The Battle

The Battle

Here is a free verse style poem I wrote when I was sixteen years old. Here also is a photo of me, teenage Kathleen in my favorite forest green fedora hat.

At the bottom of this article you will also see a photo of the poem printed in the first literary journal ever created in my high school. I couldn’t believe there had never been a literary journal, so I created one! I called the journal Methinks. The cover illustration of the first edition portrayed a cartoon man with a large nose sitting on a stone with his chin on his fist—my version of Rodin’s The Thinker.

I made myself the Editor and I gave my friends the jobs of Secretary, Treasurer, and “Staff.” I figured those positions would look good on our resumes when we graduated and went off to college or began looking for jobs. I solicited poems from all my friends—many of us were the weird literary types, and this journal was a way for us to shine.

I was told by the principal’s office that I needed to supply money for the paper and the mimeograph ink. For those of you not in the know, the mimeograph is an ancient technology which rendered damp pages of copy laboriously turned by hand from a drum. The fresh pages needed to be handled carefully or the ink would smudge, a lavender variety of ink redolent of a chemical perfume known to school kids in the seventies. I promptly organized a bake sale on the town square which paid for two editions of ink and paper.

My favorite high school English teacher was Mr. Toth. As an adult, I’d searched in vain for him for many years, but back east Robert Toth is a common name—there were 40 Robert Toths in the phone book in Ohio alone, and I wasn’t sure he even lived there anymore. In more recent years I looked him up on the computer, but he wasn’t a person who put himself on Facebook or had a web page. His whereabouts remained a mystery to me.

Out of the blue, one day a few years ago Mr. Toth found me on the internet! He’d been cleaning out boxes and found some papers I’d given him as a teen. He decided to search me out. He googled Kathleen Dunbar and was lead to my music website. He knew he’d found me. He emailed me and we were soon speaking on the phone.

How strange to be asked to call him by his first name, Robert. He told me that when he was in bookstores, he’d look around to see if there was a poetry book by me—he was sure that I would become a famous poet! How very, very moving it was to hear how this man had held dear my gifts for all these years!

It was a delight to be speaking with him at last! I had always wanted to thank him for the worlds he’d opened up to me, and now I did. One was a world of literature. He knew enough about writing to help me on my path as a budding writer. Another was a world of human relationship in which a sane adult encouraged a creative young person, and importantly, as all great teachers do, in this process and without making a big deal about it (which my teen self wouldn’t have liked) he helped me to value my vision and myself. In our phone conversation I told him about the very toxic and dysfunctional home I gladly left every morning to lose myself in classes at high school. (High school was no picnic either, but it was better to be in the DMZ than the active combat zone). He was totally surprised to hear my home life had been difficult as I’d never told anyone that at the time.

Soon after our conversation I I received a thick envelope in the mail from Mr. Toth (I still can’t think of him as Robert) which contained the literary journal Methinks I’d created as well as some poems and reports. One of the poems I put in Methinks is the one below. The first person I’d showed the poem to, along with some other writing, was Mr. Toth, with a note that said, “I don’t know if you want to read these. They aren’t that interesting . . . but here they are.” He’d read this note aloud to me in our initial phone conversation, and chuckled. He told me when he read the poem all those years ago, that at first he found it hard to believe a sixteen year old in a small country town had written it. It crossed his mind that I’d stolen it from somewhere, but he knew me well and trusted that the work must be my own. He turned his astonishment into mentoring me as a writer. What I took from that mentoring was a belief and confidence in my own gifts, and a better ability to bear the difficulties at home and later to navigate the world of my adult life. Mr. Toth had believed in me. To be believed in is profound medicine, which continues to act as both vitalizing tonic and healing agent. Mr. Toth was one of those teachers whose support not only made life bearable, but worthwhile. There was a place, at last, for Kathleen.

I had begun at the age of three by making poems that rhymed. When I was fourteen I received a copy of Laurence Ferlinghetti’s A Coney Island of the Mind. That book set me upon the path of free verse. I still write poetry in free verse form, but I came full circle and returned to rhymes as my singer-songwriter self in the creation of my original songs: You can find my americana music at kathleendunbar.com and my ambient/world music in which I “create” a language at bluelilah.com

Many good hearted souls have helped me believe in my ability to write. This is the story of one of them. Thank you, Mr. Toth, for being part of a foundation of aliveness for me, for seeing my poetry as a doorway to a life of creation, and helping usher me through it.

