Ready for more drama? Join us for an encore presentation in Raleigh!

We just learned that The Suicide You Prevent May Be Your Own, one of the 3-minute plays we wrote for the Cary PlaySlam back in April, was selected to be one of four plays performed at the London Bridge Pub in Raleigh  on Saturday!

The play is a comedy-farce that opens when man wanting to order a pizza mistakenly calls a suicide prevention hotline. Saturday’s event will showcase a sample of the work sponsored by the Cary Playwrights Forum as part of the Sparkcon Straight Plays Showcase celebration in Raleigh. We’re delighted that accomplished local actor Sean Wellington (pictured below on the left) will again play the part of Russ, the frustrated sports fan.

suicide1If you love community theater and live theatrical productions, please join us on Saturday, September 17, at 1:35 p.m. at the London Bridge Pub on 110 E. Hargett Street in Raleigh. Hope to see you there!

Buster Gets a Bath, Take 2

THE OLFACTORY VARIATIONS OF BUSTER KEATON FOKKER HOUDINI

Big-hearted-woman-who-
smells-of-mulberries
hides hose behind back
chants Buster-Wuster-Wuster,
That’s a good boy.

Quick, run behind the fish pond,
escape into vinca minor.

Good boy, wilier than Brother-dog,
ensnared by a liver snap,
now trembles in the sun, sweet-sour
moldy melon skink cedar scent
ebbs in lemon foam.

In the shadow of the hemlock
Good boy tilts Fokker-tail-plane ears.
Big heart waters tomato pots, hums
La dee dah, la dee dah dah dah
La dee dah…

Paws over nose luxuriate
in good-boy elixir: dandelions
braided rug mildew
Thursday night ozone
Sunday’s stroganoff
Monday’s muskrat.

Gate slams on good-boy dreams
when Big heart springs from vinca,
tugs collar with gentle firm hands
crabwalks to the sun
no space to bolt; no
Houdini today.

It’ll be okay, she la dee dahs,
pouring lemon on my head
sudsing away my deliciousness
rakes fingers across my ribs
Now doesn’t that feel good?

Bear it, bear it, stone-faced
as my first namesake, quiet too
as lemon stings my eyes, remember
scratch on leg from blackberry vine
before I’m swaddled in lavender
held against Big heart’s chest.

I forgive you, now let me go, go, go
back to the vinca, back to the fishpond
one hundred days of lollygagging
one hundred tussles with Brother-dog
one hundred headbutts with Sister-cat
one hundred nights of fenceless dreams
before I’m good boy again.

~ Ashley Memory
June 17, 2016

buster3

Although Buster is fairly Zen about most things (unlike Brother-dog), judging from his broad smile, I think he’s much happier with Take 2.

So what do you think? Let’s take a poll. Which version do you prefer? Take 1 or Take 2? Comment on this post and we’ll tally the votes.

Buster Gets a Bath: Take 1

One of the things I’m striving for this summer is to write poetry more frequently and to  revel in simple joys. And in this case, bathing a dog. If you’ve ever done it, you know firsthand that the experience certainly evokes all the senses, which means it’s crying out for poetry. Take 1 below.

How to Give Buster a Bath

Don’t bathe Finn first; he’ll see the hose
run behind the fish pond and cower
All nonchalance later, lifts a dry leg
here and there. Maybe you forgot.

No baby talk, no Buster-Wuster-Wuster
He knows it’s his turn, his own scent just right
sour-sweet musk of moldy orange, Sunday’s stroganoff
compost to you, truffles to a dog.

Even in surrender, you’ll crabwalk him by the collar
into the sun where the water won’t sting
rake your knuckles across trembling ribs,
coo, hope, now doesn’t that feel good?

Forget the 15-minute soak to kill the fleas
They’ll be back anyway, so make it quick, squirt
yourself so he’ll see that you can take it too but when it’s over
Swaddle him in lavender, cow-licked heart against yours

Don’t let him go until you feel the square-eyed nutmeg
gaze of forgiveness and watch him run, run, run
freed from a lengthy and undeserved jail term
snout in the air, cry-barking to his own god, Hallelujah.

~ Ashley Memory / June 14, 2016

What do you think? Here’s what the ultimate authority thinks.

Buster1

“First, you give me a bath. And then this! Substandard poetry. Jeez…”

Need I say more? He is NOT happy. So I sent it to my tough-as-nails-got-to-be-cruel-to-be-kind muse Mary, who concurred, echoing Buster’s own thoughts.

