Sunday, February 11, 2018
Joanie McLean A Flower of the Heart
Spider lilies, or Naked Ladies, among the bamboo grasses
Flowers of the Heart Twenty February 11, 2018
For Joanie McLean
Joanie is fragile some way, but tough
underneath. She came to me for help
with her poetry. She has worked at it
steadily for years–maybe ten years now.
She took my Proust class and was very
conscientious about reading and studying
the material each week. She has been
in many poetry groups, and last fall joined
my class on Monday night, which I do by
Skype. She has brought me kindling
off and on, and dried grasses in a vase.
She has changed her life in major ways,
left a more conservative back story, and
lives at a wetlands farm where she slides
as close to the natural world as she can
get, fearless where coyotes and other
prey-seeking creatures roam at night.
Then she takes them into poems, pushing
at that mysterious edge few of us dare
to encounter, between realities–animal
and spiritual. I find her cheerful and
accepting of human foibles, clear-eyed
when many people stagger as if blind-
folded. I asked her to comment on my
new poetry book, and she said what
I would have wanted her to say if I’d
known what it was. I didn’t know I
was facing my death there, but she did.
If you’ve ever been afraid to die, read
Judy Hogan’s "Those Eternally Linked
Lives." Here, in 30 deft poems, we are
carried along with Hogan as she
encounters loss, aging, and illness.
But she comes through it all with
such grace and humility, we are left
breathless with delight and hope.
Hogan clearly believes in poetry as
revelation: “The human spirit has
been here before. We know how
to die if we have to.” That was the
corner I turned, but I didn’t see it
until she named it. That’s what true
poets do. Like a will-o’-the-wisp,
she’s there, then gone, but something
evocative tells me she’ll be back,
maybe when I least expect it.