Archives for posts with tag: singing

mary cassatt 1
How to find your voice
By JC. Sulzenko

It’s not every day your voice forsakes you.

From childhood on, I learned songs by ear—nursery rhymes, carols, Broadway tunes, gospel, folk, and rock.

I sang around campfires, on long car rides, in a mass choir, and later in an a capella group.

Just after my mother died, I dropped out. I got used to humming anthems and pop songs to myself, to whispering lullabies to my grandchildren.

Until the other day, when I had my granddaughter’s attention and remembered that song about wheels on the bus.

I heard the melody in my head and started to sing, but the notes, the words came out with a rasp and off-key.

I drank cold water and tried again. I switched to a simpler rhyme, with the same results. That’s when I had to admit my singing voice was missing. I needed to find it.

I began in the top left hand drawer of my dresser where I keep practical things—nail files, combs, unopened lipsticks and compacts, single buttons, along with an array

of discouraging cloth facemasks. What had I hoped to find there? If not my voice, then a clue as to where it had gone and why.

I rummaged in the back of my closet, behind the silk sheaths that won’t fit until I emerge from this claustrophobic cocoon, my wonky hip is replaced, and I can exercise without

pain. I pulled out my jewelry box—I’d forgotten the crystals I wore to the last party we attended when we could go wherever we wanted. I put them back.

I speculated. Perhaps my singing voice had gone dormant under the fine snow, which fell for a day, a night and sculpted the landscape to its design.

Or perhaps, constricted by lockdowns, my voice escaped and fled into heaven’s blues, icy Blues. Or perhaps it simply lost itself, whatever the reasons.

It needn’t worry that it’s not good enough. The child will recognize her grandmother’s music, even on a small screen.

ART: The Banjo Lesson by Mary Cassatt (1893).

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: As most of my interaction with everyone outside the home, including our family, has become virtual, I noticed how my own inner and outer dynamics have shifted. Sometimes for the better. Sometimes not. Prolonged isolation has affected my self-discipline, my sense of purpose, and my readiness to write. It also has made me realize how much I miss singing with other people. Instead of shelving poetry ideas as I am wont to do at this point in my life, I felt some urgency to compose “How to find your voice” once I saw Silver Birch Press’s call for “how to’” poems. As an aside, I recently joined an online choir and enjoy the sessions more and more each week.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: JC Sulzenko’s poems appeared on Arc’s Poem of the Year shortlist, Maple Tree Literary Supplement, and Oratorealis, in anthologies and online, either under her name or as A. Garnett Weiss. Silver Birch Press and The Light Ekphrastic publish her. In 2020, her work appeared in Vallum, the Naugatuck River Review, and the Poetry Leaves project. She won the Wind and Water Writing Contest and the WrEN award (Children’s Poetry) and judged poetry for the National Capital Writing Contest in 2019.  Another Dysfunctional Cancer Poem Anthology (Mansfield Press) the Poet’s Pathway, and County CollAboRaTive projects featured her in 2018. Point Petre Publishing released JC’s South Shore Suite…Poems (2017). Her centos took top honours in The Bannister Anthology (2016, 2013). She presented workshops for the Ottawa International Writers Festival, the Canadian Authors Association, the Ottawa-Carleton District School Board, the Ottawa Public Library, and a number of Alzheimer societies, among others. She has published six books for children and co-authored poetry chapbooks Slant of Light and Breathing Mutable Air  with Carol A. Stephen. Based in Ottawa, Canada, JC curates the Glebe Report’s “Poetry Quarter” and serves as a selector for Visit her at

Curtain Call
by Shelly Blankman

The curtains open, footlights burn bright.
I can barely see critics furiously jotting
grand reviews, a far cry from the little
girl alone in her bathroom, hairbrush mic
in hand, on a black-and-white tile floor stage,
plastic shower curtain like the velvet one
parted for the singer I was meant to be,
with an audience of one — two if you counted
my mirrored self in a cloud of steam that
looked like dry ice rising with diva flair.

Applause sinks into silence;
my bathroom voice bursts, tears trickling down
my cheeks like the last rhythmic drips of the faucet,
with crescendos that would have made my house shake.
I can hear gasps as I reach Streisand highs
and Fitzgerald lows, my flowing sequined
dress, the color of beige roses and Dove soap.

