Friday, December 20, 2013

Aging


  I am a lucky person: I have the privilege of working with seniors. My interaction with them inspired me to write this poem that was published by Gadfly Online today.
  Gadfly Online is an award winning publication that was pronounced "eccentric, odd and eclectic" by the Washington Post.
  Enjoy the read.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Not in numbers


  Bestsellers are not necessarily books with good quality writing. Selling lots of books does not mean that the story is well written. It means that the book was well promoted. Period. I have met writers on the blogosphere that may not be selling many books, but they are very talented and I believe their stories deserve more attention.
  Unfortunately, we live in a society that venerates figures, scores, numbers, budgets, standardized tests, number of followers, number of words written, number of books read, etc.
  I am not trying to say that numbers are not important, but when they become more relevant than quality itself the situation becomes absurd.  I see this problem at every level. The system wants to measure everything.( It makes me giggle at times. We treat numbers instead of human beings).
  A system that only cares about numbers runs the risk of turning us into automatons. I certainly don't connect well with people who are obsessed with numbers. I am more concerned with quality, sensitivity and other matters that are not translated into numbers.
  High sales are not a marker of good quality writing, and good scores in education don't guarantee that the students are more likely to think creatively, or that they will innovate in the future. In fact, knowledge changes over time. It is more important to be motivated to keep learning than to score well on a test.
 As I write this post I remember The Little Prince and his encounter with a businessman who was obsessed with counting the stars. He did not know why he was counting them, but he thought it was a very important matter. And so he kept counting them.

 Now those students at Harvard must be very worried about their scores because they did not remember the name of the capital city of Canada. Oh, well, you can't get everything in life.

Till next time.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Not NaNoWriMo but...


  I've been haunted by the main characters of a novel that has been unfolding in my mind lately. They don't leave me alone. If I ever wake up during the night, their conflicts and situations come together and give way to new thoughts and ideas, inviting me to scribble notes. (Insomnia is my enemy, but it can also be my friend.)
  Plot, characters and setting are all evolving into something that can't be squelched. They already seem to exist somewhere.  In my mind they  grow gradually, like the branches of a tree, and I have been doing some research on the subject of this novel. The act of learning more about it triggers new ideas and kindles my imagination. Even though I know the end of the story, I don't know how I will get there.
   I wrote the first chapter. It came out of me like a tsunami. This time I did not have to force it out. ( I had written two other drafts before.)
  Writers have more than one life. The lives of the characters in the stories they write and the lives of the characters in the stories they read. Then there are the ones that exist as possibilities in the tales  we imagine we will  craft one day.
  Life is intense, isn't it?
What have you been up to lately?

Saturday, November 2, 2013

A visit to the zoo




  Autumn is a season of warm colors, crisp air and magical landscapes; it is a lovely time of the year to visit the zoo. But before we start this stroll, let me mention something.
  I enjoyed reading Richard Hughes's  blog post Getting older: getting younger. As time goes by, we can allow our minds  to expand, to open in different directions. We are constantly learning. (Richard, I love your blog but I can't comment on it because I don't have Google plus). When we do the things we love doing, we feel happy. I agree with you, Richard.
                  Let's keep walking; let the soft cool air caress our skin.
                   
  Elephants are fascinating creatures...

             
          But don't get too close to them.

       










Recent research showed that elephants are able to communicate over many miles by using infrasound. Here's a wonderful video about the secret language of elephants

Human populations are taking over more and more elephant habitat. Poaching for ivory is another threat to elephants.
     
  Elephants are extremely intelligent and have long-term memory. They form deep family bonds and live in tight matriarchal family groups called herds. These herds are led by the oldest female elephant. Males leave the family unit between the ages of 12-15. They live alone or with other males temporarily.






 Did you know that hundreds of South African lions are being slaughtered to make bogus sex potions for men?

 Lions are farmed under appalling conditions in South Africa for "canned hunting" where rich tourists pay thousands to shoot them through fences.
  Let's show president Zuma that this brutal trade is hurting South Africa's image as a tourist destination. He can ban this cruel trade. Yes, he can.
Here's a petition you can sign:
http://www.avaaz.org/en/stop_lion_slaughter_for_sex_aides_rb_en/?bpgcAfb&v=30843


"Tiger bone wine" and other tiger-part medicines were banned after massive international outrage.


 There are only 3,200 tigers left in the wild today.
Unlike other cats, tigers love water and are very good swimmers...












  Flamingos mingle well with the autumn colors.
 Did you know that flamingos dance to attract their mates?
 Are you familiar with the Spanish dance called "Flamenco"?
You can watch them here.







During this interesting visit we meet the bonobos for the first time. Bonobos share 98 % of our DNA. They are our close relatives. You can read about them here.

  Bonobos live in the Republic of Congo and the population is believed to have declined sharply over the last thirty years.


As we contemplate  the foliage around us,
we come across these creatures who display their colorful costumes with pride.

Peacocks!












But they are not interested in us. Not like   this giraffe at least.
I always wonder what she is thinking about whenever she stares at me...











The rhinos are also in danger of extinction. Here is a petition you can sign to help  save them:
http://www.avaaz.org/en/save_rhinos/
Why can't we, human beings, live in harmony with other creatures? Something to think about...



The Peace of Wild Things

When despair for the world grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children's lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought of grief.
I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting with their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.

Wendell Berry

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Autumn is my spring


 Autumn is my spring, a time of rebirth. Like an ocean wave, all those beautiful colors conjure up the memories of him, and he was the one who taught me so much about life.

