Catch These Voices and Visions

Kristin Roedell

Kristin Roedell

Kristin Roedell’s new book of poetry, Downriver, was a finalist for the Quercus Review Press poetry prize. Now it has been published by Kelsay Books via Aldrich Press. Downriver is available on Amazon. Kristin is a long-time contributor and volunteer for VoiceCatcher, and offers poetry mentoring on its behalf.

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Polish your skills as a presenter and public reader through the Toastmasters program. Unique among Toastmasters clubs, the local Thrill of the Quill club caters to writers. This club meets the first Saturday of each month (check their website calendar for exceptions). All are welcome to attend; no admission charge.

Thrill of the Quill Toastmasters Club
Saturday, July 11, 2015
Saturday, Aug. 1, 2015
9:30–11:00 a.m.
Courtyard Village 4555 NE 66th Ave., Vancouver, WA 98661
360-606-9306

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Margie Lee

Margie Lee

See VoiceCatcher Margie Lee’s art on display at Mel’s Frame Shop, 1007 SW Morrison, Portland, OR 97205. Her show “Figuration” is on display May 19–July 18, 2015.

Liz Prato

Liz Prato

VoiceCatcher prose editor Liz Prato presents her debut story collection, Baby’s on Fire, Wednesday, July 29, 2015, 7:00 p.m. at Annie Bloom’s Books. 7834 SW Capitol Hwy., Portland, OR 97219.  503-246-0053.


July 31 flyerVoiceCatcher Reading.
Contributors to VoiceCatcher: a journal of women’s voices & visions present their original work. Friday, July 31, 2015, 7:00–9:00 p.m. at Ford Food and Drink, 2505 SE 11th Ave., Portland, OR 97202. Meet and mingle with others in the VoiceCatcher community. The reading is open to all; no admission charge.

Pearl WaldorfThrough Portland Women Writers, VoiceCatcher Pearl Waldorf offers a one-day writing and creativity workshop this August. (Please note date change to Aug. 22)

Participants will immerse in the powerful model inspired by The Hakomi Method, a body-centered form of psychotherapy. Pearl says, “We’ll spend a day together luxuriating in the gift of our own undivided attention, a transformative practice in itself. With compassionate guidance, we’ll dip into embodied experiences of the four stages of creative flow.”

Writing Through the Four Stages of Creative Flow
Saturday, August 22, 2015, 9:00 a.m.–4:30 p.m.
The Studio at Box Lift Lofts
333 NE Hancock, Studio 16, Portland, OR 97212
Cost: $100

Pearl’s story sharing evenings, exploring our complex interpersonal relationships at work through the lens of attachment theory, continue at no charge through 2015.

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Save the Date! The Oregon Writers’ Colony will present its second annual Stumptown conference, Sunday, Oct. 25, 2015. It will be at the Crown Plaza Hotel in NE Portland, OR.

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Click here for the updated calendar of readings from VoiceCatcher: a journal of women’s voices & visions.

Click here for the contact form to let us know of other offerings you or other VoiceCatcher members are making in the community!

Leave the Dishes: Making Art While Raising Children

It May Be Worth It: Four Mother-Writers Share What Has Worked for Them
by Claudia F. Savage

Before the birth of my daughter, I emailed three friends who were recent mothers to get advice and commiserate. Below is similar wisdom from four successful Portland mother-writers who have maintained and deepened their practice: fiction writer Polly Dugan, poet Annie Lighthart, fiction writer Margaret Malone, and poet Alicia Jo Rabins.

How has your practice changed in terms of producing art since having children?

Polly Dugan

Polly Dugan

PD: I started working on stories in my kitchen when my sons were three and one, while they napped or after they were in bed for the night. Since then I have made writing a priority on our family’s list of other priorities. When I returned to a full-time job I wrote during my lunch hour. “Legacies” was written almost entirely during my lunch hour. Now, when the boys are in school all day, I have uninterrupted hours during the week when I can work.

Annie Lighthart

Annie Lighthart

AL: Oh, wow, wild changes. I remember sitting for hours and writing. Now, I write at the kitchen counter when my husband takes the littlest boy to drop off our older boy at school. At 8:05, they start out the door and I sweep everything off the counter. At 8:10, I sit down to write until 8:40 when they arrive back home. I have a plain, generic notebook I keep on the counter that is only for morning writing. It is one of my favorite things. When I see it, my mind quiets down.

