Sunday, June 6, 2010

Poet As Shaman

When Peggy started feeling light-headed last Sunday we knew it was something more than her usual flights of fancy. True, she had been writing poems with imaginative leaps but this one landed her in bed. 
Her blood pressure was a bit high, lying down, and alarmingly low, standing up; a clear case of orthostatic hypotension. Naturally it was a holiday weekend when all emergencies are scripted to happen. 
On Tuesday her internist puzzled over the numbers and drew blood. Her cardiac enzyme, tryponin, was significantly elevated and that sent us off to the emergency room. A Cat-scan revealed multiple emboli (never say embolisms) in her lungs and leg. Anti-coagulants did what they do and they are still doing it. After five days in the hospital we are now back in our humble hive. 

Enough about medical matters. What I really want to talk about is how Peggy deals with adversity. She writes……….and by the way, it is therapeutic. 

Some of her finest poetry has been written on gurneys and hospital beds. If poetry is about transformation she has had much to transform. It is said that art is a matter of making order out of chaos. Hers is a reordering of the chaos into something uniquely coherent upon multiple readings. It’s poetry, after all, and resists easy interpretation. 

 I’ve been witness to her process; how she takes pieces of conversation, heard or overheard, a dropped phrase on T.V, an observation out the window, a harmless sentence from a book which ignites a spark that sets off a conflagration, or some image born and sprung from deep in her recesses on no anatomical map. 

 Peggy has found a way of seeing and of saying with her sui generis connectivity. The result is a distillation of experience strung together, both reductive and expansive at the same time. 

All of this happens with I.V. solutions dripping, monitors beeping and oxygen up her nostrils. It animates her even as it is a balm. Maybe most healing is self-healing …with a little help from exogenous material. When the body is dis-eased it begs to be reconstituted. Never underestimate the power of creativity.


  1. Norm, give Peggy a hug for me.

  2. I am so happy Peggy is back at home with her wonderful husband, you, Norm. I feel compelled to write you this because of what you wrote about Peggy's way of taking notes: I was being taken into surgery. I don't know what I was thinking but I put a small pad and a small pen in those socks with the sticky bottoms they give you for surgery. I thought before they knocked me out I might make some notes. I thought a poem might be found during the countdown. Little did I know... At least I made some of the medical staff laugh. I'm happy Peggy's home.