Louisiana Aesthetic (Reggie Michael Rodrigue) has kindly published a poem I wrote after the Acadiana Wordlab session he led. Thank you, Reggie for your magnanimous words.

louisianaesthetic

LUBA ZYGAREWICZ Petrified Time 12 Years of My Life Folded and Neatly Stacked

LUBA ZYGAREWICZ, “Petrified Time: 12 Years of My Life, Folded and Neatly Stacked,” sculpture/stacked dryer lint, tags and rope

Last month I hosted a meeting of the Acadiana Wordlab thanks to the graciousness of the lab’s founder Jonathan Penton who also publishes the literary journal “Unlikely Stories.” During the lab, I exposed the attendants to a wide variety of my favorite contemporary works by artists from Louisiana and discussed the merits and relevance of them and their works.

It was great pleasure, and I personally got a lot out of the lab due to the quality and variety of ekphrastic responses I received from the attendants. If you’re wondering what an ekphrastic response is, you’re not alone. I had no idea what one was until I hosted the lab.  Once I found out what one is, I felt a little stupid. It’s what I do here all the time –…

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Summer Day, 1984

fishframe

I am pregnant; fifteen years old. I am fishing with my father. The bayou is a darkened mirror. Father stands in the slow-dancing boat and draws back effortlessly to cast the line. Water silvers; streams like snakes. There are snakes, too, black ones that appear plastic and fluid: shadows of water.  There is a faint stream of motor oil—a finger-trace in the water which rings a floating Budweiser can. Cattle egrets in breeding plumage float above the bank. Father pulls in a sun perch. Its iridescent tail fans the light. We cast again, again in silence.

After my son was born my daddy told me he made a wish for me as he rolled his wrist to reach the spot where the mysteries of fish exist:

To not regret, to hold to the promises I make.

Wings

Image

I want my ashes spread at Cypremort Point, Louisiana. To me it is a place that I have loved visiting all of my life. I continue to make memories there with my family.

As a child, my imagination was continually sparked by my mother’s nature-games, spotting hawks, Kingfishers, cranes, and other birds who inhabit the area and also her fun stories about Bear Country, a sloping area near the Weeks Island turnoff.  When we drove through Bear Country to get to the point, my mother’s voice would always drop a bit in tone and volume and she would tell us to be on the lookout for bears. As an adult, I finally saw a Louisiana Black Bear there and my mother’s evocative tales all became so wonderfully real again.

We had the use of a camp on the point for many years when I was very little until I was maybe ten years old. We would stay weekends out there with family. We would fish, crab, play in the water at the beach and then pack up at the end of that seemingly endless time and go home. I always liked Cypremort Point better than home. I do not remember much of the home on Sixth Street I began life in, but I vividly remember Cypremort Point.

Once I was allowed to steer the boat out in Vermilion Bay. I turned the wheel hard left and we circled dangerously. Once my father “caught” an alligator on his fishing line at Marsh Island and I shrieked in fear that the alligator was going to “get me” as he reeled it closer to the boat. There was an illusive, enormous sheep’s head fish that all of us tried to catch. It lurked under the wharf and we would see it swim slowly in and out of sunlight. There was a day when the sun was full and high that I saw a thunderous strongman lift a sea turtle over his head on a shrimp boat. I was stunned by the exotic creature and the strange man who seemed to appear from a Sinbad the Sailor movie.

This brings to mind the dead winged monkey that I saw in a pile of shucked crab shells.  It was stinking and scary. I saw the wings. My brother didn’t. Its dank and wet hide was encircled by flies.  I looked closely for evidence of breath but there was none. It was my first up close experience with death.

I held onto that memory for years, the wonder of it and the improbability. I protected my illusions. I saw a winged monkey like in the Sinbad movies, like in The Wizard of Oz. These creatures were real even though the one I saw was dead, rotting, and half-buried under red-boiled blue point crab shells.

It was more real than anything.

I have told this story to only the closest of friends, or after a long drunk.  It didn’t do much to jeopardize my reputation because my reputation has always been at risk. Saturday at Acadiana Wordlab, I wrote about the dead winged monkey and we all laughed. The truth perhaps spilled out that I had imagined it, that likely the monkey was a pet on a shrimp boat, not Sinbad’s ship, and the pet monkey had died and was discarded.

But I really want to believe, to hold fast to the magic of its existence; the idea that we do not know all that we think we do. I want to believe in the strange and unfamiliar, the existence of secret things of this world. How would you know that this creature does not exist? Our knowledge is fallible, limited. You may say I am a silly woman, and I am. I am in my heart still that silly, shocked and awed girl; a child of wonder. And I reside in that one, and perhaps many other, glorious illusions.

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 NEXT BIG THING

Fellow Press 53 poet, Wendy Willis, tagged me for The Next Big Thing series. Thank you, Wendy!  Wendy’s splendid collection, Blood Sisters of the Republic, was published in 2012 by Press 53.

Wendy blogs at http://wendywillisdotme.wordpress.com/ and you can read her self-interview for The Next Big Thing here. 

HERE WE GO!

What is the working title of the book?

My debut poetry collection, which was published October 2012 by Press 53, is titled EATING THE HEART FIRST.

Where did the idea come from for the book?

We are meaning seekers. For me, all language of a poem should work to embody meaning.  I wrote the poem, “Eating the Heart First” several years ago and when I wrote it, my personal response to the metaphor was that it is the way I approach poetry, when reading or writing it—my aim is to go to the heart first. Many, many years ago I envisioned that if I ever did publish a book of poetry (which has been an enduring hope) that I would use that title.

