Monday, April 23, 2018

BLOG OF THE WEEK: AN UPDATE WITH MAMA ZEN


This week, my friends, we are catching up with Kelli, the incomparable Mama Zen, who writes at another damn poetry blog, (though it is anything but!) We are looking forward to hearing what she's been up to, reading some of her fine poems, and enjoying some photos that will give us a sense of her location on the planet. Pull your chairs in close. This is going to be wonderful!






Sherry: Kelli, our last update was in 2016. Bring us up to date, won’t you? How is your Grandma doing? How is Baby Puppy? Is she writing herself, these days? (I am still waiting to interview her one day. Smiles.) And how are you, as you mark three years since the death of your mother at the too-young age of 62?

Kelli: So good to be with you again, Sherry.

The family is doing well.  At 85, my Grannie is still able to run circles around most people half her age (including me!).  We're trying to get her to slow down a bit, maybe hire out some of the yard work and such, but I don't know if she is going to have it.



My Grannie and I at an Oklahoma City Thunder game.
She's as Thunder crazy as I am, so this is our thing.


Baby Puppy is the most naturally gifted writer I have ever seen.  Pure raw talent.  It truly awes me. 

Sherry: I am not at all surprised, given her talented mother!

Kelli: We home school, now, so we have access to more rigorous classes and more areas of study than were available in traditional school.  But, it's hard work.  For both of us.

Sherry: A wonderful option for a creative person. And safer, too.

Kelli: As for me, it's been difficult.  Frankly, I just went numb for a while.  But, I'm at peace with my mother's passing. That fact alone is at least some evidence of God.

Sherry: I'm glad to hear that, Kelli. Sometimes when we go through hard times, our writing slows for a while. Louise Erdrich calls this a “time of gestation.” How is your writing going?

Kelli: "Time of gestation." I like that, and I certainly hope that it's true.  It sounds much prettier than "banging my head bloody against the wall." I seem to be going through a slow period when it comes to my writing.  It's painful, but maybe it's necessary.  Refilling the well and all that.

Sherry: Well, the poems we are reading are consistently amazing, in my humble opinion. What do you love about poetry? How do you feel those times when a poem turns out exactly the way you want?

Kelli: I don't think that I've ever had a moment when a poem has turned out exactly the way I wanted.  I'm not sure I would recognize a moment like that if it happened.  I have had some moments when I finished a poem and felt a little less ordinary than I am.  Poetry has that kind of magic.  That's what I love about it.

Sherry: Wow. That astonishes me. So many of your poems take my breath away. And you are anything but ordinary! Do you have a favourite poet?



Mama Zen at (cos)play dressed as Roxy Lalonde,
but that's not important. The important thing is the Trans Am
I'm leaning against. Recognize it? That's the Smokey and the Bandit car!


Kelli: Yes, but I'm not monogamous.  I like playing the field.  Right now, I'm dating Nikki Giovanni.  Recently, I had flings with John Berryman and Walt Whitman.  But I always come back to Shakespeare.

Sherry: When you look back, are there any clues in childhood that you would become a poet? 

Kelli: I don't know if you would call it a clue, but books were a huge part of my childhood.  I read everything that I could get my hands on.  And I had a very vivid imagination.

Sherry: Ah, the foundation of most poets, I suspect. When did you start writing?

Kelli: I started writing in earnest when I was about 14.  I was a living stereotype!  Dressed in black from head to toe, blue black hair dye and nail polish, motorcycle boots, and a tattered notebook of poems detailing my teenage angst.  But I didn't think of myself as a poet.  I was a songwriter.

Sherry: I can see you! Smiles. Is there one person you feel had a significant influence on you in your life, and/or as a creative person?

Kelli: I can think of a few people.  My grandfather was the greatest storyteller I've ever known.  He rooted me deep in the Oklahoma red dirt, and I think it shows in my poetry.




My favorite kind of Oklahoma landscape


Sherry: I love it when that red dirt seeps into your poems. Two of your recent poems that I really really love are “Getting Old” and “Blessed”. Let’s include them here. Would you tell us a bit about each poem?



