From my very first post I wanted to pay homage to the speech which inspired the title of my blog, Ain't I a Woman? by Sojourner Truth. Such a beautiful speech, such a beautiful name, such a beautiful woman. It is one of my favorite pieces. I strive to emulate this style in my own work. Poetic and powerful. Honest and unafraid. Memorable. And I like brevity. It too is beautiful. This is the standard I wish to be held to as I explore the question with you ~ ain't I a writer?
"Obliged to you for hearing me, and I do have a few things more to say..."

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Saturday, April 18, 2015

A little poem of how I've grown through yoga...


Its been years
since my ears
filled with tears.

by Tammi J Truax, all rights reserved.

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Happy National Poetry Month!

Monday, March 30, 2015

A Happy Little Announcement

       I have been working with children all of my professional life, and it continues to be important to me. Today I represented writers at the annual career day at the middle school my children attended, and really enjoyed my time with the eighth graders. One young man came up and shook my hand after. I was struck by how polite and engaged they all were. 
     So I am really looking forward to my next gig, one that I've been anxiously waiting to announce until all of the ducks were cued up.
     I have been asked to be the poet in residence this year at Portsmouth High School. The Buffler Residency in Poetry is sponsored by the Portsmouth Poet Laureate Program thanks to an endowment from the estate of our city's first poet laureate, Esther Buffler.
     I have a vague memory of Esther Buffler, but know her poems and her reputation. I am honored to carry on her work. I intend to wear a wacky hat when I work with the kids, and hope that they will join me.

     Read more about Esther here;

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       You might be able to hear her on this fifteen year old link;

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Bloody Sunday blog post

      In honor of Bloody Sunday I wrote today in my just-about-finished historical novel about the black man's right to vote.

     I had not known when I began my research for this book that the struggle began as early as the time period that I am writing of (1780 to 1850). All of the characters in my book were real people. Every single one of them. Without question the most remarkable life story I have put together is that of William Costin. He is mentioned in an old excerpt below, one of the few historical accounts of this man's so very noteworthy life, in The Freedmen's Book, an abolitionist work originally published in 1865. (That is a worthy read and is available free on kindle.)

     Today, I worked the quote by John Quincy Adams into my novel, that it might be remembered. 

     You will learn all about Costin's contributions to our country in my book. Here is his image, commissioned by The Bank of Washington upon his death, further evidence of his accomplishments.

Page 220 from THE FREEDMEN'S BOOK, by Lydia Maria Francis Child:


       MR. WILLIAM COSTIN was for twenty-four
years porter of a bank in Washington, D. C.
Many millions of dollars passed through his hands, but not
a cent was ever missing, through fraud or carelessness. In
his daily life he set an example of purity and benevolence.
He adopted four orphan children into his family, and
treated them with the kindness of a father. His character
inspired general respect; and when he died, in 1842, the
newspapers of the city made honorable mention of him.
The directors of the bank passed a resolution expressive
of their high appreciation of his services, and his coffin
was followed to the grave by a very large procession of
citizens of all classes and complexions. Not long after,
when the Honorable John Quincy Adams was speaking
in Congress on the subject of voting, he said : " The
late William Costin, though he was not white, was as
much respected as any man in the District ; and the largo
concourse of citizens that attended his remains to the
grave as well white as black was an evidence of the
manner in which he was estimated by the citizens of
Washington. Now, why should such a man as that be
excluded from the elective franchise, when you admit the
vilest individuals of the white race to exercise it ? "

