Monthly Archives: November 2016

In Defense of Rhyme In Poetry

poetry-typeTo rhyme or not to rhyme? That is the question. At least, that is the question for me. Many literary critics feel that question has already been answered…rhyme is out, blank verse and free verse is in. When it comes to rhyme, they admonish poets, “Just don’t do it!”

So once again, we have the guardians at the gate defining for the rabble below what is “good” and “worthy.” We have turned our backs on the old guard. Farewell Shelly, Keats and Byron. Oh, we allow students to study them in school, but be sure to tell them that, if they have poetic aspirations, they better not submit rhyming poems to any of today’s prestigious journals.

I happen to love GOOD rhyme. I capitalized “good” for a reason. It’s important. There is a lot of bad rhyme our there. Good rhyme is hard to do. Maybe that’s why so few poets try it. They just aren’t very good at it.

There are rumblings out there that rhyme is gathering a few friends in the literary world. There are still some journals that accept it. Don’t send any to the New Yorker, though. In fact, if your poem is understandable to the average guy in the street, you might think twice about sending it to the New Yorker. (OK, it’s a great magazine. My bias against literary snobbishness is showing.) Continue reading

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A Thanksgiving Remembrance of My Parents

myparentsrimmedAs I write, Thanksgiving is a mere three days away. There will be family and food, and we will eat until we can’t take one more bite, making resolutions to lose weight after the holidays. We will think of all the things for which we are, or ought to be, grateful.

I sometimes remember to give thanks for the things we tend to take for granted—like light at the touch of a switch, and the clean water that flows out of the kitchen tap on demand. I buy bottled water—just in case—but millions of people long for the stuff that runs freely down my drain.

Lately, I find myself thinking a lot about my parents. I miss them, especially at this time of year.

Growing up I had no idea how really lucky I was—lucky to be loved, treasured, nurtured and appreciated. My parents taught me that education was important, and instilled in me the lifetime gift of a love of reading. I have a photo of myself nestled in my father’s arms. I am three months old (the writing on the photo says so), and he is reading me the Sunday comics.

Every night, before I fell asleep, one of my parents read me a story. It didn’t matter if they were busy, or if they had company. We read.

Recently, I attended a local production of Beauty and the Beast with two close friends. Turning to them when it was over, I said, “That was always my favorite fairy tale.”

“Really,” said one. I wasn’t familiar with it.”

“Didn’t your parents read to you?” I asked.

“My parents never read to me,” she replied, to which my other friend nodded solemnly.

I was aghast—one more thing I had taken for granted. How could I have known back then that I was blessed?

In addition to instilling in me a love of reading, my parents provided unflagging support to all my creative endeavors. There were dance lessons, tap and ballet, as well as art and drama lessons. If I had wanted music lessons, I would have gotten those too. Music was not one of my gifts. Writing was, and it was encouraged. Mother was especially thrilled with a love poem I wrote in the seventh grade. She thought I had written it for her. I was heartless enough to tell her the truth. It was written for my unrequited love, Tommy Grubb. He was a year older and didn’t know I was alive. Sorry, mom.

Those art lessons were a sacrifice of both time and money for my parents. When I was nine, and for several years thereafter, my mother drove me, every Saturday morning, to the Wyomissing Institute of Fine Art. Boy, how I looked forward to those Saturdays! No one ever said, “Art is a waste of time; you’ll never make any money doing that.”

When I wanted to be an actress, my parents enrolled me in the Will-O-Way Apprentice Theater. The times I spent there are some of my happiest memories. Incredibly shy, I became someone brave and beautiful on stage. No one ever said, “Acting is stupid; you’ll never make any money doing that.” And, when I played Maria in West Side Story, my mother laboriously reproduced for me every costume that Natalie Wood wore in the movie. Thanks, mom.

So, today, I am grateful for George Wally Heck, a metallurgical engineer, and Louise Tremaine Heck, a housewife—my parents. Thank you for believing in me. Thank you for affirming that I was gifted when I was full of doubt. You gave me the courage to dance, and paint, act and write—to send my work out into the world to face the critics (of which there are plenty). Thank you for nurturing my talents. After life itself, and unfailing love, it was your greatest gift.

My Mother, Once (a poem I actually wrote for my mother):

My mother, once, was just Louise,

who dreamed of love and wished that frogs

might morph into princes,

enabling love’s first true kiss

to make a Mrs. of a Miss.

 

She came of age in time of war,

and thought her sailor was a prince.

He asked, and she said, ”Yes.”

To be a mother and a wife

was all she ever begged of life.

 

I see her gaze with youthful eyes,

expecting good with confidence.

She smiles, for why despair?

It’s safe to think, as Life unfurls,

that good things come to pretty girls.

 

If she had seen the sorrow thrown

like dice across the coming years,

would she have run or stayed the course?

She loved, but at tremendous cost…

a husband and two children lost.

