“Award-Winning” Poem 2

Author’s note: it’s been a very long time since you’ve last heard from the author. The author (Arthur) is feeling the itch again, and is catching up on that by sharing some treasured poetry from the past little while.

The poem below helped me win the “Grand Prize” in a 2020 poetry contest. 2020 is not even close to over, even though it feels like it’s already been about four years. Regardless, the seasons have changed, and this poem tries to capture that. It is a Shakespearean sonnet as a dialog between a winter spirit and a spring spirit whose relationship is coming to an unfortunate end. This poem, more so than my previous “award-winning” poem, I believe was justified in achieving “Grand Prize”.

It started as raw material capturing the romantic angst and yearning present on earlier entries of this blog. That was potent crude oil. In fact, I read those posts and old journal entries for inspiration and motivation for one of the sonnet’s character’s. Dozens of drafts and revisions, and several peer reviews, are to thank for its final, refined form.

2020-sonnet-drafts.png

Anyway, here it is.

VAIL (a spirit of winter)
A glacier crawls more quickly than the dark,
When all my waking thoughts surround your flame
I’d break my cracking chest and sighing heart
To know just one more day could stay the same

VERNA (a spirit of spring)
A new day dawns, I must now flee to grow,
To fly like wind, unbounded, free, and true,
To taste the dew, see all there is to sow
By letting go, the sky turns gray to blue

VAIL
Let go? I feel I’m frozen in the past

VERNA
Be gentle with yourself, the present’s there

VAIL
I cry to see no way our future lasts
But want for you to fly in warmer air

VERNA
I see your heart as hearth, and mine the sun
This is to say, goodbye, my wintry one

“Award-Winning” Poem 1

Author’s note: it’s been a very long time since you’ve last heard from the author. The author (Arthur) is feeling the itch again, and is catching up on that by sharing some treasured poetry from the past little while.

Well, hello there. It’s me, Art. I’ve missed you. Let’s catch up.

Below is a poem that won me the “Grand Prize” in a poetry contest in 2018. It’s provided with the judge’s assessment of the poem for full gravity.

The Grand Prize Winner:

As blue bark unthaws
Steam rises into gold rays
And the dawn path clears
 
Such a beautiful and effective haiku! The imagery of the first two lines calls on me to imagine such a vivid image, I see the frozen blue bark, the steam, and it rising into the golden rays of the sun. Then the third line challenges me. Since I have such a vivid scene already painted, my instinct is to try to picture what the “dawn path” is, visually. For me, the challenge of the third line is magic. I would love to hear what others imagine when reading it.

Now for my own commentary. I wrote this haiku for my long-dead Twitter account as part of a series in 2015, where I intended to write a haiku on Twitter every day. (For those who remember, I got 301 out of 365 days.) I do like the haiku, but I’m honestly surprised it won the contest. But the judge liked it, and getting the judge to like you is part of why I ever got a “1” in the Solo & Ensemble Festival where I grew up. (I played trumpet.)

I Have Deleted My Twitter Account

Twitter is kind of awful, to start with. It is also a “safe space” for white supremacists and folks who are otherwise complacent with white supremacy. Why get flooded with ads and support this?

I have decided not to. Gone with it are all of my haiku. Oh well. Everything is impermanent. I will write more haiku, but they will only be on here (my blog). I’m a history eraser.

I encourage you to get off Twitter, and Facebook and Insta-something and Snap-whatever while you’re at it. You’ve got better things to read, better ways to spend your time. In 10 years none of these things will be relevant. Books still will be.

Here’s to more haiku,
Art

The Only Thing to Worry About Is Worry Itself

Sure, let’s appropriate an FDR quote for our own needs.

I haven’t written here in a while. The last time I wrote I was stressed out about my birth/government name. I’m less stressed out about it now, but I still don’t see it as my name. For several months now, I’ve been going by only my first name in most contexts. It’s worked out pretty well. As common as my legal first name is for someone born in the 1980s, I haven’t had too many issues dropping my legal last name. Try it out some time. You may learn something about yourself and your own labels.

