Historias: Stories of Survival

Rachael Ikins’ new poetry collection:

Not so many years ago, my mother saw an ad for art lessons in our 
local newspaper. Perplexed as to what unique gift to find for me for 
Christmas, she called me to ask would I be interested in art classes.

I had been creating pen and ink art trading cards for several years, coming out of decades of belief I could not draw. I said, ” Yes.”
When classes began, the teacher who had survived the loss of her husband to cancer when she was only a young mom with 2 toddlers, one day made a comment that has stuck with me: ” It is not enough to survive. You must thrive.”
Life is, without doubt, about loss. These poems and stories in this collection talk about loss of all kinds. They share with us how important it is to make good choices after the loss and how to put one foot in front of the other when your heart is broken.
I am thankful for the many teachers who influenced me in the creation of this book principal among them poet Patricia Smith and fiction and memoirist 
Ethel Rohan, both of whom I met in the castle in Lismore, Ireland a year ago. Both Ethel and Patricia offered a unique direction to travel. “Find the thing in your mind that is a wall over which you would never climb, the thing you would never write about…now write it.” 
At the end of a weeklong workshop with them, I read ” 40 Years Later, the Slumber Party” from this collection to the assembled audience of Pultizer prize winning authors of all genres, publishers, agents and students and Irish staff from the castle. I never would have had the courage to read it if not for Ethel and Patricia.
This summer past reknowned poet and novelist, Marge Piercy advised me to slow down, revise, and to submit, submit. She gave me the courage to pull out of storage poetry I never would’ve dared read aloud anywhere let alone at
Wellfleet Public Library to a packed house. The result of all my summer revisions and submissions has astonished me.
Most recently I had the honor of introducing my 8th grade English teacher, 
Elizabeth Patton, a fine poet in her own right at a reading. The spring of my 14 th year, she read the poem I was reworking over my shoulder one day and said, ” You are a poet.” 
They say ” Those who can do and those who can’t teach.” Couldn’t be more ignorant or wrong. Those who can, teach, pay it forward, and they do and do and do. They stand up and celebrate their students. If they are all lucky, student and teacher go on to become friends. 
I must also give a nod to my 4th year college Spanish professor who was a native of Argentina. I wrote poetry in every language I spoke or studied and so it was only logical to bring him my Spanish poetry. His support and joy resulted in the pieces I chose for this book. A young woman reader from Colombia wrote me in recent years when several were published: ” I feel like you know MY life.”
I can’t think of a better thing for a poet to hear.
So, I invite you to travel the paths within these pages, and to watch how the people in the stories face their losses and what happens next. Climb the wall you would never dare and find out what is on the other side. Thrive.


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