Photos, Writing

Come and Visit

The other day I found a treasure of old photos, some of my old blog posts I’d saved on Microsoft Word, and a plethora of unfinished poetry. Since then, I’ve been rescuing my blog posts and adding them to my site. As many of you know, I deleted those old posts years ago and I’ve regretted it. Not everything from those files is well written—I wince a lot when I read my old stuff—but it’s all a record of who I was and the growth and changes I’ve gone through.

I think I miss most the comments from my followers. Those are gone forever.

Anyway, I’ve been plugging those holes, rebuilding the past. Lots of old poems, art and photographs to look at. And more on the way.

So stop by, leave comments at my About page, and don’t be a stranger.

I’ll end now with a sunset photo at a lake near my home. A perfect place to collect my thoughts and find peace.

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Artwork, Writing

The Blogger Me

It feels good to blog again about my poems and art. Although I have been blogging since 1996, I feel like a stranger blogging again and reaching out and meeting new bloggers here at WordPress.

I pen mostly free verse poetry—poems written in open forms sometimes called “Naked Poetry,” a term coined from the anthology books Naked Poetry: Recent American Poetry in Open Forms (1969) and The New Naked Poetry (1976) by Stephen Berg and Robert Mezey. My maternal grandmother had them and other books about poetry in her library. Robert Frost was my favorite poet when I was old enough to read, but I soon favored the “naked poets” and their open form styles and began creating my own free form poems at nine years old. I won a few awards when I was a teenager and at college, but winning accolades and gaining fame was never my motivation for writing poetry. And honestly, I don’t know if I’ve ever been motivated by anything more than a calling to write down the words that fill my mind day and night and to structure them into forms that please my sight, tongue and hearing.

I write fiction, too, but not often. Storytelling involves rules of structure that restrict me from developing anything comparable to the sight and sound of open poetry. In that sense, I’m probably more of an artist than a writer. And I do enjoy making art, whether I’m drawing or painting.

Like every kid growing up in North America during the 1980s, music surrounded me, whether it was on the radio, TV, or thumping from my dad’s stereo with speakers as large as our refrigerator. My dad taught me how to play guitar, so I turned some of my poems into songs. That’s when I created my nom de plume Colleen Ackerman from my middle name and my mom’s maiden name. I liked it better than my real name. I went through a phase when I despised the name Lola because of (1) the song Lola by The Kinks, and (2) the song Copacabana by Barry Manilow. The Kinks’ song is about a man falling for a transvestite named Lola. The Manilow song is about a showgirl named Lola with yellow feathers in her hair and a dress cut down to there. She danced at the Copacabana north of Havana where she and Tony the bartender were lovers until some guy named Rico came along, killed Tony and sent Lola on a 30-year downward spiral into depression and alcoholism. People still make comparisons of those songs and me. If I had a nickel for all those times someone asked me “Are you a dude?” and then laughed, I’d be a millionaire. And I’m still a little irked at my cousins who set me up on two blind dates on the same night when I was 16. The one date’s name was Tony. The other date was a boy named Rico (if that was his real name—I have my doubts). Anyway, when two boys show up at your house at the same time to take you to the local dance, it’s painfully awkward and embarrassing and not very funny.

I began blogging my poems and art when I was a girl in California so I could stay connected with my relatives and friends around the country. (Anyone from the old Geocities’ Paris neighborhood? If so, Lola Fae/Colleen Ackerman says hi.) I met many people in many guises whom I termed the friendliest ones as “blog pals” and spent countless hours reading their writing and looking at their art and photography. That’s when I fell in love with the Internet. And that’s why I’m here twenty-one years later—I’m still in love with it!

As I mentioned, it feels good to publish my poems and art again. I hope to do so for a long time.

Love and peace to all.

Artwork, Writing

On Writing Poetry

Fires In Ashbarrels, Writing

Q and A

A follower of this blog once asked if I have a favorite riddle. I do. My dad asked me when I was very young, “You throw away its outside and cook its inside. Then you eat its outside and throw away its inside. What is it?” I couldn’t figure out the answer. He asked me every time we visited his parents in Pennsylvania (we lived in California), so I would ask Grandpa Gentry who said he knew the answer. But Grandpa would never tell me. Then one day my dad died in a traffic accident. I was sitting alone on Grandpa’s porch swing years later when I lived in Pennsylvania, looking across the road at a cornfield when the answer came to me like a loud whisper: Corn! I swear it was my dad’s voice I heard. I went indoors and told Grandpa that Daddy had just told me the answer. He smiled and nodded from his spot at the kitchen table and said, “I knew he’d tell you one day.”

Another follower asked what my favorite mode of transportation is and why. I said trains. The first ride I remember was when I lived in Italy with my parents when I was a young girl. But the strongest memory is taking the train to New York City years later when I attended college. There was something old world about listening to the click-clack of steel wheels against steel rails. Later, when I visited France and Italy, my friends and I went everywhere by train. It was relaxing to sit back, read, talk, or sleep while someone else made sure we reached our destinations. Even when I lived in England, I enjoyed taking the train to and from downtown London.

