Enchantment of the Crone

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In December of 2017, I went on a women’s retreat organized by The Penchant Group, a creative collective founded by Bessie Senette. On the retreat, each woman was free to choose their focus, whether on writing or another art form. In a lovely cabin in the woods of Chicot State Park, we spent time alone with our work. We communed when we ate meals or after meals as we sat by a roaring fire. I had been experiencing a nearly four-year-long depression, triggered by my mother’s death, with some high points that worked to pull me through. This nutritive gathering was a balm to my heart and soul.
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It actually had snowed in Louisiana that weekend. On one of the full days there, a poem burst through me as I looked out the floor-to-ceiling windows onto the snowy scene outdoors. I read the poem to the group. They appreciated it and said it was strong. Later, when I returned home, I revised it several times. I absolutely hated the revisions and went back to the first draft. That poem became the first poem written for Crone.
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When I was hospitalized in March 2018 for suicidal depression, someone in the hospital, when they learned that I was a writer with two published books, asked me if I was going to keep writing. I was on the mend as a new dosage of antidepressant took root. I answered, “Yes, of course.” I had started a creative project. It was a nebulous vision but something was ahead of me.
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Shortly after I got out of the hospital, I received an email from Annie Pluto, asking if I had a manuscript of 40 to 50 pages. I was wowed to be asked but I did not have a manuscript of that length or one that was ready. I had a loose group of sketched-out poems that I was working and reworking without a clear vision of what it would be. The working title was Crone. I might have had 15 to 20 poems that needed a lot of attention. I asked Annie if I could be given some time to work. She said to take four months.
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I was driven. I was mad with poetry. I finished the manuscript in two weeks!
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I have to give credit to my therapist, J.S., who I started seeing after my release from the hospital. Weekly sessions and full disclosure to her pulled me together. Also, my nurse practitioner, who I’ve seen for a decade, worked fiercely to see me well. The intense talk therapy helped. I really scored with J.S. She’s professional, compassionate, intuitive, and agrees with me politically if that matters. (I think it does!) I’ve spent 30 years trying and failing at talk therapy with less than competent therapists and my hopes had dwindled that anyone could help me in that way, but I was wrong. I still see J.S. biweekly and I don’t foresee stopping. She’s really proud of me and owns my first two books. She has an affinity for poetry, as well. That helps. She understands creatives like me.
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Nixes Mate Books only solicits manuscripts. They are not open to unsolicited manuscripts. I finalized Crone, burnishing it to wholeness. When I sent it to Annie, she read it carefully, spent time with it, and let it resonate. She said yes to it. This achievement was a victory of life over death for me. The same year I was hospitalized for what I believed and wanted to be the end of my life, I was able to pull out a book from my psyche that I am so proud of and in love with.
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From the first poem written in December to the last edits prior to going into book design, it might have been four months. Then a few weeks after the acceptance, the contract was signed and the work shifted to book design by Michael McInnis. Michael has been wonderful to work with and his design work is impeccable. I haven’t spent time working with Philip Borenstein, but I’m indebted to him as well as a publisher of Nixes Mate Books.
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Crone is like no other work I have created. It came out in a fury. It came out after a suicidal depression. It was my hands, neck, shoulders, back, butt and thighs putting in the work at a desk. Hours and days and weeks of intuiting the narrative, intuiting the magic and myth, intuiting voices of the Crone and the Maiden.
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We have something very special in store for you. The work isn’t confessional. It’s myth and magic. It’s a poet seeing outward and into the ether. It’s a long poem, meant to be read as narrative but experimental in form and subject. It’s an exploration of mystical womanhood, and the natural and supernatural worlds.
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I hope you will read Crone. It’s available now via Amazon and soon directly through Nixes Mate Books and me. It’s not a book for the faint of heart. It saved my life. I pray it will keep in you for the ages.
`Clare L. Martin

Getting Clean

 

I took an hour from my day for quiet outdoors. I gazed into the slow current of the Vermilion Bayou from the vantage point of a deck overlooking the bayou at a local park.  Thin limbs floated in line with thatch and fallen leaves. Trees, on the opposite bank, were reflected in the muddy water and swayed against watery sky.

I couldn’t help thinking of my father and cried a bit. He knew this bayou well. He had fished and boated in it when he was a boy, and as an adult, he frequently he traveled it down all the way to the Vermilion Bay to get to Cypremort Point.  We had a camp there for a time when my brother and I were small children.

My father almost drowned in the Vermilion. I wrote a poem about it, “Father Almost Drowning” that first appeared in Poets & Artists and is collected in Eating the Heart First. On my father’s casket, we displayed another poem I had written about his life. In the quiet moments of this exceptional spring afternoon, I thought of how much my father has done for me since his death.

I believe we are spirits in flesh.  My father’s spirit has gently cautioned me at various times when I was running headlong into harmful choices or getting involved in matters that were detrimental. I truly believe our dead loved ones are protectors and guides.  So, I reflected on him and his otherworldly wisdom, and gave myself over to the Divine Whatever.

