Paul Doiron here—
Being married to a writer requires patience, understanding, and a gentle acceptance of all the anxieties and neuroses that accompany the creation of literature.
I know this because I am married to one.
Here is Garrison Keillor reading the title poem on his “Writer’s Almanac” program (Keillor actually read three of Kristen’s poems on the radio this summer.) She is extremely talented, and I am in awe of her gifts.
For the longest time in our relationship, Kristen was the writer in the family. Booksellers and librarians regularly invited her to read her poems and sign her books. I wrote for publication at Down East, but no one asked me to read my articles aloud or sign copies of the magazine. I attended (nearly) all of Kristen’s readings, being certain to sit where she could see my encouraging face, not that she has ever needed my encouragement. Or even my criticism. She always shares her early drafts with me, but I am not a poet and have never been particularly helpful with my feedback. Mostly, I have been content to bask in her glow.
Now that I am writing and publishing novels, our marriage has entered a new phase. Kristen is the first reader of my manuscripts, and I will tell you that she is a tough critic (something every author needs). I am grateful for the ways she has improved my books. She loyally attends my own readings and signings now, just as I still do hers.
Recently, we did our first joint husband-and-wife literary event at the Camden Public Library. We alternated passages from my three novels with poems Kristen has written that reflect some of the same themes or settings. According to the people in the audience, the evening went swimmingly.
Kristen writes a daily haiku blog called “Book of Days.” Every day, she publishes a brief three-line haiku (Japanese poetry is one of her primary influences), and she explains in a short essay how she came to write the poem. Here is a recent entry that I particularly liked, since I am working on a novel set during the month of October and have been struggling to come up with unexpected ways of describing the landscape during this beautiful month:
Sparrows still linger in the fields and along the roadside. As I was driving today, sparrows scattered on either side of my car, their plumage blending perfectly with the sepias, ochres, and umbers of the weedy verge. They’re subtly gathering the season’s last fruits, the seeds of withering grasses and wildflowers. How close, this time of year, the convergence of beauty and mortality.
As my car passes,spray of late-season sparrows.A friend’s mother has died.
In another essay, she describes the view out our back window: “maple leaves edged with orange, back lawn a mosaic of colorful leaves across which a fat squirrel carries an acorn, and the river smoothly flowing past.”
What I find so ironic is that my books have been praised for their descriptions of the Maine landscape, but I live with a writer who is so much more expert than I am at capturing the beauty and brutality of nature. Maybe some day we will collaborate on a project, but for the time being, I find myself reading Kristen’s poems and wondering if I can secretly rip off her metaphors for my new book.