Sharing the Journey, Week 12

Some weeks are more challenging than others. The Praxis Magazine Online site was not (online) for a while this past week, although I’m delighted it’s back up now, and our Women’s Day Series posts have resumed. We’re running behind schedule on them now, but we’ll keep on until all the amazing pieces we’ve accepted have been shared.

In poetry news, grateful to have a five-part mini-series of poems appear at Via Negativa this week. (Thanks always to Dave Bonta for giving a home to so many of my poems!) This series is a love-poem of sorts, and you can read the pieces here:
01) https://www.vianegativa.us/2018/03/bridal-march-part-i-scything/
02) https://www.vianegativa.us/2018/03/bridal-march-part-ii-threshing-sifting/
03) https://www.vianegativa.us/2018/03/bridal-march-part-iii-grinding/
04) https://www.vianegativa.us/2018/03/bridal-march-part-iv-kneading/
05) https://www.vianegativa.us/2018/03/bridal-path-part-v-proofing/

It’s a bit of a spoiler, but only for the first poem…the super-independent narrative persona in the poem begins by falling and injuring herself. And so did I myself begin this week…I lost my balance and caught it on the top of a foot rather than the bottom, and while nothing is broken, the ligaments in said foot have much objected to that treatment, and the doctor at the hospital told me I’m not to walk at least a week. I get around in the house fairly well regardless, one knee on the seat of the walker and the other pushing off like on a scooter, and day one after the fall is through and done. Each day gets better after this. (My physical therapy involves walking about four hours each day, and that’s not going to be happening for four more days…but hopefully I won’t lose too much ground. In the meantime, I probably won’t be online as much, as I need to keep the foot elevated as much as I can.)

So, this leaves me much in mind of a part of Kahlil Gibran’s The Prophet:

You are good when you walk to your goal firmly and with bold steps. Yet you are not evil when you go thither limping. Even those who limp go not backward.
Kahlil Gibran

Stay blessed!

 

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Sharing the Journey, Week 11

My friend Siraj and I have something of a tradition of communicating through poems, and recently, he sent me a poem in response to my poem “Anchorhold“… and has given me permission to share his poem here, followed by my response to it.

enough
.
inspired by Laura M Kaminski’s poem, Anchorhold
.
for a couple of hours
I watch a boy
a hungry looking boy
holding an apple
he looks at the fruit
as a boys-seeking teen girl
examines the growth
of her breasts. I ask
him to eat his apple
but the boy ask in return
if I would have my god
and eat him away
I look into him and
remember my father
because he’d say
sometimes it is enough
to see what we need
without having them
.
.
-Sirajo Illo Abdulazeez (Sabuke)

After several weeks, I was able to respond with this one:

dimensions
.
response to and ending
with lines from “enough”
by Sirajo Illo Abdulazeez
.
.
if we stop to watch
this hungry boy again
and find he has
still to eat the apple
in his hand, perhaps
we should explore
the entire scene more
closely, from an other
point of view
.
let this hungry
child who hasn’t eaten
what he most desires
and is holding
in his hand…let
him be our apple, our
miracle of grace
to be examined,
polished, cherished
.
if we have time, we
may examine him
in four dimensions
and with the three
dimensions given
us for coordinates
in space, plus time
we can look more deeply
and now see
.
what he is holding
in his hand
is not an apple merely
but all that this
apple has been
and will be
this hungry boy holds
in his hand not just
a single piece of fruit
.
his open palm
holds an entire tree
roots and branches
a pale blossom
ripening skin, hidden
core and seeds
in four dimensions
this boy is boy
and in time, old man
.
wrinkled, wisened
holding a tree
and a seed in his
hand, holding the soil
of all seven earths,
holding all the rain
that has ever fallen
on seven continents
holding ice that formed
.
when an ancient star
inhaled and was
broken open
in four dimensions
this boy is boy
and also infant
and his parents and their
parents and their parents
back to eden, then before
.
I LOOK INTO HIM
AND REMEMBER…
IT IS ENOUGH
.
.
.
-Halima Ayuba (Laura M Kaminski), 17-March-2018

If you’re interested in reading one of our earlier poetry exchanges, editor Cristina Deptula of Synchronized Chaos has been kind enough to make a home for some of these conversations in poetry. Here’s a link to our conversation in 2016:
http://synchchaos.com/poetry-from-laura-kaminski-siraj-sabuke/

 

As always, thank you for continuing to share the journey. Stay blessed.

