Cell by cell – transformation.
Can stone hearts remember moonlight
sliding across bark skin,
nestling in limb fingers stretching
into starry night? Do dim
memories of hot sun, long draught,
cool rain linger deep in cracked crevice?
Or is this merely a different form –
meditation, atoms changing
from wood to rock to dust just
as bone must – all of us slowing,
breathing breaths together
in and out, turning
into someone else’s dream.
ZouxZoux (aka Charlotte Hamrick)
Heady with lust within the scent
of sweet olive, dusk
descends chasing sunlight
across weathered bricks into
intimate corners where the green faerie
and fingers intermingle across
wrought iron table tops.
A thin sheen of sweat glistens
above her upper lip,
a hint of saltiness that melts
on his tongue.
Charlotte and I met on line not too long into my own blogging career. She hails from New Orleans (in case you can’t read it dripping from the above poem), and is one of those people who turns out an impressive amount of work: several blogs (including ZouxZoux where I picked up this poem, NOLa Femmes (with several others), and The Traveling Mermaid), a presence on Facebook and Twitter, a job, and support of art in New Orleans.
Recently, Charlotte has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize for her poem Ten O’Clock in St. Somehwere Journal. No small feat. Published under her writing name ZouxZoux. Very few people around her know her poetic calibre because until now she has chosen to keep it secret. She has honored me with announcing to the world that ZouxZoux is Charotte Hamrick of New Orleans! Well, I couldn’t let it go at that. I figured people would want to know more about her and her accomplishments and how it feels to step into the shoes of being a Pushcart Prize nominee.
So here is the poem, and the interview. Enjoy!
She shouldered the weight of
her responsibilities by day with
proficient hands and simple faith,
treading lightly over stones immoveable,
through fields of sugar cane, sweet
but unyielding, skirting swamps of
quick sand waiting to suck her into
herself should seeds of regret find
Her days were like this, bequeathed
to others, but the night….
The night was hers to covet
within a tub of steamy froth,
the earthy scent of tea olive
soap on a sea sponge
harvested from the Gulf, lather
from neck to breast,
from breast to thigh,
from thigh to toe.
Vapor rising as if from Vesuvius’ peak to mingle
into worlds imagined. Hercules
could not have been a more ardent
enthusiast of the goddess-born bliss
of her bath ~
(voyeur though he may be)
and within the vapor of her bath each night
her dreams, finally escaping
the daily incarceration of duty
Interview with Charlotte Hamrick, Pushcart Prize Nominee
1. Congratulations on your Pushcart nomination! What was your first thought when you learned of this nomination?
I learned through an email that began “Dear Contributor” so after I read it I thought it must have been sent to me in error. The email stated the nominations would be posted in the newissue of St. Somewhere Journal the following Sunday and that’s when I realized it was really for me.
2. How long have you been writing poetry?
Off and on since I was a child but it’s only about the last 3 or 4 years that I’ve made it a priority in my life.
3. Who are your influences. Share some of your favorite poems/poets.
I’m a big fan of Lucille Clifton* and Mary Oliver because their poetry is clear and, I think, speaks to women in particular in a way that fosters a comraderie that many of us resond to. my very favorite poem at this tie in my life is Lucille Clifton’s There is a Girl Inside but a few years ago, when I began writing in earnest, my favorite poem was Mary Oliver’s The Journey, which I still read regularly to remind myself why I mustn’t stop writing.
I also love Pablo Neruda – especially his more romantic poems such as The Stolen Branch.
New Orleans native Valentine Pierce has been a big inspriation to me since I read her book Geometry of the Heart right after the storm [Katrina], and I’ve gotten to know her. She’s a force to be reckoned with!
*[Lucille Clifton was the poet I chose for my first One + One Poetry Saturday].
4. do you have a group you write with or do you write mostly alone?
I write alone but I have a few online buddies I’ve met through poetry sites such as Three Word Wednesday, Poet’s United and the now defunct Read, Write, Poem. I cannot stress enough how the participants of these sites and other have given me the confidence to continue writing.
5. Why have you used a pseudonymn for writing poetry?
I chose to use a pseudonymn when I began my blog, Zouxzoux, mainly because I was writing to work out some emotions I was going throug at the time and I wanted that privacy. But also because I didn’t have confidence in myself as a writer to use my own name. With no formal education in writing, I felt like an imposter. sometimes I still do.
6. Why are you now ready to drop the pseudonymn?
Several reasons. I’ve come out of the other side of a very confusing time in my life and my writing focus has shifted so I feel more open to sharing. I have more confidence thanks to my online poets community, my poetry being acccepted for publication by several different online zines and, now, the Pushcart nomination.
7. Did you have any fears about dropping your writing name? If yes, what and what are you doing to over come them? If no, tell us a bit about coming out as yourself, as a poet.
I do feel nervous about it and I’m not sure why. I suppose I still feel like I’m not good enough and, too, I’m pretty-thin-skinned. I think if a friend or family member criticized my work it would upset me. This is something I need to work on. [Charlotte then asks: Any suggestions?. Any of you writers/artists/lovers of poetry out there have any advice you’d like to share?]
8. Talk to me about growinginto a Pushcart nominee: does this change the way you feel about your writing/yourself?
It has made me feel really good about myself and my writing. I really needed that validation at this point in my writing life.
9. What plans do you have to support yourself and this talent?
I just plan to keep doing what I’m doing – writing online and interacting with my online poetry communities.
10. Can you share what’s next for your writing?
I hav no idea! I’ve never been much of a planner or goal setter but one loose, longterm goal is to be published in The Oxford American. That would be amazing! I have submitted a couple of poems to publications in the last few days, so we’ll see what hapens.
11. Share a bit about your writing practice: how often do you write, how do you set up your space to write, do you have any exercises that help you focus and write, how many revisions do you do, when do you know the poem is done?
I keep a notebooks with me always so I write down thoughts and dreams pretty much every day and sometimes they make their way into a poem. Lately, some of my more creative phrasing has come to me at the moment of awakening or the moment of dropping into sleep. However, when I sit down at the compjter to write, the poem almost always fully writes itself – if that makes sense. I just go with it and almost never revise. A blog I read has the tagline “Writing is only real on the first draft” and I find that’s true for me. whenever I’ve tried to “work on” a poem it just doesn’t feel authenitc. I certainlyu can’t force myself to write, I know that for sure! I ned to be inspired by something…a thought, a memory, music, art, nature…and at that moment, I have to write it down or it’s lost.
And, of course, as I said earlier the poetry prompt sites are great for inspiration.
12. Anything else you’d like to share?
I just want to thank you for giving me the push to “out” myself!