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Poetics. When I began to study poetics, I did not fully appreciate what contemporary poetics examines. It’s not simply the “form” of poems. It’s critical theory.

Cruel optimism. When I read Sappho’s poetry in Early Modern Poets class last fall, I encountered the idea of “cruel optimism” in the Sapphic principles of the unattained attachment and the significance—or imperative of the absent “object of desire,” even before reading Lauren Berlant’s Cruel Optimism (Duke University Press, 2011). In her tenacious dissection of her term, “cruel optimism,” which she defines and illustrates by way of several expressions, for example, an attachment to a “cluster of promises” for an “impossible” identity, outcome, potentiality, ‘sheer fantasy,’ or ‘toxic’ situation, (Berlant, 2011) and examples as shown with poetry, e.g. John Ashbery’s poem, “Ignorance of the Law is No Excuse,” (“We were warned about spiders, and the / occasional famine.” […] “He came up to me.”) in which the poetics of attachment play out before and after the critical action in the line, “He came up to me.” (For the full poem by John Ashbery, visit the Language Hat blog post here.)

Anyone hooked on the twenty-first century trend of “mindfulness” and “living in the moment” must read Berlant’s work on “cruel optimism,” as Berlant interrogates the notions of the “present” as found in lyric poetry; when we study lyric poetry, we take for granted that the present holds weight and meaning. Berlant challenges the present as it operates on other levels in the poetics of attachment: 1) She writes, “one must embark on an analysis of rhetorical indirection as a way of thinking about the strange temporalities of projection into an enabling object that is also disabling.” (Berlant, 2011) To this, I reflect on early modern poets including Queen Elizabeth I herself, and Sir Philip Sidney, whose lyric poems projected happiness onto the object of their desire whether it was a physical person, such as “Stella” in “Astrophil & Stella” or the queen’s youth in her sonnet, “When I was fair and young.”

Studying Sir Philip Sidney’s epic lyric poem, Astrophil and Stella, and envisioning them in my art journal

Secondly, Berlant asserts 2) that the poetics of attachment by way of “cruel optimism” create “a fake present moment of intersubjectivity” (Berlant, 2011) in which the object of desire, such as an ex-lover, a lost cause, a ghost—is absolutely absent. Thus, the “cruel optimism” is of a “potential occupation of the same psychic space” to allow an imaginary scenario to exist for the poet/writer. (Berlant, 2011) Thirdly, this functions as a projection onto 3) an “impossible identity,” open-ended meanings, “boundary-dissolving,” (Berlant, 2011) a myriad of poetic osmosis happening between the speaker and the addressee, whose identity may even be imaginary and unrecognizable to the real person or muse who inspired the poem.

  Holding the magnifying lens to Berlant’s work, we find an inverted focus on the “other” as this imaginary, affected attachment, nearly artifice. And we find the speaker, the “I” and the “self.” In Judith Butler’s work, “Giving an Account of Oneself,” (2001) the poetic accountability of these two bookend identities, or interpersonal perspectives, come into focus. The “self” and “the other” are constructions of the poem; these could be anything (as in Margaret Cavendish’s 17th century dialogue poems, in which she imagines a conversation between a man and a tree, for instance, or her own “self” interrogating her “barren” fertility problems and casting these as the “other”), not necessarily two individual human beings as subjects. Recognizing the ‘other’ is “subjected to that norm and agency of its use,” as Butler explains. (Butler, 2001) She writes, “I am compelled and comported outside myself,” and “the subject of recognition is one for whom a vacilliation between loss and ecstasy,” as it is the “possibility of the ‘I’ and the knowing of the ‘I.’” (Butler, 2001.)

In my work with the Gothic (or the EcoGothic, and Romantic-Gothic) women writers of the 1790s and early 19th century, such as Mary Wollstonecraft, Ann Radcliffe, and Mary Shelley, I search for this very phenomenon: where does the writer recognize her own “I” and situate herself apart from the “other” or conversely, portray herself as the other? This is, as I understand Butler’s work, a kind of poetic accountability (or accountability of poetics). The functionality of the “I” (for example, the female Gothic “I” or the lyrical “I” in contemporary poetry, or in Millay’s sonnets, her “I”) transgresses the boundaries of the “I” and confronts the liminal space around the “other.” At times, when we are hunting for the “other,” we find a convergence of the “I” with the “other” in this liminal space, a dissolving of boundaries, much the way Lauren Berlant talks of attachment poetics. When the poet or speaker, (or poetics scholar) is held accountable, these confrontations and central questions around self and otherness act as a frame of reference to position the other in relation to the self (or vice versa).