He taught me that no matter what I go through, I can survive, physically and emotionally.
He taught me about inner strength and peace.
He gave me the most blissful memories and the saddest ones.
He taught me how fragile life is.
He showed me how my co-workers could behave like  a family to me.
He made me a mother for the first time.
He only lived nine months inside my body but he taught me not to judge other peoples' pain. He taught me about compassion.

  If you've never been inside the body and mind of a woman who was pregnant for nine months and then lost her baby,  don't tell her how she has to feel or what she has to do.
  If you come across a woman who lost her baby, don't tell her that she can have another one. Babies are not objects to be replaced.
 
   He was my son and he was gone too soon, but he taught me so much about life...
    I don't have the answers to all the questions, but I can say that autumn is my spring.
 
     "A mother never forgets."

Sunday, October 13, 2013

The serendipity of life


   "The brain is wider than the sky."
   Emily Dickinson

   Less than a month ago I wrote a post to express how much I appreciate and enjoy Alice Munro's writing, and I reviewed her latest book, "Dear Life." Three weeks later, she won the Nobel Prize for Literature.
  I've heard many times that short stories are not popular. Alice Munro is a short story writer.
  I've heard many times that people don't care for poetry. I recently wrote a post called "For Poetry Lovers... and those who don't care about poetry." In less than two weeks it had more than 400 views... and it continues to be a very popular post.
   A month ago politicians were planning to close one of the libraries in the town where I live. We spoke up to protect our public library. Then politicians decided that it would not be a good idea to close the library.
  Let's talk about literary rejections.
  The editor of Boston's Atlantic magazine told Louisa May Alcott's father that "she should stick to teaching because she would never succeed as a writer."
  Yesterday I went to the theater to watch Little Women. Interestingly, the play started  with Jo reading a rejection letter.
 It was a delightful experience  to revisit this novel, a book that must have shaped me in many ways. Watching this play awakened memories from my childhood. I must have read it when I was 12. I remember how "Little Women" ignited my passion for writing. (I felt identified with Jo's personality).

 Rudyard Kipling was told  that he did not know how to use the English Language.

 Richard Bach was told that nobody would care about the life of a seagull. After 18 rejections, his book was accepted for publication and sold one million copies.

Gertrude Stein spent 22 years submitting before getting a single poem accepted.

  Emily Dickinson was told that her poems were "devoid of true poetical qualities."

 Stephen King received dozens of rejections for "Carrie" before it was published and made into a movie.

 Don't pay too much attention to the naysayers. Keep doing what your heart tells you to do. I believe it is worthwhile.
  Don't let the naysayers shatter your enthusiasm and silence the voice of your heart. Don't allow their contempt to distort your views and motivations.
  The light of your dreams is the light that matters, the one that casts hope on the uncertainty of your life. Mistakes are inevitable. We all make them, but we don't need to let them hinder our actions.
 Naysayers don't always criticize us. They just make us feel that what we are doing is worthless or irrelevant. It is important to remember that their disdain is none of our business.
 My grandmother used to say that white butterflies presage good news. I'm not superstitious, but every time I see butterflies drawing silhouettes in the air I feel happy.
   Butterflies brighten my day, no matter what color they are...
 




 

Saturday, September 28, 2013

For poetry lovers... and those who don't care about poetry


"The sun strikes deep into the wells of the sky: depends on how you look at it -- for someone it is the hour to be shot at dawn, for me the infinite gift of red, of violet and blush-graying white above the bridge across the Loireo."
Tomaz Salamun

  Poetry is a universal dialogue that invites voices from every corner of the world. It embodies the desire to explore emotions and new realms.
 Poetry invites the mind to set itself free from its prison, but it is also a medium that can understand and console us. If I had to choose an anthology out of all the ones I read this year, I would pick Edward Hirsch's "Poet's Choice."
  Most of the poems he selected landed before my eyes just when I needed them - as if I had been destined to read them. Edward Hirsch brought together the voices of poets from all over the world without being biased by gender, country of origin, popularity, political ideas, religion or social class. Edward Hirsch was inspired and motivated by his passion for poetry.
   I was spellbound by Hirsch's essays on the poets and their works. I admire his wit,  sensitivity and open-minded approach. I savored each and every sentence he wrote and was compelled to read them more than once. This book is a masterpiece. It unleashes the vast universe of human experience.
   Not only did I fall in love with the poems he selected, but I also experienced a strong kinship to most of these poets.
 Now let me share with you Edward Hirsch's quotes on poetry:
  "I have tried to remember throughout that poetry is made by flesh-and-blood human beings. It is a bloody art. It lives on a human scale and thrives when it is passed from hand to hand."
   "Poetry is a means of exchange, a form of reciprocity, a magic to be shared, a gift. Poetry saves something precious in the world from vanishing."
   "Poetry challenges us to find meaning in the midst of suffering. Poetry answers this challenge. It puts us in touch with ourselves. It sends us messages from the interior and also connects us to others. It is intimate and secretive; it is generously collective."
    "Poems defend the importance of individual lives and rebel at the way individuals are dwarfed by mass culture."
    "I have carried poetry with me like a flashlight-- how many small books have I crammed into my pockets?-- and used it to illuminate other lives, other worlds. I discovered myself in discovering others, and I have lived with these poems until they have become part of the air that I breathe. I hope they will become part of the reader's world too."
 Some of the poets he included in this book are Jorge Luis Borges,  Sappho, Blaga Dimitrova, Charlotte Mew, W.B. Yeats, Rainer Maria Rilke, Czeslaw Milosz,  Radmila Lazic, Primo Levi, Taha Muhammad Ali, Yehuda Amichai, Kadya Molodowsky, Avraham Ben Yitzhak, Saadi Youssef, Cesar Vallejo, Miguel Hernandez, Pablo Neruda, Julia de Burgos, Alfonsina Storni, Octavio Paz, Amy Lowell, Naomi Nye, Wallace Stevens, Jane Mayhall, Dorothea Tanning, Kathleen Raine, Mark Strand, William Carlos Williams, Jane Mayhall, William Matthews, Robert Bly and many others.
 I believe there is something urgent about poetry, something that rescues us from our own uncertainty...
 
