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. Here we picked our way over cool, mossy logs and threaded our fingers together and said Maybe. 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 presently. 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 stood, a mere moment ago. Walk out to the brink with me I say. Tonight, let’s wrap our toes about the craggy lip and gape into the hollow darkness.
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 alone. Or forgotten. To him – no object is sacred. Letters from camp – stacked unopened 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 tart branching and falling through youth.