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The Dark Courage of “Writing Through Postpartum”

September 6th, 2017

Managing Editor’s Note: Once in a while I read something that strikes me as deeply and personally brave. The fear of judgment from our readers can be especially strong for a parent. In “Writing Through Postpartum,” Rachel Berg Scherer describes her psychological state after her son’s birth–that her depression left her dealing with a “tiny, selfish human who only takes,” that she said “some very mean” things to him, that she wished she could just give him back. It’s mesmerizing in its truth-telling, the kind of stark self-awareness that leads to healing. 

–Amy

Writing Through Postpartum

by

Rachel Berg Scherer

I adored the process of having my first baby. I was so thankful to be pregnant, I loved labor, and I loved giving birth. It was overwhelmingly empowering and powerful and transformative. I would give birth every day for a month if it meant I didn’t have to live with a newborn again.

My baby was born in the depths of winter, that “bleak midwinter” that inspired already-gloomy 19th century poets. That frigid time of year when evening starts soon after lunch, and day doesn’t really begin until well after breakfast. I sobbed every afternoon as the sun started its downward decent. I mourned for the end of brightness and for the endless bout of darkness that was looming. Every evening, I felt like I was slowly drowning, sinking another inch with each passing minute. (more…)

We Play Hard: Artists of Color on Play and Relaxation

August 1st, 2017

Managing Editor’s Note: In this week’s guest post, Rochelle Spencer shares the importance and particular significance of play and joy in African-American lives. In a recent exhibit titled Let’s Play, held at Pro Arts Gallery in Oakland, California, the artists’ goal was “that we see play not as something frivolous but as something fundamental to having healthier lives–lives that represent the truth of our experience.” 

–Amy

We Play Hard: Artists of Color on Play and Relaxation

by Rochelle Spencer

“As African Americans, when we play, we play hard,” says Johnnie Davis, Director of Serenity House, a program that provides services for women who have been raped or molested, and experience homelessness, and/or mental health or emotional issues, tells me inside Serenity House’s ocean-colored walls.  “It’s hard for us to relax and play,” Johnnie continues. “Our play isn’t gentle because we come in with all this anger from what happened at work and the outside world. When we play, we hit the ball hard. We’re always attempting to channel anger and disappointment into play.” (more…)

Writing, Meditation, and the Art of Looking

July 18th, 2017

Managing Editor’s Note: Does meditation fuel our writing, or does writing fuel our meditation? Or is writing itself a form of meditation–seeing, reflecting on, and processing what we notice in the present? In this essay, poet Marilyn McCabe explores her own experiences with meditation, and the hope that writing itself leads her to the “mind-full” state she desires.

–Amy

Writing in Mind

by Marilyn McCabe

I took a class to learn how to meditate. It didn’t go well. At least I didn’t keep falling asleep, like one guy did. I was always thinking about food. (This kind of stuff seems to have that effect on me — I took a yoga class some years ago, and all I could think about was: Is this over soon so I can go have a beer? And I don’t even really drink beer.)

But I recognize the essential nature of being present, of breathing with consciousness, of trying for a few scant moments on a regular basis to banish thoughts/fears about the past and future from the zooming brain, and I had hoped the meditation class would allow me to go deeper in my poetry, to plumb the dark depths of my slow-breathing soul. I found I was just as distractible at the end as I was at the beginning, but it did open my mind to the varieties of the meditation experience. (more…)

Choosing America

June 23rd, 2017

Managing Editor’s Note: In this compelling essay, Shilpi Suneja explores the dilemma many first-generation Indian migrants face after moving to the United States: whether to stay in this new country, where opportunities might be more easily found, or to return to India, the place of their birth. The burden of leaving India is both societal and personal. As Suneja writes, “this choice often becomes the hardest moral dilemma upon which not only our lives but the lives of whom we marry, love, and birth depend.”

–Amy

Choosing America

by Shilpi Suneja

Two days after Srinivas Kuchibhotlas was shot dead at a bar in Kansas, his wife Sunayana Dumala spoke at a press conference about her concern for staying on in America. “I often asked my husband,” she revealed, her voice breaking, “are we doing the right thing (by) staying.” Sunayana’s fears hint at the awkward moral burden immigrants from the Indian subcontinent place upon themselves.