I ordered a box of six boxes of Cup of Calm tea just as the FIRST Robotics season was really getting busy. I’ve made a new nighttime ritual of unwinding with a mug of that stuff, maybe a bath. I’m trying to keep my hair for as long as possible. I’m trying to avoid wrinkles if I can. I’m trying to not fall to cardiac arrest, ideally ever.

I’m at the end of a week-long vacation to help thin my blood of some of the cortisol and adrenaline that had built up. (I don’t know human physiology very well, so I don’t know if it actually works like that.) So far I have learned that time spent doing nothing passes pretty quickly. But I am relieved I had some downtime to not do anything, because for months I had thought that the only time I have is for clients and volunteering. It’s been a good reminder that time for myself matters.

As an exercise for myself, I created a note called What Do I Need So That I Feel Cared For? This note contained the following:

  • A good, solid night’s sleep
  • Delicious, nutritious, filling meals
  • Active movement
  • Stretching
  • Socks that I like, ready to grab and wear
  • A place to read
  • A place to write
  • A place to think
  • A cozy blanket
  • Plenty of water
  • Good hygiene
  • Time to listen to music I like
  • Sticking with decisions I’ve made, so as to not waffle
  • The occasional sweets like donuts and chocolate milk

Reviewing this list, I’m kind of amazed how many of these things I didn’t give myself in the thick of FIRST Robotics season. I was not giving myself very good service. I was not taking care of myself. I believe this led to some of the stress and worry I was feeling. I believe the anxiety I was feeling was the animal in me struggling and squirming because it wasn’t cared for. I’d like to get better at taking care of my animal self.

Worry will always be there. Worry can arise and sometimes have really good reasons for being there. Worry can also sometimes arise for no reason, and stick around way longer than its welcome. Worry is a twister in the great climate of emotions. It rises, and it falls. The more I think about my emotions like weather, the less worried I feel about them.

I’d like to offer myself better self-care to better reflect on the temporary nature of worry, and likely overall feel a lot better.

Take care,
Arthur

What’s In A Name?

I’ve removed references to my birth name from this site. That name is tarnished. I won’t write it again.

Going forward, the only names I will use here are Arthur Hovinc, Arthur, and Art.

I’m not looking forward to interacting with anyone new for the first time, or showing them my government plastic identification for the first time, because then they will see my tarnished name and have something to say about it. I don’t want anyone to have anything to say about my name before I have something to say for myself. It’s kind of like the Michael Bolton situation from the movie Office Space, but worse for the bad name my birth name is.

I’m considering legally changing my government name to something closer to the name I’m writing with right now. I wonder if Samuel Clemens went by that name on his government identification until he died? Did most people know to call him Mark Twain? Maybe most people will call me Arthur Hovinc with enough patience and nagging.

Yours Truly,
Arthur Hovinc

 

In Search of OK

I haven’t been polictial on this blog, and I don’t think I’m going to use it that way. I could tell you that I was at the airport this Sunday protesting the unjust travel ban created by an administration I don’t support at all and in fact fear quite a lot. That probably wouldn’t surprise you. I could go into more details about my political preferences and current disgust, but I’ll spare you. I’m not interested in assigning labels to myself in any capacity, least not political leanings. My Facebook political views are this: “To live outside the law, you must be honest.” Buy me a beer sometime and we can hash some political debates. Instead, I’d like to focus this post on how I deal with negative feelings like the ones I have now, and maybe you can find something similar in you, dear reader. I think how to deal with it all is the larger theme I’ve been thinking about since November, rather than any particular (if offensive) set of events.

This won’t be a “how to” post. I can’t answer questions of how you’re going to feel OK, because I can’t answer that for myself.

I noticed tonight I was compulsively searching multiple news sources for some hint that things were not as bad as they seemed. Some words I could read between the lines to feel better. They weren’t there. If I had to estimate, reassuring words probably won’t be coming from the news for the next 20 years, if ever. So what mechanism was powering me to graze over cold, upsetting facts even though no good is to come of it?

I think we’re pretty bad as humans of knowing how to just sit and be humans. Negative emotions must be distracted away by something entertaining, or at least that’s the modern way. I admit I’m guilty of it. If not reaching for this very phone screen I’m typing on, I may find fleeting entertainment in alcohol or food that doesn’t nourish. The times I have sat and purposefully avoided leaving negative emotions turned out to be illuminating. One time I noticed how tears are quite hot on your face if you just let them run. Another time I noticed a particular pain in my body I had been ignoring that needed attention. I’m far from being a practicing Buddhist, but I come closer to being a sane animal when I don’t get caught up in words and simply feel. Maybe this applies externally to not getting too caught up in words from news or social media, and focusing more on the present sensations at hand.

