Sunday, February 16, 2020

Talking to Myself Nine


My son Tim with my hens a few years ago when he was visiting.

***

Talking to Myself Nine February 16, 2020

I give myself lectures and reminders.
I write walk! In my appointment book
and sweep. I think I could mend the fence
between the backyard and the garden.
I could plant zinnias and tomatoes, if
nothing else. I could keep the hens in
their run. I could clip their wings so
they wouldn’t fly. Soon I’ll walk at the 
dam again until I do half a mile. I’ll
use my cane and walk heel first.  I
rarely shuffle now. They said I should
be fine, but keep doing my exercises.
Sometimes my left leg hurts when I
first wake up. Then, once I’m moving 
around, that goes away. My small health
problems haven’t returned–only one
small nosebleed. I’m good to go, as
they say. Everything is easier, but 
I am careful not to do too much.
I sleep when I’m sleepy and get up early.
The house is quiet. The bird clock
ticks. I bundle up to stay warm until
Tim gets up and makes a fire. We’re
having a warm winter. The daffodils 
and peepers are shouting “Spring.”
Sometimes our mornings are cold, but
the sun warms me, especially when it 
beats on the back storm door. I live
a slowed down life, and my memory 
sometimes eludes me, but generally I

sleep and eat well, and my days are light.

Sunday, February 9, 2020

Talking to Myself Eight


Up close daffodils in my flower garden; next door Robert and Emma Smith back some years. I still miss them.

Talking to Myself Eight February 9, 2020

I often ask myself: How am I doing?
Some days lately, the answer is spectacular.
A stunning review. Am I that good? Yes.
Or an article in the local newspaper. He’s
pleased. I’m ecstatic. He listened so well.
Other days I’m glad I managed to make
quiche. We love it so. Or more daffodils
open. I tell Tim, even if they’re encased
in ice, they’re fine when the ice melts.
There are disappointments, too, but there
always were. I haven’t quite given up
on contests, but I haven’t won any so far.
I try a new one. I can think of so many
things I’d like to do and want to do, but
I hesitate. Maybe later. When I’m stronger.
Inch by inch. Step by step. One thing for 
sure, words still rise up from the deep 
pool in my mind and speak themselves

to my ear.

Sunday, February 2, 2020

Talking to Myself Seven


Judy Hogan in 1976 at a Cosmep (small press) conference in Austin, Texas. I was the chair, and 39 years old.

Talking to Myself Seven   February 2, 2020

“Keep doing what you’re doing,” said Dr. K.
My blood pressure was normal, even ideal
for a woman of eighty-two. My black eye 
had finally faded. I was learning to walk 
heel first, and I had healed. My body worked 
its own miracle. It helped that I slept a lot,
and rewards I did not expect came: a Midwest
Book Review of pure praise. Then a front page
story about my writing life. Over seventy years
of it, back to age seven when I lived in bed.
I wrote stories. I was happy. The stories 
continued, and then I wrote poems and kept
a diary. I tried novels and plays, and an epic 
of my own life. My husband showed my
diary to his friend, who called it pure fiction.
Not to me. It was my heart’s truth, but was I 
a real writer? Finally, I answered my own 
question. “A writer is one who writes.”
I read Anais Nin’s published diary. Sometimes
I published part of my diary. Later I published
my poems, and my friend Paul and I started
a poetry journal using underground presses
in Berkeley. We bought an offset press, which
changed publishing, at least for us. We named
it Hyperion, the light god. We wrote and
published against the Vietnam war. We found
so many new voices. Paul was in Berkeley. 
I was in Evanston. We published writers in 
Alaska and California, and later in North
Carolina and Texas. I understood the women
writers better, and he, the men, so we each
had power. We won National Endowment
grants. In North Carolina I found Jaki 
Shelton and others who came to my open
readings. Lots of new women writers.
Then I started my own press, Carolina Wren.
I even published a street poet, Michael 
Riggsbee. He would sell his book for $2, 
or for fifty cents if that was all they had.
Amon Liner found me. I barely understood
his poems, but he didn’t care. He explained
them to me. I put Jaki in print, and she’s now 
our state’s poet laureate. I gave up Carolina
Wren but began publishing my mystery
novels. Twelve now, including one amazing 
review and a front page article. Seven
decades of writing, and people begin
to notice. I celebrate quietly, and
my heart is happy.



