Monday, May 29, 2017

LIFE OF A POET - BEVERLY CRAWFORD

We have a lovely visit for you today, my friends. Beverly Crawford has found her way to us, and I couldn't wait to interview her. Beverly writes at Worditude, and is sharing some of her story with us today. Pour yourself a nice cup of tea, and pull your chairs in close. There is a one-room schoolhouse in this feature! You won't want to miss a single word.



Beverly crocheting


Sherry: Beverly, I am so happy to be visiting with you at last. Would you give us a snapshot of the poet at home?

Beverly: Four years ago I sold my home, my son and wife sold their home, and we pooled our funds to buy a lovely home a stone’s throw from Eagle Creek Park, in northwest Indianapolis, which we share quite happily with two cats, who allow us to live with them.  I am still quite independent and have a busy and active life, but I am now free of upkeep of a house and yard.  My son is a respiratory therapist at a local hospital, his wife a retired nurse, and my daughter is a pharmacist who lives in Salem, Oregon.


I'm happy to say I'm 83.  You may or may not use that tidbit!   My husband was a city firefighter.  I was widowed when I was 45.  After his death, I went back to work full time as a medical transcriptionist, and ultimately became a regional supervisor for a medical transcription company.     

Sherry: You are a very young and vibrant 83! I love that you have your family around you. I am sorry you were widowed so young. Where did you grow up, Beverly?

Beverly: I grew up in a very rural area about 100 miles south of Chicago.  It is rich, flat prairie where crop rows (corn and soy beans) stretch to the horizon. My father was a tenant farmer on a tidy little farm of 160 acres.  I attended a one-room country school for the first 8 years of my schooling, and I’ve told a bit about that in a couple of my poems.   (See “School of Life” in the February archives on my poetry blog, and also in “
Books“  more recently).
Sherry: I loved both poems, and would like to include one here, if I may, as it tells such a wonderful story of your childhood.






It was a little one-room schoolhouse
Where I learned to read and write
There were no indoor facilities
But we did have electric light
The teacher sat at his desk in front
Near the bench for recitation
The pot-bellied stove stood at the rear
In our house of education.

When teacher rang the morning bell
We came in from playing tag
To start each school day morning
Pledging allegiance to our flag.
In desks of various sizes
For we were grades one through eight
We worked hard at getting lessons
To progress at rapid rate.

We were taught to be competitive
And to always do our best
To bring the best we had to give
To any given test.
At recess we played softball,
Cops and robbers, fox and goose.
And even on the playground
We learned the simple truths.

We learned honesty, compassion,
Integrity and pride
The tools of successful living
That must not be put aside.

In today’s education system
Modern conveniences are rife
But I’ll take my one-room schoolhouse
Where the teacher taught us life.





Sherry: I envy you that childhood, the teacher, and the one-room schoolhouse, Beverly. Those were kinder, gentler times, I do believe. When did you begin writing poetry?

Beverly: I’ve written poetry almost ever since I can remember. I also have written essays for quite some time (although I guess they might qualify as prose poems).  I have never attempted to publish anything I’ve written, but I have notebooks of poetry and essays.  I love the cadence and rhythm of rhyming poetry, but I’m learning to appreciate other forms.

Sherry: We enjoy your work so much. Would you like to share three of your poems with us?

************
ROOTS

Two people from different backgrounds
Your lives joined and you began
A family of various people
We now lovingly call our clan.

These days our numbers are many
Our paths scattered far and wide
But we remember the lessons you taught us
As we walked in the fields at your side

“If you can’t say good about someone,
There’s no need to speak at all”.
“Tis not ours to judge a fellow
For his sins and shortcomings and all”.
“God gives us different ways and faces
But we’re all equal in his sight”.
“You can’t stray far from happy
If you remember wrong from right”.

Special times we still come together
In our high heels and shiny boots
To learn still at the seat of our knowledge
In the home where we have our roots.
Grandchildren and great grandchildren
Eyes all sparkling and bright
The table groaning with bounty
Our hearts filled with simple delight.

I sit and look about me
And I think God has planned it thus
We must pass on to those who come after
The gifts you  have given to us.

Beverly: "Roots" was written around the time of my parents' 50th wedding anniversary, and it is a tribute to their strong leadership in the generations of our family.


Sherry: How wonderful to have had such a strong and stable base for your family.

**************


WHO AM I?

It’s important to know yourself, they say
Retain your identify
If that’s the case, then I’m okay
I’ve always known I’m me.

They call me lady executive
In the job that I have now
But I’m the same little farm girl
Who used to milk the cow.

I sit in on business luncheons
Where we all discuss loss and profit
But I’m the moppet who drove the tractor
When I could barely climb on and off it.

My co-workers think me efficient
And sometimes even wise
But I’m that same pudgy dreamer
Who used to catch fireflies.

Sometimes when I look in the mirror
I can hardly suppress a smile
The exterior is certainly changing
But inside it’s been me all the while.



