My niece came for a visit in early June. Every morning, I prepared my bag for our tourist sightseeing in New York City: my refillable bottle of water, two masks, hand sanitizer, a cellphone charger, and Ambrosia: Poetic Recipes. The poetic book where Trudy Richards wrote the second part of the three-part collection. (To read the interview with Patricia Rios, the coauthor of the first part, please click here.)

My niece and I read the collection, whispering to each other the words while riding the train, sitting on a bench in Central Park, or even walking along the promenade of Brooklyn Heights. Sometimes, as I returned from washing my hands in a restaurant, she was perusing through the book, and our coffee or a full meal turned into a long conversation about one of the poems.

And now, I have the opportunity to hear from the author herself.

JS/ My personal experience of reading your collection made me think that reading poetry should be a collective or at least a social experience. Even reading in solitary, I need to find the poem alive outside. What do you think about it?

TR/Of course I agree with you. I write poems to share my experience of living, and the best way I can think of to do that is to read them aloud. When I read a poem to a roomful of interested people, I get to feel how it touches them, and their response in turn touches me.

I’m not sure why I want so much to share my experience that way – I just know I do. Maybe it’s that we share this planet, and we need to understand each other on a deeper level than survival. Or maybe it’s like that koan about a tree falling in the forest – if no one is there to hear it, does it make any sound? If no one reads my poem, does mean anything?

JS/  I think of you as a spiritual writer; indeed, one of your poems, Unleash Peace, published in Pressenza, was nominated for the Best Spiritual Awards 2022. But at the same time, the poem’s topic, peace itself, is also highly political. Can you comment on that, and how do you define yourself as a poet?

TR/ Sorry, I’ve tried, but I can’t help ranting a bit here, so here goes. First, I define myself as a poet who writes poems to share my experience of living, but my experience is almost never political because I seldom go there. Sure, peace can be termed a “political” topic – but only in a very global, humanistic sense. I never intentionally write about politics as such, unless in a satirical sense, because our political system is so heartless that it turns my stomach. Politicians mislead the public by promising to make positive external changes for ordinary humans while knowing that their policies can only end up benefiting the super-rich because the rich are the only ones who can pay for political campaigns. So I have absolutely no faith in politics as a path toward meaningful change. I understand that politics might someday theoretically be a useful tool for humanity, but at this point, it remains nothing but a useless lie. My poem, in contrast, is about finding peace inside us as the only way to bring peace to the world.

JS/I know you have poems on different topics, but I think of death as a consistent theme. What is it about death that’s so attractive to poets, and how do you approach the topic?

TR/ Well, it’s funny. I stopped believing in death a while ago after an undeniable experience that we don’t really die. Discovering that death isn’t real was such an enormous relief that that’s all I’ve wanted to talk about ever since.

At this point, though, I have to add a caveat. I’m convinced that my statement that we don’t die is true for anyone who truly wants to be alive. But some people are so incredibly cruel, to themselves and others, that it looks to me like they really don’t want to be alive. For them I think death might be the merciful and happily very real end to a lifetime of misery.

Whether or not we really die, and whether or not we believe in death, I’m pretty sure that we all have some fear of dying. It seems to me everything we do in life can be traced back to our fear of death. We spend our days either engaged in survival-oriented activities (making money, exercising, going to the doctor, eating a healthy diet, etc.); or in trying to distract ourselves from immanent death and loss (watching TV, wandering the internet, eating too much of an unhealthy diet, taking unhealthy drugs, drinking an unhealthy amount, etc.); or in visiting therapists and gurus in search of a way to be ok with a life that has such a high price tag.

I’m no exception. I don’t believe in death, but when someone I love dies, or when I think something – climate change or the next plague or some new pimple – is immanently going to kill me, my disbelief in death becomes irrelevant, and I have to reconcile with everything all over again. The only saving grace is that I’ve gone through all this before (over and over again), and each time it’s a tiny bit easier, and I’m able to go a tiny bit deeper.

I guess that’s something most poets have in common. As you’ve noticed, we tend to revel in the topic of death – we delight in looking the gift horse of life in the mouth and counting her rotting teeth…

JS/ I love your poem “The Feast of Life.” It’s like a fable in verse where God is not the male bearded man painted by Michelangelo but rather Mama God. Do you have other fable-like poems?

TR/Hmmm – a couple I can think of is “The Great 21st Century Poemic,” from the 2nd year of the pandemic… And “The Day of the Great Change” – not a poem, but quite fablish, and poetic enough. And there’s a new one I love, “Dancing with the Wolf of Happiness”…

JS/ Regarding the same poem, my niece has two questions for you: Do you think life defines us as creatures who must be hungry? On the other hand, regarding Mama God mentioned in the poem, do you think that Mama God made us relive that sensation of hunger so we can have a sensation of fulfillment with what we have achieved and who we are?

