From Travel Write Sing
I had never heard my grandpa sob before. His shaking hands grasped for the first time a book of my grandmother’s selected poetry, Her Life On Paper: Poems of Survival. Most people will remember Super Bowl XLVIII as the day the Seahawks trounced a dismantled Bronco’s team. My grandpa will remember it as the day he finally held the book in his hands. “To hell with the game,” said my avid football fan grandpa, “this is more important.”
“This is just so wonderful,” he said, tears in his eyes, opening the book and nodding at the familiar titles within. These are his remembrance poems. He knows each poem intimately and it is through these poems that his wife lives on. He can tell you where my grandmother and he were when she wrote each verse.
One definition of love is when someone else’s passion becomes one’s own. Ever since my poet grandma, Patricia Mees Armstrong passed away in 2008; my grandpa has wanted to put together a collection of her poetry. All six of the books she published in her lifetime have since gone out of print.
Upon meeting my grandma at a “shoe dance” in Berkeley, where he attended school on the GI Bill, he lived a much more interesting life than he ever imagined he would. He returned from the Korean War with a Purple Heart, ready to settle down behind a white picket fence, marry the right woman, and start a family.
The right woman had a different plan. After he danced with her in a Berkeley dance hall, she took the lead, and in 50 years of marriage they lived in 53 different houses all over the world. The memory of their adventurous life together is immortalized in my grandma’s poetry.
While my grandma gained some notoriety and won some prestigious writing awards in her lifetime, her biggest publishing opportunities came too late. She spent much of the later part of her life battling various cancers. Doctors administered chemotherapy to destroy the physical invaders, but it was in her poetry where she found an emotional outlet for the battles raging within. Her poems are about every imaginable corner of life. Many deal with cancer and her decade long battle with it.
Six years after her death, our grandmother’s overriding passion—her poetry—is still my grandfather’s passion. His ambition in life was inseparable for hers. Ever since she passed away, he has plotted a way to republish her work. Few people, living in a nursing home, confined to a wheel chair, penniless from Medicaid, would be able make that happen. But our grandpa is a most persistent man. From his wheelchair and hospital bed, masterminded the publication of Her Life On Paper: Poems of Survival.
The collection, “Her Life On Paper” is now published as the second title of an indi-publishing company I founded in 2011, made possible through the CreateSpace print on demand publishing platform.
My family and I are under no illusions that a posthumous volume of poetry, published six years after a relatively obscure author’s death is as likely to sell as quickly as swampland occupied by the Taliban. But we love our grandpa, loved our grandma, and believe the artistic importance in her work transcends our own appreciation of it. Our grandma is no longer with us, but we can continue to carry on a conversation with her through her poetry.
The book can be purchased here from Amazon.com. Per my grandfather’s wishes, if the book, against the odds ends up selling, a portion of the profits will go to breast cancer research, which is his words is “the damned disease that killed my wife!” These are his remembrance poems, and he is thrilled to share those memories with you.