Luanne Rice on the Power of the Right Poem
I'd been wandering in the desert. You know the one: not the hot, sandy treeless plain out there in the world, but the dangerously arid, overly familiar resting place in your own mind. I had some decisions to make difficult choices that challenged who I thought I was, the woman I thought I had to be. To prolong making them, I found myself seeking refuge in old ways.
Writing has always worked for me. In creating characters and inhabiting their worlds with them, I have often found opportunities to make sense of my own life. When my mother died of a brain tumor, I wrote Cloud Nine. When I lost touch with a child I loved, I wrote Dream Country. In following my characters on their own deepest journeys, I'd always found ways to make progress along paths of my own.
But this was different: I was in a crisis of life and spirit, and I found that my novels couldn't provide any answers for me if I wasn't even ready to ask the right questions. In a moment of grace, I turned to a friend. She handed me a book New and Selected Poems by Mary Oliver in which she had marked several poems: "Wild Geese," "The Journey," "Little Owl Who Lives in the Orchard," and "The Summer Day."
I read them all and was turned inside out. My friend had given me a gift of words, and in them I felt fresh air, sunshine, and for the first time in way too long, my own heart. Listen to these last lines from "The Summer Day": "Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?"
My friend had given me the question that I'd been too afraid to ask. The question shimmered in my mind. Once presented to me, the words just rang and rang, and I had no choice but to try to answer. I took an action, and I changed my life. Because of a friend, and a poem...
About Luanne Rice
Luanne Rice is the author of seventeen novels, most recently Dance with Me. Her other works include The Perfect Summer, The Secret Hour, Safe Harbor, True Blue, Summer Light, Dream Country, Follow The Stars Home and Cloud Nine. She lives in New York City and Old Lyme, Connecticut.