This is tough. I usually let other people describe me and then marvel at how well they know me—or don’t. Ha!
But here it goes, in no particular order as the thoughts come to me without censure: I’m creative. I’m relentless. I’m hard on myself. I’m an introvert who feels compelled to speak up, to teach, to write, and this need—drive—compulsion to use my voice for some purpose often gets me in trouble and breaks my heart. I’m easily wounded. I sweat a lot when I’m nervous. I’m sweating now. I work hard. I see both sides. I fight for people who are being hurt. I hate injustice and abuse. I dream of wide open spaces. I want to dance ’til I’m exhausted and run as fast as I can across a big field of grass that won’t hurt my bare feet. I regret my mistakes. I am curious to a fault. I would take classes in every subject if I could afford the cost of tuition. I relish deep talks and quiet moments where people are finally seen and heard and known.
I want to hear “well done” when I die. Before then, I want to know unforgettable love that changes who I am on a cellular level. Above all, I want to raise a son who is a peacemaker, who has what it takes, who loves deeply and makes a difference in the world.
Tell us more about your forthcoming poetry collection titled “Let Go of the Hands You Hold”?
Let Go of the Hands You Hold is my debut poetry collection, and it will be published by Mercer University Press in early 2021. Often called a “performance poet” because I write some pieces for the page and others for the stage, I’m hoping this book shows both sides of me. Topics in the collection include politics, faith, motherhood, love, illness, and death (in a myriad of forms). But the common theme is perhaps how to find one’s place in a disappointing world; learning to recognize when everything you’ve held onto—for comfort, for assurance, for hope, for meaning, etc.—falls painfully short, and how to let it all go without losing everything, including yourself, in the process.
When I write, I want each poem to be authentic, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they’re all autobiographical. The work has to read true and feel true, and I think these poems do. At least, I hope they do.
Would you like to contribute one of your recent poems for our #ForTheLoveofPoetry campaign?
I’ve selected a newer poem that hasn’t been published in a journal but will appear in my book, Let Go of the Hands You Hold. I wrote this poem right before anyone had heard of COVID-19, inspired by personal events in my own life and in the lives of family and friends. Still, I think this particular poem (“After the Diagnosis”) is the right one to share because it holds meaning for all of us and, fingers crossed, conveys the hope I’d want anyone to feel when faced with crushingly bad news.
After the Diagnosis By Marissa Glover
Don’t think of this as a dark night but as a pool in the backyard, where children once played, where grandkids learn to swim. Where you go alone sometimes just to cool off, relax. Calm winded-waves, the pale blue surface lit by relentless stars in a black sky.
Consider your body in the water- the way the water holds your weight and invites you under—like a return to the amniotic sac, where lungs don’t require air, where the dark feels like home, where every sound is soft music, even the machines, the whir of a doctor’s voice.
Don’t think of what might happen: how cells multiply in the dark, how the body rebels without warning. Instead, insist your body move beneath the deep—despite the ache, the burn of lungs that swell with fear.
Consider the stars a swimmer sees right before his lungs burst, right before he breaks the surface and swallows air instead of water, gulping salvation. Think of constellations, the way certain light shimmers across a pin-pricked sky.
#WhatMatters now more than ever? We’re living in a time where peace is hard to find, especially a true and lasting peace that isn’t built on acquiescence, where we might stay quiet and go along to get along. I think the divisions and strife between factions of people in America will get wider and wider, and the consequences of uncivil discourse will be dangerous to individuals in the short term and destructive to our nation in the long term. That's just my opinion, though, and we know how much that's worth! Frankly, I used to think finding "like minds" was vitally important to one's mental, emotional, and intellectual health, but now I think the mere goal of “like minds” can be unhealthy because, turns out, it's not too hard to find like minds. Echo chambers, confirmation bias, and conspiracy theories abound. #WhatMatters is finding the truth. Doing so is more difficult and vastly more important than finding like minds. It’s the truth—the truth spoken in love—that sets us free. #BeatTheBlues – what do you do for the sake of mental wellness? I’m not a mental health expert—and what works for one person might not work for another, but there are several activities that I’ve turned to in times of need. During a global pandemic, there are physical challenges surrounding work, parenting (plus distance learning for children), diet (where and how to get food), and restricted movement, but there have been a lot of varied emotions to sort through too, like sadness, confusion, anger, and worry or anxiety. For me, changing my physical experience helps change my mental state. If I can go outside, I go outside—to breathe for a few minutes, to sit and listen, to go for a walk. If I can’t go outside, I change rooms or change positions or change what I’m hearing, tasting, smelling, touching. These physical changes interrupt the brain and help me redirect my thoughts. I also focus on my breathing, which has a calming