Go Fish

Stephanie Hunt

So I went to this class last night… okay, it wasn’t a “class.” It was a small gathering of women sipping prosecco and savoring friendship, toasting creativity and celebrating a particularly gifted friend’s new business launch (more on that in a subsequent post). But as I sat among these ”high beam women,” as our hostess Susan described the gathered gals—each one bright in intellect and shiny of spirit—I realized that, in fact, I have been being schooled by many of them for many years now. They are artists, weavers, dancers, writers, and poets—renegade dames of innumerable talents. And last evening, being with them was yet another seminar in my continuing education course "Playing with Fire 101: What can happen if you dare to ignite and fuel your creative sparks." Or something like that.


Charleston native Barbara Hagerty was one of the luminous ladies gathered ’round last eve, a true teacher and role model for digging in and following a passion. A few years ago, Barbara, an accomplished nonfiction writer, threw herself whole-heartedly into poetry. She had a full-on midlife crisis affair with words, including daily dalliances and steamy writing sessions, and didn’t come up for air until she had written a poem a day for 365 days. Now she is celebrating the publication of her second book of poetry, Motherfish (Finishing Line Press, November 2012; pre-order it here).


Barbara has birthed herself as a poet, with all the patience, endurance, and hard labor that moms can appreciate. She gave into it, she worked it, and by doing so, has given us mesmerizing images, lovely rhythm, and nuance, the mystery and magic of language at play.


In Motherfish, Barbara writes of the work of nurturing and bringing forth, of exploring transitions, moving from one generation to the next.


“I have discovered that one’s obsessions in life effortlessly become one’s themes in poetry. I have never intentionally set out to compile poems around a theme; I simply discover (usually after I have spread them out of the floor) that a large number of them already coalesce around a theme,” she explains. ”The image of the fish to convey motherhood was chosen not only because I have a mother who swims daily (at age 85), but because the fish is the very embodiment of slipping from one shore to the next, one life to the next, one generation to the next, much as the passage of our lives—mother to daughter to as-yet-unborn daughter slips by in a series of mysterious, continuous undulations.”


The collection begins with this epigraph:

So, on which bank of the river

am I now, waking or dreaming?

Li-Young Lee (“Living with Her,” Behind My Eyes)



It was the summer of translations,

forcing nouns into undershirts,

knotting bibs around verbs.


On the coping,

lizards changed clothes,

ghostwrote their memoirs.


Under the umbrella’s

penumbra, I’d become

a very old child.


Mother breathed through gills,

swam golden loopholes

in the pool.


Her feet were footnotes

on my gloss.

She swam in cursive.


Clouds coined new clouds.

Fleet phrases

flew off the water’s shoulders.


Such hydraulics, freight

and displacement of text,

heavy lifting.


Flesh into ether,

her body’s strokes.

She wrote in invisible ink.


She made it look easy,


the deep, the rope, the ladder.