My bad witch
is fat
and contented.
She picks her teeth
with my good
witches bones.
Gray springs free
from my braid, but I've made

peace with the griefs
that I own.
I'm a Buddha that bakes and drives carpool.
I'm a shrew with hands full of hell.
The ways of the world can't shock me anymore,
but I still astonish myself.


Kelli:  I'm afraid that I don't really have a good story for this one.  I think this was a poem that I wrote for the New Year.  Sort of a personal celebration.

Sherry: I love her picking her teeth with her good witch bones! Delightful!



I'm the taste on the lion's tongue.
Wild mother
of wilder young.
Sun, salt
sugar, sweat,
breasts -
blessed.


Kelli:  Ah, this one I have a story for!

A couple of years ago, my family and I toured a tiger rescue.  At one point during the tour, we were able to interact with the tiger cubs.  While I was sitting in the enclosure, one of the tiger cubs bounced up to me and began licking my hands.  A young woman (a tourist from India; I have to mention that because she had the most gorgeous, lilting accent) watched the cub for a moment, then said, "You're blessed."  Her tone was this mixture of matter-of-factness and awe; it gave me shivers.  It felt like a sign to me.

On the other hand, it's entirely possible that tiger cubs just like sunscreen.


My husband and I with my little cub friend.
He's actually a Liger - a tiger-lion mix.


Sherry: Oh, he is so adorable!!! It was a sign, I have no doubt! Animals sense a person's spirit. I always trust when they like someone...and when they don't. I love this poem so much. And I would so adore patting a tiger cub. Sigh.

Would you like to pick another? (Cant get enough, lol! I really love “Workhorse”, for one……..)

Kelli: Well, since I do take requests . . .      


Give me the weight; my back is strong.
I've done time in the traces, it's where I belong.
There is solace in knowing just what I am -
a workhorse plodding slow.
Plodding slow
and plodding home.

Look at my hands to see my true face.
They work wonders without waste.
This may not be the story I intended to write,
but this is the language of my life.

So what's one more brand new year unfolding -
I've got the same sweat on my brow.
I've bargained my penance and starved for forgiveness;
I'm fat with forgetting now.

A workhorse at the plow.
Fat with forgetting now.


Sherry: I adore "I'm fat with forgetting now." This is just brilliant, Kelli. I think we can all relate to "this may not be the story I intended to write". But it's our lives; it's what we have. Do you have any writing goals for 2018?


A view of my neighbourhood from the walking path


Kelli: For about the first 30 minutes or so of 2018, I had a few writing goals, but I ended up changing my mind.  I don't want to ask more of poetry than it can give, or burden it with expectations.

Sherry: Oh, I love that: not asking more than poetry can give. That is likely how we keep our work fresh, not flogging it. What activities do you enjoy when you aren’t writing?

Kelli:  I'm an avid reader; if I have any downtime, you can bet I have a book in my hand.  I'm crazy ridiculous about professional basketball.  And, naps!  I love naps.




My vegetable garden in summer

Sherry: Thank you so much, Kelli, for this visit. It's always good to catch up with you. I love the photos of your part of the world. Say "hi!" to Baby Puppy for us! Maybe she will share a poem with us one of these days?

Wasn't this a lovely visit, my friends? Do come back and see who we talk to next. Who knows? It might be you!


Sunday, April 22, 2018

Poetry Pantry #400

Sunrise at Gonzales Hill
Victoria, B.C.

Parliament Buildings on the harbour, Victoria
Ryan Kelm Photo

The Empress Hotel


Hatley Castle


Government Street
Anthony M. Easton photo


Chinatown - the Gate of the Harmonious



Butchart Gardens,
55 acres of beauty.
A million visitors a year wander its trails.


