Real Poets

cliche

I mentioned one of my favorite InstaPoets, Atticus, to a fellow poet the other day and I promptly got a HuffPost link to an article questioning his authenticity. The article stirred up some strong emotions I have on the subject.

In a nutshell, anything that gets people interested in poetry gets a nod from me! Who can judge what is “real” poetry? One of my biggest pet peeves in the writing world is the air of superiority that demands scholarly stanzas marching in line like broken men molded into saluting soldiers.

As you may infer from my seething alliterations, I was once wounded in the battlefield of “real” poets. I was barely out of my teens and decided to join a local writers group for what I thought would be a great place for encouragement and support of my budding art.

My grandmother died not long after I joined and I wrote a poem about her which included her battle with Alzheimer’s disease. It was difficult to express the loss and pain I felt from losing the most gentle and loving person I had known in my life. I wrote something about a storm and lost tiger cubs… I was so nervous to share my poem with the group, but I worked up the courage to read it aloud.

A seasoned writer and published poet, proceeded to rip my poem to shreds, saying it was full of cliches. A few other “real” poets nodded in agreement and suggested I rewrite the poem. Their criticism was all it took for my ever-present inner critic to rapid-fire a stream of negative comments like, “I told you so!” “You’re not a writer. You will never be a real poet.” “Don’t quit your day job!” I believed those “real” poets and I listened to my crippling critic. I never went back to that writers’ group and I didn’t attempt to write poetry again for several years.

I shake my head in disbelief when I think of all the wasted years that I could have done what turned out to be my greatest passion.

Fortunately, my interest in writing and poetry continued even though my confidence was shattered. I never stopped learning. I took college English and writing classes, attended writing workshops and conferences, read several books on writing including two perennial favorites: Stephen King on Writing and Bird by Bird.

When I finally decided to write and share poetry again, I made a promise to myself that I would never again let anyone’s opinion (including my own) stop me. So, when I see criticism of a poet’s work, it brings those memories flooding back and makes me feel a little defensive.

Who cares if it’s cliche? Seriously! If you don’t like a poet’s writing, move along to the next one. Now, that I’m a grandmother, I have earned the right to share what grandmothers say, “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.”

We all have different styles of writing we like. For example, I don’t like horror, (sorry Stephen King, I do love your book on writing) but I don’t criticize it, I just focus on reading and writing what I do like, which is mostly romance. Yes, I admit it, I’m a hopeless romantic at heart. Thank you Nicholas Sparks (another writer who has been criticized for creating formulaic, commercialized art.)

I also enjoy uplifting writing and quotes. Atticus covers all those bases! He has over a million followers, proof that a lot of readers like his style. To each their own. The important thing is people are getting interested in poetry again, which not long ago was considered a dying art.

I’m excited about the influx of newcomers into the poetry world joining those who have been inspired to start writing again. Bravo to platforms like Instagram, Twitter, and YouTube for providing creative ways to share our art.

Write on!

==============
Write Any Way
by Vautaw

So it’s cliche,

write anyway.

So it’s not grammatically correct,

write anyway.

So it doesn’t rhyme,

write anyway.

Don’t let judgmental “experts”

distort your perception of poetry

or silence the part of your soul

that longs to make sense of life.

Just write

any way!

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Passion and Paper Tigers

passion

Fear preys on passion, but it is a paper tiger. ~Vautaw

I received a check for $25 today from the Poetry Society of Indiana for winning 1st place in the Linda Bannon Memorial Category with a poem I wrote specifically for the contest called, “Overflow“.

In my mind, I wielded the check like a sword to shred the paper tiger that has pursued me since the day I dared to publish my first word. Apparently, it worked, but I know a legion of paper tigers exist for every word I dare to share.

