Saturday, July 27, 2019

Sestina poem for Bernie Sanders

Way back in 1986, poet Allen Ginsberg wrote a poem about Bernie Sanders. I am no Allen Ginsberg, but today I offer a recent sestina poem I wrote in Bernie Sanders' voice (words my own, but inspired by Bernie).

A sestina is a poetry form comprising six stanzas of six lines and a final triplet. All stanzas have the same six words at the line-ends in six different sequences that follow a fixed pattern. All six words appear in the closing three-line envoi.

The six words in this poem are: grassroots, billionaires, our, wages, street, debt.

Bernie Sanders Sestina
(in the voice of Bernie, words are mine)

was it worth a lifetime dedicated to grassroots
ideals, while one percent of our wealth lies in billionaires’
hands? I’m old, you’re young, it’s Our
Revolution, to speak up for higher wages,
to call out the special interests, Wall Street,
the cushy expungers who’ve left us in debt.

it’s not to Congress, but to you I’m indebted,
let’s take the grassroots
to the White House, take our voices into the streets,
hold onto what’s valuable save the greed of billionaires,
max up the minimum wage,
declare health and education ours.

will it take the time Egyptians built the pyramids for our
younger generation to pay off their student debts?
can we expect wage slave owners to automatically offer decent wages?
would a skyscraper bow down to its landscape of grassroots?
could a pseudo-billionaire promise to make us all billionaires?
will this highway to hell we’re on pave over our hometown streets?

to comprehend our grave issues doesn’t require street
smarts. Or a math degree to see the tatters of our
economy. There’s been an uptick of billionaires,
yet with heads barely above water, the body politic now drowns in debt,
if we’d grab one end of a rope at the grassroots,
we might buoy up our backsides with a living wage.

corrupt leaders don’t believe that the wages
of sin is death. They look at our powerful words as bearing no street
value. Lavish lawn parties are their idea of grassroots.
they believe in holding our
infrastructure, climate future & immigrant children as bargaining tools, debts
that everyone in America will pay for, except the billionaires.

the rich in compassion and action are our spiritual billionaires,
but big business and big pharma won’t pay their wages,
to look out for one another should be our primary debt,
instead of chasing the empty dream of easy street,
it’s not my America, or your America, or their America, but our
America, that wouldn’t have happened from the get-go without the grassroots.

might even billionaires soon awaken to grassroots ideals? To realize equal
wages are for all our benefit? Banded together, might we finally arise from
sewer depths of debt to solid street level? Sound pretty good?

                                                           ~ Cynthia Gallaher


Saturday, June 15, 2019

What’s the buzz about CBD oil and how can it benefit you?

You’ve probably heard at least a little if not a lot about CBD oil lately. It’s all in the news and in magazine articles. CBD is short for cannabidiol, a substance extracted from industrial hemp, legal in all 50 states.

To explain CBD oil, let’s begin with what it is NOT. CBD is NOT marijuana, with its high levels of THC, which get you high. CBD oil has only trace amounts of THC, does not get you high, but has more cannabinoids (of which cannabidiol is one among many) to benefit health issues such as anxiety, sleeplessness, inflammation, seizures and headaches. CBD oil is NOT hemp seed oil, which people use in foods and/or take as a supplement for its Omega 3s.

Softgels have added turmeric for inflammation

The best CBD oil is full-spectrum hemp extract oil, which uses the whole hemp plant, thus offering a wide array or “entourage effect” of cannabinoids to address, which in the last several decades, what has been discovered as your endocannabinoid system.  This endocannabinoid system is made up of receptor cells throughout your body, abundant in the brain, central and peripheral nervous systems and the immune system. 

The cannabinoids in CBD oil bind to these receptors to bring homeostatis or balance to such issues as chronic fatigue, migraines, insomnia, IBS, depression, anxiety, pain, and other physical and emotional imbalances.  And again, CBD oil does NOT get you high like marijuana. 

