Background Notes — A Night to Be Remembered
Sara wanted to continue writing as far as she might reach, then to stretch even beyond that. She entrusted thousands of pieces to David, polished poems and rough drafts and fragments and ideas she knew she herself would never be given freedom in her own time to share on her own. Very many of those pieces were clearly intended for her collaboration with us — quite often, her hurried scrawl left very specific instructions to us that are so clear, we can still hear her own voice sharing with us as we work together in finishing now what she started then.
During her last year with us, Sara had taken a deep interest in poetry forms that she felt to be particularly suited to collaboration. While two or more poets can of course work together under any structure, unifying their voice into even a single word within a poem, she found special opportunities for collaboration present in forms with distinct pieces such as the ghazal, or the ovillejo. In rolling forms where she could see collaboration passing a baton, such as the sestina and its variants, the terzanelle, the pantoum. And in the tanka chain – which has both the pieces feel of a ghazal and the rolling feel of a pantoum – which comes to us with a long tradition of collabortative writing. Indeed, those who mock collaborative writing would do well to silence their ignorance in the presence of the wisdom of ancient oriental poets (to whom we at best give our echo in gratitude).
We’ve already shared a portion of one tanka chain which Sara started for us, No Last Mornings, that one launched by Sara and David. As with that one, the tanka chain we’ll work on here — A Night to Be Remembered — opens with a tanka stanza written by Sara, this time followed by a tanka stanza that I have added to Sara’s. Over the next few months, others in our collaborative group will be adding tanka stanzas to the chain, in each instance hoping to work in harmony with Sara’s voice, still strong in each of us.
In Sara’s notes to her tanka stanza, she had written “hep dec 2014” with additional notes making clear her idea that if she had been given the opportunity to remain with us until now, she would be actively launching this tanka collaboration herself early this very month. At the time she was writing those notes, she was distressed at the rejection and scorn being directed against spiritual beliefs that she and I and others of our group share. Her opening tanka stanza echoes words I had spoken to her to comfort and assure her, pointing out that just as the daylight and clouds and buildings ceilings and even the dirt of a gravesite cannot hide nor halt the force of Jupiter’s retrograde, nor any other of the mercies given to us, so likewise the disbelief of others – no matter how scornful the rejection – does not decide who we are or are not. Unless we deny our own selves — in which case it is we who reject our own faith — no other person has the power to reject it in us.
— Maggie, for Sara and our others