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ARTIST FEATURE: Blooming Where You Are Planted – An Interview with Gale Glover

Gale Glover Artist Feature[The Phoenix Rising Collective]

This is a story about a woman who might not call herself an artist in the same way others have claimed their inner artistry from childhood. She did not grow up dreaming of being a children’s book author. She did not necessarily feel the calling in her life to write until her hands couldn’t write anymore. However, her work ethic was cultivated from a young age. She learned about perseverance and determination early.

Gale Glover is from Flint, Michigan. Flint has this wonderful reputation for teaching people how to fight for what they want, because Flint is not an easy city. It does not carry the white picket fence label. Although people can build a white picket fence, if they wish, they have to keep the fence up. They might have to change the color or paint it white every year due to environmental conditions – rough weather, rough circumstances and rough times.

Over the last few years I have watched Gale in the work environment stay late and catch up on work while also going to school, because that’s what people do when they want to accomplish something specific. She explained she grew up poor in a single-parent household. One mother and no father. She started working when she was 14 years old. At age 17 she skipped school and worked three jobs. The next year she moved out of her mom’s home. A few years later she ended up in a physically and verbally abusive relationship. The details sounded like a Lifetime movie. She dealt with the stalking and hiding from someone, being beat up numerous times, and jumping off a two-story house to escape to safety. Gale explained that it is easy for people to say, “Just leave. End the relationship.” But it is not easy. In her early 20’s, when this occurred, she wasn’t aware of the available resources for battered women. She did not know about YWCA or the National Domestic Hotline. She shared that even now it is a journey, because she is still learning what it means to be in healthy viable relationships that empower her.

We talked briefly about the importance of knowing what resources are available to those who have experienced abuse. The statistics on violence against women are alarming. She told me, “It is important for kids not to go through what I went through. That is why I work so hard.” One of her goals is to write an autobiography about her experiences. “I want women to know they can survive. We are survivors. We can get through anything. Knowledge is the key. If we know the resources, then we can get help.”

It is no coincidence that her degrees are linked to her experiences. She received her degrees from University of Michigan-Flint. She triple majored and received a B.A. in Criminal Justice, Sociology and Africana Studies. She then completed a Masters in Public Administration. Presently, she is in a Post-Master’s Education Specialist Program. But her studies and experiences are more poignant. One of the key reasons for her pursuing these studies is also linked to her daughter. Gale has a maternal spirit. At one point in her life she had five children living with her (not biological). Her home was a safe space for youth to develop. One of the children is her daughter, Alicia. Due to a number of circumstances her daughter faced, Gale gained custody when Alicia was a young teenager. She shared, “When I got my daughter she was struggling through school. She had bad grades in middle and high school. In helping her excel I had to ask myself, how can I tell her to go to college if I haven’t done so myself? So because of this, I went to school. I went from being a single person with no kids to a single parent going to school full time and working full time.”

She also shared that at one point they ended up taking a class together. Excitedly, her daughter, Alicia, is graduating with her Masters in Health Education, May 2016.

All of these life experiences lead to Gale’s children’s book series. She started writing the Reach Higher Ed series in 2013. The purpose in creating the series is to educate kids through the literary arts. The books are learning tools that introduce them to higher education. She explained the series is not only for kids. It’s also for their parents.

Gale Cover

The first book introduces them to higher education and encourages them to reach for their goals. This book includes 10 tips for being successful in college. It also has a glossary of academic terms. The second book is the activity and coloring book. She is presently working on Reach Higher Ed Learning Our Degrees. This third book introduces kids to the different programs like biochemistry, astrology and astronomy, as well as professions that kids can pursue like being a teacher or doctor.

This led me to ask Gale about her own bucket list. She wants to pursue a Doctorate in Education and start her own organization to help kids reach their highest potential. Moreover, she wants to do this in Flint, Michigan. She’s a die-hard supporter and fan of her city. She is the essence of the phrase, “Bloom where you are planted.”

