Sunday, January 31, 2016

We Shall Not Be Moved: Coal Ash Threat

CCACAD Affirmations from meeting November 20, 2015.  Rose Hill AMEZ Church, Moncure. 27 poeple present.

We did an exercise affirming in the present tense the way we want our lives to be, that is, without coal ash poisoning in our air, water, and on our land.

I have safe, delicious well water, and I’m so thankful.

We have no one in our community fighting cancer!

I am enjoying our beautiful new park with all the walking trails!

We do not have cancer.

We have pure clean air.

I am healthy.

We are restoring and protecting nature.

We’re protecting wild life.

We have no coal ash in our community.  Period.

Duke Energy has quit lying.  They tell the truth.  Lingua Franca means: your language is blatant lies.

The state and local governments protect us from harm.

Our natural resources are the best, and we have a great quality of life.

We can discuss anything and be heard in working for the good.

We are healthy and happy.

We can trust others to listen and to work together.

It’s quiet and calm–no noise or light that disturbs our peace.

Our food and water is clean.

I feel secure to say what I want.

Everyone is alive here.

The animals are alive.

We are healthy.

We have enough water.

I can see leaves on the trees.

I am healthy.

I live in a safe environment.

Our community is coal ash free and I’m alive and healthy.

Everyone is healthy here.

Our water is clean!

We are healthy.

We have good gardens and fruit.

We don’t need coal ash dumped down here in Moncure.  We want clean air and water.  We want a safe and healthy home.  I’m old, and I’m healthy, and I am cancer-free.  Our community is coal ash free.  And I don’t want my family to be sick with any of the diseases from coal ash.  Duke needs help.

I am old. I am healthy.

I have a safe, healthy home.

Tell Duke to stop killing me and my pets.

My garden is healthy and so are my chickens.

There are no speeding trucks on my road, and the speed limit is 35 mph.

I can see leaves on the trees.

Our community is coal ash free, and I am exhilarated.

We live to our normal old age.

Our babies are smart and healthy.

I hang my clothes on the line.

Duke Energy has gone solar.
We all have solar roofs.

We enjoy playing with our children without worry.

Our garden has healthy vegetables that taste wonderful.

When I sit on my porch, I hear quiet, calming sounds of birds and leaves rustling.

The Division of Environmental Quality (DEQ) takes care of people.

Duke Energy will go to all renewable energy.

Dirty politicians will go to jail.

Our air is not used as a trash can.

The community is coal ash free, and I am appreciative.

Our community does not have coal ash.

No coal ash is being transported by trucks.

Lynn Good has a conscience. [She is Duke's CEO]

Our air is clean.

There are no industrial accidents.

Duke Energy’s bullying has stopped.

The N.C. General Assembly cares about citizens.

We have clean water and air.

We have a safe and healthy region/community.

We are free of cancer.

Our community remains after a hundred years.

Duke Energy has paid its debt to our community village immensely.

My legacy can continue.

Keep coal ash out of my community.

I don’t like drinking dirty water.

My life means a lot to me.

So keep your coal ash out of Moncure.

I like having a life without your ash.

I do not like eating coal ash dust.

Keep Moncure clean.

All our houses have solar panels.

Our well water is clean.

Our river water is clean.

I am healthy.

My pets are healthy.

I can hear the birds along the roadways.

People want to come to Moncure because of our clean environment.

Duke Energy now lives on Mars.

Duke Energy gives $$ freely to our community.

Our trees are not destroyed.

On Friday, January 22, the first coal ash train arrived at the Brickhaven site where 12 million tons of coal ash are being dumped by Duke Energy, using Charah as the dumper.


