prose

An Essay About Being and Becoming a Poetess

Late last night I finished work on another collection of poems, “Thelxiepeia.” This group of poems started out with a different title. When I began editing I knew that many of the poems would not make the final cut. They seemed parts of two books jammed together in a way that didn’t fit and so I opted for a cohesive finished selection and a new title. Thelxiepeia, in Greek mythology, is one of the Sirens, creatures whose seductive songs and music lured sailors to crash their ships. Sirens were often represented as being part woman and part bird. How I happened upon this story of Thelxiepeia was that I was watching an old movie called “Xanadu”, in which a muse, Kira, whose real name is Terpsichore, the muse of the dance, emerges from a mural, and falls in love with a mortal. There are fantastic musical numbers, Olivia Newton-John, Gene Kelly, Michael Beck, with music by Cliff Richard, The Tubes, and ELO. I’ve mentioned this movie before as it has most everything in it that an adolescent girl in 1981, one seeking some escape from excruciating pain, could require of a movie. I still think it’s a beautiful film, though from a completely different point of view this many years gone now. In watching it again I thought to look up the names of the Nine Muses of Olympus, one of whom is portrayed, though it isn’t a speaking part, by Sandahl Bergman, who is better known for her roles in “Conan the Barbarian”, “All That Jazz”, and “Red Sonja.” This led to looking up the names of the Sirens, and the writing of the poem, “Thelxiepeia.” Thematically overall, the collection has to do with the subject of muses and myths, with the stories we tell ourselves so that we can find a way to tell our stories, and those things that help us along the way in that.

xanadu-mural-muses

The Muses, “Xanadu”, 1980

 

In writing these poems, in watching “Xanadu” whenever it was, these poems were written several years ago, and remembering again that time of my life, I understood again how it is that I became a poetess, a writer, and how much of that, for me, relates to, or has or is entrenched in, films and music in someway. In 1981 I turned thirteen years old. Over the course of exactly one months time, I went from being a normal, healthy kid, to being emaciated and barely able to get out of bed. Five foot eight, at that time, my weight dropped to ninety-six pounds at one point. I couldn’t go to school, couldn’t eat, couldn’t sleep, couldn’t not sleep, and after months of weeks of grueling visits to doctors, specialists, hospitals, they couldn’t find anything specifically wrong with me that they could diagnose as anything other than Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis, since re-diagnosed as an adult as Still’s Disease, which is similar to Lupus. That’s back story, it took a year to recover enough, to be well enough again, to really return to school. Point being that I really couldn’t do much of anything other than watch television during most of that time. I didn’t have the ability to concentrate or focus enough to read books during that time as I was in too much pain, though I’d been an avid reader up to then. Being as I couldn’t really do much of anything else during that time other than watch television, many of the usual restrictions on what I was allowed to watch, were lifted. Nineteen-eighty and eighty-one weren’t bad years for film, though my viewing was limited to whatever cable movie channel it was that we had or whatever was making its “Network Television Premier” and that was usually about a year behind whatever was in the theaters. I’ve spoken before about watching the film “Altered States” and feeling a strange understanding of the transformation of the main character while wondering why in the world anyone would willing put themselves through what he does. ( It’s like “Jaws” in that you find yourself just wanting him to get out of the water.) Along those lines I also watched the other werewolf movies of the day, “An American Werewolf in London” and “Wolfen” and the like. The feeling that I had sometimes was very much that I didn’t want to be that, and that I was nonetheless turning into some inexplicable creature and the world was turning into a strange place that didn’t understand me, anymore than I could understand it.

