The current reading period at Gyroscope Review has been challenging for some poets who would like to send us work. Given that we have limited all submissions to the theme of Crone Power, we understand that some have decided this topic isn’t for them. We have seen some comments on our social media about displeasure with the topic of crones. I’ve been thinking that perhaps that displeasure comes from a misunderstanding about the potential behind the idea of the Crone.
With that in mind, I was so disappointed that when I typed the word, “crone,” into my Mac’s dictionary app, the first definition that came up was, “an old woman who is thin and ugly.” My paperback Oxford English Dictionary wasn’t much better: “crone n. an ugly old woman. Origin: Old French caroigne ‘carrion’.” And my American Heritage College Dictionary went further into the unappealing side of what a crone is: “An ugly, withered old woman; a hag….carrion, cantankerous woman.”
What editors oversaw such narrow definitions? Certainly not any with a comprehensive education around the use of the word, “crone.” And these definitions don’t do writers who research the word much good. A starting point, perhaps – one to argue with.
In the Wiccan tradition, the Crone is associated with post-menopausal women, the New Moon, a lifetime of accumulated wisdom. She is powerful, demands death and sacrifice. In other traditions, she is helpful, protective, a guardian to the Otherworld, keeper of knowledge that includes medicinal cures. If we consider the Crone as a metaphor for older women, then she becomes a way to remain vibrant and valued in a society that too often places more emphasis on younger people. She becomes a direct rebuttal of the invisibility that older women feel when they try to be heard.
What is a Crone today? That is the very question we want poets to tackle. What is it about being an older woman that is valuable to all? What is unseen and unappreciated that a poet can bring to light? What insights have surprised women who are in this New Moon phase of their lives? What strengths have appeared along with hard-earned wisdom? What inspirations can be drawn from fairy tale images of the Crone as witch (both good and bad), fairy godmother, protector? What would a grandmother-protector do right this minute in the United States? Elsewhere in the world?
This is a huge topic. It is one that could keep a writer busy for years, long past the time when our planned Crone Power issue has turned to dust. Dig in, poets. Draw on your wisdom, your strength, and your bravery.
image courtesy of Pixabay.com
My co-editor, Kathleen Cassen Mickelson recently did a review of Kari Gunter-Seymour’s chapbook, Serving. Then she passed the book on to me for my reaction. I come at it from a different place than Kathleen did. As many of you probably don’t know, I served in the U.S. Army in the Corps of Engineers. As I read these poems, I am reminded both of the men and women who served with me, but also the children they were before the military took hold of their lives.
In this book are the buzz cut boys who grew up playing with GI Joes and a longing to be the heroes of their own stories. Brash, bold soldiers with tender hearts who are caught between caring for the civilians in harm’s way and protecting their psyche. They also protect the souls of those left at home, shielding family from the pain and horror witnessed on a daily basis.
Gunter-Seymour illustrates the heartache of those left behind. They remember what it was like before. Before the military. Before the war. Before death and dying carved a place in a child’s heart. Serving touches on the aftermath of giving up our sons and daughters to an unneeded war. The poems relay the anxiety of waiting, wondering, and the dread of knowing. My favorite poem in the book is A Middle East Vet’s Mom Attends The Parade. It eloquently sums up the quiet rage of watching people go through the motions of honoring the military, blindly, only thinking of those lost, and not those coming home, broken.
In the military I built things, cobbling together troop housing in the jungle, or a runway to land lumbering C-130s with precious supplies inside. Everyone had a job to do, just as poets have their job to do. To let us know about the things we don’t want to face, the ugly side of a war no one wanted, the injuries that live on long after the war is in the past. Remember those, Gunter-Seymour tells us, but also remember what it was like before, when the child played with wild abandon and gave us hope for the future.
When I first became aware of the poet Kari Gunter-Seymour, it was through Gyroscope Review’s submissions for the spring 2016 issue. Her poems about having a son who served in the US military in the Middle East took my breath away, as it did for my co-editor, Constance Brewer. We ended up publishing some of her work in that spring issue, as well as in our fall 2016 special Honor Issue. We could see that her poetry sprang from a deep well of extraordinary experience combined with a vast reservoir of strength and love.
