A Message from Linda
A few words from Linda Wallin
Past President of Poets & Patrons
I used to be ready with a new message on the first of the month. Lately, the first of the month keeps coming later. How is your writing? With the onset of the holidays, it’s easy to become wrapped up decorating, planning, cooking, gifts for loved ones, and time with friends. Those are all good things, and good for you. Still, neglecting our inner writer is a form of neglecting something that is important to us. It’s necessary for our happiness. How do you fit time in to write?
I continue to reserve one morning a week to writing, but it’s not enough. I belong to four groups of poets who meet regularly or irregularly, and that keeps me from forgetting to write. Those meetings crop up and I want to have something to show others. I can’t be rushed, though. When I have a deadline to meet and I crank out something just for the deadline, I am never satisfied. When I have an idea that won’t go away, that is when something good comes out of my head. It can take months to be happy with the poem, but I don’t mind. It is play to me. Kind of like really hard crossword puzzles or sudoku. Sometimes I write really bad poems that I can’t throw away because of sentimental value. I hope those never get published. Other times, I just write something quickly that’s just a puff of an idea, and it wins an award.
I’ve missed several deadlines lately, so I haven’t gotten anything published lately. It is just too much like work to submit, but I do feel good when I am recognized. Even better is the fact that I won’t ever lose that poem that was so meaningful to me. Okay, okay. I’ll do it. I like Curt Vevang’s method of publishing, so I might just do that! Self-publishing on Amazon, although I don’t like the monopoly Amazon has become.
This year, a friend of mine learned that she had erased all of the poetry she kept online in Dropbox. I am pretty careless with my work, and that made me think of how bad I would feel if I lost everything. Unfortunately, it is not fun to submit work. It’s work. I avoid it for long periods of time, then realize when I am organizing my files that it would only take a computer crash to lose my work. I will gather poems together and send out to several places. It reminds me of the binge and purge of an eating disorder. Fortunately, it’s not bad for my health.
I missed the first of the month for posting this. I missed yesterday for several submissions, and I was beating up on myself for being “lazy.” Then I remembered how seldom I used to even write! Thanks to Poets and Patrons, those days are long gone. I got enough confidence and enough skills to feel like I have something to say and other people might like to hear it. You never know.
Whatever your reasons for not submitting, I challenge you to at least keep writing. Make sure you keep a copy of every poem you have ever written. I have quite a few from “the early days.” I almost cringe when I read them, but there is a progression. I can often see when I am preaching these days and omit it. I also don’t cling to words if they don’t work. That can be another poem.
I hope you are kind to yourself when you write. Perfectionism rears its ugly head on a regular basis in my life. I keep writing, however, imperfect as it is. Every now and then a poem sneaks out without any bidding from me and turns out to be a good one.
I was delighted today when I checked my email and found that the Library of Congress had posted a poem by Billy Collins, who is a favorite of mine.
I am writing from the car repair shop. There are 3 guys who know me well, since I’ve been coming here for years. They know more about cars than I will ever know about poetry. My brothers, sons and former husbands know how to repair cars. Luckily, for me, I know what a chassis is, I can tell if the fuel pump is acting up, and I don’t wait for my car to break down before I go for repairs. Think about the vocabulary associated with cars and car parts. Can you think of a metaphor for a car and use that vocabulary to make your point? Hmm. I might work on that.
For me, the big excitement this month is my daughter’s wedding. The only time I voiced an opinion that it was a good idea to get married, she informed me she was never getting married. I’m glad she changed her mind and I love her fiancé. I purchased my dress in March. My shoes and dress for the rehearsal dinner were in August. I made the ring pillow this week. I’m such a sap for tradition. There’s some more vocabulary for you; license, planners, alterations, reservations, wedding party, ring bearer, and, of course, matrimony.
