Poetry in October

Everything, of course, is garbage.  Meaning, everything I write; meaning, complete hamster-cage liner.  I mean, yeah, I know that’s not true; just let me have this meltdown for a moment, ok?

So, October is coming up pretty quick, huh?  Many things are going on in October for me, like moving to a new apartment, my husband’s 40th birthday (E has a b-day, too,) my first weekend running the shop on my own, at least one trip out to Erie to see mom, and Halloween/my sister’s birthday, wherein she turns 26 and I finally live in a neighborhood that hands out candy.  Also…poetry night, featuring yours truly.  Clearly, we are going to talk about that, since I started this post by telling you all of my writing is garbage.  Hot, stinky trash. 

Nope, that’s just me psyching myself out.  I know what I want to do: a couple of pieces from, A Lovely Wreckage…gotta sell those books.  A piece from the yet to be picked up (Un)Requited.  Maybe VII from Me and Jesus etc.  Some outliers…the ones I really like that I haven’t read yet.  And maybe The Squirrel, and Halloween…y’know, because…Halloween. 

See, I know what I’ll read, and I know I’ll read well.  I don’t have the panic I had a few years back.  Still, old habits die real hard, and I find myself judging my work through my most critical eye-which I despise, of course.  I thought that my imposter syndrome was dead and gone, at least at the level of writing I have achieved.  This is new, however…being a featured reader.  I get like 15-17 minutes or something crazy when I’m used to doing 3-6 minutes at a time.  I’m going to have to figure out timing on my performance as well.

Anyway, that’s what I’m going to go work on during this rainy Monday afternoon.  If you’re here in the area on October 28th around 6pm, do drop in and hear me read.  On one hand, I want to pack the place.  On the other hand, I’d like no one to show up at all, besides the regulars I am already comfortable sharing with.  But it would be nice, I think, to see some familiar friends in the crowd.  So come on down to Dog Ears, and I’ll read you a poem about a squirrel.

Happy Monday.

Making a Living

Today is Sept 1st which means I have held my job at Avis for a month, so let’s talk about it now that the adjustment period has passed, more or less.

Now, almost my ENTIRE work background is childcare.  I have over 20 years’ experience.  I have literally been working with children since I was thirteen…I started out teaching first graders to read during my 8th grade study hall when my old teacher asked for my assistance.  Then, I took to teaching elementary level Religious Education at my church from 14-20, starting out as an aide and eventually getting my own class for a couple years.  This was all volunteer…my first paying job had nothing to do with kids.  It was Joann Fabrics and I was let go three days before Christmas.  I learned very little at the job, and decided that I had to go with my talent, which was teaching kids.  So, I started working as a substitute at Heritage Centers, a special needs day care near my house.  This started me down the long line of professional childcare, taking me to schools and daycares all over WNY, and culminating in me becoming a nanny, which is probably the best childcare job you can get, so long as it’s the right family.  And then…I quit.

Much like I did with theater, my other profession (and a longer, more tumultuous story that I am saving for my memoir,) I woke up one morning and realized it no longer served my life. 

See, I never wanted to have kids, as I have expressed many times in my blog.  I just do not have whatever it is that most women seem to have that makes them aspire to be mothers.  Never wanted to grow a baby in my belly, and hold responsibility for it all the time.  I much prefer the pint-sized relationships I do have where I birthed no one and can return them at the end of the day.  Alas…I am also past that point in my life.  The next time a small child is really Involved in my life, I would like it to be a grandchild.  I’m not saying TODAY (kiddo who may be reading this- I am talking to you and your siblings,) but someday in the future.  The point is that I am just not at my fighting weight anymore…I can’t be chasing around a 2-year-old, and I really do not want to very often.  Do I miss it, of course, but there are other things in life, y’know?

So, I took a job at Avis car rentals. 

