Taking a brief poetry intermission to let you know that I'm over at Carly Gelsinger's place talking about the intersection of parenting and doubt, a topic very near and dear to my heart.
The summer my husband and I decided we were ready to become parents, only one thing scared me, and it wasn’t the usual things. It wasn’t infertility or birth or loss of sleep. It was, and continues to be, the question of how I will speak to my children of God.
By that summer, I had already spent over three years trying to fix the problem of my dwindling faith, which seemed to seep out of me slowly like a tire leak. No matter how much I patched and pumped, the tire always wound up flat. Eventually, I threw my hands in the air, got out of the car, and started walking.
long for holiness as if we are not born into it. We use
pencils to sketch concentric circles labelled consecrated,
if the Spirit could be so easily contained. As if She were
purple paint seeping through the page, as if
were not the raging sea crashing through
breakwater. We picture heaven as above
hell as below, as far apart as east and west,
if I am not grasping both with my fingertips.
name the flickering flame of a candle on the altar, holy,
not the forest fire raging across California,
the dreams refined with fire, not the ash at our feet,
the soot in our lungs. Mother moon is named
Yet in her fullness is blamed for our
The silent night is the one we deem divine,
what of the chaotic cacophony of humanity
crowds the daylight and spills into dusk?
call the kiss at the end of the aisle sacred, the
babe blessed, but not the unzipping
the skirt, not the sweaty palms clasped together,
of noses and hips.
is the knitting together, the creation. But tell me your tale
destruction, give me the sweet smell of decay.
there no glory in the coming undone? Show me the unravelling,
mud on your boots, the blood on your face.
me the broken lock, the door kicked in.
me the sorrow you have swallowed, the joy
clenched in your fists. Show me the unfastening
expectation, the ecstasy of release,
wild rushing wind and tongues set ablaze.
I will show you the face of God —
Leigha is a
recovering Sunday school scholar who is learning to embrace questions
without answers. Her bravest and most honest questions usually come
in the form of poetry. An MSW candidate and lover of words, she
believes in the power of narratives, both the personal and the
collective. Born in Eastern Canada, Leigha calls the island of
Newfoundland home, although these days you can find her writing and
living in Dominican Republic. You can find more of her writing at
leighacann.com and connect with
her on twitter @leighacann
I am so excited to have the brilliant and beautiful Heather A. Mattern here today to celebrate National Poetry Month with me. Heather is a blogger, author, speaker, mother, AND poet. Her collection of poems, The Grey Muse, releases April 19 and, in addition to sharing her writing wisdom here, she is also giving away one advanced copy of her work! Read through the post to find out how to enter. And to check out the rest of the posts in the Women on Writing series, click here.
When did you know you wanted to create a collection of poems? What was your inspiration for The Grey Muse?
Mmm! I've wanted to put together a poetry collection ever since I fell in love with those gorgeous messy lines as a middle schooler. It just wasn't in the cards. Each time I would try, something stopped me. I now feel as though The Grey Muse was always supposed to be my beginning.
The idea for this particular book of poems came last year as I was sitting with a group of women listening to Kate Inglis share about writing. She gave us a list of prompts to choose from, the one I picked was, "Oh darling, such a puzzle I know but let me tell you a secret" and as I let my intuition guide the words, I couldn't stop crying. We each read our writing aloud and once again I wept. And not the pretty tears -- the sobbing, barely catching my breath kind of crying. I knew then, that this was what I was supposed to be doing. Scribbling love notes from me to me, from my old woman to who I am in this moment.
How did the process of writing these poems, as love notes from your old woman, change the way you see yourself, both present and future?
Writing these poems healed me. In so many ways. In the beginning, as I was fleshing out the first draft, I attempted to write daily. I am NOT a morning person. I would sit on the couch wishing I could just go back to bed and thinking of all the things I needed to get done, I'd grab my pen and let her, the grey muse, whisper to me in my morning pages. She wasn't worried about the laundry or the errands, she was focused more on hugging the kids because they aren't kids for very long. She helped me learn what being present meant. And those whispers later became these poems. Many mornings as I sat scribbling down rough drafts of her love notes, my frustration and exhaustion turned into joy and smiles.
There were other things that started happening too. I began thinking of her. Dreaming of her. I could picture what she looked like and this helped me discover more about myself. The style of clothing I love. My old woman wasn't wearing the hippie layers that I'd tried so hard to fit myself into, because they are freaking adorable! No. She was wearing cow girl boots, long skirts and blue jeans. For the first time in a very long time, I started stepping into a style all my own that finally felt right.
What would be your ideal writing environment? How do you make space and time in your life for the practice of writing?
Oh boy, an ideal writing environment would be at my house with a glass of wine and kids sleeping. I love coffee shops but I tend to people watch and get distracted, which is why home is favored. I also prefer writing at night, theres just something about it. I like to think it's the moon. She's got magical powers and inspires me.
Writing and having three kids home at all times (we homeschool) is difficult. For a long time, there was guilt surrounding this dream of mine. I've discovered I'm not happy unless I make space for the words. I get up with my husband in the mornings and have a ritual, what Julia Cameron calls morning pages. It's a practice of rambling on about nothing in particular for three pages. For me, this wakes up my mind and soul.
