My favorite poets are dream catchers, capturing fresh imagery and insights in words accessible to many readers.
Poetry belongs to everyone; it’s in the rhythm of our steps, the lyrics of our songs, and the electricity of our touch. My favorite poets are dream catchers, capturing fresh imagery and insights in words accessible to many readers. Terry Jude Miller, a digital information specialist, and Loretta Diane Walker, an elementary school music teacher, are two Texas poets that fit this description.
The Poetry Society of Texas has honored Terry Jude Miller on multiple occasions; his latest book, The Drawn Cat’s Dream (The Poetry Society of Texas), received the Catherine Case Lubbe Manuscript Prize in 2018. Generous in his support of fellow poets, Miller created the Texas Poets Podcast to celebrate the diverse landscapes of statewide literary artists.
Miller’s inspiration for The Drawn Cat’s Dream came from a sketch of his childhood home, which he hung above his writing desk. In this, his fourth poetry collection, he shares his youthful explorations on his family’s rice farm, “those hard and tender fields.” The titles of his poems—"The Curse of Careless Fathers,” “My Brother’s Workshop,” “French Twist” —reflect insights and clarity. The author doesn’t try to impress us with bloated language. About the necessary losses that come with aging, he speaks with specificity and rich imagery:
her brush waits silently on a vanity
bristles reach into the night
unbearable stillness falls upon the handle
like milkweed pollen
sadness weaves with broken hair
calls from the forest of memory
like a distant hound lost
among the trees
mirror fractured in spider web circles
reflects the thousand faces
of a broken man.
In "You Have to be this Tall," he says,
once you close the curtain
on your role as victim,
as suffering martyr
they give you access
to the roller coaster switch
you still can’t control
where the dips and climbs are
but you can manage, to some degree,
the speed with which you enter
Dr. Robin Davidson, Houston Poet Laureate 2015-2017, had this to say about The Drawn Cat’s Dream:
“It is in the poet’s deeply personal encounter with mortality that he pledges to live in the here-and-now where there is ‘no past/nor future,’ where he can celebrate human relationship and our kinship with all living things.”
Loretta Diane Walker, another favorite, has been nominated for multiple Pushcart Awards. The author of four poetry collections, Walker won the 2016 Phillis Wheatley Book Award for In This House and a Bluelight Press Book Award for Word Ghetto.
Of her work, former Texas Poet Laureate Alan Birkelbach says, “There are questions, there are always questions, but finally, she leads us to a satisfying reply to grief, an embrace into being temporarily and gloriously alive.” Perhaps the most all-encompassing uncertainty is in “Birds Break the Dam” when she asks, “What is this day trying to teach me?”
Grace is the single word I’d choose to describe Loretta Diane Walker and her work. One of the lovely things about Ode to My Mother’s Voice (Lamar University Literary Press) is how Walker quotes other poets, family, and friends. She often dedicates poems to them. In her section titled “Revelation,” Walker quotes her mother saying,
“I understand pain. I have had plenty of it.
No matter how dark life gets, keep your head up.
Change will come. Night always comes before morning.”
Walker lives in Odessa, Texas. The harsh beauty of West Texas infuses her writing. In “Tonight,” she says,
Look at this sky’s buffet of delicious stars!
Their champagne-light drips from a flute of darkness
Into the yawn of the scalped pasture.
Speaking of “Sacrifice,”
Perhaps this is faith—watching your hard labor fall,
Un-netted, into the unknown.
From her webpage, Walker expresses her belief that “kindness is a language in and of itself,” one she successfully speaks fluently. “She also believes when children speak, listen. There are treasures in the syntax of their innocence.”
In these days of social isolation, Miller and Walker offer readers much-needed clarity and comfort, the ability to transform the ordinary into extraordinary.
Dede Fox is the 2017-2022 Poet Laureate of Montgomery County, Texas. She mentors inmate writers as NEA/DOJ Artist-in-Residence at the Bryan Federal Prison Camp for Women, and she is active in Houston's Writers in the Schools program. The Treasure in the Tiny Blue Tin, her first novel, was listed in 2010 Best Jewish Books for Children and Teens. Her published poetry includes two books, Confessions of a Jewish Texan and Postcards Home. Her poem "Chapultepec Park: September 25, 1968," the catalyst for On Wings of Silence: Mexico ʼ68, her latest novel, won the Christina Sergeyevna Award at the Austin International Poetry Festival.