Jan Freeman in Tomorrow’s Queen of Cups

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Jan Freeman is the founding editor of Paris Press whose mission is to ‘publish groundbreaking yet overlooked literature by women’. Freeman is the author of three poetry collections, one of which was nominated for the National Book Critics Circle Award. Her fourth collection Blue Structure, published by Calypso Editions, will be out in July. Queen of Cups will feature three poems from Blue Structure in Issue Six, tomorrow.

From An Accounting

“When the meal ended, you presented a brief statement on geography
and the value of proximity.
Inside the florescent ringing of the empty Chinese restaurant,
I recited the names of birds that gather beneath the feeder beside my house.
An unexpected sadness rooted itself under my skin
tenacious as the quills of a porcupine.”

 

Shaindel Beers in Tomorrow’s Queen of Cups

authorpic.jpg  Poet Shaindel Beers

Issue Five of Queen of Cups goes out to subscribers tomorrow. Here’s a little taste of the goodness to come!

 

“The male poet says, Remember

the sexy poems you used to write? You’re not
writing mommy poems now, are you? I want
to tell him even my mommy poems are too sexy

for him, especially too sexy. I know because
the tongues that have flickered over my C-section
incision have told me.”

from I am Not a Narrative for Your Entertainment by Shaindel Beers

 

 

Squam 2016 Wrap Up

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A week ago at this time, I was sitting in a rocking chair on the porch to the right in the above photo, coffee in hand, listening to the loons, water like glass…. You get the picture.IMG_0904.JPGIMG_0906.JPG

I taught my Found Poetry workshop for a second year at Squam Arts Retreats on Squam Lake in New Hampshire. And for a second year, I roomed with my long-time friend Beth of Parris House Wool Works. Beth teaches rug hooking, but is pictured below with her name cut out of paper, origami-style, in a small workshop we took. I’ve known Beth, and her family, for over 15 years. I was the librarian in a tiny library housed in an old jail on Paris Hill in Maine when Beth’s oldest son was young enough to be reading the Redwall Series. In fact, I ordered those books just for him. He’s 26 now! I keep in touch with Beth, but would have no reason to share a small bedroom with her, eating too much chocolate, laughing uncontrollably at 6 a.m., hanging out on the dock, eating meals together for 5 days. Squam has given me that unexpected gift, among others.

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One reason Squam may be so special to participants, teachers, and organizers is because most adults gave up summer camp years ago. I never went to summer camp. And Squam is certainly summer camp for adults, but no one is telling you what to do, when to put the lights out, waking you with reveille (is that just in the movies?) There’s a sense of freedom and aimlessness, coupled with a pretty powerful creative energy, the lake, the trails, that casts a spell.

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‘It’s like a mild amnesia.’ I said to Beth on the second day. ‘I can’t remember what I was worrying and thinking about before I came’.  I’m still calm and I attribute that to one Squam experience in particular: media fast. I’m an NPR news’ junkie and always listen to a couple hours every night while I’m making dinner and cleaning up afterwards. I also listen while I’m driving, and I do an inordinate amount of driving. That adds up to a lot of tragedy, scandal, violence, subterfuge, and a smattering of interesting news. I didn’t listen to any news at Squam and only checked email occasionally. Now, this was also the case last year, but in true Squam style, this year was a different year. My media fast delivered the dawning realization that I was happier, calmer, more clear-headed without the constant barrage of ‘news’ and voices cluttering my thinking. When I returned home I didn’t resume my news’ habit. I’m listening to audio books on long rides and nothing at home. Interestingly, maybe predictably, that sense of calm is still with me.

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Important lesson number two: body image. Most of the participants at Squam are women. They come in all shapes, sizes, colors, abilities; they have myriad talents, day jobs, beauties. I recommend that all women spend a few days with a large group of women from all over the country and the world. I didn’t see one stereotypically perfect body in the mix, but I saw beautiful, unique women, laughing, eating picnics on the docks, swimming, hiking, knitting (lots of knitting), creating art, sharing art, huddled together in deep conversation and, most importantly, being completely themselves.