I am taking advantage of this momentary victory and boost of confidence by dreaming big, writing like I am already famous, and visualizing my name among the greatest writers of all time: Hemingway, Vonnegut, Faulkner, Joyce, Shakespeare, Tolstoy, Eliot, Bronte, Woolf, Plath, Atwood, Angelou, Christie, Cartland, Steel, Vautaw…

That last one is me, one of my pseudonyms, fits right in doesn’t it?!

Whew, I got that out before the next paper tiger spotted me and fueled my inner critic with enough adrenaline to make me want to escape through the open tab to check my email or scroll social media… anything to avoid the thoughts of inadequacy, of not being good enough to even think of being in the same sentence as the “greats” or “real” writers, of dramatic despair of dying with my words and stories left unsaid…

But, wait, I have my sword. I may not even cash the check. I may post it on my vision board as a reminder of an Amelia Earhart quote, “Fears are just paper tigers“. So, write to your heart’s content. Write the words that you want to share with the world. Write the stories that make your soul shine.

En Garde!

WriterKat

 

No Excuse

Little wins

Little wins create big victories! ~ Kathy Chaffin Gerstorff

I really have no excuse for not stringing words together much beyond my Morning Pages lately. No one cares if I do or don’t. No one but the soul that is currently taking up residence in my fleshy abode and patiently waiting for me to do what I was born to do which, from all the flashing arrows and neon lights in my mind, is… WRITE!

My response to this other worldly prodding is typically some form of resistance from blissing out on Ben & Jerry’s Chunky Monkey or other vegan confections to procrastinating with another personal development/business building program, to the infinite social media scroll.

But today, the Universe wins. I showed up and let my muse dance across the keyboard, despite the steady stream of interruptions that started the moment I sat down. I forgot what an endorphin rush it is to push through the obstacles and finish something as simple as a blog post.  It’s little wins that create big victories!

Write On!

Kathy G

 

 

Meet Me in Montreal

I'm in the write mood! (7)

I followed an email link from Leonard Cohen’s family that led to a star-crossed love song the legendary song writer recorded called Traveling Light. I sometimes feel a pang of jealousy of songs and poems written for a poet’s love interest. I don’t know why it matters, but for some odd reason it does. Perhaps it’s lust to be a writer’s muse or maybe it’s immortality I seek?

Leonard Cohen’s songs get to me. His words and poetic rhythm unlocks a door in my soul where heartbreak, loneliness, and regret reside. His music wafts in and waltzes toxic emotions to the surface so they dissipate rather than destroy me. What a cathartic gift and legacy.

My late spinster aunt loved to listen to Gordon Lightfoot. She had all his CDs and would go to his concerts whenever he was within four hours driving distance. I never understood her fascination with him until now. He must have been her lyrical soul doctor like Leonard Cohen has been for me. God bless the music makers for they set our spirit free.

Hopefully, the stars will align for me to make it to Montreal in November. For someone with no stamps on their passport, like me, what an adventure that would be! What is life if not a daring adventure and celebration of using your gifts to the fullest as Leonard has shown us can be done with style and grace.

What follows is the email I received regarding the upcoming Memorial Tribute for Leonard Cohen. Meet me in Montreal to celebrate the life and music of one of the greatest singer-songwriters of our generation!

The Cohen Family presents
TOWER OF SONG:
A MEMORIAL TRIBUTE TO
LEONARD COHEN

ELVIS COSTELLO, LANA DEL REY, FEIST, PHILIP GLASS, K.D. LANG,
WESLEY SCHULTZ AND JEREMIAH FRAITES OF THE LUMINEERS, DAMIEN RICE, STING, PATRICK WATSON, ADAM COHEN AND OTHERS TO MARK ANNIVERSARY OF ICON’S PASSING

MONDAY, NOVEMBER 6th 7:30 PM
BELL CENTRE, MONTREAL

The family of Leonard Cohen invites fans from around the world to join them, along with renowned musicians, the Prime Minister of Canada and the Premier of Quebec in celebrating Cohen’s legacy for Tower of Song: A Memorial Tribute to Leonard Cohen at the Bell Centre in Montreal on Nov. 6, 2017.

