Arra Lynn Ross is the author of Seedlip and Sweet Apple (Milkweed Editions) which follows the life of the 19 th century Shaker, Mother Ann Lee. Poems and essays have also appeared in The Iowa Review, Prairie Schooner, Hayden’s Ferry, Tupelo Quarterly, Alimentum, Spoon River Poetry Review, Yamassee, Linebreak, Verse Daily, and in the Academy of American Poets Poem-a- Day Series. Born on a rural commune in Minnesota, she attended Macalester College, the University of Nebraska-Lincoln (Ph.D), and now teaches creative writing at Saginaw Valley State University in Saginaw, Michigan, where she runs the Voices in the Valley Reading Series. Along with her husband and son, she lives in a drafty old house on a bend of the Pine River.
I’m currently working on two conterminous projects, which employ similar syntactic, rhythmic choices within a tight syllabic structure, drawing on John Berryman’s long seminal poem Homage to Mistress Bradstreet. “The Magdalene Tower” uses fragments of The Gospel of Mary to examine the relationship between compassion and judgment. While Mary from Magdala has been reshaped over time for specific theological and political reasons, my work draws inspiration from the gaps in our knowledge of her; the gaps allow for the emergence of story, but I’m becoming chary of creating story in the absence of true knowledge. As a shrouded mythic figure, Mary offers deep examination into how we approach gaps (in our knowledge of others, for example) – with compassion or with judgment. As a historic figure, she offers the lineaments of the daily mundane, the lived flaws of allhuman life. In contrast, “The Day of the Child” takes inspiration from Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s injunction in Aurora Leigh: “. . . this is living art,/ Which thus presents and thus records true life.” I’m trying to look unflinchingly at my son (now nine) and accurately record the strange experience of motherhood. This poem draws in current events as a frame of questioning, understanding, and response. I may also use the time to turn the compost heap of my Freyja manuscript, for which I immersed myself in archeology’s cracked artifacts and walked many pre-historic labyrinths.
In terms of what I’m looking for in this momentary community: Three years ago I grew morning glories. My mother told me they grew, and self seeded, every year, by her grandmother’s front porch. I started them inside early to be sure they’d bloom. Outside, I built supports from cut limbs. After the last frost, I moved the two lanky vines and twined them around the limbs. A strong wind came and broke one of the supports, and I didn’t get around to fixing it. How vastly different the two vines became. The one with supports flourished, branching vine upon vine and thickened bud upon bud, while the other, unsupported (in the same soil, with the same amount of rain and sun), was stunted, small budded. I am hoping to find, at Dickenson House, among other writers, a place thatsupports morning glories.