Thursday, January 1, 2015

Finding my Heartbeat



2015...  it's here, right on time.

Are you ready?


In my absence over the last few weeks, I've had some time to think about my goals for 2015 and the "one little word" that I would like to accompany me on this year's journey.

Sometimes when life gets crazy, it takes more than one word to keep me focused and headed in the right direction.  At these times, I turn to Mentors for Rent as my compass.  Laura Purdie Salas and Lisa Bullard are my "combobulators" when I'm feeling discombobulated.  Their understanding of my situation is always spot on and their career guidance has been invaluable.

One thing they've suggested I think about is how I want others to view me as a poet and writer. What overriding quality do I want readers to associate with my work?  The essence of my voice, one might say.  I like to think of it as my heartbeat– the quiet, steady pulse of creativity that beats underneath all those layers of distraction.

         ba-boom...

                   ba-boom...

                             ba-boom...

To be honest, I've thought about this a lot and pretty much have no clue.  I can find that essence in others, but it's much harder to pinpoint in myself.  Take Donna Smith, for example. As part of  Tabatha Yeatts' Winter Poetry Swap, I received this original poem and gorgeous bookmark, harvested from treasures Donna found at the ocean's edge.

She describes the form of her poem as follows:
"I have written a Renga, meaning "linked verse," though technically, you need two people to write a Renga. It predates and is related to the Haiku. The beginning three lines have the 5-7-5 pattern of syllables followed by two lines of 7 syllables each. The first three lines are the "Hokku," and are what we now call a Haiku. One person started the Hokku, and the second two lines were traditionally supplied by another person as a response to the Hokku. I added the rhyming. It is not an element of a Renga. A true Renga is quite complex in its format requirements, but I have simply focused on one subject and the traditional syllable counts for my Renga."

Donna writes, "I have always been
curious about the stories behind
each treasure I find at the ocean.
Where did it come from? How did it
come to be here in my hand? How
will its story continue now that I
have become a part of the journey?"
Sea Glass

muted opaline
edges now smooth-worn, once keen
etched with words unseen
     traveling long miles and years
     losing shards and shedding tears

gritty sand, slipping,
shattering, scraping, chipping–
emerging dripping
     from dark reigning ocean's hold
     light of day becoming bold

sand delivery
unceremoniously
washed ashore from sea
     untold cold hidden story
     from rough to rounded glory

cupped in hands today
fingers gently smooth away
sandy disarray
     carved of sea in curve of hand
     rescued slave of salt and sand

discerning eyes peer
held to sun, or drawn in near
story still unclear
     abandoned, useless, broken
     or lost and well-loved token?

vagabond of yore
jetsam strewn on ocean floor
beached, this journey o'er
     returned, rekindling pleasure
     as worn and well-turned treasure

     by Donna JT Smith, December 2014


I cannot think of Donna without thinking of her beloved coastal home. For me, the two are intertwined.  Of course there's much more to Donna.  I think about her love of family and her grandson.  I think about the clever ways she adapts and creates new poetry forms. But what really sticks with me is her experience of "home."

There are so many moods of me, I'm not sure what people would say is the overriding quality of my work– that elusive heartbeat.  I do know I would like spend some time nurturing my self-awareness.  That's why I've chosen "heartbeat" as my one little word for 2015. By the end of this year, I hope to be a better listener.

         ba-boom...

                   ba-boom...

                             ba-boom...


It's good to be back, and I look forward to sharing my spotlight interview with Joyce Sidman next week.  In the meantime, please join Tricia Stohr-Hunt for the Poetry Friday roundup at The Miss Rumphius Effect.




38 comments:

  1. Beautiful poem! I haven't found my 'essence', either - I'm guessing I'll know it when I find it. Interesting connection about the Winter Swap poems: Donna got your name, I got Donna's name, and you got mine!

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    1. I guess for now we need to be content with being searchers, Matt. Nice to know I'm in good company. :)

      And yes, what interesting swap webs Tabatha weaves!

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  2. Lots to enjoy in this post, Michelle! I like the way you describe "the quiet, steady pulse of creativity." You picked a good word! Also, I like Donna's "untold cold hidden story/ from rough to rounded glory" and "carved of sea in curve of hand." What a thoughtful gift!