Ars Poetica

Write each of your poems
as if it were your last.
In this century, saturated with strontium,
charged with terrorism,
flying with supersonic speed,
death comes with terrifying suddenness.
Send each of your words
like a last letter before execution,
a call carved on a prison wall.
You have no right to lie,
no right to play pretty little games.
You simply won't have time
to correct your mistakes.
Write each of your poems,
tersely, mercilessly,
with blood -- as if it were your last.

Blaga Dimitrova (Translated by Ludmilla G. Popova-Wightman)

Friday, September 6, 2013

Two Women Inside One


 My poem "Two Women Inside One" was accepted by Foliate Oak Literary Magazine. You can read it here

Monday, September 2, 2013

Sylvia Plath's "The Bell Jar"

 If you wonder what it feels like to be inside the mind of a person who suffers from severe depression, reading The Bell Jar will help you approach such a person’s reality. However, stating that this book is about a lady who falls prey to this disorder undermines the complexity of this fascinating book.
  This novel, which is based on true events that Sylvia Plath fictionalized, unravels the conflicts that trouble a young woman who struggles to meet the demands of a society that classified people into “losers” and “winners," while she attempts to be loyal to her identity and to unearth her true self.
  Esther is willing to figure out how to find her place in the world. At the same time, she tries to understand the nature of relationships between men and women. In doing so, she ferrets out the inconsistencies of these relationships, and how the moral code imposed on men and women differs from what happens under the surface. Through different situations, she exposes this reality with humor and irony.
  Esther Greenwood, the main character, tells us her story  in a conversational style that is effortless and captivating--Sylvia Plath knows where to place her metaphors. The raw honesty of her thoughts bemused me.
    How can we fail to understand what a depressive person feels after we have read the following remark?
   “If Mrs. Guinea had given me a ticket to Europe, or a round-the-world cruise, it wouldn't have made one scrap of difference to me, because wherever I sat—on the deck of a ship or at a street cafĂ© in Paris or Bangkok—I would be sitting under the same glass bell jar, stewing in my own sour air.”
  Esther sees the world and her life through the stifling glass of “the bell jar”: her depression. Before descending to the bottom of her nervous breakdown, she dithers over what she should be doing with her life, what paths are the ones she should choose.
   Her doubts unsettle her. She is trapped in a snare, caught up by the false belief that she will not make the right decisions and will lose her chances to accomplish something meaningful. The metaphor of the tree illustrates her concerns.
   “From the tip of every branch, like a fat purple fig, a wonderful future beckoned and winked. One fig was a husband and a happy home and children, and another fig was a famous poet and another fig was a brilliant professor, and another fig was Ee Gee, the amazing editor, and another fig was Europe and Africa and South America, and another fig was Constantin and Socrates and Attila and a pack of other lovers with queer names and offbeat professions, and another fig was an Olympic lady crew champion, and beyond and above these figs were many more figs I couldn’t quite make out.
  “I saw myself sitting in the crotch of this fig tree, starving to death, just because I couldn't make up my mind which of the figs I would choose. I wanted each and every one of them, but choosing one meant losing all the rest, and, as I sat there, unable to decide, the figs began to wrinkle and go black, and, one by one, they plopped to the ground at my feet.”
  Her experiences in the asylums are memorable and interesting. It is hard for the reader to forget her acquaintance, Joan, who is almost like a friend to her despite the fact that she had dated the same man: Buddy Willard, a medical student.
 The ambiguity of the relationship between Joan and Esther is a recurrent theme. Esther states that she does not like Joan. Yet she also admits that she will always treasure her. "I thought I would always treasure Joan. It was as if we had been forced together by some overwhelming circumstances, like war or plague, and shared a world of our own."
 Interestingly, Joan's final decision foreshadows Sylvia Plath's destiny, and one cannot help but wonder about the blurred boundaries between fiction and reality.
  Another riveting aspect of "The Bell Jar" is revealed to us in the relationships she had with the psychiatrists who treated her. First, the cold distant encounter with her first psychiatrist, Dr Gordon. The treatment started by Dr Gordon was unsuccessful. Then with her second psychiatrist, Dr Nolan, she had a friendly relationship cemented by trust, and the outcome was different (Dr Nolan was also more knowledgeable). Through precise body language and realistic dialogues, Sylvia makes this relationship jump out of the page.
   I think physicians and psychiatrists will benefit from reading this novel, even though the set of events took place in 1953, when Sylvia Plath was a freshman in college.
   Many of the problems portrayed in this novel are universal. This is a literary classic that I thoroughly enjoyed, not only because her writing style is impeccable but also because her reality is as relevant today as it was in 1953.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Gift


A day so happy.
Fog lifted early, I worked in the garden.
Hummingbirds were stopping over honeysuckle flowers.

There was no thing on earth I wanted to possess.
I knew no one worth my envying him.
Whatever evil I had suffered, I forgot.
To think that once I was the same man did not embarrass me.
In my body I felt no pain.
When straightening up, I saw the blue sea and sails.

