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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.
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.