Saturday, March 10, 2018

#11 Backstory of the Poem "After Diane Beatty's Photograph, "History Abandoned" . . . .

*The images in this specific piece are granted copyright privilege by:  Public Domain, CCSAL, GNU Free Documentation Licenses, Fair Use Under The United States Copyright Law, or given copyright privilege by the copyright holder which is identified beneath the individual photo.

**Some of the links will have to be copied and then posted in your search engine in order to pull up properly

***This is the eleventh in a never-ending series called BACKSTORY OF THE POEM where the Chris Rice Cooper Blog (CRC) focuses on one specific poem and how the poet wrote that specific poem. All BACKSTORY OF THE POEM links are posted at the end of this piece. 

Backstory of the Poem
After Diane Beatty’s Photograph, “History Abandoned” 
by Arya F. Jenkins

Can you go through the step-by-step process of writing this poem from the moment the idea was first conceived in your brain until final form?   “History Abandoned,” (Right Copyright granted by Diane Beatty) is an Ekphrastic poem written after a photograph by the same name by photographer Diane Beatty. Her photograph was part of an exhibit of art by women at the local YWCA that took place on July 20, 2017 and I wrote my poems
about various paintings and photographs in the exhibit while walking around the gallery and texting poems into my phone. I was fortunate to be allowed to view the work because the gallery was technically closed. It was a Monday.  I was struck immediately by the drama and depth of Beatty’s image of a high-ceilinged room full of drawers that reminded me of an attic. (Left:  Copyright granted by Diane Beatty)

It recalled a poem I had written about my maternal great grandmother that was published in my second poetry chapbook, SILENCE HAS A NAME. That poem is titled, “For My Great Grandmother Singing in a Windowless Attic,” and tells the story of my descendant whose husband, out of jealousy for my great grandmother’s singing voice, imprisoned her in an attic, where she died mad while still in her 20s. This happened in the countryside of Colombia in the early 1900s when the idea of silencing women was more pervasive than it is now. It’s a troubling legacy that to some extent all women share in that we still are silenced—by government, media, sometimes even those we are close to.

And so this poem, “History Abandoned,” after Diane’s evocative photograph, was born on the spot, in a rush of energy I felt go through me and I texted it into words on my phone. (LEFT: Copyright granted by Diane Beatty)

How many drafts of this poem did you write before going to the final? (And can you share a photograph of your rough drafts with pen markings on it?)   There were very few amendments to this poem, although I believe I reworked the ending a bit, but as I write online or on my phone, there are no records of drafts. I didn’t feel anything about “History Abandoned,” but inspiration and energy, an electric current running through me when I wrote the poem and perhaps a sense of cause because I was thinking of this talented woman, someone a part of me in history who had died, her talent and beauty stifled. But there was nothing premeditated, no conscious formulation, just all these realizations working together at once.

What do you want readers of this poem to take from this poem?   I don’t want readers to take anything from this poem save what it evokes for them. For me it’s a call to women who have suffered long in silence and repression to rise up, speak for themselves and to one another. It rose out of my own history and that of so many women who recognize they must come out of hiding and speak their truth, and speak to it via their art. (LEFT "Fierce Femininity" attributed to Christal Ann Rice Cooper.) 

Has this poem been published before?  And if so where?
-by-arya-jenkins (Above Right:  Ekphrastic Review Web Logo Photo) 

After Diane Beatty’s Photograph, “History Abandoned” 

Empty drawers piled high in an attic--
Where else but in a woman’s house
Or in the house of the man who keeps her?
Floor littered with tiles of neglect
The ceiling aches to break free
This is my house
My attic

Rows upon rows 
Some opened and emptied
Others locked and secured 

Privy to storms and crimes
Swept to oblivion

Those locked 
Like ossified bones
Refuse to let us see the
Dust of centuries that
Becomes other things

What if in these tiny cells
Women’s voices speak?
What if they sing?

