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New Release – “Pain & Renewal: A Poetry Anthology,” Vita Brevis Press

vbpr

Pleased to announce the release of the new anthology out of Vita Brevis Press, courtesy of editor, Brian Geiger. The anthology, “Pain & Renewal,” explores just that: the cycle, circle, that goes ’round and ’round, all our lives.

I appreciate Brian’s insight. He didn’t try to even the score with “this many” for poetry about pain and “that many” for themes of renewal.

He received more submissions for “pain,” and he honored that.  From the Introduction:

“Given the choice to write about pain or renewal, almost every poet chose pain – often exclusively.

“For this reason…I let pain take up the majority of this book. If poetry captures the human experience, and that is overwhelmingly defined by a fixation on pain, then let it be represented as such here. If nothing else, it makes renewal that much more profound.” – Brian Geiger, Editor, Vita Brevis

Bravo, Brian.

In a world where the smiling self(ie) and “negativity” in any form has been demonized, I applaud his call for authenticity and his commitment to the art of being human.

I’d like to add that it isn’t so much we’re fixated on pain, but rather pain has been fixated on us. And rather than capitulating to the world, “with its harsh need to change” us, and reconceiving pain as a whitewashed fairy tale obfuscated by denial or pathologized via “diagnoses” and “disorders,” we take what is dark and undesirable and turn it into something beautiful.

In fact, I’d daresay that poets have no more darkness in them than someone who doesn’t write. But for those who have the courage and compassion to face their own pain, they are doing something only relegated to the many mythological saviors of the world: taking on the pain of the world and making it their own, then taking their own pain and exploring it through The Word, for the world.

For all of those who suffer–and I don’t know anyone who doesn’t to one degree or another–human suffering transcends race, gender, age, creed and political lines. It unites us in that the only thing we can guarantee is we will feel pain. And if we can feel pain and know it, intimately, we are less likely to inflict it. At least I hope we’d aspire to that.

As a poet, it’s my job to open myself up to pain–and as poets, we all do it–and we do it  willingly. Then, we use our words to transform it, not in the glorification of it, but as a light at the end of a dark night of the soul. As a reason why we endure the burning. We do it to connect to our own humanity, and then those who read us.

When we write, we suffer with you. Then, it isn’t “my” pain, “his” pain, “their” pain, or “other people’s pain.”

It’s our pain. Ours, together–we aren’t alone in it anymore. That’s the redemption. There is nothing worse than believing no one suffers as you, or as badly.

Looking forward to reviewing this book, and while a couple of my poems make an appearance, I’m extremely eager to discover my compatriots in poetry–and the renewal they offer in the very selfless acts of embracing their pain–then writing it.

Je te vois, and as always–

peace.

J.A.

 

Adult language and themes, Archetypes, Symbolism, Metaphor, Motif, Author J.A. Carter-Winward, Author/Poet J.A. Carter-Winward, Contraries and Contrasts, Human Nature, the Psyche, Psychology, Rude words, The Word, Word Power, Writers, Writing, Writing in Blood, Writing Life, Writing Process

Lingual Neutrality

Typewriter with paper page and poison and gun. Concept writer Ro

Sticks and stones can break my bones, but…

…but. Why is it that in an age where “sticks and stones” in the Binary Landscape of the Ether hurt as much as the names being hurled? Is it because words and names do indeed matter?

The problem — and you can give me push-back if you want — words don’t hurt people because words, in and of themselves, are neutral. We, as human beings, are what give words their power — power to hurt, heal, help, soothe, marginalize, deify, validate, forgive, condemn, eviscerate.

No, words don’t hurt people — people hurt people. Guns don’t kill people, people kill…well sure. A lot harder to kill with a pen, unless your Martin Blank or literally every world leader throughout time who made their mark in ink to approve state-sanctioned violence against whoever the enemy was at the time, those who, with the support of the people have arguably killed more innocent people than all the individual gun-owners in this country put together.

But this isn’t about guns. It’s about words.

Anyone with a big brother or sister or who was teased at school knows the power of these incontrovertible words when said as a response to the verbal torment: “Thank you.”

“Are you stupid? We just called you a _____!”

“Oh, thank you again, what a compliment.”

And then, if you were a boy, you sometimes got the snot beat out of you. If you were a girl, you got eye rolls and then the backhanded torment likely continued for the rest of your pre-college years, thus instigating the need for therapy in your twenties.

The reason this childhood (or perhaps childish to some) defense is unassailable is this: when you disarm a verbal assault by invalidating the meaning of the words, you break a foundational socio-cultural agreement.

As a society, we have language and terms, phrases and labels we all agree to, mostly unknowingly, in order to be accepted into the larger whole.

You can see the progression of this with the word bitch.

bitch

If I got called a bitch, I would say thank you, cite all the positive character traits of a female mother wolf, and go on with my day. I did that long before women began claiming the word for themselves via “social reclamation objects,” aka bumper stickers, mugs, and t-shirts.

The cringiest words I see on bumper stickers?

Princess and Goddess.

Because I’m certain the woman driving her brand-new Lexus with the PRINCESS bumper sticker is not royalty, and the other woman in the beater Subaru with the COEXIST and GODDESS bumper stickers is not coexisting well with certain household pests or irritating co-workers, nor is she immortal and do you see how irritating it is when I break our linguistic agreements?

Now, taking something literally, as I do, above, has typically been assigned to people who don’t “get” sarcasm or irony. It’s been the cornerstone of many mishaps and comedic pop-culture motifs. And while that’s a little different than breaking our socio-cultural language agreements, sometimes it isn’t, depending on the intention, and if it’s done consciously.

