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Archive for April, 2020

Lately, reorganizing my office, I came across a framed poem by James Broughton that he had sent me. James was a friend of Jim Cory, the publisher of Insight To Riot Press. Jim sent James a collection of my poetry, When I Was Straight, that he had published in 1995 and James sent me a letter and an illustrated poem that I took a picture of and pasted below. The poem is called, “What Matters.” I am reprinting the text so you can read it too:

What Matters

What matters
matters
but not always

Some of the time
everything
matters

Much of the time
nothing
matters

In the long run
both everything
and nothing

matter a lot

-James Broughton-

 

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To learn more about my novel THEY, a biblical tale of secret genders (published by Adelaide Books New York/Lisbon), click here.

THEY Scottie

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April is National Poetry Month. Lately, I’ve been reconnecting with the reading of poetry and have re-experienced how healing it can be. The Fumo Family Library featured my friend, the poet, Maria Fama. Her latest book is The Good for the Good, Poems by Maria Fama from Bordighera Press (2019).

Maria’s work revives the past and makes us whole.

On the back of the book, Daniela Gioseffi (an American Book Award winner) writes: “Once again, Maria Fama makes us smile as she cajoles us with profound folk wisdom and ironic wit. This is a book everyone of any background can delight in. The witty folk wisdom it offers can be cherished for a lifetime.”

Maria reads to us from a variety of years and books in this video. Enjoy!

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Today, I heard from an old lesbian-feminist colleague and editor Jan Hardy. In the early 1990s, Jan edited and compiled two important anthologies that I was included in:  Wanting Women, an Anthology of Erotic Lesbian Poetry and Sister Stranger: Lesbians Loving Across the Lines (both from Sidewalk Revolution Press).

Jan picked up a copy of my book Tea Leaves, a memoir of mother’s and daughters (Bella Books; 2012)  and wrote the following review for Goodreads.

“Very moving and sometimes difficult to read only because I’ve taken care of both my father and my mother as they grew older and became unable to care for themselves. Janet Mason captures so well the conflicts between caring for her mother’s daily needs and yet granting her privacy and dignity, between reminiscing about the past, providing strength for each day, and trying to face her mother’s imminent passing. Her writing is honest and clear, yet poetic and meditative. Many of her insights about working class life in Philadelphia shed light on the character of her mother, her grandmother and her father, and show how she developed as a woman and as a writer. This memoir must have been so painful to write, but it flows easily on the page and will last in my memory.”

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Hearing from Jan caused me to reflect on the past.  In many ways, it seems like I was a different person then. For one thing, I migrated from poetry to prose.  (The poems kept getting longer and there was dialogue in them.) I was a rather loud mouthed lesbian as a young adult. Well, someone had to be.  Now, there are more of us.  But really I haven’t changed that much.  For one thing, the poetry taught me a lot. There has to be rhythm and the writing has to be spare — regardless.

Jan was touched that the anthology she edited, Wanting Woman, was mentioned in Tea Leaves. I didn’t remember my exact words, but I remembered the context because well it is memoir and it actually happened. I wanted to find the actual quote in Tea Leaves and I did.I thought you might enjoy it too:

Now, as we sat in the living room talking, I looked over at the breakfront against the wall near the front door—the gold framed photographs on the top shelf, my parents on their wedding day, my high school graduation photograph and under that, on a lower shelf, the journals and anthologies where my writing was published. My mother took pride in my work, commenting on the other pieces as well as on my own, and seemed oblivious to the fact that the plumber or the next-door neighbor might come in the front door and see the purple cover of “By Word Of Mouth: Lesbians Write the Erotic,” the first anthology I published in. I had given my mother copies of the other anthologies that I had published in also, although at first I was hesitant. I was worried that she wouldn’t approve of the sexual content, not because it was lesbian but because some references were explicit. “I was afraid you might think it was dirty,” I once said to my mother a few years earlier when we were in the city shopping at Giovanni’s Room bookstore and I came across Wanting Women: an Anthology of Erotic Lesbian Poetry—a collection that included my work. My mother read the poem and, to my surprise, simply shrugged. “Who do you think taught you dirty?”

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One of the ways my partner and I have been staying connected during this time is through video chatting — with others as well as with each other. This week we met with a small group with our Unitarian church that is focused on poetry. Actually one member of the group is someone we know from way back when who was in a feminist writing group I was in. Another friend brought this poem to share. Since it has to do with writing and it talks about the sit down and be quiet method that I’ve espousing for decades, I thought I would share it with you. It was penned by Wendell Berry.

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How to Be a Poet

(to remind myself)
i
Make a place to sit down.
Sit down. Be quiet.
You must depend upon
affection, reading, knowledge,
skill—more of each
than you have—inspiration,
work, growing older, patience,
for patience joins time
to eternity. Any readers
who like your poems,
doubt their judgment.
ii
Breathe with unconditional breath
the unconditioned air.
Shun electric wire.
Communicate slowly. Live
a three-dimensioned life;
stay away from screens.
Stay away from anything
that obscures the place it is in.
There are no unsacred places;
there are only sacred places
and desecrated places.
iii
Accept what comes from silence.
Make the best you can of it.
Of the little words that come
out of the silence, like prayers
prayed back to the one who prays,
make a poem that does not disturb
the silence from which it came.

