Friday, July 27, 2018

Pause Politics With Poetry and Songs!

Howdy Campers, & Happy Poetry Friday! (The link to this week's PF host, my poem, and a reminder of our latest book give away are below.) 

Today, we in the TeachingAuthors treehouse begin tackling the topic: If/how the season affects our writing/work plans/schedule.

Hmm. For me, it's not about how the season of summer affects my writing, but how campaign seasons affect it.

photo by April Halprin Wayland 2007
In 2004, Bruce Balan and I co-founded a PAC (political action committee), AIC. Every four years since, we've put aside much of our lives to help make our country kinder and more civilized towards children. After the election, we settle back into our lives to volunteer, to play, to parent, to be a friend, to write and to teach.

That's how it used to be. But after the November 2016 election, AIC members asked us to keep working for our children's futures.

What does this mean for my writing? I still write a poem a day, but now, just 100 days from November 6th,  my books have gone "to the back of the bus." Argh.

But there's good news, too. To combat my fury/fear/foreboding while working for change, I've been reading Alison McGhee's inspiring and poetic blog posts, reading the marvelous book, World Enough & Time: on Creativity and Slowing Down by Christian McEwen (actually listening tothe author narrates it in a soothing voice with an English accent), listening to less news and more music.

Ah, music! As a longtime folk music fan, I've discovered and fallen in love with this anthem to peace by Woody Guthrie, which his son Arlo Guthrie put to music as Woody was dying:

Words by Woody Guthrie, Music by Arlo Guthrie 

My peace my peace is all I’ve got
that I can give to you
My peace is all I ever had
that’s all I ever knew
I give my peace to green and black
to red and white and blue
my peace my peace is all I’ve got
that I can give to you
My peace, my peace is all I’ve got
it's all I've ever known
My peace is worth a thousand times more
than anything I own
I pass my peace around and around
‘cross hands of every hue;
my peace, my peace is all I’ve got
that I can to give to you

I decided to imitate this song for my daily poem. "How hard can it be?" I thought, "It's so dang simple."

So I broke it down to figure out what form Woody used (the letters at the start of each line indicate the rhymes):

A My peace my peace is all I've got
B that I can give to you
C my peace
D xx my peace
A my peace my peace is all I’ve got
B that I can give to you
A My peace, my peace is all I’ve got
F My peace
G xx my peace
A my peace, my peace is all I’ve got
B that I can to give to you

I have a new appreciation of Woody's songs that often sound simple. 

As writer Lillian Ross said: The act of a pro is to make it look easy. Fred Astaire doesn't grunt when he dances to let you know how hard it is. If you're good at it, you leave no fingerprints.'s my imitative poem—still a muddy draft. (originally the last line was in winter, spring and fall  I wrote this note to myself about it: The repeated line does not deserve to be the last line.)

by April Halprin Wayland
This piece, this piece is all I've made
but I must heed its call
this piece has taken all my days
although I know it's small
this piece is gathered from the fields
and from a waterfall
This piece, this piece is all I've made
but I must heed its call
This piece, this piece is all I've made
it's raw, uncivilized
this piece I wrote, then put away
it hadn't crystalized
I'm feeling brave I'll share it now
(if I can read my scrawl)
this piece, this piece is all I've made
but I must heed its call
poem (c)2018 by April Halprin Wayland. All rights reserved.

And so, while fighting the good fight, I am led to listen to, read books by, and try to emulate people who are kind, civilized and articulate.

photo by April Halprin Wayland 2017
And that's how this season has affected my writing.

Thank you for reading this, Campers. And what about you? Do you have looser/different goals in certain seasons, or are you pretty consistent year-round?

And don't forget TeachingAuthors' drawing for a chance to win an autographed copy to HP? WHO'S HE? by Patricia Karwatowicz, which ends August 3rd! Details on Carmela's post.

Thank you, Catherine, for hosting today at Reading To The Core!

posted with hope by April Halprin Wayland with help from Monkey, Eli and everyone who does good work.


Mary Lee said...

I love how you used his song for a mentor text, changing PEACE to PIECE!

Kimberly Hutmacher said...

I love both your poem and Woody Guthrie's. And thank you for taking the time each political season to try to make a real and lasting difference.

JoAnn Early Macken said...

Thank you for the Guthrie song, your poem, and the work you continue to do, April. We need all the kindness & peace we can find these days!

Linda B said...

Clever you are, along with Woody. I love the switch of "peace" to "piece" too, and this "I'm feeling brave I'll share it now/(if I can read my scrawl)" April. I saw Woody in concert long ago, a favorite memory. He used words and music for everyone's benefit, and it helped! Wishing you a best political time from now till November!

Catherine Flynn said...

What a rich and inspiring post, April! The Guthries do "pass [their] peace around and around through this song, which is deceptively simple. Love your clever poem and word play! Thank you for sharing the book recommendation, and for fighting the good fight!

Tabatha said...

Making the world kinder and more civilized for children is worth whatever time it takes, isn't it? Thank you, April <3 I liked what you had to say about experts making their work look deceptively effortless. A lot of work went into their expertise!

April Halprin Wayland said...

Kimberly ~ Thank you. I don't think I could live with myself if I didn't try.

JoAnn ~ thank you for the good work YOU do. You're one of my inspirations.

Linda ~ gasp! ~ you saw Woody IN CONCERT?!?!? May I touch your hand? One of my favorite performances was Arlo & family's open air concert in Yosemite. Arlo made sure we filled the valley with song that star spangled night.

Thank you, Catherine. That book is for writers and writing teachers. Stunning.

Tabatha ~ I know. It's like my dad teaching me to drive so that the passengers don't feel me stopping or accelerating. (That was his goal...I still haven't achieved it!)

April Halprin Wayland said...

Mary Lee ~ I forgot that term...mentor text. Thanks!

Sally Murphy said...

What a wonderful use of a mentor text. A clever piece indeed!
And thank you for what you are doing to spread peace in the lives of children.

Margaret Simon said...

I recently worked with a song to write a poem and you are so right. It's harder than it looks. I love how you changed peace to piece to relate to that feeling of not getting any worthy writing done. Good luck on your quest to change the world. I'm doing what I can in my small corner but the news is shocking every day. Peace!

Ruth said...

It's so hard to hold on to peace these days! Thanks for the post.

Molly Hogan said...

Thanks for sharing the wonderful mentor text/song and your writing process. Thank you also for all you are doing to spread peace and kindness.

Linda said...

I love both the mentor poem and your poem. Both touched my heart. YOU are making a difference!

Michelle Kogan said...

Thanks for this inspiring Peace filled post April, what a soul-filled song Arlo Guthrie sings!, and rich poetry by you!