Confident as always, I looked at the position as a challenge.  Something new, a step outside my comfort zone, and a skill I could learn.  I would be lying to you if I said it wasn’t difficult at times.  The computer program we use appears to be from 1986, and customer service is a world unto its own.  I have picked up all the basics and some other aspects, but the nuances are plentiful.  My manager (who is named Mark, like my husband, so that’s caused confusion) has worked there for a very long time and seems to know almost everything there is to know, and I feel like a complete moron when a customer asks me something and I have to go ask him.  Still, when I get the answer to the customer’s question or see how he solves a problem, I try to remember for the future.  I have been trying very hard to do this job right, and while work-Mark seems like he really needs a vacation (it’s just been him the last couple months, every day, all day,) he has been very patient with me and is a pretty good teacher to have.  I just wish I could go faster…I feel like I am constantly thinking things out.  But it reminds me of when I learned to drive.  I overthought everything and it freaked me out to get on the road.  I think I am in the same position now, but I know that driving is second nature after all that practice, so soon I will be whipping along, matching work-Mark’s speed.

Aside from that hiccup, though, everything has been great, and I actually enjoy going to work, and look forward to learning more.  And at a place where there are no children!  I mean, you literally have to be 25 to rent a car, so I am dealing with no small people at all!

But do I mis them?

Yes.  See, those babies will always be babies to me.  Take the H family…when I worked for them there were three boys, and mom was DONE.  Now, those three boys are in middle school and there’s two more kids in the mix, but I will always remember that family as it was when it was smaller.  I will always remember the then-youngest boy as the baby who fell asleep in my arms.  There are a couple of moms I am friends with on Facebook, too.  I am watching their kiddos grow from afar, via posts and pictures, but the truth is that in my heart they are still small…not starting high school or going to their first dance or joining the military.  To me, they are forever young. 

So, I will cherish those memories as I move forward in life, and I am pleased I have them, but I am ready for change.  Shall it come in the form of car rentals?  We shall see.  Maybe I will really luck out and my other career of writing will take off!!  One can dream, can they not?

Enjoyment and Enlightenment

Once upon a time, I had a librarian.  Her name was Mrs. Priester, and she worked at my elementary school.  Kevin was quite fond of her, because she encouraged reading in him and even took it upon herself to find books that she thought he would enjoy.  She didn’t need to do this for me, because the day I met her I told her, in the bragging way of a 5-year-old, that I already knew how to read, thank you very much.  In fact, I even had a library card already.  (I thought I was hot shit.)  What Mrs. Priester did teach me, however, was the difference between fiction and non-fiction.  I don’t know why the concept confused me so much as a small child, but I kept mixing up the terms, until one day she made it very simple: fiction was Fake.  Non-fiction was Not Fake.  It stuck, I understood, and she further explained that the books I wanted to read were not just called “chapter books,” but novels, and that novels were fiction: made-up stories for one’s enjoyment and enlightenment. 

I tell you this so that we are all very clear on what a novel is, and what fiction is.  I want there to be no misunderstanding, because this is the key piece of the thing that is infuriating me right now.

Let me paint for you a word-picture.  I, a writer, who lives in the Western New York region, and writes fiction, awoke Friday morning to learn of a tragedy that befell a fellow author.  Salman Rushdie was attacked with a knife onstage at the Chautauqua Institute while doing an interview.  I quite literally choked on my iced coffee, and my reasons are twofold.  First of all, Chautauqua?! I live in Buffalo and we just had a grand scale community tragedy about 3 months ago, and now we got crazies rushing stages and stabbing authors just an hour away? Not to mention, I can’t tell you how many times I have fantasized of being some famous writer who is invited to speak at Chautauqua-that’s like life-goal stuff.  And now, that place is marred, too…just like the damn grocery store.

Secondly, and more importantly: violence against a wordsmith.  I know of Rushdie, though his book, The Satanic Verses, sits unread on my shelf because I simply haven’t picked it up yet. But I know a little backstory, like the fact that Iran’s Ayatollah issued a fatwa in the 80s against him, which is basically an edict saying an Iranian should kill Rushdie. The man has been living with death threats for years, all because his book supposedly goes against Islam.  I think it’s because, from what I have read online, one character abandons the religion.  But again, I haven’t read it yet.  The point is that it doesn’t matter, because The Satanic Verses is a novel, and therefore, fiction, and fiction equals fake.  It’s not real; it’s just a story-a made-up situation in a guy’s head that he put down on paper and then an entire country took it the wrong way and decided he needed to die. 

