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Chandra's Blog

 

Entries in poetry (3)

Monday
Aug012011

Monday Musing--Remembering Cherry

It is hard to believe that it has been three years this morning since Cheryl lost her battle with cancer. In so many ways, I still feel her with our family and I try to keep her spirit alive so that my children can know her, even those who were barely here when she went. I was blessed to have a mother-in-law who was so inspiring as an artist and supportive of my family, of our way of doing things and of who we all are as individuals. The dedication of my first novel is For Cherry -- who believed, because she was a huge part of encouraging me to pursue my dream of writing. It is one of the great sadnesses of my life that she was not here in this world to see its publication.

Buffalo, NY Nov 2005

I have always been haunted by the photo (right) of Cheryl and Max at the piano in her living room at HodgePodge Lodge. It was a typical moment--Cherry rising early with the boys, brewing her chicory coffee and giving them her undivided attention, teaching them something. In this case, little Max how to play the piano. I know it is a trick of the camera, of catching her fingers in motion, this wave, and her expression is so Cheryl. But I remember looking at it as soon as it was taken and thinking, someday she will be gone, (because we all lived with her cancer as a constant since her untimely diagnosis in 1994.) I remember thinking, this picture will be precious, because Max might not remember her, but she will always be here, present, waving, here I am, I am with you, teaching you, guiding you, sitting right beside you.

 

 

 

Cheryl Gobbetti HoffmanTo read more about her inspiration to me as a mother and a writer, you can read this essay, Dawn Chorus.

 

To read about the Buffalo music community mourning the passing of a woman who was a flute phenom and gifted, dedicated professor, read Cheryl's obituary in the Buffalo News.

 

To read an interview with Cheryl about her pursuit of the dream of her golden flute mentioned in the poem below, click here.

 

Below I have uploaded some photos of Cherry and the family over the years. I am taken as always by her ability to give singular attention to her grandchildren, by her sense of style, her talent with words and music and the way the photos manage to capture her elegant and generous spirit.

 

 

 

 

 

At Philadelphia's Victor Cafe on the eve of our wedding, May 2000

 

Grand Cayman with baby Hayden, January 2002

 

 

 

 

 

Doting on Hayden in Hodgepodge Lodge, Nov 2002

 

 

Welcoming Macrae, Aug 2004

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cherry and her boys, Miami 2006

 

 

 

 

 

 

with Max at the piano, Buffalo Nov 2005

 

 

Holding her namesake, Piper June 2007

 

 

 

mother and son, Nov 2007

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

"Pashas Ride for Grandma Cherry" Piper and Max in the Brain Cancer 5K Philadelphia Nov 2010

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Below is a poem my mother-in-law wrote in 1999.  I turned my house and our lives upside down looking for it as she was dying of brain cancer in the summer of 2008--no luck. A year later, one of her dear friends found a copy, had it beautifully framed and mailed it to us. It was a poem for a contest for Sunsweet Prunes, and the prize was $15,000, which would have paid for the achievement of her dream to play a golden flute in solo concert at Carnegie Hall. She did not win the contest, but she achieved her goal anyway. 

Today, the third anniversary of her trip to the other side, I am continuing my tradition of posting it on August 1 as it captures the whimsy, ambition, monstrous talent and joie de vivre that embodied Cheryl:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Taste How Good Life Can Be
Before me on the tree of Life there Suns a Plum   (quite Sweet)
  a New York debut (flute of gold) with Zest I Prune --  replete.
  How Good 'twould Taste--the Essence bold--Choose me! I've Dreamed this feat.
Grand moment Prized: (I'd croon -- Complete.) it's Savoury... Tangy... Fleet...

 

Embracing Aspirations ripe and Pitted -  scarred by blight,

I reach for this Experience.  Dare wish... could Be.... (how Right?)

my pipedream old (play Carnegie) the girl I was  Excites

Achieve this goal?  O!  heart's delight -- such fancy you invite.

 

Now 45, (surviving) how I thrive thanks to the 'fife'

I play and teach - give air to thought - I'm also mom and wife.

No matter that my Circle's closed (with cancer comes great strife)

Select me.  Stage my solo turn.  no Contest - I sing rife.

 

Imagining... begging time and place  (my Spirit writhes)  come round,

please join me - help me celebrate - skip not the beat I've found

the secret: working hand in hand  - we resonate - abound.