As a registered yoga instructor and certified aromatherapist, I am able to offer a line of CBD oils (full-spectrum hemp extract oil) from the company Nutritional Frontiers, which is not available in stores but through healthcare practitioners only such as myself. These CBD oils provide a higher potency than most popular retail CBD oils, even those in apothecaries. And I offer them at a lower price for such high potency, and far lower than suggested retail price. The plants are sustainably grown in Colorado (News flash: And now USDA Certified Organic!)and the CBD oil is extracted from the hemp plant using the best CO2 method.

If you are interested in finding out more information on what these CBD oils, softgels or gummies can do for your health needs, please shoot me an email at or message me on Facebook. I can then send you literature about it in PDF form, and would be more than happy to answer your specific questions.


Saturday, May 25, 2019

Frugal poet's guide to "Happy Hour" dining

From selling floor to the slam, from cubicle to podium. Where to go in between? Happy hour!
As a frugal poet, my dinners were usually eaten at my kitchen table, as were breakfasts. Lunches were brown bagged, unless the current employment powers that be would pop for an occasional pizza party or barbecue. But what happens when you want to catch a poetry reading relatively soon after work? Take in happy hour!

Frugal poets likely haven’t the cash flow to treat themselves to downtown dinners. There may be no time to stop home, but you don’t want your stomach to growl and be heard over the P.A. system during your reading at an open mic.

Happy hours at the local pub/grill, usually starting anywhere as early as 3:30 p.m. to 5 p.m. and lasting to 6 p.m. or 7 p.m. or so depending on the venue, can make the joyful transition between you and hunger on those nights you can’t and don’t want to hurry home to eat. When the poetic muse of the night calls and you don’t want to accept the invitation in a cranky mood from lack of calories, you may find yourself at an outdoor café noshing "happy hour" specially priced tidbits to hold you over, watching the urban hoopla whisk by.

Better yet, look for citified venues that offer happy hour and are also situated by a river, lake or ocean. During your brief, but happy, respite, you’ll be front row to the exact same views residents in nearby apartments or homes pay dearly for.

Happy hour! Drinks are certainly discounted. And when else might you get 10-cent chicken wings, dollar tacos or burgers, $2 bar bites or beers, and even $3 complete meals? The bewitching happy hour may take place on certain nights of the week, sometimes every week night, depending on the establishment. Find yourself there, frugal poet!

Chicagoans might want to read 11 Happy Hour Specials to Try in Chicago Now.

As well, find out more frugal poet ways to live an elegant life on little in my nonfiction creativity guide, memoir and reference, Frugal Poets' Guide to Life: How to Live a Poetic Life, Even If You Aren't a Poet.

Thursday, May 09, 2019

What is a poetry chapbook?

Chapbooks were originally small, inexpensive books sold from street carts by merry olde English peddlers called chapmen. From the 1500s through part of the 1800s, these little books, on a variety of topics, were so cheap that once their owners read them, the pages were often used as “bum fodder” (toilet paper).  

Today, modern chapbooks have risen in status (most certainly from bum fodder), and are a popular method for publishing poetry. Running only 40 pages or fewer, chapbooks are shorter in length than a perfect bound full poetry collection, and are usually saddle stitched with staples along a folded spine.

Many new poets who may not have written enough poems for a full collection might get more immediate exposure through a chapbook. Also, poets who write a series of poems that connect with one another, or are all on the same or loosely related theme may opt to get a chapbook published.

There are dozens of poetry chapbook contests each year offered by small press or university publishers. Many presses may opt to publish at least part of their output as chapbooks rather than full collections due to tight budgets or, conversely, to be able to publish more poets! Contests are often the vehicle toward chapbook publication in order for all entrants to help contribute toward the manuscript that will ultimately be chosen. This custom is very common and totally acceptable. Chapbook contests also offer presses a way to scope out new or original talent they may not have been exposed to through the full collection submissions they receive.  

Poets may also prefer to publish a chapbook themselves. With the use of page design programs, clip art, stock photos and speedy printers, a short run of chapbooks doesn’t cost much and can serve as a “calling card” for poets who seek featured readings at local venues, and finally have a way of sharing (and selling) a printed selection of poems with friends, family and fellow poets who’ve been asking, “Where can I find more of your poems?”

