Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Life of a Poet - Lorna Cahall

Kids, this week we're zipping down to Oregon, one of my favorite states, to visit with Lorna Cahall, about whose poetry a review on Amazon states her poems " reveal the author's reaching for personal wholeness through the metaphors found in nature and experience." The reviewer continues, "She constructs a spiritual pathway through...our longing for unity with a greater whole." So you can see why I was drawn to finding out more about this member of our poetic community. Come sit by me. Sun is heading towards sunset, iced tea is awaiting us, and we are about to embark on a very interesting journey through this poet's life.

Poets United: Lorna, I am so happy to be sitting down with you. Would you set the scene for us, a little?

Lorna: I live in Bend, a beautiful town on the Eastern slope of the Cascades, pretty much in the middle of Oregon.  Although the area is considered the High Desert, we have several rivers, with forests of ponderosa and juniper. My husband, Dick, is a retired IBM systems guy who plays the banjo with the Bitterbrush Band. Children, grown, Mike, Lisa and Sean Cahall. Cats, of course, Lulu and Max.

Mike Cahall

Lisa, the mother of the grandsons

Sean Cahall

Poets United: It all sounds wonderful, Lorna. Where did you grow up? Is there a cherished memory from childhood you might like to share?

Lorna: I was born in Suffern, New York. Many of my poems reflect that early landscape.  There's a biography at the end of Late in the Hammock of Night  that talks about my longing for that first home. 

And, I think, the poem 'Piece by Piece', along with several others. 

Piece by Piece

Walking through mere snapshots
of passions of my life,
barefoot in the warm dirt,
mystery of the silent deer,
my apple tree, climbed, loved,
broken by a storm. Swinging
in my mother's arms, childhood
wrapped in her song then mailed away.

All too soon stood up, cut out,
then loosing a precious part
that runs away, refusing to bow
down to the altars of sex, love,
the mighty avalanche of chance
and destiny breaking women to make
more children and ache over them.
To win or fail, to loose identity
and finally, after a long time,
the quest to pick up,
piece by piece, the early mornings,
to call back the soul that ran away.

Poets United: I so relate to this piece, Lorna! Wow! " call back the soul that ran away".

Childhood Lorna - "the real me"

Lorna: My mother was a librarian and a good amateur actress, who loved books and read to me all the time. I think I thought of Wind in the Willows  as biblical I always thought of nature and animals as on an equal footing with humans, which gets you in trouble in the real world.

Lulu, "hatching"

Poets United: I only wish we all believed that! Your mom sounds great, and likely set the scene for your being a poet with those reading sessions.  You have an impressive work history would you fill us in?


Lorna: I had a wild upbringing with a single mother who took me with her when she could or left me with her parents or our old housekeeper in Suffern. After thirteen different schools before graduating High School, I somehow got into Saint John’s College in Annapolis, Maryland at the age of 16. It is about as deep a place as you could want : a real classical education, Greek, Plato etc. that I was totally unprepared for.  But, along with putting a roof over my head, it stamped me for life with the value of the ancient past and the beauty of serious conversation.  I married Dick after my junior year and then went back to the University of Maryland a decade later, where I finished up and did graduate work.

I went into Ancient History and Art History, teaching as a graduate assistant, and then was hired on the staff of the British Open University that had a branch there.  All told, I worked there for fifteen years, with great people.

Dick and I in England a long time ago

Poets United: In my sleuthing, I see that, after you left the university, you taught many workshops. Would you tell us about them? They sound so freaking interesting, and I wish I could take one! 

Dick and grandson Everest

Lorna: I was fascinated with the Goddess cults and the wonderful illustrations we have of women doing things from their era - things, rituals, that we had no idea of what they really meant. Actually, back then, the studies were very male orientated -all the great old scholars were men -  and they discounted the reality and the importance of ancient women and their complicated lives. Today women are making great strides in researching in a balanced way. I found Joseph Campbell and Karl Jung and their ideas gave me a way of figuring out the images.  But that was really alien to the university - it was very traditional at the time -  so I went out on my own.  I developed the Goddess workshops and the labyrinth manuals and gave the workshops after we moved to Oregon.

