Monday, March 28, 2011

Happiness Confetti

What ever am I doing, William Yeats?  Wallace Stevens would have approved.  Yesterday the board I serve on had a benefit reading for our Poetry Gratitude Award.  We love to honor poets or organizations who have done many good deeds.  Grassroots which Michelle Holland says is another word for penniless.

I got to pass on the happiness wisdom I had gained through arduous hours of research watching PBS and Oprah.  I learned that a club which makes you show up once a month can increase your happiness as much a doubling your salary.  I find that deeply hard to believe but it was on Oprah, and I take notes. And to digress only the tiniest amount, O Magazine had four pages of Mary Oliver and Four pages on WS Merwin this month, plus many pages from Oprh's diary.  Anyhow, if your neighbor is happy it increases your happiness by 37% and if you do a good deed your endorphins increase.  If you watch someone else do a good deed they increase also.  So I watch Oprah and when she gives away massive gifts, I grow younger. By the time our reading was over and the ABQ UNIDOS Youth Slam Team blew them away, everybody was 49% happier.  And we have book sales to prove it.

I felt so happy that we ran into Española, well actually Mike drove in, and bought some really great postage stamps.  I always ask for the pretty ones and we had a choice between Ronald Reagan and Carmen Miranda with a pineapple and banana on her head.  Life is pretty darn simple when given a choice like that. Then we wanted to take a walk and I wanted to show Mike the sacred golf course paths below Black Mesa the golf course of Santa Clara, my home pueblo.  In New Mexico many anglos have pueblos where they feel connected.  Not only do I have a few friends there, but I taught poetry for four years at the Day School, village based schools, and the kids there still call me Joanie Baloney which I find endearing. 

So we walked the dirt paths,where I usually hike with Camilla and her chihuahua, Sammy.  Sammy sometime dresses in a remodeled sock.  He is the latest in recycled fashion. In my mind the golf course is between the sacred and the profane, holy because my parents were religious golfers, and profane for the water they take in a desert clime.  The ones I can name, Black Mesa, Buffalo Thunder, Los Alamos, Santa Fe Country Club, and the one, Marty somebody, where our brother-in-law played. A cool thing  that I learned from the elders of Santa Clara that they played a stick ball game called "shinny," not too far from golf.  They matched olds men against women or married against unmarrieds.

As we cut across Mike picked p what I thought was a small ostrich egg from the cholla cactus ridden land. It was a sacred object, a golf ball.  As I picked through the grasses and prickly pear, he gathered call after ball.  Now Camilla and I often see pot shard.  She is a potter and has a keen eye, and she picks them up, admires them, places them in the earth with a prayer. Never takes one.  Mike is collecting an entire plastic bag full, one must have blown miraculously into his outstretched hand.  He gets enough to hit a bucket,an activity my parents partook in.  I mean, in which my parents partook.

So, I look at my life lately, as I have been Poet Laureate now for nine months, a pregnancy of sorts.
This week two of my own books birthed into my hands. All the tiny events, driving to ABQ to read for five minutes, intros of Arthue Sze, Luis Lopez, Annie Lamott, and coming up Mary Oishi, great and local, WS Merwin who luckily I just read about in Oprah magazine, and who is also US POet Laureate.
I wonder if possibly it has made him as happy as it has made me.  And if he is, will my happiness increase by being near him, or will his happiness increase because I am so happy. One could only hope.

I have done many tiny things in these nine months, but I have done them with great joy.  The confetti I mention in the title.  I so hope they have increased the half life of poetry.  That we are the joy brigade and the true believers and tellers.  I am banking my joy for old age, I hope I can find the deposit slip.
I hope that the confetti isn't all, that it brings rain down, grows food, increases literacy, and in good taste.  That it folds cranes to raise money in Japan as I saw on Facebook.  Anyhow,  I have to write a few more intros and then I can go fondle my new books.

If you wonder why I mention Yeats and Wallace Stevens to start this piece, obviously, Yeats was Irish where the grass is very green, and Wallace Stevens was a golfer. In fact my favorite story was when he died and the obituary listed him as a great American poet, a golf friend famously said, "Wally, a Poet?"

Friday, March 25, 2011

Everything has a Mother

After our trip to Florida, where we were super relaxed, the very next day, my husband who doesn't do well with leisure announced that he was taking the kids to Carlsbad Caverns.  Now our three grandkids are a boy of fifteen a boy of eight, and a girl who just turned five. And the drive is six hours, if you're not a big side-road taker and explorer, which he is.  I didn't think the parents would just let them go, the next day, no plans or anything. But it was the end of spring break and go they all did.  During this time, a trip into the caverns, the earthquake hit Japan.  The kids were going underground that very day and Mike told them to notice how fragile the stalactites and stalagmites were.  How long it took to form them proved than being there was a safe place to be. They were delighted with the caves, though Mike thought they tore through it too quickly and said next time he goes he will be taking their children. A highly unlikely occurrence.

The long drive was the challenge, but they all came home safe and sound-proofed with earphones and devices which probably saved Mike's sanity for the six hours each way. Then all stayed at our house the night of their return.

