First I Learn
Cover artist Nancy J. Kauffman
"With love and gratitude to the women
who wove a safety net for me."
For years, as a writer, I've been searching for a story to tell. It wasn't until quite recently that I realized that there was only one story that I needed to tell. If it weren't for the example and encouragement of the poets who have become my mentors, I would never have had the courage to put these poems on paper. Time and again I would write what would seem a horrendously vulnerable poem, only to hear from my honest readers that I was still cowering between the lines.
This collection represents several years of sharpening my voice and mustering the nerve (and perhaps the audacity) to create the poems that are the building blocks of one precarious, towering, possibly indomitable life.
From the Book:
It started with Anne Waldman
chanting Ginsberg's mantras.
Bite off the eraser, spit it in the dirt.
Then too, there was the teacher by the river
with her promise of rebirth.
A life casts its reflection when held before a mirror-
the dead merely shudder and dissolve.
A child flows from a pen-
a girl sewn shut on paper, singing
as she sinks in her warm bath.
Now the dark. Hands move,
drawing ghosts. Boys worm
through the floor, fingers cling
to the second-floor sills.
A naked girl crouches
against a tree, film of salty night
against her skin.
White-fingered incubus stirs beneath the bed.
Winds move dust
around the cornstalks browning in the field.
Once in motion,
not even words can change
the direction of the swirl.
Bare heel on the dirt path, bare toes on the cooling macadam,
slick street around the bend.
No outlet in sight from here.
Not a light for miles around.
First I Learn My Name is Maria McDonnell's first book-length collection of poetry. Her poems have been published in print and online literary magazines including Paradigm, Steel Point Quarterly and Parlor. She has received awards from Writer's Digest and Mulberry Poets and Writers Association. Her poem “Joyride” has been nominated for Pushcart Prize XXXIII (2009 edition). McDonnell teaches English courses at Albright College in Reading, PA. She also conducts poetry and creative writing workshops for students of all ages, and she has served on the board of directors for the grassroots poetry organization, Berks Bards. McDonnell lives in Berks County Pennsylvania with her husband, Tom Sandor, and their three sons.
First I Learn My Name
is a 68 page hand-stitched paper book w/spine.
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