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
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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

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.

 

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.

The Heart’s Progress

We’ve had a great trial to endure over the past eight weeks. I worried that there would be a cloud over Saturday night’s celebratory event for Seek the Holy Dark. There wasn’t. Everything went off without a hitch. We had a great crowd of friends who came to celebrate with us. Friends came from New Orleans, Lake Charles, and Houston, as well as Lafayette and Grand Coteau. I felt such enormous love and support. A young couple came who I didn’t know. They had heard the radio interview and didn’t want to miss the reading. That sent me swooning. They were so sweet.
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I am so very fortunate to have the friends and family I do. While in many ways I have extraordinary strengths, I really am vulnerable to stress. I am blessed to have protectors. I am humbled by this. I have friends and family who see when I am fading out and give me the energy to help me come back to life. I am brought to tears with gratitude for Bessie Senette for being the woman she is and loving me so dearly. I was thrilled that my dear husband and beautiful daughter came to the book release event. My husband was injured last week and he was going to stay at home and rest. When I saw him come through the door I was ecstatic. At dinner afterward, Debra McDonald Bailey said she was ready for my third book. I need a minute to catch my breath!
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All day Sunday, I felt hungover. It wasn’t because I drank. The anticipation of and the event itself took a lot out of me. Sunday morning, Bessie said she felt like she had been struck by lightning. That is how I felt, too. It was a great night, no doubt, but the buildup of excitement and then the culmination draws on your reserves. I slept off and on most of Sunday, thus I am awake at 1 am on Monday. I’m having coffee, too. I need some quiet hours to continue to recover and process all that is in my heart. Staying in the moment is the only way I can live with peace. Thank God!
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I look forward to these wee hours in solitude. My heart is full and I am glad. Thank you to all who came to be with me in the special moment. I love you all.
A big THANK YOU to Rêve Coffee Roasters. We were so thrilled to be there Saturday.

“Happy News”

I’ve been invited and have accepted the invitation of our state Poet Laureate, Peter Cooley, to be a part of the traditional ensemble reading at the Louisiana State Library in Baton Rouge on April 27th at noon, to celebrate National Poetry Month in a reading called, “Just Listen to Yourself.” I am over the moon excited. I will be reading from Seek the Holy Dark.