November 2021
Dee Cohen on Poetry
by
Dee Cohen

Janet A. Hopkins

For part-time Prescott resident Janet A. Hopkins, writing poetry “allows me to put words to my emotions. It paints a picture that weaves together feelings and visions.” She’s been drawn to creative writing since childhood. “I was a voracious reader, usually five to seven books a week, and I kept a diary from the age of 14. The process came naturally to me.” She wrote occasionally through high school and college, but put writing aside for most of her career. “I picked it up again after retiring and joining a small writing group in Prescott in the early 1990s.”

Janet A. Hopkins

Janet has written many nonfiction historical articles and spent a number of years as editor-in-chief of In Recovery Magazine. She recently began hosting a genealogy column in the Humboldt Historian. With two friends Janet established AZ Wordsmiths, a popular open mic for local writers that met monthly at the Elks Theatre. Although the pandemic forced the venue to close, they are hoping to restart the series next year. For the last two years, she’s also been working on a mystery series. “Learning a new genre has been challenging, but I love the imaginary world my mind has created.”

The natural world is a constant theme in Janet’s poetry. “I explore the interface of my emotions with the world around me. I love being outside and naturally feel the rhythm of poetry there.” Janet’s early years in Prescott on a ranch are also reflected in her poems. “I became a cowgirl of sorts. I had my own little ranch in Chino Valley with dogs, chickens, ducks, sheep and a few horses. It was a grand adventure!”

For Janet, lines of poetry can appear at any time or place. “They just pop into my head. Sometimes they start with an observation, other times they arrive whole-cloth. Sometimes I record them on my phone because I’m outside somewhere. I was once on a break from a poetry class at Yavapai College when an entire poem presented itself. I ran back to class and wrote it down so I wouldn’t forget it.”

Janet and her husband David winter in Florida. The rest of the time is spent in Prescott. Since retirement she writes quite a bit. “I have the luxury of writing all day, all the time,” but she concentrates on writing for the love of it. “I’ve never been one for wanting to make myself a professional writer. I don’t want the joy of it to be ruined by that pressure. I really just want to write, even if I’m the only one who enjoys it.”

About the featured poem she says, “I have walked the Skull Valley powerline road many times since moving to Prescott. This particular walk was just before leaving for Florida. David and I sat on a rock, remembering different parts of our lives as our dogs lay on the ground beside us. We both had a sense of melancholy. I wrote the poem when I got home.”

We climbed to a ridge and sat at the edge of nowhere. What a lovely way to capture the vastness of the vista in front of her! The poem immerses the reader in an early-winter scene and recollections of days past.

You can contact Janet at janet@fireskye.net.

Skull Valley

That winter-edged morning,

we walked the power line

to Moosley Spring.

Coatso n, then off, as we

warmed to the steep ascent.

Lines buzzed overhead.

The humming wires tuned memories

of other coffee-heated,

glove-warmed, frigid mornings

on this rock-ribbed trace.

We climbed to a ridge and sat

at the edge of nowhere,

high above the autumn-painted

vale, waiting as our dog and

the wilderness settled at our feet.

We spoke quietly of the people

we had known. The managers

of a ranch over there — the owners

of a house shimmering on a distant

mountain slope across the valley.

As the crumbling granite outcrop

cooled our backs, three black does

wandered in upwind. Suddenly,

heads up and tails flicking, they

melted into the chaparral.

Overhead, a contrail cut

the cold-frosted sky

with a silver blade,

Spilling frozen,

breathless air upon the earth.

We heard the bawling

of a distant calf and stood,

startled by the creature’s misery.

We turned, too chilled to stay,

and walked in silence to the car.

Dee Cohen is a Prescott poet and photographer. deecohen@cox.net.