Featured poet: Lisa O’Neil Guerci

Picture of Lisa O’Neil Guerci
Lisa O’Neil Guerci

Biography

Lisa O’Neil Guerci was born in Boston, but has lived in New York since 1996, currently calling Lake Carmel home.

A mother of two adult children and grandmother to two young grandchildren, Lisa works as a Direct Support Professional and advocate within the developmentally challenged community. In her spare time, she enjoys being with family, writes, reads, listens to music, (heavily centered on Joni Mitchell), cooks, and travels all over the world… (in her mind). Lisa has worked as a freelance photojournalist and finds poetic inspiration in capturing art with her camera. Living on a lake has proven as well, to be a source of imagination and creativity.

Having only a small circle of “in real life” friends, Lisa attempts to stay off social media, but nearly always fails. She has also managed to become an unapologetic cat lady and considers her twin feline housemates to be funny looking little people in fur suits. She has owned parakeets since she was a child. The background noise of birds is the soundtrack of her life.

Poetry is the enduring passion of Lisa’s non-linear life, and she writes in some form nearly every day. She has taken part in many writing workshops, courses, and retreats in and around New York City over the years and enjoys being a part of various communities of like-minded people in the creative arena. Lisa enjoys reading her poetry at open mic events, one of which invited her to be a featured poet several years ago and has been known in the past to contribute to karaoke culture, impersonating the likes of Karen Carpenter and Stevie Nicks.

Lisa is currently working on a memoir based on her upbringing in a cult, and her escape at age twenty-six with her young daughter. She is also planning on publishing collections of her original poetry before the year is out, much of which is featured on her Facebook poetry page.

Interview

confetti: Who or what inspired you to write?
Lisa O’Neil Guerci (LG): I suspect I was born hard-wired to write. Self-expression has always been a way for me to process the experience of just being alive. I have always loved to DESCRIBE the world around me. Words hold a certain magic, because through the medium of writing, poetry especially, one can re-shape reality.  I needed to do that a lot as a child. Crafting with words was a form of escape from my unhappy and quite unconventional childhood. I’ve always tended to view the world through a poetic lens.

confetti: How would you characterize your writing style?
(LG):  Confessional. Stream of consciousness. Unedited. Authentic.

confetti: Who is your favorite poet and why?
(LG): There are so many poets whose work I enjoy, but I’d have to say Mary Oliver. I consider her my muse, really. Mary had a dark childhood as well and “took to the woods” with her notebook from an early age, and never stopped interpreting nature through her words, until her dying day. Her poems seem simple at first glance, yet they are richly layered and nuanced. She had a continual astonishment and reverence for the world around her (and within) and conveyed that through her evocative poetry, which was suffused with beautiful metaphor. I also really enjoy a deep dive into the work of Elizabeth Bishop.

confetti: Favorite poem or style of poetry?
(LG): I love a good freestyle poem which isn’t afraid to “go there”, as far as wresting an emotional response from the reader.  As far as a favorite…it really depends upon my mood on any given day. John O’Donohue was a poet whose sensitive style really moves me.  I also love Hafiz, Neruda, Rumi, and Gibran. Desiderata is a prose poem which I consider to be a lyrical blueprint for how to exist happily and at peace. Love after Love by Derek Walcott has been a long-time favorite poem.

confetti: What are you currently reading?
(LG): My bedside table is basically just a tall stack of books, but the uppermost ones currently are: To Bless the Space Between Us, by John O’Donohue, Bukowski in a Sundress, by Kim Addonizio, Grounded Spirituality and An Uncommon Bond, by Jeff Brown, and The Complete Poems and Lyrics of Joni Mitchell.

confetti: What are your three favorite books? 
(LG): Another tough question! Off the top of my head; Upstream, by Mary Oliver.  Dry, by Augusten Burroughs. And Reckless Daughter, by David Yaffe

confetti: What are your three favorite movies?
(LG):  Rocky, Out of Africa, Driving Miss Daisy

confetti: What is your favorite song of all time?
(LG): “Hejira” by Joni Mitchell

confetti: What advice would you give to young writers?
(LG): Keep an open mind, read a lot, study styles of writing which resonate deeply. Don’t compare yourself to other writers or become swayed by the competitive nature which can present itself in the literary world. Always stay true to the voice of your heart, which is uniquely your own.

