The Weekly Note (5/3/14)
Written by Sandra Squire Fluck
The Weekly Note
Four years ago, Featured Writer Leilani Squire began facilitating writing workshops for veterans at the Domiciliary at West Los Angeles Veterans Hospital. Last January, she started a writing workshop there for Vietnam combat veterans, something she has wanted to do for years. In addition to her work at the Domiciliary, she has been coordinating writing workshops at Wellness Works, a non-profit alternative healing and welcome center for active and non-active military and their families. Beginning in 2010, Leilani formed a committee to produce Returning Soldiers Speak, an annual event at which soldiers and veterans of the wars of the 20th and 21st centuries read their poetry and prose. The book Returning Soldiers Speak, An Anthology of Prose and Poetry by Soldiers and Veterans of every branch of the military, and edited by Leilani, grew out of this event. Many of the contributors were students of the writing workshops at the West Los Angeles Veterans Hospital, and some had attended Returning Soldiers Speak where Leilani first met them. Continuing her inspiring work with veterans, in January 2014 she convened the bookscover2cover Veterans Writing Group, in which veterans and Leilani exchange feedback about their writing. Once a month, they have a teleconference during which the participants and Leilani share comments and encourage each other to write. “They write authentically,” she says, high praise from a workshop leader who has engaged veterans for several years and knows how to motivate them. The Veterans Writing Group is open to anyone who is active in duty or those who write and who aspire to write.
“One of the best ways to support a veteran or soldier is to listen to what they have to tell,” Leilani says, and for many years she has listened to the soldiers and veterans returning from the Iraqi and Afghanistan wars. These soldiers and veterans are her teacher, she claims. They have taught her to be aware of their re-entry into society after combat and to feel compassion for their suffering. Over the years, she has written poems collected in the “The Soldiers Series,” in which she writes—without affectation—from the perspective of a civilian outsider who helplessly watches the suffering of both soldiers and their loved ones. In a poem included in this series, “Voyeur: Section 60 of Arlington National Cemetery,” Leilani sees a photograph of a woman bending over the grave of a fallen soldier. She writes in the second stanza: “I cry too /but unlike your tears mine do not flow./Instead I sit arrested at my desk /guilty at looking into your secret promise-/your vow-/the wish that he’d put the ring on your finger/before you kissed the earth/before you embraced his grave.” Aware that she cannot possibly know what this woman is feeling, Leilani herself feels the guilt that flows inwardly as she recognizes that she is a voyeur by virtue of this published photograph. Then, she writes, “Maybe the photographer should have passed you by./But if he had/then I wouldn’t know./I wouldn’t know.” Other poems in this series includes “My Psyche Cracked Open,” “Walk Proud: From Marine Wedding,” “You Pulled Me in,” Never the Same, Again,” “todays stringer,” and “Soldier, be still.” You can read Leilani’s impassioned poems at bookscover2cover.
Featured Writer Peter Durantine is a master of situational irony. His short story “Grand Foyer” illustrates what is meant by situational irony. Sandy and Tim have two children, Lilly and Ellis, and they live in a modest home, although they could have afforded a more expensive one. Sandy sells Longaberger baskets and tonight she wants him to attend the sales party at the upscale home of Kelly and Brock—married two years with no children. A domestic story so far, not a lot of intrigue. But wait. Sandy and Tim arrive, Tim observes the stately mansion and the photographs on the walls, and he wonders what that’s all about. Kelly arrives home late but soon the party begins. Follow the dialogue closely as the night progresses and you will see where Durantine, subtly but effectively, captures your attention. What you expected from this domestic setting is not what you get at all. Be surprised and know you’re reading situational irony.
In Chapter 10, Jon Fixx is finishing up The Coffee Shop Lovers and trying to put Sara and Michel and Ted Williams on the back burner, but irrational feelings about Maggie keep intruding. After working day and night on the romantic novella, Jon takes a trip to a pizzeria, stuffs down a whole pizza, and on a leisurely walk home is ambushed by two shadows. Okay. This is just the beginning of Chapter 10. Start reading the novel from the beginning or finish Chapter 10, and be entertained as the plot thickens.
Article of the Week: “To Advance Education, We Must First Reimagine Society.”
The takeaway from this article is the need to transform the educational process so that the entire community is involved in “collaborative learning communities.” John Abbot, director of the 21st Learning Initiative, calls this the essential task of a community: Children must feel valued and useful in order to become “fully contributing members of the broader community.” Education must be dynamic, not static, and more in tune with the present Information Age.
Media of the Week: In her inspiring TED talk, Elizabeth Gilbert, author of the best-selling book Eat, Pray, Love and most recently The Signature of All Things, always knew she wanted to be a writer. Even when she sent her work to publishers and it was rejected, she continued to write. When she finally found success in Eat, Pray, Love, the blinding glare of fame forced her back home. For Gilbert, writing is home, the place where she restores herself. For her, writing is what she loves more than herself. Dedicate yourself to this place called home, she advises, because it is where creativity survives both failure and success.
Celebrate Poetry Month… all year long
Haiku by Matsuo Basho
When the winter chrysanthemums go,
there’s nothing to write about