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LA Times Poets: Eloise Klein Healy

Former Los Angeles Poet Laureate Eloise Klein Healy

As I mentioned in my previous post, what I enjoyed most at the Los Angeles Times Book Festival were the poetry readings at the Poetry Stage sponsored by Small World Books of Venice. One poet that impressed me for her sheer cojones was the 80-year-old Eloise Klein Healy who clawed her way back from aphasia. Let the introduction to her poetry collection Another Phase tell the story:

You cannot understand what you hear or read. You cannot speak or write and be understood. Your use of language has been lost. You speak and write words in a nonsensical manner. You hear what people say, but it makes no sense.

Her post-aphasia collection entitled Another Phase consists of haiku-like five-line poems that discuss her triumph. Below is one of them, entitled “Another Phase,” which lends its title to the collection:

Another Phase

It’s hard for me to read the L.A. Times.
I want to relearn, to refine part of me.
How did my brain twist?
How did the whack of it phase me?
Every page. Every word blank.

The subject of her rehab in the world of poetry is also covered in a poem entitled “Problem”:


When first I wrote a poem,
I couldn't change anything.
Didn't plan to edit or write another.
“Brain fry” was my reality time.
Step two wasn't there yet.

What I learned from listening to Healy read her poetry and then reading the poems in Another Phase was the woman’s courage and persistence in the face of calamity. She is still a little unsteady on her pins, but I find her to be an inspiration to me. And that’s not something I say about a lot of people.