Exploring the “female Gothic ‘I'” from Romantic-Gothic literature
(my “Bride of Frankenstein’s Monster, on the Eve of her Wedding”) LCS Mixed Media watercolor in my art journal

Interiority, or interior subjects, then become dependent on this relationship, and in some cases, the self (as “I”) is relying on the conventional norms of the other (as “you”) so that the poem has some basis in a hypothetical singularity. “The notion of singularity is often bound up in existential romanticism and a claim of authenticity.” (Butler, 2001) What strikes me about Butler’s work is a call to authenticate the “self,” in relation to other living beings (mostly human), in a way that seems reminiscent of the writings of Mary Wollstonecraft and other Romantics, especially women writers in Romanticism (and even dark Romanticism, e.g. Ann Radcliffe, Mary Shelley). I find myself making connections between the 18th century philosophical writings of literary critics and writers, such as Mary Wollstonecraft and J.J. Rousseau, and the literary critics and sociologists like Berlant and Butler—specifically on the subject of the “self” and the “other,” and the problem of attachment, a favorite subject of both J.J. Rousseau and M. Wollstonecraft! So, it would seem we are still troubled by attachment poetics, and still perplexed by the recognition of the “self” and the “other” two hundred years later.

            In short, as a poet, I am guilty of crafting poems on the fragile, filamented, fragmented scaffolding of “cruel optimism.” (See my poem, “Capes and Daggers,” Fish Anthology 2019) In fact, I confess it’s a favorite tactic. Berlant’s interrogation of “cruel optimism” further disrobes the idea of the “affective attachment,” and positions the poet (or speaker) as the ‘wearer’ of the thing, effectively “wearing of the subject” and being “worn.” I love this idea of wearing the attachment like a garment but also wearing it down, the way a spirit must wait until the affected speaker is weary, vulnerable, and ready to be possessed—by desire, by this cruel optimism to a “proximate location” to, as Berlant alludes, the “good life.” (Berlant, 2011) Possession, both as a state of being, and as affective attachment, and possessiveness, as a trait, or quality, seem like a fitting mode that suspend “the cruelty of the now,” (Berlant, 2011) by building a fantasy scaffolding on the promise of an imminent happiness (reconciliation, reunion, resolution, miracles, once was lost but now found, etc.) I would love the opportunity to examine specific poems and apply Berlant’s model of “cruel optimism” to analyze how poems given an imaginary voice to the voiceless (ie. an absent actor). What about Edna St. Vincent Millay’s sonnets (those she’s written as a widow grieving her husband’s death)? Or, as a parallel example, it would be useful to create case-studies on several poets from different periods.

Cruel optimism seems to champion a kind of identity theft and reclamation at the same time. Poetics of attachment don’t work to retain or retrieve that identity all at once, but incrementally, in fragments, almost like a reversed Petrarchan blazoning. The speaker, by analogy, throws pieces of that impossible identity at a moving target, like a blindfolded knife-thrower releases daggers at a costumed assistant, spinning around on the wheel of death/transformation. No one ever really knows much about the knife-thrower’s assistant; in Berlant’s work, this is the “faceless universal subject of self-referentiality” (Berlant, 2011) as the action of the poem is not necessarily real; it may be illusion, the illusion of attachment, ultimately, an illusion of the ‘American dream.’  

This coming Sunday, February 21st, the Farnsworth Museum in Maine is hosting a special event to honor Edna St. Vincent Millay. It’s free and open to the public.

