Poetry: it inevitably relates to -- among others -- identity, history, culture, class, race, community, economics, politics, power, loss, health, desire, regret, language, form and genre disruption, love ... as well as the absences thereofs. The same may be said about Adoption.

Thursday, April 7, 2011



We adopted our children in the sixties. The first two, boys, were private adoptions. They came home with us directly from the hospital. We had the chance to hold them after only a day or two. Our daughter came through an agency, who placed her in foster care for over a month before releasing her to us. So for several weeks, she was not part of our family. We, and eventual therapists, believe that she did not get enough attention as a new infant and this made it hard to bond with us and with others. We loved her dearly, and she was a beautiful, bright and creative little girl, but she found it hard to make friends, and made very few. She found it hard to surrender to being family. By the time she was eleven she had withdrawn to a great degree and her adolescence was isolated, surrounded by a desire to find her roots and move out into the world. By 18 she was gone. We saw her at two family occasions and have not seen her since. That is over twenty years ago. Our pain at this loss, and her pain leading up to her leaving was heightened when a boy friend in whom she had put her trust and finally found a bond, eloped with a Brazilian woman who needed a green card. She was a high school senior and they were still, she thought, a devoted couple. That, I think, was the final straw. That destruction of trust made it easier for her to break away and seek a life and community elsewhere. She now lives abroad, and very, very infrequently writes a letter. Over twenty years gone, over 5 years without communication.

Our sons had their own difficulties, as do all kids and as teenagers, but remain close to us, stay in touch, come to visit, have families, and are loving and sweet.

(left to right) a 2009 photo featuring her husband Lee, CB Follett, grandson Sam,
son Paul, and granddaughter Lorne



I write about her all the time. I write from our pain, and her pain. I think the experience of loving unconditionally as we try to do with our children, has brought compassion into my explorations of relationships and situations. It has made it easier for me to write persona poems, because I spent so much time trying to imagine what she needed, and what she might have accepted from us. And it allowed me to explore in poetry, the deep pockets of my own pain, loss and sense of inadequacy. I have written many poems about my sons, but not so much about them as adoptees.

CB Follett's own artwork (a digital construction from a detail of a collage) which is on the cover of her collection, Runaway Girl from Pudding House Press



Lost and Found

My daughter has found her birth mother.
Soft rocks the cradle.

Hard scrabble, this search,
this last search, begun in her gut
somewhere around eight.

Loss colored all her stables.
Rejection rode the winning horse,
balked at the fences, and threw her
in the mud. Again and Again.

One day, she got an answer. Hired
a detective, who took her clues
to the head of the line, and so
she sent a letter. Got one back,
and some pictures. Now at last,
she looks like someone,
is somebody's daughter.

And I wish her
the joy of it, as she rises
out of the mysterious density of loss,
and I fall toward it.

First Name

Before she wrapped the blanket,
tucked its ends, handed you
to the agency lady,
what did she call you?

And when, years later,
you tracked her down.
on a tree-lined street
with other daughters
entitled to her arms,
was there a name
that anchored you
to blood and salt?

When you were mine,
I gave you the best I had,
my father's gentle name,
withheld from two sons
for you, my daughter,
a link to my blood
I wish flowed in your veins.

I understand: I do.
How that first missing name
is an empty place,
a gap easy to fall into
and find deep.

Soft Letters

The word adopted with its soft letters,
the p nudged against the t.
Adopted should be a word of nested boxes
instead of the barbed wire
you've erected between us.

It is on your birthday I miss
our never having interwoven.
You inside me
curled against your coming out
our blood mingled so that what I ate
you ate, what I breathed in, might have
breathed to you there in the sac,
the warm sea of your beginning,

but we were never yoked and that
for you has made all the difference.

[The poems were first published in the author's chapbook, Runaway Girl (Pudding House Chapbook Series, Columbus, OH, 2007)]



The current Poet Laureate of Marin County, CA (2010-2012), CB Follett has had her poems appear in many magazines and anthologies in the U.S. and other countries. She has received numerous awards and grants -- among them, five poem nominations for the Pushcart Prize in Poetry; three Pushcard nominations as a poet; runner-up for the Robert Winner Prize, the George Bogin Award and finalist for the Alice Fay Di Castagnola Award (all from the Poetry Society of America); received contest honors in the Billee Murray Denny, New Letters Prize, the Ann Stanford Prize, the Glimmer Train Poetry Contest and others, a grant for poetry from the Marin Arts Council -- and now has six collections of poetry, The Latitudes of Their Going (1993), Gathering the Mountains (1995) (both from Hot Pepper Press), Visible Bones (1998, Plain View Press), At the Turning of the Light (2001, Salmon Run Press) winner of The National Poetry Award, Hold and Release (2007, Time Being Books), And Freddie Was My Darling (2009, Many Voices Press) and forthcoming in Fall of 2011, One Bird Falling (Time Being Books). With Susan Terris, a friend and poetry colleague, Follett was publisher and co-editor of Runes, A Review of Poetry , a themed annual 2000-2007. Follett is publisher, editor, general dogsbody of Arctos Press which has published over 20 anthologies and poetry collections.

Follett is also an painter and photographer and has done several of the illustrations and covers for her books, Arctos Press books, as well as poetry book covers from other presses. A graduate of Smith College, she lives with her husband in Sausalito, California perched between the coastal range and San Francisco Bay.


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