Monday, February 1, 2016


A special treat for you today, my friends, as we catch up with Mama Zen, aka Kelli, who posts so faithfully, and is such a lovely, reciprocal visitor in the blogosphere. Her powerful poems can be found at Another Damn Poetry Blog. But this isn't just "another blog". In my opinion, Kelli  writes with the powerful voice of womanhood itself; her words speak to the truth of womens' lives, and reach right into our hearts.

Sherry: Kelli, our interview with you was all the way back in spring of 2012. We are way overdue for an update.  I know this past year has been a difficult one for you, with your mother dying. How are you feeling? And how is your amazing daughter doing?  Any happenings you wish to share?

Kelli: I'm . . . adjusting.  The world without my mother in it is a very different, very strange place.  I'm still feeling my way and trying to get my bearings.
As for my not- so-little girl (she's 12 and a half now; can you believe it?), Sherry, I've got to tell you a story.  A week or so ago, I woke up in the morning to find that my daughter had got up in the middle of the night and covered every face in every family picture in the house with a picture of a screaming Nicholas Cage.  Why?  Just because it was funny of course!  That's my Baby Puppy; saving me from seriousness daily.

Sherry: Thank heaven for Baby Puppy - and for laughter. It is what gets us through, my friend. I love this story.

I would like to include the following poems, which really impacted me when I read them. All of your work amazes me ~ your words always resonate, I always admire your skill. But these poems spoke to me especially, being the stuff of womens' lives as they are. I love the portrait of a strong grandma you painted in 'Woman of Faith'.


When I lost my mama,
I wept in the arms of a woman
who had just lost her only child.

My grannie is 82 years old,
and she is a woman of faith.

She stayed with mama
right up to the end.
Nursed her.
Soothed her.
Came when she called in the night.

My grannie is a woman of faith,
and she bears what she has to.

Yesterday, I called her.
She had spent most of an unusually warm
January day cleaning out her flower beds.
"Clear away the dead, and there's already new
trying to come up. Can you believe it?"

My grannie bears what she has to,
even my doubts.

Sherry: I can see your grandma, and feel her deep faith. My grandma was exactly like yours. Their strength somehow takes root in us, doesn't it? Tell us a bit about this poem, won't you, Kelli?

Kelli: This one pretty much wrote itself.  When it comes to faith, my grandmother is the real thing.  I've watched her suffer a stroke, bury her husband, and bury her only child with a grace that is beyond anything I can even hope to aspire to.  She has a servant's heart and spine stiffened by scripture.  And, I'm still her baby.

Sherry: I love that you're still her baby. And, in turn, I know how you adore your daughter, and was so moved by your poem 'Bow'. Let's take a look.


The woman/child I named
takes her place in the sway
of black and white.
Her thighs clutch the belly of her cello (3/4 size),
and her hand trembles tight
around a horsehair bow held at concert attention.
Little one, did I ever mention
that I, too, once held a bow?

I pulled it from a post oak.
Stripped it till the bark bled smooth.
Seasoned it with summer.
Cured it in the corner of my room
till I could string it with twine or fishing line;
I had to make do, but you . . .

you, I named for finer things.
Bach instead of barn cats and blue stem.
So pull your bow across the strings -
make them sing.
make them sing

like the flight of an arrow.

Sherry: I just adore this one. "You I named for finer things."

Kelli: I had a lot of fun with this one.  First the different meanings of "bow" (I really did strip limbs and make bows when I was girl).  The second bit of wordplay is more subtle.  You know how you can look up the meanings of a name?  My daughter's name is generally said to mean something peaceful like "meadow."  My name, on the other hand, is usually traced to mean "warrior."  I can't think of a more apt way to express what my childhood was like and what I hope for my daughter's in comparison.  That's why I mention naming twice.

Sherry: That is very cool, about the naming. We want  so much for our children, dont we? And we know the world can be harsh. It’s a dilemma. I am in awe at the beauty of 'Rain' ~  it will be interesting to hear the story on this one.


She's my stars strung bone to bone.
Weather walking east to west.
Everything the gods know -

She's the cross clasped to the breast of night.
The smudge smoke for appeasing saints.
The stone I sleep and dream upon,
and when I wake

she's the rain.

Still I drove a dozen dawns
to seek counsel on the mountain.
Climbed until my hands were raw
just to hear a wise one say,

"Be still and know that I am dog -
stars beyond your ken and counting.
Worlds beget more worlds,
but some truths never change.

The only cure for drought

is rain."

Sherry: Oh, my goodness, this is just so good. 

Kelli: Sherry, this poem is in dire need of a good back-story!  Anybody got one to spare?  Honestly, I was just playing with imagery.

