Showing posts with label susan L. Lipson. Show all posts
Showing posts with label susan L. Lipson. Show all posts

Thursday, October 22, 2015

A See-Saw of Words Becomes a Circular Poem



     "The more ____, the less _____," offers a playful, thoughtful see-saw of words on which to balance contradictory concepts. I played with those concepts today, after posting another of my "freeze frame" moment photos on Instagram. A friend recently commented that she enjoys the way I observe the world through photos. I replied that my new photography hobby helps me slow down to notice things, and to dedicate a few sacred moments to conjuring thought-provoking captions. From this conversation, built upon the verbal see-saw, this poem evolved:

Circular Treadmill
By Susan L. Lipson

The more we rush,
The less we observe,
The more we feel unfulfilled,
The less we strive,
The more we stagnate,
The less we grow,
The more we disconnect,
The less we feel we matter,
The more we need to matter,
The less time we seem to have to make our marks,
The more we rush,
The less we observe…


Friday, February 27, 2015

We Need Diverse Books To Enlighten, Not To Enforce Enlightenment

On Diversity in Literature and #WNDB

By Susan L. Lipson



I wish that discussions of the need for diversity in literature (#WNDB, a.k.a. We Need Diverse Books) focused more on realistically presenting the glorious array of humanity in literature than on zealously defying stereotypes. Defiance through diversity implies a defensiveness that ironically gives power to the stereotypes and undermines the very reasons behind the need for the #WNDB movement. I equate this to the use of the word “tolerance” to promote programs of unity among people, while paradoxically suggesting that differences must be “tolerated” (i.e., endured or allowed, implying a superiority of the one who must “tolerate” another). “Respect” is a much more apt term for the encouragement of open-mindedness and social harmony. And “diversity” in literature should encourage and facilitate respect, not enforce tolerance.

Similarly, the inclusion of the term “white privilege” in discussions of diversity in literature only serves as a finger-wagging kind of term to divide—and not even accurately—readers into the following subgroups: white people who have economic, educational, and social privileges and black people who do not. What about the white people who live in poverty—are they still “privileged”? Or the black people who are doctors, lawyers, authors, teachers, scientists, artists, etc.—are they “underprivileged”? Or the white people who are privileged in some aspects, but discriminated against in others—such as religion or sexual identity? Or the black people who are considered “privileged” by the “underprivileged” within their own racial group, and disdained as being “too white”? Or the non-white, non-black people who are left out of the discussion about “privilege” as the social illness that requires the good medicine provided by “diverse books” to heal the world? How can such divisiveness have arisen from a movement designed to grow inclusiveness?

Recently, an online debate I had with another writer about a reference to “white privilege” led to my being questioned about my understanding of “white privilege,” which the other writer defined as “white readers seeing diverse media starring people-of-color as ‘not for me.’” I pointed out that the term “white” in her definition is inadequate, since I teach many Asian students, and I have seen a few hesitate to read books I’ve handed to them that feature black kids as protagonists, whereas I’ve never seen such hesitation about books that feature white kid protagonists. I distinctly remember one such student saying to me, after reading a novel by Sharon Flake, “I never would have picked this up on my own, and I’m really glad you gave it to me. It was really good.” The term “white privilege” clearly is not applicable to a non-white reader who avoids books about “people-of-color” when she herself has brown skin. Also, what is the actual “privilege”—is it a socioeconomic advantage or a na├»ve mindset about the “underprivileged”?


          One of my former students, a privileged black girl with a lawyer and a doctor for parents, who grew up in a predominantly non-black, upper-middle class neighborhood of whites and Asians, once told me that she found it offensive that she, a suburban black girl, had no black characters representing her in literature. I told her that I could relate to that because most of the Jewish kids in books I'd read were nothing like me at all; they showed up in Holocaust stories, or turn-of-the-century immigrant tales, or stories about Orthodox Jewish life, so unlike my own. The absence of people like us in literature is disappointing for us personally, but even more disappointing for the reasons that people unlike us know us only through outdated or stereotypical characters. Diversity must focus on realistic portrayals more than tokenism.

