• A LOVE POEM

    Date: 2021.04.14 | Category: Poetry, Septuagenarian | Response: 0

    Age Has Everything to Do With It

     

    Permission to write this poem, to weave this story.

    To hold the hand to touch the narrative.

     

    Not all relationships are volatile. Not this one.

    Age has everything to do with it.

     

    They meet for the first time in a park and it’s raining.

     

    She places a cross on the picnic bench, unsure

    if it’s necessary. Not knowing she is protected

    by organic food and lack of devilish intent.

     

    If needed, there is an umbrella; but truth weathers

    gray skies and intuition.

     

    They break bread and sip jasmine tea. This is love,
    or so she reckoned, not just another walk in the woods.

     

    copyright Sherry Quan Lee; from Septuagenarian: love is what happens when I die

  • SELF-INTERVIEW: SWAN SONG. SEPTUAGENARIAN

    Date: 2021.02.24 | Category: Assignments, Interviews, Septuagenarian, Words of Wisdom | Response: 0

    SELF-INTERVIEW: SWAN SONG. SEPTUAGENARIAN

     

    1. You say your most recent book, Septuagenarian, is your swan song, what do you mean by that?

    Septuagenarian is the last book I will write. Friends ask me why and I respond
    “I am tired.” My focus has always been to discover who I am and why, while hoping to open up a space for dialoging about identity. I’m ready to engage in larger conversations, conversations one can’t have until we know who we are. That said, I am a one-on-one extrovert, not comfortable engaging in large crowds of public spaces.

    Early on in my writing career, I attended many local readings, hoping to support and engage with local writers, especially writers of color; but, in my later years I became more isolated. Maybe it has something to do with age, but mostly I think a change in location, moving away from the Twin Cities, was a detriment. The more isolated I became, the more I became a social recluse. And, although I’ve always been an introvert in larger gatherings and public spaces, the pandemic drew me inward even more. I don’t “Zoom” and I don’t want to (never say never), although I am getting comfortable with viewing the online options which are opportunities to see Twin Cities and national artists who are so generous with their time and talent in the comfort of my condo.

    1. Of all your books, which do you like the best?

    Thanks for asking that question. I actually like best the book I didn’t write, but edited, How Dare We! Write a multicultural creative writing discourse. It was an opportunity to work with twenty-four writers in the mix from across the country and here at home who had stories about their experiences as writers that needed to be told . I also think it gained the most attention of all my books. It is being used in college classrooms and included in Poets and Writers Best Books for Writers.

    https://www.pw.org/bestbooks/how_dare_we_write_a_multicultural_creative_writing_discourse)

    Also, And You Can Love me a story for everyone who loves someone with ASD is a book close to my heart because it’s based on my observation of and experience with my grandson who was diagnosed with autism at the age of 3 ½.

    The process from the beginning was a learning experience. I took a picture book class from Alison McGhee, international known best-selling author,  to learn what is involved in picture book writing. I, then, worked with two younger artists who also had no previous experience with picture books.

    To see my grandson, now a teenager, page through his book is my greatest reward.

    1. What have you left out of your most recent book and why?

    I can’t stop thinking about what poems I didn’t write. I have to admit that three or four years ago the book started out with just fifteen poems because I was submitting them for a competition-the first year poetry, then prose, then poetry again. Not a winner, I prevailed by, I admit,  padding the manuscript with previously published poems, and asking my publisher if he would be interested in my swan song. Which, by the way, became more focused when a discussion about the separation of Black families led to me being asked to write about it, to write about how separation has been prevalent in our/my family.

    To answer the question, I keep thinking of things I left out or could have explored in more depth, but mainly I left out the physical (including sexual) aspects of aging. I was able to add two lines into an existing poem, but the topic deserves so much more.

    1. If you could have chosen a different career, other than writer, what would that have been?

    That’s an intriguing question. I seldom think of  myself as “writer” as a career. Writing and teaching writing were accidents of a sort. I was working for an independent study program where men and, particularly, women were studying for graduate degrees while being in the work force full time and many raising families. I wondered if I could do it. I quit my job before knowing if I had been admitted to a graduate program, not thinking forward much at all.

    I wanted a graduate degree just to prove to myself I was smart enough to earn one. I chose writing because that’s the only program I thought I was qualified for even though I wasn’t. Despite, apparently, hesitancy on the Committee’s part, I was admitted and the rest of the story is too lengthy to divulge here.

     After graduation a series of community connections provided opportunities to teach, and in 2005 a special connection with a friend led me to my publisher, Loving Healing Modern History Press, who has been loyal to me, to my writing ever since.

    Back to the question. I wanted to be an elementary school teacher, but when I was required to learn the “new math” I dropped out of college, only to return on again off again until I earned a four-year degree twenty years later.

    1. What will you do now?

    Now, at seventy-three, my first priority is to stay healthy, to eat well and exercise. But I will continue to work with other writers, to try to give back the support and encouragement my mentors offered to me. Maybe I will become a more consistent blogger and post future writing to my blog site or FB writer’s page. blog.sherryquanlee

    I hope to have an audience for my books, but I have little to no interest in book tours or public appearances. Although, if the Pandemic ever subsides, I would graciously accept opportunities to read at local community sites such as Moon Palace Books or East Side Library.

