Welcome to Carolyn’s
Reasons for Writing

“Tolerance is love; 
acceptance is a greater love still” 
~Carolyn Howard-Johnson

I see intolerance (or better, lack of acceptance) as the root of evils that have afflicted humankind, probably since Ardipithecus, and in modern times from our world wars to 9/11 to the political and religious stalemates we have been experiencing in the last few years. It is the driving force behind what I write, the way I think of publishing, free press, and free speech. Mark Twain said, “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow mindedness.” With that in mind, I hope you will scroll down and explore my poetry and fiction, some of it travel inspired or go to see my poetry publications on this website, the Poetry and Fiction Page.  I love Twain—as you can see—but the quotation below is my favorite of all. It comes from a lovely personal friend of mine, now deceased. She leaves you this thought:

“May we become all the Love we receive!”
~ in memory of Nade Haines, writer and survivor

Poems and Essays Inspired by Traveling. . .

The War Museum at Oslo

Reprinted from Tracings and Imperfect Echoes
Finalist in a performance in Norwegian Cruise Lines’ Star Search.

Available for reprint at no charge
with permission from the author.

                    By Carolyn Howard-Johnson (c)

Raindrops surf my windshield, slip across my reflection, tears
not fettered by gravity. I look into my father’s face, decades gone,
rather than my own. Years later I search for family

seeds. Norway’s fjords shed salty droplets
on faces like my father’s. Round faces. Eyes dilute-blue
like the pale skies above them. Men who fought

as Churchill’s voice crackled through smuggled vacuum
tubes. Here miniature battles, cotton snow, charcoal
clouds, tiny lead replicas of soldiers now gone, desperate

photo-faces of the condemned. Only days before I reached this spur,
I saw my grandson off to war, alone. A sacrifice.
A trade. For my father who never marched. Travis’ face

flat, pasted behind a window, an upside down smiley
pattern behind windows tinted khaki, his bus taking
him away from me. I leave the dark halls, history

encased, to sit outside fortress walls, put my head
between my knees. Gasp for comfort. Fragile. A portrait
on my bureau at home. Acidglass shores up the image

murlled by time. My father, stands in sepia snow,
round face, eyes look beyond the frame at me. He wouldn’t know
these boys his age, his blood, resisting Hitler’s hand

raised, his arms against them. Oceans, bodies of land
between my father and these others. Here a disconnect,
a link I cannot touch or breathe. Once I was a child

who did not have to say goodbye, now a grandmother
who must pay the price. My grandson. Heads for heat
and oil and sand. He, too, resists. He, however,

unsure, doesn’t know quite why or who or what.
This Nordic rain does not, cannot wash
the memory or the present clean or clear.

Copyright© Carolyn Howard-Johnson 2007.

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Vegetarian

I’ve eaten animals 
disguised by deceitful 
words.
Beef not cow,
pork not pig,
mutton not sheep,
calamari not octopus.
Octopuses blush 
before, during 
and after they make
love.

A pretty name 
or breading will never 
again be masquerade enough
for me to dip their
curls into hot sauce.

I fed a stingray today,
held it in my arms,
it’s skin silky 
as a soft, wet kiss.

Carolyn Howard-Johnson, is the author of the multi-award-winning   chapbooks of poetry, including Tracings and Imperfect Echoes, honored by Writer’s Digest

My granddaughters and I swimming with a
friendly stingray in Caribbean waters, Nassau.

Taking a Dose of What’s Good for You

Ever Heard of Terezin?

Available for reprint at no charge with permission from the author. 

By Carolyn Howard-Johnson

It was the side trip no one talked about. And then everyone did. Some were interested. Some were afraid. No one was enthusiastic.

“It will be good for the younger students. You know…to learn what we remember,” one of we more mature students enrolled in the Glendale College Summer Studies Program in Prague said. We nodded solemnly. In the end we all—young and old—went to Terezin because we felt we must.

This was not a death camp in the strictest definition of the word. It was a camp where people were “retained” before they were sent on to Auschwitz or one of the others where there were facilities for mass destruction. Still, there were ovens to cremate those who died of mistreatment or starvation or overwork or natural causes. It was no wonder there was some reticence among us.

Our tour guide was Michal. She was from Israel and spoke so many languages I lost count. Perhaps in her late 20’s, with curly dark hair and dark eyes that sometimes reflected generational pain, she had come to Prague at the suggestion of one of her professors in Israel. “My wish for you is that one of you will find unique blessings of Prague,” he had told her. She was searching for a place to practice her arts. She was a puppeteer, a performance art enjoyed by many Czechs. She was also a writer. Sometimes, as an avocation, she led tours to Terezin because she wanted others to learn from its history. Her grandmother had perished there.

When I first saw her, she was sitting on one of the stairs among students piled on the stairs with their daypacks. She wore a long black dress with huge yellow hibiscus printed on it. Black for mourning? Yellow for hope? I was busy with a journal, one of the assignments for writing class I was taking at Prague’s Charles University.

“Are you a writer?” she said. I noticed later that she managed to ask every one of her charges a personal question about themselves, welcoming them with her soft accent. She invited me to a poetry reading for later that week. “It’s in a cellar. Just like you think of when you think of Bohemians.”

I told her that I only write in English. “Prague is for everyone,” she said. “So is Terezin.”