Why would a woman want to proclaim herself a princess in our society? Especially when the implications (archetypally, past and current) are contained in the following traits of a princess:

  • high-born
  • snooty
  • demanding
  • difficult
  • petulant
  • indolent
  • stubborn
  • entitled
  • beautiful without effort
  • “lucky” to the point of absurdity
  • commanding
  • manipulative
  • pampered
  • never gets her hands dirty with work or unpleasantness
  • idealized perfection
  • “pink and sparkly”
  • cherished by the men in her life like her “Daddy” (paternal or ick) for no other reason than…you guessed it: She’s a “princess.”

We won’t even go into the feminism backlash, eschewing pink for combat boots, warning mothers and fathers that their little “princess” will turn into a monster and no prince will come rescue them so they’d better learn a marketable skill. Or was that just my parents?

The socio-cultural accepted definition of princess, when we lay it out and examine them are slightly repulsive to anyone with any dignity.

However, as a throwaway word, and used in the proper context, it tells you a huge amount of information in a single term. But, used in a context that doesn’t align with our ideas of the individuals or situations, it can be a source of dissonance. Example:

  • He treats her like a princess. — Chelsea Clinton, describing how her father, Bill treats her mother, Hillary.

You’re trying to make that work in your head, aren’t you? Yeah, don’t. It gave me a headache, too.

How about this:

  • He treated them like little princes and princesses. — A mourning fan, a mother of 5 who often allowed her children to spend weekends with her favorite pop icon, Michael Jackson.

Yep, I know. But what’s wrong with it? What’s wrong with each those statements?

  • He treated her like a princess. — From a source close to the royal family who reported to a (very) relieved White House Chief of Staff shortly after President Trump made a state visit to the UK and met with Princess Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall.

Yes, almost as unbelievable as a Disney princess movie from the forties or fifties. But it illustrates my point. How about the two, below.

  • He treats them like little princes and princesses. — A (relieved and confirmed) dog-lover with 7 Corgis who married a man who had been a confirmed cat-lover up until he met his new bride.
  • She treats her like a princess. — The consensus about the relationship between a woman and her new wife, her (former) divorce attorney who not only helped her realize her true sexual orientation but gave her the courage and means to escape a 25-year-long violent and abusive marriage to her former husband.

A woman who suffered at the hands of an abuser should be treated with a lot of TLC, don’t you think? I do. And while some fathers call their daughters “princess,” doing that when they’re 4-years-old is seen, for some, as adorable. Calling someone that to their face at 44-years-old is not.

Am I really making it that complicated? Hey, I don’t make the rules. So who decided the word princess was so complex?

We did.

What would we do if we saw a man driving a car that had a bumper sticker on it that read: Prince?

Godbumper.jpg
Ick, ick, ick…but why?

Wow, am I right? Talk about balls. Talk about insulting. And now, a tirade with the word privilege sprinkled liberally (har har) throughout. Yes, the tall, upper-middle class white man ran (runs) the show for too long (still) and now it’s time to fight back.

With bumper stickers.

I went in to get my tattoo for the fifth decade of my life. Yes, thank you, I’ve shown remarkable restraint. One tatt a decade, because I figure in 10 years, I might just be a little different than the previous ten. So far, I’ve been right.

A girl was there talking about her first tattoo she was getting but, she said, she did NOT want a “tramp stamp.” (A big thank you very little to the writers of SNL, among others, for bringing a sense of shame to the placement of a tattoo at the lower, sacral area of the spine).

trampstamp

I turned around and laughed. I showed her my tramp stamp and said, “I had it before the pejorative term. I had it when it was called, ‘What the hell is that above your butt-crack, there Missy?’”

Or my favorite name for it, “Oh wow, that tattoo is so sexy…”

Which I heard a lot since there weren’t many women with the ol’ tramp stamp back in the 90’s.

The point? With a single phrase, we can categorize, not just a tattoo, but the person who has it, along with the entirety of their personality in one, fell viral swoop.

I remember dating a particularly piggish guy when I was a senior in high school, and he told me that he liked girls who smoked. I asked why, and he replied, along with a low chuckle from his friend, Jughead McFuckface (I believe was his name): “If they smoke, they poke.”

Yes, bad girls smoked cigarettes, therefore they are easy, therefore you can get laid, therefore, since I was a teen smoker, I did, I got knocked up, and I married the former guy. I proved him right, didn’t I?

But in Utah, girls who smoked were, much of the time, rebelling against the strict, puritanical teachings of the Mormon church. I wonder if, had I been born somewhere more liberal, I would have ever tried a cigarette, let alone settled for a man who referred to women as “tuna boats.”

But the “courtship” is less memorable than the epically horrific divorce from him after just-shy of 5 years of marriage. He would call me on the phone and release a tirade of the most violent, vile, insulting words and names, imaginable. But I had an adult version of “Thank you SO much for the compliment.”

My response, right before I hung up: “Well, there ya have it.” CLICK.

I didn’t agree, I didn’t argue, and I didn’t allow him to verbally do to me what his hands and body and presence had done for 5-years too long. But I didn’t write down his epigraphs and try to reclaim them, change them into words of power. I didn’t try to force the world around me to capitulate to my personal quest to make the word “whore” and the term “shitty, terrible mother” into bumper stickers.

I had to neutralize those things on the inside, and I admit, it took me way longer than it should have (maybe). So my War of the Words with him ended with me refusing to buy into his — along with the socio-cultural idea that I was a “whore” and a “bad mother” because I was leaving such a good family — words about me. That I was severing my eternal marriage, signed, sealed, but undeliverable, even in the Salt Lake Temple.

And while you might be wondering how leaving a toxic marriage could be seen as anything but smart, allow me to say this: You weren’t a Mormon woman in the late 1980s-early 1990’s, in Utah (unless you were, but then you wouldn’t be asking the question.)

Don’t you know? Prayer and being a faithful member of your religion solves everything.

Except when it doesn’t. And I tried both, in spades.