    I think it’s time for me to enjoy life now that I have forgiven myself of previous (and still working on) addictive/compulsive  behaviors. To reign in some of my I know I am right  pronouncements and listen more intently and less reactively, and to forgive abundantly (except those things I believe aren’t forgivable).

    1. What disappoints you the most about being a writer?

    Instead of disappointment I’d rather concern myself with gratitude, with the ongoing progression of BIOPC writers gaining visibility and recognition. That said, there’s a long way to go, especially when organizations make token efforts to be diverse by including BIPOC writers, but don’t respect their monetary worth; but applause for those who do.

    1. What is your weakest skill as a writer?

    Grammar and punctuation.

    1. What is your best skill as a writer?

    Honesty. Fearlessness; writing despite of/because of fear.

    1. What have been your biggest road blocks to becoming a writer?

    Critics:  professors that say “writing about race isn’t trendy.” Lack of professors of color in the academy. Lack of white professors who embrace “teaching moments;” and white professors who might know the needs of students of color, but ignore them.

    A lack of self-esteem.

    I’m not a disciplined writer. I write reactively. I write when a political or personal event, or a story or a poem, or a movie triggers me to react.

    1. What advice would you give to other aspiring writers?

    Follow your heart, but more importantly follow your gut (and seriously, not just metaphorically). Don’t listen to, or at least ignore the critics who shame—actually, you will ignore them if you are following your heart and your gut. Seek out mentors, not just for the craft of writing, but for inspiration and motivation. I always told my students it’s who you know, but I meant that as a relationship of mutual respect and trust and friendship-not greed.

    WRITING EXERCISE

    I often asked my students to interview themselves as a creative project. I think it’s a way for aspiring writers to contemplate who they are as writer, what’s important to them as a writer, and where they are on their journey toward their goals.

    PREVIOUS INTERVIEWS CAN BE FOUND AT:

    https://turtleroad.org/2019/10/03/sherry-quan-lee-daring-to-nurture-untold-stories/

     

    https://www.midwestmixed.com/post/midwest-mixed-community-spotlight-sherry-quan-lee

     

    https://core.ac.uk/download/pdf/76349157.pdf

     

    https://www.authorsden.com/visit/viewarticle.asp?id=41176

     

     

     

  • THE WRITING PROCESS-what I remember what I don’t

    Date: 2021.02.20 | Category: Assignments, Poetry, Septuagenarian, The Art of Writing | Response: 0

    The Writing Process-What I Remember; What I Don’t

     

    A student once said to me that she appreciated me telling the class to keep everything.  Keep each and every draft of your writing, your manuscript.  Did I say that?

     

    Actually, I save nothing.  Okay, next to nothing.  When did I start letting go? It’s not about keeping what brings me joy.  My writing isn’t joyful.  Although, someone once said it had sass.

     

    I have always decluttered.  Every two or three months I purge-this includes not only things, but sometimes, people (sometimes they purge me).  But since the Pandemic, actually even before, I started a momentous purge—maybe it was when I turned 70 and knew any day now could be my last and why make my children go through my things, things they wouldn’t want.  Even worse, if they, without paying any attention to who I was, threw them out without a nod or a recognition.

     

    My office files are fairly pristine.  Sorted, labeled, shelved:  insurance, taxes, car, condo, publications—mine and those of my friends.  Yet, as the piles of my essays and poems thin, I am heart struck to notice a journey of words that repeat, that sail forth, that bring me to my writing/life today at the age of 73.

     

    I have a book forthcoming. March 2021, LHP:  Septuagenarian: love is what happens when I die. Now that’s a scary title if not understood as a metaphor.  The mock-up of the cover has the sub-title in small font size.  What does that mean?  Are we afraid of death?  Actually, the title came from a poem within the manuscript and it stuck, the line in the title, not the poem.  It’s a metaphor.  Clarissa Pinkola Estés said What must I give more death to today, in order to generate more life? I say, what must I let go of to generate love, be love, give love, get love.

     

    As I fumble through boxes of what I have not yet been able to discard, I discover a few poems that haven’t yet found their way to the trash.  One poem in particular, but there are others, starts out like this:

     

    “I woke up knowing I was dead.  The first thing I’ve been sure of all my life.  The marks stretched, some visible and some invisible.  Stretched past cardboard boxes.  None of them empty,  Each box filled with an arm or a leg.”

     

    The two-page poem contain boxes each labeled by a decade. It ends with:  “This was love.  She had finally gotten what she wanted.  But she was no longer who she was. She didn’t recognize herself….”

     

    The poem was dated October 15, 1999.  Only three years after I earned an MFA. There are hand-written revisions.  There is a short version printed in red.  A note says Vulva Riot.  There is a chorus that reads:  “Stretch marks, mark time, highway marks, passing marks, remarks, earmarks, market, marker, question marks, magic markers, grave markers, stretch marks.”

