Monday, April 15, 2019

Nan Lundeen—Feminist Poet with Firmly Planted Roots

Nan Lundeen.

April 5-7 I attended the UUA Mid-America Regional Assembly in St. Louis.  My main missions were to represent the Tree of Life UU Congregation in McHenry, recharge my spiritual batteries with inspiring presentations, and facing the challenge of pervasive White privilege in myself, my religious home, and in our struggle for social justice.  Mission accomplished on all of those counts.

But I had a private mission as well—to scout the usual display by the UUA Bookstore InSpirit for new-to-me poets.  Alas, this year the Bookstore did not schlep its wares to Missouri.  But I did find what I was looking for on the well-stocked tables of the of UU Women and Religion with the UU Women’s Federation.

Nan Lundeen  may be best known for her widely admired handbook, Moo of Writing: which was a finalist in the 2017 Next Generation Indie Book Awards which was based on her article, Find Your Moos, appeared in a 2013 issue of the Britain’s  Writing Magazine, and her article, Relax and Renew with Moo/Mu of Writing appeared in The Paddock Review.

Lundeen’s poems have been published online by The Iowa Review’s Iowa Writes, and the University of South Carolina Poetry Initiative; she was a finalist in the Yemassee Literary Journal’s 2010 Pocataligo poetry contest.  The Catawba  was nominated for a Pushcart Prize  in 2014.  She has been widely published and admired in numerous literary journals.

Her poetry books include Gaia’s Cry, Black Dirt Days: Poems as Memoir, which was a finalist in the 2016 National Indie Excellence Awards, poetry and The Pantyhose Declarations, the slender volume I picked up at that UU conference

Her journalism has been published in the Detroit News, the Grand Rapids Press, the Connecticut Post, The Greenville News, and elsewhere.

Lundeen holds a master of arts in communications and a bachelor of arts in English from Western Michigan University at Kalamazoo. She is married to freelance photographer Ron DeKett. They live in rural southwestern Michigan among deer, wild turkey, hummingbirds, and wildflowers.

What is intriguing about Lundeen’s The Pantyhose Declarations is its organization into three sections.  Each one is a layer of the poet’s identity.  The first section “The Declarations” is her defiant but playful declarations of her feminism which is rooted in her refusal to be bound by either convention or expectation.

Do I Have to Wear Pantyhose?

They look down their noses and ask if I will

sit on the committee,

make a presentation,

take a job with the corporation.

And I want to know—

do I have to wear pantyhose?

They ask if I will teach a class,

speak to the congregation,

accept the most officious task,

and sit on yet another committee.

And I want to know—

do I have to wear pantyhose?

They ask if I will host the symposium,

teach the workshop,

sing for disadvantaged tots,

and sit on yet another committee.

And I want to know—

do I have to wear pantyhose?

They ask if I will witness the execution,

provide them with locution,

marry the candlestick maker in the finest of clothes,

and listen while many unburden their woes.

And I want to know—

do I have to wear pantyhose?

Oh give me your bare legged,

your grandmother in tennis shoes,

your gardener in old boots

your hikers

your wanderers

your dreamers

the barefooted—

grass and chicken shit

between their toes—

but do not,

oh, do not

give me panty hose.

—Nan Lundeen

That poem and the handful that follow it hint at Lundeen’s spiritual connection with Gaia having shaken off the Lutheranism of her youth and young adulthood which she expands on in the next section, “earth.”

If I Could Be

anywhere at all

I would be outside

to see how

monarchs migrate

and frog skin breathes,

how birds’ feet shape

to grip trees, shrubs, or weeds,

how milkweed seeds fly

and what kind of cactus turtles munch,

I’d see how spikers hinge trapdoors

and how many rooms a chipmunk bores,

how a big, bumbling bear

suddenly adept, snatch lunch,

how a spider lives beneath the sea

in her very own bubble home.

I’d discover all that

and wonder why a cricket chirps.

Does he chirp to cheer the hearth

or for some other reason?

—Nan Lundeen

But what are the roots of her feminism, her defiance, her connection to the earth around her?  The secret is revealed in the lives of grandmothers and aunts, of immigrants and Midwest prairie earth in “Goddeses.

Mathilda Lundeen

The wintergreen she rubbed into her knee


with roses.

I still see her

at age eighty, picking up skirts

and wading through the creek

to search out

shy ferns hidden in the bluffs.

Or gathering the eggs

Scratching chicken dirt with her fingernail,

Bosh, a little manure can’t hurt you.

She argued with her children

walked upstairs, blue eyes


insisted in molasses in the rye.

Her mother died

when she was eight

and Gram saw her

one night on the stairs.

In her rocking chair, stitching

quilt blocks,

That was Judith’s party dress

and that Aunt Clara’s apron,

she wove

long stories

about Cynthia’s cow, goblins, and British generals—a

Snuggled close in bed

we whispered late at night

about romance, boyfriends.

I don’t trust that one.

Eyes too close together.

She was right.

—Nan Lundeen

For more information on The Pantyhose Declarations © 2009 by Nan Lundeen and her other work visit .

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