What if among the rafters
Where birds’ feathers catch in flight
Respondent echoes refract 
Like cracks of light
And everywhere, inside and out
Only the whorl of women’s voices
Is heard

Arya F. Jenkins poetry, fiction and creative nonfiction have appeared in numerous journals and zines such as Agave Magazine, Black Scat Review, Brilliant Corners, Blue Heron Review, Cider Press Review, Dying Dahlia Review, The Feminist Wire, Foliate Oak Literary Magazine, Front Porch Review, KYSO Flash, Otis Nebula, and Provincetown Arts Magazine. Her poetry has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize. Her flash, “Elvis Too” was nominated for
the 2017 Write Well Awards by Brilliant Flash Fiction. Her work has appeared in at least four anthologies. She writes jazz fiction for Jerry Jazz Musician, an online zine. Her poetry chapbooks are: Jewel Fire (AllBook Books, 2011) Silence Has A Name (Finishing Line Press, 2016). Her poetry chapbook, Autumn Rumors, has just been accepted by CW Books and is slated for publication September 2018.

001  December 29, 2017
Margo Berdeshevksy’s “12-24”

002  January 08, 2018
Alexis Rhone Fancher’s “82 Miles From the Beach, We Order The Lobster At Clear Lake Café”

003 January 12, 2018
Barbara Crooker’s “Orange”

004 January 22, 2018
Sonia Saikaley’s “Modern Matsushima”

005 January 29, 2018
Ellen Foos’s “Side Yard”

006 February 03, 2018
Susan Sundwall’s “The Ringmaster”

007 February 09, 2018
Leslea Newman’s “That Night”

008 February 17, 2018
Alexis Rhone Fancher “June Fairchild Isn’t Dead”

009 February 24, 2018
Charles Clifford Brooks III “The Gift of the Year With Granny”

010 March 03, 2018
Scott Thomas Outlar’s “The Natural Reflection of Your Palms”

011 March 10, 2018 
Arya F. Jenkins “After Diane Beatty’s Photograph, “History Abandoned"

012 March 17, 2018
Angela Narciso Torres’s “What I Learned This Week

013 March 24, 2018
Jan Steckel’s “Holiday On ICE”

014 March 31, 2018
Ibrahim Honjo’s “Colors”

015 April 14, 2018
Marilyn Kallett’s “Ode to Disappointment”

016  April 27, 2018
Beth Copeland’s “Reliquary”

017  May 12, 2018
Marlon L Fick’s “The Swallows of Barcelona”

020 June 16, 2018
Charles Rammelkamp’s “At Last I Can Start Suffering”

021  July 05, 2018
Marla Shaw O’Neill’s “Wind Chimes”

022 July 13, 2018
Julia Gordon-Bramer’s “Studying Ariel”

023 July 20, 2018
Bill Yarrow’s “Jesus Zombie”

024  July 27, 2018
Telaina Eriksen’s “Brag 2016”

025  August 01, 2018
Seth Berg’s (It is only Yourself that Bends – so Wake up!”

026  August 07, 2018
David Herrle’s “Devil In the Details”

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Christal Ann Rice Cooper on Her Mother, The Sound of Music, Julie Andrews, "Mandy", and the interview that changed her life . . . .

*The images in this specific piece are granted copyright privilege by:  Public Domain, CCSAL, GNU Free Documentation Licenses, Fair Use Under The United States Copyright Law, or given copyright privilege by the copyright holder which is identified beneath the individual photo.

**Some of the links will have to be copied and then posted in your search engine in order to pull up properly

Chris Rice Cooper:
“The Interview That Changed My Life!”
*My mother, The Sound of Music, Julie Andrews, Mandy, and Celebrity Restaurateur Toshi Yuki Kihara (Now Retired!)

It’s going to be my Mom’s birthday this month and I know she is in Heaven with Jesus laughing away.  I miss her laugh and all the stories she would tell me.

My mother told me about one of her dates she went on when she was in high school.  It was in 1965 and his name was George.  George asked my mother what she wanted to do on their date and she told him she wanted to see a movie that had just been released. 

It was a movie starring Julie Andrews and Christopher Plummer called The Sound of Music.

Fortunately my mother didn’t marry George and never considered marrying George; She married my father, eight years her senior one year later in June of 1966.

