We Are the Authors of Our Lives

As many of you know, I’ve been a long-time fan and follower of Rob Brezsny’s Free Will Astrology — since my early 20s, when he was an 8-point type addition at the back of the old New Haven Advocate. Now, his poetic wisdom arrives through the ethernet, always delivering good things to think on and fodder for deep contemplations.

This week’s newsletter included, among other tasty morsels, thoughts on Mercury Retrograde, change, transition, and Zen Buddhism, a poem by William Stafford, a quote from Friedrich Nietzsche, and pieces of good and redeeming social news to soothe the weary soul.

And then this, my horoscope for the week:

Cancerian novelist William Makepeace Thackeray (1819–1875) is famous for Vanity Fair, a satirical panorama of 19th-century British society. The phrase “Vanity Fair” had been previously used, though with different meanings, in the Bible’s book of Ecclesiastes, as well as in works by John Bunyan and St. Augustine. Thackeray was lying in bed near sleep one night when the idea flew into his head to use it for his own story. He was so thrilled, he leaped up and ran around his room chanting “Vanity Fair! Vanity Fair!” I’m foreseeing at least one epiphany like this for you in the coming weeks, Cancerian. What area of your life needs a burst of delicious inspiration?

Well, funny you should mention it, Rob.

For the past month, I’ve been putting the finishing touches on my new book, Water Under the Bridge: A Sort-of Love Story. But something has kept me from saying Done! and hitting Send! I wasn’t sure what until…

Vanity Fair! Vanity Fair!

A brilliant piece of inspiration that walked into my consciousness just two days ago and handed me the keystone. Handed me a beautiful, odd-shaped addition that holds the whole story together — thank you Brené Brown’s Rising Strong. Done.

Now one might think that sending a new book off to press in the throes of Mercury Retrograde is risky, but let’s consider it brave, shall we?

Brave because not only is Mercury Retrograde a dicey time for all things technology and communication, but also brave because Water Under the Bridge: A Sort-of Love Story is a sweet piece of creative non-fiction, a true story deserving to be told by this writer who finally decided to claim it as her own.

Watch for more about Water Under the Bridge, due out this spring!


I overcame myself, the sufferer; I carried my own ashes to the mountains;
I invented a brighter flame for myself. — Friedrich Nietzsche


 

YOUR SUPPORT IS APPRECIATED

Copies of my new book Water Under the Bridge: A Sort-of Love Story can be pre-ordered now, click here. Books are expected to ship by the end of March 2020. (Sales processed through Words by Jen of Branford, CT)

 

 

Post ©2020, Jen Payne. IMAGE: Writing, Zhang Xiaogang. Blog title is a nod to Brené Brown’s “Manifesto of the Brave and Brokenhearted,” from Rising Strong. Horoscope text from Rob Brezsny’s Free Will Astrology. Book cover art by Sarah Zar.

Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving
by Ella Wheeler Wilcox

We walk on starry fields of white
And do not see the daisies;
For blessings common in our sight
We rarely offer praises.
We sigh for some supreme delight
To crown our lives with splendor,
And quite ignore our daily store
Of pleasures sweet and tender.

Our cares are bold and push their way
Upon our thought and feeling.
They hand about us all the day,
Our time from pleasure stealing.
So unobtrusive many a joy
We pass by and forget it,
But worry strives to own our lives,
And conquers if we let it.

There’s not a day in all the year
But holds some hidden pleasure,
And looking back, joys oft appear
To brim the past’s wide measure.
But blessings are like friends, I hold,
Who love and labor near us.
We ought to raise our notes of praise
While living hearts can hear us.

Full many a blessing wears the guise
Of worry or of trouble;
Far-seeing is the soul, and wise,
Who knows the mask is double.
But he who has the faith and strength
To thank his God for sorrow
Has found a joy without alloy
To gladden every morrow.

We ought to make the moments notes
Of happy, glad Thanksgiving;
The hours and days a silent phrase
Of music we are living.
And so the theme should swell and grow
As weeks and months pass o’er us,
And rise sublime at this good time,
A grand Thanksgiving chorus.

Ella Wheeler Wilcox (November 5, 1850 – October 30, 1919) was a popular poet and author at the turn of the century. Her works include “Poems of Passion” and “Solitude,” which contains the lines “Laugh, and the world laughs with you; weep, and you weep alone.” Her autobiography, The Worlds and I, was published in 1918, a year before her death. Her and her husband lived in Granite Bay in the Short Beach section of Branford, Connecticut. The two homes they built, along with several cottages, became known as Bungalow Court, and they would hold gatherings there of literary and artistic friends. (Source: Uncover Branford) IMAGE: November Morning by Willard Metcalf.