Here, then, is young Kathleen’s poem.

The Battle

Arrows of white light flung
from afar from the bow of the might orb,
darted between the tender, green
leaves, and fell, broken shafts, upon
the forest floor. So quickly did those
piercèd arrows fly that one could
not perceive their movement, but
saw only the brilliance of their
fiery flight, whence the earth,
steaming before their furious flame,
bore them in her dark side, a wounded
warrior.
Roaming among those arrows,
I did not smell the rage of battle,
nor did I feel the sting of fiery arms.
The mist of combat was not choking,
but moist and wet, and soothed
the heat of battle that the barrage
of arrows brought.
I sat, and, amid this raging
battle, I slept.

© Kathleen Dunbar, age 16

Out West

when Mrs. Graham came out to California
bearing the maiden name I never knew
she looked out of the train window
into the flat stretches of Nebraska
and saw a man on a horse with a hat
“There‘s The Cowboy” she said to herself
and to me, years later,
“I was thrilled.”

© Kathleen Dunbar

Photos by Kathleen Dunbar

 

I am nominated in THREE categories for the Just Plain Folks Music Awards

I am excited and delighted to announce that I am nominated in THREE categories for the Just Plain Folks Music Awards, (exact date to be announced soon! I will be attending and can’t wait!)  It’s a big deal: 17K albums and 240K songs were entered for the current awards, which cover the expanse of time since their last awards in 2009.

  1. Nominated for Best World Music Album is my Blue Lilah album Medicine Songs by myself/Kathleen Dunbar and Gawain Mathews. To hear it click: LISTEN TO THE MEDICINE SONGS ALBUM
  2. Nominated for Best World Music Song is my song Bleyso from my Blue Lilah album Medicine Songs by myself/Kathleen Dunbar and Gawain Mathews. To hear the song click: LISTEN TO BLEYSO
  3. Nominated for Best Spoken Word Song from my Kathleen Dunbar americana-rootsy original album The Storm In Our Head is my track Snakecharmer. To hear it click: LISTEN TO SNAKECHARMER

To view the Just Plain Folks website: Just Plain Folks

Kathleen Dunbar’s original song Half of You Good begins Adriana Marchione’s film-in-progress “The Creative High”

The Creative HIgh

Here’s the link TO LISTEN TO an instrumental version MY ORIGINAL SONG “Half of You Good” (from my forthcoming album Liars, Cutthroats and Dames) opening Adriana Marchione’s film-in-progress The Creative High and watch Adriana Marchione’s coolio film in progress:
LINK: https://vimeo.com/171950766

Hey Folks,
Coolio filmmaker Adriana Marchione starts out her video of her film in progress on artists, their addiction and recovery with an instrumental version OF ONE OF MY NEW SONGS from my forthcoming album Liars, Cutthroats and Dames! So if you click on the link you can immediately hear my awesome producer and guitarist Gawain Mathews doing his amazing guitar rendition of my original song Half Of You Good. I’m also writing a novel, and this song explores the addiction of a gambler in the Old West. Pretty soon you can get to hear the complete version including me singing my lyrics as we only have to master all the tracks and then release it to the world!

THANK YOU ADRIANA for your important and very wonderful film project, and I am delighted each time I see more of it unfolding. I’m honored to have my music in your movie.

She’s also put my original music in her podcast! THANKS!

Adriana writes: “Our video of our film in progress – a sneak peek into our footage and the artists in recovery who have been brave enough to share their story. Extremely grateful for all the people who have contributed to make this video happen including musician Kathleen Dunbar, who generously offered her music to support the film project and The Creative High podcast. Visit Kathleen’s website at http://www.kathleendunbarmusic.com

Two of my Original Songs on KPOO Radio! Thursday March 24, 2016 from 1:00-2:00pm 89.5-FM

KD, ON AIR

DATE: Thursday 03/24/16   TIME: 1:00pm-2:00pm   WHERE: 89.5 KPOO-FM
You can also Tune in ANYWHERE on phone/desktop w/ the KPOO app at this LINK. 

