Isolation’s Benefits

Yes, I know I’m contradicting what I wrote earlier about the downside of isolation. As more time goes by, though, I’m beginning to realize isolation can be a gift in certain ways. My first big project was to make a table of contents for the third edition of the anthology, 365  Poems in 365 Days. In the process I checked for errors in the poems. I’m a co-editor, something I enjoy. Even though completing the table of contents took time–and patience–it was interesting to re-read the poems people have chosen for the book.

This time alone with no obligations has given me more time to write poetry. Of course, I’m not entirely alone. My husband and our dog provide a lot of entertainment. My husband and I talk a lot and the dog–well, what can I say. She’s the cutest, smartest dog in the world. Those who read an earlier blog will remember I found her running lose on the Kansas Turnpike. I don’t know how we live without her.

I have other, more domestic projects.  I have documents and pictures that go back decades. I need to get the pictures in some kind of order. One of my kids and his wife got us a shredder a couple of Christmases ago. I haven’t shredded anything since we got it.

I go for walks with my husband and Annie when the weather cooperates. Right now, I’m happy to stay inside under the air conditioner.

I go to lunch every Tuesday with a few friends, something we started years ago. We’ve all missed seeing each other and having spirited conversations about our lives and politics. After missing several weeks of not seeing each other, one friend invited us over for lunch at her house. She cooked a casserole and made chocolate chip cookies and a lemon pie that was to die for.

One of my pastimes has been trying to figure out Windows 10. I downloaded a virus (dumb) and the tech who got rid of it replaced Windows 7 with Windows 10. I think the techs who created Widows 10 sitting in a dark place laughing in an evil way. I’ve had a lot of help from one of my daughters-in-law and a friend, but we’re having to do all this by e-mail. I need to take my computer back to the local techs who loaded Windows 10 and see if one of them can help me out. I really don’t want to go to a place where I know it would be hard for people to do social distancing. Surely, I’ll find the magic formula for success on Windows 10.

To all my readers, if I have any, take care and stay safe.

Out of Pocket

My former sister-in law would say out of pocket when things weren’t going they way they should. I think “out of pocket” fits perfectly for the state of things right now. First, I hope everyone I know and love–and strangers I’ve never met–are staying healthy. I’ve seen too many people suffering the effects of the covid19 that I know it’s not a casual walk in the park. One of the most heartbreaking thing I’ve seen on one of the news channels was a video on her phone that a young woman sent to her mother before she died. She told her mother she loved her, then she said, “I can’t breath, Mom.”

So we find ways to keep busy. We miss lunches and movies with friends. We try to follow the rules–social distancing, wearing masks, washing our hands–as we come up with projects that we can do at home or in a safe place. I have a couple of projects relating to an poetry anthology  that I’m an assistant editor for, and I need to keep writing poetry. My husband, our dog, and I walk in a park that’s deserted except for us. I keep in touch with friends by e-mail and Facebook. One member of a poetry group I belong to plans  to set up a zoom session for our next meeting.

One minor problem that I had, one I think I’ve fixed, happened when a tech who was taking a virus off my computer loaded it with Windows 10. For the life of me I couldn’t figure out how to find the blog. Then I saw a comment on a friend’s blog and I was identified by my blog, A Poet of a Certain Age. I clicked on the blog title and, voila, I was back in business.

We can’t be out of pocket forever. In the meantime, we need to stay safe and satisfied at home.

Isolation

I’ve stopped counting the weeks that have kept us separated from friends, from gatherings, from everything that makes life worth living. Every morning when I wake up I feel the weight of this strange load. Yes, my husband and Annie, our dog, are with me. I’ve taken a couple of walks in McAdam’s Park, empty now of other walkers. A bicyclist zips by every so often. The park supervisor has locked the door to the shelter and doesn’t show up. Even so, trees are beginning to leaf and small wild flowers have put their appearance in the grass.

Doctor appointments make up my social life. I’m fine, but since I had the stroke last year the cardiologist wants to see me on a regular basis. A young nurse takes my temperature in the entry before I go into the waiting room. Then I put a mask on and find a seat. The seats are marked so that no patients sit near each other. Everyone looks tired, glum, gloomy. The silence, as they say, is deafening.

Finally in the examination room the pacemaker tech checks my heart rhythm and prints whatever shows up on the machine. He’s a friendly guy and enjoys talking. Then the nurse comes in to take my blood pressure and my pulse rate. Both are always fine. She is efficient, doing her job without much comment. I always ask what my blood pressure is just to make sure it’s still low, as it always is.

The the cardiologist comes in, hurrying as usual. He tells me what is going with my heart, says there’s some improvement in the arrhythmia I’ve experienced for several years. He tells me the pacemaker battery is losing power and I need it to be replaced. He wished me happy birthday the last time I saw him. He’s a sweet man.