Margaret Malone

Margaret Malone

MM: Oh my god! My practice used to consist of waking up and writing in the morning before my day job. I had a whole ritual. I would light a candle, select a poetry book to read, check my email, and start where I left off the day before. Hilarious. Now, I jump right in. No candles, no contemplation. Sometimes I will only have 20 minutes (if one of the kids wakes up early from a nap or if the baby starts crying). I still do my first drafts pen to paper, second draft into the computer, then edit off the hard copy until it’s done.

Alicia Jo Rabins

Alicia Jo Rabins

AJR: I have always used deadlines to make myself work. [Now] I spend less time on social media. I have also learned to say no to things that don’t have the right balance of time/money/effort. It is a challenge because I love to perform, but I am learning to be very strategic – efficient projects, less collaboration, more solo stuff.

How do you create mental energy for yourself to create?

PD: These days I have to create mental energy to combat the inner critic and bring focus to the page. There are still arguments to help settle, homework, and school project crises, but by working during the day when I have time alone, I’m able to give my full attention to my family when they are home and weekends which are sacrosanct family time.

AL: By habit, pure daily routine. If it is a school morning and I have an empty house for a little while, I write. Many days there is not much mental energy there, but my body is sitting in front of the page nonetheless, just in case some words arrive.

MM: Honestly, I just do what I have to do. I used to cultivate creative energy so I would be inspired to work. Now, I just don’t have the physical energy or time. If I need to write, I sit down and write. I’m so totally exhausted all the time, there is nothing in the tank except enough to push out whatever needs to get done. Sometimes I’ll look back and think, how the hell did I do that? I don’t know. I guess a lot of creating moms feel the same way. It seems impossible and yet you just have to, so you do.

AJR: For me, creative work generates energy, so I feel much more tired on the playground with my kids than I do when I am actually working. I find that my natural creative energy is not really compromised by being a parent; it is more a matter of finding the time, and the logistical or formal container, for that energy.

Are your children involved in your art (directly or as inspiration), or is your artistic discipline your coveted “alone” space?

PD: My kids are proud of my being a published author. They are partners in my endeavor, the way we are with each other’s endeavors. There are times when I am on a deadline and what the boys want has to wait and I expect them to understand. In my forthcoming novel, The Sweetheart Deal, I write about a family with three boys and some of the ease of writing those characters and relationships comes from having sons. I joke that no one is ever safe around me; anything is fair game.

AL: My children have inspired more poems about sleep and sleeplessness than imaginable. I also keep a huge stack of scrap paper that the children use for crafts. One day my older son made an airplane out of old poem drafts. After its initial flight, I found myself chasing poems with him up and down the street. Looking at each page I chased down made me see them as strange and new.

MM: When my son was little his nursery was my office. One time I was editing with my right hand while my left hand rocked him in his bassinet. Having children completely shifts the way you see and understand the world around you. You are able to see a moment from multiple points of view simultaneously. It complicates everything in the best way.

AJR: I write a lot about childbirth and mothering, but I feel like it is an alone space. So much of parenting seems to be about going past my experience to provide for the needs of my children. Whereas art-making is the time when I am alone in that experience and think deeply about it.

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Claudia F. SavageClaudia F. Savage has been a chef for people recovering from illness, a book editor, and a teacher of poetry to young women in Appalachia, ranchers in Colorado, and urbanites in Portland. Her first book, The Limited Visibility of Bees, was named a finalist for the New Issues Press Poetry Prize. Her poetry and interview credits include CutBank, Nimrod, The Denver Quarterly, VoiceCatcher, Iron Horse, The Buddhist Poetry Review, and Bookslut. Her published chapbook is called The Last One Eaten: A Maligned Vegetable’s History. Savage is a member of the poetry/music duo, THrum, whose album came forth in spring 2015. This article continues her series for VoiceCatcher, Leave the Dishes: Making Art While Raising Children.

An Embarrassment of Riches: Inspiration from Folk Tales, Mythology and Dreams

The Apples of Youth and the Water of Life
by Jennifer Kemnitz

Last time, I wrote of the non sequiturs that appear in dreams. Similarly, events in a folk or fairy tale don’t follow a logical arc, but can be deeply satisfying in a way that a rational argument is not. For instance, look at the following passage from the Russian folk tale, “The Apples of Youth and the Water of Life,” from Russian Folk Tales: Stories of Adventure and Magic from Twenty-seven Kingdoms, pp. 18-19:

Baba Yaga

“If you ride to the right, you lose your horse. And how far can I get without my horse?” he thought. “If you ride straight ahead, it is into the marriage bed. But that is not why I have set out on this journey. Ride to the left, you save your horse. And that is the best road for me.”