Most of the time, I couldn’t hold a pen or a pencil, couldn’t do schoolwork, wore Ace bandages and wrist braces and homemade splints. I was in so much pain so constantly, the world slips away when it’s like that, for anyone experiencing anything like that I would guess. The way that everyone else keeps time is meaningless and useless and of no importance. On the better days, I’d wish I was at school, I’d think about all I was missing out on, dances, friends, boyfriends, classes I liked. I couldn’t ride my bicycle or play sports anymore and I’d always been the kid that was outside from sunup until dark, though really it was beyond wallowing. Whatever the future was going to hold for me was forever changed. My mother said, “You know, you could still write. You could try writing poems again.” I’d written poems in grade school, and for school, though I hadn’t considered “writer” or “poetess” as a job option outside of possibly being a journalist, a newswoman. And I thought, “I can’t even hold a pencil.” But she got a couple of small notebooks for me and I remember writing what I still consider to be my first serious poem, titled simply, “Alone”, while I was sitting in bed watching the film, “Private Benjamin.” That movie is a comedy, containing one of my all time favorite movie line exchanges.

“Aunt Kissy: I hope my coat’s gonna be good enough. I had no idea it was gonna be so chilly.

Harriet Benjamin: It’s November here, Kissy.

Teddy Benjamin: It’s November everywhere, genius.”

But the film is ultimately about Judy Benjamin finding her sense of self, and the strength to be her own person, there was something in that that spoke to me beyond the ribald, raunchy, comedy, because in that place, the funniest thing in the world, isn’t quite so funny. In that place of so much pain, the funniest thing in the world seems illogical, senseless, and idiotic, I guess one way to put it would be like how the food fight in the film “Animal House” (1978), might not make you laugh if you’re not from a first world country where even waste is taken for granted, and what I was looking for were things that were hopeful in some way, or strong, resilient. It also may be that it was during that time that any remaining sense of humor I had, took a sardonic, somewhat self-deprecating, turn. I looked at the poem that I’d scribbled in the little notebook and that was the beginning, and I hope I never forget that moment. Additionally, it’s become evident to me that my brain might be hardwired for rhyme to some degree, and some of that comes from listening to music and song lyrics all my life. ( My father was a musician, both my parents could sing, there was live music in the house for much of my youth.) Eventually I was allowed to use my mother’s electric typewriter sometimes, when my hands were very swollen, as I could often still move my fingers on the keys for a while even if I couldn’t move my wrists or my hands, however much it hurt. I was a writer before that, but after that, I knew that I was, whether I’d claimed it or it had claimed me, and that was that. I’ve since tried not to be a writer a couple of times and that doesn’t ever work out. I used to say that my writing was my “human’s compensation,” like … yeah there’s all of whatever else there is, but then there’s my writing. God willing I’ll be able to keep writing and writing and writing. Human beings are resilient, and strong, courageous.

Finishing this collection of poems, and it isn’t quite as long as some of the others at only fifty-four pages, I could go right into editing another collection of poems but I found that I didn’t want to, I found myself wanting to work on some kind of story again, some fiction. Though really I am taking some time to organize and edit and clear the decks for the end of the year, hopefully do some fun things, spend some time with family. 2017 has gone quickly, hasn’t it? The last several years for me, I’ve realized, have been about finding myself as a writer again, finding my groove with it all, finding balance and self acceptance, allowing myself to be this and to honor it and the gift of it, to appreciate, and accept, and let be, my own muses. “Thelxiepeia”, I think, speaks very much to all of that. I hope to release it sometime next year, in early spring. I’m so grateful for this gift of being able to write, and I do consider it to be a gift. We all find inspiration or ideas in a lot of different things, people, places, it’s important to honor your muse(s), one of mine led me to Thelxiepeia. I’m uncertain in this moment if these poems were a farewell to the girl that I was or an homage, I feel like I can write about her, but I can’t ever again be her. I’m not sad about that, only grateful for having had the chance to be that girl, and to be looking now to the future as this woman. Becoming is ever ongoing.

 

Teri

 

Thelxiepeia

 

great song from the film “Xanadu.”

In The Lingering of November

Almost December,
I wonder what it will bring with it,
however much I try not to.
I think about the things we think
we always wanted,
the ones we got,
and the ones that got away,
in the middle of the day,
in the glaring light of dawn,
in the fading twilight,
in the moonlight
in the dark night,
I wish I may, I wish I might,
starlight, star bright, oh…
it’s alright, alright.
I think about the graceless wandering
of insomnia that sticks,
that catches,
that tugs at the mind or the soul or the heart,
to walk it around turning on lights,
drinking water, making chamomile tea,
looking for something on tv, trying to read,
seeking comfort when the quiet is too loud,
wound up like a knot that no one can undo, only me,
only you, only time will release it, only letting go,
until the first yawn,
until the tension is gone,
for a moment long enough for sleep to slip
back in,
that we might dream again,
and find therein
whatever longing has eluded our waking,
in the lingering
of November.

