Peninsula Poetry: Doris Bezio

Doris Bezio has been writing for most of her life and remembers passing poems to her friends in high school. Beginning as an avid reader, she discovered the wondrous joy of books at the same time she was discovering the world of art. 

Her first poetry teacher was Laurel Mills at UW-Oshkosh. Bezio has since attended weeklong writers’ conferences at Illinois Wesleyan University and Wheaton College and enjoyed classes at The Clearing in Ellison Bay and the Rhinelander School of the Arts with Ellen Kort, a major influence. 

Bezio has belonged to a book club for the past 20 years, and to Sandra Shackelford’s Writers’ Circle, in which work is shared weekly. These groups, as well as friendships with other poets and writers, have been a great source of inspiration.

Now retired from Bellin Hospital in Green Bay, Bezio enjoys the freedom to pursue her writing further and is working on a novel to be completed early next year. 

What is your writing routine? 

I don’t have a definite routine other than allowing myself quiet, meditative time to walk, read or listen to peaceful music.

For inspiration, I have a drawer full of poetry attempts, pieces of paper with phrases that I scribbled down while driving or walking, and sometimes I go through these, and occasionally something works itself into a poem. I read a poem or two each day. 

What do most poorly written poems have in common? 

Poorly written poetry simply means the poet is on a learning path, as we all are. I don’t judge the attempts of others at self-expression because we’re all in different places on the path.  

What do most well-written poems have in common?

Poems that appeal to me are poems that make you think. They can be painful, humorous, rhyming, free verse or any of the other forms poets use, but they offer wisdom and insight in quiet, subtle ways.  

Is it important to understand the meaning of the poem or for the reader to be able to “solve” it? 

I think poetry is to be enjoyed and savored, not solved. If poems have deeper meanings and these are understood, wonderful. There are many good poets out there, writing in different styles and for many reasons. Just like other forms of art, there are some that will inspire us – maybe even change our lives – [and] some that won’t appeal to us at all. 

What book are you reading now?

Some novels read like beautiful poetry. I have bookcases lining my walls because if I love a book, I want to own it to reread or to share. I’ve recently read Anthony Doerr’s All the Light We Cannot See and Muriel Barbery’s The Elegance of the Hedgehog. Beautiful stories!

I’m currently reading a nonfiction book, There Is Nothing for You Here by Fiona Hill. When I became aware that this brilliant woman wrote a book, I felt I had to read it.

Peninsula Poetry is a monthly column curated by the Door County Poets Collective, a 12-member working group that was formed to publish Soundings: Door County in Poetry in 2015 and continues to meet.

Christmas Remembered 
The partitioned entrance hall 
of a grand old Victorian 
formed our small apartment 
that first Christmas. 
A corner was angled 
by a small gas fireplace 
with tiles the color of jade. 
We awoke, mornings, 
to the clink of bottles 
as the milkman 
made his morning run. 
Radiators groaned 
and the toilet yawned. 
Our space too small 
to have a tree, 
we decked the mantel 
with pine boughs, colored lights, 
exchanged humble gifts, 
a small set of Chinese gods 
found in an import shop, 
two ceramic swans, 
tiny and delicate.  
On an old mohair sofa, 
in the soft glow of lights, 
we sat holding hands, 
alive with hope, 
talking of the future, 
our baby due in March. 
We would never again  
be so poor … 
or so rich.
When We Believed 
We skated by moonlight 
on the old mill pond. 
Christmas was near 
and the world was at peace. 
Eisenhower had started 
his second term, 
communists were the enemy 
and they were far away. 
We changed into boots, 
carried our skates, 
walked over the hill 
above Mr. Rooney’s spacious yard. 
Rumor was that he had a mean dog, 
and we dared not trespass, 
but we could look from the hilltop 
at the scene he set out every year; 
Mary, Joseph, baby in the manger, 
shepherds and wise men. 
He used manikins 
and dressed them with care, 
Mary in blue, Joseph in red. 
It all looked so real, 
so beautiful. 
We wanted to believe 
that somewhere 
angels were singing 
and there would always be 
peace on earth.
First Handgun 
I wonder if it will be  
like a first bra. 
I remember, 
the ragged hand-me-down 
from one of my sisters, 
purely functional, 
no embellishments of lace. 
Or will it be like acquiring 
that first boyfriend 
who picked me up Friday nights 
in a pink Studebaker? 
Then there’s the first 
awkward lovemaking, 
fumbling with buttons, 
ties and zippers, 
of bare skin. 
Will it fit 
in my soft hand? 
I can sense the thrill 
just thinking about it. 
Untapped power 
at my fingertips 
needing only my touch.
For Betty 
She stands on a craggy cliff 
while waves thunder below. 
The setting sun, 
like a fire on the horizon, 
reflects in her hair,  
surrounds her face 
like a flame-red veil. 
Her dress, woven  
on her mother’s loom, 
is the color of earth, 
shoes formed from the hide 
of last season’s kill. 
She turns from the ledge 
to return to the village, 
passes standing stones 
casting long, eerie shadows, 
as sunlight’s last glow 
sinks into the sea. 
Visions blur and fade, 
as she comes into focus 
wearing a pair of jeans, 
on a mountain in Colorado. 
Deer gather 
to eat corn from her hands.