Monday, May 22, 2017

BLOG OF THE WEEK ~ AN UPDATE WITH SHERRI BRANNON

Today, my friends, we are catching up with Sherri Brannon, a Poets United member who has been away from the blogosphere for a time. When I saw her name pop up again on Mr. Linky, I hastened to ask her for an update and, happily, she said yes. Pull your chairs in close. Sherri, we are all ears!






Sherry: I was so happy to see you pop up online again, after some time away. Would you like to bring us up to date with what you've been up to? 

Sherri: The past year has been a bit crazy because I've been planning my daughter's wedding, TWICE. Her wedding was originally supposed to be last October 9th - a destination wedding in Hilton Head Island, South Carolina. We were all a bit stunned when, 48 hours before the ceremony, Hurricane Matthew directly hit the island. The governor issued a mandatory evacuation of everyone and the entire wedding had to be cancelled...it was a horrible day. The island suffered significant damage. 

But, we have moved on and the new date is June 18th! So once again, I am in full wedding planning mode with my daughter for the second year in a row. At least they'll have a fun story to tell their future grandchildren! My creative time was minimal this past year because of all that was going on.

Sherry: It does sound like a whirl. What brought you back to poetry? 

Sherri: In addition to the wedding planning, my poetry writing had completely stopped until recently. And one very specific thing I did seemed to turn my writing switch back on - I stopped watching the news. It was having such a negative effect on my spirit that I think I felt numb. When I did all of these things, it felt so good to just sit in the silence and listen to music again. My stress level went down dramatically. And the poems started coming, almost immediately!

Sherry: I know how the news, especially recently, can shut everything down. I am so happy your Muse returned. I love your poem "Grounded" - what inspired it? 

Sherri: There's a lot of political turmoil in our country these days, to put it mildly. I've been so disheartened by how cruel and malicious people have become towards one another just because they share different political views. It was really wearing me down to see such nastiness and anger every day, especially on Facebook, from people of BOTH parties. As someone who intensely dislikes fighting and conflict, I had been doing what I always do: spending time in nature. Nature is always a beautiful escape. It was these thoughts that brought on my poem. 

Copyright Sherri Brannon



GROUNDED

I seek out the water
and we breathe together
I look into the
honest eyes
of the dusk flowers
and we see each other
I love these moments
how my soul
takes time to notice
I have long resisted
that my sensitivity 
is my strength
we fools of the world
there are days 
I'd rather not
have my fragile heart 
be my super power
with my soft approach
my love of dead poets
my lofty thoughts of God
all tethered down 
by this ball and chain
of a brain

I seek comfort in nature
its wordless wonder
with no malice or sting
there are no greedy stars
with cynical hearts
I think about the sound
the moon must make
when it brushes
against the water
and I'm forever grateful
the herons don't mock
they have no sharp tongues
no sorrows that burn
no eyes filled
with fire and ego 
I watch them fly
daring me to follow
and I stand there
earth-grounded
as they depart
for the sky
to their paradise,
their star-God life.

© Sherri Brannon 2017


The jewel is the awaring presence, not the object being seen. That’s why we can be bored and disappointed while gazing at the Swiss Alps and ecstatic and blissed out over a crumpled cigarette package in the gutter. The beauty is in the quality of the seeing, the awareness, the presence, not in the object being seen. ~Joan Tollifson 


Sherry: This is the most beautiful poem. I love that there are no cynical or greedy stars, and my heart swooped up with the herons, flying up to their "star-God life".

Tell us about your poem "Wild". 

Sherri: This poem came about while thinking about the fact that I have never been that wild, adventurous free-spirit sort of a person. I've always been very cautious and careful. However, I've always had a wild imagination and for that I'm really grateful! I took that observation and had fun making it a poem.


copyright Sherri Brannon


WILD

Most people carry the husks 
of their wild oats
in their pockets
and every once in awhile 
their hand reaches in
to scoop out an old piece of rebellion 
turned to sawdust
and it makes them smile

But I was that child 
whose only version of wild
was to raise my hand to read out loud in class
in my own quiet way of daring
and it turned into a lifelong thing
this cautious mind, with empty pockets
lost in an inner world
deep within the confines 
of my careful cage of a body

It's all okay, though, 
I'm coming back around
I was always afraid of my own shadow
but God was just making sure 
I was breaking it in
growing me into a better version 
of that bookworm child
teaching me to see 
beyond the hard edges
of my knowledge

And I have come to love 
my own way of the wild
the soul-side kind
curve of spirit, circle of dreams
soft epiphanies and wonders 
spiraling behind my eyes
which may have aging lines 
but now seek out the light in others
because the eyes 
can never tell lies

My wild oats are alive 
and they're with me even now
I shake them off my fingers
collecting them 
between the pages of my journal
soulful word husks 
pressed into the grain of the paper
where I can sit in my wild silence
and read them, and smile.

© Sherri Brannon 2017

Watch out for intellect,
because it knows so much it knows nothing
and leaves you hanging upside down,
mouthing knowledge as your heart
falls out of your mouth.
 ~Anne Sexton


Sherry: Ahhhhhh....so lovely. I especially love the seeking out the light in others.

In the past year, I know you have been very busy with your art, so your creative juices were still flowing. What excites you about it? 




Sherri: This past year I've become consumed with learning the Procreate app and doing all of my artwork with my iPad Pro. I love the idea of having "my studio" in a portable device that I can carry with me anywhere I want to. 



I also love that with the Procreate app I have no fear of mistakes because there is an Undo button. If i mess up, I can instantly undo however many strokes I want to! It's amazing, and the Apple Pencil is magic. As a self-taught artist learning to draw and paint, it has been such a gift to have this wonderful app.

