Saturday, July 31, 2021

EMERGENCE: the soul of creativity By Rosie Rosenzweig

EMERGENCE: the soul of creativity

By Rosie Rosenzweig

After interviewing 40 women artists on their creative process, or Flow, the term coined by psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, I realized that there was another state of consciousness. Flow, according to him had certain characteristics; these include:

1. Complete concentration on the task;

2. Clarity of goals and reward in mind and immediate feedback;

3. Transformation of time (speeding up/slowing down);

4. The experience is intrinsically rewarding;

5. Effortlessness and ease;

6. There is a balance between challenge and skills;

7. Actions and awareness are merged, losing self-conscious rumination;

8. There is a feeling of control over the task.

In my book Emergence:The Role of Mindfulness in Creativity, I equated his characteristics with certain states of meditation or mindfulness described in the Buddhist canon. The state of consciousness that I described as Emergence occurred during Flow as well as during certain moments of meditation. I used the terms meditation and mindfulness interchangeably. I based this idea on a talk by Buddha called Codependent Arising, which describes the links between states of consciousness and feelings. The important idea here is that thoughts arise and so does the state of Emergence.

I described this state using an interview with Novelist Joan Leegant, who described how, after creating the characters and the situation, she just watched the characters take on a life of their own to further the plot. . . they EMERGE. Creativity or Emergence assumes a will of its own, once experienced and produces the art form naturally.

I reasoned that this is the way of the natural world. For example, an embryo emerges as a baby after nine months, and that baby emerges as an adult, just like the seeds of spring grow to be trees, flowers, vegetables and other vegetation. Emergence is a natural state of being and occurs when artists produce art.

Everyone can access this in their lives when they put their minds to it, mindfully. Problems get solved daily with this same process. It’s not really that unique to artists

and occurs multiple times during a day. Even finding a new route to an oft travelled place could be in this category.

Friday, July 30, 2021

The Red Letter Poem Project The Red Letters 3.0: A New Beginning (Perhaps)

 NOW ONLINE!  I was asked to write an essay for Askold Melnyczuk’s Arrowsmith Journal about what I learned from the first year of the Red Letter Project.  It also became a meditation about the relationship between poet and reader.  If you’d like to take a look, here is a link –

-- and you’ll also be able to check out the variety of marvelous literary projects that appear under Askold’s Arrowsmith imprint. Enjoy!


The Red Letter Poem Project


The Red Letters 3.0: A New Beginning (Perhaps)   

At the outset of the Covid pandemic, when fear was at its highest, the Red Letter Project was intended to remind us of community: that, even isolated in our separate homes, we could still face this challenge together. As Arlington’s Poet Laureate, I began sending out a poem of comfort each Friday, featuring the fine talents from our town and its neighbors. Because I enlisted the partnership of seven local arts and community organizations, distribution of the poems spread quickly – and, with subscribers sharing and re-posting the installments, soon we had readers, not only throughout the Commonwealth, but across the country. And I delighted in the weekly e-mails I’d receive with praise for the poets; as one reader recently commented: “You give me the gift of a quiet, contemplative break—with something to take away and reflect on.”

Then our circumstance changed dramatically again: following the murder of George Floyd, the massive social and political unrest, and the national economic catastrophe, the distress of the pandemic was magnified. Red Letter 2.0 announced that I would seek out as diverse a set of voices as I could find – from Massachusetts and beyond – so that their poems might inspire, challenge, deepen the conversation we were, by necessity, engaged in.

Now, with widespread vaccination, an economic rebound, and a shift in the political landscape, I intend to help this forum continue to evolve – Red Letter 3.0. For the last 15 months, I’ve heard one question again and again: when will we get back our old lives? It may pain us to admit it, but that is little more than a fantasy. Our lives have been altered irrevocably – not only our understanding of how thoroughly interdependent we are, both locally and globally, but how fragile and utterly precious is all that we love. Weren’t you bowled over recently by how good it felt just to hug a friend or family member? Or to walk unmasked through a grocery, noticing all the faces? So I think the question we must wrestle with is this: knowing what we know, how will we begin shaping our new life? Will we quickly forget how grateful we felt that strangers put themselves at risk, every day, so that we might purchase milk and bread, ride the bus to work, or be cared for by a doctor or nurse? Will we slip back into our old drowse and look away from the pain so many are forced to endure – in this, the wealthiest nation on the planet? Will we stop noticing those simple beauties all around us? The poet Mary Oliver said it plainly: “Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?” I will continue to offer RLP readers the work of poets who are engaged in these questions, hoping their voices will fortify all of ours.

Two of our partner sites will continue re-posting each Red Letter weekly: the YourArlington News Blog (, and the Boston Area Small Press and Poetry Scene ( If you would like to receive these poems every Friday in your own in-box – or would like to write in with comments or submissions – send correspondence to:

In ancient Rome, feast days were indicated on the calendar by red letters. To my mind, all poetry and art serves as a reminder that every day we wake together beneath the sun is a red-letter day.

– Steven Ratiner

Red Letter Poem #70

It’s one of the basic human dichotomies: rooted or rootless. I am often astonished by what lengths some people will go to ensure that their lives remain rooted in place – attached to a certain locality in a manner that speaks of permanence (or whatever approximation of immutability this life permits us to enjoy.) But I’m equally impressed by how far others will go to preserve a sort of rootlessness which they believe is somehow the equivalent of freedom. Where do you fall in this spectrum? And how has your life been enhanced (or hobbled) by that predilection?

