A Loss

I found out overnight that one of my bridesmaids, who remained a close friend for years, but who was also very troubled died in August of last year.  I loved her dearly although we had troubles that we could not surmount in our time. This is a difficult thing to grasp–that although we made a mutual decision to not be in contact, she is truly gone from this world. I don’t know how she died. We had not been in contact since my daughter was little. So many distressing thoughts come to mind but ultimately the fact is that I loved her fiercely, and I believe she loved me too.

In respect of her memory I wish her peace and comfort to her loved ones.

Friendship

I was waiting for a friend in a sweet café.  I fidgeted with my phone, fluffed my hair and closed my eyes to the sun that flitted in mirrored windows of passing cars. Then she arrived and we ordered tea. We talked for an hour before what was on my heart arose. We sat with a white rose between us and I cried. I cried for the first time in years. My heart was so obvious and tender. My heart was spilling out of me. This sounds cliché but it is true. My old woman heart, bare and tender flourished in the café, undone by sunlight, compassionate friendship and a lovely tea.

The monsters of a thousand years tried to demolish me. I was left in want. I was desolate and afraid. A wonder of friendship came into my life, and I have relinquished myself to it.

I will never let love go, even if I am discarded. I will keep holding fast. I will keep seeking the beautiful and exquisite selves of caring humans. There is nothing that would turn me away.

Only love banishes fear; the fears this precious life has summoned.

VOICES IN WINTER—A BEAUTIFUL NIGHT

MATT

Matthew Hardin Hofferek reading at the Voices Seasonal Reading Series, Feb. 16th, 2013

[Photo courtesy of Tracy Board]

So many people have done extraordinary things for me all of my life that the only way I could ever pay them back is by giving back to others, in ways within my power and ability. It is my joyful duty. That is why we started the Voices Seasonal Reading Series.

The first ever featured writer for Voices was Patrice Melnick, a dynamic, loving and gifted woman who shares her many talents with the communities within Acadiana and beyond.  As a personal friend and colleague she has taught me well how to grow joy within myself and share it with others. She has taught me to be brave in so many ways.

Patrice was my inspiration for planning the first Voices in Winter event at Carpe Diem Gelato – Espresso Bar in Lafayette, LA at the beginning of 2012. It was a great success and we have had six very successful events since. We are already booked through 2013 and I am putting out feelers for 2014.

I met Matthew Hofferek at a Starbucks drive through window. His personable manner, humor and keen wit engaged me and we hit it off immediately. On our second meeting at the drive through, he told me he was a writer. I was so happy he was upfront about it.  I said I was too, and we exchanged information. When he shared a few short stories that he had written, I was immediately struck by the power of his voice, his unflinching honesty and the gracefulness of his language. We have become great friends, lifetime friends, I hope, with all my heart.

I offered to him to read at Voices and he did so last night. It was his first reading and he was nervous. My friend Jonathan and I took him to Pamplona and we each had a good, strong drink of our choosing and toasted THE WORD. By happenstance, we met two other writers who are moonlighting as bartenders. It was great synchronicity, a force that flowed through the entire evening.

Joining Matthew at the Voices in Winter event was internationally-acclaimed poet and collage artist, Camille Martin. We were very lucky and honored to have Camille read for the series and she was enlightening, brilliant and moved the audience with her stunning work. Camille is from Lafayette and has lived in Louisiana for many years but finds her home in Toronto now. She was in town visiting family. We were lucky to be found by her and hope for deepening connections with her in the future.

I was so proud of Matthew. My dear friend affected us, his audience, with a deeply moving story, “All Wars End Alone” that was written with great “honesty and a little invention.” This young man served our country and is home. His somber and difficult tale was so well-written, so well-crafted and affecting that it brought tears to my eyes to hear him read it, even though I had read it before last night.

Whatever burdens we carry, there are miracles that can lift them from our hearts. I was so honored to have Camille and Matthew read and both of them dedicated their readings to loved ones. The emotion was palpable and my prayer is that by sharing their words they were lifted up, as we all were.

Thank you, Matthew and Camille for trusting us.