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I am “Lady of the Lake”

One of the few helpful aspects of social distancing and self-isolation during this horrible time of the COVID-19 has been taking the time, in solitude, to read, write, organize, create, sketch, and to revisit old favorite hobbies, and passions, like art. Back in March, when my university transitioned to online courses, and my state governor issued a Stay-at-Home order, I felt reasonably “ok” with that, since I felt it was a good time to focus on my graduate study, which requires a lot of reading and writing. Last fall, two of my faculty advisors asked me a difficult philosophical question about why researching the topics I’d proposed was important to me–personally--and my answers then seemed flaky, e.g. “I am Lady of the Lake!” So, I have been thinking about how to answer those questions. It seems like I should be prepared to answer thoughtfully.

In May, I received Honorable Mention for my poem, “My Glacial Erratic,” in the 2020 Fish Poetry Prize, judged and selected by former US Poet Laureate Billy Collins. My poem will appear in the 2020 Fish Anthology, coming out later this summer. (That’s with Fish Publishing, which holds a number of writing contests each year, based in Ireland.) Since then, I’ve written new poetry, and started drawing images that go with my poetry, and some of it is inspired by recent coursework. Selkies, mermaids, the Irish merrow, bog-women, the Lady of the Lake, and other supernatural female figures in literature (Romanticism as well as other periods, particularly Gothic literature and Arthurian lit) have captured my imagination.

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“Irish Merrow” – one of my watercolors

Enter art journaling. To work through some of my ideas, I’ve started art journaling. It’s now summer, and I’m still self-isolating, and spending a great deal of time at home, on my own, creating. I’ve started working in a blank canvas art journal (Jane Davenport’s supplies).

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Painting on my deck. This piece is one of my mermaid characters from my “Blue Dog and the Sea Fan” series.

It never occurred to me to use my art (and poetry) to think critically about my proposed research, or to answer philosophical questions about my interdisciplinary research. I’d been approaching it methodically, seriously–with critical annotations, a working bibliography, term papers as building blocks, outlines. Now I’m approaching it differently, and I’ve got images of mermaids, selkies, bog-women, and memories of Ireland in my head.

Painting in my art journal– a scene from my trip to Co. Cork, Ireland in 2019

Part of that’s influenced by the research I did on Traditional Ecological Knowledge of seaweed harvesting in Ireland for a term paper. Part of it’s inspired by a Celtic Studies class I’m taking led by Dr. Sharon Blackie. I read her book, Foxfire, Wolfskin, and Other Stories of Shapeshifting Women (September Publishing, 2019) which I loved.

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I loved this book by Sharon Blackie!

There’s something very liberating about making art. And it’s a good exercise to pick up a different tool–any tool–whether it’s a paint brush or fountain pen–but a physical tool, one that can be held in the hand to transmit ideas from the mind to the page. I love color. I’ve always responded emotionally to color. As a kid, the gift of a set of colored pens delighted me more than dolls or toys. I still love art supplies and colored pens. Recently, I’ve become quite smitten with art supplies by Jane Davenport, an Australian artist and designer, known as an “Artomologist,” a play on her nature photography, and particularly her love for ladybugs, and other insects. I’ve also really enjoyed her books, such as Marvelous Mermaids. Jane Davenport has a series of art tutorials on Youtube, and I’ve really enjoyed rediscovering my love for making art, partly inspired by her wonderful books, tutorials, and using some of her supplies. The “Mermaid Markers” are some of my favorite supplies, a water-reactive brush pen, like a watercolor alternative, that’s been fun to use. But my absolute favorite thing of hers is the fountain pen, an INKredible pen.

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Inkredible ink fountain pen by Jane Davenport and one of my journals

Twenty years ago, I took a watercolor painting class at College of the Atlantic. Prior to that, I was a writing-art double major (or English major, art minor) at St. Lawrence University. For at least ten years, from high school through college, at four different schools, I loved making art. I incorporated art visuals into my poetry projects and liked making books. Then, in 2004, while in grad school at COA, I was living in a small cottage with a 15-year-old water heater, which leaked badly, flooding my little home, and saturating all of my possessions. My draft master’s thesis, which I’d meticulously organized into piles and chapters, along with my notes and data on my living room floor, floated in ankle-deep water on a soggy shag carpet. Even my old Dell laptop was submerged. One of the fatal losses that really crushed me at the time, three full art portfolios containing all of my art from more than four years in studio art classes–drawings, paintings, photography, self-portraits, watercolors, some of which I’d planned to frame someday (when not working on my master’s thesis). All of my art disintegrated. It was so shocking and sad, I focused on other things, like completing my master’s degree, and moved forward with other projects, and left my ruined art and love for making art, in the past.

