In the Palms of Angels
by Terri Kirby Erickson
Several months before the release of my new collection, In the Palms of Angels, I didn’t have a venue for the launch party. Every place I thought about having it was too expensive. An art museum I enjoy visiting actually wanted a thousand dollars for one evening’s rental!
I was to the point of having the party in my own backyard when Chaplain Joanne Henley of the Derrick L. Davis Forsyth Regional Cancer Center, suggested I have it there. I’ve been volunteering at the Cancer Center for some time now, and she thought it would be perfect for me to have my party in their large “conference” room, (which really is huge!), not to mention the fact that it sports its own kitchen! I was thrilled with this idea, although a few people later suggested it might be depressing to have a celebration in a medical facility.
In my view, however, the DLDFR Cancer Center is a place of hope and healing, so after receiving permission from Executive Director Sharon Murphy, we forged ahead with our plans to create a magical evening for everyone who attended. Chaplain Henley, GI Oncology Nurse Navigator, Julie Pope and others, were wonderful in helping us achieve the perfect “look” for the room, transforming an already engaging facility into a gorgeous showplace!
My publisher, Kevin Morgan Watson of Press 53, voiced an idea that had already occurred to me—that I donate 10% of book sales for the evening, to the Cancer Center to thank them for this kind and supportive gesture. It turned out that I was able to donate even more than this amount with one of my long-time friends, Tim Plowman, writing a check for his copy of In the Palms of Angels that included an extra hundred dollars! I decided to match his generosity and donated a hundred dollars over the ten percent I had promised.
At Chaplain Henley’s suggestion, the money went to the Center’s Simstein Fund, which was set up by the family of the late Dr. Lee Simstein, to offer financial assistance to patients who cannot afford the costs associated with cancer treatment. I was so honored that Mrs. Simstein, her daughter and grandchild were among the 150 plus guests who attended the party on April 7. It was an evening I’ll never forget!
As I stood at the podium that night, I felt very grateful and blessed. Beside me was the exquisite painting (that is on the book cover) entitled, “Frances,” that my uncle, artist Stephen White, dedicated to our dear family friend, 91 year old Frances Y. Dunn (the person I want to be when I grow up!). In front of me were so many people they were literally spilling into the lobby. A few folks were scrambling to bring in extra chairs until there wasn’t room for another human being in that space. Among the audience members were people I love including my husband, daughter, parents, publisher, other relatives, friends, neighbors, fellow writers and even my fifth grade teacher; some faces I recalled from other readings; and many others I’d never seen before.
One face I didn’t expect is an icon of American literature, John Ehle, and I can tell you, I was thrilled to see him there! I was later told that one of his favorites of the poems I read from In the Palms of Angels is called, “Making the Biscuits,” so I was very glad I chose that particular poem.
I just want to briefly mention two friends who couldn’t be there that evening, but I know were there in spirit—Ron Powers, the Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and author of Mark Twain, A Life and co-author of Flags of Our Fathers, who wrote a brilliant Introduction to my book, and beloved syndicated columnist, Sharon Randall, who I’m honored to say, wrote a lovely paragraph for the back cover. I am very grateful to both of them for their glowing endorsements.
All in all, April 7 turned out to be a perfect evening, and truly a triumph for all poets and poetry that so many people would come to the launch party for a book of poems. What no one knew, however, was that my husband, Leonard, would be undergoing a biopsy in another week or so—and we were waiting to find out if he had cancer, himself. It felt at once ironic and surreal, but we were and are determined to think positively.
It turns out that he does, indeed, have prostate cancer and his surgery is scheduled for June 29. We are optimistic for a full recovery, and appreciate the prayers and support of so many caring friends, including readers who have been so kind with help and advice.
It has been nothing but a pure blessing from the time I decided to write poetry for publication until this moment, when I am busily promoting my third book and getting ready for this challenging medical journey that my husband and I are facing together. My poetry writing has been a solace and balm for me, and I’m very grateful for all the wonderful people I’ve met along the way. I love the title of this new book because I have long felt that we live our lives in the palms of angels—those benevolent and beloved beings who protect and guide us. And I hope if you decide to get a copy of your own, that you will enjoy reading In the Palms of Angels as much as I enjoyed writing it!
Peace and love,
Terri Kirby Erickson
Excerpt from In the Palms of Angels,
We knelt near
pieces of sea glass,
salted our faces,
sent a kite circling,
filled a red sail.
in cottage windows;
a flock of gulls
joy, joy, they cried—
flying far out
to sea, becoming
pinpoints of light.
Terri Kirby Erickson is the award-winning author of three books of poetry, including her latest, In the Palms of Angels (Press 53). Her work has been published in numerous literary journals, anthologies and other publications, including The Christian Science Monitor, JAMA, Verse Daily and the North Carolina Literary Review. She was recently one of eleven winners of the international Nazim Hikmet Poetry award. For more information about her work, please see her website at: http://terrikirbyerickson.wordpress.com You can also order the book on Amazon at: http://www.amazon.com/Palms-Angels-Terri-Kirby-Erickson/dp/1935708279/ref=pd_rhf_p_t_1, in fine bookstores or other Internet venues.