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PoetrySnaps! Marlana-Patrice Pugh Hamer: 'Our Giant Steps'

Phoenix-based poet Marlana-Patrice Pugh Hamer releases her debut book of poetry, “Taking Off My Black and White Saddle Shoes,” Sun, May 19, 2024.
Courtesy of Marlana-Patrice Pugh Hamer
Phoenix-based poet Marlana-Patrice Pugh Hamer releases her debut book of poetry, “Taking Off My Black and White Saddle Shoes,” Sun, May 19, 2024.

Marlana-Patrice Pugh Hamer lives in Phoenix but grew up in Cleveland, Ohio, which had a major influence on her poetic life. Her mother introduced her and the rest of the family to the city’s arts, music and theater scenes. She got her first taste of the spoken word as a child attending church where she memorized a passage for Easter services and delivered it in front of the congregation. As an adult she carried her love for the spoken word to open mic nights where she began sharing her first poems.
She reads, “Our Giant Steps,” which is dedicated to her late husband and celebrates their shared love of jazz and the good times that often accompanied live music.

Marlana-Patrice Pugh Hamer: I keep a little notebook where I just jot down ideas of poems I might write. So right in that moment I might not be writing anything, I’m just writing down a topic. And then all of the sudden, possibly in the morning—I often write my poetry in the morning—I’m like, something just hits me. And I feel sometimes, once I’m sitting there—many people have said this—I start saying, I’m going to write this but then the poem becomes something totally different. And some of the things I’m writing—I don’t want to get overly religious on you, but I will say some of them, the words, I’m like a vessel. The words are coming from somewhere else. And then I look it up and I’m like, wow, that’s kind of profound. It just came through me, and I was looking at that just the other day, a poem I wrote, and I said, I’m not the only writer here, if you get what I mean. Someone is channeling things in me, so I feel like I’m supposed to be a poet.

The poem is dedicated to Marvin who was my late husband. I’m a widow, I’ve been a widow a long time. But that’s a whole other story. But the poem, I’ll tell you, I tried to capture the fact that even before we got married, we both were members of the northeast Ohio jazz society. He and I both loved music and we used to go to their concerts, and so that was a source of enjoyment for both of us. (In this poem) I tried to capture some of the outdoorsy aspects of things we did together, and just a calm kind of jazzy, airy kind of feel I was trying to capture of how I felt towards our relationship and the things that we enjoyed as a couple.

Our Giant Steps
for Marvin

Sonny Fortune played Song for My Lady
another NOJS concert date night. So vivid.
We strolled through weekends
taking us where we wanted
and needed to go. Ordered another
vegetarian pizza.
Drank bottles of Schlitz or Heineken.
Drank in all the liquid affirmations
from White and Black couples
who said we look good holding hands
walking down Coventry Road,
down any road together.
Always hearing our jazz better like that.
Or underneath fireworks after Indians
games. Lighting fires for dream homes and babies.
Big plans are happy cornets like Nat Adderley’s.
Or luscious saxophones like Coltrane’s.

About the author:
Marlana-Patrice Pugh Hamer is an award-winning poet, writer, performer, public speaker, educator, volunteer and activist. Her poetry and nonfiction have appeared in numerous anthologies. Her debut book of poetry, “Taking Off My Black and White Saddle Shoes” will be released on Sun, May 19, 2024.

About the host:
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.

About the music:
Original music by Flagstaff-based band Pilcrowe.

Poetry Snaps is produced by KNAU Arizona Public Radio and airs the third Friday of each month.

Steven Law was the co-producer of KNAU’s series PoetrySnaps!