When I think of Gale, I think of my own dreams as a writer and traveler. I am reminded through her that it takes work. When times are rough, I have to put on thick skin and keep going. This is why I chose Gale as the feature for March, because I notice her efforts. She does her work with a smile. Between pursuing this Post-Master’s degree, she is the Administrative Assistant in the Communication and Visual Arts Department at University of Michigan-Flint; She is the Marketing Editor for Qua, the University’s literary magazine; And she is a writer. She is blossoming where she has been planted. She is the fruit of her own labor. She is Gale Glover, a work of art always progressing to the next thing to support a generation following her lead.

She is a great reminder that this is blooming season. Spring!

 

Domestic Violence Statistics:

National Coalition Against Domestic Violence

National Intimate Partner and Sexual Assault Survey

Bureau of Justice Statistics Selected Finding – Female Victims of Violence

More information about assault:

RAINN

Full Report of Prevalence, Incidence, and Consequences of Violence Against Women

 

The Phoenix Rising Collective’s Artist Feature, curated by Traci Currie, interviews women artists who use their talents and creativity to fully express self-love, build self-esteem, and nurture their own authenticity while inspiring others. Creative expressions may range from performing to painting to writing to travel and everything in between. Our goal is to share how these empowered women cultivate agency, healing, and happiness through fulfilling their passion.

 


traci_currie[contributor]the phoenix rising collectiveTraci Currie is a Communication and Visual Arts lecturer at University of Michigan-Flint, as well as a knit-crochet artist, writer, and spoken word performer. She has been a part of the art world for over 15 years as an art gallery board member; spoken word series organizer; performer, nationally and internationally; and published poet. She believes The PRC will help women reach their highest potential.  “The Phoenix Rising Collective is about empowering women to take ownership of their lives, claim their identities and be the positive change they wish to see in the world they live.” Read her latest posts. You can learn more about Traci’s work in creative arts HERE.

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ARTIST FEATURE: Awakening to My Truest Self – An Interview with Jade Ponds

 

Womens Art and Creativity[The Phoenix Rising Collective]

There are many characteristics I love about the February 2016 feature, Jade Ponds. Her punching dry wit and her determination to reach personal goals are two obvious aspects that stand out. Also, she has a gentle and kind spirit mixed with tough love. There is a lot to this young woman whom I have had the pleasure of knowing in different capacities.

She was born in Banbury, England but moved to Flint, Michigan as a child. She had written her first poem when she was 10 years old. In actuality, her teacher placed her in “time out” for getting in trouble. She told Jade not to move until she wrote something. Soon after, without ever having written poetry in her life, she produced a poem called Love. Jade years later joined the Navy and served a four-year term, traveling to places like Dubai, Singapore and Hawaii, just to name a few.

I met Jade at a poetry event in December 2007. She came to the venue to support her cousin who was in the first spoken word class I had taught at University of Michigan-Flint. After the event, she approached me. She explained how shocked she was to see her cousin not only perform but sing on stage. This evidently was an anomaly. The next year Jade registered for the course. She wasn’t just a student in the class; she was a mentee. The odd thing about talking about mentor-mentee relationships is that the flow of knowledge and wisdom feels one-sided at times. But that was not the case with Jade. She shifted the tides in how I saw learning because she was someone who wanted to learn everything she could about writing, performing and developing as a person. She always asked a lot of questions – Jade kept me on my toes!

When she finished the spoken word class in 2008, she didn’t just move on to other classes. Oh no! Jade registered for credits to assist me with the other spoken word classes. She started producing the chapbooks for the course while working on her own poetry book. She graduated from University of Michigan-Flint with a B.A. in English literature. She continued her education, graduating with a M.A. also in English literature and a concentration in Creative Writing. I had asked her to emcee a monthly performance set I was organizing. The shift in the relationship moved from teacher-student to friend. Not long after, we started working together at Genesee Valley Regional Center, a Flint juvenile detention center. We co-facilitated a spoken word workshop with young women Monday evenings. Jade (after graduation) accepted a job with General Motors as an UAW supervisor while still publishing poetry books, co-facilitating the performance workshops as well as teaching martial arts on Wednesday evenings. Yes, she is a 4th degree black belt in Tang Soo Do. She is a woman of many talents.

