Seek the Holy Dark is now available for pre-order. Trade paperback, 66 pages, only $10. Pre-orders will ship in early February. To order click here.
Any new book of poems worth its salt must reinvent the intelligences of poetry: trope, word, image, argument, sentence, strophe, music. The poems in Clare Martin’s Seek the Holy Dark will keep. They are salt.
~Darrell Bourque, Former Louisiana Poet Laureate, author of Megan’s Guitar and Other Poems from Acadie and Where I Waited
From the holy dark of horror storms and freedom in the hand, to starving wolves and old women who live in woods, Clare Martin’s poetic imagery seeks in myth to locate depth of soul. She incants salvation “bone by bone” up from the shadows. Her writing has a beautiful fury, a hard questing and secret exultation that keep the reader poised and intoxicated. “Do you seek the heart too” the opening poem asks, and of course, we answer Yes and read breathlessly on. These poems “drop through this world/into dark awakening.” The strong-hearted will understand.
~Rachel Dacus, author of Gods of Water and Air
Seek the Holy Dark is a book of revelations in poems. Clare L. Martin sees the richness and the poverty that are bedmates, proffers them as gifts, lays them at our feet. Her poems suggest we join in the quest to be both humbled and exalted. Martin, who never looks away, fully understands the duality of nature, its light and darkness, exploring both in this lush and lyrical new collection.
~Susan Tepper, author of dear Petrov and The Merrill Diaries
Seek the Holy Dark is the 2017 selection of the Louisiana Series of Cajun and Creole Poetry by Yellow Flag Press.
“Marsh Song I*” Mixed media, Clare L. Martin ©2016
We drive westward along the Louisiana coast on a crumbling highway with my parents. The sky purples with becoming light. Our bellies are full of boudin and cracklins. Hot coffee is handed carefully from the front seat to my husband and I seated in the back.
We sing “J’ai Passe Devant Ta Porte” or “Bon Vieux Mari,” called by my mother and responded to by my father. Always my father embellishes his responses. My mother rolls down her window and points to the Roseate Spoonbills lifting from their roosts. My father stops singing and praises God.
A prayer is said for loved ones, wherever they are. More of the morning sky erupts over the marsh. I think of painters, how I wish to be one, how I have tried with my words. This day we are traveling to see Sandhill Cranes that have been spotted in Creole, a few miles from here. We always take the scenic route and happily travel from dawn to dusk.
How many times have we come to this slipping away land and been blessed by our forgetfulness of the world’s problems and our own? Countless. How much do I miss these two people who gave and saved my life? My longing cannot be measured.
To treasure the dead is our inheritance.
*I dedicate this artwork and these words to my beloved family, especially to my deceased loved ones, wherever they are.
Clare L. Martin
“Embryonic Self*,” mixed media, by Clare L. Martin
A tree held in its branches
a womb that carried me.
My strong heart
beat brilliant red
through fluid translucence.
A thick cord
connected me to roots
of the tree
into the blood
of the earth.
Who knew I would experience
such sorrow, such joy
once born into the world?
*Dedicated to Bessie Senette.
Clare L. Martin ©2016
after a mixed media art piece in the Angel Bath series by Dennis Paul Williams
The fetal heart stops
in a globe of light
their way through flesh
her cheek depressed
a doctor’s thumbprint
gray washes into amber
soft, blooded veins—
her mother bears
the crown of thorns.
Desiccation we know
because the artist
layers each dream
upon the other
the artist dreams
these dreams for us
to show us
when waters rise
when rains fall.
When mothers suffer
up to their necks
reach for the ceiling
pray for lightning bolt holes
through the roof: a delivery
of a different kind
the ever-ghost children
quickly go to ground—
still-hearted and all.
©2016 Clare L. Martin
Here is the workshop outline I offered yesterday to our local group of Renegade Writers. We meet every other Saturday to write new. We share the responsibility of leading the workshops on a voluntary basis. There is no requirement of attendance. We have an online presence on Facebook where we share ideas germane to writing and creative thought. Renegade Writers
July 23, 2016
Clare L. Martin
Listen to Ambient music (try Pandora’s Ambient station) without words. Let your eye zigzag around these words or your own wordlist of random words. Write down the words that resonate with you.
sin receive fabric cold heavy slice tender banal gift span taint dismal fountain bashful blend breath blue groan six fever bloom panic hallow veil frost become trill boast float grease tin capsule din air host seek whisper cannon lyrical walls toll patient aid oil hold pallor desperate temperament fecund virtual tantalize crease grind aspirate glean diamond dissonance heavens wicked stars oceans gallop crust obsidian curve rock mist colored tall river hope wood animal bell hunted believe final aspire delicious scare canopy stairs burst kind liar shunt plastic cantor carrion shine ghost saint skin terrible flash grave fire rust fear rose brunt dire burden gloss perpetrate scandal viscerate denial vibe eat ball
Framework– Here are suggested prompts for you to get your writing started. You can go in your own direction, of course.
Write the spell to undo a curse.
Write words of forgiveness to a person who wronged you.
Write the earliest memory of a childhood fear.
Write a dreamed nightmare.
Write details of a normal morning or evening, only imagined as extraordinary and not dull in any way.
Think of a gift you’ve received—It could be intangible; a propensity toward something, a talent, a sensibility. Would you give it away? Why or why not?
Choose an animal. Think of its form, its musculature, its skeleton, its hide, its eyes. Think of its habitat and its habits. Think of its place in mythology and literature. How can you incorporate this animal into a working piece of prose or poetry so that it becomes a metaphor?
Music and language are so intertwined. When we listened to music, did you have images in your mind? Visual images that popped in the visionary sight of your mind? Did you write them down? Try to remember things that you might have missed writing down. List them or check your notes and keep writing.