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

George Washington, Slave Catcher

       Yesterday was Presidents' Day, and the New York Times published an op-ed piece that has been getting a lot of traffic on the world wide web, entitled George Washington, Slave Catcher, complete with an eye-grabbing graphic of the General riding upon an enormous iron-shackled hand, a hand carrying him forward.
       It is an important article and I'm glad it is going viral. I admire Professor Dunbar's work. But the article, in its brevity, tells just part of a much bigger, and more important story. Ultimately, it is the story of the making of America.
       And since I'm making that claim, I will take this opportunity to officially announce that the life story of Ona Judge Staines, from her birth in a slave cabin at Mount Vernon to her death in fugitive slave cabin at Greenland, NH seventy-five years later is the basis of the 125,000 word novel I have been working on for over two years and am finishing this winter. It truly is a remarkable story, so rich in characters that I had to invent none. Places and events are all real and familiar too, though they are of a long ago that is much less familiar. I so look forward to sharing it with the world.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

The Poet's Tale; Lady Wentworth

       Your Valentine deserves a copy of this humorous love poem by Longfellow, which I released last year in this beautiful new version brilliantly illustrated by beloved Portsmouth, NH artist Bob Nilson. Contact me or the Portsmouth bookseller you heart emoticon. (The link below is for the eBook.)

Sunday, February 8, 2015

With gratitude ...

      Interesting that today I wrote a new poem for the first time in a couple of months, and then received word that I have been nominated to be the next Portsmouth (NH) Poet Laureate. I am a bit like the proverbial bridesmaid, though without a funky dress, regarding the laureateship. This time, though, I no longer qualify as I have moved to the other side of the Piscataqua. Still it is wonderful to be nominated, and I humbly thank whoever took the time to honor me that way. 

On seeing Natasha Trethewey

     I went to see and hear Natasha Trethewey speak at my Alma mater this week. I was already a fan of her work, and had been looking forward to the talk entitled "Changing the World One Poem at a Time: Using the arts as a tool for understanding difference and as a catalyst to explore complex topics such as race", so central to the research and writing I have been doing.
     But something happened during the talk. I'm not at all sure what it was. But Ms. Trethewey, simply by sharing herself with her audience, became my favorite poet. I realize that sounds silly and simplistic, and will attempt to explain.
     My writing, both prose and poetry, is more often than not, an exploration of issues of race. My poetry, like Natasha's, often looks at snippets of history and / or art, to try to make sense of my own life and the America I live in. I have always been more drawn to narrative poetry, and consider myself a story teller, but I aspire to something more. Something she has voiced about herself as a writer as in this quote;
     “[I am] a poet interested not only in the sounds of language and in its beauty, but in its ability to help us deal with our most difficult knowledge and help us move towards justice.”
     I am especially interested in working with the concept of historical amnesia that Natasha talks and writes about, and much of my own work seems to be an exploration of that.
     Her comments on that subject have inspired the following poem from me today. It is brand new so will be reworked several times before it is finished. It occurs to me this morning that this childhood memory, that has always stayed with me, may have been the very beginning of my own excavations of what came before me and what created me. Yet I would not have written this without Natasha's influence on me this week.

Visiting Gettysburg

I was so little
that I remember little.
Only boundless rolling knolls
of luxurious green grass.

A perfect place for family fun.
But I think I had a child’s sense
that the beauty was false.
A sad secret rippled beneath.

Not the green of the grass
or the blue of the sky, but red.
A cold clotted river of loss,
mixed by bayonets and shovels.

Men, women, and children,
black, white, and native,
union, confederate, objector.
All co-mingling together forever…

beneath my skipping Mary Jane’s.
I breathed the false exquisite beauty
of boundless rolling knolls
of luxurious green grass.

Tammi J Truax. All rights reserved.

      The favorite writer status she has with me now is not just about me admiring her as a writer. It is at least as much about me seeing her as a teacher.  I endeavor to write the way she does; with great honesty and courage, but in stunningly beautiful words and forms. Considering the chasm between our accomplishments in that regard, this is a daunting task, and I have a lot of work to do!
     I share this video of Natasha talking about her work on Native Guard which caught my attention because one of the dozens of books I've read this year for research on my historical novel was Dr. Mutter's Marvels by Cristin O'Keefe Aptowicz. I was not aware of this museum.

     Finally here is a video of Natasha reading her poem Incident.