Beverly: "Who Am I" was written when I was trying to sort out my identity as a lady executive.

Sherry: "Inside it's been me all the while" made me smile. I love it!

*****************


THE ME GENERATION

It’s the “me” generation
It’s in vogue to please yourself
The idea is highly touted
In the books upon the shelf.
Self-fulfillment, self-enrichment
Look out for number one
If it works so well, I wonder
Where happiness has gone?

The divorce rate is steadily climbing
And many are at the end of their rope
Are we so busy feeding our egos
We’re running out of cope?
Our houses are growing larger
At quite an alarming rate
First we have to find one another
Before we can communicate.

Our children grow up with a sitter
Who has problems of her own
When we decide to spend time with them
We find they’re nearly grown.
The men are at the golf course
And the women at the pool.
And the children leave the sitter’s
And go to nursery school.

The husbands go to the mens’ clubs
The wives go to the spas.
Are they so busy self-developing
They forget the way it was
When love was new and joyous
And each lived for the other
And finding time together
Wasn’t such an awful bother?

Could it be we had the answer
In the not so long ago
When we weren’t hung up on possessions
And what we had for show?

When our concern was more for others
And we loved our fellow man
And we weren’t too busy self-developing
To lend a helping hand?

Could self-denial be fulfilling
And self-control enriching too?
Is it just we have the self misplaced.
I wonder, is that true?

There’s a very great difference
Between what we want and what we need
And what we call desire to achieve
Is perilously close to greed.

It seems what we wear not who we are
Is what it’s all about
But ugly is still ugly
If it comes from inside out.

We’re all looking for the answers
And there’s little else to say
But, if we reassessed our values
Would happy come back one day?


***********

Beverly: "The Me Generation" was written some time ago, and was my perception of the changes in social mores, but I think it's as applicable today as it was then.

Sherry: Maybe even more so! I resonate with your worldview, Beverly. I especially love the tribute to your parents. Will you tell us about your art? I so admire the beautiful images you are sharing with us today.




Beverly: When I retired in 1999, I found a pen pal in Perth, Australia.  The two of us shared an interest in using software to make greeting cards.  That mutual interest grew into a long friendship, and our interest grew to include digital art, and the world of blogging.




Today, with a friend in the UK, we co-administer three art challenge blogs that work much the same as Poets United. We issue challenges, and our artist members create digital art, about which we comment and share, just as the community of poets at Poets United. 





I would invite anyone interested to visit my art blog and/or the three challenge sites at the following URLs.

They can also be accessed by clicking on the icons in the side bar of my poetry blog. 



Sherry: Your art is very beautiful. Each one is so unique.  

I love that you are one of the Muses at Three Muses! That’s great! What other activities might we find you enjoying when you aren’t writing or producing art?

Beverly: I belong to a small group of women writers who meet monthly.  We draw a slip from our “topic jar” and write something on that topic, which we share at our meetings.   I also belong to a small art group.  I’ve been keeping art journals for several years.  I guess you could call them visual diaries, in that they contain notes on my daily life, accompanied by some of my poems or essays, and art which may include watercolor, pan pastels, sketches, etc.   I am currently on Journal #24!   

I also keep 9 on-line Scrabble games going with ex co-workers, and with my daughter and her husband, and meet with friends occasionally for cards.  

Sherry: I would love to poke through those art journals. What a wealth of material! Is there anything you’d like to say to Poets United?

Beverly: Stacy at Warningthestars.com happened to enter one of our art challenges, and it is from visiting her site I learned of Poets United.   The concept of sharing my poetry and enjoying that of other like-minded poets totally captured my fancy, and I’ve become an enthusiastic participant at both Poets United and dVerse.   I have absolutely NO formal training as a poet, and I knew nothing of quadrille, quatrain, haibun, etc., so I am learning much from all of you! 

I have always just written what inspired me at the moment in a format pleasing to me.  I admit to feeling my poetry is somewhat simplistic and lacks the depth of much of the work I see at Poets United, but I am impressed with the warm acceptance of the poets there, and their acceptance of my rather homespun style. 
  
Sherry: Beverly, we so enjoy your voice, your style, and your poetry. Your voice is authentic and comes from such a good heart. We are thrilled you found your way to Poets United, and hope to enjoy your work for years to come. Thank you so much for allowing us to get to know you better. We have enjoyed this visit so much.


Wasn't this fun, my friends? Do come back next week and see who we talk to next. Who knows? It might be you! 


Sunday, May 28, 2017

Poetry Pantry # 355








Deer and Bunny at the Farm

These sweethearts visit often at the family farm in Port Alberni, B.C. They love eating birdseed from the feeder, and often graze in the pasture with the horses. Occasionally a black bear and, more rarely, a cougar, strolls through, as well, but we haven't managed to capture their visits in photos, being too busy encouraging them away from the horses.


