Issue 88: Sandra McPherson


About Sandra McPherson

My 21st collection, Speech Crush, is scheduled for publication by Salmon Poetry Press in Ireland this year. Among my previous books are Expectation Days (Illinois), The Spaces Between Birds: Mother/Daughter Poems 1967-1995 (Wesleyan), and Streamers (Ecco). I taught 23 years at the University of California at Davis, 4 years at U of Iowa Writers Workshop, and several years in Portland in informal workshops. I collected improvisational African-American quilts and donated 67 of them to UCDavis. I founded and edited Swan Scythe Press. I'm adopted, & in my birth family is Plymouth feminist author Abby Morton Diaz, my great-grand-aunt or something. As a grad student at the UW, I met Henry Carlile in Elizabeth Bishop's class and we were married for many years.  Willow Springs has published him too.

A Profile of the Author

Notes on“Simple Science” and “Portraits in My Room”

The poems you’re publishing came from a deep silence, or too much talking, the opposite.  Finally they became what you found and accepted, & that made me fully happy.  I lost most of my possessions a few years ago, including a vast library of field guides.  “Simple Science” sprouted from what I could reconstruct of wandering trails and marshes with the man who would become my second husband.  We become elements of the natural history. We exist forever now in the poem, although he died young 19 years ago.

“Portraits in My Room” is an indoor poem.  I was an art collector, but, again, lost most of my paintings ten years ago.  Interestingly, the Dolly Sloan portrait, by Agnes Richmond, was purchased by Clarence and Pamela Major, so it is still in the family of poets.  I would very much like to buy it back from them, but can’t afford it.  Dolly looked pretty and painful.  There is a silence in these portraits–they can’t talk if they’re resting their chin on their fist.

Music, Food, Booze, Tattoos, Kittens, etc.

In this eighth decade of my life my days are filled with three things: obsession with pots, potters, and clay; music 24/7, classical, jazz, and blues; and a social commitment to my friends on Facebook to make daily discoveries of the lives and minds of remarkable artists, comics, thinkers, makers.  Sometimes I use the quotations that turn up as themes for mostly sonnets. My friends depend on me to come up with one or more discoveries per day. It’s nourishing. There’s more peculiarity to be found than we’re used to living with normally.

For 19 years my dearest cat was Dr. Jesus.

I do not work with clay, but I have enormous admiration for ceramicists–Japanese, American, Danish, British, and artists of other regions. You can find their aesthetic statements provided by galleries along with their work for sale; I’m more touched by what they say than I am of the poetry-talk I’m more used to.

Willow Springs 88

Two Poems by Sandra McPherson

Simple Science   Our first time, I was not taking field notes. The gift was too great to jot down. Then together for years we bothered wild terrain to botanize … Read more

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