TS   11/29/17

Gold Mine, These Are the Words I Managed to Save

During the fall months of 2008 and on into 2009, and on for a while, reality slipped away from me. Amid the avalanche of dissipating solidity descending into complete confusion and chaos of thought, I threw more than twenty years of writing, of work, into a cauldron of flames. Two file boxes of poems, stories, notes, one completed novel, and two poetry manuscripts, went into the fire. One of those manuscripts was for a book of poems titled “Winsome Vein”, that I thought was darker than anything I’d ever written, so much so that I was afraid of the direction my writing seemed to be taking. The truth is that I’ve always written darker words, as much as I’ve written hopeful ones. However, having filed that copyright on “Winsome Vein”, saved that work as I had set fire to all other copies. ( Some might say that was the right thing to do.)

Within days of having burned so much of my work, I experienced a moment of clarity, and panic. I became terrified that I might destroy more of my own work. I gathered the bits and pieces of what remained, jamming them together one after another in whatever way they seemed to make sense to me, along with other fragments that my mind had latched onto in the unraveling. Those salvaged bits became this book, “Gold Mine”. I filed my copyright on it as soon as it was finished, thinking that I was filing a copyright on a pile of scraps, of bits and pieces of salvage. I was trying to protect my work from my own want to destroy it. I later found an old notebook with many pages missing that I remembered rifling through one night in a fit of what I was thinking of as “editing”, as though all sentimentality and heart had taken leave of me along with my senses. The poems still intact in that notebook remain something of a godsend to me. I destroyed twenty years of work, of scraps, of notes, of stories, early rejection letters received when I was in my teens and twenties, journals, it all went, as I tried to deny myself, to say, “I am not this.” I looked at what remained and thought, These are the words I managed to save.

Coming out of that time I didn’t know if I would ever write anything again. For nearly two years, I didn’t. It is the only time in the last thirty-three years that I’ve ever ceased writing.

All my words are not always the best words, they are, however, the encapsulation of the moment in which they were written. The merit of a thing is sometimes the moment. I’ve learned as much from the bad poems and stories that I’ve written as I have from the good ones. Whether they are all worth publishing isn’t the point, they are all worth keeping and learning from.

I hadn’t looked at, read, much of this work since that time. In writing and editing this now, I’ve realized that I was leaving a message for myself for the future, for whenever I would get back to this. A message to not give up, not to quit. I found my guts again with this book.

I am a writer. ~  Teri Skultety, September 12, 2017, from “Gold Mine”.

Available on Amazon Kindle!

Paperback coming soon!

A Sampling from the seventy-eight pieces of poetry and prose that make-up, “Gold Mine”, now available on Amazon.

Map Maker

Night

Indian Summer

Let Them Eat Cake

Wolf

Beauty

Thrift

Fairy Wails

Longing for Autumn

Let It Ride

Dream Girl

This True Heart

Psalm

Unlimited

Time Machine

The Harvest

 

 

I hope you buy this collection of my salvaged scribbles, I hope you read it and enjoy it. I hope it rocks your socks.  Thank you so much for stopping by. Sincerely, Teri Skultety

Fairy Wails

Coming soon…

Fairy Wails

Where is this hero

Who is so oft spoke of?

Where it this mythological man,

Who saves the day,

Who mends the heart

And lights the way?

Where is the hero

Who wasn’t fucked up

by his mother?

Who melts the bitterness of betrayal?

Who elevates all men

By the virtue of his stature,

And the stature of his virtue?

Who is truly decent?

Whose mistakes are honest?

Whose motives are care and concern and

LOVE?

Is he real?