Jade Ponds [womens art and creativity] The Phoenix Rising Collective]

However, the information above is not the story I want to tell about Jade. The story I want to share is specific. It’s about the shift in her life. I begin this story by sharing an excerpt from her poem Fair Exchange:

Life hangs in the balance

Balance no longer an option as one side dearly

Outweighs the other

Death is near

She is set to be a mother

Complete with belly rubs from well-wishing strangers

Never knowing the danger lurking around the next bend

The end

Much closer than before as she

Blacks out and falls to the floor

Pain overwhelming

Not just a throbbing

Or a stabbing

Or a shooting pain,

But a combination of all three times ten

Accompanied by blood

Horrific at best

With no chance for rest before rushing to the E.R.

Hands trembling

Scenes skipping from one to the next

to the next

then darkness

This poem speaks to an experience that made her rethink her life and the sort of legacy she wants to leave on earth. In July 2009 Jade was at her annual family reunion in South Carolina. Big family. Lots of children. All sorts of food. Playing games and talking smack – what every reunion should have, right?

She explained what happened on this particular summer day:

I woke up that morning because I am an early riser. I was also the only adult who would play with the kids. We were on the trampoline around 8 in the morning for about an hour, jumping up and down like kids do. When I got off I couldn’t stand up without feeling like I was going to fall over. I felt a pain in my abdomen – the lower right side. I ignored it though. Although the pain persisted, I kept moving through the day playing other games. Around 6 in the evening I was unusually tired. My mother-in-law gave me two Tylenol so I could lie down on my back because my stomach was really hurting. It got worse. I stood up to get somebody and then I passed out. I ended up waking up and calling Mike (her husband) but then I passed out again. I was rushed to the hospital. There were moments where I could see everything in front of me but then it got darker and darker until I couldn’t see anymore. And that’s when I had an outer body experience. It was sudden. It was like stepping outside of myself and seeing me on the hospital bed, along with Mike and the doctor. It was peaceful and I didn’t feel any pain.

What I learned was I needed an emergency surgery. My fallopian tube was removed because I had an ectopic pregnancy. Unlike normal pregnancies, the fertilized egg stayed in the tube instead of moving to the uterus. I was 7-weeks pregnant and the baby was growing in the tube, which had ruptured. Essentially that day, I had been bleeding in my belly. I had lost the baby.

This moment of awakening represented both death and new life. On one end, my child had died and I could feel my life draining out of my body. For a moment I thought, “This is my last day on earth.” And it could’ve been. I asked myself how were people going to remember me. And I didn’t like the answer. What I understood about myself was that I had been holding myself back in life. I was the person that didn’t allow people into my world. I was very guarded (and still am to a degree). But I wasn’t living up to my full potential. I was not fully writing my truth or loving completely and fully. I might have to be responsible for other people’s feelings, especially if I impact them and I connect with them. Yes, I was shy, but it was more than just being shy. I was afraid of publishing my book because I was afraid to share. So this brought on that question, “How am I going to be remembered?” It was time for me to recognize the things I liked to do. For example, I liked helping people. But it was also time for me to recognize the experiences that placed me in a corner. In the past, I didn’t want to give people an opportunity to get to know me. And I think that stems from my hurtful relationship with my dad. He was the first person who truly let me down in my life. When I started to acknowledge resentment from within, I also had to acknowledge the discomforts and vulnerabilities related to our father-daughter relationship. I listed the discomforts:

On my dad’s watch I was molested.

On my dad’s watch I didn’t feel a sense of security

On my dad’s watch I felt like he wasn’t listening to my heart.

On my dad’s watch I felt unloved.

