Writing Through Illness and Grief Group

While mourning his daughter Tullia, Cicero took to writing a book of self-consolation. Thinking himself the inventor of this type of self-help, he said, “Why, I have done what no one has done before, tried to console myself by writing a book.” (This is quoted by Han Baltussen in the Nov. 2009 issue of Mortality in an essay titled, “A grief observed: Cicero on remembering Tullia.”)

I certainly don’t think Cicero was the first to console himself by writing, but he seemed to find it of value, and many after him have repeated the exercise. Writing can be a way of releasing out inner torment when faced with grief or illness.

If you use or have used writing as a consolation, I’d like to invite you to join the Writing Through Illness and Grief group on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/groups/256668978211572/). If you are not on Facebook but are interested in participating in other ways, please contact me at Randall@ethicsbeyondcompliance.com.

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Bob War (a humane farming manifesto)

I was an adult before I realized that barbed wire is not called Bob War, because that was how my grandfather pronounced it, and he happened to be the person who mentioned it to me most often, as he was the person who would always tell us kids that we needed to help repair the fence. Some concerned neighbour would call to tell him some of the cows were out, and he’d tell us to grab some Bob War and git in the truck. We’d drive out to the cow lease, which was several hundred acres, and find the wayward cows, round ‘em up, and repair the fence. Sometimes getting the cows back on the lease was the easy part, and sometimes it took all day.

Repairing the fence was always about the same. First, cut the broken wire and get it outbarbed wire of the way. Second, nail a new piece of wire to a fence post with a fencing staple. You have to get the staple just inside of a barb to keep the wire from slipping through. The hard part is stretching the wire to the next fence post enough to get a barb there to use it to secure the other end of the wire. Sometimes my job was to get the wire in the fencing tool and pull it around the post using the post and tool for leverage. It wasn’t really easy. It required all my limited strength, and it caused me no small amount of anxiety, as my grandfather was not easy going about it. My efforts were usually subject to some harsh criticism.

In the end, though, the cows were always contained, and the fence was always mended – one way or the other. I never felt much happier about it, but that’s how life is when you raise cows. And the cows were fairly happy, I guess, having plenty of room to roam. It made you wonder why they’d ever want to escape in the first place, though sometimes you knew.

Every farmer needs a few bulls, of course, but not too many, so each year we’d cull some of the bulls from the herd and take them to auction where they were bought and either put to pasture or slaughtered. Unless they were breeding stock, the bull calves were castrated and sent on their way to become steers, as steer meat is more desirable than bull meat. I sometimes participated in the making of young steers. You may think the testicles are whacked off with a big knife or something, but we had a device with a strong rubber ring attached and stretched open. We’d pull the testicles through the open ring and then remove the device, which meant the ring constricted around the base of the scrotum. It’s anyone’s guess whether this was more or less pleasant than a big knife.

It wasn’t my concern to know what happened to the calves we sold. I do remember, though, returning to the lease one evening to find a mother cow wandering around the perimeter of the property braying for her calf. She was well-fed and cared for, but she depended on her son’s executioner for winter food, protection, and medication. This is humane farming, you see, not the horrible things you see in the smuggled films from factory farms.

I don’t know how long Mom continued searching and braying for her lost one.

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New Mills Festival Poetry Trail and Performance

I’m putting together a poetry trail for the New Mills Festival. The festival begins 14 September and runs for three weeks. Poem will appear in shop windows throughout the town. We will have a round-robin poetry reading for participants on 26 September 2018 at The Butterfly House at the Torrs. The deadline for submissions is the end of May, but festival fringeI’m accepting poems as I go, so it is best to get them in early! Guidelines below.

New Mills Festival Poetry Trail Submission Guidelines

1. Must be family-friendly. If you know me, you know I enjoy work that is provocative or even shocking, but the poetry trail is probably a good time to tone things down a little.

2. 20 lines maximum. People will be standing on the pavement reading the poems—shorter poems are bound to be more accessible.

3. Please include a location for yourself. You can choose whether to use your current location or the place you most identify as home.

4. I will try to place poems with subjects related to local businesses in those businesses (e.g., cycling poems in the cycle shop, flower poems in the florist).

5. Submit up to three poems in the order of your preference. I have about 65 spaces. If 65 people submit, I will use your first choice. If fewer people submit, I will use your first two choices. You get the idea.

6. You can send the poems in the text of an email or an attachment. Either is fine. Send them to randall@ethicsbeyondcompliance.com.

7. 30 May 2018 is the deadline.

Participants are invited to read their poems at a round-robin style performance at The Butterfly House at the Torrs on 26 September 2018.

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if p then q ten year birthday party in Manchester

IF P THEN Q

Will post about this again nearer the time with reader bios but make sure you don’t miss out on six stunning if p then q poets celebrating the run of the press, and fix this date firm. For a little post about those ten years click HERE

if p then q 10 years poster

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#PleaseHearWhatImNotSaying Poetry Anthology and Me

I am thrilled to have two poems in the new anthology, “Please Hear What I’m Not Saying,” edited by poet Isabelle Kenyon. The profits of the anthology will benefit the UK charity, MIND, which promotes mental health services and support while also working to reduce the stigma around mental illness. If I’m completely honest, I’m most excited to have my poems in the anthology because it is the first time any of my poems will appear in print anywhere, so I’m grateful to Isabelle for that.

