Endowed in perpetuity by the Glenna Luschei Fund for Excellence

Contributor Spotlight on Mari L'Esperance

by Dan Froid

In an interview with Matthew Thorburn, Mari L’Esperance notes, “When writing, image almost always comes first. Images represent the earth’s body and ground us in the physical world. By the time an image makes its way into a poem, it’s been simmering internally for a good, long while.” Often dreamlike, L’Esperance’s poems are full of striking images, sometimes tenebrous, sometimes disarming. A poet, writer, editor, and practicing psychotherapist, Mari L’Esperance is also the winner of the 2007 Prairie Schooner Book Prize in Poetry. Her book, The Darkened Temple arose, as she says in the same interview, “out of urgency—of a deep need to make sense, or attempt to make sense, of an upending, painful, and bewildering experience.” “Grief Is Deep Green” demonstrates both her stunning images and a sense or urgency:

In the season of roubai, nothing answers.

New leaves sprout along the sapling’s
wet branches, tiny wings of hope—

Two spades make a hole for planting.

We bury the roots with a poem folded twice
and ladle water over tamped earth.

The garden fills with rain and distances.

Perhaps this is how it ends—little ceremony,
the lost mother permitted to return home.

Grief is deep green and carries a sharp scent.
Memory and rain are like nothing that keeps.

She disappeared in the season of roubai.

Read the rest of the poem, along with four others from the book, here.

The same qualities that describe L’Esperance’s work might also apply to the Japanese painter Fuyuko Matsui. L’Esperance’s “Anju, from the Far World” is an ekphrastic sequence written in response to Matsui’s work. Read the poem here, and then get a glimpse of the paintings themselves as L’Esperance reads the poem, here.

L’Esperance maintains an active website, where you can find links to more poems and interviews, read about her books, and stay up-to-date on her recent activity. And don’t forget that submissions to Prairie Schooner’s annual book prize contest are now open. Find out more information about the prize, as well as about past winners like L’Esperance, on our website.