So many songs begging Ruth Bader Ginsburg to “hang on” until there is another democrat in the white house. This one caught my attention. SNL 2019.
Thank you Red Wheelbarrow writers for accepting my poem, “Day 53”, for publication in This Uncommon Solitude your upcoming anthology of pandemic poetry.
“We are honored to showcase and share your powerful and poignant words during this unsettling time of crisis.”
Day 53 By Shannon Laws
If the world were normal now,
as it may never be again,
I might enjoy the morning.
This morning where I woke,
at 8:37 a.m., ate breakfast
drank coffee in bed, started writing,
and still under the sheets at 11:36.
If this was, let’s say, Friday, September 20, 2019,
I would not label this morning a case of pandemic fatigue,
no—it would be relaxation.
It is what the pre-pandemic modern world
used to refer as a “personal day.”
(remember personal days?)
I could find joy in working at home if all
my neighbors got into their cars and
drove to work this morning!
THEN today would be a special day for me.
But, it is not.
It is day 53 of the lockdown, and there is nothing
but the heavy responsibility of
staying home and
Jury Duty for women as a right- In 1979, Ginsburg argued Duren v. Missouri, a case in which a Missouri man accused of murder argued he couldn’t get a fair trial because of a law that made jury service optional for women. She told the court that such exemptions didn’t just make the jury pool unfair; it devalued women’s contributions to juries.
Equal pay regardless of sex- In her 2007 dissent, which she read from the bench (a rare move for any justice), she argued that the Civil Rights Act’s 180-day time limit shouldn’t apply in the case of discriminatory pay since gender-based discrimination can happen gradually. “A worker knows immediately if she is denied a promotion or transfer,” said Ginsburg. “Compensation disparities, in contrast, are often hidden from sight.”
The worldwide pause. Will we forget these months? As citizens of the planet- let us promise to never forget. The deaths, suffering, confusion from our leaders, the kindness from neighbors, the debt, the empty shelves at the grocery and in many homes, the masses unable to pay rent, buy food, after only ONE month with no pay, the healthcare system strained, buying face masks for your family, exposed drive-thru workers, crops rotting, the temporary peace in Syria. The pandemic, The Great Pause happened.
Today I am supplementing my journal with this post by Julio Vincent Gambuto writing for “Medium”. His words challenged me and I hope they help you as well today.
Pretty soon, as the country begins to figure out how we “open back up” and move forward, very powerful forces will try to convince us all to get back to normal. That never happened. What are you talking about? Billions of dollars will be spent in advertising, messaging, and television and media content to make you feel comfortable again. It will come in the traditional forms — a billboard here, a hundred commercials there — and in new-media forms — a 2020–2021 generation of memes to remind you that what you want again is normalcy. In truth, you want the feeling of normalcy, and we all want it.
We want desperately to feel good again, to get back to the routines of life, to not lie in bed at night wondering how we’re going to afford our rent and bills, to not wake to an endless scroll of human tragedy on our phones, to have a cup of perfectly brewed coffee and simply leave the house for work.
The need for comfort will be real, and it will be strong. And every brand in America will come to your rescue, dear consumer, to help take away that darkness and get life back to the way it was before the crisis. I urge you to be well aware of what is coming.
For the last hundred years, the multi-billion-dollar advertising business has operated based on this cardinal principle: find the consumer’s problem and fix it with your product. When the problem is practical and tactical, the solution is “as seen on TV” and available at Home Depot. Command strips will save me from having to re-paint. So will Mr. Clean’s Magic Eraser. Elfa shelving will get rid of the mess in my closet. The Ring doorbell will let me see who’s on the porch if I can’t take my eyes off Netflix. But when the problem is emotional, the fix becomes a new staple in your life, and you become a lifelong loyalist. Coca-Cola makes you: happy. A Mercedes makes you: successful. Taking your kids to Disneyland makes you: proud. Smart marketers know how to highlight what brands can do for you to make your life easier. But brilliant marketers know how to re-wire your heart. And, make no mistake, the heart is what has been most traumatized this last month. We are, as a society, now vulnerable in a whole new way.