Lisa and Amelie

Poetry and Photography


Seek the light
even in the dark hidden places.

Guess where it resides,
trying to shine; 

Yes.
In that tattered, porous heart of yours
when and where
it might not seem
particularly 
luminous. 

Seek the light.

It is sparkling through the trees becoming leafless now. 

See how it shines on the red-orange sisal
of the earth’s floor.

Seek the light
peeking out behind the clouds
in the sky of your mind. 

Seek it in conversations with weary people,
who need to see 
the comforting lighthouse beacon of your words. 

Seek the light

When you feel like a thunderstorm.

And remember rainbows. 

Seek the light in your soul
Let it infuse
surround
suffuse
your presence.

Be that candle in the window
dancing eternally.

Seek the light
still present in the eyes of the suffering
and the dying

and what still blesses the crumpled fauna of fall,
fallen to the ground. 

Seek the light
of each gentle sunrise
and that which colors every sunset. 

Don’t forget the gently glowing moon..

Seek the light

in the gray rain
of your life.

It is always there~

The Universe’s light bulb,
a flashlight when you’re lost

a nightlight when you’re lonely and sleep is elusive. 

Seek the light. 

The light is seeking you.

Lisa O’Neil-Guerci 
<searching>
11/10/2021

March gulls


the pussy willows are opening..
I noticed yesterday

like pale gray kittens on branches,
climbing up to play 

this startled a little sleeping joy; 
curled up
cat-like
in the center of me

days are getting warmer-
the sun
like a friend,
lingers
longer

the petulant and harsh
winds of March
still blew however,
howling like that proverbial freight train speeding to
wherever

the indolent
indoor cats,
with velvet ears twitching
pivot their gray heads toward the sound-

and I knew
what was loaded on that boxcar, imagined

I’m just not sure
where it’s bound…

Lisa O’Neil-Guerci 
<pussy willows and boxcars>
3/14/2021


It’s perfectly okay,
you know 
to return home 
when you’re flattened
and deflated.

You are tired
so tired
but far from defeated.

It’s perfectly okay,
you know
to wake that way
even the next day

to just lay there.

Lean into it
take the small breaths you need to.

The day waits 
just outside the door
and soon a great gust
even in a windless sky
will gently lift you…

 believe it or not
you’ll soar.

Life will blow into your lungs 
inflate your shell
because inspiration has a long memory
and knows you so well~
that you need this weight lifted
to be made light
and when you’re ready to float 
spread your wings and take flight.

But until then, be still.

Take all the time you need
and will
to just be
as you are now.

Lay there flat
on the ground.

You are not defeated 
you are resting
and the grass won’t make a sound.

It welcomes you
It will hold you
and speak to you.

You will be renewed.

Lisa O’Neil-Guerci 
< the weight>
9/2019

Forsythias


Oh. I didn’t just ignore them.
What I did was adorn them
with sequins
and glitter
then watched
them shimmer
as the sparkle blinded my eyes.

Then I thought to bleach them
a pretty pastel pink for spring~
a color soft
and harmless.

I gathered up a dozen long-stemmed red flags
(oh how lovely…Thank you!)
Then put them in a cut crystal vase
To watch them die.

In winter,
I fashioned a scarf of them
in the futile hopes
of warmth.

I used them as sails,
seafaring wings
by which to fly me
into the sunset of unrealistic expectations
the wind of optimism at my back.

They often tangled, these flags…
tightening 
around my neck,
as I stubbornly insisted they were anything
but bright nooses,

cautionary
fabric
flares
perhaps flags for prayers
or supplications
for all I wanted
needed
unwisely craved.