effect, and I pray and sing a lot. Out loud. I’m a terrible singer but filling my mouth with positive words and forcing my ears to hear them interrupts and replaces the silent, often negative dialogue that tends to play on loop in my head. What new activities have you added to your daily routine that are satisfying? For some people, keeping a strict daily routine and writing a to-do list helps them. In the past, that process has always worked for me, too. But these days, when the world and everything I know as “normal” has turned upside down, it’s just not working for me. Instead, I try to forgive myself for not having a routine, for having no two days that are alike. In the search for peace, I’ve relaxed school hours for the kiddos and have done the same with bedtime. We sleep when we’re tired; we play games when we’re bored; we tell somebody when we’re sad. The old rules don’t apply—and that’s been strange for me, as a well-known and self-professed rule follower. We do what we must to stay healthy and sane and, as much as possible, to help others do the same. Two new activities: 1- I try to walk my street once a day, with the challenge to see things I’ve not noticed before or hear sounds I’ve not heard before. 2- I sit outside on the driveway or on the back porch until the sun goes down each night. These active and passive activities are solely about getting fresh air and fresh perspective. The single new activity that has satisfied me the most is reading from Martin Luther King’s A Knock at Midnight each day. King’s collection of sermons has challenged me (and hopefully changed me) in important ways. King’s reminders to love and hope have helped anchor me at a time when I’ve been tempted to hate and despair. Any advice on how to keep motivated and focused? One thing that’s helped me is to remember that “this too shall pass,” whatever “this” might be. And to think of how I can help somebody else who is hurting. But different things work for different people, so my only advice is to find what works for you and to go easy on yourself (yes, even if you don’t stick with something very long). I realize that “go easy on yourself” is easier to say than to do, so it helps to think of yourself as your very favorite human. What would you tell your best friend? How would you treat the person (or animal) in your life you love most? If you would be kind to them, offering them encouraging words time and again, do the same for yourself. You deserve this simple kindness. And always, always, always, seek professional help when your world goes too dark to see a healthy way out. Have you come across any new writers or poets while in quarantine? Twitter can be a dark and lonely place, but it also has its perks—like discovering new writers and poets all the time. Also, as a co-editor for Orange Blossom Review, I’ve been reading a ton of work by folks I didn’t know, as the staff made selections for our summer issue. There are too many people to name here, but the issue is due to be released on June 15 if you want to check it out. I’ve also been reading for The Lascaux Review Prize in Poetry and being able to read stellar submissions for these two journals has been a welcome pleasure during these trying times. So far in quarantine, I’ve not had the time or brain space to read “just for fun” as much as I’d want to, but I’ve managed to sit with two (very different) books of poetry that have affected me deeply. I’d recommend them both: No Brother, This Storm by Jack B. Bedell, and Ways We Vanish by Todd Dillard. What’s your hope for the weeks and months ahead? My immediate goal is to finish my work obligations and service projects on time and with excellence, as well as for distance learning to finish strong, so that we can rest. Long-term goals involve writing and publishing and creating new curriculum. I’m currently working on a poetry chapbook titled Box Office Gospel. The poems in this book set popular “clips” from television and film or ancient biblical texts in a current landscape, hoping that hearing a familiar story in an unfamiliar way will offer insight into our daily existence. My short-term hope is to find a peace, a personal grounding, deep within that “does not alter when it alteration finds” (to borrow a line from Shakespeare). And my long-term prayer is that everyone be healthy, safe, and sane—the world over—and for our nations’ leaders to have the wisdom and strength to make ethical decisions for the good of all. Is there a word you’ve heard over and over in the past few weeks that you like? Shalom. I’ve heard it over and over because I’ve been trying to learn Hebrew, and I think this particular word is lovely. What it means (peace), of course, and the way the sound of the word itself pours over me like a warm oil. I like words that can be used as greeting or farewell, like Namaste, and also carry a deeper meaning than merely hello or goodbye.
Marissa Glover teaches writing, literature, and humanities courses at Saint Leo University. She is also the founder and host of the Friday Night Open Mic event series, which seeks to foster a creative community that promotes positive change by showcasing artistic talent and adding beauty to the world. She is also the co-editor of Orange Blossom Review and a senior editor at The Lascaux Review.
Marissa’s creative work appears in Rust + Moth, SWWIM Every Day, Okay Donkey, and Whale Road Review, among other journals. Her debut poetry collection, Let Go of the Hands You Hold, is forthcoming from Mercer University Press in 2021. Marissa’s professional, academic, and creative writing has appeared in numerous online and print publications, but her best work is on her parents’ refrigerator. You can learn more about Marissa here.