Gudrun Mouw Posts

Writing a short story has become the new challenge—something different at a time when individual and national complacency has been shaken up. Perhaps, that is the best time to shift gears, when life changes require adaptations and new avenues of effort.

I’ve been trying to remember the many short story techniques I studied during my college years and since then. I remind myself that lyrical poetry and short stories are similar in the use of concise language that, at best, awakens and moves the reader from beginning to end more quickly than a meandering novel. Perhaps, this is because a novel does well to create a believable sense of truth, in spite of the adage that truth is stranger than fiction.

A short stories’ intensity, like a poem, often surprises, even shocks the reader in order to poke holes in consciousness. There is little time for plot complexities and extensive character developments. Just like poetry, the short story, I believe, uses subtle techniques that require careful, sustained attention by the reader best implemented in one sitting.

On the other hand, one sitting would not be adequate for me to produce either a poem or a short story. Once again I recall something heard at a writer’s luncheon—“I have a policy never to revise anything more than three times.” Wow! All I know is that I do not know when the story “Are You a Holocaust Survivor?” will be finished.

Gudrun Mouw (c)

Journal Entry The Process of Writing

There are times when things just don’t feel right—perhaps a friend, or family member is ill, or troubled in some way. There may be health issues, grief issues, work issues. Sometimes, even the weather will, unexpectedly, get dangerous. Because of adversities, which are out of our control, we may fall behind unable to do those normal, ordinary tasks that help us feel aligned with the world.

Even after dealing appropriately with crisis situations, it may be difficult to commit to the very activities that bring us back to a sense of peace, such as taking time out from stress and the aftermath of stress by getting away from a difficult environment, taking a walk, listening to music, talking to a friend, meditating, practicing yoga, reading a book, or whatever else works for us. Instead, one may sink into paralysis. Such paralysis can create a kind of unconscious self fulfilling prophesy that says how can we relax, or engage in the things that may or may not be helpful, because there is too much left undone.

However, such are exactly the times when we need to give ourselves permission to do whatever it takes to rejuvenate. Then, we can honestly acknowledge and, ultimately, relieve the stress that adversity brings about.

Gudrun Mouw (c)
May 21, 2018

The Spiritual Journey

I was especially drawn to the “Bear River in Danger” article by Clyde Prout in News from Native California because it addresses the meaning of “home.” The writer points out, “We had a house…, but it wasn’t until I was older that I began to understand what [was] truly meant by ‘home.'”

Reading this, I realized how my background—having been categorized by the government as a “Displaced Person” in the 1950s—caused my search for “home” to unfold in painfully disorienting ways. Which is why it has been a blessing, for the last 20 years, to have had easy access to nature and wildlife, which promotes a sense of healing continuity for me.

The deer trail within sight of our home, for example, well used from before my life time, creates delightful and instructive interactions. And so nature freely provides a larger perspective for our journey on this planet. During difficult times, especially, finding ways to move from disconnection to connection seems ever more important.

 

Gudrun Mouw

(c) April/May, 2018

Personal Updates

Forgiveness

For Mutti

More than 17 years ago, on your last day,
you left your “Sabbath…Study Guide” open
to a page on forgiveness;
you were only a few years older than I am now.

Still, your multitude of sad, unspoken words
rise up from the depth of our shared
her-story and haunt my hours.
Mother, Mutti, it was never your fault.

Though it is no longer a misfortune
to be born in a family that did not
produce first born male heirs but daughters,
the guilty consequence remained for generations.

In spite of all odds, thanks to you,
I survived Hitler, as well as Stalin’s starvation camps.
And today, as a rough, fearful winter continues to invade
this spring, I release an ancient anger to honor you.

Gudrun Mouw (c)
April 4, 2018

A Poem

I began a poem about my mother early this morning and titled it, “Mutti.” I was trying (she’s been gone over 17 years) to “retrieve her multitude of unspoken words.”

I glance over at a 9×12 flower painting, separated from its frame, lying on the dining room table where I am sitting. The landscape has just recently been returned to me. I had given it to a friend who yearned to see the blue petals of her European childhood.

I am still grieving this British-born friend, who died just a few months ago. A mutual friend, who returned the painting, had brought up its subject. She thought it was “Edelweiss,” I thought it was cornflowers. We were both wrong. We hadn’t accounted for the yellow/orange centers of the blue flowers. On the back of the painting, I notice “Alpine Forget-Me-Not,” written in my father’s handwriting.

My father, the artist, has been gone over 18 years….And now, it will soon be spring. A rebirth. I can feel the change–that brutal morning cold has abated; the California hills are green and flowers bloom. Perhaps, the poem may yet finish itself.

Gudrun. Mouw (c)

Journal Entry

The day I finished reading, The Sun and Her Flowers, I saw an interview with the 20-something poet and also learned about the international admiration for this book, which has been quickly translated into numerous languages. Apparently, Rupi Kaur’s fame began with a controversial Instagram image.

I like how the author has made the idea of poetry popular, which by itself is an immense achievement.  Born in India, the poet was raised in the west with a multicultural family awareness, which I know something about from my own experience. Overall, the poetry style seems quite innovative.

I was struck by how the poems in The Sun and Her Flowers dramatically expand the possibilities of the genre. Sometimes, the poems are simply short statements; other times, there are italicized summaries at the end (which serve as captions; there are no titles). Often the language seems designed to jolt and surprise. At other times, the poems are quite prosaic. 

In the interview, the poet responded to critics, who have called her too simplistic, by saying she was fine with that, but in the end she wanted the reader’s stomach to turn.  

Though this book is interesting, in the future I would like to see the kind of poetic mastery that could, perhaps, slow down the reader in order to deepen one’s experience, move one towards a rich, intuitive silence and keep the poems from falling flat emotionally.

 

Personal Updates The Process of Writing