the poetry of women

i want to be surrounded by
the poetry of strong beautiful women.
the ones who took the lifebeatings and buried them deep—
wept suns and moons and planets,
the river water of the ages, oceanic tides of grief
salted earth
beneath their precious bruised
fingers—
only to have them grow roots
and bloom again in the buzzing heat of morning.
the fragrance of tragedy
written into hope.

in the palm of my mind (guiding lights)

in the palm of my mind live
guiding lights.
soft summer wings spread, billowing,
sigh beneath the curtains
as they clutch a pale
peach night.

blue eyes reflect, a lake opens wide & falls
reverent
beaming, drawn toward the face of the sky.
a being at the window of an evening
i have yet to know.

it calls for me, my name cupped in the hands of the Word,
moves my body. some trace of what may come.
and i am shown
and i was the one:

closing heaven against your eyelids.
nesting dreams inside your bed sheets.
tasting solace in the mouth
of your sweet heartache.

How to make the art without the fear.

She was a complete stranger to me. Truth be told she still is — I do not know her name. And we never even spoke to each other.  But in our brief, barely-one-minute encounter, she opened me to a whole new way of alleviating my biggest fears around creating art and sharing it with the world.

There is not an artist alive who does not struggle with big fear around exposing themselves to a world that can often feel judgmental and punishing. While as creatives one of our greatest strengths is our vulnerability, that instinct to hold back or try to fit in can be majorly paralyzing.

How to break free? Here is a perfect start, and it’s so simple you’ll be able to draw strength from it many times over, for the rest of your life, no matter your age or endeavor. So I’ve recorded myself telling this story as a little six minute podcast which you can listen to by clicking the recording below (or you can just keep reading):

A few Saturdays ago, my husband and I were taking a walk through Tyler State Park and as we were coming up a hill there was a family coming the other way, and walking behind the dad and his son was the daughter and this tiny girl was singing at the top of her little lungs. Singing and watching the water of the stream rushing along, sunlight all tumbling down upon her hair through the trees. And as she sang – words completely incomprehensible, I literally have no idea what the words to this song were – she moved the lollipop in and out of her mouth.

And I was struck by the bigness of her presence, this tiny kid. This tiny creature booming inside the bigness of the world. And I thought isn’t this the way of things. We come into the world and for a brief time we are children spreading ourselves out into the world., exploring, getting messy, getting curious, being surprised and delighted, exhausting our little selves in all the very best ways. Playing. Then things inevitably happen to us, we are bullied, or we get bad grades or we are hurt deeply by someone we love or a pet dies or a friend moves away. And little by little, we become smaller and smaller. We grow bigger in size but as we do, we retreat farther and farther into ourselves. We protect ourselves from the bigness of the world, hoping that by becoming smaller we won’t hurt as much. If we are lucky we won’t be seen and then we cannot be hurt.

For me, writing is the way I learned to and am still learning – to fill out again. To remember that I am allowed to be here, to experience all the pleasure and all the pain of it. To take up space. In spite of all the ways life has tried to keep me small, I can still dare to expand into all of who I am. Enjoy the joy and use the pain as well. Both are sources of creativity. When I write sometimes I will think – can I say this? Can I reveal this? In so many ways I think creativity is to keep digging deeper and keep asking over and over – am I allowed? Am I allowed? To feel all of this? To feel the way I feel? To share that? Am I allowed to be this wild strange creature that I am? And not only be this creature but can I be her out loud? Can I be her where the world can hear me? See me? Judge me? Be influenced by me?

That little girl in the park – with her over sized sunglasses and cherry taffy stained lips and golden hair curling every which way as she bounced along – she had a song inside of her. that she wasn’t keeping to herself. She was happily and very deliberately singing it out loud. For her to hear. For people to hear. For the trees and the water and the rocks and the dogs and the birds and the flowers to hear. That’s all poetry is really, that’s all art is. Taking the songs you have inside and signing them out loud just to hear the way they sound. Just to remind yourself that you are allowed to be here. To feel all of it. To share all of it. We are allowed to grow big again – big like kids – grow big and take up space.

