Archive for the ‘grief’ category

The Next Big Thing: interview project

February 20, 2013

The Next Big Thing 

A good friend and fellow writer, Nicholas Alexander Hayes, tagged me in this ongoing chain of self-interviews:

What’s the title of the book? Two books in one interview: heart speech this (2009) and Beautiful Laceration (2012)

Where did the idea come from for the book? heart speech this came from working with reinterpreting/revoicing Greek and Roman mythical heroines through designing formal settings (sonnets, octava rima, Spenserian stanzas) to narrate each woman’s journey through passion, violence, love, and resolution.

Beautiful Laceration came together after new and older poems began to sort themselves into themes of love, family, loss, nature, and healing.  The title refers to the experience of what cannot be healed but can be embraced and accepted, the “proud flesh” of the scar, the wounding necessary for emotional and experiential growth. The title was a serendipitous moment: a surgeon took a look at an accidental wound on my hand and said, “Ah! That’s a beautiful laceration!”

What genre does your book fall under? Poetry (both books)

What actors would you choose to play the parts in a movie rendition? So many good, small parts here that could be rewoven across poems and themes: Juliette Binoche, Willem Dafoe, Carmen Maura, Ken Takakura, Zhang Ziyi, and many more. Zhang Yimou and Alfonso Cuarón should direct.

What is the one sentence synopsis of your book? heart speech this: All women can be goddesses; all goddesses can be women.

Beautiful Laceration: Life, love, and healing are found through compassionate wonder.

How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript? heart speech this took about eight months to write, on the trains, buses, and in the hospital. Beautiful Laceration contains at least one poem I wrote in college (1988) and several I wrote in 2011.

Who or what inspired you to write this book? Most of the core poems in heart speech this were written when my former fiancé was in and recovering from a coma in local hospitals. Beautiful Laceration came from small, medium, and large impulses to write to and from experience, to experiment with form, and to respond to other artists and thinkers who made my blood dance and thoughts sing.

What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest? Both books speak to a number of readers, both those familiar and unfamiliar with the traditions of poetry across several cultures. Anyone who has experienced desire, loss, love, violence, wonder, depression, self-fracturing, healing, joy, loneliness, solitude, and connection will find poems and images that reflect and resonate individual and collective lives.

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency? Both books have been published by Atropos Press and are available on Amazon.com. Daily quotes from the poems appear on my Facebook artist page, Gina Rae Foster, and blogs, readings, and publications can be found there, through my Amazon author’s page, and my WordPress heartspeechthis blog.

Look for upcoming interviews with Lorena Fernandez, Dawn Diez Willis Plechl, Felecia Caton-Garcia, and Jill Leininger!

Ripples in the Stillness: Reading “Refuge”

April 8, 2012

 (“Refuge” can be found on p.  24 of heart speech this, ISBN 0982530943)

Sometimes the simplest, smallest poems have the most impact. “Refuge” is the poem the French poet and filmmaker Pierre Alferi read silently on a balcony in the Swiss Alps, then shook himself slightly, looked up, and said with some astonishment, “That’s good.” Why did this poem catch his attention?

A vase filled with lilies in water: a pretty, somewhat conventional still life for an artist, or a decorative touch adding grace and beauty but not much twisting of the mind or senses when viewed. Why make this the subject of a poem? There’s a good challenge in making experiences blur and yet seem real. The pathetic fallacy (acting as if an inanimate object has human emotions) has a place in poetry and magic realism if the writer can persuade her audience to share the illusion.

“Refuge” is the title of this poem. What seeks or has safety here, and what causes the need for protection? The “ruby-throated lilies” and the “supplication of green” suggest pain in speaking and the surrender of youth and vibrancy. Speech and silence are threaded throughout “Refuge,” and the flowers that cannot speak (think of the mute “tongue” the lily’s anther-laden stamen resembles). The vase, in its “containment” paired with the tranquil “depth of blue” suggest a stillness at odds with the “murmur…wave…spill” and finally “mutter” that crack its “porcelain” surface, which is both steady (“stone”) and fragile (easily broken pottery).

The lilies themselves reflect the image of the vase, rising upward with open mouths, colored differently internally than externally, just as the body is red and moist inside, variously hued by genes and sun on its outer surfaces. Just as the vase and the body contain water to nourish and detoxify their contents, the lilies also hold water within their stems, exchanging fluids for food even when rootless, even when wilting towards death.