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13321910_10153821596754107_5350180866818969896_n.jpg          For all these reasons, the students I’ve encountered in my poetry workshops at Squam have been a pleasure to teach and write with. Most don’t have a regular writing practice, aren’t pursuing poetry to any end; they bring other reasons why taking the workshop was a high priority. Every one of my Squam students has been surprised by what she’s capable of writing, the memories that the writing process draws forth, the writing of her fellow students. It’s so fulfilling to lead poetry workshops at Squam because the experience is truly immersive. Students engage in the writing process for hours at a time, the combined focus and introspection create the perfect energy and atmosphere for writing. They aren’t jaded by years of writing workshops and they aren’t writing with publishing as the major goal, they’re writing to experience the joy of writing, which is pretty refreshing. This year, one of my students gave an impromptu evening reading of the poems she wrote during workshop to her 12 or so housemates. And, because it’s Squam, all the students love the mini magnetic poetry kit making. This year, two students had never worked with Mod Podge, so I was the crafty expert for a change.

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And it doesn’t hurt when your classroom looks like this:

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So Squam has commenced for another year and this introvert is still surprised at how easy it was to share a cabin with eight women. In fact, I wish I had been more social, gotten to know people a little better, spent more time by the fire and in long conversations. It takes a lot to get me out of my head and into the world, to appreciate the communal aspects of life, get me into swimming shorts, to turn off the news, share a bedroom, lead a class for six hours, and feel completely comfortable in my own skin.You did it again Squam! Thank you.

 

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Queen of Cups Issue Four (MeLaina Elise Ramos)

For those of you who haven’t yet subscribed to Queen of Cups (which is free!) here’s Issue Four in full. One note on format, there are two small spacing issues in the poems below because of the cluelessness of WordPress. Please take a look at the issue here  in its proper template. This is the weekly format: fairytalish art, intro, tarot card of the week and its relevance for artists and writers, featured writer, and a prompt of the week. I think we’re all having fun over at Queen of Cups, though I feel like passing out after proofreading it for the 10th time at 6 a.m. Hope you enjoy!

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Welcome to Queen of Cups Issue Four featuring poet MeLaina Elise Ramos. This week we have two poems from Ramos, but you can read more of her work in Linebreak and The Bakery. When I got to the line with the ‘little boy in cowboy boots….stomping at the bees, rocks in his mouth “I knew I would be featuring this poem in an issue of Queen of Cups. Further, I wish I had written that line myself…. I realize we have reached issue four with nary a male writer in sight. Not to worry, they are on the docket. I’m a big fan of women-centered and feminist presses like Kore and Perugia, but my goal with Queen of Cups is to feature diverse voices and (not to worry) they are in the line-up for the coming weeks. For the foreseeable future, however, Queen of Cups is looking fairly female-powered, making up about 87.4% of our content (that was a joke, I don’t do numbers). I have no problem with that at all. In fact, I love to feature my sisters in literature.

For most of last week, I was in Holderness, New Hampshire teaching a poetry workshop at Squam Art Retreats on Squam Lake. I’ve blogged about my experiences at Squam over the past two years and will post about this year’s experience in the coming days. It’s a true retreat, an adult summer-camp, mostly women; crafty, creative, artistic women. The energy is vibrant and nurturing. I seem to learn something new about myself as a teacher, a poet, and a person every year. I held the book launch for my first poetry collection in the Squam Playhouse two years ago. I read to a small crowd of women clicking knitting needles. That experience ruined me a little for future readings where people only ‘hmmm’ thoughtfully at the conclusion of a poem. The Squam ladies smiled encouragingly, looking up from the beautiful shawls, wraps, sweaters they were knitting, serene and fulfilled. There’s something magical in all that shared creative buzz. It bugs me that the ‘crafts’ don’t get more respect as ‘art’. Just because yarn could be used to knit blankets, fabric to make clothes, wool strips to make an actual rug, doesn’t mean they can’t also be used to create art, or that these utilitarian objects themselves can’t be art! Anyhow, one of the most pleasant experiences at Squam this year, and my point in bringing it up, was the wonderful disconnection from news and the internet. I checked email on my phone (no wifi in my cabin) but I didn’t listen to the news for five days. I’m an NPR junkie and seem to listen even when I’m not really listening. I enjoyed my news fast so much that I haven’t listened since I’ve been home, choosing audio books instead. This might make me a bad citizen, but for now it’s also making me a calmer, happier person. More on that in my upcoming blog post. One piece of business: if the images aren’t appearing when you open the email, just click ‘display images’ at the top, that may seem pretty self-explanatory, but there are those among us (myself included) who have developed blindness in the face of so much visual input. The experience isn’t quite the same without the pretty pictures! Excuse that looooong intro. This week’s issue:

 

Tarot Card of the Week: Knight of Pentacles

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The Knight of Pentacles: Remember, pentacles are of the earth element, concerned with the materiality of life, not its higher realms. The Knight of Pentacles is the kind of guy you’d want to be your accountant, no head in the clouds, pie in the sky business for him. He is cautious, steadfast, attentive to detail, hard working, dogged in pursuit of a goal, rational and level-headed. He has the tendency to become dull, too methodical and unimaginative. Some may perceive this knight as completely unexciting and unromantic, but he’s the guy everyone would turn to in tough times. He’s nothing if not resourceful and utilitarian. He embodies the true definition of the word conservative. In my neck of the woods, the Knight of Pentacles would be that old farmer who has a barnful of what looks like junk, but which he uses to fix and make the stuff you run to Target for. In fact, this farmer hasn’t bought anything, except maybe a drill bit that went missing, in the past five years. His wife is the one who saved snippets of string in Donald Hall’s String Too Short to Be Saved. He is to be respected for a kind of intelligence our culture is losing sight of.

The Knight of Pentacles Message for Writers and Artists: Let’s face it, most artists are dreamers at some level and we were born this way. Most of us would rather follow the muse, wait for inspiration, than sit at a desk as if showing up for work. The Knight of Pentacles may be speaking to you in one of two ways. If you’re having trouble getting started on a project, completing a project, or have fallen away from your medium altogether, you may need to incorporate the Knight’s steadfast, hard working, dogged, practical nature into your artistic life. The Knight of Pentacles is your writing practice, the routine you’ve created, or need to create, to get the work done. In the same way that the farmer goes into the fields to plow, plant, weed and tend, ensuring a harvest, artists and writers have to engage in a reliable routine if they want to see results. It’s often hard to view our writing practice this way because the creative faculty doesn’t really appreciate punching the clock, but the Knight of Pentacles encourages us to be aware of the need for discipline. Each tarot card signifies a trait or motif, each is wholly itself. I don’t think anyone should be entirely Knight of Pentacles in his/her life. The card is merely depicting a quality we should try to incorporate into our personalities. Now, the wild creative spirit in me is rolling her eyes. I have to admit I’m not very good at embodying the Knight of Pentacles. If I’m not feeling it, I don’t torture myself for more than about 10 minutes before getting up and moving on to something else. We all know how forced writing feels and sounds. It’s painful to write and painful to read. I think the Knight of Pentacles also carries a cautionary message: don’t push too hard. Cultivating discipline and routine around your writing can be healthy, but can also go too far, like that guy at the gym who works out so hard he pukes. The creative faculty does not respond to bullying or self-flagellation. But there needs to be intention in every creative life. You have to know you want to create, you have to live much of the time with a heightened sense of awareness: seeing, listening, taking the world in. You have to decide to be an artist, it doesn’t usually just happen. And this is, I think, the most important message the Knight of Pentacles brings to artists and writers: discipline doesn’t only come into play when you sit down to create. When you choose to be an artist, you make a commitment to be the one paying attention, the one who’s telling not only her own story, but cultural and universal stories. This form of discipline may appear to non practitioners as distraction or daydreaming when, in fact, it’s fairly rigorous. In other cultures, at other times in history, poets were the seers of a community. It takes a whole lot of discipline, sacrifice, and chutzpah to be a seer!

 

Introducing MeLaina Elise Ramos!