Shouts of “Bravo” explode as I bow and swells of
“Encore” beckon for one last song; I feign humility
as I wend my way backstage through the barrage
of hugs and air kisses, paparazzi flashes and
questions,wanting nothing more than to rest my
laurels among the flowers crowding my dressing room.

PHOTO: Barbra Streisand performing on the Ed Sullivan Show in New York City at age 20 in 1962.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: As a child, I wanted to be anyone but me. There was no better place for that than in the shower, where I could be a star, everyone would adore me, and I had talent beyond that of anyone I’d ever seen or heard. Of course, the reality is that all I ever really accomplished in the shower was to become squeaky…and there was no future in that. And frankly, bullies don’t care whether you’re clean or not. But every day, for a half-hour or so, I was a star. And for many years, my imaginary life played out in the shower, was good enough.


Shelly Blankman
is an empty nester living in Columbia, Maryland, with her husband, Jon, and four cat rescues. They are the proud parents of two sons, Richard, 31, of New York, and Joshua, 30, of Texas. She spent most of her professional career in public relations and copy editing, but her first love has always been poetry. Shelly enjoys making scrapbooks and cards, and, of course, writing.

The great Antonio Carlos Jobim (1927-1994) and wondrous singer Elis Regina (1945-1982) perform Jobim’s composition “The Waters of March” (“Aguas de Marco”) in Portuguese. Find the English lyrics here.


Bob Dylan composed the ballad “I’ll Keep It with Mine” for Judy Collins in 1964. Collins released a beautiful version as a single in 1965, and the song was subsequently covered by a range of artists — including Nico, Fairport Convention, Marianne Faithfull, and the composer himself. Listen to New York City’s amazing PS22 Chorus sing “I’ll Keep It with Mine” here


When Christmas in the Heart — an album of Christmas tunes sung by Bob Dylan — was released in 2009, I played samples of the songs from over the phone to my mother. She summed up Dylan’s effort, saying, “All the songs sound alike.” (I have to agree.)

As a mega Dylan fan, I enjoy Christmas in the Heart — mainly because I think it’s so funny. With a traditional choir backing him, Dylan sounds…well, the sound is indescribable.

In honor of Silver Birch Press, I’ve chosen “Silver Bells” as the musical selection — listen to a sample here.

The 15-song album also includes: 

Hark the Herald Angels Sing
Little Drummer Boy
O Come All Ye Faithful
The First Noel
O Little Town of Bethlehem

Christmas in the Heart is available at, where you can listen to samples of all the songs.

Note: Bob Dylan donates his royalties from Christmas in the Heart  to several charities, including Feeding America.


One of my favorite songs is “I’ll Keep It with Mine,” a ballad that Bob Dylan composed for Judy Collins in 1964. Collins released a beautiful version as a single in 1965, and the song was subsequently covered by a range of artists — including Nico, Fairport Convention, Marianne Faithfull, and the composer himself. I love the song for its haunting melody and mysterious lyrics that make you ponder about the meaning of the “it” in the title.

I often listen to music via YouTube and a few days ago woke up needing to hear “I’ll Keep It with Mine” more than I needed breakfast or a cup of coffee. During my YouTube search, I noted a “PS22” entry — and wondered how an elementary school chorus would tackle this unusual, somewhat existential song. Yep, the kids nailed it! I was totally blown away. Listen for yourself here.

Apparently, I’m rather late in discovering New York City’s PS22 Chorus (visit the official blog here). Located on Staten Island, the PS22 Chorus has been going strong since 2000 — led by choral director Mr. B. The PS22 Chorus enjoys many high profile fans — including Oprah, Rihanna, Adele, Tori, Tyra, Beyonce, Common, Sinead, Alicia, Katy, Martina, and Kylie. At the 2011 Academy Awards, the PS22 Chorus closed the festivities with a sweet, soulful rendition of “Somewhere Over the Rainbow.”

Listening to these young people reminds me about the power of art — and how the fine arts are as vital to education as math and science. Thank you, PS22 Chorus!