#WeNeedDIverseBooks, Art, Books, Illustrators, poetry

Reading is the Best Way to Relax


      “A book is proof that humans are capable of working magic,” Carl Sagan 

The week has flown by, riddled with the everyday happenings, participating in the writing challenge of NaNoWriMo, and revising an old manuscript.

Like many of you (I’m assuming) I love to read: poetry, YA, Adult, and Children’s Books. I read during my down time, which is literally when I’m in bed, for an hour or two before I drift off to sleep.

I’ve read some extraordinary books lately: Jean Rhys “The Wide Sargasso Sea,” and Helena Viramontes’ novel, “Their Dogs Came With Them.”  Both five star books, IMHO. These highly emotive, descriptive books had an intensity to them that I loved, but that also exhausted me—in a good way.

Reading doesn’t just keep the mind sharp, possibly stave off Alzheimer’s, and help you sleep better (not if you read horror), but research says reading is the tops in relaxation. Really—they did studies. Here’s the conclusion from the UK-University of Sussex: 

Reading worked best, reducing stress levels by 68 per cent, said cognitive neuropsychologist Dr David Lewis.

Subjects only needed to read, silently, for six minutes to slow down the heart rate and ease tension in the muscles…it got subjects to stress levels lower than before they started.

Listening to music reduced the levels by 61%, have a cup of tea of coffee lowered them by 54% , taking a walk by 42%, and video games, 21%. 

So today I was delighted to come across a children’s book I think I will enjoy. Maria Popova said this about the book she featured for the week:

I was instantly smitten with Pablo Neruda: Poet of the People by Monica Brown, with absolutely stunning illustrations and hand-lettering by artist Julie Paschkis 

Go have a look at the gorgeously illustrated pages that Popova has on her website: Brain Pickings. The colors delight the eyes, the illustrations and words relax the body.

An instant chill pill.

I’ve added this book to my public library list, which has grown now to 10 books on hold.

So relax everyone. Take time out to enjoy your favorite activity to help you gather yourself together and take on the coming week.

poetry, poets, Strong Women

When Lemons Make Poetry

The last roses until spring-alvaradofrazier.com
The last roses until spring-alvaradofrazier.com

This morning I have bunches of pale yellow roses that are the last of the season from a bush I just pruned-a month late.

My rosebush was transplanted, to my backyard fifteen years ago, from someone who tore up their garden to put in kid friendly landscaping.

I also have a dwarf lemon tree.

Which made me think of that platitude, “When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.” That cliché sucks-big time.

Lemons = Lemonade


This phrase makes a euphemism for disappointment, a sorrow, or a hurt seem so cheerily remedied. 

Life doesn’t give you lemonade.  

Life gives you lemons. You give you lemonade. 


The last lemons from my tree-alvaradofrazier.com
The last lemons from my tree-alvaradofrazier.com

Making the lemonade is not an easy process. There is a knife involved. Cutting, twisting, squeezing, and getting a sting from the lemon juice that found the microscopic cut on the side of your fingernail.

After that, you strain the pulp and seeds and pour the result into a pitcher. You’re still not done. Some people don’t want to go through these steps. You have to stick with it, be strong. 

You have to stay with the process, feel the pain, deal with the sting, the squeezing, the separating, look for the honey, the sugar, something to sweeten the tart acidic taste.

It’s a series of steps, it’s not a Lemon=Lemonade instant drink.

And when you stick with it, you have fantastic lemonade which you garnish, with berries or mint. 

I was mulling over all this when I came upon an email from a friend, Michelle Wing.

Michelle is the inaugural featured writer of a new website, Off The Margins, dedicated to women writers.

Her artist statement captivated me. Her poetry, this one in particular, blew me away.

Body on the Wall

They send me a slip of paper
Anger Management – Certificate of Completion
And his name.
As if.

As if twelve weeks of one-hour sessions,
of talking about his feelings,
of tips on counting to ten,
could make him into a new man –

could undo the damage.

I know too well he can con anyone:
Police. Lawyers. Landlords.

And this piece of paper is the last slap
I am ever going to feel.

I walk to my closet, and get my dancing dress,
the little black one that twirls when I move,
that reminds me of freedom and the time before.

Do you want to know what he is like?
I’ll need some tools.

Scissors to slash the hemline.
Blades to rip open sleeves.

A lighter to torch the fluttering strips.
Dirty boots to grind out the flames.

Then a razor, to nick my forearm
so I can smear blood across his name
and pin that piece of paper to my ruined dress.

I bandage my arm, find a hanger –

It is my body on the wall, bruised and battered,
and nobody, nobody, can say they don’t see.


After reading, my lips formed the word “Wow,” my head nodded. I thought of the lemons in my past.

Lemons didn’t only make lemonade, they made poetry.


Go and visit off the margins. Read more excerpts from Michelle’s new book of poetry, “Body On The Wall. It debuts May 15, 2014.

