• Bridge Ladies

    Bridge Ladies Sometimes I think a meteor could strike the earth and wipe out mankind with the exception of my mother’s Bridge club — Roz, Bea, Bette, Rhoda, and Jackie — five Jewish octogenarians who continue to gather for lunch and Bridge on Mondays as they have for over fifty years. When I set out to learn about the women behind the matching outfits and accessories, I never expected to fall in love with them. This is the story of the ladies, their game, and most of all the ragged path that led me back to my mother.
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Without a Dream In My Heart Without a Love of My Own

Whatever possesses birches to undress
in the dead of winter, to stand
in the woods all solitary and come-hither,
their papery spice-colored layers wavering
in the wet, weighty breeze?
The peeling layers go on revealing
what’s underneath until it seems
there are more layers than there is tree.
A tree half-peeled is no less a tree,
any underbark revealed is nearly healed.
                                        –Jean Monahan


087da00I spent the weekend with my great friend from graduate school, Jean Monahan. She’s a poet and had just started writing after a long hiatus. She gave me her poems and it was wonderful to give her notes. I was drawn to her all those years ago because of her writing. Unlike everyone who was weaving pop culture into their stanzas, she danced around the edges of Marianne Moore and Elizabeth Bishop; her poems subtle, arresting, the emotion catching you by surprise.

I always tell people that one of the most important things you should get from a writing program or conference is finding your ideal reader. Someone you can always share work with and get an honest response from. I always tell people not to trust best friends, mothers or people you sleep with. They have a vested interest. Writers need writers.

Who is your ideal reader?

11 Responses

  1. I don’t have one. Didn’t find one in the program; didn’t get one at the conference. Too bad. But, Betsy, I have met a couple of readers through your blog who have been kind enough to read some of my work and tell me what they think. And they can think. They have given me their insights; seen things I could not see (they saw the forest while I was peering at the trees).

  2. I’m a comic. My ideal reader is someone sitting on the can or on an airplane, or on a beach trying to go, not be miserable, or forget the stress. In that order. We’re not all poets and writers of beautiful prose but taking people away counts for something #SaysTheWomanFromTheUndersideOfYourNoses 😉

  3. Downith

    • Aww, right back at you my Newfoundland consultant.

      Like Tetman, I found me a few good betas right here on this very blog, including Bobbi and Indy Clause.

      Thanks to St Betsy for favours received..

  4. I’m not sure, but I love this poem.

  5. Much like the folks who have friends dating all the way back to elementary school, I envy those who have similar relationships with writers they’ve found a special connection with via writing programs/higher education, etc.

    For me, writing came late in life, even though it was a constant nudge since my teen years. How apropos since I was also a late bloomer in many ways. I’m still searching for my ideal reader/s. I haven’t found him/her yet, i.e. there is no “tribe.”

  6. Good question. Above all, I value honest criticism, and I seek someone who doesn’t know me so they can read the piece fresh. I met a woman at a conference last summer who I thought might be a good critic, but then I read a book she recommended and thought, no, too far apart.
    I like the Birches poem, the “wet, weighty breeze” in winter and how the layers seem to unravel forever.

  7. But truly, my mother was my most insightful reader–champion of words, of honesty, of compassion. Now she’s gone, though not her judicious voice in my head. Some readers are so stupid they think your material is finished when there’s obviously no ending yet; some, clueless despite their profusion of degrees. Betsy, what interests me is your friend’s hiatus. What defines a hiatus–how brief, how long? And how to reroute one’s writing life when one slips into a hiatus?

  8. Gorgeous, gorgeous poem. I have had trouble finding a reader. Here’s the weird thing. The one person I met at a conference who I thought would be, well, the one, is actually strangely competitive about the whole thing. It feels a little treacherous, a balance of jealousy, indifference and awe. It turns into strained conversations, bursts of admiration in front of other writers followed by secretive new writing friends and conferences. I’m never sure of the solid truth behind anything said or done. Is this common or my bad luck?

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