 

They show us all those films in our girlhood,

They give us Barbie dolls,

That we can never look like,

And read us fairy tales…

If life is bad,

If there are wicked people,

And, or, relations,

If you are too beautiful for words,

Loved by dwarfs and forest animals,

Trapped in a tower,

Got hold of a bad apple,

Or slept for a thousand years – without aging-

Have they got a man for you!

Just dial 1-555-bulshit.

Press 1 for English,

2 for Princess, and 3,

For peasant girl who can’t get a break,

And listen closely,

As his options may have changed.

 

Would he arrive in an orange Corvette?

With a solo Manolo,

That no mortal woman could ever afford the mate to?

I’m not bitter,

I just wonder,

If any of it is real,

At all,

The fairy tales,

The propaganda films that prime us

For disaster.

And is that disappointment

The ultimate control?

Leaving us too devastated

To kiss another toad,

Attend another dance,

Or even manage to get out of bed?

Is that why she slept so long?

She didn’t think he was coming?

 

Who is Prince Charming?

What did he say?

Stay alive, no matter what,

With your Jay Googly Goo Expectations –

And I will find you —

And compare thee to horrible fictional women,

Who had the full benefit of knowing,

Exactly what the hell was going on,

I will harass thee and insult thee,

Oh, my darling,

For a change of pace,

And call thee a whore,

Because that’s never been done before.

That Prince Charming?

Stay awake for him?

 

Why does a woman have to wait?

Why is the woman made to guess?

Why is the woman left to watch the movie again,

And rely on her dreams,

For hope,

For Love?

Why didn’t the Women’s Libbers

Burn all of the Prince Charming stories

With their bras?

That is the true crime,

That is the beginning of the brainwashing.

When they first convince us

That Snow White

Is really a porno flick?

They begin trying

To take it away

So soon,

The dream,

Of some clean romance,

Of being swept off one’s feet,

Before the deed.

 

They never say

That Romeo will come

Then go,

And lie to us,

To lie with us.

They never say that he will not be

Forthright in his dealings,

Or explain himself at all.

Doesn’t he know that a thousand years of sleep,

Leaves a modern chic with a low tolerance

For sadism?

Why does the woman always have to figure everything out?

Put the puzzle back together,

With half the pieces missing and a box of silly putty?

Why is the woman held accountable,

For wanting the very thing

They promised her in Technicolor cartoon animal musical numbers,

Since her birth?

 

It’s a sad day in the kingdom,

When Cinderella has to save herself,

Or starve to death waiting,

Is it for her own good?

Or just the kind of line

They give

When they don’t intend to make good

On their end of things —

“We know you signed up for the deluxe rescue package,

But in today’s economy,

We’ve cut funding to peasant girl bail outs.”

 

With no formal education,

No decoder ring,

A gal can’t make out the fine print.

The old days were better,

When all a girl had to do,

Was drop that shoe.

 

And the right thing?

Well that’s what every girl is waiting for.

How much faith is a woman required to have?

For how long?

How many betrayals does it take,

To get to the chewy center

Of a true believer?

And the truth?

Can a woman tell a truth she doesn’t know?

All the cloak and dagger get out of the dance by midnight shit—

Has worn thin.

After a thousand years,

Who would blame Sleeping Beauty,

If she was afraid that Prince Charming

We’re only another hoax?

Everyone.

That’s who would blame her,

Everyone.

Call Leonard Nimoy, call Muldar and Scully,

Call Kolchak, Kojack and Huggy Bear,

Put out an APB,

Re-Examine the Zapruder film,

And that clip of Sasquatch looking over her shoulder,

Find the man who fits the description given by women the world over…

“I saw something, I’m just not sure what it was.”

 

Extra, extra, read all about it,

Cinderella, The Dumb Blonde,

Remains devastating,

Despite having been,

Left baffled,

By unidentified mythological man-like creature,

Alias, “Prince Charming”,

And a wicked bout with PMS.

She was missing a shoe,

Had cold feet,

She got her PhD. In Philosophy,

Online,

While barefoot,

And decided, who needs this bullshit anyway?

Her singles ad says,

She hates propaganda films.

