The Fates

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By Joanne Clarkson

Published 6/20/2017

Poetry. “Joanne Clarkson’s THE FATES is a relentlessly engaging collection; you’ll be hooked from the start. ‘Anything can be spun: mare’s tail, thistle, / free will. My task is dust / and the sticky milk of love,’ she writes, assuming the guise of one of her three presiding goddesses. Like them, she spins, measures, and cuts—birth, life, and death—with language as her vital thread. Whether exploring her personal history or the stories of widows coping with grief, at almost every turn Clarkson draws from her broad experience as a hospice nurse. These poems display a deep compassion; their wisdom has been earned; and always they guide us toward finding ways ‘to beat back blues / and yellows, every bruise, and just release / into the terrible need to live.'” —Richard Foerster

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In The Fates Joanne M. Clarkson contemplates what can and cannot be controlled.  This questioning is prompted by her experience as a Hospice Nurse and from growing up with her grandmother, a psychic.  Who determines when and how we end our lives?  Can anyone know the future?  If known, can the future be changed? She organizes the book around the three Fates from classical mythology: Klotho who spins, Lachesis who measures, and Atropos who snips the thread of life at the end. This legend extends to her grandmother. When she wasn’t reading cards, she worked as a seamstress and milliner, work that gave her creative expression. Characters in Clarkson’s poetry range from Clarkson’s sister, who died from crib death, through portraits of patients to her personal mythology, culminating in the discovery that her maiden name came from an obscure Slovak goddess, her own tangled fate.


Joanne M. Clarkson won Bright Hill’s 2015 poetry book competition, judged by Maine poet Richard Foerster. Her previous collections include “Believing the Body,” published in 2014 by Gribble Press. She was awarded a Grant for Artist Projects from Artist Trust of     Washington to help her complete “The Fates.” Her poem “Klotho the Fibre Goddess Describes Fate” won first place in Northern Colorado Writers Annual Competition in 2015 and “Survivor” was selected by Emrys Journal in 2016 for their Nancy Dew Taylor “excellence in the art of poetry” award. Joanne has loved poetry since she was a child and her work has appeared in over 200 magazines and journals internationally. She has Master’s Degrees in English and Library Science, has taught and worked as a professional librarian.  After caring for her mother through a long illness, she re-careered as a Registered Nurse specializing in Home Health and Hospice care.  In the spring of 2016, she published her first non-fiction book: “There’s Always a Miracle: True Stories of Life Before and After Death,” about her time as a Hospice RN.  Joanne lives in Olympia, Washington, with her husband James.  She serves on the Board of the Olympia Poetry Network.