Friday, January 30, 2015

Here is the poem I read last week at the Coogler Festival in Blythewood, South Carolina. Taken from my coming book from eLectio Publishing, "Poems of Times and Places, Reflected", it is more whimsical that most of what I write. About ten years ago while riding the Linie 1 in W├╝rzburg, Germany, I saw someone who reminded me of Emma, with someone whom I assumed was her daughter. Five years later, the muse visited me.
     I autographed the copy from which I read and presented to my friend who helped me arrange the reading. 

Thinking I Saw Emma Thompson on the Number 1

On a crowded tram on late afternoon
Our eyes met in a fleeting glance.
My shopping all done, my stop coming soon,
We connected completely by chance.

Hidden by those standing around, her eyes
Shining from a flawless face, framed by hair
Curling, covering her ears, a surprise
With daughter- not Gaia!- standing there.

What brings you, lovely Emma, to me now?
This day as the city slides into Spring?
Has she been looking for me since Sanderau?
Or merely her mirage, with no joy to bring?

Arthur Turfa, © 2010

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

A ballad with a bit of everything!

     Martin Carthy's career in folk music is nothing short of phenomenal. Between his stints with Steeleye Span, the Albion Band, Waterson-Carthy (with wife and daughter) and his solo work, he has left his mark on music.
     I came across this ballad when teaching English IV, "Brit Lit" and used it for a time. The ballad has murder, hidden gender and identity, magical elements, voices from beyond, revenge, justice, and true love. All in about ten minutes!
     Enjoy the vocal, the guitar artistry, and most of all, the story!

Saturday, January 24, 2015

How do Poems Happen?

Each one is unique. Once in a while I dream them. At other times they come quickly, but this time it takes some reflecting. I have been wanting to write about Savannah since we came back a month ago. Since I was challenged to participate in the 15 Words a Day, I decided to string a few days' writing together.

Here is the result. I received a lot of good feedback, and will rewrite this in a different form. Wordsworth defined poetry as "emotion recollected in tranquility," and not, I hasten to add, "words spewed over paper or a word document about why your feelings within semblance of coherence". 

Whenever I have something, I will run it buy a few good friends and see what they say. 

Pastel-colored houses
cluster around squares
in the planned city.
Under the streets are graves.

Cemeteries cannot contain
them; in masses they are cast
below, the city expanding above them.

Close to the strand
pirates smuggle contraband
on the periphery
of the well-planned colony.

Money from plantations
and harbors pouring into
impressive homes.
Beautiful facades masking
madness, scandal within.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Perfect Song for MLK Day

     Jesse Colin Young is an excellent songwriter, so I was shocked to learn that he did not write the Youngbloods' "hit", "Get Together". That honor goes to Chet Powers, better known as Dino Valenti, more famous for his time with Quicksilver Messenger Service. Life is certainly full of surprises!

     Some half-century after it was written (the song went through a few title changes and versions), the message may seem trite, but the motivation behind it is definitely anything but that. If we stopped looking at people as enemies, adversaries,  and as deluded people not as savvy as we are, maybe we would learn something from them. Perhaps we could even put aside the animosity and get on with our own lives.

     Enjoy the song! Thanks, Dino and Jesse! 

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Why I Will not Likely become South Carolina Poet Laureate

     Some states rotate poets in this office, but South Carolina appears to keep the same person for some time. Marjory Wentworth has been the sixth poet to hold the position, starting in 2003. However, this week the poem she wrote for Governor Nikki Haley's second inauguration was cut from the ceremony due to time constraints. The poem takes about three minutes to read; people can draw their own conclusions.

     "One River, One Boat" touches on some not-so--glorious themes from state history, such as slavery, the Confederate flag that used to wave from the state capitol (no waving across
 the street) and a legal system that did not treat everyone fairly. I will tell my non-US readers that South Carolina had a majority slave population prior to the Civil War, and was the first state to secede from the Union.

