I had taken a semester off school because I had a baby, and when I went back for winter session, I brought the poem in to be workshopped. It seemed however that the language was kind of congested and far out and the images did not create the experience for the reader that I has hoped it would. My readers suggested that I simplify the narrative and just say exactly what happened. So I did. And the poem then was like, presentable. But I also felt it was no longer moist and heavy and ripe - the way I had wanted it to feel, because that was the primary feeling of the last month of pregnancy and that evening, which was the poem. So the poem had become a dry husk to me and I wasn’t sure what next. (Above Left: Mary Ellen Lough with her baby girl Elora in May 2013)
Thinking of the poem imagistically for her painting, thinking about it mythologically, I found I could add certain elements back in and mystery back in without breaking the basic narrative for the reader. Or at least I hope that’s what I did. And I felt good about it. Maybe as good as I’m going to anyways. There’s still this compulsion to scrap the whole thing and just go back to the very first way I wrote it. But I don’t know. (Above Left: Mary Ellen Lough in January of 2019)
It had a couple of windows, but also lots of erm, air flow, and cracks and it was still very much a barn loft (Left: Daniel in the barn loft), so it was this very bohemian kind of set up. It was a warm evening, so we had decided to eat outside, and the first scene of the poem was exactly what it was like. It could have been a scene from a movie.
This lovely table set out in the grasses with fresh flowers and linen and homemade bread. They had cooked a big pot of collards from the garden, and we had brought a bottle of wine. And we wanted to walk while the sun was still out. We passed the fields where she was growing her crops, the soil was somewhat dry and caked, and her vegetables I remember were very tiny.
I was very in love with my baby’s father, yet he often remained distant and aloof, and seeing him there on the hill in the sun, wanting to disappear into it all, with him. It is still emotional - the way he was always just out of reach, and yet somewhat mythological to me as well. That ending, where I was able to say what I felt and meant - about his distance - was a very last addition to the poem, and I was like, oh. That’s actually also at the center. SO there’s a way in which working with the poem and revision helps it become more true - helps YOU become more true.
And I finally had that kind of that fuck you moment where when someone tells you not to do something you decide to just exaggerate it. I decided to accentuate the strawberries even more, instead of getting rid of them, so they became the title of the poem, (Strawberries Have Been Growing Here for Hundreds of Years) and then it worked. It just worked and I felt smugly satisfied.
She works for the Asheville Area Arts Council to teach poetry to veterans with trauma, as well as travels around the country teaching poetry as a path of soul recovery and wholeness, as a form of community and lifting up marginalized voices. She trained with The Institute for Poetic Medicine and has two books forthcoming in 2020.