Art, Creativity, Inspiration, poetry, Poetry Month, Stories, Writing Inspiration

What the Heck is Ekphrastic #Poetry?

 

paper cutout of a couple on a book
Story. Photo by Rossyyme, flickr.com creative commons

 

In the spirit of poetry month, I thought I’d make a poem for this week’s post. Last year, I celebrated the month with the post Late To The Poetry Party, offering a poem and several links to other poets (who actually submit poems and win honors).

Have you ever heard a term that sounded so odd you wanted to blurt, “Say what?”

That’s how I felt when I first heard of Ekphrastic poetry but I didn’t ask the question out loud. First, my mind and tongue tried to wrap itself around the weird word. Second, maybe I didn’t want to hear the definition; sounded like a cutting word.

I heard the word from my writing mentor, Fred Arroyo, who participated in this interesting workshop:

“PINTURA : PALABRA, a project in ekphrasis” is a multi-year initiative that encourages new Latino writing inspired by art, above all a Smithsonian American Art Museum traveling exhibit titled Our America: The Latino Presence in American Art. Aspects of this initiative include ekphrastic writing workshops; inviting writers to engage with the exhibit; and partnering with literary journals to publish portfolios of ekphrastic writing. The exhibit debuted in Washington, D.C. in 2013 and concludes its tour in Sioux City, Iowa in 2017.

You can read how he uses ekphrastic poetry here.

This is from the Poetry Foundation:

An ekphrastic poem is a vivid description of a scene or, more commonly, a work of art. Through the imaginative act of narrating and reflecting on the “action” of a painting or sculpture, the poet may amplify and expand its meaning.

Now, whenever I go to a museum or see a lovely piece of photography, my creative juices begin squirting and sometimes land on something I like.

This is a photo which mesmerized me for a few minutes. A story followed.

 

inside of monastery, sunlight, photo by Helmut Tobies
Photo of Monastery by Helmut Tobies, unsplash.com/creative commons

 

In another time,

another place

sunlight danced on the shoulders

of forbidden lovers

pressed against columns

moist with passion

beneath arches,

                                                          a canopy to cover scandal,

the joyful

sighs of love.

Her velvet gown

crushed by nubby wool

of a friar’s frock,

surrounded by scents of jasmine

and aromatic oils.

More than one great romance

glowed in the shadows

of the setting sun

in another century, in another monastery.

The photo connected with me, perhaps because I love architecture, medieval times, and television shows like “Reign.”

I find that Ekphrastic poetry is a good way to stimulate creativity and can serve as a writing prompt. Many times I need something to propel me to start writing, especially if I’m revising (which is most of the time).

So tell me, what do you see?

Family, Latino culture, Stories, Strong Women

An Expert Interview About Mom’s Amazing Oranges

a bowl of oranges
Oranges

Most Sundays I visit my mother. When you spend time with your parents or elders you never know what story they’re going to share.

Mom came into the kitchen from the backyard holding what I thought was a grapefruit.

“From my tree,” her smile and voice triumphant.

She opened her hands and a boulder of an orange rolled onto the kitchen table where I sat reading her Sunday newspaper.

“That’s huge.” My awe not only resulted from the size of the fruit but the fact my mom has a dwarf orange tree making its size more incredible.

The scent of sweetness and tang sprang into the space around us.

“This is a 220,” she said, smiling with every flick of the peel. “At the packing house, we sorted 220’s from 200’s, 210’s.”

“I’m guessing that’s the weight?” I asked.

“Don’t know, but the 220’s were the best of the best. We wrapped them in Sunkist tissue paper before we put them into a special box, all nice.”

vintage citrus label Princess Call Ranch
Sunkist Oranges-Princess label. Creative Commons.

“Like those Harry and David fruit boxes?”

She continued peeling, clearly not hearing my question. Not only is she legally blind, but she has significant hearing loss, not that anyone can really tell of either impairment since she’s so vivacious.

“Ufff, the conveyor belts filled the warehouse, running above us, on the sides, everywhere. There were the regular oranges, the unblemished ones for supermarkets, not a spot on them, and the perfect ones for shipping. And the not so pretty ones for juice.”