Czelaw Milosz

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Passion


I mentioned the word passion on my previous post.
What is passion?
 I believe passion is the essence of any kind of art. In my writing life passion is the intense desire to create something with words. It is attached to discipline. Discipline is what helps you to attain your goals.
  My main goal is to read and write something meaningful. Let me be clear on this:  my passion is not to convince people to read what I write.
 Working on your creative passion brightens the shore of your island. It invites you to see the world through refreshed eyes.
  I also believe that being passionate is about being sensitive. Our societies may mock sensitivity and there is a general trend to believe that being sensitive means being weak. I disagree.
  Being sensitive makes you stronger. Being sensitive is about feeling the world under your skin. This does not make you weak. It makes you more compassionate and mindful, and it invites you to expand in different directions and to embrace the bittersweet side of life.
    Being passionate encourages you to create ripples that will reach the shore of other islands and universes.
  Working on your creative passion makes you feel the heat of spring amid the winter; it brings you a cool breeze in the summer. It’s like holding onto a raft in the turbulent waters of life.
    Working on your creative passion enables you to grow flowers in the desert and it infuses you with the resilience of a weed that survives a drought. Your passionate creativity transports you to diverse settings and will enhance your own identity by pouring over you a different one.
  There’s a time to feel sad and a time to feel happy, and the pain of different situations opens up bridges and highways to other souls. You need your solitude just as you need your time to share a part of yourself with others.
   Being passionate is what allows you to appreciate the beauty around you and to celebrate each second of your life because being sensitive is about being alive. (If you can’t feel pain, you are not as alive as you think you are).
  Being passionate is about conjuring up a world of possibilities under the rocks that you encounter in your journey. Working on your passion is like being inhabited by a population of birds in the core of your being. You watch the birds fly away in different directions, and you feel the bliss of knowing that a part of you exists in those birds while your feet are happily dancing on the ground.


Sunday, August 25, 2013

Two of my short stories are out there...


 as part of two different anthologies, both in kindle and paperback.

  My short story “The Broken Wing of Your Ideal” is about a woman who volunteers to recruit people who want to learn to read and write  in a poor neighborhood in Buenos Aires.
  This short story was accepted for the  Freedom Forge Press Anthology, which is a compilation of essays and fictional tales related to freedom.
  My story "A Hospital in Latin America" is included in the "You, Me & a Bit of We" Anthology. It is based on a true story that I fictionalized.
 The "You, Me & a Bit of We" Anthology is a celebration of writing in first and second person.
  I will probably be blogging less frequently in September because I will focus on other writing projects that need my attention. The news is that my blogging schedule will continue to be irregular on a regular basis.
  My question for you is the following: Do you prefer other bloggers to have a regular blogging schedule or are you indifferent to it?
   Another important reason for blogging less frequently is that I’m also starting a new job in September. Outside my writing life I have another career that I love. I don't make a living writing. Writing is  a passion, an inner call that I cannot silence. It is something I will do until I die. In fact, there is nothing I do without passion.
 I am made of passion. 
  Till next time.


Friday, August 23, 2013

Happy birthday, Jorge Luis Borges


 "A writer-- and, I believe, generally all persons-- must think that whatever happens to him or her is a resource. All things have been given to us for a purpose, and an artist must feel this more intensely. All that happens to us, including our humiliations, our misfortunes, our embarrassments, all is given to us as raw material, as clay, so that we may shape our art."

"Writing is nothing more than a guided dream."

"The mind was dreaming. The world was its dream."

"You have wakened not out of sleep, but into a prior dream, and that dream lies within another, and so on, to infinity, which is the number of grains of sand. The path that you are to take is endless, and you will die before you have truly awakened."

"A book is more than a verbal structure or series of verbal structures; it is the dialogue it establishes with its reader and the intonation it imposes upon his voice and the changeable and durable images it leaves in his memory. A book is not an isolated being: it is a relationship, an axis of innumerable relationships."

  I've been reading short stories and essays from "Labyrinths", a compilation of some of his work.
  How can  I describe the originality of his work? I can say that his stories are inspiring to the mind. He writes about the infinite, dreams, labyrinths and immortality. He creates imaginary and symbolic worlds while playing with the possibilities of time and space.
  His stories have historical, literary and philosophical allusions. Even if you can't grasp everything he intends to communicate, reading his stories awakens and fuels your imagination.
 Borges opens doors to unknown infinite corridors in the tunnel of the mind. He invites you to see the universe from imaginary perspectives. The power of his originality is intense. His prose is poetic and profound.
  Borges never wrote a novel. He crafted short stories, essays and poems. He identified himself first as a reader, then as a poet, and finally as a prose writer. Sometimes the boundaries between fiction and non-fiction  in his stories are blurred.
  Borges was born in Argentina, but he was nurtured on universal literature. His spiritual homeland was the world. In Argentina he was at odds with the Peronist dictatorship. For political reasons he lost his job as a librarian.
   "Any great and lasting book must be ambiguous, " he said.
   His international recognition came with the 1961 Formentor Prize, which he shared with Samuel Beckett.
  I shared a couple of his poems on my blog not long ago:

Everness
The Art of Poetry

Happy birthday, Jorge Luis Borges. Thank you for your legacy.

