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Bardo of Becoming by Pat Williams Owen takes us on a journey through the pages of a decades-old journal, a worn address book, and old photos of ancestors, as she revisits the memories of youth. From the sad loss of the family dog to the heartwarming recollection of riding in the car with her father, there is something in each of these moments that every reader can relate to.
What Others Say About Bardo of Becoming
Bardo of Becoming is full of tender, questioning memories of a beloved father, a departed dog, a cherished partner—all of them gone now, leaving the writer with the small sensual details that make up a life; taste of cheese and crackers dissolving in the mouth, delicate scent of amaryllis, an ancient address book stuffed with post-it notes, all evidence of a life vibrantly lived, and living still in present time. In Owen's world the dead and the living rub shoulders, and the bardo of becoming is fresh as spring grass under a young girl's fingers, and always happening now.
The poems in Pat Owen's new collection of memorable poems Bardo of Becoming reveal a speaker who's spent a lifetime paying attention and working to understand the meanings of her own story. How difficult it is to tell the truth about the self, yet I find in these poems a staggering honesty. Upon reflection, the woman speaking in these beautifully image-rich poems is an early feminist. As an elder, she is fiercely independent and fiercely attached to the present, to the natural world, the plants and, fittingly, the birds, of her environment, and to the people and words and ideas she's loved and loves, fleeting, she knows, but of inestimable value. I hope these poems reach many.
The Bardo, according to Tibetan Buddhism, is the realm between death and rebirth. Pat Owens new poetry collection, Bardo of Becoming, contains the reflections of a mature woman on the people and events that shaped her life and an awareness that she, like those before her, will eventually fade from view. It is, in part, a memoir in verse beginning with the evocative lines, What were the songs my father whistled / under his breath, what drove his heartbeat? / Isn't that tune floating now in my bloodstream? These poems are the product of a keen mind that records its insights with a perceptiveness that is both lyrical and precise. Owen sees the Buddha in the mundane and takes the reader with her on her journey toward enlightenment.
Praise for Melva Sue Priddy's The Tillable Land:
“The Tillable Land is a heart-racing, heart-breaking lyric, a liberating coming of age for our stunted relationship to all that feeds us. I am changed by this book.”—Rebecca Gayle Howell, Author of American Purgatory and Render/An Apocalypse and Poetry Editor, Oxford American
“Melva Sue Priddy’s The Tillable Land is a double helix of a book. One strand is a story about a family’s life—dairy farming and growing tobacco, and also food for the table—beginning with an initial purchase of an unforgiving seventy-acre plot of land that had been deemed untillable. The other strand concerns the oldest daughter who, from a very young age, bears onerous responsibilities both inside and outside a house ruled by a father who believes that children—and women—should be seen and not heard. Because she ‘could not be silent’ as she matures, her life is marked by the ‘tingling numbness’ of this past. Water runs through this book: falling, flowing, and pooling, it turns manure and silt into slurry, washes off topsoil, threatens to burst pipes and hoses in freezing temperatures, opens sinkholes, and thins menstrual blood. Perhaps this is what throws into relief ‘In the Adjoining Field,’ a poem about fire: ‘You have to burn off all the grease, / girl,’ says a grandmother lighting a skillet hung with ‘barbwire’ on a maple; ‘It’s how you get it clean.’ It’s another metaphor for a book probing one woman’s legacy of land and family, as she moves from her child-self onward to being a grandmother herself. Robert Frost’s ‘The land was ours before we were the land’s’ is a line that maps the trajectory of Melva Sue Priddy’s teeming book. The Tillable Land, often not pretty, formally enacts a winding, unwinding, rewinding journey that leads one woman, buttressed by smarts and beauty, to salvage from memory a place written into her DNA.”—Debra Kang Dean, author of Totem: America
“‘The farm raged with run-down fences,’ Melva Sue Priddy tells us early on in The Tillable Land, and ‘the family had no such boundaries.’ The poet sets those boundaries now, by chronicling a childhood where her father required his small children to do work they had neither the size nor strength to perform. Fear adrenalized her, and at age five, she could drive a diesel tractor by standing on the pedals. She lived on ‘land that god clothed / with rocks’ where ‘[s]ome of those rocks [were her] bones.’ Priddy makes brilliant use of the repetitive, braiding form of the villanelle to convey the relentless cycles of farm work. But somehow, amid this punishing labor, ‘another god spoke with [her]…and words warm songed through [her] veins.’ She never let go of that singing, and now she offers it to us. The next-to-last poem in this stunning collection finds Priddy at the Garden Center where she tells us, ‘Today I get what I want.’ Hallelujah!”—George Ella Lyon, Kentucky Poet Laureate, 2015–2016, author of Back to the Light
Pat Owen went from the left brain world of legal publishing to the right brain of world of poetry. Her work has appeared in Gulf Stream Literary Magazine, Louisville Review and several anthologies. She was a finalist in the Atlantic Review International Poetry Competition. She was an award winner in the Chautauqua Writer’s Center 2020 Literary Arts Contest. The on-line Sheila-Na-Gig published her poem “Hawk” in its Summer 2021Edition. Her debut poetry collection, Crossing the Sky Bridge was published by Larkspur Press in 2016. Her second collection, Orion’s Belt at the End of the Drive was published by Accents Publishing in 2019 and her third book, Bardo of Becoming from Accents Publishing was released in 2022.
Melva Sue Priddy, an American poet, grew up working on her family’s dairy and tobacco farm in Hardin County, Kentucky. She received a BA from Berea College, an MEd from the University of Kentucky, and an MFA From Spalding University. Priddy taught English Language Arts and Creative Writing for twenty years. Her poems have been published in Appalachian Review, Lexington Poetry Month, Motes, and Still: the Journal, among other print and online publications. She lives in Winchester, Kentucky, with her husband, and together they own a small farm in White Mills, Kentucky. The Tillable Land is her debut book.
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"The Tillable Land is a heart-racing, heart-breaking lyric, a liberating coming of age for our stunted relationship to all that feeds us."-Rebecca Gayle Howell, Author of American Purgatory and Render/An Apocalypse and Poetry Editor, Oxford American
This book cannot be returned.
"The Bardo of Becoming is full of tender, questioning memories of a beloved father, a departed dog, a cherished partner-all of them gone now, leaving the writer with the small sensual details that make up a life; taste of cheese and crackers dissolving in the mouth, delicate scent of amaryllis, an ancient address book stuffed with post-it notes, all evidence of a life vibrantly lived, and livin