In memory of poet Tanya Kern

A poem by Tanya Kern, who went into the woods and cut her wrists, and died,
last week. I don’t know how much lonelier it gets than this.
We can never know how much another person is suffering.
There was a memorial service for Tanya, yesterday, in Victoria.
She sent her last manuscript of poems to Richard Olafson the day before, saying,
“Do what you like with these.” – Susan Musgrave


Imagine the mother. She searches for a daughter

made to marry, forced down the long orchard to the well. No child

in a white dress. Her mouth goes blind, stitches the web of evening

in distress. She doesn’t see the new tree, one arm outstretched.

Or the tree is the mother. Too many children, a hard man.

She looks for a mushroom, the certain kind.

Finds one, picks off the dots and stops

to watch the deer. Puts one finger to her lip

and turns to wood, one arm an outstretched bough.

Rooted in her time she crosses centuries to pose

against my autumn night. Yes. These are her children grown

and buried just beyond. How I can tell she was a woman:

lightning laid her face bare. Bark striated hair. The trunk

shattered and clefted marks her woman. Wounded.

No. She was a native girl or somehow wild dreaming

open-mouthed, fingers outstretched

collecting camas bulbs for winter starch. She wants to live

with animals, flaunts her impure chastity against the earth;

decades march across my century. One woman’s life

bound in sap rings. Clay-green. A root. A home. Seed

in this field of risen stone. Living open.

Rough enough.


11 thoughts on “In memory of poet Tanya Kern

  1. sorry, somehow i posted my comment on a co-worekers address… so i’ll repeat…G-dspeed Tanya Kern. I’ll always remember those strange synchronous moments we shared in victoria and sooke. Words are all that i have and they are not enough. in fact they’re an insult in the face of your act. i will not forget and will consider your action a further call to mortify my indolent sense of entitlement and live to console those around me.


  2. I’m sorry for your loss and if the words insult you, hurt you or upset you. Tanya submitted these for publication and I believe she, in her best of times, loved poetry so, I want to celebrate what she left us with. I feel that is the most respect I can offer a fellow poet who did not get the recognition they deserved.


  3. She loved poetry at all times. Even when things were at the worst they could be the mention of a poet or a poem would light her face and animate her voice.


    • Dear Jesse:

      I am so sorry. All the work is her words, her poetry is phenomenal; it out stands any and all actions be they hasty or born of despair. I know there is pain and suffering. You mother is and always will be a great poet and however, traumatic she made a choice but I believe she has much love and is in a great and peaceful place despite what religions, and spiritualists tell us about one who chooses death. Her inspiration will continue to outshine everything beyond birth, life and death. There is nothing that can be said, that can be done. All I can tell you is her work is an inspiration to me and countless others. Blessings, Sonia.


  4. I knew Tanya 13 years ago when we were part of a writing group in Victoria. We spent many hours together during a darker period in my life. Her presence was comforting, her poems often beyond my comprehension. Peace to jesse and rainer. I will keep your mother’s memory.


  5. We published Tanya Kern’s poem “Love On The Wall” in issue 55 for spring 2010.

    The mail was returned as Moved, Unknown, Return to Sender.

    We would like to send the issue to her family members.


    • Hi Anne:

      Thank you so much for doing this and for your post. I can contact or forward you the blog/e-mail contact information of poet Tanya Kern’s daughter. A copy of the publication should be sent to her in honor of her mother. Please let me know if you have received this. Thanks. Sonia.


  6. I am reading these words with shock. I knew Tanya briefly about 12 years ago and we stayed in contact from time to time over the years. I am so sorry for everyone’s loss of such a profoundly beautiful person and wonderfully talented poet. I will never forget the so confident and popular Tanya standing in front of a microphone at the Mocambo Poetry Reading. How much do we need to care for the people we know! Chris – Australia.


    • Thank you for your comment Chris. Tanya’s poetry is published in the most recent issue of Prairie Fire as well. I just saw it about 7 days ago. There’s a beautiful piece of hers in it.



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