What genre does your book fall under?

EATING THE HEART FIRST is a book of poetry. 

What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie rendition?

This is a very challenging question as there are not characters per se in the book, but there are variations of voice that would definitely need a strong female lead to perform the poems. I would say that Marion Cotillard comes to mind as an actress who could embody the grief and longing, eroticism and dark beauty conveyed in the work.

What is the one sentence synopsis of your book?

Mysterious, often dark, and always vivid poetic worlds arise in the lyrical language of Clare L. Martin, who stands firm as a powerful, emerging feminine poetic voice crying out for grace and beauty and love in the midst of death and more death and eerie dreaming against a backdrop of stunningly-imagined scenes of her beloved Louisiana and myriad realities we share beyond the haunted wetlands.

How long did it take you to write the first draft of the manuscript?

The poems in EATING THE HEART FIRST were written over an eight year period, but I did not begin shaping a manuscript until 2007, when my father died. Working on it, I did not keep track of how many drafts were produced. I just kept adding and subtracting poems and shaping, shaping, shaping. The manuscript went through many incarnations and even a different title. I know the actual manuscript was a work-in-progress for at least five years.

Who or what inspired you to write this book?

I wrote poetry sporadically since high school and through college, but did not have a dedicated practice until I made a conscious decision to live The Writing Life in 2004 when my son, Adam, died.  I made the commitment to do something excellent, and as my best skill is writing poetry I dedicated myself to it. The book is the evidence of eight years of poem-making and striving for excellence in my art.

What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?

I would say that it is a very womanly book, sensual and powerful, yet very, very vulnerable.  My work has been for some time, “in pursuit of the image” and I am very proud of the sometimes exquisite imagery I have achieved in this book.  I believe the i(mage) is the (mag)ic of a poem which transports the reader into the “heart” of the poem.   

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

EATING THE HEART FIRST was published October 2012 by Press 53.

Clare L. Martin’s debut collection of poetry, Eating the Heart First, was published fall 2012 by Press 53 as a Tom Lombardo Selection. Martin’s poetry has appeared in Avatar Review, Blue Fifth Review, Melusine, Poets and Artists and Louisiana Literature, among others. She has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize, Dzanc Books’ Best of the Web, for Best New Poets and Sundress Publication’s Best of the Net. Her poems have been included in the anthologies The Red Room: Writings from Press 1, Best of Farmhouse Magazine Vol. 1, Beyond Katrina, and the 2011 Press 53 Spotlight. She is a lifelong resident of Louisiana, a graduate of University of Louisiana at Lafayette, a member of the Festival of Words Cultural Arts Collective and a Teaching Artist through the Acadiana Center for the Arts. Martin founded and directs the Voices Seasonal Reading Series in Lafayette, LA, which features new and established Louisiana and regional writers.

I tag the women below for The Next Big Thing series, because their books are or will be!

Watch for their interviews at their sites on Wednesday, February 6th

Katie Manning

Margaret Gibson Simon

Hedy Habra

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)

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!!

A lovely gift to give yourself and those you love…

My debut collection of poetry, Eating the Heart First, published by Press 53 as a Tom Lombardo selection, is now available.

Click on the image to purchase directly from Press 53′s web site.

Also available on Amazon (may not arrive before Christmas)

For more information, or to purchase a signed copy, contact me via the email address below:

Clare L. Martin: martin.clarel@gmail.com

THANK YOU

Praise for Eating the Heart First

“Clare L. Martin is a fine young poet whose work is dark and lovely and full of a deep organic pulse. Like the landscape of her beloved Louisiana, her work is alive with mystery. You could swim in this hot water, but there are things down inside its darkness that might pull you away forever. It is an exquisite drowning.”

— Luis Alberto Urrea, author of Queen of America
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“In her first collection, Martin deals with many common themes – motherhood, death, nature – but does so with an unsettling grace. There is an honesty and an understated tone that give each piece the right mix of tension and release. Many of the poems are exceptionally well wrought, describing loss and hope, anger and want. The most powerful piece in the collection has to be “Bread Making.” The seething anger, mixed with a dash of christian mythos, combined with flour, and sweat, all bake together into the perfect loaf.

Although described as a Louisiana poet, Martin will appeal to readers way beyond the dankness of the bayou.”

R L Raymond  rlraymond.blogspot.com
Blog about the writing and poetry of R L Raymond
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“Clare L. Martin pulls off an impressive balancing act in her debut book of poems Eating the Heart First. In this collection, divided into three sections, she manages trust of her intuitive powers while she tats her findings onto poems built with technical expertise. She is a believer of dreams, and the whole of the work can be read as an oneiric treatise guided by the powers she believes in: the power of memory, the power of water, the power of moons, the powers of longing, and the power of love. In one of the late poems a crow in a dream asks, ‘Let me be a whorl of darkness— / Let me be a fist in the sun.’ All of the poems in this collection have the impact of that crow’s call and of the trope it creates. Gradually the poems reveal richly textured revelations of a heart tied to human experience in that ‘dream we cannot know completely.’ And, while we may not ever know the dream completely, Ms. Martin hands us a guidebook to dreams and to the art that uses dream and dreaming as the scaffolding from which to make something beautiful, and useful, and mysterious all at the same time.”

— Darrell Bourque, former Poet Laureate of Louisiana and author of In Ordinary Light, New and Selected Poems