Agave Magazine contributor Robin Boyd's poem The Siberian Flamingo represents a departure from the flora and fauna of New Hampshire that often appear in her works, but nevertheless fits seamlessly into her passion for exploring how human beings interact with and find meaning in their surroundings. Here we talk to Robin about the beauty of liminal spaces and her role in illuminating them.
AGAVE MAGAZINE: You have degrees in environmental education and creative writing. Which came first, and why did you then pursue the second?
ROBIN BOYD: My creative writing degree came first some 40 years ago. My environmental ed degree came 15 years later. I attended a field school, the Audubon Expedition Institute, where a learning community of 20 or so people--some students, some teachers--traveled North America for three semesters on a modified school bus studying environmental issues like logging, fishing, mining and farming to understand how these activities impact the environment and find ways to effect change through listening, leadership, problem-solving and finding consensus. It was the hardest thing I ever did and the most rewarding. It changed how I understand the world and how I live in it.
You say that your work "explores the edges where human and nonhuman worlds make contact and inform each other." What can we learn from these liminal spaces?
Edges are where the action is. It's where the I and thou come together in rich profusion. I think of the littoral zone, the place where ocean meets land, and where fish and fowl and mammal all come together to reproduce, interact and nourish each other. For the human and nonhuman worlds, the edge is where we meet and recognize our connections--where we observe, adapt and live in proximity to the other. The edge is where my cat met the coyote and it's where I come to understand that, ultimately, there is no I and thou, only a continuum of relationship.
What poets inspire you?
My favorite working poet is Jane Hirshfield. She's a gifted observer who discovers poetry in the most homely of subjects. I admire the layers of meaning she delivers in few words, an elegant spareness that reflects a lifetime of Buddhist meditation and study. And then, I would say Rilke is my other favorite poet. His poems are mystical yet reveal an uncanny insight into the quantum universe.
Ah, not to be cut off
Not through the slightest partition
Shut out from the law of the stars.
The inner - what is it?
If not intensified sky,
Hurled through with birds and deep
With the winds of homecoming.
(From Ahead of All Parting: The Selected Poetry and Prose of Rainer Maria Rilke)
The Siberian Flamingo has a more conversational tone than many of your other poems. Why did you use this particular technique?
I wrote The Siberian Flamingo as a parable for a friend, which is why the language is more conversational than lyrical. My friend was diagnosed with cancer for the second time in her life--the first time forty years ago and then again two years ago. It occurred to me to tell her the story of the Siberian flamingos as a way to remind her (and me) that miraculous things can happen once and sometimes twice in the same place.
What impact do you hope your poetry will have?
Writing is the only thing I know how to do. I'm not handy, or crafty. I'm not particularly social. So when I think about how I can have an impact on what matters--I hope that my poems can help to awaken others to the beauty and vitality of the delicate processes that sustain everything.