          This exploration of the admirable, yet sometimes flawed #WNDB movement leads me to conclude that diversity in literature is not just about characters representing various races, cultures, religions, sexual identities, or physically challenged lifestyles. It’s not just about publishing books by authors who are “people-of-color” or of nonmainstream lifestyles (however "mainstream" is defined by publishers). But it is about opening our minds and our media to sharing stories about memorable, realistic people from all walks of life, as a means of broadening all readers’ perspectives and making readers not just see themselves in characters, but see themselves in relation to both familiar and unfamiliar characters. Diversity is universalism.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

New Haikued View Sparked by One Memorable Word--Oubliette!


While reading GONE GIRL, by Gillian Flynn, I came across an unfamiliar word that I paused to look up: OUBLIETTE. Images of oubliettes led to poetic verbal images in haikus, and final to this poem, prompted by one memorable word!


Haikued View from an Oubliette
 by S. L. Lipson


Conceived in a room,
We start our lives in darkness
Shackled by a cord.


Concealed in that womb,
Till light fills the oubliette—
  Walls quake and free us.



Contained by no one,
We reach for others, and yet,
Live behind new walls.


Connected by windows,
   Lest despair's fog makes them walls--
A mind's oubliette.

                   
   
Consoled when fresh rain
      Defogs our glass, refracts light,   
                                                                   Refreshes our view.


Reborn throughout life
Climbing walls, we gasp for breath—
For new light each day.


WHAT SINGLE, MEMORABLE WORD HAS INSPIRED YOUR POETRY? Feel free to share one below (and to share my poem with other poetry lovers)!


Monday, June 16, 2014

Prompted by Photos of Abandoned Things...

On Facebook, I discovered a page called "Abandoned," featuring mysterious and/or thought-provoking photographs of abandoned things and places: a cornucopia of writing prompts for me! I just wrote this poem about this photo, and want to share it with you now:



Retired Phone Booths
by S. L. Lipson

The out-crowd rusts together,
around the corner from smirking cell phone towers,
who've made the booths superfluous,
unnecessary for anyone
but the nostalgic,
or the technophobic,
or the Superman wannabes.
Metal huts replaced by
metal rectangles the size of candy bars,
with powers that the booths
never contained.
Like the callers who used to feed them quarters,
the booths, too, have been pushed aside
to make room for Today.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Manners Make Us Memorable

          Manners make us memorable, either as courteous, compassionate folks, or as people who practice acceptable social customs out of obligation and respect for traditions, or even as hypocrites who use politeness to disguise disdain. Here, in poetry, are some thoughts about manners:

Definitely!
by Susan L. Lipson

They agreed that it was fabulous to reconnect after so long,
that they needed to get together--DEFINITELY!
And that old sentiments renewed should be called "resentiment."
They laughed together, then exchanged phone numbers, emails, smiles, and hugs.
She texted her long-lost friend the next day, to say how thrilled she felt to be back in touch.
The text evoked a "ditto" and a smiley face in reply. 
And that reply evoked an invitation to get together,
which remained unanswered for two days, 
before being re-sent, along with the words, "You probably didn't get my text, so…".
A day later she re-sent the text again, and then re-sent a new one,
and finally, "resentiment" became RESENTMENT.
And "definitely" became a lie.



You’re Welcome 
by Susan L. Lipson

You’re welcome—to take your place
below her,
once you’ve finished gushing,
“Thank you so much for your help--thank you!”
and she replies nonchalantly,
“You’re welcome,”
but never, “Thank YOU—
Thanks for asking me.”
No, that would mean
you’re welcome
to bother her again,
and clearly you’re not.
To thank someone for effusive thanks
creates balance,
equates giving and receiving,
and negates power of one over another.
“You’re welcome,” blithely uttered,
implies a privilege granted,
a favor tallied,
and only rarely a follow-up offer
to “feel free to ask again, anytime.”

