(This was my third opportunity to hear Luci give a reading of her poetry. Her audiences have a special quality. They come to listen, being fans of poetry, in general, and Luci, in particular.)
Luci Shaw is working on a book of essays about getting older: Views from a Steep Slope: the Adventure of Living Long Enough to Grow Old. (She deals forthrightly with serious subjects which are becoming increasingly relevant in our culture.) The Slow Pleasures, a book of poetry, is forthcoming. She shared conversationally between readings of several of her new poems, lighting up the background from which they came. At times, she took questions from the audience.
The church in which she grew up sometimes sang a hymn containing the line, "Teach me to dread the grave as little as my bed." "Is the grave really as little as my bed? she asked her mother. :-)
Her son, a surgeon in Thailand, goes into Burma for weeks at a time to help provide medical services to people of ethnic tribes. He whittles in his spare time, and also writes poems; they share their writing and give feedback across the internet.
A poem is more economical than an essay. A picture speaks to you, like a sketch in a large white mat, in a frame, saying "This deserves your attention." A poem is more imaginative and design oriented.
In Horizons, illustrated by calligrapher Timothy Botts, she gives some explanations of how the poems included came to be. Botts created Shaw's Christmas cards for years. She first met him, by happy "chance," when she picked him and his wife at the airport the day they arrived from Japan, to come to Tyndale.
When asked about her favorite poets, she mentioned Dylan Thomas, the Celts (Welsh, Scotch, Irish), Jeanne Murray Walker, Galway Kinnell, Seamus Haney. She also referred to Andrew Hudgins, Mark Jarman, Elisabeth Stevens. In interactions with the audience, the names Wendell Berry, Billy Collins, Robert Pinsky, and Dana Gioia arose.
"If I have any ambition it is for my work, not for myself." Donald Hall.
An audience member asked if Luci reads her poems aloud, as she writes. She responded that she does; reading aloud helps with rhythm, and to catch gaps in logic, and repeated words. Have someone read a poem aloud, back to you.
Luci Shaw's books include:
Accompanied by Angels: Poems of the Incarnation
The Angles of Light
Breath for the Bones
Colossians: A Studyguide
The Crime of Living Cautiously
Friends for the Journey (with Madeleine L’Engle)
The Genesis of It All
God in the Dark
The Green Earth: Poems
Harvesting Fog: Poems
Horizons: Exploring Creation
Life Path: Growth through Journal Keeping
Listen to the Green
Polishing the Petoskey Stone
Postcard from the Shore
A Prayerbook for Spiritual Friends (with Madeleine L’Engle)
The Risk of Birth
The Secret Trees
Sightseers into Pilgrims, anthology
Water My Soul
What the Light Was Like
A Widening Light anthology, Luci Shaw, Editor
WinterSong (with Madeleine L’Engle)
Writing the River