Riding the Flexible Flyer

Riding the Flexible FlyerTuesday, June 19th may have been a typical hot day in Riverside, but I escaped the heat with over twenty of Celena Diana Bumpus’s poetry students and guests at the second reading in the Tuesday Literary Series at the Janet Goeske Center in Riverside, California.

Ms. Bumpus leads a highly engaged group at the Goeske Center for an hour-and-a-half long workshop each Tuesday afternoon from 1:00 to 2:30, one of the Center’s many free lifelong learning options.

I shared forty short poems from my current manuscript, including “Riding the Flexible Flyer,” which tells the story of a memorable childhood sled ride.  You can see my splayed hands and bent knees in the photo above as I describe the launch of my sled.  Nothing like a fanciful winter poem and a well-airconditioned room to help one forget the wilting temperatures outside.

My poems explore nature, time, and family relationships with images from my rural childhood in Northeastern Pennsylvania and from Southern California’s Inland Empire where I’ve lived for nearly twenty years.

After reading I enjoyed conversation with the group about my poems and the craft of writing.

I look forward to hearing Michelle Gonzalez read on July 10 at the third presentation in the Tuesday Literary Series organized by Bumpus’s Islands for Writing Publishing. Tim Hatch will read on August 7.

 

 

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Fear, Hope, and Flight

Ontario Museum of History and Art

Ontario Museum of History and Art

Shortly after two this afternoon, her feet planted firmly on the floor of the Ontario Museum of History and Art, Nikia Chaney did more than walk the talk, she took flight and brought a room full of writers with her.

Nikia Chaney

Nikia Chaney (photo by Cindy Rinne)

Chaney captivated the four tables full of workshop participants as she opened with the recitation of one of her own poems. In her rich alto voice, she pondered the removal of her wings. Far from fanciful, her words tapped into deep human fears and desires.

Waving off applause and finger snaps, saying we needed to move quickly with so many participants, Chaney quickly sought volunteers to read each of the three poems she had included on a handout: Ed Roberson’s “Here,” Langston Hughes’ “Dreams,” and Maya Angelou’s “Touched by an Angel.” She asked the participants to question: What do you fear? Why do you hope? What does it mean to fly?

Marsha Schuh

Marsha Schuh, workshop participant

Chaney gave ten minutes to write on each question. She encouraged the participants to write prose or poetry, whichever they would like. She had planned for the group to break for inspiration from the “Black Wings:American Dreams of Flight” exhibit on display at the museum through March 8th, but the number of participants prohibited it.

Workshop participants

Workshop participants

When thirty minutes had passed, the sharing began. Chaney encouraged initial praise and then constructive criticism. The group needed little prodding. Almost entirely women, they were highly affirming. Each participant had the opportunity to read.

Chaney saved here friend Ginger to close. With only five minutes remaining, Ginger dazzled the group with her spoken word performance.

Ginger

Ginger

In two hours, the group metaphorically took flight on more than twenty journeys from fear to hope and left with their own new creations.

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Resolution: Divide and Conquer

One of my biggest problems as a writer is organization. Not organizing within my work, but organizing my work. I stacked up a clothes basket of papers over the last year. I started trying to sort it several times. One time I covered my bed with stacks, another time the dining table. Each time I ended up having to put the stacks back in the basket before I was done.

I know some people celebrate Christmas in July; well, I’m making resolutions in August, even if the year is more than half over. I’m vowing to keep my papers in order.

I’m going to divide and conquer. It’s worked for me before. I just got extra busy this last year and didn’t get the tools I needed when I needed them and then found the task too overwhelming to face.

Summer is the time for me to get organized.

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Traditional Dividers work well for separating sets of drafts with feedback from critique workshops.

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31 Tabs are perfect for the months I participate in poem-a-day groups.

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Alphabetical tabs help me keep track of the poems written during the year. Yes, searching for a title in my computer is likely faster, but flipping through printouts has benefits similar to reading a print edition of a newspaper over reading news online.