In recent years, I’ve rediscovered my love for Kettle Cove State Park (southern Maine), and I have been lucky enough to swim in that small cove over an eelgrass meadow, where I swam and toddled around as a baby more than thirty-five years ago.  Recently, I swam at high tide, in the wake of the New Moon Solar Eclipse in Cancer this June.

Kettle Cove State Park, Cape Elizabeth, Maine. Stetson photo

Every time I swim there, I am flooded with sensations, poems, ideas, and epiphanies. I’m rediscovering myself. I’m reinventing myself. Below is a weird “inner self-” portrait I painted, using watercolors and real Maine eelgrass, which coiled and wrapped around my neck and arms as I swam at Kettle Cove in June.

I collected a few blades of eelgrass, which was floating in the water, and coiled around my wrists as I swam to shore. It also washes ashore along with rockweed, so it’s easy to find there. I incorporated the eelgrass into my art journal.

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“Inner self-” portrait,  multimedia,  “Lass in the Eelgrass” LCS  June 2020

Now, twenty years after my watercolor class in spring 2000 at COA, I’ve picked up my paint brushes again. I’ve started making art again, almost on a daily basis, for the past month. At some point, during the process of social distancing, self-isolating at my home in the Lakes Region of Maine, I felt inspired to start sketching some drawings of symbols and seaweed as part of projects, like the one I did for Folklore and Environmental Policy class. Then, I started sketching ideas for other aspects (inspired by literary works by Romanticism-era writers like Ann Radcliffe and Mary Wollstonecraft) while I organized a strategy for doing my graduate research. That led to the idea of starting an art journal that’s connected to the research I’ve been doing as a student in the Interdisciplinary PhD program. I’m a poet and “ecoheroine,” researching the Eco-Gothic and Arthurian lit in a tenacious pursuit of deep Romantic ecology of wetlands.

All of these images and photos are mine. Please don’t share my images. My art is work-in-progress. Thank you!

Romantic Women Class PostUpdate: Due to the pandemic and school closings and schools’ switch to online learning, this workshop was postponed. Hopefully I may be able to teach this in the fall of 2020, but it’s not definite yet.

I’m hoping to offer this in fall of 2020:  I have been asked to lead a workshop series for Westbrook Adult Education (Westbrook, ME) with the theme of women writers of the Romanticism period, including Mary Wollstonecraft, Ann Radcliffe and Mary Shelley.

Travel back in time 200 years to the Romanticism period (1780s-1820s) and explore the lives and literary works of at least three Romantic women writers, such as Mary Wollstonecraft, Ann Radcliffe and Mary Shelley. Pioneers of early feminism, Gothic literature, and the inventor of the famous “Frankenstein’s Monster,” these women writers influenced the work of other writers of their time, and for two centuries—as we still have books today on the New York Times Bestseller list that are contemporary retellings of Frankenstein, or that invoke the spirit of the Gothic, or 1790s botany with storytelling.  “Life writing,” known today as creative nonfiction, grew in popularity among women of the Romantic period. We will read from a selection of their works, discuss aspects of their “life writing,” and ask why it was important for women to tell their stories.

In this class, students will have an opportunity to write short memoir pieces in the form of short ‘experiments’ in life writing. There will be at least one in-class writing activity, and several take-home writing prompts. Genres may range from first-person narrative creative nonfiction, travel narrative, or short fiction. We will experiment with hybrid genres, such as short-form nonfiction, otherwise known as “flash nonfiction.”

