Wednesday
Jul222015

Somebody said something, but who? 

 

Isn't this a beautiful passage? It was written by Louise Erdrich.

Yes, she really wrote this. Not Abraham Lincoln, Maya Angelou, Robin Williams or your second cousin who just found you on Facebook.

You know what I'm talking about. The only thing worse than no attribution is misatrribution.

That bird don't sing
"A bird doesn’t sing because it has an answer, it sings because it has a song."

Maya Angelou did not say or write these words and yet the postage stamp released April 2015 in tribute to the late poet, bears these words, her name, and face.

After the stamps were printed, distributed, and launched in a celebration featuring First Lady Michelle Obama and Oprah Winfrey, the truth was out: The line was penned by Joan Walsh Anglund, in A Cup of Sun, a poetry collection published in 1967.

More than 80 million stamps were produced, and the United States Postal Service has no plans to retract them, according to a story by Ian Crouch in the New Yorker.

"It seemed to many that the folks at the Postal Service had simply believed too readily what they read on the Internet," he writes. "They had gone looking for a suitable quotation, and finding this one attributed to Angelou in all kinds of places online — quotation-aggregation sites, Pinterest boards, Facebook pages, Etsy ink prints — they had slapped it onto a postage stamp, forever."

Somebody said something but was it
that someone or another someone?

We're lazy, and confused. Our enthusiasm for inspiring words is so vigorous that we don't care, or question, the validity of what we read. We just embrace, then share, then perpetuate the incorrection.

In my writer-for-hire world, I've been researching inspirational quotes about aging.

[Sidenote: This area is ripe for reformation; Over many hours, I found just a handful of quotes that weren't saccharine, sentimental or insulting.]

One I liked:  "It's not the years in your life but the life in your years."

Who said it? This pithy aphorism blazes across the internet landscape — in jpegs and flowered cheer — and is usually attributed to Abraham Lincoln. But, wait, really? He doesn't strike me as a boosterish sort of speaker.

A bit more digging revealed other sources: Adlai Stevenson, Edward J. Stieglitz, and that old standby, Anonymous.

And then, praise the heavens, I found the Quote Investigator.

A solo fact-finder, Garson O’Toole has a doctorate from Yale University and he, "diligently seeks the truth about quotations."

Why so bothered?
Because words matter. And writers work to choose their words. And it's right, good and kind to give credit where credit is due.

Can I get an Amen? (And all the writers said uh-huh!)

Yes, it's okay to borrow. Austin Kleon, who re-energized the erasure poem, wrote Steal Like An Artist, the book on creative borrowing. And I do, for writing prompts and crafting collage or cento poems. But I do not lift whole lines or passages as my own. I rework and reword. And I give a nod, a hat-tip, an attribution.

Here's a tip
Before you share that next inspiring bit of quote-gold, do this:

Read, review, consider, confirm, and give correct credit.

Then share with abandon. Fuel the blaze of authenticity.

 

It's not the years in your life but the life in your years.

— Edward J. Stieglitz

 

Thursday
Jul162015

Thankful Thursday: List It

Because attention attracts gratitude and gratitude expands joy, it's time for Thankful Thursday, a weekly pause to express appreciation — big, small, puny, profound— for people, places, things and more.  

I make lists. Every day, a new list. Every day, a fresh start.   

My gratitudes this week are many:

1. Signs, like this bottlecap, that reset my perspective.

2. Summer skirts

3. Wedge sandals

4. Watermelon

5. A visit to a dermatologist who finds no reason to cut away my skin.

6. Rosé — Not long ago (okay, last year) I thought this supersweet blush was a wannabe wine for cheap teens trying to appear sophisticated (okay, that was me guzzling drecky wine coolers). But I recently discovered dry, crisp and refreshing rose. So summer, so good.

7. Feeling appreciated, if even by strangers (see #8).

8. A woman I don't know called me "sweetheart."  Isn't that a warm endearment?

9. A friend has been hurt, low, and not himself. Yesterday we talked, and it was the best 20 minutes of the day.

10. This one-line poem:

Something My
Mother Told Me This
Morning on the Phone

If you don't see the light, don't stay.

— Nahshon Cook, from The Killing Fields and Other Poems

 

 Please join me. What are you thankful for today?


Saturday
Jul112015

What happens when we read 

 

 

 

Always eager for book suggestions, I started 3 Good Books.

