Tag Archive for 'pregnancy'

Alice Catherine Jennings: Five Tudor Poems

Anne Boleyn, Second Wife of Henry VIII

The Queen’s Failure

 

The Stillbirth

07.27.1534

(After “The Witches Chant” in Macbeth by William Shakespeare)

 

Sir Thomas Boleyn:

Thrice the brinded cat hath mew’d.

 

King Henry VIII:

Thrice and once, the hedge-pig whin’d.

 

Queen Anne:

‘tis time! ‘tis time!

 

 Sir Thomas Boleyn:

Quick to your chambers to produce an heir.

If a son is born, we will not fear

loss of face, titles, the King’s good cheer.

 

King Henry VIII:

Moonless pleasure, double regret

A worthless girl, a dead boy beget.

 

Sir Thomas Boleyn:

Anne, my child, we have much to lose

You must do your part to produce an heir.

 

Queen Anne:

Body breaking burning face

angels bring my boy with haste.

 

King Henry VIII:

Moonless pleasure, triple regret

A worthless girl, two boys dead beget.

 

Queen Anne:

Look in the mirror my heart does break.

The King I yearned for now me regrets.

 

 

Anne’s Prayer

08.12.1535

 

failing,

fallow land, my

womb – barain, aridez

devoid of fruit, incapable

matriz.

                        

fecund

fertillus seeds,

produce a spawning womb,

sustain abundant growth, a crop,

a son

 

 

Henry Hears Rumors of Anne’s Infidelity

12.25.1535

(From a line by William Shakespeare)

  

When my love swears that she is made of truth,

I do believe her, though I know she lies.

She caresses my thighs. Her whispers soothes

my self-regard. My love swears she is true.

She has borne no sons: what can I deduce?

My craze was but an act of sortilege.

When my love swears that she is made of truth,

I do believe her. Yet, I know she lies. 

 

 

Caught in Revelry by the King after the Death of Katherine of Aragon

01.08.1536

(From a line translated from the Anglo-Saxon by David Constantine)

  

I dance like flames, I lend the winds.

Glorious shapes, the fire in me

is aglow. My limbs, they fly and bend.

I dance like flames. I lend the winds.

Quit staring, Henry! I did not sin.

The Lady’s death – we’re truly free!

I dance like flames. I lend the winds.

Glorious shapes, our son in me.

 

 

The Miscarriage

01.29.1536

(From a line translated from the Anglo-Saxon by Ciara Carson)

 

crackle fire winter’s dawn fire hearth crackle crackle crack the egg lady madge snap snap logs, back, crackle crackle heat crack the egg, crack the egg, the pain, the back, crackle crackle heat erase the chill, crack crack, stuff my quaint, bind my legs lady jane, bind my legs tight tight stop the crackle stop the heat hold my legs, crack the back, the pain, the egg, no! no! no! expel the crack, the bones, the nails, the chinks, crack crack crackle no! no! no! crack crack add the logs, the rags, chunks of bone crack crack  crackle  heat cracks brows burn crackle crackle  teeth crack the eggs crack the pain, the heat…

soaked in sorrow, fearful at the sight,

for all that, I lay there a long while

all that remains is this bloody ash.

 

 

Notes:

01 1st Witch:

    Thrice the brinded cat hath mew’d.


2nd Witch:

   Thrice and once, the hedge-pig whin’d.


3rd Witch

   Harpier cries:—’tis time! ’tis time!

   (From “The Witches Chant” in Macbeth by William Shakespeare)

 

03 When my love swears that she is made of truth,

     I do believe her, though I know she lies.

    (From “Sonnet 138” by William Shakespeare)

 

04 I dance like flames, I lend the winds.

     Glorious shapes, the fire in me

    (From Riddle 30 “I Dance Like Flames” as translated

    from the Anglo-Saxon by David Constantine)

 

05 I was soaked in sorrow, fearful at the sight

    For all that, I lay there a long while.

    (From “The Vision of the Cross” as translated from the Anglo-Saxon by Ciara Carson)

 

Alice Catherine Jennings is a student in the MFA Program in Writing at Spalding University.  Her poetry has appeared in In Other Words: Merida and is forthcoming in the Hawai’i Review, Penumbra, and the Louisville Review.  She is the recipient of the U.S. Poets in Mexico 2013 MFA Candidate Award.  Alice divides her time between Oaxaca, Mexico and Marfa/Austin, Texas.

Read Kate Bolton Bonnici’s interview with Alice Catherine Jennings.

Poems by Jennifer Givhan

LOVESONG OF THE BARREN WOMAN

1. Shipwreck

                Water, water everywhere
                              and not a drop to drink

I sing of PCOS—
That pirate disease, launching its scourge on my red woman’s deck,
goading my dreams as they walk the plank
with a splash and a plop.

I thirst. For round belly flesh.
For a living inner-tube to keep me afloat.

Any sea creature caught in my gut would tread oil spills
and the plastic necklaces of aluminum cans,
finding no safe spot to anchor.

I met a woman who had her tubes cut at twenty-two
and has never once regretted the decision.

I could be her twisted sister. Her mirror-image. Her tocaya.
In her I see reflected my own incision, ectopic wounds.
Gloved oars slice through k-y jellies;
they navigate my shame.

Clomid pops like fish eggs on my blackened tongue,
Eucharist to the bleeding woman.
One pill two pills red pill blue pill.