How easily that could be any one of us.

I mean, I just finished the first draft of a book that features an exploration of the concept of religion as a shackle that keeps one from living their authentic life.  I do not expect death threats for the thoughts I come up with in my own head, but I’m sure its gonna piss of an evangelical or two.  But as mad as they get, do I deserve to be stabbed in the face for my imagination?  Absolutely not. 

So, when I head about Salman Rushdie, I was crushed.  I tried to explain to Mark why it was bothering me so much, but I couldn’t find the words.  Maybe it’s just that I am so sad that someone was hurt…just for playing pretend. Because that’s all we’re doing, really, when we write fiction: make-believe, in verse.  And I just do not believe anyone should be harmed over such innocent enjoyment.

Even on the Bad Days

I had some topics ready to go today, but I don’t feel like it.  Today it has been cloudy and gray, and my mood has reflected the weather. 

I had therapy yesterday for the first time in a long time.  I unloaded everything onto her, and she agreed with my self-diagnosis of Acute Stress Disorder, and then she remarked that most people in my situation of unyielding stress would have given up by now. She called me strong and resilient, echoing the sentiments I often receive from my mother, who calls me the strongest woman she knows.  But…was there another option?  My friend Carey gets this comment a lot, too, and always answers the same: what else am I supposed to do?  Seriously.  We would like to know.

Both of us do not agree with the concept of suicide, ergo neither of us consider that an option right off the bat.  And then there is the other options…I could have a breakdown and spend a little time “on vacation.”  Or I could simply choose not to get out of bed in the morning.  And yes, sometimes, both seem like viable options.  But they aren’t.

Because if you stay in bed, it can’t get better…there’s no opportunity for improvement.  And if you check out, same thing…it’s just running away.  If you truly want it to get better you have to stand up and fight, and put in the work to make it better.  You have to be strong.  You have to be resilient. There is no other option.

Because of the stigma of mental illness, many people think my diagnoses make me weak.  On the contrary, nothing has made me stronger than having to battle my own stupid brain chemistry every single day. 

So, I like to think, on days like today, that while I am tired (oh-so-very tired,) I am still strong.  While I might not write the big blog post I intended, I can still write something…even if I don’t really want to.  Because I have to push on, no matter what.

There are no other options.

Housekeeping: So I have paid for my domain names, so you can still find me at hamneggs17.com and brigidhannon.com!  My plans still need funding, however, so feel free to drop me a tip in the jar to the right.  (Also, if my pages get wonky any time in the next month, let me know.  I’m not sure how many premium features I am using at the moment.)  Also, and this is kind of unrelated, but I have a job interview tomorrow which would be super helpful right about now, so fingers crossed.

Oh, look!  The sun came out!

“Friends” in High Places

I wrote some time ago about my mother, and the fact that she was in a semi-coma after complications following a quadruple bypass.  While her condition has improved in many ways, she remains in the hospital, though she will likely be transferred to a rehab soon.  I visit, and she knows it’s me because she smiles or kisses my cheek, but I can’t talk to her.  She can’t speak, and I can’t carry a one-sided conversation very well.  It has been months since I have heard my mother’s voice.

Driving home from taking Mark to work this morning, I remembered something kind of silly about my mom; one of our morning conversations that wasn’t about anything pertinent or serious.  It was October of 2019, and I came in that morning all a flutter, because this:

DO YOU KLNOW WHO THAT IS??

That is the one and only Mr. Joseph Gordon Levitt, former child actor turned Hollywood star, now CEO of a social art platform built to connect creatives.  I am a BIG FAN, and have been since I was a 12-year-old watching 3rd Rock from the Sun. He was one of the folks I followed on Twitter early on, because Twitter suggested him to me.  Over the years, I watched as he started hyping HitRECord, and eventually I checked it out for myself.  Then I made my first post, and tweeted about it, just to drum up a reader or two…lo and behold, the above photo.

Anyhoo, when I tell my mother this, she finds it fascinating, because she finds Twitter fascinating.  She once asked if she should get an account, and I said no, and she replied, “well, if the *President* is on there, maybe I don’t want to be.”  Still, she loved hearing about the connections I was making around the world via my Twitter, and Joe Levitt is definitely her favorite. As time went on, she would check in.

