is like having a piece of your heart walking around outside your body. Yes, it is. To a certain degree, so is having your book in the world.

I hope you have a chance to read questions for water or hear me read from it in one of my upcoming events. And let me know what you think!

every water

My favorite poem by Lucille Clifton:

the mississippi river runs into the gulf

and the gulf enters the sea and so forth,
none of them emptying anything,
all of them carrying yesterday
forever on their white tipped backs,
all of them dragging forward tomorrow.
it is the great circulation
of the earth’s body, like the blood
of the gods, this river in which the past
is always flowing. every water
is the same water coming round.
everyday someone is standing on the edge
of this river, staring into time,
whispering mistakenly:
only here. only now.

Every water is the same water coming round. I love how Lucille captured the cyclical and interconnected nature of everything in this poem. She points to our mistake of thinking any thing or place or person can be separated from another. The water in the Atlantic is also the water in the Pacific and the Adriatic and so on.

I learned the concept of interdependence through Buddhism. Nothing can create itself without the help or presence of another thing or condition. Seeds will not grow without water and light; children will not be conceived without two specific cells and a conducive environment; water requires both hydrogen and oxygen. Try as we may to individuate ourselves, divide ourselves into this group and that — us and them, it’s not possible. It’s not possible to prevent a drop of the Atlantic from becoming a drop of the Pacific. It’s not possible for humans to completely separate themselves from each other, the past, and the future. For me, all of this is present metaphorically in Lucille’s poem.

The title poem of my new book was written in response to a painting in which water features prominently. In my poem, water functions as both connector and divider of different lands, a thief of my grandfather’s native Italian language, a source of fossils and livelihoods. It is essential for life and can also take life away.

I can’t remember a time when I was not fascinated by water, its power — its ability to change, create and destroy. I hope you will set sail with me on the journey that is this book, questions for water.

Too Long and Almost

Between the virus and the cost of travel, we haven’t seen each other recently. But spring is here, medical science is finding new ways to keep people healthy, it’s almost April-National Poetry Month, and my book, questions for water, will appear in just a few weeks!


I’m thrilled to finally have a full-length book coming out. It’s taken several more decades than I expected. 

The title poem was written in response to a piece of art for a collaborative show at the Hamilton Gallery. It’s primarily a delicious blue-green color with torn paper affixed and layered in places. Also affixed near the bottom of the work is a length of real barbed wire. The torn paper – to me – represented a single person in a small boat crossing an ocean. Other pieces of paper suggested a lighthouse; still others in the foreground suggested land with rolling mountains. The wire represented difficulty, challenge, and loss. Together it said “Immigration” to me. 


One of my grandfathers came to America from Italy, and I’d always been interested to write about that but never had. Other older ancestors came from Scotland, but I don’t have much information on them. I was working on this poem while the world watched absolutely horrific things happening at the US/Mexico border.  My own family history and those of immigrants I’ve known and those I saw in the news all came together. It’s the longest poem I’ve written (eleven pages!), and it includes bits of Italian, Spanish, and Russian languages in relation to experiences described in the poem. Colors and images of water recur throughout and function as transition points for the reader – repetition acts as an anchor if you will. 


I’d love to have the opportunity to read it to you. The book will be available on Amazon, Bookshop.com, and ApprenticeHousePress.com on 5 April. I’d love to hear your thoughts if you get a chance to read it! 


Here are several opportunities to hear me read from questions for water:
Release party on Zoom on April 9th, 7pm.
If you prefer a cozier conversation, my friend Barbara Morrison will be hosting a salon on Zoom on April 13th, 7pm. Let me know if you’d like a link to the event.


On April 20th I’ll be on a panel of 3 poets published by Apprentice House Press hosted by the Ivy Bookshop in Baltimore. You can attend through this link: https://www.theivybookshop.com/upcomingevent/22531

In June, I’ll be reading with several other poets with new books for the Pratt Library. More info here: https://calendar.prattlibrary.org/event/seven_at_seven_local_poets_showcase#.YFEXJ9JKiUk

Wishing you a spring full of blossoms and good health! Hope to see you soon.

Virginia

Today! April 5, 2021

Here we are, Publication Day. questions for water is officially available in the world. That is such a wild and fabulous thing! It’s taken me so long to get here, and my copies haven’t arrived yet, so it still feels un-real. I hope you will join me in celebrating this Friday evening at 7 pm on Zoom https://us02web.zoom.us/j/83251190877?pwd=VUkyM0FoK0U0ZEF3U3VDMTIrUTI5UT09

Can’t make it? Thankfully you have several additional opportunities:

Tues, April 13th, 6:30 pm Salon hosted by Barbara Morrison. This will be a cozy and relaxed chance to hear some poems and discuss and ask questions about them. Send me an email if you’d like that link.

Tues, April 20th, 7 pm with the Ivy Bookshop

Weds, June 16th at 7 pm with the Pratt Library

And this is a partial list! Be sure to check back or on the questions for water Facebook page for more details.

