“The River”…..a poem

April 17, 2014

 

from website: halfhearted dude...and thank you.

from website: halfhearted dude…and thank you.

Maybe it’s all this green pollen floating around the air, the fertilizer for nature’s coming bounty. Whatever it is, there is a quickening, a thump in our guts as our thoughts turn to love and sex which is natural as we are also part of this season’s bounty.

Lady Nyo

 

THE RIVER

 

The sun streams in the window

Like a jarring benediction

From a loud-mouthed priest.

 

It falls upon us

As we spoon asleep

Your back turned to me

My nose on your skin

Breathing in the miracle of you.

 

Last night, our first in spent passion,

That particular coin flowed like a river

Between us.

You brought towels

To clean up the waters left by the flood.

 

Bending over me

Parting my thighs with your hands

I wanted you to leave the damp alone

And slide

Into the still wet, faintly pulsing dark chasm

My hollow jerking and twisting at the end of you

 

But instead

I curled up like a fiddle-head fern

And embraced your dark head with my hands

Pulling your mouth to my own 

And we flowed down that river again.

 

Jane Kohut-Bartels

Copyrighted, 2014

 

 

“Spring Storm”….poem

April 15, 2014

 

sunrise to the east

sunrise to the east

 

It is early spring here in Atlanta, and nothing is usual about it.  The weather is weird, blowing from hot to cold, and tonight we are to expect freezing temps.  Unusual for the middle of April.

Spring  brings unsettled and dramatic weather across our nation. Tornadoes are the usual fare and this morning, the winds have picked up, blowing great gusts.  The wind chimes relay the power of the wind and I jump with their frenzy.  It is an unsettled time, this spring, but also one of excitement.   Nature is in command, and our petty concerns here down on earth, those things that drive us to distraction, fade in the face of Nature’s power.  The bellows of wind, the monstrous groans of limb on limb of huge oaks and pecans, well, these things capture our attention.  Life is played out in its fullness with spring storms.

Lady Nyo

 

SPRING STORM

 

The wind howls tonight

Races round eaves,

Disturbs the haunts in the attic,

Forces wind chimes

Into a metal hambone frenzy

The clash of harmony grates

On ears, on nerves

no sleep for this night.

 

There is death to the west

Fear in the vanguard.

 

It is springtime,

No gentle embrace

Just a blaze of destruction, despair.

Sanctuary

Is far down on the ground,

Deep as a cellar

Deep as the grave.

 

The moon above,

Sickly green sphere

Is in on the game.

 

The dogs howl

A Greek chorus

Echoing their primal fear

Over the landscape.

 

Each moan of wind

Heralds the apocalypse,

My eyes squeeze shut

Against grating of branches,

The rattle of panes

As I grasp for sanity

In an insane night.

 

 

I ride out the storm,

Dawn breaks,

The silence complete,

The earth placid and calm

As if the night before

Only a nightmare-

And I ridden from sleep

To the usual ground.

 

Jane Kohut-Bartels

Copyrighted, 2014,

from ‘Pitcher of Moon” 

My new book, “Pitcher of Moon” is available from Amazon.
Buy paperback: http://goo.gl/RzFRj4
Buy Kindle e-book: http://goo.gl/cOh8Ww 
 

Thinning The Herd….

April 13, 2014

 

 

Children playing in a field

 

Thinning the herd.  And should we care?

Sounds awful, especially when  applied to children, but this is an attitude I can’t call by any other name.

SW Atlanta is plagued by 4 wheelers and motorbikes. The police don’t give chase because as they say: “If they wreck, it’s on us.” Well, they don’t take this behavior seriously, either.

(And, according to the officer I talked to, they also realize that many of these ‘kids’ are drug dealers. But they don’t chase. And the drug dealers know this, and so do all of my neighbors.)

Thursday, Friday and Saturday a motorbike ran up and down our street, into the Metropolitan Parkway and around the side streets. The driver looked to be about twelve, with no helmet and there were little kids, also without helmets on the back of his small motorbike. Some of them were barefoot but none of them had helmets.

I called 911 Thursday, expecting an officer at least to investigate the situation, but according to the report (today, Sunday) when I made inquiries, ‘officer did not find either kid or bike.” So he left for another call.

Talking to other neighbors, they said “good that you called”, but what about them? They are so damn passive until something strikes them. Then they are hollering for the police.

This morning my upset neighbor called me. Last night this same kid on the motorbike ran a red light and was hit by a speeding car. It took a while for the car to stop and the bike was just in pieces. Ambulance, fire trucks, police  but nothing reported in the news this morning. We still don’t know if this kid is alive or dead. But looking at the bike, it is hard to believe that anyone could have survived this accident.

I was going up my street today and another kid, this one older, was revving up. I pulled into a driveway to turn around and see where he was going, and he almost hit me coming across a speed bump. I got the standard glare. I went another way around, not to chase him, but to see where he was going. He picked up a kid that looked like he was five years old, barefoot, and of course, no helmets on either of them. They raced down this long street with other kids playing with a basketball. Dangerous activity at any time of the day.

