Writer Cheryl J. Fish’s work was featured in issue #10 of Newtown Literary. Below, she discusses the inspiration for her poem, "Losses We Cover".
One of my poems published in Newtown Literary issue #10, "Losses We Cover", is from a manuscript, Crater & Tower. It features poems that juxtapose loss and recovery from September 11, 2001, with the giant eruption at Mount St. Helens Volcano in Washington state. 30 years after the peak exploded in 1980, I was a writer-in-residence during a gathering of scientists who measure change in species and habitats there every five years. After beginning to write about trauma that had been repressed (I live and work right near Ground Zero), witnessing the stark dead husks of majestic fir trees, a lake with bloated dead logs, and pieces of blasted mountain top that went on for miles, my 9/11 experience took on new resonance and enabled me to consider multiple stakeholders who live through "natural" and "man-made" disasters. I received grants to expand my research on the geology and people surrounding Mount St. Helens, which led me to incorporate folklore, oral history, spirituality, science, politics, and Native American perspectives into the poems. The poet Gary Snyder was one of my inspirations.
"Losses We Cover" is a list poem in two columns side-by-side that uses actual insurance policy material that was issued following the 1980 eruption at Mount St. Helens. In the other column is advice from an organization to help workers and residents get treatment for physical and psychic illnesses that may be troubling them 15 years after the attack on the World Trade Center. My intention is for the poem to be read both vertically and horizontally--the poem came out of an assignment from a workshop, led by the wonderful poet Elaine Equi.
I grew up in Flushing, and attended Flushing High where I played on the girls basketball team.