About Women

Recently I was reading through the archives of  Women’s Voices For Change  when I came across a post that included this video of Dustin Hoffman talking about his preparation for his role in Tootsie (which I apparently missed when it first aired). He talks about how he realized that he had been editing the women he chose to pursue relationships with based on looks and how that knowledge has changed him. Take a look.

Maya Angelou: You Will Be Missed

Maya Angelou passed away this morning. The world will be a darker place without her but it could be lighter if we’d take her words to heart. This video of her is a favorite of mine. What wisdom she possessed.

 

Home

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Edie and the aunts never went anywhere. Libby had scarcely even been outside Mississippi; and she and the other aunts were gloomy and terrified for days if they had to venture more than a few miles from home. The water tasted funny, they murmured; they couldn’t sleep in a strange bed; they were worried that they’d left the coffee on, worried about their houseplants and their cats, worried that there would be a fire or someone would break into their houses or that the End of the World would happen while they were away. They would have to use commodes in filling stations—commodes which were filthy, with no telling what diseases on them. People in strange restaurants didn’t care about Libby’s saltfree diet. And what if the car broke down? What if somebody got sick? ~ Donna Tartt, “The Little Friend”

 

I mentally clapped hands in delight when I read that passage because it was so achingly familiar. Who in the South doesn’t know someone like that and  it’s not necessarily your little Great Aunt either. I read this out loud to someone and we both giggled over knowing people just like this.

Southerners love home. We love our big old creaky houses that have been in the family for generations, our meandering country roads, our lush, verdant yards in the summertime.  We love waking up in the morning with the sunlight streaming through the window playing tag on MawMaw’s quilt, going out on the porch with coffee and newspaper and the background melodies of Cardinals and Mocking Birds. The dew shines on the old roses like a brand new life and the ancient oaks stretch their arms to hug the world. We love our homeplace, our stuff, our familiar and comforting lives.

Risk-takers can have their adventures. We don’t necessarily have to leave home to have ours.

This passage is just a small bit from “The Little Friend”. Donna Tartt’s Mississippi roots (She’s from Greenville.) dig deep into this story with characters, situations and conversation that are familiar to those of us who grew up in the rural deep South. So far, reading this book is like walking back into my childhood for a visit. I may never want this book to end.

No to Demo of Historical Canal St/Tchoupitoulas Buildings!

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For historical info and how to contact the City Council click here. The council vote is this Thursdsy, May 22.  Let your voice be heard!

Marigny Neighborhood Assn Tour and B&B Awareness Campaign

Basic FMIA Home Tour Flyer

The home tour will also launch an awareness campaign, “Won’t you B&B my neighbor?”, designed share information about licensed B&B and Guest House best practices, the positive contributions these businesses bring to the Marigny and the city, as well as problems and issues surrounding illegal short term rentals, not just in the Marigny neighborhood, but throughout New Orleans. 

The FMIA is working with the Professional Innkeepers Association of New Orleans (PIANO), and others, to provide information regarding economic impact as well as quality of life and safety issues. Here are just a few points and counter points for consideration:

  • Legal B&B’s and Guest Houses contribute hundreds of thousands of dollars each year in taxes and fees that go directly into the city’s coffers to support infrastructure and city wide services.

  • Legally operating establishments are owner-occupied, insuring guests are well behaved and respectful of neighbors, insurance is compliant with property use, and help maintain the integrity of the neighborhood via owners’ vested interest in quality of life issues affecting the area.

  • Owner-occupied establishments retain legislative representation via residency census data for the area and maintain an integral voter base able to take action on important city and state matters.   

  • Illegal B&B’s and short term rentals in the area represent an untapped resource of taxes that is estimated to be well over $1M each year (and that figure is growing). 

  • Illegal establishments artificially inflate rentals, reduce rental inventory, create absentee owner issues such as lack of vested interest and oversight, and destroy the integrity of the neighborhood with constant flow of visitors/strangers, disrupting a stable residential neighborhood.

  • Illegal establishments impact city services without direct compensation, are most likely underinsured, may present safety and liability issues, and, bottom line, are against the law

FMIA is also promoting an upcoming city wide informational session and calls for the city to take action against illegal short term rentals. The meeting will be held on Tuesday, May 20, 7 p.m., at St. Paul’s Lutheran Church, 2624 Burgundy Street. More info about illegal short term rentals.

Visit http://www.faubourgmarigny.org/ for more information.

Faubourg Marigny Improvement Association (FMIA) is a non-profit organization founded in 1972 to preserve the quality of life in the Faubourg Marigny, protect the natural and built environment, and provide a vision for the neighborhood’s future.

Glass Woman Prize: Supporting Women’s Writing

Well, National Poetry Month is over and I’m pleased with myself for writing as much poetry as I did. I posted new poems 22 out of 30 days which is the best I’ve done for NaPoWriMo, ever. Last year I didn’t even attempt it so I feel good about this year’s effort. Not that I think all the poems were good ones, but the exercise made me stretch, made me write when I didn’t feel inspired on my own, made me think hard. I had to look for something to inspire, something I don’t do on a regular basis. The NaPoWriMo website was helpful as was reading the work of other poets that gave me ideas or nudged my memory about long-forgotten events. It was a good thing.

