Jen Payne’s New Book


Evidence of Flossing, WHAT WE LEAVE BEHIND provides an unexpected metaphor for individual life, culture, and so much more. Nearly all the poems are accompanied with a photograph, often of trash in which lays a dental flosser (yes, one of those instruments with which you floss your teeth) with date and location.  Flossing is supposed to prevent anything from being left behind.  Hence, the title brings up an unusual play on words.

The first section Damage contains more than 20 poems which are a lament about much of modern life–mass shootings, the demise of wildlife, unpleasant changes.  One poem asks the question:  “Would God floss?”  In the second section, Contact, the poems focus on the natural world, walks in the city, the woods, beaches.  The third section, Connection, emphasizes the interconnectedness of everything, especially the relationships between humans and animals and nature.  There are poems about frogs, storms, birds.  One called Evidence of Fairies makes the reader feel the magic of old growth forests with moss and ancient trees.  In the footnote to another poem she discusses the fact that wolf spiders actually create songs to lure lovers. Then, toward the end, the Alice poems appear,  Alice as in “Alice in Wonderland”.  In my favorite poem Payne relates her encounter with a stranger picking oyster mushrooms near a path in the woods.

After reading the poems and comments in this book, I will never view flossing the same way again.  Will I find dental flossers now, something I never even previously thought about?  I use those long strings of floss not flossers.  Apparently the poems and flosser photos affected enough people that some sent Payne photos of flossers they saw here and there on the ground, some of which she has included in the book.

Even if I find no flossers, now I will certainly give a lot more thought to what I and others leave behind.

 

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About the author:  Jennifer Payne is the owner of Words by Jen, a graphic design and creative services company in Connecticut. She belongs to the Arts Council of Greater New Haven as well as several other arts and poetry organizations.  Her work has been featured in various publications, including The Aurorean, Six Sentences, and the Story Circle Network.  You can read some of her writing on her blog Random Acts of Writing.

 

 

Sunday Poem–Choose


“Most people are about as happy as they

make up their minds to be.”  Abraham Lincoln

 

When I was twenty something, I chose happiness, not the sappy, syrupy, cheery, but a deeper joy of cherishing the small, the unique, the everyday, smiling with sunsets, the song of the mockingbird in spring, horses running free, the nearly invisible bobcat climbing the canyon wall, the taste of fine coffee at the first wakeful moments in the morning, cooking for friends, taking a “property walk” with my grandson, laughing with the teenagers I teach.  I am driven to do little–obsessions, compulsions do not run me.  I choose.  Choose life, choose joy, or choose whining, choose lamenting.  Choose!!  Be who you want to be; do what you want to do.

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Note:  this is a poem from my book, “On the Rim of Wonder”.

Sunday Poem


A few years ago Uno Mundo Press published my second book, a book of poems.  Reviewers say it is a memoir.  Oddly, that was not the plan; in retrospect, it seems apt.  The poems’ topics are not chronological but rather via topic with quotations before each topic as a sort of introduction.  For the foreseeable future, while I continue writing another book, I will post one poem from the book every Sunday.

The book begins with this quotation:

“Do something scandalous to give your descendants something

to talk about when you are gone.”  Vanessa Talbot

 

The first section begins with this quote by Judith Jameson, the famous dancer and choreographer:

“I always tell my dancers.

You are not defined by your fingertips,

or the top of you head,

or the bottom of your feet.

You are defined by you.

You are the expanse.

You are the infinity.”

 

The first poem in the book goes like this:

I Have Lived

Depression, sad days, melancholy.

Gone!

At 26, I said, “To hell with this!

You control you life, live it!”

 

I tried forbidden liaisons, trained horses,

Traveled around the world, a cobra wrapped around my neck,

Walked the Shalimar Gardens in Kashmir,

Stood before the Jama Masjid in Old Delhi,

Watched the Taj Mahal reflected in still waters,

Walked the streets of Katmandu,

Talked to monks at Shwedagon Pagoda,

Bargained with sticks in dirt, math our only common language,

Downed raw turtle eggs in Costa Rica,

Danced on table tops, sang “Adonai”,

Roamed empty roads across the Navaho Nation,

Divorced four times,

Raised two talented children.

 

I have lived, running on the rim of wonder.

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Own Everything


Checked my Facebook today and this quote showed up–posted by a fellow friend and author. It is from Ann Lamont:

“You own everything that happened to you.  Tell your stories.  If people wanted you to write warmly about them, they should have behaved better.”

 

 

Note:  In spite of a few men having referred to me as a scandalous woman after reading my book, “On the Rim of Wonder”, I still have not been sued for slander.  It has been a few years.  I think I am safe.  Always tell your truth.  Be open to adventure.  Live your life.  Be the best you that you can be.

 

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The Motherhood of God by Mary Sharratt


The first woman to write a book in English–in the 1300s.

Doing a recent talk on pioneering woman writers, I like to do the Before Jane Austen test with my audience. Who can name a single woman writer in the English language before Jane Austen? Alas, because woman have been written out of history to such a large extent, most people come up blank. Then we talk about pioneering Renaissance authors, such as Aemilia Bassano Lanier, the subject of my recent novel, THE DARK LADY’S MASK, or her mentor, Anne Locke, the first person of either sex to write a sonnet sequence in the English language.

But my next question takes us even further back into history. Who was the first woman to write a book in English?

The answer is Julian of Norwich, who wrote Revelations of Divine Love.