 

Although Jade acknowledges these experiences and feelings, she also admits she is still healing. And she doesn’t shy away from the anger or frustrations she feels about her dad today. She writes about it; She talks to trusted people; She uses her experiences to empower and help. When I am with Jade I am pushed to the next level of artistry because she reminds me that my truth should be spoken and shared, if for no other reason than to release and speak aloud as a way of acknowledging myself in the universe. That is where my healing begins.

It’s befitting to end this article with her words I carry, especially during times when I want to shut everyone out, “What I have learned is to treat each person as an individual and not as a collection of failures.” Yes, what I have learned is that there are some people who will show you how to trust. I’ve been fortunate to connect with a woman who shows me what trust means in my artistry and in myself.

Thank you, Jade Ponds!

 


 

traci_currie[contributor]the phoenix rising collectiveTraci Currie is the Art + Creativity contributor for The Phoenix Rising Collective. She is a Communication and Visual Arts lecturer at University of Michigan-Flint, as well as a knit-crochet artist, writer, and spoken word performer. She has been a part of the art world for over 15 years as an art gallery board member; spoken word series organizer; performer, nationally and internationally; and published poet. She believes The PRC will help women reach their highest potential.  “The Phoenix Rising Collective is about empowering women to take ownership of their lives, claim their identities and be the positive change they wish to see in the world they live.” Read her latest posts. You can learn more about Traci’s work in creative arts HERE.

ARTIST FEATURE: I Am Becoming – An Interview with Mireidys Garcia Jimenez

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Artist Feature [The Phoenix Rising Collective]

The Phoenix Rising Collective’s Artist Feature, curated by Traci Currie, interviews women artists who use their talents and creativity to fully express self-love, build self-esteem, and nurture their own authenticity while inspiring others. Creative expressions may range from performing to painting to writing to travel and everything in between. Our goal is to share how these empowered women cultivate agency, healing, and happiness through fulfilling their passion.

This Artist Feature is Mireidys Garcia Jimenez:

I asked her, “Who are you?” And Mireidys Garcia Jimenez responded, “I am Becoming.”

I almost want to begin and end this story with the sentence above. As the interviewer, it speaks volumes, but it would be unfair to the reader to end with this sentence. At least I would be annoyed as a reader. Sometimes we meet people who are more than a passerby in our journey. They are spiritual beings made of earth, grounded in their descendant nature, using words to transform ways of thinking. Sometimes we bask in the presence of spirit-beings who are beyond their own spatial time. They show us that all things are accessible if we are willing to tap into that inner-treasure that sits at the pit of our stomachs. I met a few particular women this 2015 summer in the Art of Text workshop at Kenyon College. Mireidys is one of the women who inspired me.

Her family is from Pinar Del Rio, Paso Real, Cuba – a rural place where much of the crops that feed the majority of this country’s population are grown. She was born in Cuba and moved to Hialeah, Florida when she was 4 years old. She explained that her grandfather was a political prisoner. He was allowed to leave Cuba by himself when he finished his sentence, but he refused until he could leave with his whole family. This eventually happened, with great effort.

In asking Mireidys about other places she calls home, she mentioned Amherst, Massachusetts where she went to undergraduate school and found a safe familial space. She received her B.A. in Creative Writing and Cultural Studies from Hampshire College and will be completing her M.A. in Publishing and Writing from Emerson College December 2015. I, of course, asked her about writing and what it meant to her. She said she has always been a writer and that she always felt like she spoke in poetry. In the video she speaks of this literary experience.

 

One of my favorite questions to ask writers is what other literary artists inspire, influence, and inform their craft. Mireidys was clear and precise:

My favorite poets are Pablo Neruda and Aracelis Girmay. Neruda is the only author whose work I’ve enjoyed equally in Spanish and English. For me, none of his magic is lost in translation. Girmay is a political poet and the most predominant mentor figure I’ve had in my journey as a writer. I admire the incredible urgency and intimate delivery with which she conjures the unspoken. My favorite book is Just Kids by Patti Smith. This is the first novel I picked up after years of only reading poetry and I was captivated by Smith’s lyricism and zealous honesty.