A big thing (for me) that happened in April was that I was notified I was a finalist for the 15th Glass Woman Prize for my micro-fiction piece “Something About SW”. I was astonished! I had no idea anything of mine was up for consideration. The Glass Woman Prize is curated by Beate Sigriddaughter to encourage women writersto acknowledge, transparently, who we are, and that who we are is not trivial and unimportant, despite the fact that it is not typically rewarded in a man-made and money-motivated world.

Stats from the website:

As of April 2014:

$10,430 prizes went to 41 prize winners, including $430 in anonymous donations.

5905 direct submissions were read, and an additional estimated 1000 from sources other than direct submissions.

116 stories were posted or linked to the Glass Woman Prize page.

I am honored to be a part what Beate has built and is continuing to build. The winner of the 15th Glass Woman Prize is “Simulacra” by J.P. Reese which I first read on Fictionaut where I commented, “I don’t like how this makes me feel which is what makes it so brilliant.” And I meant it. A good story doesn’t have to make you feel good, it has to make you feel and this story makes you feel, big-time.

I urge you all to go to the GWP page and read the winner’s and finalist’s work and read Beate’s own work, which is phenomenal. The level of talent Beate has gathered for the GWP is amazing and the work is powerful and inspiring. Again, I am in awe of what Beate has done for women’s writing. I hope you will give her your support by reading the work.

“Sand Dollar” by J.P. Reese

Art by Daria Bagrintseva

Art by Daria Bagrintseva


Sand Dollar

Washed ashore, I am the coin
of mermaids in your palm.

Your eyes see only treasure,
not the measure of my end.

The sand moves, sculpted by wind.
Endings clarify, chasten.

Lifted from a suitcase, I am the memory
of sun slashed across a cheekbone,

wind-ruffled sea grass, the curl of foam
that spumes above green waves,

bonfires that sear the night sky,
a kiss from one whose footprints

disappeared beyond the dunes.
I am the arid bone of flowered stars.

~ J.P. Reese, Dead Letters

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Poetry month has passed (I think it’s Fiction Month now) but poetry will live on for me, and many others, everyday. I’ve been reading a lot of poetry chapbooks and books this year. J.P. Reese’s Dead Letters is a wonderful little chapbook of very personal and touching poems Her manipulation of language is creative and musical and, like music, brings forth your own memories resulting in a feeling of kinship. I highly recommend it. Being a collector of things mermaid, this one is a favorite of mine. I love how it evokes summer nights and memories of long, lazy days at the beach. The last line is gorgeous and hit me like fireworks when I read it. Perfection.

Women Who Write: Valentine Pierce

This is the final interview in our four-part series featuring Louisiana women poets in celebration of National Poetry Month. Each profile has featured a poet from New Orleans or Southeast Louisiana including interview, biography and an original poem selected for this feature.

Valentine Pierce

Valentine Pierce

Valentine Pierce is a New Orleans poet, writer, graphic designer, visual artist and actor. A bit of her wisdom: “We are all many things, a vessel of triumphs and trials, worlds within the worlds of all the people in our lives, singular wonders and curiosities of humanness.” Pierce’s debut book, Geometry of the Heart, was published in 2007 by Portals Press. She has been a resident writer at A Studio in the Woods in 2006, had her artwork displayed at Tulane’s Carroll Gallery, and performed in several productions at Ashé Community Art Center. She even won two awards from the American Academy of Community Theatres—to her surprise.

Fishwife

Melissa is a late baby,
Born in the waters of the Atlantic off the U.S. coast.
Her mid-November birth so far from land destines her
To be a fishwife, to hurl her insults at and spin herself down
Back into the waters from which she came.
No land is near enough to this child of the waters.
Even though her foul-mouthed sputterings
Come as tropical storm winds
And sheeted rain far across the waters,
By the time they reach us they are merely a severe rainstorm,
An accustomed annoyance;
Her voice echoes in the thunder but rallies no fear.
We will feel her wet, latent fury but no one
Will be running for higher or distant ground.
She will die as she was born—helpless and hopeless
In the mid-Atlantic waters in late November.

(Note on this poem: A couple of years ago I heard meteorologist Margaret Orr call a storm a fishwife. I’d never heard of a fishwife and didn’t know how it applied. I did some research and learned about fishwives and why some storms are called such. In November 2013 I finally got to use that word, which had been sitting in the word box of my mind.)

 

What is your earliest recollection of the desire to write down your own thoughts?
I don’t recall when I started writing—grade school, I guess. That’s what we called elementary school back then or grammar school.

Do you remember your first poem? What was it about?
The first poem I ever had published, according to my mom, was in the school bulletin at Joseph S. Craig, when I was in the second grade. The only line I remember is “on the outside looking in.” I remember the first poem I ever got published, in 1983. At that time it was titled “Always Strong.” I revised it so the theme was more universal and retitled “Soul of the Universe.” It was published in the now defunct Day Tonight/Night Today.