There are some words and terms, phrases, that will forever be in flux. There are some words that will never go away, but will also never be okay — and yet they are a part of our history and should not be banned, but rather seen as the words they were and why we gave them the meaning we did; the words they are now and why “reclaiming” or reconceiving them is a quixotic mass-delusion that only generates underpinnings of divisiveness rather than empowerment.

Words are words are words, and if we allow them to, they can teach us who we once were, and then show us how we can transcend the pain they caused and the way to become the society we want to be.

Otherwise, some people can’t say the “c” word while others can. The “l” word, the “m,” “n”, “o”, and “b” word; the “x” word, the “r” and “t” word and isn’t it all just so complex?

Yes and no, but mostly yes and sure, while sometimes a kiss is just a kiss, I’ve never heard a sigh as just a sigh unless it is. And what are all those words to which I refer up there, anyhow?

Depends on who you are, where you live, who you believe yourself to be, and how you want to feel about them. It depends on our agreements we make with each other.

So do our language agreements treat everyone equally? I don’t mean in the literal sense of the word. There are some words that defy equality. What’s the word for a male “whore?” Doesn’t matter — men call themselves whores all the time and it’s a sign of bravado. However, they can’t call themselves “gods” in bed, but their lovers can.

Calling your little one a princess is still acceptable, unless it’s done with derision and your child is a boy you’re shaming because he cries.

We have the power to give words power or the power to strip them of meaning. It’s my observation and opinion that we don’t have the power as a society nor as individuals to strip words of power by reclaiming them, because in the end, a bitch is a female dog, and a bitch is a strong woman, and bitching is to whine and complain, but who bitches the most in the midst of a head cold (male v. female) is a hot topic of debate.

bitch is a protective mother and a bitch is someone who had so much more to offer this country than a tabloid caricature of a leader who types “Democracy” with his pudgy-fingered “Tweets” while both sides of his mouth flap nonsense and double-talk as we peek through horrified fingers at the headlines and on the news yet

Here. We. Are.

Reclaim it all you want, but when it’s hissed through clenched teeth or in the voting booths, the word is what we decided it was when we made social agreements to use a term for a female dog a pejorative.

And see, that’s the thing about words.

They can be as tough as a tramp stamp to wash off.

Je te vois, and as always–

Peace

J.A.

Author J.A. Carter-Winward, Author/Poet J.A. Carter-Winward, Cliches, Tropes, and Just...No., From JACW's collection, Human Nature, the Psyche, Life, Performance Poetry, Personal, Poetry by J.A. Carter-Winward, Poets, Rude words, The Word, Writers, Writing, Writing Community, Writing in Blood, Writing Life, Writing Process

so, if you want to be a writer… a poem for the Millennium

 

LANGUAGE IS A VIRUS

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Language_is_a_Virus / Image by JACW©

so, if you want to be a writer…

                               a poem for the Millennium
–after Charles Bukowski

if you need to see your words in a box
on a lit screen
don’t do it.
if you need the virtual applause
from friends and followers to feel your muse,
don’t do it.

if you tell yourself you sit for hours
on social media, wikipedia, delving deep into the
deep ether to find inspiration or motivation,
don’t do it.
if you’re doing it for fame or money,
remember, they are a virus that spoils
what was once pure—don’t allow that.
don’t do it.

if you do it for the title writer
and have the mug and matching pens,
and spend precious word-smith time fashioning
an image you wish the world would see or
you hope you’ll one day, deep down, be,
you are playing pretend with the
power of the word, the pen,
don’t do it.

if you find you must delete posts again and again
because yesterday’s first thought, best thought, is today’s
what the fuck was i thinking?
don’t do it.
if you must hold yourself accountable to the crowd,
don’t do it.
if you must post your daily progress like tally
marks or signposts during a self-indulgent and
miserable uphill battle,
don’t do it—
it is not our jobs to hold you accountable to
your word or your words—especially
the unwritten ones—so please,
don’t add to that.

don’t do it.

if you cling to the idea that you’re “blocked,”
then do what needs doing
to stoke the fire within.
if you don’t, you’ll spend each day
staring blankly at a blank screen filled,
not with what’s burning to be free, but with silent
passivity as the banal goings-on of
unreal-world friends or their offspring’s
mediocrity fill the screen for you.

stop, already.
don’t do it.

if you must argue with your critics and
defend your words, you’re not ready to defend the word.
don’t do it.
if you must steal another’s brightness to
shine, your dullness will be exposed.
don’t even try.

if you can’t abide waiting until daylight to open your
mind to the words, singing with the birds, then
please—pack your paleo-lunches, go to your
day job, your class that teaches you to
intuit how to polish the right words the right way
so you can earn that elusive A,
and if that is so, that is you,
then why do it at all?

if you have zillions of copy-paste docs waiting for your
organization before you can even think about
writing your great american novel,
spare us; spare us all
and please, don’t tell us about it
because you aren’t going to do it. you won’t.
so don’t do it.

stop the conflation, the self-appointed
importance. stop the conflagration
of the legacies–of those who did it,
who do it, do it, do it, all the way,
every day, while you play dress-up and pretend
as you search your phone for
a newer, better selfie.

the ethernet, the world-wide web, the internet,
with its billions of pixels and code
has glitched itself into a vapid wasteland of
garbage, and those who have been chosen and seek-out
their muses have been lured into a befuddled
stupor because of your pretension. don’t add to that.
don’t do it.

take care the self-made mantle you wear at
parties or among your work friends at the bar
because you believe your unfiltered thoughts from
your addled-mind spewed into the world via a weblog
makes you a writer—that blah-blah-blog
is just a ticker tape of data, metastasized into an
ego-maniacal typist’s online journal.

unless the blinking cursor and screen
are your only life support, and only if not doing it
will drive you to despair, even despite the
derision of all who say don’t,
don’t do it.