 

 

 

from Gold Mine, copyright 2009, Teri Skultety, all rights reserved

( Written for someone close to me who was going through a bitter divorce. Writers are not always everything they write. Latitude. )

Being an Independent Author: How Much Work Is Involved in Making a Book?

How much work is involved in making a book, bringing a book to market, yourself?

I’d say that depends on the author. First you’ve got to write the thing and come up with, or out of it with, a final draft. I write it. I edit it. I format it. That is all me. I proofread it, again, and again, and probably again. I just finished the fifth page by page check of “Gold Mine”. I found a place in one of the pieces where “understand” needed to be changed to “understanding”. Spellcheck doesn’t catch that kind of thing, nor does it catch homophones, and sometimes a grammar check won’t catch those either. Editing poetry is far more tedious than editing stories or editing a novel. Editing a novel there is the forward motion of the story itself to keep you going, with poetry, each piece may be different, require different formatting. I also occasionally invent words and of course spellcheck doesn’t recognize those. I’m currently editing and publishing work from years ago, trying to get caught up. This is important, it doesn’t matter when a piece was written if it is good. No one looks at a Renoir and says, “That old thing?” Same goes for music and film, if something is good, then it’s good. Timelessness.

Making books this way is very much rebel book making. I’m not anti-establishment in that I wouldn’t ever say that I definitely wouldn’t seek to publish along traditional lines again. But, I am a person who believes in thinking for myself. I believe that my work is good, and I want to publish it in the way that I want to publish it, and in a timely manner. I’ve already vented my feelings about how I arrived at the decision to become an indie author. At this point I would say that it completely suits me. It allows for complete creative freedom and control. It allows for me to work at my own pace, or not work if I’m in too much pain. With my arthritis, I admit that I do always feel as though the clock is ticking on the longevity of my hands, I’ve got back and neck problems too ( as many writers do). Honestly, the physicality of my particular situation, I don’t know that I could do this any other way, it would have to be an unheard of super sweet deal of, “Sure, whenever, you want!” As yet, I am enjoying being an independent author.

I am also then in charge of getting my work our there, that’s the part that really isn’t my favorite because I’m not a natural salesperson. I’m a writer. I don’t have a team of anyone standing behind me, or as yet, an established fan base, or a publicist. Keeping in mind that each part of the process is time and effort. If you’re a writer who is handing things off to an editor or an agent, if you have an established fan base, then you’re not wearing quite as many hats as someone who is doing everything themselves.

I can tell you that having made the decision, I’m calmer, less emotionally invested in the b.s., hypocrisy, and politics, of any given situation, because I don’t have to be. And yes, that is a luxury, one that I’ve gifted myself with by opting out of the usual route. It is also a grace, something that I’m lucky to be able to do and I don’t take it for granted, I’m happy for it for however long it lasts. I’m incredibly grateful for my husband in that, he’s been supporting my work in one way or another for a very long time. I do not regret opting out of, for the most part, the fray. Quite honestly, recent situations within the entertainment industry only reaffirmed my decision to go rogue, to go rebel, and do this myself on my own terms.

All of this is a learn as you go process. How much work?

Like I said, this is the fifth time I’ve gone through this manuscript page by page. That’s after having written it in the first place. So write it, then edit it, then spellcheck it, then grammar check it, then proofread it, (when you’ve got your final draft, or close to it, I say file your copyright,) then format it, then check your formatting to make sure everything looks as it should on each page, again, check your acknowledgments, your credits, your permissions if needed and you’ll be teaching yourself all of that too. Then you’re going to design your cover, or have someone do that for you. My philosophy about that is not to over think it, I’m a writer, yes I want the covers to look good/decent, ultimately that’s the wrapping paper, but I’m not an artist or graphic designer and I can’t afford to hire one as yet. I’ll get better at the covers as I go, ultimately, I am a writer and it’s the words that matter the most to me. ( It’s who you are inside that counts right?) But, you’re going to do that too, design your covers.  Etc. Etc. Etc. It can all take anywhere from months to a few years. ( From what I’ve read around, going the traditional route to publishing a book, providing you get a book deal, is an average time of about two years from idea and pitch to finished manuscript and publication.)