I am excited to support the making of Adriana Marchione’s latest documentary film entitled The Creative Higha film about artists of all kinds submerged in and emerging from the addiction process. She will be interviewed on KPOO about what’s happening in her current process of creating this documentary, and she’s generously included playing two of my songs as part of the show: Half of You Good and Joytown, both off my upcoming CD Liars, Cutthroats and Dames! My fab partner Joseph Feusi is the film’s Producer. Thanks Adriana! You can read more details about her awesome and important project and follow the links to it by looking at the article directly below.

Meanwhile, please check out this Free Download of my song Hung Him On A Tree. It’s not yet mastered, but it’s one helluva cool sneak preview to my upcoming NEW CD “Liars, Cutthroats and Dames” which will be out SOON! To get a taste of my new album and this song, click this link: http://kathleendunbarmusic.com/downloadofhunghimonatreefree

KPOO

Here is film-maker Adriana Marchione’s statement about her upcoming documentary The Creative High: “Through art-making, I want to show the emotional depth and search for meaning that accompanies the struggle to recover from addiction. We need artistic role models who have made the passage to the other side of addiction to give hope to those who are still in the throes of addiction. This film will delve into the addict’s challenge to maintain equilibrium before and after recovery, and showcase the ways that art can be a guidepost. I have witnessed the creative process expand in recovery as well as diminish; experienced the dependence on the addiction as a muse that fuels a continued well-spring of altered art-making; and been awed by the abundant inspiration that art produces – allowing a ‘high’ to reveal itself through the sheer presence and attention to the present moment.” Here’s the link to the film project: The Creative High

The Creative HIgh

Coolio Links for Kathleen, Adriana and Joseph

Find Singer-Songwriter Kathleen Dunbar’s music at:  kathleendunbar.com

Find Filmmaker Adriana Marchione and the process of her new documentary-film-in-the-making at: thecreativehigh.com

Find Producer & Professional Mentor Joseph Feusi’s info at his website: motivational mentor.com

Coming Into Town

A Benton Store - Version 6 Here I am, working on my Western novel, and we find The Rifleman as he rides into a town as a young man

I arrived in Dillardtown on a fine evening
having crossed a stony river
lined by cottonwoods
and provided with a sturdy bridge.
I came into the town downstream of a recent flood
for the main street gave evidence of the uppity nature
of the river which had left its banks and poured through the town
leaving great runnels and gouges drying into what should have been a thoroughfare
and instead was a mess.
Horses and wagons clunked and sucked through the street
men swore
one had lost his boot to the powers of the mud
and further on was his stocking.
The collection of financial establishments
was compressed into five blocks on either side of the mud.
Money changed hands between them at a furious pace.
Countless rough men struggled back and forth through the riverbottom
so that the mud covered every flooring in the town.
Here were assayer’s office, bank, saloons aplenty,
whorehouses fancy and plain, hotel, restaurants and chophouses;
there was the smell of mud, horses, food, shit, laundry steam,
piss, perfume if you paid for the parlor ladies,
and if a fellow saved enough after that grand round
he’d have himself shaved, might dip into a tin bath,
resupply at the drygoods and grocers his pans and shovels and vittles and ammunition,
pick up his horse or mule from the livery
and go stick it once again into the earth
who heaved her rocks and stones and broke his back if he was unlucky
or let him into her inner gleamings which he stole with both hands as fast as he could
and came to talk about it loudly in the town.

© Kathleen Dunbar

Here’s a poem set to music, another western-with-a-twist, on my CD The Storm in Our Head. It’s called “Snake Charmer.” Find it on Bandcamp or on my website, www.kathleendunbarmusic.com

Photo by Kathleen Dunbar

Japanese Tea Garden

A IMG_0243 V-0 - Version 8

Japanese Tea Garden

I spent many years going to the
Japanese Tea Garden in
Golden Gate Park, writing poetry
and observing people. Over the
years I wrote down some of the
interesting things I heard people
saying—the quotes in the poem
are what people actually said!

The girl says, “I need sugar.”
Her mother in a loud voice says,
“You don’t need sugar. You want sugar.
You need air and water and food.”
“And sleep,” a smaller girl says,
a little sister.
“Yeah, you need sleep.”
I watch the furrow of the brows
in this family
from larger woman to smaller girl,
a field of worry.
I say to myself,
“You need love.”

Parents in the tea garden, to children:
“You can’t make too many wishes at once.”
“You don’t want to play in old water. It’s yucky.”
About the fortune cookies:
“There’s a little story inside.”