I ask support,  (pray Musically)

 

  Fund Magic....

I'll spin Sound.

 

Cheryl Feyrer Gobbetti Hoffman (Oct 6, 1954-Aug 1, 2008)

Tuesday
Mar082011

Writers on Wednesday--Diane Lockward

Today, on International Women's Day, I am excited to welcome a first here to Writers on Wednesday- a female poet. On the site SheWrites, a gathering place for female writers, members received messages encouraging us to shout out another female writer today, to promote the success of women. I am happy to shine a light on Diane Lockward with her essay on her unique journey to poetry and following that, publishing success. This is a tribute to never giving up, to the value of all the elements listed in her title below. Enjoy!

 

Patience, Persistence, Belief, and a Bit of Serendipity

 

 

I'm in a place of high excitement these days. Temptation by Water, my third full-length poetry collection, was released several months ago. That hardly seems possible when not too long ago I wondered if I'd ever have a first full-length collection.

 

I am not one of those poets who has stories about what a splendid poet she was in third grade. No sixth grade teacher encouraged me to gather my poems into homemade booklets. No high school English teacher recognized my gift for words. I served as editor of no literary journal in college. In short, I was without any early poetic promise whatsoever. But then, I never had a single teacher who asked me to write a poem, never had an opportunity to fall in love with poetry until years after I'd graduated college, had taught high school English for four years, married, produced three children, then decided, in spite of my lusterless undergraduate performance, to apply to graduate school. And they took me in. There I discovered, quite to my astonishment, that I had a brain! I also discovered poetry—not the writing of it, but the study of it. I fell in love with, of all things, Renaissance poetry. I could not get enough of John Donne.

 

When I graduated, I returned to teaching. Several years later I saw an advertisement in the English Journal. William Stafford was writing a poetry textbook for high school students, and he wanted teachers to volunteer to test the assignments. What the heck, I thought, and volunteered. Every two weeks for the next six months I received one or two poetry prompts. From the very first one, I was hooked. I had never experienced anything so emotionally intense. Poems danced around in my head all day and often all night. I tucked drafts inside my grade book and worked on them during lunch. Poetry became an irresistible temptation. Then to reel me in even deeper, Stafford took one of my poems, an acrostic, as a sample poem for his textbook, Getting the Knack: 20 Poetry Writing Exercises (NCTE). In 1992, that poem, aptly titled “Serendipity,” became my first published poem.

 

I wanted more. I spent weekends going to workshops and readings. During summer vacations, I attended the Frost Place Conference, the Catskills workshop, and the Fine Arts Work Center. I worked with poets who encouraged me to believe I could be a poet. I began sending my poems out for publication. Every once in a while some editor took a poem. Then an entire year went by with no editor taking anything, but that didn't stop me—I told you I was hooked. I've never minded the inevitable rejections all that much. Early on I developed a theory that it takes twenty rejections to get an acceptance, so I viewed each rejection as just one step closer to an acceptance.

 

As acceptances started coming in again, I stepped up my game and aimed higher. In 1997, Beloit Poetry Journal took two of my poems. I was thrilled. That was by far the most prestigious journal I'd been in. The people at Poetry Daily saw the poems and sent me a letter—they were in their early days and still using snail mail—asking permission to feature both poems. When “Vegetable Love” appeared, it was sandwiched in between poems by Tom Lux and Pablo Neruda. Not bad. When “My Husband Discovers Poetry” appeared, Garrison Keillor spotted it and featured it on The Writer's Almanac.

 

I also won a local contest in 1997. My prize was the publication of a first chapbook, Against Perfection. Of course, that set me to thinking that if I could have a chapbook, maybe I could have a book. I put a manuscript together and began sending it out to contests. I spent a significant amount of money on postage. I spent a lot of time waiting. For the first few years, I received only rejections. Each summer I devoted a few weeks to revising the manuscript, taking out what seemed to be the weaker poems and substituting with what I hoped were stronger poems. Every new poem I wrote was headed for that manuscript. Then I had a semi-finalist response from Sarabande. Not an acceptance but enough to encourage the belief that if I just persisted it would happen for me. But six more semi-finalist or finalist spots and it still hadn't happened. The initial thrill of the gee-I-almost-made-it had worn off, and I was feeling like I'd never get beyond that one manuscript. Not to mention the money flying out the door.

