Thursday, June 9, 2011

Featured Reader Response: "Poetic Medicine" by Kerry Balaam

Thank you to Kerry Balaam of Waimea for this week's Featured Reader Response. The story of her relationship to Inertia is like a poem itself. I love it and am deeply honored by her words. In gratitude...

"When I first read Inertia, I was in flight, literally, on an airplane above the ocean. The day before, I had attended the funeral of a young man I loved, so I was grappling with fresh devastation as I traveled. Both my origin and destination were places my high school friend called home before he passed away suddenly in an accident at age 26. Deepening the melancholy of my pilgrimage was another pain, the acute awareness that I had lived, in the very same two locations, with another young man, my college sweetheart, until only a few years ago, when he was killed as a passenger in a car accident at age 25.

"There in the sky, in transit between places where I'd repeatedly loved and lost so much, between two spots on the planet so full of memories and so marred by premature death, I looked down on the Pacific, clutching Kim Cope Tait's pages to my chest as I leaned to peer out of the tiny oval portal over the expansive blue. This body of water plays a key role in Inertia, uniting California, Hawaii, and New Zealand, the novel's solid-ground settings. Illustrated aptly by Noe Erger's cover art--a rushing swirl threatening to barrel the viewer--waves form a fluid motif throughout Inertia's story and the power of ocean depths serves as a fitting metaphor for an unstoppable, all-engulfing 'momentum toward fate.' Inertia's narrators are, perhaps necessarily then, surfers.

"They are also writers. And their story is about shared, "real" experiences of unbelievable, heart-shattering coincidences, with "super real" meaning beyond the scope of individual lifetimes. Inertia is a lesson in relinquishing isolated, and often possessively held, grief, in awe of truths greater than ourselves and our grasp. It is also a memorial to the departures of spirits by whom we've been so blessed, by whose loss we are so broken, and ultimately, by whose enduring light we open so fully to the living we've yet to do.

"As I read Inertia, I soon began to feel that I was hovering, not only above the sea, but above the storm of my "personal spiral," above my hurting. The great poet Hafiz expresses his desire to turn himself into a 'Forest / Herb,' and begs his reader 'Apply me to your / Wounds.' For me, Cope Tait's poetic telling of Inertia's story functioned in exactly this way, as a divine healing salve for my most tender and internal injuries. Intervals of 'crazy urgency' arising 'in my ribcage' as I identified with Jake, gave way to a quieter, more deeply held and ancient knowing, a profound sense of peace. Just as my airplane's wheels reached down to meet the runway, I'd gained 'traction.' Inertia had provided not only medicine for my heartache, but also momentum to my soul's journey. Moving forward, I'm agreeing again: 'What can I be but this thing that remains?'"

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