What are your writing habits? How can you improve them by adapting others’ ideas as your own?
I am thrilled to announce that Yellow Flag Press will publish Seek the Holy Dark as the 2017 selection of The Louisiana Series of Cajun and Creole Poetry. Great thanks to J. Bruce Fuller for this honor. Yellow Flag Press is a Louisiana-born publishing house that is growing its national presence. I have had a long relationship with it, and I can’t think of any other affiliation that would make me as happy.
A little backstory:
For a long period of time since my mother’s death in May of 2014, I felt aimless. I was writing, but I did not have a meaningful writing project in front of me to keep me focused on the bigger picture of my Writing Life. I had material for a new manuscript, tentatively titled “Broken Jesus,” that I began to assemble after Eating the Heart First was published. Over the course of a couple of years, I abandoned hope for it and just kept writing new.
Several months ago, while having coffee with The Bayou Mystic, Bessie Senette, I expressed my feelings of a lack of purpose beyond my personal responsibilities and our writing group’s objectives. She knew that I had relinquished my roles in many of the projects I had been involved with before my mother’s death. She also knew that was very hard for me, because of my giving and ambitious nature. The deep dissatisfaction I had been living with was causing depression beyond normal grief.
Bessie listened as I shared my feelings. After a silence, Bessie stood, pointed her finger between my eyes, and said, “You need to write another damn book!” As soon as she said it, I was taken aback. I went home with a charge of energy to do exactly what she said to do. I got to work with real determination.
In December 2015, in a casual conversation, I brought up the work I was doing to J. Bruce Fuller at a writing event we were attending in Arnaudville, LA. He offered to read the manuscript. When I sent it, I had a sense that if I had to face a “no” I would reluctantly consider other options. Honestly, from that moment in Arnaudville when the opportunity opened, I desired for Seek the Holy Dark to be a YFP book. I have always had great faith in J Bruce’s integrity and the good health of his press.
[Surprisingly, in less than three days of receiving the publishing news, the cover art was selected and rights acquired. That is another story that involves my dear Bessie!!]
I am thrilled, ready, excited, and focused to bring this new work to the world. I again express thanks to J Bruce Fuller and Yellow Flag Press for this amazing opportunity.
And great thanks to Bessie for seeing my need and calling forth my energy to fulfill it.
Sometimes when I enter the pool, even when I am swimming, I think “this doesn’t seem real.” I don’t sense that I am present in my body at that moment. But then, body memory takes over and my mind follows. These are the best times, when my mind senses and recognizes that I am in the moment, in the pool, synced with my body so that all of me is coalesced in the present. Then, each breath, each moment is aligned with thought, and form becomes essential. My thought turns to prayer, or a mantra, and my body’s movement is prayer as well. I am a ‘living prayer,’ and not unlike a dance, my focused attention is on form, flow, freedom.
This is a tried and true writing exercise that I use often to get the juices flowing. Pick a beginning phrase and complete the sentence. Many writers have used the litany to create memorable poems that juxtapose seemingly unrelated things, unified by the opening of the sentence.
I am posting the unedited text. Try your hand at this exercise to “wake up” the mind.
I woke up remembering ice and snow.
I woke up remembering nothing of my dream.
I woke up remembering how it felt to write by hand on lined paper.
I woke up remembering that I wanted to be a painter.
I woke up remembering the boiling pot.
I woke up remembering the wrongs you did to me.
I woke up remembering to put the cat out.
I woke up remembering how it felt to write a poem.
I woke up remembering solitary confinement.
I woke up remembering your long eyelashes.
I woke up remembering frost on glass.
I woke up remembering fields of poppies.
I woke up remembering the shots from the firing squad.
I woke up remembering cannon fire.
I woke up remembering ashes of the dead.
I woke up remembering the carnival calliope.
I woke up remembering myself as an embarrassed third grader.
I woke up remembering the faults of others.
I woke up remembering pieces of broken china.
I woke up remembering the multitudes of clowns.
I woke up remembering the sideways smirk of the politician.
I woke up remembering the lace my grandmother tatted.
I woke up remembering your unprovoked anger.
I woke up remembering mysterious lights in the sky.
I woke up remembering smoke at dawn.
I woke up remembering fleeing the encampment.
I woke up remembering this writing exercise.
©2016 Clare L. Martin
I am part of a group of trusted writers and newcomers who meet every other Saturday at various locations to write together. This past Saturday, I led the exercises. We take turns leading, so the responsibility of running the group is shared. I am posting here my writing exercises. I only ask that if you use them in a class, that you credit me. Please feel free to use them to spark your own writing. It would be interesting to see examples of your work generated by these prompts in the comments below.
- LANDThe land has stories. Consider our natural environment, or a particular place that you have ties to, and tell its story. Start by listing the ideas you have associated with this land, and any memories. Use the items on your list as a source of inspiration and write a poem examining why this occupies your mind. As you write, continue to hunt for clarity and more to say. Does the land change you? Do you feel a particular way when you think of it or visit it? Does this place still exist? Is it threatened? Do you feel calm or fear when thinking of it or visiting it?
Weave your impressions and ideas into a poem or short piece of fiction.
- Thirteen ways of looking at a _____________________________
After reading the poem, “Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird,” pick an object and write several stanzas numbered 1-13. Strive not to be literal but to see beyond the thing. Write the most imaginative narrative about the object you chose that you can conjure.
- Word Prompts
Circle 3 or more words that resonate with you from each group. Write sentences with each of those words. Push for clarity and interrogate the sentences to determine a narrative thread. Spend time shaping this into a poem of short piece of fiction.
We will repeat the process with another round using different words, or your own list.
©2015 Clare L. Martin