For many of us first generation migrants who can remember our arrival into America, we have a choice—or at least, we feel that we do—of either staying on in America or returning to India. This choice often becomes the hardest moral dilemma upon which not only our lives but the lives of whom we marry, love, and birth depend.

The act of leaving India remains one of Hinduism’s oldest taboos. Traversing the black waters lead to the loss of one’s caste status as well as an end of the cycle of reincarnation, because, leaving India meant coming into touch with non-Indians, or those without caste, and going far out of reach from the life-giving waters of the holy Ganges. But when the British came to India and brought great economic and social upheaval, they sent three and a half million indentured laborers to the Caribbean. This forced crossing of oceans, albeit with large cauldrons of Ganges water to alleviate concerns about the loss of rebirth, was perhaps the first time in modern history when caste-Indians defied Hinduism’s oldest taboos in such vast numbers. (more…)

Truth as a Hammer: Managing the Politics of Family

June 6th, 2017

Managing Editor’s Note: Jill Johnson describes herself as a “third-culture kid,” someone who grew up in developing countries. Her essay featured here, “Lewes, Delaware,” reflects how this way of life, combined with their Quaker heritage, affected her family’s political beliefs–and the conflict it often created. In one crucible of a moment, Jill yells her frustration at her mother, saying that “if she spent as much time solving family problems as she did on world problems, maybe our family would be happy.”

–Amy

Lewes, Delaware

by Jill Johnson

Sorting through files in my parent’s office after they’d moved into assisted living, I found an old newspaper clipping–an editorial Mom had written. I paused at her bio: activist, teacher, homemaker. The description evoked a woman with defined lines, neat and contained. Her teaching career had consisted of several years with fifth graders at Lincoln School in Kathmandu in the ‘60’s; a homemaker, yeah, she’d set up house wherever we’d landed for Dad’s job in developing countries. The activist part, well, I’d never thought to apply that term to my mother although she loosed her opinions with abandon and often without invitation.

When I was in high school, she’d been the one to march on Washington DC to protest the Vietnam War. I’d boasted about my Mom who stomped several positions left of most adults in those days. Protesting in my own way at boarding school–experimenting with pot and boys, skipping the mandatory Quaker meeting on Sunday mornings, learning to swear–I’d watched her do her thing while I did mine. (more…)

Race and Disability as Construct: Lisa McKenzie’s “What Lasts”

May 30th, 2017

Managing Editor’s Note: I find some of the most compelling stories of diversity come from couples and families who are interracial. Balancing not only the complexities of their relationships, but also the pressures and preconceptions of the outside world, offer tremendous insight from a kind of microcosm of American culture. In this post, Lisa McKenzie writes about having a husband who is half-Chinese half-white, while she, a white woman, lives with recurrent multiple sclerosis. McKenzie’s experiences lead her to this understanding:”If race is a construction, well, so is disability.”

— Amy

What Lasts

by Lisa McKenzie

I was sitting with my husband outside an ice cream shop on the east side of Cincinnati, watching our son caper around a park with his buddies from Shakespeare Camp, when my husband observed, “I don’t feel white here.”

My husband is white. Half white. He is also half Chinese.

Cincinnati is white. Half white. And nearly half black. My husband clearly isn’t black. Since moving to this city, he’d mostly been treated as though he were white. The white realtor assigned to show us around Cincinnati appeared genuinely puzzled when we’d said we’d wanted a diverse neighborhood. “Why would you want that?” (more…)

Meditation, Writing, and the Act of Deep Internal Listening

May 16th, 2017

Managing Editor’s Note: In the following post, Jessie Benjamin asks, “What is calling for my attention right here, right now? ” Meditation encourages this question, requiring us to sit and engage in “an act of deep internal listening.” It isn’t difficult to see the link between the “internal listening” of meditation and of writing. We must pay attention when we write, dig inside of ourselves, search for truth, and get it on the page. Enjoy Benjamin’s exploration of her own practice–a blend of meditation and writing.