And she was right. From the bus, we could see fields unfurled like flags of orange and yellow. Poppies, sunflowers, mustard weed. We were traveling Northwest from Prague and wouldn’t be too far from Dresden when we arrived. Berlin was beyond that. We would be in the Sudentenland, the Czech lands where most spoke German. They were given over to Hitler without a shot fired.

There was a fortress on the right. Graves with poppies carefully placed at the headstones. Past the Ohre river. Into a village. A museum where we saw the stuff of life—sewing projects, drawings, music, even plays—works of art done by those held in the camp. There was a wall in the museum that had been frescoed into a permanent display, the official lists of human cargo the trains held. They were human ghosts on bills of lading.

Michal read one name. It was that of a child, born the same day and month I was. I was overwhelmed and did what writer’s do. The journal I was to keep for my creative writing class came in handy:

Terezin Fresco

Crystal memories
Fragmented shards
Cleansed scraps
Congealed into
Stucco tears.
LÖWNER THOMAS
Child of terror
Born in April
Like me.
On the fourth
Like me.
1935
I am 60.
He is never.

When I finished writing, my group had disappeared. I wandered the streets of the little town searching for them. It was extremely hot (one of the few hot days in the entire semester we were there) and there was hardly anyone about. Finally I gave up my quest, exhausted. I sat in a town square next to an old woman who was crocheting.

“Was tust du?” I said in the familiar of German, because I couldn’t remember the formal.

She didn’t seem to mind my impertinence. She took out piles of doilies from a basket and told me she made them to sell. She also discovered that I was “lost” and found someone who led me back to my group. I decided that, though it was good to be back with them, I was meant to have had this idle time sitting with an old lady on a shady park bench. It was a view of a town with a horrible past that somehow goes on living in the present.

We went on to another memorial where trees “give a beautiful shadow,” as Michal worded it. A place too beautiful for a massacre.

This memorial had been placed at Terezin by a newer generation of Israelis. They had noticed that their generation has been deprived of aunts and uncles for they were all dead. They also became aware that they never saw anyone wearing boots because the memories of boots were still too vivid. There were no dogs, either. Watchdogs had not been their friends. The scars were still evident, two and three generations later. A memorial would help us all to remember.

So, in honor of Michal, I will not dwell on the morgue or the ovens but on hope for a better future. A better future ensured if we visit Terezin, in person or in print. The student who said this visit would be good for the younger students was wrong. It was good for all of us. This was a place of horror. But it was also a monument to the strength of spirit, both of those who died and those who survived and those who still make a life there. Those of us who visit history may choose to do things differently in the future. We may respect life, the way those Jews and Gypsies and Intellectuals and Homosexuals did, even in the face of death

The poem printed in the first edition of This Is the Place

Copyright© Carolyn Howard-Johnson 2007

 

Taming Intolerance

Intolerance exists in all of us.
Gender, race, religion,

and things that don’t count,
fat and fashion, voices. We must

own them if they’re ours,

refuse to act on them.

If they belong to others,
ever so gently—without blame

or shame—point
to their existence.

Carolyn Howard-Johnson ©

 

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A Guide and Links to all of Carolyn’s Books

Great Fiction
Purchase THIS IS THE PLACE 
and HARKENING at Amazon in their new and used feature.
Both of these books are out of print. They are available only on Amazon's New and Used feature for about $1.

Great Poetry
Purchase TRACINGS (Finishing Line Press) at Amazon.
IMPERFECT ECHOES: Writing Truth and Justice with Capital Letters,  lie and oppression with Small

Give the gift of poetry with
a chapbook from
Magdalena Ball's
and My Celebration Series

CHERISHED PULSE: Unconventional Love Poetry
IMAGINING THE FUTURE: Ruminations on Fathers and Other Masculine Apparitions
SHE WORE EMERALD THEN: Reflections on Motherhood
BLOOMING RED: Christmas Poetry for the Rational
DEEPER INTO THE PONDCelebration of Femininity
SUBLIME PLANET: Celebrating Earth and the Universe

HowToDoItFrugally Series for Writers
Purchase THE FRUGAL BOOK PROMOTER, Third Edition,
published by Modern History Press
THE FRUGAL EDITOR Second Edition
GREAT LITTLE LAST MINUTE EDITING TIPS FOR WRITERS
an addendum to The Frugal Editor with more word trippers
GREAT FIRST-IMPRESSION BOOK PROPOSALS. Second Edition, published by Modern History Press
HOW TO GET GREAT BOOK REVIEWS FRUGALLY AND ETHICALLY

Survive and Thrive Series of HowToDoItFrugally Books for Retailers
A RETAILER'S GUIDE TO FRUGAL IN-STORE PROMOTION 
Authors who understand what retailers need and want are more successful when they
pitch events (workshops, readings, seminars) to bookstores and other businesses.
FRUGAL AND FOCUSED TWEETING FOR RETAILERS 
YOUR BLOG, YOUR BUSINESS

Note: Most of Carolyn's books are also available for the Kindle reader.
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Note: Carolyn encourages authors to download her Multi-Use Media Kits at the top the Media Press Room Page, to use as a guide for writing their own Media Kit
in conjunction with the directions in the Third Edition of the Frugal Book Promoter, published by Modern History Press.