Read more about chapbooks and how to create your own step-by-step in my nonfiction book Frugal Poet's Guide to Life: How to Live a Poetic Life, Even If You Aren't a Poet.

Saturday, April 27, 2019

Do you have the characteristics of the creative personality?

In his classic book Creativity: Flow and the Psychology of Discovery and Invention, author and creativity researcher Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi outlines the characteristics of creative individuals. He wrote, “If there is one word that makes creative people different from others, it is the word complexity. Instead of being an individual, they are a multitude.”

Some of the creative characteristics to look for, which he discusses in his book:  
1. A great deal of physical energy alternating with a great need for quiet and rest.
2. Highly sexual, yet often celibate, especially when working.
3. Both extravagant and spartan.
4. Smart and naïve at the same time. A mix of wisdom and childishness. Emotional immaturity along with the deepest insights.
5. Convergent (rational, left brain, sound judgment) and divergent (intuitive, right brain, visionary) thinking. Divergence is the ability to generate a great quantity of ideas, to switch from one perspective to another, and to pick unusual associations of ideas. Convergence involves evaluation and choice. Creative people have the capacity to think both ways.
6. Both extroverted and introverted, needing people and solitude equally.
7. Humble and proud, both painfully self-doubting and wildly self-confident.
8. May defy gender stereotypes, and are likely to have not only the strengths of their own gender but those of the other as well. A kind of psychic androgyny.
9. Can be rebellious and independent on one hand, and traditional and conservative on the other. 
10. A natural openness and sensitivity that often exposes them to extreme suffering and pain, yet also to a great deal of enjoyment. Despair alternates with bliss, despair when they aren’t working, and bliss when they are.

Does this sound like you or someone you might know? If so, keep up the creativity!
Learn more about creativity and the creative process in my book Frugal Poets' Guide to Life: How to Live a Poetic Life, Even If You Aren't a Poet.


Saturday, March 16, 2019

How my stepdad dyed the Chicago River green on St. Paddy's Day

My stepfather John worked as an administrator for the Port of Chicago back in the 1960s, which had its offices at Navy Pier. One of his duties was to check on all the bridges and bridgetenders along the Chicago River. He also personally presented Hizzoner Mayor Richard J. Daley with the Port of Chicago budget every year.

A special side job he was assigned and undertook was to find the dye that could tint the Chicago River green for St. Patrick's Day. He journeyed from vendor to vendor to find a powerful dye that could do the job. Eventually, he was presented with an orange powder that magically turned green when it hit water. There is no formal record of my stepdad's role in this St. Patrick's Day tradition. Seems politicians & plumbers of that 1960s era have taken most of the credit.

However, the following poem I wrote will always be a testament to my stepfather, John, and the spiritual generations after him that enjoy his small, but powerful contribution to Chicago history.

The Leprechaun from Blue Island Avenue
Who Dyed the River Green
"Methinks my own soul must be a bright invisible green."
                                                                           ~ Thoreau
He’d touch one magic crystal
to a bucket of water,
and there brimmed Ireland,
greener than a sheep’s hill in spring.

Instead of chasing rainbows
he pulled the brightest green ribbon
    from the one arching across
State Street from the lake,
and wove wet edges of downtown Chicago
to a new tradition,
a new passion for the river;
bolted to the architecture with bridges,
this wide, wet meander, until today,
as plain as the weathered deck of a barge.

A new tradition, too,

receiving another father
after losing a St. Patrick’s Day dad
years before,
a new father,
who crawled into the world
on the back of a crab,
who mixed drinks
in his father’s Prohibition tavern
on Blue Island Avenue,
whipping red grenadine with ice
    into Pink Ladies--
lining up shots & beers with his eyes closed,
swirling crème de menthe and leaf sprigs
into long Mint Juleps.

Years later, nurses pinned
a fresh shamrock
to my March son’s receiving blanket
the day I took him home.

