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Poetry Corner: July’s Poet Spotlight, Lana Hechtman Ayers

A headshot of Poet Laureate James Rodgers
James Rodgers | photo from James Rodgers

Hello Poetry Lovers!  We seem to be surviving this crazy summer, at least so far.  This month’s Poet spotlight is a poet very near to my heart, since if it wasn’t for her belief in me, I’d very likely not have a book out yet, and she has always made me feel like I belong, when I haven’t always felt that way in the poetry world.

Meet Lana Hechtman Ayers

Lana Hechtman Ayers grew up in New York, a harrowing childhood with an abusive mentally ill mother. During this childhood, at aged five or six, she discovered poems that talked of surviving terrible circumstances not unlike her own, or even worse, and not only surviving, but thriving and living to tell of it. In this way, poetry gave her hope, brought her up out of despair, and saved her life over and over again.

Lana moved from the east coast to the Seattle area in 2006. She was delighted by the thriving poetry scene and immediately started attending readings and open mics far and wide. When she discovered the Auburn poetry scene, she knew she’d found her true home in the weekly critique group that met Tuesday nights. A decade ago, in 2011, she founded MoonPath Press to publish some of the Pacific Northwest’s marvelous poets. Several of the Striped Water Poets have had collections published by MoonPath, including James Rodgers, Brendan McBreen, Victor David Sandiego, and Jim Teeters. Check out the website at MoonPathPress.com.

A white middle aged female wearing glasses and a silver necklacesits in front of a book case.
Lana Hechtman Ayers

Reading poetry makes Lana feel connected to the greater human experience—across distance, time, culture, gender, race, religion. The poetry of others offers insights into how to live as a more compassionate human being. Writing poetry is the way Lana makes meaning of her own life. “I often discover what I feel and how I think and what I don’t know anything at all about but need to learn whenever I delve into writing a poem,” she says. Some of her poetic influences include Emily Dickinson, Octavio Paz, and Lucille Clifton.

Lana is currently at work on her 10th collection of poems. You can visit her online at LanaAyers.com, and check out her monthly blog there, where she reads poems she’s written inspired by prompts provided by her followers.

Lana’s Poetry

Lana doesn’t ever pull punches with her poetry, and I’ve always appreciated her bravery and honesty, and most of all, her friendship over all these years.  I hope you like her work as much as I do.  Here’s a few examples of Lana’s expertise:

The Dead Boy Visits the Hayden Planetarium,
poem for my brother, Alan Hechtman (1956–2010), after he visited me in a dream

which surprises me because
my brother’s funeral
was just a few days ago.

Tonight, he is here for
“The Beatles Laser Light Show,”
and so am I,
and we are both alone.

He is a few rows ahead of me.
I don’t know it in the psychedelic bliss,
until the show ends with “Let it Be”
and the house lights come on.

The dead boy’s hair
is back to its slick, black fullness,
his skin is blush again.

Hello, I call.
My brother turns.
His eyes are glassy.

You are here too, my brother says.
as if it is nothing to meet like this
in a dream of Manhattan.

Where are Meryl and the boys? I say.
But the dead boy ignores me.

He says, I remember I saw this show
thirty years ago.
Thought I’d see it
one last time.

How ‘bout we get some coffee? I say.

No, it’s late.
I have to get back, my brother says.

Back where? I say,
not wanting the real answer.

The dead boy shakes his head,
half-laughs, half-coughs,
steps out the door
to the stone walkway,

where I know
he’s already become
moonlight.

[from The Dead Boy Sings in Heaven, 2018]

WHILE THE BATHTUB IS FILLING 

The mirror reports that I am starting to
resemble my mother, the way she looked

that time I went into her bedroom without knocking,
saw her breasts: two weighted-down plastic bags,

bloated, slow-swinging pendulums.
I decided right then to die at eighteen,

in the prime of perkiness and elasticity.
Last year, my mother showed me a fat scar

where her left breast used to be.
It looked as if a red snake slithered

out of her heart and hid his head
in the brush of her armpit.

The longer I stared, the more I recognized
the creature above her belly for what it was: life.

Nothing about nakedness was ever that lovely.
My mother’s survived this halving,

that scar, a red brooch of honor
making me proud to be a woman like her.

In a moment, when the tub is finally full,
I’ll forget the mirror, all these musings,

lie back in the pale green bath,
and feel the warm water work its magic,

making buoyant, bobbing apples
of my two old gals.

[from Dance From Inside My Bones, 2007]

Red Riding Hood and the Wolf Discuss Rothko 

 Time is white
     mosquitoes bite
     I’ve spent my life on nothing.
—Lorine Niedecker

They stand in front of Rothko’s painting
White Over Red.

The Wolf says, “What do you see?”
Red looks deeply.

“I see two blocks of color,
one atop the other.”

“Yes, but there’s more.” The Wolf implores her,
“Look again, as if you’re leaving.”

Red steps back, and as she does,
like Lot’s wife, turns.
She sees that the bottom of the canvas burns,
the top becomes a cavity.

Red informs the Wolf,
“Inside desire’s many rooms
are many closets,
but all of them are empty.”

[from Red Riding Hood’s Real Life, 2017]

Did you miss our June Poet Spotlight? Check it out now to learn more about poet Jim Teeters. Then head over to James’ latest poetry.

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