Hapless fisher kings in shining yellow slickers fishhook
my ovaries, but the fish swim away, and the wires snap back empty.
There will be no dinner tonight though the villagers are starving.

Sponge pads soaking in saltwater choke the angelfish.
Mussels suction my gut.
I’ve beads tonguing my cauliflower flesh,
strings lovely and strange;

If only I could peel them off, these sticky pearls
aborted before they’ve grown protective shells,

I’d rise, I’d rise in sprays.

2. Looking Glass

                   The image in the mirror appears whole
                             though I swear I am a fragment.

Columnar self,
I am my own grotesque other body.

I fell asleep inside my pod and woke to red,
where oceans are dry as salt flats, where red means lost
and lost means dead.

When the blood comes, yet again, unwanted,
hold high the striped umbrella, and sing
rain, rain go away to passersby, to gawkers
who have never seen a bloated caterpillar
sway in quite that way.

Tell them I am growing once more and soon
will overgrow this crumbling hull.
I’ve sublet my stomach to the construction workers:

Screw the landlady.
Who owns this house?
I am a troubadour.

My plump toes are spreading,
wrapping the branches of my mildewed limbs,
and the round tips of my fingers are sprawling wildly
for I have been eating too many pitahayas.

Now the juicy seeds have planted inside my nectar bosom,
and my roots are tearing through the chalky red walls
that hold this broken house-heart up,
creating cracks wide enough
for even the snails to crawl through.

Fissures of the soul? There is not space
enough nor time to fill me—yet
I am full to flowing and overripe.

3. Shell Shock

           Mother-woman, other woman, in my bed,
                      She’s the woman, fertile woman, hollowing my head.

Caroline has a baby girl.
She’s beautiful, intelligent,
stacks Thomas the Train building blocks in perfect rows.

Our pieces wedge together and converge
in that brown haired baby with seashell eyes,
she’s yours, not mine.

I am nineteen again and barefoot on the cold pavement porch,
gray USC sweatshirt to my knees, poised beneath
the veined trellis that raises its arms in wordless salute
to a crisp desert sky of stars hung like brittle ornaments,
cordless phone pressed to my ear.

I cannot understand his hesitation—
You strayed. I forgive you. I say. We can work it out.

Across the street red and green chaser lights blink
Merry Christmas, Merry Christmas.
But the sound rattles my ear canal, ricochets in a tunnel,
aerial gunnery, practice in the nearby Chocolate Mountains:

You don’t understand. He tells me.
Caroline is pregnant with my child.

The phone through the earth hums softly away in a manger.
His voice, a lone coyote’s distant howl,
stabs my moon, my heart, my breasts, my womb—
bits of body stubbornly casing spirits, dead weight, crushed ice.
And all around flashes
Merry Christmas, Merry
Christmas.

 

NINE MONTHS PREGNANT AFTER FIVE YEARS INFERTILITY & ONE (BEAUTIFUL) ADOPTION

Not so different: excitement the same.
Planning the same, packing, the same.

I’d long thought myself a pitted plum rotting,
but here I’m rooting, shooting, spiraling, curling,
and still, the same.

As usual, August swamps and spits down my face,
my breasts;  it gathers under my folds and pits
and crevices like jellies within their pots
and balms the backs of my knees.

Reading a book is the same. This one’s Erica Jong’s
Fear of Flying. I’d never read it, but pleasure
unfolds, mind unwraps, unspools even pops
and pulls the same. Tentacles uncoil the same.

Plums taste the same. I just finished a deeply
purple one, spotted and bruised,
pit perfectly intact. God it was sweet.

But even sweetness, even overflowing
and hearty and arching and malting and moon
heavy and cow eyed and summer sprawled,
sweetness is the same.

My son lies napping in his bed.
My daughter sidewinds my gut.
Dreaming, both.

But hopes. Fears. Loves.
Aches like soft loaves of bread. Weight
of worlds and oceans and maternity and eternity
in my blood. And my blood. And my blood.
The same.

                 first appeared in Poetry Quarterly

 

 

Jennifer Givhan was a PEN Emerging Voices Fellow, a St. Lawrence Book Award finalist, and a Vernice Quebodeaux Pathways Prize finalist for her poetry collection Red Sun Mother. Nominated for the 2012 Best of the Net, Givhan’s work has appeared or is forthcoming in over forty journals, including Prairie Schooner, Contrary, Rattle, The Los Angeles Review, Fickle Muses, and Crab Creek Review. She attends the MFA program at Warren Wilson College, teaches composition at The University of New Mexico, and is at work on her second novel and poetry collection. You can visit Givhan online at www.jennifergivhan.com.

Poems by Sidney Thompson

MY WORD

In ribbons the blinds
make of the courtyard

light, I press my lips
to your mother’s moon

belly and whisper,
“It’s me again.”

As if in answer for you,
my child, eyes-closed,

she says, “Hmmm,”
a sort of smiling om.

The catalog of my day
is my night’s prayer.

Oh, I’ve never prayed
this way, god no, but now

someone’s listening,
aren’t you? And from this

memory of comfort, you
will recognize my voice,

won’t you? You will say,
“Father,” a miracle, and I,

your child, will answer.

