It is common knowledge that people bond over the shared experiences of grief, loss and love, but the language that poet Linda Martin uses to write her narrative prose about these things is startling and refreshing.
“I always know that a poem is good if it makes my husband cry,” said Martin of her work.
It is no surprise that Martin’s poems generate this kind of emotional response; the level of feeling that the author conveys through her writing is uncanny. Her paperback “I follow in the dust she raises” is comprised of 60 original narrative poems written by Martin and wrapped in a rendering of the quilt-like watercolor original called “Winged Grace” by artist Janice Peyton.
“I regard my poems as works of art. I am writing poetry, not a confessional,” said Martin. “My poems are separate from me, as paintings are to a painter. I’m trying to capture in words moments that are significant to me.”
Graduating with her master of fine arts from Pacific Lutheran University in 2011 through the three-year Rainier writing workshop, Martin recalls it as a wonderful experience that helped her to accumulate a lot of the material for this book.
“It [Pacific Lutheran] was wonderful. I loved going there, being on the campus and meeting the writers who came from all over. I wrote a lot of poetry in the program, I continued because I am in a poetry-writing group here, and it really kept me going,” said Martin. “I kept working on the poems, and they just kept getting more and more true — you can fake emotion in a poem. Generally the last lines changed quite a bit in all of the poems.”
As your eyes move from line to line you are struck with a sense of familiarity, as if you were involved in a piece of her story, and likewise as if she has experienced a piece of yours. Her life harkens back to the old adage that beauty grows from the ashes. It seems as though Martin has taken this and made it her personal motto, growing many new beautiful things from the ashes of old painful ones.
“That childhood grief [of losing my father] has fomented all my life, and I think by writing poetry about it, I have come to grips with it,” said Martin.
Martin chronicles the highs and lows of humanity, never hesitating to reveal her true emotions of the moment. In poems such as “city girl,” about her time in New York City, she writes, “In time I learned to walk the line like I knew / where I was going. I could look / right through a man, holding sympathy at bay. / I could eat eggplant parmesan at a diner on Kensington, / ignoring hungry, homeless people as they gazed / through the window at my plate.”
Martin’s work will take you on one woman’s lifelong journey in pursuit of that intangible goal: to be content, a theme that her work so beautifully embodies. Perhaps if you faithfully journey through these pages with her, by the end, you will realize that you have found that same thing as well.
“Life is beautiful. There is beauty even in grief,” said Martin. “I view my past as a very beautiful life even though it was sad.”
Martin will be reading some of her work at the “I follow in the dust she raises” book release party featured at 7 p.m. on Friday at the Homer Public Library in the Fireside Reading Area. Accompanied by the live band Teresa Sundmark and friends, light refreshments are provided by the Chapter XII Book Club and several local writers who will each share one of their personal poems. The event will last one hour and conclude with a book signing. The event is free and open to the public. Books are available for purchase at the Homer Bookstore and online at www.alaska.edu/uapress.
a sumptuous destitution
Nothing but mourning dove and willow tree,
mountains throwing shadow.
Rope taps on a graveyard flagpole —
loud in granite silence.
Colors weave through dark wool,
Chainsaw oil spills on dusty canvas.
Drumming grouse, bugling elk, coyote song.
Beneath each tamarack, a golden needlepoint.
In winter clouds, a sudden flare like burnished wings.
Snowshoe hare keeps still as root under the spruce.
Strong current on an outgoing tide pulls me far from shore,
As the sun sets and a full moon rises.
Each loss a sweeping away, and then,
Like a tidal change, a lavish fullness.
Death, an end to the world, the world going on.
Author: Linda Martin
What: Book Release reading
Title: “I follow in the dust she raises.”
When: 7 p.m. Friday
Where: Homer Public Library, Fireside Reading Area
Cost: Free. Open to the public.