When I leave the examining room I stop by the check out desk to make another appointment, then sit near the waiting room door to wait for my husband to pick me up.

My appointment with my primary doctor is coming up soon. Her assistant calls to tell me we’ll be doing everything by messaging. I write the instructions and hope I can figure out what I’m doing when the time comes.

My friends, the women I go to lunch with, are all confined to their houses or apartments. One has a couple of cats to keep her company. We keep in touch by e-mail.

Things could be much worse for me. My family members are all working from home and my husband’s family members are doing well. When my husband goes to the grocery store he does the best he can to stay away from other shoppers, some of whom haven’t gotten the message about ways to avoid infecting themselves or others.

Our dog keeps us entertained. We laugh a lot. We watch TV and read. We love NCIS and Blue Bloods. And there are always old episodes of Law and Order to fall back on. We watched another episode of Call the Midwife on PBS last night.

I haven’t written a poem in weeks. Even with all this free time I can’t work the magic that informs my poetry. I said to a poet friend maybe I’ve mined everything I’m going to mine out of my life. Maybe I’m too content to have the motivation to write a poem. So I lie in wait, hoping that the perfect poem will jump out on the page. In the meantime, I’m grateful that everyone I love is okay.

Poetry Vacation

I’ve been writing poetry since 1983 when I enrolled in the Wichita State University MFA program. I almost dropped out of the program  after the first class session because I felt that I had no business trying to keep up with the more adept writers. Thanks to a professor who encouraged me, I stayed in the program and eventually had quite a bit of success. Bruce Cutler, my thesis advisor, unbeknownst to me, sent one of my poems to the American Academy of Poets contest. It was a shock when he presented me with a $150.00 check and a certificate. I thought he was going to tell me I’d flunked my orals.

Since 1983, I’ve continued to write steadily. I slowed down some when I was teaching at Butler Community College, where I taught English Composition. I often spent my weekends not writing poetry, but grading student essays. Even so, I produced some decent poems during the thirty-five or forty years I taught English Composition. I never ran out of inspiration for poetry.

In the past few months, I’ve become unhappy with what I’ve written. It seems I’ve come to the bottom of the poetry well and I’m now in a poetry drought. I belong to a Facebook page, 365 Poems in 365 Days, a good challenge for any poet. I’ve enjoyed submitting my work and reading the work of others. However I’ve held back from submitting recently because what I write is so lame.

I’ve managed to get two books of poems published in a year and a half one in October 2018, the other in July 2019. I’m happy with both books and others seem to relate to it. One of the books was compiled after I’d had the stroke in December of 2018, and I felt a sense of accomplishment when I got the copies from the publisher. Now I’m don’t know if I ever want to write another poem, let alone create another book.

One of my Facebook friends, a man I like a lot, says I should meditate. He’s a Buddhist and he swears by emptying all the interference from one’s brain. I think I’ll try that–when I get time. Yes, I’m busy. I’ co-editing a poetry anthology, I have doctors’ appointments and tests, and I go to lunch with friends quite often. I think, though, I need to lock myself away from as much as I can and empty my brain from the interference. We’ll see what an empty brain can do.

 

 

 

Men Poets; Women Poets

First, I want to assure any readers that I like men. I’m married to one and I have two wonderful brothers and three amazing sons. Having said that, I’ve been thinking about the difference between women and men poets. I’ve read at several readings in the past year or so, and I’ve received copies of other readers’ poetry books. I’ve noticed that men seem to write about their fathers, nights at the bar, and cars. Women seem to write about family, lovers, and other such things.

Remember, these are just generalities and they may not hold universally. Yeats often wrote about his lost love and other many male poets have touched on family, love, and God. I think the trend toward a certain male toughness is a recent phenomenon. Recently, I’ve tried to emulate this toughness. After all, my dad taught me to drive when I was thirteen years old, I still love cars and driving on the turnpike. I hung around with my brothers when I was growing up. I climbed trees with the best of them, and in general I kept up with the boys.

Let’s face it, though. I’ve never spent any time in the military, I’ve seldom had to change a tire or diagnose or repair an engine. I had lots of conflicts with my dad, a man who had little patience to deal with his children. Yet, at a certain point in his life, he mellowed and when he found out he had a terminal disease, he took great gains to take care of things for my mother, who was suffering from Alzheimer’s. He also came through for me when I ran low on cash to pay bills.

Our parents are human beings, hard to pinpoint in a poem. I find it difficult to separate the good from the bad when I write about my parents. Men seem to be better at doing that than I can.

Even though, I’ve read some wonderful poetry written by men. I’ve learned from reading their poetry, their strong voices. I appreciate their words.

