Cheryl Denise makes the jaunt north from her home in West Virginia to her hometown of Elmira a couple of times a year. Usually, it’s about time with family, but occasionally there’s some work in the mix.
That’ll be the case next month as she holds a reading of her latest book of poetry. Actually, that will be something of a family affair too, as the evening will include music by her father, Jim Bauman, and uncle, Charlie Bauman.
The evening of music and poetry will take place July 14 at RiverSong, just west of St. Jacobs. She’ll be reading from ‘Fences,’ the third book published under her nom de plume – she’s Cheryl Denise Miller outside of her time as a writer.
As with her previous works – ‘I Saw God Dancing’ and ‘What’s in the Blood’ – touches on a range of topics, often drawn from real-life experiences that extend back to growing up in Elmira and her time at John Mahood PS and Elmira District Secondary School. Given that she’s lived on a sheep farm in West Virginia for more than 30 years now, there are more than a few inspirations drawn from experience.
“This collection is called Fences. The official kind of summary is that it explores boundaries, imposed or assumed, that define and direct our experiences in this world,” Denise explains. “Fences are a metaphor, a loose theme in the whole book. Fences that are trying to keep in my sheep that don’t always keep in the sheep. And then there are fences that I put myself in, and that I put God in and relationships in, and then there are fences that I put my marriage in. So there are several poems throughout the book about fences – there are poems about other things, too – hence the title.
Fenced in or otherwise, the poems are typically written in a straightforward fashion, designed to be accessible to all readers. That includes topics as varied as the sound of her dad’s print shop and her changing relationship with a neighbour boy, first seen as a youngster running through the woods to bring her a Christmas card, to his mother’s arrest for running a meth lab, to his own capitulation to becoming a meth cook.
The poem about meeting a 17th century monk in a barn may not be drawn from direct experience, but the telling of that story is relatable, she notes.
“I don’t use obscure metaphors that are hard to understand. Sometimes, poetry can be scary for some people,” said Denise, noting her efforts a universal appeal.
She’ll be providing evidence of that during the reading July 14 at RiverSong, 632 Hawkesville Rd., St. Jacobs. Doors open at 6 p.m., with a pub-style menu available. The reading and music follow at 7 p.m., with a dessert and drink menu rolled out at 7:45 p.m. until 9 p.m. She’ll be signing books in that stretch, and likely chatting with old friends and schoolmates from her Elmira days, some of whom remain in touch.
When she’s not writing, she’s a nurse for an in-home care program. She and her husband Mike live in Phillippi, WV.
Fences, published by Dreamseeker Books, can be found on Amazon, BN.com, IndieBound.org, and from the publisher at www.CascadiaPublishingHouse.com ($14.95). Locally, her parents, Jim and Isabel Bauman, have copies available.