Sherry: Oh. Well, that works, smiles. You aced your objective, for sure. With 'Fast Dogs, Slow Rabbits', I imagine it speaks to the strength you had to muster every single day this past year. Let's take a look.


This year of fast dogs
and slow rabbits
we've all taken the teeth
and bruise.
But with the Good Lord and a few
bad habits,
we've managed to get ourselves through.

I burned with resolutions
till I used them
to feed fire for you.
In a year of fast dogs
and slow rabbits,
I did the best
any rabbit could do.

Sherry:  Yes, you did "the best any rabbit could do." With courage, you got yourself through. If you are able to, might you share a bit of what the journey was like? I know people will relate.

Kelli: Oh, wow.  This one was written three days after my mom passed.  I remember being so exhausted.  It had been a year of spending every possible moment with my mom.  Balancing checkbooks, juggling medications and hospice and Baby Puppy's school and and and . . . watching mama die.  It was not an easy death.  I had promised myself that I would stay present emotionally all the way, and I did.  It was my honor and my blessing to do it.  My mama was 62.  I miss her every day.

Sherry: Oh, Kelli, only 62. That is just heartbreaking. Thank you for sharing your journey, as you wrote your way through those difficult times. As I read every day, I could hear the pain, the grit, the strength....just all of it. You moved through that year with grace and strength, kiddo. What a terrible loss. I am so sorry.

Kelli also writes at The Zen of Motherhood, sharing some very cool photographs, and pithy observations about life. And she and her best writing pals, Fireblossom, of Shay's Word Garden, and Hedgewitch, of Verse Escape, conspired to produce these fantastic books, which I proudly own: Three-Note Howl: The Wild Hunt , and Gemini/Scorpio/Capricorn.


Any plans for your writing in the year ahead? 

Kelli: All I really plan to do is to try to get better and keep putting words on the page.

Sherry: Yes. And that is Enough, kiddo. I found another stellar poem, 'Cage Wide Open', which was published in The Reverie. It feels like the perfect poem to wrap up with. Let's enjoy its spirit and hope.


When I've unraveled every yarn
and stunned the voices silent;
when I can take my place
in the kitchen or as queen;
When I own all my deeds
and every word that I have spoken,

I'll be birdsong
with the cage
wide open.

When I can choose direction
or crush the compass in my fist.
When I can vandalize the garden
in honor of my sister Eves
and finally hold an apple
with its skin unbroken,

I'll be birdsong
with the cage
wide open.

Sherry: Empowering and life-affirming, the birdsong and that cage door wide open. Brilliant writing, Kelli. And way to walk through a heartbreaking year, with courage and grace! It is such a hard thing, to lose one's mother. 

Wrapping up, is there anything you’d like to say to Poets United?

Kelli: Just thank you.  For the all the comments and camaraderie, thank you.  And, thank you, Sherry.

Sherry: Thank you, my friend, for agreeing to this little chat - and for your loyalty to and participation in Poets United. We are so happy you are here.

Well, kids? Hasn't this been just the best ever? Do come back and see who we talk to next. Who knows? It might be you!


  1. Thank you, Sherry, for this all-too-brief update on someone who is, simply, one of the best writers in the world today. Best wishes only and always, Mosk

  2. Firstly I am sorry for the loss of your mother - secondly your courage to post and share this amazing interview is wonderful - thank you both...when somebody gets poetry 'right' it is often so right it is hard to say why but yours is - I think because it is authentic..your story..humble...feisty at times..funny at times..but always full of heart and love..and hope

  3. Kelly's writing has always delighted and inspired me. As does her courage and her heart.

  4. Wonderful interview, Sherry! I haver been a huge admirer of Mamas Zen's work since I first came across it, and am a happy owner of the e-version of Gemini / Scorpio / Capricorn. Didn't realise there was another – darn, paperback only, and I am trying not to buy more physical books, but I'll probably get this one anyway.

    Kelli, my sincere condolences. I remember the loss of my mother (when she was 83, not 62!) as the most confronting experience of my life. That bond is so deep and basic. I love all the poems you shared here. Perhaps the one about your grandmother spoke to me the most. (I had two very strong and nurturing grandmothers, both of whom were women of faith.) Reading the lovely Rain, I caught glimpses of a (non-existent!) back story, but it would be a shame to try and pin it down. This is one of those poems, I feel, that thrives on mystery.

  5. Thanks for this update, Sherry, on one of my favorite poets. Kelli's work is extraordinary. So sorry about your mama, Kelli. And your daughter--what a character!

