Friday, September 03, 2010

Remembering Jayne Pupek

(8 March 1962 - 30 August 2010)

This feels like a dastardly time to be dusting this blog space, but as someone wisely pointed out, not everyone is on Facebook. Hopefully, this isn't going against Jayne's wishes. I have a feeling that she didn't want tributes or other stuff that go with, well, being dead. I did get some wine to appease her—ahem—spirit, just in case....

I remember the first time I read Jayne's writing at Poetry-W, an internet writing workshop that works through e-mails, and how it made my brain sizzle. I was amazed to learn, using my megawatt nosiness, that she had only started writing poetry. Had the poetry world been a Greek myth, Jayne was Athena who sprang into being—fully formed and fully armed with pen and paper—from the head of Zeus.

That was, I think, over six or seven years ago (sorry, I have the memory of a big goldfish and lose count after five years). The important thing is we got out of the -W cave and got into funky online forums—where we ran laps in the 30-poems-for-30-days marathon, together with other masochistic poets (you know who you are, so don't pretend to be innocent!) In the meantime, we discovered that we were both happily mental and shared a healthy—or unhealthy, depending on how you look at it—love for banter, cursing, wine and recently, zombies and Freud.

After both appearing, innocently, in the same issue of an online bisexual journal, you'd probably expect "something" to happen. And "something" did. Last May, we rented a room at the Etherpad where we literally had a tapeworm together. The little bugger, nicknamed Cobra, is still making its choppy way through submission school. We had planned to work on more short fiction this summer, but things came up and we had to move our trysts to late autumn. I'm still sad that we would never have other mutant babies to sic to editors, but I'm also grateful for Jayne's gift of laughter and... our Cobra.

Yesterday I had fun going through our last bawdy e-mails from June—under the eerie subject header: Good Omens—where we were exchanging double YAYs because she finally found a cover she liked for her poetry collection, The Livelihood of Crows and I happened to be a huge fan of Pamela Hill's art. I'm really happy that she got to see the book in its final form.

I thought I'd post the old bio on her website, which I managed back in 2007, wherein she talked more about her life and her family. For some strange reason, I held on to it—and am glad that I did. Jayne's wonderful nature and vibrant personality just shines through her words.

I was born in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia in 1962. As the story goes, my mother went into labor during a March blizzard. My father was stationed in North Carolina, where he served as part of the military police. In his absence, my uncle drove my mother to the hospital. They barely made it through the snow drifts, but they did. I'm here, that's proof.

My only sibling, a brother, was born two years later. There would be no more children, as this was about the time my parents learned that I had a form of muscular dystrophy, a condition that would show up in any female children they produced. My childhood included a lot of things that weren't fun: wheelchairs, braces, surgeries, casts, sandbags, and so on. But I had a devoted family, books and animals, and didn't seem to need much else. That's still pretty much true.

With the exception of the Bible and The Farmer's Almanac, books were not valued much in my childhood home. Bedtime stories weren't part of evening rituals. No one wrote poems or spent time reading novels. If anyone in my family kept a diary, I never knew it. Despite their own lack of interest in books, my parents saw that reading was something I could do and enjoy. They gave me all the books I wanted and allowed me to read anything I chose. One of the advantages of growing up in a family of nonreaders was that no one censored what I read. To this day, my mother undoubtedly thinks Anais Nin's Little Birds is a story about sparrows. I'm not about to tell her differently.

While I read and wrote constantly, I didn't consider becoming a writer. In rural communities like the one where I grew up, writers were akin to astronauts, jugglers, and movie stars—sure, they existed, but no one in their right mind talked about becoming one. I went to college at age seventeen and majored in psychology, completing first my BS, and then my MA, both from James Madison University. I used all my electives to take English courses, continued to write, and published my first poem. I was given awards from both the English Department and Psychology Department.

During the next years, I worked with several populations, including battered women and the homeless mentally ill, but I found my niche as a therapist working with inmates. I relocated to Central Virginia to work with incarcerated sexual offenders. After several years working with adults, I transferred to a correctional center for juveniles, where I continued to specialize in the treatment of sexual offenders and their families.

Soon after leaving the Shenandoah Valley, I met and married my husband, a librarian. He is sane, stable, and a calming influence in my life. As I once heard Joyce Carol Oates say on C-Span, no one tells you that you're going to need somebody like that to write, but you do. If you don't have someone like that, go find them.

Ed and I are parents to three amazing children through adoption. Kaity was born in India and came home to us at age five. She was quite the feral child, as she was blind (born without eyes) and autistic; she had never spoken a word and understood no English, nor had she been potty-trained or taught how to use a spoon. Travis was also born in India and came home to us as an infant. He was actually our first child, adopted a year or so before Kaity. And finally, we adopted Ryan, an African American boy born in the United States. He was only five months old when he arrived.

When my children were older, I turned more and more attention to writing. I became more focused, and started submitting work to publishers, receiving a number of rejections, but also more acceptances than I expected. My work has appeared in numerous print and online journals and has twice been nominated for the Pushcart Prize. I'm the author of two poetry chapbooks, Primitive (Pudding House Press 2004) and Local Girls (Dead Mule, 2007). My first novel, Tomato Girl, is forthcoming from Algonquin Books in 2008. That same year, Forms of Intercession, my first full length collection of poems, will be published by Mayapple Press.

—Jayne Pupek (August 2007)

Here's to you Jayne!!

(photo courtesy of Didi Wood—from Jayne's doll poems on Press 1)