Monday, May 31, 2010

Excuse Me, I'm WRITE-ing

Pea flower

I have sometimes been a cranky writer.

"I'm writing," I say when my daughter interrupts. I put special emphasis on the word writing, and extra-special emphasis on the first syllable.

I think I do this because when I draw out the wr sound, it's an act of verbal wringing. I want to wring the interruption right out of my day.

Okay, the truth is I was a cranky writer as lately as Saturday, when working on my Barbie poem. My Littlest became very insistent when I was smack in the middle of what felt like my best thoughts. I had to stop in the "boys" section and attend to her. I felt irritated, and I even gave her a mini talk on how it's unkind to interrupt people's creative processes. It can take away their thoughts.

There is a place for drawing boundaries around our moments. Still, I think Julia Cameron is right. Interruptions will not ruin us. They will not wring our thoughts out of us, ruin our poem or chapter. Do we really think our ideas are so superficial as to disappear that easily?

If I'm honest with myself, I know my daughter cannot steal my thoughts; they rise from deep places. So why did I give her the mini-talk? It's because my pleasure had been interrupted, and that felt uncomfortable. That is the more precise reason, and it moves away from blame.

Somehow it seems important to try to be more precise and, instead of blaming, say, "I felt sad to stop writing my poem, because I was having so much fun." It is the real reason for my irritation. After all, as a seasoned writer I've been interrupted over and again, and it never stopped me from finally getting my words on the page.

As it turned out, my Barbie poem went where it needed to go. Even with a 45-minute detour between lines three and four. Maybe even because of the 45-minute detour (special emphasis on the word because :)

Pea Flower photo by L.L. Barkat.

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Saturday, May 29, 2010

Barbie at Communion

Barbie Broken


Young men pass me by,
prefer cracker guns to plastic
flesh, pull triggers
that pop like an Amen, can
we say Amen. Young girls
see possibility, not in my
eyes that probe for
communion with their
childlike hearts, but in
flesh they can hold,
bare my breasts
to cross cold floors.
I turn my branded back
to them as if to say to
girlish priests, this is
my body, break, leave.

This poem is in celebration of Barbies at Communion. It is also a piggyback poem to the title poem in that collection. If you'd like a chance to win the book, stop by Tweetspeak Poetry and leave a comment before Thursday night.

Would you like to write your own Barbie poem? Join us for Random Acts of Poetry. Drop your post link here by Thursday for links and possible feature at Tweetspeak and HighCallingBlogs.

Broken Barbie photo by L.L. Barkat.

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Thursday, May 27, 2010

God in Your Yards

dandelion in seed

This morning, up early— very, very early— the humid air reminded me of my grandmother's house. Something about the way the fragrances hung low, grass and earth and begonias just outside the door, mingling. Standing in the semi-darkness, I found Laura Boggess's first post on God in the Yard. Her words caught hold of me. Here is her beginning...

. . .

When I was a child I lived in the country. I did not know for many years that we were poor. I never understood that most folks did not live the way we did. We were happy to be tucked away, hidden from the world by the trees and the sky and the bubbling creek.

I never realized how rich that land made us until much later.

Are we in a depression?

My youngest asks me this not too long ago as we walk the streets of our suburban neighborhood.

Do you mean as a nation or as a family?

Our family…are we in a depression?

Do you mean emotionally or economically?

I quickly run through my head all the conversations his daddy and I have recently had. What has he overheard?

You know, with dad’s new job and stuff…are we not doing very well with money?

. . .

After I read Laura's post, I went back to bed. There were hours left to sleep, and I wanted to try. But her words stayed with me, and the words of some of her commenters, and the words of commenters in the past (about some of my other books). Words that remind me there are people who want to read, but books are costly.

I know this, and it is why I always donate copies to three of my local libraries. Last year, someone in Georgia got to read Stone Crossings because he received it through interlibrary loan. It traveled a whole coastline to reach him.

This morning, though, an idea began to form in my mind. What if? What if a book could be sponsored? It might allow more people to read, for a fraction of the cost, or no cost at all. Here is how I envision it working. It would be an experiment in community of course. It might not work. Still, what if?

Way 1. What if I offered to mail a copy of the book to a first responder? I could write a little note to this person. There are a few blank pages in the book just waiting for this. But the person would agree to hold the book only for a month, then pass it on, to the next responder I know about, or they find out about. In turn, they would pen a note on its pages, to the next person. Maybe, if people prefer to remain anonymous, we could write something like, "to a friend in Colorado," with the date.

When the blank pages are filled, and the book has been passed from hand to hand, I would ask that it be mailed back to me. Then we could give it away. (Oh, sure, I would like to keep it, but the spirit of this seems to suggest making a gift of it.)

I could sponsor a book in this way. But anyone else could too, handling the process similarly. We could be like a library system with a personal touch. It would mean a $5 investment to cover shipping, but that is a good $10-$15 in savings over buying it outright.

Way 2. Remember my friend in Georgia? He waited almost six months to receive Stone Crossings through the library loan program, and another blogosphere friend noticed and decided he'd buy my friend the book. This is another form of sponsorship we could offer. It's different from a giveaway, because it is specific... I want you to have this book. Even as I write this, I know who I'm going to do this for.

