The Poet’s Craft Blog

Our Masks/Ourselves: The Men of City Gospel Mission

Earlier this month, writer and teacher Annette Januzzi Wick offered me the privilege of writing with the men of City Gospel Mission who are part of her “Journey in Words” program. Formerly located in Annette’s neighborhood of Over the Rhine, it is now located around Crosley Field’s Home Plate, and is home to men seeking the spiritual, emotional, mental and physical skills and resources needed to achieve life transformation.

Our Masks/Ourselves
City Gospel Mission, March 2017

My mask sees lots of troubles, fences, mountains, thunderclouds.
I don’t want people to know my troubles or to burden them.
When you see my mask, you see what I want you to see.
Underneath there are mixed emotions:
creative, humble, impatient.
I need a girlfriend. I hate being alone.
My mask became my face because I wore it for so long.
A lie is a modified person.
I was wearing a mask of my lie.
When you see my mask you see what I want you to see.
A mask allows me to be seen,
and to give others the grace to be seen through
a lens of acceptability,
of respectability, of positivity.
We all want to be seen as we wish to be.
On rare occasions, I allow it to slip off—
somewhat confused, tentative, and unsure;
somewhat bold, funny, truthful.
Hurting, anxious, joyful, lonely, optimistic
Without my mask, you see a person that’s happy.
But I’m not because I’m not where I want to be right now.
The amount you see of me depends on who you are to me.
Without my mask I feel alone and vulnerable and unprotected. Too nice.
I feel most comfortable when I wear my mask.
When I remove my mask I am scared of the real world,
about responsibility,
about being sober and alone.
When you see my mask you don’t see the inner gears
of my constant worry, clicking, clacking,
wondering, adjusting, seeking.
When you see my mask you see a cover for comfort.
My mask sees loneliness,
struggle in the world.
My mask sees people who need me to be strong.
Without my mask I see predators.
As time goes on I choose my masks.
Who are they helping, me or others?
Don’t wear a mask.
Be who God has called you to be
and leave the results up to him.
I finally realized I didn’t need to be something I’m not.
It’s tiresome.
Without my mask I see a world
that wants to hold me, give me comfort.
I want to know “Me,”
to like what I see in the mirror now.
I know it’s my choice and I choose to be me,
clean and sober.

By participants in Annette Januzzi Wick’s City Gospel Mission Writing Group, March 2017.
Compiled by Cincinnati Poet Laureate Pauletta Hansel

Some Mask Pictures

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What’s in a Name? Writing with Cincinnati State

Poetry Month began early for the fine folks at Cincinnati State Technical and Community College. Professor Geoffrey Woolf extended the kind invitation to me to help get students, staff and faculty warmed up for their first annual Poetry Month Celebration by leading a writing workshop, “Writing our Lives.” Here’s what we came up with!

Our Names

In my name, infinite notions live.
I was born named Ngaame
but I prefer to be called yellow
because I love bright colors.
Flashy, sequined, and unapologetic.
If my name was a scene it
would be a multitude of colors,
existing in a sunrise over the ocean.
My name was Ross until I goofed
and was born female.
I was named Ashley to end a fight
with someone who didn’t stay to raise me
Raymond was not me,
it was the other
who existed only on paper.
Stuck with the syllables
of a language that doesn’t match,
they gave me an “e” instead of an “a”
so I’m left wondering if I’m ever “e”nough.
Now I walk with rage running amok,
and the destruction is ever growing.
It is the spectacle marveled at, teased,
tossed in the corner where the weird names hide.
Never daring to say them aloud—
Margarette, Maura, Michael, Martin.
The statement is one in the same.
I exist, but not in name.
I am digging to find myself again.

My name used to be daughter,
beloved girl.
Now I am Mom,
earned from twice giving birth,
a name honored by a dirty oven and sticky floor,
or “Mrs. J.”, a cherished name,
reflecting my passion, teaching.
Celebrations change to honor the presence
of those who laugh to go on living,
reminiscing on past encounters
and life’s dream.

I knew I’d be different
once I learned my own name.
My name is loyalty.
Who could want more?
My name will make you rip your heart out
and serve it to me on a golden platter.
Don’t worry, I keep Band-Aids in my wallet.
Laugh. You have a powerful name.