THE SEVENTEENTH WEEK

Your mother once snaked her legs with mine
so that, I swear, with each moon phase
they seemed multiplied, my cat-eyed snake

goddess with navel ring. Now the magic
is slighter, hidden in an egg as if in a hat,
how you pull and pull to round her belly

and back, stretch a piercing into a crater
because it’s moon’s nature to want more
moon, I understand, but to steal her legs—

uncanny. But if you could see her pull back
against you, the mounting effort to marry her body
to full-body Boppy—the squirm, the hump,

the whole canine scooch-and-scooch to land
you atop the pillowed pedestal, to reduce
your effect—you’d regret your tidal slosh,

I know, but you needn’t. And if you could
see me behind her, uncovered by the fuss,
flat as sky, a shell shard, a dragonfly ring melting

under dust by the bathroom sink—like Boppy
was once suspended in plastic and shelved
in a distant store, a fossil’s reminder that nothing

foregrounds like background and is abortable forever—
you’d remember to rest easily, too, and wait
your turn because that is what moons do.

ECOSYSTEM

Your mother, if she can sleep, must sleep like a door
that won’t stay open, wedged by pillows to keep her
propped on the hinge of her left side, to keep you left,
too, close to the heart, a metronome for sleep.

There’s no crowding or kinking of the old sewer line,
the Inferior Vena Cava, which recycles breathless blood
below the waist, up along the spine, past the placenta—
the scenic route— to the right atrium. The best flow

prevents hypertension, hemorrhoids, and swelling, too,
of ankles and the already spreading feet of the exterior she.
Ultrasound shows by absence you are not a boy—you are
a half-this, half-that girl in your stylish vernix, urinating

and drinking where you swim, our 26-week-old baby fish
fountain we call Emerson. Everything in the amniotic
compost tastes delectable. Sometimes I hang my arm
around you both, my hand wedged beneath her globe,

feeling for kicks and heartbeats like hooves. Is this
how gods, not goddesses, pass time, waiting for function,
a door to open—your mother to finish the bottled water
on the night stand so I can fetch another?

DISCOVERY PARK

In our neighborhood, where Texas Instruments
put up that barbed wire to make calculators,

where rental houses have aluminum siding
in the back instead of brick, your mother’s spine

curves like a bough of ripened apples. She’ll try
anything to coax you out. At bedtime, I inserted

suppositories of evening primrose oil, retrieved
maxi-pads when she forgot. Now, it’s sex we take,

our daily dose, and I confess it’s weird
inducement—my hormones plus her orgasm.

The cervix is dilated 3 of 10 centimeters, as if
a microscopic artillery shell exploded through

the chapel ceiling—I can almost touch you.
Mornings, I teach and drive to school, but afternoons

when I return as student, your mother needs the Jeep,
so I ride the bus. It’s a double life, doctoral husband.

Wednesday night is Fiction Workshop night,
and January 18th, a Wednesday, is the semester’s first

meeting, the last day before your birth, when I get
the call that stands me up in the middle of class

to announce, It’s time, like I’m trying out the fiction
of movies. Outside, I race over shadows and lawn

and spotted light because my line has only one bus,
and missing it could mean missing everything,

but like the movies again, I find a bus parked
at the stop: not Eagle Point, not Mean Green,

but mine, Discovery Park, waiting as your mother
waits, when it’s never waited for me before.

I haven’t believed in miracles or God in ages,
not since the eighties, when I discovered in high school

the pleasure of annotating the Bible. That was before
I got old and fat, lost my hair, my dogs, and forgot

how to play the piano, the trumpet, before I knew
death and divorce were synonyms. On board,

it’s just me and the driver, just destination and delivery,
and silence, until the bus climbs.

 

Sidney Thompson is the author of the short story collection Sideshow. He received his MFA from the University of Arkansas and is a PhD candidate at the University of North Texas. His poetry has appeared in The Midwest Quarterly and Metrosphere, and is forthcoming in RHINO Poetry. This series of poems is dedicated to his wife, Sara, and daughter, Sydney Emerson.

4 Poems by Laura Thompson

Outgrown

The pet store owner hates me.
The bags of skittering crickets
I buy can’t make up for the sales
he’s lost. Releasing swarms of doubt
among his customers, I tell them
how big those babies behind glass will get.
The sulcata tortoise that fits
in your child’s mouth will be 200 pounds.
The frog sitting on your thumb eats fruit flies
now, rats later. In a year, that iguana will need
his own room. Caiman is just another
word for Crocodile. Is it animal welfare
that makes me speak up, or my own
fear of a life that will outgrow
the space I leave for it? When my eight-months
pregnant friend says how much she wants
this baby out, I don’t tell her
about my embryo, just another word
for a baby so small I didn’t know I’d brought
it home, how my deformed
uterus ran out of room at eight weeks,
and the tissue meant to cushion crushed.

My Boyfriend’s Miscarriage

On a Harley Davidson notepad, I draw
a normal uterus: pear-shaped, adorned on either side

with ovaries, and then mine, upside down, toppled
by a mass of eggs on one side, nothing

on the other, fallopian tubes
a gnarled ball of yarn.

The perspective father of my children
still isn’t convinced: Wouldn’t a child

 from your own body mean
more? Wouldn’t that be worth

the risk? I find him sobbing, face down
on our mattress, clutching

a Christmas photo—his niece’s bald head
covered by a Santa hat, smiling despite

chemo and swollen cheeks—he flinches
when I brush against his hip where a drill

pierced his femur, drawing rich red marrow
from the hollows of his pelvis to patch holes

in a child’s blood, the only relative whose genes
matched. Nine months later, the cells he donated

have died inside her. I was wrong
he says. That’s the last part of us
I want to lose.

