scaling the summit with doraine bennett

#17 in the Poetry Potluck Series, celebrating National Poetry Month 2012.

Whenever I see Doraine Bennett’s wonderful blog photo at Dori Reads, in her cool hat and that wonderful “Ta-Da!” expression on her face, I feel like giving her a standing ovation. “Taking the stage” to make others happy is a great way to approach life in general, and Doraine’s heartfelt, insightful posts are such a joy to read.

Though she wears many hats in her busy life as reader, editor, bookseller and writer of fiction, nonfiction and poetry, I’m especially pleased to be able to shine the spotlight today on Dori’s talent as a poet. On a Poetry Friday back in February, I read her beautiful poem, “What My Mother Taught Me,” and knew I just had to invite her to join the Potluck.

The poem she’s sharing today will resonate with anyone who’s ever experienced the fear and trepidation of meeting a new challenge. That’s pretty much all of us, right? But writers, especially, will know exactly what Doraine is talking about. Scaling a mountain is an apt metaphor for writing in general. Even if there are others to cheer you on, it’s a journey you ultimately have to take alone, often stumbling around in the dark until you find the right path. Oh, but when you finally reach the summit, what a view!

Dori's hiked to this outcrop at Satulah, climbing beneath 12-foot high laurel and rhododendron.

Doraine: I wrote this poem about five years ago. It’s unpublished, but I like it a lot. Maybe because there is a place attached to its composition—a lovely mountain cabin in the Appalachians where my husband and I spent a lot of time. Maybe because it puts into words the terror I sometimes feel when trying to get words on paper, before I know exactly where I’m going, before I know how to get there.

Dori's favorite mountain cabin.

The Lump in My Throat
by Doraine Bennett

Stranded on the descent of Satulah,
lost between beginning and end,
I brood over stones beneath my feet,
dreading darkness.
The cold spreads across my chest,
drips down my arms,
to water nettle, burdock, bull thistle
grown over patches of clay.
I search the canopy for a shaft of light,
signaling open space,
or signs of a trail forged by another,
one more certain of his end.

I breathe slowly,
ignore the snags of greenbriar at my ankles,
the gnats settled in my eyes,
force myself to follow the trampled patch of galax
until the trees break apart.
There, on an island of rock,
I am still.
A red-tailed hawk skims the current beneath my feet.
Shadows creep across the basin
and I know —
there are no words for this,
and no way down but to scale the cliff.

Copyright © 2012 Doraine Bennett. All rights reserved.

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I don’t really like cooking much, though I think maybe there was a time I did. I’m best at last minute resourcefulness. Since I’m not a morning person, my best working hours are from late morning until about seven or eight at night. So I’m forever getting lost in what I’m doing only to discover it’s past dinnertime and I haven’t even thought about what to cook. Hence, I’m very good at combining whatever is in the pantry and/or refrigerator and delivering a decent meal in short order, even if it’s late.

Easy Quiche

Ingredients:

Deep dish piecrust

1-1 ½ cups of something chopped (8 oz. pkg. of thawed chopped broccoli, large can of salmon, mixed vegetables, leftover veggies and/or meat, or whatever you find in your pantry or fridge)

½ – 1 cup of cheese (depending on how much you have or how much cheesy you want it)

3 eggs

1 cup milk (cream, half and half, canned, coconut, almond. I’ve even used yogurt thinned with milk or water.)

Herbs/salt to taste (I use marjoram with broccoli, dill with salmon, Italian seasoning with mixed vegetables. Use your nose.)

Directions:

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

In a bowl, mix veggies/meat with cheese and herbs/salt. Spread evenly in piecrust.

In the same bowl, beat eggs lightly. Add milk and stir. Pour over mixture in piecrust.

Bake 45-50 minutes, until center feels firm or knife comes out clean.

**I usually make two at a time, since there are two piecrusts in the pack. Our favorites are a mix of one broccoli and one salmon.

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Doraine Bennett wears many hats in the writing/publishing world. She is the editor of the Infantry Bugler, a quarterly magazine for the National Infantry Association, where she has interviewed generals and photographed drones.

As a sales representative for Delaney Educational Enterprises, Doraine spends a lot of time in schools helping media specialists and literacy specialists find the books they need to help their students. She likes selling books almost as much as she likes reading and writing them. And it keeps her up to date on what books are being published for children in the educational market.

Doraine has written over 30 nonfiction books for children. Three new biographies (Frank Lloyd Wright, Laura Ingalls Wilder, and Mae Jemison) will be available in August from Rourke Publishing.

She has had poetry in Columbus State University’s Literary Journal, Authorme.com, Innisfree Poetry Journal, and the Birmingham Arts Journal.

Doraine and her husband Cliff live in Columbus, Georgia, in a little house with a creek in the back yard and lots of flowers.

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Previously: Menu/Giveaway/Door PrizesApril Pulley SayreMary QuattlebaumHelen FrostLinda AshmanGail Gerwin, Martha Calderaro, Kathi Appelt, Robyn Hood Black, Charles Waters, Adele Kenny, Linda Baie, Lesa Medley, Leslie Muir, Margarita Engle, Sondra Gash.

