It happens this way …
There’s a new anthology coming out in a few weeks called SMITTEN: This Is What Love Looks Like from Indie Blu(e) Publishing. It features 120 women, ages 16-87, and their poems about loving women. Five poems of mine will appear in it.
During the past few weeks, I’ve met a number of editors and contributors via social media, answered interviewers’ questions, and read the interviews of women from around the world. What a powerful community this anthology is creating!
One question consistently stopped in my tracks: “How does your identity affect your work?” In the context of this lesbian collection (There: I’ve used the L-word! It’s only taken me seven decades to do that!), the question implies how does identifying as the L-word (ok, I’m not perfect yet) affect my writing?
Huh? Being a very late bloomer – I didn’t start to write poetry until I was 27 and didn’t come to grips with my sexuality until my early 40s – I never thought about that.
Being a woman beyond a certain age, I had identified myself as a teacher, business trainer, and writer; a carbon-based humanoid who happens to be a woman who happens to be a lesbian. I have written a number of poems about my personal relationships which have appeared in a variety of journals, but I’ve not been in an overtly lesbian anthology before.
I realized this was somewhat of a coming out into a world larger than my corner of Oregon. I knew former students of mine would read my interview on Facebook, Sister of Mercy friends would do likewise. I haven’t hidden my relationship with my partner of almost 27 years, but neither have I broadcasted it in such a far-flung way.
All this is to say, the question of identity is complex. How do we define ourselves? In terms of our work roles and/or our familial relationship? In terms of our race, ethnicity, education, sexuality, social standing, friendships, religious or political affiliations? All factor in and maybe identity is a mosaic: each a piece of the whole that is us. I’m still pondering who I am. Any thoughts about how you define yourself?
PS: Here’s one of the poems that will appear in SMITTEN.
I love you more than Mariska Hargitay
And so the day begins with you
explicating last night’s dream
about the way she stroked your cheek
with her arresting smile and lured
you toward a dark-eyed kiss before
you fought her off explaining
it would be criminal beyond
the ordered bounds of law
because the fact is I’m downstairs
in muddy garden clothes and sleepy hair
waiting for your lips so I can ditch
my coffee cup and stubborn poem
to wage my outdoor chores
and you’re telling me you’re telling her
you never swore a vow or wear
a wedding ring but when stray nights
tempt you toward a luscious offering
you walk away you’re telling me
you are faithful even in your dreams.
Kathleen Cassen Mickelson
Congratulations on your work being included in Smitten! And the example here is lovely. As I would have figured it would be. 🙂
Thanks so much, Kathleen. That means a lot!
Oh, there you go, trying to make us think again! First of all, this has long been one of my favorite poems of yours, and has brought forth many random giggles during SVU. Secondly, isn’t it kind of dangerous to identify ourselves with just a word or two? While it held us isolate the elephants that walk into every room with us, it also veils everything else that is essential to our beings… and aren’t we all multidimensional and ever-expanding!
It’s one of my favorites, too, especially this is exactly what Kathy said one morning!
And you are right: how many words would it really take to describe the incredible beings we were born to be?
B. E. Berger
You are very welcome, BEB!