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    1. Thank you, Tabatha. Donna certainly blessed me with a beautiful poem and gift! In writing this post, it was also nice revisiting your superpowers poem from last year. :)

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  3. So happy to see you back, Michelle, and with a post so "filled" with beauty. Donna's poem is delightful and creative and a special gift for you. I love the verse that begins "cupped in hands today". Looking forward to your interview with Joyce Sidman next week! Happy New Year!

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    1. The "cupped" verse is my favorite as well, Linda. Thanks for the warm welcome back. :) I look forward to spending the next couple dozen Fridays with you and our other PF friends!

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  4. Thank you for your kind words and sharing my poem today. Not sure I've found my true voice either. Voice is always scary to me. It's difficult to look at yourself in the writing mirror. Wouldn't it be neat though to be able to look at yourself in a 360 degree writers' mirror? They haven't invented one yet, have they?

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    1. The closest I've found to a 360 degree mirror is my critique group! It was an honor sharing your beautiful poem today, Donna.

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  5. Donna's poem is gorgeous--the last stanza is my favorite. And thank you for the Mentors for Rent shoutout. You know, when I think of you, I tend to think of a light, because you're always shining a light on other people and their work. That's a different think than how people see your work itself, but it's one part of your voice, definitely. I hope 2015 is a year of revelations for you!

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    1. Thanks so much, Laura. Your comment means a lot to me. :)

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  6. This is the part I like:
    "carved of sea in curve of hand
    rescued slave of salt and sand"
    I love those sounds but I feel the sea glass slipping away to freedom--which is what I think will happen with the essence of your voice, Michelle. One thing is sure--it will have rhythm! ba boom ba boom ba boom Happy New Year!

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    1. That's my favorite couplet as well, Heidi.

      And thank you for your encouragement. Rhythm and musicality is definitely on my "getting close" list.

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  7. Thanks for sharing Donna's treasure to you. And for your thoughts about finding your heartbeat. I'm not sure that a poet speaks in one voice--I'd be hard-pressed to find that in my writing. Maybe your voice changes over time and with different subjects and forms--but an individual poem can still have a voice? Maybe I'm just rambling.

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    1. I've had similar thoughts, Buffy. I also think about Pat Lewis whose essence is the very fact that he does have so many voices! He refuses to be categorized. We definitely are far too complex as individuals to put our writing into just one box, but I also think that there must be overriding qualities that cross over. For example, in your writing, your amazing attention to detail comes to mind– the fact that you're such a keen observer. So I guess I'm trying to think of it as, if I was to market myself to the world, how would I describe my writing as a whole?

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  8. One thing I find so comforting in this Poetry Friday community is that we all support each other and we are all in this together. I love the poem Donna sent you and the idea of sea glass having a story. We all have stories. We connect through stories. I honor you and will keep coming back to see how your journey with your heartbeat will be this year.
    We are all on this self-discovery journey. My word is Reach because I want to reach out but also reach inward, discover my essence. We all need that.

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    1. I will continue to follow your story as well, Margaret. Reach is a fabulous OLW and I have no doubt you will go far with it– inward and outward.

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  9. Thanks for sharing Donna's poem, Michelle. And for sharing your journey to your word, heartbeat, and for the words "there are so many moods of me". I think that's how a lot of us feel. You do bring those moods beautifully in your poetry, Michelle.

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    1. Thank you, Penny. What a kind and generous thing to say. I feel a mutual admiration for your work and look forward to another year in the Poets' Garage together!

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  10. Such a rich, deep post, expecially with the question Donna raises in her poem-

    "abandoned, useless, broken
    or lost and well-loved token?"

    and I like that you are sharing your one little word answer, which sounds perfect.

    HNY & I look forward to your PF posts.

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    1. Thank you, Jan– I look forward to your posts as well. What better way to share our experiences of the year than with poetry!

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  11. Thanks for sharing Donna's treasures ( echoing the love for that "carved of sea in curve of hand" line...) - & what a gorgeous bookmark!
    Welcome back - your heartbeat is strong & steady! Happy 2015 - :0)

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    1. As is your heartbeat, my friend. Happy New Year!

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  12. I love the story of how you found your OLW! It will be fun to listen along with you this year.

    (And thank you, Donna, for the education on the Renga form. I have been invited to "Renga" with a couple of other writers, and I wasn't sure what I got myself into!)