Kaylee at five wanted to know, if everything has a mother, who was the first person?  Galen was telling her about the big bang, then I was telling her that it was a great mystery and various religions had different  versions, Adam and Eve for one. "I know, I know!" said my grand girl."The first person was God.
And God's mother and father.  And they were farmers." Her perfectly imperfect logic made my week.

Maybe you have to run away for three days, drive the kids to inside the earth, and drive home to have the moments of truth.  Maybe, since I stayed home, the whole trip was full of such gems. I admit I treasure my time with the kids and my time alone,  twenty nine years with our children in the house.  We're lucky. We enjoy one another greatly when together, and go days or weeks apart. Hope just moved to Albuquerque but comes home some weekends to the yurt and to Leland.  Tammy is commuting to Albuquerque for her Dental Hygiene program.

You would have to find an outing closer to home for me to don my grandmother shoes.  Since everything has a mother, even time, even a poem, even my scroungy dog Cielo Mellow even the earthquake, even wind, may I be the mother of solitude, the mother of experimental happiness, the mother of last week, the mother of trading memory for laughter. I am also the mother of allowing myself to blog and grandparent with great joy.  Which is this evening, a sabbath in March, the sweet wine waiting for me to pray over it. The grandkids are in their own homes, Carlsbad inside them thanks to a fearless man.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

9,000 Poems

My house is full of people right now.  One of the guests asked if I have private time, and well, here it is, after waffles for nine all morning, so many voices that it becomes white noise to me.  I can think as well now as any day, which may explain my rather causal approach to poetic theory.  At the reading on Friday, I forgot to say Japan was in turmoil.  I forgot to pray for Coleman Barks who had a stroke, that brilliant translator of Rumi who gave us this huge gift. I wanted to say something, but felt the rush wouldn't do justice to the emotions.  I had fifteen minutes and wrestled all day with how as Poet Laureate, my life is being measured out in coffee spoons.   I don't drink coffee. This week I have five minutes to read in ABQ.
My joke is that I have become the parsley on the feast of poetry and mostly it is lovely.  Garnish, for example with a group of young performance poets, music, fire dancing, and my daughter and fiancé in the audience. Parsley as on the Seder plate, vital, green, new life for me.
But my favorite thing is the feast and for that "Joan and the Giant Pencil," poetry for kids with music composed by Jeremy Bleich.  Where the boy in the audience at Atalaya Elementary, after an hour of amazing listening and questions, asked me how many poems I had written.  "Nine thousand?" he wanted to know.  I started to do the math, a literalist after all my teaching of metaphor and exaggeration.   Afterwards he came up on stage, "Nine thousand, nine thousand," he kept saying.  I think of the Buddhists' ten thousand joys, ten thousand sorrows. I keep saying  "nine thousand" to myself.  I heard from two helpers for the special education kids, that they loved the poems and the kid who always walks around sat through it all.  They were amazed. That many poems.  I think of the weight of poems, even those written in Santa Fe alone.  A ton of poems.  I can feel them, the political, the prayers, the catharsis, the collaged, formal and wild.
Japan is awash and on edge of meltdown. The poems that came from that dense Island. 9,000 prayers, for Coleman, and the Nuke plants, and Los Alamos, and restraint in energy use and vile violence.  9,000 poems...the voices in the room are starting to pull me in, teens and men, and daughters.  Back to the family and a drive to Santa Fe.  Another Sunday in this momentary paradise.

Spring PL Events

Living La Vida Local with Santa Fe’s Poet Laureate

March 17, 6:30, National Hispanic Cultural Center, Albuquerque, Nine by Five, reading with Nine Women poets curated by Valerie Martinez.

March 27, Collected Works, reading for Gratitude Award of New Mexico Literary Arts,  4:00, Featured readers, Anne Valley-Fox, Michelle Holland, JB Bryan, Joan Logghe, Lisa Gill, and the ABQ Youth Slam Team

April 17, 3:00- Reading at Acequia Booksellers in Albuquerque for The Singing Bowl, with Emmy and Grammy nominated poet, Michael C.Ford, 4019 4th Street, Albuquerque, 505-890-5365

April 21, 6:00, Benefit reading for Santa Fe Girls’ School with student readers and Poet Laureate celebration, 333 Montezuma. By donation.

April 23, Poetry at Paul’s with Joan, Sita Jamison and Gregory Gutin. Time TBA

April 25- May 1-  Boise, Idaho, appearance with schools, therapists, Osher Institute, Log Cabin Literary Center, intro of US Poet Laureate, WS Merwin

May 7, 10:00-12:00 Southwest Writers, Albuquerque, 10-12:00 PM

May 8, 10:30 AM, Church of Beethoven, classical music and poetry.
1715 5th Street, Albuquerque. $15.

May 11, 6:00 Collected Works, launch for The Singing Bowl. Free.

May 21 – New Mexico State Poetry Society – Albuquerque, lunch reading

May 29, reading at the Unitarian Church in Santa Fe, 4:00

June 18, Santa Fe Community Gallery, Mining the Unconscious, Free poetry workshop with Jane Lipman to focus on The Redbook Show,  12:00-4:00 PM.
Reading of participants from new work. Wednesday, June 22