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Welcome Helen Ruggieri to the Sea Crow Family!

Her collection of poems Blue Elegies is out now!

I began to pay attention to birds and trees and flowers and what their names were... (to) look for the metaphors that connect us to nature.  We are part of it even if we don't like to admit it.

About the collection

Helen Ruggieri brings us Blue Elegies, a collection of poems about the birds. It is the eighth volume in the ongoing Sea Crow Press collection of eco-poetry. The poems witness and pay homage to the many bird species vanishing in a rapidly changing world. Her words place us amongst the birds, rendering their lives and the places they inhabit real to involve us on a person level.

We asked Helen Ruggieri some questions about birds, nature, and writing about it

Can you tell us about your background and how you first became interested in poetry?

Because of my father's job we moved every 16 to 18 months which

meant a new school for me and usually in the middle of a term.  I attended

six grammar schools and two high schools and was always the new kid,

with all the attendant traumas:  no knowledge of how to get from

one place to another, no idea what was going on in classes, no friends. 

I was the classic outsider.  I guess you might say that reading saved me.

When we read aloud in school and I got called on I never knew the place

because I was reading ahead, bored by the halting readers, and in the old

Prose and Poetry texts.  I moved on.  Other than reading I was a mediocre student.

When I finally escaped the old desks that were bolted to the floor, got to college

(barely) I got put in Spanish 3 because I'd taken 1 and 2 in high school.

The teacher, La Professora we called her, would assign various readings

for us to translate.  I volunteered for the poetry (mainly because it was

much shorter than a chapter of Don Quixote.  La Professora

began to give me the poems to translate saying that I did them so well.

Hey, I never did anything well.  Finally, I found something.  That

was the start of it all.  If I could translate, why couldn't I write poems


What drew you specifically to writing about birds and the environment?

We'd just moved to a small town in Pennsylvania and I saw a bird

in the yard, a bird I'd never seen before, a bird so beautiful I was

hypnotized.  Finally, I got someone who knew what it was – I lived

in a small town with no library.  A Baltimore oriole.  I began to pay

attention to birds and trees and flowers and what their names were.

Later when I lived near the Allegheny River I walked my dogs along

the banks every night and I'd pick two "weeds" to bring home and

look up (I had my own weed book by this time).  I had a penchant

for knowing the names of things.  Even the damn weeds were beautiful,

useful, happily covering the dikes in spite of the various pesticides,

and insecticides sprayed on them. 

How do you balance the beauty of nature with the urgent environmental issues in your work?

Some years ago I wrote an essay called Cattaraugus County, An Eco-

History.  This county had so many entries in the Superfund Cleanup I 

wondered about it.  It turned out all were due to industry – tanning 

skins, lumbering, pumping oil, and so on.  But how could you fault 

what was done to survive?  How did we know it would come back to 

bite us.  Agent Orange, Asbestos, DDT, Round-up.  Not without a

 crystal ball.  

Even now plastic is determined to become part of us. Who knew 

when the first plastic bottles appeared in our lives?  Depressing, eh?

I have a book of essays and short prose pieces (Camping in the Galaxy)

 and go into more detail about things that seem benign (the lawn, for

 example) but cause more damage than you'd imagine.

Is there a specific message or feeling you hope to convey to your readers through your poems?

I hope my poetry encourages people to really see what's around them

and to look for the metaphors that connect us to nature.  We are part of

it even if we don't like to admit it.

And I'd encourage young poets to become knowledgeable about some 

aspect of nature, stake out an aspect and make themselves experts in 

that area.  Look for the metaphors.  Make them beautiful.

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