“How’s your friend Joe?”  
“Who is Joe?”  
“From Hollywood.”  
“Ma, Nick lives in Hollywood; I don’t know a Joe.”  
“From that John Lithgow show…”

Sometimes I play along.

“Oh, he’s great, got a new film coming out.  Focusing a lot on HitRECord, too.”  
“Oh, good for him!”

Listen. I obviously do not know Joseph Gordon Levitt, but I think it’s adorable that mom sort of thinks I do.  And given current circumstances, I am loving that I thought of this little memory this morning, because it reminds me of all the fun, silly things about my mother that I have been missing, 

I won’t lie to you and tell you that the road is getting easier, because it is not.  It is still very much an uphill climb.  But at least I have moments along the way where I can throw my head back and laugh.

Ode to a Tip Jar

Ode to a Tip Jar 

A ringing noise upon my ear
tells me that an email's here,
so, I look to see, and sure enough-
a WordPress logo, bold and tough!
Oh, perhaps has someone read my tome?
I wonder aloud as I start to roam
my way around the website’s format,
hoping to find a like or comment.
But look! Oh no! It bears bad news!
No, not a troll with too tight shoes,
no, not a bot trying to sell me a cruise;
it’s the company telling me it’s time for my dues!
But woe is me, I’m out of work,
and what little is coming is already marked,
so, what is a writer-girl to do
when her tip jar is empty
and her wallet is, too?
Shill yourself, honey, sell them a book!
Better yet, a Patreon subscription-those are off the hook!
Or if they really love you, the tip jar they will find…
to the very right of the blog page, no waiting in line.
See, usually it doesn’t matter, I get by on what I get,
but I lose quite a chunk if certain needs are not met,
like the webhosting bill that comes due every July
and makes me suddenly want to vomit and cry.
So here I am asking a favor of you,
my dearest readers, I hope you come through,
and offer to me maybe a buck or two,
so I can keep this site running for me and for you.
Ok, now that my rhyme is done,
I’m off to pen some delirium,
because I just got a new notification
and it has brought me great exasperation.
So hopefully you find some happy in your day,
because mine is slowly ebbing away,
and I urge you please to consider a donation,
so I can keep on writing these quotations.


Solicitous Histrionics

Open a dictionary. Pick a word. Now close it.

Open it again.  Pick another word.  Close it.

Now, write a poem using those two words.

This is a fun little game taught to me by my favorite local poet, Justin Karcher.  Back in January, I discovered he would be doing a workshop at the Just Buffalo Literary Center, and my mother was kind enough to purchase me a ticket.  It was in May, so it was a long wait.  There were only 9 or 10 of us, but it was great…to me at least, who had never been to a writing workshop of any kind. 

One of the first questions he posed was what poetry meant to us.  It’s a simple concept, I suppose, but if you don’t have a grasp of what your craft means to you, then what are you even doing? I responded to this question with a poem of my own, naturally:

Poetry
By Brigid Hannon

Poetry is my voice, 
louder in word than in action.
My pen on paper. 
or my mouth and teeth and tongue,
no different from each other.
Each meter should lift darkness into light. 
Each verse should move a heart to break, 
each stanza another gasp from muted lips-
poetry is power and 
opinion and 
might-
the never ceasing beat 
of our living hearts.

Now, a lot of Justin’s stuff has to do with our shared home of Buffalo, NY, which may be why I love it so much.  I have long held a hope to write a collection of just Buffalo poems, so when he said we would be writing poems about “home” in some fashion, I was delighted.  I started free writing some thoughts down, and eventually I took those bones and pieced them together into a skeleton of a poem, which I took home with me to work on further.  I knew it wasn’t the sort I could pound out in an hour-long class.  I did, however, write this little guy as well, which I have no intention of doing anything with, so I might as well share it with you here:
Safe Shoes
Also by Brigid Hannon

No flip-flops today;
no sandals.
Sneakers?  But no...
laces come untied.
Little ones, so scared,
and yet prepared,
and I cannot choose a shoe.