Cape Cod Sunrise, Almost

The sun’s gone missing, darling,

and you, two thousand miles away right now,

are missing too

and yet there we are

walking that Gulf Coast beach

pitch dark, single file, you in the lead

as always

pulling me along

as we giggle stumble across the shell-full sand

that one angel feather
……..that stabs itself between my toes

before we find a place

to lay down our blanket,
……..sip hot coffee,

knee against knee and

arm against arm

like sisters

quiet and waiting

waiting for the start of a day
……..that never comes, save for

gray against gray and

pearl against pearl

until we make our way back

holding hands and laughing at the folly

 

For D, xoxo. Photo ©2019, Jen Payne. For more poems about life reflected in nature, please purchase a copy of my new book WAITING OUT THE STORM. Click here for details.

New Poetry Chapbook Explores Death, Grief & Gratitude

Three Chairs Publishing is pleased to announce the publication of its newest book, Waiting out the Storm, a collection of poems about death, grief, and gratitude by Branford writer Jen Payne.

Reflecting on the sudden loss of a close friend, Payne returns, as she does in her past books LOOK UP! and Evidence of Flossing, to the solace of nature. On the opening pages, she allows the poet Rilke to remind the reader “Through the empty branches the sky remains. It is what you have. Be earth now, and evensong. Be the ground lying under that sky.” Written from the shoreline of Connecticut and the wide and windswept beaches of Cape Cod, this book is an intimate look at life transitions and how we cope with the unexpected.

Payne is the owner of Words by Jen, a graphic design and marketing company in Branford. She has published four books: LOOK UP! Musings on the Nature of Mindfulness (2014), Evidence of Flossing: What We Leave Behind (2017), FLOSSSING (2019), and Waiting out the Storm (2019). Installations of her poetry were featured in exhibitions at the Arts Council of Greater New Haven and the Kehler Liddell Gallery (New Haven). Her work has been published by The Aurorean, Six Sentences, the Story Circle Network, and WOW! Women on Writing; in the international anthology Coffee Poems: Reflections on Life with Coffee; and in The Perch, a publication by the Yale Program for Recovery & Community Health. She is a member of the Guilford Poets Guild, the Connecticut Poetry Society, Guilford Art Center, and the New Haven Arts Council.

Copies of Waiting Out the Storm (5.5 x 8.5, paperback, 44 pages, $15.00) may be purchased at the Martha Link Walsh Gallery in Branford, and online from Three Chairs Publishing, www.3chairspublishing.com.

Author photo by Christine Chiocchio.

Labor of Love and a New Book

Three Chairs Publishing is pleased to present our newest title:

WAITING OUT THE STORM
Poetry by Jennifer A. Payne
5.5 x 8.5, Paperback, 44 pages
$15.00 (plus tax + shipping)

“Not till we are lost, in other words not till
we have lost the world, do we begin to find
ourselves, and realize where we are
and the infinite extent of our relations.”
— Henry David Thoreau

Poems on death, grief, and gratitude, written from the shoreline of Connecticut and the wide and windswept beaches of Cape Cod. Dedicated to the memory of MaryAnne Siok.

Do You See What I see?

Check out Mark Dion’s New England Cabinet of Marine Debris currently on view at the Florence Griswold Museum.

“Equal parts performance, documentation, and environmental clean-up, Dion and his assistants traversed the New England coast to gather rubbish washed up on the shores. The refuse was cleaned and categorize like cherished relics. The display references the 16th- and 17th-century European Wunderkammer, or cabinets of wonder, which house exotic objects. Dion explains that many of these castoffs are attractive because they were originally designed to appeal to consumers. The bleached and mangled condition of these pollutants generates endless questions about their origins: Where did they come from? How long were they lost? Who did this debris belong to, or, could it have been mine? While these once-new plastics can symbolize a capitalist domination over nature by their artificiality, their patina now suggests nature’s response. What does our treatment of the environment reveal about what our culture values?”

Dion’s work is part of the Florence Griswold Museum’s fascinating exhibit Fragile Earth: The Naturalist Impulse in Contemporary Art. On view through September 8, Fragile Earth features the work of four contemporary artists — Dion, James Prosek, Jennifer Angus, and Courtney Mattison — that reflects the vulnerability of our natural world.

As exhibition curator Jennifer Stettler Parsons, Ph.D. explains: “These artists were selected for the profound message their works convey about environmental conservation. They transform natural and non-traditional materials, like insects and found debris, into art in order to make visible the human role in global climate change, and to reveal how our daily choices may endanger our planet’s future.”

NOW…DO YOU SEE WHAT I SEE? Fifth shelf down, in the tall glass cylinders, second from the right? Flossers!


EXCITING NEWS!

After the exhibit, be sure to pick up copies of Evidence of Flossing: What We Leave Behind and FLOSSING. Both are now on sale at the Florence Griswold Museum Shop!


IMAGE: Mark Dion, New England Cabinet of Marine Debris (Lyme Art Colony), 2019, cabinet; wood, glass, metal, assorted marine debris; plastic, rope, ceramics, 103 1/2 x 50 5/8 x 25 3/8 in. Gift shop photo from the Florence Griswold Museum website.


A Great Good Place

Reposted in honor of National Donut Day

glass-enclosed vestibule
the woman behind the counter
a dozen customers seated

The author paints a portrait
of the me I did not become
there in black and white

there seemed to be a connection
you knew they all knew one another

and me
wondering:
what if I had remained?