So he turned down the road where he would save his horse but would himself be lost. He rode all day through the green meadows, over the stony mountains, till nightfall. The crimson sun was setting when he came to a little hut. The hut was standing on a chicken leg, and had one small window. The prince called out in a loud voice:

“Little hut, little hut, turn your back to the forest, your front to me. As I enter you, so may I come out again.”

The little hut turned its back to the forest, its front to Prince Ivan. But first he went into the forest, where he saw a very old witch, Baba Yaga.  She was spinning and combing a hank of silk.

Just this short passage presents a number of irresistible elements. The mystical power of three appears in the form of a three-prong choice at the beginning. The hero chooses the most difficult path, showing valiance that renders him sympathetic. The witch spinning in the forest is a compelling image, but the most exciting bit is the chicken house. I find it hard to speak in normal language about its fascination: a telltale sign that we have run into a magical motif.

How does it achieve its effects? A structure that “was standing” is odd, right off, because it makes the house into a being of agency. The reader does not expect a house to have legs, much less only one. Note it has just one small window, as well. So something is going on with one-pointedness. Has our normal world of duality narrowed down to a singularity? It seems to mark primal space, at least. And it is a chicken leg, which may reach back to ideas of witches flying on broomsticks or actual birds and, before that, to the bird goddess figures found in ancient sites in southeastern Europe. The leg might be a mythic element, descended into story, and creating deep echoes, indeed.

Prince Ivan utters an incantation, another magical element that might hark back to old rituals performed upon entering a strange home. Will one be entering upon a wild and savage space, or a home with the marks of courtesy and civilization? The exhortation opens up this possibility before us and, since the hut does turn around at his words, we know that things were really on the line there for a moment. When the prince does not go into the house right away, one might wonder what the point was, as one might of seemingly unrelated sequences in a dream.

This order of events makes it look, however, as if the spell of his incantation had a broader effect than first appeared; it sets the stage in several ways. And yet, why turn the house away from the forest if he is just going to run right into the forest anyway? Is the house, itself, suspect in some way? Does he just not want the house looking at him while he is in the forest? Or perhaps his incantation negotiated the line between wild and tame and made the house a safe space for his later emergence from the forest. Perhaps Prince Ivan came upon Baba Yaga spinning a material of great prize only because he had been thoughtful upon encountering her house – clearly magical, given the chicken leg.

I will burrow further into folk tale structure in my next installment in this series. For now, the best way to enter the headspace of folk tales is, well, to read them. Even if you read fairy tales as a child, seek them out, in their original editions, as an adult:

  • Dip into the innumerable volumes of collected fairy and folk tales from all parts of the world, from Lithuania to West Africa to the South Pacific. Dive in wherever you please and spread out from there!
  • The number of television series devoted to modern retellings of fairy tales and hybrid forms shows the growing interest in them. New tales are also being written, appearing in journals such as Fairy Tale Review, Conjunctions, Tin House, and Unstuck.
  • I highly recommend the modern folk tales of Ludmilla Petrushevskaya, widely considered the greatest living Russian writer. Her stories, once suppressed by Soviet authorities, have been translated into English and published by Penguin just in the last decade. They are a revelation. There Once Lived a Woman Who Tried to Kill Her Neighbor’s Baby: Scary Fairy Tales by Petrushevskaya got me to believe in the relevance and power of the modern folk and fairy tale, and inspired me to start writing them.

Myths are different from folk tales; myths have a cosmic scope and first had a religious or ritual function, rather than pure entertainment. Myths tend to describe and embody ritual, with incantatory language producing a trancelike effect that can open onto other worlds. As the source of much folk tale magic, they are well worth study.

  • For a wealth of inspiration in mythology, the works of Robert Graves, Sir James Frazier, and Joseph Campbell are a great resource.
  • For a modern take on old myths, consult the Canongate Myth Series, an ever-expanding series of novella-length retellings. I especially recommend The Penelopiad, by Margaret Atwood, Ragnarok by A.S. Byatt, Baba Yaga Laid an Egg, by Dubravka Ugresic, and The Helmet of Horror, by Victor Pelevin.
  • If you are interested in women’s roles in mythology, check into the Association for the Study of Women and Mythology (ASWM), a body dedicated to supporting and sharing research. When I attended their recent symposium in Portland, I enjoyed hearing talks about mythologies from around the world, including a fascinating one on Northern Italian folk tales.