My name did not make me, I made my name.
My name is no one else but myself,
enabling me to view life with such simplicity.
I will not have it any other way.
Hear me, see me, know me
and you will never forget my name.

By students, staff and faculty of Cincinnati State’s “Writing Our Lives” workshop, March 15, 2017. Compiled by Cincinnati Poet Laureate Pauletta Hansel

Other activities are a student poetry contest and a reading series to take place at noon on April Wednesdays:
4/5 Cincinnati Poet Laureate Pauletta Hansel, Desirae Hosley (AKA “The Silent Poet”) and contest winners
4/12 Ralph La Charity, Robert Murphy and contest honorable mentions
4/19 Elese Daniel, Scott Holzman and contest honorable mentions

For more information visit the Facebook page, Poetry Month at Cincinnati State

Cincinnati Poetry Month Publishing Opportunities

I am looking forward to my first full Poetry Month as Cincinnati Poet Laureate. That’s April, by the way! I am writing now to invite you to prepare for the month with me in two ways:

1. I am asking for your input into a composite poem. The Cincinnati Public Library’s Poetry in the Garden Series (Tuesday evenings in April) has asked me to speak at their opening reading on April 4, but I’d rather make a poem than a speech, so I am again inviting poets to send me a poetic line or two, this time on the state of literary arts in Cincinnati which I will weave together into a poem carrying our varied perspectives. (See an example of a past composite poem here: Cincinnati: The State of Us, 2016

Please send your line on the state of literary arts in Cincinnati to Poet.Laureate@cincinnati-oh.gov  by March 15, 2017. Please include the words “poetic line” in the subject of the email.

2. During the month of April, I will post a poem a day by Cincinnati area poets on my blog and share it to the Poet Laureate Facebook page. These can be previously published poems (including a link to any online publication) or unpublished poems.

Please send a poem for consideration to Poet.Laureate@cincinnati-oh.gov  by March 15, 2017.

I will accept as many of these as the days of the month will allow, and hope to invite a few poets to read their poems with me at a Poetry Month Reading during the latter part of April. (More on this later.)

Submission guidelines for the Poetry Month Poems:
1. One poem in a text document attachment. (Not a PDF or photo of the poem, and not just the poem in the email or you will lose your formatting and make me cranky.)
2. Your name, email address and neighborhood/community within the body of the document. (Not just in the email; see cranky, above.)
3. Please include the words “Poetry Month Poem” in the subject of the email.
4. If the poem has been published online you may also include a link to the poem online (for example, a link to the poem on your blog or an online journal) in the text document.
5. If the poem is previously published, put any credits you want me to share underneath the poem

Possibly Asked Questions (PAQs)

1. If you think you live in the Cincinnati area, you probably do.
2. If you used to live in the Cincinnati area, and the poem is somehow related to the region, I’m good with that.
3. If your poem is unpublished, be aware that many journals will consider the poems I have posted as previously published, and thus won’t consider that poem for publication.
4. I will be conscious of a general audience for these poems—age, sensitivity to language and content, etc., and so please take this into consideration as you submit.
5. I won’t print your email address, and if you don’t want your full name printed, please say so in the body of the text document (Not just in the email.)
6. Yes, send me one poem only, please.
7. I will reply to all, but won’t be able to give feedback on poems, chosen or not.
8. Feel free to share this announcement with other Cincinnati area poets.

But wait, there’s more!
While I have you, a quick reminder to post all your literary events, Poetry Month or otherwise, on the Poet Laureate of Cincinnati Facebook Events Page. If you are not yet a member of the group just ask (on the page) to be added. If you are not on Facebook, you can ask a friend to post it for you.

And that April 4 Poetry in the Garden reading at the Public Library will feature winners of their annual poetry contest. February 28 is the deadline for online submissions to this contest (which is unrelated to my two invitations above!)

I’m looking forward to reading your words.

Girl Villanelle, poem by Pauletta Hansel (ME, AT 17 Poetry and Prose Series)

Thank you to Silver Birch Press for including this poem in their cool “Me at 17” Project~

Silver Birch Press

pauletta-with-windy-hair-at-17aGirl Villanelle
by Pauletta Hansel

She’s still there, that girl,
the one I was and hoped to leave behind.
I am forever loosening the ties.

