Via Lactea—A Woman of a Certain Age Walks the Camino was actually made into an opera. It is a collection that Ellen Waterston wrote after her pilgrimaVia Lactea—A Woman of a Certain Age Walks the Camino was actually made into an opera. It is a collection that Ellen Waterston wrote after her pilgrimage walking the Camino on a quest to start her life new. She calls it her 'slate-cleaning walk'. She did not originally intend to write a book, but she kept a journal through the walk and on her return looking at the information she had gathered and on one the brochures was a picture of a woman jumping and characters started forming in her mind, the peregrina, the Camino woman, Father Tomas and the lore of the milky way, which has a long history and story that they are the dust stirred by the many walkers.
As I mentioned, Via Lactea has been scripted and composed into an opera that was performed this year (2016) in Bend, OR. I met the author last year at a writing retreat where I learned about this project, unfortunately, I was not able to attend but have heard it was very beautiful. From the beginning Via Lactea is totally gripping. It is contemporary and engaging. She has a preamble section that is her preparing for the trip before starting the walk: shopping for a cell phone, passport, and going broke with the high tech clothing she needs to pack light. She questions, "I'd phoenixed before, but how many more fresh starts did I have?" Note in the title it is, A Woman of a Certain Age who is taking this journey.
Understanding it's many voices, which she sets up well in the opening, I read with joy the many deep questioning, and humorous poems of an American on such a journey. Lonely at times, the expected hardships of weather conditions, and meeting an assortment of characters along the way. It made me want to walk a pilgrimage, too. She sums up in the final poem, Make Believe, "Your prayer is written within/the within of you. The space/between each of you-word/is where heaven abides. Petitioning/a distant deity is a waste of time./Prayer is a reporting, a telling./Every day, if you can, turn more/and more inside-out so the you-/prayer is exposed to more and more light."
I strongly recommend this book to any seeker, and aren't we all seeking?...more
I learned about this book through the HIV Here & Now project. Disgnosis is a short powerful book of poems that hits you in the gut. Poems about whI learned about this book through the HIV Here & Now project. Disgnosis is a short powerful book of poems that hits you in the gut. Poems about what it is like to live with the virus as a young black gay man in a racist and homophobic society. The second poem, subdued" is about a gang rape that made me put it down to take a breather. I have worked with men who have been gang raped, this is a hard hitting poem that starts out sweet then doubles the reader over. This book is an important voice to add from this community, which is one of the hardest hit and needs far more support then they receive.
In his poem, AIDS Litany, he gives praise in each line, the one that punched me in my gut was, "I praise my father for showing how quickly men disappear" and, as in many of the poems, there is a hint of scarcasm in his writing such as the line, "I praise Sustiva for vampire dreams" giving us not only the tragedy but the humorous side from an insider who has learned how to survive using humor.
He writes poems about several of the medications using this same humor, dry and removed, he almost quotes the side effects. In the poem "neupogen" he writes out how he has to inject it, how it has to be stored, and the side effects, ending with, "liquid fails to work/numbers even lower/supposed to take time I may not have"
Here is his poem:
"after the war"
if i end up in hell i'd go certain i was not the reason lives were bruised but part of the solution finally earning humanity
This is a wake up call about AIDS today, the epidemic is not over and we have much work to do. Those living with this disease have surely earned their humanity, the rest still have work to do....more
Kamilah Aisha Moon traveled to my city to read from her book, so I have heard her read and was moved. This book is written about her sister, who drewKamilah Aisha Moon traveled to my city to read from her book, so I have heard her read and was moved. This book is written about her sister, who drew the drawing that is the cover of the book, and who is on the autistic spectrum. Kamilah describes her book as a "biomythography in poems" a term that Audre Lorde first used in Zami: A New Spelling of My Name.
The poem about the cover art: Possible Self Portrait
Making do with what is available, she paints a face in tangerine. Cobalt eyes colossal, electric Muted thoughts brighten.
She read the first poem in the book, Borderless Country, with the altered number of people born on the autistic spectrum, which has increased from 1 in 150 to 1 in 68, since the poem was written. In this poem she prays, "Dear God, are they here/to tell us, in a way we cannot ignore,/that we aren't changing/fast enough?" (in italics).
She writes from different family member viewpoints: mother, father, parents, and sisters. Even a poem from one of her sister's teachers, a special education teacher. Beautiful poems, emotionally expressive, that show the love, pain and social issues facing families raising a child with special needs. One of the families' concerns is what will happen after the magical age of 18, when services stop. From the parents, "Each year we depreciate./We tell ourselves/that if anything must spoil,/let it be us." (in italics) And from father, "In my arms, she was safe/from sharp corners,/shocks. She wasn't "delayed,"/a problem to solve again/and again, or to resign to having./The world is aberrant, not us."
The poem One Theory is an attempt, as is this book, to understand what is happening inside her sister's mind. To cope. To share the healing and understanding. Autism is increasing, I go back to the implicit question in the first poem, are we not changing fast enough? The book calls us to consider our choices. This book is also a call for us to be aware and less harmful to ourselves and to other.
They wail, holler from a place leagues-deep within. Rock back and forth for hours, staring at patterned walls.