It isn’t the way to go for everyone, or even most, perhaps, but it is working for me. Am I a selling millions of books? Well, not quite yet. There are no guarantees along those lines regardless of the publishing route you choose.

The cover of “Gold Mine” is a picture of an x-ray of the fused bones of my right hand and wrist, the cause arthritis ( Still’s Disease), from several years ago now, that’s it. I often wear a brace. The clock is ticking. “Gold Mine” is a collection of poetry and prose the last piece of which was written in 2009. Collections, whether it be poetry or stories, take longer to accumulate.

Each writer has their own goals in my mind for what they want to do and how they want to do it when it comes to their work. For now, this is working for me. “Gold Mine” should be available for purchase sometime in early November. There are several pieces from the book available to read for free here on this webpage, just type Gold Mine, into the search box, though I will list the links when the book is ready.

Teri Skultety

 

 

 

Too, as in, Also…

from  ‘Gold Mine’

_____this true heart______________

I will write your name on every breath from now until forever, forget you never, know that I have not let go of this true heart. Forgiving you and him and them and everyone, everything, sing ever louder, stronger, taking claim of every wind and every rain, rising up out of every flame until my name escapes your lips in your sleep. And you know that I loved you and I loved him and them and everyone I could and everyone who would take it from me and I have no regrets about that. I have no shame. I am seeds in clouds and dreams about to be born again and I am wishes in the fountain and I am the highest mountain and I am Winter sleeping, teardrops weeping for every soul who never knows what I am talking about. Saints and Sinners, fabulous beginners, I am the echoed call to everyone who has ever fallen, praying, saying, in the deepest dark, get up, get up, get up.

Love is not a withered vine, love is not petals fallen, and longing unfulfilled, and love is not what men have willed, love is everlasting understanding divine and mine, oh mine, love is mine, to keep. Rainbows, unicorns, candy cane and fairy tales, artifice too soon to fail. They tell you that you have to sacrifice all to scale the castle wall and I say to you that all you have to do is be true, be true. Let go of all the hatred in your heart, let go of all ill wishes, let go of vengeance, you cannot kill Angels with it. Gossamer is fireproof and Angels own the ceiling that is the sky and everything beyond the dawn and everything you wonder on and everything you think is gone they carry with them in the folds of feathers blue and they do remember you, they do.

I will write your name on every page and wash away your hurt and rage and wash away your ache and heal the scars on your heart you thought were permanent and the ones even you had forgotten in the burden of flesh, until you believe again, in everything you let go of to leave me.

You think you want to hear my battle cry, that it will crack the Heavens, flash like lightning, pound like thunder, but I tell you that my battle cry sounds like children laughing and wedding vows, those kept, and those broken, and waterfalls, and crowds cheering at a home run, my battle cry is every Spring, every green thing that makes it through the snow, my battle cry is the song that makes you sing even though you don’t want to and the Hallmark commercial that makes you call your mother, my battle cry is the smell of roses on the breeze and fireflies in the night, racing to the stars, my battle cry is everything we are and trade for things that do not matter. My battle cry is restoration, resurrection and everlasting, surging out into the farthest reaches of the Universe, there is life here.

I will write your name on every breath from now until forever, because if all of this suffering was somehow right, to anyone, then there can be no end to the love that is needed to heal and it will start with me. And someday, maybe, we can talk about bravery and change and freedom. Freedom, that I’ve paid for in some way every time I’ve exercised it. I will love you in every word, every ache, in every break, in every breath and everything that I can, and hope and pray someday, you understand me, and you.