–Amy

Creating the Space:

How Meditation Supports Writing

by Jessie L. Benjamin

Meditation creates the space, writing fills the void. I’m called to both.

Image by © Royalty-Free/Corbis

For twenty years, my daily sitting meditation practice has nourished me. It’s essential, like oxygen keeping me sane and, hopefully, kinder and more compassionate.

I came to writing a bit later.

Many of the qualities that are cultivated in meditation are used while writing – receptivity, attention, curiosity and truthfulness.

Meditation cultivates receptivity.

The space it creates within the mind opens the field of awareness and my sense doors open.

The creative process of writing is nourished by receptivity. I see a recurring image or hear a phrase that replays again and again. A theme or a title appears. A story is born. I catch it before it gets away. The empty page fills. (more…)

Review of Dennis Hinrichsen’s Skin Music

April 18th, 2017

Managing Editor’s Note: This post features a review of poems exploring the nature of disaster, of suffering, of death. In his reading of Dennis Hinrichsen’s Skin Music, Kevin Holton discovers structure and free-form poetry that confronts and recognizes the desolate nature of catastrophe, yet finds both beauty and hope within the experience. As Holton writes, “its characters don’t blink or hesitate, as they recognize the way mortality balances mankind against its own tendency toward destruction.”

–Amy Grier

Review of Dennis Hinrichsen’s Skin Music.

Evansville: Southern Indiana Review Press, 2015.

by Kevin Holton

A book of poetry, more than a book in any other genre, has the unique power to switch from topic to topic, spanning continents and eons if the writer wishes, to capture a wide array of experiences. Skin Music, by Dennis Hinrichsen, does this well. With poems approaching the dying of fellow poet Paul Celan to an unnamed narrator catching catfish, Hinrichsen uses elegance and elegy to blend good tidings and grave misfortune, crafting an impressive collection.

This much is evident from the opening piece, “Variations on the Death by Drowning of the Poet, Paul Celan.” Working with a free-form structure, he throws a scattered array of evocative terms onto the page, separating each by an expanse of white. Some thoughts are fragmented, but with clear connotations, such as “in honor of urns,” while others are whole ideas, yet shrouded in mystery, as with “(now it is raining/ in all the rooms).” This has the odd effect of gazing at something familiar through a heavy mist, seeming simultaneously defined yet unknowable. (more…)

Landscape of Desire: Richard Cambridge Reviews Danielle Legros Georges’ The Dear Remote Nearness of You

April 1st, 2017

Managing Editor’s Note: In this post, Richard Cambridge asks us to consider how we can “chart the landscape of desire,” and concludes that we’ll “need something stronger than poems. [We] will need to make spells.” It is with this willingness to step right “across the border” and into the landscape of Danielle Legros Georges’ world that Cambridge offers his lush, complex, and thoughtful review. Enjoy this exploration of poetry that “yearns for the just and true.”

–Amy Grier

Landscape of Desire

by Richard Cambridge

Review: The Dear Remote Nearness of You by Danielle Legros Georges, Barrow Street Press, 2016, 61 pages

Winner of the Sheila Margaret Motton Book Prize, 2016, (New England Poetry Club)

How to chart the landscape of desire? A pencil is a good start, a draft, a poem. But soon you’ll be dipping a pen in blood, your own blood, and the blood of your ancestors and your enemies. You’ll have crossed the border and entered the landscape. You’ll need something stronger than poems. You will need to make spells.

