A lovely gift to give yourself and those you love…

My debut collection of poetry, Eating the Heart First, published by Press 53 as a Tom Lombardo selection, is now available.

Click on the image to purchase directly from Press 53′s web site.

Also available on Amazon (may not arrive before Christmas)

For more information, or to purchase a signed copy, contact me via the email address below:

Clare L. Martin: martin.clarel@gmail.com


Praise for Eating the Heart First

“Clare L. Martin is a fine young poet whose work is dark and lovely and full of a deep organic pulse. Like the landscape of her beloved Louisiana, her work is alive with mystery. You could swim in this hot water, but there are things down inside its darkness that might pull you away forever. It is an exquisite drowning.”

— Luis Alberto Urrea, author of Queen of America

“In her first collection, Martin deals with many common themes – motherhood, death, nature – but does so with an unsettling grace. There is an honesty and an understated tone that give each piece the right mix of tension and release. Many of the poems are exceptionally well wrought, describing loss and hope, anger and want. The most powerful piece in the collection has to be “Bread Making.” The seething anger, mixed with a dash of christian mythos, combined with flour, and sweat, all bake together into the perfect loaf.

Although described as a Louisiana poet, Martin will appeal to readers way beyond the dankness of the bayou.”

R L Raymond  rlraymond.blogspot.com
Blog about the writing and poetry of R L Raymond

“Clare L. Martin pulls off an impressive balancing act in her debut book of poems Eating the Heart First. In this collection, divided into three sections, she manages trust of her intuitive powers while she tats her findings onto poems built with technical expertise. She is a believer of dreams, and the whole of the work can be read as an oneiric treatise guided by the powers she believes in: the power of memory, the power of water, the power of moons, the powers of longing, and the power of love. In one of the late poems a crow in a dream asks, ‘Let me be a whorl of darkness— / Let me be a fist in the sun.’ All of the poems in this collection have the impact of that crow’s call and of the trope it creates. Gradually the poems reveal richly textured revelations of a heart tied to human experience in that ‘dream we cannot know completely.’ And, while we may not ever know the dream completely, Ms. Martin hands us a guidebook to dreams and to the art that uses dream and dreaming as the scaffolding from which to make something beautiful, and useful, and mysterious all at the same time.”

— Darrell Bourque, former Poet Laureate of Louisiana and author of In Ordinary Light, New and Selected Poems

Clare at 17 Poets! at The Goldmine In The French Quarter, New Orleans


I was honored to be one of the features at The Goldmine in the French Quarter for the 17 Poets! Series on Thursday, November 15th. Great thanks to Dave Brinks and Megan Burns for the honor and for being such wonderful hosts.

I am a big girl but I do not like to travel alone. My Vice-BFF Lian accepted my invite to travel with me, and for this I am grateful. Lian acted as my navigator and deejay on the way to New Orleans. We took HWY 90 East to New Orleans which I prefer over traveling I-10. I-1o makes me nervous. Pile-ups and 100 mph’ers make me nervous. HWY 90 (the Future 1-49 Corridor) is scenic and chill. On our way to NOLA we listened to a mix CD Lian made for me for my birthday a few years ago (we have been friends for 8 years) Jill Scott, and Joni Mitchell’s “Court and Spark.” It was good groovin’ on HWY 90, let me tell you.

We arrived at our hotel at approximately 7 pm which was perfect timing. We chilled and freshened up then caught at cab at about 7:30 pm. The reading was set for 8 pm but really we had plenty of time because we were in the cosmic groove.  New Orleans is in The Cosmic Groove.

Our cabbie was from Haiti and didn’t feel like talking. He got us there and we paid him well. When we walked in the door of The Goldmine we got a big hug from Dave. It was great to see him again. Dave is an accomplished poet and a very generous soul. He and Megan read for the Voices Seasonal Reading Series in the summer. Dave told me that drinks were complimentary for the “features” and I wondered if I would out-drink my welcome. He laughed at that.

I ordered a Wild Turkey 101 and water. It was very good and knocked the chill and nervousness right out of me. We met poet Deborah Poe and her colleagues from New York. After we settled in a booth, we got to talking with these lovelies about our Cajun culture, which Lian and I are both very passionate about. I hope we gave a good impression because we want to be good ambassadors for Acadiana. We talked about boudin and cracklins and crawfish and we gave the New Yorkers an open invitation to Acadiana for any future travels these women may make to Louisiana.

