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.

Saturday, December 1, 2012



My daughter, “Mary,” was placed at birth through a closed adoption in 1966.  My daughter contacted me at age 26.  At her request, we met in 1993. Our reconnection was extremely emotional, cathartic and liberating for me. From that day forward, I no longer needed to purge my longing or secreted desire to see and embrace her on canvas. After our meeting I was also able to pen the poetry that was deep within my heart for twenty-six years. Undeniable feelings I experienced but never allowed myself to write. And it felt good to put words on paper.

Today, when I look at my artwork from that secreted adoption placement time in my life, I see shame, sadness, and confusion oddly depicted in a serene manner. My paintings were a means of transferring, to canvas, innermost feelings at that time. Artwork sustained me. It was a means of channeling my feelings …a way to speak the unspoken. Little by little, I transitioned from painting somber self-portraits to creating a little girl who grew up on canvas. That girl was “Mary” …my daughter. I painted the pretty blond, blue-eyed girl from toddler to young adult. The last painting of Mary shows no face but rather the image of a young woman looking beyond. Surreal as the thought may have been at the time, I believed in my heart, that someday, we would meet as women.

As for art, I stepped away from painting for nearly two decades following our reunion, but in the past year have felt energized to create again.

It is my belief that creating on canvas and writing from one's heart are certainly undeniable vehicles of communication, both in sadness and joy.

I am currently in the final phase of publishing Mary and Me Beyond the Canvas A Birth Mother's Memoir.



This poem is the last in a series written about my secret adoption experience.

Garden Gate

The young woman paused
At my garden gate
The time was not early
The time was not late
Her head slightly turned
I saw no face
Still my heart felt calm
At this mystical place

Distance remained
While briefly she stayed
Still looking beyond
But not away

Then mist filled the air
As dew touched the ground
And I understood why
She turned not around

This portrait I reasoned
Must be the last
Knowing one day her future
Would include my past

Susan Van Sleet, an artist and writer, has always been passionate about her creations and believes her earliest poetry and artwork are naturally cathartic. For nearly three decades, using art as therapy, Susan processed her longing for the estranged child she had placed through a closed adoption in 1966. She privately named her birth daughter, Mary. When the two women met, in 1993, at Mary’s request, Susan saw for the first time the daughter she had only imagined for nearly three decades. As a writer, her published poetry has been described as riveting. Susan is currently writing a memoir, Mary and Me …Beyond the Canvas, which is scheduled for release early next year.