For this Holy Week, I thought I’d share a poem I wrote for a project called “Lament for the Dead” a couple summers ago. The goal of the project was to write poems commemorating real life individuals — on both sides of the law — who lost their lives in altercations between police and civilians.
I think it’s important to remember the civil context of Jesus’s death, the way in which the Romans used the terror and torture of crucifixion to maintain control over the peoples they ruled. Writing this poem made me think about the theives on the crosses next to Christ and what their stories might have been.
So, I’ve removed my February 30/30 poems from this site. Why? you ask. Well, I am really pleased with many of them and want to submit them to journals for publication, and most journals don’t want pieces that are already available online. Plus, many of them need editing and refining before submission.
Thank you all who have been reading along with this project! I have really loved sharing them with you. If you had favorites or ones that stuck with you, I would love to know. I’ll move those to the top of my submission pile. 🙂
On the day of the international Women’s March, I wrote a poem. I shared it with a number of Facebook groups I’m a part of, as well as on Twitter and a number of other venues. I don’t usually shared unpublished work of mine so widely, but it was such a timely thing, I wanted to get it out and share it. I don’t know if I’ve ever felt the urgency of a poem at that level before.
The poem was liked and shared hundreds of times, and eventually an excerpt appeared in an article by Cindy Brandt in Sojourners magazine, “Dear Donald Trump: Now We’re All Activists” I’m hoping to publish the poem in print somewhere, so I’ve removed it from this blog, but you can check out the excerpt there.
It’s fitting that after the long silence on this blog that has accompanied my second pregnancy and the birth of my second son, I can return with this kind of news. Just around the time my son was born in May, this lovely anthology was published. All We Can Hold, put together by Sage Hill Press, is an anthology of poems related to motherhood. The poems, though, are not the soft, cliche-filled kinds of poems you find on greeting cards or embroidered on pillows. I am thrilled to have had a poem of mine, “Bath Time,” included alongside some great contemporary voices like Sherman Alexie.
This summer, inspired by the beautiful example of my poet friend Judith McKune Kunst, I signed up to participate in a poetry project called Lament for the Dead. My part in this project was to write a lament for an individual who died during an interaction between the police and the public- whether that person be an officer, a criminal, a suspect or an innocent. On August 22nd, I was given the name and a few details about a person who died in the previous few days and I then had 24 hours to write a poem for him.
My poem, “Pablo C. Tiersten, 38, Kansas City,” was posted this morning.
For more information about this project, please check out their website and read some of the moving poems there. They have helped me to pause and reflect on the scope of the violence we accept in our society. And whether we should accept it.
“Lament for the Dead is an online community poetry project which will mark the death of every person killed by police this summer, and every police officer who loses life in the line of duty, with a poem.
The first lie that hate tells us is that any other person is not as human as we are.
This project resists that lie by recognizing each other’s humanity, even in the most difficult places.”
This blog space has been quiet for awhile, but I have been enjoying contributing to others’ sites over the past couple of months. I hope you’ll check out these pieces at their original homes. In February, I had a chance to talk about poetry writing and the focus of my Visitations chapbook at my friend Allison’s blog, the Coven Book Club. I got to talk with two other poets about how we write and what we write about:
“For me, poetry is about the musicality of the language, so I tend to assume that the type of person who chooses poetry cares about sounds and rhythms. Someone who chooses poetry has to really love the material they’re working with – in our case, words.“
In March, I shared a piece at You Are Here, a blog curated by friends I met at The Glen Workshop in Santa Fe last August. This piece began many years ago as a post on my Lithuania teaching blog, but I reworked and added to it to reflect where I’m at now in my life:
“Of all the things I expected from that coming year, I could not, in the particularly grey autumn of single almost-30, have believed that an apple-honey cake held any hope for sweetness ahead. Hope was running very thin, and after many years of missionary sacrifice and relational disappointments, I suspected that when God commanded that I open wide my mouth, I would be getting bland, dutiful manna, not honey.”
It has been just over a week since finishing my daily poem-writing project with Tupelo Press’s 30/30 fundraiser. I really enjoyed the process of writing on a regular schedule and putting new work before an audience of readers, however few. That said, I breathed a sigh of relief when September arrived and I no longer found myself trying to squeeze poem writing in to nap time or staying up late after my husband and baby had gone to bed. I took a breather this past week and let the poems sit. (And got some physical exercise for the first time in awhile, yay!)
My plan now is to move ahead with editing and submitting the ones I think are worth saving, which means I will need to remove them from this blog site. Journals and magazines that publish poetry usually want first publication rights, and the jury is out on whether blog posting is considered publishing. So even though most of the poems here will not remain in their current form exactly, it’s still a good idea for me to take them down.
This means you have ONE MORE WEEK to read any of my 30/30 poems here and then I’ll be hiding them from view starting Sept 15th. Tupelo Press will still have them archived at their site for the time being.
Thank you to everyone who has been following on this journey, particularly those of you who generously donated to Tupelo on my behalf – keep an eye out for a postcard from me soon. It is not too late to contribute if you’re able, so please visit this site to make a donation and select my name from the August pull-down menu – I will continue to solicit donations for awhile yet. Keep an eye out for information on my chapbook, Visitations, which will be available for preorder starting September 29th from Finishing Line Press. Exciting!