Is writing your full-time occupation?
Writing was my full-time occupation. I was a journalist for about 30 years. I was a journalist, photojournalist, layout person, editor, managing editor and press chief. I also had a weekly column, “Marrero Musings,” in the Times-Picayune for seven years. And I did freelance writing. Now my full-time job is graphic design and most of the published work is poetry. I also have odd jobs including freelance graphic design, sewing, and crafting.

Is poetry your primary genre? Do you work in any others?
Poetry is my primary genre but I write in a variety of genres from simple prose to essays to plays, to one-act-shows. I really don’t categorize my work in the sense of right now I am going to write an essay or now I’ll write a poem. I just write and let it happen. I even have a novel in progress—since July 2005. It is called “Dead North.” It got it’s name from the Federal Flood commonly known as Hurricane Katrina. It is a novel about a major hurricane. I’ve been interested in hurricanes all my life and said to myself, hey, “No one has written a novel about a hurricane.” It seems centuries ago that I read a book about a major storm that brought a bad spirit to a certain island. That was part of my inspiration. Hurricanes were the other part and I had tons of secondhand research. A month later I began to get firsthand information. I am not sure that that novel will ever be finished because going from poetry-length to book-length is a feat.

I write short stories, too. They have never been published because most need a tremendous amount of work. I did have one critiqued about 10 years after I wrote it. The ending was weak but the person who critiqued it, a writer I respect, said it would only take me about 20 minutes to fix then ending. He was right but I’ve never had it published. I have a three or four other books that are laying around in a bin somewhere, too.

I even have a whole book, a short one, called “Boundaries of a Life,” which is journaling and poetry about coping with grief. Hmmm, perhaps I need to pull that one out.

As you can see, writing is my life—paid or unpaid.

Do you have a favorite place to write or a routine that’s particularly conducive to your creativity?
Generally, whenever the muse strikes. I don’t usually decide to write, that is decided by my muses, my environment, my mood. Writing just happens for me. But, if I were to choose a place, it would be my home because there are no interruptions. I don’t have to be concerned with time, place, space. When my children were young, it was after they went to bed. Generally thought, poetry hits me in the midst of everyday living and I write it then to keep from losing it.

Where was the strangest place that inspiration hit you for a poem and how did it turn out?

Probably the seafood market that was once on St. Roch at St. Claude. I wrote a poem on a napkin with a burned out match. I can’t remember the name because I was a teenager but I still have it somewhere.

Oh, wait, once, in a restroom I pulled a paper towel off a shelf. When I had entered I wondered why so many of them were on the floor. When I pulled mine, a second one just floated down like a butterfly so I wrote a brown butterfly poem about it. Don’t know where that poem is right now.

Are there any recurrent themes in your poems? If so, why do you think that is?
I think the only recurring theme in my poems is life. That’s what I write about. The here and now, the hurt and happiness, the smiles and tears.

I am somewhat a collector of words. Do you have any favorite words?
I collect words and phrases. Often they end up in poems. Can’t think of any phrases to share but some of my words have to do with poems like Onomatapeia and iambic pentameter. I also collect names because they are amazing Like Beth Kneebone, She Ping, Cleopatra Pendleton, William Dear, Freeman A. Hrabowski III., and Jacqueline Goodchilds are just a few I have on my desk right now.

Do you have any tips to share regarding motivation and/or discipline in completing a piece?
I don’t know what tips would be useful because writing is such a personal art. Sometimes you have to stay still, stay home, skip the television program to work through a piece, sometimes you have to set it aside long enough for other things to fill you mind and then go back to it because it becomes fresh again that way. Sometimes you have to leave home and go to a park or a retreat. When I had the opportunity to be the writer-in-residence at A Studio in the Woods in 2006 it was the first time in my life that I could spend every waking moment writing. And I did. I was amazed at the amount of work I completed in one month. I wish I could do that all the time. I have several friends to thank for that for constantly telling me to submit until finally I gathered up my courage and did it. My fear was that I didn’t stand a chance because there are so many great writers in New Orleans. I came back from Phoenix, AZ, where I was living with friends after the storm.
(Editors note: the storm = Hurricane Katrina)

Who are some of your favorite poets and why?
Goodness. That list is so long: Paul Laurence Dunbar, Langston Hughes, Maya Angelou, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, all of the Black Renaissance poets, just about every poet in this city, the poets I recently met at the Acadiana Word Lab, most of the poets I’ve met in my life. What I like is the work, the words they put down, the sound, rhythm, music of the words, how they approach their topics whether main stream or taboo, the many ways writers write. I am probably not explaining this well because it is impossible to say exactly. I just know that poets inspire me, cause me to challenge myself, bring me great joy and sometimes bring tears to my eyes.
I have been inspired to write many poems based on hearing other poets read their work.

Finally, do you have any upcoming readings or appearances you can share with us?
My next events are workshops at the Algiers Regional Library April 19 and 26, 2p. It’s called “Stand Up, Look Up, Speak Up: How to present your work in public.”
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Thank you, Valentine, for sharing your work and your thoughts with us today.

Thanks to all of the wonderful women poets that participated in this series. It was great!

To read all interviews for Women Who Write, click here.