I think what moves me most about Mireidys is the thickness in her poetic tongue. Her words sit with me and remind me that I am a part of this world in a very spiritual way. I remember watching her in the summer workshop. She moved from that pink typewriter to her space at the table and back to the typewriter. At one moment she was sitting right outside of the studio completing a writing assignment for the workshop. She was intense and deliberate in creating both her stories and books. In the midst of creating, though, she smiled. She smiled an earth-tone smile that reminded me that she is both night and day. She makes up the best of 24 hours, especially when under pressure. She worked tirelessly, which is why I chose her as a feature. Mireidys Garcia Jimenez reminds me of the greatest possibilities. Watching her made me reflect and ask, “How bad do you want to write and publish TC?” Moreover, “How hard are you willing to work for these possibilities that are knocking at your door?” Her literary talent and hard work inspired me to create more time and space for this art form I believe in.

The following poem is an excerpt from Mireidys’ upcoming collection. The poem is entitled The Cuba I Stole from my Mother’s Tongue.

Still, she smells of cafesito and el mar

forms a hurricane with her dance,

swaying hips, poised stance— she is guilty

for the waves in the vast Atlantic Ocean.

 

Yet this Cuba was never mine

no, blame it on the fact I lost a country

too young.[1]  Mine lives only in the voices

of my ancestors echoing this red earth for miles,

crawling under stories of exile, blindfolded

trying to make constellations out of English.

 

 

[1] From Ruth Behar’s The Island We Share

Learn more about Mireidys Garcia Jimenez

 


About the Contributing Writer:

traci_currie[contributor]the phoenix rising collectiveTraci Currie is a Communication and Visual Arts lecturer at University of Michigan-Flint, as well as a knit-crochet artist, writer, and spoken word performer. She has been a part of the art world for over 15 years as an art gallery board member; spoken word series organizer; performer, nationally and internationally; and published poet. She believes The PRC will help women reach their highest potential.  “The Phoenix Rising Collective is about empowering women to take ownership of their lives, claim their identities and be the positive change they wish to see in the world they live.” You can learn more about Traci’s work in creative arts HERE.


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Shades of Deeper Meaning: Thoughts on Love, Loss, Resilience, and Poetry

For National Poetry Month I have chosen to interview three poets whom I have had the pleasure of getting to know. I want to showcase the spirit of this art form through their life experiences. What I hope you will notice is the very unique voices that shape these women. I asked all three the same questions, but the way they chose to answer reinforces the power of how humans identify themselves as individuals, social beings, and collective forces. I also observed that the women, as unique and individually powerful as they are, spoke of similar experiences: pain, resilience, change, and appreciation.

Andrea Daniel

Andrea_quote

Who are you?

I am a totally creative person – all arts, culture and entertainment, with a splash of communications. My dreams/vision for my life have never changed since I was a little girl, which means I’ve always been into poetry, singing, dance, theater, writing, video production and voice over work, but my left-brain and right-brain work in tandem, because I’m also a business owner. I have to split my time and mind between the creative and the business side. I am a woman who thrives on positivity, putting it out there and getting it back. I’m a mother of a wonderful 22-year old son who is also a creative type; I am a sister, a daughter, friend to a close circle of like-minded people; a woman who loves to laugh, and a pet owner of a sweet little 13-year old terrier mixed with poodle.

Primarily I’m a writer, as most things I do stem from the realm of writing.

Please share significant moments in your life that really defined your poetic artistry.

LikeGwendolynCover_cmyk

Click photo for more info about
Andrea and Like Gwendolyn.