What the trauma has shown us, though, cannot be unseen. A carless Los Angeles has clear blue skies as pollution has simply stopped. In a quiet New York, you can hear the birds chirp in the middle of Madison Avenue. Coyotes have been spotted on the Golden Gate Bridge. These are the postcard images of what the world might be like if we could find a way to have a less deadly daily effect on the planet.
What’s not fit for a postcard are the other scenes we have witnessed: a healthcare system that cannot provide basic protective equipment for its front line; small businesses — and very large ones — that do not have enough cash to pay their rent or workers, sending over 16 million people to seek unemployment benefits; a government that has so severely damaged the credibility of our media that 300 million people don’t know who to listen to for basic facts that can save their own lives.
The cat is out of the bag. We, as a nation, have deeply disturbing problems. You’re right. That’s not news. They are problems we ignore every day, not because we’re terrible people or because we don’t care about fixing them, but because we don’t have time. Sorry, we have other shit to do. The plain truth is that no matter our ethnicity, religion, gender, political party (the list goes on), nor even our socio-economic status, as Americans we share this: we are busy. We’re out and about hustling to make our own lives work. We have goals to meet and meetings to attend and mortgages to pay — all while the phone is ringing and the laptop is pinging. And when we get home, Crate and Barrel and 3M and Andy Cohen make us feel just good enough to get up the next day and do it all over again. It is very easy to close your eyes to a problem when you barely have enough time to close them to sleep. The greatest misconception among us, which causes deep and painful social and political tension every day in this country, is that we somehow don’t care about each other. White people don’t care about the problems of black America. Men don’t care about women’s rights. Cops don’t care about the communities they serve. Humans don’t care about the environment. These couldn’t be further from the truth. We do care. We just don’t have the time to do anything about it. Maybe that’s just me. But maybe it’s you, too.
Well, the treadmill you’ve been on for decades just stopped. Bam! And that feeling you have right now is the same as if you’d been thrown off your Peloton bike and onto the ground: what in the holy fuck just happened? I hope you might consider this: what happened is inexplicably incredible. It’s the greatest gift ever unwrapped. Not the deaths, not the virus, but The Great Pause. It is, in a word, profound. Please don’t recoil from the bright light beaming through the window. I know it hurts your eyes. It hurts mine, too. But the curtain is wide open.
What the crisis has given us is a once-in-a-lifetime chance to see ourselves and our country in the plainest of views. At no other time, ever in our lives, have we gotten the opportunity to see what would happen if the world simply stopped.
Here it is. We’re in it. Stores are closed. Restaurants are empty. Streets and six-lane highways are barren. Even the planet itself is rattling less (true story). And because it is rarer than rare, it has brought to light all of the beautiful and painful truths of how we live. And that feels weird. Really weird. Because it has…never…happened…before. If we want to create a better country and a better world for our kids, and if we want to make sure we are even sustainable as a nation and as a democracy, we have to pay attention to how we feel right now. I cannot speak for you, but I imagine you feel like I do: devastated, depressed, and heartbroken.
As I recover from a concussion (please visit my Go Fund Me to learn more) I thought this week was a good time to explore the audio files I have accumulated on my phone over the year. Often inspiration strikes when I am away from a pen and paper and I can’t type the words quick enough into a note. Recording observations as RAW audio free verse poems are satisfying for me. Background sounds are incorporated into the piece which, I think, adds to the impromptu performance. Also, there is a desirable amount of light pressure to form a creative thought in one take.
The third poem I want to share with you is “Bowl of Epiphany”, recorded June 20, 2018, while walking the interurban. An epiphany is an experience of a sudden and striking realization. June was the month I realized it was time to stop producing radio programs and open myself up to something new. At the time I didn’t know what that was. In August, just two months after recording this poem the answer appeared. Transitions are difficult. Building a new life is scary, but what the hell else are you goin’ to do? If you don’t move, you’re dead.
I recommend listening to the audio file while reading the poem. I open Google links in Music Player for Google Drive.