Once cut, flowers lose their potency. Bees and hummingbirds will find no fertile pollen to cling to their legs or nectar to drink for its sugar. Yet in the minutes and hours before their stems split and curl and their petals brown and drop, lilies release an intense desire of color, shape, and texture. Vases have a subtler sensuality. Perhaps the refuge lies somewhere between these expressions, one seeking a longer and more protected beauty, the other borrowing the possibility of change and greater allure.

Does the poem suggest all or any of these things on first reading? Perhaps not. There is a sensuality and despair here, a recalling of the lush sorrows of Li Qingzhao (1084-c.1151) waiting for her husband to return, describing her hairpins and cosmetics with the same intensity as her tears. And a modernity in the confusion of intentions and emotions with objects rather than simple description.

For me, this is a poem of permission to feel more than one emotion at a time, to be complicated and yet simple, and to dream of restfulness in the midst of dangers. It allows me to think about the beauty and uncertainty of the small and ordinary and their placement, their movement, in a beautiful, uncertain, and violent world.

Stealing Our Becoming

March 17, 2011

“stolen,” can be read on pp. 108-109 of heart speech this (Atropos Press, 2009, ISBN 9 780982 530948)

Death. Loss. Crying and holding back tears. Finding the world colorless and impossible to move through. Everything heavy, thick, wrong. Hating the parts of ourselves that once knew how to dance, how to love, and feeling our bodies weigh twice what they did before he died or she left or we failed. So impossible to breathe or stand. “stolen” comes from these times, these places in my life.

“stolen” was inspired by a dance choreographed by Joyce S. Lim, one of my favorite choreographers and dancers. Her art lives community, lives the stories of women who work, travel, play, celebrate, mourn, and go slowly or rapidly insane. Lim uses dance as if the stage and its dancers were multiple screens, each with its own story, its own poetry. Lim’s works bring together women whose stories and poems unravel in spaces that occasionally overlap and reshape each other. “stolen” was one of these works.

I wrote ‘”stolen” after seeing Lim’s performance. She brought together her experiences and lessons from a year’s stay in Japan. And in this project, Lim used references to “the floating world” to express the futility and despair of women caught in roles of endless repetition and consumption. It was a raw, wrenching work.

In “stolen,” the poem echoes the movements of separate and overlapping performers. The words bring me back to the woman who is grieving, partly sea in her loss, partly stone. Images from the dance—“a rock mouthed, carried, released/ stacked until fallen, brushed aside,” and “the sorrow of eating oneself/ raw, flecking bone with scale, feeding”—work into the sorrow of the poem, and the poem enacts a transformation from ocean and rock to sun and sky.

The poem begins with “She became the sea.” And I want to ask, isn’t this part of grief, feeling dissolved into something so large and other than human, knocked off our feet and unable to walk, numb and yet compelled to replay tasks that are meaningless or destructive or both?

And yet, for me, “stolen” is a comforting poem to read when so much in the world feels gray and heavy. There is a pregnancy and birth that rises from grief—“She became life, dropping stones into a pool,/ walking as if she had legs, breathing/ as if she had lungs”—and language—“become tongues for speech.” And the poem becomes more transformative, more generative than the dance, because the woman impels herself to move from floating within a shell of who she was. “She became the sun and sky the surface broke” as if she were diving upward rather than down. And I am comforted when I repeat, “She became; she became” because it feels like a promise so much easier than “she became the sea.”

Grief and heaviness can be broken into “shreds” with patience, with time, with trust that something will change if we just stay in ourselves and let what we do teach us when to drop what is too heavy, too meaningless to continue doing. And remembering that loss will circle back like a tide and reclaim us, just as births will surprise and delight us, may be what we can “steal” from moments and months of failure that may seem to have no end. Remembering that time is “measured in scars, coral increments, scuttled lines” rather than sea, sun, or sky.

If stealing our lives back from sadness and pain means living “as if” rather than “feeding what comes to destruction,” then perhaps the “as if” is worth considering, perhaps believing that “two stones could kiss” might bring back the chance to breathe and to be someone else. Remembering the pain, letting it fall into our memories like broken shells dropped into the ocean.