As a special education teacher, I learned a lot of vocabulary. Klippel-Feil syndrome introduced me to a charming young man who had some disabilities but was clearly gifted. Fragile X, Autism Spectrum Disorder, hearing impairment, intellectual disability, learning disability, vision impairment, emotional disturbance, other health impaired, orthopedic impairment, achromatopsia, spastic quadriplegia, hemiplegia, hypotonia … well, the list goes on. Then add the specialists, such as a psychologist for hearing-impaired, an occupational therapist, vision therapist, speech therapist, physical therapist, autism itinerant, and social worker. Don’t forget administrators, they’ll each have a different title.
What is your set of vocabulary? Please write me and let me know. It is fascinating to a word-lover like me.
Have a great month!
As poets, you probably don’t know who Lisa Call is. She is a quilter whose work I admire. In her email today, she talked about choosing great things over good things. She put her phone by the door so she would stop checking it all day (something I am guilty of) and spent less time on the World Wide Web. By doing this, she freed up time to do some serious thinking about what she wanted to do. She revisited her journal and began writing in it every day. Soon she had begun to create a vision of something great, not just good.
I have been quilting a double wedding ring quilt for my daughter who is getting married next month. For those that don’t know, it is made of rings. Each ring is made of four arcs. Each arc is made of six small polygons. The quilt contains 56 squares and 30 rectangles. The squares have four arcs and the rectangles have one. After the arcs are sewn, a triangle goes on the end of each arc. They form a square when everything is sewn together. It’s important to be precise when you are sewing that many pieces together, but once you have the big picture in your head, it’s just a matter of sewing.
I think this is the opposite of writing. In writing, I may have a big picture in my head, but the individual pieces that I put together can shift and change and go off in their own direction. Often, something surprising comes up.
Don’t forget revising. It’s the same thing. I looked at a poem today that I want to use at a workshop tomorrow. I have revised it three times, but today I saw how I could omit parts of it that were not essential. It had been very prosaic when I started, with no sense of rhythm, but today I feel better about it. To quote Tom Roby and Janene Ravesloot, revision is just seeing your poem from a higher viewpoint.
I hope your writing is going well.
Dear fellow poets,
I hope you are surviving the cold weather. I am on my third bout of cabin fever, with temperatures doing a roller coaster ride. No outside dining this month. I am also waiting for the grass to turn green. It usually does it the third week of March, so we are definitely late this year. I have a slogan I like to bring out once a year. “Live in Chicago so you can wear wool for Easter.” I remember warmer Easters in my past, with a hat, white gloves, and patent leather shoes. That’s history now.
This month we will be participating in the Poetry Fest at Harold Washington Library again. Wilda will be leading a workshop (see below). Poets and Patrons will have a table that you can use to sell your books. This is always an enriching event, with wonderful poets speaking. We will have a table at the Barnes and Noble in Naperville, IL from 1-3 and there will be an open mike and a reading by Lennart Lundh. (https://napervillewritersgroup.org/events/ )
Although I like to participate in workshops and I do write some of my best poems there, at home I like a quiet house. It’s so easy to get distracted by something I hear. I have learned how to let the dust settle and the dishes sit. I used to have to go to a Starbucks to write. Except for the occasional loud telephone conversation, I could shut out the noise and focus on my computer. These days, I like to be home because so much of my poetry is on my external hard drives. I have begun putting my poetry on Google Drive because technology changes so rapidly. I hope Google doesn’t go the way of Netscape and MyURL. You might want to know that they do read everything you put on their site, including email, so be careful. I was recently at a meeting where the treasurer could not get online, so she could’t get access to the records. This was a good reminder to always, always, back up your work. Sending it out into the world will help prolong its life as well. Technology is wonderful, when it works.
Have you thought about the infinite number of ideas that exist just in your mind? You can go back to the past or make up an imaginary future. Think about a time in your life when you were at a crossroads. What if you had made a different choice? What if someone else had? What’s the funniest April Fool’s joke you have experienced? Enjoy your infinite ideas and don’t forget to put them down on paper or computer.
On Saturday, April 28, Wilda Morris will lead a workshop for Poets and Patrons at the Harold Washington Library. Below is a description.
