Mari Werner is a wonderful performing poet who looks with an honest eye. Her voice sparkles with understated humor and real feeling for the plight of her fellow human beings.
At her readings I feel immediately drawn into her story. I love her patience and impatience with the way things are in the world. Whether her topic is serious or outright funny, she is perceptive and bright.
By Kathabela Wilson
A telescope on the poet
How did you begin to write poetry?
I didn’t start writing poetry with any sort of regularity till I was in my 40’s. When I was a child I used to write very sing-songy, rhyming, iambic pentameter things that had nothing to do with anything, but parents and teacher seemed to think they were good. I remember writing one about winter snow. I grew up in Santa Barbara, California, and I’d never seen snow. I thought snowmen were soft. I also had a dog in that poem, though I had almost no experience with dogs and we’d never had one in the family. I needed something to rhyme with ‘up’, so there I was in the poem playing with my pup. I may have had some sort of a feel at that point for words and rhythm, but it wasn’t till much later that I started using poetry to actually communicate something.
A microscope on the poet
The odd ideas and perceptions seem to me like a prelude to your special style of honest, matter-of-fact humor, what kind of poetry do you write now?
Now I only write poetry when I really have something to say—there’s some idea, experience, observation that seems important to me, something that I think could ride that resonance wave from me to others. Poetry to me is all about communication and connection. And honestly I think for me that’s a lot of what life is about—connection with other beings. Of course there are other ways we connect with people besides poetry, but poetry is this very refined sort of essence of spiritual connection. It’s about using words to put an idea, an experience, a feeling into sort of a spiritual wave length that resonates and forms a link with another being. I guess there are lots of different things that people call poetry and different things people do with it, but for me personally, that’s what it’s about. That’s what I have in mind when I’m writing poetry and that’s the kind of poetry I want to read or hear.
Pulse of the poet
You are wonderful at performing your poems, have you always felt so comfortable and natural?
The first time I read something to an audience, I was so terrified I could hardly breathe, but I still wanted to do it. It was a couple little humor pieces, and they laughed, and then I was hooked. I mostly write poetry for reading aloud. I love poetry readings because of that connectedness that I experience when I hear someone read something that really reaches me, or when I read and I see the recognition in people’s faces, or the laughter or whatever it is that shows that connection is happening. That for me is the payoff. That’s what it’s about. Possibly some day when I’m spending less time earning a living I’ll put more attention on getting my poetry published, but for now I pretty much go for the instant gratification of poetry readings.
A compass on the poet
Do you do other forms of art?
My other creative outlet is photography, and I approach it pretty much the same way I do poetry. I do it for fun. There’s a joy in the process of capturing form and light in a photo and coming up with something beautiful or intriguing. Thinking about it, I guess it’s about connection and communication as well, but it’s between the photographer and the environment. Selecting what to frame and focus on is an effort to capture and clarify the essence of something—at least the essence as I see it. Then if I share the photo and it somehow speaks to another person, there’s another level of connection.
By Mari Werner
They focused the Hubble telescope
on a tiny area of black space.
Kept it looking there for 10 days
recording what it saw.
Turned out it was full of galaxies.
The most distant galaxy they found
was more than 13 billion
light years away.
Thirteen billion light years.
So they’re saying
the light that hits the telescope lens
left that galaxy over 13 billion years ago.
And it just got here.
To the telescope that the humans
from earth put up in space.
And the telescope sent the light
down to earth where the humans
could see it. And the humans said,
Wow, gee wiz, and how cool is that.
And then they went to work
doing things with numbers
and figuring things out,
and telling other humans,
who weren’t paying attention
because they were too busy
reading the nutritional information
on the back of the Doritos bag
or fighting a war with some other country
over who has first dibs
on some black gooey stuff
under the ground.
And the light
that left another galaxy
13 billion years ago
kept on coming
and kept on going.
I’m done with it.
Wave your sword if you want to.
You won’t hear it clashing
I’ve lost mine actually.
I didn’t even put it away
or beat it into a plowshare.
I just put it down someplace
and forgot about it.
*A few of Mari’s artistic photos are on display at Rancho Santa Ana Botanical Gardens in Claremont this summer.
> Watch Mari Werner reading at Village Poets of Sunland-Tujugna.
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