I came home and called 911. Told them I wanted to talk to the responding officer. No show.

(three hours later, still no-show. Ho-hum)

UPDATE: officer did show up after 2-3 hours, but there was nothing she could do.  The policy of the Atlanta Police Department  (according to this officer)  is to not chase these kids on 4 wheelers, etc…even though they already know that they are either drug dealers, or have warrents out on them.  They flip the police the bird and take off. So….the much ballyhooed fight against drugs in Atlanta on the southside is at a standstill.  The drug trade knows that these boys can’t be chased so they use them as the mules (carriers) for the distribution.  Or so the APD says.  According to this officer, SW Atlanta has a huge issue with these 4wheelers.  The young boys on the motorbikes are scouts or soon to be involved in bigger ways with the drug trade.  This probably is part of the direct fallout of the Atlanta Cheating Scandal, where teachers and principals were changing grades to push these kids forward (for years)  and they certainly weren’t prepared for anything except dropping out and the drug trade.

Interestingly, I was told by the officer at the Zone 3 precinct that “I should continue to call 911 every time this happens”. However, they don’t respond apparently to this ‘kind of call.’

Obviously a  waste of my time.  But for some reason, I do care.  I am a mother.

I was told today that after June 1st, there will be legislation to license, register and tag each motorcycle, motorbike, scooter. THEN maybe the Atlanta Police Department will do something about this menace to children, but I don’t believe it.  And I didn’t get this information from the APD.  They don’t seem to know their ass from their hand.  I got it from another close neighborhood.

Where in Hell are the parents? Where in Hell are the Preachers, Ministers, so-called community leaders? Twitting their thumbs waiting for someone else to address these issues?  And nobody does, and these ‘children’ become the newest group of criminals who plague our communities.  The court   system is overloaded and is a revolving door here   in Atlanta.  Some of these ‘youth’ have 15 to 20 arrests and that’s before they hit 20 years old.

We are told the police can do nothing and this behavior is historic with the APD. Depending on the officer, the procedures change and so do the laws. Worse trained bunch of cops I have ever seen. There has been a helmet law in this state since 1969. I checked. This is probably the best law around concerning motorcycles, but apparently the APD doesn’t find this even worth following.

So, we will be continuing to watch the “thinning of the herd”. Ignorance and arrogance abounding in SW Atlanta. And I highly doubt  this behavior would be tolerated in other more ‘toney’ parts of Atlanta. The only thing I could think of was to throw this situation to a reporter I know, and see if she can make anything of it. Other than that, I am left scratching my head.

Jane Kohut-Bartels

Copyrighted, 2014

“Turkey Vulture”, from “Pitcher of Moon”

April 11, 2014

 

Since April is Poetry Month, I will try to post a new or old poem every couple of days.  Frankly, after 4 published poetry books, I thought this January  poetry was over for me, and I would concentrate on some novel work, but this didn’t seem to happen.  The poetry, such as it is, keeps coming and like a river flowing inside, the poems keep appearing.  I don’t have any answers as to why this is, because I never started out as a poet; I thought novels, short stories was what I was destined to write.  However, I am reading Dr. Rollo May’s “The Courage to Create” and perhaps this gives some leads where creativity come from.  My belief is creativty comes from our encounter with opposition.  Courage is needed for that in some measure.

I am glad, now, about the poetry, because I find poetry to be something deep inside the psyche, something that appears unbidden mostly, and actually, in a strange way, therapeutic.  “Turkey Vulture” was written almost two years ago after a series of phone calls to a sister of a sisterinlaw. I had never met Diana, but this poem comes from her direct experience feeding strays of different species.  “Frank” was the name she called the turkey vulture.  Diana would not use these same words as Rollo May, but I think she has the essence of what he writes in her life.  She has the courage to go up against opposition on many levels and this is a good form of creativity.  I have love and respect for this woman who does not shy away from these huge birds, especially when a possum rattled my cage the other night.

Lady Nyo

 

 

TURKEY VULTURE

 

I once knew a woman

Living in a scrubby trailer park

Down near the scrub pines of Florida.

 

She was poor as a church mouse,

half–crazed by life.

She fed all strays

-was the pariah of the neighborhood.

 

Every evening a flock of vultures,

Like fixed-wing aircraft,

Would skim the pines,

And land in a muddle of feathers,

Awkward birds out of their element

Land and with a group waddle

Come to the cat food offered in pans.

 

They were patient guests

And waited for the strays to finish.

 

There was decorum

Among them,

These fierce looking birds

Perhaps they knew

The charity offered

Had humbled their nature:

Or perhaps they had reformed;

I don’t know

But they had a leader named “Frank”

Who held back until the others were done.

 

Frank would never face you;

He sat sideways

Though I believe he peeked.