Sunday, January 24, 2016

The Early Poems of Sergei Esenin

First Snow by Nikolai Smirnov, a lover of Sergei Esenin's poetry

This painting hangs in my living room.  Right now I'm teaching a course in writing poetry by Skype using as models three 20th Century Russian poets:  Anna Akhmatova, Osip Mandelshtam, and Sergei Esenin.  I had trouble finding many good translations in English of Esenin, who is still much loved in Russia, his poetry made into songs.  He lived from 1895 to the end of 1925.  At first it was thought he died at his own hand, but later research shows that the Soviet government at the time had him killed.  These poems were written when he was fifteen and show his love of the village and rural life where he grew up.  When Nikolai Smirnov was in the U.S. (part of a Sister Cities exchange with Kostroma, Russia, and Durham, N.C.), we had a show of his work at the Masterpiece Gallery in 1998, and he recited Esenin's poetry to us.  Smirnov's portrait of Esenin hangs over my computer.  Thank you, Nikolai and Sergei for your images and your words.  Judy Hogan


Sergei Yesenin.  Poems for Poetry Class, Winter 2016. 

From his early years.  From Selected Poetry translated by Judy Hogan

p. 27, 1910

It’s already evening.
The dew sparkles on the nettles
I stand in the road
learning on a willow tree.

The light of the full moon
is falling on our roof
Somewhere far off
I hear the song of a nightingale.

Like a stove in the winter
everything is nice and warm.
And the birches stand
like huge candles.

And in the distance along the river
at the edge of the forest
a sleepy watchman is banging
his clapper board.

P. 29.  1910

There where the sunrise light
waters the cabbage rows
a young maple tree is sucking
at its mother’s pale green udder.

P. 31 1910

The crimson light of dawn
is weaving itself onto the lake.
The weeping woodcocks
are making the pine woods ring.

There orioles are crying
hidden in some hollow tree.
I’m the only one who’s not weeping.
In my soul it’s light.

Down the road toward evening 
I know you will come.  We’ll sit
on the fresh shocks
under the nearest haystack.

I shall kiss you, crush you like a flower
until you’re drunk.
When you’re intoxicated by joy
you won’t worry about gossip.

You’ll enjoy my caresses,
throw your silk bridal veil away.
I’ll carry you off to the bushes
until morning.

Let the woodcocks weep
as much as they want.
There’s a joyful melancholy
in the crimson dawn.

P. 33. 1910.

In the mist the flood water
licks the river silt.
The moon has dropped
her yellow reins.

The red haystacks in the fields
look like churches.
With a mournful croaking
the black woodcocks call me to all-night mass.

The dark blue grove
conceals your poverty.
I’ll pray secretly 
for your fate.

P. 35. 1910

White bird cherry blossoms are 
strewn on the wet green grass like snow. 
In the fields rooks walk along the rows
looking for shoots.

The silky grass bends low.
The pines smell of resin.
Oh, you meadows and forests,
how spring stupefies me.

Secret news gives me joy.
My soul is bright.
I’m thinking about my love. 
I’m singing only of her.

Shed your snow, bird cherries.
Sing, little birds.
I’ll run weaving through the fields
carrying flower foam.

P. 37, 1910

Clear little stars, high bright stars,
What are you keeping to yourself?
What are you hiding?  Stars, carrying 
with you such deep thoughts, what is 
this power you have to fill our souls?

Happy little stars, friendly little stars,
what makes you beautiful?
What gives you power?
How do you awake in us, stars without number
with your great strength, a burning curiosity?

And why, when you shine down on us,
do you beckon us to join you in the heavens?
Holding us close in your embrace
looking at us tenderly, caressing us!

Heavenly stars, you’re so far away.

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Review: Watch Where You Walk: New and Selected Poems by Mary Kratt

Watch Where You Walk: New and Selected Poems.  Mary Kratt.  Lorimer Press, Davidson, NC. 2015.  ISBN 13: 978-0-9897885-6-4; ebook: ISBN 10: 0-9897885-6-3.  123 pages. 16.95

Mary Kratt’s Watch Where You Walk: New and Selected Poems is a book to treasure and to be comforted by.  It reminds us of the real nature of life--its constant change.  It gives us hope.  Nearly every poem tackles something in our human experience that has been or could be lost: family, the natural world, our history, especially Southern history.  These poems end with little epiphanies that remind us of what we needn’t lose, what is still there after loss. 

