‘Second Sight’: A ‘soular’ vision through time

A newly published collection of poetry by June Campbell Rose and Stacie Smith
Wed, 05/06/2020 - 8:30am

Two women met by chance in 1967. Poets and artists both. And one April day in 2020 their first collection of poetry was published. And it’s titled, “Second Sight.”

During that Summer of Love, June Campbell (now Rose) decided to walk down to the East Boothbay Post Office with her firstborn son Nathan in tow. That same morning, Stacie Smith – new in town from Oregon – had made the same decision.

“She looked at Nathan and I and said she wanted to take our portrait,” Rose recalled. “She had her camera with her so I invited her up to where we were living, in the old Webster house on Church Street, and the picture was taken there.”

Rose and Smith spent that entire afternoon talking life, love, music and art – and poetry, that they both began writing at the age of 12. Both were visual artists – Smith’s medium: photography; and Rose’s fiber art, mixed media collage, and painting.

Four years later, Smith decided to head back to Oregon, and she and Rose stayed in touch. Poetry traveled from coast to coast over the next 49 years while they were busy raising their children. They each had three sons, and were working, playing, creating art and writing.

The decades passed. They shared their poetry by regular post and later by email. Rose said their communication slowed here and there as the years went by and then stopped for a time; daily life has a way of demanding our full attention.

And yet …

Rose’s poems were published over the years by the Portland Press Herald and Puddingstone Publications. In 2012, Rose and her artist husband Bob Rose co-wrote and illustrated "Message of the Owl,” a classical/whimsical story for all ages; June also self-published four small handmade volumes of poetry accompanied by her own artwork and that of other local artists, including son Nathan’s. Rose was also making art and had her own gallery, Above and Beyond, and at Boothbay Region Art Foundation.

Smith self-published her first collection of poetry, “Open Burning,” in 2016. This was followed by two more volumes:  “Meanwhile the Earth: Poems from Cougar Creek” in 2018 and “Real News” in 2019, both published by Shanti Arts in Brunswick.

Rose and Smith first talked in January 2017 about collaborating on a collection of their poetry.

“I’ve long wanted to share June's writing with the wider world, and this book allowed that to happen,” said Smith. “We both value poetry as a means of expressing the ineffable, and as a way to describe the mundane, beloved ordinary.”

Deciding what poems to include from the volumes written over the years was a bit daunting at the outset.

As Smith and Rose began emailing selections for the book, a conversation emerged, their voices represented by the poems themselves. A call and response. June said, “It’s like a conversation with poetry.”

Christine Cote at Shanti Arts Publishing could hear it. “The poems are wonderful and I am amazed at how well your voices work together. It says a lot about happenstance, the utter beauty of living in the moment and accepting what comes our way.”

For Smith, it was great fun. “It went hand in hand with the sequencing and flow of poems; one part of the process informed and clarified the other. I was guided by the resonances between June's poems and mine. I selected poems that exemplified those resonances.”

As an example, Smith said her poem “Playa Series X” is answered or echoed by Rose’s “Small Words.” “As I looked for, and found, those kinds of relationships between our poems, the book more or less composed itself,” said Smith.

“Playa Series X”: “There was something no one knew because it could not be said. That bothered me so I moved west lured by the myth of new beginnings. Mining for new words to say what can’t be said, I looked and looked, and didn’t find – but I found you, and where our paths converged new ways to try to say what can’t be said emerged.”

“Small Words”:“I’m for small words that have lost a voice – the tall hat, soft shoe, velvet kind, flattened out in trunks, adjusted to the times, in need of being found. Not for the dark or singing alone, their grace is grown by getting out and around again, as joy is easy between friends, power comes afresh: a surprise twist of timing – a sweet twirl of sequence – a flash of silk lining – and back comes that old song and dance of a new shining.”

In September 2019, Cote sent an email to Rose and Smith confirming Shanti Arts’ interest in publishing their project. “Second Sight” is composed of four groupings of 16 poems, two groupings by each woman. Each grouping opens with a visual – a photo of an almost make believe (but not!) image of a snow-covered garden in blues and whites contrasted with the bold color and intensity of a sunrise at Yaquina Bay open Smith’s sections; while Rose’s are paintings of the Olson House in Cushing made famous by Andrew Wyeth (and Christina).

Smith had planned to return to Maine for the book launch, but the coronavirus put the kibosh on that; however, consider these events postponed, not canceled! And no one has to wait for a copy of “Second Sight.” It is available online at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Shanti Arts Publishing.