I wondered if the beauty of the perfect oranges became a horror at the end of an eight or ten-hour shift where she stood the entire time. Did they still appear beautiful after a thousand oranges rolled by on the conveyor belt?

citrus packing house, 1940's
1940’s photo of interior of citrus packing house-Creative Commons

“Most all the women in the neighborhood worked there. Lots of chisme (gossip) and jokes, the time passed.”

My memory flashed to a summer job I had during college. I worked the graveyard shift in a similar packing house in Oxnard, California sorting strawberries. The women were not so talkative during the night shift.

The conveyor belt rolled at a quick pace while I snatched bruised or overripe berries off the belt and plopped them into the running stream of water alongside the pulleys. The best were shipped to Japan, the worst sent to be made into jelly.

The frigid air reeked of earth and berries, the cold keeping us awake at three in the morning. At the end of the shift, the berries looked like hordes of crawling red spiders.

I finished the strawberry season but that was the last time I worked in a packing house. Mom and her sisters worked in several fruit and chile packing houses for years: Sunkist, S & W, DelMonte.

She often came home, lugging her plastic apron and gloves to wash, reeking of California green chiles, berries, or fruit oil depending on the season. How did she do it? I’m sure she’d say, “You do what you got to do, as long as it’s honest.”

“Now, let’s see if this 220 is sweet,” Mom said. She sectioned the orange with her fingers, piece by piece, working her fingers down the crevices, picking off the white residue of webbing.

She offered me a wedge before she bit into her own piece. Her eyes fluttered with delight. “Ah, a good one.”

My own piece dripped with sweetness. I smiled, not only for the piece of orange but for my mom’s story and opportunity to visit her past.

 

 

Breast cancer, Cancer, Empowerment, Faith, Fear, Healing, Hope, poetry, Stories, Writing

Empowerment through Poetry

 

And-in-the-end-its-not

Lately thoughts of cancer have floated through my mind. The word is still with a lowercase ‘c’, but it’s there, in my daily life.

I’ve learned to not stuff disturbing thoughts down into my body or heart. They always pop up somewhere, like an evil jack in the box.

When I try to stuff the thoughts, the feelings associated with the word ‘cancer,’ morph into capital letters until the word is entirely in CAPS like it’s screaming out.

I remember a phrase I read from a book whose author I can’t remember:

Feelings are energies that can be moved and transformed.

When I first read that sentence I thought “Wow, that’s empowering.” I get to direct my feelings, move them around, and create something else.

I can stop the stories in my head and create a new story.

So I grab a piece of paper and write out my thoughts, examine them, and try to figure out if I’m feeling anger, grief, fear, or all three.

Many times it’s not necessary to find ‘the answer,’ only to feel the feelings and examine the threads that make the word stand up in my mind.

Sometimes I thread those words together until they become something else, something not scary or ominous.

 

Lowercase cancer

I remember when

cancer had me by the breast

the slash, poison, burn

 a bald toxic dump.

Nurtured by family

powered by faith

seeds of hope planted

until a garden grew

a wasteland no more.

Dare you to try again

been there and back

you will meet defeat

little c

because now I’m not afraid

to die, after I’ve lived

If poetry isn’t your thing, you can also examine or deal with negative feelings by practicing meditation, deep breathing, journaling, listening to your favorite music, drawing, or reading something inspirational.

The point is you can stop the negative feelings in your head and create a new story in your heart.

Make new stories this weekend.

Chingonas, Encouragement, Parenting, Self Care, Stories, Suicide, Uncategorized

Stories We Tell Ourselves

Sometimes I shouldn’t watch so much CNN.

Another young girl committed suicide after she was bullied and tormented on Facebook. She was 14 years old.  After I said a little prayer and asked for her soul to rest in peace, the story stayed with me for a few days.

I thought about how the stories we tell ourselves are often from the words we collect around us. Story can be a narration of the events in the life of a person.  We are especially vulnerable during childhood and our middle years. Words we collect about our self, and tell our self, can often be untrue.

Words like fatty, four-eyes, dork, stupid, ugly, slut, loser, whore… These are like drops of acid. When a word is repeated, the impact is compounded and often difficult to undo. We can tell ourselves these are just words, but if we believe them they become words with meaning. Words we remember.

The good news is that we can give ourself  and others, nurturing, self building words. Words to edit out the negative and create a more truthful story.

What-if-we-told-1

Think about it, how would your life be different?

How would someone else’s life be different?