Tag Archives: Poetry

On Turning Fifty-One By Glenis Redmond

What a treat for oops50 to have Glenis Redmond (poet – teaching artist – imagination activist) write a post for us.  We’ve  been secretly waiting for Glenis to turn 50, and before we knew it, she turned 51.

Glenis Redmond
Glenis Redmond

Who’s counting? Obviously the world is and everyday it speaks with many mouths and many television and internet eyes that reflect the many ways that I will never measure up.

When I am out of sync with myself and not aligned to my own stars, I take this projection personally.  I listen to the critique and the opinions of the vapid.  I down the chatter like greasy fast food. The poison enters my bloodstream and spreads so I don’t know where I begin and the toxicity ends.

This is when I fall prey to counting the ways that I don’t measure up: the number of crow’s feet around my eyes, the pounds on the scale, the dollars I have or do not have in the bank and my lovers or lack thereof.

I know better than to succumb to this useless counting of what is wrong, but I always adopt a myopic vision that is destructive to my spiritual and creative being.  When I am in my holistic mindset I only count what’s right.  So here is my list of what I know to be true on turning fifty-one.

  1. Drinking tea makes me a better woman. The power is in the sipping of: Egyptian Mint, Ginger or Green Tea.  The healing is in the slowing down to savor the moment.  When I take time to drink a cup of tea at home or in my hotel room before I start my day of work. This mark indicates that I am on my mark. This ritual fills my gauge to full.
  2. Fortunately and unfortunately I am not always on my mark. I don’t always stop to drink tea. I rush and get ahead of myself, because I am both a Dreamer & a Doer
  3. The doer sometimes dominates the dreamer-poet.
  4. The pros? I get things done.
  5. Check the map and my odometer that teeters close to 350,000-miles.
  6. I have performed and facilitated poetry workshops in every state except Alaska, Maine, North Dakota, South Dakota, Utah and Idaho.
  7. Travel does not always allow for my roots to sink deep.
  8. I yearn for deepness:
  9. South Carolina, my birthplace
  10. I am from South Carolina, but not totally of South Carolina.
  11. My family’s military trek made sure of that.
  12. This makes me a seeker. I cross over man-made boundaries on the regular. Traveling is part of my vibration.  I am served and fed well by crossing regional and cultural boundaries.
  13. Collecting both rocks and stories ground me.
  14. I always come back to my roots: South Carolina
  15. The cons of my traveling? My mind races too. I rarely slow down.
  16. My body is having its say by forcing me to slow down.
  17. I have Adrenal Fatigue bordering on Adrenal Failure.
  18. I do not sleep. I do not rest.
  19. I often feel like a stranger.
  20. I’m Bi-Carolinian.
  21. North Carolina is where I gained my poetic wings.
  22. There’s no Tiger or Tarheel in me. Ironically, orange and Carolina blue are my two favorite colors.
  23. I wish I cared who was in the playoffs. I just don’t.
  24. I was a cheerleader in high school and I did not care then about the sport on the field or court, I just loved being with the crowd: dancing and cutting flips feeling the high vibrations of people’s spirits.
  25. I’m still a cheerleader. I’m an imagination activist. I help people to unlock their imaginations.  We talk of what matters.  Then, I tell them to write.
  26. I found that when I was twelve what mattered to me:
  27. I find solace and comradeship in good books – stories of overcoming. People who have traveled to their inner space and written about it: Zora Neal Hurston, Frida Kahlo, Maya Angelou, Wangari Maathai and many more — generally stories of women. I study on how they have traveled this rugged terrain.
  28. There’s struggle to being a woman.
  29. I overcome those obstacles daily. What woman doesn’t?
  30. I was born a feminist – womanist, yet I’m a lover of men unapologetically. I do not see the two as mutually exclusive. I love being a woman.
  31. My mom is my best friend. Politically and religiously we are of two different ilks, but we have similar cores: Love!  She is my touchstone.
  32. My mama bought me an orange bike with turquoise rims for my 51st She gets me if not left of centered views. She says, “ride Glenis.”
  33. The color orange in all its incarnations gives me life.
  34. I’m a pacifist at all cost, yet I do not suffer fools lightly. I get this from my dad: Johnny C. Redmond
  35. I am a weeper, but a warrior.
  36. I was born into poverty.
  37. I stand for the underdog. I was the underdog.
  38. I still sometimes have an impoverished mindset.
  39. Therefore, but by the grace of God go I.
  40. I am not defined by my challenges.
  41. My spirit radiates all colors.
  42. I’m spirit-rich.
  43. I’m a traveler
  44. Places I want to travel: Cameroon, Nigeria, Bahia, Ireland, Scotland, Wales and the English countryside.
  45. I’m Afro-Carolinian. I love to dance: tribal, interpretative and funk.
  46. It is my prayer – the way I talk with God.
  47. I love to walk. I work out my worries with each step.
  48. I don’t consider myself old, just an old soul.
  49. YOLO rolls off the tongue (You Only Live Once) not mine, because I have been here before many times. I recognize lands and people from other eras.
  50. I was an old soul when I was born, therefore turning fifty-one does not faze me. Yes, getting older has its challenges, but also being a person diagnosed with fibromyalgia at twenty-nine years does, too. Everyday I get out of bed is a challenge, yet it is also a victory.
  51. My daughters, Amber and Celeste, are the most precious metal of my inner circle. They make the bright ring in my life glow with pride and joy. Now my grandson has joined this golden lineage. Oh yeah, I write poems. Here is my latest poem for my grandson.  Julian teaches me everyday how to meditate on goodness and not on the standards by which the world measures me and finds me lacking.  He has been here before and he is wise.  I listen. Like tea, love makes me a better woman.  Here is the poem I wrote for my grandson.

