Thursday, March 31, 2011

A Recent Questionnaire

Recently this article about me was in our Cambridge newspaper. Thought you might like to get to know me better.


1. Tell us about yourself.
a. Where do you live? I have lived in Cambridge for 18 years.

b. Where are you from? I was born in Schenectady, NY. I was raised in the Appalachian mountains of northern Pennsylvania.

c. Anything noteworthy about your family that we should know? Mom died when I was five and I was the eldest child so I had to grow up fast. My father told me on his deathbed that we were Mohawk Indians. It was a big family secret. The native culture fascinates me, and it may be a factor in my fascination with beads and beading.

d. In what medium do you work? Life. I will try anything. Probably I am best known as a writer, but I have been a musician and worked in string and square dance bands on bass, rhythm guitar and vocalist. I make bead, sea glass and wire jewelry, and soft sculpture dolls. I paint a little.

e. What is important about you that people may not know? I grew up in Appalachia, the eldest of eight children. We were pretty poor and learned not to waste anything that came to hand. I think that sort of situation allows one to see the potentialities in leftovers, throwaways and natural materials. Dad wanted us to succeed – he bought Encyclopedia Britannica when I was about 12. I think I read all of it.

2. Tell us about your work.

a. What brought you to recognize your artistic talent? I found an essay I wrote in my grandfather’s wallet after he died. I believe he wanted me to see that I had some talent for writing. He left me a Hogarth print of a stack of books and a violin, all of which became elements in my life as the years went on – I always thought it was a message. He was a very spiritual person.

b. What were you doing when you first realized that you could paint/sculpt/etc. My father would paste our drawings on masonite board and cut them up into jigsaw puzzles for us to play with. He saw our work as valuable, so it was.

c. What life experience(s) have most affected your art? Everything in my life contributes to my writing. I have supported the craft for many years through various sorts of employment. The rest of my artistic output is busy work: things I do when not working at my writing. I have published 17 books and always have a couple of projects in the works. Everything that happens is interesting. The way people speak is music.

d. Do you still have some early work that you keep as reminders of the past? There are some old manuscripts hanging around. Some of the work was pretty bad, but I guess I got enough encouragement to keep going on. I collected and burned a huge stack of rejection letters and have come to believe they did not mean ‘no.’ They meant ‘not now.’

e. What is your favorite piece and what does it mean to you? I think my Chesapeake Heritage books are my best work to date – there are five novels in the series. They follow the settlement of the Eastern Shore and Dorchester County from colonization to the end of World War 1 – the history of one plantation and the woman who lived on it, offering a more feminine view of the events and people who shaped the Chesapeake area. (Also of note is Runaway Hearts, a series of long poems based on the history of the area in verse. People seem to like that one – even though most will say they don’t like poetry. It was read on Radio for the Blind.)

f. What inspires you? What keeps you motivated? I have no idea. There seem to be triggers that set off a project. I hope I am awake when the call comes and then I just sort of hang on for the ride.

g. How do you see your work in the world around you? I think my novels hold a lot of truth. Most people won’t buy a history book, but they will read novels and they identify with people who struggle for one reason or another. I know I learned a lot about people, history, and life from the novels I read, especially when I was a child.

h. What about your work benefits others? All of my heroines are strong women who did not give up under adverse situations. They all find happy endings, but not until they realize they must shape their own history and world and that the wine and roses scenario is often not what love is in expression.

3. Tell us about the future.

a. What are your artistic goals? I just want to keep writing and see what happens next. Of course, I would like to be noticed, but the world is full of writers hooked into technology. Anyone can get published without doing much work – especially if they have the funds to pay for promotion. “Paying your dues” is a whole new story for the publishing industry these days.

b. What do you expect to be happening in your “art life” x number of years from now? I try to live in the now – the future is a flighty bitch.

c. Tell us about your relationship with your community and/or with other artists? I belong to the Wednesday Morning Artists and have belonged to various writers’ groups, but I am not sure they are helpful. The immortal storytellers pretty much all worked alone.

a. How would you like to see things progress art-wise in Cambridge/Dorchester County? I would like to see the area be a destination where people can come to see and purchase art. I would like to see more diversity in the populations offering art.

b. Do you have any advice for aspiring artists? Do the work! Editors do not check spelling and punctuation these days. There really are not any free rides. Support your art until your art can support you.

d. I have won awards for my journalism and for short fiction, but like any competition, it is not so much the excellence of your game but rather who shows up!

