PortraitS – A Chapbook….

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PortraitS: A Poetry Chapbook

Longing, nostalgia, plants dreaming deep, characters facing life or choosing to do anything but look inward.

How to describe those portrayals? A disillusioned therapist, an agnostic priest, a bitter war widow, an abandoned wife, a forgotten war hero….

None are outwardly connected; their backgrounds and personalities are divergent and ofttimes contradictory. Yet it is their yearning for understanding and love that unites them in that eternal search.

PortraitS is here. I hope that you will consider reading it. I hope even more that it touches your heart.

And now for the commercial: you can purchase it directly from my website: cynthiastrauff.com

And so it goes…

cynthiastrauff.com

Humankind Cannot Bear Very Much Reality

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Poets today. Poets have been on my mind all week. T.S. Eliot penned the title of today’s blog. And his words resonate as we continue to face and attempt to deal with today’s reality. Some hours I put forth my overwhelming gratitude for the life that fate just happened to deliver to me — born of the “right” parents at the “right” time in the “right” place. And there are hours when my heart opens to those who are not so lucky. White tears? Perhaps, albeit sincere ones.

I”m spending my working hours now in the 1950s, thinking of those women who led the way, before feminism was even a term, and certainly not yet a term of derision. I consider the women poets of the time, that prickly group who were often their most prickly with and about one another. None garnered the fame they believed they deserved. Only Sylvia Plath’s name generates recognition today, perhaps more to do with her suicide than her body of work. But here I present a work by Muriel Rukeyser. Some things never change. Poets remind us of that.

I lived in the first century of world wars.
Most mornings I would be more or less insane.
The news would pour out of various devices
The newspapers would arrive with their careless stories,
Interrupted by attempts to sell products to the unseen.
I would call my friends on other devices;
They would be more or less mad for similar reasons.
Slowly I would get to pen and paper,
Make my poems for others unseen and unborn.
In the day I would be reminded of those men and women,
Brave, setting up signals across vast distances,
considering a nameless way of living, of almost unimagined values.
As the lights darkened, as the lights of night brightened,
We would try to imagine them, try to find each other,
To construct peace, to make love, to reconcile
Waking with sleeping, ourselves with each other,
Ourselves with ourselves. We would try by any means
To reach the limits of ourselves, to reach beyond ourselves,
To let go the means, to wake.

I lived in the first century of these wars.

http://www.cynthiastrauff.com

Despair is Not an Option, Part II

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I wanted this week’s post to be about my new book — almost ready to be born, almost ready to come into the world. I wanted this week’s post to be about joy, about creativity, about seeing one’s work come into being. And I am happy, almost joyful about it. Echoes from the Alum Chine, almost here, really.

But this week’s news has just been too disheartening. Tax cuts for the rich, a massacre of the EPA, destruction of arts’ advocacy groups. I won’t go on – I’m sure you know more than I what is at stake. What a statement of values from our elected-by-the-electoral-college president.

My wonderful German-American cousin sent me this poem, a blessing, in these days when we need a blessing, or whatever word we’d use for help in not despairing. John O’Donohue says it better than I ever could, for in poetry lies our soul. Would that our leaders realized that.

Beannacht (“Blessing”)

On the day when
the weight deadens
on your shoulders
and you stumble,
may the clay dance
to balance you.

And when your eyes
freeze behind
the grey window
and the ghost of loss
gets in to you,
may a flock of colours,
indigo, red, green,
and azure blue
come to awaken in you
a meadow of delight.

When the canvas frays
in the currach of thought
and a stain of ocean
blackens beneath you,
may there come across the waters
a path of yellow moonlight
to bring you safely home.

May the nourishment of the earth be yours,
may the clarity of light be yours,
may the fluency of the ocean be yours,
may the protection of the ancestors be yours.
And so may a slow
wind work these words
of love around you,
an invisible cloak
to mind your life.

~ John O’Donohue ~

And next week will be better.

Another Sunday, http://www.cynthiastrauff.com

 

 

On Sabbaticals

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On Sabbaticals

An extended period of leave from one’s customary work, especially for rest, to acquire new skills 

My last sabbatical, now more than ten years ago, resulted in my leaving the world of paid employment, a decision that freed and fed my soul, if not my bank account. Every morning since I’ve given thanks for those gifts.

Now, my novel-in-progress progressed, newly birthed, has been sent to the inboxes of literary agents, waiting to be loved, rejected or deleted without being read by a junior unpaid intern.  I’ve taken this labor of love as far as I can, and, for the next few months at least, it is in the hands of the universe. I’ve released it with love and hope.

But I’m feeling more than a bit untethered without the focus, and burden, of the world of 1913 that I’ve inhabited for so long. So I’m stepping back, trying a self-declared sabbatical. Not from all writing- I’m still committed to my morning pages, and this blog- but I am withdrawing from the world of writing fiction for a while, and I hope that when I return, it will be with a rekindled energy. Another historical novel? Well, yes. Just not now. And maybe a return to poetry.

For the last two weeks, I’ve read and read and read, and semi-compulsively pruned and organized files. But I’ve also watched the birds at the feeder and followed leaves as they fell to the ground. Many books wait on that to-be-read pile, some poetry to savor, to ponder, by poets once loved and those newly discovered. And genealogical research, and Zentangle, and watercolors, and a trip to the beach, a visit to the mountains. And, most of all, lots of time for thinking, for renewal.

Time and freedom – I’ve had both for several years now. But somehow this interlude, this sabbatical, seems especially precious. I’ll keep you posted on my journey. And I wonder if I can go three months without writing. I’ll admit characters for the next book are forming in my head.

On Books of Poetry

On Books of Poetry–

I came late to poetry, so in a rush was I. A rush to accomplish, to do, always to have more to do. And although we can’t change our basic personalitites, I am now at a time in my life where I am more interested in being, and thinking – mainly thinking.

A few years ago, I found myself in a poetry class, and soon everything I saw, everything I thought about, became a poem. I started writing, sometimes only in my head, sometimes getting out of bed in the middle of the night to make sure that a line, a phrase, was written in a scrawl just legible enough to be deciphered the next morning. And, thus, my love affair with poetry began.

Last month I lost a good friend, an accomplished poet. She too left the world of paid work, of wins and losses, to concentrate on looking at, and writing about, the world – hers and that of others. In her last weeks we spent some time together, not talking, just being quiet, together. Since her death I thought about contacting her family, to ask if I could have one of her books. I just wanted one that she had held, perhaps read, perhaps loved. Then I learned that she had left her entire collection to her poetry group, and they were kind enough to make the books available to anyone who might be interested. I went with the intention of taking one, just one, to remember her by.

In fact, I came home with a treasure trove of poetry, works by poets whom I had meant to read, when I had time. So now I live with Fred Chappell, Randall Jarrell, William Carolos Williams, Adrienne Rich, Theodore Roethke. And more. And more. They wait, on a special bookshelf, where I can see her sardonic raised eyebrow, smiling, and hoping that I will get to them one day.

And I will. A Saturday morning with black coffee and Charles Bukowski, a Sunday afternoon with bourbon over ice and Alan Shapiro.

I’ll get to them. Really. I promise.

Another Sunday, http://www.cynthiastrauff.com