An adult counterpart,
I've no active training.
"Where's the exit," I ask myself,
looking to the black sturdy Sketchers
I picked out,
with rubber soles and no laces-
shoes that keep me safe,
like I keep little souls who find me,
willing to sacrifice for such.

She tells me she likes her school;
she feels safe:
"We hardly ever have a lockdown." 
Hardly.
Look to the ground to keep from crying, 
seeing only sturdy safe shoes-
shoes that make me RUN.

Anyway, the workshop was lovely.  I went home and worked on my main poem for a bit, and when it was done, I emailed it to Justin to show him.  A few days later, he got back to me and asked if he could publish it in the June edition of Ghost City Press, which is the mag where I published my first poem, so, I mean…yeah, dude.  Of course.
So, in honor of that, I made a TikTok for it, which I will share at the end of this post.  It is a poem about my city, but also about my grandparents.  We were supposed to write about what home means to us, and my city is my home, where I would not live were it not for my grandparents, who gave me this wonderful home without even realizing it.  
Finally, I tried to write a poem using the dictionary game, and I tell you, friend-I have failed.  I have been drowning in the words “solicitous histrionics” for weeks now, because those are the two words that noodled their way out of the book and into my brain.  Eventually, I will write that poem-it will probably be a weird one.
So, that’s all for today, I think.  Happy Monday!

Auditory

I guess you can thank my friend Carey for my summer project.

See, school ends after this week’s Saturday program, so I am in pursuit of something to do over the summer.  I did score a nice gig as a theater teacher for a kid’s summer camp, but that’s only for a week.  I took it mainly to pay for my trip to Salem this Autumn.  That leaves several more weeks with little to do.  I intend to find a few more jobs to make a little extra cash…maybe babysitting or home care or something.  But my big project for this summer is the seed that Carey planted.

Carey is my self-proclaimed biggest fan, in that she would still like my stuff even if she didn’t know me.  And she LOVES when I share videos on TikTok.  One night, after reading my book, she came over and said that she wanted me to read it to her someday.  She said that the poems are good on their own, but spectacular when I bring them to life with my voice.  I simply took this as a lovely compliment and moved on with my life, and didn’t think much more of it…until I got similar compliments from other people.  I also was coming of the high of a good open mic night, and the wheels started to turn.

See, I have a background as an actor.  In fact, if there is a job to be done in the theater, I have done it.  So, when I read my poems, I’m not just reading them, I’m performing them, and that makes a lot of difference, apparently. Then I read this article about using Audible for publishing audio books, and pieces slide into place.

It’s not too hard, and it’s not too pricey, and it’s a great way to expand on what I already have with A Lovely Wreckage.  So, I called in the troops…Sahar came to the rescue by donating funds to buy equipment needed, and Kevin will be directing and recording.  A lot of articles say not to voice your own book…I don’t care about that.  I’m not just a writer; I can hack it.  Also, narration is the biggest cost in the process, so I am cutting that one right out, right away. 

I annotated the book, and will be offering this special edition only through Audible.  It shall also contain an extra poem or two, written since its release, as bonus material.  I don’t expect to make a lot of money, but I do hope that my friends and family give it a listen, as it has, in my opinion, more depth and interest with the annotations…but then, I am a sucker for annotated poetry.  I guess I’m hoping you are, too.

So, that is my plan for the summer months, to turn my words on paper into a song for the ears. I hope you will enjoy it…I know Carey will.

Happy Thursday!

Algorithmic Blues

I’m forcing myself to write right now, because I haven’t had the urge too much lately.  That’s not quite true actually, I have had the desire but not the means…simply no time.  This morning I have a moment or two, but really, I am so tired I would rather be curled on the sofa watching Grace and Frankie.  Alas, it is Monday, a fresh week, so here I sit.

I wrote a poem called Uvalde, and I made a video for it, which I posted on Facebook and TikTok and also here in my blog.  It did well on Facebook…not so much on TikTok.  So, I had to look around as to why.  All my friends on that platform loved it, but then I realized…It was only reaching my friends. It only got 30-something views over the course of several days.  Then, almost on accident, I stumbled across an article about the TikTok algorithm.