“Inappropriate” Lactation After a Miscarriage

To not “take possession of.”
To not “set apart for a particular use.”
Not “fitting, suitable, apt.”
Not milk, but milky,
meant for a baby never
truly possessed.
Not white, but bluish gray,
insinuating itself into a bra’s
lace when someone else’s baby cries.

Set apart but not useful,
twin tumors the heart beats against–
ignore the pressure, refuse to release it,
and it will go away.
“Express” it and it will never
stop. Soothe with frozen
cabbage leaves, brittle green reminders
that babies are not found
where they were thought to be.
The only cure: to become
fertile again. What is natural
can also be wrong.

Heat

Inside a freshly laid egg, a gecko
begins female, but temperature
changes everything. Incubators
set at 75 guard oviducts, but
crank to 80 and androgen pools
in hemipenal pores. A simple formula, unless
a thermostat malfunctions and temps
reach 90, for an egg just shy of omelet
hatches “hot female.” Sterile, chunky,
aggressive, they savage males who try
to mount them, dance a slithering samba
when “normal” females approach.

Off her meds because of me, my mother
hid in closets and crawl spaces
in June, heat stroke less threatening
than life. Were those prenatal summer
months the reason the dress shop calls
my waist a “size other?” Did it make
me throw a desk at the teacher who said
I’d never find a husband peering
through a microscope? Is that
why I sizzle in a woman’s
arms like butter
beneath scrambled egg?

Laura Thompson earned her MFA in Poetry from Vermont College of the Fine Arts and is currently enrolled in the PhD program in English and Comparative Literature, with a certificate in Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies, at the University of Cincinnati. Her work has appeared in The Guardian, The Tributary, The Rectangle, and Tiger’s Eye. She is also a part-time English and Creative Writing instructor and serves on the editorial staff at the Cincinnati Review.

Read our interview with Laura Thompson conducted by Tania Pryputniewicz, Male Miscarriage, Reptilian vs. Human Mating Rituals and Inappropriate Lactation.

Light and Gravity: A Sampler of Birth Images by Elizabeth Sobkiw

linoleum cut monoprint pregnant skeleton

 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Blue backdrop pregnant body in white with black pelvic bone

 
 
 
 
 
 

Green backdrop pregnant body white purple butterflies and black pelvic bone

 






Detail purple butterflies and spine pregnant body on green backdrop







pregnant body, white plaster, spine and ribs like butterfly




Elizabeth Sobkiw-Williams (www.elizandra.com) is currently an art teacher in Montclair, New Jersey, where she lives with her husband, Matthew. She earned her Bachelor of Arts degree in Theater Studies in 2007, and completed her Masters degree in Art Education in 2011. She is passionate about art, travel, good food, and loves spending time with family and friends.

Read our interview with Elizabeth Sobkiw-Williams conducted by Tania Pryputniewicz:  Pregnant in a Barren Landscape: Art, Control, and Premature Ovarian Failure.

Brittney Corrigan: Three Poems

Guilt Poem: Unplanned

You didn’t want another child.
How you wept, how you weighed,
in those first undertow hours,
what you never before imagined.
You looked up the addresses
of clinics, your hand wavering
between belly and phone.
How such a faint, unformed thing
could ambush you so. Utterly
ensnare you. Knock you
sputtering into the deep.

You were already sinking.
Your boy—your difficult, discordant
child—took all you could gather
of yourself just to make it
from one end of the day to the other.
Where was there room in these riddled,
sapped hours for anything, anyone
else? Where was there room
in your heart, already compressing
with the weight of the descent? And, too,
the fear that blackened you when it rose,
would crush you if you spoke it:
what if this child was fractious as the first?

Everything you’d done up to now
was mustered from love.
You learned to assemble when
he crumbled. Shifted your orbit
to accommodate each essential,
rigid routine. You re-centered
your world to plunge into his.
Accepted the peculiar, unruly shimmer
of his being even as you wished
darkly for an easier child.

So you could not summon wonderment
or joy, feared this new child, insistent
and blazing, would sense how you felt
in the long, anxious months.
And what should you do with this
even more terrible thought that a second,
less arduous child might tamp
your love for the first? You could feel
yourself fragmenting, space debris
left circling in the black.

But with each tide your dark thoughts
were coaxed back to the depths.
As she grew and fluttered and spun,
so you grew to yearn for her coming,
urgent want flooding your bones.
It flattens you to think about now,
how she might not have been. She emerged
smiling, open-eyed and bright and necessary.

It is as if some otherworldly visitor,
sent with a message, decided to stay.
Something luminescent about her,
a glowing specimen feathering the deep.
How everything alters: your axis,
the revolving, the dizzy spin. How you
understand now the need for constellations,
the pull to make connections between stars.
They will keep each other, these satellites,
this sibilant galaxy of two.

Now the universe has two centers.
Or something like the balance of water
and air. Your world is no less difficult
for the changing. Still you dip and tread,
splay ragged at the leaving of the day.
But now you are a two-mooned
planet, spinning as they chase you
through expanding sky. Sometimes
they are too brilliant to look upon.
Sometimes they are reflected in your eyes.

16 Weeks

Waiting for the quickening, those little
knocks and bumps, a new rendering

of Morse code, our own body
language. You’re learning to control

those opalescent limbs. Little
dragonfly, my hummingbird, you hover

at my center, looking for the place
to wingbeat your first hello.