Not only are we allowed but we were meant to do this. We were designed to create, to sing, to write, to move, to make our art out loud.

So that’s the story of the stranger who opened my eyes, heart, and mind to a new way of creating art that feels the most like me at my most joyous and true.

In closing, I want to wish you an absolutely beautiful two weeks ahead. I am on vacation with my family next week, so it is very possible I will not be sending a note out on Monday the 18th. I’ll be thinking of you though, of course. And looking forward to returning to our Monday dates on the 25th, refreshed and salt-water rejuvenated  🙂

Until then…. as the mysterious stranger in my story would no doubt encourage you to do… go big. Dance like nobody’s watching, and sing like nobody’s listening.

With so much love and gratitude eternal,

Allison Marie

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Not what a good writer does.

It has been a contemplative week for me. I spent the week delving into the creative things I found that piqued my interest, while deliberately not posting anything to social media because something in me was craving alone time. It can be a strange thing, social media. Every post is a mini-performance. It’s like putting on a little show every time you share. And that’s lovely. But your whole life — my whole life — can’t be a constant performance for other people. There has to be a rich and interesting ‘behind-the-scenes’, too. And I had gotten to a destructive mental place where everything I was reading or doing or working on, I was thinking in the back of my mind, ‘should I share this?’ ‘how about this?’ ‘is this important to give the people?’ ‘is this good for them?’

And with all that mental chatter going on, I wasn’t able to take anything in, for myself. I couldn’t process it, chew on it, digest it, all on my own for my own growth and pleasure. That was a red flag for me that something was unhealthy. It is such an important thing to be able to have a clear mind and a wide open space inside where you can run free. A silence all your own. To be with the Presence. The All of Creation. The soft, soft beating of my own heart, wandering wild and free. and alone. and together with The Mysterious Everything.

So this week as I pulled away from the world and into myself, I was still writing, in fact, I wrote more this past week than I had in months and it felt GORGEOUS.  I could hear my own voice again. So I come to you after a week in creative solitude to offer you this little collection of things that inspired me over the past few days. They run quite the creative gamut, and there are two ways of thinking about that. One is that I’m just a scatterbrain. The other is that in a joyful creative life, you don’t hold yourself back, and you don’t box yourself in, and you can grow in every direction you feel like as long as it feels delicious.

How about let’s go with the latter, it sounds so much more fun, yeah? 🙂

So. Here are 4 things I couldn’t wait to share with you, and 2 bonus things that involve purple wildflowers because I want you to feel beautiful, vibrant, and adored because you so are.

(1) I’m wild for the art of self-portraiture right now. It is HARD to do. But when I get an image I like, it feels really good to remember that we are all beautiful, and we are all flawed, and we all have the right to explore our own precious bodies in ways that feel holy, intimate, and healthy. Here is one of my own self-portraits, along with a little riff I wrote about writing big unwieldy things, and not sharing them yet, and painting my hair ocean blue.  Also, here are three self-portrait artists who are insanely talented and have inspired me to give it a try more often: @luna.res @brookeshaden @katieteix 

(2) “Live first. Then you write. You don’t ‘live to write.’ That doesn’t make any sense. That’s not what any good writer does.” — this is some righteous, straight-forward advice from a strong and mighty writer named Rita Dove, who is the next poetry editor for The New York Times. Here is a great article about her and what she believes poetry might grant unsuspecting news readers. The Times will run poetry right alongside their regular news stories. Poetry in a new kind of spotlight? I’m intrigued… (Here is Rita Dove’s poem Testimonial. “I gave my promise to the world / And the world followed me here.”)

(3) Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s TED talk about the danger of a single story is incredibly thoughtful, empowering, and inspiring. If you ever fear telling your own story – scars and scabs and all – through your art, this talk is a must watch / listen to. It is no secret that we are living in dynamic and sometimes down right frightening global times, and in my heart of hearts I truly believe that it will be the artists who tell their own stories with kindness and conviction, and the ones with the courage to really listen to them, who will make our world a safer place for humanity and this precious planet we share.