Danielle Legros Georges possesses the disciplines of a poet-warrior—spell, chant, ritual, theatre, incantation, painting, scholarship—to lead us through the landscape and catalogue the complicated geography of person, country (Haiti and the United States—Boston), and history, where we make home and how we find love, the consequences of colonialism, war, and race, the desire to make sense, and the necessity of beauty in our lives. (more…)

Writing as a Meditation Practice

February 26th, 2017

Managing Editor’s Note: Writing means many things to us–an escape or a chore, a creative challenge or a job, a craft or a skill, perhaps all of these at once. Some of us experience something of the spiritual, too, when we work; a fulfillment and insight into our own lives that we can’t get any other way. Our guest blogger today, Elaine Fletcher, describes writing not as an aid to meditation, but as meditation itself, an “internalized, felt experience of the Path.”     –Amy

 

WRITING AS A PATH OF MEDITATION

by Elaine Fletcher Chapman

The year my mother died, I claimed a desk for myself in the family room. I placed my notebook and the books that were my touchstones at the time on the desk. I bought a beautiful fountain pen from pennies saved, ink made from roses.

Nearby, my mother’s photo. Nearby, a bottle of the Pacific Ocean. Nearby, a blue postcard with the single word SOLITUDE printed on it. Nearby, a feather and rose quartz for healing the deepest wounds of the heart. I lit the incense and bowed with hands folded in prayer before I sat to write.

Now many years later, I still burn the same incense before I write. Sometimes though I depend on the lingering perfume to carry my words. I still bow. I sit with intention and invite mystery. I evoke the known and the unknown. When I sit, I know nothing and everything. I am the body. I lose the body. I lose time. I lose self. Self fades away and there is only the writing. (more…)

Fighting Mental Health Stigma: 7 Empowering Books by Black Women

February 6th, 2017

Managing Editor’s Note:

In this post, Lyndsey Ellis speaks to the challenge of coping with mental illness, especially in our post-election world, and finding the empowerment needed to fight its stigma. Any of us who love reading can’t help but nod emphatically when she writes, “A good read becomes the essential wellness tool for bookworms.”

–Amy

7 Books by Black Women That Empower Me

to Continue the Fight against Mental Health Stigma

Like many people, I’m still in post-election recovery mode. I’m shocked, confused, angry, sad, numb, yet somehow relieved that one of the vilest presidential campaigns in U.S. history is finally over.

Fortunately, there’s hidden triumphs in the bleakest moments. While the Internet, social media and half of America’s downtown districts are currently use-at-your-own-risk, a good read becomes the essential wellness tool for bookworms, especially the kinds of books that compel readers like me to broaden the discussion on the ultra-timely topic of mental health awareness.

As a person who’s experienced bullying and bouts of depression during childhood after her parents’ divorce, one of the only things I drew hope and comfort from were books. Lots and lots of them. With that, came a natural love for writing which has continued to feed my endless appetite for reading through adulthood.

As a Black woman, the urgency to explore and share the works of Black female authors is vital, especially during times like these when it’s easy to become hardened and defeated by the gross realities of bigotry and systemic oppression.

Here’s a few Black women whose books highlight mental health and in so doing, give me strength to heal myself and embrace compassion for all.

 

1) 4-Headed Woman by Opal Palmer Adisa

Opal Palmer Adisa’s 4-Headed Woman is a candidly nourishing poetry collection. Adisa’s work oozes with love, warmth, wit, awareness, and admiration for the complexities—and sometimes, the emotional and mental horrors—that often ring true for Black women. Her latest book is deeply matriarchal, weaving in food and humor to express relatable experiences. For me, it was a spiritual guide to womanhood that paid homage to mothers, sisters, aunts, mentors and endearing community elders who insist on keeping it real. (more…)

Listen and Look: Joyce Peseroff Reviews ask anyone by Poet Ruth Lepson

January 23rd, 2017

 

Reviewer—Joyce Peseroff

ASK ANYONE by Ruth Lepson, Pressed Wafer, 2016, 68pp., $12.50

Managing Editor’s Note:

Some reviews of poetry collections are not only insightful, but a pleasure to read. Reviewing poetry is a challenging task, given the art form’s sometimes slippery use of language and the subjective quality of interpretation.

Peseroff manages it beautifully. More than one of her sentences seems to sum up the entirety of the collection, including this: the poems “often dart between the mind and the world.” And this darting–isn’t this a wonderful description of the act of writing poetry?

