|[Cover Art by Bill Fulton]|
Leah and I have been friends and poetry buddies for over forty years. We met in an authentic movement class. What’s that, you wonder? It is an expressive art, a form of active imagination, a practice in which body and psyche are free to explore inner and outer worlds, to play with music, images, limits and wild permissions. Back in the 70s I was breaking out of my conventional identity as a wife and mother. Authentic movement was a great liberation for one who longed to move, who had taken a bit of ballet and a bit of modern dance and always felt too womanly, too voluptuous for the straight and narrows of dance.
Leah and I met each other playing on the dance floor, and soon became muses for one another. Our passions and obsessions overlapped—feminism and the feminine, psyche and the underworld, the mystic and the mysteries, poetry and prophesy, art and culture, the natural world and the world of the ancients. We became one another’s first readers, editors, consultants on all things creative. We supported one another’s authentic movement in words. We nourished, critiqued, deepened, broadened and enlivened one another’s work, listened to each other’s life stories unfold, held each other during times of suffering and loss, celebrated each others loves and accomplishments. To find myself among the amazing poets whose work Leah has gathered here is at once a harvest and an offering to the storm gods—the gods of the rising tide.
In a short essay introducing each section Leah engages eloquently with each poet’s work. Some of these poets are well known to me—Jane Downs, Frances Hatfield, and of course Leah herself. Some of them I’ve never read before and they are a wonderful discovery.
Anita Endrezee writes a poem about the “drunk on Main Avenue” who dreams “of pintos the color of wine/and ice, and drums that speak the names/of wind.” This is a deep cry from the lost world, lost music, lost authentic dance of the Native American Shaman.
Another poet—also new to me—is Dunya Mikhail. She too has lost a world. As Leah writes she has “witnessed dictatorship and war in Iraq…[She] is a witness- and a Courier.” Mikhail’s biting irony and plain speech are sharp tools to carve memorials to the unbearable. Her poem “The War Works Hard” begins with these lines:
How magnificent the war is!
Crystal Good, who writes from West Virginia—Land of Coal and Mountain Removal—is also a discovery for me. Her plain speech and irony about the world that is being lost as she writes comes in a different idiom, but she writes in a striking and compelling voice.
Her poem “Boom Boom” is devastating on the subject of devastation:
Them boys come back ‘round after all the damage
is done. After all her long hair is gone. They grin/admire
what’s left of her hips–just
checkin’ on you.
|Hatfield’s first published book|
of poems, Rudiments of Flight
Frances Hatfield is a colleague of mine at the San Francisco Jung Institute. She writes gorgeous, mind bending poems out of worlds much like the ones I inhabit—myth, dream, the underworld, strange happenings in the process of “The Talking Cure”:
the locked gate to the forbidden
room gapes open
the snarls of the guard dogs
hang like icicles in the air…
I’ve admired Jane Downs’ poetry for years, and have written about it in a forthcoming issue of Psychological Perspectives. She can evoke the sensual world of Now, while at the same time invoking the mythic world of Forever. Takes my breath away:
|Marie Dern and Jane Downs|
Our tender mouths,
our tender arms,
we know that beneath
us a god roams
in his mouth
Jane and book artist Marie Dern are the founders of Red Berry Editions where they create beautiful, often handmade, books. Jane’s collection of prose poems, Adirondack Dream, is forthcoming.
Leah’s poems continue to amaze and delight me. She can leap about in all the strata of being. She is inspired by dreams, travel, family, myth, art—all the wonder and grief of a deeply lived life. She understands shape shifting; she knows metamorphosis from the inside out:
I saw a woman born of a doe
I saw a woman step out of the body of a wolf
There is return
Here’s some of what I wrote about Leah’s beautiful book of poems After the Jug Was Broken:
Shelleda's poems play at the edge of the wild and the forbidden; they dive down to the depths, bringing up treasure from the collective unconscious and the wisdom traditions; they enchant, seduce and bless…
I was especially pleased that Leah chose my poem Where the Buffalo Roam to be in this anthology. That’s because it’s so weird—a vision of the lost world of the Native Americans that came to me while driving on Highway 24. It’s been a long process of breaking the taboos of the conventional mind for me to own my visions and ghosts. This liberation began in that authentic movement class where Leah and I met, and of course, in years of the subversive practices of Jungian analysis and reading and writing poetry. We’ll need our visions, our weird other worldly experiences, our fierce love for the worlds of Now and the worlds of Forever— where the ghost dancers still stamp and beat their drums—if we are to navigate the Rising Tide.
Where the Buffalo Roam
A sky herd of buffalo stampeded the moon—I saw it
driving on 24. The radio said
the shadow of earth would steal the moon—
our only moon—but I tell you
It was a thundering ghost herd of buffalo
that shouldered the moon out of her sky
The moon disappeared in her deerskin dress
The ghost dancers stamped and beat their drums
They chanted the world before Highway 24
when earth was home to the buffalo
when the people followed the dance
of the sun, when they knew each story of rock
each spirit of mountain, of tree
what flowered, what died, what came back
as the moon came back in her deerskin dress—
our only moon—
in her radiant light
I looked at the sky over 24
but the buffalo were gone…