Sunday, June 28, 2009

Finding Healing through Writing

Welcome Readers!

For this blog post, we are honored to have poet, and multi-talented artist, Elizabeth Kirschner with us.

Elizabeth Kirschner has published three volumes of poetry with Carnegie-Mellon University Press, Twenty Colors, Postal Routes and Slow Risen Among the Smoke Trees. She has also published a chapbook, The Red Dragon, with Permafrost and her fourth book of poetry, My Life as a Doll, which is a memoir in verse, was published by Autumn House Press. Her fifth volume, Surrender to Light, is due out from Cherry Grove Collections this August.

In addition, she has collaborated with many composers and has two CDs that feature her work as lyricist from Albaby Records. In the first one, The Dichterliebe in Four Seasons, she has set her own poetry, not a translation to Robert Schumann's gorgeous love poem cycle and in the second one, New Dawn; eight of her poems have been set to music by Carson Cooman. She studies ballet and lives on the water at Sea Cabins Retreat, Kittery Point, ME.

Elizabeth has offered a small sample of her work for this post. Here is an excerpt from My Life as a Doll:

I was a cuckoo girl who lived
in a cuckoo house whose walls
trembled and cracked.
I wore a poisonous bee dress
to ward off my mother.
If she touched me,
she would be stung by
one hundred thousand bees.
Buzz, buzz
went the spring air.
Ding, dong
went the bell in my hell.
At night I heard the stars'
roaring voices
go forward in your netherland...


The following is an interview with Elizabeth.

Please be sure to leave a comment after you have read it. Elizabeth has graciously offered an autographed copy of her book for one of our readers. The names of all those who comment will be put in a drawing. I will announce the winner next Monday, July 6, 2009. Good Luck!

So, without further ado, lets here from Elizabeth.

Greetings, Elizabeth! Congratulations on both your book, My Life as a Doll, and the nomination for the Lenore Marshall Prize from the Academy of American Poets. How exciting!

I read on the WOW blog that you are a multi-talented artist – poet, ballet dancer, and educator, as well as a collaborator with composers. How do you integrate all these very different venues? Which of these is the most challenging?

I consider it a blessing to be able to write, dance, teach and collaborate with composers of classical music. They are my four graces and my dog is my muse who inspires me twice daily during long walks by the sea. Each discipline feeds the others and discipline, lots of it, is my spirit guide. I love these complex manifestations of who I am as an artist and the work involved is essential to my well-being. I would grieve, profoundly so, if I were denied entry to being creative in one form or another every day, especially the writing, as that is my quickened wick.

First and foremost, I am a poet as it is my deepest passion even though it is highly demanding. The concentration required is very intense and each book is an epic journey. Writing My Life as a Doll meant living at the breaking point. I felt I would get the book or die. I am certainly glad I was able to tell my tale of travail and live beyond it.

Abuse is a multi-faceted evil that too many of us have suffered through, be it physical, mental, emotional or spiritual. Would you talk about how writing in general has helped you find peace and healing?

For me every act of writing involves the soul. In the end, we are the only ones who can save our souls and writing has been and always will be my salvation. I did not remember the violence my parents perpetrated upon me until I was nearly fifty years old. That which I remembered to forget came roiling to the surface and out of that hot lava came My Life as a Doll.

Healing comes from sharing my story, of letting the poetry be a mouthpiece in a Shakespearean way. When I read from this book, people share their own histories with abuse and it is a very deep and profound exchange. This lets things come full circle. For me, it is where the deepest healing takes place. The sharing and partaking, the bearing and being witness is very moving.

The intro of this blog states that, “Words are power...when connected to Spirit; words heal, bring hope, connect us to the world and nurture dreams into reality. Words, when spoken from the Heart, bring Peace.” My Life as a Doll is certainly a fine example of this statement. When did you know that you would be sharing this memoir with the world?

I certainly did not know while writing My Life as a Doll that it would make its way into the universe. I sent it to Autumn House Press in April 2007 and believed my chances were slim that it would ever reach the light of publication because the only way to become a member of the Autumn House family is through their annual contest. They receive up to 750 poetry submissions each year. I did not expect to hear from the publisher, Michael Simms, until August, which is when they announce their finalists.

Two weeks after I let go of the manuscript, an email from Michael Simms came in. He asked one question: “Were the events in the book true?” Sadly I answered yes and soon after came his second message, “I’m in tears now.” We agreed to talk on the phone and that is when the book was formally accepted.

You have published five books with three different publishers. What advice would you give new writers about the difference in publishers? How do you discern which publishers are best for your work?