The Enigmas (poem)

I who am singing these lines today
Will be tomorrow the enigmatic corpse
Who dwells in a realm, magical and barren,
Without a before or an after or a when.
So say the mystics. I say I believe
Myself undeserving of Heaven or of Hell,
But make no predictions. Each man's tale
Shifts like the watery forms of Proteus.
What errant labyrinth, what blinding flash
Of splendor and glory shall become my fate
When the end of this adventure presents me with
The curious experience of death?
I want to drink its crystal-pure oblivion,
To be forever; but never to have been.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

On lakes, ecopoetry and other matters



"To see a World in a grain of sand
   And a heaven in a Wild Flower
   Hold infinity in the palm of your hand
   And eternity in an hour."
 William Blake

 Who doesn't like to gaze at a blue lake? Who doesn't enjoy to soak the feet in its cool waters on a hot summer day? Don't we all enjoy the softness of the wet sand on our skin?
  Wisconsin lakes are associated with happy memories and experiences.
   Going to the beach, however, has become an unpleasant experience. The water in some places is now pestered by algae, and it stinks. Some areas  of sand look like coffee grounds. I noticed these changes last year when we lived  close to lake Michigan.
  Five years ago the water was clear. A friend of mine also encouraged me to look into the matter  after she expressed some concerns about the lakes in Wisconsin.
   One of the main culprits is pollution from factory farms. Unfortunately, the state is letting the industrial farms ignore water laws that protect the lakes.
    Industrial agriculture in Wisconsin creates as much untreated waste as 69 million people. That is 100 times more than the population of Milwaukee. Much of this animal waste ends up as run off pollution in the lakes, making them unfit for swimming, fishing or other activities. This waste is also associated with the proliferation of algae.
    It  is very important to make sure that the factory farms comply with the laws. You can read more on this here.
 
   Reading about ecology and the consequences of human interaction with the environment inspired me to write ecopoetry. I learned about this term for the first time when I came across this book at the library. It has a nice variety of nature poems and poems that deal with the interaction of human beings and the environment.
   How do we define ecopoetry? I did a google search to clarify this because I find the concept intriguing and interesting.
    Ecopoetry investigates the relationship between nature and culture, language and perception. Poetry is not limited by the intellect. It goes beyond the intellect and can provide deeper insights because it is intimately related to emotions and perceptions. It explores the connection between human beings and their environment, acknowledging that we cannot exist as separate entities.
    Even though there is no precise definition, the word ecopoetry embraces the ecological imperative for personal sensitivity and social change.
     James Engelhardt's essay "The Language Habitat, An Ecopoetry Manifesto" published at Octopus Magazine states that ecopoetry is about "connection". Poetry is a place to observe, to think, to negotiate between human and non-human concerns, to engage with environmental issues, whether directly or indirectly.
    Ecopoetry has an open-ended ability to ask questions.
 This is a list of literary journals and/or websites that have an interest in ecopoetry and environmental issues. If you would like to add a website or magazine that has an interest in environmental issues, feel free to let me know. Thank you.
Plumwood Mountain
Verse Wisconsin
http://poecology.org/
Octopus Magazine
Flyway
http://www.susanrichardsonwriter.co.uk/poet/ecopoetry





Friday, August 2, 2013

Life stories and a meaningful cause



"Many of the things can wait. The child cannot. Right now is the time his bones are being formed, his blood is being made, and his senses are being developed. To him we cannot answer 'Tomorrow'; his name is 'Today'." Gabriela Mistral

    Sharon Bradshaw put together and edited a bunch of short stories and poems for a meaningful cause.
  The Hope and Dreams Anthology is about hope, endurance, love and second chances.
  
    My favorite story is “Amosi”, by Josephine Lilian Alice Grinham. This is the true story of a British woman who spent four years living in Tanzania. While she was there she hired a servant, Amosi.
   This story that moved me to tears will make you realize that little things we do can have a huge impact on somebody’s life. Sometimes we are too busy to notice this. All I am going to say is that Amosi is not a character that you will forget. This is a tale of honesty and friendship.

   Peter Caunt’s story “The End of School” is about a child in Africa, James, who is highly motivated to learn and study, but the school building has just been demolished for unclear reasons.
 The school building had been built by community volunteers with very few resources. His grandfather had dragged raw material for miles to help make this dream possible.
  James’s enthusiasm to learn, however, will be stronger than the effects of the destruction of the school building that had involved the work of many community volunteers.
  This anthology supports a cause in Ifakara, Tanzania, where weather changes can affect the harvest and become a cause for starvation. 
  In 2001 the contributors of the Free Bread Funds Ifakara supported the bakery project by helping to cover the costs for transport, clearing and installations. The Sisters of St Francis were trained to work on this project and now the bakery is self-funded.
  The bakery saves them from starvation, provides employment and also supplies bread to the Lepra Village and the local Orphanage.
   The supply of bread has had a positive effect on the children’s attention span. Over 80 % of the Free Bread Funds go to children, and they supply daily bread to nine wards of the St Francis Hospital and the Nazareti Leprosy Center.
 The bakery is kept clean, and the machines work well and are properly maintained. The Sisters make sure that everyone in need has access to bread irrespective of any tribal or religious affiliations.
   The Free Bread Funds have provided an irrigation system and now the farmers can grow rice, beans and spinach. Now the local people can afford medicine and have the resources to educate their kids.
    The Free Bread Funds continue to support this to make sure that no kid goes without bread. This anthology supports the Free Bread Funds and the Ifakara Bakery Project.
   For more information feel free to visit their website:
     “I cried because I had no shoes, when I saw a man who had no feet.” Mahatma Gandhi

  

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Mysteries to be unfolded


"Human beings are not issues to be fixed; they are mysteries to be unfolded."

 I came across this quote last week. I can't remember the name of the person who wrote it, but it motivated me to write this post.
 In this technological era it is easy to forget that human beings are not like computers. The intellect is not enough to understand them. Human beings have feelings and emotions. They are not iPads and iPhones. (Paradoxically, those who belittle other people because of their weaknesses are blind to their own foibles).
 It is tempting to believe that a magic pill or something similar will "fix" their issues.
 I love listening to people. When I do, I pay attention to every word they say. I don't ask too much. I just listen with an open attitude, providing support and reassurance. That's when people dare to expose their life stories.
 That's when I encounter questions that have no answers.

