In Harm’s Way

In harms way

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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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Beloved

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In March, it will be fourteen years since my son, Adam, died. He died March 15th, 2004.

I recalled yesterday something my daddy said, a few years before he died in 2007. It was a statement he made out of the blue when I was driving him to have lunch together. He said, “We did good, didn’t we?” I answered, “What do you mean?” He replied, “We did good by Adam.” I said, “Oh yes! Never worry about that because we did our very best.” That comforted him. He was devoted, as we all were, to Adam. Adam had the best loving care all of his life.

When I got pregnant at fifteen, if my parents were in shock or upset, they didn’t let on. They immediately came to my side and supported me. I wanted to have an abortion. This did trouble them, as Catholics. But, my mom looked into it, calling the clinic in Baton Rouge. She also spoke with a priest she was close to who told her, when she said that I was suicidal about it all, that God would forgive us and to save my life. Hard to imagine, right? That conversation did take place.

Some other things happened that I won’t say, but ultimately I decided to keep my baby. All the stress in me dissipated after that and life was relatively peaceful at home. My daddy brought me breakfast in bed daily to make sure I was eating healthy. My parents owned a small business and they built a room that served as a nursery and small kitchen so that they could care for my baby while I was at school. The tranquility disappeared when my baby was born at 26 weeks, weighing only two pounds, two and a half ounces.

For four months after Adam was born, we lived in crisis. He had so many close calls, life and death ones. Calls from the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit in the wee hours telling us to come to the hospital because Adam was blue, not breathing, and his heart had stopped were frequent.  Trauma after trauma after trauma.

Adam came home in December of 1984. He was born in August. I had expected a healthy baby and Adam wasn’t. I had only just turned 16 when he came home. I was shell-shocked with all of the traumas we had gone through with Adam. I rebelled and acted out with anger. I struggled to accept Adam the way he was when he didn’t hit the development marks a child of his age should. Slowly we were learning of his disability. He never walked or talked. He couldn’t hold his head up. His developmental age was determined by doctors as two months old.

It was my now husband, Dean, who helped me come to acceptance of my child in deeper ways. While my parents were primary caretakers, I grew able to take on more roles related to his care. It was Dean’s gentle manner with Adam and special care he showed him that inspired me to open up more. I had been shut down because of the trauma of the NICU, the development of seizures, and Adam’s lack of development. All of it frighted me. I was afraid to love Adam because I was afraid to lose him. I believed it was all my fault. It wasn’t no matter what the gossipers said. Of course, I loved my baby from his moment of birth until his awful death in 2004.

My parents never faulted me for the reticence I felt. My mother only gently encouraged me to open my heart. In the nineteen years we had with Adam, I count all of the blessings. He could have died the night he was born. He could have died many times after that. I was graced with time to learn to fully mother him. I was graced with the strength to be able to be his guardian in all care given to him. I was able to be the mother he needed me to be. I have the memory of his laughter. That is a gift. Nineteen years was a gift. Adam was a gift. His life was longer than any of us could have expected, considering his disabilities and health issues.

There’s so much more to Adam’s story. We were the lucky ones to know and love him. Here are two poems I wrote for him, one while he was still alive, and one just a week or so after his death from septicemia due to recurring bouts of pneumonia.

Both are collected in Eating the Heart First (press 53, 2012).

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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.

 

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