Archive for the ‘Recreation’ Tag

Review of Redneck Poems by Rusty Barnes   Leave a comment

Rednecks and Broomsticks

Image via Wikipedia

http://gentlyread.wordpress.com/2011/03/02/helen-peterson-on-redneck-poems-by-rusty-barnes/

A few months ago, Dan Casey from Gently Read Lit asked me to write a review of Rusty Barnes’ recent collection, Redneck Poems. It was a fun project to do, I hadn’t done a review in a few years, and it was good to flex those muscles again.

It was also good practice for putting my own collection together, seeing what works, what doesn’t. But more of that some other time. Enjoy the review, and if you haven’t yet done so, give Rusty a read.

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Haruah: Breath of Heaven   Leave a comment

Northern lights on the road

Image by Tom Olliver via Flickr

To read this poem, click here

2007, when “On the Shores of Gitcheegumee” was published in Haruah: Breath of Heaven, seems like a lifetime ago. Even more distant is the even that inspired this inspirational piece about grieving, loss, and hope.

My grandmother died almost 20 years ago, but the trip to Montana my family took is fresh in my mind to this day. Growing up we made the trek to Montana by van many times, but this particular trip was fraught with roadblocks along the way. The minivan broke down in Michigan, the part needed had to be ordered, the only campground nearby with a spot for us was run by a crazy old man who hated kids.  It was like something out of a movie, but the best, and worst, was yet to come.

At weeks end, we sped across the prairies, not stopping at night, my parents taking turns sleeping. During one of the brief stops along side the road so Mom could wake up and take Dad’s place, we were blessed to see the Northern Lights, my sister and I for the first time. The next day we learned that my grandmother had passed around the time we witnessed Aurora¬†Borealis.

My family, my life, have always been a main source of inspiration for me, and this poem is representative of some of my earliest work, drawing on one of the bigger moments. Over time, of course, I have to delve further, draw from memory buried over time, more subtle. It’s nice to look back and remember a simpler, bittersweet time.

How deep into your own memory do you go for inspiration? Have you simply skimmed the surface in your writing, or have the layers slowly been peeled away? Do some free writing, quickly writing down scraps of memory, phrases, words, see what might be hiding, waiting to come into the light.

Snow Monkey   1 comment

Photograph of Edna St. Vincent Millay

Image via Wikipedia

http://snowmonkeyjournal.blogspot.com/2010/05/helen-peterson.html

This May, Snow Monkey published my poem, “Funny, You Don’t Look Like a Grandmother“. Giving credit where credit is due, the title came from a book I once bought my mother-in-law for her birthday. This was a running joke with us, since she was in her mid thirties when I had my oldest son. Her husband, my ex-husband’s step-dad, was twenty seven, but it’s funny, I never did find a Funny, You Don’t Look Like a Grandfather book. Freud would have something to say about that, I’m sure.

Anyway, the title may have come from a funny little book, but the body of the poem came from the life of Edna St. Vincent Millay, one of my favorite poets. According to Nancy Millford’s excellent biography, Savage Beauty, when Millay’s mother thought her daughter might be pregnant, she forced her to take multiple scalding hot baths, and ride her horse bareback up and down the valleys and meadows near their home. It was such a crazy contrast to how my own parents and in-laws reacted, it stuck with me, more than anything else in the book, and it was a very good book, worth the read if you have the time and wish to do so.

You may notice, though, that I don’t use Millay’s name in the poem. In earlier drafts I did, added more details specific to her own life. In workshopping, others found the specificity distracting, and so I applied a name I had used before, in Baby Girl poems, the fragile and distracted Sweet Baby. It added another slant to the idea of a mother manipulating her daughter’s body, even after the girl is grown into her own sexuality.

This is just one example of how I sometimes get inspired by the lives of real people, and by what I read in books. Take something you’ve read, that has stuck with you, and use it as a writing prompt this evening. When you’re done, pick up a book you’ve been dying to read.  Begin to read it with an eye for inspiration, as well as for leisure. Taste the words and stories within, mull it around your tongue with the spices from your own life. Begin to read like a writer.