Monday, October 1, 2018

Tucson Poet Honors Elder Women in New Book

Posted By on Mon, Oct 1, 2018 at 4:26 PM

click to enlarge Roxy Runyan just released her first book of poems, Poems for Crones, with Ghost City Press - COURTESY
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  • Roxy Runyan just released her first book of poems, Poems for Crones, with Ghost City Press

Poet Roxy Runyan is in love with Tucson—its desert washes, its sunsets, its witchy women. She just released her first book of poems, Poems for Crones, from Ghost City Press, inspired by her search for unabashed, vulnerable truth and love.

Renowned poet Alice Notley said "Read Roxy Runyan's lovely, vulnerable Poems. She has ears, and a heart." And now, you lucky people can take Notley's advice and download a free copy of Poems for Crones here. A print copy is forthcoming, but if you donate to her, shoot her an email with your address at roxyrunyan@gmail.com and she'll send you one of her printed and hand-sewn physical copies.

The Tucson Weekly interviewed Runyan on what inspires her poetry and, in tandem, her love of life.

Why did you move to Tucson 12 years ago and what has kept you here?
I moved to Tucson when I was an over-achieving but low-funded 18-year-old from Phoenix disgruntled at having to go to U of A rather than some place further. I had a family member who lived there who made it look appealing enough—when I came out to her as a lesbian years later, she revealed her own mostly-closeted life spent as a lesbian, and smiled as she shared that Tucson has, for a while been, "sort of a lesbian mecca."

The queer community is what has kept me in Tucson—the peers here with whom I've grown relationships over the past decade have become my found family members, and it's been incredibly healing as someone who grew up always feeling out of place as a kid.

How does Tucson inspire your poetry?
I worked at Kore Press my last year of college and for a short time after, learning the
ropes of the literary world through the loving and talented, community-centered lens of Tucson's literary scene. The cozy monsoon days, winter weeks, and even oppressive summer heat of Tucson have all inspired my poetry and writing. Tucson remains, for me and many others, a place to be honest in the present moment, which is the place from which the best poetry comes. 

This place has held my heart through terrible grief and beautiful growth, and I thank long walks with my dog through Dunbar Springs, downtown, and the Santa Cruz wash for churning within me processes—emotional, mental, psychological, and artistic—that may have otherwise
stayed stagnant. Not being able to resist stopping to photograph a desert flower in bloom, or praise the brilliant bright red of a vermillion flycatcher against the otherwise brown and green
landscape, and praying to the sunset as I sit atop a roof or on a porch. These moments of being a radically present witness to the beauty of our world—apparent in Tucson unlike anywhere else—have made me the poet and heart-centered person I'm proud to be.

Poems for Crones has been described as "poems written for elder women—grandmothers, crushes, and lovers alike." At just 30-years-old yourself, why was it important for you to write about aging and elderly women?
As a child and the youngest in a family of "all girls," I felt a passionate devotion to and admiration of my older sisters and mother. It often came as a felt call-to-protection. I remember being 4
years old and feeling incredibly uneasy about the way certain men would look at my mother or sisters in the grocery store, or at the post office. The feeling would come over me anywhere really, just in response to the look in some men's eyes or the dishonesty I sensed in their voices.

After I came out as a queer and made peace with the fact that all of us have "issues," be them daddy issues or mommy issues or sister issues or brother issues, I was able to release the shame of my love and attraction for older women, and pursued whatever intimate relationships with them might naturally grow. I've found mentors, friends, and lovers. Oh, I love them so. In exploring romantic and physically intimate and affectionate relationships with women, I continue to feel an energetic pressure valve release every time I share my particular devotion and interest in older women with both queer peers and any older women I get a chance to share it with.

Our society devalues aging and elderly women in so many ways, when in fact they ought to be running the world. A council of queer grandmothers of color, for example, would serve this world with far more heart and wisdom than all the old white men who've been poisoning and harming the life on this planet for centuries with their ego-driven power and control issues. There is magic in an aging woman that ordinary language doesn't quite capture... so I wrote poems for them.