Actually, I have another book due out in August; Surrender to Light, from yet another publisher - Cherry Grove Collections. I have been blessed, but also know, intimately so, the pain of rejection.

My first book, Twenty Colors, was not published until I was thirty-seven. That meant I wrote for close to two decades before I received that acceptance. One must have faith that a manuscript will find its proper home in the fullness of time and the apprenticeship is long, or so it was with me.

I have learned that a book will go through several incarnations before it reaches its apex. It is important not to send out work prematurely, an error I have made countless times. The longer the gestation, the richer the fruition so my advice is to let it grow, let it grow, let it grow.

Poets find inspiration in the works of other poets. Who has influenced your writing? What is it that you find inspiring?

I have read widely, deeply, passionately over many years. I love to keep falling in love with other poets. That is what I strive for, so in a very real sense, every poem I have ever read has influenced me.

It is as elemental as breathing—I inhale the poems of others, exhale my own. I also keep what I call “Nickel Notebooks.” They are the old-fashioned composition books and in them, I record poems by poets I love most, as well as words about the art of writing poetry. They are a deep, rich repository. I often read and write simultaneously—great lines spur my own. It is a very invigorating way to work.

You have begun a mentoring program - Wise Eye: Creating Poetry that Soars. Could you explain what a writer would expect to find in the program, as well as why it is important for you to mentor? Who was your mentor?

All poets need good readers throughout their writing careers. I have a highly trained eye, an extremely sensitive ear and yes, wisdom to give about writing poetry.

Mentoring is like mothering—you have to nourish the entire being—and there is gestation before fruition. I seek to nurture poets and their poems at all stages and ages. It takes a very long time to produce a book and the journey is a solitary one, even lonely.

My hope is to bring hope, bring them all that I have learned and return the gift that was given to me by my mentors—Ruth Doty, former wife of Mark Doty, Hilary Masters and Charles Simic. These great mentors were generous givers and influenced me hugely so. Without them, I never would have become the poet I am.

As an educator, what advice would you give to other teachers concerning inspiring students to write? How do you keep students from turning a deaf ear to poetry?

I think it is critical to be passionate about both the writing and the teaching. For me, teaching has always been a natural extension of my writing life. I always need to be writing while I am teaching, reading as well—it is what keeps the teaching fresh. I must nourish myself while nourishing students. It is like mining many gold mines at once and teaching a whole lot of canaries to sing.

Elizabeth, it has been wonderful talking with you here. Are there any final words you would like to share with the readers, especially about being an abuse survivor?

I have learned that it is possible to survive the unbearable and not just survive, but also thrive. It just takes a lot of work. I still feel the damage done to me as I suffer from a major mental illness that directly rose out of the trauma. What feels so very urgent to me is that survivors, at least in my case, need to share their stories, let someone, even if it is just one person, bear witness. Far too many people keep the evil secret and take their ungodly tales to the grave. Abuse is still taboo, but if I broke it by writing and sharing My Life as a Doll then anyone can. My question to other survivors is - what has helped them the most.

Thank you, Elizabeth! It has been wonderful getting to know more about you and your writing.

For more information on Elizabeth Kirschner visit:

Sunday, June 14, 2009

The Rose Awards

This post is a recognition of some very special people, the idea for which came partly through an email from a friend and partly from a post from a cyber-friend.

My garden includes a rose garden, which my beloved Roger created for me. Each year, it surprises us with the most amazing blossoms. This past winter was very trying for both flora and fauna. I thought for sure that my precious roses had been killed by the cold and frost. But, tenacious as ever, the roses have found the strength to produce even more blossoms than in years past.

Each rose has a name which I equate with qualities that are admirable. So, for each rose, an individual with similar qualities will be recognized.


This beauty is HUGE! I actually do not know the given name of this was a gift that had no tag. I have named it Pretty in Pink, because it has pink-on-pink colored petals. Its fragrance is also spectacular, filling the yard with a wonderful rosy aroma. As you can see from my hand at the bottom of the picture it is really a huge rose, about as big as a lunch plate.

The love and devotion of friends is a huge part of my support system. Without the wonderful women in my life who have been there during both the ups and downs, I would not be where I am today. Therefore, this rose goes to: Barbara, Hannah, Reenie, Deb, Jeannie, Deborah, Zinnia, Wendy, Kirsten, Laurie, Michleen, Mare, Gail, Trish, Katja, Claire, Kathy, Laura, Peg...Each of you is a HUGE part of who I am, each of you fills my life with the fragrance of friendship in ways that only those who connect heart and soul understand. Thank you for being my friend. Love you!


