For some, it was struggling to cope with the symptoms of a loved one with Alzheimer’s. For others, it was painful drug and alcohol addiction. The one thing they had in common was the universal hardship of life. These are the stories Blaine resident Lynn Hansen-Blizzard explores in her recently published book of poems.
Hansen-Blizzard, a poet laureate for the Zion Bible Institute in East Providence, Rhode Island, and religion columnist for the former Blaine Banner, has used her experience as an addictions counselor, teacher and work with the homeless through her missionary work to channel painful stories into poetry.
She will read excerpts and sign copies of her book at 1:30 p.m. Saturday, October 24 at Loomis Hall. She will also be there Sunday, October 25 for the International Artist Day event. The signing will feature a performance by musical guest Land Of Deborah, who will perform the song “I Remember Love,” which is based on one of Hansen-Blizzard’s poems about Alzheimer’s disease.
What’s the basic premise of the book and what inspired you?
It’s the darker side of life but it is life, it’s about Alzheimer’s, addictions, divorce, child abuse. It’s from the kids I taught, the drug addicts I worked with as an addictions counselor, the people I counseled through church ministry, some of the customers where I work now at Security Mail.
Back in the 1950s, Dr. Bob Pierce founded World Vision in order to help Korean orphans. His motto for World Vision was “let my heart be broken with the things that broke the heart of God.” As a young person, I prayed that prayer myself. One of the best ways to describe this book is that God took me at my word and this book is a result of a breaking heart. So it’s definitely a God thing, I take no credit for it, but I have the ability to sense things people are feeling by being around them and that’s enabled me to be able to express their thoughts and feelings. In other words, I want to be a voice for those who no longer have a voice.
How has your background shaped your work?
I was an addictions counselor for many years for the state of Maryland and I’ve done a lot of counseling at various levels. So this book is a result of the observations and the counseling and living and hanging out with some of the people who have experienced this sort of stuff and it just sort of come out in the form of poems. The first poem I wrote was about a couple, where the wife had Alzheimer’s. I knew them before she had the disease and the first poem was written about her and the second poem was about her husband who had to go through it with her. When I read it to him he teared up and he hugged me and so I knew I was on the right path.
It sounds like writing this book has been a cathartic experience.
Absolutely. I experienced it as I wrote it. It’s also been interesting hearing the feedback. One guy said he read it and he didn’t cry but then he read it aloud to his wife and he couldn’t hold back the tears.
The written word is powerful, but the spoken word really hits you sometimes. It all really comes back to that prayer, I tell people all the time, never pray that prayer unless you’re ready to have your heart broken. But it’s not a bad thing, it’s a good thing.
Another person said this whole book needs to be put to music. A friend of mine is a musician and will be playing at the book signing on Saturday.
Is this your first book and do you have plans for more?
I wrote a children’s book but this is the first published one. There are two more in the works now. The next one is going to be called Faces of Love, mostly dedicated to Steven Pam Austin, the inspiration of the book, and also to Alzheimer’s and dementia.
The other one is a short story about a writer who’s stuck and is starting to face what’s causing it.