While I’ve always written poetry, I believe my voice was the strongest in my years of recovery from domestic abuse. In 1992, I left my abusive husband of four years, taking my, then, two-year old son with me and moved from Maryland back to my hometown, Detroit, MI. Needless to say, I wrote a lot of poems after I left; poems about abuse and its effects, and poems about my son when he’d have to leave me for long periods of time because a judge ordered that his father have visitation rights. This was a very painful time for me. My only response was to write about it. Those poems are published in my first poetry book, Like Gwendolyn, and while the entire book is not about abuse, it’s those poems and the poems about my son that tend to resonate most with people.

One of the greatest experiences I’ve had was after graduation from Oakland University in 1985. I worked on a cruise ship, the S.S. Emerald Seas, which was part of the eastern cruise line (I don’t think it still exists). I was part of the five-member song and dance act, TiChand, performing as the floor show on the cruise ship, five nights a week, two shows a night. I was the only American along with four Canadians, and the only Black person in the group. We sailed from Miami, Florida to the Bahamian Islands. I felt like it was exactly what I was supposed to be doing at that time in my life; there was nothing about it that felt foreign to me. Our contract was for six months, but because I have a minor heart condition, which flared up during my solo performance one night, my stay was only for one month. I will never forget it.

Another highlight of my life was after I left my marriage back in 1992. In addition to writing poetry, one of the things that was a great distraction from the upheaval of my life, was the opportunity to write and be the lead vocalist on a House music track called Stars, which was produced by the internationally known House music DJ/producer Carl Craig. My cousin was dating Carl at the time, and she recommended me to work with him when he needed a songwriter and a singer on his newest project. We recorded two tracks, which both became very popular in the House music scene here in the U.S. as well as in Europe. A surreal thing about that experience is, today my son is a House music DJ, and people he knows in the industry still have high regard for the music I did 21 years ago.

Do you have a favorite poet, writer, and/or artist?

(Andrea extensively spoke of many poets, writers, and artists.) Here are two:

Gwendolyn Brooks. She was one of the first African American poets I was introduced to as a child. The clarity, rawness and lyrical nature of her writing had a big impact on me. I’d met her twice in my life, once when I was 10. She autographed a copy of the book The Black Poets for my father, which I still have. And again I met her while I was in college when I attended a Master Class she conducted at Oakland University. She was a very direct and thoughtful woman.

Nikki Giovanni. One of my favorite books of hers is Cotton Candy on a Rainy Day. From Nikki I learned that poetry can be fun, serious, and well, Nikki Giovanni is just an awesome poet and woman. I’ve heard her speak twice, and it was from her that I also learned to cure writer’s block: learn more about [your] subject, read something, study something, then the words will come.

Shilpa Venkatachalam

Shilpa_Quote

Who are you?

I am from, Bombay, India. I left India when I was 20 years old. I completed my Masters in English Literature at the University of Durham, U.K. and followed it with a Ph.D. in literature and critical theory at the University of Nottingham, U.K. where I also taught briefly. I currently teach literature and philosophy at the University of the West Indies, Trinidad. Suffice to say, I am, however, at a crossroads in my life and am soon to make a switch into the area of public health and policy fueled by a desire to make a difference in the area following the experiences that resulted from my father’s diagnosis and recent battle with cancer, which came to a close a few months ago.

How do you identify yourself in terms of your artistic craft?

As a writer, writing is simultaneously one of the most difficult things to me and the most ‘natural’ because it is through writing that life unfolds itself; it is through writing that moments of clarity, epiphany, whatever one chooses to call them present themselves to you in order for you to chase them through dark alleys, winding roads, and serpent like pathways.

It is always a hard thing to say what one’s poetry is about: life, love, disappointment, betrayal, faith, regret, pleasure, pain, ecstasy – all of these and yet none of these. For if I could capture what it is all about, I would perhaps not write at all. Writing is the very quest; it entails a process of searching and chasing, a curious struggle to articulate the unsaid, incomprehensible. And in that attempt, a hope to find at least a glimmer of understanding and of capturing. That, at least, has been my hope.

Please share significant moments in your life that really defined your poetic artistry.