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The short-form nonfiction essay form has been around for two centuries but became more popular in the mid-19th century.  We will look at examples of short-form nonfiction essays that offer a new approach to memoir writing from contemporary sources. We will also look at some of Mary Wollstonecraft’s and Mary Shelley’s travel writing, which contained personal life history (memoir). I’ve developed a unique writing exercise that’s inspired by Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein–but we will also experiment with other in-class writing prompts on occasion (probably only once per class session), or there will be a take-home writing prompt as an optional experiment. For our last class in May, we will choose a nice place to sit and share our writing pieces, once everyone has had a chance to write a piece they feel comfortable sharing with the group. We may hold our last session at Walker Memorial Library in Westbrook, Maine. Times and dates TBD, but it will most likely be in fall 2020. Possibly online options.

Historically, classes focused on William Wordsworth and Percy B. Shelley, and this workshop won’t ignore the male Romantics; but we will focus our attention on the works by Romantic women writers from the late 18th and early 19th centuries. We will read excerpts from Maine/New England women writers from the period, too, to notice how the works of the British writers influenced those living and writing here in the northeast.

This class is open to anyone who likes to read and is curious about these Romantic women writers; all genders and perspectives are welcome! This is ideal for those who have an interest in writing short creative nonfiction and/or short fiction in the theme of “life writing.” It is highly recommended that each participant bring a notebook, writing utensil(s), and if possible, a laptop. Participants, ideally, will have access to a computer to write and to read online materials, or to view the occasional short video. Dates: Thursdays, 6-745pm starting March 19th running through May 14th      

For more information and/or to register, please click here. Seating is limited to 8 participants. Please call to register, or register online.

 

0This past summer, July 2019, I had the honor of receiving “Honorable Mention” in the annual Fish Publishing prize for poetry; one of my poems, “Capes and Daggers,” was published in the Fish Anthology 2019. Poet Billy Collins judged the poetry contest in 2019; Collins will also judge the 2020 poetry contest. This is a huge honor and I was very grateful to be included.

To learn more about Fish Publishing’s future / upcoming poetry and short story and memoir contests, visit Fish Publishing’s website. They are based in Southwest Ireland in Co. Cork.  The book is also available on Amazon as a Kindle version.

A few years ago, I wrote a short story, which was an attempt at sci-fi fantasy. It failed miserably. But I loved the world I created in the story of Asrai, a mermaid, and Blue Dog, a shape-shifting surfer (who transformed into a mackerel shark at will). I’ve played with the themes in the story and some of them roll into my poems now and then. I started a “Sea Fan Girl” series with three poems, and these are a continuation of those poems, that I’ve just written this week. These might be failed experiments, too, but a failed experiment is sometimes necessary to get to the real work. Meanwhile I’m having some formatting problems with WordPress. Blame it on the rain.  -Leah

Asrai. IV

Some nights she didn’t swim but instead just stood on Scarborough Beach
In the full moon’s glow. She’d spread out a tattered cape on the cold sand,
Nibble urchin eggs and crab legs. Dragontails of sea kelp let her arms reach
Into upper inlets of a brook, where she’d left her purse, and came to understand
That the shark she’d been watching, the mackerel shark, was him, Blue Dog,
The same surfer who stared at her red spiraling hair underwater in the waves.
She studied the tidal pools through a lens of moonbeams like a lit scope or fog
Illuminating crevices full of colorful creatures—a sea anemone, a purple urchin
Its living needles supple & working as instruments to gather food; a hermit crab
Crawled along the bottom with its house on its back. She plucked a needle from
A dead urchin and began to repair her swimsuit, which was coming undone.
It was a drab-green kelp two-piece and a very last-minute choice.

Asrai V

Her mother hunted for treasure, before her, and took Asrai on great adventures
As a mermaele, when Sedna cared for her young. That was before her mother
Joined the band of the Lock-Breakers, who mapped man-made enclosures,
Sought to break the locks, the gates and tear apart fishing nets, alluring gear.
Asrai never met her father, although she often wondered if he was a kelpie.
Something in her blood longed for wide expanses of undersea meadows
And sand bars, where she could gallop and play. Sable Island had been
A favorite vacation spot and she enjoyed watching the horses canter
Along the strange ten mile sand dune in the North Atlantic.
It was said that the Arabian horses brought to Sable Island were,
In fact, kelpies that had lost their ability to swim into the sea.
She often wondered if one of them knew her father but never asked.
If a kelpie was startled, the endangered sea horse
Might drag a mermaid to death. So, she invented stories
An imagined history of her father, the “knight,” or “victor.”
Trouble was, there wasn’t any royalty in her bloodline,
Only conspiracy-theorists.