Busy, Busy, Busy

Yes, it’s that time of the year when we’re running around in circles to get things done. The last couple of months, in fact, I’ve been involved with writing activities. I turned the presidency of the Kansas Authors Club, District 5, I’m gearing up to co-edit the third edition of the 365 Book, and I’m trying to write some poems.

Mainly I was busy getting ready for a family visit before Christmas. I missed the gathering last year because I was in the hospital recovering from a stroke. Christmas night last year I watched Called the Midwife, a favorite PBS show. My husband called the nurse on my floor to ask him to remind me to watch the show.

This year the visitors included my sons and their wives and my grandchildren, two of whom are married. We ate out together a couple of times, then unwrapped gifts in the lovely hotel room where one son and his wife were staying. Some members of the family came by to meet Annie, our little dog.

Today, now that everyone is gone, I started a poem. One of the poets on the Facebook 365 page is a high school English teacher. She wrote a poem about students that brought back some memories of my teaching days. I wrote a poem about one particular student. This student was one of the few kids who were very troubled. I would try to help, but teenagers often don’t want to say anything about problems in their lives.

I will get back to writing poems. In the meantime, I will join two other poets next month for a reading from one of our two new books. Now I have to pick out the poems to read. I also have to spread the word on Facebook.

Happy New Year. I hope it’s the best ever for all of us.

What a Convention!

Over the weekend of the 4th, 5th, and 6th of October, District 5 of the Kansas Authors Club hosted this year’s convention. It’s good to surrounded by writers for three days with no politics or hateful words involved.

I joined my friend Ronda Miller in a workshop about what stimulates our poetry. We read some poems and talked about their origins. I was pleased to go to workshops with one of my sons, who used movies to compare imaginary courtroom with what happens a real courtrooms. He’s a federal prosecutor and knows his stuff. Another relative, Claire Caterer. my daughter-in-law, writes fantasy novels. She talked about the writing curve in a novel. She had some helpful graphics and discussed her own experiences as a writer.

our keynote speaker was Paul Bishop, a retired Los Angeles detective. His speech included  some of his adventures when he was out on the street of LA. We developed our theme for the conference, Hook and Book ‘Em, based on Bishop’s books.

One afternoon, we participated  in Rhythm-ing, an entertaining exercising reading poetry to the background of a drum and bass viol. I’ve done this before and I’ve found that the background music enhances the poetry.

The convention was held at the Holiday Inn in Wichita. The staff was helpful, as was the staff of the Visit Wichita staff. The food was wonderful.

The convention planning members were ready for a long nap after it was over, but we enjoyed the whole thing. Next year, the convention will take place in Colby, Kansas,in the most western part of the state. The members have a theme, Readings Across Kansas, and I know it’s going to be amazing.

The Turnpike Dog

The Kansas Authors Club is hosting the state convention for October. I’m chair of the convention committee, and that as taken up almost every moment of my life. However, I had time to read Ursula Le Guinn’s collected blog posts, a fascinating look into the mind of one of the greatest writers of our time. 

Le Guinn died not too long ago, but her blog posts have brought her alive on the page. She roamed from traveling with her husband to dealing with a strange cat. I couldn’t put the book down.  

Because of her sections on Pard, the cat who never wanted to go outside, my thoughts turned to our dog. She is in a long line of dogs we’ve had over the years. At one time, we had five dogs, most of them being rescued from the street. One poor dog, a part chow was left behind outside in winter when the family moved. She was so frightened when I got her home she hid between the refrigerator and the stove. We finally coaxed her out with food. 

Our collie Mulan was given away by a family who probably used for breeding. She tried to run away when we got her home and my husband had to run after her and bring her back. Soon, though, she joined the group on the back porch where all the dogs slept.  

We had decided she would our last dog. By then, all our other dogs had died, a sad thing every time. Well, life had other plans. About five years ago, I was driving home on the Kansas Turnpike when I saw a truck in the left lane swerve. When it went on down the road, I saw this tiny dog standing by the media. There wasn’t any traffic right then and I was calculating my changes of getting across the road without getting creamed. I pulled over and turned on the flashing lights. Then I got out of the car, took a big breath, and wondered what the heck I was doing.  

The I saw this little thing behind the car. I knelt and the dog ran into my arms. She laid on my coat in the passenger seat all the way home, keeping her eyes on me the whole time. 

When I got home, my husband came out to help me unpack. I said, “Guess what I found.” He said, “Not another dog,”  

We knew we had no way to find the owner. We took her to our vet who told us she looked like a designer dog, part Yorkie and part poodle. She was in good health, maybe around three years old. She had a black coat with golden legs and a curly tail. She shyly looked around the house, then when we went to bed, she jumped on the end of the bed. That’s where she’s slept every night since. 