(Written 2009)

 

Psalm

Lead us into hands

That will care for us and keep us safe

Onto paths that know the way,

When we are lost and cannot find it on our own,

Keep us in the light,

Or light the dark we wander in

Enough to see,

Save our souls from lingering

Too long in places where we shouldn’t be,

If it were possible to be such places,

bring us back

From edges we’ve been lured to

From lies we hoped too long were true,

Open up our eyes that we might see the beauty

Of the heart

Broken down the middle clean

Stripped of artifice, laid bare and lean,

Exposed in sentience for a world to better know

The soul that dwells within

Lend us the courage to grasp

Whatever threads are left to us,

Of gossamer, of silver fine, quick spun,

A life of shadow finally in the sun,

Each of us a part of One,

Returning to the source,

Let us hope and hope to find,

The bitter root can still be sweet,

In memories of better dreams to keep.

 

Teri Skultety

April is National Poetry Month

So, I am a poetess

And I knowitess.

April is National Poetry Month. Here is a link to poets.org, if you are interested, you can check that out.

Rarely have I discussed my favorite poets. Some of that is because it has been very personal to me, and some of it is because if you came up to me wanting to talk specific poems, quite honestly, there are a few poems that have stuck with me but I’m not walking around like an encyclopedia, but, I’d try.  To that end, though, I will share some of my favorites with you and, perhaps among them you will find something that speaks to you also.

Sara Teasdale, 1884- 1933

Sara Teasdale was a lyrical poet, given to simple yet eloquent, and elegant, rhyme. Some background-   I had been writing poetry for a good ten years before I really started to read any poetry, completely true. I understood rhyme-scheme from the simple poems and nursery rhymes that we all used to learn during the normal course of our youth, also,  likely from Dr. Seuss. I also understood it from song lyrics. But, I didn’t read a lot of poetry because I wanted to learn to write like me. I picked up a book of Sara Teasdale’s poetry from the library sometime in the early 1990’s, after reading one of her poems in an anthology. I felt like I had found a poetic soul-sister. Rhyming poetry is sometimes frowned upon because it isn’t an easy thing to do well. Sara Teasdale is wonderful, old-fashioned and romantic though much of it is, her poetry is also filled passion and heartbreak, longing, a depth of understanding of what it is to truly pine for someone. Sara Teasdale was in love with poet Vachel Lindsay, women of her day, however, were often traditionally very practical in their choosing of a husband, forgoing passion for stability, and Teasdale chose to marry a more secure suitor. It is often said, believed, that Sara Teasdale’s suicide, in 1933, was ultimately brought on by this unfulfilled love and longing for Vachel Lindsay, who had taken his own life in 1931. Though I moved on to writing a variety of other verse, Sara Teasdale’s poetry still speaks to me, and she remains a personal touchstone, and one of my favorite poets.

 

Anne Sexton, 1928-1974

Make no mistake, when it comes to poetry, Anne Sexton is a cold-blooded killer. Listen to some of her readings, they’ll just about curdle your blood. To me, some of what is interesting about Anne Sexton is that coldness, she plummets through the underside of passionless detachment to a hollowness that is devastating. Anne Sexton comprehended nothingness as an emotion, but not only that, she could translate it and put it on the page. What I also found interesting was her re-writing of fairy-tales with the reality of the bitterness of unfulfilled promises, with an anger at the bill of goods they sold her and then failed to deliver on. Given to fits of suicide, often on or around the time of her own birthday, she was cold enough to be somewhat jealous when Sylvia Plath succeeded in dying, and finally managed to end her own life after a lunch in 1974 with long time friend, poet Maxine Kumin. Anne Sexton won the Pulitzer Prize for poetry for Live or Die, in 1967. Anne Sexton was a woman who mapped the abyss with a shuddering fuck.

Robert W. Service, 1874-1958

As previously stated, I love old books. Wandering in bookstore one day, I happened to find a copy of “The Spell of the Yukon,” from 1907, opened it up, read one of the poems, laughed, and his work has been a favorite of mine ever since.

