National Poetry Month Spotlight: Helen Marie Casey
MARY DYER’S COURTSHIP
She began to dream of death,
of how he would lie down with her,
close her eyes, taste her various parts.
She would awake believing him present,
believing he could not take his eyes off her.
She began to carry him in her heart,
speaking to him under her breath.
She began to think she loved him.
When he walked beside her, she felt herself uplifted.
She thought death held her hand in his.
She thought she heard the rat-a-tat of drums.
She thought her breath was leaving her body.
She had never been this happy.
A: If it took me only a day to write a poem like “Mary Dyer’s Courtship,” I might well remember the day. As it is, most of my poems are longer a-borning. I do remember that I was trying to imagine myself into the mind of a woman who was choosing to die for her beliefs. This led me to think of Mary Dyer and Death in courtship with each other. I recalled the medieval renderings of Death walking with his victim and invoked those images as well as the drums that actually sounded as Mary Dyer walked to the gallows. The eroticism in the poems comes from my thinking of Mary choosing Death as her lover. This poem was particularly challenging to write and I remain quite fond of it.
Q: What is the last book you’ve read that made you want to grab a pen and write?
A: The poetry collection of Ann Snodgrass, Fields Across Which No Birds Fly (Sheep Meadow Press), which I read two weeks ago, is so filled with a knowledge of literature, history, poetic form, and evocative strength, that it makes me want to work harder than ever to write such powerfully irresistible and deep poems. Her work makes us ponder the question: How does the good writer put so much into so few lines?
Q: What is the most sublime meal you’ve ever eaten?
A: Sublime meal? On an abnormally hot day in Orleans, France, beside the path Jeanne D’Arc rode in her victorious march through Orleans in 1429, there is an outdoor café teeming with activity. I ordered a piece of melon, never dreaming that one-half of a cavaillon, a small cantaloupe-like melon, sweeter than any other melon I have ever eaten, would be served to me in a silver bowl filled with slivered ice. It was so refreshing that the single object, the cavaillon, remains in my mind as one of France’s sublime delicacies.
Helen Marie Casey’s poetry collection Inconsiderate Madness was a finalist for the Julia Howe Award and is available for purchase at Black Lawrence Press.