As a child I was frequently in trouble
for playing in water,
yucky and clean.
I immediately want to make “too many wishes.”
In fact I have begun long ago,
am always in the midst of them,
they are as familiar as prayer beads.

Two middle aged ladies are served
tea and cookies.
Their eyes light up!
The plump lady
leans conspiratorially into her friend’s shoulder.
“If you break it, all the calories fall out!”
They laugh out loud
having lived enough life
to let their laughter be heard.
Her friend smiles.
I like them.
They are two reasons to get older.

A couple pauses as they cross the stone bridge
deep in conversation,
then they stand in front of the shrine that rises
in orange and black above the plain garden of stones.
She is even more in earnest
contemplating the wooden tower to the gods.
Who doesn’t try to make sense of it all?
She says, “You remember the tomato?
She married the tomato’s older brother.
He was a brilliant physicist.
He really lost it and became a monk.”

A little family at the tea garden
sitting on the “front row” –
just above the pool –
throwing wish pennies in
the father says to the son,
“Do you want to be superman?”
The son says,
“Nah,
that’s not a job.”

Now the Russian boy sings happily
in a thick accent,
“Oh, we had bad luck!”
a far away country melody
as they fish his sister’s purse out of the goldfish pond.
His aunt climbed right over the counter
and perched on the base to the awning pole,
leaned over the waters
and pulled it out.
No one fussed in that family.
An accident.
Much less worse than some things
that happened
back in the old country.
The father patiently squeezes the water out of everything.

A woman is saying to a man
next to me:
“I gave you a hot bath
when we lived on Taylor Street.
Where the spirit lived.
After that party.
I came home and made you a hot bath.
I poured you a glass of beer
and the spirit made it shatter.
All those beautiful glasses that they don’t make anymore.”

A small wriggly boy
leans far over the counter
and says excitedly,
“You can corral fish, you know.”
A fish cowboy in the Japanese Tea Garden.
His mother moves his teacup away
just in time.
“Tell me about it,” she says.
I sigh.

A student with glasses
and an impossibly long orange scarf
says to her friend,
“I’ll go home and make some pudding
and have that soup and do my notes.
I’ll put some more chili in that soup!”
That simple.
They are very young.
They leave.
The stools emptied of them
fill with an old couple.
He waits for her to sit
before he does
as he has unnumbered times,
a habit of kindness.
They look out at the pond
and she says,
“It’s going to be our anniversary.
What are you going to give us for our anniversary?”
“I don’t know.
It’s going to be forty-eight years.”
They eat the cookies
and drink the tea
and say not one word more.

A woman to her child,
“My fortune says
‘If your desires are not extravagant
they will be granted.’”
Her little girl has pink socks
with sparkles
and stars
and frilly lace.
Her mother has sensible shoes.

Man to child, “You like adventures?
I like adventures too.”
For a moment
they are the same age.

My heart has filled up
like the pools
with all that these people
are seeing and saying
and wishing
and feeling.

Why do I ache so much?
I have frequently been known to make too many wishes,
throwing them ahead of me
into the extravagant mess of life,
the clear and the yucky waters.

I have been naked without love.
And I have been loved—am loved,
so that when my beloved
hears my yelped ouch
as I grate my tender fingertip
along with the carrots
he calls out from the steamy bathroom,
“Are you okay?”
and I know
that I have already
won the Lotto.

Before I go back home
I see another one of us:
That child is going to make a wish.
There is the wish-posture!
Everything in her being is expectant.
There is the holding of the breath,
the choosing—which side of the bridge
to throw the penny from,
which pool more lucky?
I know the upraised urge and launch
as the sudden metal bone of the wish
goes splashing into the pool,
the pause after – it’s done.
Seriousness,
then the smiling.
The moment after
the world is different:
it is wished in.
Will it come true?
We are all already nibbled on by the fishes.
She walks away looking back,
ripening a little.

We throw ourselves
ahead of ourselves
all the time,
our hearts sing a song
beyond us
not so much about
health, wealth, love
(the usual culprits)
but really about the more extravagant stuff—

the attempt to keep
being here
in the messiness,
the yucky
clear
magnificent
stumbling
miracle.

© Kathleen Dunbar

Photo by Kathleen Dunbar