By Kristin Schultz
We all want to leave more than a headstone by which our family will remember us. What started as a legacy project for her grandchildren, local poet Constance “Connie” Clarke turned into a book of photography and poetry she aims to share with the community at large.
“Bending Branch” is a collection of eight poems accompanied by photographs that allude to wisdom that is evergreen — including verses about choices, putting others above ourselves and living fearlessly.
Clarke hails from Dover-Foxcroft, Maine, and is a retired teacher with an affinity for the outdoors.
“I’ve always loved nature,” Clarke said. She and her husband Alan built a cabin in the Adirondacks, and regularly spend weekends there both by themselves and with family.
It was at the cabin that Clarke was inspired to write the book and, in fact, composed all eight poems. While sitting on the porch, a thunderstorm rolled through the hills, unleashing rain and lightning. Clarke said she could feel the lightning’s electricity and watched the normally trickling creek fill with water.
Inspired to write, she put pen to paper and composed the poems in one sitting. She said she later revisited the manuscript a couple of times before being satisfied with the final product.
In addition to her words, Clarke’s daughters, Jennifer Clarke and Gretchen Clarke Marx, contributed photography to help illustrate and enhance Connie’s words. Clarke said working with her daughters felt “natural” because they had collaborated on non-literary projects before.
Clarke has written for years, mostly sharing her work among family, and comes from a line of writers. Though she has penned short stories, poetry is her passion.
“Poetry is deeper and more profound for me than short stories,” she said.
When she writes, she has to have time and space. Clarke starts by visualizing a topic, then writes words and comes up with a rhythm and flow of the words.
“Once I get an idea of the beat, then I craft the sentence,” Connie said.
After tweaking, she’s ready to share. For “Bending Branch” she wanted to share first with her grandchildren; she has five ranging in age from 4 to 12. They all live in Niskayuna. She read the book to her grandchildren, who she said approved and were proud of her.
Clarke wants her grandchildren to have more than a sense of pride.
“My hope for my grandchildren is that they continue to grow to be kind, compassionate, loving individuals. It is this that will allow them to live their lives fully, no matter what they choose to do in life. It is a beautiful experience to watch your grandchildren blossom and bloom to become all that they can be. I am so very proud of them,” she said.
The book is for more than kids, however. On Saturday, Nov. 18, from 1 to 2:30 p.m., Clarke will be signing copies of her book at Open Door Bookstore in Schenectady.
“I want people to just experience the book,” she said. “I want to invite the reader to pause, be quiet and listen to how it might speak to you.”