Asrai VI

Reproductively speaking, it didn’t make sense for a mermaid to put
All her eggs in one basket. The Sea Fan King encouraged diversity
And opposed fears of intermingling between species. You could not
Discriminate in the ocean. This was deep law. Or, a deep ecology.
Over the decades, she had fallen into the bad habit of fostering certain
Stereotypes about species—including her own. Despite the deep laws,
Asrai believed that most, if not all, dolphins were date-rapists; manatees—
Too needy; sharks liked to tag-team, and seals had bad breath. Walruses
Had a reputation no mermaid wanted them to prove. Her private fantasies
Revolved around the secretive, tragic narwhals, and one who was lost.

Asrai VII

This was all funny to her until she swam past a school of hourglass dolphins,
An omen of time. Her mother had shown her how to split her tail for make-shift
“Legs,” so she could scramble onto dry land in strategic treasure hunt missions.
Islands, sand bars and coastal inlets were the best places to lift rocks and sift
Through shell middens and find buried artifacts. More recently she sought
Sunken treasures of Marie Antoinette, whose ships were sent to Maine
In preparation for her escape from France. When the queen never arrived
In Wiscasset, Maine, her ships were looted; bejeweled things and mahogany
Went overboard in scuffles. Asrai was drawn to the mystery and felt alive,
Uncovering gems in the mudflats of the Sheepscot. When she didn’t find any,
She liked to slink ashore a tiny island and collect sea glass to tide her over.
Sucking on saltgrass, she breathed in the sea wind, however uncanny,
And strummed the byssal strings of her driftwood lute, inlaid with paua
Shell, her favorite violets and teals decorated the neck, a natural beauty.

LCS

As kids, we skated across
Iridescent, frozen ponds
And pretty Sherman Lake,
All 200 acres, two miles long.
We’d pack a canvas tote bag,
Bring hot thermoses of cocoa,
Join other families, play tag,
Crack-the-whip, or skate solo.

My dad pulled my little brother, Tad,
In a sled, while I attempted figure eights,
Even though I was only seven, I felt agile
And athletic in my ice skates. I’d graduate
To wearing Velcro pond-skates by thirteen.
One year an older boy fell through the ice
(It wasn’t deep) After his family saved him,
Everyone else kept skating, just avoid the hole
And warnings of thin ice near the dam.

I glided over deep, vertical cracks;
Didn’t linger long to peer down and react,
But dared myself to push into the unknown,
My cheeks flamed magenta from frostbite.
I’d picture the Olympic figure skaters glittery gowns
When they jumped into a spin and danced around,
As I made “Ls” to pivot and propel my purple parka
Into loose, wobbly turns, tilting my curly head back
To see the cold, boundless winter sky, ‘til I got dizzy,
Dug my toe-pick in a nick to regain my balance,
But tripped anyway, then got back up again,
Mitten-to-elbow-to-knee, bruised but not broken.

Twenty years later, a rogue tidal surge
Took the dam out by force; then a team
Of civil engineers, and road crews, merged
The river with the marsh, so the lake emptied
Into the ocean for the first time in 71 years.
The sudden shift in the landscape ricocheted,
Shocking locals, whose lake they knew,
Where they’d put in canoes, and fished—
For decades, had been restored
To a saltmarsh, naturally; it just
Reverted to that system eventually.

If you’d been a fly on the wall,
Heard the talk at the town hall,
You’d have believed it was a disaster.
But it’s the destiny of waters to change,
To transform over time from one
Body to the next, from wetland to pond
To lake, then to marsh again,
Shape the wet soils,
Crackle the saltgrass
Along shallow creeks,
Flow through channels
Fifteen feet deep,
Smallmouth bass, splake
And minnow
Play hide and seek, flash
Rays of sunlight
Calling the eagles
Back to the pines
To build their nest
And raise their chicks.

