Why are your Poems so Dark?
I hesitate to define poems as light or dark, because I think the poem exists as it is, in its own sphere, its own space. A poem tells its own story, and poems are supposed to tell some sort of essential truth. There is light in the world and darkness, of course. When we write from the dark space, we are simply tapping into one of the parts of the world that exists and needs a voice. Many people who read my poems, tell me that my work has opened up a space in them that they didn’t know existed , or didn’t give permission to exist. I think in order to be fully in touch with ourselves as a writer, we need to allow all of the shades of our writing to make an entrance into the room.
Why did you want to become a Poet?
I suffered a great deal as a child. I took solace in nature and outdoor life. When I was in fourth or fifth grade, I wrote a poem about a thicket and how it sheltered it seemed to me. There was something that happened in me, a flame that started and a voice inside me said “I want to do this. I want to find a way to reach people through writing”. I didn’t know that meant being a poet. I just knew I wanted to reach across the divide in my mind (that at the time seemed caged) out to others and make something meaningful out of each word. I wrote short stories in grammar school but turned went to poetry in high school. The love affair with language, words, and verse has been a constant since then.
What is it like to bring a book into the world about being abused as a child?
Terrifying. I’ve been in therapy for twenty five years and it’s still terrifying. But sometimes you have to do things, even if they scare the crap out of you. There will always be critics, but more often there will be people who have hidden in the shadows and you have given them permission to emerge. One truth opens to another. One loss folds into the next. In the poem below, this is how it often feels to wake
Accessory After the Fact (from Prime Meridian)
I destroy the evidence
wash the blood
from bad dreams
I make sure there is no
on the curtains
the blankets are pulled
from the bed
washed over and over
I cover the mattress
with a loose sheet
hide the evidence
– the shards of night
I hope nobody notices
how I left my body
fled the crime scene
burned the dreams
with one lit match
the ashes of a single nocturne
falling out of my mouth
How do animals and the outside world play a role in your poetry?
Humans are part of the animal kingdom. All our base instincts for survival live within us, even in advanced societies. I try to take the moments of cruelty in the animal world and display those parallels in my poems. How are we more “advanced” than animals as humans when we persecute each other so relentlessly. I notice when even a bug seems afraid, how they freeze. How I froze. I try to see the animal world as a symbol of healing and survival. I watch their travels, their metamorphosis, for example, how a tree survives a fire.
What led you to select “Prime Meridian” as a title for your new book?
I wanted to use the longitudinal centerline of the earth as a reference for survival. How we might be split in half as humans, yet we still find a balance point. I wanted to portray the earth as person. The damage done to the earth is not silent. It tells its truth in a thousand ways. Earth as self, earth as mother, earth that holds a million truths beneath its surface
from the title poem of the book “Prime Meridian”
“ Step upon the earth
as if it is melting
fold the continents
as if the borders
were already singed
at the edges”
How has the pandemic changed your poetry?
It is harder for me to write because I have two wonderful grandsons who with me. But I find little pockets of time and I am loyal to those moments. Sometimes I find I write better poems when I have a more compressed time frame. A voice in me says “you don’t have that long to do this, so you better make it right”. I have had many poems created in my brain that did not make it to the page but I’m hoping for more opportunities to make it to my office so I can get the poem down, or at least get it started. Once I start it, I am dedicated to finishing it.
In addition, I am getting used to zoom readings. I am getting used to “poetry Hollywood squares” as I call it. I have really missed the live readings. I am a very social person. But I’m finding you can make connections that matter, even on zoom. Make every moment matter, that’s what I’m trying to do.
What keeps you awake at night?
The damage being done to the earth, my grandson’s safety in the world, (how to keep them safe), my son with autism, his future and what it will be like without me. Regrets about past relationships, if I will be in pain forever, if I can overcome the shadows of my life, if it was enough, if I was enough.