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A Tsunami of Productivity - Karla Linn Merrifield

Cover art by Gudni Hardarson for Merrifield's My Body the Guitar

We've been catching up with our contributors to find out what they've been up to, and received this note from Karla Linn Merrifield (Sending Nudes anthology). Full of inspiration and a whirlwind of creativity. Hope you enjoy it. xx guts

Loquacious Note in a Bottle from Inspiration Island

I’m fairly certain that as a creative spirit, I’m not alone in being able to claim the pandemic era has proven to be a tsunami of productivity. Explore Guts Publishing’s website and blog—ample anecdotal evidence of what can be done inside four walls with a remote team! And testimony to why I’m here today— Guts Publishing’s Katy Dadacz, who oversees the GP’s social media effort, invited me.

As a solo woman, I had no responsibilities to husband, children, other family members, or pets. Yes, I’m 80% extrovert who missed being with my friends and beaux (Wherefore art thou, hugs? kisses?), but my inner introvert got her days (on end) in the sun. The lockdown washed away the usual distractions and deposited me on the shores of Inspiration, an island where Time was more elastic and forgiving.

Looking back, even while acknowledging this virus is not done with us Homo sapiens sapiens, I count my Muses’ blessings.

1. Katy asked specifically what I read during Covid. Early on during sequestration, the sense of Time’s expansion allowed me the leisure to establish a new reading habit that continues. Every morning I performed a ritual as I nursed my second cuppa java—I began to read a poem or 10-12 pages of prose in a half-dozen books, ones I’ll review for my blog (see #3 below). Right now, despite busier-busier post-vaccination life, I’m savoring:

  • Fish Town by John Gerald Fagan, a memoir in poems (Guts Publishing, 2021)

  • Nature: Selected & New Poems 1970-2020 by William Heyen (, 2020)

  • The Only Thing That Makes Sense Is to Grow by poet Scott Ferry (Moon Tide Press, 2020)

  • Speaking in an Empty Room: The Selected Letters of John Sanford, edited by Dan Giancola (Tough Poets Press, 2021)

  • The Swimmer, a novel by Laury A. Egan (Heliotrope Books, 2021)

  • The Only Kayak: A Journey into the Heart of Alaska, philosophical-environmental non-fiction by Kim Heaton (The Lyons Press, 2005)

2. The Muses of Inspiration Island also conspired to deliver a unique project in fall 2020: I wrote my first libretto, “Sisters of the Covid Moon.” California-based composer Jenni Brandon and mezzosoprano/bassoonist Gina Guffari’s brainstorm (and ensuing grant) for a collaboration about women’s lives during Covid swept me away when they invited me to make words for the project, what became a distillation of real-life American women’s stories of their journey through the Covid era, spanning all age ranges from children to “crones,” as well as encompassing various socio-economic strata, roles (e.g., mothers, teachers, health care professionals, etc.), and races/ethnicities. Their distilled voices/stories encompass the range of human emotions (e.g. frustration, grief, determination), ultimately resolving with a sense of tentative but ubiquitous hopefulness for a future beyond the pandemic. It’s a story of women in shared solidarity—and it’s now a completed score that debuts this month at the International Double Reed Society’s annual conference in Boulder, CO.

3. At long, long last, I gave birth to my new website and blog, working with a dynamite team

of women (and one delightful dude) from early February to July 2021 to create and The Muses’ Refugia at Any Deadheads out there? Check out the site’s “Music Muse” page and click on Episode 14 for a poem recitation and discussion about Jerry Garcia, one of 18 such YouTube podcasts I had the honor to do with British guitarist Paul Garthwaite during Island Time. (Wink-wink, Julianne Ingles, Guts Publishing’s publisher!)

4. Those podcasts also reflect the progress in new poems written for My Body the Guitar, a full-length book to be published in December by Before Your Quiet Eyes Publications Holograph Series, an invitation-only press in Rochester, NY.

5. When I wasn’t getting it on (poetically speaking) with poems about guitarists and their guitars, I invented within the walls of my island cloister something I came to call “tonal poems”—short lyrics set to music I composed on the guitar I was learning to play as part of the creative imperative for writing My Body the Guitar. Here’s one of twentysome such wee ditties:

Étude 5-10: Cocooned, Day 56

E7 E7 E7 B7 B7

I don’t do Tik-Tok.

A7 A7 A7 D7

I ain’t no Zoombie groupie.

C7 C7 C7 C7 G7

But, boy I can kiss.

6. Oh, yeah, lest I forget, I changed things up to write several poems for And Still Counting, a memoir-in-poems manuscript I’ve been working on since 1971 (!), my confessional-poetry-to-end-all-confessional-poetry that is in keeping with Guts Publishing’s esprit.

I’ve been inordinately blessed by those creative endeavors, my Type-A personality, and a habit of discipline I thank my maternal genes for. I am profoundly grateful I didn’t contract the disease nor witness any loved one’s death as too, too many did—like so many women of “Sisters of the Covid Moon” and their male counterparts. The worst that happened? I developed a sleeping disorder as I grieved for the sick and the departed and their loved ones left to move forward in life with the burden of loss. I’m confident the next creative wave will see me through to better nights, sweeter dreams—and scads more poems, and delicious books to read and review.

I know I couldn’t have accomplished half of this during “normal” times. But it gave me a model to live by going forward. I keep telling myself Inspiration Island has no quicksand traps. I promise I will not be sucked into the social whirlwind and down its whirlpool again. I think I’ve found my new normal.

May you find yours, too; may my inspiration be yours. Please, please.

~Karla Linn Merrifield

Hollybrook House

Brockport, NY, USA

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