I’m thrilled and honored to be the Featured Poet in the September Issue of Blue Heron Speaks. This wonderful online poetry journal has a goal of presenting “messages of inspiration, support, and nourishment for the soul.”And they really do offer heart-centered poems that speak to seekers after beauty and peace. My three poems include the title poem from my forthcoming collection, Arabesque. An excerpt from the poem treats the word “arabesque” in its other meaning, a calligraphic figure: More
The writing life is a little like surfing: being tumbled under the tide but also catching some wonderful waves. I’ve just caught one of those good waves! I’m happy to say my poem “Cone of Silence” is up this month at Blue Heron Review.
This online journal has a mission with a tagline from Hafiz: “An awake heart is like a sky that pours light.” I’m thrilled to have my work alongside that of many fine poets, and to have this particular poem appear now. It was an experiment, a different process and outcome than I’m used to in writing poetry. Maybe it’s more flash fiction than poem, or prose poem, or mini-essay. I threw off the bit and bridle of line breaks and avoided deliberate rhythms. No rhyme appeared as I drafted.
I was trying to write without thinking of form, only of content: recording an internal experience by way of pure imagery. The silence came as an opening and welcoming: of birds, trees, hills, skateboarders, houses — whatever I passed. I was in an interesting state and later all I wanted to do was note it down for reflection. Later I put in the line breaks, made difference word choices, added assonance, alliteration, and near-rhyme. I attended to latent rhythms, and after doing all that, I went back to the original and made just a few tweaks. Honoring the spirit of silent acceptance.
This weekend we drove to Sebastopol, over the top of the San Francisco Bay, through marshlands filled with waterbirds.
I’m lucky to live near a creek where egrets hunt and nest. I take walks alongside this miniature waterway and appreciating the ducks keep an eye out for that white, upright stillness near the shore, often half hidden by tall dry grasses. When I come upon a lesser or greater egret, I stop at the pure white form the way you’d stop if you suddenly came across a living saint in prayer. They have a quality of prayer as they fish.
Once, when I was heading down toward the creek, I came eye level with one in flight. And this poem came in a rush of wings.
This lovely version is read by Marie Craven, who honors my poem and the egret with a lovely, soft voice beautifully precise and accented in a way that endows it with the hush and formal awe I was feeling. The poem is from my newest book Gods of Water and Air, available on Amazon.
English poet John Clare epitomizes for me something I’m often reaching for in my writing and occasionally dazzling into, in still and open moments. This poem, featured on Poetry Daily, amazes me, first into silence and then into writing.
The meaning of “clock a clay,” as poet Susan Stewart tells us (she selected the poem for PD) comes from a rural Northhamptonshire belief. The idea is that you can tell time by counting the number of taps on the ground it takes to make a ladybug fly away. So the poem is in the voice of the ladybug, a vantage point I have visited on a summer day. I hope it amazes you into a summer’s day of writing.
In the cowslips peeps I lye
Hidden from the buzzing fly
While green grass beneath me lies
Pearled wi’ dew like fishes eyes
Here I lye a Clock a clay
Waiting for the time o’day
While grassy forests quake surprise
And the wild wind sobs and sighs
My gold home rocks as like to fall
On its pillars green and tall
When the pattering rain drives bye
Clock a Clay keeps warm and dry
Day by day and night by night
All the week I hide from sight
In the cowslips peeps I lye
In rain and dew still warm and dry
Day and night and night and day
Red black spotted clock a clay
My home it shakes in wind and showers
Pale green pillar top’t wi’ flowers
Bending at the wild wind’s breath
Till I touch the grass beneath
Here still I live lone clock a clay
Watching for the time of day
I’m delighted that IthacaLit, that fine litmag out of Ithaca, NY and piloted by poet Michele Lesko, has published Barbara Ellen Sorensen’s interview with me, as well as a couple of my new poems. Barbara’s interview focused on topics of importance to us both: imagination, creativity, and spirituality. Barbara, author of the recent collection Compositions of the Dead Playing Flutes, asked me questions that made me dig down into my sources. I especially liked thinking about and responding to this:
Why do you suppose more poets don’t write with spirituality in mind? Particularly those who write poetry inspired by the natural world, not dipping into spirituality seems almost antithetic. I would say that acknowledging any type of spirituality in the poetry world, specifically, is not going to buy you any friends. I would venture to say it is a lonely endeavor to introduce it into poetry. Yet, you do. So the obvious question is: why is the acknowledgment of spirituality necessary and important?