Perhaps he was ashamed

A lord of the sky

Brought down to this station,

To fill his crop with kibble

From a dented metal pan.

 

Come sit with me.

Extend a feather,

I promise not to stare.

Your warty red neck,

Your hang-dog countenance

Does not disturb me.

 

Come sit beside me,

Let our talons dig into the sand

Let the ocean cleanse our feathers

I will call you friend, brother

For the gift of trust

You have brought on your wings.

  

 

Jane Kohut-Bartels

Copyrighted, 2014

From “Pitcher Of Moon

 

 

 

“The Dark Leans In”….a new poem

April 9, 2014

 

crescent-moon

April is Poetry Month.  Last night, late last night, I heard the hooting of a wood owl and earlier the cries of mourning doves.  The imagination catches fire when you are alone and it is dark.  This poem is wet behind the ears and will be reworked.

Lady Nyo

“The night belongs to other species”….this line came true just last night!~  I was outside, late, calling in two stubborn cats.  I had a cat food can that I was tripping the lid piece, thumping it loudly. It usually works.  The cats made their way up the walk but so did a full grown opossum, not at all afraid of me as he quickly moved up the brick walk to the stoop.  I was scared and yelled at him (her?) and threw the can of catfood at him, missed, and he took a sharp right to where the door of the cat room is.  Apparently he is familiar with our house!  My cats just acted like he was a ‘weird cousin’ and finally came in.  Didn’t see the possum this morning but I bet he will be back.  We are three miles frm downtown Atlanta, an urban area and this shows me  our razing of trees and our  ‘development’ brings these critters right into our lives.  It makes it clearer  we only share this planet, and in our arrogance we think we are the dominant species. We need to make right  for habitat we have destroyed.

 

The Dark Leans In

 

The dark leaned in, cool and necessary

The wind quieted the

hambone frenzy of wind chimes;

they ceased their cacophony,

the birds this spring night

tested their dusk calls,

unsure of voices muted

by the silence of the past winter.

 

Off in the distance a lone train whistle

perhaps the last train home

Before night blackened the earth.

 

Out in the country

A hand before a face was not there

Until the arising of a fat enough moon.

 

How silent the night!

Given over to owl hoots,

Mourning doves

And the rustle of something

In the tall weeds,

Something mysterious

But probably not.

 

The night is the territory of creatures

With night vision and silent flights

Of owls with upturned ends of wings,

Silent, silent, deadly drones

With red eyes like spooks

And talons like razors.

 

A banshee scream of prey

raises the hair on my arms.

 

No man walks about the dark,

No one would without some primordial fear

Knowing what is given by nature is not

On par with the lowliness creature of this dark.

 

Only the slight babble of the brook,

The brook that fears no rocks

Or fallen limbs or anything except drought

Makes the link to daylight where we

Are sure of our place, our courage renewed.

 

The night belongs to other species

As the dark leans in, cool and necessary

The wind picks up and rattles leaves beneath our feet

And we turn our steps towards a world

Of less mystery.

 

Jane Kohut-Bartels

Copyrighted, 2014

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

All The Old Men Are Gone…..a new poem

April 7, 2014

 

Dusk, jkohut-bartels, 2006?, watercolor

Dusk, jkohut-bartels, 2006?, watercolor

 

Thinking of my father who is gone, and the intriguing men of his era.

 

All The Old Men Are Gone

 

All the old men with beautiful manners are gone,

All the old men with courtly manners

who brush their lips or moustache over your hand

and look up the white pillar of your arm

and meet your eyes with sweet kindness or desire

Are gone.

The Hungarians, Italians and Russians who murmur into your eyes

with their own twinkling spheres gestures they find

‘deep in their hearts’ or perhaps like a well-oiled

Casanova, who glides across

the room and anchors your vanity to his side,

and you are glad for the flirtation

for it makes the stomach flip,

Life Suddenly Worth Living

If even for the evening

you feel young and desirable once more-

They are all gone, replaced with new manners that

drink down like flat champagne, a dullness behind the eyes

capturing nothing and inspiring less-

These have replaced all the old men with beautiful manners

for they are gone and mostly forgotten

except by those who remember and damn well know

what is  missing.

 -

 Jane Kohut-Bartels

Copyrighted, 2014

“Blackberry Winter”, a poem

April 3, 2014

 April is Poetry Month.  There are some great online poets, unfortunately I don’t know of any local poets  I could recommend.  If  Atlanta is a town that embraces poetry, it has eluded me, so I  am going to be posting some of my favorite poets, in particular  William Stafford (1914-1993).  Stafford is a voice of American poetry and one who is not well known amongst many American poets.   His voice is a steady voice, born in the Midwest and the forests where he was doing alternative service during WWII.   Stafford is not well known to many but I have found  some Indian poets in Mumbai, etc. have studied him in university    and  found him to be an authentic American voice.  William Stafford speaks to our hearts with poetry of challenge and consolation.  We are enriched with reading his verse.

