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PoetrySnaps! Anne McDonnell: A Love Poem for a Friend

Courtesy Anne McDonnell

New Mexico-based poet Anne McDonnell has loved poetry all her life. Her favorite time of day to write is the morning when her mind is rested and clear. She’s also a big fan of writing groups because they inspire interesting conversation and keep the poetic muse alive. In this week’s segment of PoetrySnaps! Anne McDonnell shares her gorgeous poem, A Love Poem for a Friend.

Anne McDonnell:

When I was growing up my sister was a poet, and I was sort of a jock. I was really into soccer and basketball growing up. In college, I took a class with Native writer, poet, novelist Linda Hogan. That class really sparked my interest and love in poetry. From there I just dove into writing it, and reading, and then a little later in my career I decided to go back to school and get an MFA and get more deeply into a poetry practice.

I try to carve out time in the morning for poetry. Sometimes it’s just reading poems. I usually start by reading poems, and I’m playing with some images or themes in my mind. And then sometimes a poem will get sparked by that. I carve out time for poetry whether it’s reading, thinking or writing. A lot of times I’ll write a draft, or part of a poem, or a stanza.

It helps me to have a writing group and to have a deadline for bringing a new poem. We give each other feedback and critique each other’s work. It’s also just inspiration to keep writing.

Love Poem for a Friend (published in The Hopper)

But you could say that two people sitting at a kitchen table and talking about what matters pretty much makes up a church. That is what a church is, in one way or another. We have to believe that.  — Ilya Kaminsky

The knobby spine of that mustang
holds the horizon like a hammock.
Behind her swayed back, the sky
burns apricot, filling into
the day and my truck emptying
its tank towards Utah.
There’s the frack wells framed
by the cup of that horse’s spine,
and soon there’s the great spine
of stone that runs along the river.
Another November, we park side by side,
pick a canyon from our perch, follow
deer prints in crypto, where the rain
goes down, we go. In a room of stone,
we sit and watch sunlight through
the membranes of a bat’s wings
as she flits and darts for insects
we can’t see, rising off tinajas.
Two people talking can be a church,
he said, and though he meant the war,
we let words rise from this
flood of silence, shake like my dog
does, head to tail, water spitting
off, shuddering herself new.
Across a fire, the only light
that smears the stars, we sit
in some earned peace of 50 years,
telling stories of old loves and our miraculous
survival. Meet me here my dear,
both of us gorgeous, leafing out
lavishly in our spectrum of queer,
this tangle of slickrock canyons, unbuilt
for us. Two people not talking
can be a church, too.

About the poet:

Anne McDonnell is based in Santa Fe, New Mexico where she is an associate professor at the Institute of American Indian Arts. She is the author of Breath on a Coal, winner of the Halycon Poetry Prize from Middle Creek Press. McDonnell’s poetry has been published in Orion Magazine and The Georgia Review. She is a former writer-in-residence at the Andrews Forest Writers’ Residency, the Sitka Center for Art and Ecology, and the Wrangell Mountain Center in McCarthy, Alaska.

About the host:

Steven Law is a poet, journalist and educator based in Page, Arizona. He is the author of a collection of poems called Polished.

About the music:

Original music by Flagstaff-based band Pilcrowe.

Steven Law is the co-producer of KNAU’s series PoetrySnaps! He is a poet, essayist, storyteller, and the author of Polished, a collection of poems about exploring the Colorado Plateau by foot and by raft. Steven is also a contributing writer for Panorama: the Journal of Intelligent Travel and The Lake Powell Chronicle. He has won numerous awards for his writing. Steven is the founder and producer of The Grand Circle Storytelling Festival. He is a Master of Sabaku Yoku meditation and lives in northern Arizona with his wife and two daughters.