Thanks for reading and keep on the sunny side! Terry

Friday, March 18, 2011

On Other Poets

On Other Poets

I sometimes sit and read other poets’ verse
And it occurs to me that there are as many
Views of the sunset as there are eyes to see.

I do not speak of the funny lines
That celebrate the child within, but instead of
The daffodil in the forest, a souvenir of
Some pioneer’s woman who wasted space
In the yard for that which her children could not eat.

I do not speak of the alphabet rhymes
Crafted to teach her child his letters one by one,
I do not call up the dance in giddy sunshowers
Waiting for true love to come.

I want the words that carve the stone of poverty,
The rock of war, the pangs of birth
And the joy of watching the sun emerge from
A formless gray blanket of swirling mist.
I want the words that call up the shades of men
Who died to save the world we love.

I want to hear the clang of sledge on iron,
The rasp of saw on redwood flesh,
The sing of line the fishers cast,
The thespian’s song as he works his art,
The plane in the sky, the cop on his beat,
The cook at the grille, the sweeper of streets,
The cry of the newborn, soon silenced at breast
The secret of love kept deep in your chest,
The hope and the fear and a rest in the shade,
The debt and the prize with taxes prepaid,
The chatter of children, the purring of cats…

I want to hear these in the mind’s ear – and more
Recording our time with the splendor of yore,
A ransom of thought, a pathway to freedom –
Hard won and hard fought…

I want to feel rainbows that lodge in the heart
The shifting of dreams that leave with no mark
I want to hear giggles of babies at play
The song of a thrush at the cool break of the day.

The masters of verse have harvested these
In a wealth of lost words that leave us a scene,
A look at the world that they so strongly weaved
In a place lost in warstorm, in dismal dark scenes.

I love the old poems, that tell who we are
The ones that inspire to follow love’s star –
The song of the sachem and the prayer feather beat
The march of time that flows down each street,
The clatter of cans on trash pickup day,
The carillion that rings out and calls us to pray,
The teakettle’s whistle, the somber dark hearse
The snips, and the scraps – all the bones of great verse.

I may not be famous, I may not be known
But I will leave words to show how I’ve grown
In a world not always quite gentle or wise
But a place I have seen through the word weaver’s eyes.
The world that that God gives us to save and to mend
In the hope of sweet rest
When it comes to the end.

I'm working on a new book of poetry these days, spring sunshine always help the creative process. Hope you like this effort and that you keep on the sunny side!

Love, Terry

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Will Humanism Rule?

Recently David Brooks wrote a column in the New York Times about the "New Humanism." Basically, he is saying we have been down the garden path once again in the analysis of human interaction by applying 'scientific' method to the measurement of our humanity.

It is my contention that humans are herd animals - and that we need interaction with others in the herd to live happy and productive lives.

This is pretty difficult in a society where individuals grow increasing more isolated through the use of technology. One of our great illusions of our time is that cell phones and other electronic devices actually increase our interaction with others.

Look around you! Everywhere you go individuals are chatting and texting on their pocket phones - and they are all alone. They don't look up and smile at others on the street - or worse still on the road! The worst punishment a parent can render is the loss of a cell phone for an unruly teen - the traditional isolated soul in any family.

The weather has been rough lately and people are traveling to trouble spots in order to help people who are snowed in, flooded out, and otherwise in danger of destruction.

Like every elder, I would like to think the world will be a happy, caring place for the generations that follow. I also would like to think that love for others might be an even stronger trait in our descendants ... just what the great teachers of our race have been trying to tell us for years.

Good luck with that.

In the meantime step outside and look for signs of spring - and keep on the sunny side! Love, Terry