In Jenny Xie’s first appearance in the Red Letters (RLP # 45), her poem “Naturalization” spoke of the immigrant’s and outsider’s hunger to belong. Her award-winning debut collection, Eye Level (Graywolf Press, 2018) had that as one axis around which the poems revolved. But the second pole was certainly that of the poet’s need to remain distanced, distinct, so that one’s individuality not be compromised by the powerful gravity of belonging. In “Rootless”, even the seasoned traveler finds she cannot (or will not) allow the world to get too close. But through that distance, the elemental landscape is thrown into sharp relief. Only the outsider would register the astonishment in seeing that hog strapped to the seat of a motorbike (making its way to farm? To slaughter?) Or notice the almost abstract beauty of the rice fields and simple dwellings. Passing through the world, we sometimes forget that the world is passing through us as well, mapping out our own emotional terrain.

Having spent too many months rooted to one landscape (or perhaps to nothing more than a few familiar rooms), aren’t we all craving the bracing challenge that travel can present? Our mouths too want to spend the only foreign words we own, to sever ourselves from the routine and measure our lives against a wider existence. Of course, there is also the issue of when rootlessness is not a choice but a condition forced upon people – or when belonging is not an option our personalities can manage – how does that alter the picture? These questions are among the things I most admired as I traveled through Jenny’s book: as a reader, I got the chance to try on all of these situations and to, vicariously, discover what my heart was longing for. Because sometimes we might find ourselves feeling rooted only to the territory of the imagination, a citizen of the written word – in which case returning home takes on a whole new dimension.


Between Hanoi and Sapa there are clean slabs of rice fields
and no two brick houses in a row.

I mean, no three—
See, counting’s hard in half-sleep, and the rain pulls a sheet

over the sugar palms and their untroubled leaves.
Hours ago, I crossed a motorbike with a hog strapped to its seat,

the size of a date pit from a distance.
Can this solitude be rootless, unhooked from the ground?

No matter. The mind resides both inside and out.
It can think itself and think itself into existence.

I sponge off the eyes, no worse for wear.
My frugal mouth spends the only foreign words it owns.

At present, on this sleeper train, there’s nowhere to arrive.
Me? I’m just here in my traveler’s clothes, trying on each

passing town for size.

­­–– Jenny Xie

Sunday, July 25, 2021

Pieces of Bones and Rags by Michael C. Keith


Pieces of Bones and Rags

by Michael C. Keith

Cabal Books

Catlett, VA

Copyright © 22021 by Michael C. Keith

ISBN: 978-1-734-68324-6-4

Softbound, 280 pages, $14

Review by Zvi A. Sesling

It is always exciting to have a new Michael Keith flash/micro fiction book published. I have read more than a half dozen of his flash/micro fiction books and with each one the stories are increasingly more compelling. In Pieces of Bones and Rags Keith succeeds in keeping the reader totally entertained with stories that encompass  many different subjects in this 280 page volume.

Keith calls to mind some of the finest flash/micro fiction writers such as Jayne Martin, Robert Scotellaro, Francine Witte, Paul Beckman other short story authors such as Phil Temples, Rob Dinsmoor and Gregory Wolos. However, Keith is definitely his own story teller. Very few compare to his unique, sometimes bizarre ideas, pushing the boundaries of the unexpected. Some of the stories in this volume can be fright provoking-- such as:

And He Replied

I’m having my Sunday morning screaming fantods.”

She left the kitchen without saying another word for she knew

There would be knife throwing.

Alternately Keith presents his humorous side in The Gift of Nonchalance

He climbed into his car and immediately noticed the passenger side

door was missing. He didn’t make much of it, reminding himself

he had no passenger with him.

What Keith presents as humor often goes much deeper, exploring a truth that few admit to, though many may contemplate the idea. Read for instance, “Till The End Of Time” a title co-opted from a song Perry Como made famous in the 1950s. Keith’s story has little to do with the song and ends differently.

Till The End Of Time

The day finally arrived when human had the chance to live

forever through the miracle of a one-time pill. Most people took

it, while a tiny handful decided they didn’t want to stick around.

Of the majority who opted for immortality, at least a third chose

to abandon their present lives, claiming that being with the same

family and friends for infinity was a for of purgatory.

Keith’s rather sarcastic streak is displayed as he derides obvious strings of thinking. Instead he presents his world-- which is not what the reader expects. He is a master of psychological stories in which the reader may be left feeling sad, happy, neutral or downright in awe of his ability to evoke inner feelings..

In Echoed Sentiment one might encounter many combinations of emotions Keith evokes.

Echoed Sentiment

Lord love duck,” she’d say, reflecting on her troubled life. It

was something she repeated often, and I wondered where she got

the phrase. “It was a title from an old movie. Something that just

stuck with me. Ducks don’t have much luck when they’re around

people, and I haven’t had much either, so lord love a duck.” When

I heard she’d been hit by a car and died, all I could think was

Lord love a duck.”

To note: Michael C. Keith’s writing is always informative and entertaining. There are no hidden meanings, and no confusing stories. Each story will make the reader want to read another. His books are always worth adding to our collections and spending time feeling enthralled.

I heartily recommend Pieces of Bones and Rags for your summer reading list or for any time of the year.

Zvi A. Sesling, Brookline, MA Poet Laureate (2017-2920)

Author, War Zones and The Lynching of Leo Frank

Author of forthcoming The Secret Behind The Gate (Cervena Barva Press)

Editor, Muddy River Poetry Review