I was born on Halloween outside New York City to a progressive political and artistic family with roots in England and Scotland. My mother was a poet and artist, my father a professor of philosophy. My parents had met at a lecture of Auden's. Our house was different from anyone else's I knew, packed with Daddy's 40,000 books on philosophy and religion and Mummy's poetry and dollmaking studios. There were five children in the household. And, in spite of the culture and the intellectual excitement, there was much pain.
My safe spaces were the inside of a forsythia bush, the roots of a gnarly maple. I created worlds within my worlds. And then I became a spiritual pilgrim at the age of six, when my parents took my siblings and me on a mutli-continental camping trip that lasted over a year, living in a Volkswagen bus and visiting religious and philosophical power spots across Europe and the Middle East. That year I absorbed the sounds of so many languages—French, Arabic, Turkish, Greek— and learned to understand myself and my own language as other. After returning to the U.S., I curtsied when introduced to adults, spoke with a quasi-English accent, and ran away in terror from the third-grade meeting about joining the Brownies.
But my third-grade best friend David Wasow, who I would later learn was schizophrenic and the grandson of environmental visionary Adolf Murie, inspired me to start writing poems. I published my first one at age nine, and poetry became my primary mode of experience. Real life happened every summer in the north woods of Maine where I was free to write, run wild and barefoot in woods and field and shore, and seed the permanent passion for reading with Tasha Tudor, Edward Eager, Eleanor Estes, E. Nesbit, T.H. White, in our primitive cabin on Moosehead Lake.
At twelve, my life changed abruptly. I was sexually molested by an uncle and forbidden to talk about it. Adolescence was a storm of promiscuity and tears—shot through with spiritual searching, consciousness altering drugs, and adventures in friendship, literature, art, music, and, always, poetry and nature. With my wild older sister I roamed New York, sleeping with men twenty years my senior yet always finding the innocence and power at the heart of it all, knowing in my bones that the demeaning messages what our culture was teaching me about female sexuality was only a small part of the real story of women's power.
Washed up on the shores of Yale to absorb myself for four years in a self-prescribed deep training as a poet, I began to find some footing on the earth again. But my real journey had not yet even begun. After graduation, hitchhiking to Africa with my best friend the painter Alix Bacon, I took datura with some French friends, not knowing that this plant is so toxic it can cause delirium, death and repeated flashback "return trips." Living in New York soon after during the first of a series of flashbacks, I fell into a terrifying abyss. While performing my first book of poetry The Encyclopedia of Scotland, I began what would become a decades-long process of seeking and healing to uncover the deeper roots of what was wrong in my soul.
And this journey has turned out to be the journey of my life and, in many ways, of my poetry. It has brought me onto a path of spiritual seeking, political awareness, and commitment to do whatever I can to encourage our connection with ourselves, the earth, and each other.d I discovered paganism in San Francisco in 1990 and became a fully-empowered witch in 1999. My path has connected me with the power of the divine feminine and nature-centered spirituality, reminded me of the urgent importance of matriarchal culture, and grounded my life's work in the importance of rhythmic language as a life-changing force .
There have been magnificent and challenging experiences in the thirty-five years since then. Moving to Houston, earning an M.A. in verse drama with Ntozake Shange as my mentor, marrying my husband Glen at the Rothko Chapel. Living in San Francisco, being a TA for Adrienne Rich, knowing Mayumi Oda, and having Diane Middlebrook as my Ph.D mentor. Staying loyal to my Muse through thick and thin, including never losing trust during the times when the tide is out. Following the trail from another datura flashback through the beautiful healing ways of yoga, acupuncture, shamanism, and earth-centered spirituality. Reclaiming friendships with old friends and nurturing new. Attachment parenting and raising two phenomenal kids. Teaching delightful students all over the country and creating a community that made literary history at the Stonecoast low-residency program. Learning the ways of herbs and the earth. And always poetry, poetry, and now writing prose as well. I'm grateful to have had this journey, I'm grateful to my readers and fans for your support, and I send all my love to you with each word I write!