I knew I was being called to water today. This morning when I was bathing, I thought of one summer weekend that we had spent at the camp at Cypremort Point. There are so many memories, but this particular memory was of a time that we went to church barefoot. It was a moment that really caused great distress for me. As I recall, our shoes were wet and muddy from play. My mother wouldn’t allow us to wear them to church. That Sunday morning, we had our baths and dressed in clean summer clothes but my mom wouldn’t let us put the dirty shoes on.

I remember looking at my bare feet as I sat in the pew feeling self-conscious and strange. I looked up insistently at my mother for some kind of calm and she whispered, “God just cares that you are clean.”  I laugh at this because clean or dirty, I believe we are cared for. It was a moment that made me actually laugh out loud this morning as I was getting clean.

And I am “getting clean” in other ways. I am de-cluttering my head, cleaning the metaphorical window that offers in/out views. Even though I always have meditative moments in my bath ritual, and have sporadically used relaxation techniques and meditation techniques for years, I had not set forth to actually practice on a daily basis. Now it is a priority for me. My new steps in “getting clean” are practicing mindfulness, setting aside two-half hours for meditation, going to church when no services are being held just to sit in silence, and joining up with a group that meets for meditation.

To quiet ourselves and find the silence within, allows for changes in perspective and deeper perceptions. In these silences, images and ideas for poetry are flooding in and I have greater access to the deeper parts of myself that lend wisdom to incorporate into creative writing. It was really cool that a few weeks ago Margaret Gibson Simon (who blogs at Reflections on the Teche) led a meditation writing workshop at Acadiana Wordlab. I always long to go deeper, and I do, obviously, when I am writing and “in the zone.”

All in all, I feel energized, new, and more deeply committed to myself, my people and the Divine Whatever. I wish you peace and wellness.

Clare

P.S. I saw the trailer for David Lynch’s documentary, “Meditation, Creativity, Peace” http://meditationcreativitypeace.com/   and I really want to see it. There is a form on the website that offers anyone to send a message if you want to coordinate a screening in your hometown. I am thinking about it!

If you would like to experience something great go to http://www.meditationoasis.com/ I have been using this particular site for about a week.

Sacred Tears

So many struggles in recent months that I will not reiterate here, but the resulting choice made at my wit’s end was to go on a retreat at Casita Azul, in Grand Coteau a couple of Saturdays ago. My greatest need was silence and a soft place to hold me as I was worn out from deep, constant grief.

When I go to the Casita, which has been a place of refuge for many years now, I usually don’t set rules for myself, except that I will do as I please and only as I please. Of course my pleasure is in the self-nurture and sacred alone time and not to trash the place! This time I did set one rule for myself: No music with lyrics. I wanted all the words in my head to be my own. I only listened to ambient music or instrumental music. I wanted the intangible things in my head and heart to un-spool against lovely, liquid music.

The ten year anniversary of Adam’s death brought out anticipated grief but the intensity was unexpected. Much of my creative work has been an exploration of grief. The whole of Eating the Heart First is saturated with it. But something I learned in the past couple of weeks is that there is no bottom of grief, you can go to extreme depths and keep going.

At the Casita, I realized that no one, no other human, could go to those depths with me. What was revealed to me was that while surrender to my emotions was necessary, and the tears, too, were necessary,  the only way to arise, awaken and literally stay alive was to ask the “Divine Whoever” for healing.

I have cried more in the past year than any year of my adult life. It is a good thing and I attribute it to many incredible positive things that have been happening in my life. I am more fully aware of my feelings and I honor them by not suppressing them.  I had become so hard, and that is not who I want to be. The tears are sacred and I am grateful for them.  I am glad to have broken open. I am opening to allow something great and divine to enter.

Since I have returned home after that short but important stay, I have begun a twice a day meditation practice. I still go to my Bathtub Refuge to thinkcrypraymeditate, but the practice I am doing as a new habit is part of a series of guided meditations that I discovered on this website. There are probably many other sites that offer good ones, but this is where I am for the moment.

I am a private person, believe it or not, but I like to share intimate moments of my own journey as inspiration. We are here to lift, love, and support each other, are we not?
Peace.

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.

2012: A Year in the Writing Life

There was a time when I could not write. There was a time when I was very sick and did not have a grip on life. So now that I am stronger and healthier, I feel I absolutely must do it. I must do it for my survival. I must write to discover meaning, to know myself more deeply and to contribute something beautiful to the world. It is a responsibility and I honor it with my best. I live this commitment because the ability and time to do it is not promised.

My life is somewhat illuminated now, but darkness is ever-present. I have to keep striking at the dark with my best energies and efforts. I hold firm to the belief that “Each success, no matter how small, in practice of what I love is a lightning strike against the dark.”

I hope you take that statement into your heart and live it for yourself.

The Writing Life 2012:

Debut full-length poetry collection, Eating the Heart First, published October 1, 2012 by Press 53 as a Tom Lombardo Selection.