Life, for me has been full of surprises and unexpected twists and turns. There comes a point in your life when everything comes to a head, when one difficult situation is relieved by another one. The past three years for me have been a testimony to this; from my own serious illness, to my fathers battle with advanced cancer and his subsequent loss, weeks on end spent in the critical care unit, and the loss of a close friend, and then my own crisis as a result of these events – a crisis of the self, a crisis of what life really means, a crisis of relationships and people. It seemed nothing would give.

But through all this, one begins to understand oneself; one begins to realize the dignity and strength of people who suffer and see the suffering their loved ones are going through; one sees a remarkable humanity and empathy that ironically shines through when people are going through the most testing times of their lives. This fantastic ability of people to pierce through, beyond their own pain and reach out to the other has been most inspiring to me. The renewal of faith in life and in people is unrivaled, stunning, magnificent and nothing short of remarkable. There is also the transience of all things in life, something I continue to battle with to understand, an urge to grasp it, to embrace it, to resist it, all at the same time.

Do you have a favorite poet, writer, and/or artist?

As far as favorite writers or books are concerned, I find myself gravitating toward them depending on where I am in life at that particular point: what experiences I am going through or have gone through, what my philosophy at that moment is. Everything is a process of metamorphosis, so it could be mountaineering books, it could be Borges, it could be Graham Greene, it could be Em and the Big Hoom. Different writers, different books touch and impact me at different points in my life.

 ___________________________________________

A Poem by Shilpa Venkatachalam:

Here and There

You want guarantees,

I can offer you none.

Like a subatomic particle I exist in two different states simultaneously

I am wave

And I am particle

And come into being only for an instant that disappears before it has decided to stay.

I’m already planning to leave you before I have even met you.

I’m already preparing to destroy before I have even created.

This is my tragedy and this is my bliss

I am clothed in contradictions

Like matter and anti-matter

I am immersed in inconsistency

Before I have committed

I know I will deceive

I cannot offer you what I do not possess

I cannot possess that which you want me to offer to you.

To sustain anything is a challenge I am unable to meet

Every second explodes with a million alterations

That invade my being

And that make it quiver.

How can I offer you a guarantee

When I have never known what it means.

___________________________________________ 

 Jan Worth

Jan_Quote

Who are you?

I was born in Canton, Ohio to a preacher and his wife in 1949. My mother was 39 when she had me.  I have a sister who is ten years older than me, and I have a brother who is seven years older than me.

Lately I’ve been thinking about the endurance of one’s very first impressions of the world.  My world was full of people who were bigger than me.  They were imposing figures but nobody was quite happy.  I was surrounded by people who were fairly ill at ease and who made a lot of decisions about me. I didn’t really experience the world as a place that I had control over.  My job, it seemed, was to bring slivers of joy into this rather depressive unit.  Apparently I used to hold my breath until I blacked out to get their attention.  I remember only one of these episodes.  On the other hand, I somehow felt like I wasn’t really “one of them” and so I always assumed whatever was going to happen to me would have no connection to them. I was surrounded by religion, scripture, religious music, words – and my poems have a lot of the iambic pentameter of the King James Version in them.

My family always expected catastrophe:  my father’s father was killed during the Depression and his family lost their farm.  My mother’s father was a traveling evangelist who was always leaving, leaving, leaving, and her mother lost her mind.  I’ve gradually learned that the worst doesn’t always happen.  That’s been a great relief.

nightblind

To learn more about
Jan and her novel, Night Blind,
click the photo.

So, this avoids the question of who I am now.  I am just letting go of those first impressions of the world.  Not everyone else is bigger than me.  It is not my job to make everybody else happy.  I do not want to continue carrying my mother’s grief – she is dead.  I am profoundly in love with using words – I recently used the phrase “sanctimoniously reasonable” and I love how that sounds, and how perfect it is for what I meant at the time. That kind of thing gives me deep pleasure.