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    1. Sounds like fun, Mary Lee! I hope you'll share some of the Renga you'll be writing on your blog.

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  13. Michelle,
    Your search for your voice or "heartbeat" caught my attention. Like you, I am constantly trying to find my voice. It seems easier to think of what my voice is not --- those places where I'm not comfortable writing poetry. Sometimes I think it is not so much finding it as trusting it.

    Sometimes others see our voice more clearly than we do. I recently had this conversation with Mary Lee. She opened my eyes to the possibilities of focusing my voice. Refining. Improving.

    When I first came to your blog in 2013, I came for your voice. There's something about the rhythm in your poetry, the way words just fall together. I'm hoping in your quest, we'll be gifted with more of your poetry as you play in this space in search of a heartbeat.

    I know you'll find it. It's already there. As Glinda, the good witch in the Wizard of Oz says, "You've always had the power, my dear. You just had to learn it for yourself."

    Cathy

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    1. Thank you, Cathy, for the gift of these thoughtful comments! "Sometimes I think it is not so much finding it as trusting it" especially hit home for me. Glinda and I go way back... to fourth grade, actually, when I played her in my school production. I should replay those wise words in my head more often!

      Thank you for the gift of YOUR poetry as well-- for your honest reflections and quiet familiarity. Looking forward to sharing another year of poetry together.

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  14. I've never really been involved in writing renga, but I think what Donna has done is a nice take on the form.

    You still have many years to go to decide who you are as a poet. As my late mother used to say, "slow and steady wins the race." I think that fits in well with your "heartbeat."

    By the way, I love the bookmark and I've been looking at the photo trying to see how the stones and glass are "caged." Sea glass in a pretty wire cage, would make awesome earrings. Too many ideas, too little time...

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    1. Of course you're right, Diane, but "years to go" unfortunately doesn't sit well with my impatient personality. Not to get too deep here, but sometimes I think that is one of the lessons I've been put on this planet to learn-- how to be patient, go with the flow, give up control, blah blah blah. Working on it... sigh. Good luck with those earrings-- they certainly would be beautiful!

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  15. Welcome back. This is a lovely, thought-provoking post. Thanks for sharing these thoughts. Have a happy new year.

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  16. I love how you shared your heart as you search for your heartbeat. I think of you as a poet who is adept with humor yet reaches deeply for what is beneath the surface. I think your combobulators offer wise advice for all of us, though I will say FOCUSING is a big part of my problem. So much to see, so much to do, and then there's my day job . . . glad we are on this journey together.

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    1. Yep. I hear you, Keri. Focus was most definitely in the running for my OLW!
      Thanks so much for your thoughts about my poet's voice. I'm grateful to be in such good company on this journey.

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  17. Michelle, I am so glad that you are back on the air with all of us. As your story unfolded, I was thinking that your OLW was going to be unique so heartbeat is a fitting one. It intricately blends with voice because I believe voice comes from an open heart that is beating in tune to life. You have offered me advice and support and so your heartbeat word will move you toward the essence of what you seek. I am in awe of Donna's poem that unfolds so beautifully; is so detailed and a visual triumph. I listened to both of you (my OLW) and walked away with a feeling of energy in a state of stillness. Thank you.

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    1. Thank you for these kind and generous words, Carol. "I believe voice comes from an open heart that is beating in tune to life" is a wonderful outlook that I will strive to embrace. It also delights me to know you walked away from this post feeling inspired. I'm glad we connected in 2014 and I look forward to continued sharing as we journey into 2015.

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  18. Donna's beautiful poem is a perfect poem to share as you start out on your journey to find your rhythm, your heartbeat. The images it evokes make me long to stand on a beach and discover what "well-turned treasure" they waves will wash up. I'm looking forward to hearing more about where your heartbeat leads you.
    Happy New Year, Michelle!

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    1. I hope you find your "well-turned treasure" in 2015, Catherine... whatever that turns out to be. Happy New Year!

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  19. What a beautiful word for the year: Heartbeat. Donna's poem also resonated with me as I've always thought of myself as a child of the sea too. Gorgeous images that soothe the spirit indeed. Happy New Year Michelle!

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  20. Michelle, here's to you and your robust heartbeat that has ignited my writing along the way. I am listening (my OLW) to its sound as I move along my journey.

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