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Can you go through the step-by-step process of writing this poem from the moment the idea was first conceived in your brain until final form? I conceived “Amaterasu” as part of a series of poems about the climate crisis. I wanted to write about the dire status of coral reefs and began research that yielded 64 pages of notes.
Coral bleaching in our oceans shouts out as one of the most worrisome consequences of global warming. Several factors contribute to the cause, one of which is warming waters. When warmed beyond their comfort zone, corals spit out nourishing algae called zooxanthellae that feed and color them. Without them, the corals turn white. They now are highly susceptible to death.
The subject challenged me. I had never tried to write about a complicated scientific process in a poem. How to explain what zooxanthellae are? And how is it pronounced? (zow-uh-zan-theh-lia). Should I just call them “algae?” I decided respect called for using their scientific name. How to explain why coral reefs are vital and how much of the Amaterasu myth should I include?
I remembered from a class I took that in Japan, the sun goddess is called Amaterasu. According to one myth, Amaterasu hides her face inside a cave because she is in a pique after an argument with her brother but is tricked into coming out again.
Where were you when you started to actually write the poem? And please describe the place in great detail. In my writing room which was built as a sunroom with full windows to the south and west. Here, books and photos of my family keep me company. My piano sits along one wall and my late mother’s maple dining room table and chairs sits on the west wall. It’s there that I sit to draw during a weekly mindfulness workshop. In spring, a house wren comes and goes, carrying plant wisps and husks as she builds a nest under the overhang. A white dogwood bursts into bloom each May. I like to think it pleases Guan Yin, Goddess of Compassion. A statue of her stands just outside my west window near our bird bath.
How many drafts of this poem did you write before going to the final? (And can you share a photograph of your rough drafts with pen markings on it?) At least a half dozen.
Were there any lines in any of your rough drafts of this poem that were not in the final version? And can you share them with us? The original poem began with these lines which did not make it into the final version:
There was a time
you hid your face,
lived in a cave
consorted with the dark.
But one day your brother
presented a mirror—
sun-struck by beauty,
you shone again.
Nor did these lines appear in the final version:
Has anyone told you
you’re now too much of a good thing?
What do you want readers of this poem to take from this poem? I hope to inspire an appreciation for the delicate balance required to create corals, to note their significance to life on Earth, and to motivate the reader to act.
Which part of the poem was the most emotional of you to write and why?
corals patiently craft
staghorns, spiral wires, pillars
peach and a blue bluer than dreams
building sea bones
I find it incredibly sad that pollution and greenhouse gases are destroying these perfect, exquisite creatures that require millions of years to build themselves and are vital to a sustainable future.
Has this poem been published before? And if so where? Yes, in my book of ecofeminist poems, Gaia’s Cry.
And on the website (https://www.patheos.com/)
For the Patheos post, I included an interview with the project manager Pol Bosch of Coral Restoration Foundation Curaçao in the Caribbean.
In 2005, the U.S. lost half of its coral reefs in the Caribbean in one year due to a massive bleaching event.
Click on the below link to read Nan Lundeen's poem "Amaterasu"
Nan Lundeen has published three poetry collections: Gaia’s Cry, The Pantyhose Declarations, and Black Dirt Days: Poems as Memoir. Her handbook Moo of Writing is now available in audio at audible.com. Her work is published in literary journals and online. Visit her at http://www.nanlundeen.com , follow her at www.facebook.com/nanlundeenauthor, and on Twitter https://twitter.com/NanLundeen