I want to thank those of you who pre-ordered Sister Sorrow. It is my privilege to market my book on Social Media, but it is not, as an introvert, my joy to do so. Years ago, when I had come out of the full time work force to be a first-time mom, I actually became a Mary Kay consultant to try to make ends meet so I could be home with my daughter, and later, son. I learned a lot of valuable lessons about persistence, and the transactional work of business, learned to fight the odds and measure my progress in terms of my efforts, and not in terms of returns (sales), but when I stopped after three years, I said I would never again sell anything I didn’t create. Well, here it is!
I stopped and took inventory, and this book has poems in it that span 37 years–-37 years of reflecting on childhood, grieving my mom’s schizophrenia, and later her suicide, 37 formative years of my life negotiating adulthood, interracial marriage and raising three biracial children in the South, (1981-2013), institutional politics in the work place (an ongoing struggle), and my own seeking to open my mouth and speak in spite of the dysfunctional family rule to NOT talk about emotional struggles and how I was processing childhood trauma, or for that matter, the problem of my mom’s struggles at all.
Poetry has been God’s gift of healing to me. There, I can say whatever I need to say without being censored, nor self-censoring. I have gravitated to poetry in translation from poets from Eastern Bloc countries who wrote courageous poems of protest and cultural criticism in code. When I thought I was screaming my truth in my poems, I was given feedback early on that my poems were encoded as well, and the most valuable thing I took away from a Steven Dobyns poetry workshop at Vermont Studio Center when I was 35 was that there needed to be a dynamic balance in each poem between tension (arcane or inscrutable imagism) and rest (the well-earned plain-spoken demystifying line). This has become a guiding principle, but not a hard-and-fast rule, since poetry is my sandbox.
Getting 205 preorders for a sight-unseen book of poetry without the benefit of live readings during this COVID pandemic was a tough sell, but various folks in my communities came through. I am so humbled and thankful for you.
I titled this “Better than Christmas,” because the joy of hearing from friends who have finally received Sister Sorrow in the mail, after ordering back in September or October is a brand new experience for me. A few readers have asked me how I had the courage to write about such personal experiences. I could write it a moment at a time, in solitude and in safe community, so the sharing of the whole collection is a new experience, but the writing was my essential life line. The courageous part is admitting it took this long, and that I submitted it over 50 times over 15 years.
And writing IS my lifeline, and the promotion stuff, though a privilege, has been a major creative drain. I was comforted to hear Ann LaMott say as much in several interviews.
Live readings? Now that is another package I’m looking forward to opening, still under the tree. Another? Your reviews of Sister Sorrow on Amazon and Goodreads. Leave me a message and I will email you a great outline for a short book review. Now that is a tool to help any author you enjoy, and get more folks reading books.