Four Chambers Presspresents poets Kristin Berger and Scot Siegel at The Coronado. The event takes place on Thursday, October 27 at 7 pm. Both poets will be reading from their latest poetry collections. For more information, please visit the Facebook event.
Kristin Berger is the author of the poetry collection How Light Reaches Us (Aldrich Press, 2016), and a poetry chapbook, For the Willing (Finishing Line Press, 2008), and was co-editor of VoiceCatcher 6: Portland/Vancouver Area Women Writers and Artists (2011). Her long prose-poem, Changing Woman & Changing Man: A High Desert Myth, was a finalist for the 2016 Newfound Prose Prize. Kristin is the recipient of writer residencies from Playa and OSU’s Spring Creek Project, and her poetry and essays have appeared in Cirque, Facing the Change: Personal Encounters with Global Warming, Terrain.org, You Are Here, and in the forthcoming anthology, Drought, from Tiger’s Eye Press. A Detroit-native, Kristin has lived in Portland for 22 years, and is co-host of a poetry series at the Lents International Farmer’s Market. For more information visit the website.
Scot Siegel was born in Oakland, California, and grew up near Lake Tahoe where he was a nationally ranked junior ski racer. He has lived in the Pacific Northwest since 1987 and resides in Lake Oswego, Oregon. Siegel is the author of five books of poetry, most recently The Constellation of Extinct Stars and Other Poems (Salmon Poetry, 2016) and Thousands Flee California Wildflowers (Salmon Poetry, 2012). He has received awards and commendations from the Oregon Poetry Association, Nimrod International, Aesthetica (UK), Poetry Northwest, and the Oregon State Library. Siegel is the recipient of writer residencies with Playa at Summer Lake and Oregon State University’s Spring Creek Project. His poetry is part of the permanent art installation along the Portland-to-Milwaukie Light Rail ‘Orange Line’. For more information, visit Siegel’s website.
The Caffeine Corridor Poetry Series featuring poet John Spaulding takes place on Friday, October 14, at 9 The Gallery. Open mic starts at 7 p.m. and sign up starts at 6:45 p.m. This event is hosted by Bill Campana, Jack Evans, and Shawnte Orion. 9 The Gallery is located on 1229 Grand Ave. Phoenix AZ, 85007. The event is free.
John Spaulding’s work has appeared in nearly fifty periodicals, including The Atlantic, Rattle, Nimrod, Poetry, Prairie Schooner, APR, The Iowa Review, The Canadian Forum, Boston Review, The Southern Review, Hunger Mountain, Alaska Quarterly Review, and other places. His four published poetry titles include The White Train (Louisiana State University Press), The Roses of Starvation (Riverstone), Hospital (Finishing Line Press) and Walking in Stone Wesleyan). He was awarded the first Norma Millay Fellowship, and has been a Walt Whitman Award finalist, as well as a winner of the National Poetry Series. His book Hospital was selected by the Arizona Daily Star as one of the best books of 2012 by a southwestern author. John’s articles, “Poetry and the Media” and “The Popularity of Poetry,” appeared in the Journal of Popular Culture and Popular Culture Review, respectively. John is also the editor of a culinary history, Civil War Recipes, published by the University Press of Kentucky. After serving as a psychologist with the Indian Health Service for twenty years, he is now teaching writing at Pima Community College in Tucson, Arizona.
When her daughter was born eleven years ago, poet Julie Brooks Barbour wanted to know why everyone lied to her about motherhood. “People would say things like, ‘It goes so fast. Enjoy these moments,’ and I thought ‘Why is nobody telling the truth?’” Barbour began seeking out poetry by women who had children, but it was a challenge to find work that was honest and not intended for a laugh. Eventually, she stumbled upon Alice Notley’s, “A Baby Is Born Out of a White Owl’s Forehead,” originally published in 1972:
My baby is quiet and wise, but I’m
a trade name and I’m
rainwater on a piano . . . .