“My father left me with a list of instructions before he passed: ‘Put me in a pine box next to my mother and father. Have a small memorial for close friends and family in Los Angeles…and if you want a public event do it in Montreal,’” said singer-songwriter Adam Cohen “I see this concert as a fulfillment of my duties to my father that we gather in Montreal to ring the bells that still can ring.”

The event will benefit the Canada Council for the Arts, the Council of Arts and Letters of Quebec, and the Montreal Arts Council.

Tower of Song will mark the first anniversary of Leonard’s passing and commence a week of celebrations honouring Cohen in Montreal. As previously announced, the Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal’s new exhibit, “Leonard Cohen: Une brèche en toute chose / A Crack in Everything,” will open to the public November 9. The exhibit was approved by the late songwriter before his passing and will celebrate Cohen’s life and work. Select media and top tier Tower of Song ticket holders will be invited to a preview of the exhibit on November 7.

TICKETS ON SALE THIS SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 23rd AT NOON (EDT) AT EVENKO.CA AND 1-855-310-2525.

Nature and Poetry

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“Nature brings out the poet in me.” ~ Kathy Chaffin Gerstorff

My favorite park on the planet is Mounds State Park in Anderson, Indiana, which happens to be my hometown. I have always felt drawn to Mounds for reasons I don’t completely understand. I think it has to do with the rich history of the Mounds. I’ve had a story in my head for nearly 20 years that I do hope to get out into the world someday. In the meantime, I’m content to enter their annual poetry contest. This year I nearly forgot about it. Fortunately, a reminder popped up in my Facebook timeline. They added a Poetry/Photo “hybrid” category this year which is cool. I love photography almost as much as poetry, they make perfect mates.

To prepare for the hybrid entry, I ordered a couple prints of photos I snapped of my family at Mounds a few months ago. When I see a photo sometimes the words come to me, but sometimes they don’t. When a deadline hangs in the air like stale cigarette smoke, my muse chokes!

I knew what I had to do. I had to go straight to the source and get some fresh air. I talked my husband into driving me to Mounds so I could knock out the poem on the way. Yeah right. Nothing! Once we got to Mounds I went straight to their nature room where I presumed it would be quiet and I could write. Wrong again. Someone was already in “my” room with their head buried in their cell phone listening randomly to news, music, whatever. It was noise to me and oh so annoying. Why bother coming to a nature center if you’re going to be on your phone? At least put in some earbuds!

I then went outside and sat at a picnic table. The sun was shining from a clear blue sky. Birds were singing. My muse blew in on a slight breeze and took a seat beside me. Magic. I love when that happens. I looked at the photo of my youngest granddaughter sitting on one of the beautiful native benches that makes a wonderful addition to the park. I wondered what someone who didn’t know my awesome little angel would see if they looked at the photo. Would they see all the generations that have visited the park before her and the generations that she will introduce to our special place. That’s what I see.

I finished the poem and took it directly to the manager’s office. So they have the original poem if I ever become postmortem famous! I doubt it, but you never know.  I don’t do it for the money or the fame. I write because it is who I am. Writing is as much a part of me as my flesh, more so I believe. Spiritual. When I write poetry I feel connected to heaven and earth in a way nothing outside of prayer has ever made me feel. Sometimes the words do not convey the depth of my emotion, but that’s okay. I’ve made peace with not being a flowery prose writer that creates a symphony with the flick of her pen, even though I still appreciate hearing a concerto of words by the masters. My words are more like a street musician strumming a guitar. Simple, raw, surprising. Entertaining to me and sometimes the audience that stops to listen in.

Happy National Poetry Month. I hope you take note of what inspires you!

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Photo I took of my granddaughter that inspired my poem, “What Do You See?”

What Do You See?
Kathy Chaffin Gerstorff

What do you see?
An adorable blonde-hair,
blue-eyed little girl
sitting on a park bench?