I went on first. I was happy to read from “Eating the Heart First” in a place that has a 50 year tradition of hosting poetry events. I felt empowered and inspired. I selected several poems that lend themselves well to public readings. I interspersed a few personal narratives between the poems. I kept the reading tight and gave thanks for the audience’s kind attention and applause.

I read “The Never That Was” and one line is the lyric “blackbird fly, blackbird fly” which I actually sing when performing the poem. I love reading/performing this poem. It is an opportunity for me to channel my inner Rock Star. Who knows? Maybe one day I will front a band.

I was well-received by the generous, supportive audience. I bounced back to our booth and listened intently to Deborah’s and Matvei Yankelevich’s readings. Both are superb poets and gave entertaining and powerful readings.

Lian and I stayed for the Open Mic and whooped and hollered in appreciation for the people who stepped up. That’s just how we are. We live big wherever we are. It was an impressive night all-around, ending with a great breakfast at midnight, then sleep in comfy Queen-sized beds. We are already planning a return to NOLA with more friends and will certainly pop in at The Goldmine to say hello.

Acadiana Wordlab (Saturdays at 2 pm, Cite des Arts)

I have tried something new in my writing life. It is not necessarily a new format but being an active participant in this challenge is new to me. I have been participating in Acadiana Wordlab, a new literary drafting series held every Saturday at 2 pm, except holidays, at Cite des Arts on Vine Street in downtown Lafayette, LA.

My first experience in this group dynamic was as a presenter. I felt that if I were to challenge writers to write, I would accept the challenge and subject myself to the same experiment. Writing in front of others summoned feelings of vulnerability and trepidation but I held my nose and dove in. My writing “experiment” was to take one of my poems, read it to the group, and take four aspects of the poem and ask the group to write free-write within that frame.

The poem of mine that I read was “The Never That Was” (Avatar Review, 2010)

These are the steps that I asked the participants to take:

Make word lists/phrases in groups related to these prompts.

  1. A specific place (away from home) you have traveled to
  2. Aspects of nature
  3. A piece of art—a song, dance, poem, painting, etc. that moves you, resonates with you
  4. Parts of the body—What does this part remember, or what has it forgotten?

Select a person, a “you” you care about –whether your care is love or hate. Even when we hate we care.  What are some of the physical qualities of this person?  What are some of the quirks of their personality? What are some of the things that this person has done or not that make you feel the way you do?

Free-write without self-judgment, incorporating words/phrases pulled from these prompts  


I can’t find my handwritten writings but the piece that was developed from the raw writing produced is this poem:


What does your skin remember
of nights in Barcelona
when we ate exhaust fumes
carried from the street
into open windows, and slept
ravaged by howls
of drunken prostitutes?

You remember nothing
but our Montana summer,
glacial waters streaming
from the mountains
and that black one-piece
bathing suit I never wore again.

We dove into a river without mystery
(not like the bayous of home)
into the small space
between submerged rocks
so that we would not die, skull-cracked,
a thousand miles from home.

We rode through hot Texas
under a hunting sun. Our bewildered
map avoided rainstorms, took us
across dry rivers, into sagebrush
and blooming cactus
coyote song—

We followed pulled up
railway lines into a lifeless city.
We found beauty in broken things,
in burnt offerings of progress.

Nights we stopped running,
our bodies gave up
but our minds traveled.
Too tired for sex or to feed
any of our variant hungers,
we slept with knives
under our pillows.

Miles heaped upon miles
upon miles until we came
home, deeper in love.

How many hurricanes
have we lived through?
What were their names?

Each one took a part of us
into their churning bellies.
Frantic prayers carried off by clouds,
sight fragmented by lightning—

I really wish I could find my handwritten raw writing because it would illustrate how the raw writing, engenders true creativity and offers something deep from the subconscious and memory that can be reconstructed, refined and shaped into something worthy and valuable.

When the idea of writing in front of others was first offered to me I was very scared and worried that I would not be able to hold a candle to others. Even if I am proven and adept at writing, writing in front of others made me a bit self-conscious— I could have stumbled, but the atmosphere in this group is very accepting and genuinely nurturing.

What I love about Acadiana Wordlab is that there are people of varying skill levels and abilities and we all learn from each other. This past Saturday, my dear friend, poet Kelly Clayton, presented for the group and it was a great experience. Kelly set the right tone for us to be contemplative, productive; and while not fearless (who is really fearless?) we trusted her guidance and our pieces were inspired and valuable.