Other questions I’ve been asked are:

What is your favorite foreign food? Spaghetti. I always loved my mom’s spaghetti, but when I went to Italy after college and had real Italian spaghetti, I was in heaven. Every place I ate at had its own variation of sauce… all delicious! America’s so-called big name Italian restaurants don’t make it truly Italian… too chunky and pasty and filled with so many seasonings you’d think spaghetti was a Mexican dish.

Are you a dog person or a cat person? I love both. Especially the furry ones where I can snuggle my face against their awesome softness.

What kind of music do you like? I have a passion for all kinds of music.

  • My dad’s 60s and 70s rock albums
  • Pop songs on the radio in the kitchen with my mom
  • 50s and 60s country music in my paternal grandfather’s pickup truck
  • Hymns at church with my maternal grandparents
  • My uncle’s collection of classical music
  • Dolly Parton songs with my fun and crazy aunts
  • My cousins playing their own synthetic, electronic and industrial music
  • Native American powwow drum music
  • Folk singers on North American and European streets and in parks

I still search for and discover new music and artists on the internet, and I go to YouTube often to listen to the classics.

Would you rather live in the city or country? Why? I love the country’s open spaces because it gives me the sense of being able to run free and wild like a stallion. But I love the noise of the city because it feels more like home to me. Don’t laugh, but if you listen to Neil Diamond’s Beautiful Noise song, you’ll see why.

Have you written anything besides your blog? Yes. I’m one of those people who was labeled shy and introverted in school, though I had a passion for expressing my feelings in art and poetry at an early age. Though my art talent never grew much during those years, I could never shut up the poetry. An uncle who was heavy into computers and was an early pioneer of the internet showed me a newsfeed where programmers in the 60s and 70s wrote poetry inside their codes. I learned to write BASIC from him when I was 7 years old, and he and I hooked an old Commodore VIC to the family TV so my dad could read my poetry when he was home from work. This led me to posting my poems online when home computing in the late 80s grew popular, which led me to start a blog.

What would you do if you were a mayor for a day? If I were mayor of where I live now, and if my vote outweighed that of the other city council members, I’d have more parks and recreation here. There’s a lot of underdeveloped land here owned by people and corporations looking to capitalize on business ventures such as shopping centers and Walmarts instead of places for people to have fun at with their families.

What has been the happiest moment in your life so far? Getting married to the man I love who loves me back.

You are happiest when you are wearing what on your feet? Usually I’m happiest when I’m wearing nothing on my feet. But the best thing ever to happen to them was when I discovered MAG Megamok shoes. They’re a moccasin style shoe I bought when I was in France. Because we were doing a lot of walking, a friend recommended we buy some. They were soft leather with thick soles. What a difference. It was like walking on clouds.

Do you speak more than one language? (Klingon counts.) French and Italian, but only basic phrases every American visitor needs to know when ordering food and train tickets. The language I speak fluently is Pig Latin. I’m teaching it to my oldest son. He thinks it’s the greatest thing to talk in a secret language his siblings don’t understand.

Why did you start blogging? I began blogging when I was a girl to stay connected with my relatives and friends around the country, especially later while attending college in New York so I could stay connected with my relatives and friends in California. Also, it was a free and easy medium for publishing my poetry, which I still do.

Why is your blog called “Fires In Ashbarrels”? The words are from section 9 of a gut-clawing poem by Galway Kinnell (1927-2014) called The Avenue Bearing the Initial of Christ into the New World. The section begins: “Children set fires in ashbarrels,” which was an image that left its mark on me when I was 9 years old, reading poetry and literature by Kinnell, Plath, Burroughs, Ginsberg, and Kerouac. Some dark stuff lighted by the flames that burned inside me.

Who or what inspires you (to blog, and/or in general)? Early inspiration came from other bloggers who were like me and who were writing online diaries of their daily events. Among those diary entries were many poems that I read with great interest. Another early influence—during my pre- and post-college years—was reading about other people’s work, family life, and injustices, like at Heather Armstrong‘s blog which is still around and called Dooce @ http://dooce.com/.

Which three hashtags best describe your blog? #poetry #art #creative

How and/or where do you get new ideas for your poems? Everywhere and through everything I experience. As soon as I write a new poem (which happens pretty often in my bedside diary) I start itching to share it with my readers in a blog post, even though it needs work. But every first draft poem needs to mature before I publish it.

Where would you like to wake up every day? Anywhere, as long as I’m next to my husband. We all need a person we love and who loves us back. I used to think there was no one who would want to be with me. But Earth is a big planet with lots of people living on it, so even the loneliest person has someone who loves them. That’s the beauty of today’s communication age and being able to travel past the boundaries and borders that separated our grandparents.

Which talent don’t you have, but want it? The ability to express myself better. I tend to be cryptic when I talk… even when I write. But we get do overs when we write. Talking is pretty much a one shot deal. I think that’s why I say little but write volumes.

Fires In Ashbarrels, Poems

Young Love

Fires In Ashbarrels, Poems

I Am

Fires In Ashbarrels, Writing

Writing Poetry, 3