Sympathy Cards 

She called to ask whether we received her sympathy card,
and whether we knew that she had made a donation in memory
of our dearly departed.
She didn’t ask how we are coping with the loss.
She didn’t even mention my mom-in-law's name,
or any memory of times spent with her.
She was just wondering—“no pressure, of course!”—
since she’d never received a thank-you card.
“But that really doesn’t matter, of course,” she assured me,
“since I’m sure you’ve been so busy since….”
And then she assured me yet again: “You know, dear, that you have
my sincere sympathy, in any case—
card or no card.”

Whose card did she mean?

And why must I thank her for mere sympathy,
which is like a carefully wrapped package of nothing,
without the true gift of Empathy rattling within.

Sympathy is what you SHOW to others; Empathy is what you FEEL for them.
Sympathy is external; Empathy is internal.
Sympathy is a polite action; Empathy is a compassionate one.
Sympathy is expected in polite society; but Empathy is a welcome, cherished surprise.
Sympathy can be expressed by greeting cards; Empathy is only expressed in sincere words and/or hugs.
Sympathy is announced; empathy is understood.
Sympathy shows caring; Empathy creates sharing.
Sympathy is to shine another’s beaten-up shoes; Empathy is to wear those shoes.

Loss is cluttered by the sympathetic shoe-shiners,
But simplified by those who share our burdens,
Leaving us a smaller fraction of grief to bear alone.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

#NationalPoetryMonth 2014--Day 3 of a poem a day...

#NationalPoetryMonth Day 3

MY MOJO

My blind dog
Looks as if he sees,
While sitting and staring at me,
Silently conversing as I rub his neck.
My blind dog 
Seems guided by radar
Until he walks into a piece of furniture, out of place,
Then pivots and reroutes
Like a robotic, self-propelled vacuum cleaner,
Without even so much as a whimper.
My blind dog
Helps me see
How adaptation and positivity
Enable rerouting to roads less traveled.
He is my leader dog.






Friday, February 14, 2014

Words of Love I Remember


In honor of Valentine's Day, I will post the lyrics to the first love song I ever wrote for the love of my life, Barry K. Lipson:

Only This Will Do
by Susan L. Lipson

You are the sun and the rain and the sky;
I know it's cliche, but that's what comes to mind
Whenever I think of you,
Whenever I dream of you.

If I could give you the sparkling stars in the sky,
I'd mix them in a glass of black velvet night
Served on a silver tray--
Champagne to toast the day.

CHORUS:
There are many ways to tell you
How I feel for you;
Many love songs have been written, but…
Only this will do, 
Only this will do.

You are the roots and I am the tree,
So you're always supporting me,
Even when strong winds blow,
Making my branches bow.

If I could give you this wonderful day,
I'd wrap it up in grass and tie it with hay--
A gift of green and gold,
A gift of new and old.

CHORUS

You are the flower and I am the bee,
I give to you and you give to me,
Helping each other grow,
We meet after every snow.

If I could give you a mountain to call all your own,
I'd drape it with flowers like a royal throne,
With the sky as your canopy,
You'd be Nature's royalty.

CHORUS

       
                                      



Tuesday, October 22, 2013

A Political Poem


Broken-Winged Bird
By Susan L. Lipson



The American Eagle struggles to soar,
Because of an imbalance caused by its cracked right wing,
And an uncontrollably vacillating left wing.
Only the steady winds of change,
Blowing upward,
Can uplift the ailing icon through its center,
Enabling it to regain its balance
And to evoke sighs of respect again.
We voted for such winds,
And now we anxiously await the weather reports
For an upsurge.


WHAT IS YOUR INTERPRETATION OF THIS POEM? PLEASE COMMENT BELOW (I'D LOVE TO HEAR FROM YOU).