(4) “If I were your writing coach, my first goal would be to encourage your sense of self. I know you have one. I’d coax it out.” — Kris Gage in her article How To Be A Writer. I adore this gal’s style. She slings drinks and she does not play when it comes to writing advice. (or life advice, for that matter. which I suppose is quite truly the same thing.)

Which all brings us to the 2 bonus things I promised you this week, in all of your magical creative glow.

Thing #1. A lovely flatbed of wildflowers under a dreamy spring cloud sky. I took this photo while out with my husband antiquing, flea marketing, flower collecting, and looking for the perfect farmhouse to pretend we can afford. Because writers take breaks from writing, too. And we know that a huge part of writing is to live with eyes and arms and hearts wide open. We are sky and earth, and night and day. and rain and sun, and we bloom in our own time, in our own seasons, and it’s beautiful to be us.

Thing #2. A little drawing I made in my journal to represent feelings that I had no real words to describe. I wrote a thing about it here. Which is mainly to say, that whatever you are working on, dear creative friend, it is lovely.  Whatever it is, just as it is, it is a beautiful imperfect gift. And you? You are nothing but miraculous shine.

Until next time, I’m sending you love like wildflowers, and joy like a little witch girl figure whose legs for some inexplicable reason don’t connect to her tiny triangle body,

Allison Marie

Receive weekly creative goodies like these by clicking here to sign up to my mailing list, and I’ll catch you on Monday. 😉

My secret to adding more dimension & texture to your art.

There is so much unique vision inside of you. Know how I know this? Because you have that creative instinct, you have beautiful taste, and interesting ideas all your own.

I think that is one of the most fabulous things about you, actually.  🙂

So this week I’m eager to share with you my secret for keeping close to that unique vision, that one-of-a-kind way of creating gorgeous art all your own. This is what makes you so special, so let’s get more of that going, yeah?

What is no secret, of course, is that I’m a writer. My greatest love is the written word and my heart of hearts blooms mad wild for poetry. This means that the majority of my creative time is spent with words in some form — writing them, reading them, listening to them. Which is a fine and good thing EXCEPT it can run me right into the ground creatively if I don’t jump way outside of it from time to time.

Whatever your craft is, no matter how much you adore it, if you don’t give it some fresh dimension, some new texture, it will start to feel (to you and to your audience) like running on a hamster wheel. More of the same, the same, the same.

My favorite way to bust out of that wheel is to get out of the words ENTIRELY and feast on images, visuals, paintings, sketches, photography. The best way to give whatever your art is more texture, depth, dimension, and perspective is to fill your mind with something completely outside that box. Because it awakens your senses in a new way, draws your whole being into the birthing of new things. And it relieves that anxious feeling you can sometimes get when you are feeling blocked or stuck or uninspired.

Here are two gorgeous Instagram feeds I just started following to get my mind off of words for a little refreshing break. The first two images are from @sfgirlbybay Victoria Smith which is a Home & Garden website based in San Francisco. Her images are stunning, bright, and fun, and I get happily lost in the visual candy.

Gorgeous, right? The second site is a clothing design gallery called @lacausaclothing and I’m in love with the hazy hot summer feel of the photos she shares. What happens for a writer is that by exploring visual experiences that bring you joy, you awaken parts of yourself you may not realize are there, and those awakened bits of you begin to subconsciously seep into all of the art you create. Also fun? You learn clever secrets about yourself, your taste, and your passion. Like apparently I have a major crush on the color pink and sexy cool bathtubs. Who knew?

So forget all the hype about social media being a time suck, a creative drain, a mortal sin. And instead make it work for you by adding to your artistic scope. Getting outside the box of your routine style exposes you to more of the fantastic art that is out there all over the globe — how delicious! It also unearths some joy-filled and beautiful secrets about you. Which at the end of the day? Is what the magic of art is all about.