I think in life it’s not just one big apple I think it’s many apples throughout a lifetime and the apple I’ve been munching on for eight years I’ve reached its core
I could eat the core put the seeds inside of me maybe an apple tree will grow in my stomach I don’t think it will
I’ve reached the core of it and I’ll toss it I’ll toss it out into a field where hopefully time will dig it into the ground and it’ll grow a new tree there and I’ll look for a new piece of fruit that I can eat it doesn’t have to be an apple maybe it will be pear, a nectarine a hybrid
but every fruit has its pit has its seed has its rind and they all end
there’s a cycle it’s the swirl of the universe it’s the way our shells grow on the beach at the bottom of the ocean
and I’ve reached the pit, I think I believed I reached it I’m ready for something new and I’m scared —scared as hell
but everything moves and changes rain falls turns into river turns into ocean turns into mist turns into the sky it turns into a cloud and more clouds until it becomes rain again
everything changes and evolves why wouldn’t people
such an easy concept
I’m going to climb that mountain an easy thing to say doing it is different I’m going to walk across the desert, it will only take a few weeks no its gonna take you forty years you need to learn a lesson you need to change you need to grow parts of you need to die
life is a bowl of cherries it’s a bowl of apples you eat them one by one
2018 Poem Booth Kickstarter
December 6th – January 20th
Team Poem Booth announces a 2018 Kickstarter to raise money for the continued support of the Poem Booth located on Forest and Holly at the downtown Community Food Co-op. The Poem Booth Kickstarter is LIVE December 6th through January 20th. We had an amazing 2017 launch for the Poem Booth and are looking forward to 2018!
The 2018 campaign offers many enticing awards. Please visit our Kickstarter page to learn more and donate today.
A complete remodel of the phone booth that transformed an eyesore into a communal treasure, live poetry readings at the Poem Booth, a beautiful and informative website about the Poem Booth project (poembooth.weebly.com), 75 fantastic poetry contributions from local talent, a chapbook compilation of the year’s poetry selections, a poetry reading event at Bellingham Food Co-op, Saturday, 6-7:30 p.m., January 13th , publicity in Bellingham Alive, Cascadia Weekly, Whatcom Talk, Community Food Co-op News and Take 5.
This new year we are looking to expand the art involved in the Poem Booth and are exploring ways for the community to get involved in creating the look of the booth.
Second Year Goals
Enlist and support local artists in transforming the Poem Booth with their artistic vision, provide a unique and fresh venue for local poets while honoring their talents through awards and publicity, continue to provide a democratic and free encounter with art for pedestrians. Funds will be used for our poetry chapbook, printing costs, paint, cleaning tools, and maintenance supplies. We are also exploring creating a new Poem Booth on Holly Street.
Your support for this Kickstarter will give us the funds to have more creative license over how the poem booth is refurbished in the new year.
We hope you will join us in getting community poetry to the streets in 2018.
Poem Booth team members for 2018 are Christen Mattix, Summer Starr, Shannon P. Laws, Sheila Sondik and Jory Mickelson.
Last evening I received my second Mayor’s Arts Award. Allow a moment of confession, just to help the editor in me get back to sleep. You see I woke up at 2 a.m. bothered. I prepared a speech expecting a five-six minute read time. Excited to share a bit of WHO I am and WHAT I do. However, twenty minutes prior to the event I was told I would be the first person up, please keep it to a sharp 3 minutes.
As I type a “Breaking News” alert on BBC Radio announces that Prince Philip, 96, Queen Elizabeth’s husband, is retiring from public service. Perhaps I should take some pointers from Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh. His speeches were known to be short and to the point. In Canada one time he said, “I declare this thing open, whatever it is.” Short. Sweet.
For completely personal reasons, which this whole website is up for completely personal reasons, I need to post my complete speech. RED is what was removed to accommodate the schedule. -SPL
Thank you Mayor Linville and the Bellingham Arts Commission for awarding “Bellingham Art Beat” the Mayor’s Arts Award, it is a great honor.
I am the producer of the program. Boosie, the host, couldn’t be here tonight. She sends her thanks. She is on assignment on a sandy beach off the coast of Cuba. Poor girl.
