On January 10, 2018, we published a poem from Luci Shaw when she was 88 years old. By now, Luci is past 90, and she wins the prize for wearing leather, getting a tattoo, and bungee jumping all in her advanced years.
We love what T. S. Poetry Press poet Anne M. Doe Overstreet said about Luci in a patron-only interview with Laura Lynn Brown:
We both have leather jackets. Heavy as a small millstone, mine hangs in a blue-doored closet. But it has known stair-climbs in the dark with my love and the crooning of Kalispell wolves. In one of my favorite photos of Luci Shaw, she is wearing her jacket, lighter weight with a leaner drape, and is shouldering forward into an invisible wind, scarf slung around her neck. A firm grip on handlebars. An implied hand clutch. This is Luci, my firm friend, dauntless on an imaginary Harley. We’ve given her mirrored sunglasses to complete the street-smart look. This is Luci modeling a new exercise bike.
This is only a moment: the calmness of her study frames the pageant we’ve created and will undo in five minutes. Out of frame, the shelves are scattered with rocks, the walls hung with crosses of different pedigrees. A plethora of subjects populate her book stacks. This is Luci modeling how to remain curious, how to be present. In everything. About everything. The weight of the wool throw on the couch, the evolution of each stone she has found is of interest to her and will likely find their way into a poem. She works at writing. She reads those tall stacks of books. She models a way of living into writing that I constantly learn from.
It matters to me that she is not only a writer, but a poet. It matters that she has a wicked sense of humor and is a woman. That she craves solitude, too. Selfishly, it matters to me that she accords me the respect of criticism and challenge, in addition to her encouragement. But all of these are abstractions of a sort. It also delights me to discover what wet moss feels like to her bare foot, to be teased into chasing down an obscure architectural term. And I do it, because I want to grow into how she experiences her moments with such intention. I try on her leather jacket. I can’t wait to go home, pull mine off its hanger, shrug it on the shape I’m in today, and breathe in its animal smell. I’ll be thinking of Luci.
—Anne M. Doe Overstreet
Here is the poem from Luci, that we published when she was 88…
Fragments from foreign countries cluster along my shelves
like my own flea market memory. The odd, the exquisite,
the ugly even, whatever recalls the moment of
discovery. An icon in porcelain and gold hangs beneath
festoons of winged creatures. They fly my walls, a stork,
eccentric angels, a woodcut raven, a winged cherub,
an etching—Jeremiah caught in a swirl of blood and
inky birds. Then, to balance out the transcendent, a gargoyle
from Bath. Ranks of watercolor bottles line a window sill—
relics of rough waves, cast-aways from Cape Cod storms.
Today’s sunlight reveals the brand names in glassy relief:
Castoria, Sarsaparilla, Lee & Perrins, Hires Root Beer.
An ink well iridescent as sea water. A flask
of Roman glass from an antiquarian in Jerusalem’s
Old City—Pretty lady, you my first customer today,
I give you special price!—speaks the persistence of old beauty.
How does it see its ancient self in my post-modern world?
On a book table, Murano glass spun into a saucer for air
and the fine dust of the ordinary. And best, hung on a wall
by my desk, a twining of dried kelp found stranded on
a summer beach, seed pods intact. If asked, I’ll tell you
it’s my gastric and reproductive systems, with ovaries.
Multiple bowls and mason jars of shells. Stones from
shore-lines anywhere, streaked with quartz intrusions.
I line them up to make a snake. Agates. Gems known as
mermaid’s tears plucked from what used to be a Ft. Bragg
dump—the broken glass worn by waves to amber, cobalt
and aqua. Evidence everywhere.
— Luci Shaw, author of Sea Glass
Photo by natsuki, via Unsplash.
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"How does it see its ancient self in my post-modern world?"
That last line... "Evidence everywhere."
Even in my household purging, I feel better now about hanging on to some things that give evidence of what once was and what is and memories of where I've been--gathered stones from Haiti (the year I tucked in my suitcase written on each in black marker), stones mostly from Lake Superior, shells, chunks of marble from Marble, CO, a stone from the Sea of Galilee and a pebble picked up from where David was supposed to have killed Goliath. Our guide said they were probably trucked in from town for the tourists to find. I "stole" a piece of pottery from some old ruins in Israel.
I laughed at "Pretty lady, you my first customer today, I give you special price!" when Luci was in the Old City. Been there. Done that. That's how I ended up with so much olive wood, including a manger. We were one of the first groups in when the country opened up after Covid, so it was my duty to buy. ;-)
I also still have on a bookshelf the found poem and art I created on that first trip (gifted) to Laity Lodge when I was a "deep see diver" and my mom was in her last days...
of words influence
a joy to be savored
looking for something...something
eyes danced in deep water
Luci was born two days before my mother. My first collection of hers was Harvesting Fog after Glynn wrote about it. And I kept collecting her words. I finally got to meet her at Wheaton where she autographed my copy of Adventure of Ascent: Field notes from a Lifelong Journey:
"For Sandy, On the great adventure!"
I love Luci!