April 2024
Dee Cohen on Poetry
Dee Cohen

Mary Heyborne

For Sedona artist and writer Mary Heyborne, poetry is personal: “I write to communicate with myself.” She finds that writing out her thoughts and feelings helps her work through problems and appreciate experiences. “When I have something extraordinary going on in my life that stirs up my emotions, in either a positive or negative way, I instinctively want to analyze it and put it into words, as if I’m either solving a problem or celebrating a happening.”

Mary has published five books of poetry: Who'll Pick the Morning Rose?, Ephemerons, Words and Other Lovers, Connections, and Addendum. She is also an award-winning potter and, about 15 years ago, added ‘playwright’ to her resume, creating ten-minute plays staged in Sedona, Mesa, and Scottsdale.

Mary can trace the start of her writing back to early childhood, when every card she gave her mother included an original poem (her mother saved them all). She took college poetry classes, but didn't begin seriously writing for years. She saw strong writing in others before she wrote in earnest herself. “I think I have always appreciated really good writing — writing that utilizes a generous vocabulary and does it effortlessly. I am a slow reader, I like to taste every word. I have particularly always appreciated good poetry, and poetry in different styles.” She enjoys reading a wide range of poets, from the English Romantics, especially John Donne, to Sylvia Plath, TS Eliot, the Beats, and poetic songwriters such as Bob Dylan and Kris Kristofferson.

Like poetry, her love of clay started early. She began studying ceramics decades ago, taking workshops and master classes with world-famous potters. She’s exhibited and received awards in many juried shows, including several first-place awards in the Sedona Arts Center’s annual members show. Pottery draws from a deep well of creativity for her. “All of my senses respond to the lifelike qualities of clay, and are driven to explore its multidimensional possibilities. I’m excited by the opportunities for expression in form, texture, color and even sound. I hear songs in the clay when I work, and strive for a harmony of art and utility in the finished product.”

Mary has lived in many places in the US and Canada with her husband while raising their three sons. In 1984 she and her husband retired to Sedona, which they chose for its beauty and cultural/artistic community. Mary began showing her pottery at various galleries. “I soon realized I was spending too much time on my ceramics, at the expense of my writing, and cut back until I was only showing at Sedona Arts Center and had gained the balance between clay and words that felt right to me.” In 2006 she founded Poets Corner at the Sedona Arts Center, which featured readers from all over Arizona.

Mary’s themes are extensive, including poems about nature, art, love, life, friends, family and more. She is usually unaware of her focus until she sits down to write. “As soon as I put my lined yellow notepad on my lap and pick up my writing pen, the ideas flow.” She often turns to poetry to clarify her thoughts and emotions. “There have been many times in my life when I wanted to share something very personal with someone and could not do it until I put it in a poem.”

Although she enjoys expressing herself through both pottery and poetry, Mary feels that these expressions originate from diverse sources. “Words and clay seem to come from different parts of my being. While they are both creative outlets, it seems like I’m digging deeply inside me for words to express myself when I write. When I work on the wheel with clay, I’m releasing my control to a great degree and sharing the lead with another entity. I think my pottery influences my poetry more than the other way around.” Her poem “Potter and Pot” elaborates on the mutual relationship between her poetic words and the voices of her clay constructions. Although she derives great pleasure from pottery, she admits, “Don’t tell the clay this, but much as I enjoy our trysts, words are my first love.”


Potter and Pot

The living clay

Breathes strongly in my hands

In rhythm with my body as I wedge.

The clay exhales

Neath the heel of my palm

And breathes in as the spiral is raised.

I learned as a child

The seduction of clay —

It oozed through my naked toes

When in sensual abandon

I danced in the rain

Yielding to the wet earth’s embrace.

Now I round the living earth

And listen as I thump

To voices deep in the clay —

To murmurs and music

Heard centuries ago

By the potters of Omar’s day.

Then I move the rounded form

To our tryst on the wheel

Where, as partners impelled to create,

We surrender ourselves

To centrifugal force —

Each seeking that centered state.

A crescendo is stoked

In the heart of the clay

In our foreplay of whisper and touch

And erupts when the center

Is entered and drawn

Out and up in a joyous thrust.

Ah! I am not Keats

Nor you a Grecian urn,

But your beauty and truth must live on.

Child of the earth,

Born of my touch,

Taste the fire — feel eternity’s bond!

Your import to history

Will ever be hailed

While none shall remember my name,

And after I’m covered

With flesh of your flesh

You’ll tempt others to dance in the rain.

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