Laura's words this morning were like a seed, planting an idea in my mind. Our gifts could be like seeds, hopefully planting some kind of healing in each other. If you are someone who would like to receive the first drift-upon-the-wind, email me with your name and address, at llbarkat [at] yahoo [dot] com. Tell me whether or not you would like the book page signed to your name or just your state. I will send you a copy and ask that you pass it on within a month. If I receive multiple requests, I will pass the next name and address on with the book.

It could be a messy process. But I suppose farming never did come without a little dirt on the hands and feet.

Speaking of which, go on and finish reading Laura's post. You'll see what I mean about the feet when you get there...

Dandelion in Seed photo, by L.L. Barkat.

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Tuesday, May 25, 2010

When Words Are Few

white flower


when words are few,
I think to pick
a flower, white,
for you, a star
nameless, waiting.

Flower photo by L.L. Barkat.

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Friday, May 21, 2010

God in the Yard is Here...

God in the Yard

There is something about a book in my hand. The weight of it, the way the pages move. I admit I felt a sense of delight when I opened my mail today, and touched God in the Yard for the first time.

I am such a sentimental writer.

Thank you all for your warm encouragements. When you open the cover, you will find the book's dedication is to you.

(UPDATE: God in the Yard is now on Amazon Retail. :)

God in the Yard on the Front Steps, photo by L.L. Barkat.


Thursday, May 20, 2010

Startled in the Shatter

glass bangles

Rabia of Basra grew up in ancient Mesopotamia. She is credited for being a major influence on the poet Rumi. Rabia, a woman of remarkable beauty, wrote many poignant poems about God.

She is also quoted as writing, "Show me where it hurts, God said, and every cell in my body burst into tears before His tender eyes."

Rabia had a hard life, after all. She somehow became separated from her parents at a very young age, was sold into slavery, and was used in a brothel until she was about 50 years old. Some say that her freedom was bought by a wealthy patron.

When did Rabia find God, and how? I tried to imagine the disturbing answers to these questions, in...

"Rabia's Confession"

You came to me in marbled echo
of their footsteps, smoothed leather
sandals removed and placed at arched
doors. I felt your presence in ruby
silk they expected me to wear,
gold-threaded, unwrapped
by hands that searched
for eternity in my breasts,
jasmine sweat, skin like

Sometimes when in haste,
they lowered themselves
too hard, too fast,
Your voice startled in the small
shatter of a glass bangle
that fell from my wrist
with a 'clink, clink, clink,'
taking with it the tiniest offering
of blood.

Glass Bangles photo, by L.L. Barkat.

HighCallingBlogs' Glass Bangles, Silver Arms: Poetry on the Ancients

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Monday, May 17, 2010

Finding Your Words

Wildflower purple blue whit

The poet walks. That's what Julia says. I did not know this is what she says until I got home, from walking. Julia is right. When we walk, we find our words, we find memories we take home in our bodies. These are a few of the memories I now hold...

skunk cabbage

Giant leaves make me feel I am in the rain forest, but this is just a quiet walk in a Northeast wood.

Girl in woods

"There's a circle!" She runs over and sits, telling me it reminds her of Stonehenge. What is it about a circle?

wildflower garden

My Littlest has gone off and found a secret garden. It feels enchanted.

wildflower pink

Mandrake flower bowed

wildflower cornflower

Mandrake flower

Moth on Mandrake

A white moth surprises me when I look again at the photo. I did not know he was there.


The green of an open field. It heals without words.

girls in field

My girls know all about what a field can do. See how it animates?


The day is like seed upon seed. Who knows where it will drift in memory, and maybe someday in words?

Ward Pound Ridge Reservation photos, by L.L. Barkat.

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Thursday, May 13, 2010

Freeing Myself From Distraction

white flowers

I feel tense. It's been busy around here.

What to do?

I return to the idea of outdoor solitude. Drink roasted-rice Japanese tea and listen to the dog next door. Something fragrant is on the air. It smells white and iridescent, if that makes any sense.

shadow on concrete

Freed from distraction, I remember Claire's PhotoPlay. So when I am finished sitting, I retrieve my camera and go in search of simplicity.


Not quite getting it, I don't care. It is good to be a beginner at something. To be, again, a person who tries.

Flowers, Shadows, Doorknob photos, by L.L. Barkat.

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Monday, May 10, 2010

Writing for the Lint Pickers

Making the Boat

I am going to tell you about my friend Liza.

Okay, her name isn't really Liza. But if I told you her name, then I wouldn't get to write about her. And I want to write about her, because Liza used to do something deadly to her creative self, and maybe you are still doing what Liza used to do.

She would make these beautiful poems. Truly beautiful.

Then Liza would go to another poet friend who would read her poems quietly and seriously, as if she really cared about these beautiful poems.

It would start small.

You should take out the last three lines.

Liza would feel a little sad. She especially liked the last three lines.

The language here is too wide open.

Liza liked wide open language.

I just don't get the point of this poem.

Liza liked a little mystery.

