Something like a review - Cassie Premo Steele's Tongues in Trees, poems 1994 - 2017

"... Coin by coin, drop your worth into the jar of your heart and feel the equity begin. You are not a commodity...."

from Trust, by Cassie Premo Steele

 

cassie tongues in trees.jpg

I’ve been enjoying spending some time the past week or so with Cassie Premo Steele’s newest collection of poetry, Tongues in Trees, poems 1994 – 2017, published by Unbound Content in 2017. I nabbed a copy from Cassie on First Thursday when Cassie, along with Randy Spencer, so generously read for Kathryn Van Aernum’s opening of Common Ground at Anastasia & Friends. Kathryn’s show will be up for the rest of August, by the way, if you missed this lovely look at the places where we put our feet on a daily basis.

Cassie’s collection is divided into three sections—1994-2004, 2006-2016, and 2017. I met Cassie during the second section of this book when she taught me two classes in the women’s and gender studies graduate certificate program at USC – theory and methods. It was an interesting experience to learn theory and methods from an instructor who was not a social scientist. My first two degrees were in sociology and sociologists live and die by theory and methods. The scientific method validates our work when novices want to compare our work to the findings of Oprah. I was all about the N.

But one of the things Cassie taught me was that there are other important ways to validate reality in addition to statistical significance. And her point was well taken. Just because a person’s reality does not reside within the safe neighborhood of the majority does not negate their reality. Of course, I knew this already but her way of reminding me this, after the fully immersive experience of being a survey research wonk, changed my world. And I thank her for that.

 

 Cassie Premo Steele (photo by Suzanne Kappler)   

Cassie Premo Steele (photo by Suzanne Kappler)

 

In reading Cassie’s collection, I’ve become aware of how much the author’s world has also changed in the time I’ve known her. Without going into personal details, Cassie’s paradigm shifted in several ways over the course of our friendship. And it shifted beautifully to a place of fulfillment and authenticity. Her collection of poems and their shifting persuasions are elegantly emblematic of her growth as a scholar, an artist, and a human being. The nature of this book continues to teach me (remind me) about the importance of fluidity, of being in the moment, of keeping my feet close to the ground but still floating gently enough above it that I can still move easily and purposefully, exploring places and realities from many perspectives, even the most lonely and quiet.

I don’t know how to thank this poet, this friend, for such an important and powerful lesson.

But I can share with you my favorite poem from this lovely collection which is, probably not coincidentally, the next to last poem in the book. This poem tells me that patience should not be so exalted that it becomes a bog of our best intentions, and it reminds me once again that constructs, when they are first born, are made of wishes and fumes. We add the bricks and mortar. And we can tear them down. - CB

 

World

By Cassie Premo Steele

 

I see your boots by the bed and I shed years of straightening

up not sitting till it was right the spoon out of the sink the towel

on the rack the peanut butter capped the coat in the closet the plants

watered and animals fed but none of this straightened me so I threw

spoons until a visitor came and it was you and we threw towels

on the floor ate everything with our fingers took boxes from the

closet and let a spring come up to feed and water the world.

 

~~O~~

www.cassiepremosteele.com

 

Cindi Boiter is the founder and executive director of The Jasper Project and the editor of Jasper Magazine.

 

The Jasper Project is a non-profit all-volunteer organization that provides collaborative arts engineering for all disciplines of arts and artists in the South Carolina Midlands and throughout the state. Please help us continue to meet our mission of validating the cultural contributions of all artists and growing community within the arts by becoming a member of the Jasper Guild .  We'll print your name in the magazine, thank you on social media, and love you forever!

www.JasperProject.org

 

 

Columbia's Favorite Poetry - Today, featuring Cassie Premo Steele

national poetry month.jpg

In celebration of National Poetry Month the Jasper Project invited several artists, writers, and leaders in the Columbia arts community to share with us their favorite poems and most of them generously accepted.

We’ve put together this collection of our favorite poems and will be sharing them with you, poem by poem, day by day, over the month of April. Some of the poems are old and traditional, others are new and inventive. Some are whimsical, others are insightful. Some rhyme. Some don’t.

What they all have in common is that someone you know loves that poem – and this gives us such lovely insight into the soul of our community.

Thank you to everyone who shared their poetry with us.

And Happy National Poetry Month from Jasper.

 

Our fist poem is from poet and author Cassie Premo Steele.

 

Cassie Premo Steele

 

"My favorite poem is For Each of Us by Audre Lorde. Audre Lorde's poetry has been important to me throughout my life, so much so that I remember being in my twenties and feeling like life was worth living because I hadn't yet read everything she'd written. I love this poem especially because it is fierce and wise and supportive, but with the paradox of truth that makes Lorde a poet-philosopher. Power and pain exist together. Preparing a meal is essential, but there is more to life. The best politics come when we quiet down and do the work. Nothing is eternal, even the deepest love. And yet, we go on loving and nurturing in a spirit of pride and strength."