38 weeks

You are gaining an ounce a day
now, little person, growing creases

in your skin like fine folds
of cloth. My belly tightens around

you in preparation for your birth,
making me stand still, hold my hands

over your upturned limbs. Even now,
when I can’t wait to meet you, my whole

body holds you in, holds you tightly,
is reluctant to let you go.

Brittney Corrigan’s poems have appeared in The Texas Observer, Hayden’s Ferry Review, Borderlands, The Blue Mesa Review, Oregon Review, Manzanita Quarterly, Hip Mama, Stringtown, and Many Mountains Moving, among others. She is the poetry editor for the online literary journal Hyperlexia and lives in Portland, Oregon with her husband and two children. To read more of Brittney’s work, visit her website; links to her poetry on-line may be accessed here.

Read our Interview with Poet Brittney Corrigan: Second Hearts, Autism, and Mother Writer Retreats.

Fertile Variations: The Pregnant Body with Photographer Robyn Beattie

pregnant body, floral shadows
Fertile 1

pregnant body, many floral shadows

Fertile 2

 

pregnant body, octagonal tile pattern

Fertile 3

 

pregnant body, eggplant and gold hues

Fertile 4

 

 

 

 

 

In your artist’s statement (read in full here ), you state, “Most of my photographs reflect my fascination with the mysterious and with nature’s processes: the magic of seeds, birth and metamorphosis; the beauty in stain, death and decay. I am drawn to places like forgotten alleyways, dark cracks, holes in the road, and abandoned buildings. I look for shapes in the ashes of a fireplace, rusty metal, or broken glass. Many of my pieces are macro, small portions of something, rather than the whole item.” Many of your photographs focus on inanimate objects; so how do you go about photographing a pregnant woman? What is different about that process for you?

 When I photograph inanimate objects, I am often so close that I cannot see any of the surroundings or the background. With people, that is nearly impossible. I like working with fabrics as a background when photographing people, often using solid colors rather than patterns. The attributes of fabric that I like are the softness, the organic folds, the lack of straight edges.

Another factor that comes into play is the person’s face, their personality, and sometimes their modesty. So overall, I find it more challenging.

 How do you navigate the intimacy and privacy of your photo sessions with a pregnant woman?

 I think a lot of women and couples like the idea of being photographed outdoors, though it often involves less comfort, more vulnerability and lack of privacy. They often find the intimacy of their own home or yard, the comfort of a bed or couch, more relaxing. In contrast however, I once photographed a pregnant woman in a grove of bamboo, and the juxtaposition of the round belly with the upright bamboo stalks was very interesting.

 Does your interest in pregnancy photos extend beyond those couples who approach you for a session (do you foresee exploring other types of pregnancy photos—where would you see your work growing/changing in this area)?

 I am fascinated with the miracle of birth, knowing that it all starts with two tiny entities, so small they can only be seen through a microscope, finding each other, somehow, in the vastness of a womb. I have read that there is a flash of light when they meet, and bond. Fantastic, for me that is the miracle of life.

 The first and second photographs here, rich with patterns delicately shadowing the human form, are direct—only thinly veiled, so to speak. What did you discover in adapting the third and fourth photographs—the octagonal “tile” patterned version, as well as the more eggplant iridescent version?

 I have always loved the shadows that lace makes, and pairing that with the gorgeous pregnant body seems like a perfect match. The original photo that became what you so eloquently called “eggplant iridescent” is one of my favorite pregnancy photos. The simplicity of the image speaks volumes to me, and shows so unabashedly the beauty of a pregnant woman. It was fun to play in Photoshop, taking a piece that may have been too private/personal in its original form, yet wonderful in composition, and turn it into something more painterly.

 Who do you consider your photography mentors, or do you wish to discuss work you are inspired by?

 I did not have any photography mentors, but have always appreciated those whose work strove to simplify, to show the deep, core aspects of an experience. I have long been a fan of black and white photography, and am especially drawn to the work of Tina Modotti, Edward Weston, Imogen Cunningham, and Burton Pritzker, to name a few.

Robyn Beattie, Artist Statement:

I was born to bohemian parents of the San Francisco Beat era. Our family moved to the redwoods west of Healdsburg when I was five years old, and the dappled shadows of these giant trees was my home into adulthood. My father, Paul Beattie, was a recognized Abstract Expressionist. He often drew, sculpted, and painted for 16 hours a day, creating images that reflected his knowledge of astronomy and physics. His artworks continue to influence the way I see.

close up, Robyn Beattie's eye
Robyn Beattie

Other influences on my character include climbing Denali (aka Mt. McKinley), the highest mountain in North America; working as a naturalist guide in Costa Rica, where I also painted a 90-foot mural of the rain forest; and working as an archaeologist.

Most of my photographs reflect my fascination with the mysterious and with nature’s processes: the magic of seeds, birth and metamorphosis; the beauty in stain, death and decay. I am drawn to places like forgotten alleyways, dark cracks, holes in the road, and abandoned buildings. I look for shapes in the ashes of a fireplace, rusty metal, or broken glass. Many of my pieces are macro, small portions of something, rather than the whole item. Time seems to stand still when I am photographing. I often feel lost, absorbed in the moment, steeped in the awe I experience as I explore with my camera.

To view more of Robyn’s work, see her website: www.robynbeattie.com.