LCS

My collage for the month of February, 2015

One of my guilty pleasures is making collages for a calendar at home that I put together for each month. I was low on blank calendar pages and so Matt went to Kinkos and made copies of my blanks (the ones with a calendar grid that I can number and decorate) and so now I’m set for the coming year. Another thing I like to do is to write collage poetry. I find words and hyphenated phrases at random in magazines or old newspapers, the kinds I have stashed by the woodstove, and make a list on graph paper. Then I write a poem, often without knowing the subject of my poem when I start. Some of them end up becoming collage love poems. With Valentine’s Day fast approaching, I thought I’d post a few of my collage love poems, which I typically keep to myself. Happy Valentine’s Day!

My Sweet Rackety Trapeze

The rarefied leader had a crush
Ǎ la Lloyd Dobler, donning a trench,
Truck farmer with deep disciplines
(But wouldn’t cut his hair.)

Voice falls with dreams of a girl
Who shall go nameless—the very brightness
Of her jaw, jutting out, folded and bent,
Shy and wild in her youth on a lush half-acre.

While holding his breath, half-swallowed
Self-flagellation dripped upon the pressures
Of depth, she characterized azaleas,
Succulents and strange sea shapes.

I know the dichotomy: the scorpion and frog
Hypothetically compatible but tenuous;
Peeling the illusion, seduced and salted
And silly me, always in that sequence.

Let’s say that the writer, busy with real work,
Is quick to volunteer without fuss
A series of secluded failings…
My sweet rackety trapeze

Gripping, if unshaped, what seemed truer:
Daddy’s girl swimming in open water
Made a dive into cold and darkness—
My own exile, a smooth curled fortune.

I have a long history like a mermaid’s tale
Too deep to reach the surface
By my generosity, I might otherwise lose
Sometimes forget the career had legs.

Lonely, that’s not me at all, apologetically
Rugged little netted berry, dressed in lingerie,
I stopped fumbling, feisty tiger lily
With a braided crushing puppy-heart line.

I relaxed and roamed with modern twists
To find a language—it’s the only thing
We have—just let it emerge
Unexpected, a sexy, wounded Cusack

Gave me a kiss in the living room
The pillow ticking sounded like instruments
Size of marbles pooled in schools of creatures
That darted into nooks and crannies.

He was getting dreamy, radiant
Freshly hairy palette that would convince me
Not solely to thrive on tea and cat naps
But honor, the deepest dive.

What I wouldn’t give, to relive it
And be catapulted from the sofa
Stumble forward, almost hitting
Hot woodstove, ricochet and splatter
Into the dog’s bed, bar-to-bar I swing.

LCS

Just a little full moon lunar eclipse poetry…

Lunatic

Those devoted to hunting Big Foot
Under the dark New Moon in Aries,
The full-bodied nighttime hunts,
When lunatics lurk and veer
Toward some fallen staccato,
In the black ash jungle
of their father’s youth.

Half-cocked, half-blocked
By an impatience to prove it.
They head for dark. They duck.
They dive. Winds whistle and howl.
Tree branches lumber low
Like large hairy arms.

They set the trap.
They wait.

‘Shall each beast have his mate?’
Pondered Shelley’s tall Monster;
Wolfman couldn’t contemplate
His cursed life without her;
And Lovecraft’s lone Outsider
Didn’t go to the dinner party.
It’s an unusual girl, a fighter,
Firefly-eyed and moonstruck,
Who sends the invitations.

And then she’s late;
Hence the ruckus.

Wearing her strangeness
Like a charm necklace:
Shark teeth, broken
Turquoise rings,
And a paua shell heart.

She waits by the gate,
Inhaling wild grapes,
Plump on tangled vines.

She dodges dragonflies
As they metamorphize
Into fantasies, her prize
Mate of another kind.

LCS

 

Working on a new poem. This is too long and it’s a draft. But in honor of April being National Poetry Month, I’m trying to keep up with Mike Dockins’ plan to write a bunch of poems this month. So, here goes.

