Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Native Water: A Collection of Poems - On sale now!

US residents: Click to purchase
UK residents: Click to purchase

I'm so delighted to be sharing this collection of poetry for the first time with readers. In fact, if it weren't for my readers, I never would have published this collection in the first place. You were kind enough to ask for more from me - and while I'm working on another book length project, these things can take quite a while to come down the (ha-ha) pike. The time felt right to show you more of myself - for the truth is, as you'll read below, I have been writing poetry far longer than I have been writing prose. This collection contains poems about my father, my mother, my husband. It contains poems about Ireland and Glastonbury, and about dying, but most of all I hope these are poems about living, and finding our way. As Poet Laureate of South Carolina Marjory Wentworth said of the book, it is truly a collection of poems that tell a story of "...loving and letting go." Below, I've included a sneak peak at the book, which can be purchased on Amazon for only $2.99. That's less than the cost of a draft beer or a fancy candy bar. So if you would buy either of these things, you should definitely buy this book. As an added bonus, my book doesn't go to your hips after. But truly the added bonus is that, aside from the fact that you'll hopefully enjoy it, 5% of all the proceeds from sales of this book go to protect our environment. That means the more copies I sell, the more money I can donate.

If you are thinking of purchasing, it make a huge difference not just if you buy it, but when you buy it. More sales over a shorter time period will earn the collection better placement on Amazon, where more customers who aren't familiar with me and my writing will have a chance to see it. So in purchasing it today, you're also helping me to get more exposure as an author, and I truly appreciate that. As always, I am ever grateful for your reviews on Amazon, and am excited that via Kindle, readers can share their notes, favorite lines, and highlight their favorite sections.

A selection from the text:

I have a sneaking suspicion that for some of us, it’s the things we treasure most that we try to keep locked away. Like creative Gollums of sorts, we keep them tucked deep in dresser drawers, in a box in the back of the closet, within the creased and age worn pages of a journal, so that nobody can do anything that could possibly harm our Precious. Friends and readers who know me as a memoirist might be surprised that I’m publishing a collection of poems, but I’ve written poetry all my life. This is not to say my poems are any good—but they are mine, they are honest, and they are precious to me. 
I wrote my first poem at age seven or eight. It was entitled, “Elves of the Merry Land,” and it was god-awful. But after that, poems simply began to sprout from me as a way to puzzle through things. When deep emotions were stirred that I couldn’t quite comprehend, poetry asked—and if I was lucky, sometimes answered—a question. Writing poetry felt healing and natural, so I kept at it. By the time I was in fifth grade, I’d won first place in a countywide competition with a poem about a scarecrow. In high school, I wrote a poem about my parent’s divorce that won some prize or other, but I’ve repressed the entire incident, because do you have any idea how mortifying it is as a teenager to have to stand up in front of a room of people and read something… out loud? I’m pretty sure I threw up before, after, or maybe both. It’s a wonder I can speak today in public at all. 
Later, at Cornell, I was shocked when the small portfolio I’d amassed earned me one of only 12 spots in a class taught by poet and editor of the Seneca Review, Deborah Tall; I should mention that some of these poems I wrote under her instruction, and they benefitted greatly from her keen eye. 
I know a lot of writers who are forced to operate without the support of their loved ones, which is a painful prospect. I count myself lucky that my father and especially my mother were always both so incredibly supportive of my poetry, even as time passed with no accolades to mark its significance. My mother noticed the vulnerability involved in sharing a poem, and she has always respected that deeply. But my biggest supporter has always been my older sister, Kirsten. This woman, who has been my best friend as long as I can remember, was so doggedly convinced of the value of my work, even when she was only a teenager herself. She’d read the proffered sheet of paper thoughtfully, and looking at me, shake her head. “Do you have any idea what an incredible gift you have?” 
My cheeks would flood with embarrassment because I knew she loved me too much to be unbiased. But it was her encouragement and her ardent, adamant belief in me, that allowed me to keep my poetry alive, however quietly. To keep writing it, keep sharing it, if only with her and select others, because it seemed to please her so much, and because it made her so wonderfully proud of me. And to make my sister proud was one of the best feelings ever. 
Thus, it was only natural, that when I felt the time had come to put these works out into the world, I sent the collection to my sister and asked for her input regarding a title. (Kirsten is—sisterhood aside—a brilliant English teacher with a Masters in English Literature).
“Made of Water,” she wrote me. “Your mentions of water pepper many a poem; it’s what we’re all made of, and the one thing that unites us. Your poetry strikes a chord, something we share, even though it comes in so many different forms, just like water.” 
What percentage of the body is made of water? I ask, in “Leaving Nantucket.” But too close to my own words, I hadn’t noticed that water was such a prevalent theme. Now, looking back, I could see its presence everywhere. In typical Pike-woman fashion (we’re a tribe of deciders, not lone wolves) I told my mother the title over the phone. 
“I love it,” she affirmed. However, when I off-handedly mentioned the title again in an email, she wrote me back right away. 
“When we talked on the phone I thought you said the title was ‘Native Water,’ which I liked a lot. ‘Made of Water’… not so much.” 
This was a problem. I hadn’t realized how hard it was to discern the title when it was spoken aloud. (This is clearly what happens when you devise titles over email alone.) But instantaneously, Native Water felt like home. In my opinion, few things in life are accidental, and I loved how the title had evolved between the two women most central in my life.
But most of all, I loved it because water is what we’re all made of, the one thing that unites us, that flows in our bodies from generation to generation, even as our bodies decay and crumble into the earth. Sure, because water is a major theme in my poetry. But more so, because poetry, when done right, has the power to unite one person to another through shared experience. And because when we remember that inside, we are all Native Water, it helps us remember the responsibility we have to care for that water, whether it be found in each other, in our streams, rivers, lakes, waterfalls, and trees, or in the bodies of the thousands of species of animals we are charged to share this planet with. 
I hope you’ll find something within these pages that touches you, that creates a beaded chain of connection from me and my experience to the water that lives inside of you. 
Thank you for taking the time to read this work. 
— Signe L. Pike 
(From the Introduction, Native Water