     U.S. Congressman James Clyburn, south Carolina's only Democrat and only African-American in the House of Representatives, read the poem on the floor of House, which apparently has enough time on its schedule.

    Tongue-in-cheek, my wife suggested I could become South Carolina Poet Laureate one day. For all I know, that could be in the cards. Whenever Wentworth vacates the office, there are a number of more prominent poets here who are very gifted, more than myself. Wentworth hails from Massachusetts; I am from Pennsylvania, which is closer to South Carolina. In April 2015 I will have been here ten years, and most people are friendly to me.

   One exception was a woman behind me in the supermarket who for some reason was mouthing off about Obamacare. I told her I wore a uniform to protect her right of free speech, but I wished to exercise mine by telling her I did not agree with her views on what I pointedly referred to as the Affordable Healthcare Act. Looking angrily at my Pittsburgh Pirates cap, she told me to go back where I came from, "We don't want you here!"
    In my suavest James Mason voice, I smiled and asked if she had taken her meds that day.

   Anti-secessionist James L. Petigru hit the nail on the head in 1860: South Carolina is too small for a republic and too large for an insane asylum." 

    Here are some links my wife sent me. And keep you eyes peeled on future gubernatorial inaugurations down here, because you never know!

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Important insight already from "After Lincoln"

     I should finish this gift in a few more days. For those seeking a detailed, step-by-step process of Reconstruction, keep looking! Langguth gives biographical sketches of major participants from this time. Even if you think you know all about U.S. Grant, you can learn something. But Ben Wade, U.S Senator from Ohio, is not well known, and he came within one vote of being president.

    Andrew Johnson took office when Lincoln was assassinated. The Tennessean had a difficult task ahead of him, and did not make it any easier. The insight I had while reading about his impeachment and Senate trial was that while not perfect by any means, had he been removed from office, a precedent would have been set for Congress to remove or obstruct a president for general dislike. Of course, that has never happened, or even come close to happening, since 1868. (I will pause now for the reader to laugh, groan, chortle, or sigh).

    Maybe after I read this I can go back to editing a poem or two, and maybe even writing about our trip to Savannah. That lovely city, incidentally, was the "Christmas present" in 1864 General William Tecumseh Sherman made to President Lincoln.


Monday, January 12, 2015

From Voltaire to Adjunct teaching to Voltaire

     Years ago my brother gave me a copy of "Candide" from a college class of his. I devoured it and searched my high school's Instructional Materials Center (IMC or library)for anything Voltaire wrote. What drew me to him how he used satire to make his point, and that he was willing to take a risk for it, as well as to support the right of others to express an opinion, even if they disagreed with him.
     I have taught adjunct courses for nearly 20 years at four institutions in two states in English, history, religious history, and ethics (some friends may smile at the latter one). Over time I thought humankind progressed to better places and higher understandings. Especially after last week's events in and around Paris, I now have some doubts. Certainly there were flashes of humanity, sacrifice, and courage amidst the shock and horror. But we have some ways to go, I fear.

     Teaching literature has changed over the years. Not everyone appreciates satire or looking at things that are different, especially if they are out of their comfort zone. We need people like Voltaire who cause us to think, reassess our thoughts, and to move us a little closer to improvement. 

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Pending Publication in Altpoetics!

     One of the great things about writing is being published, and when you meet interesting people, that is even better! Kenyatta JP Garcia told me earlier this evening that he would like to publish a poem of mine and a prose piece, a short essay, in Alpoetics. 
     If you do not know of this publication, you should definitely check it out. Kenyatta searches for good pieces in all styles and genres. This will be my fourth publication here, and thrills me no end! One can even subscribe for an e-mail delivery each month, which I encourage you to do. I also encourage people to submit, especially one friend of mine!
     The prose piece has appeared on a Facebook page about the community in which I attended high school, and talks about a pivotal time in my life when one person did something that made a difference neither he nor I realized at the time. That should make us pause when we have opportunities to influence someone's life in a positive way. Before we build a campfire and sing "Kum ba ya" (I can hear the cynics sigh), let me give you the link to Alpoetics' latest issue. If you type my name into the search box, you can see my earlier submissions.
Thanks, Kenyatta!

