I call this volume SOULSCAPES–a journey toward connection and meaning through imagery and words. As a poet, wanderer, and wonderer, I try through my work to make sense of the universe.
Thanks to adventuresome parents and a rich and tapestried childhood in France, India, and the United States, I was introduced to many ways of looking at the world.
Spiritually, I would call myself a seeker who admits, discovers, and ponders all gods. I learned growing up to be open to all aspects of faith: Hindu, Muslim, Jain, Buddhist, Christian, Jewish, Native American, and worldwide tribal beliefs.
I’ve steeped myself in research about many other areas of spiritual belief and practice: origin stories, spirit animals, tarot, witchcraft, the occult, past lives, lucid dreaming. As I am both a rational skeptic and a believer in things unexplainable by logic, poetry seems the perfect way to explore and love both the scientific fact-based world and the magical, mysterious unknown.
I see all beings as one with nature in the universe. Why would we be apart?
And what else is out there, in the far reaches of space? With recent developments never thought imaginable, like the James Webb Telescope and the Chandra X-Ray Observatory, we are compelled to open our eyes to new visions of the universe–the galaxies “beyond.” Perhaps my real religion is Education and Exploration.
I invite you to take this journey with me through SOULSCAPES, an exploration of the way we reach for godliness or soul in our lives and relations. May you consider and delight as I have in other ways of knowing.
Lee Woodman’s fifth poetry collection Soulscapes is a transformative journey for both speaker and reader. Anchored in beautiful formal movements—sonnets, pantoums, villanelles—and moving ekphrastic poems grounded in visual and musical art, Soulscapes offers readers a chance to ask deep questions and perhaps get closer to finding some answers. Here, Woodman crafts poems as spells and incantations. Her words highlight the sensual movement of the moon, tides, and even the self among varied worldly landscapes. These are poems filled with other voices, ghosts, past lives, and poetic influences. In one poem, Woodman writes “We break through the wallpaper, like a palimpsest, / to breathe and tell our histories,” and that is what the poems in this collection do. They breathe and break through, sing and paint images, and move through time in overlapping histories of humanity, nature, and spirituality.
—Emily Holland, editor of Poet Lore
In Lee Woodman’s poetry, humans, animals, goddesses, witches, ghosts, the moon, trees, and tarot cards all tell a story. “Mysteries prevail, miracles happen” in these poems, which explore death and reincarnation, extrasensory consciousness, personal relationships, and fascinating natural phenomena. Woodman clearly has conducted deep research and offers factual tidbits that buttress the reader’s sense of wonder. The metaphors are most striking: when the peacock sheds its splendid feathers and regrows them each year, a message is revealed: “Embrace your beauty, / show off your gifts, / heal once more.” The poet probes the different kinds of endings that unfold around us, whether it’s the withering of cherry blossoms or the death of an orca calf, with its mother in a heartrending act of grief. Indeed, Woodman declares, “I sense other ways of knowing,” and we are the fortunate beneficiaries of her penetrating, beautiful insights.
—Zeina Azzam, Poet Laureate of the City of Alexandria, Virginia
Sample Poems in SOULSCAPES
A Child Asks
What is God?
I think, not darkly,
God is death
If ashes are ashes
and dust is dust,
I go underground and rest.
There I am fertilized
by loam and water,
beckoned by life-to-be
When ready, I push up and
never knowing the hue.
the child who instinctively
knows azure is azure,
scarlet is scarlet, and
God is in the flower
She bids us wait,
wait for messages
from beyond the Veil. Wait.
All hands on the table, we sit
waiting— waiting for rotation—
after time, it wobbles
Tilts and turns
A levitating trumpet
helps Anna Lee amplify
voices as yet unheard
Before long, the temperature drops,
lights flash on and off,
a soft red glow remains around
the tall tarnished candlestick,
beads on the lampshade tremble
We hear insistent rapping
at the far wall
Spines prickle, adrenalin flows
through the tops of our hands,
and Anna Lee calls out
Mrs. Blanchette’s face pales,
her shoulders twitch,
as her elder son, a Civil War casualty,
murmurs in the darkness:
“Fret not, Mama, my brother was spared
He tells of bloody
leaves on the fields at Chancellorsville,
bodies dismembered, intestines bared,
his own breastbone shattered,
The trumpet, still in flotation,
accompanies Anna Lee
in conjuring Benjamin,
compounding their voices.