There is a feature on TikTok where you can add captions to your video.  I always do this, not just for the hearing impaired and those sneakily watching at work, but also because I am a writer and my words are my strength-so of course I want you to see them.

What I came to find out, however, is that if you add captions to your video, sometimes you may use words that TikTok doesn’t approve of.  If they find such words in your captions, they don’t promote your video to For You pages.  So, naturally, I used the word “gun” a few times in my poem about gun control…apparently, I should have used an emoji.  I also used “dead,” for which the article tells me I must write “unalive.”

Are you fucking kidding me?

I know a lot of kids use TikTok so I’m guessing that’s where this algorithmic rule comes into play, but most kids over the age of 6 can make out most words-I’m saying they know how to read.  And what’s more, they can HEAR me say whatever I want-so whether I put an emoji or the word “gun” in the captions…kid just heard me.  It’s stupid, beyond measure.

I joined TikTok because I thought it would be a cool way to share some of my work, and it is, but I’m a little peeved that if I write certain words, it will be censored. If you want to keep kids safe or whatever, kick them off the site.  Probably shouldn’t be here anyway.  Or, make all videos need approval.  Go big or go home, essentially, don’t walk a tightrope between free speech and censorship.

So, I took the captions out of my video and waited 24 hours and lookie here! 300 views.  Yes, I did totally screw myself in the algorithm…but I shouldn’t have, because it’s ridiculous and shouldn’t exist.

That’s my gripe for today, folks.  I wish I had a little more to say, but I do not.  As previously stated, the sofa has been calling my name this morning, and I still have four more projects I need to work on, so I will cut this one a little short.   Do have a happy Monday!

Performance Anxiety

Back in 2019, I went to an open mic night with my friend Beth at my side for moral support and fought my inner doubter-I shared my work.  I continued to attend this monthly soiree until March 2020, when Covid came and shut us all down.  It moved to a virtual format for a bit, which then kind of morphed into its own thing.  I was sad…I liked poetry night at my local bookstore.

Every time I was in there, I asked the proprietor if the event would return, and he would tell me it would, sometime in the future.  I waited.

Then one night my father asks if I follow a guy he knows on Facebook.  I say no and inquire, and he tells me this man will be picking up where we left off with poetry night, bringing it back better than ever.  This delighted me, and so I marked my calendar for the first meeting in two years. 

I didn’t know anyone there, just like I didn’t know anyone when I went back in 2019.  However, my circumstances had changed…I had once been so hesitant to share my work, but I have grown past that now.  What really struck me that night was a woman named Mary, who was sharing her poetry for the first time.  And reader, it was lovely, and absolutely relatable for me.  She seemed so nervous, and brought friends for support, just as I had, and though I did not know her, when she was done reading I wanted to run up and hug her, because I was proud of her the way I had once been proud of myself for having the courage to share my work. 

There have been two meetings since the first.  Mary has been there both times, prepared with poetry, and I can see her bravery expand each time she reads.  It’s a pretty awesome transformation to witness, actually. 

Anyhoo…Tim, who runs the show, mentioned that he was still looking for features to fill out the year.  I don’t know where my anxiety was, perhaps asleep at the wheel, but I proceeded to message him and ask if he would like me to be one of those readers, to which I received a solid “yes.”

So now, in October, I will be the featured reader at my poetry open mic night.  The 2019 version of me has no idea how this happened…that I would have the audacity…the sheer BALLS, to just asked for what I wanted?  Who the hell is that person??

As always, I stand here with more confidence than I have any right to have.  I literally just said this to Kevin: “I was a fat, four-eyed, balding middle schooler; I have no business feeling this fabulous.”

But honestly, I’m not who I was that first night I read.  I have always been comfortable on a stage, mind you…this was about my writing, not my performance technique (another thing I have ridiculous confidence in,)  The “stage fright” is gone now, though…there is no anxiety about my words.  I have shared them, and they have resonated.  I have been told by friends and fans that my poetry is something special, and I hope that is true.  All I know is that I am more comfortable with it today than I was yesterday, and it can only get better from here.

Happy Monday, folks.