Thursday, January 8, 2015

What I am Currently Reading

     The Civil Wat Centennial of 1961 absorbed me, and that era of history still does. My parents took us to Gettysburg. My music teacher refused to tell me the words to "Hang Jeff Davis from a Sour Apple Tree".
     My interest in history began by listening to great storytellers, among them my father, other relatives, and their friends and neighbors. In 1958  attended several events about Pittsburgh's bicentennial, including re-enactors ar Fr. Ligonier (including actual Native Americans).
     Even though my genetic pool was far away from these events,  remain keenly interested in them. Pam gave me a book for Christmas by A.J. Langguth, consisting of essays about keep figures in that part of American history after Lincoln's assassination.

     Had Lincoln served out his second term, I am convinced that America would have been spared much of the division and turmoil  that occurred later. With two new semester about to start, and anything else to be done for my forthcoming poetry book, finding time to read this book will be scarce, but it is a safe bet to figure that I will finish it sooner than later.

    So why didn't I major in history as an undergraduate? That is for another blog post!

Sunday, January 4, 2015

A Wonderful Break Ends...But Something Begins

     It has been a wonderful two weeks, but work resumes tomorrow. For me that means teaching on the secondary and (as an adjunct), post-secondary levels. I enjoy what and where I teach, and I also enjoy opportunities to serve as a supply pastor or priest in local parishes. Pam and I got away for a few days to Savannah, Georgia, and want to return!
     But I have really enjoyed communicating with fellow writers in one way or another.
     Friday I had lunch with Al Black, author of  most recently "I Only Left For Tea" A transplant from the North like me, he is also at home in South Carolina and we discovered more in common as we shared a meal and conversation.
     Several times Stephanie Weisend and I messaged about people we met, poems we read. Check out her musings at her Facebook page, Writerly Digest. She has kept The Writerly Digest open on Facebook, where I co-moderate, but her new improved site is awesome!
     Additionally I enjoyed corresponding with old and new friends, seeing family, and celebrating Christmas! Some Savannah poems are slowly percolating. I leave with a picture of Jerusalem Lutheran Church, Rincon, Georgia, built by Salzburg Lutheran refugees, and a picture of my favorite restaurant in Savannah!


Saturday, January 3, 2015

Happy Birthday, Stephen Stills!

     Stephen Arthur Stills was born 3 January 1945, in Dallas, Texas. He and I shared three things in common. First, his middle name is my first name. Secondly, in high school I developed impressive sideburns. Finally, we both played the guitar. Obviously he is still playing it, and I long ago gave up (there is a poem of mine about that). The sideburns are also gone.
     We saw still, along with Crosby and Nash, in an outdoor, acoustic concert in Albuquerque in 1991. I include a clip of him from Big Sur in 1969, which shows that same artistry and wonder at an earlier phase. An extremely gifted musician, adept in many genres, Stills can always slow it down and set poetry into exquisite music.
     Of course he was in Buffalo Springfield, Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, Manassas, and solo work. Not many people know that he auditioned for the Monkees. When contractual obligations prevented him from joining the ban, he suggested the producers take his friend, Peter Tork.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Norman Rockwell exhibition

My wife and I went to the Columbia Museum of Art for a Norman Rockwell exhibition. I was not aware how he used photography on a regular basis to create some of his magazine covers. Also, after his time at the Saturday Evening Post, he took on more controversial topics  by using themes from the Civil Rights movement. The picture below, "The Problem We all Live With" shows a young girl being escorted to school by U.S. Marshalls. The girl is the problem; the problem is that she needs federal protection to attend school.

Here is a link to the exhibit itself:

Reviews Are So Very Important to Writers, and So Hard to Get

      When my first poetry book was published seven years ago, I dutifully asked readers/friends to review it. That book, Places and Times, ...