Dallas Road
Above the beach, a long walkway follows
this curve of beach along the cliff - 
a popular spot for happy dogs
and their people to walk


Rainy Bastion Nights



Lunar Lamp at Neck Point
Robert Fraser Photo

Most of these photos of Victoria, B.C., 
are from Victoria Buzz



Hello, friends. I thought you might enjoy making a day trip to Victoria, B.C., poised on the southern tip of Vancouver Island, along the ocean. It is a beautiful small city with a distinctly English flavour. You can walk along the harbour and up Government Street, and pretend you are in Olde England, with all the tea shops and the old architecture of its many historic buildings. It is quite lovely. It boasts a very mild climate and is abloom with flowers year-round.

I am pinch-hitting for Mary today. We had another great week at Poets United, with another good one coming up.  On Monday, we are featuring a long-time member of Poets United, who writes the most wonderful poetry. You wont want to miss her, so do stop by. If you want to work ahead,     Sumana's prompt for Midweek Motif will be:  Summer! And Rosemary always has something interesting and thought-provoking on Friday.

Let's dive into reading poetry this Sunday morning. Add your link, and be sure to visit the other poets in the spirit of reciprocity. Thank you for being here and for your participation - we wouldn't be here without you!

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Friday, April 20, 2018

I Wish I'd Written This


Mother Farm 

The farm is our mother in her birthday suit.
Our father drives a tractor across her hips
and sows children in her bones.

The totem animals run through her veins
and the winds press the grasslands to her lips.
Every contour of her fertility is a waterhole
and beneath her belly is the aquifer of our living allowance.

The sun beats her by day
and the moon pities her by night.
and when the rains come she puts on a new dress
and shakes the flowers from her daughters.

She runs the seasons through her hair
and her sons come home to harvest.
The grain spills out so much the birds can't leave the ground.
The cattle fatten themselves to death
and the mice plague her sleep.

Then father burns her summer dress
and turns her skin to fallow.
Her sons follow the dollar downriver
and she has make up sex with the sun.

As much as she gives we'll take
and take some more.
And as much as she gives
she'll give
and give some more.
That's how it is for the farm
that is our mother.

Benjamin W Wild © 2018



I met Ben Wild at the same poetry reading where Robbie Wesley read the poem I featured last week.This – obviously – was another of the poems on offer that night which really appealed to me. 

You may recall, the theme of the evening was "Love Poems for the Earth". I do see the Earth as our mother, and I like the personification this poem gives her. This mother is a long-suffering one, as many human mothers are – only even more so. The last verse says it all, unequivocally. A harsh poem, you might well think, yet born out of great tenderness for the Earth our Mother. When he posted the poem on his facebook page on International Women's Day, he said he wrote it "when thinking about my two Mums – both biological and environmental – and how they both tolerate and create in equal measure."

"But we need our farms!" you might protest. Yes ... but some of our farming practices are not good for the planet. In a way, the poem seems to say that the whole Earth is a great farm; and in a way that is true. At least, before there was farming as we know it, tribal peoples lived off the land. They didn't necessarily have to cultivate crops at all. Well, I suppose that, for most of us, there is no going back to a nomadic lifestyle, but we might still find farming practices which nurture rather than harm the planet – and we'd better, if we ourselves hope to survive.

The photo comes from Ben's website, as does the following biographical information.

Benjamin W Wild was born in 1979 and grew up on a property between Quambone and Warren in Central New South Wales.
He has studied, worked, lived, dreamt and travelled, and continues to live himself to death in a manner of ways- be they old, boring, exciting, different or new.
He talks in the third person when filling out the kind of social documentation that compels people to think that it gives them an air of seriousness and professionalism, but not as much as he talks to himself.
No I don’t.
Yes we do.

He has self-published three books of Selected Poetry:
‘Aluc(i)na’ in 2009.
‘SMUT’ (collaboration) in 2010.
and ‘Kaleidoscope’ in 2014.
Contact Benjamin at:  benwwild@hotmail.com  to purchase.

He has been published in various other publications, has often been a featured reader at poetry events around Australia, has been placed in several awards, and in 2016 won The ‘Arts Queensland XYZ Prize for Innovation in Spoken Word’.

Material shared in 'I Wish I'd Written This' is presented for study and review. Poems, photos and other writings remain the property of the copyright owners, usually their authors.