if you can’t do it because the distraction of
tab after tab of stimulation or your blinking little
computer vibrates with bling and ring
intones and beckons your fingers to swipe up or right
instead of type, yanking you by the collar out of the
holy land that is writing—
don’t do it.

stop telling the world you are something
you are not. stop it. just stop.

a writer writes and it’s all writers do—
when we work, sleep, love, meet, fuck, stare, sit, hear, listen, and
are too gracious to roll our eyes as you drone on about
the book you are not writing, because
if we’re not there, listening to you wipe your virtual feet
on the sacred ground of our calling, we’re home, and
not in attendance,

because we’re writing.

when you stop making excuses and begin,
time will not find you nor make itself available, you
must fight for it, claim it,
own it.
and if you’ve been chosen, long before you knew
what that meant, you will find when, how and why
to do it
without pretending to.
there are not enough blue thumbs or
likes to hold you afloat if you allow that
sun inside you—that eternity—to darken, turn
to ice and die.
so be ready.

the burden of immortality is upon us
all now. no one great ever wanted to be the sun
and outshine all other. they were content
to be one with the stars, and each warm
a different face with its glow.

don’t act like one. be one. be a writer,
but only if you know you’ve been called.
and how you’ll know is this: if you do not write,
you will feel yourself dying within your own life.

you will know it by the ache inside as you read others
who did it, who do it. you’ll know when you feel bitter,
burning sense of emptiness as you reach an arbitrary
number  of follows that promised this lie:
that what you’ve done is and was enough.

if you are indeed a writer, know that
there has never been another way,
yet there has never been so many ways—so
don’t let them drag you down, deep into all
the many ways you will find
to never
be a writer.

it has never been so difficult, so immense, so
vital to find your own voice, stay true to it, then
let the world find you without losing it
to screams for their 15-second favor.

it is the only good fight there is,
the only win that feels hard-won—as
all wins should feel—

true, eternal,
yours.

 

–j.a. carter-winward © 

(Sadly, I have to add that little “c” after because attribution is apparently becoming a lost art. *heavy sigh*)

 

 

Archetypes, Symbolism, Metaphor, Motif, Author J.A. Carter-Winward, Author/Poet J.A. Carter-Winward, Contraries and Contrasts, From JACW's collection, Human Nature, the Psyche, Jung, Life, Life and Death, Light and Dark, Poetry by J.A. Carter-Winward, Poets, Psychology, Subconscious, Writing in Blood

solstice

48GoodbyeBlueSky (2)
Goodbye, Blue Sky, JAcW Photography©

 

solstice

it is the longest of nights
and there is comfort in
this blanket of black.

it reminds me that we were all once
beholden to it.

and so
i honor this darkness.

when i paint
i start with a black canvas.

when i write
i start with a black page.

i bring in one pinpoint of light at a time
and as your eyes adjust to one,
i bring in another.

soon there’s cohesion in
the daubs of illumination
on canvas, on page, and
if you step back—if you see the whole
of what I raise from my depths—
you’ll feel the warmth of the sun
as it brings your skin
to life with its

promise of dawn.
but first, always—

i honor the dark.

~j.a. carter-winward

work in progress: poems and dialogues
(Coming Soon)

 

Adult language and themes, Archetypes, Symbolism, Metaphor, Motif, Artists Supporting Artists, Author J.A. Carter-Winward, Author/Poet J.A. Carter-Winward, Book Review, Christmas, Contraries and Contrasts, deconstruction, Human Nature, the Psyche, Human Psycho-Sexuality, India LaPlace, Life, Light and Dark, New Voices, Poetry Crit, Poetry-Parenting-Mothers, Poets, Rude words, Salt Hive Press, Sex and Other Fun Stuff, Subjective Experience, The Word, Trauma, Writers, Writing, Writing Community, Writing Life

“Sad Discoveries,” by India LaPlace, A Christmas Eve Review


IndiaLaPlaceSadDiscoveries
{Warning:This review contains explicit content and language. If you are offended by explicit language and content, feel free to not be. Or feel free to skip this review.  I’m good, either way.}

“And if I’d learned that,
My marriage might have survived,
Or, at least,
Maybe my dad wouldn’t tell me
That I’m the kind of girl
That’s difficult to love.”

And so ends the second poem in the chapbook by India LaPlace, Sad Discoveries. But this collection of narrative, deeply emotive pieces are anything but a “sad” discovery—you don’t find sadness when you find a woman whose poetic voice speaks to the strongest, bravest, weakest, most frightened and vulnerable places within yourself. You find yourself, which is the essence of poetry, or I’d posit, any artistic expression, no matter how banal or derivative.

I think of all the women who love the character from Breakfast at Tiffany’s, Holly Golightly, or the people who are drawn to superhero movies, revenge movies, romance—they are all seeking the parts of themselves they want to be for that moment in time.

But India LaPlace is not someone we “want” to be, she is someone we already are, and she gives us permission to be, feel, forgive, judge, revisit, with the eyes of a woman, and even through the eyes of a girl through love-sick rosy lenses. In her short chapbook we get a glimpse into her world, and after reading her in HSTQ journal, I was eager to finally get to this work.

There’s a difference between seeking art to support our idealized selves and immersion in art that shows us the gestalt of who we are, who we were, and who we’ve yet to become. Yes, this is how it’s Christmassy: The ghosts of the past, present, future are not just “sad” discoveries—everything is a sad discovery, if you think on it. Even happy ones. Because to discover is to bring about change, and with change always comes loss.

It takes courage to find redemption for one’s self during moments you’ve felt ashamed of who you are or how you behaved—but it takes more courage to say, in a universal way, “Hey, I’m still here, fighting to climb up this hill of ball bearings, and what the fuck? No one told me it would be so hard. No one told me I’d be alone in this thing.”