Here’s the title poem, “Watch Where You Walk,” p. 3

Savor the purple blooms,
the prickly contrast.

beautiful in bloom
they crowd the green pasture
beyond the window
far in the distance,
our hilly meadow.

Bring your hoe.

Kratt does so much with tree names:

“Trees of the Southern Forest,” p. 50

Scarlet oak and loblolly pine,
water oak and willow–
name labels along the path,
this last place Father and I strolled
before he walked
into the wide cave of the hospital.

Pin oak, post oak, white oak.
He was a fisherman, teacher, principal,
and after the Great Depression,
a newspaperman.  Around our hilly yard
hemlock, white pine, pussy willow,
the red stalks of rhubarb, silky corn.
And stalwart hives of bees.

Black gum, sweet gum, sourwood.
In the retirement home, his tomatoes
climbed stakes by his window
while he interviewed his neighbors,
drove widows to the airport, told stories of his city
and trees to educate the Yankees, he said.

Tulip poplar, hickory, beech.
In the years since he died,
I walk the woods path
and find his fading labels
nailed to tree bark along this lane
in his last, quiet classroom.

Black jack oak, cedar, shortleaf pine.
When the names split with tree growth,
I hammer them back
to stretch our leafy conversation.  I walk slow
as he did toward the last, avoid the hill.
Dogwood, walnut, sassafras.
Scarlet oak.  Loblolly pine.

My favorite is: “You Saw It, Too,” p. 48

Expecting no more
than the usual grace of morning
on tall hemlocks and oaks,
we look from the porch
as sun crests the mountain,
firing spider webs–hundreds–
like a vast luminous cape.

If we stand just right,
silver gleams for an instant.
A final October orb
weaves the black bark of the forest,
and in a breath and shifting light,
it goes.  But you saw it too
in a whisker of time,
brief as life, as love,
as rare.

Kratt’s voice does not proclaim or demand.  Its whisper is confident, knowing, reassuring, and has that authority that is rooted in the integrity of the poet.  There is no need to shout.  We all long to hear from someone who has loved and suffered that it’s possible to continue to live and see good in the world and around us and to feel whole and even become wise.  Hers is an original and thoughtful way of looking at the world–with honesty–not dodging away from the hard things, yet with a deeply felt acceptance.

This one summarizes the whole book, in a way, but you need to read every single poem.

“Canticle,” p. 94

Like a new candle
in an old cathedral,
hope wavers,


Mary Kratt, a native of West Virginia, has lived most of her life in Charlotte, North Carolina.  Her poems have appeared in numerous literary magazines and anthologies.  She is a winner of the Brockman-Campbell Poetry Book Award, Oscar Arnold Young Poetry Book Award, Peace History Book Prize, St. Andrews Writer in Community Award, and the Irene Blair Honeycutt Legacy Award.  Her nonfiction books feature the Piedmont region of the Carolinas.  She taught English and American Studies at UNC-Charlotte and currently lives in Charlotte with her husband Jim.

Sunday, January 10, 2016

A Few Thoughts About Writing

Judy on January 2, 2016, with new wood bin gift from Jim and Dawn Shamp.  It now keeps my firewood dry.  Thanks!

A Few Thoughts To Encourage My Writing Students from Judy Hogan [I've been teaching creative writing for 42 years.]

1.  A writer is one who writes.

2.  There are only two rules that I have found for good writing: (1) hold the reader’s attention and (2) make your writing vivid, so other people can be there, experience what you have experienced. Your characters should come off the page; your images should help us see and understand what you mean.

3.  All creative writing has to do with feelings.  We begin with our own, whether we write non-fiction or fiction.  “It takes as much courage as talent to be a good writer.” Charles Edward Eaton

4.  Conflict is hard in life but always interesting to read about.  Put it in your writing.

5.  Write like the Oriental painters painted.  First, they looked for a long time at the scene they wanted to paint; then they painted it in a few swift brush strokes.  Imagine in your mind what you want to describe and then put down what you see, hear, smell, etc.

6.  Per Henry Fielding and before that, Horace: “The author who will make me weep must first weep himself.”  If you laugh while you write something, or cry, the likelihood is that the reader will also laugh or cry.

