Loss and Comforts

This has been a summer of many adventures, family reunions and unforgettable trips. But also deep sadness due to the loss of family members. Our 46 year-old niece Kim Thabault, a gifted equine veterinarian in Costa Rica, passed away on June 21st after 18-months staving off an aggressive glioblastoma brain cancer. Five weeks later, on August 1st, my beloved sister Karen Ariel Wahl succumbed in her sleep to complications from kidney cancer. I was able to be at her side for her last two weeks, where she received wonderful care in a skilled nursing facility run by Lacoba Homes, near her home in (the aptly-named) town of Rocky Comfort, MO.

My heavy heart does take comfort in other memories from the summer of 2019. I flash back to a sunny Memorial Day weekend on Cape Cod; our 5-day cycling trip on the Great Allegheny Passage from Pittsburgh to Cumberland, MD; a week in Cape May, NJ at our bi-annual Dunham family reunion. Perhaps the most “bucket-list” thrill was a return to my maternal family’s roots in Alberta, Canada. There, under the wide blue skies in the farm town of Coaldale (6 miles from Lethbridge), I stood in the wheat field where my grandparents homesteaded on 1100 acres back in 1909. These are all balms for my soul - reminders of my large extended family, the inspiring blue-collar history of the Eastern US, and the breath-taking beauty of southern Alberta.

But for now, I do the work of grief.

When the well is dry...

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I recently bumped into a Twitter post, asking the writing community for suggestions on getting unstuck. Since my writing was somewhat stuck in potholes of busy-ness and avoidance myself, I was glad for some new inspiration. The clip above is a sampler of comments, plus wisdom below from a writer who is so generous in sharing her craft @ANNELAMOTT.

This quote is about writers block: ie, it’s not some impediment to creativity, but an emptiness. When you’re “blocked,” it means it’s time to fill back up. Stop trying, & go wander. Gather some rags—sightings, imaginings, memories —to give to the Dr Seuss Rag Bag guy inside you.
— https://twitter.com/ANNELAMOTT/status/1110783769009516545

Celebrating Stonecoast Review Issue #9

October was Poetry month for me! Thanks to four soul-quenching days at Kripalu in Western Massachusetts, I recharged my creative batteries and started filling my poetry notebook again. Then on Oct. 27, I headed over to Boston for a fun & mind-blowing evening of Poetry. I was invited, along with other New England contributors, to the launch party of Stonecoast Review’s Fall Issue #9. We braved torrential rainstorms to umbrella ourselves in the new Dudley Cafe in Roxbury. The space is quickly becoming a mecca for spoken word poets, youth empowerment, foodies and a diverse community of artists, activists and dreamers. My reading was cheered on by two dear writer friends from the Boston area: Peter Elikann, who I’ve known since high school; and Laura Krantz, a talented reporter for The Boston Globe.

Here’s how the evening was described by its organizer: Stonecoast MFA Graduate Assistant Lo Galluccio (poetry/creative non-fiction) has teamed up with the Boston area poetry series’ Stone Soup MC Chad Parenteau to hold a special release party reading for the Stonecoast Review Issue #9 on October 27th at the Dudley Café in Roxbury, Massachusetts. There will be an open mic at 7:30 pm (with a sign up at 7 pm) and three features: Stonecoast Review contributor and creative non-fiction writer, Lee Kahrs, Stonecoast Review Managing Editor and fiction writer, Emily Bernhard, and Boston performance poet Joseph “Skoot” Mosby.

Reading at the same mic with such talented writers and performers was amazing! Proof that when you send your work out into the Universe, you never know what doors might open. In the clip I’m reading one of my newer poems, “Stella Knows Sin.” This was recently published in Cold Lake Anthology, 2018 Writing from the Burlington Writer’s Workshop.

Scribbling Counts

I worked hard earlier this month on two separate poetry submissions - polishing, questioning, reading aloud, re-writing, re-titling some pieces, and finally sending them off to meet deadlines.  Whether or not I'm accepted, the process of submitting helps hone my craft. Since then, I've taken a trip to Knoxville TN to visit one of my sisters, celebrated the birth of a new grand-nephew, cared for our lovable chocolate lab grand-dog while our daughter was away, celebrated my birthday and the arrival of the Spring Issue of Rattle in my mailbox. I haven't done much writing.

It's easy to panic in times like this, when poems hide from me or don't flow easily. But today I looked through my notebook, and it's full of scribbling. Snippets of conversations overheard in the American Airlines terminal, ekphrastic impressions of a major piece of glasswork by Richard Jolley at the Knoxville Museum of Art, playful outdoor sculpture at the nearby Botanical Gardens. Spiral-bound phrases popped into my head at random moments. Here's a little sampler: "the Tree of Auspicious Fruit" "Will the trout get his fill at mealtime before the soaring eagle drops its talons?" "Where is the poem in foster care?" "Noise canceling headphones - 4th and 5th chakras exposed to the sun."  For me, scribbling is part of my writing process -- a trail of visual and verbal bread crumbs to follow (or not) when I'm searching for new material. So don't be surprised if you see some of these phrases in a future poem of mine. My creative process doesn't travel in straight lines or adhere to a strict schedule. And that's fine with me.

On Robert Rothman's "Blackberries" poem

“Shadow Blue Square” by James W Johnson, acrylic/ink on panel, 20×20, 2014

“Shadow Blue Square” by James W Johnson, acrylic/ink on panel, 20×20, 2014

Robert Rothman is a California poet featured in the February 2018 Issue #36 of this literary journal, where I serve as Poetry Co-Editor. His poems positively drip with images and sensory details. Plus James Johnson's accompanying artwork selected by our Art Editor, Mark Benton, amplifies the poems so perfectly. It's no surprise I was especially drawn to his poem "Blackberries." Our family of four operated a small market garden in the late 90's, Blackberry Hill Gardens. The property came with a massive patch of cultivated blackberries. For several weeks every midsummer, we bled and swore and wore long sleeves and swatted mosquitoes while we tried to keep up with the harvest. We called it the "Mother Lode," and those berries fetched top dollar, nestled in half pints at the Burlington (VT) Farmers Market. We used our market earnings to take some memorable family vacations. Click here to read Robert's poems.