                                                  Hiding Juniper

Would it be a nightmare if I dreamt
I climbed upstairs, my grandparents’
Old yellow farmhouse, where I spent
Vacations and holidays in childhood,
Played board games and invented
Some of my own; knew the secret
Hiding places: Nana’s sunny ledge
A pocket amidst the juniper hid us
She pretended to be an owl, eyes
On the birds all around her, and I,
A little fox, bounding and blonde,
Skirting the fields and meadows,
Beyond their borders into moss
Havens, emerald rock shadows.

Nana brought me on the odd errand,
Trips to the “Stump Dump,” or attic,
Crossing a stream, or walking Sally,
Their yellow lab-retriever, whose
Antics included a wide sheepish
Grin, when embarrassed, down
The Woodman Road to Uncle John’s
House. We’d push the drawbridge
Upward, to enter the attic—full of
My mother’s memories, four decades’
Worth: the Nancy Drew collection,
Paper dolls (I added to the designs),
Sewing baskets, the one scary box
With the green rubber spider mask
(The precise location of which,
I was all-too aware), and full jars:
Coveted crashed glass marbles
In a spectrum of colors I liked—
Blues, greens, pinks and purples.

Would it be a nightmare, if instead,
I mounted the stairs and found: parked
At the top, your grey Toyota 4Runner,
Its front end blocking the attic door,
My escape hatch in any dreamscape,
No matter the origin, or fear, I fled
From monsters or unknown enemies,
And found my way to Nana’s secret
Hiding places: the juniper ledge,
Mossy Stump Dump, or the attic—
Especially the attic, where she once
Described a “safe room” that Grampa
Engineered: a sliding wall, or partition,
That offered a place to hide valuables
And their children, if ever necessary.
Contrary to this, my mother told me
That I imagined this, that the hidden
Room did not exist (except in Nana’s
Over-active imagination). She and I,
Both dreamy Pisces, also both had
Mercury in quirky Aquarius, Venus
In feisty Aries and nature-loving
Earth moons. So, I don’t doubt,
Nana and I conjured safety
In the simple architecture
Of our bond, hand-in-hand,
An automatic intimacy,
Hiding in the juniper.

Would it be a nightmare, if I told you,
I was frustrated to see your silver truck
Parked in my path to the attic stair,
Something, or someone, slammed
A door downstairs, in my dream,
Your truck fit in the doorframe
Of my grandparents’ bedroom.
I could not maneuver around it.
Suddenly, I found myself running
Down the hall toward the fire
Escape, only to end up in the garage.

A young man in a plaid shirt and cap
Leaned over sundry yard equipment,
He held a weed whacker in his hands,
Examining the controls. Fearing that
He would cut off my arms with it, and
Seeing nowhere to hide, I searched
For a weapon to defend myself,
As I might in any other nightmare.

I crouched low to the concrete floor,
Studying a chainsaw that resembled
My vacuum cleaner; its cord wrapped
Around an attachment, but I trembled,
Terrified, not knowing how to wield it.
Then, jean-clad shins and hiking boots
Appeared in front of me, knobby hands
Held out at his sides, an offer? A threat?
I picked up the chainsaw and pushed
It hard into his legs out of self-defense
And ran out through the open bay,
Out onto the dirt driveway. I mapped
Diversion tactics to no avail and he
Caught me by the hand, and carried me
To the 4Runner, which was now sitting
Where it belonged, realistically.

He put me in the passenger seat.
My dream self slumped, played dead,
Like one might do with a grizzly bear,
So he’s less inclined to kill (or eat).
The dream guy steered and talked,
His voice muffled (I was dreaming)
And handed me a bag he’d packed:
My odd childish hobbies, favorites,
Heirlooms, romantic novels,
The right cosmetics.

Would it be a nightmare, or
A wonderful dream, if he were real,
If this happened, and the helpful
Man with knobby hands came
For me, and found my hiding spots,
Parked his chariot by the drawbridge,
Took the time to meander awhile
In meadows while I slunk afoot
Lichen-covered granite ledges,
A blonde fox in the juniper.

For G. 

LCS

 

Leah

Poet. Artist. Ecoheroine. Human ecologist. Spiritual mermaid and Mystic. I write about literary ecology, wetlands, water, Romantic ecology, and quirky adventures with my dog.

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