Archive for the ‘biography’ Tag

Everyday Poets 2011   Leave a comment

 

Child 1

Children, flexible in all kinds of ways!  (Photo credit: Tony Trần)

 

As anyone who has read my latest book, Melons and Memory will tell you, my role as a mother is at the very center of my being. More than my roles as a poet, librarian, sister, daughter, wife or friend, I am identified by others as being the mother of my daughter and two sons. The first thought on waking and the last fading off to sleep is how can I improve the lives of my children every day. It’s led to some easy decisions, and to others that were not so easy.

 

 

 

One of those tough decisions was made after my daughter was born. I had suffered from HELPP syndrome, and had had to have an emergency c section as my liver and kidneys began to shut down. She was fine, the healthiest and heaviest of the three, but in the process of giving her life, I almost lost mine. At that point I made the painful decision to have a tubal ligation. While I was still pretty young, I had had three children, I had my girl. The potential for more children was too great a risk to the well being of the children I already had.

 

 

 

Three years later, it’s a decision I’m comfortable with. I see my friends in their pregnancies, hold their infants, and that desire to have another one is no longer there. But in the beginning, it was very difficult to wrap my head around such a permanent decision. So, as I do with all the bumps in my road, I ironed it out with writing.

 

 

 

The poem, “Closing Down the Baby Factory”, was so good, Everyday Poets published it last year, and I’m so glad they did. While the beauty and joys of motherhood are so prevalent in poetry as to almost be cliché, the topic of choosing to let motherhood go rarely gets the airplay it deserves, in poetry or the mainstream media. It’s important that every woman can find herself somewhere in the arts. One of the goals I’ve set for myself in my writing career is to give them that through my own experiences, no matter how sensitive or graphic it might be.

 

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Gone Sane by Christal Rice Cooper   Leave a comment

 

Ms Cooper’s new book, Gone Sane, is a 197 page collection of poems based upon the lives of the famous and infamous. The book is split into six sections, each focusing on a particular point of view.

 

Christal’s experience as an editor and a free lance journalist is quite apparent throughout the book. There is a level of confidence in the facts of these cases that can only come from thorough research. At the same time, there’s an empathy that transcends the “just the facts” attitude of a reporter. Nowhere in the book is this more evident than in the poem Mark. It is prefaced by a quote from Cooper’s own story in the Altus Times about the case. Mark Gomez, at the age of one, was beaten to death. In the quote the journalist lists the injuries, in the poem the poet relates the purchase of a baby’s outfit which is then laid out over the grave,

 

as if I were dressing a baby

 

just before he climbs on a beer stained couch

to sit by Mommy’s boyfriend,

to feel his whiskered face.

 

The poem ends with Mark Gomez’s murderer’s death penalty sentence carried out, and the poet visiting her own child’s bedroom

 

His clothes are laid out for tomorrow:

red onesie, toddler jeans.

 

Someday I’ll say I knew

I’d hold him safe-

 

The skillful way she pulls the story full circle, into her own home, touches the heart and soul of every parent without being over sentimental.

 

If there’s anything to criticize within the book, it’s that certain sections don’t seem to mesh with the overall mood of the book. I’m not sure, for example, what a poem about Jim Carrey or the band U2 contributes to a book where the majority of the poems deal with murderers, rapists, and massacres.

 

Along the same lines, while most of the poems dealing with Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis are quite lovely, they dominate the first half of the book to the point where you turn the page and groan to see yet another one. For the purposes of this book, Cooper and Onassis would have been better served focusing on either her life immediately after the assassination of JFK, or her life with Aristotle Onassis, but not both.

 

Finally, the artwork in the book, pencil sketches, appears unfinished alongside the professionalism of the poems they are meant to enhance. It might have been better for the artist to create artwork that more closely mimicked photography, or the heavier, cleaner lines of pen and ink drawings.

 

Overall, Gone Sane is a book that will make you think and make you feel in equal parts. It is well worth the read, and is available on Amazon as both a paperback:

 

http://www.amazon.com/gone-sane-christal-rice-cooper/dp/096507644X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1342543371&sr=8-1&keywords=gone+sane

 

and an E-book:

 

http://www.amazon.com/gone-sane-ebook/dp/B007HDVGNI/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1342543371&sr=8-2&keywords=gone+sane

In Memoriam   Leave a comment

Saint Francis

Image by Two Ladies & Two Cats via Flickr

Today’s post is going to be a little different. Instead of talking about me, I’d like to remember an old friend.

This week, the world lost a good person, who was also a great poet. I met Father Emmett Jarrett about ten years ago, when I first started to become involved in the poetry scene in New London, Connecticut. To the poets who met weekly at Muddy Waters, he was simply Emmett, a poet who had a knack for putting a rhythm on a story, lull you to comfort with the quietness of his gravelly voice, and then drive the ending right through your heart. He could create humor out of tragedy, make you feel and care about people you will never meet, experience places and events you will never witness.

More than a poet, Father Emmett used his words outside the coffee houses and art galleries where the New London School of Poets would gather. His work within the church championed the needs of the less fortunate, shedding a glaring light on the injustices of pur society the rest of us would rather gloss over, ignoring those people who live in the third world right here on the streets of America. Right to the end he was faithful to his message and his life’s work. As fellow New London poet Megan J. and I walked to the front of St. James to say good bye, we knelt at a plain wooden box, not a pricey and polished casket.

As the managing editor of Chopper Poetry Journal, I was honored to publish Emmett’s work twice, in the first and second issue. One of his poems in Chopper 2, “Asleep in a Haystack”, takes on new meaning as the people of New London say goodbye.

Asleep in a Haystack

the taste of light

is the taste of mango juice

sweet and smooth

to the tongue

open eyes two

candles burning

street lamps outside

fade with

the dawn

the pilgrim asleep

in a haystack

dreams his staretz

points to a page

in the book-

“the one in you

is greater

than the one outside”

the taste of light

is smooth as the grain

of wood and the altar

sweeter than–

wake up pilgrim

dreaming of light

there is nothing

to fear

nothing

that is not

mango juice

to the taste

of light under

the haystack

fast asleep

–Father Emmett Jarrett, Chopper 2, December 2007

Goodbye, good pilgrim. Heaven has gained an angel.

To read more about the life and work of Father Emmett Jarrett, click here

Girls With Insurance   1 comment

Cigarette

Image by Pensiero via Flickr

http://frsh.in/60

I have worked with a number of great editors in my writing career, bu Dawn Corrigan over at GWI is one of my favorites. She saw great potential in my flash, “Breaking it Down”, but was not afraid to point out its flaws and make suggestions that made the piece even better without bruising the fragile writer‘s ego.

She was also perceptive enough to recognize that not everything in this story is fiction, and asked if I would rather have it published as non fiction. My answer was no, because then the neighbor in Breaking it Down was still my neighbor in real life, and while I seriously doubted she’d be reading the story, there was always the slim possibility that a visitor to my home might shout out to her “hey, you’re the neighbor with the fat shoulders!” if they saw her sitting out on her stoop, paperback in one hand, smoke in the other.

If the story had been published today, I might very well publish it as non fiction. There are fictitious elements to it, yes, but I’ve moved on, both physically and emotionally, from that time in my life,  and am more secure in who I am that I am willing to admit the darker sides of my life, to truly own my life, and not care as much who sees it. Rereading this story after so many months has made me realize how much I’ve changed since then. I get a little thrill of joy rereading it, not just because it’s well written, but because it’s therapeutic to look back, and appreciate what you had then, and have now.

So today, nonfiction. Put real people in your stories, without disguising them, without fear of hurt feelings or recriminations. Let your stories speak freely.