Thank you to Carpe Diem, Silvia, Erik and their staff, and to all our guests. To Matthew and Camille, I sincerely say thank you for your bravery, dedication to your respective arts and for the honor to present you to the community of Acadiana.

The Path to Peace

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I have come to a great point in my life and this blog post is an expression of something wonderful and empowering that has transpired in my life.

Recently I had an altercation with someone that I considered a friend for close to 15 years. I respected this person and felt they were very talented, dear, and an ally. We clashed, and the falling out escalated and spiraled down into something very ugly and we mutually decided to part ways.

In this post I aim to be honest and reflective. I have had to move away from  people, as we all have had to do at some point in our lives, because there was a critical impasse and we no longer benefited from an “in-contact” relationship. I say “in-contact” because really the relationship does not end, it continues, in some way, even as one soul moves away from another.

There is still a connection in the continuum.

Up front, I am easy-going, loving and tolerant. I am faithful and strong. I am continually seeking the Highest Good in life and I have sometimes attained it, and sometimes have not; but I reach, I strive and I leave my heart open to care always.

In my dealings with some people it has occurred to me that when I become firm, focused and forthright, to them I have seemingly become mean. I don’t play games. I don’t like them and I try my utmost to not engage in them. I try not to get into brawls. I need for my own serenity to not necessarily “keep the peace” but to maintain my own peace.

I have a friend with whom I have been friends with since Mardi Gras 1986. We have a great and blessed friendship. She is a Wise Woman, a mentor, a confidant and a chosen mother-figure in my life.  She is a remarkable human who lives with an open spirit and open heart. She has taught me much and I love her.

This past week I was so stressed. The falling out was so unpleasant and stressful. Sunday night I started experiencing terrible emotions that kept me from getting sleep. I took a hot bath at 2 am by candlelight and while soaking I thought of my D., my friend who always has such blessed wisdom for me.

I know what D. would have said to me if we talked by phone on that early morning. She would have said: LIFT THIS PERSON UP IN PRAYER. So, I did. I stared into the candle and mustered a prayer, a blessing for the person who had set themselves in opposition to me.

When I got into bed, I lay my head on my pillow and although I was still shaking, I heard a soft, still voice telling me to “REST IN LOVE, REST IN LOVE.” So, I did. I let myself fall into the invisible, loving arms of all the people who care for me and in the arms of the loving God  in which I believe. I slept and woke the next morning with a calm that was truly holy, complete and real.

So, that is what I want to put “out there” in the Universe. I want to put out LOVE and the gift of forgiveness for anyone who has set themselves in opposition to me. I want to embrace them and give them a gift of relinquishment and peace, even if we are not “in-contact.” We have a choice to forgive and let go, and I choose to do that.

A Circle Completes

In early December of 2000, Miriam died unexpectedly and tragically. Miriam had epilepsy and asphyxiated in her sleep due to a seizure. Miriam’s death affected me greatly, but more importantly, her life affected me greatly. She was a true love, a great and magnanimous friend, and a light in the life of everyone who knew her. I am very grateful for all of the lessons she taught me—the most important was: “To have a friend you must be a friend.”

Rest in peace, my dearest.

Saturday night at the Midwinter Poetry Night event in New Iberia, Mrs. Gara, Miriam’s mother, gave me a copy of the Spring 1989 issue of The Southwestern Review, which is the literary journal of the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, the university from which I received my B.A in English. This issue contains the very first poems of mine that were ever published, “The Nightmare” and “Raven.” Mrs. Gara also gave me a framed poem of her own making which was written after we shared a conversation about poetry. Mrs. Gara felt compelled and inspired to read her own poem at the Open Mic at the event. She was received enthusiastically and it made me very happy.

A circle completes.

For many years, the yearning was there for me to write but I was not disciplined or attuned to the voice as deeply as I am now. There is a story there. There is a story there. Much of my creative writing was in the form of letters that I would send to friends. Miriam was the person I wrote to most frequently. I do not have these letters. I wish I did. Miriam teased me that she had filed these letters away and would bring them out to blackmail me or show my children. It was a joke, really, but knowing Miriam she would have done so for a laugh. Miriam always pushed me to write creatively and to develop as a writer. She was a beacon for me in life, and continues to light my path since her passing.