The only life she could imagine for herself
was one she’d heard already in a song.
She’s still there. That girl

took more than her share and left scattered
on the table all that could have fed her.
Hell-bent, she was, on loosening the ties.

I am not ready yet to claim her as my own.
She thought her body was the price of being seen.
She’s still there, that girl,

bound and shivering inside her own smooth skin.
I’ll say for her what she could not; that’s how
I’m loosening the ties

and slipping through the doorway
from the past—I won’t return alive.
Though she’s still there, that girl.
Me, I’m loosening the ties.

SOURCE: “Girl Villanelle” appears  in the author’s collection Tangle (Dos…

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Walnut Hills: And That’s Our Story

Last week I spent time with some amazing people from Walnut Hills–without ever leaving my Paddock Hills home. Cincy Stories is one of our newer local arts treasures. They offer opportunities for folks to tell their stories around Cincinnati, and last summer opened a storefront in Walnut Hills. (I got to visit Shawn Braley, John William and Chris Ashwell there earlier in the month, and sure enough, a guy came in on his way home and said, “Do I have a story for you!”)

Cincy Stories also has a really cool website which not only announces their storytelling events, but includes the audio of many stories they have  collected, both in their home neighborhood of Walnut Hills and from some of their live events.

So, that’s where I come in. Last week, I spent a lovely afternoon on the chaise lounge in my office listening to Walnut Hills stories and writing down quotes that stood out to me. And then (as I am wont to do) I made a poem from those lines. I like the poem well enough, but really, you need to hear the stories.  I encourage you to check out the Street Stories section of their website and listen for yourself. (I don’t like to play favorites, but I cried when I came to the end of Cecil Evans’ story and saw it was dedicated to his memory.)

Cincy Stories has a live event coming up on February 7 at MOTR Pub.  I hope to see you there–and/or telling your own story at a future Cincy Stories event.

Here’s the poem. I hope you enjoy it!

And That’s Our Story

As a little kid I was always planting seeds.
Just to be growing things—
what a miraculous activity to be involved in.
Walnut Hills is a proud neighborhood.
We just want to add to that.
The problem is, we don’t know each other.
It’s harder to say, how can I be here for you,
how can I help lift you up?
When you have a passion for something
it makes it a lot easier to do it.
Your passion should drive you to address the issue,
not walk away from it.
Over time Walnut Hills has become a part of me.
I’m having a good time.
We have a lot of talent here.
My hope is not to see that lost.
People talk about what we don’t have—
but I like to talk about what we do have.
I know a lot about this area, and it’s looking great.
My million dollar question is,
do the people living here feel like the change is for them?
You see, there’s maybe something you can do to help.
Just listen to people, that’s all you can do.

If the earth makes everything, doesn’t it make your character?
My Dad, bless his heart, knew that environment was important to children.
It’s easier to get in trouble; it’s harder to get out.
He gave me a chance.
One of the things a lot of people don’t have growing up
is two parents pouring into them,
telling them what you can do,
what you can achieve.
You have to take a “till death do you part”
vow to your children.
It’s about how to help your children
be the best parents they can be.
My mother is the one who got me off into who I am today.
I don’t deserve it, but for whatever reason, I got it.
I just want to share it with other people.
Don’t ever let no one tell you what you can’t do.

One word I like to use is gritty.
I’m just like a little pebble—big as the world is,
I’m just a little bitty spot.
I know it’s not possible to see the end
of every road you start down.
You never know how life’s gonna go.
But you can make contact with one another
in a way to change a person’s whole life.
We all live in community together
and we all get to do life together,
and that’s what makes it home.
If you stay true to what you love,
it stays there.
You put a seed in the ground
and within that seed is all the information
it needs to grow.

Composed from Cincy Stories’ Walnut Hills Street Stories
by Cincinnati Poet Laureate Pauletta Hansel

Downtown Walking Sonnets

In October 2016 The Mercantile Library graciously hosted a group of us for a Cincinnati Walking Sonnet workshop—a new Poet Laureate project in which I invite poets to take a walk (with or without me) in one of our 52 neighborhoods, drafting a 14 line poem along the way. Seven sonnets were written as a result, and can be read here. From our seven poems I created an additional sonnet, Downtown Walking: A CompoSonnet. I hope you enjoy! And more than that, I hope it inspires you to write your own!