  6. I knew you'd love this one, kids, and I agree, Mosk, Kelli really deserves a book,a short feature is never enough! Jae Rose, you used the word that resonates most with me about Kelli's work - authentic. Yes, funny, gutsy, strong, full of heart - a truer voice it would be hard to find. It is my privilege to have had the pleasure.....thanks, Kelli, for the feature, for your amazing poetry....and most of all for being you.

  7. Thank you, Sherry! And thanks to all of your for your incredibly generous comments.

  8. Each one of these poems featured here by Mama Zen "Kelli" are simply breathtaking. Such a wonderful interview Sherry! It as been such a pleasure to learn more about Kelli. Her blog is a wonderful place of writing that is always an inspiration to visit!

  9. Super lovely poems and lovely interview. Thanks so much Kelli and Sherry. k. (Manicddaily)

  10. Oh, this was a wonderful interview! Ha, I remember when I interviewed Mama Zen for "Toads" a long, long while ago! "The Woman of Faith" takes my breath away. Just beautiful. MZ, you mentioned that this poem kind of wrote itself. Don't you love it when something like that happens? And I also liked very much the poem "Bow." Kelli, you can always be depended on to find a unique approach. I like the fact that you have a variety of styles, don't always write in the same way! Sherry, another excellent interview!

  11. I've heard of this chick. She's awfully good at this poetry stuff. ;-)

  12. I enjoyed the interview. So sorry for you loss. Your poems are full of wit and written in a unique style. "A Woman of Faith" wrote itself because it came from that special place inside of you. In that place there is magic always.

  13. Oh my goodness Kelli - I am often moved by words and by stories and by the journeys of others and the way the foregoing often intersect... however the power of the "moving" I feel from your work is akin to the shifting of tectonic plates of the soul. You spoke of a possible "back story" for "Rain" and images of your mother flooded me ... the "rain" to spill into the expectable "drought" of grief - the gentle and nurturing and cleansing rain that births all sustenance ... just a thought and I hope not too intrusive. Thank you and thank Sherry for this wonderful opportunity this evening to once again be drenched in your work and to hear your voice on the screen. Peace - Love and Light ... all that you give - I wish you receive back ten-fold.

    1. Pearl, you wrote the words I did not know I was reaching for - the moving being akin to the shifting of tectonic plates. Yes! Kelli's work speaks to something primal in our shared womanhood, I think.

  14. Kelli--I am so sorry for the loss of your mama--thank you for opening your world and letting us in --I am always in awe of your work--keep finding your way to the page --these pieces above are just wonderful--

  15. Always a pleasure to read your poetry sorry for your loss. Sherry this was a great interview.

  16. This interview was a surprise to me and it knocked my socks off! I have not read these poems before, and I am grateful to hear your voice in and around them, Kelli. You always engage me mind, heart and spirit. Thanks, Sherry, for your choice of poem. The strength of this woman!

  17. So sorry for your loss, MZ!!I could see my grandma thru your words... My grandmother meant a world to me. The life lessons she passed on has helped me become the person I've become..The poem 'Woman of faith'is priceless- a feast for the poetic-mind as well as the heart. :)))
    Sherry and Mama Zen, thank you both for this enlightening Poet Interview update!! Excited and grateful!

  18. So sorry for your loss MZ..I love these poems of affirmation, faith and strength presented so gracefully...and Sherry another great interview...

  19. Sherry--Thanks for the interview. Who is this Mama Zen you all speak of?

  20. Thank you Kelli and Sherry for taking out time and sharing this touching conversation with us. Kelli, I am so sorry for your loss. Please accept my deepest condolences, I can not imagine your pain but know that it must be immense. You are a strong woman and I admire your strength.

    I loved all your poems featured here especially "A Woman of Faith." It truly touched me to the core. I am glad you have your grandma with you. In difficult times like these we need our loved ones the most.

    I wish you peace and happiness along with a lot more success in the future. You are an inspiration to us all -

    Lots of love,

  21. gracias sherry, as always you seem to be that one that can turn a light into a threeway bulb. it rises in brightness.

    kelli (mama zen) you are one of the participants in blogspot that i always look forward to reading as an inspiration.

    gracias for sharing such loveliness sherry and mamazen

  22. Sherry I so enjoy these chats and the way you seem to choose such amazing poems from all the amazing poets here. These poems from Kelli are some of her best.

    Kelli, I too look forward to your poems for inspiration. I love your work, as you sing a song from that 'cage wide open' for all of us. I feel the power, grace and grit of womanhood in all your words...and I thank you!

  23. Lovely interview, Sherry. Kelli is one of my favorite poets ~ she is strong, wise, empathetic and talented.

  24. Thank you, Sherry, for nudging me to drop by and eavesdrop on your conversation today. Kelli, I am sitting vigil with my Mom now. Though there are 2 decades between our ages, my mother is in her 85th year, the depth of the experience is the same. Thank you for sharing your journey and your poetry with me today. They are touchstones on my path.