Verbalize It: How the Best Action Word Can Enliven Your Poem led by Wilda Morris
Any kind of verb, even a passive one, may be what your poem needs. The question is how to decide when it strengthens your poem and when it weakens it. If you need or want an active verb, how do you decide which verb to use? What are some creative ways to strengthen your writing by letting verbs do work that is sometimes passed off to adverbs? Activities and sample poems will help participants improve their writing of both poetry and prose.
Wilda Morris is Workshop Chair of Poets & Patrons, and Past-President of the Illinois State Poetry Society. Almost 500 of her poems can be found in on-line and print publications. Her book,Szechwan Shrimp and Fortune Cookies: Poems from a Chinese Restaurant, was published in 2008. Her blog, at wildamorris.blogspot.com, provides a monthly contest for other poets.
The warm weather has given me a bad case of spring fever —right before it snows. Maybe we call it spring because it bounces up and down like it’s on springs. My neighbors were out with their kids in the balmy sun when I went to the mailbox. Now it’s grey and getting colder every hour.
We will be having a board meeting on March 31 at 10:30 AM in the Panera in Addison (1600 W Lake St.) to discuss a minor change to the bylaws, as well as future workshops and even the contest. Caroline will publish the changes on the web site after that date.
Attendance was great at the workshop last Saturday. If we keep growing we may have to find a bigger room. Christine Swanberg was very engaging with thoughtful critiques for each poem. She also gave us a brief workshop on techniques for opening our minds and poems. I always enjoy her work.
What have you done this month to feed your creativity? I am pretty good at allowing down time, but then I have trouble getting going again. I think I have mentioned that I designate Friday mornings for writing, and that works beautifully. Unfortunately, I also love quilting and genealogy, so I often spend most of my time on those interests to the detriment of my writing. The change of the month brings with it some writing commitments, I get back into the habit again, and I feel better. I hope you are making time to write whenever you can. I can see the improvement in people who are regulars at our workshops. Writing might be one of the few arts that improves the more you do it.
Things settle down quickly here after Christmas, now that my children are grown. It’s so cold outside I already have cabin fever and it’s not even January yet. Instead of heading to Starbucks today, I am writing at home.The last time I went, a gentleman next to my table was talking so loud over his cell phone, I turned to see who had such a loud voice. Thankfully, he didn’t talk long.
I was not able to get all of my Words With Friends (WWF) words into one poem, but I did write two. Here they are:
Words With Friends Useless Vocabulary
The liger hid under the dita, his wich near the tufa,
oblivious to the the narcotic property of the kat next to him.
In the distance a ruga hid the Indian from view.
No ulu in his hand, this Indian carried a sword.
Only a berk would get too close to the beast.
His throw was true and his rive quick.
The village grat him with jow.
I was surprised at how many Scottish words were allowed. Here’s number 2:
Scottish Words With Friends Useless Vocabulary
There’d be no mair snaw in the highlands.
Æthelfrith was glad he had saved a neep
from the garden in the obrie weather.
He soth the rocks beside the lane
and took a deep breath.
He was going to enjoy this day.
His moir had always said,
“You're a long time deid.”
My next writing challenges are to reflect on a big birthday coming up, submit some more poetry, and add some more time to my writing schedule each week. The hardest part for me is sitting still for the length of time it takes to write something I feel good about.
We will be having a board meeting at 1:00 on January 21, 2018 at the Panera in Addison. I invite you all to come hear what we are working on. We are looking for new board members, so please come see how nice it is to meet with friends and talk about poetry.
I wish you all a healthy and happy start to the New Year and wish you lots of time to write. Remember it's time to renew your membership for the coming year, if you haven't already.
President, Poets & Patrons
Dear Fellow Poets,
Sometimes I go to this place in my head where time stands still. I’m aware of the date, but forgetting something important. I just can’t remember what. This week, I kept telling myself I was going to have to write my monthly letter soon. Then I looked at the date - Dec. 5th. Yikes! I have done this all my life, but last month I lost someone who has been a close friend for a decade. I gave myself permission to grieve, but grief wont be hurried and it’s unpredictable. Each day there is a reminder of the beauty of Erin’s spirit and the profundity of her son’s and husband’s losses. At the same time, a mutual friend of ours has come back into my life and, as my roommate, she has brought healing and companionship into an otherwise dark season (pun intended). I hope all of you have gotten the holiday spirit and an awareness of how much you are loved.