So, when a physical copy of Kari’s chapbook, Serving (Crisis Chronicles Press, 2018) arrived in my mailbox at home in Minnesota this spring as a gift to both Constance and me, I was absolutely surprised and delighted. I texted a photo of the book to Constance, who lives in Wyoming, and told her I would mail it to her when I was done.
Then I left for Switzerland. I didn’t have time to read Kari’s book before I left. That’s how the week after the Fourth of July found me on my deck in my own peaceful back yard reading her poems, my heart clenched. These 17 poems, including the three we published, create a heartbreaking picture of how a parent lives with the choice of their child to serve their country only to return home with pieces of themselves shattered. It talks about how parents then serve those adult children – giving them a couch to crash on, helping with childcare, listening – while the memories of earlier years flash in and out of each day. The child a parent remembers never disappears, but is overlaid on this grown child with adult needs, adult worries. The juxtaposition is jarring. This work examines how all of us serve each other throughout our lives, one way or another, when we love each other.
As I sat on my deck that afternoon, trying to figure out how to talk about this book, I realized it wasn’t just the book that needed to be discussed. There are a lot of ways to serve – military service, parenthood, emergency response, volunteering, and making art that reframes issues. Poetry can be a powerful vehicle for getting stories out there in a way that reporting and fiction cannot; the way words are shaped into a glimmer of something more, the way they bullet through a page, can bring a reader to their knees. The moments, seemingly disconnected, that come together in a final stanza can vault the way a reader thinks into an entirely new place.
That was certainly my experience as I read Kari’s gift. My thoughts were shot off into new territory, my awareness of PTSD increased. Our servicemen and women deserve more from us – more listening to what they need, more immediate services for health issues including mental health, support that is not just a panacea that makes those who offer it feel better. As poets and writers, we are called upon to offer a vision that speaks beyond ourselves. As human beings, we must never walk away from the chance to serve each other.
I am grateful for Kari’s gift of poetry that makes us understand, just a little, how sacrifices ripple far beyond the people making them.
You can find a copy of Kari Gunter-Seymour’s chapbook, Serving, HERE.
Read her work in past issues of Gyroscope Review HERE.
Gyroscope Review Issue 19-3 is now available and ready to go to the beach with you. The cover, produced from a woodcut by our own editor Constance Brewer, flaunts its beachy-ness, begging you to grab your flip flops, a cooler full of something good to drink, and head to your favorite summer spot for some time alone with this season’s collection of poems.
Authors in this issue include Steve Anderson, Micki Blenkush, Carol L. Deering, Ginger Dehlinger, Michael DeMaranville, Renée Christine Ehle, Art Elser, Jennifer Gauthier, Ruth Gooley, Charles Grosel, Joseph Hardy, Nicholas Alexander Hayes, Laura Johnson, Elizabeth Jorgensen, Babo Kamel, Kate Kearns, Maureen Kingston, Sandra Kohler, Olga Livshin, Jenica Lodde, Kendall Mallon, Bonnie Lini Markowski, Nate Maxson, Ashley Memory, Daryl Muranaka, Karen Whittington Nelson, Hadi Panahi, James Penha, Alex Pickens, Ren Pike, Peter L. Scacco, Claire Scott, John Sierpinski, Travis Stephens, Laurel Szymkowiak, Lillo Way, Diane Webster, Laura Grace Weldon, Hannah Yerington, Mantz Yorke, and Mariel Yovino.
You may purchase a print copy HERE.
You may purchase a Kindle version HERE.
And, as always, you may access a PDF version HERE.
Our fall issue reading period also opens today. Our Fall 2019 Issue will be a special issue: The Crone Power Issue. Submissions are limited to poets over 50 who identify as women. For this special issue, we seek work that examines what it is to be a woman over 50 – one’s power, dreams, contributions. We want work that thinks beyond the usual and celebrates wise women, crones, matriarch, elders, strength, experience, the end of child-bearing. If you are not a poet over 50 who identifies as a woman, please do not submit for our fall issue. We will resume regular submissions for all with the winter 2020 issue.
You may find the full guidelines for the fall issue HERE.