 

In 2001, I decided to leave teaching and spend my days living as a writer. That summer I took another workshop in Provincetown. One day I checked my email and found a message from some guy in Kentucky who wanted my snail mail address. Hm, whatever for? But his name was vaguely familiar, so I sent the address. When I returned home, there was a letter from that guy, a publisher, inviting me to submit a manuscript if I had not yet published a first book. I remembered why the name had seemed familiar. The publisher used to be the editor of Wind Magazine where two of my poems had previously been finalists in the journal's yearly contest. Since then, he had begun his own small press, Wind Publications, and was publishing books by poets from Kentucky and the Appalachian region. He’d remembered my name from the contest and had been following my work. When he wanted to expand his roster beyond his established region, he’d decided to contact me. And that’s how, in 2003, my first book, Eve's Red Dress, came into the world.

 

In retrospect, I am grateful that no one ever took those earlier incarnations of the manuscript. I know there were poems in them that I subsequently would have wanted to suck out with a vacuum cleaner. I am also grateful to have ended up where I did as my publisher stuck with me for the second book, What Feeds Us, and now for the third. That rarely happens with contest wins.

 

Now I'd be grateful for some new poems. I find myself in that odd state that's a mixture of exhilaration over the new book and anxiety about the next one. Right now the folder is pretty empty and the blank page leers at me. I need some self-imposed discipline. I need the thrill of creating, of laying down those words, of getting high on the poems, of capitulating to temptation. I want that back. And I'm going to get it. Patience, persistence, belief, and a bit of serendipity.

 

Bio: Diane Lockward is the author of three poetry books, most recently, Temptation by Water. Her previous books are What Feeds Us, which received the 2006 Quentin R. Howard Poetry Prize, and Eve's Red Dress. Her poems have been  included in such anthologies as Poetry Daily: 360 Poems from the World's Most Popular Poetry Website and Garrison Keillor's Good Poems for Hard Times, and have been published in such journals as Harvard Review, Spoon River Poetry Review, and Prairie Schooner. Her work has also been featured on Poetry Daily, Verse Daily, and The Writer's Almanac. She lives in northern New Jersey. 

 

Visit her website at:
www.dianelockward.com
Visit her blog at:
www.dianelockward.blogspot.com

 

 

Sunday
Aug012010

"Taste How Good Life Can Be"

This is a poem my mother-in-law wrote in 1999.  I turned my house and our lives upside down looking for it as she was dying of brain cancer--no luck. A year later, one of her dear friends found a copy, had it beautifully framed and mailed it to us. It was a poem for a contest for Sunsweet Prunes, and the prize was $15,000, which would have paid for the achievement of her dream to play a golden flute in solo concert at Carnegie Hall. She did not win the contest, but she achieved her goal anyway. 

Today, the second anniversary of her trip to the other side, I am posting it here as it captures the whimsy, ambition, monstrous talent and joie de vivre that embodied Cheryl:

Taste How Good Life Can Be
Before me on the tree of Life there Suns a Plum  (quite Sweet)
  a New York debut (flute of gold) with Zest I Prune -- replete.
  How Good 'twould Taste--the Essence bold--Choose me! I've Dreamed this feat.
Grand moment Prized: (I'd croon -- Complete.) it's Savoury... Tangy... Fleet...

 

Embracing Aspirations ripe and Pitted -  scarred by blight,

I reach for this Experience.  Dare wish... could Be.... (how Right?)

my pipedream old (play Carnegie) the girl I was  Excites

Achieve this goal?  O!  heart's delight -- such fancy you invite.

 

Now 45, (surviving) how I thrive thanks to the 'fife'

I play and teach - give air to thought - I'm also mom and wife.

No matter that my Circle's closed (with cancer comes great strife)

Select me.  Stage my solo turn.  no Contest - I sing rife.

 

Imagining... begging time and place  (my Spirit writhes)  come round,

please join me - help me celebrate - skip not the beat I've found

the secret: working hand in hand  - we resonate - abound.

I ask support,  (pray Musically)

 

  Fund Magic....

I'll spin Sound.

 

Cheryl Feyrer Gobbetti-Hoffman (Oct 6, 1954-Aug 1, 2008)