But way back,
in our knotty pine rec room,
the tequila sunrises
    tumbled in on themselves
     like lava lamps,
made by a man
who thrilled to entertain with jiggers of fluids
and colors and shaved ice
for all our wedding, communion and even funeral guests.
Who else could it have been
to send out the speedboats
like crazed blenders
    into the Chicago River,
dumping bags of orange crystals
that exploded into its other,
churning up a new wardrobe
for the clang, clang,
workingman’s river
until now, clad in railroad overalls,
the river that found itself
wearing one long leprechaun sleeve
in time for the parade.

He crawled into the world
on the back of a crab,
and left in the balance,
and every Mid-March,
I glance down from
my glass-lined lookout,
I see the gum-white Wrigley Building
and the Tinker-toyed Marina City,
I see the frilly floats line up along Wacker Drive,
I see the boatswains and bridgetenders
     and bags of dye,
     and the swirl of water
Photo credit: Barry Butler
     under outboard motors
as if he were standing there still,
along cement docks,
reciting the formula.

And even after traffic
begins to roar its way out
from the city,
the river glows still,
a more brilliant green at twilight,
curving at my feet
into a perfect smile,
a reverse rainbow,
the pots of gold in three places
leprechauns never look,
mid-March, a time to let the past go,
the lost map of my blood father,
a time to look to the future
growth of my son,
and a time made new every year
by a man
more a father than my real father,
more magician than barsman
     from a Blue Island. 

The above poem is included in my poetry collection about Chicago Swimmer's Prayer


Sunday, March 10, 2019

Let wabi-sabi take a brushstroke to your frugal poet life

Second in a series
What does wabi-sabi have to do with being a frugal poet? Wabi-sabi, though quintessentially Japanese, can be applied to any culture’s poetry and is, in fact, an integral part of the poetic nature at large, whether we realize it or not. Published writing is usually rewritten, edited and polished writing, set in symmetrical fonts and printed in uniform order and quality.

Poetry, in its early creation, is composed of our raw thoughts or emotions, scribbled down in an unsteady hand on a commuter train or a dimly lit kitchen. Perhaps the pages are occasionally smudged with ink or stained by drops of coffee. Entries may be heartfelt and passionate, but can simultaneously be random, incomplete, unconventional and bold, without needing to please an audience.

I wish more of my poetry writing and creative writing students would take this approach. You need to get dirty digging a foundation before building a lofty structure. The idea is to let creativity unfold naturally, even when flawed. Get the ideas and images down on paper, and leave all the formal tweaking, rewriting and readjusting kept for later.

And while we work to fix part of a piece, we most likely mar another, however slight the blow. The imperfection in nearly any process we undertake only shows how human we are. It is human and perfectly natural not to be perfect! And writing is no exception.  

The process of writing a poem may ultimately add up to a complete picture or an epiphany of revelation. But most often, our trips toward a poetic destination most often start as a modest journey. We follow a foggy pathway with no promise of reaching a clearing. But we have faith.

At its most distilled, wabi-sabi exemplifies a sense of faith -- in yourself and in the promise of what you strive for, whether it’s poetry or any other creative discipline. According to poet Wallace Stevens, “The imperfect is our paradise.” We try, we fail, we pick up again and find new revelation. If you expect creativity to be a perfect journey, it’s a delusion.

As humans, and frugal poets, we must accept our imperfections, though we consistently struggle to be the best we can. One of my favorite quotes acknowledges human frailty in the midst of writing a poem. French critic and poet Paul Valery said, “A poem is never finished, only abandoned.” I can work and rework a poem many times over, but the moment finally arrives when I must let it go, let it be where it is, and allow it to find a landing place (or not) in my sheaf of collected works.

The above excerpt is from my reference, memoir and creativity guide Frugal Poets' Guide to Life: How to Live a Poetic Life, Even If You Aren't a Poet

In parting, consider this Bible verse:
2 Corinthians 12:9-11 New American Standard Bible (NASB)
And He has said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. 10 Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong.