Words written from the corridors of the soul revealing a journey of joy, devotion, compassion and sorrow that allows us all to grieve, heal and rejoice in the truth that true love is possible.
Sandy Travis Bildahl
I’ve been advocating for patients with triple negative breast cancer for nearly 16 years, ever since my first diagnosis. I mainly talk to women who are diagnosed, but sometimes I hear from their loving husbands. I have never, however, heard a husband put words to this journey the way Bill Lantry has done. His poetry is pure, precise, true, and heartbreaking. We see Kate’s diagnosis from his eyes, and we see his love. I think every woman who has gone through TNBC—and every man who has loved her—needs to read Bill’s words. He touches our souls.
In heartbroken honesty and flawless blank verse, these poems are a loving husband’s account of the long trauma of his wife’s cancer treatment. They might break your heart, too, but beautifully.
Bill Lantry’s poems are filled with heartbreak and hope. A tribute to his wife’s beauty and spirit, they chronicle the ordinary and the transcendent in exquisite detail. Whether Bill is in their garden or in a cancer center waiting room, he lets the reader into his heart. Every single word of these poems is written with love. It is a privilege to read this series of daily poems as each one is posted, to follow along with Bill and Kate as they negotiate such a difficult year.
Take this journey with Kate and those who love her and understand the transcendent beauty and strength and power of love…love against all odds.
Through the words of a poet, we glean a glimpse into a sad truth. There is no false promise here, and yet we enter a world of tranquility, peace, and deep love. This is the reality Bill Lantry shares with us in his words and photographs of his beautiful wife, Kate, as they face the fate of her cancer together. In his photos, Bill captures Kate’s majestic poise as she tells her own story. Behind her tender smile, you can hear her whispering words of joy. You can see the colors of glory only her eyes truly see.
Bill Lantry delineates the quotidian pain at seeing his wife struggle with a serious illness. By alchemy, his words transmute into the highest art. He consoles himself with the most delicate musings about rivers merging, the poetry of Han-Shan, Hafiz, by the pond he designed and built, where lotus and koi coexist with joy. As winter approaches, he digs his garden hibiscus and places them in the greenhouse. Ultimately, Lantry’s poetry is an ode to life and love.
Bill is truly a loving man to Kate, his family, friends, and the beauty in the world. He puts into words all the emotions of those who have been on this journey and all who are on this journey now. His poems bring insight, hope, and love to and for all.
Kate, You are so lovely and loved by so many. You manage to smile even on your darkest days. I admire your strength and grace. Have faith that, given time, you will get through this, as I have. All I can do is send love, prayers and hope. Lean on Bill for strength and comfort; his words bring me both. Your sister warrior Margot in Bandon-by-the-Sea, Oregon.
I’ve never met Kate or Bill – we live on different continents – but some years ago when I had a story in Peacock Journal, I connected with Bill on Facebook. I’ve followed their story daily through Bill’s poems and reminiscences, and the images accompanying them. Their beautiful garden. Kate’s singing, Kate’s face. Bill’s words. Seasons, leaves, birds, prayer flags. Also the other stuff, the bad things that led to this sharing of so much that is beautiful.
The garden pictures bring something back that’s stayed with me for years: in the Japanese Garden in Calderstones Park in Liverpool there is a deer-scarer, a bamboo tube that fills slowly with water, then tilts and releases a miniature cascade, before re-positioning itself and filling up all over again. A steady accumulation, then a pouring-out. I love it.
I’m grateful to Kate and Bill for sharing all this with a stranger, for letting me be a tiny part of what they’re going through. For turning the conversation, always, to love.
These poems are heartfelt and probably written almost spontaneously, yet, the splashes of color or allusions to color make these images come alive. There’s lots more to say about these poems… but for now, I’ll only say that this genuine distilled outpouring of reflections and emotions in such a beautiful way resonates more with readers than very well-crafted poems revised many times that are too conscious of their own artfulness…
Every day a new poem graces my Facebook feed, accompanied by photos: Kate and the glorious outdoors. I remember the one and only time I’ve met you both–at a reading in Baltimore to celebrate a PURE SLUSH publication. The gang was all there, all connected via fictionaut or 52/250, Bill outsized in chat and stature and Kate, quiet and powerful. Never in Bill’s shadow. At the after party we talked about our kids, how we worried about them, worried for them. I remember then I wished I lived closer to DC–I wanted to be your friend. I wanted to keep talking about the important things: writing, gardens, children.
As I read these poems, I am reminded of bearing witness to the decline, and sometimes ultimate loss, of many I have loved. I can’t turn the clock back and relive the times spent with them, but I look for little memories, segments of their voyage that I shared. Somehow, the details of these poems help with that search. They remind me of loved ones I saw through difficult times.
I wish I had recorded the specifics of what I witnessed—what they wore, what they said, when they slept, when they smiled. Those words would conjure their lives and I would rejoice in their being a part of me all over again.
