Leafless Tree

Tall and proud against
The sky, lifting its branches
Despite threat of snow

A Day at the Beach

An expanse of sand
Warm to the skin, not hot
A length of striped terry cloth,
Bright stripes running down
Tossed upon the sand.

Surf rolling in
Wave after wave
Roaring up

Little feet running
Up and down the sand
Scampering in and out of the surf
Back and forth to the towel

A perfect day.

Diva Dressing: a poem

None of it works
I have a specific vision
A diva must always look spectacular
No, not that. I couldn’t possibly

I have a specific vision
And I must wear the clothes to match
No, not that. I couldn’t possibly
Don’t you see? Amazing is my trademark.

I must wear the clothes to match
My exuberant personality and how I feel today
Don’t you see? Amazing is my trademark.
I suppose I could try this on

A diva must always look spectacular
Befitting my exuberant personality
I suppose I could try this on
I do suppose it works.

Morning Rush: A Poem

Hurry and bustle
Rush all around
Getting ready for school
A rush, a hurry, a breath of spring

Rush all around
Mustn’t be late
A rush, a hurry, a breath of spring
Gather this, grab that

Mustn’t be late
Gather this, grab that
Hurry and bustle
Getting ready for school

Spring

Blue sky shining
Yellow flower blooming
Cool air gently blowing
Winter is over, spring is here.

Defense: a poem

Ready to defend the country
Against more than fire or flood
Our trusty park rangers
Also stand against fascism.

inspired by today’s prompt at Daily Writing Practice: the park ranger

This Week’s Reading

The Rules of Love and Grammar: Mary Simes
Beauty and the Werewolf: Mercedes Lackey
When We Were Sisters: Emilie Richards

Writing Stories & Cultural Appropriation

Do stories belong only to those who are in the story? Who has the right to tell stories of minority cultures, vanished cultures? Is it only the members of that culture? Can anyone else tell those stories in a valid way? When does it cease to be storytelling and become cultural misappropriation? (Or, in the reverse, when does it cease to be cultural misappropriation and become storytelling?)

The examples in this Slate article, Going Native, are extreme, obvious examples of cultural appropriation — a white person actually pretending to be Native American to cash in on the tragedy and poetry expected to be inherent in the stories of Native Americans. And this is not fair to real Native Americans.

The real victims are Indian citizens and writers. People who have for so long been denied the opportunity to express themselves. There are many Indian writers with stories to tell that are ignored because they do not fit the preconceived notion of tragedy and cheap melodrama that make books like Love and Consequences so appealing.

It is wrong to take on the identity of someone from another culture. It is ethically, if not legally, fraudulent.

If you stick to the most basic morality and keep your own identity and write about other cultures, where is the line drawn between storytelling and cultural appropriation? Is it different if you are from a minority group and are writing about the majority? Can someone from another culture ever authentically tell stories of a different culture?

Ursula K. Le Guin pulls it off beautifully. She uses her experience growing up as the daughter of anthropologists/ethnologists studying the Native Americans of California to write wonderfully crafted stories of other cultures. With one important difference. None of her cultures are on Earth. Her works are labeled as science fiction because they all take place on other planets, with alien cultures.

Is there space for writers to stick to Earth and the amazing variety of cultures and people found here? I don’t know. What do you think?

Snow: a poem

Sifting down out of the sky
Nibbling away at the edges of definition
Obliterating all in a blanket of
White.

Unexpected death in a book

I’ve been reading The Last Painting of Sara de Vos, by Dominic Smith, this week, and I have decided I can no longer bear books where a young child dies. The death of the child, while central to one of the story’s threads and to her mother’s behavior and emotions, is by no means central to the story.

And yet, I find myself unable to forget it. The death of a child used to be commonplace, and we can see in contemporaneous fiction that mothers took it with varying degrees of equanimity. Having almost lost my children (at different times and for different reasons), I find that the death of a child is not something I can contemplate with equanimity. It is taking over the book for me. I cannot tell if that is intentional on the author’s part — it may be, but at this point in the book (I have not yet finished it), that is still ambiguous.

It is hard to write accurate historical fiction without including the death of a child,as it was so common before the advent of modern medicine with its vaccines, antibiotics, and scientific knowledge. I am tempted to stick with inaccurate historical fiction, or at least that with only adult characters. On the other hand, that would not have kept me from beginning the book, as the book jacket is inaccurate as to why the painter began her important work that is at the heart of the story. In the book, she begins the painting in response to her daughter’s death. On the book jacket, she is merely haunted by the image of a young girl she saw. Rather a large difference.

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