The board met a few weeks ago and drew up the list of categories for our 2018 contest. More time than ever to plan your writing. Barbara Eaton has sent them to the board, and I’m sure Caroline will get them up on the web site soon.
The Write! Chicago workshop was November 25th at the Hemingway House. These workshops are an ideal way to develop some poems for the Chicago-only poets’ categories. Caroline Johnson will be keeping you informed on future venues.
Our next board meeting will be January 21st at 1:00. We welcome all members and your input. Our organization can’t grow and change without you. We meet at the Panera in Addison at 1600 W Lake St. We’ll be discussing our workshops for 2018, the contest, and revision of the by-laws. Hope to see you there.
I have one last challenge for those of you who play Words with Friends. I have been collecting all the words I did not know before I played the game, such as liger (offspring of a lion and tiger), and intend to make a poem with them. Join me. Don’t be a berk!
Happy holidays to all. May you sense the holiness in all of life.
Linda Wallin, President
October has flown because I’ve been traveling. I went to North Dakota to visit a friend for a few days, then came home to rest. A trip to Cuba came through, and I spent four amazing days there. After a very brief rest, I went to the Quad-City area for a genealogy conference. I have lots of poems percolating in my brain. The only title floating about is “Flan for Breakfast.” It will take a while to absorb all of my wonderful experiences. I did manage to write two Golden Shovel poems for the workshop I led. That’s what Poets & Patrons does for me: it gives me deadlines and makes sure I get some rough drafts down on paper. We won’t be having a workshop now until February 24, 2018, if I am correct, but I hope all of you will continue to be inspired by the life you experience. You are the only person in all of history to experience events the way you do, but we all have some common emotions and reactions. Poems that reflect these feelings are the poems that connect with people. May you have many in the next four months.
One good thing that has happened for me is that the writing in itself has become a reward, so I am writing more often. Quilting is calming for me, but fairly predictable. Writing is a never-ending door into the mysterious world of language and I am so grateful I have been invited in.
As the leaves disappear from the branches of the trees, may they drop some beautiful ideas into your mind. Or, as Walt Whitman so aptly said it, "Why are there trees I never walk under but large and melodious thoughts descend upon me?” I hope you will get out in spite of the cold, rain, snow, wind, and holidays to enjoy some fresh air and fresh ideas.
November 25th, there is a Write! Chicago workshop at the Hemingway House in Oak Park at 339 N. Oak Park Avenue in Oak Park, which is just south of Chicago Avenue and 2 blocks north of Lake Street. It will begin at 10 AM. There is a fee of $15 ($13 if we get 10 or more people) for the guided tour and poets will meet afterward in a cafe near by to write. Please RSVP your attendance to email@example.com. Members will receive preference over non-members.
You are also welcome to attend our board meeting on November 18th at the Panera in Addison, IL. We meet at 11 AM at 1600 W. Lake St. Come help us make plans for the coming year. All board meetings are open to the members. Please RSVP so we can save you a seat if you are coming.
I have finally seen the Gauguin exhibit and it did not disappoint. It reminded me that we are all influenced by the world we live in. Gauguin was influenced by the Impressionists and by Degas. He, in turn, influenced Van Gogh and Picasso. What are your influences? Did you get encouragement from your parents or your school? Was there a mentor who saw potential in you? I was discouraged from creative endeavors because my parents were products of the Great Depression. They believed that you can’t make a living creating art.
We are fortunate to live in Chicago in an era that sees the growth of poetry, poetry venues, and poets. In general in this country, books and poetry are in decline. How lucky we are to have a group of good poets that support and encourage each other. I find I have written more this year than ever before because I like what I am writing. I hope you, too, will seek out others who are not yet recognized for their talent. Meet with them on a regular basis and you will keep improving. While you will improve your writing by writing every day, our workshops will really help you improve.
