Wednesday, December 18, 2019

Winter Solstice 2019: Poetry for Clarity, Endings & Beginnings

Winter Solstice, 2019
dear friends: thank you for your presence in my life! 

Iceblue before sun crests,
just a few flickers of saffron sail
over the horizon line,

            hush, wait in the quiet
            for that luminosity, that moment
when light finally lands on winter fields;
grasses bent, the weight of snowflakes,
frost fringes their honeyed stalks, shimmers,
shivers, swims in snowbanks, sun-splashed.

I place myself in the center of my life once again,
will let this warmth cover me too.
I belong here, in the middle, centripetal
and still I dance
Her Own Axis
collage by Renee Podunovich

            with you, we are bright
            like embers, like night stars
            sparkling the black universe,
            our hearts on fire, ablaze
            with elation, vibrantly          
            unburdened from all
            that was let go.

I burned everything
that blocked my clear view.
Now, ash and fallow make a space,
an invitation, an opening.

Something new will grow here,
and I intend to tend it well.

-Renee Podunovich
December 21, 2019 

Grand Canyon, December 2019
Far View, Looking Ahead with Curiosity

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Bisti / De-Na-Zin : Badland Poetry - Words in the Empty

Shape of Absence
photo by RPodunovich

“Nothing is less real than realism. Details are confusing. It is only by selection, by elimination, by emphasis, that we get at the real meaning of things.”
― Georgia O'Keeffe

As a writer whose work is so deeply influenced by nature, I enjoy adventuring to unfamiliar landscapes. I open myself to the natural intelligences of a place, curious what it will evoke emotionally within my inner landscape. That resonance between outer and inner nature fascinates me. 

Adventures into nature provide a reset, one in which I can shift from the overwhelm of modern life to a sense of awe. I can let go of my constricted, anxious self limitations and find an expanded sense of connection to a greater system; one which is magnificently organized and intelligent and enduring. While there can be an ease that arises in the outdoors, there is also the necessity of being prepared, especially in a "wilderness". One is venturing into the unknown after all, into risk, into variables beyond the control of humans (though there is the reality that no wild place is now outside the pollution of "civilized" endeavor).

Beautifully Petrified
photo by RPodunovich
Though Bisti / De-Na-Zin is a declared wilderness area, I was unprepared to meet it as such. I was deeply humbled by the "badlands". So much so that about a mile into the hike, I panicked. The letting go, meeting a place and self expansion that is often so inspiring, felt terrifying. I can laugh about it now, but I actually broke down in tears as the sun, heat, aridity, lack of sheltered spaces, and a sense of being trapped in an empty vastness overcame me. Nothing about this landscape felt familiar: a disappearance of anything tangible. There was a striking lack of noise, movement, or discernible activity of any kind. All I could hear was an occasional breeze or children laughing in the distance, my own ears ringing. I saw four birds that flew off promptly before I could even really discern them. I saw 5 red ants. I felt like this place could take me, if it wanted to. I would become dust, my bones petrified like wood, forgotten in the immensity of time. The resonance from my inner landscape was one of existential dread. 

I found welcomed shade in some bizarre rock formations, made sugary chai, offered incense to the place, wrote a poem. And then I felt so peaceful, so quiet, so still. So relieved as my thoughts just stopped and I met the stillness of deep time. This place was once a riverine delta that lay just to the west of the shore of an ancient sea. That salty water was in my tears, found its way back to the echo of itself in the desert. Do I recommend a trip there? Of course. 

