Green Stories, Green Dreams 7
An Interview with Poet Sarah G. Lilly
by Ieva Zadina, editor of Green Stories, Green Dreams
Ieva: Sarah, the three poems you gave us in GS,GD 6 all seem to me to evoke complex relationships of human beings within nature. Where did this interest and perspective spring from?
Sarah: I grew up in southern California. My Dad is a jazz musician, but I think his people and my mother’s were always tied to the land. My parents enjoyed camping together well into their eighties.
My mom and Dad picked apples together on their honeymoon to get enough money for a trip to the ocean, probably Whidbey Island, a favorite spot of theirs in Washington State.
We were frequent visitors to beautiful spots in southern California as I grew up, beaches, deserts and forested national parks. One of my favorite memories is of our Sunday morning “breakfast picnics.” We would get up, pack up the car and get in sleepy -eyed, and Dad would drive the family to Cleveland National Forest. There he would cook us bacon, eggs and pancakes over a wood fire. We would read the funnies, wade in a creek and explore the forest watching birds, squirrels and insects. Lovely!
Ieva: The breakfast picnics in the forest remind me of your other poems that connect food with your experience of nature. For example, “Breakfast at Dona Lidia’s,” where you drink in the nourishment of an orange, made sweet by the sun, carried by donkey cart, washed in pure water, served by a warm-hearted woman.
Sarah: Our church’s mission trip to Nicaragua in 2009 was one of the highlights of life so far. While there, I felt worlds away from our Brooklyn existence, but safe, warm and surrounded by wonderful people. The experience of living and working with people was life-changing. I will never forget the warmth they showed us, or how we worked side by side and how I became aware of the intimate relationship between labor, land and food.
Ieva: In another poem, “My brain is a cantaloupe that thinks it’s the Universe,” you use a fruit image for a darker thought – our tendency to think that we can influence and control things, with terrible consequences for the world.
Sarah: The cantaloupe here can be seen as a metaphor for the dangerous limitations of the brain when it thinks it is a complete sphere in itself.
Ieva: Yet you end the poem on a note of compassion: “…this cantaloupe feels remorse, guilt, shame and defeat at the / unintended consequences of its actions / or the infinite number of things / it could have done but failed to / Little cantaloupe you are but a traveler in this universe / wherever you go you are on a long road / with one destination, consumption.”
Sarah: Poetry can explore everything human, face anything; within nature and the Spirit our potential is almost limitless.
Ieva: You are a teacher as well as a poet and performer, an artist. What would you like to see in the future for the “green” education of children?
Sarah: I would love to see everyone more involved in growing things. I love the idea of a school curriculum based around a garden, where the children grow and harvest food that they prepare for their lunches. Meanwhile they could learn Math concepts by planning their crops and write poems and stories and nonfiction inspired by the garden and community issues. And of course they could learn social studies, starting with the histories of their neighborhoods. And don’t get me started about arts. I love arts most of all for the way they foster collaboration.
Ieva: Collaboration with nature as well as each other?
Sarah: Nature’s forms, rhythms, rhymes and reasons can teach us everything. All creativity is connected — maybe also destruction. Praise Mother Nature and also beware of her. Know her.
What are your Green Stories, Your Green Dreams?