“I think this needs to be a Buster-persona poem.  You are translating too many thoughts, emotions, statements that belong to him.  :-)”
M
If anyone can channel a dog, Mary can. It helps that she knows her stuff, too, when it comes to poetry. And this author is inclined to agree. So stay tuned for Take 2. And don’t worry, Buster won’t have to endure another bath.

 

Ashley

Let Paris Surprise You!

Bonjour! Last month I was fortunate enough to travel to Paris for a two-week sojourn (my longest-ever visit) of literary and artistic landmarks. Because my sculptor sweetheart had never been to France, it was a special delight to witness his first viewings of works by artists that inspired him (Praxiteles, Michelangelo, and Rodin, to name a few).

Paris is a lovely city with countless stops of inspiration, from the watering holes of Hemingway and St. Exupery to the cemetery where the reputed heroine of the La Dame Aux Camelias (and the author, Alexandre Dumas, Jr.) now sleeps. It is also legendary for the beauty of its monuments and the vibrancy of its people.

ashley_wilde

The apartment-turned-hotel in Montmartre where the wit and playwright Oscar Wilde lived and died, quipping: “I am dying beyond my means.”

You can indeed die (and live) in style in Paris for there is art and literature everywhere. Yes, there is the Louvre (7 hours is not enough!) and the Comédie-Française, but there is Shakespeare on the subway, artistry in the patisseries (yummy, to boot!), and champagne on the Eiffel Tower.

eiffel_tower

jp_vang-gogh

Gogh Johnny Gogh! Van Gogh, that is. Here he poses in front of the apartment where Van Gogh once lived. 

What surprised us:

  • How seriously the French take their food. Yes. Do not eat in any of the restaurants around here, poo-pooed our host, instead giving us a book with an inscrutable rating system that recommended only 2 restaurants in our neighborhood. It’s okay. The local supermarket was an epicurean delight in itself.
  • How crazy it really is to drive in Paris. Don’t even try it, countless Parisians told us. They were right. We are lucky to be alive. The merging traffic has the right of way. Need I say more?
  • There ARE bathrooms to be found. Just ask! Les toilettes, s’il vous plait?
  • The flea market was worth the trek and the riffraff. First edition of Victor Hugo poems (1830) for just five Euros.
  • Call us picky (in a nation of unlimited bread and cheese) but the French lack true crackers and peanut butter! So if you need a quick snack, don’t expect to find this. They do carry “Skippy” in some stores but it was exorbitantly expensive.
  • The apartment where we stayed had the most curious washing machine. It was actually a combination washer AND dryer. By the time we figured out how to use it, it was time to leave.
  • Friday the 13th is actually considered good luck in France!
  • The recent terrorism attacks were not enough to dampen the enduring joie de vivre of the French people. Maybe it’s the art. Maybe it’s the wine. And maybe it’s just c’est la vie.
abbaye mortemer

As a side trip, we did venture into the countryside of Normandy for a couple of days. We drove by countless charming little towns full of blooming wisteria and stone walls. A highlight was the ruins of Abbaye de Mortemer, which is reputedly the most haunted abbey in France. We didn’t see any ghosts but as we walked among the decaying stone walls on this drizzly day, it wouldn’t have been a surprise if we had!

Fun at the Cary PlaySlam!

On Saturday night, April 2, Johnpaul and I had the pleasure of watching our two original 3-minute plays performed in front of a packed house at the Playslam sponsored by the Cary Playwrights’ Forum and the Cary Theater. With only 15 minutes of practice allowed per play, Johnpaul did a superb job directing the actors—in a dressing room not much bigger than my closet, no less!

While our first play, “Old Habits Die Hard” didn’t score the votes needed to advance to the second round, both actors did a great job with a rather complex script—the story of an accountant running into his former lover (a pickpocket turned mime) in a Philadelphia park. See the picture below featuring actors Sean Wellington and Emily Rose White.

mime1

The good news is that all the plays of the runners-up were still performed, and interestingly, to our delight, our second round play, the dark comedy “The Suicide You Prevent May Be Your Own” appeared to garner a more positive reaction from the crowd. In this play, a probationary suicide prevention hotline operator receives a call from a man who thinks he’s calling a local pizza parlor. See the picture below of Sean and Michelle Corbitt, who portrayed the increasing hysteria of the hotline operator with panache.

suicide1

We met some terrific new people, particularly Thom Haynes, impresario and producer of the night’s event and Sean Wellington, the male lead featured in both of our plays and who magically performed in two more himself. A veteran of this increasingly popular format, Sean’s insights and instincts were invaluable. In addition, two very dear and long-term friends of mine (Sherri Creech Johnson and Peggy Levine) came to support us, and it was wonderful to see them there!

closing1

The experience was golden in terms of lessons learned, which are too countless to list here. (See Johnpaul pictured above, second from the right). The bottom line is that with a dramatic format limited to just  3 minutes, you have to grab your audience quickly and comedy appears to be the shortest route. And in the end, the most memorable plays seem to have a mixture of both pathos and comedy.