My older sister was born eleven months later in May of 1967; I was born in April 1969, and my brother was born in  February of 1977. 

Growing up we always watched The Sound of Music every year on Thursday Thanksgiving Day and even sometimes on Super Bowl Sunday.  My mother always made comments about the movie, some I don’t remember, but I do remember my best friend in college Kelly (with my Mom Above Right) told my mother that Julie Andrews didn’t actually sing in the movie.  My mother firmly corrected her and said with conviction, firmness, and authority, “Yes she did.  That was Julie Andrew’s voice.”

When I was in high school my mother and I watched a documentary that showed clips of the beautiful and talented opera singer Maria Callas. (Left)  My mother told me that when she was a little girl she dreamed of becoming an opera singer.  

I think The Sound of Music gave us the temporary happy ending in our world, where the day to day grind of our every day life seemed to only highlight the missing pieces within us – but then we would watch The Sound of Music and those missing pieces would disappear and we would be in another world – whole, holy, beautiful, and able to sing – our voice pleasing to others.

My mother died unexpectedly on New Year’s Eve 2003 of a brain aneurysm or cerebral hemorrhage.  I wasn’t close to my grandparents so when they died it wasn’t a shock; but my mother’s death was the HUGE SHOCK of my life. Left - My Mom in August 2000.

Throughout my adult years I tried ways of connecting with my mother –some things worked but the one thing that always worked was watching The Sound of Music.   I think that is why I like Julie Andrews so much – keeping up with Julie Andrews is a way of having contact with my mother and keeping her memory alive in me. (Right My Mom in July 1996)

Then two years after my mother’s death I heard about restaurateur Toshi Yuki Kihara on Entertainment Tonight.  Toshi at the time was the manager and owner of celebrity hotspot Hamasaku (Left) on Santa Monica Blvd in Los Angeles, California.

Toshi was gracious to give me an interview and we spent about an hour via telephone talking about his experiences.  He was born and reared in Japan, dreaming of someday coming to America. He worked very hard, and ended up being a pop singer in Japan, but still he dreamed of moving to America, but it never seemed to work out and he faced many struggles.    

He told me that there was one thing that carried him through those tough years and that was the movie The Sound Of Music and Julie Andrews.  He said he would always remember the movie and the thought of Julie Andrews being his mother made him feel okay, and he was able to go about his day.  He finally moved to Hollywood, California and worked laboriously and the rest is history.

He told me more about his life in America and the struggles he had.  He told me he could have had even bigger success but he would have had to sacrifice his ethics, which is something he would never do.   He told me he cares about his clients and his employees.  He told me that sometimes an employee might have a problem with one of his customers and he’ll say,  Okay, you take care of that customer, and I will send someone else to take care of this customer.”  He said he cared about his workers, that he wouldn’t be able to have success without them.

He told me about his favorite customer who would come to his restaurant two to three times a week, always kissing him on his cheek and calling him, “Darling!”   That customer was Julie Andrews. (Left Julie Andrews receiving the SAG Lifetime Achievement Award in 2006  CCBYASA)

The one thing that literally rocked my whole core was that this interview revealed to me that it is not the celebrity that makes the world go round:  it is the people that labor behind the scenes that makes the world go round.  Celebrity is just the icing on the cake, and sometimes that icing may be poisonous.

Julie Andrews, however, was never poisonous.  I remembered a book my mother gave me years ago.  It is called Mandy a book for young adults and it is written by Julie Edwards also known as Julie Andrews (her husband is Blake Edwards).

I wrote a long letter to Toshi explain to him how much his experience and his way of handling the tough times by watching The Sound of Music and wishing Julie Andrews was his mother meant so much to me and how in a way it meant a lot to my mother.  I could feel it.  I told him about the book that my mother gave to me, and that I felt it was right that I send it to him; that he would appreciate it more.

I sent him the package and I figured I’d never hear from him again.  I don’t know how much time passed, but I received a package from him with a letter and inside the package was the book MANDY.  I wasn’t sure what to think of it and then I turned the page, and there in her own handwriting,

For Chris –
With love, from
Julie Andrews Edwards