Even in her poetry, Gail Comorat tends to lean toward narratives. She is finishing a manuscript, “Capable of Flight,” that comprises poems of grief (the deaths of her brother, each of her parents and her first husband) and is leavened by a section of love poems inspired by family, childhood friends and her second husband.
“I write about these subjects,” she says, “because I cannot let the stories go.”
Comorat, 66, had been a fiction writer until 2007, when a teacher at the Academy of Lifelong Learning told her she had the heart of a poet. She first earned a fellowship in 2011, when the Division named her an emerging artist in poetry.
She attends weekly critiques at the Rehoboth Art League with the Coastal Writers group. In 2012, she began teaching “Experiments in Poetry” classes for Rehoboth Beach Writers’ Guild. That has fostered an increased intensity in her study of line breaks and endings. She and Ethan Joella, her co-teacher, are editing a chapbook of poems that emerged from class assignments.
“What I love most about teaching,” says Comorat, of Lewes, “is how much I myself learn by researching and compiling packets for each course. I focus on contemporary writers I admire, poet laureates, and poets published by Autumn House because I feel their list is most comprehensive. In the last two years, I’ve challenged myself to write form poems never tackled before: centos, pantoums, and sweetelles.”
Summer of Ladybugs (2011)
The first summer, after your father died,
a swarm of ladybugs—not pure divinity
red, but a color closer to dried blood—
clustered on the blackberry bushes
he’d seeded at the edge of our lawn.
The bugs rusted the leaves and stems,
stained the ground beneath. You and I
sat in the damp grass, mother and daughter
worrying over what had happened, wondering
at its meaning, our bare knees touching.
This plague of beetles, the strange storms
descending into our world—
She’s working this year on completing a chapbook about her brother’s struggle with addiction and his 1999 suicide. Comorat also will participate in the Catamaran Writers’ Conference in Pebble Beach, California this fall.
The grant, Comorat says, will help cover costs for her travels across the country – she has enrolled in Poets on the Coast, a September writing retreat in LaConnor, Wash., with Kelli Russell Agodon and Susan Rich, poets she greatly admires – and for her residencies.
Comorat plans to team with Judy Catterton (a 2015 emerging artist in creative nonfiction) for a reading in October at Dogfish Head in Rehoboth. She also will read her poetry at Studio 37 in Milford on April 18 and hopes to do a joint reading with the 2015 fellowship recipients Russ Reece and Barbara Gray, both recognized for their fiction.
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