Be a provenance of something gathered,
a summation of previous intuitions,
let your vulnerabilities walking
on the cracked and sliding limestone
be this time, not a weakness, but a faculty
for understanding what’s about to happen…
— David Whyte from the poem, “Seven Streams”
We do not “do” the work of transformation. We simply go to the edge and let the elements we find there work against us, shape us into different, unrecognizable versions of ourselves. The triple pandemic of COVID, social inequality, and environmental crisis has brought us to the edge — the wild rim where mountains meet the sea, the place where our past and future selves meet face to face and the gusting winds, heaving waters, and fractured light we find there work to shape us anew.
This is what it is to be human and to live the Climacteric, to live on the turning point of change.
Climacteric comes from the Greek word klimaktēr, meaning “critical point” or, literally, “rung of a ladder.” The word has long been used to describe inevitable big moments encountered on the metaphorical ladder of life.
It is also defined as having extreme and far-reaching implications, a critical period or event, as well as the period of life when fertility and sexual activity are in decline (menopause in women, andropause in men), and the marked and sudden rise in the respiratory rate of fruit just prior to full ripening.
Climacteric is both a ripening and a decline. It’s the critical point where one thing shifts and transforms into another. This is what interests us as poets, as women living in the liminal space of perimenopause, and as white writers seeking to acquire broader perspectives, gain empathy, and try to make something that doesn’t fuck things up further but instead reimagines and restores human, earthly, and non-human relationships in the hope of creating a more equitable and beautiful future.
We are grateful to have been able to document the beginnings of this pandemic in our lives last year, through verse, with you as witness. For National Poetry Writing Month (#NaPoWriMo) this year, we will again engage in a poetic conversation throughout the month of April. This will be our 4th year of poetic dialogue. (To read our previous collaborations click here, here, and here.)
We’ve always chosen an anchor text to help seed our conversation. This year, being women of a certain age, we are taking a different route.
We’ve decided to “be a provenance of something gathered” by choosing not to anchor ourselves to someone else’s work but instead to gaze directly at our own texts — our own “summations of previous intuitions” — the material we are currently creating and have created over decades of writing.
This seemed an especially good idea for us as middle-aged women working to fully claim our own voices and minds in what remains a patriarchal world.
Some of the major themes that Michelle Puckett is grappling with as she writes her book are focused on family history, American history, and an inquiry into the causes and conditions of oppression and how that lives in the rooms of her family home. She’s interested in the ways that both blame, and denial of our own entanglement in the trouble, keep us from living in solidarity and realizing that our liberation is tied up with one another. Some obsessions that have sprung out of these concerns are research on her own genealogy and ancestral lineage, the Civil War, historical and present day witch hunts, the colonization of North America, and the unbroken medicine that the earth can provide us as we seek to heal all of these wounds.
Some of the major themes that Samantha Wallen is grappling with as she writes what she calls her “Living Book,” are focused on individual, societal, and cultural self-scrutiny, self-honesty, self-reckoning, and the feeling that there is no way through the mess we find ourselves in that doesn’t involve facing the darkness and scale of unravelling happening around us. She’s interested in how language and narratives shape consciousness and create disparate realities and how writing can be an act of restoration and route-making bringing us closer to our future selves, while also keeping us rooted in the past and the living, non-human ground beneath our feet. Some obsessions that have sprung out of these concerns are explorations into her own indigenous, land-based, European ancestral lineage, mythology, deep ecology, Geopoetics (intersection of geography and poetics), and the growing phenomenon of conspiracy groups/theories, cult personalities, and where they intersect with the self-help, spiritual and wellness industries, now known as “Conspirituality.”
Together, we hope to walk a crooked path through poetry into a deeper sense of the possibilities and dangers of this critical time on planet earth, within our own bodies as they age, and as they write.
Your mind and heart is a welcome companion.
To read the first poem in this series, click HERE
Samantha Wallen, MFA is a poet, writer, writing guide & book coach who offers writing circles, workshops, community writing programs, private mentoring, and retreats for writers & want-to-be writers. Her work on and off the page seeks to restore the soul of our world one word at a time.
Michelle Puckett, MFA is a poet, doula, permaculturalist, coach and Co-Founder of Creating Freedom Movements, a social justice school for activists. All of her work aims to nourish the sacred and make it plain in every day life.