Poem of the Week–Mere Things, & Helen Holt service

Memorial Service for Helen Holt
Sat, August 15, 11am – 2pm
The National Presbyterian Church, 4101 Nebraska Avenue Northwest, Washington, DC 20016

Mere Things

Mere things don’t matter,
or so we’d like to think;

but on the brink
of forgetting,

of letting
go,

some mere thing
turns us

to remembering.

by Cathmar Shaw Prange
Iowa City Branch, IA

Helen Holt and Historical Perspective on our Legacy

From the editor:

I have two posts to share with you that speak to the same topic: our legacy as Pen Women. One is an obituary for Helen Holt, whose biography by Patricia Daly-Lipe was published this year by the Pen Women Press, and whose life story is an inspiration. As April Myers, Pen Woman Magazine editor put it, “We should have a national day of mourning” for this remarkable Pen Woman. The second post is an extensively researched article by Jacksonville Pen Woman Siggy Buckley on the NLAPW’s history. Quoting from a 1970s special centennial issue of the Pen Woman magazine, Siggy paints a beautiful portrait of some of the women who overcame adversity to give future generations (that would be US now!) a reason to be Pen Women. –Treanor Baring

Helen Holt, 1913-2015

“When it comes to doing things for others,
some people stop at nothing.”

These words are not just a frequent aphorism of Helen Holt. They are a true reflection of her 23 dedicated years as a public servant. Helen’s list of accolades is nothing less than remarkable. Yet the 101-year-old icon and first woman to hold a statewide-office in West Virginia was not at all shy to admit she became “a professional woman by necessity.”
Helen Holt unwittingly became a trailblazer for women in the political arena. The real irony is that she never gave politics a second thought until she married the youngest U.S. senator (1935-1941) from West Virginia, Rush D. Holt, Jr. in 1941. Helen was immediately involved in her husband’s work, and Rush was quick to teach Helen “how to work with men and to feel comfortable working with them,” since she was a lone woman in a man’s world. Sadly, Rush was only 49 at the time of his death. But, despite no income (unlike today’s members of Congress), Helen was able to provide for her family when she took over Rush’s position in the West Virginia House of Delegates. Two years later, Helen was sworn in as the first female Secretary of State of West Virginia. In 1960, President Eisenhower commissioned Helen with “the task of creating a program to fix the nation’s ailing network of nursing homes” because, as Helen wrote, “they had to get a woman—no man was sufficiently interested.” Tirelessly, she carried out this job under seven consecutive United States Presidents.

–Patricia Daly-Lipe
District of Columbia Branch

The Legacy of Pen Women

The National League of American Pen Women, Inc. is a professional organization of women in creative fields to support and promote creative excellence and professional standards in the Arts. The League reaches back for almost 120 years with a rich history of outstanding members and a colorful tapestry of talents in the fields of writing, art and music.

It was founded by five adventurous and ambitious writers in 1897 because the literary world they wanted to conquer as journalists was exclusively a male domain. Barred from the all-male Press Club, their indignation about such discrimination led them to act. Now there are branches all over the United States with distinguished programs such as competitions for young artists and writers to fulfill our nonprofit mission to promote the arts.

With the League’s membership expanding, it appointed a Music Committee in 1916.
Pen Women have made history since their founding days: “Pen Woman Anna Kelton Wiley went to jail in 1917 with 98 other women in an attempt to convince President Woodrow Wilson of the need for Women’s Suffrage.”

25 years after its inception/foundation, the League’s artistic membership had sufficiently grown to warrant a League Art Show. One of its art members was young Vinnie Ream, the sculptor of the statue of President Abraham Lincoln still admired in the Rotunda of the Capitol Building in Washington, D.C.
It took until 1971, however, for women to be approved for membership in the National Press Club. “On February 22, 1971, 24 newswomen were approved for membership in the National Press Club, ending the all-male member’s tradition,” Mary Manning writes in her contribution to the Centennial Celebration Pen Woman magazine. This small version of the magazine is a priceless testimonial to the many accomplishments of the League; it gives a detailed overview of the Pen Women’s renowned history and endeavors.

