I recently bought her collection, MOUNTAIN, LOG, SALT and STONE, and found myself nodding and pondering throughout. The book was published as the first winner of the Harris Poetry Prize, sponsored by CityLit Press. I love the peeks it offers into specific moments in our lives, especially as women - relationships with our grandmothers, our mothers, our children, our partners - as we grow from children to parents ourselves. In such short spaces she captures love and loss and also bits of the beauty and shock of the natural world.
2009 Contest Judge Michael Salcman puts it better than I: "Laura Shovan enlivens her quotidian subjects... with a shrewd and powerful use of metaphor, a critical strategy all too often neglected in contemporary work."
Let me share one of my favorites, the last in the chapbook, reproduced here with her permission - and then I'll share Laura's comments about how it came to be.
Because We Were Rushing to Catch the Bus
we did not notice the rain.
Too late for umbrellas,
we ran down the sidewalk,
wishing we'd taken the car.
Because we ran
under rain soaked trees,
the children's heads were damp
when I kissed them at the corner.
Because the children were gone,
I walked home alone.
Dishes in the sink
Because of the dishes
I bent my head
before the kitchen window.
A petal fell from my hair -
a pink thumbprint against metal,
pink against the gray day,
pink against the absence of children.
It shook me awake.
Because we were rushing to catch the bus
I carried beauty, unknowing.
I was struck by the poem's comforting rhythm and seeming simplicity - and my "haiku sensibilities" immediately fell in love with that lone pink petal. Laura explains that it was written as a response to
William Stafford's "The Light by the Barn," which I trust it's all right to share here for purposes of discussion:
The Light by the Barn
by William Stafford
The light by the barn that shines all night
pales at dawn when a little breeze comes.
A little breeze comes breathing the fields
from their sleep and waking the slow windmill.
The slow windmill sings the long day
about anguish and loss to the chickens at work.
The little breeze follows the slow windmill
and the chickens at work till the sun goes down –
Then the light by the barn again.
Says Laura: I was trying to mirror both the tone and the form, which has a kind of “wrapped” effect. At the same time, my own poem deals with an important topic in my writing life – how paying attention, not getting “wrapped” up in the routine, can bring moments of awareness and beauty, moments of appreciation. That smoky smell of the children’s hair would probably be lost to me if I had not sat to write about the petal that morning.
Laura posted more about William Stafford, in honor of his birthday, in her blog post for last week's Poetry Friday over at Author Amok. That post, by the way, also featuers another great poem from MOUNTAIN, LOG, SALT, and STONE.
I love all the sparkly connections Poetry Friday can make!
Be sure to catch all the rest of the great poetry Jim as rounded up for Poetry Friday this week at Hey, Jim Hill!.