Have we given up? Of course not. In fact, we’re more obsessed than ever. What better way to build community than live performances of the human experience? We’re already plotting ahead!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Spring is for Writers

crocus1

Writers can find inspiration in any season, but isn’t there something special about spring? Just like the little purple crocus we found yesterday at Whaletail, which was pushing its way out of a nest of dead leaves, I am feeling a new burst of energy in my writing.

I’m also inspired by the words of others. Dan Gerber, a poet I discovered on Rattle, recently said: “I write poems because it’s my way of paying attention to the life of the worlds in and around me.”

And what better time to pay attention to the world around you than in spring? Particularly the natural world, which provides an endless source of inspiration for poets. And on this note, I just learned that my poem, “A Widow on Chester Street,” earned first place in the Mary Ruffin Poole American Heritage Award Contest sponsored by the N.C. Poetry Society and that recognizes poems of any form, any style, on the theme of American heritage, brotherhood/sisterhood, or nature. The contest this year was judged by the poet Lola Haskins. My poem will be published in the May 2016 edition of Pinesong.

I owe a tremendous debt of gratitude to my friend, muse, and fellow poet, Mary Barnard, who painstakingly advised me throughout the writing and pushed me gently every step of the way. I’m also grateful to my writing group, which continues to provide continuous support, be it encouragement to submit…submit…submit (thank you Michele!),  the occasional writerly field trip, and a sounding board for the good, the bad, and the ugly phases of my own work.

This little network would not have been possible without the foundation provided by the Central Carolina Community College’s Creative Writing Program. Through this unique program, I’ve taken many classes and made countless new friends.And our program is doing some exciting things these days. This spring I’m indulging myself with two treats—a six-week short story class titled “Where Stories Come From” taught by the celebrated writing teacher and author Ruth Moose, and this Saturday I’ll be taking a one-day workshop (with my beloved) on haiku and Japanese water color taught by master poet Tom Dow. Art and poetry—what could be better?

Join Us for the PlaySlam! on 4/2!

cary theater

It’s been an exciting writing year so far, with two poems accepted for publication and a first foray into play writing.

First, my longer narrative poem, “The Murder House at Sweetwater Ridge” was a finalist for the 7th Annual Narrative Poetry Contest sponsored by the Naugatuck River Review and just recently I learned that a second poem “Why I Love Used Books” earned Honorable Mention in the Ron Rash Poetry Competition sponsored by the Broad River Review. Both will be published this spring.

Is it a coincidence that love entered my life at about this same time? I think not. My boyfriend, Johnpaul Harris, who in addition to being an accomplished sculptor, is also a wonderful writer and avid theater aficionado, having acted in Hamlet and other plays while in college and high school. Just for fun, we collaborated on two, three-minute plays for the PlaySlam! sponsored by Cary Playwrights’ Forum.

Our plays were selected from 12 among 38 total entries, and to our delight and great honor, will be performed on April 2 at the Cary Theater. Johnpaul is listed as the primary author and will be directing them because he knows what he’s doing. Audience members will vote on which of the first plays will advance to the second round (and be considered for the grand prize) but all plays will be performed live by local actors.

 

If you love community theater and want to see Johnpaul give his directorial debut, join us on Saturday, April 2, at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are just $12 per person and will go on sale soon. For more information, please see the Facebook page for PlaySlam!

Where Do You Write?

desk

Melville wrote from a bedroom in his Arrowhead home in Pittsfield, MA.

Where do you write? It’s a question that emerges frequently among writers. Next to the imagination, our own personal space is often the most sacred thing we have.

And the answer varies tremendously. Like Herman Melville, Flannery O’Connor wrote from a desk in her bedroom. And although the Mount included a sumptuous library, Edith Wharton wrote from bed, with her little dogs curled up at her feet!

The ultimate introvert, Nathaniel Hawthorne, wrote standing up from a podium in front of a blank wall, eschewing the distractions of the outside world. And although Carl Sandburg’s family ceded a front room with an expansive window to him at Connemara, he, too, preferred a smaller interior room at a desk turned away from the window.