7.  Write as you talk, naturally.  “Never use words you wouldn’t, in the stress of some emotion, actually say.”  Ezra Pound

8.  You can break any rule if you can get away with it.

9.  Honesty may be what makes one writer great and another merely good.

10.  Read good work, especially classics of the past and present, work that does new things for the first time or work that does the job the very best that it has been done.   (Pound’s categories of Inventor and Master)

11.  All writing helps: diary, letters, essays, grants, newspaper stories.  It is all working with words to find the ones that do the job the best.  The more you write, the better.

12.  Nurture your muse or unconscious.  It is the source for most great passages and lines in literature, for images, too.  Learn technique, but then forget it, and let the Muse speak.

13.  Write first and criticize second.  Your mind will gradually learn to take out the weak words, trite phrases, dead metaphors.  But don’t worry while you write.

14.  See it as a process.  See yourself as one of a large company of dead and living writers.  None of us knows how important we may be, but every human effort to record and say something intelligent about human experience is valuable.  We don’t know (per Virginia Woolf) whether it matters for hours or centuries, but the main thing is to “write what you wish to write.”  And learn how to do it well before you put it out there.

15.  Let writing be your favorite thing to do!  Look forward to doing it, treasure doing it, see it as pleasure, not pain.  Set aside ritual time in which to do it.

Some books that have helped me: Virginia Woolf’s A Room of One’s Own, Carolyn Heilbrun’s Writing a Woman’s Life; Soren Kierkegaard’s “The Difference Between an Apostle and a Genius” in The Present Age; Henry James’s The Art of the Novel; Ezra Pound’s ABC of Reading; T.S. Eliot’s “Tradition and the Individual Talent”; Joyce Cary’s The Horse’s Mouth; Jacques Maritain’s Creative Intuition in Art and Poetry.

Sunday, January 3, 2016

Nurturing the Muse

Fontanka--the buildings along the Neva River in St.Petersburg, Russia, and in the old Sheremeteva Palace (Fountain House) on this bank, Anna Akhmatova lived much of her life.  I'll be teaching her poetry beginning January 11, by Skype. 
Photo from Vera Belikh

A Few Words on the Muse and Other Subjects for writers I care about very much from Judy Hogan [from the mid-1980s]

As some of you know, I’ve boiled good writing technique down to a few simple principles:
1.  You can break every rule in the book if you can get away with it.  This is Prometheus logic.  It’s a big if.
2.  There’s a madness in my method, i.e., I trust the sources of creative work, the “gift” more than most people–that which seems to work on its own once we’ve jiggled it into motion.  I now have a book which says it, besides Homer, who was my main authority before: The Gift by Lewis Hyde.  Here’s a quote to entice you:

We also rightly speak of intuition or inspiration as a gift.  As the artist works, some portion of his creation is bestowed upon him.  An idea pops into his head, a tune begins to play, a phrase comes to mind, a color falls in place on the canvas.  Usually, in fact, the artist does not find himself engaged or exhilarated by the work, nor does it seem authentic, until this gratuitous element has appeared, so that along with any true creation comes the uncanny sense that “I,” the artist, did not make the work.  “Not I, not I, but the wind that blows through me,” says D.H. Lawrence.  Not all artists emphasize the “gift’ phase of their creations to the degree that Lawrence does, but all artists feel it. 

As many of you know, I believe your best work at any stage tends to “flow out.”  It will have qualities you can’t “think” into it directly: wholeness (integrity), authority, and authenticity, that are hard to get any other way.  It may not be perfect.  It may need editing–excisions, additions, etc.  It also won’t be “perfect” in the sense of flawless.  Good china, the real stuff, often has flaws.  Tom Jones has some lovely words on how the people we love and value, like good china, have flaws baked into them.  So will your best work.  Don’t worry about it.