Words, Incense, Tea in Silence
photo by RPodunovich
“You bathe in these spirit-beams, turning round and round, as if warming at a camp-fire. Presently you lose consciousness of your own separate existence: you blend with the landscape, and become part and parcel of nature.”
 ― John Muir, Wilderness Essays

Bisti / De-Na-Zin

walk into beyond.
the empty

            gets inside your head,
            into thronged mental spaces,
            sticky taffy of jumbled ideas,
            hoarded theories, cerebral perseverations:

panic as they evaporate.
relax your contracted chant of identity,
the solo of self-importance you were singing
no longer has a discernible tune;
            let the tempo be longer,
            millennia between the notes—

time and the elements eliminate all of it.
resistance is impossible
in a place that captures all water,
slowly disappear it, a thirst never sated,
every last bit of moisture,
of your frantic holding on,
            will be shed now as your own
            wet tears.
light a rope of incense,
make tea on the ultra-light burner,
            its spicy flavor is the only reminder
            of a modern dream you were having
            before the sun and echo
            of ancient shallow seas and a petrified forest
            woke you.

-Renee Podunovich, 2019

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

Dining With My Muse: Poetry Makes Agony Palatable

I did it. I hit "submit" and off goes my newest chapbook manuscript to be considered for publication. Agonizing! 

I have been eager and anxious all week to get it in by the looming deadline. I woke up this morning with very little of the confidence I had just a few days ago, and the meaning in writing anything at all had suddenly disappeared. I went ahead and did it anyway. 

Putting the final touches on it today, I am really happy with the work as a collection, which ended up with the title: Illustrious for Brief Moments. I wrote up this (long-ish) introduction or artist statement:

"Pasiphae" - linoleum print by Henri Matisse

"Since moving away from the city, back to the high desert of southwest CO, my poems have taken on a kind of magical realism that reflects my experience of living once again in such a vast landscape, with all of its dramatic seasonal movement and mutability, along with its history and cultural variances across deep time. 
This current collection continued to evolve throughout the year, changing with each season spent in my homecoming, and represents a convergence of multiple levels of reality. I recognized this after reading one aloud to a friend recently; she stated “there seemed to be three poems in one.” I have been considering this and do believe perhaps there are layers of dimension to the poems that make them complex and richly woven. 
One layer is the reality of landscape and its aliveness, and the words it “speaks” to me by choosing to be in relationship with place. We live in a conscious, organized, highly intelligent matrix with which we are intimately and uniformly connected. To continue to deny this is our sure demise as a species. To embrace this idea of interconnectedness fully, is to awaken from a disconnected dream of being an individual in the global corporate state, one that places humans at a mistaken apex of evolution. To awaken, is to grieve at the rapid destruction of ecosystems and human cultures within them, now viewed as deeply wounded systems of life: truly as wounded self. Awakening now is to wonder at the adaptability and insistence of life and evolution over time spans we can barely fathom. The scope of self-importance both shrinks as we stretch our awareness to imagine such complexity, and expands as we wake up to the importance of our connection to such sentience through the portal of our own body wisdom and imaginal capacity. The call from Clare Dubois at Tree Sisters, that we evolve to be a “Protector Species”, speaks deeply to me and I echo that call here.

On another level, my work is always about my first love: psychology. I am engaging a psycho-poetic-analysis perhaps. The poems are both born from my own insistence on healing my personal wounds and in my curiosity and propensity to help others heal. In that personal reckoning, upon which my poems always find their foundation, there are the kernels of connectivity: the fact that we are so alike in the most human ways; such that what is healed in one can be recognized in another. These are the places we overlap because human experience is so organic in the end, so that perhaps beyond culture and history, we are alike in ways that are easy to recognize with the wounded or healed heart. 

And of course I am always spelunking in the cave of the invisible, unconscious, the landscape of deep mystery. I love to explore this landscape through the portal of the imaginal realms: dreamtime, trance experience, altered states of consciousness brought about by ceremony, art, word, song, dance, breath work and other forms of entering transcendent states of awareness. The messages I find from these altered states can barely be put into words. Ecstatic poets of all time strive to find the language that holds these experiences that are so far outside of ordinary time and reality, beyond the mundane. Yet this realm is also just right here, each night as we sleep, or when we stop and rest amid the busy, loud world of consumptive striving to experience a peak moment. We suddenly feel connected to all of life because we took the time to notice raindrops on spider webs outside our door, or the way the light fell like lace on the desk while we worked at the computer. The call to that soulful language lives in us yet, and I find many are just as hungry as I am to hear such language, to read it, speak it, articulate finally what matters. “Yes”, we say, “I feel that too. I remember now that you said it.”

