Diane Vogel Ferri is a teacher, poet and writer. Her essays have been published in Scene Magazine, Cleveland Christmas Memories, Raven’s Perch, and by Cleveland State University among others. Her poems can be found in numerous journals. Her chapbook, Liquid Rubies, was published by Pudding House. The Volume of Our Incongruity was published by Finishing Line Press. Diane’s essay, “I Will Sing for You” was featured at the Cleveland Humanities Fest in 2018. Her novel, The Desire Path can be found on Amazon. She is a graduate of Kent State University and holds an M.Ed from Cleveland State University.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

A Potter's Field


As we were coming home last night from dinner, my husband suddenly pulled into a drive that we'd both been past hundreds of times. We'd heard about it, but never gone in. It is the Potter's Field for the City of Cleveland. The only thing to see is this memorial stone. There were a few plastic flowers and a makeshift wooden cross at its base.
I looked it up and discovered that it was established in 1904 for poor, homeless and unclaimed bodies. Older graves marked by wooden crosses have disappeared over the years, so it is just a lot of grassy area surrounded by trees. A peaceful resting place. It is part of Highland Park Cemetery in Highland Hills, but the records are kept by Cleveland.
It makes you wonder how many people rest there - and why? It makes you think how blessed you are if there are people in your life who love and care about you - who will miss you when you're gone.
Here lies the body of a man who died
Nobody mourned, nobody cried
How he lived, how he fared
Nobody knows, nobody cared.
John Starkwether

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Ordinary Genius - A Guide for the Poet Within

Poet Kim Addonizio has a new book out entitled "Ordinary Genius - a Guide for the Poet Within". (She co-authored "The Poet's Companion" with Dorianne Laux in 1997. ) You get your money's worth of lessons in its 300 pages. I was a little disappointed at the beginning, reading ideas like keeping a journal or writing a poem with the first line of someone else's poem, but the book got meatier and more in-depth with every chapter. "Ordinary Genius" is dense with inspiration, poem starters and exercises as well as chapters like "Your Genius, Your Demons" that contain Addonizio's well thought-out philosophies on poets and poetry. She offers adoring insights on everyone from Shakespeare and Whitman to Cleveland's own George Bilgere.
She dares to have a chapter called "Love and Sex Poems" and somehow brings a fresh approach to those time-worn subjects. Addonizio is honest in her assessment of poets when she warns: "When you explore your own life in poetry, it's useful to remember that nobody really cares." And "If you want to be a poet the way some people want to be a rock star without actually learning the guitar, playing scales and practicing - then you are free to fantasize."
Addonizio teaches the sonnet and pantoum in understandable terms. Other chapters include such topics as race, class, addictions and fairy tales. All the regulars are there as well - metaphor, imagery, revising, meter, etc.
It's a comprehensive resource that I would recommend to a beginner or to any seasoned, war-wounded poet who is looking for his/her lost muse.

Monday, May 25, 2009

More Memorial Day Weekend

The beauty a surprise every spring.
My new swan planter.

I painted the bocce court yesterday and my back is remembering today.


Half the pile gone, half to go!
Memorial Day weekend is a time for homeowners to get the mulch down, rake out the leftover leaves of last fall from the gardens, paint decks, drag out hammocks and chairs - but in our hearts we're saying "thank you" to our veterans, old and young, with a prayer that someday there will be no more new veterans to thank.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Memorial Day

This is just a tiny section of the veterans area of Highland Park Cemetery in Cleveland. There is a flag for every veteran's gravemarker every Memorial Day.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Thank You. My Fate

by Anna Swir

Great humility fills me,
great purity fills me,
I make love with my dear
as if I made love dying
as if I made love praying,
tears pour
over my arms and his arms.
I don't know whether this is joy
or sadness, I don't understand
what I feel, I'm crying,
I'm crying, it's humility
as if I were dead,
gratitude, I thank you, my fate,
I'm unworthy, how beautiful
my life.

