Angela Kelsey

Tell the Story

Wonder Woman Hilda Raz

Filed in Stories, voices :: March 22, 2012

I am very happy to post today’s Women’s History Month Nest-Making guest post by Bridget Pilloud, to (and for) whom I am grateful for so many things, not the least of which is her introducing me to Hilda Raz and her poetry.  Please do click the links and read the poems.

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Many women have formed me. Many,  I don’t even know the names of them.

They’re the subtle hands behind books and inventions and television shows. They’re the women who first sailed boats, who first went into business, who wrote when all of their peers were men. And further back, the ones who loved ritual, who worshipped divine energy, who created the child who created the child who created the child that created many generations that finally created me.

Most are un-named, unknown, only appreciated in the abstract.

With the exception of the women in my family, the woman who had had the greatest impact on me is Hilda Raz.

She was my poetry professor, twenty years ago, at the University of Nebraska.

She was fierce. She spoke with absolute authority all of the time. She was so sure of her own voice, and talent and contribution.

And yet, when you opened her poetry book, you saw love, wistfulness, a person questioning everything, a person experiencing transition after transition, not exactly caught, but only allowed to transcend only after she’d squeezed every bit of understanding from a situation.

She seemed like a woman caught in a current, mostly keeping her head above water, occasionally raising her hands to wave or juggle or point in a direction.

She asked me once what I wanted to do with my life. I told her I wanted to be a chef. She asked Have you considered being a poet?   I had not. I had wanted to be a poet, but had no idea I was good enough. She was the first professional that saw talent in me, that respected and admired me. She absolutely did not coddle me.

I didn’t become a poet, but I am a writer and the work that I do, as an intuitive, takes the same kind of bravery as poetry.

The biggest gift she gave me was showing me how a person could face despair and get through it by the way of words.

Hilda had been diagnosed with cancer. It was breast cancer and ovarian cancer. Her odds were not good. She felt the despair that we somehow feel immune from, that we imagine happening to others, but not us.  The diagnosis that happens to other people was hers.

One late night, as she white-knuckled her way through her cancer, she decided to create a list called: What is Good .  It turned into a poem, which turned into a book, and she ultimately beat cancer. She’s still alive 25 years later.

She told this story to her poetry class at a time when I was ready to check out of life. I wanted this life to stop. I was tired. I was done. And I didn’t think life was going to get any better.  Her story gave me pause. She had been given a terminal diagnosis, and she fought to stay.

And then, several months later, she saved my life with her words again. I write about that story on my blog.  I wanted to kill myself and she gave me the exact words I needed to stay alive, and to never consider suicide again.

What Hilda Raz taught me was that even if I had never thought of myself as an authority, one day, I might grow into it. And this place of authority won’t happen because I’ve lived my life perfectly, or lived a life of ease.

She taught me that even if I never thought of myself having a clear voice and something to say, I might find myself in a place where I do.

She taught me that difficult times, transitions we do not choose, somehow have a way of making us better and, in turn, happier.

She taught me that excellent strong women aren’t that way because they’ve never faced hardship or failure, but because they have, perhaps many times, from the very beginning of their lives.

Hilda was the first poet who showed me the link between an outward, curious focus, and a commitment to my life. She showed me how outward curiosity and commitment make all the difference.

I want to share two of her poems with you. I don’t have the rights or permission to copy them, but I found them online, so you can enjoy them. I hope that you do.

Day-Old Bargain: http://www.poetryfoundation.org/poem/180268

Wonder Woman’s Rules of the Road: http://www.poetrynet.org/month/archive/raz/woman.html

I don’t think that Hilda  (or any woman, for that matter) knows how much she has impacted others. I hope she has an inkling of it, at least.

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Bridget Pilloud is an intuitive consultant, a healer, a writer and a teacher. She works with people to help them enact positive change in their lives. She writes at The Intuitive Bridge  and at Chez Bridget.

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Looking for more Nest-Making posts? They’re here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here.

Filed in Stories, voices