I’d like to also extend a special thank you to the many dedicated listeners to the program and the 60 plus guests who have appeared on “Bellingham Art Beat “over the last two seasons, especially three previous guests who are also receiving awards tonight, Mary Gillilan, Fredrick Dent and Lisa Spicer. A town is only as great as its’ people. The people of Bellingham are extraordinary!
I’m in the story collecting and sharing business. I particularly love biographies. It is my belief that testimonies have a sort of power. A person’s story when shared can alert a listener to the possibilities toward their own solution.
I’m mesmerized at the properties of storytelling in general, whether shared around a campfire, read in a book, presented on stage, or projected in IMAX. Telling a story is human. Our society has punishments for people who tell false stories with intent to harm. We value words, tales, history and truth, even embellished truth.
Stories are all around us. In 2010 I went looking for my own story. After my dissolved 21 year marriage, I moved to Bellingham to be closer to my family. But that is not where my story starts.
Born in Seattle, and raised in the sleepy and slightly odd truck stop town of Federal Way. A town that, at the time, had the distinct problem of too many trees and not enough strip malls.
As I shared in my BTV interview, I discovered television broadcasting and field production in my junior year of high school. It was my first career love. I worked in field and studio production for about four years, then a decade later I returned to a related field of cable commercial insertion.
Moving to Bellingham I landed a job with the beloved KVOS TV, up there on Ellis. Since the sale of KVOS in 2012, I have worked at a variety of temporary jobs doing what I can to stay in Bellingham.
When I first moved here I asked my brother what is the best way to learn the town and meet new people, he said “Volunteer.” I tried volunteering at a few places before I found a perfect fit as a radio producer and host broadcasting on KMRE 102.3 Spark Radio in 2011-2015. In 2016 I decided to offer a fresh radio program for air at the new station KZAX 94.9 Make.Shift Radio.
Producing my radio program reminds me of my television days. Radio and television are cousins. This work keeps me connected to the original passion. I do it for free. I simply love it, and I will continue to do it until it stops being fun.
By this summer Bellingham Art Beat will rotate on a total of three stations in the Northwest, online and over the airwaves.
Often people approach me with an idea for a radio program. You can see the fever in their eyes! There are many good ideas out there, but most things “good” take time to make.
People think this is easy to do. It’s not easy. It’s [Radio] a craft as much as any art form, and it takes time to learn. It takes time to research a guest, compile questions that will spur stimulating conversation for the audience. It takes time to edit the work. I’m talking, for example, editing 30 minutes of an interview down to ten. That persons story needs to be represented well. Their words respected. Bellingham Art Beat is a half-hour weekly radio show; each show takes at least four hours to produce, so that is about 16-20 hours a month volunteered.
If there is one common denominator with the artists I have interviewed over the years it’s perseverance. They fight for their idea, roll up their sleeves and work to make their business, class, band, play, collaboration, project a reality.
I’d like to close with the reading of a poem that came to me at the right time, and seeded hope in my heart when it was very tender. And I’d like to read this as a “Thank You” to the guests who have shared their story with me, and allowed me to share it with you, the listeners.
One day you finally knew
what you had to do, and began,
though the voices around you
their bad advice–
though the whole house
began to tremble
and you felt the old tug
at your ankles.
“Mend my life!”
each voice cried.
But you didn’t stop.
You knew what you had to do,
though the wind pried
with its stiff fingers
at the very foundations,
though their melancholy
It was already late
enough, and a wild night,
and the road full of fallen
branches and stones.
But little by little,
as you left their voices behind,
the stars began to burn
through the sheets of clouds,
and there was a new voice
which you slowly
recognized as your own,
that kept you company
as you strode deeper and deeper
into the world,
determined to do
the only thing you could do–
determined to save
the only life you could save.
For two years I have been working on my third poetry book “Fallen”. It’s 85 pages long and has 47 select poems written between the years 2014-2016. The book block is finished, the cover is designed, one print copy in hand. The book was set to release Spring 2017. However, I was laid off from work mid-December 2016 and the funds to get it printed are no longer available. I am asking for the printing costs $280. This will cover the KICKSTARTER fees, tax and the printing of 25 books from a local press. My first reading feature is scheduled for June 29th in Everett, WA. I need to have books to sell at this reading. Please consider a donation. Every little bit will help.