Monday, May 18, 2009

The Abundance of Talents

Yesterday I took my mom to a local arts center to see the opera "I Pagliacci". It was completely wonderful and professional. Every singer, every scene, every instrumental note. The theater held less than 200 people by my estimate. It was a Sunday afternoon in a relatively small town and the talent blew me away. The singers were, in fact, all professionals, all worthy of a professional opera company - but here they were in a tiny theater singing their hearts out. It made me think of all the talent that abounds everywhere and how we choose to pursue those gifts.
Most of us discovered something we could do - or at least wanted to do - in our youth. Then, depending on our life circumstances we may have been given lessons
or taught ourselves - we may have been encouraged or discouraged by the people in our lives at the time.
I have been compelled throughout my life to express myself through singing, art and now, at a much advanced age - writing. I still feel that I am new to writing poetry and yet, I can see that it's a perfect avocation for me to pursue through the rest of my life, and I have been fortunate to have been encouraged in my poetic pursuits along the way. I still love playing the guitar and make occasional attempts at reviving this love - and then I think - Aw heck, who wants to hear an old lady pretending to be a hippie playing her guitar and singing. And yet - hmmmm maybe you're never too old.
My point is that there is SO much talent in us all and of course we can't all make a living at the things we enjoy doing the most. There are only a few who get to do that - or get recognition for their abilities. The rest of us do it for the love of it - as we should.
I'm reading a book called Ordinary Genius by poet Kim Addonizio. She tells of how she tried to be a classical singer with no background knowledge of what that took. She failed and tried a couple other things, but in her thirties discovered poetry. She says that the premier poetry journal called Poetry has about ten thousand subscribers, but every year has ten times that amount of submissions. That could mean that ten times more people are writing poetry than actually reading it! There is so much talent! But should we stop using our gifts? If you've read this blog for any length of time you know that I firmly believe God gives us gifts to be used. I am glad that the opera singers yesterday shared their gifts whether there were 200 or 2000 people listening.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

The Lives of Poems

When poems rain down
on my head like treasures
from heaven - I feast on them,
inhale them, rub them
all over me, lay down and roll
in their ineffable presence.

Each image is pondered,
prayed for, decided upon.
Once achieved - I speak my
well-birthed progeny into being.

Then, for a time, like children,
they forsake me, evacuate
the premises and leave me
marooned on a poemless island
of despair and concern.
I quietly wait and pray
for their safe return.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Poetic Inspirations

You must let your poems ride their luck
On the back of the sharp morning air
Touched with the fragrance of mint and thyme
And everything else is - Literature
Paul Verlaine

Many of my shortest and seemingly simple poems took years to get right. I tinker with most of my poems even after publication. I expect to be revising in my coffin as it is being lowered into the ground.
Charles Simic

If I were in solitary confinement, I'd never write another novel, and probably not keep a journal, but I'd write poetry, because poems, you see, are between God and me.

May Sarton

Monday, May 11, 2009

Removal

Removing your existence from this world must
be normal, seem acceptable in the Hughes family.

Nicholas existed in Alaska, a professor
of fisheries and ocean sciences, far removed

from London and the sealed off room he slept in
as his mother gassed herself in the kitchen,

far removed from the poetic lifestyle of his parents.
His father so beautifully wrote of his little son's eyes as

wet jewels - the hardest substance of the purest pain,
as I fed him in his white high chair.

Was the pain frozen on that childhood day?
Or was it the day his stepmother gassed herself

taking his four year-old stepsister with her?
Was the glorification of his mother's death

the deciding factor or the notion that his father's
infidelities caused her suicidal anguish?

What made Nicholas entertain the irrevocable
thoughts before he hanged himself at age forty-seven,

removing his existence from the earth,
just as his mother and stepmother had before him.


(Nicholas Hughes, son of Sylvia Plath and Ted Hughes, died March 16, 2009)

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Mother's Day

Of all the experiences in life I am most grateful for being a mother. My daughter and son have brought more joy to my life than they will ever know - and the big surprise now that they are grown - is that they continue to bring joy and laughter and love. It's an endless gift. The other day I was standing in the hallway at the school where I work. A young teacher I mentored brought her new baby in for all to oooh and ahhh over. Another pregnant teacher looked at the newborn and said "I can't believe something that big is growing inside of me." And I thought to myself - you never actually will quite believe it. It's a great miracle to see the newborn baby arrive, but the miracle doesn't end there - you get to watch her become a person and you get to see what a wonderful man he's turned into - and the gift goes on and on. I've written many poems, but one of my very favorites is called "One Good Thing". It's very personal so I am only going to share part of it here.
Here is a photograph, two decades gone, of me;
a child holding a child, nothing but desirous instinct,
unprepared for the challenges ahead.
I try to remember the ravaged body,
the day it blew, blood vessels bursting,
out of the desert came water,
the fleeting moment when earth connected to heaven
then it detached - and it was mine.