Oldest grandson Amadeus 

Poets United: Wouldn't it be great to get a bunch of us women poets together for a Goddess workshop? OMG! At the time of the full moon? Ow-oo!

Lorna: Great Idea! about the full moon Goddess workshop - later, right?

Poets United: On my Bucket List!!! And I LOVE your grandsons' names, by the way - so totally inspiring. When did you first realize you are a poet? Have you always written? And what led you to choosing poetry as your means of expression?

Lorna: I didn’t always write but I always talked...and talked.  I actually was amazed that I was such a successful teacher: that’s when I learned I was a communicator.  I painted and I thought of myself as an image person. But I needed to write the manuals, and so I began to get my thoughts down on paper. I did Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way with a group, and began journaling. That was a big breakthrough.  What happened then was the election of Bush and my absolute horror at the Iraq war. I felt so powerless, and I knew that so, so many people  were going to die because of the invasion. 

How do we keep our souls alive?

This is where I asked the question “How do we keep our souls alive?”  and I decided that, even in an awful regime, even in, say the Roman Empire, well, some stayed alive through the arts.  Painting, Music, Theater, Dance, Literature, it all builds soul. That’s when I wrote The Actor King


Working so hard on crafting the novel brought me into an appreciation of writing at a nuts and bolts level. I had loved certain poets for many years, poets like Yeats, Rumi, Lorca, but once I began writing myself, I got how powerful poetry was.  And I understood that the process, when you really come from a deep place within yourself, well, that is bringing you into wholeness.

Poets United: So well said. You are wonderfully productive. Who would you say has been the single biggest influence on your writing? 

The family in Baltimore, some time ago

Lorna: I just can’t really answer that. There were so many steps that led to my becoming a poet - steps that I didn’t realize were a path until I arrived there. My mother and my maternal grandmother Kitty both loved poetry. My father and my maternal grandfather were very musical and we always sang, but I didn’t write early in my life.

Poets United: Do you have a regular writing routine, or do you write as you are moved to do so?

Lorna: I try to write every day, but many things can interfere with it.  One thing is absolutely necessary for me- a point of inspiration.  This is so elusive, but it is just that level of attention where something feels very important -  it triggers a depth of feeling and I find an associational flow.

Poets United: Are you satisfied with how your poetry has developed over the past few years?

Lorna: I am so happy that my poetry has developed to the point where I am a part of a community of poets.  I love reading the other bloggers, and I like getting their comments. I have no idea where it can go, but I do feel that it will get stronger. I read poetry every day, if I can.

Poets United: I find the support of a writing community is essential. I don't know how I ever managed without it. Do you have any writing goals for the next five years?

Lorna: Generally, I think in terms of the next five days!  but I want to be careful to stay with the soul work, and not get carried off into all kinds of other things.

Poets United: I love that! Do you have a poem that you think best describes who you are, or why you write poetry?

Possibly ‘Parabola.'

Parabola of Longing

The yearning is flung out
in a long parabolic sweep
until the arch must turn,
its governing ratio forcing
everything back to a new anchor.

Another shock wave will
send it out again, again to search
yet never achieving the bliss of unity.
Precise, sequential, it must cover
vast stretches of solitude.

No laughter-loving goddess, no
Plato knew love is a secret beggar
hungry, in rags
sleeping on the grids and
hanging out at crossroads.

But for a moment,
    just at the slow turn, love
    throws off the rags and shines
    through the purple woods as
    the morning star.

I think this is not really a typical poem, but for me, it reaches deeply into the kind of motivation some of us have to create poetry. 

Poets United: It is so beautiful, especially its closing lines!  Here is a favorite of mine, Lorna, of your poems:

Little Owl Night

vast eyes, hushed whispers
a night like a baby owl

clucking morning on

let's release old ghosts of love
that chill our still beating hearts

So lovely, a night like a baby owl! You have several books out.  Do you have hopes or plans for another, or more, books? 

