The Door to Colour…Part 1

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I don’t want to appoint myself to the position of apologist for blogging and social networking. I think there are others who could do that job better than I can, but I do believe these tools have a place and a value.

We all have fabulous people in our lives . . . friends, coworkers, neighbors and cherished family . . . folks who share our values, history and place in the world but not necessarily our zeal for a particular cause or art. One of the intrinsic benefits that comes with the ability to easily connect over distance is that it facilitates meeting and sometimes befriending others who share our passions . . .

And so I come to the way an American poet living in Silicon Valley met an English poet who lives in London.  It was over a red dress.  Myra Schneider had written a poem – part of a collection called Circling the Core – and I loved it. In the poem Myra tells about wanting a red sheath, how it didn’t fit comfortably and how in the end she was glad to shed the dress and retrieve her body despite its “flaws.”  You see, Myra’s a survivor of breast cancer. It so happened that around the same time I discovered the poem, read up on Myra and found some more of her work, I found myself sitting in a doctor’s office with a friend. I was there as her moral support and as a sort medical amanuensis. My friend was diagnosed with breast cancer.

I’ve had a number of friends who have survived breast cancer and a mother who succumbed to it and colon cancer.  I know about the fear, pain and the mutilation.  I had to post the poem for the others and I did so on September 28, 2010, THE RED DRESS by Myra Schneider . . . a poetry reading.

Somehow Myra happened on the post and wrote to thank me.  She sent me some of her books, which I eventually reviewed and she introduced me to Second Light Network of Women Poets, a group I appreciate and enjoy very much.  Thanks to Myra and Second Light, I’ve become acquainted with the work of quite a number of accomplished women poets I might never have encountered.

Myra subscribes to my blog. I read her books and articles. We are Facebook friends. Myra has generously contributed poems and feature articles to The BeZine, which I founded and edit. As you can see, blogging and social networking are not just the domain of philistines. They have their place among the artful … I know I am mostly preaching to the choir here. So many of us are WordPress, Facebook and Twitter friends based on our love of literature, art and music … most profoundly, our love poetry.

Now on to a review of Myra Schneider’s latest poetry collection, The Door to Colour (Enitharmon Press) … Look for it here tomorrow in Part 2 …

“Painting is silent poetry, and poetry is painting with the gift of speech.”
~Simonides of Ceos (556-468 BCE), Greek lyric poet

© 2015, article, Jamie Dedes, All rights reserved; 2015, photograph, Myra Schneider, All rights reserved

Going Pink Tonight for Breast Cancer and for Pulmonary Fibrosis Awareness

A pink rose for Mom.
A pink rose for Mom, my aunts and Laurel, Leslie and Eleanor.

October is BREAST CANCER AWARENESS month in the U.S., though the problem is not limited to this country alone. Something that folks are not aware of is that as many people die each year of PULMONARY FIBROSIS (PF) as they do of breast cancer.

One of the 360 potential causes of lung fibrosis is radiation and chemotherapy for breast and other cancers. Unfortunately, PF – while quite prevalent – is less well-known and the funding for research isn’t there as it is for breast cancer.

September was Pulmonary Fibrosis Awareness Month. Life expectancy for people diagnosed with Pulmonary Fibrosis is less than five years. Lung transplant is sometimes a possible recourse.

Related articles and helpful sites:

© 2014, photograph, Jamie Dedes

THE RED DRESS by Myra Schneider … a poetry reading

Video posted to YouTube by SpokenVerse.

My first reaction is: I want it,
can’t wait to squeeze into
a scarlet sheath that promises
breasts round as russet apples,
a waist pinched to a pencil,
hips that know the whole dictionary
of swaying, can’t wait
to saunter down an August street
with every eye upon me.

But the moment I’m zipped in
I can’t breathe and the fabric
hugging my stomach without mercy
pronounces me a frump.
Besides, in the internet café,
where you can phone Tangiers
or Thailand for almost nothing
fourteen pairs of eyes
are absorbed by screens.
No one whistles when I smile
at boxes of tired mangoes
and seedy broccoli heads
outside the Greek superstore.

By now I’m in a fever to undo
the garment and pull it off.
And for all its flaws, for all
that it only boasts one breast,
I’m overjoyed to re-possess
my body. I remember I hate
holding in and shutting away.
What I want is a dress easy
as a plump plum oozing
juice, as a warm afternoon
in late October creeping
its ambers and cinnamons into
leaves, a dress that reassures
there’s no need to pretend,
a dress that’s as capacious
as generosity, a dress that willingly
unbuttons and whispers in the ear:
be alive every minute of your life.

The Red Dress from Circling the Core by Myra Schneider, 2008

I know that there are a number of women who read this blog who have or are in remission from cancer, including breast cancer. Also there a few who are the caretakers of someone with cancer. Mulling on that today while I acted as scribe and moral support for a friend visiting her primary care physician, I decided that Ms. Schneider would be the next in my periodic and informal sharing of favorite poets. Ms. Schneider’s first poetry collection was published in 1984. In 2000, she was diagnosed with breast cancer. Writing for her – as for many – was a part of the healing process. She journaled two weeks after diagnosis:

I have to hang onto the thought of friends and the relatives and friends of people I know who have survived for years and years after breast cancer. I owe it to myself to manage my panic and to make this a life experience not a death experience, to concentrate on possibilities, to grab every moment of life I can, to use what has happened for writing, to include the awfulnesses but also the plusses. I mustn’t forget the moments of joy: the sun lying in swathes on the grass, the sharp clean cut of the air, the disc of the sun on water. I must keep the words that came into my head about the snowdrops I saw in a garden when we walked to the shops a couple of hours ago. I think it’s the starting point of a poem. MORE

An accessible poet, Ms. Schneider has authored several poetry collections, young adult fiction, and books on writing: Writing for Self Discovery and Writing My Way Through Cancer. The later describes her journey from diagnosis to recovery and encompasses various treatments and their effects, including mastectomy. She provides practical suggestions for using writing in recovery and healing.

This post:

IN MEMORY OF MOM and GIGI EVANS, MARY, PARVATHI, and DEBORAH.

and

DEDICATED TO E, L, A, R, and B.

With love and in solidarity …