The Kickstarter ends May 31, 2017
I’ve been writing poetry since 2009. I paid for the printing of the previous two books, “Madrona Grove” 2012, “Odd Little Things” 2014, at an independent press. Both were released with moderate fanfare. What makes “Fallen” special is that in 2016 I challenged myself to write about the loss of my daughter. She would have turned 25 in 2016. Poetry is a good friend to me. It helps me to define emotion, understand a complex system, helps me to view the world. I asked myself, “WHY haven’t you written any poetry about THAT night?” So, I started writing.
My mother, a retired counselor, teachers a “Loss and Grief” class at her church located a half hour south of Seattle, WA. She has shared a handful of my poetry as an aide to her mourning students. Her students are encouraged to use the poems as an example to start their own poems or prose. This gives voice to their lamentations, which is an important step in the grieving process.
Earlier this year when my editor Mary Gillilan and I were working on the cover, I sent an advanced reading to a few established Northwest poets for cover blurbs. Here is what they had to share:
“With Fallen, Shannon Laws has evolved into someone that readers in the northwest should pay attention to. Like a complex pantomime, Laws’ charming, conversational lyric style hides poems that are personal yet complex, dark, intense, deep, heartbreaking, and at times hilarious. Each of them also have a subtle grit and seriousness to them. Like all poets worth their salt, she doesn’t the dichotomy of being particular and speaking to many audiences. Highly, highly recommended.” –Robert Lashley, author of The Homeboy Songs
Shannon Laws has been, in many ways, an asset to her community. This book demonstrates that “there’s a revelation flowing…along the ridges of her galaxy.” She employs “footholds of green” to “take our minds to another place.” Shannon Laws is top-niche. –James Bertolino, author of Ravenous Bliss: New & Selected Love Poems
“Shannon Laws’ poems are ventures, many journeys of the mind and imagination and others literal walks, day and night, to and from home, work, and school; they render fresh observations of the routine and familiar: interactions in kitchen and living quarters, fields of local plants and critters, the hum of machinery. They also probe the mysteries of the human condition, posing elemental issues: love and death and loss, the aching solitariness of human experience, the straining for meaning, clarity and confirmation, the yearning for contact and connection, and the guises humans adopt in the consequent interchange.” —Ron Leatherbarrow, Professor of Literature, Whatcom Community College
“Shannon Law’s poetry entices the reader along a windy path of shared emotion, at times tiptoeing gently toward the topic, at others racing headlong toward it, and at times inviting humor in. The mix is wonderful. From that girl in school who builds forts, to the new owner of a used mattress who sleeps in the body-shaped dip left by its prior occupant, to a three-timing lover, to the loss of a child, these poems circumscribe a relatable life and invite introspection. It is nearly impossible to pick just one favorite from this gem of a book.” —Laurel Leigh, author of the blog Dear Writers
“In “ Fallen”, Shannon Laws has written polished and evocative poetry that intrigues the reader page after page, often demanding one backs-up and re-reads. Her metaphorical language is usually of common words that she newly loads with much information…
I challenge you to find our own favourite poems with lines that you will remember in admiration and repeat to others. She is a master of bringing significant life changes alive with pain or passion in a few well chosen words! ” —Bernice Lever, “Small Acts”, Black Moss Press, Windsor, ON, Canada
This poetry is not camera-shy. Full of imagery and emotion, it ranges across the days with bursts of action and reflection. Laws writes of quiet eroticism, as well as memory and humor from the north Pacific region, where she has lived most of her life. Shannon P. Laws has gifts of observation, humanity, and powerful expression. A valuable choice for poetry lovers, who will find it natural to read and understand.
——Denise DuMaurier, author of Follow Me Down
I’d like to take my book on tour, share, listen, laugh, cry and hug folks along the way. After I print the initial 25 books and test it on a small local tour, I’m going to transfer the book to a print-on-demand site offered through a well-known independent bookstore located in the historic district of Fairhaven in Bellingham, Washington.
Help me do it!