–Amy 

When Bob Dylan won the Nobel Prize, some questioned whether song lyrics qualified as literature. Some suggested that the committee was expanding the definition, first by anointing journalist Svetlana Alexievich in 2015 and then with Dylan in 2016. Others were reminded that the lyric poem originally accompanied a lyre. (more…)

Defining Diversity and Why #Black Lives Matter is a Statement of Unity

December 19th, 2016

Blog Editor’s Note: “Diversity” is a big word. To encourage diversity in the literary arts and beyond–even to begin a discussion about it–requires that we first define it and establish a common understanding around which we can rally. Then we can create ways to promote, engage in, and embrace its power.

Poet Kathleen Aguero explores this issue and more in her post below, “Verse and Diverse,” an account of a panel she moderated which featured our own Solstice editors. Read how difference can be “celebrated” and seen as “useful and edifying,” and why the phrase #Black Lives Matter means much more than we may think.

–Amy Grier, Managing Editor/Blog Editor

Verse and Diverse

The powerful grassroots movement, #BlackLivesMatter, is sometimes countered with the slogan “all lives matter.” Well, of course they do. That’s the point of #BlackLivesMatter—to demand we acknowledge the importance of lives, Black lives, too often treated as if they mattered not at all, with tragic results. So how do people of privilege and of whiteness learn to drop their defensive, “me, too. I matter too,” stance, as if respect and empathy were limited resources, and see themselves in relation to others? Why is diversity important? What does the term mean? And what role might a literary magazine play in constructing a space in which everyone can speak, be read, and engaged with? (more…)

Stories of Sexual Assault: Women, Men, and the Growing Community of Listeners

November 10th, 2016

Blog Editor’s Note:

Catcalls, unwanted touching, verbal harassment, bosses commenting on your body—sexually aggressive behavior and assault are so familiar to women that some of us are just beginning to talk about our experiences. Men, too, have their own stories to share.

In this guest post, Eileen O’Connor offers an insightful piece about the frequency of sexual harassment and assault in our culture. O’Connor doesn’t shy away from exploring her own past as both a victim of assault and perpetrator of microagression. Her ideas of how we can be complicit in preserving the status quo–by not listening to other’s stories, by laughing off our own experiences, and by staying passive in the midst of our sexist culture–are an important contribution to the conversation around this crucial issue.

Please note: We are seeking more voices on the topic of gender inequality—assault, harassment, discrimination, hate speech, and more. Join the conversation and submit to the SolLit Blog! Read our guidelines here.

Cheers,

Amy Grier, Blog Editor


The Right Tweet at the Right Time

“Old man on city bus grabs my ‘pussy’ and smiles at me, I’m 12.”

sad_girlCanadian author Kelly Oxford’s tweet from the evening of October 7 was brave. Her call to women, “tweet me your first assaults,” was significant. It was the right tweet at the right time. By the next evening, Oxford was receiving up to fifty responses per minute. Millions of stories have since been shared at #notokay, and many of these tweets represent the first time someone has shared her story. Many note that, like me, they kept quiet for so long because of shame. It took me fourteen years.
(more…)

“Shifting Ground” and Hopeful Seasons in Wendy Mnookin’s Dinner with Emerson, and a Call for Submissions About Gender Inequality

October 19th, 2016

dinner_with_emersonBlog Editor’s Note: Today we feature Rebecca Hart Olander’s excellent review of Wendy Mnookin’s poetry collection Dinner with Emerson. Olander sums up her impression of these poems by writing that Mnookin’s readers are “on sure footing, despite standing on shifting ground and amidst transience.”

To me, this phrase offers hope in the fight against gender discrimination. Given recent events in the news, we may in fact feel that the ground is shifting beneath us as we push forward in this fight. A surge in the discussion surrounding issues of gender–discrimination, harassment, abuse, and cultural oppression–has revealed just how far we must travel to achieve the gender equality everyone deserves.

We at the SolLit Blog, as part of our mission to support diversity in the literary world and the world at large, want to do our part in facilitating that discussion by asking what you have to say about this important and highly relevant topic, one which occupies the minds of anyone concerned about gender rights.