Next month, we will explore writing your own folk tale.

 

Jennifer KemnitzJennifer Kemnitz is an herbalist-poet who lives and writes in Portland. She is a great defender of plant life, and can be roused at any moment to an impassioned discussion of its innate intelligence. Jennifer has been published previously in VoiceCatcher and anthologized by Poetry on the Lake and The Poetry Box. Her work is forthcoming from We’Moon and the Kerf.

Healthy Mind, Healthy Spirit – Limitless Possibilities

Lessons I Learned from Maya Angelou
by Kari Pederson

Maya Angelou

At a party recently, when the small talk petered out, I started to make a hasty exit. I was almost to the door when the clever host revived the conversation by using my favorite icebreaker: What person would you most like to meet and why?  My answer to this question has changed over the years, but since Maya Angelou’s death in 2014, I regret never meeting her. For me, Maya’s extraordinary life embodies the theme of limitless possibilities, and I want to share four of the lessons she taught me.

1. Life Is Meant To Be an Adventure

Maya tried her hand at numerous career opportunities during her lifetime and is considered by many to be an accomplished poet, playwright, author, actress, dancer, singer, civil rights advocate, producer and professor. Whew!

Maya lived in Africa, Egypt, New York City and San Francisco as well as multiple other places. Thinking about Maya’s life makes me wonder where I would go or what I would try if I were willing to be even a little bit more adventurous.

2. Keep at Something Until You Make It Your Own

Maya’s awards alone could take up this entire column, but I will highlight just two accomplishments that show her willingness to blaze a trail of her own.

In an interview on “The Oprah Winfrey Show,” Maya recounted how she landed a job as San Francisco’s first black female streetcar conductor. When Maya sought an interview, she was turned away repeatedly. However, Maya returned every day for two weeks to see the hiring manager. He finally relented and eventually gave her the job.

Maya’s first memoir, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, spent two years on The New York Times bestseller list despite being different from other autobiographies. I think she deliberately altered the typical memoir style to shake up perceptions of how an autobiography should be written. I have marveled at Maya’s ability to write so well and make this book so unique.

 3. There Is Power in Walking Your Talk 

Maya did not seem afraid to live her personal convictions in her public and private lives. In a two-part interview  for the television series “Super Soul Sunday,” Maya spoke about her core values, including her belief that all people are worthwhile and deserve respect.

Maya did not allow ANY off-color joke or demeaning comment to be uttered within her earshot. She admitted to throwing people out of her home or immediately ending a meeting if she heard such talk. Maya made no apologies for this behavior and encouraged others to adopt a zero tolerance policy for disrespect.

Perhaps her sentiment is best articulated in Maya’s own words, “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said; people will forget what you did; but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

4. Never Give Up on Your Ability to Make a Difference

Maya was no stranger to personal trials and talked openly about being sexual assaulted at a young age. This tragic event caused her to be mute for years yet she rediscovered her voice and became a champion for human rights as well as a talented writer and performer.

Maya also became the first poet since Robert Frost to write and deliver a poem (“On the Pulse of Morning”) for a presidential inauguration. Each time I see the television clip of her recitation at President Clinton’s inauguration, I am struck by her strength, confidence and elegant delivery. I was so captivated by Maya’s performance in 1993 that I followed her career for the next 21 years.

Maya also reported close associations with Malcolm X and Martin Luther King, Jr. She continued her advocacy work despite the personal impact of their assassinations and the potential danger to herself.

My favorite stanza of her poem “Still I Rise” encapsulates this powerful ability to keep going.

Just like the moons and like suns
With the certainty of tides,

Just like hopes springing high,
Still I’ll rise.

Everyone can make a difference to others with our art. All of us have a unique voice with important ideas to share.

When I lose my confidence or think no one is interested in what I have to say, I imagine what Maya might say to encourage me. My call to action this month is to find your own role model to support you on the journey. Perhaps it will be someone from VoiceCatcher, a loved one, or like me, someone you never personally met.

 

Kari Pederson Age 6

Kari Pederson
Age 6

Kari Pederson, MSW, LCSW, is a writer, clinical social worker and wellness coach who has worked with children and adults for over 25 years. An avid student of positive psychology, she loves helping people live their best lives. Kari is a new writer to VoiceCatcher’s community website and thrilled to be part of its mission. This is the fourth installment in her series, Healthy Spirit – Limitless Possibilities.