Maybe
tribal symbols
of stoic strength.

Never did I want to see them as banners
warning:
danger up ahead 
or delineating
unsafe boundaries
the color red
waved before an exhausted bull
before it rages to action
or falls..
panting
bleeding
dying.

Red flags
flapping
in the wind
full staff,
signaling storms of uncertain origin-
and the inevitable end.

Red flags
snapping angrily
at my choice 
to turn a cheek
to certain consequence
to cover my ears to the responsible voice
and the predicted fruition
of foolishness.

Lisa O’Neil-Guerci
<red flags>
July 7. 2021


His voice evoked
the exhaled smoke
of a cigarette

the red tip of which
was a hot kiss

extinguished
with a mellifluous hiss
a sibilant fizz
in a tumbler
that held
the best Kentucky bourbon

Smooth.

His voice struck the bronze singing bowl
in my mind’s eye
and much deeper soul

Echoing.

His voice seemed to be
the color
of Ceylon tea
set out to steep
on a windowsill
in a room the afternoon sun filled

Mellow.

His voice had a flavor
the taste of burnt caramel
wild honey
the thick amber sap of maples
I’d travel far to find

Delicious.

His voice was the color
of gold discovered,
but distinctly unrefined

Rich.

His voice was resonant
with the scent
of Indian cinnamon,
and strong dark coffee
fathoms deep
in complexity

Sonorous.

His voice floated through time zones
and thousands of miles
to seduce
with a certain subtlety
a growl contained in a smile

Sensual.

His voice carried 10,000 volts of
electricity as it travelled
and finally
palpably
touched me

Tactile.

His voice felt like the velvet fur
of a dozen cats
whose purr
vibrated my ear in
an ancient lullaby

or thunder
which rolled through
the storms
turbulent night sky

before it reached me
hypnotically.

His voice was,
in a word,

Sexy.

Lisa O’Neil-Guerci
<voice>
3/29/2022

Sunlight on moss


Upon seeing a fallen autumn leaf,

crumpled and the color of faded red,

I thanked the tree for it’s summer gifts, and felt compassion for the leaf.
Compassion is stirred by the bear who wanders, hungry.
Compassion..
owed to the tender heart of a friend whom I injured with clumsy words;
compassion for their pain,
then a bit saved for myself,
for no malice was intended.
Compassion is to quietly listen to the silence in despair’s non-verbal expression,
to sit with it
in the space between peace and chaos..
with no thought of deconstruction or judgment.

Lisa O’Neil-Guerci
<compassion>
4/13/2021


If there’s a melancholy
more voluptuous,
than this sultry evening
sitting on my front steps~
smoking,
listening
to the song of crickets 
and lake peepers, 
and Hejira…
then I don’t know what is

At least not at this moment. 

And I have learned, 
as long as I live,
that there will be another moment. 
Then another. 
And I might change my mind
and mood
many times between moments
between songs,
before that rogue coyote comes 
along.

He was last seen, you see, 
on track one.

I’m alone.
As solo as Joni 
when she was traveling traveling traveling..
when she soaked those long dry roads with liquid lyrics,
and no doubt, tears
crafting yet another songbook from all she saw and felt
from those whom she met
and loved
and lost
and learned from
through the years.

Suddenly, I am filled 
with a certain ennui
and then immediate
buoyancy
each time I hear the evocative
opening chords
of Coyote.

For the now
of this moment
though~
for this mood,
I need Hejira
to surround me.

So I close my eyes,
tilt my head back
inhale the sound,
enjoy the tender ache…
then exhale smoky
tendrils;
like her
‘white flags from winter chimneys
waving truce
against the moon’.

God,
I love that line.

Joni, my friend,
you can sit on my steps 
share a smoke,
and sing to me
anytime.

Lisa O’Neil-Guerci
<Mitchell & me>
9/28/2019

Winter cardinal

Writer Profile for Lisa O’Neil Guerci

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