Mi mind is focused on  the energy of new projects.
I hope your mind is also brimming with energy. Have a good week.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

The lives of poets of the twentieth century





Even if you are not interested in poetry you may still be entranced by the lives of the poets portrayed in these fascinating anthologies. Many of these poets did not make a living writing poetry and this “double life” makes them, in my opinion, much more interesting.   
 
  Such was the case of William Carlos Williams, a pediatrician who jotted down his poems between examinations and house calls, often on prescription pads. His friend Wallace Stevens also had a double life.  Wallace Stevens was as forward-thinking in insurance as he was original in poetry, but he kept his two lines separate.
   T.S. Eliot presented himself as a businessman. His most important works of poetry emerged from his intellectual struggles and the emotional crises of his private life.
  Other poets whose lives I found interesting and somewhat chaotic were Ezra Pound, Hilda Doolittle, Anne Sexton, Elizabeth Bishop, Sylvia Plath and many others. This is an excellent selection of English-speaking poets of the twentieth century that kept me turning the pages. The individual introductions provide biographical details with historical background that are followed by samples of their work. Their poems piqued my curiosity to read more by them. The selection and writing of  this book was done by Joseph Parisi, former editor of Poetry Magazine.
 

     
Another great anthology I borrowed from the library is called The Poetry of Our World. This one brings together poets from all over the world (Europe, the English-speaking world, Latin America, Africa and Asia). The presentation of the poets resembles the one of the book I discussed above.
  We are invited to understand the circumstances of their lives, challenges and historical setting.
    This book, however, has an important flaw in the selection of Latin American poets. Nothing is said about Gabriela Mistral, winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1945. Gabriela was a poet from Chile who was ostracized in her own country for being honest and straightforward in her writing and also for being a woman.
   Other important poets that were not even mentioned are Alfonsina Storni from Argentina and Juana de Ibarbourou from Uruguay
    It dawned on me that out of the 15 poets from Latin America that are included in this anthology only one is female: Claribel Alegria. And the reason why she was included was that she had met the writer of this section in person. The writer of this section is Carolyn Forche.
   This past weekend I contacted Carolyn Forche, award winner poet and professor at Georgetown University, to ask her why they had ignored these remarkable poets. I also pointed out the bias against female poets. There is no reason to believe that these women are less talented than their male counterparts (Pablo Neruda, Cesar Vallejo, Jorge Luis Borges and others).
    Forche said that she had not made the selection herself and was unable to provide any more information. At least I sparked her curiosity. (Now she is also wondering about this bias).
    If you can read in Spanish, feel free to read the articles I wrote about Gabriela Mistral and Alfonsina Storni two years ago. If you don’t read in Spanish and are interested in them, you can google their names. (You may end up finding the reason why they were not included in this anthology).
   What I learned from this experience is that these poets who had to endure gender discrimination in their own countries during their lifetime, continue to endure it now that they are dead.
  Perhaps it's time for a discussion on elitism in literature.
  Till my next post. ( I may not post on Sunday because I will be busy working on a deadline, but I will try).


Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Everness




  One thing does not exist: Oblivion
  God saves the metal and he saves the dross,
  And his prophetic memory guards from loss
  The moons to come, and those of evenings gone.

   Everything is: the shadows in the glass
   Which, in between the day's two twilights, you
   Have scattered by the thousands, or shall strew
   Henceforward in the mirrors that you pass.
   And everything is part of that diverse
   Crystalline memory, the universe;
   Whoever through its endless mazes wanders
   Hears door on door click shut behind his stride,
   And only from the sunset's farther side
   Shall view at last the Archetypes and the Splendors.

    Jorge Luis Borges. Translated by Richard Wilbur
     

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Online resources for writers


I've gathered a few websites for writers. I’m sure every writer will find something of value on this blog post.
Have fun navigating the sites!
http://writingcareer.com

Freelance writing This site offers job listings, literary contests and interesting articles.


www.oncewritten.com This site gives you tips on how to publish and promote your book, opportunities and contests.

copyright.gov   All you need to know about copyright issues, rules and regulations is here.



Critique Circle   If you need feedback on your work this online literary group is the one I recommend.  In the past I tried different literary groups and I settled for this one. Their system is wonderful and easy to use.  It is password protected, so the work you share is only available to cc members.

http://startbloggingonline.com/  This website if for those who want to learn more about the art of blogging. 

Friday, May 24, 2013

Books I've been reading




  If you enjoy reading real life stories, this book is for you. Jill Ker Conway put together the autobiographies of twenty-five American women whose lives have been remarkable.
   These life stories will stun you, make you laugh, cry and enchant you. I promise you that this book will energize you.
   These autobiographies transport you to different places in the United States in the nineteenth and the twentieth century.Going back in time and being in these women's shoes broadened my outlook and perspectives. I was inspired by their courage, resilience and passions. 
 Their words will entertain you and educate you. Above all, they will fuel your own passions and fill you with hope.
 Before each woman’s story Jill Ker Conway  wrote an essay on the historical context  and a biographical sketch. You will dive into the lives of writers, physicians, scientists, reformers, anthropologists, musicians, artists, and former slaves.
    Some of the women included in this anthology are Margaret Mead, Dorothy Reed Mendenhall, Margaret Floy Washburn, Harriet Ann Jacobs, Maya Angelou, Maxine Hong Kingston, Lucy Larcom, Margaret Bourke-White, Anne Walter Fearn, Margaret Sanger and many others.