We talked a lot about this, and my answer occupied a good chunk of the interview. It boils down to this:
Few write about, or know, the whole of the human condition. We need more balance in our poetry. Poets writing from belief are telling an important facet of the human condition, but they are often ignored for doing so because it’s still thought unseemly among intellectuals to believe in God. Or at least to speak of it at the dinner table and in poetry. And it’s absolutely unheard-of to think of Divinity as broader than a Biblical Judge up in the stratosphere.
A few are boldly writing about these things and we need more. Gregory Orr, a contemporary poet who writes about the spirit without nailing anything to dogma, wrote a wonderful villanelle on this topic. In his long sequence, “The City of Poetry,” Orr writes:
Ask any poet why this is. Talk to him or her
About why many poems blithely
Include deepest grief and horror—
They’ll tell you this city, like the human heart,
Contains it all—spun sugar and gossamer,
But also deepest grief and even horror.
But we have skewed life into only grief and horror in our publishing, but in pursuing literary careerism in our writing, we’re often tempted to overlook the deeper other aspects of life.
|Purchase Gods of Water and Air|
In book reviews and personal responses to my poetry, readers have revealed to me more about how and why I write than I could have learned through introspection. They’ve also inspired me to write new work. That’s a poem prompt I’ve seen nowhere: “Write a poem based on one reader’s positive comment about your poetry; then revise it based on another reader’s critique.”
Here are some things I learned about my poetic method and content:
* WORK IN LAYERS: “Many of her poems … unfold in delicate layers as one reads on, and with each successive theme she offers the gift of insight, “I toss away/ What I can for a journey into the fault. / But the ground coughs me up. / A shiver and I straighten, /and then again bow/ to all the gods of upheaval.” – Ami Kaye, Pirene’s Fountain, a review of Gods of Water and Air.
* BE PAINTERLY: “In Gods of Water and Air, Rachel Dacus turns a painterly eye onto both the nooks and crannies of our world — ‘hints of rose madder in the cerulean,’ a palm tree’s ‘rigid, rattling arguments’ — and ‘the blue immensity’ that holds us all. — Molly Fisk, author of The More Difficult Beauty and Blow-Drying a Chicken.
* LET SPIRITUAL CONCERNS SHINE THROUGH: “One of the most full-breathed, transfiguring books I have partaken of for a long time.” — personal note from Naomi Shihab Nye after reading my book Earth Lessons.
I always thought I had successfully hidden my urge to transfigure, but it seems, no I didn’t. So I might as well give myself the freedom to write as a spiritual being — that is, someone interested in the life’s layers and epiphanies and doubts informed by a core faith. I really can’t help but write from it.
The biggest thing all reader responses have shown me is that there’s nowhere to hide — a freeing revelation! So thanks for the feedback, comments, and praise, and especially the reviews and critiques. And thanks very much for reading!
A rain dance poem from Gods of Water and Air.
of blings under wheels and rubber heels.
Sudden baptism from branches.
Drooled harmonies. On your neck, wet
strings slithering like kisses. Rings
around drops that plop into pools: ting,
ting, ting, ting. Scriabin zithering
loss up your edges, a musical soul-cling,
I’m thrilled to have my new book, Gods of Water and Air, reviewed at Pirene’s Fountain — and in glowing terms! — by publisher/editor/poet Ami Kaye. Ami is the author of What Hands Can Hold and other books. I love the way she summed up my book:
“Dacus gives us poetry she has plucked from the fire of her imagination and heart, imparting warmth and sustenance to its readers, reminding us what is sacred in life. Her finely rendered, compassionate voice guides us through the space inhabited by the Gods of Water and Air. Rachel Dacus’ language fills and rounds our perceptions, and she plies her extraordinary talent, urging us to live life fully and in the moment.”
I’m truly honored by this sensitive encomium — and inspired! It’s always inspiring to know what touches and moves someone. Thank you, Ami, for this review, and for all your wonderful work at Pirene’s Fountain and Glass Lyre Press.
And I’m delighted that in the same November issue of Pirene’s Fountain, three of my new poems appear, along with a prose poem from my new play about Baroque sculptor Gianlorenzo Bernini, The Impresario of Ecstasy. These poems are inclining toward a new collection, one that will focus on love poems.