That was the beginning and was followed by winning a “moving words” contest that ended up with her poem on the side of an Arlington ART bus.
Wild angels are my favorite kind.
They have no idea where they left their haloes,
and they let their robes run through fresh mud.
Instead they show up and change tires on highways,
Sit down and have a beer and listen.
They come to hospital rooms to tell bad jokes,
To food pantries when it’s the end of the month
And the money has run out.
They believe in Revelation unfolding,
in the sacred scripture we write between each other.
Now a book of her poetry, “Breaking Into Light,” has just been published by Prose and Poetry bookstores.
“Breaking Into Light” imagines not breaking apart into fragmentation but breaking apart into light. In a time of apocalyptic backdrop of climate change, racial injustice and the selling out of lives to the God of profit, the poems point out that this time is also defined by those who work for the good and who choose recovery or repair or compassion. “This book is meant to look at all that devastates, all that breaks, and to proclaim still that the greatest is always the Love.”
The poems go back to about 2017 and Martin wrote them over the span of a few years. “But at the time I didn’t have the idea of a book.” Martin said she really got the idea when she took her sabbatical last year from Rock Spring United Church of Christ (UCC) where she serves as Associate Pastor. She says she was at Rehoboth Beach and started sorting through her poems to figure out which ones she liked and wanted to include—“what were the recurring themes, the experience of being human.”
She sent out her first proposal with a few examples in late May 2022 and then the full book later. She says she had had some flat out no answers, some who didn’t respond and some who did respond but wanted to restrict her.
“I chose Poetry and Prose Bookstore because I could keep my own voice and not be tied to any doctrine.” She explains that she has a Christian voice but not necessarily an Orthodox approach. Martin says some of her poems have been sent to India where there are Buddhists; the poems can speak across traditions. God is still speaking is a huge component of my faith.”
She said another advantage was that the publication process went rapidly at Prose and Poetry where a lot of publishers routinely take several years. In September 2022 Prose and Poetry accepted her small proposal and wanted to see the rest. Her final submission was in October and by December she had back the first proof to make corrections.
The book is organized in five sections beginning with The Sacred Daily where the first poem is Alternate Headlines which begins:
Let your news be also
that peaches are ripe,
that a lost dog was found,
tired and wagging his tail,
and taken back home.
Her section on “Grief: Yours, Mine and Ours” acknowledges a collective grief such as deaths in the pandemic as well as each of us in our lives lose people we love. “Grief had so many textures. I don’t believe in the five stages of grief. It can be multiple at once.” She explains, “You can feel absence and presence at once. You can hear a song and the memory can take you back.”
Martin says she has always loved words and was an English major in college. “I will keep writing after this book. It is no surprise that my favorite part is writing. It is a lot of work to get a book ready, that side of things.
“And then hearing what a poem has meant to somebody, where it has traveled— when I can hear how words can find people, how the spirit travels with them.” She says her poems have been read at the scattering of ashes, at weddings, at the times that are significant in people’s lives. “Sometimes they tell me 6 months later. In any small way, if the poems can keep people going.”
Martin says she will keep writing and see “how they can be used. My hope is that if you have lost somebody you loved, somebody has been diagnosed with cancer or fired from their job or just left an abusive relationship, or trying to figure out what comes next—looking for different ways to think about life.”
She concludes, “God urges us. We are always being called by Good and we can choose to tune in.”
Martin has several local conversations including book signings scheduled to discuss her book. The book is available from Martin at email@example.com, Rock Spring UCC where some of the proceeds go to the church or Prose and Poetry Bookstores. For more information check out her website.