A tough line to walk—not falling into self-pity, which, as an editor of a lot of poets, I have to steer many clear of the traps that smack of it, because self-pity is not something we want to see in a mirror vis-à-vis our art. This poet walks the line extremely well—careful not to beat herself up too much but taking ownership. Careful not to blame others but allowing them to play their part in the unfolding of her life.

The first poem, “They’ll Say It Was Post-Partum Depression” speaks to the universal ideal of motherhood and how we all fall oh, so short. Just when we think we’ve figured some stuff out, our kids learn to talk and tell us the slew of other ways we fucked up. That’s okay. We’re not alone. Moms need to stand together, y’all.

In her poem, “Depression,” the encounter with her father was eerily reminiscent of my own father and me, or even my mother. But back then “depression” wasn’t considered an illness. It was still in the “boot-strap” model of disorders. And yet I remember my parents telling me the same thing. Learn a skill, go to work, keep your head down, try harder, be steady, then if you’re lucky, you can quit when you meet a nice man who will take care of you while you raise a family together.

She speaks of the fork in the road we all seem to face as we look through our parents’ lenses: “the easy way” aka the path of least resistance, and “the hard way,” aka the unknown.

In this piece she doesn’t get to the part where she realizes that there is no path of least resistance, no matter who you are, where you are, when you’re an artist. Especially not the kind of artist she is, I was and am.

The kind where convention stares us in the face every time we make a move, and despite how right it is for us, it’s wrong for the collective “they” who always “say” and we end up fulfilling the worst prophecies about ourselves while ignoring all we overcome just to get out of bed, simply because the world teaches us that having children fixes everything for a woman.

In “That Little Voice,” she uses a lovely ambiguity at the end that’s nothing short of brilliant:

“And either way,/ I find myself left/ Lying on the carpet/ Of a Dark room/ I can’t seem to leave/ With half my heart whispering how strong I am/ And the other half drilling into my head/ That this is the only way I can ever be…”

She writes that she doesn’t “think that dark little voice is right…” but is that dark little voice the one telling her that she’s strong or she’s going to keep “finding herself” lying on the carpet of a dark room? And that lovely ambiguity speaks to the conflict colliding inside this poet’s mind.

That very human struggle between light and dark, always believing the light is where we want to live, but oddly, when we die, the light is what we follow to eternal darkness and the ultimate unknown. While seemingly something we’ve read before, pay attention to the words: she doesn’t tie it in a bow for us. She doesn’t tie it for herself.

When India LaPlace moves from sobbing in bed with her little girl comforting her to her sexual life, it’s seamless for me because women have always had crossed archetypal forms. The Virgin v. the Whore, and then we find gang-banging nuns. Brides of Christ getting fisted, and how is that different than the birth of a child? Holy, holy, holes filled, reborn, born, birth, blood, pain, ecstatic exaltation, then transcendence in the heavenly light of release, la petite mort, at one—and then all at once, that total isolation as we make the descent back to earth.

Yet although tongue-in-cheek, it feels like the poet still carries the little hand-held mirror with her, worrying about “feminism,” as if that’s an issue in the bedroom when all has said and have come. As if she doesn’t know she’s the one in that room—tied up or no—with all the power.

Only in places, some of the poems felt a little UN-guided—but not misguided, and yeah,  there’s a difference. It’s tough to do confessional poetry and have an arbiter of what is art v. what belongs in long form, in a journal to de-frag the emotions from the story from the events from the detail from the art from the universality of them all.

While line breaks and the truncated version looks like a poem, it isn’t a poem unless it gives us a new way to look at the mistakes of our youth with anything other than an “oops,” or a deep-felt regret. But she only does this a couple of times, like in in “Going Home,” which was more of a stream-of-consciousness diary entry rather than a poem-poem.

It went long, and I felt myself plucking out the stand-out lines that redeem it and frankly it could be edited, done again and shine. If I had overseen editing the piece, instead of 48 lines, it would have been 7:

I spent 5 ½ hours in the air
Trying to figure out how I was going to exist,
Where I fit
In this life I barely recognized.

We could have been any two kids,
Making stupid mistakes when we felt we were at
Our most invincible.

***

That’s my edit, but her words and the reason to cut the other 41 lines? We know the story by now from her other poems. Even still, LaPlace manages to capture, with the above lines, a unique take on the same story—everyone’s story—and juxtaposing the collision course she felt she was on with the use of a single word that’s the embodiment of youth, invincible, was—even through 48 lines—gut-punch emotional.

So this poem and “Illinois” are the rare exceptions—although the end of the latter poem is a stand-alone, IMO, and it’s another layer she peels back for us.

It was a heartbreak, and yet it was a triumph and while she has much to teach us and herself, it’s this twice-her-age-poet’s opinion (for whatever that’s worth! ha) that she’s a bit too mired in the details of this particular marriage—can’t find an objective peak. That’s okay, but it’s about the art, not the poet, and that’s the real test of the artist. It is deeply personal, and we bleed for the world, but it better be their color red or it’s not for them.

Being able to transcend, which she does well in more than enough pieces in this collection, is where she’s headed with time and that’s why she’s someone to watch, read, absorb.

When LaPlace returns, time and again to her mothering, there isn’t a doubt that for all the vitriol she feels and spills toward herself, she made a child who is indeed the best of her, and isn’t that the way of mothers? Watching your child behave better than you did, more mature than you do, at times.

I wanted to see her transcend her bottomless mother-shame, but she holds fast to it, showing us her still-skinless places, but I found myself rooting for her daughter, and for the poet to honor that best part of her. When she returns to that self-destruction, it feels a little like an art house movie that could have had an ending to redeem the dark, Scandinavian landscape and plot, but chose to just let everyone die for the sake of “bleak.”

She finally gives us what we need in the poem about her family and light (“Sunshine Child.”) The push-and-pull between love and pain is one felt deeply through her words and they do the job. I found myself in the tugging and in the pain, the light, the stew of it.

