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
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Crone

I signed the contract with Nixes Mate Books for the publication of my third book of poetry “Crone.” I believe December 2018 is when we expect “Crone” to be released into your hands. I’m happy beyond words to be a Nixes Mate author, and I appreciate all that Michael McInnis, Anne Elezabeth Pluto, and Philip Borenstein do to bring the finest literary work to the world.

I began writing “Crone” at a women’s writing retreat at Chicot State Park, Louisiana last December, during a snowy week which is rare for Louisiana. One poem came and then another, and another. When Crone’s voice came to me, I knew there was a palpable, rich myth to explore. I gave myself a very short amount of time to work and the manuscript drove me. I had some searing personal pain happening at the time, and the writing fueled my fight for life. So, please stay tuned for more news about “Crone.”

Thank you,

Clare

Image: “Crone” by Clare L. Martin
2018-02-11 18.31.51

The Best-Laid Plans

My friend, Sandra, is the new Executive Director of Teche Center for the Arts in Breaux Bridge, Louisiana.

I wish her the very best!

The Road to Indigo

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Near the start of the year I made a commitment to make my literary projects a priority. I said so publicly, and I meant it. And then a professional opportunity too good to pass up emerged. Tomorrow will be my first day on the job as executive director of the Teche Center for the Arts. I will bring to bear my experience as a senior administrator, writer, editor, marketing communicator, poet, gallery co-founder, and arts champion within the dynamic community in the heart of Cajun and Creole culture that I call home. This community and I have embraced each other since I first started coming here in 2011 to research my novel, The Road to Indigo, now in revision. Luckily, my commitment to seeing my novel through and getting it into the world is not at odds with my new work. The two complement one another. Perhaps my book…

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Any Winter Sunday in Louisiana

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I am a native of Louisiana. I have lived here all my life. I am entranced by its diversity of landscapes and natural beauty. Many of my poems use nature as a metaphor or a sensory starting point.

I want to say a little something about my writing life. I was a teenage mom. My son was born three months premature. At fifteen, this was an unbelievably traumatic experience. My son was severely disabled. We loved and cared for him for 19 years, until his death in 2004. I had always wanted to be a writer, but I was not fully focused on it until Adam’s death. In his memory, I began furiously writing poems. training myself by writing, making mistakes, and revising poems to a fine finish. I have two collections of poetry now. Eating the Heart First (Press 53, 2012) in which “Any Winter Sunday in Louisiana” is collected, and Seek the Holy Dark, which came out this year from Yellow Flag Press.

I read quite a bit of contemporary poetry as editor of MockingHeart Review, and for pleasure and instruction. I trace my lineage to poets that I sought out feverishly over the years. A few of them are Sharon Olds, Margaret Atwood, Anne Sexton, James Dickey, Sylvia Plath, Gerard Manly Hopkins, Rainier Maria Rilke, and Wallace Stevens–icons who I adore.

“Any Winter Sunday in Louisiana” came to me from the many memories of making gumbo, car rides through coastal parishes, sights of burning sugar cane, knowledge of our fauna. This poem’s subject is a mythical woman who takes on the glory of all things Louisiana. She grows beyond the sensual woman into a symbol of the state itself, natural, exotic, erotic, palpable beauty. I hope you enjoy it and allow the words into your heart.

Come to Louisiana someday and you will get a sense of what generated this poem.

Clare L. Martin’s second collection of poetry, Seek the Holy Darkis 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.

 

Any Winter Sunday

 

 

Woodsman’s Song

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“Stag” 130cm x 94cm Charcoal, Acrylic and Oil on Canvas (2014, Tom Symonds)

 

Woodsman’s Song

 

evil
languishes in mist
rends its tongue
with gritted cries
blood blossoms
on the bough
a tarot tier
ineffable with dream
whispers
across moss
on my knees
to harvest a heart
in white woods
one shot
one arrow
pierces the doe
that fed on apples by the gate
rain and detritus of winter
a coyote alone
claws the mud
a stag sharpens venerable antlers
on the cleaved breast
of a five-hundred-year oak
hoofprints in snow
and silver grass
black, wet bark
blue-wet boulders
heathen succubae
haunt the grove
vulnerabilities of earth
and burning rivers
day-lit moon is a scar
hawks, the sky
snow buries
the chalice and the chain
royal blood
desiccated
strawberry crowns for the birds
death-keeper of desire
her keen sense perturbs
the physical world
grime haloes
albumen tongues
soft hoofbeats
white horses flee
a merciless fog
oak, cedar, cypress
vultures spiral
slag of gray clouds
candle wax sun
gold spears
the queen’s sallow eye
tomorrow’s nowhere-grave
a door
resolves all
that is pestilent

 

©2018 Clare L. Martin

12/8/17 Penchant Group’s Retreat, Chicot State Park, Louisiana

For the Love of Words

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These last two weekends were word-centric love fests. First was the Louisiana Book Festival in Baton Rouge, an annual celebration of writers, readers, and the books they love. And just yesterday the Festival of Words Cultural Arts Collective, Inc. celebrated the 10th Annual Festival of Words in Grand Coteau, LA.  I participated in both events.

It was the first time I was a presenter at the Louisiana Book Festival. I was there representing my book, Seek the Holy Dark, (Yellow Flag press, 2017). I was also invited by our new Poet Laureate, Jack Bedell, to be on a panel of Louisiana women poets. This was such an honor. The whole weekend was fabulous with my soul sister Bessie Senette. Accompanying me to the author event and sharing her generous friendship throughout the trip was the cherry on top.

The best part was seeing so many writer friends, who live in other cities, gathered at this celebration. It makes such a difference to the quality of our friendships to be in the same room together, share hugs, and laugh. I feel like our state writers are in many ways growing closer and that is a wonderful thing. A big part of that is opportunities such as Louisiana Book Festival which has grown in stature and attendance. It makes it possible for writers to connect with each other and with their readers. Don’t worry, friends. I won’t spill our secrets from the excursion on this page!

Next up was the Festival of Words. This year’s featured authors were extraordinary and kind. Darrell Bourque, Allison Joseph, and Patricia Smith each offered illumination and inspiration. From the reactions I witnessed, each of these fine poets seemed to have a fantastic time.

In its ten years as a festival, Festival of Words in picturesque Grand Coteau has grown greater than imagined. Thursday began with a warm reception for the featured poets with a potluck and performances by three of the festival’s Teaching Artists. It was a showcase to present the working artists who had gone into the schools to present creative workshops to the middle, elementary and high school students of St. Landry Parish.

Friday was the featured poets’ night to shine and it was fantastic. The venue was packed full. The audience was thrilled and gave standing ovations. Saturday, there were more activities, including community workshops led by the featured authors and spoken word and literary writers from the community.

It’s the wee hours of Sunday. The clocks are about to reset to Day Light Savings time, but I wanted to share just a flash about how wonderful these past two weeks have been. If you can make it in 2018 to either of these festivals, I don’t think you will be disappointed. Books, authors, learning, and entertainment—what’s not to love?

 

Clare

Diane Moore reviews “Seek the Holy Dark”

Poet and author, Diane Moore, reviews Seek the Holy Dark, available from Yellow Flag Press. Thank you, Diane, for your deep reading and generosity of heart.

SEEKING THE HOLY DARK

Seek the Holy Dark is the 2017 selection of the Louisiana Series of Cajun and Creole Poetry by Yellow Flag Press.

Seek the Holy Dark is now available. Trade paperback, 66 pages, only $10.  To order click here.

For signed copies contact Clare. $10 plus $3 shipping and handling. Paypal accepted. paypal.me/clarelmartin Please note your mailing address for book shipment.