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Whidbey poet Lorraine Healy releases newest collection
Reading the poems of Lorraine Healy is like digging up the bones of the dead from the richest, darkest, sweetest soil.
All the while, beauty and color remain on the horizon like some distant cousin.
Brave New Words Productions presents the award-winning poet who introduces her newest collection of poems, “The Habit of Buenos Aires,” at the Rob Schouten Gallery at 7 p.m. Saturday, June 12.
Healy is a Whidbey Island poet, writer and photographer born and raised in Argentina of Irish and Italian extraction. In this, her first full-length book of poems, she brings all the geography of her life and family, delving into a childhood that reverberates with the effects of Argentina’s military anguish and her memories of the volatile, ragged and beautiful Buenos Aires and its people.
She also devotes a section of the book to Ireland, that craggy land of holy-stubborn, hungry Catholics and a bit to the Italian side of her heritage, as well.
“The Habit of Buenos Aires,” published this year by Tebot Bach Press, won the Patricia Bibby First Book Award.
Healy is the winner of a long list of national poetry awards for a various number of her poems, including the Hackney Prize. She has been published extensively both in the U.S. and her native Argentina.
Her poem “An Artifact of Light” was nominated for a Pushcart Prize in 2004, soon after it appeared in her first chapbook, “The Farthest South,” published by New American Press in 2003.
The awards for her poetry are no surprise if one is familiar with the deep, dark well of Argentina’s past from which Healy draws her subject matter.
She was a teenager when her country suffered a military coup in 1976 and during a time under a military dictatorship when students, intellectuals and labor organizers were being kidnapped and murdered on a weekly basis.
Many of Healy’s poems rise from that experience.
Author David St. John has praised her “muscular and immediate poems … that form a spiritual and political accounting.”
"I went from thirteen to eighteen / eating the white sour bread of lie,” she writes,
.. we awoke and were so heavy / with the black-green years. So much mud / to go through, sifting for little things, / an earring, one of the wrist bones, a name.
But this poet also reveals a deep tenderness for members of her family, including “A Poem Before We Face the Business of Death,” which is in this newest book, and for which she won the 2007 Lois Cranston Memorial Poetry Prize.
The poem is notable for its achingly beautiful homage to Healy’s aging mother.
In it she writes:
...This is about you and me / living like newborns, small animals, who have known captivity and escaped. Over the phone / I hear the police sirens of our Buenos Aires / and I tell you about the robins crowding my woods. / I shall inherit every age spot of your arms, / all the yellow that time brands on your skin, / the silver peeking stubborn through your blonde hair, / you who leave such treasure. Open handed you go / to kiss the beggars and buy from the poorest peddler. / Despite the miles, I go behind you, touching / my forehead to the cobblestones you tread.
Last year, Healy became the first person to become a legal resident of this country on the sole basis of her poetry.
Healy teaches poetry workshops here and around the U.S.
As a fine art photographer, she is currently at work on a series featuring the old cafés of Buenos Aires and the old diners of the U.S.
Admission to the poetry reading is free. Appetizers and beverages will be served.
The Rob Schouten Gallery is at Greenbank Farm.