I notice LaPlace uses the word “deserve” repeatedly and throughout the poems, and the truth is, no one deserves anything. We don’t earn happiness. We don’t earn our own downfall. No one “deserves.” You really think the Trump kid “deserves” his (likely) $100K Christmas gifts he’ll get tomorrow morning? Do you think he “deserves” the legacy he’s going to have to work his entire life to overcome, or hey, transform?

There’s no “deserve.” There is only cause and effect and the other 98% is dumb luck. Ms. LaPlace, you deserve your daughter and she deserves you, which is the highest praise and softness I have to proffer the both of you. All we can do, in the end, is “deserve” what we have by honoring what we have and who we create—whether another human being or ourselves.

The trick is to recognize how lucky we get, and India LaPlace does, whether she knows it or not, she does—which is her final cry of triumph, behind the frightened, lost and wounded girl, behind the despair, behind the snarling sexual hubris mingled with unwarranted shame—underneath it all, she shows us her sunlight. She shows us that indeed she’s a girl who’s difficult to love, but so what? Who wants to be easy to love?

It’s a lie, “love is infinite.” It isn’t. Love is a time commitment, an emotional and physical and spiritual-energy commitment, and bottom line, we have finite amounts of both. She, and her work, are worth the time, she’s worth the energy and commitment.

But not if you want “easy.” Not if you want un-messy. If you want your presents nice and neat and tied up (wink), I’ve got a book filled with sickly cloying “aww,” overflowing with milk and honey you can read (wink, wink—but this one’s better, trust me).

If you want easy, watch a rom-com. She isn’t easy, India LaPlace, but she’s worth it.

Follow her on all her social media stuff because that’s what you do, but also, her new venture on Facebook (or website Salt Hive Press.)

She’s filling a much-needed gap, creating a new literary presence in the ether, a venture she’s doing with another poet that I’d like to say is good because I’m partial, but I can’t—she’s so far beyond good, it isn’t a matter of subjectivity. And whether I know the writers or poets I read or not, I review with integrity—that’s the thing about art. And as Sad Discoveries shows us—art is, ideally, bigger than nearly everything—if you do it right.

So as a parting au revoir, may the ghosts of your past, present and future be authentic and remember—when it’s your own ghosts that haunt you, it’s not a haunting.

It’s that moment in the mirror when you meet your own eyes, and for reasons you can’t quite place, you’re afraid—even as you smile.

Merry-Fucking-Christmas to all you mothers, whores, poets, sluts, lovers, biters, gaggers, ballers, feelers, artists, writers, pain-eaters—from my dark to yours—

Here we are.

Je te vois, and as always—

Peace.

J.A.

 

 

"How Bad Can Good Be?", Akathisia, Author J.A. Carter-Winward, Author/Poet J.A. Carter-Winward, Coming Soon--in-her-rest-less-ness: prose and poems, Contraries and Contrasts, Drug Side Effects, Human Nature, the Psyche, Life, Life and Death, Mad in America Foundation, Mortality, Neurological Movement Disorders, Personal, Photography, Psychology, Published Articles, Subjective Experience, Trauma, Uncategorized, Vita Brevis, Writers, Writing, Writing Community, Writing in Blood, Writing Life, Writing Process

Getting Blood Stains Out

BloodStains

 

Writing in blood means writing with, in, and from your own blood, your own guts, your own self-hood and experience. And every so often, you get sloppy. We all do. So what do you do? How to get blood stains out. Well, it’s tough.

First, you’ve got to consider how deep the stain, how old. Consider the material it “bled” into. Cloth? Fabric? Upholstery? Pure as unused toilet paper white or a multicolored hemp bag with a coarse weave?

The Internet is a 3-D polygon of too many immaterial and woven fabrics to comprehend, so the old tried-and-true doesn’t always work.

While many resort to a bleach solution for words written in the ether in blood via Delete Post, others try white-wash techniques that end up turning their stains into a bloody, muddy mess, and even sometimes an unintentional mind-f***, doggy-style, for their readers, who try to show the post to a friend and then say, “Weird… I KNOW I read that post…or was it on another blog about going to the desert to heal?”

Now, writing in blood for a published work like a novel is much more complicated. A novel is wrapped in layers of polished publication processes and you can’t retract what you wrote with a Delete Post or a Post-script à la:

Dear Rugged Individualists (who actually read),

It’s come to my attention, posthumously, that I’m an insufferable hypocrite and all-around twat because I “shrugged,” shall we say, my own personal responsibility toward the end of my life.  Ah well. Enjoy the rotten fruits of my hardline-vitriol for decades to come—because Life does have a way of turning karmic, as evidenced by…well…
…yours truly.

All Best,

Ayn R.

For example.

The Digital Age demands an “online presence” for most people and walking the line between someone who writes privately or anonymously and a professional writer trying to establish, or with an established audience, is tougher than ever.

And while easier to ”fix” one’s mistakes online, sometimes there’s no defying the Law of Information, not anymore. Can’t unring a viral bell.

Menwritingwomen

 

Male Author: That was taken out of context.

The Whole World: Sure it was.

 

It’s easy enough to wave it away, and if you catch it in time, you can correct it. Sometimes, though, you can take your World Wide Web FAILS and make them part of your…shtick. Take for example this Instagram post I did for #postitpoetry:

hubris 1.jpg

See anything wrong there? Yep, me too. “’I’ before ‘e’ except after ‘c’ rule” notwithstanding, I goofed up. And it was a blooper, blunder, and easily fixed with a re-write, re-post, and a “what misspelled word? I see no misspelled word there…” my inner finger wagging and eye rolling a simultaneous rebuke to that bullshittery. So, instead, I did this:

hubris 2.jpg

Considering the larger meaning of “hubris,” I think I did the right thing.

