Hearing the Muse
Carmichael poet finds inspiration everywhere
By Jessica Laskey
In the opening lines of the poem “Moments,” Wendy Grace Stevens writes:
How often have you heard
‘Live for the moment,’ or ‘Be here now?’
No matter the current idiom,
it’s a truth that merits attention.
Stevens seems to live by this sentiment. Amid two careers—first in banking, then 25 years working for the state Legislature, from which she retired in 2002—Stevens has lived for the moment through activities both artistic and outdoor.
The Sacramento native and Carmichael resident—who turns 80 next year—rides her bicycle 2,000 miles a year, leads a paddling club every Wednesday morning, skis (she just returned from Mammoth Mountain where she spent her 53rd consecutive ski season), travels, paints, sings, volunteers for her church and a local animal rescue group, and—starting just five years ago at age 75—writes poetry.
“I’m well aware that I don’t have a great deal of time left,” Stevens says with a chuckle. “But in facing the fact that I’m not going to live forever, I want to make the most of every minute I have left. I try everything that comes along now—I ski better now than when I was 30 or 40 because I’m not afraid anymore. If you’re not going to try anything new because it’s scary, you might as well throw in the towel on life.”
During summer 2015, a particularly arduous home-improvement project stretched from days into weeks and she found herself so frustrated that she sat down and wrote the poem “Ode to Dust” as a way to clear her mind. Soon, words and phrases began presenting themselves to her while she was trying to sleep, forcing her to get up and commit them to paper before she could settle in for slumber.
“It’s like the creative energies of the universe said, ‘Hey! Here’s somebody who’s willing to play with us!’” says Stevens, whose poetry ranges from poignant to humorous on subjects like love, nature, spirituality and womanhood. “It’s an interesting phenomenon—once I sit down to write, sometimes the whole poem just flows out onto the page with this energy I call ‘the Muse.’ It’s a really amazing feeling.”
Though Stevens initially had no intention of publishing her poetry, the Muse encouraged her to share her art with the world—so she did. She published her first collection, “The Poetry of An Ordinary Life,” in 2016 and her second collection, “Just Between Us Girls: Poetry Celebrating Women,” in 2018 through the Sacramento Public Library’s I Street Press. Those publications have led to speaking engagements at local poetry groups, such as the Placerville Shakespeare Club last month.
“Poetry is daunting because it’s like taking off all your clothes in public—you have nothing to hide behind,” Stevens says. “That’s why I like to think of my work as poetry for people who don’t know they like poetry. I don’t care if a poem evokes in you the same feeling or memory I had when I wrote it. If it makes you think of something from your own life, to me that’s a success.”
Jessica Laskey can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.