This long-stem beauty is the JFK Rose. Roger found it by accident - he wasn't looking for roses - but it caught his eye in the "Final Sale" bin of a local gardening center. It had gone past, as they say. Roger knew if we planted it immediately, we should be able to enjoy it the following year. He was correct!

It is with great pleasure that I award this rose to my cyber-friend, Tabitha.
Tabitha has an amazing spirit, filled with love and compassion for others. She has made it her life mission to help, even in the smallest ways, to relieve the pain of others. Tabitha's tenacious spirit can be seen in everything she does, including her uplifting blog, very aptly titled, "I Choose Bliss." A visit to this site is sure to bring a smile to your face and warm your heart.

With a heart and soul as bright and pure as this rose; serving others, as JFK called our nation to do,Tabitha, you are a Light to us all!


This purple florabunda is called, Purple Passion. It has a fragrance that fills you with images of beauty.

Purple Passion is awarded to my cyber-friend, Alexys, who is responsible for inspiring me to do this post when she wished her readers a Happy Blogger's Day with rose photos, history and trivia.

Alexys has a passion for life and for the written word. I have found her writing to be both informative and inspiring. Each post has a unique quality, much like the unique quality of this rose.

Alexys, may your life always be filled with "Purple Passion!"


These old-fashioned rambling roses I award to my daughters, Gwendolyn, Courtney, Elizabeth and Kathleen and to Roger's daughter, Bridget. Like these roses, you each have followed your own unique and individual path in life. You each have talents and gifts that are especially yours. Like the individual roses of this rambling vine, you are all part of our family, yet, you stand alone.

The pride we have in your achievements, the joy of watching you each develop into the talented and beautiful women you are, fills us with joy. We give thanks to the Creator of all beauty that you are each part of our lives.


Like their mothers, my granddaughters are part of the winding whole that is family. Still young and fragile, they remind me of these wild roses, that tenaciously cling together, bringing an essence of sweetness to my garden walls.

Little Miss A, Miss M and Miss C, I love you to the moon and back times Infinity squared to the ultimate power! I am so proud to be your Nanilin. Thank you for enriching my life with your presence.


I award this delicious, raspberry climber to Miruh, whose blog has been a delicious treat for my soul, just as this rose.

Spiritual Healing Journey, is a site I visit often. Miruh's wisdom, insight and gentleness are inspirational. Several times, I have found her site to be the answer to questions I have been searching for during my struggle through Life's twisting Path.

Thank you, Miruh, for holding the Light high so that the Path is illumined for all.


Finally...if I could award the Nobel Peace Prize to someone, it would be to my friend, Dr. Maithri Goonetilleke, who is not only an amazingly gifted physician, but an accomplished poet, singer, songwriter and humanitarian.

Maithri (pronounced "my three") is chronicling his work in Swaziland on his blog, The Soaring Impulse. I have yet to read a post from this gentle soul that has not moved me to tears. He is living a life of service to the poorest of the poor, to the forgotten and unseen souls of those without even the most basic necessities of life, to those who have no voice but that of this compassionate and gifted young doctor.

I ask, no I implore, each of my readers to visit his site, to witness the hope and love that he gives to the beautiful people of Swaziland. Please, if you desire, follow his instructions on how to send help.

To my dear friend, Maithri, I give, not the Nobel Peace Prize, but rather my Peace rose. May it be a sign to you that the world sees and appreciates the work you do daily. I send also, prayers for continued strength in the face of such overwhelming struggles, joy in the midst of pain and unboundless love for you and those you serve.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

June Journeys

Recently, while on a visit to the home of dear friends, I happened upon this scene. For me, it was so typically New England. A small hand made wooden dory and a duck, both resting.

Something about the tranquility of the moment filled me with great peace.

The past six months have been filled with change and challenges. I have grieved, and celebrated, laughed and cried. There have been moments of great joy with my granddaughters and days of sorrow over the death of loved ones. Needless to say, I have been anything but tranquil.

Yet, here I was in a strange town, beside the docks where boats that cost more than my entire education were moored. The smell of sea and diesel wafted over the bay. Seagulls grumbled about the loss of a morsel of food. Scruffy fishermen stood in silence on the bridge by the dock hoping to catch just one more.

I wonder, did God send an angel to gently nudge me down the street during my walk to this moment, this magical moment? Was it planned that I should find solace here beside the sea? Or, was it just simply one of those serendipitous moments when magic is there for the taking if we are open to it.

A duck and a dory...resting. The lesson was clear. I breathed deeply...gazing out to sea and emptied my soul with my exhaled breath.