Native Water is available on all Kindle devices, as well as via Kindle apps for iPad, iPod, iPhone, PC, Mac, Blackberry and Android devices. It is not, I'm sorry to say, available in hardcopy, or on Nook. If you own a Nook, you can still purchase the book for your home computer, but it won't be available for viewing on your Nook device. 

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Happy Valentines Day

It must have been something silly, like last night watching our recorded episode of The Simpsons that made me remember those little slips of paper. Bart was sitting on the floor amidst a pile of those small paper valentines, and Milhouse was saying, shoulders slumped, "The only one I got was from Lisa."

At Central Elementary in Fall Creek, where I grew up, you had to make a valentine for everyone in your class. Of course kids play favorites, so some get more effort than others. As Eric said last night, "I only made valentines for the girls I liked." Others got the pre-made printed slips. But I'll never forget seeing a girl named Juli*--who was always getting picked on because her clothes smelled, because she spoke too slowly, or because she would sit in circle, openly picking her nose-- smiling in sheer delight as she peeled off the tape that stuck two chalky miniature candy hearts on one of the slips of paper in her pile.

Some thoughtful mother, most likely, helped their kid take their obligatory valentines to the next level by including a little treat for us all, but for Juli, it was a moment of relief - happiness even - from what was probably a really painful childhood. Now that I'm older, of course I can recognize the sad truths. Juli was a little slower because she likely had a learning disability. Her clothes were soiled because she didn't have a parent at home who knew or cared enough to wash them. She picked her nose because there were no adults who payed enough attention to her to tell her it wasn't the best of manners. (Although, who among us doesn't remember childhood days, digging up there for gold? Come on. Every kid picks their nose.) Children can be so mean to each other. As a writer who set out to recapture the whimsical beliefs of her youth, I'd glamorized the child mind, where magic is a real, breathing thing, possible, where cartoons and fantastical creatures came to life behind our closed eyes. I failed to remember the people like Juli, and how disturbing it was to watch the emotional abuse she suffered from other kids on a daily basis.

Nowadays, I believe that increased awareness and especially the anti-bullying campaign, has shed light on this. I do remember that our teachers were always sweet to Juli, and of course forbade rudeness, in so much as they could ward it off while they were around.  But all of this got me thinking about Valentines Day, and how these days, as grownups, we're so focused on romantic love that we sometimes forget that now that we're all grownup, we have the ability to expand the definition. To include the people who don't get included. Otherwise, what have we learned from being young?
So today, why not keep an eye out for someone who could use a little love?

For my part, we're spending the evening with a group of friends, and I'm going to get my cookies and cupcakes ready early, so I can be sure to have some packed up for our mail carrier and the UPS crew that visit us several times a day. Because they might have sweethearts at home, and sure, you can say it's an overblown, commercialized holiday. But because I hope that grown up Signe will endeavor to never to miss an opportunity to make a difference, no matter how small, in someone else's (Valentines) day.

Happy Valentines to you, wishing you some extra love and affection from all who surround you.
- Signe

(* not her real name.)