31 August 2013

upending the cart

Ten years ago, if someone had told me what I'd be doing this year, I would have laughed in their face. Or cried. Or both. But certainly not believed anything like this could happen to me in real life. Since January, it has been an ongoing series of amazing, life-changing, cart-upending moments, so much so that the only way to keep myself grounded throughout has been to remain focused on one event at a time; the cumulative whole has been overwhelming to consider.

The results are these. In January, I completed my MFA in Writing at Pacific University. In June, I was privileged to be the student speaker at the Pacific MFA commencement ceremonies. Then for the 2013-14 school year, I was accepted at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee into the PhD in Creative Writing program and additionally honored with a Chancellor's Award and a teaching assistantship.

So in August, I said fond and difficult farewells to my family, dear friends, and all the supportive communities of home, left my marketing career of 25-years, and moved to Milwaukee, WI for the next phase of my development that begins at UWM. More than a shift of geography, it is a fundamental re-direction of psyche and purpose.

And finally, on a deeply personal note, this summer I also met with my first-born daughter, whom I had relinquished for adoption 28 years ago when she was only 10-days old. It was a reunion that exceeded all imagined expectations for being so sweet and full of joy.

Once again, my life is changed forever.

I remain grateful for the opportunity.

 ~ Sherri

By Seamus Heaney

Between my finger and my thumb
The squat pen rests; snug as a gun.

Under my window, a clean rasping sound
When the spade sinks into gravelly ground:
My father, digging. I look down

Till his straining rump among the flowerbeds
Bends low, comes up twenty years away
Stooping in rhythm through potato drills
Where he was digging.

The coarse boot nestled on the lug, the shaft
Against the inside knee was levered firmly.
He rooted out tall tops, buried the bright edge deep
To scatter new potatoes that we picked,
Loving their cool hardness in our hands.

By God, the old man could handle a spade.
Just like his old man.

My grandfather cut more turf in a day
Than any other man on Toner’s bog.
Once I carried him milk in a bottle
Corked sloppily with paper. He straightened up
To drink it, then fell to right away
Nicking and slicing neatly, heaving sods
Over his shoulder, going down and down
For the good turf. Digging.

The cold smell of potato mould, the squelch and slap
Of soggy peat, the curt cuts of an edge
Through living roots awaken in my head.
But I’ve no spade to follow men like them.

Between my finger and my thumb
The squat pen rests.
I’ll dig with it.

01 July 2013

back to school

Your husband climbs Mt. Hood
but you have to work your
crummy job with the
manager who stares down
your shirt and shows you
pictures of his
penis from his phone
as if by accident.

Remember when you were
eleven and every Saturday 
you pedaled a little 
bicycle three miles out 
St. Claire to the cool 
metal stables near the 
sand dunes to ride that 
blind horse for
one hour?

Fearless it is then.

~ Sherri H. Hoffman

   MFA in Writing
   Pacific University
   Class of 2013

*Written for "Other Heroes" by Heidi Shuler, a Pass It On Poetry - This Book Is For You kickstarter project. The original version of this poem was added to the back of a numbered edition and left at Z Coffee in Longview, WA. May it gather many poems as it goes out into the world. You can read more about this project and Heidi's work at www.heidishuler.com.

26 May 2013

an amazing honor

Saturday, June 29, 2013

June Commencement
Pacific University 
Master of Fine Arts in Writing

4:00 p.m.
Forest Grove Campus
Taylor-Meade Performing Arts Center
McCready Hall
2014 Cedar Street
Forest Grove, OR 97116

Student Commencement speaker: Sherri H. Hoffman

Who knew? I am honored to have been selected and will do my best to speak for my class full of talented writers and poets. Many thanks to all who have lifted me up so that I might be here now.

~ Sherri

...and I always love a good excuse to post Eminem. ;-)