Worry instead about your access to your creative source.  Give it a name, a shape, build a myth about it.  The Muse lives in a corner of my kitchen and sometimes leaps up on my refrigerator and meows piteously to get my attention.  Sometimes I feed her cream, and sometimes I throw her out the back door.  What I’d like you to do for awhile–say, three months--is to feed your Muse cream.  Or whatever is the equivalent in your myth.  Keep a diary, if you don’t already, and ask yourself what your muse will be like.  Describe your relationship to her.  Does she wake you at 3 A.M. demanding to be fed?  Do lines come to you in the grocery store?  Two women in their 80s at the Methodist Retirement Home, told me the Muse had waked them up and made them write things down at 3 A.M.

The moral of the story is: give her regular attention.  If you have other responsibilities and things you must do, okay, but as Jesus said about the poor, “They will always be with us.”  So will your responsibilities–in one form or another.  Don’t fall into the Betty Friedan trap (the one she described in The Feminine Mystique, of letting housework (or whatever) expand to fill the time available. Try it for twelve weeks.  A bargain struck with your Muse.  For twelve weeks, oh, Muse, you get regular food, to stay in the house, to listen and talk to me, and to be flattered and petted.  What muse doesn’t like to be spoiled?

Try to discover what your particular Muse likes.  What stimulates her?  Mine likes me to have long, leisurely mornings, even if I have to start at 5:15, and unlike Trollope, I have no manservant to wake me up and bring me coffee, and make sure I don’t fall back to sleep after I turn off the alarm.  Mine also likes me to walk, think, and observe in beautiful places.  Mine likes certain books, and a balanced rhythm: introspection and a tuning in to my inner life, balanced by being an active small press editor/teacher, and doing more extrovert things.

At times it likes me to do something–with people–or, say, reading detective fiction, that quite takes my mind off my thoughts.  It’s a kind of shutting down of the effort to think and create consciously, and allows, as Virginia Woolf puts it, “the mind to celebrate its nuptials in peace.”  Then I, in effect, “watch the swans float down the river.”  It likes me to consult my feelings, to give it (her) an important place in my life.  The more I am “together” and “clear” the more I resolve my problems and can look out at the world through a cleaner, more focused lens, the better she likes it.

She doesn’t like interruptions, but she’ll tolerate them if I do.  She likes a relatively controlled, safe environment, with good defenses. A secure time and place, an answering machine or unplugging the phone, turning off the ringer–help her relax and do her work.  She likes regular attention and not to be manipulated or artificially stimulated past a point (e.g., by drugs or alcohol).  A few rituals–coffee, a glass of wine, turning clocks around--are okay.  She’s not a machine.  She “works” but not by turning an ignition switch.  She is more easily coaxed than coerced.  She loves it when I fall in love or have any intense experience.

She’s shy, but if the company assembled is seriously and respectfully interested, she will speak, even in company.  She can learn, too.  She doesn’t like to be insulted or taunted, but if you point out to her what isn’t working well, she’ll accept that.  She absorbs everything that’s interesting and important to her like a sponge.  She loves the language of the older writers–words like discover.  “I will discover your wickedness to the world.”  She also likes new words and idioms when they are apt.  Language is both fun and serious for her.  Her ear is offended by a misuse of words: e.g., privatize.  She feels like someone has made the chalk screech against the blackboard.  She loves language that sings, that evokes, that feels powerful.  She’s very “into” power.  My Muse is very modern but a not too distant cousin of Hesiod’s nine, who dance on top of Mt. Helicon, around a spring.

Let us begin our singing/from the Helikonian Muses
who possess the great and holy mountain/of Helikon
and dance there on soft feet/by the dark blue water
of the spring, and by the altar/of the powerful son of Kronos;
who wash their tender bodies in the waters/of Permessos
or Hippokrene, spring of the Horse,/or holy Olmeios,
and on the high places of Helikon/ have ordered their dances/
which are handsome and beguiling,/and light are the feet they move on.  From there they rise, and put a veiling/ of deep mist upon them
and walk in the night, singing/in sweet voices, and celebrating. 

So that’s one thing I hope you’ll do, and continue doing: feed your creative source.  Only by following your Muse can you achieve Helicon.  Cheers and love, Judy Hogan