Meetings With Remarkable Poets: in which Peggy Pond Church holds my hand

It’s funny how and when certain memories surface.On Friday, I was honored to be interviewed by Lynn Cline on KSFR. She is very knowledgeable about New Mexico literary history, and mentioned Peggy Pond Church.
In 1985 or so, soon after I came to New Mexico, I had the remarkable experience of giving a poetry reading with Peggy Pond Church in Taos. Already blind and quite deaf, she sat right next to me when I read, holding my hand. She seemed like a darling old lady, but her toughness was also in evidence. I don’t think I had even yet read her masterpiece “The Woman At Otowi Crossing.”

An excellent article about her life appears at
http://taos.org/women/profiles-legends?/item/85/Peggy-Pond-Church

Her death was also to have meaning for me. As the Taos profile says: “Eventually, however, her eyesight and hearing began to decline and diminish her quality of life. She died October 23, 1986, a date of her “own choosing.” In a letter left for friends and family, Peggy explained her decision.
‘It has long been my belief that in old age when the body fails we should be permitted to lay it down at a time of our own choosing and allow the spirit to go free. To a poet, death is another phase of life. In this age of vociferous right-to-lifers, I feel that death has rights too and needs to be made a friend of.’ “
I remember discussing this with my friend Elizabeth Searle Lamb. As a young person, I was somewhat shocked. “Now dear,” Elizabeth began. That “dear” always signaled to me that she was about to impart something important. And she explained to me why she was sympathetic to this way of thinking.
Elizabeth died many years later of natural causes, but as I am now 60 and looking forward with some of the same focus and trepidations I feel grateful to have known of Church’s decision.
And I’m amazed that I held her hand.

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