In 1950, a mansion was purchased in Washington D.C which became the splendid Pen Arts Building. Within walking distance of the White House, art museums, and just down the street from the National Geographic Society, its location has a historic designation. Members are encouraged to visit it and its art collections, library and archives. Currently, there is an initiative to raise funds for needed building repairs.

The Pen Women are proud to have many famous artists of international renown like Pearl Buck and Dorothy Parker among their ranks as well as several First Ladies like Florence Kling Harding, Eleanor Roosevelt and Hillary Rodham Clinton who are Honorary Members.

Once a Pen Woman – always a Pen Woman. Paula Harding, journalist and author, one of our own members here in Jacksonville, FL was a distinguished member for over 50 years. She held every office except that of the Treasurer, “because she had no talent for that.” She met personally with Honorary Member Pearl Buck when she visited Jacksonville. She is the perfect example extending her hand into the community well beyond her retirement writing a newsletter for the community she lived in until, sadly, she passed away in 2013.

“It’s a good feeling to belong to an organization as established (78 years!), as large as 5,800 talented women!), and as prestigious as the League…not just the honor of being associated with some of the most talented creators.., not just the thrill of recognizing so many famous bylines…There is a delight…such a glow of admiration and affection that makes me proud to be able to say, “I am a Pen Woman” (Elizabeth Shafer, 1975).

The Centennial magazine revealed another true gem, the term Penguin and Penguin Parade referring to the husbands of the Pen Women. When attending one of their famous dinners in evening gear, what should one call the attending spouses appropriately? Liboria Romano who was president of the Manhattan branch at the time, in 1949, came up with the idea to call them Pen-guins.

So much has changed since the first communication bulletin was printed and distributed in 1916 and the first quarterly magazine was issued in 1920. (These magazines can be read in the Pen Arts archives!) These days the League has fully embraced the digital era with a wonderful, informative national website (www.NLAPW.org). Most local branches have their own websites, e.g., JaxPenwomen.com.

“In an age where striving for excellence is a rare thing, what a privilege it is to belong to THE NATIONAL LEAGUE OF AMERICAN PEN WOMEN. TO THE FUTURE!” (from the Sacramento branch according to the Centennial magazine). This still holds true today. One for all and all for one, is after all, our motto.

–Siggy Buckley
Jacksonville Branch, FL

Art of the Week (At Repose with Mitsy) and Poem of the Week (Cuba)

Art of the Week

Click on the image to see it larger.

At Repose with Mitsy E. Marie Francis Vero Beach Branch, FL Acrylic

At Repose with Mitsy
E. Marie Francis
Vero Beach Branch, FL
Acrylic

Poem of the Week

Cuba

Amalia, but we called her Molly
The first and only Cuban I have known
She was orphaned when
Her parents died in a train wreck
She and her brother were raised by the nuns and brothers
The children were not permitted to see each other for a year
Thinking that would allow their unspeakable loss to heal
Like an unpicked scab
Her family name, unknown to me, had stature but no money, she said
Molly married a US navy man and left the island by twenty
Castro’s revolution was on its way
In the United States the soap operas taught her English
An economics course taught her capitalism
And
Amalia transformed herself into Molly
We met when teachers at a Catholic School
She taught Spanish; I taught English
I was a twenty-seven year old ex-nun fresh from the convent
Molly was a thirty-seven year old with a master’s degree in psychology
She became my counselor ex-officio
Molly transformed me.
She was outgoing and fun
She gave me permission to shake off the habits of my old life
And embrace my new life with gusto
Just as she had done for herself.
We partied with faculty and attended weddings together
We went for dinner and drinks often
One night she let down her guard
Her brother was waiting for his son’s release
He’d been imprisoned for handing out anti-Castro pamphlets on a street corner
They’d cross the Straits when the boat of opportunity sailed
As soon as her words dropped from her lips
Panic set in
Now, she had to trust me with her secret
I never spoke a word; not even to ask the outcome
Molly divorced and I married; our friendship suffered
I moved hundreds of miles away, we lost touch
But thirty years later, I wanted to mend the rift
The internet quickly gave up Amalia’s address
A letter came back
My opportunity had sailed a year too late
In 2003 Molly had died.

