CELEBRATING AMERICAN SHE-POETS (33): Renee Robinson, Shadows of the Heart

Renee Robinson, American She-Poet and writer

“I find myself “Dancing With Cancer”, problem is…I can’t dance. I stumble, bumble, and get pulled along. To keep my sanity, (humor me), I write short stories, a journal, musings and poetry….just about anything goes.” Renee Robinson



I’ve spent some time recently in hospitals and specialty clinics.  It’s always heartening to witness how remarkably resilient some folks are, how they deal with their trials in good spirit. They remind me of one special person, a blogger and poet you might remember. With utter grace, she dealt with the fallout from a devastating disease. She was Renee Robinson.

A few years ago, I’m not sure why or how the impulse came to me, I suddenly had to see if Renee’s blog was still up. I discovered her WordPress domain had expired. Her other blog and Twitter account hadn’t seen posts since August 2014. It also appeared that no books were published after that date. Finally I searched for and found an obituary. Renee died in September 2014.

For about four years many of us watched this young woman produce a staggering amount of work, taking refuge in poetry as she struggled with metastatic colon cancer.

“Life is ever-changing. It is what we make of it. Though I have no control of when my life will end, I can paint my words out on a canvas. I can show my love for my family with each stroke.” 

shadows-of-the-heart-cover

Renee’s love of writing combined with the knowledge that her life was on the wane. In this last thing, she was only different from her readers in that she was no longer in denial and was using her time consciously to do what she wanted most to do and to leave behind her own special blessings.

Renee self-published several poetry collections. The one I selected to read some years ago was Shadows of the Heart, which is still on my Kindle. The operative word here is not “shadow,” it’s “heart” . . . a collection of poems from a big heart evolved from a deeply prolific rhizome of courage. In that book were the young shoots and the adventitious roots of an old soul.

Renee’s poetry was that of someone with a passion and talent for writing and not enough time on this earth to refine either. Having said that, the collection is notable for its unbearably naked emotion: pain, fear, remorse, courage, gratitude, and for the intense feelings arising out of her unshakable affection and appreciation for her husband.

In 2013 and 2014, Renee self-published a series of Captain Chemo books for children. According to Amazon, they’re in Amazon’s Top 100 in Children’s Book Sales. Brava, Renee! 

A magickal night
When death is life
And dark is light
Time stands still
Hail! The Samhain Night!
Two Souls, One Life

© 2013 Renee Robinson estate, Shadows of the Heart

Words © Jamie Dedes; Photo credits (portrait and cover art), ©Renee Robinson estate


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Poet and writer, I was once columnist and associate editor of a regional employment publication. I currently run this site, The Poet by Day, an information hub for poets and writers. I am the managing editor of The BeZine published by The Bardo Group Beguines (originally The Bardo Group), a virtual arts collective I founded.  I am a weekly contributor to Beguine Again, a site showcasing spiritual writers. My work is featured in a variety of publications and on sites, including: Levure littéraure, Ramingo’s PorchVita Brevis Literature,Compass Rose, Connotation PressThe Bar None GroupSalamander CoveSecond LightI Am Not a Silent PoetMeta / Phor(e) /Play, and California Woman. My poetry was recently read by Northern California actor Richard Lingua for Poetry Woodshed, Belfast Community Radio. I was featured in a lengthy interview on the Creative Nexus Radio Show where I was dubbed “Poetry Champion.”


The BeZine: Waging the Peace, An Interfaith Exploration featuring Fr. Daniel Sormani, Rev. Benjamin Meyers, and the Venerable Bhikkhu Bodhi among others

“What if our religion was each other. If our practice was our life. If prayer, our words. What if the temple was the Earth. If forests were our church. If holy water–the rivers, lakes, and ocean. What if meditation was our relationships. If the teacher was life. If wisdom was self-knowledge. If love was the center of our being.” Ganga White, teacher and exponent of Yoga and founder of White Lotus, a Yoga center and retreat house in Santa Barbara, CA

“Every pair of eyes facing you has probably experienced something you could not endure.” Lucille Clifton

Monty Wheeler’s Debut Collection Has Arrived from Winter Goose Publishing

coffee-1Monty Wheeler’s collection of poems, The Many Shades of Dark,  was midwifed into the world by Winter Goose Publishing. An Arkansas poet, Monty has been blogging at Babbles since December 7, 2010.

Another one of our own (a poet-blogger, that is), Monty says he’s “naught but a little old feller living out his days in the foothills of the Ozark Mountains.” He says he likes,” traditional poetic forms, writing in meter and rhyme, and I strive to keep the art of formal verse alive.” In addition to poetry and writing, he enjoys fishing, hunting, and gardening … the later apparently being a new interest.

Of his blog, he tells us in the subtitle that we’ll find a “sampling of colloquial diction, informal verse in which lacks the convoluted similes and metaphors that too often fill the lines of verse . . . and who says that poetry can’t be just plain fun.”

TheManyShadesofDark_3D-881x1000In reading his book and going backward on his blog to sample a few of the poems he wrote when he started out, I was struck by three consistent characteristics: humanity, growth and honesty. Monty’s writing is genuine. A love of and knowledge of the Bible and his religion is clear in  many of the themes explored and often in the way he uses language and imagery. A man of the South, one also senses that his idioms, diction, and cadence have their roots as much in geography as they do in the Bible, “colloquial” as he says.

Some of his poems have the feel of horror literature, but essentially they deal with the traditional Christian realms of sin, retribution, redemption and salvation. The collection ends with a simple, upbeat beauty. If these themes and styles appeal to you, you will absolutely love The Many Shades of Dark. Clearly, Monty gave much thought to the poems selected for inclusion and the order in which they are delivered.

I was particularly moved by the first poem where Monty remembers his mother’s death and contemplates the pending death of his father. He writes in relatable heart-speak:

I sense the coming loss somehow;
And with his death will come the tears
Of which I’ve fought to hold for years.

Real men don’t cry . . . or so they lied;
And even when my mother died,
I raised the River Tears’ floodgate
And brought that lie a worthy mate.
And ere before Dad’s time has come,
The knowledge that I will succumb
Runs deep and icy cold in me
Like shards of ice that none should see.

Monty’s poems speak of illness and death, of struggling with issues of faith and hope, of tragedy and triumph, of environmental abuse, and of the …

Poet’s Sword

I’ve unkempt hair and wild-eyed stare;
On paper’s white and callused glare,
My pencil flies like winded kite,
And long into the night, I write!

I brave those murky catacombs,
Where long I’ve locked my tears in tombs,
Releasing each dark fear and fright.
And long into the night, I write.

It’s only through my words, you see
The monsters of my mind set free;
I thank my God the night’s finite!
And long into the night, I write.

The demons of my private Hell
And Satan’s imps I can’t dispel,
Will flee my pencil’s sword-like fight.
How long into the night, I write!

Monty closes the book as gracefully as we all hope to close our lives:

Love’s Day’s End

When sunset settles in your eyes at last,
And when your day is dark as Night’s black skies,
When naught is left ahead and Life has cast
You aside like yesterday’s old lies,
Remember me, remember our long past;

Leave not this world with heavy heart that cries.
And come the day of Death’s assured demand,
We’ll know we lived and loved as God had planned.

Bravo, Monty, and congratulations. Both my thumbs up on this one …

© 2013, cover art, Winter Goose Publishing, poems and portraits, Monty Wheeler, All rights reserved
© 2013, review, Jamie Dedes, All rights reserved