I see the fourth generation
to create happy memories
of time spent with her family
at Mounds State Park.

Storing up smiles
and happy thoughts
to see her through
the hard times that
life sometimes brings.

I see a link to a
love of nature
that lives on
in the heart
of a child.

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I saw the most unusual thing on my way home tonight. Something I haven’t seen in years. Something that made me feel a bit giddy inside at the memory of doing it myself once upon a time.

At first, I was most curious about what could possibly make a teenager walk on the side of the road with his head down. Was he depressed? Was he looking for Pokemon? Everywhere you look these days, you see people with their nose in their cell phone instead of paying attention to the real world right in front of them. Perhaps the phone provides an escape from the drama, doom and gloom that sometimes feels like it is closing in on our sanity. But, there used to be another escape, one I miss seeing and doing, one I was reminded of today…

As I got closer to the teen, I could see he was reading a book! I wanted to stop and take a picture and ask him what he was reading. I was so curious to know what he was reading! You know it has to be an interesting book if you can’t even put it down to walk on the side of a busy highway.

As dangerous as it is to walk without looking where you are going, especially with so many drivers texting and being distracted by their phone as they drive, seeing that kid reading a book that he couldn’t put down made my heart purr.

Write on.

WriterKat

Honorable Mention

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“There is no dishonor in honorable mention.” ~ Mike Rothman

There was a time when honorable mention felt like losing to me…

“If she can’t win, she doesn’t want to play.” My cousin said those words about me when I was ten years old or so and a group of us kids were playing red rover or some similar game that I decided I didn’t want to play for reasons I don’t even remember. My cousin continued his berating, “It has to be her way or not at all.” He was talking to them about me right in front of me. I was furious, stomped back into the house and slammed the screen door to make the point that I was mad which probably just confirmed his point to the group. My cousin’s biting words stayed with me all these years. I think about it from time to time. Am I really that rigid that I don’t want to play if I can’t win? There have been many times in my life when I felt like that was true. I have never been into sports perhaps because I know I can’t win without training and I have no desire to train for any athletic event, not even hippity-hop when I was in the fourth grade. I was always last to get picked for the team and I really didn’t care. I would rather be sitting by myself somewhere coloring or reading a book.

Writing is a different story, sort of. I want to the be the best, do my best, but often feel like I fall short which used to prevent me from entering writing contests or attending big writer conventions where MFAs and bestselling authors abound. I remember the first time I attended the Midwest Writers Conference. I felt so inferior after coming home from that event. It took me months to get beyond my self-imposed limitations of thinking what makes me believe I have a chance of getting published when there are so many great writers who are struggling. Thank goodness self-publishing became popular and easily accessible or I would have probably never pursued publishing my writing.

Once I self-published, it was like breaking through an invisible barrier. Suddenly, I could say I was a published author. I began to see myself as a writer. I continued to study, read and write, becoming a little more confident with each poem and story I wrote. I began to enter writing contests, only a few that meant something to me. I remember the first time I won a writing contest, it felt like I won an Olympic gold metal. All I won was some random poster from the 70’s that became ashes along with all my journals, poems, stories and books when my house burned down a couple years ago.

After the fire, I got a new perspective about what is really important in life. I no longer wish to accumulate things. I would rather accumulate memories. I no longer write to “win” a contest or get published. I write to say what I feel I have to release into the world. If it resonates with someone, that is wonderful. I love when that happens both as a writer and a reader. But, I’m no longer in competition for the coveted “best-seller” title or winning any awards. I write because it is who I am and what I have to do to quiet the voices in my head. I write because I love the written word. Passionately.

When I got an honorable mention at the recent Mounds State Park Poetry contest, I felt that twinge of “first place” memory and smiled inside because I am in the game now, playing, having fun, right along with all the other writers who submit their art for something that is important to them.

Being willing to step outside your comfort zone and writing from your heart, that’s what makes you a winner!

Write on.

Kathy G