Grieving For This World
Posted by Literary Titan
Grief and Her Three Sisters explores the sadness of grieving and feeling the weight of our regrets. What was the inspiration for you to begin this collection?
Between the time of my mother’s death in 2016, and my father’s death in 2020, I experienced a sudden health setback which caused me to closely examine my mortality. That setback influenced me to write my first book, Other Worlds, in Other Words and continues to impact my writing today. It got me motivated to begin in earnest recording my thoughts and ideas before something unexpected took that away gift from me.
When I first got the idea for Grief and Her Three Sisters my wife and I were spending most of our weekends at our cabin on the Sabine River in East Texas, working and relaxing, enjoying the quiet solitude and beauty that the place had always afforded us. During one week-long stay there I wrote 10 poems which involved observations of nature and how it interacted with a listless mankind. That group of poems left me feeling sadly puzzled about my own purpose, about my place in the scheme of things.
These days I often find myself grieving for this world which sometimes seems to be tearing itself apart. Other times it seems to claw at all the pieces, trying to put itself back together again. Either way, it appears fractured and tired, disheveled, like we often appear after experiencing some major loss or letdown. Nature waves its hand at us in an attempt to slow us down, make us pay attention, and do something to prevent all the damage and suffering. Sometimes it succeeds at making us see ourselves needlessly suffering, as well.
We have gone so long thinking of our world as having an endless capacity for furnishing our needs, which never stop growing, that we have grossly misjudged its limits. It is not a bottomless reserve of wealth from which we may abscond limitless riches.
We can feel the world’s pain and hear its cries and sighs if we try, just as we can hear the suffering of others like ourselves, should we care to. If we don’t, the Earth will go on living, trying something new, even if our species perishes and becomes just another part of the fossil record. Mostly, I think that Nature grieves for us because most human beings have not fully developed the capacity for empathy within us. We can not fully enjoy the world if we are prevented from feeling both the pain and the pleasures associated with living a full life. Most of us only want to experience pleasures. We need to know the value of experiencing both, dealing with either one in healthy ways, if we want to survive.
It was a natural progression of thought for me to start writing about grief, loss, and living through the feelings they bring about. I decided that the essential relationship formed between these three things needed to be further explored. Gratefully, I had been writing continuously during the long breaks that the pandemic had caused. I did not have to write very many new poems to fill out the collection. In the end, I realized that something very natural and spiritually motivating was nearly finished and I contacted my publisher, Atmosphere Press.
My favorite poem from this collection is ‘The Raptor’s Roost’. Do you have a poem that stands out to you from this collection?
“The Raptor’s Roost” is a very hopeful piece that was written in the 1990s and modified several times to provide a more hopeful transformation for the avian narrator. I would venture a guess that you were probably most attracted to the poems in this collection that have more hopeful, or uplifting tones, as most people are. I almost gave up on this poem since it was much darker before and I could not find a way around that. When I got the idea for Grief and Her Three Sisters, I went to work on it again, refitted it with some hope and some sunnier imagery, and the results worked out well in the book.
It is too hard for me to choose just one poem in this collection as my single favorite. If I had to settle on one poem, I think that I would have to choose between either “Relic”, in the first section, or “Move Your Mountain”, the final poem in the book. Both of these poems speak loudly to me in a voice I that I wish I could reproduce all the time when I write.
“Relic” describes the never-ending saga of a common sea creature, transformed and transmuted, eventually fossilized in sand. A rebirth of sorts ensues which remakes that common shell into something beautiful, thereafter reclaimed and redeemed in a series of rebirths:
“Timeless and temporal, then lifeless
Then living then dying, then living are we.
Beginning then ending, born again and again
Ever perished ever completed, ever changed.
Waters course over me till I am new, ever new.”
The words fill me with hope and still give me the most enjoyment each time I read them.
“Move Your Mountain” is another equally powerful and transformative piece. It represents the process of discovery which takes place each time something big occurs in my life, forcing me to examine my character. I dig through the rocky layers of emotional strata, uncovering the flaws, doubts and fears. Things I don’t really want to know about, but am driven to uncover if I am to become a better human being.
This process of discovery is like mining—very hard, dirty work that seems endless, with what seems like very little reward for our labor:
“Sibilant shrieks vibrate your guilty mind
as the pickaxe clearly, calmly
enunciates its ever present message:
Dig like your life depends on it.