     

    Sometimes we don’t know why we say things, do things, save things—write things.  But there is significance to our actions.  I am glad I saved this poem. If I had come across it earlier, it would be in my book.  It would be the Introduction, the Foreword.  I am going to edit the poem.  This poem will not be discarded.  There are no rules I told my students.  Save all your drafts or don’t.  Discard everything so future generations won’t be bothered, or save what has been your life line and hope someone will embrace it.

     

    WRITING EXERCISE:  choose a word, such as mark and explore it and all related words by sound, by meaning, or both.  Create a chorus/a short verse.  Let it be the pattern that emerges.  How do you fill the empty spaces in-between?  Are they boxes marked by decades such as:

     

    “One box, marked 1953-1963, contained Hostess Cup Cakes.  Campbell’s Chicken Noodle Soup.  Barbie dolls.  Captain, May I.  Sorry.  Sugar and Spice.  Axel and His Dog. Captain Kangaroo. Nancy Drew. Bobbsey Twins.  The Little Engine That Could.  Pop Beads,  Roller Skates.  Crinolines. Hula Hoops.  Red Rover.  Pony Tails.  Our Redeemer Lutheran Church. Kool Aide. “Go Tell Aunt Rhody the Ol’ Gray Goose Is Dead”. The Salvation Army Book Store on Nicollet Island. Government Surplus.  A metal Grocery Cart.  Trading Cards.  Air Raid Drills.  Standish Elementary School.  Woolworths. Wonder Bread.”

     

    I probably did tell the student to save all of her writing.  I probably meant it.  Much of my writing, my former life was left behind when I made, yet another relationship move.  This one sudden.  Sometimes things aren’t saved because we can’t take them with us.  But sometimes, a book authored and signed by you to another poet will show up on a Google search and you know not everything is lost, it just might have found a new home.

     

    Sherry Quan Lee

    February 18, 2021

  • FOUND POEM

    Date: 2021.01.13 | Category: Assignments, LHP/MHP, Poetry, Septuagenarian | Response: 0

    FOUND POEM

    Attributed to Septuagenarian: love is what happens when I die (March 2021)

     

    One doesn’t have to imagine good and evil amidst all this terror

    sadness, the bones and the blood surrender

    we can make a difference we are all somebody

    we are not on the backs on the backs on the backs

    of sorrow

     

    that preceded

     

    head separated from body

    body separated from country

    family separated

     

    love guarantees memory        madness

    guns in white rooms the ghost

    of a man an unholy ghost trying to rewrite the story

     

    what if what if what if asking the questions is [not] enough; sometimes

     

    I feel like a boxer punching    the world

    is heavy that’s when the silence is broken

    not with words but with images   children

     

    didn’t know what to make of the bickering

    children got lost in the silences babies suffering;

    the father the mother the siblings gone

    a newspaper headline

     

    to the wicked and the wise there is a difference

    between opinion and truth, a space where dying

    to love where freedom is clearly not where in the world we are

     

    divisive and our lives are at risk

    tolerate a difficult word; racism, white men with assault rifles; death

     

    is temporary

     

    history implodes on a regular irregular heartbeat the charade is over this year

     

    love

    like a sorcerer reads palms this is love choking on air,

    ready to survive pedestals

    collapse amidst a pandemic

     

    hallelujah!

     

    as I sip my morning coffee it is grief it is death it is love;

    hate travels the ♥ broken is what saves us.

     

    © Sherry Quan Lee January 12, 2021

     

    ASSIGNMENT: I’ve been thinking about the recent insurrection at the capitol, the fast and flowing media coverage, the attempts to oust the 45th, etc.  My thought was, as a poet, I should write a found poem based on various print and even video media; but, I thought it would be complicated because of copyright, what is fair use, and how to attribute my sources (unless there is no thought of publishing it).  Instead, I turned to my own writing using only text from my forthcoming book.  Try this as an assignment, use words and phrases from what you have previously written and “find” a poem. I started with a goal in mind, to discover what I might have, perhaps unknowingly, said beyond the personal, have I entered the world?  Having a theme in mind isn’t necessary, it is enough to just randomly choose words and phrases you are drawn to as you reread what you have written over a particular span of time.

    NOTE: The poem published here is a first draft.

Artist Statement

Sherry Quan Lee approaches writing as a community resource and as culturally based art of an ordinary everyday practical aesthetic. Lee is a Community Instructor at Metropolitan State University (Intro to Creative Writing, Advanced Creative Writing), and has taught at Intermedia Arts, and the Loft Literary Center. She is the author of A Little Mixed Up, Guild Press, 1982 (second printing), Chinese Blackbird, a memoir in verse, published 2002 by the Asian American Renaissance, republished 2008 by Loving Healing Press, and How to Write a Suicide Note: serial essays that saved a woman’s life, Loving Healing Press, 2008.

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SEPTUAGENARIAN

Septuagenarian by Sherry Quan Lee

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Septuagenarian by Sherry Quan Lee

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How to Write a Suicide Note by Sherry Quan Lee

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