Descansa en paz, Amalia. Descansa en paz.

by Susan Bassler Pickford
Member at large

Poem of the Week–Plant Me in Iowa

Plant Me in Iowa No. 2

When only I say it’s time
dear daughters, plant me
in blue-bearded Iris
where I shall wake
to perfumed nights
of fading petals that shyly
ply my touch.
There, will I rest and sleep
in peaceful quietude, alone
and quite at home with God.

Linda Newman Woito
Iowa City Branch, IA

Editor’s Note: Greetings from chilly Melbourne, Australia, where I am with family. I will diligently find time and internet access to give meaning to the “world” in “world wide web.”

Meanwhile, today is the deadline for submissions to the Pen Woman Magazine’s Summer issue. I will now be processing poetry for the Fall and Winter issues, and as usual for the blog.

Memorial Day Poem

Rest Peacefully

Once they floated in mothers’ wombs
Now interred
In well aligned tombs
Though much life
Meant still to live
Their lives
For our country
They did give
They lie beneath
Our sacred soil
Because man can’t live
Minus knife and foil
Now cannons and rifles
Rattle the calm
I.E.D.’s
And horrific bombs

Rest peacefully
Under flowers
And flags
And long after
Due to the weather sags
They who died
For their blessed land
Are held tightly
By the good Lord’s hands
*
Happy Memorial Day
For all those who died for the USA
Barb Whitmarsh

Editor’s note: This poem was due to go up on Monday, May 25, but as many of you may know, I live in Houston and Monday and Tuesday were not ordinary days here. Prayers for all those affected by the storms and floods. We are fine and our hearts go out to those still recovering from losses.–Treanor Baring

Click here to visit our competitions page to learn more about our Vinnie Ream Medal competition, postmark deadline June 1, 2015!

Poem of the Week–Armistice


Armistice

I pass the long train
as it waits, unmoving,
each flat car carrying military vehicles —
armored tanks with caterpillar tracks,
long gun noses extend into air —
the kind of transport we only see on the news
rolling down the streets of Baghdad,
Helmand province,
Tiananmen Square,
right here in Ceres, California,
and for a minute it jolts me,
all the more ironic
since it is Memorial Day weekend
and this looks like an invasion,
tank after tank after tank,
gray green gigantic Tonka toys
that have played for real
in the game of war,
not raw recruits
but old war horses,
veterans,
hopefully on their way
to some kind of resting place
where they will be honored
for their service,
never used again

Nancy Haskett
Modesto Branch, CA

New Member Profile of the Month–Calder Lowe

From the editor: As you know, I’m big on experimenting with ways to get the word out about our members, our mission, our benefits–anything that lets people know what Pen Women are all about. Current NLAPW National President Candace Long has talked about the importance of bringing in new members. Word is from the credentials officers that many new member applications are arriving regularly in their mailboxes. (Big shout out to those credentials officers: Nancy Jurka, Letters, Linda Spencer, Art, and Nancy Deussen, Music, for all your hard work!!)

I’m particularly interested in bringing youth into our fold. I joined in my twenties and have benefited ever since from the knowledge and wisdom of our elder Pen Women.

Young women artists, for all the progress that’s been made since 1897, still face hurdles in many arts professions, especially the traditional male domains in music, broadcasting and film, journalism, even fine arts.

Hey, glass ceiling, we’re armed with brushes, pens and batons to break through! Long-time members have paid it forward; new members are our future.

Treanor Baring
Website Editor, Poetry Editor
NLAPW

So why not take advantage of this blog to get to know some of our new members and a (smidgen) of their work? Here, the inaugural profile of California poet and Modesto Branch member, Calder Lowe (scroll down for a new poem).

Calder Lowe Letters Modesto Branch, CA

Calder Lowe
Letters
Modesto Branch, CA

In her own words:

I was first introduced to NLAPW by my longtime friend, Mary Lou Taylor who belongs to the Santa Clara County Branch of NLAPW. I joined the Modesto Branch of NLAPW at the invitation of Sally Ruddy. As a writer, initially I composed poetry to support fellow survivors of childhood abuse and poverty. While still bearing witness to the suffering of those our society has marginalized, my writing also addresses other complex issues all poets grapple with in our respective journeys. We seek light and discernment in times of loss and yearn for authenticity and connectedness. We inhabit the Sacred and our offerings hang as prayers on a planet desperate for healing. Holding fast to our highest intentions, may we continue to collectively provide a voice for the disenfranchised, a voice characterized by its passion, urgency and particularity.