 I've been somewhat obsessed with  Emily Dickinson's poetry lately. This is a book of essays on Emily Dickinson's poetry. It has an introduction by Harold Bloom. These essays analyze Dickinson's poems and provide interesting insights into her thoughts, perspectives and life experience. I found it riveting.






   
                                      This is an excellent selection of poems from all over the world. These vivid poems dig deep into the human soul, life and love while expressing an intimate connection to nature. Through metaphors and insightful reflections we are invited to view life as an intriguing journey of possibilities. I enjoyed reading and re-reading this selection and now I look forward to checking more of Roger Housden's poetry anthologies.
  Some of the poets included here are Emily Dickinson, Mary Oliver, William Wordsworth, Robert Frost, T.S. Eliot, David Whyte, Antonio Machado, Juan Ramon Jimenez, Rumi and many others. Some of these poems are intoxicating. I feel compelled to read them many times.

                                             


                   
 
               Edited by Catherine Bowman, Word of Mouth is an anthology that includes very different voices. Some of the stories narrated by these poems are shocking and will stay in your head. I am intrigued to read more work by some of these poets because their stories piqued my curiosity. (What I love about anthologies is that they introduce me to writers I've never read before).



I was going to add a list of books I'd like to read but this blog post is too long already. (Some of the books I'm planning to read were written by bloggers I follow). I will write this list on one of my next posts...
Are you planning to read anything in the near future? Would you like to recommend a book?
 Have a beautiful weekend.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Something different




Today I am guest blogging on Squalorly, a literary magazine. Please, come and read me here. I will appreciate your comments. 
Thank you!

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Spring


Spring is here. Do you like to contemplate the transformation of nature?



Friday, May 3, 2013

Open Windows, my flash fiction piece in Epiphany Magazine


 My flash fiction piece "Open Windows" was published in the May issue of Epiphany Magazine .You can read it here. It is available for free online.
 Warning: this blog entry is not a lighthearted one. It is related to the theme of Open Windows.

  I would like to write about the woman who inspired me to write this story: Susana Trimarco. Susana Trimarco was a conventional woman living in Tucuman, an Argentine province, until her life changed forever on April 3, 2002.
 On this date, her twenty-three year old daughter, Maria de Los Angeles Veron (Marita), went to a medical appointment but never reached her destination. (The picture I posted on this blog entry is a photo of Marita Veron).
  Her partner and her parents reported her disappearance to the police on that same day, but the police officer made fun of them. He said she might have run away with another man.
  A witness reported that Marita had been forced to get into a red car by a group of men. Far from supporting Susana, the police ignored her. Susana decided to take the matter into her own hands. 
  While investigating the matter, Susana raised her grandchild, Micaela. Micaela was only two years old when her mother, Marita, disappeared.
   There is plenty of evidence that Marita has been kidnapped and forced into prostitution. In other words, she has been sold as a commodity and used as a sex slave.
  Even though Susana received several death threats, she  never gave in to fear. As a result of her search, she discovered a criminal network of Human Trafficking and, over time, she was able to release hundreds of women and girls.
  Risking her own life, she visited brothels to gather information and find her own daughter. She pretended she had the intention to buy girls or women. In doing so, she ended up saving more victims, but not Marita. Anahi, a young woman who was set free after being a victim of sexual trafficking reported that she had seen Marita in the same brothel where they had been used as sex slaves. Some of the victims are sold to networks in other countries.
     Susana started a foundation called Fundacion Maria de los Angeles, an organization that rescues victims of human trafficking and provides counseling and social assistance.
    In 2008 Susana Trimarco’s efforts led to legislation that prohibits human trafficking in Argentina. Since then, 3,000 people have been saved, but the problem still exists. (Marita disappeared when the act of trafficking  was not  even contemplated by the Argentine law; hence, it was not considered illegal).
   In 2007, on International Woman’s Day, the US Department of State honored Trimarco with the International Women of Courage Award.
   In 2012 Canada honored her with the John Diefenbaker Defender of Human Rights and Freedom Award.
   Unfortunately, her husband, Marita’s father, died in 2010. Yet Susana Trimarco never stopped searching for their daughter. In December 2012, despite the overwhelming evidence against those who were involved in the kidnapping and trafficking of Marita Veron, the judges dismissed all the information provided by the witnesses, and the accused ones were all released.
    Susana Trimarco has been nominated for the 2013 Nobel Peace Prize, but the only award that she yearns for is to find her daughter. Eleven years after her disappearance she is still looking for her. And she will never give up.

Important note: this is not an isolated case. Forced prostitution and human trafficking are real ongoing problems that exist not just in developing countries but also in the United States and Europe. Here's a link to clarify some misconceptions: http://www.ksmm.admin.ch/ksmm/en/home/themen/menschenhandel/irrmeinungen.html

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Creating characters for a story


"The creation of something new is not accomplished by the intellect but by the play instinct acting from inner necessity. The creative mind plays with the objects it loves." Carl Jung

  There is something enigmatic about the art of crafting a character. Once the characters become vivid to us, they acquire a life of their own. We no longer control their experiences.
  Last year I wrote a blog entry that said that characters don't need to be likable, but they do need to feel real. However, I also have to admit that it is easier to seduce your readers when they root for one of your characters. In other words, when readers identify with one of your characters in some way, they feel more motivated to read the story because they imagine themselves in the character’s situation. They are eager to know what would happen to them if they did what the character is doing.
  As a writer you dare to explore emotional situations that make others feel embarrassed, scared or threatened. Being a fiction writer involves the challenging task of being in somebody else’s shoes because you need to see the world from your character’s perspective.
     This is an invitation to open your mind to possibilities you've never imagined before. You experience a new life, forging your way through a labyrinth you are not entirely familiar with. It means stepping out of your comfort zone. You need to be bold.
    When you embark on this challenge, you are behaving like an actor or actress. You bring your characters to life by exposing your own shame, frustration, love, passion, insecurities, fears, anger or whatever emotions are needed. 
   This experience can be very profound and it needs an open mind and heart. It requires compassion and patience. Otherwise, the story will not sound real. It will sound judgmental and shallow. Even if you don't agree with your character, you make every attempt to understand him/her.
   A part of you needs to love the character, and while you write your story you become the character, but you are not the character.
     So, as a reader, do you like to identify with at least one of the characters in a story? 
   As a writer, what is your relationship with your characters like? 