Until next time, I’m wishing you a bright week ahead. Now as your mama used to say when you were a wee little thing — Go out & play!  🙂

With so much love & the color pink in All The Things,

Allison Marie

P.S. Want to receive weekly inspirational ideas like these every Monday? Click here to join my mailing list.  Never spammy, always kind & uplifting. The way more Mondays — and artists — should be.  🙂

all poets are mad

Plato warned that poets are powerless to indite a verse or chant an oracle until they are put out of their senses so that their minds are no longer in them, and ever since no one feels entirely comfortable sharing a cab with one. In fact, a cabbie once pulled over and ordered me out when my travelling companion introduced me as a poet. Incredible? Mind you, my friend had just introduced himself as ‘a philosopher’. Normal people don’t want to hear that sort of thing. But I’m sure it wasn’t always as humiliating as it has been in these days of professionalism, promotion and ‘bringing the poetry to the people’, running after them imploring, Come back! It doesn’t have to rhyme!

— from The Shape of the Dance, Michael Donaghy

body like wind

Sensitivity is the peculiar home I have grown my life inside. A message folded under the wing of each individual gesture, a whisper in the pale morning light sliding warm along my bare skin. Sensuality, the art of being unafraid of feeling. Pleasure. Pain. Everything. How else do people navigate their stars? I feel the things they do not see, do not believe. I look up at the sky through willowy sea-foam trees and breathe with the clouds as they overtake the vast tender blue. Perhaps I’ll go again, this time alone. Slip into new skin, blossom in the blood of a new creature. All things seem impossible until they’re done and you can do it, too, you know? You can renew yourself, start over, any time you choose. You can begin again as soon as you feel it is time. Don’t wait. Trust yourself. Move your body like soft sweet wind. Let go.

say yes

she opens my hands
my dress
my brokenness
as i collapse inside the winged

starry womb.
smooth sacred alone
in the darkness
bending as shadows

stretch, asleep
resting on the other side of the moon
in me, whisper the mouth of spring meadows.
i drink from her, taste like her,

lie down
my head into the softness
she says:
let me

dismantle you
discover you.
the veins and the rivers
humming softly toward

whatever is next, and i
offer up my secrets, breathe upon the petal
of her skin,
the glass and the scars

the shame and the pain and i
motion alive through tears
fall aching
my way

into
yes.

love at the hem of a girl in flames

it will be years before I can bear the echo
of my own breathing against the walls

in my chest. in the future, childbirth,
photographs together with a man I never knew. a moth

flies backward toward its flame.
I will be well into my thirties before

I stop wondering if I am beautiful
while gazing into the low eyes

of total strangers.
smoke from a single cigarette

stains black rings into the ceiling, I make a mental note:
ash falling up is how to find the girl on fire beneath.

it will be years before I learn
how to heal alone in small slivers of space.

about how the stars are conceived in reverse by
gods tearing slits in the ocean to peer at the earth.

it’s been years since I broke through the silence, or
first pulled on a black dress to

bury a lifetime of bodies
in a hood of dark trees.

I fold my hands beneath my chin as I learn there is a name for everything
except the name I was born inside and cannot stop

repeating. I’m dancing and catching your wounds in my mouth.
unsure if it is love or just finally quiet.

in a way i am still young, still on fire, still losing myself at the soft hands of seasons.
and even though we rise warm like summer mist

as you slide your fingers along my fingers
make love like two shadows, flickers of promise in the evening,

it will be years before we learn
to call each other safety.

my secret, from the skin seeps

breathing dampness, a blue wash of night sky, gray wild
clouds beneath my skin.
i am torn apart from myself.
imagined (standing, multiplying) as two creatures, two beings,

one of flesh, and i, her host.

the body does not contain the ghost
but binds it
to pleasure and pain,
dual prisons.

no matter how you touch me

i am never held.
these evenings slide on quiet desperation.
dark room cells flush with trepidation;
cast away woman, sunken.

terrible the way
love comes
through the walls
speaks softly to the one

who does not pretend
to need her.
i need love.
what an irreverent thing

to say.
to admit.
to embody.

.

Lately I have written a number of pieces about duality. I am having visions and dreams about twinning, cloning, mirroring, being on two sides of the same room at once. Exploring the idea of the life I am living and the one I did not choose, so many times over, walking right beside me always, thus the two shape one another. Perhaps that is what this strange life is, a looking inside of itself. A body and a mind, and a watcher of the body and the mind. Peering in, wondering who we are, and — if we are all connected — who is “other.”