Which brings me to mistakes we make, not just online, not just as writers, but as human beings. Because writers are only human, and with the Court of Public Opinion now open for general admission via World Wide Web, the arena is larger than ever and the farther back the last row of seats, the more open to misunderstanding—and being misunderstood—we are.

In my previous blog entry, almost a year ago, I was caught up in a kind of “throw-caution-to-the-page” moment, where I had the promise of “HOPE” sold to me over the phone by a place in Sedona, Arizona— the Las Vegas of spiritual enlightenment.

To be clear, I was hungry and desperate, and the market for their brand of schlock is ripe. The sales team at this place did it by the book—Snake Oil Sales for Dummies—and true to my own desperation, I dropped everything and wrote family, friends, and that blog post then squeezed every ounce of financial everything we had to pay thousands (and thousands, and thousands more) to go, finally, all promises of a different experience aside, to a run-of-the-mill, desert-based treatment center for addiction. Not what I needed help with.

At worst, think of an AA/NA-based rehab, but instead of “Higher Power,” you get a consult with a shaman and you find your spirit animal together. At best, think of a 2.5-star “desert-spa experience” with “a kind of medical” professional-ish medical team and starry-eyed staff paid to buy into the Law of Attraction-hype that all-but fizzled when the Age of Information became a thing.

My ordeal with psychiatric medications became my life in 2016—not the beginning of it, but the desperate search for help, relief, and hope, anywhere I could find it. I didn’t think I would be alive this long as I withdrew from the drug, Latuda in 2016. If my husband hadn’t been by my side, constantly, doing everything in his power to advocate for me with medical professionals, counselors, family, friends—I wouldn’t have made it.

But by the end of 2018, he was completely tapped and so was I.

While some things improved, others were getting worse—specifically daily akathisia and dystonia, a neurological movement disorder that can have fatal complications if not treated properly. With the sudden onset of the latter, I was an emotional wreck, to say the least.

When I found the wherewithal to write, I didn’t make it public because everything I wrote was just *this* side of unreadable. I was filled with so much pain—I could barely see the trees, let alone the forest. Too often, I was filled with total despair.  Both my public and personal personas were being eaten alive. My worst fear was that I’d never write a cohesive sentence or paragraph or story ever again—and when I tried, it became a self-fulfilling prophecy.

I still wrote in blood—but I wrote with the watery platelets of my dwindling, pain-fogged mind.

The only real clarity I got at all during that time was through the creations, work, and words of other writers, then writing reviews. Poems, books, movies, articles—and the ah-hah* of that didn’t quite hit me at the time.

But before we “ah-hah,” I want to say something here, briefly, about pain—untenable pain—and art. They don’t coincide well. But they can coexist–only if the art and the process of making it transcends the pain, even for a moment.

But when the pain is relentless, without fail, it changes the way you view the world and yourself. I had a choice, and I made the choice to let the pain take me down roads that were, in a word, counterproductive.

And when I blurred the lines of pain and meaning and suffering and art and bought into this notion that perhaps my pain had a purpose other than torturing me day in, day out—I noticed that my art changed. My writing “voice” changed into not only something I didn’t know—it was something I disliked, immensely. Bouncing between rage, pain, absurdity, and a kind of pain-induced madness, I was desperate for any intervention that could ease it.

Looking back, it’s so clear: I wrote in the imprecise language of esotericism, using the purple prosaic language of bruised plums dripping with saccharine sentiment (sediment?) that is difficult for me to revisit and smell, let alone swallow with my eyes. It’s why I’ve avoided this blog for so long. In a word, it’s just this side of humiliating, reading where I was at emotionally back then.

And that’s what journals are for. To write, then never look back. Unless there’s a court case and documentation of events demands the revisit. Kidding. Sorta.

In short, any kind of online writings, whether a blog or review or article, especially ones from self-proclaimed writing professionals, really need to walk the line better than I did.

But in our personal lives, when we take our critical thinking and set it aside for someone who demands faith (and money) before the miracle aka (the heAling vorTex of eMpty-nonesensiCal bullshittery in Sedona), we become easy prey to, not just opportunistic hucksters, but our own sense of self-importance.

1Diamondskies.jpg
“Vortexes of Vertices,” JAcW Photography©

I went there to finish the pain journey, if you will. And in doing so, finish the book I’d been writing, unknowingly, for over a decade. And see, that’s the thing about writing and creating; if you try to force an ending that isn’t meant to be, it ends up feeling and being just that: forced.

Back at the first of this year, day in, day out, *I* was not working and my art was not working. And without the work and the act of creating, I was flailing. I had the *ah-hah moment much later.

So, when we found the place in Sedona, I was sure whatever prayers or healing whatevers out there had given me a way out of the pain, had pointed me onto a healing path. (And see the use of the words “healing + path” together should have been the first red flag.)

Despite the promises on the phone that they are the only ones who can help you, and “you’re worth it” and “Offer ends at midnight tonight” hard-sales tactics, only you can help you.

In short, I did not go and heal in the desert. I went TO heal, and I came home a few days later, much worse for wear, but wiser, clearer, and not in the “clearer” sense you might hear in some circles ifyaknowwhatImeanandIthinkyado.

But I felt a responsibility to people. I still do, to a degree. After I posted my film on YouTube, How Bad Can Good Be?, I had no idea what would be unfolding for me, both personally and professionally. While the YouTube hits are scant at 4K views, it went pretty wild on other social media, including from my article on Mad in America.

Which brings me to how and when the Writing-Public-Life and the Personal-Public-Life coincide.

We’re all caricatures of ourselves, even when we’re alone at times. (Oh c’mon. How many of you haven’t sang Lady Gaga’s Pokerface at the top of your lungs during your shower to get yourself in a better emotional space to go to work?) And, no, I haven’t actually sung Lady Gaga anything, but I’m embarrassed to admit what I do sing at the top of my lungs in the shower, so we’ll just move along.

