The Spoons In The Grass Are There To Dig A Moat

The Spoons In The Grass Are There To Dig A Moat

Amelia Martens finds inspiration in the brief bits of time allotted a poet parent.


Necessity may be the mother of invention but for Amelia Martens, the mother of two small children, necessity was the mother of creativity.


The widely published award-winning poet and author of three chapbooks—Purgatory, (winner of the Spring 2010 Black River Chapbook competition), Clatter, and A Series of Faults—arrived at a place where she had to adjust her artistic style to accommodate parenting. In Western literary traditions line is arguably the principle feature distinguishing poetry from prose. Amelia found HER creativity manifesting itself in prose poetry.


While Meghan Trainor sings, "It’s All About That Bass," Amelia Martens could sing, "It’s all about that line." With a bit a of poet’s melancholy, Amelia clarifies. "To lose the line was a big deal," she says. "Things are still in there but buried in the center. It took me a while to quit feeling bad about it." Tongue in cheek, she explains her literary style evolution. "I had to write in three and a half to seven minute intervals because that’s how long my daughters can be left alone in a room before someone dies."


True talent prevailed and creativity thrived and Amelia compiled a collection of poetry she refers to as "Mom poems" inspired by her daughters. Amelia thought she had something different and special, and while her poet husband had critiqued her work in process, she needed further validation. Apprehensive about losing it on the journey, she packed her manuscript, boarded a plane to California, and headed west to seek the uncensored opinion of her twin sister, an alternative fabric artist, who agreed with Amelia’s assessment of the poetry collection.


Her book of prose poems, The Spoons in the Grass are There To Dig a Moat, was selected by Sarabande Books, a Kentucky publisher based in Louisville, for the 2014 Linda Bruckheimer Series in Kentucky Literature and will be released in April. Sarabande Books publishes ten to twelve books each year and their mission is to disburse them with diligence and integrity.


Amelia’s mother’s question about the book was, "Are these poems about us?" Amelia allayed her fears and assured her they were about the girls, five-year-old Thea and three-year old, Opal. Amelia thinks Thea may be following in the family tradition and exhibiting artistic tendencies since she has asked to change her name to "Rainbow."


Asked why she likes poetry Amelia explains. "Poetry goes right to the heart. It’s more visceral than other forms of literature. I can do so much with so little and I find it incredible that a whole world can be built very quickly."


Amelia met her husband, Paducah native, Britton Shurley, at Indiana University where they were two of five poets enrolled in the Master of Fine Arts program for Creative Writing. In 2007 with graduation looming, realization set in and she told Britton, "We are going to be jobless and homeless."


Not to worry. On a visit to Britton’s hometown of Paducah, they had a chance encounter with Paul Wood of West Kentucky Community and Technical College. On the spot, he assured them he had adjunct positions for them both. Knowing Paducah would provide a cost of living commensurate with a poet’s budget, the assurance of jobs in their field sealed the deal.


They love Paducah and the camaraderie of an artist’s community along with the many cultural offerings provided.


Amelia says she underestimated one important aspect of choosing her husband’s hometown where his parents still live. "I just wasn’t smart enough to realize how great it would be to live in the same town with really cool grandparents."


Amelia Martens website is Her Facebook page can be found at Amelia will be teaching a class this summer as part of the Indiana University Writers’ Conference. Details are available at


In the Land of Milk


Everyone waits for the honey. Mouths are open and tongues dry, even as cream leaks from their lips. Here no lactation can erase visions of thick golden sap dripping from the fuzzy legs of bees. When the mail truck drives through town, people fall to their knees in hope the door might slide back and a soft package, like those bags used to collect blood, will be delivered unto them. In homage, parents name their children Alfalfa, Clover, Orange Blossom, and these children grow like weeds. In school they learn to evaporate. They become obsessed with shelf life and walk home in puffs of white dust. In gym, they load hives of corrugated boxes and then their offering is shipped away, to babies who dream of paper cows filled with powder.


(Originally published in The Chattahoochee Review)

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