 

The Survival of Poetry in a Digital Age

by Meghana Mysore

Yesterday, I wrote a poem on my iPhone, and it went like this:

Notepad Poem

Red lights
Two people
Why two
Why
The red lights,
no one sees
You are
a worrier
Relax
It will be over
and I Thank God
for stop signs.

I do not know entirely what it means, but it has to do with this unstoppable, forever incoming technological traffic. We are part of the 21st century, you and I, part of a society of technological prowess.

Nowadays we rarely sustain a conversation without a technological barrier such as Snapchat, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or a Snapchat-Facebook-Twitter-Instagram hybrid. We teenagers are especially prey to this technological obsession. We seem to live for technology, and view it almost as a protective force. Caught in a still, unmoving conversation, we can pull out our iPhones and pretend to text someone, or urgently check up on our ever-changing Twitter feeds. But there is a price to this digitalization of media: the digitalization of our emotions.

What does this mean for poetry’s survival in a technological society? Poetry seems to be dying in the suffocating clutch of social media. When teenagers begin to believe that “texting language” equals standard language, and that “you” is spelled “u” and “you’re/your” is “ur,” a problem is arising. How could poetry fit in with the texting generation?

“No one has time anymore to stop and smell the roses. Everyone wants to hurry. Poetry makes you stop and smell the roses,” my mom, who is also a fan of social media, told me. She is right. My “Notepad Poem,” which, ironically, I wrote on an iPhone, observes this important point. No one is able to see the stop signs, even when they are conspicuously there, blinking their red lights. Day by day, we choose to fall victim to the short-lived luster of iPhones and social media. We choose to hide our faces – and our emotions – behind digital screens. We have forgotten the value of poetry in a quickly typing, quickly texting, and instantly updating society. We have let ourselves neglect the necessity of pausing to smell the roses.

Can poetry survive in the digital age? Yes, poetry can. It can flourish and flower and envelop the blank spaces in our wordless minds. First, though, we have to stop for the red lights. We have to see the red lights, to begin with. We have to notice the world around us, not solely the world contained between the plastic walls of our iPhones. We have to notice the way the hair falls on our friend’s shoulder, and the shadow that perches upon the old man’s wrinkled face. We have to notice the silhouette of the trees. We have to notice that we are living and breathing in a world that, as Mary Oliver so rightly puts it in her poem “Wild Geese,” “offers itself to [our] imagination.” So let us accept the world’s offer. Only then can we begin to rediscover the pulse of poetry. Only then can we understand that poetry does not exist in the absence of technology but in conjunction with it.

We could live in a world where social media, texting and poetry coexist. “Let us herald an age of poetry about technology,” my friend excitedly exclaimed. She has a point: the best poetry often is born from a writer’s surroundings, and these days, we are surrounded with technology.  So why not write about it?

While the digitalization of emotions, or desensitization to the world around us, is a negative side effect of a technological society, technology has positive corollaries. It allows for another way to write poetry, giving the poet more creative platforms. I can write a poem traditionally, with pen and paper, or I can use my laptop or the “Notes” section of my iPhone to communicate my thoughts. The prevalence of technology also gives poets thematic material; technology, whether the celebration or condemnation of it, generates a wealth of ideas and opinions. We can incorporate the styles of texting — a lack of capitalization — into our poetry to elicit the digital feeling. Technology in our society acts as both a challenge to, and a catalyst of, creative thought.

We often praise the iPhone for its utility, so let us add this item to its list of uses: a vehicle for poetry. I enjoyed writing “Notepad Poem” on my iPhone, and my instinctual ideas were better conveyed digitally than with pen and paper.  A certain authenticity accompanies creating a poem with pen and paper, but writing a poem on a laptop or on an iPhone allows for more efficiency and effectiveness. Perhaps “efficiency” and “effectiveness” seldom describe writing poetry, but they are considerations for the poet in the modern age.

I resist our society’s gravitation, specifically by our youth, towards technology, but I cannot prevent it. Technology, and its emphasis on texting, Snapchatting, and Instagramming, takes away from the beauty of simple moments and causes a fear of silence. Let us, though, live in a world where technology and poetry are not separate. We can live in a place that celebrates the juxtaposition of the quiet, pondering poet and the boisterous, extroverted Snapchat-enthusiast. Perhaps this quiet poet is, in fact, the Snapchat-enthusiast. Creating poetry does not happen in a vacuum. A poet needs the external world, even if it consists of the harsh bind of technology.

