where the writers are

Yesterday afternoon the phone rang. Oh no, another solicitor, I thought, but I answered it anyway. It was my long-time friend, poet Penelope Scambly Schott. We met 30 years ago at a writers conference led by A.R. Ammons, and despite our being from different backgrounds, hers urban (she had lived and worked in NYC and also taught at Rutgers) and mine rural, we felt drawn to each other. For years we wrote letters, shared poems, made an occasional phone call. Then Penelope moved from NJ to Portland, Oregon, where she found a welcoming literary scene and now feels that she belongs there, especially after winning the 2008 Oregon Book Award's Stafford/Hall Award for Poetry for her book, A Is for Anne: Mistress Hutchinson Disturbs the Commonwealth. This was the good news in a phone call that revolved more around the difficulties women deal with as parents age and children leave--or come back. On a bitter cold day, here was a voice on the other side of the continent making me laugh and feel connected again to poetry.
Here is a poem from her most recent book, MAY THE GENERATIONS DIE IN THE RIGHT ORDER, from Main Street Rag Press. Her poems, and her friendship, give me a different, and often mysterious, way of waking up to the world.

What’s Inside

When I opened the box
and took out the bag

when I unfolded the top of the bag
and reached in past my wrist

when I unfurled my fingers
and poked toward the bottom of the bag

when I stroked something
that almost felt like fur

it was my dead father’s springy white hair
it was my yellow dog’s silky coat

it was the channeled mink coat of the lady
who used to live downstairs

it was the silk-lined ermine muff
from when I was a princess

it was the damp taste of my yellow pigtail
wound around a puffy red thumb

it was one howl in a chorus
on this treeless hill

it was the tufted and variegated pelt
I am sprouting in my sleep

3 Comment count
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Beautiful poem!

Your story of friendship and the bonds of poetry warms the cold night in Tennessee!

love, Marilyn

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I know Penelope

What a lovely woman and fine poet. And 'What's Inside' from 'May the generations die in the right order' (don't you love that title?) is an amazing poem. Penelope read for my publication's (Oregon Literary Review) first Wednesday reading series at the Blackbird Wine Shop in Portland. It was a wonderful evening and Penelope's poems were a standout! What a treat to see her here with you!

I make it my business to attend the Oregon Book Awards every year - and every year it's a joy to see writers I know and admire take home the award. This year I was honored to know both Penelope and Lauren Kessler. What a night!

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Hello Evelyn, thank you for your comment. I'm delighted to discover that you know Penelope. She's been inviting me to visit her in Portland for several years. Maybe I'll take her up on it in 09!