For over a year, I've invited writers & artists to share their favorite books on themes related to their own work. The site now features over 25 creatives — novelists, poets, painters, photographers, dancers and more — sharing nearly 100 books.

When we read, we imagine.
W
hen we imagine, we create.
When we create, our lives expand.

Expand yourself:

Nahshon Cook
Becoming

Maxine Sheets-Johnstone
Dance

Shawna Lemay
Calm

Fran Kimmel
Troubled Childhood

January Gill O'Neil
Marriage & Divorce

Erin Block
Wild Places

Currie Silver
The Art of Being

Paulann Petersen
Nature Inside & Out

Scott T. Starbuck
Activist Poetry

Shirley McPhillips
Poetry in the Everyday

Rick Campbell
Industrial Cities & Workers

Sandy Longhorn
Midwestern Rural Life

Sharon Bond Brown
Women's Ordinary Lives

Jeff Düngfelder
Absence & Silence

Valerie Savarie
Art Books

Valerie Wigglesworth & Ralph Swain
Wilderness

Ann Staley
Past & Present

Reb Livingston
Oracles & Dreams

Eduardo Gabrieloff
Latino Writers

Lisa Romeo
Personal Essays by Women

Mari L’Esperance
Mixed Heritage

Lee Lee
(Un)Natural Resources

Henry Hughes
Fishing

Tracy Weil
Play

Penelope Scambly Schott
Strong Women

Allyson Whipple
Roadtrips & Realizations

Hannah Stephenson
Artists

 

Wednesday
Jul082015

Try This: Rev, Write, Return 

I haven’t been writing, I admit to a friend.

[ Cue the fears: Am I still a writer? Was I ever a writer? Do I even like to write? ]

I've been writing nearly all my life — half of it as a person who actually gets paid to write — and I've yet to unravel the mysteries of the writing juice. As in: how to rev it, keep it, make it come back.

Yesterday, after a long dormant spell, I felt a rush of words. You know that rush. An astonished levitation, in which you are following the words rather than forcing them. The head moves faster than the hand and you ride the wave of word flow.

Oh, the exhilaration!

This morning the zing returned. For just a few minutes, enough to write several pages and restore belief.

[ Cue the relief: I'm not a one-trick pony after all! ]

I still don't know what turns the writing juice inexplicably off and on, but two things helped in this recent bout:

Write the same starting line for consecutive days.

Find a line that engages, and do a freewrite using it as a starting line. If you get stuck, repeat your line again and again but keep the hand moving. Return the next day using the same line. You may see, as I did, how the line takes you places, shifts your perspective.

I used this line from Transformation by Adam Zagajewski: I haven’t written a single poem in months.

Write in response to art.

Though we live in a hyper-visual world, I can still go weeks without a strong reaction to an image. And then, mysteriously, a painting or photo will stir me.

This morning, I began my day at The Storialist, and was unexpectedly compelled. Suddenly, I was writing with a fever, covering pages and years. Again, I experienced the beautiful floating, in which I was not in control but standing aside allowing the words to tumble.

Is the writing any good? Probably not. But it doesn't matter. The juice is back, along with my belief in expression and myself. Though this feeling may be fleeting, it is enough for today. It is, really, everything.

Transformation

I haven't written a single poem
in months.
I've lived humbly, reading the paper,
pondering the riddle of power
and the reasons for obedience.
I've watched sunsets
(crimson, anxious),
I've heard the birds grow quiet
and night's muteness.
I've seen sunflowers dangling
their heads at dusk, as if a careless hangman
had gone strolling through the gardens.
September's sweet dust gathered
on the windowsill and lizards
hid in the bends of walls.
I've taken long walks,
craving one thing only:
lightning,
transformation,
you.

— Adam Zagajewski


*Thanks to Calm Things for introducing me to this poem. 

 

Want more?
Try This: Scratch Out
Try This: Steal
Try This: Poetry Poker
Try This: Postcard Poems
Try This: Alphabet Poem
Try This: Morning Read & Write
Try This: Book Spine Poetry

 

Sunday
Jul052015

On Sunday: Stillness


My education had taught me quite well to talk,
but I don't think it had taught me to listen.
And my schools had taught me quite well
 to sort of push myself forward in the world,
 but it never taught me to erase myself.

 

— Pico Iyer
The Art of Stillness

via On Being