    1. I knew you would resonate with Kelli's poems, Kathleen. My thoughts are with you as you sit vigil with your mother. May her passing be as peaceful as it is possible to be. And may you find comfort in knowing you companioned her final years and made them happy ones;. You are a good daughter.

  25. Dear Sherry and Keli, a wonderful interview from a voice deep and strong...old and is the best! I am sorry for the difficult year, but then again, we can be grateful for it, a deep experienc, the loss of Mom...I am told we are deepr women because of the experience, it put me in the place of the loss of my Mom, she a tiny woman, kind and gentle, who grew more beautiful with each last precious moment, she left me with so I've missed her since she was gone, but I am so grateful for all that she gave me.

  26. Truly an inspiration to me. Always am amazed at her wit and pure genius with words. A truly gifted poet.

  27. Kelli and Sherry, what a magnificent interview. Truly a woman of depth and substance! Your poetry is filled chock filled with your journey through this life. Things that we can relate to. Thank you for sharing.

  28. I tried to say this last night, but my phone was fighting with me and wouldn't let me comment:

    The part of the interview that touched me the most was when you said you had made a decision to stay emotionally present through your mom's decline. I have done everything I can to detach and completely disappear emotionally ever since my father died and then my mom had her strokes. So kudos for doing the opposite, far-more-honorable thing.

    1. You have walked and are walking some difficult passages, kiddo. Be kind to yourself. We each grieve in our own way, are strong in our own way, and it all works. These passages hone our souls, we just do the best we can, like that little rabbit in Kelli's poem.

  29. I am so grateful for this interview. First of all I appreciate the depth and quality of your poetry Kelli. It's beauty reveals your heart and your life in such an honest way. Secondly, I am sorry for your loss. My mother-in-law (The last of my mothers. I've had three - my grandmother, my mother and her.) passed away a couple of weeks ago. In spite of her advanced age (95), my grief is new, raw, painful. She was ready to go, but I was not ready to let her. I'm sure many of us relate to your journey with your mother and know sadness of separation. Clearly, you were a good daughter.
    Thank you Sherry for this lovely interview. It's always an awakening for me, to know people so worthy of admiration.

    1. This is why I so love peoples' stories, Myrna.....yours, as people make their passages and rise to what is before them always leaves me in awe and admiration. I remember, in your interview, how you talked about "the ladies", the years when you had your mom and your mother-in-law living with you and cared for them both. You must miss your three mothers........suddenly, you and I are the matriarchs, the mantle has passed. I remember that feeling when my mother died. I was not yet ready, as I was much younger then. Now I am seven years younger than my mom was when she died. Yikes.

  30. Wonderful interview and poetry. Belated condolences to you Keli, and thank you and Sherry both for sharing this.

  31. Big sigh of appreciation and gratitude for this post, Mama Zen and Sherry. What a gift. Your poems always bring goosebumps, MZ and it was such a treat to get to read such a beautifully handpicked bunch here...each one a gem.

    My heart goes out to your for the loss of your mother. Sending you much love in this emotional time. ♥

  32. Mama Zen
    An amazing glimpse into your life. Baby Puppy is a priceless gem. Thank you for your gift and I am so sorry for your loss.

    Thank you for this wonderful interview. You keep us all connected.

    Much love.

  33. Oh, man. I loves me some Mama Zen. I'm so happy to know her real name, for the first time. ;) Kelli, this glimpse into your life has only made me love your work all the more. Those flowers coming up in "A Woman of Faith," my breath quite literally taken away by "Bow" much love and admiration, my poetic friend.

    I am so sorry for the loss of your beautiful mama. Mine is 72, and acts 52, and at least once a week (sometimes out of the blue), I have the terrifying, debilitating thought of losing her. My heart aches for you. Thankful you have that Baby Puppy to bring giggle and guffaw to each day. I have a daughter, also, turning 13 in a couple of weeks. She's a character, too, a triple-threat type, like Goldie Hawn. I can't wait for the whole world to meet this joyful, funny, creative souls we are raising.

  34. And Sherry! You are the Interview Guru, my friend. Thank you for continually blessing us with the "backstory" to our favorite poets.

    (Kelli, your "poem in need of backstory" cracked me up. I play with imagery all the time, and always wonder if people think there's a story there. And of course, there is. You just have to bring your own. ;)

  35. Kelli, Your daughter sounds like my kind of girl. I wish I have thought about doing that to a bunch of picture. Her grandma raised a good daughter, and the proof is in her happy grandchild. ♥


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