“Fear not, Mama, we will
His voice fades,
hers rustles away.
We let Benjamin go,
holding hands and swaying
in unison, all hands on the table.
Ghosts of the Dead
—inspired by Marvin Cone’s “The Appointed Room”
We can make ourselves visible through the wall now,
the movers have emptied the furniture, loaded the truck
The bedroom, with doors on three sides, is empty,
no non-believers sleep here anymore
Like a palimpsest, we break through the wallpaper
to breathe and tell our histories
All three doors are open, yet shadows cast do not correspond
with multiple light sources
Splashes of brightness throw attention to bunches
of our faces, neck to neck as in a choir
We could be interpreted as white sponge paint blobs
on light-blue walls
And we climb from floor to top of wall, then wrap
around the ceiling
Surely our people will arrive; we should hear footsteps
on the staircase in the hallway
We wait for the family reunion we’ve been dreaming of—
a tumble of youngsters, elders, cousins
A cacophony of footsteps begins. Children calling,
parents whispering about what they’ll find
Wil they be thrilled, comforted, or terrified to see
us specters? Shall we fade or stand strong?
Ghosts of the dead, we are in our bodies, but
not in this world
They don’t need to see us, but they do need to feel
And the living arrive. Young Daniel starts to sing
in clear tones,
“Power from whom all blessings flow; connect us
with the Gone we know…”
The room is suffused with vibration; sound waves
bound up the ceiling
and circle our heads, allow us to stretch our
flimsy limbs. They know we are
not demons, we are spirits reaching down with hearts
and open arms
Nightmares of former occupants that permeated our walls
Perhaps after the reunion ends, new tenants will choose
wallpaper with peaceful images,
Gulls flying high over the horizon, another layer
of palimpsest, capable of transparent contact
With relief we can return behind this scrim, knowing
there is no death, only otherworldly hope
He’s looking for someone to kill, said the couple who pulled alongside me on the road.
I was mesmerized by the turkey-sized bird who goaded, glared at me, warned trouble.
His beak says raptor, as they watched from closure. Standing near the broad field,
I turned stiff as a statue.
How still he was, assured of his presidency, his royal residence,
his acres of mixed-grass greenery, his sky-high tree-line not so far away
Yet like a dog when primed for attack, his odd ruff stood up
not on his black-feathered back, but puffing out from long-shank bird legs—
a swelling like flared dandelion fluff
And then, in his surety, off! What had seemed a leaden earth-bound body,
bright yellow and white markings, now was on airstream—
riding wild current, flaming red tail fanned
How he soared, then hovered in one place, looking for his rabbit.
At that moment I was a mouse-sized mammal, prayerful prey.
My stony head reverted to flesh; my chin tilted up as he picked the tallest tree in the grove to alight
We are all raptor and prey, but he is sure of what he is doing. I knelt to his gesture,
Mighty Red-Tail Hawk
At dusk, a muster of peafowl gathers in the courtyard—
Peahens perch high above in khejri trees,
Peacocks strut along pathways below,
lined with beds of golden dew-drops and hibiscus flowers.
We marvel at what seems to be a regal mating game,
fascinated as we watch from the polished
marble patio of the Oberoi Hotel in Jaipur.
The males rattle their shimmering metallic green feathers,
emitting lo-frequency sounds, twenty-six times a second.
Sensors in the female crests tune perfectly to these vibrations—
one willing peahen flutters, shakes, vibrates in unison,
and descends from her look-out.
She chooses the bird with the showiest fan, the most teal ocelli—
his oval eyespots— and advances.
The peacock mounts her, aligns his abdominal opening with hers,
sends in his seed.
And then he moves on.
National bird of India,
he proceeds with dignity and assurance.
Picking up his four-toed feet in a syncopated strut,
he surveys his premises, overlooks his territory.
Captured by his brilliant color, the striking iridescence,
we are blinded, yet compelled, like her.
The peahen doesn’t just see his trademark fan,
she feels him in her head.
Peacocks signal miracles can happen,
shedding their plumage every year after mating season.
A peacock knows it’s never too late to come alive again,
regrowing a train of greater glory and splendor—
a resurrection, almost a reincarnation.
His message rattles forward:
Embrace your beauty, show off your gifts, heal once more.
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