Meet DJ Gaskin

I’ve often been told, “You know some of the coolest people!” I do, and DJ is one of them. But we were connected before we even knew each other.

A little background. Several years ago I bought some journals from my friend and fellow poet Jonathan. Jonathan is also an artist and a friend of his had taken some of his old canvases and used them to make the covers for the journals.

Fast forward to 2018 when both Jonathan and I had poetry and art pieces in an exhibit of ekphrastic poetry – poetry inspired by pieces of art. Jonathan had used two pieces by his friend DJ. He told me DJ was also a poet and would be a great Feature Reader for Afternoon of Poetry and Prose, a monthly reading and open mike I help organize. So the invitation was sent and accepted. Over lunch DJ and I were talking about our mutual friend Jonathan, when she mentioned she’d made some journals for him from some of his old canvases. The journals I have! That afternoon DJ became one of the cool people I know.

Besides bookmaking, (I wish I could show you the unique books she creates), DJ works in mixed-media, and the beautiful cover of her first book of poetry, Of Crows & Superstitions, is one of her pieces.

Nature is a dominant theme throughout Of Crows & Superstitions, andDJ paints the poetry with a dream-like or mystical quality, as if the reader is viewing the image through a veil, or with the soft edges of a watercolor. There is movement in her language but also in the birds, water, and celestial bodies that weave in and out of her poems. When the poems speak of loss, sorrow, fear and other emotions that cause the heart to ache, there is an overlay of gentleness and compassion.

With DJ’s permission I’m sharing two of her poems. (Titles are bolded).

So here’s DJ!

1. Do you remember the first poem you ever wrote? How old were you? What was it about?

I’m not sure it was the very first, but the first poem I remember writing was about my father. I was 12 and my parents had just separated. The poem reflected on how much I missed him, comparing my love to the vastness of clouds. Not my finest literary achievement, but it was a start. My mother hated it. Not for its lack of refinement but because I had dared to write a poem to my dad and not her. She had kicked him out for good reason, she reminded me, and did not appreciate me glorifying him. I had placed the poem under the edge of a lamp before I went to sleep. Mom found it in the morning and was livid. This memory remained so vivid that much later – nearly 40 years – I wrote a poem about the writing and discovering of that little girl’s poem to her father. The results – “The Poet at 12,” a sonnet – was published in 2004 in the now-defunct journal Freefall.

2. If you could share a cup of coffee or tea, or lift a glass of wine with any poet, living or deceased, whom would it be?

I would love to have tea and blueberry muffins with Billy Collins. I love his sardonic humor and deadpan delivery when he reads his poems (if you have not heard him read “The Lanyard” you’ll thank me for sending you to YouTube to find it). I would not likely have any prepared questions for Billy. I just picture us hanging out taking poems apart and talking about our favorites. And I would tell him about my tabby cat, Billy, who is named for him. Lest you think me a stalker of sorts, I must tell you my other tabby cat is also named for a famous poet – one of long ago – the beloved Pablo Neruda. I would hope Mr. Collins would appreciate both of my poet-cats’ names.

How the Rain Wants

It’s a day that wants to cry, full weeping, chest swelling

with the fluid of breathing, to spill down over lonesome

spruces, evaporating lake. From morning’s arising

it moans, like a woman on the edge of a man waking.

The sky hovers, flaccid and heavy like a bird with a beakful

of meal unable to reach her hungry brood. The day

does not consent, refuses to lean clearly into clouds. Still

the sky swells. Holds its breath. Craves release. Tastes

metal in back of the throat where blue bursts

stillborn, the aching spills empty. The rain wants

into evening, sighs as sky submits to dark dry dusk,

too spent to even whisper tomorrow.

Only on Earth

There are no flying insects in heaven.

Beautiful as it is there, any flying creature

that small has no need of all that is found

there. And they are small enough to escape

through the loophole clouds’ slim separation.

There are no flying insects in hell.

Hellish as it is there, such a tiny airborne

being has no business with anyone

there, has never earned a need

for punishment, and is faster than fire.

There are flying insects only on earth,

where honey must be made and the black-

berry blossom must be pollinated,

and girls need the romance of butterflies,

and we all need the magic of damselflies.

How the Rain Wants first appeared in The Chesapeake Reader

Only on Earth first appeared in Iodine Poetry Journal

DJ Gaskin ~ Of Crows & Superstitions

Available through Main Street Rag Publishing Co.

And to make it easy, here is the link to The Lanyard by Billy Collins

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