As for me, I have tried numerous locations, including a little study in the front of the house, surrounded by the books of my favorite authors. As you can see from the picture below, however, Huckleberry Finn quickly appropriated this space for his own watch tower. And in spite of his literary name, he and I have very different job descriptions.

finnatwindowdog/dôɡ/: a domesticated carnivorous mammal that typically has a long snout, an acute sense of smell, and a barking, howling, or whining voice. It is widely kept as a pet or for work or field sports, unless that work includes writing.

writer/rahy-ter: 1. a person engaged in writing books, articles, stories, etc., especially as an occupation or profession; an author or journalist. 2) Unlike you are Edith Wharton, a writer’s work space rarely includes a dog.

The same barking and whining that makes our dogs so charming does often, regrettably, interfere with the reflection needed to write. In spite of this fact, many a writer owned a dog (Dickinson, Lord Byron, and Wharton, to name just a few) and these canine friends enrich our lives tremendously. But that is the subject of another post, I am sure.

As for me, I prefer to write at our kitchen table overlooking a north window. Being a bit of a literary hoarder, I find it useful to have plenty of space to spread out notes, reference books, index cards, and the like. I write primarily from my laptop, and I appreciate the occasional glance at the natural world, and the little dark-eyed junco skittering across the fall leaves.

From where I’m sitting, I can hear the comforting hum of the dishwasher or clothes dryer, which reminds me that the “other” work of the day is nearly done. And of course, because writing requires much brain power and therefore frequent sustenance, being close to the pantry is always a good thing.

In addition to having a semi-permanent writing space, I also carry a little notebook wherever I go so that I can scribble notes as the spirit moves me. I’m currently consolidating all of these notebooks, cards, etc., into one bigger notebook so that I can more easily draw connections among assorted scribblings.

What about you? Where do you write?

finn at my feet

Despite our different job descriptions, we always manage to end up in the same space, however.

 

 

Creative Writing Creates Community!

crowd

With nearly 45 attendees, we set a record!

In between all the costumes, readings, nibbles, and door prizes, a theme quickly emerged at the CCCC Creative Writing Program event open mic on Friday: COMMUNITY!  In addition to appearances by favorite local writers and fans, people came from as far away as Lee, Randolph, and Orange counties to read and savor the work of others.

Open Mic 1-23-1529

Robert Baggett, Kristy Baggett, Maggie Zwilling (CWP Program Coordinator) and Al Manning of the N.C. Writers’ Network.

We were delighted to see Kristy Baggett, Director of Personal Enrichment at CCCC, who joined us with her husband Robert. To name just a few, local writers such as Karen Pullen, Al Manning, Mary Barnard Ruth Moose, Ralph Earle, Judith Stanton, Linda Johnson, and Michele Berger also joined us.

logo

Check out our new podium sign! Many thanks to Maggie Zwilling!

Our emcee, founding CWP member, linguist and poet Chris Bouton (pictured above in a snazzy hat), opened the event by reading our newly minted mission statement, which was compiled by our wonderful and talented marketing intern, Sarah Beth Robbins:

“The Central Carolina Community College–Creative Writing Program teaches the craft of writing as an art form, fosters imagination and excellence in writing, and creates a community for writers, whether they are beginners or seasoned veterans. We believe in the beauty and power of good writing and its ability to transform both writers and the world.”

Chris was on the verge introducing the first reader when lo and behold in sashayed none other than Queen Elizabeth I, that legendary patron of Shakespeare and many other poets.

Queen Elizabeth

Susie Whorley, a talented and favorite local actress, brought Good Queen Bess to life again.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fittingly, the Queen transported us back to Elizabethan England, the home of the English sonnet.  She regaled us with a reading of “When I Was Fair and Young” (penned by the Queen herself) and other Elizabethan favorites!

ralph

Ralph Earle, author of The Way the Rain Works, treated us to a new poem, “Blood Moon over Brooklyn.”

Our readers then took their turn at the mike, where we were transported again into the hearts and minds of friends, both new and old. Given the occasion, I shared a piece of my own twisted writing, “The All-Inclusive Vacation for Pessimists.”

The work shared (whether poems, essays, or fiction) was truly global, featuring settings as familiar as Pittsboro and as exotic as Africa. The universal emotions conveyed united us all: joy, laughter, grief, and fear. And this is how community is created.

Chris then closed the event by thanking everyone and drawing three door prizes, which included published samples of several of the local writers.

Scroll down to see more pictures of the event. And if you hadn’t been there, no worries, we’ll be holding another event in the spring. In the meantime, however, you can join our community by enrolling in any of the CWP Spring 2016 Courses, which will be available online soon.

Photographs courtesy of CWP Board Member Mary Barnard, who pulled double duty as photographer AND poet extraordinare! 