There is a sense of dreamy awakening in these poems. I am especially fond and mystified by what I will call the “magical feminine beings” in this work. They are the voices of a layered intersection: where messages from the divine feminine wisdom in matter, lessons from my embodied and personal feminine journey, and the living voice of the land and elements come together to sing." 
-Renee Podunovich, 2019


Dining With My Muse

My muse her sparkling charm,
she is all kinds of beauty
            and also a dark enchantress, who savors pain
            served as a seven-course meal.
She crafts homebrews out of betrayals,
bakes disappointment into chocolate lava cakes,
serves them with not a thought
of how they might make her dinner guests weep
as they remember their own deepest wounds;
            the ones shoved into lightless corners,
            where cobwebs and dust motes reside.

She spends days, weeks, years
gathering the terrible ingredients for these poetic feasts.
Life always delivers the components she needs,
so even when she is not looking for more raw material
it ends up in her shopping basket anyway
especially when she is not paying attention,
that is when the most difficult things appear in her larder:
            unexpected, out of the blue, from left of center,
            hit by a meteor, blind-sided ingredients.

Oh my muse! She loves a candid meal;
one that wasn’t in the Joy of Cooking,
that even Julia Childs would struggle to prepare.
There is a thrill in chaos, the reminder that life is
            mysterious, unexpected, out of the ordinary,
and even if the menu was formulated from exquisite despair,
she knows she will make it into something palatable:
            a lavender shortbread cookie infused with heartbreak,
            a hearty winter stew in a broth of suffering,
            a white layer cake with strawberry filling,
            iced with loneliness and isolation.

If you sit at her table, my muse will lure you
into dining with her, will assure you
that consuming a meal of such depth and authenticity
is good for you. She will serve aperitif drinks;
            Campari with soda and crocodile tears,
so that you will relax into the next courses.
She will entice you to sample each handsome
yet veiled dish she has prepared.
            How could you say no to summer greens
            topped with fresh apricots and your lost loves?
            Or to cherries soaked in bourbon
            and that pit in your stomach dread?

If you dine with her until the last course,
you will be full and yet lighter somehow.
Her dishes are heavy with the elements
of your own refused, pushed out of awareness wounds,
yet they leave you surprisingly refreshed.
She will offer strong coffee,
            topped with whipped cream,
            a dash of cardamom and honeysuckle syrup,
            and of course, a shot of innocence lost.

You won’t be the same after dining with her.

-Renee Podunovich, 2019

Sunday, October 20, 2019

Writing Haiku: Poems that Distill the Essence

"Haiku are used to convey an experience or feeling to capture a singular moment of clarity within the life of the individual. They link such concepts of the human condition, philosophy, and experience to the seasons and nature, aiming to find balance and homeostasis with all forms of life, love, and being." - Olivia Tatara

Skeleton River
photo by RPod

I find myself writing haiku again suddenly. This happened once before
   an entire year during which I only wrote in this form, maybe a few tanka too, but I like the opportunity inside the limitation of haiku best. Haiku is deceivingly complex within its simplicity, hard to master, but I like the challenge. Here, I have used 3 haiku in succession, built upon each other. 

Skeleton River

Fall heart, see-through wet,
let go. grief is crimson silt—
blue stones invite rest.

River low, exposed
asleep stones, silt now settled
in spaces between.

Silt just memories,
hue of river red in spring,
all that coursed:  ending.

-Renee Podunovich, 2019

For me, poetry is always about word economy: how to utilize language in a way that can express the vast, dynamic and complex inner life I so relish. Poetry is the language that has the capacity to attempt to contain the uncontainable, to express the un-expressible, to dance with mystery. 

