Sunday, September 28, 2014

The Mountain Man’s Gifts: Kathleen D Gallagher on her Experiences of Working on Yuyutsu Sharma's "Eternal Snow"

I first became acquainted with the Yuyutsu Sharma at a poetry reading at the Literary Café in Cleveland where I was a local feature poet.  Yuyutsu was a lovely surprise international guest poet who was invited to read with us along the frozen Lake Erie Shore.  He read before me, and I was in awe and honored and humbled to follow his lead.  I was impressed not only by his poetry, but his professional demeanor and his obvious following by other poets around the world.   

A year passed.  

Once again, on his way back from his travels out West by train, Yuyutsu appeared in Cleveland, Ohio at Mac’s Backs where he was giving many of his remarkable writing workshops and readings that he performs all over the world from New York to California to the Florida Keys and everywhere in between and beyond.  But that night, I walked down into the basement of that coffeehouse with a belly full of grief over having recently lost a lost a loved one, and I had no words.  

Instead, I  concentrated on my goal at hand, and reveled in my luck to be able to host his visit by securing a reading for him at The University of Akron/Wayne College where I teach composition and literature. Later we travelled together in a huge ice and snowstorm to the International Poet’s Hall in Erie, Pa. where he would be the feature poet.  

On the way there, we took a stop in my hometown, Ashtabula, Ohio and it was there that poet Yuyutsu Sharma, charmed by my small lake town and its former glory of dock industry and drawbridge history, turned to me after looking at the barren and frozen waters and encouraged me to revisit my hometown experience.

 It was magical.  

I imagined that I might once again visit my lake home town of beauty and sadness, and from his teachings and poems and encouraging words, I found my own.   Reading Yuyutsu’s poem, “The Lake Fewa, an Unfinished Poem,” I first became acquainted with his power of poetic influence in the following lines:  “…from the fury of the goddess who created the lake to avenge the unkind inhabitants of the valley. ..”

These lines moved me greatly.  But it wasn’t until we stood together looking at the massive frozen Lake Erie that I imagined that I might once again visit my home town of beauty and sadness.  Thus, I was reborn creatively through the power of words, as in the passage from “The Lake Poem,“ where he writes, “….Move towards the root of the lake/serpentine twist of the birth canal…”

In my poem, “Lake Erie: Daughter of Sorrows, “ I broke my grieving silence and wrote:  “Turning my sorrows into joy, softening my heart, you transform the spirit of all my sister Lakes.”

For this is Yuyutsu Sharma’s gift to all of us: The rebirth of creative power.
His writings and teachings transform writers, allowing them to reach into their own writing dreams and visions.  Indeed, Yuyutsu’s work and example has far reaching effects: From fellow editor and academic David Austell in “Garuda” who writes “…the regal man-bird rises as high as Om/then falls again, searching for every evil thing to destroy…”, to “Himalaya” by writer Sharon Aveningo who writes: “….You are my mule/my companion, my friend/my communal bastard brother/ born of stallion and ass….,” to Chuck Joy’s poem “Mountain Man and Cold Fish,” where “….Mountain man came stumping down the valley wearing an animal skin,” Yuyutsu’s poetic influence is great.

Just like so many of the poems  that I and fellow editor David Austell,  and assistant  editors Jen Pezzo  and Tracie Morell have had the privilege to read, his influence on so many others’ creative writing experiences proves to be life transforming.

Evocations from his own poetic stories and musings and life teachings, come to us, teach us, inspire us, and reach us from his own home poetics,  creative gifts from the “forehead of the sky” where he emerges to be with us on his poetry visits and workshops.

I speak not only for myself, but for the editorial board of the anthology, in saying that we look forward to the continuing adventure as we traverse together on our continued poetic journey .


Friday, September 12, 2014

A Poet’s Influence: Poetry, The Himalayas, and New York City by Jen Pezzo

I met Yuyu on social network first. We have poetry in common and luckily, I discovered,  over the years,  both of us have rambled in the familiar Ohio poetry circles. However, I had the opportunity to meet him in person through Kathleen Gallagher. She suggested my venue, Akron Night Murmurs, as a great place to hold one of his poetry workshops. I was extremely delighted and flattered to promote and host such a poet!

“A Himalayan Poet in Akron Workshop” sounded magical, and it truly was. He opened the evening with his favorite Mantras, shared his experiences as a shaman in childhood, spoke about the Himalayas and New York, shared his poetry, and talked about his travels around the world. He was fun, encouraging, and inspiring to everyone who participated in the workshop.  In turn, we shared poetry, music, and vaudeville skits with him after the workshop. It was a great night of creative energy.

When I first met Yuyu, I had never been to New York. I shared with him that I was going to visit there for the first time ever on a redeye tour with some friends soon. His face lit up and that was that.  He could not believe I’d never been there.  When I finally got there, my friends and I were bonafide tourists for an entire day. We crammed as many sights as we could into our short visit. Yuyu made sure to see me before our bus took us back to Akron. He met me an hour before departure and teased me for hanging out in Times Square like a tourist.  I ran through the city streets behind him, barely able to keep up with his brisk walk as we looked for a place to have tea. We reveled at the fact we had just missed each other earlier that day at the Magnolia Bakery, one of his favorite places to go.  In fact earlier that day he was shooting in West Village for a video on his poem, “You Are a New Yorker” with his NYU Tisch student. We didn’t have much time before my bus left, but he made sure I was supplied with snacks for the trip home, a warm hug, and an invitation to one day see how real New Yorkers live.

Yuyu’s life is poetic. He has inspired me in ways beyond the written page, in how he treats those around him, and in his approach to travel and life. I especially admire the way he makes fellow poets feel like family and how he wants everyone to feel the same enthusiasm for all the things he finds fulfillment and joy in: Poetry, The Himalayas, and New York being the BIG three.  So it makes me happy to see how this particular poet’s influence resonates throughout the world and know it will continue to do so, long into the future.

Working as an editorial assistant on the staff of Yuyutsu Sharma’s Eternal Snow: An Anthology of Poems originating from Yuyu’s interactions, Readings and Workshops has been an honor and a pleasure. Being part of a team of inspired and creative people is where I feel most “at home”.

Most importantly, I am extremely thankful to learn from, work with and get to know Yuyu, Kathleen, Tracie Morell, and David Austell during this process and to be able to read some incredible work by poets from around the world.  Being part of this team has enriched my own artistic endeavor and has turned out to be a happy side effect from being around such incredible talent and passion for poetry.