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Bedtime Reading


 

A habit I acquired years ago, perhaps even during my childhood, is reading just before I go to sleep.  Picking the right books remains key unless you want to stay up half the night either reading or thinking about something horrifying or depressing you’ve read. Lately, my reading has not been conducive to sweet dreams.  Earlier this week I finished Among the Ruins, an Iranian mystery of sorts, by Ausma Zehanat Khan.  It’s fiction but one of the characters writes letters from prison which are anything but cheery.  Now I am reading the Pulitzer Prize winner, The Return.  Since Hisham Matar never saw his father again after he was captured and hauled off to a Libyan prison, sleep inducing it is not.  Last night I decided perhaps for bedtime I needed to find something not exactly boring but somewhat less stimulating.  It may take me all summer given that The Silk Roads, A New History of the World by Peter Frankopan is 505 pages.  If I get bored with that, I can go back to two books I reread off and on and save for bedtime reading, When Women Were Birds by Terry Tempest Williams and Sor Juana Ines De La Cruz, Selected Works translated by Edith Grossman.  Both inspire reflection and contemplation.  For those who do not know Sor Juana Ines De La Cruz, she lived in Mexico in the 1600s.  She became famous for her intellectual capacity, her poetry, and was referred to as “the Phoenix of Mexico” when women rarely rose to such heights.

What are you reading this summer?

 

A Week of Gratitude


Negatives emerged lately in my life,  the events in the last two posts, two good friends with health issues and a lot of pain.  Nevertheless, yesterday, I started thinking of so many things for which I feel grateful.  Then I said to myself, I am going to work on a week of gratitude, a week where everyday I make a list of things for which I feel grateful.  Out of years of habit, I make a mental gratitude list every night as I drift off to sleep.  This is more formal, a list I write down.

Yesterday’s list includes these:

-pure water from a deep well

-healthy food I cook myself

-children who live good, productive lives

-my own good health

Today’s list includes:

-a job I really enjoy in spite of paper grading tasks

-students who make me laugh and tell me they love me–who knows whether they mean it and honestly it’s ok either way

-outside chores, e.g feeding horses morning and evening.  I cannot imagine life without this even when it is cold and miserable

-singing–after I post this, I will head to my weekly chorale practice.  Currently, we are singing all these touching songs, poems by Octavio Paz and Pablo Neruda put to music.

-taxes–crazy, I know.  I recall someone once telling me he was happy to pay taxes because it meant he was making decent money and was not poor.

 

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The Chandravati Ramayana: A Story of Two Women by Vibha Shetiya


Although I do write many original blog posts, many times I see something that I think needs to be shared with others, something new, enlightening. This post tells a story I had not previously heard, an important story.

vibpicAlthough “the” Ramayana is a fluid narrative, scholarship has traditionally recognized the Sanskrit Valmiki Ramayana as the most authoritative of Ramayanas. But recent studies have brought to light the hundreds of regional stories of Rama and Sita which are more popular with the masses. These would include Krittibasa’s Ramayana in Bengal, Kamban’s Tamil Iramavataram in South India, notably in the state of Tamil Nadu, Tulsidas’s Ramcharitamanas among the Hindi-speaking belt of northern India, and so on. But even here, a pattern seems to emerge; all the above-mentioned authors are male. Within this scenario, a rather unique text stands out, and that is Chandravati’s sixteenth century Bengali Ramayana, for its author was a woman. Even more fascinating is the double-toned nature of the narrative – through Chandravati’s own voice and through the voice of its tragic heroine, Sita.

Chandravati (ca.1550-1600) was born in a village in eastern Bengal, today in…

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Commit Random Acts


This speaks for itself.

I am one voice,
but I will not be complicit,
compliant,
quiet.

For every word of hate,
I’ll speak LOVE

For every swastika,
I’ll sign PEACE

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For every belief outlawed,
every book burned,
every person
mocked,
marginalized,
belittled,
bullied…

I’ll commit
random acts of
WRITING and ART,
shout
COMPASSION
and KINDNESS
from rooftops!

Poem + Artwork ©2016, Jen Payne

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“Commit Random Acts of Writing + Art” bumper sticker. Measures 4″ x 8″ with gloss UV lamination. Printed in the USA. Price includes shipping. BE PART OF THE CREATIVE MOVEMENT!  Click here to order now!

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Currently: Eagerly Anticipating #Akefest16 in Abeokuta


For those who want to explore movies, musicians, and writers many of you may never have heard of, here is a lengthy list with photos.

Kinna Reads

It’s 1pm and I’m planning my trip to Abeokuta – I leave on Wednesday.  Yessss, the 2016 edition of Ake Arts and Book Festival is loading…. I’m so excited, I have butterflies, the pit of my stomach is always warm because

That is me up there, scheduled to host a book chat with NoViolet Bulawayo and Jennifer Makumbi!  Ms. Makumbi is the author of Kintu, which qualifies as the most recent addition to my all time list of favorite African fiction ever. I’m so stoked.😆😆😆.

I will also moderate this:

Laila Lalami, fellow book lovers!

Finally, I’m also on this:

It’s all very glorious!

#AkeFest16 comprises 12 panel discussions, including:

(I get to meet Sarah Ladipo Manyika (InDependence) finally…

9 Book chats such as:

Also on the schedule are film screenings, a play and a concert:

Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o will headline. In boxing parlance, he is the…

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