I learned from a seminar on hope that “to stand with your face to the cold wind and move forward is the bravest thing you can do as a human” (paraphrased). Incidentally, I was falling asleep to a documentary about Antarctica and carbon dioxide history in ice this weekend. (I watched most of it, and enjoyed what I was conscious for.) I’ve been walking to work almost every day this winter in a cold region, and I don’t feel that brave, just beaten down. Maybe that’s what bravery really feels like. It’s not glorious at all, less a state of feelings than a state of integrity. The Finns have a word that I’m obsessed with that translates poorly to English and means roughly the quote above; that word is sisu. I believe my grandma embodies sisu. I would like to, but I’m afraid of not living up to it. Maybe you grow into it with more scars, windburn, lost loved ones, and time. Many cold winters probably also help.

I don’t consider myself depressed. (Mom, don’t worry too much.) Low energy lately. I think with some practice of quiet moments and breathing, along with long walks in warmer weather, my energy will be higher and better. I haven’t journaled or written essays or blogs in a while, and that likely also contributes. Something in me decides to write as a way of sussing it out when I’m upset. I like this maxim: “When in doubt, sort it out.” I will probably leave this post feeling slightly more OK than before I wrote it, if only for the increased understanding of my feelings.

Realistically, most things are decent or OK. I think we tend to focus more on the extraordinarily pleasurable or disgusting than the unremarkable decent in our lives. Breathing is decent and always there. Carpets are decent. Light bulbs are decent. Most people on public transportation are decent. If you graph out the majority of things along the acceptability axis, it’d look like a bell curve, with the enjoyable and the terrible as several standard deviations away from the norm. In that way, it’s probably not fair to expect pleasure as often as we do, and it’s likely damaging to our sensitivities to indulge in too much pleasure, or, for that matter, pain. Knowledge of this is probably part of sisu, but what do I know? I’m Swedish.

My friend D asked me yesterday if there are any foods that I think taste bad. He is quoted as saying I have a “broken mouth”, i.e. an unrefined palate equal to that of a goat or a garbage disposal. But I threw the question back to him, and he couldn’t come up with anything. He used to hate cilantro, but doesn’t anymore. He doesn’t like some foods for the texture or appearance, but it’s not the flavor that drives him away. Maybe the tongue is a wiser organ than the eyes.

OK,
Art

Appreciating Hot Sauce

I’d like to take a moment to reflect on how much I appreciate hot sauce. I don’t just carry it in my bag to follow Beyoncé’s example (although that’s a darn good example to follow).

  • Hot sauce makes so many bland, boring, or flavor-deflated leftovers edible.
  • Whenever I have leftovers and no microwave (this is fairly often), hot sauce almost makes the food seem warm.
  • Hot sauce on eggs can wake me up no matter how tired I am.
  • Hot sauce on pizza (cold or hot) is manna from heaven.
  • Hot sauce keeps me warm on winter days.
  • Hot sauce (sufficiently hot) clears out my sinuses and lets me start anew.
  • Hot sauce on breakfast poutine (fried egg on top) is enough to reliably wake me up and keep my spirits high the whole day.
  • There are several kinds of hot sauce to bring you to particular kinds of bliss! Valentina is full-flavored, roasty, and robust. Cholula is zippy and tangy. Tapatío is  charming and sweet. I don’t use Sriracha very much (blasphemy!) but it goes so well on leftover Asian food. Green hot sauces are so delightfully vinegary. I have more hot sauce favorites than I do favorite outfits.
  • Hot sauce is so accepting. You can add just a drop of ghost pepper sauce for a touch of heat. You can add an epidermis of Sriracha to have lasting mouth flames. You can add just the right amount for you, splash by splash. Unlike other sauces, which may spurt out violently, hot sauces usually allow you to control the amount very carefully. To boot, hot sauce is always there for me when I need it. It never judges, it never lies.

—Art