By the time their "sharing session" was done, Liza felt like the dumbest poet on earth— which, if we listen to Julia Cameron this week, we will understand was exactly what Liza's friend was hoping. Maybe not consciously; she spent the time reading the poems, she took the time to share her critiques.

But, in the end, Liza's friend was like the playwright's friends that Cameron discusses...

The feedback from the playwright's jealous peers? Mainly lint picking. How is the playwright to understand the size of what's been done when the comments all address the creative lint?

I'm not saying that it's bad to have friends who can tell us where we need to cut three lines (or maybe even ten), but if that's the only kind of feedback they ever give, we need to do what Liza finally did. Find a new place to share.

Making the Boat, photo by L.L. Barkat.

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Friday, May 07, 2010

If You Love Them, They Are Wildflowers

mini violets

"If you don't like them," she said, "they're called weeds."

"But if you love them, they're wildflowers."

My daughter is right of course. It is why I have so much trouble starting the mower this morning. Miniature violets, like a crowd of lovely children, look up at me as if to say, "Please?"

My mower is roaring and can't hear them. But my heart says, "Go around." And I do.

tall grass

Tall grass catches the light just so. My daughter says that cut-grass doesn't have real shape any more. It is why I feel compelled to capture a memory on camera, before I please my neighbors and cut it all down.

purple weeds

Here are the purple weeds. But no, I mow around them and change them into wildflowers.

wild onions

Here are the onions I pull by hand. They bleed onto my fingers. I smell them, along with the bled grass, the bled Bee Balm (which has rewarded my trespass with an Earl Grey fragrance).

after mowing

And here at last is the garden without (most of) her wild friends. She's beautiful in her way.

Flowers and Wildflowers photos, by L.L. Barkat.

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Wednesday, May 05, 2010

How to Quadruple Your Blog Traffic in a Single Day

Goblets Multiplied

Bradley wanted to know.

Did it work?

Yup, Bradley, it worked. By writing a List Post, I quadrupled my blog traffic in a single day.

Okay, maybe it's not that simple. Maybe it's really because...

1. I included the Dalai Lama in that post.

2. These famous people were included: Melissa, ProBlogger, Shel Israel, Seth Godin, Brian Clark, Glynn Young, Maureen Doallas, Dan King, Katdish, Billy Coffey, and Marcus Goodyear.

3. I included a major Current Event: Super Saver Triumphs at Kentucky Derby.

4. Dan King, Master of All Things Twitter and Facebook, tweeted and Facebooked the post.

5. Not only did Dan King tweet the post, but these really cool people of obvious good taste did too: @dukeslee, @nathalie101, @salamicat, @doallas, @billycoffey, @SandraHeskaKing, @gyoung9751, and @katdish.

6. The headline was a bit unusual: 31 Days to Build a Better Blog: The Dalai Lama Effect.

7. The post is part of a group project. (Note, there are lots of great group writing project opportunities at HighCallingBlogs all the time. From poetry and photography celebrations to book clubs and holiday special projects.)

8. It was just meant to be. :)

All that said, Bradley, do you think Julia Cameron would be offended if I write everything in lists now? Because I'm thinking it is my ticket to Blog Big Time.


I meant to say the same thing Bradley just said in the comments. One day of big traffic does not a difference make! Ah, but if we can convert those random visitors into followers, well. ;-) Anyway, Bradley, you must stop by Green Inventions on Friday, when I will reveal the subtle secret of how to accomplish this extremely important undercover task.

Goblets Multiplied Photo, by L.L. Barkat.

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Saturday, May 01, 2010

Julia Cameron Meets ProBlogger


Julia told me I should just write, even if I didn't feel like it.

I didn't feel like it.

She said I should write about something I was feeling emotional over. I can't say I felt emotional over ProBlogger. I didn't. But then, Julia was also saying that if we just write, we might warm up to our subject.

I warmed up.

First I set down the title "31 Days to Build a Better Blog." Because that's a project I am going to do.


If I feel like it.

But no, Julia says it has nothing to do with whether or not I feel like it. I can just write.

So I wrote my first of thirty-one 31-Day posts to show Julia I could follow directions. Maybe because Julia was writing about her horses in that chapter, I got on a Bambi theme myself. Okay, Bambi is not a horse. But he IS a cartoon mammal, and that seems somewhat related.

Anyhow, Julia Cameron met ProBlogger and together they inspired this baby button (and, if Bambi is compliant, 31 days of posts to better blogging)...

31 Days to Better Blogging

    ProBlogger's Day 1: Write an Elevator Pitch for Your Blog
    Paul's 31 Days to Build a Better Blog project (begins Monday, May 3... or, if you're like me... Saturday, May 1 :)
    LL's 31 Days to Build a Better Blog: Bambi in the Database
    HighCallingBlogs Invite the Muse to Tea
    Glynn's The Poetry that Surrounds Us
    Nancy's Mood Altering
    nAncY's thoughts and dreams
    Monica's The Sincerity of Pretense
    Lyla's Getting My Foot in the Iron Door
    Cassandra's Word Play
    Melo's Day Two on Day One
    Marilyn's Chasing Down Blind Alleys

    Deer on Safari, photo by John B. Used with permission.

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