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Liza Hyatt publishes book of poetry

Providence Associate Liza Hyatt of Indianapolis recently published a book of poetry titled, “Under My Skin.” Below, Liza shares some insight into her book and how it evolved. The book may be purchased online by visiting here.

1.) You’ve been working on this manuscript since 2005. What was your original impetus for wanting to create this volume of work? How have you spiritually changed since starting this work?

When I first thought about compiling the book, I was the mother of a second grader in a marriage that was no longer working. I’d been feeling for some time that pieces of myself had slowly been draining away — through giving to others as a mother, wife, and therapist, and through not being heard or validated in my marriage. I’d always had the goal of being a published writer, and there was not enough time to tend to my creative life. I had reams of poems collected in folders on my bookshelves, gathering dust.

In fall of 2005, I decided to apply to the Indiana Arts Commission for an Individual Artist Grant that could help pay for some time off, away from home, in which to work on compiling a full-length manuscript of old and new poems about relationships in my life. There are always several months between turning in a grant application and final decisions being mailed out, so when the letter from the Arts Commission arrived in June of 2006, I had been through the long impending and, in the end, suddenly unfolding and unexpectedly crazy divorce, had moved twice (the second time unplanned) and had just barely finished unpacking boxes for the second time. I’d decided in the midst of that upheaval, that I had no energy to write and no desire to either. I didn’t even expect to get the grant from the Arts Commission. When the letter arrived, I thought it was a fundraising letter. When I found I had been given the grant, I decided that something larger than me (Providence!) did not want me to give up on a writing life even though, at that time, I wanted to.

Describing the spiritual change that unfolded since starting this work is best done by the poems themselves. In the six years since beginning the manuscript, I have regained my lost inner vitality and discovered even more of it than I’d ever tapped. I have learned to care for myself and my spiritual energy in an intentional and passionate way. I have come to experience Providence as something that collaborates with me and will not give up on me even when I doubt myself and life.

2.) What is “Under My Skin” about?

The description on the back of the book states that, “while the relationships, people, and places with the poems are complex yet ordinary, the primary relationship explored within these poems is a woman’s relationship to her own persistent and unremitting longing. She must hear, acknowledge and answer this longing — not to silence or subdue it — but to learn to become at home within it.”

I used to feel that something was wrong with me or my life because I felt such painful inner longing and that I needed to find an external solution so that I would come to a place in life where I didn’t long for anything. But I have found that longing is the movement of evolving, never-finished-becoming, sparks of God within me — as it is within all.

The words of John O’Donohue, when he speaks of belonging to our longing, resonante deeply with my spirituality. Poems are my creative process through which I learn to belong within the restless depths of Creation’s longing for life. Or, as one of the poems in the book says: “this longing/that needs to be kept open/to be full. …”

3.) What role did Providence spirituality play in your book?

Aside from keeping me from giving up on writing itself, as I’ve already described, Providence is in every poem in the book. I’ve always felt writing poetry to be a dialogue with God. I write some words, listen to them, listen for a response from within, add to, take away my own clutter from what has been written, listen some more, until the finished poem is full of a wisdom that is not my own but now somehow is within me, growing my spirit. Here are some lines from some of the poems which show Providence’s presence within the writing:

(from “Memories”)
This world so full of loss was
and is
far more sacred
than any world we ever wished for.

(from “Lullably” — a repeating refrain)
love holding love held by love

(from “Sudden Vistas”)
… as long as we can choose worship
over the way of the way-weary
every moment
will be holy …

4.) How much is the book and how can people buy it?

The book is $19. If you go to the publisher’s page about “Under My Skin” there will be links to the book being sold on Amazon, Barnes and Nobles, and Powell’s bookstore online.

I am also looking for locations around Indiana to provide readings at which I can sell and sign books. So any Providence Associate or Sister of Providence who is connected to an organization that could use a poetry writing workshop, or reading, please contact me at lizahyatt@sbcglobal.net or via my website.

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Connie McCammon

Connie McCammon worked in the communications office for the Sisters of Providence of Saint Mary-of-the-Woods.

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