Worked my shifts.
Made the donuts.
Married the cowboy.
Had the kids.
Lived that life.

Would it have been
the better or the worse?

Would I?

My finger dogears the page,
as if to say I was here
or remember this
the alternate ending

blurred and obscured
I was drawn to it as if to a dream.

Poem ©2016, Jen Payne, inspired by “A Great Good Place” from A Cape Cod Notebook by Robert Finch.

Celebrate Independent Bookstore Day!

Did you know there are more than 550 independent bookstores in 49 states celebrating Independent Bookstore Day with parties, author readings, in-store events, and exclusive day-of merchandise?

Independent Bookstore Day marks its fifth year of celebrating independent bookstores nationwide on Saturday, April 27th, with literary parties around the country.

The fifth annual National Independent Bookstore Day is sponsored in part by Penguin Random House, Ingram, and The American Booksellers Association. Last year participating bookstores saw an average increase in sales of 200% on Independent Bookstore Day, with some stores up as much as 1000% over their average Saturday sales in April. In just five years, Independent Bookstore Day has become a book-buying holiday, increasing book sales on a national level.

The 2019 IBD author ambassador Tayari Jones says, “Indie stores stock books by hand and sell them the same way. They know what we want and need to read because they know us, as people. A writer is not a machine. A reader is not an app. We are human beings and so are the independent bookstore workers who show up each day and place books in our hands.”

VISIT the 3 CHAIRS ONLINE BOOKSTORE TODAY!

OR LOOK FOR OUR BOOKS…
at the following independent bookstores and local retailers!

CONNECTICUT

Bank Square Books
53 West Main Street
Mystic, CT 06355

Clinton Art Gallery
Poetry Place
20 E Main St
Clinton, CT 06413

Martha Link Walsh Gallery
188 North Main Street
Branford, CT 06405

Rock Garden
17 South Main Street
Branford, CT 06405

The Shop at Guilford Art Center
411 Church Street
Guilford, CT 06437

MASSACHUSETTS

The Brewster Book Store
2648 Main Street
Brewster, MA 02631

Titcomb’s Bookshop
432 MA-6A
East Sandwich, MA 02537


April Is National Poetry Month!

National Poetry Month was inaugurated by the Academy of American Poets in 1996. Over the years, it has become the largest literary celebration in the world with schools, publishers, libraries, booksellers, and poets celebrating poetry’s vital place in our culture. Click here to learn more.

Here at Random Acts of Writing, I’ll be writing a poem a day at part of NaPoWriMo…or attempting to, at least, muse willing. Join me? Or check out these other…

30 Ways to Celebrate National Poetry Month

  1. Request a free copy of the National Poetry Month poster until mid-April; posters can be purchased for $5.00 each in our Poets shop thereafter (while supplies list).
  2. Sign up for Poem-a-Day and read a poem each morning.
  3. Sign up for Teach This Poem, a weekly series for teachers.
  4. Memorize a poem.
  5. Create an anthology of your favorite poems on Poets.org.
  6. Encourage a young person to participate in the Dear Poet project.
  7. Buy a book of poetry from your local bookstore.
  8. Review these concrete examples of how poetry matters in the United States today.
  9. Learn more about poets and poetry events in your state.
  10. Ask your governor or mayor for a proclamation in support of National Poetry Month.
  11. Attend a poetry reading at a local university, bookstore, cafe, or library.
  12. Read a poem at an open mic. It’s a great way to meet other writers in your area and find out about your local poetry writing community.
  13. Start a poetry reading group.
  14. Write an exquisite corpse poem with friends.
  15. Chalk a poem on the sidewalk.
  16. Deepen your daily experience by reading Edward Hirsch’s essay “How to Read a Poem.”
  17. Ask the United States Post Office to issue more stamps celebrating poets.
  18. Celebrate Poem in Your Pocket Day today! The idea is simple: select a poem you love, carry it with you, then share it with coworkers, family, and friends.
  19. Read about different poetic forms.
  20. Read about poems titled “poem.”
  21. Watch a poetry movie.
  22. Subscribe to American Poets magazine or a small press poetry journal.
  23. Watch Rachel Eliza Griffiths’s P.O.P (Poets on Poetry) videos.
  24. Watch or read Carolyn Forche’s talk “Not Persuasion, But Transport: The Poetry of Witness.”
  25. Recreate a poet’s favorite food or drink by following his or her recipe.
  26. Read or listen to Mark Doty’s talk “Tide of Voices: Why Poetry Matters Now.”
  27. Read Allen Ginsberg’s classic essay about Walt Whitman’s “Leaves of Grass.”
  28. Sign up for a poetry class or workshop.
  29. Get ready for Mother’s Day by making a card featuring a line of poetry.
  30. Read the first chapter of Muriel Rukeyer’s inspiring book The Life of Poetry.
Poster and Text from http://www.poets.org. #NaPoWriMo, #PoetryDaily