Lady Nyo

 

 

 

 

“Blackberry Winter” is a Southern term used when there is a cold spell in the mid spring and the blackberries are just beginning to bloom. They fruit around mid to late June.

This period is also called “Dogwood Winter”, etc.  I’ve shared blackberries in the North Carolina mountains with a cotton mouth snake that I didn’t notice was under the bushes, eating the blackberries, too.  I moved away quickly, supposing that there were more somewhere else.

Lady Nyo

 

BLACKBERRY WINTER

-

It is Blackberry Winter

One last shot across

The bow of an emerging Spring.

-

Winter does not play fair.

It will not give up the ghost

Exit with a dignified bow

preferring to show its last rotting tooth.

-

The blackberries are blooming.

White collar frills surrounding

Kernels of lusty fruit,

Soon to be black as midnight

Sweet as a baby’s kiss

Unavoidable staining of hands and mouths

To be shared with a snake or two down below.

-

The Easter planting is done

The earth knows Winter’s game

And blankets seed

With dark, moist soil

Cozy enough to shelter tender life.

-

We will make blackberry wine

From Blackberry Winter.

The present chill will

Sweeten the fruit

And we will give a toast

To Winter’s frayed glory.

-

Jane Kohut-Bartels
Copyrighted, 2014

“Blackberry Winter” from “White Cranes of Heaven”,  Lulu.com, 2011

The Passion of Japanese Poetry

March 31, 2014

 

To the new readers from the Ukraine.  My heart and thoughts are with you as you face such troubles.  May your future be one of peace.

Lady Nyo

Cover for White Cranes of Heaven, 2011, Lulu.com Watercolor, janekohut-bartels

Cover for White Cranes of Heaven, 2011, Lulu.com
Watercolor, janekohut-bartels

 

THE PASSION OF JAPANESE POETRY

 

Life gives  such beauty and pain, sometimes in almost equal measures. I find solace in reading selections from the great Man’yoshu, this document from 8th century Japan. I have written here before about this great collection of over 4500 poems, but of course, not all of them appeal to our modern senses and tastes. In particular the love poems from the Man’yoshu, written over a span of 130 years, are poems that liberate, throw us into a free-floating dreamscape, where our sentiments connect with those lovers who lived 1500 years before us.

The passion of these poems cannot be denied. They speak over the centuries to our own hearts, and in some lucky cases, to our own experience. I will attempt to give some explanation to each poem, but this not fully my own interpretation. I am relying on commentary by Ooka Makoto and translations of Ian Hideo Levy, from “Love Songs from the Man’yoshu”. This small, beautifully bound and illustrated book (by the late Miyata Masayuki) is published by Kodansha International in Tokyo.

 

Going over the fields of murasaki grass

That shimmer crimson

Going over the fields marked as imperial domain

Will the guardian of the fields not see you

As you wave your sleeves at me?

                                     –Princess Nukata

 

This is one of the most famous poems in the Man’yoshu, given prominence as it appears towards the beginning of the document.

It is answered by Prince Oama:

 

If I despised you, who are as beautiful

As the murasaki grass,

Would I be longing for you like this,

Though you are another man’s wife?

 

Though the poem seems to be of a love triangle, it is not actually so. Princess Nukata is now married to the emperor Tenchi, and her heart is torn between Prince Oama, her former husband. These poems have a gracious melody and a way to stir the emotions of modern readers.

 

In a single sprig of

Of these blossoms

Are concealed a hundred words;

Do not treat me lightly.

                 —–Fujiwara Hirotsugu

 

This is a courting poem. The poet plucked off a branch of cherry blossoms, tied his poem to it, and sent it to a young girl. This was a well-used method of presenting a poem. A twig of blooming tree flowers, a blade of sawgrass, a branch of plum, wild plum or maple leaves in the fall. The answering poem from the girl was touching, too. It says that the reason the sprig is bent is that it couldn’t support all the words it contains.

The heart longs to say yes. But language still hesitates.

 

Whose words are these

Spoken to the wife of another?

Whose words are these;

That bade me untie

The sash of my robe?

               —-Anonymous

 

This is most likely a folk song, and these kind of poems figure in great amount in the Man’yoshu. “the wife of another” was an object of male sexual desire; the poets of the Man’yoshu showed a special attachment to this theme of secret love.

 

The silk-treeflower that blooms in the day

Closes as it sleeps,

Yearning through the night.

Should only its lord look upon it?

You too, my vassal, enjoy the sight.

                   —–Lady Ki

 

Lady Ki was the wife of Prince Aki, but he was sent into exile and she became familiar with the great poet, Otomo Yakamochi. There is a reversal of sexes here as Lady Ki writes as a man. This is not unusual for the period. Actually, Otomo, the scion of the great Otomo huse, was above her. This is poetic license for the time.

 

Fearful as it would be

To speak it out in words,

So I endure a love

Like the morning glory

That never blooms conspicuously.