Ty

Ty Stumpf, CCCC Director of Humanities and N.C. Poetry Society Board Member, shared three wonderful poems. He is a regular favorite!

kim

Kim Overcash, CCCC faculty member, CWP Committee Member, and local writer, shared a portion of a short story in progress. Think Jayne Mansfield, reinvented as a zomb-shell. (Get it? Bombshell!)

 

Al

Al Manning, who leads the Pittsboro Writers Morning Out, and who represents Chatham/Lee counties for the N.C. Writers’ Network, shared a curmudgeon-y version of “Mary Had a Little Lamb.”

 

 

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Poetry at Lake Junaluska and More!

This weekend I had the pleasure of traveling with my friend and fellow writer Mary Barnard (whom I met through the CCCC Creative Writing Program) to the second annual Your Daily Poem workshop at the tranquil setting of Lake Junaluska.

lake3grave

The hand-carved grave of Squire Boone, next to his wife Sarah and Israel Boone, brother of Daniel.

Poets are known to take little detours so please pardon me for digressing but Mary and I took the scenic route and ended up in Mocksville, which we learned was a boyhood home of Daniel Boone and actually the site of his parents’ graves! (Where is Daniel? The remains of this famous frontiersman are actually in Frankfurt, KY.) One detour led to another and somehow we ended up eating lunch at Maria’s Salvadorean restaurant where we had our first pupusas and taste of horchata. Delicious!

Because the workshop didn’t start until 6 p.m., we decided to go to poet Carl Sandburg’s house in Flat Rock first. This poet, historian, musician, essayist, and novelist spent the last 22 years of his life here. Although I’ve visited numerous literary sites in my time, ironically, it was only now that I ventured to this fabled site in my own home state. And what a treat! Those who know me best know how much I love plundering through the personal possessions of writers!

lake4house

The interior of Sandburg’s beloved Connemara is currently undergoing renovations until 2018; however, there remained enough of a footprint to imagine the daily life of a man once described as the “voice of America.” Yet in spite of his Pulitzers, he rejoiced in the simple things, as evidenced in his poem Happiness. His simplicity is also illustrated by what is not on the property. There still exists a concrete-lined hole in the front yard because once he bought the estate, Carl had the fountain removed because he thought it was too pretentious!

lake2desk

The desk of the poet and his cherished typewriter. His library also contains a table constructed from wood used at the White House during the age of Abraham Lincoln, the subject of his famous biography.

We ended our visit by strolling down to the goat dairy established by Sandberg’s wife Paula. She was a tour de force in her own right, and among other things, a linguist, literature teacher, activist and champion breeder of Nubian and Swiss goats. Bottlefed since birth, the friendly descendants of the Sandburg herd are quite unafraid of humans. And they still win awards for their milk production.

lake5goat

Whoa Nellie, literally, as the goat Nellie charges young Cinnamon to take her place at the feeding trough.

We were a little late for dinner at our workshop, but we were heartily welcomed nonetheless by the poet Jayne Jaudon Ferrer, the creator of this wonderful online poetry community that now boasts  thousands of subscribers.

lake view

Aren’t the best skies a bit moody? The fog in the morning followed us from Sandburg’s home, like you guessed it… little cat feet.

On our first evening, we were treated to the toe-tapping rhythms of Twin Courage, fronted by Rachael Gallman and Jayne’s son Jaron Ferrer. Their music is influenced by the writing of Ray Bradbury and their own affinity for the natural world (“Black Bear” was a favorite of mine!). The two-day workshop (even amidst unexpected Saturday rain) brought fellowship and instruction. The participants, poets across the nation, learned from celebrated writers Richard Allen Taylor, Dana Wildsmith, Phebe Davidson and Joe Mills. We tackled topics such as line length, images, metaphors, and poetic devices, all important tools in the poet’s backpack.

On Saturday night, we enjoyed hearing from our workshop leaders and each other, as we took turns reading from our own work. A highlight was Mary’s poem “Orange,” which magically wove together Halloween and the flight of monarch butterflies.

bumpersticker

Writers came from as far away as Texas, Georgia, South Carolina and even New Hampshire!

Alas, it seemed that Sunday came all too soon and we had to say goodbye to many new friends, but we eagerly traded hugs and email addresses so I hope we’ll stay in touch.

On the way home, we stopped by the mountaintop home of Mary’s friends Lynn and Ben, where we savored a last glimpse of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Here we were treated to Mexican Tabouli Salad, which I’m happy to say is my latest obsession!

Want more poetry? Don’t forget to join us for the October 23 Open Mic reading at CCCC! Here students and members of the public alike will have the opportunity to read from their work for up to 6 minutes.

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