I didn't set out to write poems that would become this book, Poems for Crones, but I knew I needed to compile some of my poems into a book—I have hundreds of poems. It's long been time, and this is just my first—and after a year of picking out some of my favorites, and looking for common themes, and batting around about half a dozen other potential titles, I realized, of course, many of my poems were for older women, including my grandmothers who both passed in the last couple of years. This combined with my passion for reclaiming powerful, diversity-driven language, which patriarchy raises us to believe is "bad" ("witch," "crone," "lesbian," "queer," etc.) made the title and meaning behind the book come clear. My grandmothers were certainly flawed humans, but I've always sustained a felt reverence for their lives and stories, their commitments to joy, in spite of their positions in a world that offered them so few choices, as women.

Besides spending your 20s finding inspiration while wandering Tucson washes, how did you become a poet? What are other things you do to make a living or for fun?

I don't really believe someone sets out or sits down to write a poem or become a poet. For me, the poems I've written that other people seem to enjoy the most just seem to tumble out of my consciousness, byproducts perhaps, of living with my heart and eyes and throat open and my awareness present. I know I'm a poet because poems happen like this for me, and I've gained consistent and enthusiastic readers as time has gone on. I also know I'm a poet because I don't have much else concretely figured out. I have a bachelor's degree in English, so of course I'm  writing poems and working in cafes and figure modeling for art schools and artists, meditating on stillness, or dog-sitting and meditating on movement as I walk and walk and walk a lot of
different dogs. I've done landscaping work, hospitality work, even technical writing, literary marketing, copyblogging and editing gigs here and there. In college I majored in "English" rather than "Literature" or "Creative Writing" because I was too shy or perhaps fearful to admit aloud that I wanted to be a writer. But I've always been a poet. It's the way my heart leaps at the extraordinary
beauty and connection my consciousness finds in the most ordinary things. That makes me a poet. And that makes me committed to keep on living as best as I can. My other hobbies,  passions, and interest really just revolve around the arts and examining and building of integrity, especially within intimate relationships. I believe the most powerful legacy we leave is our impact on others.

Why do you call Tucson "the magical old grandmother" of all Sonoran cities.
I'm not sure why, but usually Tucsonans nod in wide-eyed agreement when they hear me say it. Maybe it is the wonderful elder women I've met here, maybe it's the hills and the trees and the cicadas and dust here that vibrates with a particularly nourishing and enduring tone. Maybe it's all the elder lesbians here (god bless y'all). It's probably all of this and more.

What writers/poets inspire you?

Alice Notley is important to name. Her book, Mysteries of Small Houses, turned me on to poetry in a big way when I was 18, and we've since met each other and are sort of pen pals, which is why I lucked out with such a huge name in poetry giving a recommending blurb to my little first book.

What are a couple of your favorite poems in the book and/or excerpts?
There have been a dozen or so times now that I've handed this book over to someone proudly, expecting them to leaf through it quickly, and instead they sit still for 20 minutes straight and read the whole thing front to back. This experience is what I am most proud of contributing to. Poetry being a medium these individuals admit rarely getting into, yet seeing them absorbed in it feels really special. I write from the heart because this world needs more heart, and I share my writing in order to connect more hearts, selfishly perhaps, to my own. But hey, isn't that all we've got? I'm proud I published poems with certain words and am even writing certain words in this interview which bring up a little fear for me. What will certain family members think when they see these things? But to let go of that, to not try to protect or shield anyone from parts of my  honesty is a growth process I am proud of.

The poems for my grandmothers are perhaps dearest to me. Calling my Grandma Ruth a gladiola, honoring my Grandma Mary Katherine's sense of sing-song joy. These things really feel special to me. I'm also really happy about the way I ended the poem for Hemmi—a very special dead
cat who I have no qualms about honoring as a crone, though Hemmi is the only non-human crone in the book—with the sentences "paint the fence green and tear the big ones down. walls are
for homes," which feels like an important reminder of priorities, especially at this time in history in these borderlands.


Do you have any future projects on the horizon?

I always have poems coming, and I'm working on my next collection while I continue to work on some epic poems and creative essays that feel very important. Central to my work is a focus on
honesty, integrity, and heart. I grieve for how misunderstood and abused the notion of love is, and seek through my writing to help lift up our consciousness around how we care for—how we love—each other and ourselves and all life.

click to enlarge COURTESY
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