Jack Kerouac, 1922- 1969

Dorothy Parker, 1893 -1967

Dorothy Parker is perpetually annoyed, and she’s perpetually annoyed with you because you’ve got a brain, but, apparently you haven’t evolved beyond figuring out ways to use that brain for anything other than being annoying. Dorothy Parker also had a lot of heart, it caused her to drink to excess sometimes so that she might better tolerate all of the stupid. Yes, how very funny, but she was quite seriously, however wittily, sick of people’s nonsense. Her failed romances led to a suicide attempt, or two, but she never succeeded in that and finally gave up on it, and I, for one, think the world better for it. I love the titles of her books, “Enough Rope,” “Sunset Gun,” wonderful wit. She was also something of a humanitarian, she left her entire estate to Dr. Martin Luther King. Jr, believing in his life’s work. I think that was an incredible statement about how she felt about the world, she wasn’t a jokester, she left her money to someone she believed had the integrity to do something good with it. I think that Dorothy Parker is the prime example of the kind of writer, person, that we look at and don’t really see for what’s really going on there, this was a woman who cared deeply and who was in a tremendous amount of pain, but, oh well, she was just darling at it. Who’s really cold, callous, and shallow, in that equation? She left us with a wealth of wonderful writing, and timeless witticism.

Carl Sandburg, 1868-1967

Charles Baudelaire, 1821 -1867

Like so many other books, I picked up a translation of  Fleurs du Mal in a thrift store. I’ve read nearly all of it but I don’t know that I could tell you one poem in it, though certainly, SPLEEN, comes to mind. It’s dark, its dreary, but it is also quite beautiful.

Some of my favorite books of poetry, some of which I am still in the process of reading.

The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam

The Prophet, by Kahlil Gibran

How To Take a Bullet, by Hollie Hardy

Streaming, by Allison Adelle Hedge Coke

Moon Crossing Bridge, by Tess Gallagher

Come Late to the Love of Birds, by Sandra Kasturi

 

I’ve also published two books of my poetry, Winsome Vein, and Red Line Wine, both of which are available on Amazon.

Happy National Poetry Month!

Teri

Red Line Wine, Available Now!

Red Line Wine, Selected poetry and prose, 1977-1996. This is the lightning in a bottle of my youth. I hope that you enjoy these poems and pieces of prose. You may read a few of them here, listed below.  ~ Thank you for reading! ~ T.S.

The Cafe New Orleans
Endings
Black Boots
Believe
A Tangent to Hamlet
11-29-94 (Raven)
Human
Adam’s Rib
Waking… (Honeysuckle)
Dreaming
The Knights of Stolen Roses
Journey With My Heart

Available now, at Amazon.

Coming soon…Red Line Wine

 

I’m working on the final poems in a collection or poetry and prose titled, Red Line Wine, that I first put together in 1996. These are the poems and prose of my youth, of first love, of heartbreak, of dreams, homesickness, longing, of hope, and believing that anything is possible. I’ll have a little more to say about this work when the time comes, for now, I put together a book trailer for Red Line Wine, using one of poems from the collection, “The Knights of Stolen Roses.”

I hope that you enjoy it!

Teri Skultety

 


THE KNIGHTS OF STOLEN ROSES

Locked within the walls of the past, 
The shadows and secrets of living too fast,
the memories bond the quiet heart,
to the moments when the Knights did part...

From the Top of the World the sun slid down,
Darkness descended on the Court Jester Clown,
Tinker Town in silence, forever fog bound,
Distant trains and the haunted sound,

The souls of seventeenth Summers,
the beats of distant drummers,
the heroes of war, or simply romance,
for those who dared to take a chance,

The midnight moon and shooting star,
knowing when to push it too far,
armored machines of lightning speed,
testing the limit when feeling the need,

Heart beating fast, living to tell,
the days when Knights were raising Hell,
A sweet little princess, and maybe, she might,
Roses you steal in becoming a Knight.

Trust was shared and rarely spoken,
A promise made was rarely broken,
Reaching for that shining brass,
Good and Evil, through the looking glass.

Dreaming of their future days,
When Knights must go their separate ways,
Only to dream of going home again,
For boyhood Knights, make the strongest men.

...A shade, or two, will always remain,
By which to know a loss, or count a gain,
Fiery Red and Forever Blue,
In everything you say and do.

Much more than medieval fantasy,
they wrote their own codes of nobility,
Knighted, by their own free will.
Is the Knight within you living still?

Teri Skultety
Originally composed, March 25, 1987