The Official Blog of Ramona Harvey

Author of "Unclipped Wings"

Storyteller’s Campfire – Poetry Corner – Interviews Ramona Harvey for National Poetry Month.

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In Memory of Jodi James ~ Who Unclipped Wings is Dedicated to and Why

People have been asking me: who is Jodi James? And why did you dedicate your book to her?  Next week April 20th, 2011 there is a book signing at Purdue North Central in her honor from 11am – 2pm.  I thought it would be appropriate to take a moment to answer that question. The picture below is of Jodi and I at the beach on my birthday.  It was one of the best days of my life.  Below this intro is something I wrote on the day Jodi died. This blog post is going tobe a bit long but I am not apologizing. Jodi would not.

Jodi and Ramona at the Beach

This is a picture of Jodi and Ramona at the beach. Both women are in their wheelchairs.

Long Live Jodi James the woman who always had my back, and still does.  A woman I trusted completely.  I have been forever changed by both her life and her death.

She was only 38 when she was killed in a car accident.  She died the day after we last talked, and a week before we were going to get together to celebrate our birthdays and the fact that we had both survived another year.  We were supposed to go to the aquarium in Chicago, but instead I went to her funeral wearing an ADAPT shirt, just like I promised her I would – the day I promised her I would not let her die in a nursing home.  I kept that promise.  I just wish she had made me work harder to keep it.  We both thought we had more time.

She did not die in a nursing home, but instead while doing the thing she loved most – driving.  I understand her love for driving because it is something we both shared.  She loved the freedom of it, and she loved the fact that when she was behind the wheel nobody saw her chair or her disability. She was just like everyone else on the road.

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Poetry Is For Everyone, Anyone Can Enjoy “Unclipped Wings”

Poetry is a very misunderstood genre.  It seems many people see poetry as some sort of shapeless blob of abstract thought that they know must have some deep profound meaning – because if it didn’t it wouldn’t be poetry.  Poetry is often seen as secret code, which can only be broken by an elite group of intellectuals, or eccentric poets.  These stereotypes can be intimidating. But you shouldn’t allow yourself to be intimidated by poetry.  The truth is there is no secret code. Poetry is something anyone can enjoy.

But what is poetry? Some types of poems, like Haiku, are rigidly structured, other types appear to have no structure or form at all.  Unlike other forms of writing, even basic grammar rules may or may not apply.  Poetry can rhyme, but it doesn’t have too.  A poem can be very short consisting of only a few words, like my poem “Please” (which is made up of only seven different words – including the title), or it can be long – even epic.  A poem can be used to express an emotion, tell a story, describe a moment, or be simply a learning tool and pneumatic device to help us remember.  Poetry isn’t like any other written art form, but considering the oral tradition from which it originated, this is not surprising.

Some people say they don’t like poetry, because they only like stories.  This is ironic, because poetry was designed for story-telling.  Before books were common, poetry was used to pass on stories and information from one generation to the next.  Poetry originates from a great oral tradition which is why it is often meant to be heard, not just read.

Not everyone will like, understand, or relate to every poem. It is okay to have your own unique tastes and interpretations.  April is National Poetry Month: If you learn nothing else about poetry, I would like you to remember this.  Poetry is an art form that anyone can enjoy.  You don’t have to be a scholar, intellectual, or poet to understand or appreciate poetry. Poetry isn’t something to be intimidated by.

I know I am not telling you anything you don’t already know (as you listen to your favorite songs), but everyday all of our lives are touched, enriched, and influenced by poetry.  This is a good thing, because poetry helps us to connect to and understand others as well as ourselves. I for one think that is a good thing.  I hope you do too.

The Courage to Act, Even If “They Won’t”

“They Won’t” is one of the poems in “Unclipped Wings”.   It has been on my mind a lot this past week. Some people have theme songs, this week I had a theme poem.  This is not surprising given the close relationship between music and poetry, but I am struck by how often I have been reminded of this poem.

The poem begins: “Nobody else does it – so I won’t

That is how we get to the place that we don’t

If you have been following “Unclipped Wings” on Facebook you may have noticed, some posts about people who have not been deterred by the seemingly impossible.  Often, we get overwhelmed. We think a problem is too big and we are too small.  Yet, over and over this week, I am reminded that our actions do matter.  We can make a difference as individuals, especially when we are working together.

Troy Yocum could be at home watching TV and wishing he could do something to help needy military families, but he isn’t.  Instead, he is a on a 7000 mile drumhike.  He is hiking across country to raise awareness and money in order to help needy veterans.  Will he reach all of his goals? I don’t know. I do know he got my attention and has already been able to help several people.  That counts for something.

But the small stuff is important too.  A twelve year old boy named Max, who has terminal cancer, made a wish that he would receive 1 million get well cards.  Now people from all over (including me), are sending him the cards he wished for.  Whether or not Max receives a million cards, the cards being sent make a difference. It is neat so many people are willing to send a card, but the coolest thing is how this twelve year old boy has touch the lives of so many – just by not being afraid to have and share what many would consider an impossible dream.

So, “why continue to care if others just don’t?  Except that we need to.”

 

Unclipped Wings Cultivates Inclusion

March is disability awareness month, and today is Cerebral Palsy Awareness Day – so I thought I would take a moment to talk about disability awareness  and what roll it plays in my book Unclipped Wings.

When I got up today I was very aware that I was a person with a disability.  There was no denying it as I transferred into my chair and began my morning routine.  It is obvious that because of my disability there are certain things I am just not able to do – at least not in the way most people do them.  Just looking at me you can tell I have a disability, even if you can’t tell I have cp.  But you cannot tell who I am just by looking at me or classifying my disability.

Growing up as a person with a disability has had a profound impact on my life and my perception of the world.  As is pointed out in my poem “Your Child” even something as simple as a flight of stairs is a different experience for me then it was my brothers.  But far too often we see a person’s disability without seeing, the person.  A person isn’t and should not be defined by their disabilities, yet it happens all the time.  My disability is a part of who I am, but it isn’t who I am.

The same is true about “Unclipped Wings”.  Sometimes people assume that because I have a disability, “Unclipped Wings” is a poetry book about disabilities.  This isn’t true.  I did draw on my experiences as a person with a disability when I wrote some of the poems, but “Unclipped Wings” is not about living life with a disability. (Though we all have them)

“Unclipped Wings” cultivates inclusion of all people not just those with disabilities, because it is a book about life and many of the challenges we all face.  As a person with a disability some of my challenges are obvious, but we all have our own obstacles to overcome.

All of us have the same basic needs.  We all need food, water, shelter, and love.  We also all have our own abilities and disabilities. Everyone is unique. While we may appear different when it comes down to what matters most, we are all more alike then unalike.  It is easy and sometimes natural to judge people and their abilities and potential by their appearances, but we should try to avoid doing that.

We don’t all have the same abilities, but what we chose to do with the abilities we do have is far more important then what are abilities are.

 

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