Lorna: My Amazon author page lists all my books: I also have a website with poems and introductions to each of my books. I will bring out another collection of poems when I have a hundred or so that I want to fit together.  I do have a second novel blocked out and half written.  I just don’t know when I can get it together.

Poets United: Good for you! We will be watching for them. When you arent writing, what other interests do you enjoy?

Lorna: I garden, read, go out with Dick, meet with friends, and try to straighten out the house.

Poets United: Do you have any advice for beginning writers?

Keep writing.......until you get a true voice.......

Lorna: I think that the hardest thing is that you must not expect to start off writing the next great poem.  You have to keep writing and reading until you get a true voice.  It can take awhile and you’ll start out fairly weakly. It’s tough; you‘re putting your heart out there and it‘s practically Hallmark. And, that thing about reading, read and read and find poets you just love. There’s was a great blog that studied  poems by Rilke each week for a year: A Year With Rilke. The bloggers (2) got  into his skin. That was a really intelligent doorway for them into better writing.

Poets United:  It sounds amazing: a year of Rilke! Anything else youd like to share with Poets United?

Lorna: I can’t begin to tell how much I love to find fellow bloggers and read their poems.  Poets United is a wonderful forum for the community.  Thanks so much.

Poets United: Thank you for being a part of it, Lorna. We look forward to reading much more of your work.

There you have it, kids, one more poet on the Path, to light and inspire our way. Isn't it true that the people behind the pens are some of the most interesting folks around? Come back and see who we talk to next. Who knows? It might be you!


  1. Lorna's one of my favourite poets, both for her subject matter and her talent. Just from reading her work, I knew she must have had an interesting life, but I didn't know the half of it. And it's amazing to learn that one so accomplished hasn't always been a poet!

  2. Lorna's work is really beautiful!

    Start getting that Goddess workshop together, Sherry!

    1. Alright! I'm putting the Goddess workshop together. Started with a wonderful labyrinth walk today. Check out my blog.

  3. What beautiful poetry, Lorna. I have never been to Bend, Oregon, but I have heard good things. Nice to learn that you have written various books and that they are available on Amazon. I will have to take a look. Lorna, I am going to be taking a look at your blog. I don't think I've 'met' you in the blogosphere anywhere yet.

    Thanks, Sherry, for finding yet another fine poet among us to feature and for all the hard work you do on the interviews.....

  4. Hello Lorna! I have been through Oregon, so beautiful~ I love your insight and would love to learn about a Goddess could do one online :D Your poems extract insight that guides one to want to read more and discover what inspires you~ I love the owl poem...

    I loved this interview ladies! Thank you Sherry for putting the spotlight on another wonderful poet! :D

  5. What a refreshing interview with an author who is new to me! It made me go look at the books on right away.

    Lorna, I just opened your book "Late in the Hammock of Night" to "Note on Iago," a wonderful way to talk about the existence of evil. I also enjoyed the poems in this interview very much, especially "The Parabola of Longing." Now I am looking forward to the Goddess workshop!

    1. Susan, Thanks so much for your support. I'll post the directions for beginning the workshop on my blog and my website, in early October. It should be lots of fun.

    2. I'm definitely 'in' for that workshop!

  6. Sherry,
    Thanks so much for the super article! Everyone really enjoys it. I'll putting the link on Facebook and I'll send it to folks. Very, very nice.

  7. How have I missed Lorna Cahall all this time? These poems are fabulous and the interview was so interesting to read. I'll keep my eye out for her work in the future.

  8. YIPPEE! Who knew we could do an online goddess workshop - put my name on the list, Lorna and keep me happy you all enjoyed the interview, especially you, Lorna. It is my absolute pleasure to put them together.

  9. I don't know how I missed this the first go round but am glad I came trolling around again and caught this wonderful interview about a poet I quite admire and now know a bit more about. Such an interesting life Lorna and your poetry reflects it ... goddesses are always a favourite topic and I love your history in this area, amazing really. Thanks to you Sherry for bringing another fabulous personality to light.


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