 

Preservation

I am stuck, as if a bug, in the amber
necklace you gave as a gift after your trip
to Mexico, what broke us. You saw deprivation
and survival in Chiapas and thought I asked for too much.
I am sitting on the front steps of a house I do not own, watching
our little boy in cowboy boots. True Texan at heart: stomping at the bees,
rocks in his mouth. I want to shatter this beer bottle into
ambered bits on the gravel path that has encroached upon
the backyard grass. Sometimes I have gone days, sometimes
I envy the dying bees among the flowers who are chased away
by our son, who does not yet know the holiness of insects. He keeps
handing me rocks that are too heavy and I keep taking them, instead
of telling him to look for things much lighter. Sun catches
my silver stretch marks, silk worms appearing when my body said
  wait, here’s more.

 

 

 

Something Borrowed

Meet me in the blue dream, where fire burns so hot it becomes night.

I will put my hands upon plastered walls and name them holy.

There, our honeymoon we never took. Blue in it’s own right.

Meet me in the wonder, in makeshift heaven. Where the stairs

look like waves at the shoreline, small versions of their larger glory.

We can live in orchestral hum, here.

Here our son who never came to be can run the streets, clutching

a goldfish in a bag, past powder dyes in burlap: goldenrod, saffron, lavender,

magenta, past every tone of azure I see in our son’s eyes, what I will always choose.

Look at all of the doors we could enter, if only we would knock. No one the same,

despite their blues. We could have moved our fists through the air, stars falling.

We could have become impressionist versions of ourselves, painted into the scene.

Among hanging flowerpots, colored and suspended as if sky lanterns, wishes sent

afloat, glowing.

 

 

MeLaina Elise Ramos received her MFA from the Bennington Writing Seminars. You can find her recent work in Linebreak, elimae, Gold Wake Press, and Anti-, among other journals. She lives in Williamsburg, Virginia.

 

 

Weekly Writing Prompt: “…our little boy in cowboy boots. True Texan at heart: stomping at the bees, rocks in his mouth.” In what way is your little boy, girl, husband, wife, self….. a ‘true Texan’ Alaskan, Californian, Yankee, Australian, Southern Belle…. at heart. Write about the way place manifests in people’s personalities, tics, choices.

Next Week: Poet Shaindel Beers

Queen of Cups Issue Four Wednesday

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Queen of Cups currently has 379 subscribers and issues are scheduled through mid November! There is no lack of poetry in the coming months and a bit less micro fiction and non fiction. If you’re interested in submitting a couple fiction or non fiction pieces of 500 words and under, any style, submit to queenofcupsmag@gmail.com with a short bio. Experimental and hybrid work welcomed! This Wednesday’s issue will feature two poems by poet MeLaina Elise Ramos. Here’s a little tease: “I am sitting on the front steps of a house I do not own, watching/ our little boy in cowboy boots. True Texan at heart: stomping at the bees,/ rocks in his mouth.” 

Besides featuring a few pieces by one contemporary writer in each issue, Queen of Cups also features a weekly tarot card with the traditional attributes of that card to guide you through the week, as well as how the card is relevant to writers and artists. Last week I pulled the moon card:

The Moon’s Message for Writers and Artists: There’s no way to be a writer and an artist without exploring the shadow. We explore personal and collective darkness every time we create. It’s this duality, the tension between, and balancing of, light and dark that is the stuff of art. Thing is, it’s generally not easy or fun to turn away from your ordered world, the one you cast in a positive light most days, and enter an impenetrable darkness. There are two ways that artists must navigate the underworld. The first is in the very act of creating. We must enter the emptiness, the dark mystery of our own unconscious, whenever we sit down to create. That seeming void is where words and images materialize. We, as artists, have to hang out in this uncomfortable purgatory waiting for the poem, song, story, to come to us so we can follow and discover its nature bit by bit…”

There is also a weekly writing prompt. So… if you haven’t subscribed yet, why not? Subscription to Queen of Cups is free, only comes once a week, can be read in one sitting, and will likely introduce you to the work of some writers whose paths you’ve not previously crossed. Plus, it’s fun and I do all the work 🙂  Win, win.