Activities

Founded the Voices Seasonal Readings Series

Presented “Vision and Voice: Introducing Youth to Poem-Making” to middle and elementary gifted and talented students—April, 2012, Zachary, LA

Coordinated Words of Fire, Words of Water, the literary component of the Fire and Water Rural Arts Celebration in Arnaudville, LA

Presenter and participant, Acadiana Worldlab, Cite des Arts, Lafayette

Recognitions

“Any Winter Sunday in Louisiana” nominated by Referential Magazine for a Pushcart Prize

“What Winter Told Me” nominated by Thrush Poetry Journal for inclusion in the Poetry Daily online anthology

“The Bird in My Ribcage” and “As We Are” were selections for “Vision/Verse #4” ekphrastic arts project by the Arts & Humanities Council of Southwest Louisiana. (June 2012)

Publications

9 submission packets sent out. 26 poems rejected.
14 Poems published:

“Of the Gone Woman” Unlikely Stories
“Because We Love” Unlikely Stories
“Dream of Sudden Water” Unlikely Stories
“The Disease is at Home in Her” Melusine, Spring/Summer
“The Embalmer’s Wife” Melusine, Spring/Summer
“Seeing Through” blue five notebook, Spring
“Ink on a Mirror” Louisiana Literature, 29.1
“Convergence” Louisiana Literature, 29.1
“Distortion” Unlikely Stories, Spring
“The Word Does Not Come” Unlikely Stories Spring
“Poem to the Madonna” Unlikely Stories, Spring
“The Oak Remembered from My Childhood” Referential Magazine, Winter
“Any Winter Sunday in Louisiana” Referential Magazine, Winter
“What Winter Told Me” Thrush Poetry Journal, January 2012

Readings

“Words of Fire Words of Water” Fire and Water Rural Arts Celebration, Arnaudville (December)

First Friday Reading Series, Lake Charles (November)

17 Poets! Reading Series, New Orleans (November)

Sundays@4, Baton Rouge Gallery – center for contemporary arts (November)

Voices Seasonal Reading Series, Lafayette (November)

DAF Grants Recipient Ceremony, Acadiana Center for the Arts, Lafayette (October)

100 Thousand Poets for Change, Cite des Arts (September)

Vision/Verse #4, project by the Arts & Humanities Council of SWLA, Lake Charles (June)

Festival of Words reading series at Casa Azul Gifts, Grand Coteau (April)

“Voices in Winter” with Patrice Melnick, Carpe Diem! Lafayette (February)

Media

Interview/feature article, “Eat Your Heart Out” The Independent Monthly (November)

Interview/live reading on KRVS (88.7 FM–www.krvs.org) Après
Midi with host Judith Meriwether. (November)

New Writings…

What will survive—the poem or I?

I am lost in my own distraction. I am afraid to read the words I write. I am afraid of their truth. This day is hot. The heat radiates from within and without. I watched the John Lennon film for Imagine. My god! That white room!  If I were to set foot in it I would cry uncontrollably.  I would curl into a fetal position and wish to be born again.

 

I want to be born again in that white room. It is inaccessible to me. If I were in that white room I would likely not be able to write. The white silence would be too great. The clean page would erase me. I would only be able to write of ennui and the flowers growing unkempt beyond the windows.

 

I am so far behind in my own education. I know only the tutelages of grief. I write about death in every poem. The death of self, of other, of love—something has changed. The vodka is kind. I watched the way you cut the lemon. I came home and mimicked your slicing—neat and precise. My limes were perfect over ice in a glass with vodka and juice. It’s time for another.

 

Thank you for breaking into the jail of me.

 

I want to open figuratively and literally. I want to crush the glass in my hand and let the blood and cold liquor leak through my fingers.  My nature demands the wakefulness of ineffable shock–

 

There is a river in me. Storms have come. The snows have melted. Let the floodgates open.  I want to flow to land, wipe away structures.

I am on a cross and I am scared.

 

 

Retreat Writings, 2012, Part 6 (End Words)

End Words

I walk barefoot in the morning grass to load the suitcase and my guitar in the car. It feels so pleasurable–a feeling I have not experienced in years. In the field across the street, there is a thin mist lingering above the grass at the feet of a statue of a saint. I don’t know which saint it is, but Trecie would, of course. Cows are mooing “good morning” nearby, amusingly. It is not unusual to hear roosters crowing at home, but a “moo” is delightful and different. A hawk looms over the houses and settles in the top of an oak tree—crows scatter and caw. This stay has been exactly what I needed. I feel so excited about my time here and my new outlook. I am on a new path–I am rested and ready to go home.

RETREAT 2.0 PLAYLIST

Patti Smith—Banga

Joni Mitchell –-Miles of Aisles

Windham Hill artists (guitar and piano)

Gotye—Making Mirrors

“Kindness” (a mix CD a friend made for me)

Givers –-In Light

Radiohead—Kid A and In Rainbows

The Rolling Stones—Tattoo You

KRVS 88.7 FM