Elizabeth Kirschner

Writing Mentor / Manuscript Consultant


"A poem begins in delight and ends in wisdom"

-Robert Frost

(207) 439-7380

 

BOOKS AND ESSAYS:

Twenty Colors, poems, Carnegie Mellon University Press, 1990.
Postal Routes, poems, Carnegie Mellon University Press, 1998.
Slow Risen Among the Smoke Trees, poems, Carnegie Mellon University Press, 2005.
The Red Dragon, chapbook, Permafrost, 2005.
My Life as a Doll, poems, Autumn House Press, 2008.
Surrender to Light, poems, Cherry Grove Collections, 2009.

My Life as a Doll awarded me the 2010 Literary Arts Fellowship from the state of Maine and was nominated for the Lenore Marshall Prize and the Patterson Book Prize.

Over three dozen of my essays have been published at THE COAL HILL REVIEW.


Excerpt from SURRENDER TO LIGHT

YESTERDAY

I harmonized with life for one whole minute!
It was delicious, like dark chocolates
served with fresh figs. Afterwards,

I could not stand to look
at disarrayed leaves on tree
or stones that had fallen from crumbling walls.

Then the birds began to sing about the inexpressible
and I understood the perfect pitch of their language
while my dreams went swimming up silken streams.

Astonishing! My soul was dancing a little ahead of time.
It partnered with the wind which tore the fragments
of my life away, like loose shingles on an old barn.

In that barn, animals slept like babies in their mother’s arms.
It was a good night. Stars were charmed by other stars
and I gave up my suffering, quietly.

A memoir is in Progress:

Excerpt from THE RELIABLE SPLENDORS, a memoir                                                        

On the last day before my release on the unit, my body drifted, almost imperceptibly, like a heavy barge through the locks in a dam. I was in the grey community room and the TV was on—it was always on, the screen vivid, almost livid with the news blaring, graphic as porn that blasted into the outer space of my inner space. There were no windows and my heavy barge of a body sank into the sofa, the pillows, cold, cold waves and I was under siege because the dust was having a seizure. It snorted out of the blaring flaring nostrils of the dragon who had stalked me during the seizure years. Vaguely I wondered: how did one drug the dust? Dimly I felt that drugged dust settle on my heavy barge of a body that was heavily drugged. Before me was the collage of a giant snowman that we had made in Arts and Crafts and I understood, with great clarity, how every snowman was abominable, as was every snowwoman.

In entered Victoria, tiny and regal as a peacock with black eyeliner crusted around peacock-blue eyes. Her hair, dark as a nighttime meadow, was swept up and her age was her rage. She sat next to me on the sofa and we talked quietly, our hearts floating up like glass aggies to the same pane of glass that might shatter as we chatted. “I have a poem,” she said with a deliberately French accent. “Oh,” I replied, “I would love to see it.” She handed me a piece of blue paper folded into a tiny origami bird. Victoria was like that bird—made of paper folded too tight, thin paper that threatened to tear if touched. Because of this, I did not touch her fingers, slim fingers that reminded me of Chinese finger-pulls. “Thank you,” I said, “thank you very much,” as I delicately unfolded the bird, wing by wing. Weren’t we all, I thought, unfolding, wing by wing?

I spread the tissue-thin sheet of blue paper on my lap, smoothed it, ironed it lightly with the warmth of my fingertips. Upon it were three words, just three words, crafted in script so careful the letters almost singed the page. I read the words aloud, “Walking with Winter,” and Victoria winced then smiled. “That’s just the title,” she offered, “I can’t go any further.” I paused, felt my eyes deepen with sadness. “No,” I replied, “that’s the whole poem.” “Really?” she asked. “Really,” I let out with a sigh. Victoria then patted my hand, said, “thank you,” as though she were Grandma. O how I longed to be with Grandma, there on my last day in the unit, so she could tell me that I was her guardian angel while we walked, arm-in-arm, as we had done at the World’s Fair even when we stood in the Wall of People and although I sang, “O Happy Day” at her funeral, my happy day had gone away, seemingly for good. Still, it was with her that I wished to cross the red line and into a world so brilliant it nearly killed me.

Quietly, Victoria retrieved her poem, folded it back into an origami bird that could not fly. Of course it couldn’t fly, I thought, who could when walking with winter? Victoria walked with winter right out of the community room, her tiny, regal head raised a tiny bit higher. In my infinite emptiness, I stared at the snowman on the wall, was the abominable snowwoman who walked with winter, too, would continue to walk with winter for many years to come.