Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Poetry and Memoir, Life in Vignette

Writers’ Block guests on March 20 talked about the value of poetry as a writing form and essayist Cindy Charlton talked about memoir writing and her book signing on Saturday, March 24, 3 p.m. at Tome on the Range. Writers' Block streams live every Tuesday at at 9 a.m. MST.

Shirley Blackwell and Georgia Santa Maria

Poetry does not appeal to everyone, perhaps because it is a much misunderstood medium of expression. New Mexico State Poetry Society President Shirley Balance Blackwell is trying to change that by bringing poetry into the modern age through technology and outreach. She and Georgia Santa Maria were as excited about promoting the Poetry Society as they were about promoting their work. Already There, Shirley’s book of poetry is available through her website. Georgia’s body of work has been published and includes both poetry and photography. Both read a poem from their books and each spoke about the value of belonging to writing groups.

Shirley has a lively personality, an obvious passion for poetry and a clear understanding of the importance of networking with other writers. A starting point for her was to revitalize the New Mexico State Poetry Society by increasing membership and improving its web presence. Originally from Deming, much of her career was in Washington, D.C. She returned to New Mexico as a result of her final assignment and now lives near Albuquerque with her husband and two rescue dogs. When asked, “Why Poetry,” she said, “Sometimes there’s no other way to live.”

The title, Already There, reminds the reader that much of what we’re looking for is there, sometimes right in front of us, we just need to be, as Shirley says, paying attention. Her poetry is wonderfully personal and covers the range from visionary to practical. In Upon Reflection she describes coming home with carefully chosen words and the way they visually appear on the page.

In Quantum Theology she writes:

“If poems were numbers and computers were infinite,
I would search for a magic algorithm of words
that-muliplied, magnified-would loop, swirl, and branch;
grow complexes of beauty; produce patterns truer
than I could devise but were there for the viewer.”

There’s more of this poem, but this verse gives you a sense of pacing and the exploration of a novel idea through the eyes of this inventive and creative poet. Her sense of what is and what can be come together in interesting ways. Whether she is writing about a mother-in-law with dementia, the discretion to keep silent about her happy marriage when everyone else is bemoaning the disappointment in theirs, or not being at her mother’s bedside at the time of her passing the words ring true and crystallize vignettes of life through the eyes of someone who has been there.

I recommend Already There whether you are a fan of poetry or someone who would like an introduction to a writing discipline that tells quick stories in lyrical form.

Georgia Santa Maria has a lovely laugh and appears to be innately cheerful. She read Santa Rosa from her book, Lichen Kiss, explaining the book title as coming from an image of a “Marilyn Monroe-like” pair of lips in red lichen growing on a boulder. As a photographer she was charmed by nature’s whimsy and felt that it would well-reflect her eclectic collection of poetry.

Georgia said in our interview that she believes poetry tells the truth and gets to the heart of ideas. “Poetry is internal music,” she said.

An artist and writer all her life, Georgia is a native northern New Mexican who has chronicled the landscape and life, both behind the camera and on the page.  Since 2010 she has made a conscious effort to, “… get my work out there and connect with other writers in my area. I have greatly enjoyed getting to know other writers and hear their work as well as sharing mine.”

She is working on a collection of her poetry, and a book about her experiences as a storekeeper in rural New Mexico.

To learn more about the Poetry Society and its upcoming state convention on April 28, go to New Mexico State Poetry Society.

Cindy Charlton: Family Caregivers, a Testament to Love

My good friend Cindy Charlton was my call-in guest. We only needed a cup of coffee in front to us to make the conversation complete, well that and being in the same room. Chatting with Cindy always makes me feel good. She is supportive of people who try and she shores up people who are struggling. I’m looking forward to getting Chicken Soup for the Soul, Family Caregivers, which contains One in a Million, an essay by Cindy. It is a personal account of her time as a caregiver for her terminally ill husband, Michael, which she was doing at the same time she was learning to live as a disabled person with new prosthetic legs.

Cindy has been writing about her personal experiences in her blog (accessible from her website), A Survivors Handbook, but writing for Chicken Soup for the Soul, Family Caregivers, proved to be a challenge. It was both emotionally taxing and healing. She said in reading the essays submitted by others, she found common experiences, and as difficult as these experiences were, the caregivers said they would not have missed out on these moments with their loved ones. The gifts they received became precious memories.

Cindy said she writes creative non-fiction, basically memoir writing, explaining that memoir describes a journey that shows how you’ve evolved into the person you are. “While it may be cathartic,” Cindy said, “it’s very hard to get down on paper.” One in a Million recounts a time just prior to her husband’s death.

“Writing about fighting my battle with disability and what I went thought isn’t as emotional and difficult as writing about Michael. You hurt for your loved one more than you hurt for yourself. You have to be the courage for the other person.” Cindy said Michael was her caregiver as well and remembers him as being unfailing in his attention. “I don’t remember him ever quaking at anything.”

Her remarkable story is a book all its own, but this piece in Chicken Soup for the Soul, Family Caregivers is especially close to her heart.

Be sure and set aside time on Saturday, March 24 at 3 p.m., to attend her book signing at Tome on the Range. She will also talk about her experiences and what it means to be caregiver for someone in the end stages of life.

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