My husband became her best friend, taking her for walks in parks all over the city. She also became friends with Mulan. Every morning as Annie, yes, we settled on that instead of Little Orphan Annie, was ready to go out in the back yard, my husband would say, “Go get Mulan.” Annie would run into the living room where Mulan slept in front of the fireplace, bark, and Mulan would get off and follow Annie outside. 

Mulan became so ill we finally had to put her down. The first day Mulan was gone, Annie had a puzzled look on her face. She has adjusted, of course. She’s smart, fun, demanding when walk time rolls around. She loves people and everywhere she goes, she wags her tail and does a little dance if someone gives her a pet. She chases squirrel in the park. The squirrels have learned to tease her before they run up a tree.  

She’s brought joy to our lives. When she gets through running, she snuggles up next to me on the couch. What a gift she is, our Turnpike traveler.

 

Vacation

The Saturday before Christmas, our neighbors came over for our annual gift exchange. We had a pleasant conversation and glass of wine, then they went home. I went into the bathroom and fell. I had no idea how I ended up on the floor. My husband heard me fall and came in to help me get up. I then moved to the couch where I tried to talk about what was going on, but what came out was “word salad.” My husband called 911 immediately and the ambulance showed up quickly. My husband said an EMT gave me a shot that eased the effect of the stroke and I was able to talk normally again. Two EMTs sat with me and asked questions, such as what my name was, when was I born, where did I live, etc. I was able to answer everything correctly.

When we got to the hospital, I was moved to a gurney and doctors I’d never seen before went into fast action. Soon, I was in la la land as the doctor, or doctors, used the procedures necessary to crush the clot that had invaded my brain.

I’d been treated for years for afib, which basically means I have an irregular heartbeat. My cardiologist said the drug I was taking wasn’t strong enough and he prescribed a new one. After I got out of the hospital and went to see him, he also prescribed a ton of new drugs. My husband got a new pill box—a big one—and helped me sort it all out. I’ve never had to take a lot of drugs, so this is new territory for me. I’ve also discovered that the little glass of wine I drink with dinner now makes me drunk. My last vice, unless you count coffee, gone by the wayside.

The biggest problem since I’ve been home has been fatigue. Well, my right hand still doesn’t function very well, making typing a chore. However, I’ve written several poems since I got home, and I consider that a victory. Now if all those drugs keep working, I could live forever. I do have to live for a at least six months because another publisher wants to publish a book of my poetry. Did I say I had a book out, The Sad Joy of Leaving? I’ve sold quite a few and hope to sell more.

The Launch

Two hundred copies of my book of poems, The Sad Joy of Leaving, arrived the second week of October, too late to sell at the Kansas Authors Club convention. Even so, I sold one book there based on a picture of the front cover I took with me and put up in the book room. After the books came, sales took off. I was surprised, but happy. Many of my Facebook friends bought one from me or from the Blue Cedar Press web site (http://bluecedarpress.com/product/the-sad-joy-of-leaving/). Some of my Wichita friends shelled out $15 to pay for the book. I got positive feedback from a few readers, who said they identified with certain poems or thought the book spoke to them.

Mike Poage, the publisher and one of the editors, said we needed to do a book launch. He suggested I read along with him and Kelly Johnston. All three of us had been published by Blue Cedar Press We discussed where to hold the book launch and readings and decided to approach Watermark Books and Café (https://www.watermarkbooks.com/). Around thirty people came, most of them writer and poet friends. We had a great time, and as is the practice at Watermark, we went to the basement to sign the wall. Our names are there with such luminaries as James Lee Burke and Katha Pollitt. It was a perfect evening. I wore a tiara—don’t ask. Well, yes, ask. After Mike, in the e-mail exchanges before the launch, told me I was the most important person, etc., etc., I said I felt like a queen and I should wear a tiara. He and Kelly thought that was a great idea. I happened to be in the grocery store right after Halloween and the clerk found a tiara, complete with fake pink gem, for me to wear.Diane with tiara.

People laughed in the right places and became somber when I read my poem, “The Yellow Dress,” a poem about domestic violence.

During the time between getting the boxes of books and having the launch and reading, I was busy selling the book and keeping track of sales. I also set up plans with Watermark and had to get ready for our big night. Nothing much mattered during that time. Now life has returned to normal. I’m still selling books, but I think I’ve sold enough to start earning royalties. We’ll see when I have time to add up everything.

In the meantime, I also got a poem published on the Ekphrastic Review web site. I may try to get more poems published there if I get a moment to do that.

Now I have to get ready for another publishing venture—or adventure, if you will. Another publisher, one who has seen my work online, wants to publish a manuscript of mine. I have until May 1, 2019, to pull something together. We’ll see how that goes. I already have an idea for the book and a picture for the front. My friend Sandra Loux will once again do the picture as she did for The Sad Joy of Leaving.

So, here I go again. It’s pretty exciting to be doing this at my age, as it would be at any age. Off to the races!