2017: My Writing Life in Review

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In January of 2017, I facilitated “Writing Hope” with women being assisted to transition from homelessness by Acadiana Outreach, as six-week poetry writing workshop and reading of the women’s work at Saint Barnabas Episcopal Church.

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My second full-length poetry collection, Seek the Holy Dark, was released at The Association of Writers and Writing Programs conference (AWP) in Washington D.C. I read with other Yellow Flag Press poets, and poets affiliated with Gigantic Sequins Press and the University of Louisiana at Lafayette at George Washington University Textile Museum. I belatedly celebrated my daughter’s 21st birthday in D.C. with her!

March was the Lafayette book release of Seek the Holy Dark at Reve Coffee Roasters. Friends far and near came and it was wonderful.  As part of the promotion of the book’s release, I was interviewed on KRVS by Judith Meriwether and an article appeared locally in The Independent.

In April, I read at the Maple Leaf Bar. Such a wonderful thing to connect more deeply with poet-friends in NOLA in 2017.  Also, in April I was invited to read at the State Library by Poet Laureate Peter Cooley.

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Later in the month, I organized a reading with Jack Bedell and Darrell Bourque (current and former Poet Laureates, respectively) at the Paul and Lulu Hilliard Art Museum, to celebrate Yellow Flag Press’s Louisiana Cajun and Creole Series designees, as the three of us are.

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Mid-April, I started a new job with Childress Communications as a content writer and ghostwriter! I also joined Connections Professional Networking and PRAL Acadiana to help my friend-boss, Dr. Cynthia Childress grow her firm.

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In June, I was a featured poet at the Latter Library in New Orleans, thanks to poet Gina Ferrara. Always love my traveling Fairy Godmother, Bessie Senette, who is a love whirlwind in my life and shared so much of this exciting year with me.
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October marked the occasion of the Louisiana Book Festival at which I was a featured author. As a panelist, I read with other women poets of Louisiana, selected by Current Poet Laureate, Jack Bedell.

November was the 10th Annual Festival of Words, which was heartily celebrated in Grand Coteau.

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In December, I attended the Penchant Group’s first women’s’ writing retreat at the cabin in the woods (a wonderful spot at Chicot State Park, LA). It snowed!!

I edited and published three issues of MockingHeart Review, and interviewed several MHR poets (as many as I could muster).

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I also organized, with musician and teacher, Esther Tyree, a Hurricane Harvey fundraiser at Artmosphere. Highlights continued with readings around Acadiana with dear poet friends.

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Whew! Despite boughts of severe depression and financial trauma, I am so proud to say that I am sharing my gifts with the world.

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Clare L. Martin’s second collection of poetry, Seek the Holy Dark, is the 2017 selection of the Louisiana Cajun and Creole Series by Yellow Flag Press. Her acclaimed debut collection of poetry, Eating the Heart First, was published by Press 53. Martin’s poetry has appeared in Thrush Poetry Journal, Poets and Artists, and Louisiana Literature, among others. She founded and edits MockingHeart Review.

 

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

Offering

I am *completely done* with manuscript work for Eating the Heart First.  I turned in final edits to Tom Lombardo this week and he gave me praise for the work. I am happy he’s happy.  Tom has been great to work with. I am indebted to him for “discovering” me!  So glad to be a part of the Press 53 family.

I lit a candle and said a prayer of gratitude tonight for getting this far and asked for blessings on the path ahead.  The next steps are book design, production and marketing.  The projected publication is October 2012, as a Tom Lombardo Selection from Press 53.

My job now is to strategize how to sell the book, set up regional readings, and do a book launch affair.  I like this kind of work. I like to network, brainstorm, and plan; make phone calls, send emails, gas up my vehicle to get on the road to promote and sell my book!

 

I want to move you with my words.

If you want a peek at my writing you can go to this link:  https://clarelmartin.com/the-work/

Poetry has been a lifeline. Being able to create something beautiful out of sorrow has had healing effects, and I hope to be able to teach a workshop on ‘writing out the grief’ to help others sometime in the future.

I would ask any authors if they have unique and effective methods to create interest and sell books to share their ideas with me.  In return, I will offer to write a review of their published book or chapbook of poetry on this website.  

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

 

 

Expanding Circles: Readings in Lafayette and New Orleans

I have been invited to be a part of the Unlikely Saints “mini tour” organized by Unlikely Stories. Thanks to Jonathan Penton for this opportunity!

Details follow.

 

READINGS BY UNLIKELY SAINTS:

Friday November 4th 8:30 PM

Cité des Arts

109 Vine Street

Lafayette, Louisiana

 

Wendy Taylor Carlisle
Michael Harold (a.k.a. Michael Aro)
Clare L. Martin
Jonathan Penton

 

Saturday November 5th

In conjunction with the 10th Annual New Orleans Book Fair ( http://nolabookfair.com/ )  
Wendy Taylor Carlisle
Frankie Metro
Clare L. Martin
Michael Harold
Kristina Marshall
Jonathan Penton

The book fair runs from 500-600 Frenchman Street. From 10am to 6pm the bars and clubs of this block open their dance floors and sidewalks to a number of publishers and booksellers. After 6pm, the clubs will run literary-themed events.