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Pablo Picasso's Guernica




“Inspiration exists, but it has to find us working.” Pablo Picasso

  A couple of weeks ago I attended an exhibition of Picasso’s work. It motivated me to read about his life and it helped me to understand how his art is connected to the social issues of his time and to the turmoil of his personal experiences.
 The reasons I found this exhibition fascinating are the following:
-Picasso was daring. He was not afraid of innovating and he pioneered an art movement called cubism (more on this on a future post).
-The variety of his work amazed me. His art evolved through different phases that correlated with his life and his social setting.
-His long life-- he died at age 91 -- enabled him to create a massive amount of artwork. Interestingly, he lived in two different centuries.

Today I will focus on his most famous masterpiece: Guernica.

  When I was a child my mother gave me a book of famous paintings by different artists. It included riveting explanations about each of the masterpieces. One of them was Guernica. The emotional impact it had on me must have been strong, for I never forgot this painting.
   Pablo Picasso (1881-1973) was born in Spain, but he migrated to France. While he was living in Paris he was shocked by the news of the bombing of Guernica, a small Basque town in Northern Spain.
   On April 26, 1937, Nazi airplanes, backed by the extremist right wing forces of General Francisco Franco, bombed Guernica and 1,600 civilians were killed. The small town burned for three days. The attack took place on a Monday because many people who lived on the farms went to the market on that day of the week. Those who tried to escape were shot from airplane machine guns or were blown up with explosives.
  Pablo Picasso’s rage at this atrocity inspired him to paint "Guernica", which is described as "the most important work of art of the twentieth century". When he painted it, Picasso intended to expose the suffering and desperation that are inevitably attached to any war.
  Guernica is a mural-sized oil painting. It is 11 feet tall (3.5 m) and 25.6 feet long (7.8m). Most of the people in the painting express despair and terror. 
  If we go from left to right, the first figure  we see is that of a woman. You can almost hear her shrieking. She is holding her dead baby. Her eyes express profound anguish. Her naked bosom suggests that she might have been nursing her baby when the bombings struck the town.
  The next thing you see is a bull. The image of it is controversial. He is merely a witness of the woman’s grief. There are different interpretations about the bull. Some people believe that the bull could be somebody who, like Picasso, watches these calamities as an outsider: he is not physically wounded, but he is emotionally touched. Picasso refused to attribute a meaning to it, but bulls are a recurrent element in his artwork (the “minotauro" has the head of a bull and the body of a man) and he associated it with lust and behaviors or emotions that are out of control.
  There is a horse lying in agony. It symbolizes the suffering of the people of Spain, a country ravaged by war. There is chaos all around.
 A dead soldier is lying on the ground; his eyes express pain. His fight had no influence on the outcome of the bombings of Guernica. His arm is grasping a sword and a bunch of flowers. The flowers may represent his ideals, or they may be a symbol of  hope. On the right side of the painting there is a woman on fire.
  The painting is done in black, white and different shades of gray, most likely to depict a gloomy atmosphere. It may also be a symbol of the fact that the news of the war spread through newspapers.
    Guernica was first exhibited at the 1937 World’s Fair held in Paris as part of a display of Spanish art. After this exhibition it traveled to England, Spain and Scandinavian countries. Then it toured the United States of America. It is now exhibited in the Museo Reina Sofia in Madrid, Spain.
 Had it not been for Picasso, the bombing of Guernica might have been forgotten by the world. Yet the theme of this painting is timeless and powerful. 
      

Sunday, April 21, 2013

To the Arctic


  "As mothers, the greatest gift we can pass on to our children is a healthy planet."

   Would you like to swim underwater close to polar bears?  Would you enjoy flying over the ocean? How about floating near huge masses of ice?  If you've been to an IMAX theater you know what I am talking about.
 
  "To the Arctic" is a captivating documentary about the Arctic. During the mid winter months the sun never rises in the Arctic and average temperatures are around -40 F; in the summer the sun never sets.
   Polar bears are mysterious, intriguing creatures. The Arctic is their home and there is no other place on earth where they can live and thrive.
   This white universe, the Arctic, is warming twice as fast as any other region of the planet. If the sea ice continues to melt at the current speed there will be no sea ice by the year 2,050.

  Due to these changes, polar bears are struggling to survive and new challenges arise. It is getting hard for them to catch seals, and some male polar bears resort to cubs (baby polar bears) as a source of food.
  Mother polar bears take two years to raise their cubs. During this time they nurture them and train them to become independent. These mothers are determined to protect their cubs from the hungry male polar bears, and they do so at the expense of their own lives. They are ready to sacrifice themselves to protect their offspring.
 There is a scene in which a mother deters a male bear from catching her offspring. Her courage and tenacity win the battle.
  Let's hope this motherly love will inspire mankind to save the Arctic...



Have a peaceful week.