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Two Elder Maine Women Poets: Janet Shea and Joanne Booth

Pat TaubPat Taub

Maine, where I live, is familiar to many as the grayest state in the nation. What is often overlooked in this statistic is the phenomenal number of elder women who continue to create art and live meaningful lives through their 70’s, 80’s and 90’s. Maine’s old women continue to inspire me as I move through my 70’s.

In this spirit I’m sharing some passages from a new book of poems by Janet Shea of Tenants Harbor, Maine and a poem by Joanne Booth from Portland. Both women are in their ninth decade. Their active, lively minds and cheerful spirit are a joy to behold.

Janet Shea’s collection of poems, Prayers of a Roadside Contemplative, were born from her decision to burn her diaries, spanning 60 years, rather than have them read and misinterpreted by her family after she died. Janet burnt them in batches, in the winter in her wood stove and in the summer over the last embers of that day’s charcoal-grilled dinner. Before she threw her diaries into the fire, she culled them for meaning, developing poems from key passages in each journal.

Janet was raised Catholic, attending daily morning masses as a child. As an adult she stopped going to church, but her strong connection to God and the holy are woven through her poetry as in the poem,

Enigma                                                                                                      Screen Shot 2016-07-06 at 2.59.39 PM
 How does one find consolation
in the silence of God,
despite the silence
of God?

 

 

Each of Janet’s poems is a small jewel, making it difficult to choose ones for this post. That said, another favorite is:

Dwelling Place

Loneliness,

Sorrow,

Heartache.

 

These are okay places to be

as a resident of the state

of grace.

 

To remain in the state of grace

does not mean to be without

pain.

 

It does mean to be

without rancor.

 

In Solitude                                                                           Pat Taub, WOW Blog, Portland, Maine

Frayed edges of my life

cascade into folds

at my feet.

 

Than there’s this short prayer,

Dear God

Deliver me from the addiction

of might-have-beens

allow me to tread softly

through my days, to rest

easy in my life and

in my work

 

I am so damn tired

of hard.

 

Worthy or Not                                                                                  Screen Shot 2016-07-06 at 3.17.02 PM                                                                        

Dear God,

perhaps when You have some time

You would enter

my heart, close the door

behind You

and

stay for awhile.

 

Joanne Booth has been writing poetry her whole life. She gave me permission to publish this poem of hers about aging.

Identity Check

Age does not define us.

We are more—much more—than our age.

 

Who we are is

What we value most deeply

What we laugh at

How often we smile

What we fantasize about.

 

Who we are isPat Taub, WOW blog, Portland, Maine

The caring time we spend with our families

The friends we like to be with

Where and how we spend our vacations.

 

Who we are is

What movies we like

What exercise delights us

What books speak to us.

 

Who we are is

What career we choose

What subjects makes us glow

The person we’d choose to be with us

On the mythical “desert island.”

 

Each achievement, each illness

Each despondent phase, each moment of passion

Each inner struggle, each rewarding success

 

These are what create our identities,

Age does not define us.

 

 

If you’d like more conversations with like-minded women, we have a Facebook page for you: WOW (Women’s Older Wisdom.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pat Taub is a family therapist, writer and activist and life-long feminist. She hopes that WOW will start a conversation among other older women who are fed up with the ageism and sexism in our culture and are looking for cohorts to affirm their value as an older woman.

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