Applying the extra constraint of the haiku form is magnificently satisfying to me. Often, after I have expressed an insight in many ways, in many poems; distilling it even further to the essence feels right. It feels right this Autumn season, when things are being shed, let go, and all that is left are the bones. 

Art by Jaya Suberg

“Writing haiku offers the chance to honor, hold, and fully experience a fleeting moment that takes you out of yourself, a moment that hints at the deeper unity that lies beneath the surface of things.” - Margaret D. McGee

Sunday, October 13, 2019

Converging & Emerging: Writing Retreat, Mancos Common Press, New Poetry Collection

Cold and Blue / The Salish Sea
photo by Rpod
I am slowly emerging from a magical trip to the Salish Sea and the BC Islands. After an amazing dreamwork retreat, I was able to spend a few extra days having my own writing retreat at a favorite writing spot by the sea. 

Writing Nook
In the mist, fog and rain, I wrote each morning in the lobby of a charming (haunted) Victorian inn. The outrageously kind innkeepers lit a fire for me, and let me know sherry is served at 5pm each evening. Inspired by the spell of such old-fashioned charm, long walks by the seaside and full on the freshest mussels; over several days I put together the first draft of my latest poetry manuscript. It's thrilling to have a body of work come together after 2 years of consistent, daily writing (and a lot of life experiences that form its backbone). 

I am gearing up to do the difficult thing of submitting it to several small presses. Rejection is immanent, and I have learned to try anyway and to expect some surprises to appear in the mix.                                ___________________________________________

"Dolores River of Sorrows" Printed on 100% rag archival paper
on platen press at Mancos Common Press, 2019

I found myself back at Mancos Common Press today to print "Dolores River of Sorrows" - a poem I wrote almost 2 years ago exactly. At that time, my writing life was very quiet, fallow. This was the first poem I wrote that I really liked in many years and it precipitated a flood of creative energy and action, and the current collection. It is a poem that still has a lot of deep, complicated feeling for me, and frankly a bit of baggage now; but I still love it and am quite happy with how this print came out. 

It is a poem that many people have resonated with. I am happy that the message of deep care, compassion and connection in it touches others. The lines speak to me currently as well, as if I had written a poem to my future self:  a consolation, a reminder

My Printing Crew: Sonja Horsohko and Scott Calhoun
This print is number 8 in a series of 12 to be completed by December 2019. Sonja Horoshko and I will then have a winter artist residency at Willow Tail Springs to complete the hand-binding of the manuscripts. 

I am really grateful for this project; it has been a grounding rod in my life during a time of overwhelming transitions, and has provided me a place to circle back to when I get out of balance. Isn't that the best art?

I am looking forward to several upcoming projects in 2020, including an opening for this body of work, and co-editing an anthology of regional writers funded by The City of Cortez Arts Council. I have a few readings on the books already for next year too. Until then, I am staying quiet after so many public events over the summer, enjoying time alone to write and begin to settle into the darker, colder spaces: my favorite time of year to write. Stay tuned. 

Sunday, September 29, 2019

My Double Heart: Poetry of Attachment & Freedom

My Home Heart
photo by RPod

Prior to leaving on big adventures abroad, I find myself deeply appreciating "home". 

Sea of Light & Grasses
photo by RPod
The small details of my familiar environment, that often escape me amid the daily grind, tend to come vividly to life a few days prior to departure. I go through a mini-grieving process of leaving all that I love so deeply. I make sure I tend to each precious thing, and I am always relieved to return, no matter how long I am away. 

I embrace this cognitive dissonance: of both loving my home and loving to venture far, far away, by holding both things to be true. I will come back new. And the same. And I am glad for all of it. 

New Moon Before Departure 
     (for K- with love:  thank you for the detachment)

Dark Moon. a Praying 
Mantis eyes the Milky Way.
Juniper Wind:  Shhh.