 

Those babes, long gone, both rest in peace,

my brothers, seldom seen, but missed.

Her first was here a brief three days,

the second never took a breath.

at birth his life was claimed by death.

 

I am the only hope that lived.

I am the daughter that survived.

All her dreams live in me.

It is a fearsome destiny

to be my mother’s legacy.

 

 

 

Farewell Leonard Cohen, Poet Extraordinaire

leonardcohen

I am not a musician. I did not know Leonard Cohen personally, and I discovered his genius rather late in my own life. So I was surprised at the depth of my reaction upon hearing the news of his death. This week, I find myself listening to his songs, some of them over and over. I also listened to his last interview. It made me want to be in his presence. I don’t find it trite to say that he will live on in his work. I am satisfied with that.

The first Leonard Cohen song I ever heard was Suzanne. I loved it. It made me long for an authentic counter-culture life instead of my decidedly straight one. It was amazing poetry set to music…

There are heroes in the seaweed

There are children in the morning

They are leaning out for love

And they will lean that way forever…

(From Songs of Leonard Cohen – 196

I don’t remember the first time I heard Hallelujah, but it was the song that made me fall in love with Leonard Cohen. If you asked me, “Who is your favorite singer…your favorite musical group”…I would be hard pressed to answer. How to choose when there are so many greats? But if you asked me, “What do you think is the greatest song ever written,” Hallelujah would fall off my tongue without even thinking. And it is his spare, gravelly rendition that captures, for me, the essence of the song.

Maybe I do like it dark. I think of myself as neither an optimist nor a pessimist. I tell myself I’m a realist. I see the beauty in impermanence. Life is full of longing, of love and loss, defeat and new beginnings. The “dark troubadour” put all that and more into his work and I responded.

Leonard Cohen captured, for me, the mystery and humor and pathos of life. Perhaps he was a seer as well. Given all that is happening right now, these lines from Tower of Song seem prophetic…

Now you can say that I’ve grown bitter, but of this you may be sure


The rich have got their channels in the bedrooms of the poor


And there’s a mighty judgment coming, but I may be wrong


You see, you hear these funny voices in the tower of song.

 (Tower of Song from I’m Your Man1988)

 

 

 

 

How Growing Older Influences My Writing…

woman-wmirroe

Having recently written a blog on aging and creativity, I’ve been giving a lot of thought  to how growing older influences my writing. It has gotten better, and certainly deeper. At this point in my life, I think about growing old, and dying, and the aging process—topics I didn’t think much bout when I was twenty, or even thirty. And, of course, the things I’m contemplating show up in what I write. How could they not? Sometimes what I have to say is serious, sometimes funny, and sometimes both. To be honest,  I don’t like growing old, and I hate the fact that all the really cute guys are too young for me. However, despite the drawbacks to getting older, there are some gifts as well. Anyway, I’m not ready for the alternative—I’m having too much fun.

My poem, The Seeker Within,  takes a somewhat humorous approach to the inevitable, but the underlying thoughts are anything but…

The seeker within

longs to soldier on

and see the face of God.

Reverse is not an option,

but if it were,

I might tarry a bit…

postpone my appointment

with the infinite

to deck myself in finery once again,

drink champagne from crystal flutes,

share slick and salty tastes

with handsome men who call me, “Sugar.”

I would reclaim taut skin, firm arms and thighs.

Truck drivers could leer and whistle.

This time I would simply laugh,

glad to be back again, young and juicy.

I would not sell my soul to make it so,

but I would think on it.

—Pamela Heck

Reprinted from Redwood Writers 2016 Poetry Anthology, Stolen Light. All rights reserved.

http://amzn.to/2eOieAJ

 

 

Aging, Creativity and Me

“How old would you be if you didn’t know how old you was?  — Satchel Paige (1906-1998)elderswI am no longer young. I deal with this fact very well on some levels—less so on others. On the positive side, I am more creative now than at any other time in my life.

I always had an interest in writing, but never had time to pursue it outside of my professional life. (I was an advertising copywriter for many years.) I wrote in no other capacity except for an occasional poem. Today I belong to a writer’s club and a critique group. I have won writing awards and honorable mentions in various contests, recently been published in three anthologies and a literary review, and have an agent “shopping” one of my children’s books. In addition, I am a resident artist at a local gallery where I am expected to produce new art on a regular basis—which I do. All this at a time when researchers are telling me my neurons are shutting down. However, Timothy A. Salthouse in his recent book, Major Issues in Cognitive Aging, suggests that “some of the assertions about cognitive aging may be influenced as much by the authors’ preconceptions and attitudes as by scientific evaluation and empirical research.”

I have long suspected that creative people tend to live longer, more productive lives. New research is proving that to be true. https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/fulfillment-any-age/201003/creativity-and-successful-brain-aging-going-the-flow Continue reading