Finally, Barbour had found someone who told the truth. “It’s one of those poems every mother should read,” she said, “because this is chaos, and for the first two years there’s no me here.” Notley gave Barbour the glimmer of hope she needed to keep searching. She went on to discover other poets who wrote truthfully about motherhood, and about the body: Lucille Clifton, Eavan Boland, and Nikky Finney, for example, and then Barbour started writing her own poems about motherhood as identity. “I’ve always been interested in the feminine and the body,” she said, “but when my daughter was born she really brought it together for me.”
The poems from Barbour’s first chapbook, Come to MeandDrink (Finishing Line Press) address the ways a woman figures out who she is once she’s become a mother. “I kept asking: How do you keep in touch with yourself when you feel split apart, when you’re only allowed to show certain sides?” Barbour said. After reading her work, it’s clear that poetry became the perfect solder for the poet’s split selves.
The title poem from Come to Me and Drink, which will also appear in Small Chimes, a full-length manuscript due out from Aldrich Press later this year, is one example of that fine weld:
Come to Me and Drink
I know what she tastes: the ambrosia
that one morning fell in drops
from my breast to my arm. Tasting it,
my tongue recalled the white and yellow
blossoms of honeysuckle sprouting wild
along a field’s edge. Collecting vine upon vine,
I’d pluck each sweet blossom, pull out
each green stamen, careful not to lose
the drop of nectar at its tip, delighting
my tongue with the watery sugar.
Now the gods put me on the vine.
The buds of my nipples are pink
and dripping. An infant plucks me dry,
a sweet smell on her breath. This liquid:
a heal-all for a stomach-ache, a sedative
for the sleepless child making her bed
in the field’s tall grass. Her lips suckle in sleep.
Her tongue clicks in her mouth, an exercise.
The passing breeze my voice,
whispering around her ear. My arms vines
coaxing her to come to me and drink.
(Originally published at Inscape / Morehead State University)
The subject of women’s identity has certainly kept Barbour inspired, as she has a second chapbook, Earthlust (Finishing Line) also due out this year. Earthlust considers the ways girls are taught to be desirable, how a woman keeps her identity in the face of sexual desire, and the institution of marriage. Many of the poems are re-tellings of fairytales; for example, the series “The Woman without Hands” takes a fairytale character whose hands were cut off by her father, and imagines how she continues to accomplish necessary tasks, such as breastfeeding: “forehead to forehead, she nuzzles him like an animal. / She cannot sling him around to her back like a bear.”
“At one point in the fairytale, her husband gives her silver hands, and I thought, ‘Dear Lord, what is she going to do with those?” Barbour said. In the end, (spoiler alert) she removes the silver hands, her own hands grow back, and she uses them to discover her body. The series acts as a metaphor for the many ways women empower themselves despite being told what they are and are not allowed to do.
In fact Barbour has been told that she should write about other subjects, should write poems that are less soft-hearted. Her response: “Just because I’m writing about being a woman doesn’t mean I’m being sentimental,” she said. “It doesn’t mean that I’m sugar-coating it.”
Other poets who inspire Barbour include: Jeannine Hall Galey, Sally Rosen Kindred, Mary Biddinger, Marianne Boruch, Susan Grimm, and Mary McMyne.
“Hearing Voices – Women Versing Life” is a continuation of a series that originally appeared at Ploughshares.
Each Tuesday we feature audio or video of an SR Contributor reading their work. Today we’re proud to feature a podcast by Mercedes Lawry.
Mercedes Lawry has published poetry in such journals as Poetry, Rhino, Nimrod, Poetry East, Seattle Review, and others. She’s also published fiction and humor as well as stories and poems for children. Among the honors she’s received are awards from the Seattle Arts Commission, Hugo House, and Artist Trust. She’s been a Jack Straw Writer, held a residency at Hedgebrook and is a Pushcart Prize nominee. Her chapbook, There are Crows in My Blood, was published by Pudding House Press in 2007 and another chapbook, Happy Darkness, was released by Finishing Line Press in 2011. She lives in Seattle.