I belong to a Women's Moon Lodge in Santa Fe that meets each month near the time of the new moon. We begin our circle by calling in the Directions, a Native American practice. With our feet on the earth, we find the center within our own being, in our hearts and souls. But today, as the worst blizzard in decades swirls around my home, I think about homelands and how our voices are influenced by the places we live. I think about writers that lived all over the globe and risked everything to speak their truth.
We begin in the East which is the place of new beginnings, sunrise, innocence and faith. I think of the Iranian poet Simin Behbahani, held prisoner in her own country. And beyond, to Anna Akmotova, who endured artistic repression, censorship, and the banning of her poetry. I think of Nadia Anjuman who was beaten to death after publishing her first book of poetry. Many Afghanis believe she was killed by her family for the transgression of writing. I can not imagine this. That writing can be a transgression, that writing can mean risking life itself. So often we take the written word for granted. To the point that our common language is becoming the language of text, that young people scoff at editing, prefering fancy fonts to clear and accurate thought.
In the Moon Lodge, we now travel to the south, place of passion and fire, warmth and playfulness. I think of Pablo Neruda, exiled, his poems spicy like a chili pepper, sweet as dulce de leche, and bold as moonlight on the beach. You can't remember Neruda without remembering Frederico Garcia Lorca and Miquel Hernandez, back to the east, to Spain, murdered during the Spanish civil war, Lorca by a firing squad, Hernandez by imprisonment.
To the west, we will find letting go of what no longer serves, death and grief, the place of the dark night of the soul and rebirth. Here I recall the poets who captured my imgaination, like Richard Brautigan, the beat poet who cracked my mind open, who found fame only after his novel was published, and died by suicide. This brings me to Anne Sexton, a women tormented whose poetry became my path to understanding when my bi-polar partner also liberated himself from suffering by the act of suicide and Sylvia Plath, iconic feminist voice to many young women.
To the North are the ancestors, illumination and inspiration. Here I must acknowledge those poets who graced my life with the beauty of language, the way it transcends reason and linear thinking and carries me to the place of transformation and healing. Rumi and Hafiz dance here with Mirabai and John of the Cross, Rilke bows to e.e. cummings and Robert Frost. It is love that warms the hearth when the cold winds blow, love of a sudden twist of words and love of an image caught on paper that shimmers, points to the Mystery, and uplifts, consoles and affirms.
In our Moon Lodge, we honor Mother Earth. Now I think of places where the poetry of wisdom is found on the page: We'Moon datebooks and Saint Paul Almanac, folk tales and folk wisdom, keepers of the fire. SLAM poetry, spoken orally as poetry was in the beginning of time. Spoken to the pace of the heartbeat, spoken to share our common tales of struggle and sacrifice and triumph and joy, spoken to convey the news of the day: legends and myths, gossip and warnings. And Father Sky, the proliferation of literary journals, too many to name here. Where would I start? The joy of finding poems as part of the ordinary, the bathroom project, the sidewalk project, poem in a pocket to be given away, poems on youtube, poems set to music, poems animated, poems on a bus. Why not poems on milk cartons and poems on lipstick tubes?
We end with our hands over our hearts, the seat of our passion and wisdom, our childlike playfulness and insight. Back to myself, my words on the page or spoken aloud on stage, my truth in my voice. What place informs my voice, what land is in the background of my stories? I was raised on the East Coast but never felt at home there. I lived in Spain and Israel as pilgrim and guest, an incredible sense of wonder and sorrow mixed together. I have lived in Mexico where the lilt of Spanish began to flavor my poems. Santa Fe has been homeland to me for years and yet,now I live here in the Twin Cities, land of 10,000 lakes, a swirling snowstorm, and a thriving literary community. The direction I face is more and more inward, as I assimulate all of my life experiences into writing to heal, reading to connect.