                   —–Anonymous

 

It is thought that a curse would be brought upon the speaker to speak the other’s name. Hence, we read many poems like this one above in the Man’yoshu, not naming the two lovers.

 

As I turn my gaze upward

And see the crescent moon,

I am reminded

Of the trailing eyebrows

Of the woman I saw but once.

                   —-Otomo Yakamochi

 

One of my favorites and written when Otomo was only 16! There is an expression that comes from the Chinese meaning ‘eyebrow moon”, i.e., the new moon, the crescent moon. This poem refers to the painted trailing eyebrows of women in this ancient period. But how precocious of Otomo at just 16!

 

Though I sleep

With but a single thin rush mat

For my bedding,

I am not cold at all

When I sleep with you, my lord.

                 —-Anonymous

 

A lovely, poignant poem, though it seems the woman, with her single thin rush mat of the lower class. However, beautiful enough to be included in the Man’yoshu. And about that: The Man’yoshu was the first and probably the last collection of poems that included such a range of people in ancient Japanese society: fishermen’s songs, weaver’s songs, priest’s poems, prostitute’s laments besides the imperial court and upper classes. It would never be seen again.

 

O for a heavenly fire!

I would reel in

The distant road you travel,

Fold it up,

And burn it to ashes.

           —–The Daughter of Sano Otogami

 

One of the most famous love poems in the Man’yoshu. She was a female official who served in the Bureau of Rites, whose precincts were forbidden to men. She had a secret affair with a minister named Nakatomi Yakamori. Their affair was discovered and he was sent into exile as punishment. They exchanged around sixty-five poems expressing their concern for each other’s safety and pledging that their love would not be changed by exile. The distant road is the long road he must travel to exile.

 

Brave man like the catalpa bow

That, once drawn,

Does not slacken-

Can it be that he is unable to bear

The vicissitudes of love?

           —-Anonymous

 

This is one of my favorite poems of the Man’yoshu. I used it as a heading in an episode of the yet to be published “The Nightingale’s Song”, where Lord Nyo frets as to his resolve and manhood. He finds himself, as the figure in the original poem, bewildered that he, ‘a strong man’ could find himself powerless to resist the invisible passion of love. He is more used to war and weapons, something tangible, not the chimera of love.

 

It is spring here in Atlanta. These love poems churn the mind and enflame the passions, along with the pollen and winds. One would have to have a heart of stone not to be swayed by such passionate beauty in verse.

 

Jane Kohut-Bartels

Copyrighted, 2014

 

 

 

 

 

Choosing Boundaries and Meaning Them.

March 28, 2014

 

http://goo.gl/cOh8Ww ” PITCHER OF MOON” IS NOW ON KINDLE.

Sailboat, watercolor, Jane kohut-bartels, 2006

Sailboat, watercolor, Jane kohut-bartels, 2006

 

This short essay is new. I wondered whether to post this now, but others are also struggling with this same theme in their lives.  I buck up my courage and post it with an eye toward revisions for the future.

Lady Nyo

CHOOSING TO HONOR OURSELVES WITH SETTING BOUNDARIES

 

This short essay is going to sound weird, strange or downright mean to some people. Frankly, it’s been a long time coming. I’m still learning here so this is certainly not a complete answer, far from it. It’s an issue like an onion, with many layers. It can be stinky, too. And, it can make us uncomfortable in the doing.

I grew up with a parent who was an extreme narcissist by any score. I never learned, or actually, I was never allowed to set boundaries as a child or teen. Since a narcissistic parent doesn’t see their child as anything except an extension of their own person, the offspring setting boundaries is something not tolerated. Hence, it was something I didn’t really know the value of until much later in adulthood and after quite a bit of therapy.

Boundaries mean choices for by a person and choices should reflect a healthy sense of oneself. In life we meet all sorts of people, appropriate to our existence and those inappropriate. When we haven’t an understanding of boundaries, (and this doesn’t just fall out of the sky, we have to learn this) when we are uncomfortable with the behavior of others towards us but don’t know why, we can dismiss these feelings and we can choose inappropriate or unhealthy relationships. Many times we are afraid of offending, so we open ourselves to what comes down as actual abuse. When we have serious deficiencies in self-worth and don’t value ourselves in healthy and positive ways, we fall to the relationships that are obstacles and become, ultimately, terrible and/or destructive burdens.

Recently, I have been taking stock of this issue. It has loomed large in my life over the past few years. Perhaps this is because I have become more conscious of this, and the ties to narcissistic behavior, but also because I began to develop a long needed and necessary sense of self-worth. And it isn’t something that is easy. Abuse, emotional and otherwise, comes from not valuing yourself and setting boundaries. There are many people in this world who look for what they perceive as vulnerable people and they latch on for their own benefit. We call them opportunists.