Here is someone else who likes bird seed-
Beau, the Grand Old Girl, in her fly mask.
She is now 33 years old, feisty and hilarious.


We are looking forward to a good week this week, my friends, and to Mary's return from her time away next Sunday.  If you didn't catch Rosemary's feature on Friday, do scroll back. She featured a wonderfully relevant poem written by Adrian Mitchell, the English poet. It is not to be missed!

Tomorrow we are featuring Beverly Crawford, and you won't want to miss  it. Beverly had an amazing childhood, attending one of the old one-room schoolhouses, where she says the teacher "taught life." You'll love getting to know her better. On Wednesday, Susan's prompt is: Tobacco. That is a thought-provoking topic, and I'm sure there will be some interesting responses. On Friday, Rosemary will have another  interesting feature for us. How the weeks sail by!

Link your poem, my friends, and do visit your fellow poets in the spirit of community. Enjoy!


Friday, May 26, 2017

The Living Dead

~ Honouring our poetic ancestors ~

Leaflets

Outside the plasma supermarket
I stretch out my arm to the shoppers and say
“Can I give you one of these?”
I give each of them a leaf from a tree.
The first shopper thanks me.
The second puts the leaf in his mack pocket where his wife won’t see.
The third says she is not interested in leaves. She looks like a mutilated willow.
The fourth says “Is it art?” I say that it is a leaf.
The fifth looks through his leaf and smiles at the light beyond.
The sixth hurls down his leaf and stamps it till dark purple mud oozes through.
The seventh says she will press it in her album.
The eighth complains that it is an oak leaf and says he would be on my side if I were also handing out birch leaves, apple leaves, privet leaves and larch leaves. I say that it is a leaf.
The ninth takes the leaf carefully and then, with a backhand fling, gives it its freedom.
It glides, following surprise curving alleys through the air.
It lands. I pick it up.
The tenth reads both sides of the leaf twice and then says: “Yes, but it doesn’t say who we should kill.”
But you took your leaf like a kiss.
The tell me that on Saturdays
You can be seen in your own city centre
Giving away forests, orchards, jungles.


– Adrian Mitchell (1932-2008)


"Adrian Mitchell."
The Famous People website.
(accessed May 25 2017) 















Adrian Mitchell, English poet, playwright, screenwriter, novelist, journalist and children's writer, was one of England's foremost performance poets who sometimes had audiences of thousands. 

He was known particularly as an anti-bomb poet. An activist and revolutionary in the context of being a committed pacifist, he was considered the voice of the Left and often used satire – but he also sought to uplift people's spirits with his poetry. This one, I think, does both. The satire is there in the people's different reactions to being given a leaf. And overall, particularly in its closing lines, the poem makes me feel lifted up, inspired, happier.

If ever there was a time for an anti-bomb poet, this is it, after the explosion in Manchester. But this poem makes the point obliquely by focusing on Life. How hard it is, it seems to say, for us to recognise and appreciate the gift of life. That lack must surely be one of the things that leads to terrorist attacks. 

What can we helpless citizens do in the face of such horrors? Little, perhaps, in the way of direct action. But we can reaffirm our commitment to life, love and humanity, as the people of Manchester are now doing.  We can raise our voices, poetic or otherwise, in support of this commitment. And we can encourage ourselves by reading poems which have tenderness as well as strength. 

You can find out details of his life and work at Wikipedia, where I found this lovely tribute:

"Adrian", said fellow-poet Michael Rosen, "was a socialist and a pacifist who believed, like William Blake, that everything human was holy. That's to say he celebrated a love of life with the same fervour that he attacked those who crushed life. He did this through his poetry, his plays, his song lyrics and his own performances. Through this huge body of work, he was able to raise the spirits of his audiences, in turn exciting, inspiring, saddening and enthusing them.... He has sung, chanted, whispered and shouted his poems in every kind of place imaginable, urging us to love our lives, love our minds and bodies and to fight against tyrannyoppression and exploitation."

His obituary in The Guardian, by Michael Kustow, said:

The poet and playwright Adrian Mitchell, in whom the legacies of Blake and Brecht coalesce with the zip of Little Richard and the swing of Chuck Berry, has died of heart failure at the age of 76. In his many public performances in this country and around the world, he shifted English poetry from correctness and formality towards inclusiveness and political passion.

(Wikipedia also refers you to several other obituaries.)


An article at the Poetry Archive says:

Mitchell was committed to a form of poetry that welcomes as many people as possible - he was, perhaps, best known for saying that "Most people ignore most poetry because most poetry ignores most people." Thus his work deals with recognisable subjects in clear, modern language, and can revel in strong rhythms, drawn as often from the blues and pop music as from the poetic canon.

His output was prolific. His several book pages at Amazon begin here. And you can listen to his own excellent recitals of some of his poems on YouTube.


Material shared in 'The Living Dead' is presented for study and review. Poems, photos and other writings and images remain the property of the copyright owners, where applicable (older poems may be out of copyright).