Dig till you find yourself
then, dig deeper and discover
who you really are.”
Not many people are prepared for this sort of intense undertaking. Self-discovery is not for the faint of heart. The rewards are many and I believe in the old Latin proverb, “Fortune favors the bold.”
What are some poetic devices you find yourself often using in your poetry?
I enjoy using auditory, literary devices in writing poetry. When it comes to alliteration and assonance, I don’t think that we give them enough credit for enhancing the lines we write. Perhaps their use had become passe, or so common that these valuable literary tools have become grossly underused, or entirely abandoned by many modern poets. I have regularly employed them throughout Grief and Her Three Sisters. In one poem in particular, titled “My Idol”, I attempted to make the lines sound like hissing waves rolling on at the shore:
“This drowsy deity is my bronzed goddess.
She lies hopelessly resplendent
on her sun-kisses strand,
a royal wayfarer to some sandy shore.”
Some of the other poetic devices I go to most often are personification, repetition, and, of course, lots of metaphors, with a little punning thrown in for good measure.
I exploit paradoxes as often as possible in my poetry; there are so many in the world to witness and talk about. I also lean quite heavily on irony, immersing my subjects in many complex and adverse situations.
I enjoy devising unusual rhyme schemes for my poems, as well as devising unfamiliar rhythms for many of them. I still write quite a few poems in free verse, but it is always fun to experiment with meter, much the same as Modernist poets of the 20th century have so admirably done.
Writing in other variations of verse, not sticking safely to blank verse, iambic pentameter, is challenging. I used an anapest meter scheme in the poem, “Just a Spark”, ending the last line of each stanza with an upbeat syllable:
“Does’ the’ glow of’ love re’main here’ aab ab aba
like’ the’ warmth of’ tender’ kisses’ aab ab aba
placed’ on’ sorrowed’ cheeks left’ pining’ aab ab aba
in’ their’ darkest’ night on’ earth?” aab ab ab
Writing poetry that both rhymes and keeps the same rhythm the whole way through is probably the hardest thing to do for any poet. The more complex the stanzas become, the harder the rhythm becomes to duplicate in the next stanza. Reading the first stanza in “Something Wicked Comes” illustrates this complexity very well. The poem is only three stanzas long, but it follows the pattern all the way through:
“Tree’ limbs’ clap and’ clatter’ aab aba
in’ the’ grasp of’ a’ gusty’ gale. aab aab ab
Twigs’ crash ‘round’ and tum’ble down— ab ab aba
to’ the’ soggy’ ground they’ sail. aab ab ab
Porch’ boards’ creek and’ shudder’ aab aba
from’ the’ weight of’ a’ pressing’ wind aab aab ab
as’ ear’ly win’ter’s on’slaught starts, aab ab aba
just’ be’fore the’ snows be’gin.” aab ab ab
The number of possibilities one might explore in writing this kind of lyric poetry are myriad. Perhaps this is why free verse has grown to be so popular over the last century, and into the present. Not many poets demonstrate that they have the patience to tackle this sort of writing anymore.
Do you have plans to write and publish more works of poetry?
Yes, if I am spared the inconvenience of leaving this Earth unexpectedly, I plan on writing and publishing more poetry. I am currently compiling another book, a bit longer than the last two. I don’t want to say exactly what I am planning. I am not that far along in the organization process to predict. Already written are many poems which point to the state of affairs in the world, and problems we have gotten ourselves into by our ignorance or avoidance. If these can be polished and preened into a cohesive collection, perhaps they could amount to a book.
Another group of poems seems to concern itself with the deeper memories we hold sacred, or happenings in the past which changed us somehow, or appealed to us in a vitally spiritual sense, much like the poem “My Two-Dimensional Refrigerator Universe” in this collection.
Whatever happens, the new book should be finished and ready to publish by the end of 2023.
Thank you so much for this interview. I hope that this gives your readers a sense of what my writing is about.
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Posted on January 13, 2023, in Interviews and tagged author, author interview, book, book recommendations, book review, book reviews, book shelf, bookblogger, books, books to read, ebook, goodreads, Grief and Her Three Sisters, indie author, Jerry Lovelady, kindle, kobo, literature, nook, novel, poem, poet, poetry, read, reader, reading, story, writer, writing. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.
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