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Father Witness, Birth vs. God: An Interview with Poet Jim Richards

Poet Jim Richards

Jim Richards

An extreme state of ambivalence towards pregnancy is explored in “Mother of Three.” One of the things I most enjoyed about these three poems is the fearlessness with which God and birth are broached and prodded—here, what it means to bring a fourth child into a home overflowing with three (and praying for some kind of redemption despite adversity). What happens for you during the process of writing poems like these? Any surprises in process or line of questioning/reasoning?

My wife, Debbie, describes deciding to get pregnant like deciding to have the stomach flu for nine months. Her “morning” sickness occurs around the clock and throughout her pregnancy. Food becomes revolting. Things as simple as answering the phone make her vomit. Once, after a particularly difficult day of pregnancy, I came into the bathroom when she had just finished vomiting. I put my hand on her back and asked her, “What can I do to help?” Her reply was, “Just go away” then she spit into the toilet.

What can a husband do in this situation? Nothing, was the answer. My suffering was to watch my wife suffer. In the poem, I conflate this experience with that of the God of the New Testament as he watches his son suffer death by crucifixion. Christ claimed that he died to bring life. In a way, so do women when they “lay down their lives” for their children. That’s the paradox I wanted to explore in the poem: the joy that comes through sorrow as it pertains to child bearing, at a moment when sorrow is tipping the scale.

Similarly, in “On Your Birthday,” there’s an honest look at patterns of communication in a relationship. Though hard in some ways, there’s also a tenderness that comes across.
I see you in a chair, your faced washed / With the sorrow of post-partum, wanting to glow / In the eyes of the newborn in your arms, / And wondering how. How do you choose which moments to depict in a poem? Other inspiring poems about relationship dynamics that you’ve encountered in your reading history?

These poems are unusually autobiographical and sincere for me, including “On Your Birthday.” The occasion and the memory you quote here are actual. While Debbie was rocking our first baby, from the other room I heard her whisper to the child, “Do you think I’m beautiful?” This helped me understand a measure of what she was feeling. I try to identify (or sometimes invent) moments like these that are common yet overlooked, and then try to represent them honestly. Frost’s “Home Burial,” Kinnell’s “After Making Love We Hear Footsteps,” Rich’s “Aunt Jennifer’s Tigers,” Swenson’s “Feel Me to Do Right,” and Li-Young Lee’s Rose are models for me.

Can you talk about the process of writing, “Poem for a New Father?” Again, I’m struck by the way you map out the psychological territory a new father might find himself crossing when his wife gives birth: “A predator circles, patient as death.” Can you talk to us about that line, or others in the poem?

Again autobiographical, this poem was written for my brother after his first daughter, Grace, was born. It explores the question, “What might a man go through when his wife goes through childbirth?” For me, the experience is animalistic: the bearing down, the pushing, breathing, grunting; the pain and screaming; the blood and fluids; the indifference of the doctors and nurses for whom the ritual has become routine. The line you refer to tries to create this impression with an image of an animal bearing young in the wild while a predator watches. At any moment, mother or newborn may die. It’s that kind of emotional intensity I felt as I witnessed the birth of my children. I try to capture it in the poem as a way of empathizing with my brother.

How does your faith, and questions around it, enter your poetry?

My faith is so much a part of who I am I don’t know if I can answer this question with any real insight or objectivity. I was raised in a religious home by parents who were raised in religious homes, and so on throughout my ancestry. Quite honestly, I don’t think I’m capable of truly understanding what it’s like to live, think, or write without a perspective of faith. I believe in God and life after death and this influences every aspect of my life, including writing. It often inhibits my writing and makes me insecure because I worry that many readers may see me as naïve or old fashioned, and I’m probably both.

I struggle with the question: How can I believe and yet write in a way that will interest those who don’t believe? I don’t want to limit my audience to those who share my faith, but am I capable of writing poems of interest to those who don’t? I suppose many writers deal with this kind of struggle—how to reach beyond their own experience or identity to a wider world.

When did you start writing poetry? Any mentors you wish to discuss?

When I was in college on a study abroad in London my roommate asked if I wanted to go and hear Seamus Heaney give a reading. I had no idea who he was and passed on the invitation. Later that year I came across Heaney’s “Digging” in an anthology and loved it, especially its sound and imagery. Until that moment, it had never occurred to me that there was such a thing as a living poet. The next semester I registered for a senior seminar in contemporary poetry, and I’ve been trying to write poetry ever since. My poet-teachers have been my mentors: Lance Larsen, Susan E. Howe, Lesli Norris, Ed Hirsch, Adam Zagajewski, Mark Doty, Marie Howe. Ten years after passing on the invitation to hear Heaney, I heard him read “Digging” in Houston. Redemption at last.

What are you currently working on?

I’ve recently completed a novel about a little boy whose mother loses a baby and has a nervous breakdown. The little boy believes the mother has literally lost the baby and is determined to find it as that seems to be the solution to his family’s woes. He searches for the baby wherever he goes.

How did you come to lead student tours in Mexico? Anything writing related to that tour? Are you able to write on such trips at all?

The university needed a new person to lead the tour, they asked me, and I said yes. We take about thirty-six students on the tour and travel through some of the world’s most beautiful and mysterious places. I teach a creative writing class in conjunction with the tour and the students write poems, stories, and essays related to their experiences. The demands and details of the travel plans keep me from getting much writing done, but I do keep a daily record. And a bird list—I saw a russet-crowned mot mot and boat-billed flycatcher today!

