An interview with Marlene Hitt, a sensitive poet with an eye for hidden details.
Marlene senses the history and beauty of the world around her and is moved to preserve and treasure its wonders.
By Kath Abela Wilson
Mapping the poet
In Sunland Tujunga, it was your poet grandmother who called you “The Sunland Rose,” and much of your poetry touches on the details of your life in Sunland-Tujunga, what does your life there mean to you?
I have lived in a peaceful spot overlooking the Big Tujunga Wash and the wonderful San Gabriel Mountains for 56 years. Lloyd, my husband, and I are oddities of American culture by staying in one place. I began writing under my grandmother’s influence as a child. Then, years later, when my own grandchildren needed care during the 1990’s and as I was outside watching them play in mud and water and finger paint, I had an insight. I hadn’t experienced anything but an easy life – no natural or other disasters… but I noticed that day, the underbelly of a dead lizard and marveled at the hidden beauty of it. I realized I celebrate the world that I know. This is my life, and it is valid. There is nothing wrong with noticing beauty, and feeling contentment.
A telescope on the poet
How were you/are you “The Sunland Rose”?
My grandmother was quite a good poet who wrote a poem about me and one about my brother. I was “The Sunland Rose”. That meant so much to me and I wanted to do the same thing for others.
Then I followed a winding road of poetry and other writings through my childhood, teens and adult years, to become the first Poet Laureate of Sunland Tujunga, 1999 – 2001. In that position I could do much for the poetic community that was encouraging. Before that I belonged to a small group of writers Sunland-Tujunga and the Foothills, since 1985, that inspired our Village Poets Poetry readings in Bolton Hall Museum. I was archivist and museum director there at the museum for many years, and as well as poetry, I’ve written historical articles and a book called “Sunland-Tujunga, from Village to City.” My life truly became that of a “Sunland Rose”.
A microscope on the poet
What happened that made you realize you are a poet?
As a child I often talked to myself on road trips. My grandmother complimented me on some of my words and phrases from my observations. As a young girl I was shy to let people know about my poetry and creative writings. But she helped me know it was okay to say those hidden words. Then, in sixth grade, our teacher demanded that we write a poem. Poetry and music in that school was stressed. I refused. The teacher made me stay after school to write my poem! I wanted to go home, so I scribbled out (it’s amazing how these words still come to me) “At evening when the sun goes down behind the mountain tall, every sunbeam in a golden gown hides behind that wall. And when the earth’s great shadows fall the stars come out to stay, it’s time to go to bed my friends and rest for the coming day.” Well, my teacher was impressed and put together a poetry magazine for our class. I was famous, and I was sure of myself!
Pulse of the poet
What has poetry meant in your life, and how have you proceeded?
As years went by, the poems were cathartic. They helped me keep in tune with myself. When I was working in a small office I realized that the “great novel” the stack of children’s stories, the articles, the oil painting (I love art too)… none were possible with a busy family life, so I realized that all I really needed was a scrap of paper and a pencil, so I wrote poems several times a day between counting cash and keeping books.
I was true to myself in that way, noting the precious details I see in the world around me. Since those days I have learned through trial and error, lots of reading, much listening, and workshops the best way to convey my ideas. I have loved compiling my new book soon to be released by Moonrise Press, Clocks and Water Drops.
By Marlene Hitt
Here it is once again, away back in the closet,
the box of treasures collected by children.
Feathers, one huge and black from a crow,
one tiny from Felicia the finch.
My mother’s rock from the quarry
that inspired a song, “Rock of Ages”,
New Zealand jade, a rounded pebble
from the Dead Sea.
This is where my penny went,
the one I wore in my shoe at our wedding
and the cigar still wrapped when our son was born.
Keys, shaped for castle doors, for valises,
for piggy banks and diaries. Keys lost,
found far too late for any locks.
I remember the dandelions blown in the wind
and this one glued to a paper plate, imprisoned,
never to blossom and this Saskatchewan wheat
pulled up by Uncle Alf when he stopped the truck
to find a souvenir that last evening.
And this one magnificent marble!
What is not a treasure?
Learn more about Marlene Hitt on her page at Village Poets.
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