The Wisdom Within the Lines by: Phoenix K. Brown as seen in SCBWI Kite Tales (Summer 2013)
“Silly Sally went to town walking backwards upside down…”
And so did Silly Phoenix Brown who ended up in Tinseltown.
Lights! Camera! …Where’s the action? ...Um, hello? I said, where's the ACTION? Anyone?
It took me quite a few years of walking backwards upside down to realize that the ACTION has and will always be where my pencil meets the paper and my center opens to greet the wisdom hidden within the walls of poetry, prose and fiction.
Walking backwards upside down...
For many years, in an attempt to carve out a glorious financial future for myself, I hid my love for poetry in the form of songs, hoping to sell “just one.” After all, from the voice of a well-meaning teacher in the tiny town of Jacksonville, Arkansas, came a resounding, "Pick something else; writers don't make much money." Although she may have been right about the money (tell that to J.K Rowling and C.S. Lewis to name a few), she was as wrong as two left feet when she told me to pick something else (hope none of you reading this have two left feet). If I had known the truth I would have told her:
"A banker warned the British poet Robert Graves that one could not grow rich writing poetry. He replied that if there was no money in poetry, there was certainly no poetry in money, and so it was all even." – Robert Graves.
However, Not knowing in the moment, that I was being led awry, that unconscious, misinformed echo, swirled me into hiding and there I stayed for many years.
“…On the way she met a pig, a silly pigThey danced a jig…”
I traveled and danced (and met plenty of pigs) while my poetry and other writings collected dust and cobwebs. Pounding the pavement day in and day out, audition after audition, I quietly visited the children's section at libraries and bookstores gliding through the aisles like a figure skater allowing my soul to triple Lutz, eventually touching down safely at home with my newest stack of books. Soon, the gigs dried up along with my will to look away from my love of words. I had landed in what Dr. Seuss described as…
“…A most useless place…”
Why was I denying the timeless wisdom of THE WAITING PLACE? "Hello!" Dr. Seuss seemed to be screaming from the back of my closet, “Didn't I tell you?”
“Out there things can happen and frequently doto people as brainy and footsy as you....”
According to the wisdom of Dr. Seuss, I wasn’t supposed to worry or stew.
Walking forward, right side up...
For me, the truth of children's poetry is that it often times gives us a heads up and warmly cradles the intricacies, the joys and sometimes the ill pleasantries that life slips into our pockets. Like a mystical, whirl of dust, wisdom from children's poetry, when shared at a young age (or even introduced at a more seasoned age), sits in our unconscious mind and pops up just in time to save the adult day. It seems that rhyming verse in particular, no matter how eloquent or refined, reaches us at a basic level and carries with it a wisdom that sings silently in the background like a guardian angel.
Nowadays, I pace my poetry like I pace my life, peacefully and playfully. And as I make my way to area schools, I pause before I enter and honor the childlike space within myself, hoping that at least one child will catch a hint of truth or a seed of illumination.
Shine your light from eagles eye
Brightly lit oh, silver sky. –Phoenix Brown
Someone recently reminded me that everything in life has a cycle-a rhythm and that it’s best to move in harmony with it once you’re dialed in. Benjamin Hoff reminds me that striking at the cork as it rests in the water is a waste of needed energy. In the Tao of Pooh, he suggests that we employ Wu Wei, which essentially says, “Allow, without a meddlesome, combative or egotistical manner.” I have learned that the wisdom of poetry speaks in the moment that we think not and flows effortlessly if we allow it to float towards and away from us peacefully.
Originally, I had thought to add a bullet point about how to incorporate wisdom into your poetry, but then I realized- silly Phoenix, walking backwards upside down again-wisdom only comes from experience soaked in and inspiration blown through. Truly, it matters not, the style or tone of the poem, the sophistication or the simplicity, the rumbling silence or the childlike figgle foggle strung together as poetry, there is just simply no way to outrun…The Wisdom Within the Lines...
Resources: Audrey Wood; Silly Sally Went To Town, Oh, The Places You’ll Go; Dr. Seuss, The Tao Of Pooh; Benjamin Hoff and http://www.shares.net/moneywisdom.htm.
Phoenix Brown is a children’s book writer. She is a Screen Actors Guild Book Pal and a master figgle foggler.