Jim Richards completed a Ph.D. in literature and creative writing at the University of Houston and now teaches at Brigham Young University-Idaho in the Upper-Snake River Valley. His poems have appeared or are forthcoming in the Texas Review, Literature and Belief, Poet Lore, and Contemporary American Voices. An avid runner, he writes about his progress toward completing fifty marathons in fifty states at 50before50.blogspot.com

Jim Richards: Mother of Three, On Your Birthday, and Poem for a New Father

Mother of Three

And pregnant. Two pink lines
on the indicator stick you balanced
on the edge of the sink—one line

for happiness, one for hell—tip
when I touch them, and fall.
This means: you, mornings, evenings,

bent on the bathroom floor,
prayer spewing from your mouth
while three believers cry to you their god

their god: why have you forsaken us?
This means: you curled in bed, cut off
from the unlucky who have never never

never made life like you make it.
This means: I want to end it all
with an image of redemption: new heart,

new body, new face. But I know,
you know, we know just what this means:
our mouths cannot make the words.

On Your Birthday

Today is your birthday, and I’ve done nothing
In preparation to celebrate that moment
Twenty-eight years ago when you came
Through wet pain and warm darkness
Into light, into the first breath of a life
That would eventually and thankfully merge
With mine own. I’m a fool to think a few lines
Written an hour before we meet for lunch
Could make up for what I have failed to do.
Still I write, not knowing why, exactly;
Perhaps because the words I try to find
Are easier to find when I imagine your face
And bring you here beside me for a moment.
You’re sweet, and will forgive me, I know;
It is the way your birthdays have always been,
Swallowed up in the care of home and children.
I see you in a chair, your faced washed
With the sorrow of post-partum, wanting to glow
In the eyes of the newborn in your arms,
And wondering how. I see you kneeling
At the bedside in the dark hours of the morning,
Your prayers drowned out by the infant’s wail.
I see you with a needle in your leg, hours
And hours on the bed, and the burning foreshadow
Of scars growing across your body. I see you.
You are here with me now, for a moment
and I am supposed to say happy birthday.
In sorrow thou shalt bring forth children.
Happy birthday, my Love, in sorrow.

Poem for a New Father

Something with the water breaks
inside a man. Did you feel it?
A fresh outpouring, a clarity
rising through bedrock, swelling
through roots and soil, spilling
into the sun. Silent and painless

at first. Then it grows. Did you feel it?
Something with muscles aches
inside a man—contractions
make marriage more animal.
Sweet beast, your life-mate
drops her young in darkness

and a predator circles as patient
as death. Not time, not hours
can tell what fear it makes
for a man to be helpless against
his foe. Two lives that he loves
sink deep into a place where he

can never go. Brother, beast,
I was with you, when your loves
went down, when you were left
alone. I know how much it takes
to hold a hand that’s letting go.
But water, blood, and spirit

come, dust makes a living soul,
and soon it is grace you’re holding
in your hands, a face you know
you’ve never known. It is then,
just then, that something wakes

inside a man, did you feel it?

Jim Richards completed a Ph.D. in literature and creative writing at the University of Houston and now teaches at Brigham Young University-Idaho in the Upper-Snake River Valley. His poems have appeared or are forthcoming in the Texas Review, Literature and Belief, Poet Lore, and Contemporary American Voices. An avid runner, he writes about his progress toward completing fifty marathons in fifty states at 50before50.blogspot.com.

Read our interview with Jim Richards conducted by Tania Pryputniewicz, Father Witness: Birth vs. God, an Interview with poet Jim Richards.

 

Rhythms of Women and Nature: An Interview with Artist Christine DeCamp

Christine DeCamp

In your painting “Incubating”, we see a beautiful image of a half woman/half nautilus figure resting in the belly of a fish, kelp or seastrands descending from the top, and rising up from the bottom, which gives the setting of the painting a mirror world quality–an above and below depicted simultaneously. There’s a sense of internal peace and stillness, the eyes of the dreamer/figure closed (the fish/vessel seems to see and steer for both of them). Your work often features these female figures blending self or spirit with the natural world (sort of like female variations on a centaur). Can you talk about the process of painting Incubating? Why is she traveling inside the fish?

The ocean is our Mother of Mothers from whence all life began. It contains all the references to creation, femininity and the mysteries of life and birth. It is also the mirror of our psyche. The woman inside the shell, inside the womb of the fish and inside the waters of the ocean are reminiscent of the process of evolution, creation and the birth process. I can’t really say much about the process of painting it as it is an older piece–and much of my work develops intuitively, which I believe was true in this case.

In “The Birth of a  Moth” we see a brown-winged woman rising up out of an iridescent ripple in a tree stump, three comets or plumes of light emanating from her crown against the backdrop of night sky. The mystical qualities of night also seem to be characteristic of a number of your settings. Can you tell us what nightscapes offer for you? What the stump and moth figure mean for you?

The moth is a cecropia moth–a large and unusual species. I have heard that they cocoon underground, however I don’t know if that is true. They can be quite large–6 inches or so across, and their wings have the appearance of fur, while their antennae each looks like a feather. They have appeared to me several times as messengers at times of significant shifts in my life. They tend to be creatures of the night. The night is a magical time, when our reality shifts and the veils between the worlds are less dense and easier to traverse. Night belongs to the wild, as civilization tends to fear the darkness. The stump is part of a tree, which connects that which is underground through its roots to that which exists through all the layers of being, extending into the heavens. Trees are containers of life force.