Creativity, poetry, poets, Self Identity

What Stimulates Your Creativity?

This morning We Wanted to Be Writers newsletter popped up first on my reading list. My eyes landed on a headline highlighting a poetry collection by Clare Martin.

For me, few morning rituals are better than a great cup of coffee while perusing a thought provoking poem or article.

Ten poems filled the page.  I ended up reading all of the poems twice, some four times. 

Luis Alberto Urrea, author of Queen of America, says (her poetry is) “dark and lovely and full of a deep organic pulse. Like the landscape of her beloved Louisiana, her work is alive with mystery. You could swim in this hot water, but there are things down inside its darkness that might pull you away forever. It is an exquisite drowning.”

I couldn’t get two of her poems out of my head. Images swirled until I observed the scenes in the poem unfold.

Woman sitting on the edge of the ocean-gettyimages.com
Woman sitting on the edge of the ocean-gettyimages.com


She walks into the sea, out of the sea, into the sea, swinging her arms. Casting the net, her hanging breasts are like soundless bells. She crouches on an outcropping of rocks holding the line. If the nets are empty, her children will feed on night—fill their mouths with clouds, devour stars. She shovels star lit pebbles with a bare foot. She faces the moon, pulling hard. She pulls to her chest, pulls with her back, her thighs, and the muscles of her neck. Her face stiffens with anger. She breathes and desperation breaks. The haul is large, glittering. Spiked fins slap her calves. She bleeds—

Children gather for the slaughter.

First published in Lily Literary Review

Male purple sunbird-gettyimages.com
Male purple sunbird-gettyimages.com


We marry into grief
and the poems pile

up against our ribs.
Secrets hold to us

and we hold to them.
We are bound to endings

as the culmination
of light binds us.

Darkness: a berry,
blood on the tongue—

It has been a long time
since we have written poetry.

Why do we wait?
Fault-lines split the earth.

The ink of the crow
marks the cloud—

Shall we not muse
upon its bantering wings?

Clare Martin’s debut collection of poetry, Eating the Heart First, was published fall 2012 by Press 53 as a Tom Lombardo Selection. These poems are from the collection. 

Several things can help stimulate creativity: walks in nature, a bubble bath, music, looking at a photo, or just being quiet. So what gets your creative side glowing?

poetry, Strong Women

Chyrstos Poetry

Fugitive Colors by Chrystos
Fugitive Colors by Chrystos

My waking hours have been filled with poetry and tissues this last week.

The cold germs found their way past the daily vitamin C I take and turned me into a sneezing, coughing, dry mouthed mess. Thank goodness for the poetry.

Last week, two poets presented an opportunity which I took because I love poetry and I dabble (very lightly) in composing poems myself.

The first poet needed beta readers for an upcoming chapbook, so I read seventy plus pages of melodious words and did some critiquing (as a reader, not a poet).

The second poet, Michelle Wing, an AROHO sister, poet, and Facebook friend (who’s own poetry collection “Body on the Wall” will come out in Spring 2014) posted an interesting game on FB. Anyone who ‘liked’ a poem that she posted would be assigned a poet. In turn, the ‘liker’ would choose a poem by that poet and post it on their FB page.

Michelle assigned me to read poems by Chyrstos, a Menominee rights activist for Turtle Mountain Band of Chipewa, Norma Jean Croy, and Leonard Peltier. Her poems are in numerous anthologies and she has five poetry books published. Many of her poems speak about the living traditions of her people, the edgy rhythms of urban life, and violence.  

These two poems resonated:

The Man Who Couldn’t Live Without Me

I’m sitting at the bus stop holding a pillowcase of dirty laundry

when he informs me passionately,

Baby, you’re my only

real reason for being,

If you love that other bastard

I’ll kill him

Baby I need you

Sunshine ain’t nothing

if you aren’t mine

Laughing I thought he made about

as much sense

as any woman who has said such stuff to me

Pretty efficient to obsess about a complete stranger

since the truth

arrives much faster and less painfully

When her bus comes-she leaves you

No ego loss there

As my J Church rolled up I said,

Bye, bye my one true love

Laughed with myself and every lover

I’d promised to kiss forever

cause I know now the only person I can’t

live without

is me

Not Vanishing

In the scars of my knees you can see
children torn from their families
bludgeoned into government schools
You can see through the pins in my bones
that we are prisoners of a long war
My knee is so badly wounded no one will look at it
The pus of the past oozes from every pore
This infection has gone on for at least 300 years
Our sacred beliefs have been made into pencils
names of cities gas stations
My knee is wounded so badly that I limp constantly
Anger is my crutch I hold myself upright with it
My knee is wounded
How I Am Still Walking

If you love poems that interweave personal stories with edgy narrative, social justice themes, and poems exploring the Native American experience, check out Chyrstos poetry.