I am a woman who’s learning to breathe.  I’m a woman who’s gradually trusting my rhythms and my deep inclinations towards words, but I know words aren’t enough; sometimes, the body knows things – sometimes silence is best.  I’m a woman trying to be in the moment, as the saying goes. I know I can’t be alone all the time, and one of my greatest pleasures is sleeping with my husband.  I mean actually sleeping – the physical refuge and comfort of our conjugal bodies together.  I’m a woman who doesn’t know much of anything for sure.  I think the earth is spectacularly beautiful and I wish we weren’t ruining it.

How do you identify yourself in terms of your artistic craft?

See above – my ear is pretty closely attuned to the cadences of the old scriptures and hymns, even if my content isn’t always. I love working with sound; I want my poems, even the depressed ones, to be melodious. I love interesting words.  I am continually touched by the “natural world,” by air and fragrance and new growth.  I still generally believe in the individual ‘eye’ and ‘I’ although I know a single voice often isn’t enough.  But it’s what I have to work with.  Protestantism is very centered on the individual – on the individual’s private and rightful relationship to God.  In my case, I’ve taken that to mean I have the right to doubt.  And believe me, I do, and feel no guilt.

Please share significant moments in your life that really defined your artistry.

I was at Kent State University when the shootings happened in 1970; it was a turning point for me, making me believe the world was dangerous and sometimes short. I felt quite reckless for a time after that. Peace Corps in Polynesia shaped me in that I took myself on a giant adventure and survived it – I’ve written so much about that that I don’t have much more to say.  Flint has affected me, too, of course – the continual wrestling with its troubles, my first marriage to a Flint man and poet; the deterioration and collapse of our long marriage, the ruin of the place.   And then, discovering the joy, in my 50s, of a man who loves me – wow.  It’s been the biggest surprise of my life, and I’m profoundly grateful.  I’ve had to learn how to write happy poems.

Do you have a favorite poet, writer, and/or artist?

One of my first literary faves was the South African short story writer Nadine Gordimer.  I remember reading one of her short stories when I was about 14 or 15, working as a library page in Coshocton, Ohio.  I remember just standing in the stacks and reading a story where a lonely woman watched a herd of deer – it touched my heart and I thought, wow, you can write like that?  I also love the poems of James Wright, Theodore Roethke, Robert Hass, Adrienne Rich, Elizabeth Bishop, Heather McHugh, Marianne Boruch – many, many, too many to name. I’ve recently been reading Mary Ruefle’s essay collection Madness, Rack and Honey and I’m crazy in love with it.  I like poets who understand the human condition is totally complicated and exasperating, and who doubt the world and love it simultaneously.

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A Poem by Jan Worth

Missiles, October, 1962

My parents said

we should get new tires

in case rubber got rationed

again.  I caught the scent

of fear. Rubber burned the air,

left dismal grit

on Akron’s windowsills.

My mother went to bed,

middle of the day, sleepless,

sweating there for hours.

Rising, she seemed as tired

as before, blanket dents

on a cheek, hair flat on one side.

She left it like that.

I got my period, red splash.

Crawled into my parents’ bed,

rare day when my mother didn’t

get there first. Nestled

in the pride of new pain,

snuggling it, my own.  Got

my first bra, small poking

breasts tender to the touch.

“Little missile girl,” my father

cracked, looking at me mournfully

as if I was about to disappear

in some uranium half-life.

“Stop it,” my mother said.

I didn’t believe the world

would end.  There was going to be

plenty of time for me, to revel in

my vivid hurts, my lucky changes,

my charmed survival after

my mother and father were history.

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tcphoto_cw2Traci Currie is a Communication Studies lecturer at University of Michigan-Flint, as well as a knit-crochet artist, writer, and spoken word performer. She has been a part of the art world for over 15 years as an art gallery board member; spoken word series organizer for 5 years; performer, nationally and internationally; and published poet. She believes the PRC will help young women reach their highest potential.  “This organization is about empowering women to take ownership of their lives, claim their identities and be the positive change they wish to see in the world they live.”