 

Glenis and twin daughters Amber & Celeste
Glenis and twin daughters Amber & Celeste

 

Grandma Waterfall for Julian Josiah Priester      

My status has been upgraded
from mom to grandma–
who knew the heart morphed
into more?
I should have known the moment,
when my heart shape shifted,
when I gave birth to twins
two decades and five years ago:
from stream into raging river,
from the weakest trickle into a force of nature.glenisGrandmawaterfall

There’s no parent handbook
that foretold of the more I would become.
I looked into my inner pond
and I could see I had become more alive with giving.
I wanted to stay on earth
with the territory of my heart expanded –
pushing west with poetry and purpose:
the frontier of becoming mama
packing lunches and endless carpools
to school and soccer,
tucking babies into bed
and growing girls into beautiful women –
artists people with pen and brush
ready to right the world.

Now, to you the first son of our family
you have made me grand
the only royalty I will ever know:
a grand waterfall unable to contain what I hold.

A treasure : Julian Josiah
10 fingers: starlit
10 two toes: eager squiggles
cheeks: squishy pockets

earned you the nickname: The chipmunk gnome.
Your eyes: lit with the deepest shine, déjà vu remembrance.
Your birth weight: 9 lbs. 3 oz.
You’ll carry what’s been passed on: the walk of the ancestors.
This legacy also a burden,
but your legs will be sturdy
and worthy of the task
like Yusef Komunyakaa writes:
You were born
to wear out at least
one hundred angels.
Like Maya Angelou penned
You come as one but stand as ten thousand.
You will carry this load with wisdom
and an undeterred stride.

Julian, all is possible with you.
Unflinchingly I will sing
of the more I want to give you
what John Lennon dreamed
imagine there’s not countries
it is not hard to do
nothing to kill or die for…
Imagine all the people living life as one.

Julian I am a dreamer
it is all that have: the gift of my imagination.
Pour into these waters little boy
brother, son and grandson of the Universe
flow into this world
with dreams better
than the one I/WE are
handing to you.

I am here as Grandma Waterfall
also an eagle watching over you
with the lesson of water ever ready
gently guiding you to find your own flow
from black boy to black man
like Langston Hughes wrote,
I hope you’ll dream a world
where love will bless the earth,
because you are part of that blessing
lighting the world with the brilliance
of what you came to do.

If you’ve never had the pleasure of experiencing Glenis in person, catch her at TEDxGreenville or visit her blog.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Oop50: In Praise of Poetry

JANE

I’ve been thinking about poetry—and how it can change your life or at least change the way you view your life.  What got me started thinking about this today was remembering a story that my sister told me years ago about a teacher of hers in Germany, a man who, during World War II, was forced to spend years in a hard labor camp.  He told her class that one of the things that kept him sane in that horrible situation was reciting to himself all the poems he had memorized as a child in school.  That story has stayed with me through the years—and made me want to memorize poems whenever I could.  (It was always in my thoughts when I was raising kids, making me worry about how seldom they had memorization assignments.  Memorizing poetry seems to be a lost art, except in poetry slams!)

But thinking about that story today also made me think about the poems I have in my head that have carried me through difficult times and wonderful times.  There is, for instance, W. H. Auden’s“In Memory of W.B. Yeats,”  which helped me deal with the death of a beloved high school English teacher with such lines as, “What instruments we have agree /The day of his death was a dark, cold day”, and “Earth, receive an honored guest: / William Yeats is laid to rest. / Let the Irish vessel lie /Emptied of its poetry.”

W. H. Auden

Or there is Anne Sexton’s “The Fortress,” whose lines kept coming back to me when my children were little:  “Child,/ what are you wishing?  What pact/are you making?/ What mouse runs between your eyes?  What ark/can I fill for you when the world goes wild?”

Louis MacNeice

Or there is Louis MacNeice’s incredible long poem, “Autumn Journal,” which I could never hope to memorize, but parts of which have come as close as anything to shaping my philosophy of life, such as this one:  “None of our hearts are pure, we always have mixed motives. / Are self deceivers, but the worst of all /Deceits is to murmur ‘Lord, I am not worthy’/ And, lying easy, turn your face to the wall.”

Anne Sexton

Nowadays, as I feel myself getting older in body but trying to stay young in spirit, I find myself turning more and more to e.e. cummings’ wonderful “you shall above all things be glad and young,” with those incredible last lines:  “I’d rather learn from one bird how to sing/than teach ten thousand stars how not to dance.”

e.e.cummings

I’d love to hear from you readers about poems that have meant something to you.