One of life’s special joys is watching people you like and admire reach milestones they’ve set for themselves. Today I’m celebrating with my friend Karen R. Sanderson on the recent launch of her first book of poetry: No Boundaries. Besides becoming my friend, Karen has often been my own valued editor. I’m a better writer because of her skill and care.
When she asked for help in getting her book published and available through Amazon, I was delighted to lend a hand, having helped several other clients do the same. I was honored to have my review of her book appear on the back cover:
What a true pleasure it has been to read Karen’s refreshingly accessible and delightfully eclectic collection of poems and to enjoy its intimate glimpse into the author’s life. The experiences and emotions she conveys—whether sadness and loss or pleasure and whimsy—are instantly recognizable, because they are real, authentic, and universal. What a gift Karen Sanderson has given us in this gem of a book, because in a heart-touching way, she has plumbed the highs and lows of not only her own life, but ours as well.
Two of the poems in this book have been featured here on my blog in the past: “Desert Canvas” is a lovely tribute to the desert landscape the author experienced when she lived in the Southwest and which I’ve come to love since my daughter moved to Santa Fe. “The Trade” is a powerful portrait of our female soldiers and the choices they make when they serve our country.
I asked Karen if I might share her simple but powerful piece about the music that connects her to her coal mining ancestors and the hardscrabble life they lived. It made me reflect on how often music can transport and connect us to other places, other times, and other cultures.
My ancestral home
I am wondering about my ancestors,
About the music they might have listened to.
I wonder what they felt when the harps
plucked at their hearts
while coal miners picked and
shoveled the coal.
I wonder about their choral voices raised in lament,
for the brothers and fathers they left behind
under the mountain.
I wonder why the mothers
did not sing for their sons,
but cried instead
among the southern valleys, among the coal.
I wonder what mountains could be moved.
* * * * * * *
With her permission, here is one of the deepest and tenderest of her poems — it evokes such exquisite love in the experience she shared with her mother, near the end of her mother’s life, when they went to hear Andrea Bocelli perform live on stage. I can feel not only the love, but the loss and longing in her words.
Mom and Bocelli
Mom introduced me to Andrea Bocelli
several years before she died,
And he comforted her throughout her final days.
I loved to watch her, sitting in her favorite chair,
body rocking, eyes closed.
He’s blind, you know. I did not.
I imagine her still,
mouthing words she could not pronounce,
Italian opera coming through the speakers
of her silver boom box.
Before I left the coast, before she died,
I bought two tickets
instead of paying several overdue bills.
She said, Dear, I haven’t been to a concert
since the Dorseys.
And I said, Well, we’re going.
We drove to Philly and talked about
And listened to his tender voice melt through the speakers of her sedan.
We had two tickets and two tuna sandwiches.
At the over-under bridge, there was a back-up,
and we started to laugh about needing a bathroom,
and we agreed that you should not laugh
when you need a bathroom.
Then we laughed harder still.
Inside, we sat above, mezzanine.
And there he was.
We were close enough to see the grizzle in his beard.
Before long, Mom and I cried and held hands.
Near the end he sang our favorite, Nessun Dorma.
We squeezed hands and sobbed
and soaked a pile of tissues.
Through those tear-stained eyes,
I will always see my mother.
[CLICK HERE to see and hear Andrea Bocelli sing “Nessun Dorma” live on stage in Tuscany]
* * * * * * *
There’s silliness and whimsy too, and what fun it was to find a limerick about me!
There’s this pal, I nick-named her “E”
She’s my Riverwood, Heartspoken glee
Her advice is sincere
Grace and elegance, so clear
On most things, we truly agree.
I hope you’ll consider supporting Karen by purchasing a copy of No Boundaries. It would make a delightful stocking stuffer or gift for the poetry lovers on your list — or any reader who appreciates life turned into words.
Karen’s book of poetry is illustrated throughout by her own artwork. I especially loved the cover artwork by Lori S. Malkin Design, LLC, that incorporates Karen’s sailboat sketch.
Karen R. Sanderson was raised by a mother who wanted to be an English teacher and who worked for Merriam-Webster as a proofreader and an aunt who could complete the Sunday New York Times crossword in a day. Their favorite expression was, “Look it up!”
Karen is an editor and proofreader, blogger, poet, writer, and a fabulous grandma. She completed writing coursework through UCLA and the University of New Mexico. Her short stories have been featured in The Rose & Thorn Journal, Every Child is Entitled to Innocence anthology, Valley Living Magazine, BewilderingStories.com, and WritingRaw.com.
Karen is currently pursuing a degree at Minot State University and Lake Region State College in Interpreting and Sign Language Studies.