My dream is that my work will ignite and capture that epiphanic spark that illuminates the path home where mindfulness ennobles our hearts and awe refashions the very way in which we relate to the world around us. It is my sincerest hope my readers will find within my poems and short stories, a compassionate hand extended, a perception tweaked, a reality reinvented.

GOLDFISH & PAPER

This is not who I am,
this decrepit 67-year-old
who finds herself more overburdened
pack mule than vibrant, creative goddess
hardwired by sparks & sass & overweening
passion for the yet unspooled recording of the word.

I look at the parking lot pavement
& see a child’s goldfish cracker, a single
miracle of orange afloat on gray concrete
reminiscent of when I was six, lazily pumping
my legs on a swing set when my whole world
jolted to a standstill at the sight of an infinitesimally

small shred of white paper glowing on a vast expanse
of lawn, when my heart stopped at the sheer wonder
of it all — the solitary shining of the white, the lushness
of the green, the silence of a swing no longer in motion,
merely sedentary molecules of metal. In a nanosecond,
a goldfish & a particle of paper reignited a life.

Calder Lowe
Modesto Branch, CA

Click here to see Calder’s books on Amazon.com

Poem of the Week–Sanxay Roman Picnic

Sanxay Roman Picnic

Druid rocks dot an outline
viewed by a low-flying airplane;
a cross lies in quiet grass.

I kneel, hands clasped,
pray to Apollo in his ruins,
his chapel stones and hard remains.

The sweet pea twines my finger,
soft and living, pliable; and the white
daisy snaps its tiny yellow eye.

Jeanne DeLarm-Neri
Greenwich Branch, CT

Members, don’t forget to apply for the Vinnie Ream Award competition, see guidelines by clicking here.

See newly posted writing competitions open to all by clicking here.

Poem of the Week–A Blazing Glimmering Lake

A Blazing Glimmering Lake

The day dawns still and crisp.
A skin of ice covers the water to the east,
A morning stubble of black saplings outlines the mouth of a stream
Where Beaver skinny dips in the frosty water, pattering mud
Over a lumpy lodge to keep his family snug in the coming months.

Tentative rays peek between land and low-hanging sky. The boldest ones are grey,
Then by turns they all appear: violet, purple, puce
Mauve, cimarron, rose, shocking pink,
Orange, tangerine, peach,
Lavender, amber

And finally, Regent appears
At the end of the opulent procession;
Flashing a blindingly brilliant white-gold grin
Before tucking back under the steel velvet cloud cover
For a few more winks

And I realize
That Beaver and I
Have plenty to be thankful for
Without Anyone
Saying a word.

by Angela Hunt
Minnesota Branch

Poem of the Week–A Prompting in Winter (Prince’s Cove)

A Prompting in Winter (Prince’s Cove)

1.
The sand is frozen in the hourglass,
and if this is the day the sailboat is trapped,
moored a hundred yards from shore

and if this is the sign — the ebb tide, ice-bound,
leaning slab by white slab, like dominos,
dry stacked on the boat ramp,

when your dog sniffs a chain
padlocked to the scarred piling, and the
stench of gutted fish clinging to the dock

releases in you a raging sense
of theft         of loss         of the unspent life of a woman —
then this is the time.

2.
The midwives are the blazing sunrise and
the sounds        crack         crack
like a rifle shot, echoing loud in the cove.

Wary of hunters,
you seek your dog, all golden and familiar,
who sits unfazed, intuitive about these things:

it’s the ice that’s causing the commotion,
it’s the ice breaking the rule of winter’s prey
— to lie still, to feign death —

so far out of the realm of possibility
because its essence
is flow.

3.
This is something you aspire to
so you chant your fear
inside a labyrinth of half shells

and before your verve depletes,
before your day is wracked with shoulds
will you emerge out of the frozen —

lit with the dawn and
glinting in silver
when the wild geese call?

Diane McDonough
Cape Cod Branch, MA