Can you talk to us about your inspiration for “Oxum Queen of Waters,” and to which culture she originated? I’m thinking of Oshun (Cuban Santeria), who in one version of her life, is forced into prostitution to feed her children, and subsequently her children are stolen from her. Which part of Oxum’s story are you translating or transmitting here? Here we see her feet in water, mirror in hand, altar behind her–can you talk about the objects flanking her and what they represent?

My painting of Oxum is sort of an amalgam of water and ocean goddesses and their accoutrements. It began with an interesting book titled “Divine Inspiration”, which compared Brazilian religious practices to their African origins. Oxum is seen as a powerful deity who provides a life of wealth and pleasure. She rules over fertility and is the source of children. I have added symbols from other sources as well–such as the Haitian vevers. The rich spiritual heritage that began in Africa and was recreated in our hemisphere is a great source of inspiration and fascination to me.

In “Guardian” we behold a 4-armed figure standing behind the central figure. This painting has a past life feel to it—are those possible incarnations the central figure holds? Or future possibilities? Can you talk to us about the night blossoms, the crown, the hummingbirds, the energy emanating from the hands, what the Guardian might be passing on, what she might say should she speak?

This painting came out of a vision I saw during a guided meditation that was focused on connecting to a guardian or higher self figure. The dark skinned woman in the background is some kind of a healer, spirit or guardian, while the figure in the foreground is a self portrait. The smaller figures–each contained in a bubble like shape are also self portraits from different stages of my childhood and adolescence. The flowers are trumpet flowers, or datura, which is associated with rites of passage and initiation.

In “Lady of Shalott,” we witness a moon ride, flower blooms emanating light, smoke trails like comets, the plume of whale in background, the red slipper of a boat, dreamlike and peaceful. What were the roots of your desire to portray the Lady of Shalott (Tennyson’s poem, musical adaptions such as Loreena McKennitt’s version from The Visit, the Waterhouse image)? Any surprises in process?

“Lady of Shalott” started with the idea of the boat illuminated by the blown glass torches on the bay at night. Some glass blowers I met at a show were making and selling these torches and told me that they had sold some for use on a boat. I loved the idea of that image and the rest developed from there. As it so happened, I was listening to Loreena McKennitt’s song as I was finishing the painting & that is how it was titled. I have always loved Tennyson’s poem and the various Pre-Raphaelite painted versions of the story.

Any insights about your work’s timeline, where is has traveled, where you’d like to see it taking you, in terms of self/spiritual/subject exploration? You also work with sculpture—can you talk about how the mediums you use work together, shape or affect your work? How do you decide which images to cast on ceramics and which on canvas?

My work speaks to the connection of women and nature in the cycles of creation and birth, but with a focus on the larger picture of the earth, and our spiritual path within that world . In my process, I work intuitively and elements are not planned out as to their significance to the greater whole–it is always a mystery and an unfolding.

There is a reason we always refer to “Mother” Nature—and the earth is not Richard, James, or Zeus—but Gaia. The ocean is also referred to as feminine—and fresh water springs in olden times were revered as sacred to the Goddess. Many of those ancient springs later became the sites for cathedrals dedicated to Mary.

Women are deeply connected to earth cycles, the rhythms of nature and anything concerned with the earth, water, animals and plants. Women are part of the creation of life–whereas the male gods in ancient times stood outside of the creation of life. A woman’s ability to bring forth new life was a reason to honor and worship the connection to the greater web of life. In more recent times, it has become a reason to control and manipulate women.

The current work is both painting and pottery. They inspire one another. The work in clay is grounding and satisfying in a primitive and tactile way, whereas the painting is ethereal and mysterious. I go back and forth between the two mediums as the spirit moves me. I usually have several paintings in process at a time–sometimes both acrylic on canvas and gouache on paper. The ceramic process is complicated by clay drying to slowly or quickly and waiting for things to fire, cool etc.

I like having pieces in various stages so I always have something in process to work on. I don’t like to talk specifically about particular pieces that are in process, because I have found that it robs the piece of power. Like an embryo in an eggshell, they need the dark and quiet to develop.

Any words of advice for young artists starting out? Or even seasoned artists trying to stay true to their work?

My advice to artists finding their way would be to work on discovering and developing your authentic self and don’t get discouraged. Find a support system and keep working no matter what.

In her artist’s bio, Christine DeCamp writes:

When I came to California in 1981 I was making sculpture and furniture, primarily using papier mache and mixed media. I participated in many group shows in various venues including SOMA Arts Center, Limn Gallery, San Francisco Airport Galleries and Virginia Breier Gallery. I began painting again in the late 1980’s and joined Gallery Route One in Pt. Reyes, where I had a solo show in 1991. I moved to West Marin and continued to show with GRO, and participate in group shows with the Bolinas Museum and the San Francisco Museum Rental Gallery. I also began showing at the Celebration of Craftswomen, which I continued to do up until 2008.

In 1997, I was one of the founding members of Point Reyes Open Studios, which I participated in from 1997-1998, and then 2005 to the present time. I currently chair the Publicity Committee for PROS. In 1998, I opened a bookstore and gallery in Pt. Reyes called Manfred’s Books. I exhibited and sold my own work there as well as the work of other artists. I had the bookstore and gallery until 2007. Since 2005, I have been participating in various juried art festivals including the KPFA Crafts Fair, the Live Oak Park Fair and other shows in the Bay area.




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