Sharing the Journey, Week 10

This week I’ve been immersed in editorial work at both Right Hand Pointing and Praxis Magazine Online. As I mentioned last week, Right Hand Pointing has been inundated with submissions of very short poems (poems under thirty words), so much so that we’ve decided to do two issues during April rather than one. These are amazing selections of poems…I’ll post the links on or about the 1st and 15th of April when the issues are released.

At Praxis, I’ve been curating the Women’s Day Series, a celebration of International Women’s Day (March 08). Beginning March 8th, we’ve been posting a poem and photograph in the series each day, and expect the series to continue through the end of March and perhaps a bit beyond. There have already been some amazing pieces featured, and there are more to come. You can follow along by subscribing to the Praxis Magazine Online email feed if you don’t already receive it; it sends out one email a day with links to what’s been published, and you can always unsubscribe at any time.

I’m deeply honoured to be curating this series, and feeling incredibly grateful to the poets and photographers who have sent in the work that makes this series possible. We don’t receive many photography submissions at Praxis, although we have done several photography chapbooks. Working with the photographers on this series has been a real treat; several have already responded to emergency requests for additional photographs, as I’ve been trying to find just the right photo to go with each poem in the series.

The poems in this series are special…celebrations of women, powerful self-affirmations…and also the more difficult poems: poems speaking out about abuse, poems detailing the kind of advice women get that keeps them in difficult relationships, poems about how difficult it can be to break the cycle of domestic violence. Poems about not fulfilling expectations of what it means to be a woman, whether the expectations of others, or one’s own expectations and longing. Many poems speaking out against traditional cultural confinement of women to the kitchen, each poem with a unique voice, perspective, and protest. Poems of gratitude to and for mothers. And more.

We’ve had submissions from all around the world, and not just from women. I was delighted to have the opportunity to include the title poem from Daniel García Ordaz’s forthcoming collection, Cenzontle/Mockingbird: Songs of Empowerment. I’ve discovered some incredible poets I’ve never read before…and I’ll be seeking out more of their work for my personal reading list.

I’d like to take the opportunity here to offer a personal salute to everyone who submitted, whether or not I accepted your work for the series. Keep writing. Keep speaking up. Keep taking incredible pictures. Keep doing what you’re doing. I appreciate you. I believe you are making a difference in the world. Keep on. Stay bold. Stay brave. Stay blessed.

For a taste of the series, here are links to a few of the Women’s Day Series posts:
http://www.praxismagonline.com/womens-day-series-living/
http://www.praxismagonline.com/womens-day-series-cenzontlemockingbird/
http://www.praxismagonline.com/womens-day-series-phoenix-sighting/
http://www.praxismagonline.com/womens-day-series-days-coming/

You can find others on the Praxis Magazine Online site at:
http://www.praxismagonline.com/category/blog/poetry/

Thank you for sharing the journey!
Stay blessed.

Sharing the Journey, Week 09

Every journey has milestones. If you don’t know exactly where you are going, or how far, you may see those markers without really recognizing them as milestones or finding them particularly meaningful. And sometimes, the journey you are actually taking is different than the one you thought you were taking; each step of the journey opens up new possibilities, and so each step of the journey is, in essence, the beginning of another journey. My own personal practice of poetry has been like this. I want to use this week’s post to share a couple of milestones on my own journey.

My journey started in earnest about five and a half years ago: On 12-August-2012, I began an active, daily practice of poetry. I didn’t have any clear idea where it might lead. The idea was to read (A LOT) and write (A LITTLE) daily, a ratio of 50:1 pages roughly, and do that for a while and see what happened.