Bill Lantry’s collection of six stanza three-line blank verse in iambic pentameter chronicles, with wife Kate’s encouragement, the progression of her cancer and its treatment. This is a jewel of a collection of poems, one that rivals even the classic love poems. Dante and Keats, my two favorites, celebrate ideal women they never knew or who they never knew well. Lantry celebrates Kate who is his ideal but also very real beloved and his partner for more than a quarter of a century. This reality imparts an emotional depth to his work that even those great poets could not attain. With poems that are both empathetic and enlightening, Lantry reveals the couple’s daily pain and hope, awkward moments, and the glorious times of simple pleasures in the garden, with their son, and stolen times of solitude when he as caregiver tries to recharge. These poems give readers a record , not of simply how to survive in a time of pain and suffering but also show us a way to overcome, to break out of disease’s stranglehold through the power of love. He chronicles this in words and pictures, sometimes simply recording the grace and love of their daily lives including not only the treatments, the pain but also the daily acts of hope—walking in a garden, simply holding hands, watching the loved one as she sleeps. This is a book to keep by one’s side, to read daily to learn the meaning of love.
Every day, I do what writers and poets do: Cuss at Wordle, and then log on to Facebook to see who published where and to follow the feeds of a few poets who post daily or often. Ted Kooser does that, and I’m honored to be among the folks who get to see his new drafts. Bill Lantry does, too–although he has been doing it because he promised he’d follow his wife along with her cancer journey, a poem a day. The result is nothing less than stunning: the loveliness of the exotic plants he cares for in his garden, and the loveliness and strength of Kate, his wife, poem after poem. Especially considering they are new drafts, these are musical and vivid. Bill’s love for Kate is like the sun that makes his plants grow, and his project is radiant with it. These are love poems in the truest sense of the term.
I first knew Kate and Bill through working days at Catholic University, particularly when our office hosted the annual Pie Day event and Kate would add to the festivities by singing a beautiful song. Their love for each other, as well as their shared love of flowers, always has been apparent.
I saw your post today, your many posts and poems about Kate. I don’t know a lot about both of you, but I know you keep becoming a great supporting shoulder for her! Indeed, you are like a giant sycamore! We too have sycamores in sunny Uzbekistan and I love them. With a leaf of a sycamore here I would like to send both of you best of luck in your journey! Light to your life, strong health, good inspiration and prosperity!
Bill’s poetry achingly yet inspirationally documents Kate’s and his shared journey through the horrific minefield of cancer. It nourishes my hunger for the normalcy of real love in all of its expressions and reasons. I feel sure that is true for many, many others, as well.
And yes, there are infinite lessons to be taken from the actual poems themselves. None of them are wasted. We grieve and rejoice with Bill as he shares his most intimate thoughts and moments with Kate through all of this.
A few years ago you were kind enough to feature some of my poems in Peacock Journal.
I began following you on FB and could not turn away from your poems about your journey with cancer. Each one is skillfully crafted and pulls me in. The connection to your garden and pond speaks to me as a fellow gardener. Each new poem amazes me. The sharing of your experience can only uplift and strengthen anyone who embarks on the same journey.
A solitude always hovers over these poems, during this most tumultuous journey into uncharted waters, not knowing if your jib will go slack, this solitude that rises from the deep ground and reflects back all of nature as we wish it to be, and hope it will blossom once again for darling Kate and Bill.
Susan Isla Tepper
I’ve known Kathy, the name I’ve always called her, and Bill for 18+ years. I first met Kathy at church when she became our music director. I remember being so impressed with the amazing strength of her voice both in tone and in volume! How could that large, beautiful sound be coming out of such a petite woman? Going to weekly choir practice and singing at Mass was so much fun and joyful; something I will forever cherish. Kathy has always been Bill’s biggest fan and promoter of his poetry. She would frequently show up at choir practice and tell us about the poetry readings she would attend with Bill. She was, and is, so very proud of his work. The deep respect and love that Kathy and Bill have for one another is very evident and admirable. I feel so blessed to say they are my friends. Thank you both for your incredible gifts!!!”
Ro Mauro Clarke
I don’t know Bill (except as editor of The Peacock Journal) or Kate personally. But, as someone who has experienced cancer, and as a poet, I have loved reading these quiet, soothingly metrical and meditative poems tracking the natural world in the poet’s garden, and beyond, and, with sorrow, hope, and such love, the cancer experience of his wife.”
Bill and Kate’s quest for beauty led them to create Peacock Journal and compile their contributors’ musings on its meaning. Would beauty exist if not shared? Through their love for each other and art they helped poet friends transcend their limitations. I remember how peacock feathers adorned their AWP booths graced by Kate’s elegance and beautiful smile. Bill and Kate’s love for beauty is shown in their care for an idyllic garden and pond, in the way their camera captures every budding flower rivaling Kate’s color-coordinated outfits in a constant renewal that defies the passing of time. Beauty exudes from every word of Bill’s lyrical chronicle, which is a love letter to Kate during her arduous journey toward recovery. Your love will be the healing secret that will get you all through these hard times.
