When I first recognized that my words were falling onto paper in poetic form, that is, when I started writing poems and calling them that, I felt like a surprised and vulnerable fledgling bird. And the voice that caught and lofted me further forwards was Rebecca del Rio’s.
Rebecca is an American-born poet, mother, and grandmother who divides her time between Northern California and Catalunya (Spain). We met, and I became familiar with her work, because we both attend a Zen meditation center that places creativity and compassion at the center of its practice.
Rebecca’s poetry has been published in literary journals in the United States, Canada, and Europe, and she holds degrees in both creative writing and public health. For over twenty-five years, she worked as an investigator in the Superior Court in Sonoma County, California, and she has also been deeply involved in social work and public health projects in Guatemala. Her extensive work and travel have opened her eyes to multiple histories, and to global suffering.
Rebecca writes poems determined to walk in the dark with beauty. “To awaken here,” she writes at the close of her poem “Auschwitz-Birkenau,”
Is to know one’s
Darkness, and not
Turning from it, see that light.
She questions unashamedly (“Who am I / in this enormous evil?”). She can dwell in the large dilemmas (“When there’s not enough to eat… we wander… We step into occupied / territory, call it our own…”) and capture small moments in crystals of specificity (“Begin with tools: a hammer, / a hoe. A moment under gathering / clouds…”). She made it clear to me that a poet is served by being observant in so many ways—watching our dreams, reading the newspapers, listening to the small, routine habits of speech (“…we say, as a way / to soothe our separate souls, / ‘We’re under the same moon.’ / Why not the same sun?”). But most of all she woke me up to the alive-ness of poems themselves.
In “Poems Are Trying To Write Me,” Rebecca is chased by poems, beseeched by them, each one with an impish child’s face like a “rising moon, / grinning.” She can’t turn away:
They dream me, they think in me,
they step on my heels as I walk,
they tug on my sleeves.
I read these lines and knew that feeling. And knew that this was what I wanted to do in my poetry: create that feeling of recognition, of pleasure, of real life, even in metaphor, even in disorientation, repulsion, confusion. I wanted to learn to walk the line between singular vision and civic awareness, through attention to language, emotion, and craft.
Rebecca’s poems have helped me pay attention to my own creative imps and babies, walk into my own dark questions, and listen to my own voice. I am deeply grateful for hers. -- Amy Elizabeth Robinson.