I’ve loved poetry since I was a child, and began committing other people’s poems to memory when I was in primary six. When I was in secondary school, and while first starting university, I had aspirations of being a “writer” of some sort, and remember a dream where someone told me I probably wouldn’t be able to make a living writing poetry. Truth, although I remember as a young teen resenting that information, taking it as a judgment of the quality and importance of my writing rather than as it was intended…a general truth about supply and demand economics as far as poetry goes.

As a general rule, this is true. Nigerian performance poet Dike Chukwumerije is the hardest-working, most beautiful and deserving exception to this rule that I know. His poetry celebrates diversity, transmits history and lessons learned from it, provides a living, breathing, laughing, weeping, hope-instilling chronicle of what it means to be Nigerian…the difficult heritage, immediate necessities, and future possibilities. Recently, Dike and his team took the Made In Nigeria / Simply Poetry show for their first performance in the northeast, in Maiduguri. After the show, this is what he had to say about it: https://www.facebook.com/permalink.php?story_fbid=10159962000480257&id=684490256 And after I read this, I felt compelled to engage in a centuries-old Hausa tradition and compose a praise-song in honour of his visit. Which resulted in this:

AFTER THE MAIDUGURI SHOW

I dreamt I’d been leaning against a window
during a lesson, had fallen asleep and somehow

fallen through the opening into an outside
I didn’t recognize. There was only one kind

of plant here. Every single thing with leaves
was all this one same species. And only one

kind of lizard. And one kind of bird. Gone
were the kingfisher, cormorant, and chicken.

Gone were the kite, parrot and the river
eagle. Only this one kind of bird was here.

It was as if heaven had lost its all of its
creativity, had gone in for automation, gone

in for efficiency. The nightingale, after all,
really isn’t good for anything. Neither so

the hummingbird, neither stork nor ibis. Why
waste the space, the energy and air on such

variety? Imagine this: a heaven that has
decided we are simply too lazy to appreciate

all the effort that goes into diversity. In
fact, perhaps we might best go back and check

our scriptures…but of course, if heaven’s
gone in for automation and efficiency, then

there would only be one book to check, no
bothering with that tailoring of revelations

to a specific audience, specific people in
a specific time and place. In fact, if we

go back to check, there probably wouldn’t
be a book at all. Why bother, if such a vast

majority seems not to care to read between
its lines? Why not just send signs? Or rather,

sign. No plurality. No diversity. Nothing
to catch the interest. Keep everything plain

and simple and homogenous. That way it would
be easiest, for sure. No debate, nothing

to contemplate, potentially misinterpret or
misunderstand, no mysteries, no wonderment.

We wouldn’t need language then, no poetry
or stories. There would be no lessons to be

passed down, generation to generation, no
hard-learned truths to share, no experience

worth mentioning that was any different
than anyone else’s. No addresses needed,

no geography. All places and all people
safely boring, all of us the same the same.

And there’d be no beauty, no new experience,
no wonderment. As above, so below. And so

there’d be no joy. No creativity. There’d be no
one like Dike Chukwumerije, no #MadeInNigeria
#SimplyPoetry.

.
– Laura M Kaminski (Halima Ayuba), 25-February-2018,
after reading Dike’s posts about the Maiduguri show.

If you have never been exposed to Dike’s poetry, you can either find some of his spoken word performance videos on YouTube, or you can begin with one of my all-time favourite poetry books ever, On My Way To Azure Shores, which includes a number of his early poems as well as his own more recent comments on each of them.

Somehow, someway, with that 50:1 poems read to poetry-sketches written ratio, I stumbled on through into 2013 and 2014, and actually had a couple of poems accepted for publication. It was also during this time that I discovered the online journal Right Hand Pointing (Short Poetry, Short Fiction, and Short Art). Short poems are amazing.