I remember working at a local university in the early 90’s. I grew to hate it. I had a female supervisor who demanded that I give her neck/back rubs. This was not in my job description, but she was a woman who had a lot of issues. She was just a low-class bully, with little to redeem her. I remember complaining to HR and then I realized clerical workers were just seen as shit, expendable.  I was told any employee who went up against a supervisor was sure to lose. The “University would win all the time.” That was the way it was then. I don’t know if things have changed at this university, but I had to realize boundaries weren’t encouraged to clerical workers, even though the HR rep knew well my complaint.   I was told “This University isn’t a place to work for everyone. If you can’t take it, quit.”   Amazingly arrogant, but a reflection of the reality of the situation.   I also remember having to cover (and in one case clean up) for the stupid and (at times) drunk designers in the department. These were two girls (they didn’t deserve the title ’women’) who had been there a long time, and they abused their jobs. On occasion I ended up doing their work in different departments of the University. Not that I had qualifications and I certainly did not receive any pay or credit for this. I also remember having to constantly apologize for their behavior and this became ridiculous. It was humiliating. I felt like I was in a crazed universe, not university. A ship of damn fools. I got an earful from different departments about these two girls. People were fed up with their behavior over the years and they made complaints to our department head who ducked the issues. Their behavior was known all over. There was no excuse. They were being protected by the head of the department. He wasn’t going to make any changes here, though his reputation suffered because of his ego. He was a huge narcissist and inappropriately, in front of employees berated the female supervisor. Most of us hated her, and I had particular reason to dislike this woman, but I remember feeling shocked at his behavior. I left after five years. I started to write a book, just a historic novel, but it gave me feet to get away from a situation that was debilitating. This situation was so bad I had nightmares. I was in despair. A few weeks away from this mess and those feelings passed. I didn’t set any boundaries and I was afraid IF I did, I would lose my job and probably in that highly dysfunctional department, would. We had just adopted our only child, and it would have been much better to leave. My priorities were very screwed. I was beyond ‘uncomfortable’ but didn’t understand what to do to end this situation. Quitting was a relief, but the basic problem (setting boundaries and meaning them) wasn’t addressed.

Again, no boundaries, no resolve. I didn’t honor or protect myself. I was too fearful about things that others who had better self-worth would have walked out of with little problem.

It’s been a long struggle to come to terms with this issue of boundaries. Many women just don’t see this as possible or important. It has everything to do with either the way we are raised, especially when there are psychological issues with parents and also within society’s concepts and expectations of women in general. Marriage can have a lot to do with this lag. I am very fortunate in my second marriage. My first was full of abuse, some physical but mostly emotional. I had left a narcissistic parent to marry a man who was my mother with a dick. I didn’t set boundaries, I didn’t know how. I prolonged my own misery.

Recently I was involved in an online squabble with a bunch of women here in Atlanta calling themselves “Smart Asses”. As a dear friend pointed out….”They were not so smart, but they definitely were asses.” I knew a few of them, and some I knew as probable sociopaths. Possibly more than a few. Why be involved with these kind of people? Stupidity on my part and thinking I could make a difference. One needs to realize that you can’t correct crazy. Again, I failed to set boundaries, this time internally. What in Hell was I trying to do with these people? I had nothing really in common with these women (and men) so what was I there for?

You can’t change the world; you can only attempt to change yourself.

Recently, a sister in law said (when I asked about her youngest (24 years old) son that “we will not have this conversation”. Sounds rude? Perhaps it is, but she was setting a boundary, and I think this healthy. Setting boundaries isn’t easy. It takes work, but more so, it takes perseverance. You have to mean them.

What I have learned about boundaries needs a lot more thought and practice. However, I have learned some things and these I hope are helpful.

First, know who you are. Know your limits. Don’t make excuses for them, look at them closely and consider if they are something you can defend.  If you feel uncomfortable with a person or a flock of people, you probably need a boundary of some sort. Maybe several. Go with your gut.

Center yourself in who you are and what you love. In those things you have accomplished. This takes time and a lot of energy and probably some therapy for many of us. Our wires get twisted in life, but down there, somewhere, if we are honest with ourselves….are the things that make us glow and blossom. Don’t get caught up in the energy sucking drama of other people. That’s just a waste of your precious life. They don’t want any advice, they just want an audience. (I’ve done this myself to some of my friends, and for some reason they are still my friends. My apologies all around…I’m learning.)

When our boundaries are weak, when we are not clear about our value and self-worth, or the value of actually having boundaries we will lean towards all sorts of chaos and drama that isn’t ours. When our boundaries are weak we are also uncomfortable. We self-doubt most of the time. Recently I wrote an article titled “Nihilism, Smart Asses, etc.” on the blog and this was because I was trying to ‘fit in’ with people I should have run from like the raging plague. These people had nothing going in their lives except creating negativity and bitchin’ to the Heavens, but I stepped into it with both feet. Again, you can’t fix crazy. If some people have given you the willies before by their past behavior, trust your gut. They probably haven’t changed much. Set boundaries and don’t try to climb over the retaining wall because you think you can change a situation. You probably can’t. See your boundaries as protection that accompanies you through life. Respect the need for them and you will begin to respect yourself.

