These readings are my offerings to all of you.
Listen to these poems once, twice.
Perhaps one will speak to you strongly enough
that you will choose to learn it by heart.
Then write beautiful words of your own.
Because they are the ones I most need.
When our AROHO board held its retreat in March, we were asked to bring some type of small gift or offering. As I sat in my writing studio, thinking about what I might bring, I remembered a bookmark I picked up from a San Francisco bookstore inscribed with Jane Hirshfield’s “The Poet.” I had not read it before, and now I know it almost by heart. The image which most stood out in my mind? A woman writing alone in her room, and this line: “Her poems? I will never know them, though they are the ones I most need.”
I decided to reach into my own favorite poetry file to create a set of six bookmarks, a mini-series of “the ones we most need.” As I did this, I thought of how critical it is to look at our poetry foremothers, those who have preceded us, and at women from all cultures and backgrounds. I could not include everyone, but I wanted to try to represent the diversity that has been so important to my growth as a writer. I also attempted to choose poems that shared a unifying message, the common ground we all share as women, writers, advocates for change, heroines in our own lives.
I used artwork from the 2017 Women’s March with Lucille Clifton’s “Won’t You Celebrate With Me” and Alice Walker’s “Every Revolution Needs Fresh Poems” — how could I resist taking advantage of such stunning contemporary images? The candle with Martha Postlethwaite’s “Clearing” is a painting by the mother of a dear friend in New Mexico. Sally Ayala passed away last year, and after her death, my friend and her sister, in clearing out the house, found painting after painting, an uncovering of a lifetime of art. The image with Joy Harjo’s “Untitled” poem bookmark is a Zentangle drawing made by me, and for the quote by Sandra Cisneros, I used a flower from a botanical flower image archive online.
At our board retreat, I read these six poems aloud before presenting everyone with hand-made bookmarks. These readings are my offerings to all of you. Listen to these poems, once, twice. Perhaps one will speak to you strongly enough that you will choose to learn it by heart. Then write beautiful words of your own. Because they are the ones I most need.