I hope if you are in the Lafayette area you will take a small leap and join the come-and-go-as-you-please membership of this project. I am enthused and excited for new and experienced writers to participate and grow in this nurturing, creative environment.


November 17th:     Alex Johnson
No workshop on November 24th
December 1st:       Emily Thibodeaux
December 8th:       Patrice Melnick
December 15:        Lester E. Tisdale IV

Acadiana Wordlab is a new literary drafting workshop taking place at 2pm every Saturday at Cité des Arts in Lafayette, Louisiana. It’s free and open to the public (though we ask that you donate a few bucks to the presenter), uncensored, and casually structured.

Acadiana Wordlab is a drafting workshop, rather than a critique workshop. Each week, a guest presenter comes and presents a work of art (literary or otherwise), a discussion of art, or a lecture on craft. Attendees then write for 20 minutes or so. After writing, attendees read what they’ve just been working on, aloud. If there’s time left over, the presenter will present a second prompt, followed by another round of writing, then reading.

Criticism is not a serious element of Acadiana Wordlab. This is a workshop where we explore new ideas and prompts, not polish and revise. This allows a more fluid membership, a wider variety of presenters, and opportunities for novice and experienced writers to learn from each other. At Acadiana Wordlab, the person sitting next to you might be a much better writer than you—and it won’t really matter. You can appreciate their work, and let them hear yours, without worrying that you don’t “belong.”

Acadiana Wordlab is held at:

Cité des Arts
109 Vine St., Lafayette, LA
every Saturday except holidays, 2-4pm
learn more at http://www.acadianawordlab.org/


I will be reading today at Carpe Diem! Gelato – Espresso Bar at 812 Jefferson Street in downtown Lafayette, LA at 2 pm. I will be reading from the new collection, Eating the Heart First, and selling and signing books. I hope you can make it if you are local. Very excited for this reading in my hometown!


Apres Midi

You can hear me talk about “Eating the Heart First” on the podcast of a program that aired today (11/7/12) on KRVS 88.7 FM’s “Apres Midi” with Judith Meriwether.

In my own defense, my elation over the election made me a bit bubbly today. If you can tolerate that, I invite you to listen.  Thank you, Judith! 

Click here.

What Would Jesus Do?

How can anyone claim to be a Christian and still hold racist, homophobic, sexist or otherwise discriminatory beliefs?

I am a deeply spiritual woman who does not follow any organized religion but I was raised Catholic and have come and gone into their churches since birth. The God I pray to is a loving God. The God I pray to in my actions and words is the source of life, the force of good in the entire universe. I think of God as the creator and the source of all things in the continuance of life in this world and beyond.

A dear, wise friend tells me that there is a blessing in everything. Even the things that we think are holding us back, or even harming us in some way—there is a blessing, a lesson, a trial that will purify us and lead us to deeper understanding.

It is a sad state of affairs that many people who claim to be religious hold racist, homophobic, sexist and otherwise derogatory views and beliefs in the name of God—no matter what religion they subscribe to. I know the various texts may hold some language that supports these beliefs but there is also language that supports slavery, punishment by death, etc. Ideas have been hijacked to serve an agenda, a one-sided view used to control and to dominate others.

There is a pick-and-choose going on with quotes from the bible. I will not delve into the specific texts that are quoted in defense of anti-homosexual attitudes or racist and sexist ones but they are there. I don’t believe they are in the words of Jesus. When asked what the most important lesson was that Jesus would impart to his followers, he said: “Love thy neighbor as thy self.”  That should end the discrimination.

I live in the Deep South. I am surrounded by people who do not believe as I do that two people who love each other are endowed with the right to marry each other. I am surrounded by people who are not afraid to voice their beliefs that a black man should not be president, and who express their utter hatred for our current president veiled in political shim-sham language, and sometimes not.

I am confident enough in myself and in the correctness of my beliefs that I do not tolerate hate. I am fervent enough in my belief in an all-loving, good God that I do not and will not allow this hate and prejudice to stand in my personal relationships and my public persona’s expressions and attitudes.

So, think for a moment, of the truths in your own beliefs. What will survive and what will wither away? Were you instilled with a prejudice against others different from you in your upbringing? Has there been a discovery of real, living truths that have challenged your prejudices? Are you a lazy human, living in cruise-control and not accepting the challenge by our society to accept diversity and acknowledge the human rights we are endowed with by a loving and all-encompassing God?