Would you like to have your post featured here on the blog? I’m issuing a call for submissions dealing with issues of gender rights, including:

  • Gender Inequality
  • Hate Speech
  • Verbal/Emotional Abuse
  • Gender Violence
  • Sexual Harassment
  • Microagression
  • Gender-based Discrimination

Whether you’ve experienced, witnessed, or intervened in one or more of these situations, we’d like to hear about it. This includes discrimination against women, LGBTQ people, and the gender queer/gender fluid. Check out our submission guidelines here and send us your thoughts!

In Mnookin’s poems, Olander finds the message that “despite whatever we are slogging through, there will be another season.” Let’s seize this hope and allow it to fuel our thinking, our writing, and our speaking out for gender equality.

–Amy Grier

Blog Editor

______________

Dinner with Emerson by Wendy Mnookin, Tiger Bark Press, 2016, 108 pp/, $16.95

Wendy Mnookin’s fifth collection, Dinner with Emerson, is organized according to the four seasons. It begins with spring and runs through the year, followed by a fifth section, “Another Spring,” that features poems in a season that stretch beyond “Winter.” There is a sense of the ongoing about these poems, that life marches on, that we learn to turn the page, and that despite whatever we are slogging through, there will be another season. The poems in the final section continue to deal with change and loss, as some of the earlier poems do; this other spring is both new and renewing, and yet holds its fair share of hardship, as any season does. Balanced on the brink but not falling in, Mnookin’s book lives in the familiar terrain that most of us try to inhabit as our parents age and die, our children grow and change, and grandchildren and other renewals help us get back in the daily ring.

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Creative Strategies for Supporting Writers with Mental Illness

September 26th, 2016

Blog Editor’s Note: Recently, arriving at a writing workshop for my MFA, I noticed that a large, adjustable chair with wheels had been set aside near the blackboard. Taped on the back was a note with the name of one of the workshop attendants.

When this student arrived, her eyes briefly scanned the room and found the chair. She pulled it to the table and sat, and during the several hours we worked, she quietly twisted the chair right and left. I learned later that this was a necessary activity for controlling the pain in her chronically strained back. (more…)

Diversity and the Exploitiation of Adjunct Professors

August 26th, 2016

Blog Editor’s Note: A conversation with a professor inspired this piece by the poet Jennifer Jean. The issue of adjunct professors’ current struggle at universities–low pay, little or no benefits, not enough hours, pushback against attempts to unionize–pops up frequently in discussions about academic life. The failure of universities to fully diversify also remains a much-debated topic. Who knew a simple drive in a car could inspire such insightful, problem-solving ideas. –Amy

 

Grow Your Own

by Jennifer Jean

This past May, I drove Professor Gwendolyn Rosemond home after she attended one of the bi-annual artist retreats I co-direct with my husband—we traveled along scenic route 127, from Gloucester at the tip of Cape Ann in Massachusetts, to Salem which is further South, at the Northshore’s midpoint. We drove for about forty five minutes and in that span we solved both the adjunct problem and the diversity problem at universities. Well, we solved a key portion of these problems. “Grow your own!” Gwen said. And, she was absolutely right.

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Welcome From Amy, the New Blog Editor

August 18th, 2016

Hello! You have, for the first time, the tenth, or the hundredth, happened upon SolsticeLitBlog. We are the official blog of Solstice: A Magazine of Diverse Voices. Welcome!

My name is Amy Grier and I’m the Blog Editor. First, thank you for stopping by. We love our readers and truly appreciate your support. Second, are you a writer? Do you have something you’d like to add to what our wonderful contributors have written? Consider writing a guest post for us!

Before sending something, be sure to first check out our guidelines for submitting blog posts. They’re important and will answer most, if not all, of your questions. We have been soliciting writing dealing with hate speech, but any topic is welcome if it fits our guidelines. (more…)

Interview With Lou Jones

August 5th, 2016

I was honored to interview the internationally known photographer, Lou Jones.

Lou also quietly serves on many boards to further photography and mentors multiple young photographers.  He is an artist who gives back, in his art and in his service.

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