Only the irrevocable opened gift is remembered
my mother told me.
My sphere of consciousness grew
to places unknown, untried in me.
Love was all there was to the day,
each morning illuminated with a sense of rightness.
This must be my life I said to God,
and on my birthday I gave my mother flowers.

I am also grateful for the wonderful woman who taught me how to be a loving mother. She is beautiful and talented and my dear friend and confidant. Happy Mother's Day Mom. I love you.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Do You Really Want to Live in Pleasantville?

On April 28 I wrote a brief commentary on "The Shack" stating one of the messages it conveys is that God does not interfere in human free will - hence evil and wrongdoing are present in the world. A reader made this comment:

But whence the assumption that free will creates evil. I can't really make sense of the idea that baby birds - and little children - starve to death because human beings were purposefully made fallible and then went out and acted that way.

I'm no theologian, but here are my thoughts on this issue. People often blame God on the injustices in the world and use them as a reason not to believe in God at all. The injustices, I suppose, include the emotional pain brought on by death, prejudice, divorce, bigotry, war, hatred and the physical pain brought on my disease, injury, starvation etc.

Those of us who have developed some sort of spiritual life have, no doubt, pondered the notion of a loving God versus the evil in the world. But, for a moment, let's imagine a world with no free will to choose right or wrong - a world with no evil, pain, injustice etc. What if you had no freedom to choose and your life was decided for you to ensure that you never made a wrong choice that might lead to pain for someone else. Your days here on Earth would be acting out a script already written to the tiniest detail. For example you would not have the choice of what to eat or wear because we know that bad diets can lead to bad health and possible pain, and your daily decision to express yourself in what you wear would not be necessary because it might lead to someone elses's misjudgment of you and emotional distress.

You wouldn't get to choose to have a nice glass of wine with dinner because one could lead to several and you might drive drunk and kill an innocent person (or animal). Your mate would be chosen for you so there would be no chance of infidelity or abuse. I wouldn't have the option of writing on this blog because it might offend someone and you wouldn't be able to give your comment either.

With no free will there might not be war or famine, but there would also be no reason to get up in the morning, no motivation to live, nothing to work for, no opportunity to develop relationships with other fallible human beings - not even the chance to help someone less fortunate than you because no one would be less fortunate. Without pain there would be no joy.

It would be Pleasantville. (one of my favorite movies- see HERE) Everything in God's world would be black and white - no colors - that might bring on doubts, questions, human failings, or emotions. I love this movie because it reminds me how boring and useless our lives would be if they were perfect.

Free will causes pain and suffering every day in this world and we may not understand why those who inflict pain on others have chosen to do that. But out free will allows us to make the world a little bit better every day too. It allows us the choices that make us who we are as individuals. I'm sure God wouldn't have created a whole world just for robots. Our free will is what makes us human. It lets us choose beauty and truth. All the joy, generosity, love and goodness in the world is human choice as well. Does that make sense to you?

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Wednesday Haiku

Spring sprang green and lush
shade shadows appeared on streets
baby leaves birthed


Coasting on my bike
down my childhood summer street
Look, Mom, no hands, look!


A haiku is small
it has a five seven five
prison to live in

Monday, May 4, 2009

Postscript to a Poem

Women who decide to embrace the maturity and intellectual attainment of middle age are far more attractive than the sad specimens clinging like desperate survivors to the sinking raft of youth.
Daniel Bell

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Glory Days

One more fifty year-old female face
in the obituaries
prompted a decision -
prepare to die or
begin to live
a life unfettered
from the straightjackets of youth
she emptied the anger
from her ego-tattered brain
purged everything
from the vainglorious
to the inglorious
released those ten pounds
that unfashionable wardrobe
the stringy hair, the bitten nails
rubbed off concealing makeup
threw off shoes that run (away)
when she unplugged the ipod
she heard music
when she took off
her rose-colored sunglasses
she saw a face and a whole body
when she broke the mirror
she found beauty