I thought I’d be writing this book review without the book in my hands. I’d ordered a new poetry collection last week, thinking it probably wouldn’t arrive during this National Poetry Month. But, I’ve met the author and have read enough of her work that I knew I could encourage others to consider buying it, too.
And then, today, the package from Fernwood Press landed in the mailbox with a copy of Love Is Deeper Than Distance: Poems of love, death, a little sex, ALS, dementia and the widow’s life thereafter by Portland, OR poet, Peg Edera.
Love Is Deeper Than Distance is described as “a collection whose subtitle lays it all out pretty directly, even as the work is moving.” Oregon Poet Laureate Kim Stafford writes, “Peg Edera’s poems offer the tough tenderness it takes to live through hard times.”
One hard time Peg lived through was her husband’s diagnosis of dementia and, ten months later, of ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis). In the book’s introduction, Peg writes of how she and her daughter cared for him at home until his death two years later. Peg wrote some of the collection’s fifty-eight poems before her husband’s diagnoses as well as after his death, but most were written during the eighteen months she took care of him.
In addition to being a poet, Peg, a Quaker, is a Spiritual Direction supervisor and facilitates workshops that incorporate writing, the labyrinth, and meditation. Some of her favorite questions are: How do we learn to love the mystery and walk ever more deeply into it? How do we keep our unique spark of the Divine glowing? What is the invitation you most want to accept?
I walked a labyrinth for the first time with Peg as a guide, discovering this circular path is, as Peg describes, a “metaphor machine.” Since that introduction, I amble labyrinths as often as I can. I’ve written about the flower- and medicinal plant-rimmed one in my community.
After I pulled the envelope from the mailbox today, I tore the package open, slid out the slim volume, and started reading. My husband trailed behind, browsing the rest of the mail; the dog trotted ahead. I watched for potholes as my eyes scanned the pages, not wanting to stop after first one, then another, and another of the poems. They’re as good as I expected.
This one, Lilacs, especially spoke to me.
I know that kind of love. It’s like the time my husband, “the naked hiker,” stripped down to his wool socks and boots to encourage me up a steep trail (you can read more about that here).
Peg explains that writing “…helped me find the tender truth, the unlikely humor, the faithful awareness of the deep-hearted love that we shared with each other, our daughter and this unpredictable world, and what else may be.”
After reading just a few poems, I already know Love Is Deeper Than Distance is a treasure.