Downtown Walking: A CompoSonnet

Pink. That’s how I remember the windowed
stores with names of Cincinnati now gone,
with their long, tall windows, like a lighthouse.
Large clay pots of yellow marigolds grace
up the wrought iron balconies. Four ashen
Bengal striped soirées stumble through construction,
flirt with me, remind me of girlhood days.
My fountain is flowing thick with intentions.
Turn the corner to find the Renaissance –
the river beyond. My shadow lurks
in a grove of gingkoes along the highway,
their long skeletal fingers beseeching
for spare change. I balk, clam up, walk back past
pink bridge over the arcade – memory.
Composed by Pauletta Hansel with lines by Pauletta Hansel, Nina Knueve, Preeti Parikh and Susan Scardina. Read the full sonnets here.

I look forward to walking and writing with students from Moeller High School and Clark Montessori High School later this year. A full description of the Cincinnati Walking Sonnet Project can be found here, as well links to instructions for the sonnet walk and to an ever-growing group of poems written on these walks.

A New Year of Literary Events (Part 1)

Happy New Year to you, my Writer Friends. There are a number of literary events in January I want to share with you, plus ask you for ideas on Poetry Month activities I might support as Cincinnati’s Poet Laureate.

First the events:

I am thrilled to have been invited back to Tongue and Groove on Sunday, January 22, 5-8 pm at the Clifton House B&B. This quarterly Salon of music, literature, food and other arts is a gem of an event. I encourage you to check it out!

jan-2017-tongue-and-groove-invite

Clifton Salon #2 is Sunset Salons: Authors held the following Wednesday, January 25, at the Clifton Cultural Arts Center.  This Poet Laureate gig has brought me into some pretty interesting company. It will be fun talking about the writing life alongside journalists, novelists, a young adult writer—and even a politician!

Finally, I am always happy to go back to Thomas More College and work with my buddy Dick Hague. (Joined on Friday by our friends Mike Henson and Gerry Grubbs.)17aca_cwvp_dosmadres2

The Saturday, January 28 workshop should be a great time for writing in community with a mix of ages—TMC’s Honors Students will be joining us—hope you can come too! Rgistration info here.

And lastly in January—I’m aiming in 2017 to attend at least two literary events each month as audience/participant only. More if I can! In January, my two events are Chase Public’s The Star Spangled Banner: Chase Public Response Project XVIII on Thursday, January 19, 7 pm https://www.facebook.com/events/187472551724671/ and the Master Class with Poet Denise Duhamel on January 25, 2017; 4:00 p.m. at University of Cincinnati’s Elliston Poetry Room, 646 Langsam Library http://www.artsci.uc.edu/departments/creative_writing/visiting_writers_series.html Join me! (As always, these and other events are posted on the Poet Laureate Events Facebook Group page—with your help!)

Looking beyond January, the Thomas More College reading and workshop is part of a series offered by Dos Madres Press in celebration of its new anthology, Realms of the Mothers, supported with funding from the Ohio Arts Council and ArtsWave. I’m also attaching the complete line-up of events. Save the dates! And I do have one opening in my Practice of Poetry workshop (women only). https://paulettahansel.wordpress.com/programs/practice-of-poetry/. I believe that Memoir https://paulettahansel.wordpress.com/programs/practice-of-memoir/ is full, but let me know if you are interested as I am confirming the last spot now. And we’ll start promoting From Draft to Craft soon if you want to call dibs. https://paulettahansel.wordpress.com/programs/draft-to-craft/

Now for Poetry Month planning. I’m in the early stages of conversation with a couple of organizations, specifically The Hive in Northside and Cincinnati State Technical and Community College, about how I might support their programming. I know there are a number of other planned events—including the Public Library’s Poetry in the Garden Series. What else would you like to see happen—and how might we work together to, in the words of Jean Luc Picard, “Make it so”? And chime in on this as well: I’d like to post a poem by a Cincinnati area writer each day in April on the Poet Laureate Facebook page. These could be links to published poems or unpublished poems individual poets give permission to post. I would send out a call late February or March as to have enough to work with. What do you think? Please let me hear from you!

Yours,

Pauletta Hansel (Cincinnati Poet Laureate)