I've learned to steal moments. When the kids are outside playing or when the hubby is out at night with friends, instead of watching television I write. How does your poetry writing practice differ, if at all, from that for your prose? Do you notice any difference in rituals, environment, or mindset with each?
Writing poetry definitely feels more raw than when I'm writing fiction. I feel my heart is exposed. I feel naked. Poetry is also scary for me because though I write prose on a blog, there seems to be more "fill in the spaces" things whereas poetry gets right to the point. I don't talk too much about my marriage struggles, depression, or anxiety in my prose but when the grey muse spoke to me, she spoke into these dark places, which although healing, is scary to release into the world.
Oh and for me, poetry is much more fun to edit than prose. :)
What authors or works most inspire your writing?
Hafiz keeps me coming back to poetry. Even the style of The Grey Muse was inspired by him.
For a while, I was too scared and thought I'd just stick with fictional stories but Hafiz's poetry kept bringing me back, almost as if saying, "I'm not going to let you forget what you are really supposed to be doing."
If you could give one piece of advice to budding writers, what would it be?
Write! If you have a dream, don't push it aside -- fill in the empty spaces with writing. Whether that be when the baby naps or when the kids are watching Frozen for the umpteenth time :)
If you really really want it -- you WILL do what it takes to make it happen. XO
Heather A. Mattern is a writer, speaker, blogger, and poet from North Carolina. Her writing has been featured in Natural Life magazine and The Garner-Cleveland Record. Her words reflect the raw naked bits of her chaotic yet beautiful life as she juggles homeschooling three children, a writing career, and a romance with her high school sweetheart.
*** For the chance to win a copy of The Grey Muse, leave a comment sharing a dream that won't let you go, then register below (open to US residents only). We'll announce a winner on Friday! *Giveaway now closed. Congratulations to Hannah!*
pressed his palm against mine, nervous
retreating with me in desperation
to rescue our battered love.
We were in ruins- beautiful
ruins with fountains playing
like children, rushing and giggling,
one statue in the center looking like
Venus de Milo.
The fragments lay in circular patterns,
spirals ascending mountainside,
rolling lawn of dark green hues
the dusty white debris of shattered
I wanted to reach the summit, no matter
I sensed what lay atop even as I
I saw the unseen with its message for
It was not “come up”
beside the tall man in a cowboy hat,
shading his eyes and squinting at the
A gentle understanding between myself
She knew my desires and my
meeting me through vision
when my heart could not manage the
a climb that ceased to matter
for all I knew
was my lover’s hand in mine.
Jamie Wright Bagley lives in Willowbrook, IL with her husband and 3 children. She spends her days homeschooling and caring for her free-spirited offspring. She prioritizes family and simple living. She will never ever turn down a good cuppa tea. In stolen time she writes poetry, fiction, and music. She blogs at http://avanomaly.blogspot.com/ and Tweets@BagsEnd04.
I keep waiting for the face of a thousand angels congregated in one smile to chance in my direction For a song as intricate as the vibrations of your throat to the hand of one who's never known sound I keep waiting for the dropped sentence on the marble counter to not cut quite as deep another spreading break For a sword to be pulled from pierced ribs third intercostal space the exhale to release me from my cage I keep waiting as a moth to the flame shivering in the moonglow ever chasing the surety of death For a key turned from it's dissonance harmony jingling with each flutter of wing a hazy echo held in the thinning sky
These days, I feel as if I am living within the eye of a storm. Life swirls around me as usual, in all its brilliant beauty, but I am perfectly still within. I wonder whether it is I who has slowed down or life that has sped up. It is probably a little bit of both. I am the freeze frame at the center of the fast forward.
I have been taking this exquisite, excruciating, extraordinary online course, called Into the Dark Night. I was lucky enough to win a spot in the class and I am taking the gift for all it is worth, getting up early to devote several minutes to the material each morning, while also participating in 40-day art journaling workshop through my writing community. The act of fully devoting myself to both endeavors has required nearly all of my emotional and creative energy over the past two weeks, and will continue to for the next month.
I feel a little bit as if I am living in an alternate universe, escaping off to my sacred space as often as I can, pouring my thoughts and dreams and declarations into my art journal in the form of colors and images and fragmented words. Life itself feels a little fragmented theses day. There is that one piece, what used to be the whole piece, where I play with my son and make dinner and have conversations. Then there is the other piece, the inward piece, where I am falling down the rabbit hole and finally facing all the demons and angels that lurk in my wonderland. Meanwhile, my dreams, always vivid, are becoming increasingly clear and meaningful. Somedays I am not sure which is more real, the dreaming or the waking.
And then, there is this space. And what could I possibly have to say here? In the midst of all this unspeakable magic, how could words suffice? The only language I know that can even begin to translate the soul's mysteries is poetry. So this whole month, which just so happens to be National Poetry Month, I am succumbing to my loss for words and letting poetry do the talking, when I talk at all. Nothing but poetry or poetry-related posts for all of April. I've got an amazing poetic interview and giveaway coming up in this month for the Women on Writing series, and would love to host some of your poetry here if you'd like a place to share it. Just email me at alissambc at gmail dot com. I'll be sharing some of my own poetry, too. I can't promise it will be especially good, but it will be True, which is the next best thing.
On that note, I'll leave you with a link to one of my very favorite poems, which is both good and true: Amy Lowell's Decade.