Many of the soldiers who fought in Vietnam saw it: the extraordinary beauty of the land they had come to destroy. They took note of the rich natural diversity, lush growth, and dazzling colors – and then called in napalm, dioxin-laden defoliants, and bombs so massive they lifted the tops of mountains. Such measures were “necessary,” it was said. Collateral damage. Acceptable loss. Read more
Posts from the ‘Writing’ Category
A year ago I sat on a folding chair in an ordinary meeting room listening to poetry. The room had a table with the usual hospitality contributions – bottles of juices and water, crackers, a tray of vegetables and hummus. Another table held books for sale and a third a display of paper made from the pulped uniforms of veterans.
The event was a reading to celebrate the launch of Sound Off: Warrior Writers NJ, a volume whose unassuming size gave little hint of the explosion of power within. Some of the poets were already friends – Vietnam veteran Jim Murphy, Iraq veterans Kevin Basl and Nate Lewis. Others were names I had known for decades but had never met. Jan Barry and W.D. Ehrhart I knew from their work in Winning Hearts and Minds: War Poems by Vietnam Veterans, published while the war was still waging. Dayl Wise, co-founder of Post-Traumatic Press, Walt Nygard, Everett Cox were names I picked up along the way and, listening to their poetry, glad of it. Read more
Mark and I have been assembling, discussing, ordering, and editing his writing about his two tours in Vietnam for a little over a year now. We have taken care of the thorniest problems, come to agreements about what to leave in and what to delete, and now it is mostly a question of me working my editing magic on the rest. Read more
Years ago when I worked for a publication of the American Indian Program at Cornell, I frequently had the responsibility of editing the transcription of an oral talk by a Native speaker for print. Listening and reading are very different cognitive processes and they are also different cultural forms. I wanted the readers of a journal published on a university campus to sense the cadences of a Native speaker for whom oral communication is primary. Read more
I hadn’t talked to Coyote in a while, not about the blog anyway. He still hung around, looking over my shoulder when I was writing in that annoying way he has and harrumphing occasionally. In a more successful ploy to get my attention, he made me a drink – passionfruit juice mixed with an aromatic and evocative rum he knew I would recognize.
“So what do you think I should do?” I asked. The heat of the day stirred memories. Upstate New York wasn’t Saigon but it was doing its best. Read more
“Does what?” Coyote asked. He was mixing a drink. I’m not sure what was in it but the bottle he was using had a faint green tinge. At least from where I was sitting.
“Keep writing all those scary stories that everybody loves so much,” I said, eyeing the bottle.
“Well, I didn’t think much of Cujo,” he said, looking through the liquor cabinet for something else.
“Oh?” I wondered why there was only one glass.
“Lacked subtlety,” he said, opening the fridge. “Do we have any limes?” Read more
“What’s the problem?” Coyote looked up from his novel. Tony Hillerman, I noticed.
I myself was reading about a murder in Savannah, Georgia, and I was keeping track.
“Well, it just seems like some people have a prejudice against them and I am pretty sure it’s not justified.” I was afraid I was picking a fight but I didn’t care. I wanted to get this straightened out.
“Listen to this, for instance,” I continued before Coyote could get a word in. “It’s a sentence in this book I’m reading. ‘This was the hole allegedly made by Danny Hansford during his rampage through the house a month before he was killed.'” Read more
Coyote kept his voice casual but he was fooling no one.
“What do you mean?” I matched his tone. No point falling into his trap by getting defensive. “I’m keeping up.”
“Keeping up … how, exactly?” He was helping me sort books. I was getting rid of a bookshelf. Spring cleaning. It had to be done. We had Loreena Mckennitt playing in the background to keep our spirits up. Read more
A few months ago I attended a workshop to teach writers how to use social media. Bizarrely, I knew almost everything that was in that workshop – for my clients. I had even had a meeting with a client in the previous week and urged many of the things that were in that workshop. I had just never applied the advice to myself. So before I could frighten myself out of it, I bought susanrdixon.com and started this blog. That’s the first thing – to dare to be visible. Read more
This piece is inspired by a poem by Marge Piercy called Seven Horses. I riff on the idea of horses as symbol and mediator for the imagination.
I wish I had had horses. I wish I had thought of that. I like to think my imagination is one of my best features but I know that is a debatable point. At first the people around me like it when I say, “I have an idea!” but then it begins to happen that they run the other way. My ideas are too literal. I really mean them. Perhaps I would have drained a little energy if I had imagined myself riding the flying red horse from the Mobil sign. Read more