Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Hope For A Sea Change

Monday while at work a book that had been returned by another patron caught my eye. Garrison Keillor's Good Poems For Hard Times. Before checking it in, I flipped it open and read a poem. It was "A Man In Maine" by Philip Booth. The poem's last lines about the fierce stars brightened my bored brain. I impulsively checked the book out and brought it home. Later that day, my mom emailed me from work. She had been at the library that morning, and checked out the same book. She wanted me to read the introduction.

I grew up on Garrison Keillor and there is something about his voice that recalls the Lutheranism of my childhood without being preachy. (In fact, Keillor speaks against the "cadre of Christian pirates and bullies" holding the levers of power in our current government.) He is slightly more cynical than I am, in the introduction, probably because the world of his youth is gone while the world of my own youth is still partially in tact. Still, the introduction is wonderful and moving, and I got a bit teary and the world stopped and my heart was stunned when I came across this sentence:

"The meaning of poetry is to give courage."

There it was. Lately I have been wondering what the point of all this writing is, and why I do it. It hurts if I don't do it, of course, but there has to be a purpose beyond the avoidance of pain--for writers in particular, who are so creative at finding ways to dull the pain of not writing. Do I write in attempt to illuminate, to agitate, to elucidate? All of these intimidating and lofty goals, for me especially, fumbling my way through it all. Reading that sentence, I put the book down in my lap and thought, there it is. A reason why. I don't write poetry but I think Garrison might be willing to extend this definition to blog, and to memoir, and to fiction. Writing isn't easy, but writing without a purpose can be especially terrifying. A boat bobbing on a slushy, half-froze sea without any axe of clarity in sight.

All this is to say that my friend and fellow writer, Elizabeth Aquino, has had her memoir published today. She refers to it as Sophie's story. Sophie is her daughter who began suffering seizures when she was very small, and suffers from them still, although the introduction of a specific type of medical marijuana has helped enormously. Over the years I have followed Elizabeth on her blog she has brought me to tears and stopped my heart, not only because she is gifted with words but because she has a lion's heart, the heart of a warrior and a mother, and her writing, through all the godawful shit she's seen, somehow manages to do what Garrison says.

She gives us courage.

Here is Elizabeth's blog, by turns amusing and incendiary,  and here is where you can buy her memoir--breathtaking, tender, and true--about Sophie's earliest days.

Thank you Elizabeth, mentor and friend.


  1. Well. There. We ARE sisters. Or maybe I'm your other-mom.
    I, too, love Garrison Keillor. His voice soothes and charms me. His stories make me laugh and wonder. And they give me courage. His "News From Lake Woebegon" on last week's show brought me to my knees.
    And so did Elizabeth's book and so does her writing every day.
    And by the way honey, so does yours.
    It gives me hope. It gives me courage. Thank you for this post and for being you and for writing.

  2. Thank you for this, dear Brittany. I too have been wondering about the why of it all, and this post offers an answer. To give courage. To ourselves and others. And yes, Elizabeth does that in her book and on her blog, and so do you. So, my lovely, courageous friend, do you.

  3. Well, thank you. Thank you, with tears of gratitude. How lucky we all are to have one another to support and praise, right?

    I love that Garrison Keillor book and pull it down all the time to browse through.


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