I want to live in a world where people stop for stop signs. I want to live in a world where people smell the roses. I want to live in a world where I can post a picture on Instagram, text “how r u” to my friend, then navigate to the “Notes” section on my iPhone to write a poem about this simultaneously strange, technological, digital, poetic, ephemeral, quiet, and bright place we live in.

 

Meghana MysoreMeghana Mysore is a junior at Lake Oswego High School, Oregon. Her work has been published or is forthcoming in Burningword Literary JournalEunoia Review, Crashtest, Canvas LitThe Noisy Island and more. She is the recipient of several Gold Keys from Scholastic Art & Writing and an Honorable Mention from the Nancy Thorp Poetry Contest. Her poetry appears in VoiceCatcher: a journal of women’s voices & visions, Winter 2015 issue.

 

June Prompt: Arrested Development

by Thea Constantine

At the heart of every great piece of writing, there is a voice, and that voice has a character. It can be far in the background speaking to us through imagery in poetry, or up-close in a first-person narrative. Getting to know the voice of the characters in our work can be tricky, but once we connect with them they often take us by the hand and lead us into an entirely new world.

If we are looking for clues to help discover our characters, why not do what the experts do and create your own rap sheet. Here is one of mine:

  • Name
  • Date of birth
  • Birthplace
  • Height
  • Weight
  • Eye color/hair color
  • Alias
  • Identifying marks and scars
  • Address/Current Location
  • Marital status
  • Driver’s license
  • R/L handed
  • Past residences
  • Occupation/SS #
  • Known associates

Laying all these details out gives us a simple and concrete look at our subject. It is a clear, stark view. Once you get it all down, you can begin to be more creative and more specific.

When looking at “birthplace” for instance, might we discover that not only was the character born in New York, but he made his debut in the back of a taxi, or maybe in a home for unwed mothers, or perhaps in a townhouse with doctors, nurses and doulas standing by?

If the piece is more esoteric –  a poem about an incredible field of spring flowers or a police beating, for instance –  these things still have an origin. Were the roses wild? Did the little purple flowers start out in a park as seeds eaten by a bird who then flew across the country, depositing them right there? Or, ask yourself: in what type of place did the victim grow up? Was the cop married? Did he have a squint?

Now you are ready to take your character on a journey. In many ways, just laying out the details can help build an unforgettable voice. For a beautiful example, I leave you with: “won’t you celebrate with me,” by Lucille Clifton.

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This prompt is the last of Thea’s bi-monthly series. We warmly thank Thea for her inspiring and creative prompts. We greatly appreciate her enriching the VoiceCatcher community website with her contributions. Thank you, Thea!  – The Editors

 Thea ConstantineThea Constantine is a writer and certified AWA facilitator with PDX Writers. Her short stories have most recently appeared in In Focus, the quarterly magazine of the PEN Cyprus Center; Stellazine; Roving Writers; “On the Yellow Line,” a weekly column for Street Roots; and an original serial for the online magazine The Black Boot. Her work has been included in a number of anthologies. She won 1st Place Short Story in the maiden edition of the Watercress Journal. She is currently at work on her first novel, Stumptown.

About Our Readers: June 16, 2015 VoiceCatcher Event

All are invited to hear these contributors to VoiceCatcher: a journal of women’s voices & visions, Tuesday, June 16, 2015, Milepost 5, 850 NE 81st Avenue, Portland, OR 97213. Social hour 7:00 p.m., reading at 7:30 p.m.

Stephanie GlazierStephanie Glazier’s poems appear or are forthcoming in the Iraq Literary Review, Alaska Quarterly Review, The Fourth River and others. She has been a Lambda fellow in poetry and holds an MFA from Antioch University LA. She lives and works in Portland, Oregon.

Cindy HinesCindy Hines lives in Portland, Oregon. She graduated magna cum laude with a bachelor’s degree in English from Lewis & Clark College, where she was co-winner in the Academy of American Poets Prize competition. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in numerous publications including: Adrienne, Clackamas Literary Review, Windfall, Four and Twenty, The Lewis & Clark Literary Review, Synergia, Synesthesia, and The Haraka Reader.

