This past year—December of 2017—my fifth book was published by Albatross Press of Chicago. Hunger Feast is a full collection of my poems with a wonderful, uplifting Introduction written by Cheryl Savageau, Abenaki poet, teacher and author of Dirt Road Home and Mother/Land. Here’s an excerpt from her Introduction:
Azure’s poems suggest that it is desire itself that leads us through the process of becoming ourselves, through feasts that nourish, and feasts that disappoint, hungers sated and enflamed. Hunger Feast—it seems a duality, one leading to the other—yet in Azure’s hands it becomes also sacred feast, a feast of desire, that erotic fire that comes from the stars and runs through us, that hunger for life and connection that urges us towards a continual becoming.
The cover art, a watercolor by my childhood friend, Dorene (Rene) Gugliemino of Cromwell, Connecticut, is titled “Following the Light,” a phrase which also introduces the Spider Poems section in Hunger Feast. When I first came across this painting, I knew I had to have it my home. My oldest granddaughter has informed me that she wants to inherit Rene’s painting!
It’s been twelve years since I moved to Southeastern Illinois from Connecticut. There have been so many changes, foremost among them the grandchildren all grown. Two are in college, and two in high school – soon to graduate. Soon, too, my son Michael will pass a year’s mark since his wife, Kelly, only 43 years, died from breast cancer. Our family’s lives have been shaken with Kelley’s passing—altered in ways not yet fully understood. The daily demands of living keep us moving on, absorbing grief, enduring new ways of being and seeing.
Likewise, my dear brother, Fred Hatfield, known as Dr. Squat in the world of sport, suffered an accidental death May 15. As the oldest sister in a family of five other sisters and a brother, I am having a hard time absorbing his absence in our lives. I used to protect him when we were little kids on what used to be Coast Guard Avenue in West Springfield, Massachusetts. He left behind his wife, four children, five grandchildren, and multitudes of students, athletes and professional colleagues throughout the world.
Gone also is my love of seventeen years, Terry Thorson. I will always remember and be grateful for how he enabled my writing, letting me work undisturbed or travel when necessary. A poem in Hunger Feast was inspired by Terry:
Green Bay Hunger Feast
I met him at a northern hunger feast—
hair all white, shirt a lumberjack plaid.
The steaks are good tonight; here, have a piece.
I declined. Being from the east,
seafood was what I craved, Atlantic crab.
That’s how I met him—at the hunger feast.
I dreamed of crab cakes with tomato Caprese
along with a dry Chardonnay like Seaglass.
But the steaks are good tonight; here, have a piece.
Oh, glorious evening—hunger eased.
Oh, glory days of scratch-cooked foods, glad
to have met him at that hunger feast.
Desire so satisfied with long-lasting feasts,
not even the Packers invaded our pad.
The steaks were good that night; we each had a piece.
He tried the remoulade with crab, enjoyed quiet peace
of evening jazz and all the meals with friends we had.
I’m glad I met him at the hunger feast
when he offered me steaks that night, and peace.
Marie Battiste, renowned Mi’kmaw educator from the University of Saskatchewan in Saskatoon, Canada, and Kimberly Blaeser, Anishinaabe educator at the University of Wisconsin in Milwaukee, provided wonderful endorsements in the blurbs that are included on the back cover of Hunger Feast. Their kind words mean the world to me and I am so very thankful for their support.
Also, on the back cover of Hunger Feast is another watercolor created by my friend Tina Sparks, Pueblo and Hunka Lakota. It is a portrait of me in my Mi’kmaw regalia. Tina painted this as a project for her studio art while a student at the American Institute of Art in Santa Fe. We had conversations for about three years before she attempted to paint my image. What clinched it all was a photograph Terry took of me in front of my garden one sunny fall day. There are many reasons this artistic rendition satisfies me. I look contented. My New England Asters are prominent, and my hands are big and bony. And the designs on my skirt are definitely Wabanaki! It’s the me I am, and Grandmother Spider is close by! Do you see her?