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Copyright © 2012 Jama Rattigan of Jama’s Alphabet Soup. All rights reserved.

31 thoughts on “scaling the summit with doraine bennett

  1. What a go-getter! Just looking at that cliff makes me afraid, much less climbing it. But I know exactly what she’s saying–going down is much harder. The specifics of Doraine’s poem–galax, greenbriar, red-tailed hawk–point out what I’m forever harping on: anchoring one’s work in Place. Wonderful poem, great post. I’m so enjoying this Poetry Potluck and will be sad to see it end.

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    1. Going down would definitely be harder, though I can’t see myself making it all the way up there to begin with. Doraine’s amazing.

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  2. Thanks, Candice. I, too, will miss these wonderful posts, but Jama always has something wonderful cooking. And just for clarity’s sake, the trail up to this cliff is not nearly so treacherous as this picture makes it seem. But the view from the top is breathtaking.

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  3. Doraine is quite a gal! She accomplishes SO MUCH and remains one of the gentlest most inspiring spirits I know. And I’ve just been reading a number of climbing books with my son… all the climbers warn that the descent is ALWAYS harder than the ascent. Love how your poems shows that, Doraine! Thanks Jama for showcasing an all around lovely person!

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    1. Thanks for coming, Irene, and for your sweet words.
      Honestly, I wouldn’t venture too near the edge of this cliff. The thought of climbing down it gives me shivers all over. Enjoy those stories!

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    2. Thanks for noshing with us today, Irene. Enjoy those books with your son. It’s been fun featuring Doraine and all of you guest poets this month.🙂

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  4. Doraine–Right now I’m tripping along, fumbling my way in the dark with a story I’ve been toying with for some time. Your poem captures that uncertainty with such eloquence. Love the sweeping imagery and crisp sensory details. Thanks for sharing!

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  5. Oh so nice to see lovely Dori’s photo on your post here, Jama. I too, enjoy visiting Dori’s blog every Friday and going through some of her favorites or original works.

    Dori, that poem resonated with me a little bit as I also struggle doing revisions on a manuscript that I have submitted for publication – you are so right in noting:
    “there are no words for this,
    and no way down but to scale the cliff.”

    I have only hiked one mountain in my life, Grouse Mountain in Vancouver. I have a feeling that it pales in comparison to that scary cliff that you have shared with us in the photo. WOW. Here’s to climbing more mountains and quick-fix-dinners.🙂

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    1. Scaling mountains is the perfect analogy for writing. Good luck with your revisions, Myra! Pack some cookies for your descent and nourish yourself with quiche once you’re on level ground again. Dori’s got me on a quiche kick. Have made two since she sent me her recipe🙂.

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    2. Myra, thanks so much. I have never been to Vancouver, but I’d love to see Grouse Mountain. I’m working on a book right now about the Kwakiutl Indians in that area. Good luck with your revisions. Find the steady foot holds and work your way through it. And I want to hear about it when it’s out and ready to read.

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  6. Enjoyed the hike with you this morning on the blog🙂 And now I have an idea of what to do with the leftover ham and too many eggs in my fridge!
    Thanks!
    Hugs, Jo

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    1. Dori’s recipe is perfect for those who profess an aversion to cooking. So easy if you use a frozen pie crust! And a great way to use up leftovers . . .

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  7. Beautiful poem and if I may, I will take it as a metaphor for many of life’s challenges, Dori. I have had a few lately, & love your final line “no way down but to scale the cliff”. And if I get to see a red-tail hawk in my view along the way I will feel blessed. I do enjoy seeing your post every week, Dori, & thank you Jama for telling all the hats that Dori wears. I didn’t know, or I hadn’t paid attention.

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    1. Dori is quite the multi-tasker! I admire her organizational skills and of course, who could resist that tip top stage presence?

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  8. Thanks, Jama, for featuring another SCBWI Southern Breezer we like to flaunt. Doraine is so very talented and generous (and organized – she does so many things well!) Wonderful poem, Doraine – I think it does speak to everyone whether they’ve literally or just figuratively had to go up, and back down, a steep slope.

    Re: “1-1 ½ cups of something chopped” – and some of your other “specifics,” you are absolutely my kinda cook. ;0)

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    1. You Southern Breezers have got it goin’ on!

      Like you, I like the free and easy versatility of Doraine’s recipe. I’d never thought of adding salmon before, so that’ll be next!

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  9. Oooh – that photo sent prickles up my arms! Not just the height but the thought of letting go of precious terra firma long enough to hold a camera, focus and snap! yikes! That adrenaline surge would definitely push me through any writer’s block!

    Thanks for sharing this neat post. Now I am hungry for quiche!

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    1. I know — that photo’s really something, isn’t it? The view’s spectacular but I can see myself being very nervous about being up so high. I can vouch for the quiche, though . . .

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