Pattie Palmer BakerPattie Palmer-Baker returns to VoiceCatcher as a Summer 2015 issue poetry editor. An artist as well as a poet, she enhances her own artwork with her poetry in calligraphic form. Because so many people have responded even more strongly to the words than the images, she participated in workshops taught by several local well-known poets. To her surprise, she discovered her motivation to write poems surpassed her desire to create visual artwork. She started submitting her poems to journals and her work has appeared in Analeka and Elohi Gadugi, besides VoiceCatcher: a journal of women’s voices & visions. Her poem “50,000 Bumblebees Die” was part of the “Unnatural Acts” exhibit at the Milepost Gallery 5 in Portland. She earned a 2014 Pushcart nomination from VoiceCatcher.

Judith PulmanJudith Pulman writes poetry and prose in Portland, where she also translates poems from Russian to English, just to keep things light. She has been published in or has work forthcoming in The Writer’s Chronicle, Los Angeles Review, Brevity, New Ohio Review and VoiceCatcher. She works as a teacher, administrator and editor.

Tammy RobackerTammy Robacker served as poet laureate of Tacoma, Washington in 2010-11, and she is a 2011 Hedgebrook writer-in-residence award winner. In 2009, she published her first collection of poetry, The Vicissitudes. Her manuscript We Ate Our Mothers, Girls placed as a finalist in the Floating Bridge Chapbook Contest. Tammy’s poetry has appeared in Canopic Jar, Duende, So to Speak, Crab Creek Review, WomenArts, Comstock Review, Up the Staircase Quarterly, and Cascadia Review. Currently enrolled in the MFA program for Creative Writing at Pacific Lutheran University, Tammy is working on a second poetry book collection and volunteering at CALYX –  a feminist press – while living in Oregon.

Christi R SuzanneFirst-time VoiceCatcher prose editor Christi R. Suzanne left the dry heat of the Arizona desert for mistier climes, and arrived in the Pacific Northwest over twelve years ago. She is a writer and sleeping dog enthusiast. By day she works as a web and communications professional at a university where she is the editor of the quarterly newsletter, Connections. She writes novels, short stories and personal essays and has been published in the anthologies Crack the Spine and Miles to Go, as well as The Lit Pub blog, The National Center for Death with Dignity blog, and the online journals Wonder and Risk and The Splinter Generation.

june16flyerClick here for the flyer for this event, for your own sharing and posting.

VoiceCatcher thanks Milepost 5 for hosting this event.

An Embarrassment of Riches: Inspiration from Folk Tales, Mythology and Dreams

by Jennifer Kemnitz

How to thoroughly intrigue and hook the reader? With so much literary content literally at one’s fingertips in this technological age, the question has never been more relevant for a writer. The many approaches to this, no matter the form or genre, include compelling voice, character, diction and cadence. I would like to explore one particular resource: the folk and fairy tale genre is a veritable well of ideas just waiting to be tapped, a repository of storytelling know-how since time immemorial.

Originally, the tales were told to entertain and amaze people of all ages, as well as to illustrate the truth of life as it is experienced, if not quite as it plays out. Later, many of the dark elements were smoothed way in print editions and film to make them more appropriate for modern-day children. Their most magical, fascinating elements derive from the language of dreams or from myths that likely no longer served a religious purpose by the time of the tales’ inception. Just as myths were first mined to create these tales, studying folk tale motifs and structural elements can now be a practical tool in writing new stories, poetry and creative nonfiction.

Two of the poems that I presented in the VoiceCatcher reading at Multnomah County Central Library, in March 2015, had their genesis from dream elements (including “Under the Sign of the Water Bearer”), and the third was riffing off a myth or legend. One of my main objectives in the last few years has been to write modern folk tales, or at least some hybrid form blended with contemporary fiction. For me, it is harder than it looks to write in the dream space these tales require, but the effects are well worth it and render a memorable story.

Just what is happening in both folk and fairy tales to create their magical effects? The magic has much to do with the symbology of dreams, so take the time to pay attention to your most interesting dreams and study why they have so much psychic power. Dreams make intuitive sense to the dreamer and to those who study dreams enough to recognize broad themes, but they first appear full of non sequiturs as far as the logical mind can puzzle out.

In the next article in this series, we will look at this subject in greater depth. In the meantime, here are tips to get you in the right headspace:

  • Jot down interesting dreams or dream elements. The more attention I pay to my dreams, the better I remember them in the days following. If you have not focused much on your dreams before, you might be surprised at what you discover about the psychological meaning of your dream just in the act of writing it down. You may be able to use these elements as magical motifs in your writing.
  • Look out the window or go to a cafe and begin to translate what you are seeing and hearing into dream language or significance. What might happen next if it were all a dream? What could happen? And what might it all seem or come to mean? Begin to blend the waking and dream worlds a bit. From here, a fairy or folk tale could develop.