Base yourself in something you love and in something you have pride in accomplishing. When I feel swayed by other people that I know mean me ‘no good’, are insulting or belittling, that I can see are violating my boundaries, I look at the bindings of my four books sitting in my library. I look at all these paintings on the walls. These are accomplishments I should honor. They meant I tore myself away long enough to do something positive. I set boundaries here where I used an enormous amount of energy to do these things. They were made ‘real’ because I set boundaries on my time and energy and what I would give to the rest of the world.  However, I also know I didn’t do these things all by myself. Bill Penrose formatted and ‘made real’ the first three books on Lulu.com, and Nick Nicholson did “Pitcher of Moon”. I’ve known both of these guys for eight years and they are great friends. They gave of their time and energies and experience, mostly their enormous hearts and friendship and I am still amazed by their generosity. The writing was the easy part for me. I couldn’t have done what they did. Of course, there are friends along the way, especially in the last five years, other writers, poets and some just wonderful women. Especially these women, on websites concerning the issues of narcissism, were beacons for me. They guided me through the maze of abuse and into the light of knowledge. First, they helped me understand boundaries and then they helped me put them in place. I owe so much to other people in my life. They saw someone floundering around in the water, and dragged me to shore.

And that’s the point of life. We can start deficient in these issues, like boundaries, but if we remain so, we impoverish ourselves. We impoverish our creativity. Learn from those who can help on these weighty issues, and avoid the negative folk.   Setting boundaries are possible, and also necessary in this fugue of life.

Jane Kohut-Bartels

Copyrighted, 2014

 

Stolen Poetry and the issue of Creativity. Some preliminary thoughts….

March 24, 2014
My new book, “Pitcher of Moon” is available from Amazon!
Buy paperback: http://goo.gl/RzFRj4
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I’m supposed to announce that “Pitcher of Moon” has just become a KINDLE e-book.  thanks, Nick!

Crabapple/Peach Tree in back yard, Spring

Crabapple/Peach Tree in back yard, Spring

( I posted this a year ago, but since the issue still exists for many of us on line, I am posting it again. I add a few thoughts on this issue of creativity, but these aren’t complete thoughts. I am preparing a paper on this, based on some reading I have done over the past year. When it is finished (hah)…I’ll post it on this blog.)

 

A while ago I received news a poem of mine had been ‘stolen’. Actually, a poet on an unknown poetry website had taken my poem, changed the title and a few lines in two stanzas, and published my poem on this website under her name. What was especially galling was she was no poet, and her revisions were horrible, awkward…an attempt to make something ‘more’ erotic by adding cheap and tawdry phrasing.  Confronted, she said that ‘she was inspired’ by other poet’s work. The webmistress contacted me and asked if this was my poem. I was surprised, because I didn’t know without the proper title how one would go about tracking the original poet. Apparently, she had her suspicions, and googled the first couple of lines and my name and website came up. She was deleted from this website.  No apologies at all, and she is still a thief.

I was rather dismayed. Poetry generally comes from some of the deepest places in our beings: it’s an outward form of some very personal experience, or something like that. This poem was written in 2009, at a difficult time in my life. I was going through some physical and emotional changes and a year later, it received an award, (up until now, the only one….) as “Poem of the Year” on a particular website. I had left that website, but was grateful for the award. Still am.

This had happened a few years before, when I first started writing in earnest. A major poem and a short story was lifted from a website and published without permission on a website in England.  At that time I was rather flattered.  The lawyers and advisors at this home website where the pieces were lifted were rolling their eyes:  don’t be flattered, this isn’t good.  Well, the owner of the English website pleaded that he just so admired the writing (he lifted a number of us poets and writers work from the original website) that he just couldn’t help himself.  hah!  The lawyers got everything back but I did feel sorry then for the guy.  I’ve learned better.

This ‘news’ about the plagiarized poetry came at a point when I was reading a chapter about creativity. In Fox’s “Original Blessing”, this third path, Via Creativa, speaks of the hard labor necessary to produce artistic works, regardless of the medium. It is not an activity of ‘letting it all hang out’ as we have been told by certain cultural ‘standards’ but one of a deep discipline. To attempt to bypass this hard labor is not only stupid, but robs the person of a deep meditation with oneself and an internal growth from this activity. It is also hard to trust those images that come to us at the beginning of our creativity. We are very judgmental towards our attitudes of our own self-expression. We have to develop an attitude of trust, a trust that that out of our silence, our waiting, our openness, our emptiness…that these images can come. I do know that after 30 years of painting, each blank canvas, each clean piece of watercolor paper sends me into anxiety. I don’t ‘trust’ that I can again, produce something that comes from that relay from the brain, through the eyes to the hand. I forget that I have 30 years of technique behind my painting, and feel like I have nothing to build upon for the next piece of work. But I do, I just don’t trust myself. It takes my ‘letting go’ of my judgmental attitude towards myself, towards my expectations, and settling down into the work and knowing that ‘something’ will come of it. But it still is always a struggle to trust myself to be able to do something in this creative vein.