-Renee Podunovich, 2019

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Shelter of Awe: Ancient Places / Modern Poetry

Step House, Mesa Verde National Park, USA
I am so glad that I took the day off yesterday and treated myself to a writing workshop offered by Mancos, CO artist Linda Rose, who is currently doing an artist residency at Mesa Verde National Park. I live close to the park and take out of town visitors there on occasion. This was an opportunity to spend extended time in one of the more remote sites in the park and I felt called to let myself have a mini-retreat midweek and be open to the adventure. 

Attention to Beauty & Detail
photo by R. Podunovich
A small group of us hiked to Step House and had the spot to ourselves. We spent about 2 hours in silence, "listening" and responding in words. It was the most peaceful day I have had in such a long time. Our silence within the silence created a profound inner settling for me, an internal spaciousness out of which words I hadn't anticipated arose, slowly, languidly, with ease and surprise. 

I did write a complete poem there and am fond of it. Our park ranger and guide was very knowledgable about the site and also had a Zen-ish quality, encouraging us to engage with our senses, to let the mystery of the place speak to us, to listen in a deeper manner. On the hike out, he said to one participant, "At some point you quit trying to figure it out and just let yourself be in awe." I loved hearing that and his sentiments gave me the last lines of the poem. 

Grinding Stones at Rest
photo by R. Podunovich


I don’t know if I know
how to listen to silences so old,
quietude contained within rock
crafted into brick, held in a mortar
of mud and pebbles, bound
in ancient spring water and clay.

            Minds speculate:
            what must have been, what still is,
the living traditions we struggle to maintain,
how we find and lose meaning,
place and displace our humanness,
forget our belonging on the earth, strive
then and now to survive. 

Thunder in the cradle of the canyon.
A few drops of rain land on my cheeks
and on high desert dust.
            I let cool wind brush my hair,
            caress my brow, let my head
            rest in the laps of ancient women
who made comfort out of a landscape,
out of their call to nurture life.

I don’t want to know
anything but this stillness,
this moment away from the entire world,

            this gap in time.

I could settle here, let exhausted bones
and my burning, broken-down heart
relax into stasis next to grinding stones
unused now for hundreds of years—
they offer just the hint of the effort it takes
to be well and thrive in this life,
            to bear witness to change,
            to know ends will come,
            stopping points.

Invisibility invites each one of us
            into its grace, as graceful 
as alcoves of stone in rainstorms,
inside the shelter of awe.

-Renee Podunovich, 2019

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Wilderness of Sleep: Poetry of Dreams

she is ill / she is well 
collage by Renee Podunovich

dream lure

morning is fresh wind in bones, monsoons,
a hope that gestated all night: to feel ease,
easy all summer, eating flowers
for breakfast, becoming their colors
(only in the sunshine) skin
like peacock feathers, prismatic, dressed
to enter the pageantry of being awake

            night eyes— weighty rubies that finally close,
            receive instruction on how to arrange letters
            made of electricity and silk threads
            in a geometric pattern only understood in sleep

waking again (endless) all of it gone,
La Platas at Dusk
photo by Renee Podunovich
disappearing night lands,
enchanted nocturnal wilderness
that daily commotion eclipses

            all day long- business,
            aware that I left many soul tasks
            undone in the dreamtime,
            in daylight I am a sunflower,
            must follow that solar gaze
            all the way to its descent in the far west

then darkness (released) slip
into mysteries, freedom within ever-
unfolding, belong in the shadows,
lightless flight, the dream-maker is my
courtesan, let her take me dancing, follow
her lead, fluently, limber, willing
to let go, my daytime costume
unbuttoned, persona undone—
            exposing my nocturnal essence,
            a perfume of self
            unbound: saline, willow bark, roses,
            top notes of lemon and still, surprisingly

-Renee Podunovich, Late Summer 2019

Banquet at Coyote Rock
mural by Sonja Horoshko @ 30 N Beech