Miriam was a bridesmaid at my wedding in 1989. The next day she moved to New Orleans. She loved the city. She lived there until her death. Miriam was a friend who knew my husband and me very well. She knew my husband before I did and they carried on like great friends throughout our time together. Dean and I spent so many wonderful weekends at her apartment in the French Quarter. She made the city her own and loved to welcome friends to her apartment so that they could enjoy the city as well.

Good times. Good times.

I am very grateful that Miriam got to know my daughter. Miriam loved children but didn’t want her own. She loved her nieces and nephews and her friends’ children. She treated my girl like a niece and friend of her own. My girl loved her, although she does not have very many memories now, because she was so young when Miriam died.

Miriam loved the arts and had a Master’s Degree in Arts Administration. At the time of her death, she was working for the New Orleans Arts Council and living as she dreamed. She was one of the most caring, open, determined, self-reliant, fun and funny friends I ever had. She always encouraged my writing and I am indebted to her for believing in me and my talent. I know she is with me. I know she is with me. Thank you, Miriam, for everything.

The Nightmare

Sun burns
its last crimson
flash, over broken
angles of this room.
Spits patterns
through wounded curtains,
spells my name
in a language
I cannot speak.

How can I push back
this rush of dream,
growing like grasses
under water?
Or let linger
the moving shadow
of rib-bone
and brown skull
that fills this
hollow space?

Raven

A cry crackles
from the raven’s
hook of mouth.
Its raspy babble falls
from hollow boughs
dry as forgotten bone.

Hooked nail, feather and flesh.

Ravens pose
in rusty leaves, crisp
strips of buckling leather,
and thicken the sky
with black, blue rhythms
of glossed wing.

First published in The Southwestern Review, Spring 1989

Three Bloggers Blogging–and a partridge in a pear tree?

Three wonderful women who are outstanding writers, published authors of poetry, books of fiction and nonfiction and so much more–blogged this week about our Words of Fire, Words of Water event at The Little Big Cup in Arnaudville held on Saturday which was the literary component of Fire and Water Rural Arts Celebration.

It was a fabulous day in great part because we were all together. Our energies synced and the celebration fired in our hearts.

Please read the entries at Cheré Coen’s Louisiana Book News, Margaret Simon’s Reflections on the Teche and Diane Moore’s A Word’s Worth, and add these wonderful bloggers to your bookmarks. Thanks to Cheré, Diane and Margaret for your great generosity and kindness.

I am only having my first cup of coffee today after a rough morning. More soon!!

Hello, World! Let me move you with my words.

Clare L. Martin

My debut collection of poems is now available for pre-order from Press 53 as a Tom Lombardo Selection. Click on the cover image to take you to my page where you can order it. If you pre-order, you will have your book in hand, signed by me approximately one month before the publication date of Oct. 1st.

So much of my heart went into this book, it pulses. I hope you will enjoy! Love and thanks,

Clare

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Year Eight of The Writing Life Begins

SUN RISES IN A NEW YEAR

March 15th, 2004, our family suffered a loss–the death of my son, Adam.  In my grieving, I reflected on my life and his life and thought: “What can I do with my life to honor him?” I had always believed myself a writer but struggled with discipline, leaving many things unlearned and unwritten. I thought back then: “If I can do “this one thing” to the best of my ability and honor (not neglect) my God-given gifts, then such a choice would be the best way I could honor Adam.” 

Adam’s death, although hard to bear, was the catalyst for choosing to follow this life-path with dedication and passion.  I have grown personally and have had numerous wonderful opportunities via The Writing Life.  Dear Adam gave so much and continues to bless…gone from us almost 8 years. He would be 28 this year. Wow.

And although much of my posting on the Internet is self-promotion, I think it is important to share this story and the bountiful blessings I have had in these remarkable eight years. Self-promotion is necessary because I want you to read my creative works.

