New year, new happinesses

…to be merry best becomes you; for out of question, you were born in a merry hour. “ – Much Ado About Nothing, Act 2, Scene 1

It’s become a bit of a tradition the last few years for me to share this poem around January 1st. Each time, a different bit stands out for me, helping me recognize my feelings about the year I’ve just experienced and the one about to come. Sometimes it’s the bit about buzz and electricity, sometimes it’s about the meditating mind, sometimes it’s about the internal music and rhythm.

And in some way, it’s often “face merry”, reminding me how having the option to choose my own experience of happiness, whatever the circumstances, made dealing with cancer in 2014 much more full of joy than fear, made turning a big round number on my 2015 birthday less weird by reconnecting with childhood pleasures – picnics! Pop Rocks (with chocolate)! Reminding me of bits of films and talks and music and poetry and creative encouragement that can boost my spirits in the gently enthusiastic trust-the-universe way I frequently need.

May the new year bring you surprising happiness and your favorite kinds of merriment!

TO BE MERRY BEST BECOMES YOU

>click to listen to audio recording of the poem To Be Merry Best Becomes You

A laugh unexpected,
a thought unrejected –
open-hearted,
open-minded,
with the hum ~ hum ~ hum
of joy in generation.
We are generating,
regenerating
ourselves,
our cells –
space
in between,
with the double-bass double-thrum,
thrum
of thought
&
all
that thought is not.
*
Merry meditating machines
and more,
much more –
current buzzing,
glowing
electric
in the dim dawn of the year,
growing newness
from oldness,
gearing up
for boldness,
moving
and musing –
perpetual emotion amusing
as we feel
our way
forward,
face merry,
face forward,
Janus in joy
at the turn of the year.

**

Sharon Abra Hanen

a river of words & music…

Because the Life of the River is Longer than Mine (click title to hear poem)

No Burial (click title to hear poem)

Last weekend I participated in the Arts al Fresco event as part of Riverfest 2012 celebrating the life of the Assabet, Sudbury, and Concord rivers in Eastern Massachusetts.

I was one of six poets affiliated with the Concord Poetry Center http://www.concordpoetry.org/ who read nature-themed poetry alongside wonderful acapella singing by the Three Rivers Chorus in front of the charming 1911 Buttrick Mansion (which functions as the North Bridge Visitors’ Center of the Minute Man National Historic Park).

It was a treat to be there on a beautiful summer day, the audience shaded by oak trees, our voices reaching out towards the paths and grassy fields.

For those who weren’t able to join us, I’ve posted a tiny taste of the event. Click the links above for audio of two of the river-inspired poems I performed. May they mean something to you, and may your summer flow well.

(Acknowledgement: photo above of me caught “mid-read” is by journalist, author, & artist Joy Nelkin Wieder)

words and music…

My newly engaged songwriter circuits are still buzzing and humming from the weekend. On Saturday, my song “In the Spirit of this Place”, the first piece that I’ve written all the words AND music for, was debuted by the Voices for the Earth Chorus at the Musketaquid Earth Day Celebration River Ceremony in Concord, Massachusetts. It was written specifically for the occasion, and includes lines referring to the local landscape and environment.

There were several videographers there, and lots of cameras, so I’m eagerly anticipating images and footage being posted this week, but in the meantime, above is a snap of the song on paper  from the rehearsal copies of the sheet music and part of the lyric sheet.

Huge heartfelt thank you to the irreplaceable & irrepressible Voices for the Earth director Carol Hamilton, who arranged the music (and encouraged my novice efforts), and to the whole chorus for their openness to this  new piece and their dedication in rehearsing it. And many thanks to the crowd who came to participate and be such an appreciative audience – your attention and applause meant a lot to all of us.

I’m looking forward to more lyric and songwriting, and more ways of connecting music and poetry.

What are some of your favorite words and music connections?

guardians of story…

I have had a remarkable number of joyous, inspiring, creative conversations through this weekend of the New England Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (NESCBWI) spring conference in Dr. Seuss’ hometown of Springfield, Massachusetts.

And a theme developed, a thread running bright and true through disparate discussions:

We are the guardians of story.

It isn’t about us as the writers or translators or illustrators or editors of stories. It’s about how we take a precious story, or fragile seed of a story, and guard it, care for it, nurture it and shape it until it is ready to be passed on to the mind of a child.

Story matters.

Pass it on.

Seuss and serendipity…

Today is Dr. Seuss’ birthday. It is amazing and astonishing that any of us, Theodore Geisel included, gets born when we do, into the circumstances that we do. We are the creative product of a clash of chaotic coincidences – ancestors re-locating, parents meeting, all the whos and wheres of who we turn out to be multiplied by all the serendipitous connections that influence what we do and who we do it with – all those many turning point moments, big, small, recognized or overlooked.