I’m looking forward to sharing questions for water with you!

Magic Anyway


Magic-ing is tough. It requires so much of us. Faith in ourselves – that we have something worth magic-ing into existence, as well as hope that there will be magic enough for someone somewhere at some time to find and connect through it.


And at the same time, it’s impossible not to “magic.” That would deny our true nature as creators, as artists of our own lives.


Last week marked the anniversary of Lucille Clifton’s passing from this world. I was so lucky to hear her daughter Sidney speak about things she’d learned from her mom. I needed to hear that message — “Magic anyway.” There are so many pressures in everyday life telling us the opposite. Not to mention internal doubts. 

Sidney shared the story of her purchase of her childhood home in Baltimore. It did sound like magic — a perfect alignment of coincidences — the universe magically weaving her and her home back together. Personally, I would have understood if the family wished to keep for themselves the place where their mother worked her magic at her typewriter. 

But no; they decided to share even more of Lucille’s magic by opening their family home — Clifton House — to artists for workshops and residencies. What a gift! I cannot wait until I have the chance to visit and be in that space where Lucille lived and created, where she wrote about, but transcended, everyday experiences, where she poem-ed and magic-ed into millions of readers’ minds and hearts. Even though it was not easy. Even though she faced people and pressures who were against her. She continued to magic anyway. And we are all the richer for it.  

Here is one part of Sidney’s remembrance: 

What I learned was this:

We are responsible for freeing our voices
Our voices resound when we do the work
The work is done in silence
Silence births our visions and voices
Voices and visions are magic
Magic is an adjective and a verb
Magic is hard work
Not everyone will understand
Not everyone will be happy
Magic anyway

Sidney Clifton
12-31-19


To read her complete piece and learn more about Clifton House: https://mentorandmuse.net/sidney-clifton/

Thanks for reading. And Magic Anyway.

Virginia

Winter Welcome

Hello and Welcome!

Here in the Mid-Atlantic, we have the chance of snow every day for a week. That’s pretty unusual. And I’m delighted. I’ve always loved snow — one form of water — for its ability to magically transform our familiar landscapes as well as cancel school and sometimes work. At least for a while, everything looks beautifully clean, and I can (briefly) indulge the fantasy of everyone snuggled comfortably in their warm homes.

More recently I’ve wondered how homeless people deal with snow and extreme temperatures as well as those for whom snow is a burden or impediment to their normal and necessary activities. My cozy-snow-nostalgia does not apply to their lives.

It’s an uncomfortable realization.

Recent poems, many of them in questions for water, and the title poem itself, focus directly on issues of inequity and poverty. The poems reflect injustices that I’ve witnessed or experienced in Baltimore. (Yes, good things also happen in Baltimore.) The first step toward actively creating a just society is looking into that terribly uncomfortable mirror.

Here are three poems. While the speaker in each could be described as privileged, the speaker in the third shows someone else’s less privileged and painful reality. Through showing very real pain of very real people, I hope readers will be moved to recognize the trauma that is living in poverty and act in ways that will reduce suffering. That might be keeping snacks and water bottles in your car to give away, or giving a dollar or ten or twenty to a person or helping organization when you can, or helping elect those dedicated to reducing human suffering, or volunteering in your community. Sometimes it’s as simple as looking someone in the eyes and treating them with kindness.

I’m not suggesting that every poem I write in the future will or should include more than my own socio-economic viewpoint, but I do want to be open to the perspectives of others whom some parts of society would like to pretend don’t exist.

If you like, jump over to the Contact page and share your thoughts. Until next time–

Virginia

i wish for blizzards

every winter i wish
for blizzards  like our first
year when we watched
the snowflakes fall in the silver
night until the world became
so beautiful i could not look
now we watch from the window
or the opened door
the snowflakes sparkle in the street 
lights each one falling tenderly upon the next
and i am glad when
they are piled so high
there is nowhere else to go


along the road

driving through an early winter night
maybe the first night you see your own breath
trees hang over the road
headlights smack their naked branches
leaves swish in the street
passing houses  light thrown softly
through their rooms  i see the family
all their faces glowing

or it’s a house with just one person
absorbed in a novel
maybe it’s about trains
or characters who are always
starting new lives or new religions
behind the steam of another cup of coffee
ah  the geography of new love

this is what i want to do in the cold
i want to eat the whole pie 
and have no one scold me
i want to perfect human hibernation
the way people in blizzards
become their own factories
whirling synchronized belts
running smoothly through their houses
i want to dance down from trees
be swept away with wind
into a house on a road
its light several rooms deep 


baltimore

he approaches my car
stopped at a red light
it’s winter
his hands bare
red  cracked  swollen
might bleed at any moment

i place an orange
in his destroyed hand
then  wishing him luck  
as i do each time
i look up

he’s young 
hard to tell beneath
his experience
his tears

this young man
stands
in the road
holding an orange
crying

he says between sobs
hot food
i only want 
hot food