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Show Your Thanks for Valued Words!


Memorable writing is like tape: it sticks with you and seals the gaps between the writer's and reader's minds.

Have you ever read a book that leaves you believing you KNOW the author? Or a book that makes you WISH you knew her or him? If you met him or her in line at a coffee shop, would you strike up a conversation?



Have you ever considered the favor an author does for you by either distracting, enchanting, enriching, or moving you with memorable words? A favor that certainly deserves a thank you...

Have you ever thought about thanking the author, that so-familiar stranger, that wished-for friend, for connecting with you?

If your answer to any of the above questions is Yes, then I encourage you to write the author a thank-you note via one of his/her social media pages. You'll be surprised how many authors whom you have never met (yet), except via their pages, will answer you. I have heard replies in recent years from some of my favorite well-known authors, such as YA greats Jay Asher, Ellen Hopkins, Sonya Sones, and Jordan Sonnenblick; from MG mentors Wendy Mass, Nikki Grimes, Sharon Flake, and Jennifer J. Stewart; from memorable adult fiction authors Owen Egerton and Lisa Grunwald, and others.

Whom do you plan to thank for a great reading experience? Tell me here in the comments below. Or share a grateful reply that you received in response to such a thank you message.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Writing Words that Stick



Memorable writing is like tape: it sticks with you and seals the gaps between the writer's and reader's minds.


In other words, we write and read to connect with others and establish new memories. If you want to improve the "memorability" of your own writing, start by thinking about images and scenes from books that have stayed with you long after you read them; find and reread some of those memorable words and take notes about what made them stick with you. Then apply what you've noted to a recent page of your own work. Based on your notes, can you see similarities in style that you have emulated, possibly even unconsciously? Do you see how you could enhance your work by incorporating some of your favorite elements from the works you've admired? If you find a passage in your own work that reminds you of a line (or lines) that resonated with you in another writer's work, use that comparison not only to maintain the kind of style that obviously appeals to you, but also to pitch your work to publishers and/or readers as "reminiscent of the style of author ___," which may aid in marketing your story.

For example, during and after reading The Irresistible Henry House, a captivating, witty novel by Lisa Grunwald, I kept thinking about how the style reminded me of John Irving's, and how one editor who read an early draft of my own as-yet-unpublished, humorous middle-grade novel referred to my Fergal McBean: One-Lad Bandt as "like John Irving for kids!" So I decided to compare the opening line of Grunwald's novel with my own opening line about Fergal McBean:

Grunwald's first line: "By the time Henry House was four months old, a copy of his picture was being carried in the pocketbooks of seven different women, each of whom called him her son."

My first line: "When Fergal McBean was born, just outside of Dublin, Ireland, his Ma first gaped, then gasped, and finally grasped the unique beauty of her child."


I immediately smiled to myself at the stylistic similarities in tone, which were entirely accidental, since I just read Henry House's story during the time in which I've been submitting the manuscript for Fergal's tale of fitting in as an outcast-turned-hero. Knowing how much I have enjoyed Grunwald's book, and knowing that my tastes have not changed much since childhood, gives me the idea to consider who, among my favorite MG and YA authors, has essentially the same kind of storytelling style as Grunwald and Irving. I have come up with the following list from my memorable favorites: Roald Dahl, E.B. White, "Lemony Snicket," Sherman Alexie, among others. What they all have in common with the adult books by Irving and Grunwald: a playful style that takes no character's life too seriously; flawed, yet endearing characters whose personalities and desires are revealed via their interactions with others, rather than just by a narrator; lively language, often containing wordplay; humorous juxtaposition of imagery and concepts; the comical downplaying of events (the opposite of hyperbole); and fast-paced, tightly written scenes. With a heightened sense of the stylistic attributes I admire now firmly in mind, I will be able to proceed with the sequel to Fergal's first book with more confidence. An enthusiastic agent to rep the series might help, too....