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Joanne the Poet - The Poetry of Joanne M. Clarkson

What Time or Event in our Lives Yields the Most Poems?

WRobert Frost lived with his family on his little farm in New Hampshire for 9 years early in his married life. He died at 88, yet most of his poems originate from anecdotes and experiences of this agrarian time. Frost didn’t even like farming.

I felt comforted when I read this about one of America’s most revered poets. He won the Pulitzer prize four times, was our laureate and graced the inauguration of a young and forward-thinking president. He remained close to the earth, deeply rooted, one might say, in associations with neighbors and weather.

I believe each of us has a period of our lives or even a dominating single experience about which we write over and over.  I have been retired from nursing for two years now. I had my nursing license and worked full time in that field for 14 years. I was a librarian for twenty, a mother for more than 40 now. Have practiced my avocation of reading palms and cards for almost 60. I assign myself a variety of subjects. But when I face the page in the morning, what emerges is most often a verse about sickness, the fragility of the body, death.

My nursing years, I believe, will always be my Muse. When I think hard about this, though, I suppose the main reason is because I have the most questions about what makes the body fail. Why do some survive while others succumb? And how do those at the bedside find the courage to wait and pray and go on alone? This is triggered by the fact that my father died of cancer when I was 10 and my sister passed from ‘crib death’ before I was born. My mother’s rule for me, above all else, was that I stay alive.

Many poets are haunted by the same sort of question. Notably Ruth Stone who pens poem after poem about her young husband’s suicide. Gregory Orr, who, as a child, felt he caused his brother’s accidental death. Carl Shapiro whose father passed before he was born.

My nursing simply reinforced my questions.

I have been trying to craft a collection about my psychic experiences. I have poems about the shapes and markings of the hand. A body of work now about the Tarot. A few poems about intuition, insight and the sixth sense generally. But interwoven through all of this, is the primary, the glaring question: What would I live for? What do I die of, when and how? And is this up to me, to some higher power or simply left to chance organisms and accidents?

Lots of other people write about death. Statistics say it beats out love for most popular (sic) topic! Lots of anthologies and journals focus on health. In fact more and more universities are including literary pursuits and studies as part of their medical curriculum.

I feel blessed that I have found this Muse in the same way I felt so honored every day to serve as a nurse. I think it is interesting for each of us to explore our deep motivation. Our 9 or 14 years or single moment over which our writers’ souls were shaped. Where is your poetry home?

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