Thanks to Caroline for a great job on our web site! I hope you have all taken the time to check out the pages. The contest deadline is next Thursday, Aug. 31, and you can find the rules and categories online. Be sure to submit poems in the Chicago categories.
We will have a ceremony to read the contest winners on October 14th at the Downers Grove Public Library at 1:00 PM, followed by a workshop on writing Golden Shovel poems. Please come and hear some wonderful work, even if you don’t win.
Dear Fellow Poets,
A few years ago I wrote a poem called Prodigal Poet. It was about all the fun I had in the summer and how I hadn’t written much, if anything. I love summer, but Ravinia, travel, teaching summer school, family dinners and joining friends for lunch or dinner really cut into my writing time. My schedule is thrown off, and I find myself wondering where the time went. If this happens to you, this month draws summer to a close. You might think about getting back into the writing routine and connecting with a small circle of writers on a regular basis. I have three groups that keep me writing. Of course, Poets and Patrons, with its bimonthly workshops and board meetings in between. Then, in Palatine, the Second Saturday workshops, and finally, a small group of women that meet once a month in Panera. I hope you have some groups to keep you going, as well.
Caroline has been working hard to get our new web site up and running. I hope you will take a look around. I am quite impressed with what she has shown us so far.
Be sure to get your poems in for the contest. The deadline is September 1, but Barbara is glad to get them sooner. We have 14 categories this year, with 3 reserved for Chicago area only. Don’t forget to pay the entry fee. We will not judge poems if the entire fee has not been paid ($12 for members, plus $1 for each additional poem in a category).
Our workshop this month is on August 26th at our usual place and time (Harold Washington Library, Room 3N6) at 1:00. Our workshop leader is Mary Hanforth, who will discuss the beauty of Sonnets. Mary is an old friend of mine from western Illinois who writes beautiful poetry. I hope you will enjoy working with her. Don’t forget to join us for lunch if you can.
Hope to see you soon.
Dear Fellow Poets,
As some of you know, my daughter is singing with the Atlanta Symphony Chorus this year. It has been a long, hard struggle for her to find her place in the world, but I am blessed to be able to hear her performances. If you’d like to hear the previous recording, click here. It is a stunning production, written for the Atlanta Symphony, that looks at many different aspects of creation and creating. Theofanidis had several research assistants studying the topic in many cultures. In fact, he found so much material that he had to write another symphony. If you ever get the chance, do see this work. It includes video and colored lights. It was so stimulating, I wanted to go home and write immediately. Unfortunately, I’m not a late-night person, so I didn’t, but it really made me realize just how much is inside of each one of us, waiting to be released.
In contrast, I had to go into the city for a yearly exam. One would think that taking the car to the el to the bus would not be stimulating, but to this suburbanite, it was full of interesting tidbits that have already made their way into a first draft. While all people respond to kindness, Chicagoans have a very intelligent, compassionate spirit. I was afraid of missing my stop because the bus location sign on board was not working. I found two people to help me, including one Asian lady who was going the same way I was.
DON’T FORGET that membership fees are due. Starting this year, if membership dues are not up to date, you will be charged $10 for the workshop fee for each submitted a poem.
Caroline Johnson will be leading the workshop on April 29th as part of the Poetry Fest at the Washington Public Library. She’ll be sending a flyer out soon. Please check the library’s web site. They have a full day of excellent activities.
Our poetry contest this year is adding a category inspired by Gwendolyn Brooks for Chicago poets only because it is the 100th anniversary of her birth. We will continue to have the popular Shakespeare category we had last year.
A new Write! Chicago will be June 10th at the new Writer’s Museum in the Loop. A flyer will be coming soon.
We have 15 poets from ISPS and Poets and Patrons signed up to read on April 13 at the After-Words Bookstore. The event starts at 5:30 pm.
Please take a look at our Facebook page. I have posted a question for you all there.
See you at the workshop, if not sooner!