Madge McKeithen turned to poetry when her son, Issac, began to suffer from an incurable and debilitating illness, finding in it :
Companionship. A connection that felt true ...that helped her to cope with the pain of watching her son's condition degenerate, while doctors were unable even to make a diagnosis.
She tells the story of her son's illness and how it inspired her own book at Poets.org :
Ike left home for college in September 2001, four years into his illness. No longer living with the day to day of Ike’s illness, I began to write, and it was then, as Pablo Neruda puts it, that…Poetry arrived / in search of me. I became a poetry addict - collecting, consuming, ripping poems out of magazines, buying slender volumes that would fit in my pocket or pocketbook, stashing them in loose-leaf notebooks, on shelves, stacking them on the floor. In the midst of all this grief, I had fallen in love. With words. Poems, especially. And just in time. ... Poems became almost all I could read. I tucked them inside the thick file of Ike’s medical records when we headed for more doctors. I read and reread them in waiting rooms and exam rooms and sometimes hid in them when the world I could touch was too much. Poems spoke to me and sometimes for me.McKeithan joined a writer's group and began to pen the meditations on her experience of reading poems which grew into a book called My Blue Peninsula, which takes its title from an Emily Dickinson poem .
Poet Billy Collins writes of the book:
Blue Peninsula is a sequence of meditations on poems not by a literary critic but by a mother who is fighting despair over her young son’s bewildering and protracted sickness. Madge McKeithen tries on these poems—ranging from John Clare to Diane Ackerman—like garments to fit the changing shape of her sorrows, and she holds onto each one to keep herself from falling into the well of grief. Here—let there be no doubt-- poetry makes something happen.Related Post:
Poetry and Healing (3/2/06)