To learn more about my novel THEY, a biblical tale of secret genders (published by Adelaide Books New York/Lisbon),click here.

THEY Scottie

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Today is the fiftieth anniversary of Earth Day.  It is a joyous occasion and a heartbreaking one.  I couldn’t help noticing this as this crisis was breaking all around me. On my daily walk, I see that the flowers are erupting this year. A chorus of bird songs fills the air.  I’ve seen the photos of the planet becoming less polluted. Yet, it is very sad that the humans are suffering.

So, I take my walks everyday and do my Buddhist mantras for healing for the planet and all of her inhabitants.

Here are some of the photos I took on my walk.

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To learn more about my novel THEY, a biblical tale of secret genders (published by Adelaide Books New York/Lisbon),click here.

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A friend lent me The Library Book by Susan Orlean and I have been savoring it. It reminds me of the Before Times — right before. This friend had joined my partner and me for a vegan lunch and it was one of the last times we went out.

One of the last places I thought of going was to our local library. I had reserved a book and it was waiting for me.  I never went. A day later the library closed its doors as we slid into quarantine.

So in this week that is National Library Week, I am reading The Library Book, and remembering what safe and holy places I have always found libraries to be.  As a practicing Buddhist, I am good at staying in the moment, but I have to admit I miss being able to go the library. It is an introvert’s dream, perhaps, being surrounded by silence and books.

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I learned a few things from the book that totally made sense — like the fact that libraries have a long history of being burned (the author found that the Nazis, among others, were known to burn books before they burned people). I also learned that  libraries have long been centers of refuge in various ways during a crisis.

I read in my library’s email, that there are many library services still available. You can go to your library’s website to find out what you can do online.  I use Hoopla — which is a national library service available through your local library — for ebooks, audiobooks and some movies and find it to be an excellent resource.

So this week and every week, remember that you don’t have to go to the library to use the library. Stay home, stay safe and keep your mind free.

To learn more about my novel THEY, a biblical tale of secret genders (published by Adelaide Books New York/Lisbon),click here.

THEY Scottie

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I do a lot on Twitter, and this morning I had a lot to be thankful for.  Open Table MCC in the Philippines sent me this moving YouTube video.  And then a reader sent me the comment about my novel, THEY, a biblical tale of secret genders (Adelaide Books) that I posted below for you to read.

 

It’s hard to believe that people are so ignorant that they think that hermaphrodites, gays, and bisexuals didn’t exist in Biblical times. There is evidence on pottery in Greece as far back as 10,000 yrs B.C. “They” is among one of my most recommended books, great job!

To learn more about my novel THEY, a biblical tale of secret genders (published by Adelaide Books New York/Lisbon), click here

THEY Scottie

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We all have a story to tell.  And telling that story requires you to take yourself seriously as a writer.  That is the name of the class that I am teaching through the Mt. Airy Learning Tree. Previously when I taught at a physical location, the class was limited to those who lived in the area. Now I am offering the class via Zoom (an online video chat), so you can take the class from where ever you are. You need a computer and a webcam. A webcam can be purchased separately and attached to your computer — if there isn’t one already installed in your computer or tablet.


For more information on the class (Taking Yourself Seriously as a Writer) which is very reasonably priced and starts next Thursday on April 23rd, you can go to this link.

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To learn more about my novel THEY, a biblical tale of secret genders (published by Adelaide Books New York/Lisbon), click here.

 

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One of the ways, I’ve been coping with this pandemic is by turning off the news at night.  Most of it is clearly designed to induce anxiety and it is working.  Anxiety is bad for the immune system and for the overall state of wellness.

However, I came across this segment with Jane Goodall being interviewed by Anderson Cooper.  I liked them both before and, of course, I knew about Jane Goodall’s work.  But after watching this, I became a big fan. It gave me hope. I hope it gives you hope.  Here is the link to the entire segment.  

https://www.cnn.com/videos/us/2020/03/19/coronavirus-jane-goodall-acfc-full-episode-vpx.cnn

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To learn more about my novel THEY, a biblical tale of secret genders (published by Adelaide Books New York/Lisbon), click here.

 

THEY Scottie

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I was reorganizing my office and going through my old poetry when I came across my Easter poem:

 

Jesus is a daffodil.

 

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(This photo was taken by Barbara McPherson of a daffodil that we grew in our garden.)

That’s it. That’s the entire poem.  It’s not dated but I believe I wrote it several decades ago.

 

In my pile of Exquisite Corpses ( I published many poems in that magazine, I found a poem by Karl Tierney, whose collection Jim Cory edited (Have You Seen This Man, The Castro Poems of Karl Tierney, from Sibling Rivalry Press). The poem is below.

 

ROME IN THE AGE

OF JUSTINIAN

 

Franks to the north,

and Vandals to the south.

 

Visigoths to the west

and Ostrogoths all around.

 

But thanks to your rectitude, Justinian,
still no sign of the Vulgars!

 

 

 

 

You can read a review of Karl Tierney’s book on this blog:

https://tealeavesamemoir.wordpress.com/2020/01/23/karl-tierneys-poetry-collection-airing-on-this-way-out-amreading-lgbtq/

 

To learn more about my novel THEY, a biblical tale of secret genders (published by Adelaide Books New York/Lisbon), click here.

 

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