Peninsula Poetry: Lauren Ward

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.

Lauren Ward doesn’t recall life without poetry. The limestone bluffs, open waters and cedar forests of Door County first inspired her to pick up a pen in wonder at a young age. An ever-changing and evolving muse, the county continues to inspire her with its kaleidoscopic mystery and timelessness.

Ward taught literature and writing to the students of Gibraltar High School for 15 years; she’s a contributing writer to Door County Living magazine; and she serves as the managing director of Write On, Door County. Ward lives in Sister Bay with her husband, Travis; and their children, Finn, Margaret and Lochlan. 

What’s your writing routine? 

Truly – I have zero writing routine. With the speed of life these days, I write in a truly extemporaneous fashion. I will be struck by a dream that I had, or my baby boy splashing in his bath, or by the light in the trees. I am inspired by everything and nothing at all.

When I do actually sit down to write, sometimes it’s scribbled on the back of a to-do list, and sometimes it’s in the well-organized folders of work I’ve created in the cloud. 

What do most poorly written poems have in common?

The worst poems I’ve read are poems about poetry. I think Billy Collins is the exception. 

What do most well-written poems have in common?

The most well-written poems resonate. If a poet can capture a feeling, or a sense of beauty, or a truism that connects the poet to the poem to the reader, then that’s a well-written piece. We’re all trying to capture something in the lines. When that sentiment resonates with a reader, we all become more closely connected. 

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

I don’t think so. Sometimes it’s important to just let art wash over you. I used to have my British Lit students lie down and close their eyes while I read them “Lines Composed a Few Miles above Tintern Abbey” by William Wordsworth, just so they could get a sense for the lyricism and beauty of the language.

What book are you reading right now?

I’m currently reading Apples Never Fall by Liane Moriarty, and I just finished Godspeed by Nickolas Butler – both of them page-turners. 

Planting Strawberries

This foggy morning
you packed up our
baby boy
stretched him into 
his seat as he 
arched his spine in
sweet defiance. 
And you drove 
through the lake-cotton 
to our woods. 

The maples and 
paper birch, the 
slanting early sun, the
shadowy autumn light.

Here is Home.

we picked our way over
cool, mossy logs and
threaded our fingers
together and said

Now, you carry our
boy against you, his
tiny legs swimming 
in air. 
Now, you walk 
slowly through the woods
careful to watch your feet
and consider the way 
the sun shines.

You said
By the time we have 
it built, they’ll have spread 
like the wild plants they are
and the kids will have a 
berry patch. 

The strawberries and
path rush were gifts
a flat of homeless plants 
left behind once the 
wine had all been drunk 
and everyone returned home
to their warm beds.

Now, you kneel in
our woods. 
His cornsilk hair 
soft against your beard
your shovel in the dank earth
giving the plants a home. 

That mind and those hands
I love so dearly
planting us all 
in our quiet forest. 
There’s Been An Accident 

We are fools, us all
in love and in life.
Our houses are built of
walls of air, bricks of clouds.
Our hopes together, on a tightrope
with no net. 

My hand to clasp, yes 
but know
it offers no real
earthly solace in this thrashing silence. 
I may be gone

Here, there be no
guarantees – no
insurance that
keeps our knocking
pale bones from slipping or
tumbling into the abyss. 

This morning she will wake
into a glazing terror, the
tiny life stirring inside her
the warm, cotton breath 
sighing and rolling in the next room. 

The bed, just as dark
just as frightening 
in the October grey. 

A whole-body, shaking 
tragedy, love is. 
The joyful union of 
soul-crushing despair – 
of having and holding down into 
the unknown black. 

She is there now
waving her hands into the 
empty space where he
a mere moment 

Walk out to the brink with me
I say. 
let’s wrap our toes about 
the craggy lip and gape 
into the hollow 
Object Permanence

She stashes every artifact, like
it may get taken back.
The parade tosser – the 
friend of the family – the 
teacher’s aide, treasures all. 
Gaudy necklaces and
notes folded into indiscernible
squares, tucked away
in pockets
the laundry always producing the
carnage of nostalgia.
She gathers her treasures
to her – each stuffed animal
named – they won’t be 
Or forgotten. 

To him – no object 
is sacred.
Letters from camp – stacked
my grandfather’s war-time
compass stuffed in 
the desk drawer with 
Culver’s tokens
thoughtful gifts mingling with 
the dust bunnies beneath the
book shelf. 
His ignorance of value 
has no mean
spirit – only nods at the
impermanence of his world. 

They are both
my apples –
sweet and 
branching and 
falling through

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