Sunday, January 26, 2020

Talking to Myself Six


Judy being interviewed by Virginia Hudson

***

Talking to Myself Six January 26, 2020

As the years roll on, I think more
about when I won’t be here.
I’ll be leaving behind many words.
Will they resound? Echo? Murmur?
Sing? Will people love them?  Repeat
them? Memorize them? Sleep with
them under their pillow? Will my
words keep them awake because
someone’s suffering is being transmitted?
Even after I’m gone? Part of me won’t
ever be lost though I, too, will die.
Meantime I’ll take good care of my
life and my words and write down
what I hear in my heart. I fell and then,
slowly, I healed. Now I walk better.
Some aches, but I’m stronger. My
legs and arms are more reliable. 
My brain is changing so I won’t
fall down so easily. My feet plant 
themselves more convincingly. If
I start to fall, I catch myself. I
practice, I argue, I adapt. For now
I’m alive. For now I’m ready for
the new. If I lose sleep, I’ll catch
up later. I still have all the

resources of the living.

Sunday, January 19, 2020

Talking to Myself Five


Judy, photo by Emma Tobin

***
Talking to Myself Five   January 19, 2020

I’ve had very few successes in
my book publishing life. So far,
twenty-four books, twelve mysteries, 
seven of poetry, four non-fiction,
and one, my grandmother’s diary,
which I annotated. I wanted to
understand her better. She was
bi-polar and spent too much time
in mental hospitals. I used to say,
“If I didn’t write, I’d go crazy.”
Lately I’ve begun writing more 
and more often, and I’m publishing
two or three books a year. But one,
the eleventh, won me praise I had
come not to expect. My writing
skill is called deft; with more plot
twists and turns than a bakery
box of pretzels. I’ve never seen
such pretzels, but they must be 
impressive. I was stunned by the
praise of the Midwest Book Review.
It lifted me up out of my quiet
life, reading, writing, cooking, 
learning how to strengthen my legs 
and body core. Then, in the same
day, Friday, January 17th, a newspaper
friend came to interview me. His
questions set off the story of my life.
I am as amazed as he is.  By all
the things I’ve done. I worked behind
the scenes most of the time. At that
women’s gathering which we called
“Tell Me a Story That’s True,” I stood
before six hundred women and said,
“Your stories are important. Women
need to write down the stories they’ve
told no one.” I took my own advice 
and I’ve been doing it, too. After
my friend left, I felt the familiar urge
to write. I’ve written so many books,
so many poems, so many pages in my
diaries. My words are there and will
be kept in a major women’s collection
at a major university, and I’m still 
writing, still putting on paper 
the truth I experience: my very own
truth. In one day I learned that 
my life mattered. I crossed some 
boundary, and my story began to be
known by s world of new people,
strangers, those unknown to me,
who will laugh and cry with

 my words ringing in their ears.

Sunday, January 12, 2020

Talking to Myself Four


My garden peas in early spring, a few years ago.

***
Talking to Myself Four January 12, 2020

It’s not easy to let go all those things 
I used to do without debating. When
the hens found their way into the
garden, I didn’t mend the fences.
Next thing I knew, they were living
in the backyard. When I took out
the morning feed, they came on
the back porch and followed me,
sometimes coming in with me, 
sometimes staying out. I always
had a garden. This year I haven’t 
ordered seeds. I practice walking
with a cane and not shuffling–
a way to prevent my body from
running. My new shoes are a 
little too long, but with thick
socks I manage quite well. My
glasses got bent when I fell, but
I’ve postponed getting them fixed. 
Am I lazy now or simply being
wise? With my son for backup,
I walked again at the dam. It
went well, and now I practice 
my cane walk in the front yard.
It doesn’t take long, and it goes
more easily. I’ll see my doctor
in two weeks. She always cheers
me and makes me laugh. I got
through that time of healing,
which went so slowly. What
is it I need to say to myself?
Do all you can do. Rest when
you’re tired. Don’t give up yet. 
You have years to go, 

one day at a time.

Sunday, January 5, 2020

Talking to Myself Three


Zinnias on my kitchen table 

***

Talking to Myself Three January 5, 2020

When did it begin? I was thirteen.
I loved that teacher. I saw the 
beautiful flowers our neighbor
had in her yard. I wanted to take
my teacher flowers like those–
zinnias they were. In our backyard
we had a big oak tree. I planted
zinnia seeds. I watered them
and waited. Nothing came up.
Someone explained: for zinnias 
the soil has to be just right; then
plenty of sun. I still plant zinnias,
and now their brilliant colors
rise up, and if the wind knocks
them over, I know they’ll turn 
their stems and go up again.
I take them to our postmaster,
and all the workers and customers
like them. The word spread about
my zinnias. I got a call: could
her friend come and pick some
for a wedding? I said yes and 
watched them pick “as many
as you like.” There were many, 
and they took a generous number.
With zinnias, the more you pick,
the more there are. Give zinnias
away, and more buds appear.
They’re still my favorite flower.

The wedding was beautiful, she said.