Santa Cruz Good Times

Thursday
Oct 02nd
Text size
  • Increase font size
  • Default font size
  • Decrease font size

Memories of Maude

MemoriesofMaude 1A look back on the life and love of Maude Meehan

In 1979, Santa Cruzan Amber Coverdale Sumrall pulled her car up to a house in Boulder Creek and ventured inside. Her life changed completely. And it was all because of Maude Meehan, a muse who introduced young Sumrall to the colorful world of poetry. Meehan, then fiftysomething, was teaching poetry to a small group of women in her adorable country house. Her impact on Sumrall was tremendous—the elder became not only a mentor and teacher, but also a dear friend, whom Sumrall and many other Santa Cruzans are now mourning. The esteemed “poet to the people” passed away on Saturday, Aug. 25. She will be remembered with fondness, and hopefully a poem or two, by her literary friends, fans and her family.

“She was so welcoming, fun and kind, and she allayed all my fear about being in a group of women, writing, and the nervousness that came with that,” Sumrall says.

Not long after Sumrall’s initial poetry class, Meehan moved the workshops to her home in Santa Cruz and the women followed their teacher to the new destination.

“Her take was that women were not given the recognition they deserved (in the poetry world),” Sumrall says. “Women didn’t have this luxury of our time. We wrote on the run. We grabbed time wherever we could and [our writing] wasn’t that valued back then. It was deemed confessional—women writing about what they knew. It wasn’t looked upon as noble poetry. It wasn’t shrouded in verbiage and obscurity, and so many poets back then were males, writing for the academy, or for other poets in the profession. Some women came along and Maude was at the forefront of that.”

It seems that the revered poet was at the forefront of a lot of things. During the Vietnam War, she was known to have helped draft dodgers escape to Canada.

“She was doing an underground railroad situation,” says her son, Chris Meehan, of Santa Cruz. He explains that she would pick up a young man, clearly on the run from being drafted, and he would pose as her son. She’d also pick up a young woman who would pose as his girlfriend. The trio wouldn’t speak, except through an exchanged piece of paper with an address on it, which directed Meehan where to take her male passenger once in Canada.

Meehan was also an active feminist and a political activist, and in 1996, the American Civil Liberties Union gave her an award called the Bell of Freedom. While activism was something that she was involved in for much of her life, poetry came later, at an older age. As Sumrall tells it, Meehan was 52 when she reportedly wrote her first poem.

“Her first writing workshop was by accident,” Sumrall says. Meehan gave a friend a ride to one of Ellen Bass’ writing workshops and “Maude was inching closer and closer and by the end of the session, she knew she wanted to write,” Sumrall adds.

From there, Meehan tried her hand at poetry, and her natural talent seeped through. “She had such a gift for poetry, just making an experience come so alive on the page,” Sumrall says. “She taught me that poetry is the art of distillation. You have all these words, but your task is to condense them so you’re almost painting with words to get a concise poem, in which every word matters. She believed in brevity.”

Meehan went on to further her natural gift and had four books of poetry published. “As a poet, she wrote prolifically,” Sumrall says. “She wrote about the things that really mattered—her family, issues of social justice, love, her childhood, she wrote about writing and she wrote a lot of love poems to her husband before he died.”

Her husband, Ace Meehan, passed away in 1992. According to their son, Chris, the two fell in love at age 14, and their love story continued until Ace’s passing. Ace was clearly a brilliant man, who began studying at Columbia University at age 15. He was in medical school by the time he was 20.

Along with Chris, Meehan’s survivors include her son, Charles Meehan of Soquel, a daughter, Donna Fairbank, who lives in Massachusetts, and grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

Her son, Chris, agrees that his mother was a “poet to the people.” “Her poetry is very accessible,” he says. “It’s emotional and not intellectual. It’s political rather than esoteric.”

It seems the poetry is just like the poet.

For more information, visit maudemeehan.com .

MemoriesofMaude 2

Poems of Maude Meehan

Choice

Blindfolded

I would know

the touch

the taste

the smell of you

among a thousand others

and knowing, choose you.

 

Summer

Apricots ripen

Plum monks

Sunning

In saffron robes

 


Corcoran Lagoon

The breeze is pungent

with the scent of eucalyptus.

A crane perched on a floating log

preens with Edwardian elegance

oblivious to my presence.

The banks of the lagoon

are brushed with purple, pink,

pale yellow; reminders

that the seasons here

pass gently, announced by

certain flowering

or a subtle change of light.

Unlike that eastern shore

where more than fifty of my years

were weather sliced

precisely into quarters. Here

the illusion of unchanging pace

assures me there is endless time

stretched out and out. Grateful,

I allow myself this small deception.


©Maude Meehan

Comments (0)Add Comment

Write comment
smaller | bigger

busy
 

Share this on your social networks

Bookmark and Share

Share this

Bookmark and Share

 

On the Waterfront

As the wharf celebrates its centennial, a personal reflection on its essential place in Santa Cruz’s history

 

Rosh Hashanah

Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, occurs this year during Libra, the sign of creating right relations with all aspects life and with earth’s kingdoms. We contemplate (the Libra meditation) forgiveness, which means, “to give for another.” Forgiveness is not pardon. It’s a sacrifice (fire in the heart, giving from the heart). Forgiveness is giving up for the good of the other. This is the law of evolution (the path of return).

 

The New Tech Nexus

Community leaders in science and technology unite to form web-based networking program

 

Film, Times & Events: Week of September 26

Santa Cruz area movie theaters >
Sign up for Good Times weekly newsletter
Get the latest news, events

RSS Feed Burner

 Subscribe in a reader

Latest Comments

 

Melinda’s

New Capitola bakery takes gluten-free goods to the next level

 

Do you think you are addicted to technology?

Santa Cruz  |  Unemployed

 

Best of Santa Cruz County

The 2013 Santa Cruz County Readers' Poll and Critics’ Picks It’s our biggest issue of the year, and in it, your votes—more than 6,500 of them—determined the winners of The Best of Santa Cruz County Readers’ Poll. New to the long list of local restaurants, shops and other notables that captured your interest: Best Beer Selection, Best Locally Owned Business, Best Customer Service and Best Marijuana Dispensary. In the meantime, many readers were ever so chatty online about potential new categories. Some of the suggestions that stood out: Best Teen Program and Best Web Design/Designer. But what about: Dog Park, Church, Hotel, Local Farm, Therapist (I second that!) or Sports Bar—not to be confused with Bra. Our favorite suggestion: Best Act of Kindness—one reader noted Café Gratitude and the free meals it offered to the Santa Cruz Police Department in the aftermath of recent crimes. Perhaps some of these can be woven into next year’s ballot, so stay tuned. In the meantime, enjoy the following pages and take note of our Critics’ Picks, too, beginning on page 91. A big thanks for voting—and for reading—and an even bigger congratulations to all of the winners. Enjoy.  -Greg Archer, EditorBest of Santa Cruz County Readers’ Poll INDEX

 

Apricot Wine for Dessert

Thomas Kruse Winery, a participant in the new Santa Clara Wine Trail, has been around for a long time—since 1971, to be exact. When our little group arrived to try some wine at the Kruses’ low-key tasting room, Thomas Kruse and his wife Karen were there to greet us. Theirs is a small operation, and they’re proud to offer quality wine at affordable prices. “Because we are small and low-tech, it’s easy to relate to the whole winemaking process,” says Karen—and the Kruses take pride in making wine “just like it has been made for centuries.”