Anita Silvey, in her brilliant Children’s Book-a-Day Almanac reminds that those turning points may be just around the corner, ready to help us be who we are and share what we do. She retells the story of how Dr. Seuss’ children’s book career was launched, after 2 dozen or more rejections of his first manuscript, by a chance meeting with a friend. He was walking along Madison Avenue, disheartened, with a fresh rejection in hand, ready to go home and burn the manuscript and give up writing for children when he encountered unexpected encouragement and opportunity: http://childrensbookalmanac.com/2011/03/and-to-think-that-i-saw-it-on-mulberry-street/ (and more, from a Springfield perspective, at http://featurewriter1.tripod.com/seuss.html)

Like so many millions of others, I am so grateful that moment happened that led to And to Think That I Saw it On Mulberry Street. That moment gave me so much – it gave me my big sister reading One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish to me so memorably that for one of her recent birthdays (she’s now in her 50’s), I gave her a copy of the book translated into Yiddish http://site.booksite.com/4382/showdetail/?isbn=9780972693936 , in tribute to two different, but compatible streams of our shared cultural heritage. It gave me the life-long charm of exchanging Horton Hears a Who quotations with my mom – and it is only as I’ve gotten older that I’ve realized how deeply we share the humanitarian view that “a person’s a person no matter how small” or hurt or troubled or persecuted or denied freedoms or opportunities (it’s probably what made me want to join PEN www.pen.org). Some of my long-term fondness for medieval-ish design, for silly-sounding and invented words, for storms in stories and for the triumph of the intelligent underdog comes straight from Bartholomew and the Oobleck and The King’s Stilts. My idea of a great party comes from If I Ran the Circus. My politics owes more than a little to Yertle the Turtle. And I still write in rhyme whenever I can.

Happy Birthday, Dr. Seuss! And thank you to Mike McClintock, Seuss’ old classmate and new editor who took a smiling chance on the Mulberry Street manuscript. 20th century children’s literature would not be the same without that friendship and creative courage.

dear disheartened one…

I know it hurts. And you’d rather it didn’t. Someone else got published. You’re happy for them, sort of. You want to be happy for them, really. But you’d rather it had been you.

After all, haven’t you been working at it? Didn’t you get that MFA, attend the conferences, go to workshops, network with editors?

But it wasn’t you. Not this time.

It is hard when you don’t feel that magical anointing of the approval of publication. It feels like no one loves you as a writer. Not even you.

But someone does. Even if you don’t know it yet. Even if they don’t know it yet.

Don’t let them down. Believe in that audience, that reader. If your work isn’t in their hands yet, there is something you still need to do to be ready for what you create to connect deeply with them.

It doesn’t mean you’re not good at what you do. It doesn’t mean you haven’t done a lot of the right things up until now. It doesn’t mean you won’t ever be published.

It just means there’s something missing and it’s your job to find it.

Something missing does NOT mean that there is something missing in you. You have what it takes. You are determined. You are willing to question, to learn. You have real storytelling skills and you keep doing what you can to improve them. But there’s some connection missing. Something you can create, that you just haven’t created yet. Maybe it’s a confident strategy. Maybe it’s the courage to write something out-of-the-box. Maybe it’s just a boatload of patience and a more active network. Maybe it’s a mentor you truly respect.

Whatever it is, figure it out, and find it. Your job as a writer is to connect. Connect with the story, connect with yourself, connect with your reader. And if that connection isn’t happening yet, it doesn’t mean it won’t. It just means you’ve got more to learn before it does. And that’s one of the true gifts of the writing life – we get to keep learning.

So, go ahead, sigh. Stamp your feet. Tantrum if you want. Feel broken for a while. Admit to jealousy, if that feels true for you. And then, back to it. It’s time to connect.

every poem is a love poem…

I write this at the end of Valentine’s Day. A day when Facebook, Twitter, and my email inbox tossed love poems   toward me with all the romantic recklessness of winter running arms open toward spring.

What I noticed was not how they may or may not have illuminated the experience of love. What I noticed is how I was reminded of other poems, seemingly on other themes, seemingly more everyday, less full of exalted emotion and that the love poems did not contain more love than those.

Every poem is a love poem. Love is attention. Care. Concern. Sharing. Poems are the product of attention, care, concern, a deep desire to share and connect. They are full of the love of words and sound, the love of whatever has been so attentively observed as to become the subject of the poem. They are full of anger, frustration, pain and concern about changing or losing ourselves or our world, however small or large that might seem in the lines of a poem, just as much as they are full of both tiny and tremendous joys. All emotions springing from the love of (and often fear of loss of) something we treasure beyond the comprehension of reason.

A poem, spoken or written or chanted or sung, connects hearts. Human feelings to human feelings, however heavily couched in the cerebral or wrapped in the wildness of free-range wordplay.

Poems connect. Love is connection.

Every poem is a love poem.

Every poem is.

Love.