The Hat is doffed to mark the passing of one our cultural instigators — poet, writer and musician Shann Palmer. My connections with Shann were typical of the artistic scene here; we met at various social situations, theater and arts events. She was always supportive of my creative efforts and a dynamic member of the writing community. I’ll miss Shann’s often sharp take on things and her laugh, and basically, her presence.
She maintained a blog where she regularly posted poems, thoughts and bits of memoir. Shann recently worked on a series called "American Housewife Haiku."
On Nov. 22, she posted #22, on the 50th anniversary of the death of John F. Kennedy.
Who wakes expectingto die before the sun sets? I don’t, though I could."
disappearing," #30 went up on Nov. 30 as the last installment. The haikus would thereafter, she wrote, “be parceled out in a book, or something.”
There were just enough words to finish her last thought: Thank you, it's been fun
In recent days, she put up a series of works grouped around the subject of Advent. On Dec. 8, she posted, “The Miracle of Yes.” The first section reads:
Improvisors learn this quickly: to say No stops all forward motion. Let me restate: after you say No the sun ceases spinning and the universe tumbles in on itself in the sound of a snap.
Early on Dec. 11, she posted She Waits, where a steady rhythm of “She waits” joins a series of daily tasks. This was her last. Afterward, Shann suffered a coma-inducing heart attack.
On an unseasonably warm and wonderful Dec. 21, Shann left. It rained for two days afterward, bringing us a clean and bright Christmas Eve. Her daughter, Alia Rabadaugh, remarks on Facebook: “She was an amazing mentor, singer, writer, pianist, cleaner, *sometimes* cook, friend, colleague, and most of all, mother and wife. Considering her amazingly full life, that's a brief synopsis of her brilliance.”
Alia also updated her mother’s poetry blog with the news and memory.
“She left behind a lot,” Alia writes. “A husband, son, daughter [me]; friends, groups, a church, and I kid you not, a lifetime of writing. There are boxes upon boxes. She never threw anything away.
"Before she died, she had been making plans. In November, she went to her doctor with a persistent cold that turned into an arrhythmia caused by a virus. Suddenly she had all these doctors appointments and new medications with fluctuating doses and schedules. Her heartbeat was too fast. There was damage. An ECG showed at some point she had suffered a minor heart attack. Unfortunately the ECG couldn't pinpoint the date and time. We were given a spectrum of 30 years. The jokes that us kids almost killed her lost their fun. Who am I kidding? She loved the irony.
”I’ll leave the last words for Shann, this from a “Forgotten Poem from 2004,” that she posted on Sept. 13, 2011. It’s titled Sequence, and begins:
All my poems scamble in shrimp nets, fulland fishy, tossed across the deck of boats
where lazy afternoons sway honky-tonk music.
Sometimes in the middle of a dream I'll hear
a Cajun tune I can't remember when I'm awake. Makes me wonder what else I've forgotten, who sang.
These are the final lines.
dancing on the other side of a closed door, at the end of the dock, in an elevator going up.
More of her work, a virtual chapbook, is here.