© 2022 . All rights reserved.

Maureen Owen reads from let the heart hold down the breakage Or the caregiver’s log

When I arrived in NYC in the fall of 1979, one of the first things I did was to go to Saint Mark’s Church and join a poetry workshop at the Poetry Project. After all, poetry was why I’d come. I am not a taker of poetry workshops usually—I can do it on my own, thank you—so I was lucky to have found myself in one run by Maureen Owen. Her prompts got me to write and she guided me with a smile. When I told her I wrote a word in a poem that didn’t actually exist, and I was thinking of taking it out, Maureen said, “Don, poets are supposed to invent words. What are you talking about?” I paraphrase what Maureen said, but you get the picture.

When I heard that Maureen was in town and was going to be reading at Unnamable Books in Brooklyn, I was resolved, tired as I was, to get there. I had begun teaching part-time and I’ve been a caretaker for two friends since even before the summer, one friend who is dying and the other who is beginning to have dementia. But I gathered up my strength, put my camcorder and tripod in my backpack, and I went.

It had been ages since I’d seen Maureen—she moved out West and stayed there. I was satisfied while I recorded her reading from her new book, let the heart hold down the breakage  Or  the caregiver’s log. After the reading, I bought a copy, and after she signed it, I went to give her a polite sanitary kiss on the cheek, but Maureen turned her lips toward mine and—pandemic be damned—kissed me on the lips! Ah yes, poetry is a kiss! 

The following morning on my half hour ride on the R train to LaGuardia Community College, I began to read let the heart hold down the breakage  Or  the caregiver’s log, poems about selfless unconditional love, about taking care of a dying mother, poems that for me, who had helped take care of his dying father, awakened intimate memories. Reading Maureen, I feel like I’m walking through a museum and all around me is modern art. Poets and artists have always been close, and Maureen’s poems take shape and resemble sculptures in my mind, or better yet, my ear. 

In the Vimeo below is Maureen Owen reading at Unnamable Books. It takes place out back in a little garden open to the sky where now and then overhead a plane mumbles by, but not loud enough to drown out Maureen reading her poems. If anything the airplane sounds illuminate her spoken words and frame them, artful poems that are also a manual, a how to do it book, a companion for anyone who has to care for a dying loved one. Maureen’s poems are poignant and let you know you’re not alone; you can go on. Enjoy.



Below I have included two poems that Maureen reads in the Vimeo. Her titles are often long and stand on their own, as meaningful as the poems, and in fact are poems themselves. 



let the heart hold down the breakage   Or   the caretaker’s log is published by Hanging Loose Press. You can buy it here:


or here:


And you can check it out here:




Maureen Owen with her mother, October 27, 2020


Patricia Spears Jones and Maureen Owen at Saint Mark’s Church, January 4, 2018.




Above is Maureen Owen last week after her reading at Unnamable Books holding her new book, let the heart hold down the breakage  Or   the caretaker’s log, published by Hanging Loose Press. You can check it out here:


I’ve always loved Maureen’s smile, which is all smile, a true smile without guile, a smile you can look at for a long long while and never tire because it’s a smile that is always in style, there at hello and there at goodbye. Poet, director at the Poetry Project, publisher of Telephone, a mover and shaker, the world would be different—and not as nice—without her.




Leave a Reply