Poets Marylin Lerch and Geordie Miller struck up a conversation about their work at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, and it turned into a collaboration that’s being celebrated tonight at the launch of disharmoniesa poem written by Miller and Lerch and printed here in Sackville by Hardscrabble Press.
The rally begins at 7 p.m. at the Struts Gallery and will take place outside, weather permitting.
CHMA caught up with Lerch and Miller in a shaded backyard, with the howling winds of Sackville in the background:
Here are Miller and Lerch reading a selection of Disharmonies:
Lerch is a retired teacher who has lived and written in Sackville for 26 years and served as the city’s poet laureate from 2014 to 2018. Miller moved to the city in 2015, when he began teaching poetry at Mount Allison. He is also Chairman of the Board of Sappyfest.
Miller says the collaboration started with Lerch, a mentor, who sought to find out what Miller was working on. “She asked, are you writing? And what are you writing? And I found out I was writing these kind of weird, angry poems, which I guess wasn’t so weird in the fall of 2020,” Miller recalled. “So we started sharing the poems back and forth…and it started to pick up steam and eventually became a book.”
disharmonies is printed and sewn by Keagan Hawthorne, founder and owner of Hardscrabble Press.
“You know how things are in Sackville,” Lerch said. “People show up.” Hawthorne is a poet himself and set up his micro-press soon after arriving. “He almost immediately started becoming part of the literary community,” says Lerch. “And he’s very enthusiastic about producing great work.”
“One of the challenges was figuring out how to replicate the conversation,” says Miller. “Keegan did a great job with the layout, and there is a slight difference in the color of the print, so you can tell our voices apart from each other.”
From beginning to end, disharmonies is a conversation. Miller describes it as happening “across generations, but between two like-minded individuals…About the revolution and the situation we find ourselves in”.
And while the conversation was born out of the COVID-19 pandemic, the pandemic itself isn’t the bulk of the work.
“COVID was an X-ray machine that showed the system,” says Lerch. “It was really enlightening… How it was handled and what it did and who it affected and who was making money. All of this pointed to the system that holds COVID.
Miller says he hopes people feel called by the poem. “These are poems oriented towards, I would say, a revolutionary horizon,” says Miller. “I think that by listening to each other and talking to each other, we learn things from each other. And we hope others can join the conversation as well.