 

FOR EACH OF YOU

By Audre Lorde

 

Be who you are and will be

learn to cherish

that boisterous Black Angel that drives you

up one day and down another

protecting the place where your power rises

running like hot blood

from the same source 

as your pain.

 

When you are hungry

learn to eat

whatever sustains you

until morning

but do not be misled by details

simply because you live them.

 

Do not let your head deny

your hands

any memory of what passes through them

nor your eyes

nor your heart

everything can be used

except what is wasteful

(you will need

to remember this when you are accused of destruction.) 

Even when they are dangerous examine the heart of those machines you hate

before you discard them

and never mourn the lack of their power

lest you be condemned

to relive them.

If you do not learn to hate

you will never be lonely

enough

to love easily

nor will you always be brave

although it does not grow any easier

 

Do not pretend to convenient beliefs

even when they are righteous

you will never be able to defend your city

while shouting.

 

Remember whatever pain you bring back 

from your dreaming

but do not look for new gods

in the sea

nor in any part of a rainbow

Each time you love

love as deeply as if were

forever

only nothing is

eternal.

 

Speak proudly to your children

where ever you may find them

tell them

you are offspring of slaves

and your mother was

a princess

in darkness. 

 

 

Cassie Premo Steele is the author of fifteen books, including six books of poetry, and her new novel, The ReSisters, will be out later this year.

 

 Cassie Premo Steele

Cassie Premo Steele

Get your groove back via Cassie Premo Steele

It happens to all of us, whether we're artists or artisans (two decidedly different classifications) or amateurs. Sometimes we just get stale. We can't find our groove. The juices aren't flowing. We freeze up. For those of us who build with words, we call it writers' block -- and it is the scariest, most frustrating sensation in the world. Other times we're plodding along just fine. Cranking it out. Meeting our deadlines. Getting the job done. And our work is fine. Just fine. Nothing special, nothing innovative, nothing earth-shattering. It's fine.

If you're a writer and you ever find yourself in either of these two situations, it's important to keep your head about you. Your world probably isn't coming to an end. But you may, in fact, need something of a tune up. Luckily there's someone in town who has perfected the art of stimulating creativity -- poet, author, academician, and creativity coach, Cassie Premo Steele.

Jasper has had the pleasure of both attending Cassie's creativity workshops and hosting them, so we're taking this opportunity to spread the word that another series of workshops will be taking place soon. It's nice to take a moment now and then and just tend to one's creative core. It's sort of like tidying up your desk -- it needs to be done anyway and, in all likelihood, it'll help you work better. Jasper recommends it.

We're bold-faced copying and pasting info about Cassie's upcoming creative writing class below, as well as one of her lovely poems below that. If you decide to sign up for one of her classes, please tell her Jasper sent you, and let us know how it worked out. We'd really like to know.

Here's the spiel in Cassie's own words --

In October, I will be offering a lunchtime Creative Writing Class on Tuesdays from 12:00-1:00 at The Co-Creating Studio in the Forest Acres area of Columbia.

We will cover the fundamentals of poetry, fiction, and creative non-fiction, and the primary focus will be to help you generate new material and stretch yourself to write with greater emotional depth and clarity. Also covered will be the fundamentals of revision and how to... submit your writing for publication.

The cost is $100 per month to be paid at the first class of the month or $30/ per class.

Class size will be limited so everyone can get individual attention, and spaces are already filling, so if you are interested, feel free to email me at cassiepremosteele@gmail.com or call or text 803 420 1400.

All best wishes, Cassie Premo Steele

For those who don't know me, I am the author of eight books, a Pushcart nominated poet, and a writing & creativity coach with two decades of university and community teaching experience. You can visit my website at www.cassiepremosteele.com for more.

 

And here's one of Jasper's favorite Cassie poems --

 

Sometimes at night I dream I am pregnant again*

Sometimes at night I dream I am pregnant again but with a book,

not a baby, and my stomach extends not roundly but with four

corners, sharp edges and the fear of splinters, cuts and wood.

 

When I wait in the rain before dawn for the rest of the world

to awaken, I imagine the eggs still within me are pearls.

What I hold is a jewel of beginning again, something softer

 

than scarves and more precious than music playing in the dark.

Sometimes I rise and go to the window and make myself take

a look.  The baby is there, and the book, looking down from the moon.

 

They sing me a lullaby.  Their words say there is always enough time,

enough space, more than enough room.  I fall back asleep in this world, dreaming of what is

beginning in me to the sound of this tune.

 

(*A certain member of Jasper's clan has been dreaming lately that she, too, is pregnant, though she is far too old for another child. We're wondering if the dreams will subside after Jasper debuts in print form on Thursday night?)