We’ve also been sort of pushed into self-creators of our online images. Whether an artist, writer, or mother struggling with _____ (see “Dooce”), it’s hard to know where that overshare v. undershare v. “titillating-tease”-line is, sometimes.

It compelled me to ask hard questions of myself about who I wanted to be online, offline, and when I was alone, keeping my own company in the quiet of my office workspace or my front living room at the piano or reading a good book, or in the shower singing I Can’t Make You Love Me, getting my vocals ready to sit at the piano and play the Bon Iver version, but with mad props to Bonnie Raitt who was able to write such a timeless beautiful song that speaks to the yearning…

…and you know what? THAT’S why I don’t talk about stuff.

Anyway.

I felt responsible for the still-in-edits book that ideally would give voice to countless silent screams—I don’t know what made me think a red bow made out of an artificially-stained pink crystal, one that would have concluded an 8-week (cut short by a mere 7 weeks, 4 days) stint at a gummy-tabled, shabbily-upholstered “facility” that cost me more than just money.

And while I’d thought creating art was what had saved me all these years, one can’t create without consuming and since nothing came from me but pain—pain in all forms—reading other writers was a reminder that I was not alone in the world, not with my being, and not with my pain.

Poems like “Delmarva,” by Katy Santiff, Manhattan Beach, by Pulitzer-prize winning novelist Jennifer Egan,  and even small but beautiful gems via haiku such as “On Autumn,” by Christopher Perry among many, many others, were lifelines. Even still, my private self and public life converged like a magic vortex. Kidding.

The point? We are not what we write. We are not who we write. We aren’t even what we eat, breathe, read or believe ourselves to be. And that’s the beauty of living an authentic life: being able to see ourselves as ever-changing, ever-growing, ever-learning. It’s okay to mix it up—it’s okay to mess it up.

But try to do it consciously.

I still have no answers on healing. But I know that I can still write. As a matter of fact, my head is even clearer now—when it is. When it isn’t, I step away. You’re the only one who can heal yourself. And whether you go there and buy into their cult-like New Age bullshitisms or you go with legit sites that help you DIY that shit, like The Inner Compass  it’s all you, in the end.**

If I saw someone being tortured, I wouldn’t ask for a deposit to the tune of $10K before helping them out of the Iron Maiden. You don’t sell water to people literally dying of thirst. And as unreliable narrators go, keep in mind: I’ve got nothing promising to sell you.

So in closing, my hands are not stain-free, and neither is my life. However, the blood in the creases and folds of the many-textured facets of my life and work is mine and mine alone.

I don’t lack stains because I’m above reproach.

I lack them because I don’t make it a practice to profit from other human being’s suffering—someone like you, like me, who is in unimaginable, untenable pain. And while I do feel a modicum of responsibility to people who look to me for some guidance due to my earlier efforts and yes, my upcoming efforts to raise awareness for the drug side-effect, akathisia, among others, I am first and foremost an artist.

That’s a collaborative effort between me and myself, you, my audience, the world around us and within us, and other writers I love to enjoy, read, and who absolutely fill the parched well when I’m crawling through a pain-filled day.

I feel like I’m finally recovered from my stint in the land of woo-woo, only a little less shiny with naiveté and terra-cotta tinted lenses. But I rest well knowing I’m not guilty of hiding or trying to white-wash any blood I’ve spilt into the ether or beyond.

I don’t faint at the sight of my own blood. Remember—

I write in it.

Je te vois, and as always…

Peace—

J.A.

(**I will say that the nice part about The Inner Compass and The Withdrawal Project? It costs thousands and thousands of FREE and teaches you exactly what Laura Delano learned and is so graciously sharing with the world: let your own inner compass be your guide, not yet another authority figure. Whether they’re in a white coat or in batik sarongs and Crocs, when you hand over your personal responsibility over your own well-being to someone else, it always, without exception, comes with a price—one you might not be prepared to pay.)

#AwakenWithJP

 

"How Bad Can Good Be?", Akathisia, Archetypes, Symbolism, Metaphor, Motif, Author J.A. Carter-Winward, Author/Poet J.A. Carter-Winward, Coming Soon--in-her-rest-less-ness: prose and poems, Compassion and Empathy, Contraries and Contrasts, Drug Side Effects, Human Nature, the Psyche, Life, Life and Death, Light and Dark, Neurological Movement Disorders, Personal, Photography, Psychology, Subconscious, Subjective Experience, The Word, Trauma, Writers, Writing, Writing in Blood, Writing Life, Writing Process

Final Chapter: Healing

wolfbloodmoon

 

My book, in-her-rest-less-ness: poems & prose, was finished, but I couldn’t quite say it was “finished-finished.” Now I know why.

There was no chapter, a final chapter, on healing.

And so I’m going to the desert to finish the book. I’m going to heal. And I will be back. I’m going to the desert to break my heart, mind, spirit, and put it back together again with the sinews of a tenacious love and the will to complete what I’ve begun here.

Anyone who knows me knows I take my research very seriously.

I’ve never much cared for the desert. Not really. But I love blood moons.

So here’s to writing in blood; to letting go of what no longer serves us; to enfolding what we are, what remains, within the circle of new perception. Here’s to saying “I don’t know” with conviction, and “I will learn” with intention.

I’ll be back when the desert flowers alive, when the snow-melt reconnects the sunlight to the earth, and when my own light reconnects to the light of you–all of you–within, and without, my world.

When the final chapter of the book gives more than a commiseration–more than brothers and sisters in pain. My hope is to give the light of hope  to the hopeless, or at the very least, a break from the carnage and a way–any way at all–to redeem the bloody mess of it.

Until then–

Je te vois

and Peace