I want to move you with my poetry.

I have had many struggles—some from which many people could not recover. I have recounted many here in previous postings, if you want to look back.  Right now I am looking forward which I believe is necessary for true healing.

I am grateful to God-Creator-Universal Force for Good-Power of Love or whatever it is that I do believe in for pulling me through, shoring up my confidence and for putting people in my path who have aided me with loving care, support and friendship.

I am excited about 2012. I am a mother of a 16-year-old who is smart and beautiful. She inspires me everyday.  I am married to a loving, strong and honest man.  I couldn’t ask for more, but for me there will be more in 2012—more writing, more reading, more learning and more teaching.  The momentum is with me as I continue my lifework.

I am on a path and I do not allow much to divert me from it.   

 

Thanks for reading. 

~Clare

30 years from age 13

I was a bit anxious before we set out–I had not been to New Orleans since August 2005–a couple of weeks before The Storm. It was so good to be in the city again and to experience needed psychic healing by seeing a vibrant, energized city. Maybe it was the great weather but the peeps seemed joyful all around.  We didn’t have any negative experiences. Everything was cool.

My first visit to New Orleans was when I was 13 years old. I went with my parents and we stayed on St. Charles. I fell in love with the city–it wasn’t just a teenage crush–I rode the streetcars up and down the line over and over again and longed to live there when I grew up. Something caught my eye in a small NOLA newspaper I picked up on that trip back in 1981. A notice for a poetry reading at The Maple Leaf Bar. Wow. Poetry. Cool! I was just beginning to write pimpled and hormone-soaked lines.  I BEGGED my parents to take me or let me go on my own. I had never ever been to a poetry reading before. I had never ever been to a bar either but that didn’t factor into my comprehension of the potentially incredible, once in a lifetime possibility. A poetry reading sounded chic and exotic compared to my just up from the country-boudin and cracklin upbringing. I was really messed up when my parents wouldn’t let me go and I considered sneaking to Oak St. because I wanted to be there so badly.  (Same thing happened when the Stones played the Superdome in 1981. It killed me that I couldn’t go.)

My old, fuddy-duddy folks were so lame! So I didn’t go and wouldn’t go for another 30 years.

Today was my first time ever at The Maple Leaf. Today I was actually a featured artist there thanks to Jonathan Penton of www.unlikelystories.org   The Everette C. Maddox Memorial Prose & Poetry Reading held every Sunday at 3 PM in the courtyard of the Maple Leaf Bar is the longest running reading series in North America.  It was a great high for me to read there and be a part of the Louisiana tradition.

We arrived during the third quarter of a home Saints game and the bar crowd was wild to put it mildly. The Saints won and the Unlikely Saints did too. Our readings were sublime in my humble opinion. I hated leaving at the start of the open mic but tonight’s a school night and we had a long drive home.

This weekend in New Orleans, among many things, I experienced the Good that poetry is and the Good it can do. There was “good” poetry (and prose) for certain but I think our group the Unlikely Saints (Jonathan Penton, Michael Harold, Frankie Metro, Wendy Taylor Carlisle, and Kristina Marshall) and our audiences experienced the Good Vibrations that can occur in optimum circumstances when lovers and makers of art gather to expeience creative work.  Thanks to everyone who came out to listen, read, laugh with us. Most especially thanks to Jonathan for the invitation and all of his hard work.

Tuesday will be my birthday.  30 years from age 13, I have two completed manuscripts with good prospects, poems published in the double digits, a strong writing practice and lots of love and good energy surrounding me. This weekend was a circle completing and I hope to widen an (unbroken) circle in the future.

And I leave you with these humble words as a gift: 

Bless you, you who create art. Believe in your craft; give to it as much as you can.  Let it awaken you and be the matter of your dreams—

Your voice is both vulnerable and strong. Care for it. Bring the words which fly madly through you into the world through the discipline to which you adhere.  Share it. Give it another life in someone’s mind and heart.

And follow this creed—

“Each success, no matter how small, in the practice of what I love is a lightning strike against the dark.”

Clare