TR/ Hmmm again. Yes, we are hungry in many ways, and some of our hunger is necessary for the survival of this bodily form. But many other forms of hunger are just about our compulsion to possess, and possession does not always help us – quite the opposite. Silo talks about possession being at the root of all suffering, and that’s certainly been my experience. The system we live in tells us life is about getting what we want. But if I’m always trying to get something, my energy and attention are always directed inward, toward “myself” and toward getting what I need. Then I spend my whole life contracted, like a clenched fist. But it turns out that the only time I really feel fulfilled is when I’m not thinking about myself at all, but instead am giving what I can to others. And it’s really hard to give with a clenched fist – much easier with an open hand…

JS/You have a poem in “Surrounded” that calls for internal and spiritual peace in the middle of a disaster. What’s the role of spirituality while we face a climate catastrophe or while we see increasing government corruption and people poverty, while we are the victims and perhaps the perpetrator of all the ills that affect this society. I’m afraid that spirituality would create a kind of conformism sometimes. What do you think?

TR/ If my spirituality is a more or less external spirituality based on someone else’s rules for how to be a good, peaceful human, then yes, that spirituality might lead me to conformism. On the other hand, in order to be drawn to such a superficial kind of spirituality, I’d already have to have conformist tendencies.

But in this poem I’m not referring to any external, superficial kind of spirituality. I’m referring to the deep spirituality that arises out of our own inner stillness, something we can only experience by going deep inside us and, as Silo puts it, “carefully meditating in humble search.”

JS/ Tell me about your co-authors. What do you like about their poetry, and what did you do to synchronize your poems in a single book?

TR/ I became acquainted with the poetry of both Beatriz and Patricia when I translated their poems from Spanish into English – that’s how I fell in love with their work, and why I invited them both to collaborate on this book.

Although I believe we all agree in our fundamental approach to living, something that’s led us all to our deep appreciation of the work of Silo, the three of us couldn’t be more different in our approach to writing poetry – which made it quite complicated to produce the book. Just agreeing on a focus and then choosing which poems to include was a long and complex process, with a lot of back and forth, disagreeing and clarifying and agreeing, etc. But it was entirely worth it – I love the book we finally produced, although it was so much work that I’ll have to think twice before undertaking any similar project in the future.

What I love most about the poetry of both my co-authors is that each poet gives me such a crystal clear glimpse of the world through her own eyes. That glimpse clarifies and transforms the way I see the world. Patricia speaks in such a fearless voice, sometimes so brashly, and she sings and cries out to beauty everywhere, even in the most depressing ugliness. And in Beatriz’s deep, quiet voice, there’s the most beautiful peace and such enormous joy… I thank them both with all my heart for being in my life.

JS/Finally, what projects do you have in your hands?

TR / Mainly I plan to keep writing and sharing what I write – preferably live, at every opportunity I can wangle, but also on my podcast, the Day of the Winged Lioness.

I’m also uploading all my existing work to my website, That’s something I’ve been putting off, since it’s a lot of grunt-work – but why write if it’s going to stay sealed up in my computer?

Especially now that, halfway through my 8th decade, I really have to be ready to leave at a moment’s notice – they like to just spring these things on you when there’s an opening, you know, so there’s no way to plan, time-wise at least.

At least I’ve managed to reserve one of the very best, most well-respected guides in those parts, a baqueano who has helped countless travelers find their way. So I count myself lucky!

Anyway, I’m here for the moment, doing my everyday things – but you never know when I’ll be taking off. It’s exciting and strange – I’m looking forward to it with the oddest mixture of trepidation, disbelief, and wonder…

Trudy Richards: Born in northern California in the middle of the 20th century, Trudy Lee was raised by kind people who encouraged her to dream and write, draw and sing and above all to love life. This she gladly did  until, upon coming of age, she stumbled one day down the wrong rabbit hole, and woke up lost and alone in the dark. Filled with dismay, she began to grope her way forward, looking for love, looking for meaning and direction…After what seemed eons of loneliness and despair, she bumped into some friendly folks who were making their way together toward Light on the horizon in the company of an agile fellow named Silo. She was last seen with a band of these peaceful lunatics in Portland, Oregon, where she enjoys the beautiful rain and writes words and music to open the portal to the Place Where We Do Not Die. She’s the author of Confessions of Olivia, On Wings of Intent, a Biography of Silo, Fish Scribbles, Soft Brushes with Death, and others. She’s the host of the podcast, The Day of the Winged Lioness.