Life is full of surprises . . . including this unexpected, delightful new volume of poetry: Skylandia! As we eagerly approached the much-anticipated release of Billionaire Buddha, we had an opportunity to feature an afterword from a much-respected researcher and policy advocate in the field of wealth and income inequality. In the spirit of including this insightful message in the First Edition, we decided to delay the release until September 15th. (You can pre-order a copy here.) In the meantime, the wellspring of creativity never stops, and I am happy to share this new offering, Skylandia: Farm Poetry from Maine, inspired from my days on an organic farm located at the tip of Northern Maine.
Skylandia, as I say in my new volume of poetry, is a place “located at the crossroads of myth and reality”. It represents the realms of dreams and visions, the fantasies of children and the quiet hopes of adults. Skylandia began as a name for a series of stories my grandfather wrote on his typewriter for his grandchildren. In this looking-glass Kingdom of Skylandia, my cousins, siblings, and I tamed wyverns and rescued popover pans in time for annual festivals, pulled new princess-cousins out of lakes, and sailed on tugboats to study astronomy at far-off observatories. Each child had a counterpart in the mythic land that pulled out inner courage or creativity, and sometimes excelled in subjects that frustrated us in real-life. For instance, I was shy as a child, and my grandfather dubbed me the Lady Rivera, thinker of deep thoughts . . . and also gave me a talent for mathematics that could only be called mythological, given my performance in math class.
When I was thirteen, my family decided to start an organic farm in Northern Maine. We named the farm Skylandia, and began the muddy, sweaty effort of wrestling possibility from the realms of myths and dreams. We rototilled our first acre of farmland and planted potatoes. Our first harvest was stored in our garage. Over the first decade of farming, we would eventually cultivate ten acres of potatoes, along with another 30 acres in cover crop rotation, as well as tend raspberries and vegetables for our farm stand.
Today, wildness climbs the hills as the journey of our family has taken us far from that soil. This year, it seems many of our orbits are returning north, and new projects on the farm are underway. The time of release and transformation has revealed much about the land. Black bears ramble out of the back woods down to the raspberry slopes and get into mischief in the farm stand when no one is looking.
The bald eagles fly from beaver pond in the cedar swamp down to the St. John River looking for fish. The meadow grasses rise tall and fragrant. The ecology shares beauties I never noticed as a hardworking teenager. My long sojourn through Vermont, California, and New Mexico has taught me to experience this land more deeply. Droughts, deserts, and dryness sensitized me to the gift of streams, ponds, humidity, and water that falls from the sky once a week.
Skylandia: Farm Poetry from Maine is a collection of reflections seen through the lens of daughter looking backward, forward, inward, and outward all at once. It is a series of brief, potent, literary portraits of those years. Since the time of harvesting potatoes and swatting at black flies, I’ve lived as a dancer, choreographer, actress, bike messenger, playwright, producer, rock climber, tea pourer, spiritual practitioner, nonviolent activist, novelist, radio host, essayist, social media coordinator, public speaker, and workshop presenter. The poems grow from the fertile ground of these experiences, giving rise to fresh insights and perspectives. They are humorous, sparse, beautiful, and thought provoking.
The taste of pine forests and summer meadows should linger on your tongue as you read the words. You may find elements of your own journey reaching into the mythic and pulling dreams into hardscrabble reality.
It is an honor to share these personal stories with you, and may the words bring you joy.