Jennifer KemnitzJennifer Kemnitz is an herbalist-poet who lives and writes in Portland. She is a great defender of plant life, and can be roused at any moment to an impassioned discussion of its innate intelligence. Jennifer has been published previously in VoiceCatcher and anthologized by Poetry on the Lake and The Poetry Box. Her work is forthcoming from We’Moon and the Kerf.

 

How I Came to Love the Semicolon

by Margie Lee

The email from VoiceCatcher said my poem “Silence” was accepted for its winter issue. I was ecstatic. Then I read, “Could you please clean up the punctuation?”

I have always been lousy at punctuation. When I was in high school, my papers had more red ink than black. I was using too many commas or too few. I could handle the colon, but the semicolon frightened me. When in doubt, I used dashes. Sometimes I got two grades: A for content and D for mechanics. I laughed it off. Anyone could do spelling and punctuation. I was interested in ideas.

In college I was saved by majoring in science. Geology majors are not required to do much writing. By grad school, no one seemed to care. The computer had spelling and grammar check. Many years later I joined a poetry group. Surprised at my lack of punctuation skills, one member of the group said, “You have some phrases capitalized and some not. If you don’t want to use capitals, fine. But at least be consistent.” I laughed a little uncomfortably and made an excuse.

I blamed my seventh grade English teacher. Miss H. was what they called athletic (not a compliment in the early ’60s). She wore practical oxfords with anklets and had a short, boyish bob. Around her neck, a pearl clasp held her cardigan over her bony shoulders like a cape. Her sport was tennis, and she was known to be good at it. I seldom did any homework. I sat in the back of the classroom, and when she called on me, it was “MAR GEE,” with a hard G. I never corrected her, because she had such authority. I thought maybe she used the correct pronunciation.

“Mar Gee, go to the board and diagram number four.”

Moments later I was at the board drawing lines and words when I heard her shrill voice.

“MAR GEE, what is the subordinate clause modifying?” she said, striding across the linoleum, her Popeye-thick forearms slamming the eraser onto the board, dust flying into the air. It might have been hormonal –  I was 12 going on 13 – but I had a headache every Thursday in her class.

One week she was at a tennis match, and our substitute read Robert Frost’s “A Road Not Taken” to us. I was so happy, I smiled, I relaxed, I was fascinated. Our assignment to write about the poem thrilled me. I wrote effortlessly, putting down ideas as fast as I could.

What finally galvanized me into doing something about my punctuation was when I sent a poem to a small press journal, and the editor wrote me that he didn’t even read my work because of errors. Other editors said things even less flattering. I looked forward to a general form letter.

Humbled and motivated, I embarked on a rapid, accelerated punctuation improvement program. I went to Powell’s and bought a truckload of books on grammar: Grammar Made Easy, Punctuation in 30 Days, Elements of Style …. When my grammar did not improve after buying the books, I mentioned this to a friend, and she said, “Well, did you read them?” I had to admit I had not opened them. I stopped sending out writing for a long time.

But I liked VoiceCatcher and thought it might be worth the risk. I sent in three poems, and one was accepted. But there was the punctuation issue. I wanted this to work out, but I knew my weaknesses. If someone without legs could make it to the finals of “Dancing with the Stars,” maybe I could get published.

I wrote to my poetry group colleagues to ask if they could please help me. One of the members was vacationing, and the other said she would get to it in a few days. A few days seemed too long, so I decided to give it a try. But one stanza in “Silence” baffled me. It had three ideas and I did not know how to connect the thoughts. Dashes seemed too strong, commas too subtle. Just for fun, I tried the semicolon. The dot over the comma, the semicolon that breaks the thought into a little pause, not huge, but not soft: just enough. I placed it and fell head over heels in love with punctuation. And it worked. Like a song, my poem needed that subtle dynamic and now, I could hear the music.

 

Margie LeeMargie Lee is a writer and artist living with her writer husband and two cats in SW Portland, Oregon. She exhibits her art work locally. She will be in a group show, “Figuration,” at Mel’s Frame Shop in Portland, from May through July 19, 2015 – showing her paintings done in acrylic. Margie writes about family and Pacific Northwest nature, and loves to combine writing and art. She teaches art part-time at the Rose Schnitzer Tower and is head of the artists group at St. James Lutheran Church.