Last Saturday I was honored to read my poem “Blessing” at Ars Poetica – Where Poetry Meets Art at the Front Street Gallery in Poulsbo, Washington. I had the pleasure to meet Artist Sylvia Carlton, who shared with the audience why my poem resonated with her and why she chose it. I was so moved that it touched her in such a personal manner. Sylvia shared how as a mother the poem put into words so much of what she also felt about that difficult time when we let go of our children and send them into the world. Sylvia captured beautifully the contrast between the tight formality at the beginning of the poem with a dark weaving of limbs and the openness at the end of the poem where the white space and lack of formal punctuation allows the light to come in—light that beautifully emerges from behind the trees.
This poem was originally published in a zine out of Ireland called “Dodging the Rain” and will be included in my forthcoming book called “The Lure of Impermanence” which is scheduled for publication in early summer by Cirque Press in Anchorage, Alaska.
It has been awhile since I have written a blog post. I signed up to blog once a week at the beginning of the year, and have failed miserably to meet my goal.
So, what have I been doing these past three months? Well, I attended a ten-week poetry workshop, wrote poems, researched writing programs, read twelve books, travelled to Nashville, and sold my house. And, as if that were not enough, two weeks ago, as I was packing up my kitchen I was notified that Cirque Press out of Anchorage, Alaska is ready to move forward with publication of my first book of poems, which caused me to dance around my empty home in absolute delight.
Endings and beginnings seem to be a constant theme in my life. Since I was a child, I have moved every few years. Even as a young girl I remember the allure a new place had on me. In equal measure, I also had feelings of homesickness connected with leaving, which left me feeling conflicted.
I still love new adventures, and by nature I am a flexible and curious person who is not afraid to try something new. But I also know, with each new adventure and opportunity my heart gets broken a bit each time, because I am always open to attach myself to the people I meet or the landscape I walk on, and by caring for both, I allow myself to experience what can be the beautiful paradox of heartbreak.
At the end of this week, I head to California for a few weeks of reflection, then back to the Pacific Northwest to begin the search for another home. I have already begun scouting out a new writing community in the Portland area, but I have no intent to leave the community I have made here. The roads that take us to each other will just be different and not even necessarily longer, especially when you factor in bridges and ferry rides!
As I have been reflecting about what I will gain in this move, and what I will miss, I wrote the following poem. As Dorothy told the Scarecrow in The Wizard of Oz, “I think I’ll miss you most of all.”
As a former educator, I have written before about my reaction to school shootings in my home state of Oregon. I have shared on this blog poems I have written as a response to the senseless killing of innocent children and the adults responsible to serve them. I posted these poems earlier under Mental Illness in America and Math That Doesn’t Add Up.
After the most recent tragedy at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, I cannot just keep writing poems about these events and I beg each of you to do more than wring your hands or write your prose or poetry, or whatever it is you do, and then go back to your life as normal.
I needed to write the poems I have written. I will continue to write poems about the loss I feel each time a person is gunned down in mass shootings in this country. But I can no longer only do that. I will stand behind the youth of America who have raised their voices and said You are either with us or against us, because I believe being silent is a form of complicity. I will be in attendance on March 24th in the March for Our Lives. I have already made a donation for this event at March for Our Lives/Go Fund Me. I have begun reading about how our elected officials vote on gun laws. This is just my beginning.
As a poet, I will continue to process my grief through writing, but with an understanding that my writing is not enough. I understand we can never eliminate violence—as the arc of history has proven—but we can do more, we can promise to do our best to keep our children as safe as we possibly can, and I will work towards that end until my poem Math That Doesn’t Add Upends differently, with a line that in the very least suggests— And all our promises of safekeeping are NOT lies.
May you find in the reflection of the mirror every morning a face that will say, we are better than this, and may you find courage every day you walk out your door to work, each time you kiss your child or grandchild goodnight, each time you hear of another community shattered by senseless slaughter the strength to do something. May you find a way to make a promise of safekeeping to all the innocent victims who want nothing more than to hang out with friends at school, attend a concert, or pray in their church. May you find a way.
I am honored to have two poems in the most recent volume of Cirque, a Literary Journal for the North Pacific Rim. Check it out here: Cirque – Winter 2018. As usual, Editors Sandra Kleven and Michael Burwell have produced a stunning journal. This issue also includes a tribute to the late Seattle poet, Joan Swift, which I was lucky to have known. I hope in some small way this tribute written by myself and other poets who knew and loved her, helps expand her contribution to the world of poetry.