 

 Sunday November 6th at 3 PM

Maple Leaf Bar

8316 Oak St., (west of Carrollton)

New Orleans, LA

Unlikely Stories’ “Unlikely Saints” will read at the Maple Leaf Bar and Grill in conjunction with the Everette C. Maddox Memorial Prose & Poetry Reading, the longest-running reading series in North America! An open mic follows.
Wendy Taylor Carlisle
Frankie Metro
Clare L. Martin
Michael Harold
Kristina Marshall
Jonathan Penton

Hope to see you there!

 

Haiti

My prayers and thoughts for healing the suffering of your people go out to you…I have and will continue to give what I can.

My prayers, too, are for all who are suffering in mind and body.

Text HAITI to 90999 to donate $10 on behalf of the American Red Cross. — Text YELE to 501501 to donate $5 on behalf of The Yele Haiti Foundation.

Nice to meet ya, again.

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Each success, no matter how small, in practice of what I love is a lightning strike against the dark.  And I have been in dark, metaphorically dark and literally extinguished places. I’ve been around fires a blazin’ too and they can be happy places!

Ah ha, yes. Well.

I am a poet/mother/wife living with bipolar disease. I have been blessed with clarity and stability in my medical situation for a few years with the effort put in by my strong team of caregivers medically, in the healing arts, and through the support of loving family members who have stood by me. I had recurring traumas and “breakdowns” in my life which robbed me of many things.  I was unhappy and clinically sick for most of the 1990s.

I’m gaining back my life, which could have been lost, had I succumbed to the disease and died. (And yes Bipolar kills.  Look up the suicide rates of bipolar people, people!) I have been gaining back my sense of self and finding healing through writing.  There’s a link between mental illness and creativity. My interest would be: poets who have bipolar disorder.  This is a hot topic and I expect to weigh in on it from time to time.

I’ve always been a writer, writing up to this very sentence, poems, plots, plays and peddling pure phiction.  

I am a lifelong resident of Louisiana, and a graduate of the University of Southwestern Louisiana, now called University of Louisiana at Lafayette. I majored in English and minored in Philosophy—the perfect match of disciplines for a budding poet.  I published a few poems in college, got married, and only sporadically wrote for a few years. 

When I feel the aura of a poem coming on to me so clearly,  I am moved by words yet forming, as if words could ride air and pass through my skull, form the syllables in my mind and mouth, and I get up from whatever I was doing and write something.  Writers write.  Thinkers think. Thoughts fly away until you put the thought-words on a piece of paper or enter them into a computer—then you are a writer, for having written it. Congratulations!

Pre-Poems/Free-Writes— the mystique of this airwave/brainwave/of what was working in my subconscious/some feathery slip of a thing flits from its dark hiding place and dawns in the mind.

I was a lazy writer, in the sense that I did not demand it of my self. I wanted to learn how to do it my way.  Not in a conventional class room.  I wanted to be in my environs living and drawing my poems from the right here that I am living. The within: my domestic life, sex life, body life, mind’s life, and my natural life as a creature on this planet with other creatures, domesticated and not.

I am in the pursuit of the image. It is my starting point in all writing I do.  What is the image?  Observation is the key. I am also an amateur photographer, so for me it is usually a visual stimulus. A description must encompass, not describe too much but rather show in deft and artful language the essence, the charm of it.

Is it startling?  Is it sustainable? What I mean is does it having lasting qualities to live on in the poem if we construct an environment for it to thrive? Will its meaning inspire other meanings which may or may not conflict with the intended meaning.  Does this matter?  If it is what it is and you want that image/those words, then you choose. Poetry is making choices.  Words-connections-shaping-breaking-exploding and putting the poem back together, or not– are the choices of the artist.  Read poetry, get inspired, and learn to make choices.  Major choices are definitive; some choices allow a little wiggle.

That’s what it is about.

I am building around a central image, not always, but habitually.  Images come from things and we get to know things through our senses, sight, smell, taste, hear and touch, so images come from the basic 5 senses—this is basic knowledge of what is concrete and what it abstract in the study of poetry but it is crucial because by utilizing these tools you can transform, imagine, ignite passionate responses, and through words you can bloodlessly crush people in a way they like to or would rather not like to be crushed.   

So when I return I will speak of why I am in pursuit of the image as it is stated at the top of the blog.

 I welcome comments for friendly and heartily espoused discussions.  What I have written here is brief and leaves many questions to me but I wanted to holdback so questions could be put to me and any other readers for discussion.