And as a counter thought, I know a couple of good poets who have been writing for decades. They never publish or post their poems online because they are ‘afraid’ that they will be stolen.  Good God!  Like misers, they clutch their poems (volumes actually) to their chests and few ever see them.  Well, Hell’s bells.  I would rather them stolen (and this is actually pretty rare) than nobody ever having the joy of reading them. What are they amassing their poems for?  You can’t take them with you.  A central joy in my life is that everyday, across the world, somebody is reading the poetry on the blog.  And sometimes strangers contact me (besides the friends who graciously read the poems…) and we are able to engage in discussion about poems…both sides.

One of the problems for most creative people is to pick the image that sings loudest to us. Perhaps because we fail to choose the strongest image, we give up creating anything. The (dead) Zen artist Kenji Miyazawa said this:

“You experience something deeply. Later, you picture it in your own mind; you idealize it; you coolly and sharply analyze it; you throw all your passion and power into it. Then you fuse all these things together into one. If you do this without self-consciousness, the depth and the power of creation will be much greater.”

In tanka, especially the classical medieval Japanese tanka of the 8th and 9th century I see this. I also see this in Basho, Issa and before them, Saigyo. This lack of self-consciousness, where the poem is infused with the power of creation and the poet is not presenting a focus of ego. This is something you will recognize with enough reading of this period.

In music, I have come across this ‘without self-consciousness’ terms as ‘getting out of the way’.

Somewhere Meister Eckhart talked about the ‘bridle of love’ that we need to steer our passions. Not to control or abuse them, but to make them work for us. This is discipline, done respectfully towards ourselves, for our developing and revealing creativity. We suffer enough abuse, by ourselves and society, so adopting an environment of hard work, of sweat, of exhaustion, of joy and of discipline will only push our creativity further along. This wannabe poet who didn’t trust herself enough to settle, look deeply within and create, is more to be pitied than scorned, but perhaps put in stocks??? She stole other poet’s poetry because she did not love or honor herself. Hopefully she will learn to love herself enough to become truly creative. Hopefully, she will not rob herself of this wonderful process.

The American psychotherapist, Rollo May wrote a book “The Courage to Create”. On page 41 he says something I find interesting in general.

“Escapist creativity is that which lacks encounter”. Dr. May had a patient that reminds me somewhat of this poet/thief above. He would come to an idea, an excellent creative idea, flesh it out in his mind, and then he would stop there: he would write nothing down. It was as if the experiences of seeing himself as one ho was able to write, as being just about to write, had within it what he was really seeking and it brought its own reward. Hence he never really created.

These distinctions between talent and creativity are especially important. I believe that talent is given to many people; what they do with it evokes whether it is a passive gift or an active ‘act’ of creating. One is passive, and one is active. I also believe our creativity is directly linked to our encounter with opposition. I know this to be true of myself, though I never saw the pattern until later in life. My mother said 25 years ago that ‘no one would ever publish me.” That was an opposition to get over. Yes, I was published by numerous literary magazines, ecological magazines, etc. I also decided to self-publish with Lulu.com and now with Createspace, from Amazon.com. I had so many things to publish that it made up more than 5 books…and I wanted them out of the way and into the world fast. Nothing wrong with this issue, though people do look down their long noses at those of us (and we are legion~!) who do. Now? I have 4 or so novels to rewrite and publish and probably will go the same route. I don’t care about the ‘status’ at all, whether I am published by the ‘big’ (and overblown) publishing houses or not.

To add to this above, Rollo May also said this: “Creativity,” to rephrase our definition, “is the encounter of the intensively conscious human being with his or her world.” In my experience, there are a lot of writers, poets out there who are not ‘conscious’ or encountering enough. Perhaps sleep walking.

To plagiarize or steal outright a poem or a piece of work robs the poet of the greatest gift they can give to themselves: the deep research, the formation, the joy that comes from an original thought that manifests into art. They rob themselves most. They are just….lazy.

The small poem below was inspired by these words of Daichi-zenji (1290-1366) “and bring back a pitcher containing the moon’. Just those words set my brain on fire. There is nothing wrong with ‘being inspired’ by the work and words of another poet: just be sure that inspiration is true to your own vision and abilities and you are not putting your chop on the work of another.

Lady Nyo

 

Pitcher of Moon

 

 

I dip into the pond

And gather a pitcher of moon.

Above, it glimmers

Smiles at my efforts,

This late- winter moon.

 

It is just a bowl of cool water

I am holding

But the magic of the cosmos settles

In this plain clay vessel.

 

Jane Kohut-Bartels

Copyrighted, 2013 

This poem was published in “Pitcher of Moon”, February, 2014

By Createspace, Amazon.com

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