Secondly, though, mental illness is a subject with deep meaning for me personally, whichhear what I'm not saying is why I decided to submit to the anthology in the first place. It is my personal belief that 100 percent of people experience mental illness at one time or another, but a fairly high percentage of us struggle for longer periods or with deeper pain. Over the course of my life (57 years as I write), I’ve had many happy times, but I have also been diagnosed with major depression, general anxiety disorder, insomnia, high blood pressure, migraine headaches, and the all-inclusive diagnosis of “stress.” In addition, I’ve pretty much diagnosed myself with Avoidant Personality Disorder just because I relate to every item on the list of diagnostic criteria.

If you look up statistics, you find that more women report depression, but more men die from suicide. You can make up your own mind about why this is the case, but I can tell you that over the years I have been told that my depression was a “luxury” and that it made me seem weak, pathetic, and selfish. If other men get the same message, it isn’t too surprising that fewer men report being depressed. When they do report mental illness, fewer services are aimed at them. Even when services are available to both men and women, the décor of offices and language of materials often has a stereotypically feminine feel that makes men feel unwelcome.

All of this makes me especially sensitive to the high-price of masculinity. We hear quite a bit about toxic masculinity, but toxic masculinity is a by-product of what philosopher Tom Digby calls sacrificial masculinity. Men are taught from the crib to ignore their own physical and mental health. In the past, men ignored their health in order to be better protectors and providers. Increasingly, emotionless brawn is less needed and less valued in society, so men are left with poor mental health with no obvious purpose, which only exacerbates the problem.

For a time, I facilitated men’s bereavement groups, and all the men said some version of the following: “I’ve been told how I’m not supposed to grieve (crying and emotional breakdown), but no one tells me how I am supposed to grieve.” Almost every man in every group I facilitated broke down in tears, and almost every one apologised for it. For this reason, I think if we can fight like men, we must learn to cry like men. Although I haven’t been successful at getting others to use it, I occasionally post information on men’s mental health with the hashtag #CryLikeAMan.

The anthology will be available from 8 February 2018.

 

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Poetry Anthology benefits UK MIND

I was fortunate enough to be included in Isabelle Kenyon’s new poetry anthology supporting the mental health charity, UK MIND. I was happy to participate in the project because I think any effort to remove stigma around mental illness and to provide support for those suffering is a good and necessary thing to do. I don’t think I am unusual, really, but I’ve had my bouts with depression, anxiety, avoidance and attendant health problems. The more open we can be about our struggles, the easier it will be for hear what I'm not sayingus, collectively, to cope. I’m very grateful to Isabelle Kenyon for her efforts, which she describes below.

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Isabelle Kenyon is a Surrey based poet and a graduate in Theatre: Writing, Directing and Performance from the University of York. She is the author of poetry anthology, This is not a Spectacle and micro chapbook, The Trees Whispered, published by Origami Poetry Press. She is also the editor of MIND Poetry Anthology ‘Please Hear What I’m Not Saying’. You can read more about Isabelle and see her work at http://www.flyonthewallpoetry.co.uk

Thank you to Randall Horton for letting me guest blog today! I wanted to spread the word about the MIND Poetry Anthology, which I have compiled and edited. ‘Please Hear What I’m Not Saying’ will be out in early February, expected date of release to be Thursday the 8th, on Amazon. The Anthology consists of poems from 116 poets (if I include myself!) and the book details a whole range of mental health experiences. The profits of the book with go to UK charity, MIND.

The book came about through my desire to do a collaborative project with other poets and my desire to raise money for a charity desperately seeking donations to cope with the rising need for its work. I received over 600 poems and have narrowed this down to 180.

As an editor, I have not been afraid to shy away from the ugly or the abstract, but I believe that the anthology as a whole is a journey – with each section the perspective changes. I hope that the end of the book reflects the ‘light at the end of the tunnel’ for mental health and that the outcome of these last sections express positivity and hope.

 

 

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Please Hear What I’m Not Saying Q&A

‘Please Hear What I’m Not Saying’ is a poetry anthology, the profits of which will go to UK charity, MIND. The book consists of 116 poets (I’m happy to be one of them) from around the world and details a whole range of mental health experiences. The expected date of release is Thursday 8th, on Amazon.

 Editor Isabelle Kenyon answers questions about the project.hear what I'm not saying

Question: How did this project begin?

Isabelle: I knew I wanted to work collaboratively with other poets and it was actually the theme of mental health for a collection, which came to me before the idea of donating the profits to charity MIND. This was because I knew how strongly people felt about the subject and that it is often through writing that the most difficult of feelings can be expressed. I think that is why the project received the sheer number of submissions that it did.

Question: How did you select the poems – was there a process?

Isabelle: In some cases of course personal taste came into my selection, but I tried to be as objective as I could and consider the collection as whole. I wanted the book to have as many different personal experiences and perspectives as I could find. Because of this, I have not been afraid to shy away from the ugly or the abstract, but I hope that the end of the book reflects the ‘light at the end of the tunnel’ for mental health and that the outcome of these last sections express positivity and hope.

Question: Why should people buy this book?

Isabelle: Easy – to support the fantastic work which MIND does and to support the fantastic poets involved. Rave about their work because I believe the poets involved are both talented and dedicated.

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