Personally, I have a tendency to overwrite, as if I’m sprinting on a track for each poem. I start the lines some distance before the beginning of the actual poem (as warm-up, presumably), and end well after the ideal finishing line for the poem, cooling down. I’ve gradually learned to take a blank piece of paper and cover the first line of each poem, whether in my journal or on the screen, and read the poem without it, see if it’s really needed. If not, move the cover-sheet down one line at a time until I get to the first line that’s actually essential. Then repeat the process from the last line working up, until I figure out what parts of what I’ve written are the poem itself, and what lines were just warm-up and cool-down.

I submitted a few times to Right Hand Pointing, and actually even had a poem accepted. But that wasn’t really the milestone. I kept hanging around like a puppy on the porch, reading each issue carefully and trying to understand what makes short poems work. The editor, Dale Wisely, one of the kindest hearts I’ve ever met, eventually invited me to be a volunteer reader for RHP. (THAT was a milestone. I didn’t recognize it at the time, because I didn’t know where I was going, but it was.) The rest of the story there is predictable…you feed the puppy, the puppy doesn’t leave. It grows. And it stays. And I have stayed at RHP, and I have grown. I’m a full-fledged editor there now, and reading more short poems than ever before (particularly these past two weeks, when we’ve had a flood of submissions of poems under 30 words).

Volunteering to read through submissions has been enlightening. It has forced me to think more about how and why a poem does or doesn’t work. It has pushed me to really explore the aesthetics of different journals, try to recognize what makes a poem “RHP-material” or “The Lake-material” or “Peacock Journal-material” and so on…to find the common ground beneath the poems editors have selected for such journals, to try to find what makes a poem fit one place and not another. This has actually done wonders for my own submission process in terms of choosing what pieces to send where for the best chance of placing them. I still miss, but not nearly as often.

Reading submissions has also given me this: EVERYONE misses sometimes, no matter how many Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net nominations, no matter how many awards and published collections…everyone misjudges and sends in something that really doesn’t fit or doesn’t work as a poem every now and then. It’s no big deal. It’s okay. Declines just mean you’re still on the court, in the game. They’re a signal to do what you always do when you miss the net. You recover the rebound. Dribble. Shoot again.

And being on the other side of the submissions desk has given me a LOT of empathy,  patience with other editors. Insight into the workload involved and dedication required to maintain a venue through which other poets’ poems can reach readers. I’m embarrassed to admit it, but I had absolutely no clue what it takes to edit a journal until I was invited to participate more actively at RHP. Dale’s invitation to be a part of Right Hand Pointing was a milestone, even though I didn’t realize it fully at the time it happened.

Today, I’ve reached another milestone, and this one I recognize as such. Like becoming someone who edits at two different journals (Right Hand Pointing and Praxis Magazine Online), this milestone is something I couldn’t have envisioned as even being a possibility five and a half years ago. Today, I received a message in Submittable that begins like this:

Dear Laura Kaminski,

I am happy to inform you that your essay, ‘Wow! Now What?’, has been accepted for publication, and it will be included in the upcoming anthology from Black Lawrence Press, ‘Far Villages: Welcome Essays for New and Beginner Poets’.

An essay. Accepted. For those of you who know my poetry, I have enough trouble with English punctuation that I resort to using dashes over-frequently – because I tend to write the way I speak, with asides and pauses whenever I stop to think or become distracted by something interesting. I split my infinitives. I splice my commas. And begin sentences with connectives. For those of you who know me personally, you know I love to share what I’ve learned, but will never be qualified to teach because I never finished university. But my essay has been accepted by anthology editor Abayomi Animashaun, who edited the amazing anthology Others Will Enter the Gates (Black Lawrence Press, 2015).

So Mum? Whenever you get around to reading this, thank you for sticking with me and encouraging me, even though you’ve never gotten to have the Mum-moment of watching me walk across a stage and accept a certificate and graduate from anything. Ever. Thank you for believing in me, and reading my poems, even the ones that go on too long in both directions, even the ones that miss entirely. This one’s for you.