Wednesday, August 14, 2019

A Creative Ride -- Poetry by Hariana Chilstrom

Sometimes writing inspiration is just a bus ride away. Thanks to Hariana Chilstrom for letting me share this thought-provoking piece. Like a bus, it starts in one place and takes us somewhere else.

Misanthropy Rides the Bus
by Hariana Chilstrom

Riding on the #14 bus
On my way home,
Chewing on my thoughts
About loud, smelly, pushy people,
My eyes suddenly closed.

And, like a big friendly black and tan dog
A question wandered into my mind:
“I wonder if I could love everyone on this bus?”

Well, I didn’t get an answer
But the question sure was interesting.
It opened up a space
I didn’t know was there.

It was like finding a hidden room
Empty and unused
In a house I thought I knew well.

Maybe I won’t rush to fill it,
With homilies and affirmations
But wait
To see what comes
To see what shows up
To see what 
Honestly wants to be there.

About the author: Hariana Chilstrom is a science educator and visual artist who is passionate about pollinators and other (mostly spineless) creatures. She has written for the Pacific Horticulture Journal, several natural history associations, and the Seattle Aquarium. Many of her current creative non-fiction pieces have been spawned by experiences on city buses.

Sunday, August 4, 2019

Wild Things

Thank you to the editors of Sonic Boom for publishing two of my flash stories in their latest issue. My stories are on pages 34 - 36 and include "Hansel and Gretel and Johann" and "Hunter's Moon."

You can click here to read this issue, which is full of wildly creative poetry, fiction and visual art.

Tuesday, July 30, 2019

The Storm Within

Thank you to the editors of Inquietudes Literary Journal for including my poem "Blow, Winds" in their latest issue. You can read Issue 3: Spaces here.

The title "Blow, Winds" comes from King Lear. Thrown out by his scheming, power-hungry daughters and madly roaming the stormy heath, Lear rants,

Blow, winds, and crack your cheeks! rage! blow!
You cataracts and hurricanoes, spout
Till you have drench'd our steeples, drown'd the cocks!
                                                                 Act 3, Scene 2

As king, Lear has never been exposed to the elements in this way before. Now he's experiencing nature's indifference and also paying the price for favoring the daughters who've learned to flatter him. The pain he feels now is exacerbated by the knowledge that he brought it on himself.

If you live in the Portland area and would like to see a free production of Lear in a graveyard, Portland Actor's Ensemble's production of the play will continue at Lone Fir Cemetery, Thursday - Sunday through August 4 at 7 pm.

Tuesday, June 4, 2019

I Want to Speak Norwegian

My great-grandfather with my grandmother, brother and mother.

Like most of my poems, this one started as a freewrite.

When I was growing up, I loved hearing my grandmother talk about her Norwegian father. She couldn't stand her bullying older sisters (Tillie was the absolute worst), and she never told me much about her mother, who died young, but she adored her father. He died the same year I was born, but from my grandmother's stories, I felt like I knew this man who escorted two younger nephews to the U.S. and ended up staying here himself.

Writing from one of my own prompts in class (the assignment was to "translate" a Norwegian poem), I began facetiously with "I want to speak Norwegian" then ended up writing about this fabled family character, my great-grandfather, who I'd never met. I think most of my favorite pieces start this way. In the beginning, I have no idea where I'm headed, and, with luck, I can let the ink and creativity take the lead. If I’m even luckier, I'll end up with a poem that may have something to say to others, too. 

That’s what happened with “I Want to Speak Norwegian,” which recently earned a 3rd Honorable Mention in the Oregon Poetry Association’s “Poet’s Choice” category.

Here’s what the judge of the contest, John Sibley Williams, said about all of the six poems he selected:

“Given the wealth of incredible poems submitted to Poet’s Choice this year, selecting only six was a struggle. So many more deserve to be honored.

…All six of these profound, moving poems inspired me. They stimulated. They emphasized conversation over didacticism, allowing me to encounter them on my own terms. They all shocked me with their potent images and surprised me with their turns and transformations.

And they accomplished this via such diverse methods.”*

I’m  grateful to have my work included in this generous praise, but even more, I love that Williams acknowledges how many poems deserve to be honored.

As a creative writing teacher, I know there are legions of artists creating rich pieces that may or may not receive the attention they deserve. And yet every time my classes meet, the room hums with appreciation for the words of all the participants.

Now that the spring sessions of my classes have come to a close, I want to thank every one of my students for the depths of their creativity and courage. Their work enriches other lives, and, I hope, their own. And that, I believe, is the ultimate reward.

Sunday, May 19, 2019

Cause for Celebration

Congratulations to J.R. Langston, who will be one of the featured readers at the Ooligan Press Writers of Color Spring Showcase on May 22!

I had the good fortune to meet Langston years ago at a class I was teaching at a community school and am thrilled about her well-deserved success.

If you'd like to attend the reading, here are the details:

Ooligan Press Writers of Color Spring Showcase
May 22, 7:00 pm
Literary Arts, 925 SW Washington

The event will be hosted by Anis Mojgani, Literary Arts Board member, two-time National Poetry Slam Champion, winner of the International World Cup Poetry Slam, and multiple-time TEDx Speaker.

Featured readers include:

Rajesh Reddy
J.R. Langston
Genevieve Deguzman
Lily Lamadrid
Hannah Kim
Jennifer Perrine
Takashi L. Kendrick
Jessica Mehta
Jessica Cagle-Faber
Moxxy Rogers
Erica Compere

For more information about this or other Literary Arts events, click here.

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Fact and Fiction

My parents in awe of their new son.

Many thanks to the publishers of Wordrunner for including two of my poems in their new echapbook, Upheavals, which you can read here.

One of the pieces is about a pregnant woman leaving her husband. Pure fiction. I call the woman "my grandmother" in this poem, but my grandmother never stormed out of the house flapping a dish towel. Or at least not that I know of.

The second poem is simply a list of details my mom has told me about my birth, including the popcorn she ate the evening before and my inability to breathe in the first moments after I was born. This is a factual piece, and yet I've added some details of my own. I don't know, for instance, what my dad was wearing that night, but I call it a "cranberry" cardigan because he always told me how over the moon he was to have a daughter as well as two sons, and I associate cranberries with celebrations - a family gathered around a table. Were my brothers really cold when they stood outside and waved to our mother, who was standing in a window? Who knows, but that image felt right to me.

As for the grandmother poem, my real grandmother was a tough, spirited lady, so maybe there's a hint of truth in this piece after all: An example of fact and fiction playing hide and seek between lines.

Wednesday, March 27, 2019

Stories, Poems & Prosecco

A few of my favorite writers.

My adult students recently gathered for a party.

What were we celebrating? The fact that each of them had written a story or poem or memoir in their own voice...and that they were willing to share it with us.

Each piece welcomed us into another world. A world where a woman wears red boots while pretending to dance with Robert Redford. Where another woman meets Elie Wiesel in a refugee camp. Where a Ukrainian man is on a plane full of Crimean Tatars returning home after being expelled by Stalin more than four decades before.

When I was a kid I felt special because I was a writer. I loved sitting cross-legged on my bed and pouring out ideas onto paper, then shaping them into a form that made me happy. I also loved the way my English teachers beamed approval at me.

Our party on March 16 was a celebration of both things - the private joy of expressing ourselves and the public pleasure of appreciation and applause. Writing is an act of power that can grow tenfold and more when we're heard by others. Truly a cause for celebration!