Sherry: Your portraits are beautiful! Wow! I think portraits must be the hardest thing to paint.  You have a real  talent for it. It must be very fulfilling to produce works of art. 

Is there anything you'd like to say to Poets United? 

Sherri: Just that I'm very grateful that this group exists. It is such a welcoming place, and I truly enjoy sharing my poetry here. Thank you again for featuring me!

Sherry: Thank you for saying yes, Sherri. And I hope this time the weather is perfect for your daughter's wedding!

So there you have it, my friends, another poet making her journey. I hope you enjoyed this visit as much as I did. Do come back and see who we talk to next. Who knows? It might be you!




Sunday, May 21, 2017

Poetry Pantry # 354





This dear little fellow lives on a favourite branch right across from my small porch. I never tire of watching the hummers, darting back and forth to the feeders. They stick their noses in the nectar and just guzzle. So sweet.

We have a wonderful week shaping up, my friends. I hope you didn't miss Rosemary's Friday feature, where she wrote a thought-provoking essay about C.S. Lewis and the science fiction and fantasy genres. On Monday, you won't want to miss an update with Sherri Brannon, who is back online after some time away. She has been focusing on her art and will be sharing some beautiful poems, paintings and photos with us. On Wednesday, Susan's Midweek Motif prompt is Flowers. There should be some beautiful poems on that topic. And on Friday our intrepid Rosemary will have something interesting for us to enjoy, as always.

And now, for poetry! Link your poem, and do visit your fellow poets, in the spirit of community. Enjoy, and have a wonderful week.

🐤🐥🐤




Friday, May 19, 2017

Thought Provokers

An Expostulation

Against too many writers of science fiction 

Why did you lure us on like this,
Light-year on light-year, through the abyss,
Building (as though we cared for size!)
Empires that cover galaxies
If at the journey's end we find
The same old stuff we left behind,
Well-worn Tellurian stories of
Crooks, spies, conspirators, or love,
Whose setting might as well have been
The Bronx, Montmartre, or Bedinal Green?

Why should I leave this green-floored cell,
Roofed with blue air, in which we dwell,
Unless, outside its guarded gates,
Long, long desired, the Unearthly waits
Strangeness that moves us more than fear,
Beauty that stabs with tingling spear,
Or Wonder, laying on one's heart
That finger-tip at which we start
As if some thought too swift and shy
For reason's grasp had just gone by?

– C. S. Lewis (1898-1963)



Ross Wilson
's statue of C. S. Lewis in front of the wardrobe from his book The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe in East Belfast. Reproduced here under Freedom of Panorama.

Yes,  the famous C.S. Lewis is one of our 'living dead', but I felt this poem belonged in our Thought Provokers series, for the questions it raises. As soon as I read it, I wanted to discuss it with him. As he's not available, let me discuss it with you.

He has a point! SF can be too much like real life. I loved  the first StarWars movies (those which later became Episodes 4, 5 and 6) and also the return to form which was Episode 7. But I was very disappointed by the spin-off Rogue One. To me it was just a lot of war stuff, and there was far too much of that going on in the real world at the time; why should I wish to see more? My adult son, however, loved it and saw it as a modern version of  the Western. Well, I never was keen on Westerns either – except for High Noon, and Rawhide on TV. Depends what floats your boat (or powers your space-ship or something).

And we do like the fantastical; some of us anyway. There are those who like their speculative fiction scientific, within the bounds of belief even if what is described hasn't been invented yet. It's fascinating that life sometimes follows art, and things that were first written as science fiction have since been invented, from sliding doors to flat-screen TVs and of course the moon landing. (Yes I know, some people think that one is still fictional, but let's not get into that.)

Others of us prefer the fantastic to be, indeed, fantasy – beyond belief. Dragons, werewolves, time travellers, witches and wizards.... They are fairy stories for grown-ups. (Well, witches might be true, lol.)

On the other hand, it is still the human characters in these stories who interest us; or, occasionally, non-human characters who nevertheless have humanistic qualities of personality and emotion. We like to imagine ourselves in their situations, I think. We want them to have adventures, and we still want them to do normal things, particularly to make connections, fall in love, and have relationships.

I have known SF writers to object to being regarded as lesser authors because they write genre fiction, and to claim that important human truths can be conveyed equally well that way as through more 'literary' novels. I agree. (Fahrenheit 451. I rest my case.)

So I would take issue with Lewis. I think we do want 'the same old stuff', albeit in a new setting. We want to imagine new worlds, whether in outer space or a different dimension or some magical dream-space, but we want to find ourselves there.

Lewis's vision of the 'Unearthly' is very particular, though. It's well-known that he was a devout mystical Christian. His longing is really for the spiritual connection. He wants a sci-fi that puts us even more in touch with the wonders of creation, and therefore the wondrousness of the Creator. Maybe he really wants stories about Heaven.

It's interesting that he himself is best-known now for fairy stories in which children are transported from everyday reality into another world where they get to be heroic, and where they meet a lion whom all the critics identify as a Christ figure. Is that, indeed, what people are truly seeking from tales of other worlds – that connection to the divine which human beings seem to yearn for? (Well, perhaps not the atheists.)

I'm not an atheist, yet I don't know that I want my SF to be overtly spiritual like that. I think most good fiction IS spiritual in fact, though not necessarily overtly, because humans are spiritual beings; and that the true subject of most fiction, speculative or otherwise, is the development of the characters' souls. I don't want that to mean getting all churchy, though.

And then there are people who don't want to read speculative fiction at all, because it's too unrealistic.

What about you?

Good poem anyway, isn't it? Persuasive almost by virtue of its poetic accomplishment alone.