Hedy Sabbagh Habra
I just wanted to say I’m in awe of what you’re doing. It takes a kind of wizardry and a great heart to make such beautiful art from hard life. I wish you and Kate the very best.
I just want to tell you how deeply your posts about Kate touch and move me. As someone who went through short term – 6 weeks – radiation and intermittent chemo, your enduring love for her brings tears to my eyes. I went through it alone. I would have given anything for the constant presence of love that you bring to her life. I admire you for this, Bill. You are a blessed couple. Keep on.
The first time I met Kate was in Bill’s office in the Center for Planning and Information Technology at Catholic University. There were always several undergraduate and graduate student employees or interns in that area, lots of young people working with Bill’s guidance to provide technical support to faculty trying to integrate use of computers into their teaching.
But Kate clearly stood out. A more mature personality; hands down, much better dressed; a quick smile; bright and cultured; and sophisticated, so that I wondered as the weeks went by and we saw more and more of Kate whether Bill had met his match.
And then there was her singing. I’m not sure when I first heard Kate sing, perhaps at one of the occasional social events we’d host in “the legal office,” upstairs in the same building as Bill. One such event was a birthday party for the University President Father O’Connell, and Kate sang “Happy Birthday” in true operatic style, much to the delight of Father O’Connell.
My initial suspicions proved out, and my wife Betsy and I were privileged to stand up for Bill and Kate at their wedding a few years later, presided over by their friend Father Bob Schlageter, in St. Vincent’s Chapel at the university. And there I formed another lasting impression of Kate’s enormous talent and spirit, which she generously shared as she sang at the wedding for her family and friends assembled there. That spirit still shines through in everything she does, whether raising their children or supporting Bill in his writing or in his ceaseless creativity in their gardens.
I’ve been following your poems on Facebook, and just wanted to let you know that you and Kate have remained in my daily prayers. Cancer has been too present in my family – mother, sister, now my oldest son. Much of what you are going through is familiar, even though it’s personal to you. God bless both of you with strength and courage.
James E. Lewis
I am wishing Kate and you the best possible outcome, a new cancer-free, healthy and happy chapter. Thank you for chronicling so deeply and caringly this intimate but universal human drama. Your love and your singing for Kate are so moving.
Robert David Cohen
Honestly, yesterday, after I read the day’s poem, moved, again, to tears at the beauty, the sensitivity, the openness, I thought how perfect might a book be, of the poems, chronologically, of this. Now you propose it. I feel like screaming “YES!” loudly, with emphasis on every hidden meaning, every silent fear and thought. But I don’t want to shock anyone. So, yes. Please. I think it would mean so much. I think it would be impactful.
Yvette Wielhouwer Flis
I think these words assembled are the true living love songs of good partnering in the ways of a diagnosed march toward an accompanied end of ends ending up roiling on the seas of all love in endlessness. Yours is a good guidebook for anyone wanting to accompany their beloved with the courage emboldened by your written truth. Please do as your beloved wishes for all your days together here in this whirling world. If ever there is this chance for me to fall so deeply into the pool the two of you are in together—well, let me dive headfirst into this endless love.
These are powerful poems and they are well-made poems. The careful detailing of it all—that’s what makes them leap from the page, along with the sense of profound suffering and the discovery of beauty along the way. Suffering and beauty, and no sentimentality. That’s hard to do, and he does it so well.
I have been reading these poems one by one each day on Facebook. How can I describe my feelings everyday? Pity and rejoicing. Pity for Kate’s suffering, physical and emotional, and for Bill’s with her. Rejoicing in what he has made for us and for her out of their suffering. These poems are a triumph of form. They are not sonnets but they’re sonnet-like; they are not verse in the strict sense but they have the music of verse. Form contains suffering. I remember once when someone at a reading asked Robert Stone why his books were so unhappy. Stone replied, “The fact that terrible things happen and we can write about them well is not bad news.”
Dirk van Nouhuys
Your writings are like sketches, i can see everything so vividly… can feel the excruciating trauma you are going through … and that is why my respect for you grows manifold as you give light and life to Kate who needs you the most… you are an inspiration Bill… my deepest regard for you
Padmini Dutta Sharma
Your turning towards quietude and her holding the moment are victories, indeed. The greatest success, the reason we’re here, is love. To learn how to give it, to learn how to accept it. It’s the only thing we may take with us when we go, and the only thing we may leave behind, our greatest legacy of all. Your poems are like psalms, and her obvious grace in photos is revelatory. A thousand paper cranes with a thousand prayers are adrift within these tides of life. You both have my sympathy and admiration. Your incredible poems, as well as the obvious adoration and admiration for your beloved, are stunning. I’ve been widowed twice, and have lost so many others over the years, much too close together, and this is so deeply true and profound. I finally realized that I couldn’t experience such loss had there not first been miraculous gain. The very notion that we’re on this rock, drifting through space, and suddenly, we’re looking straight into the eyes, heart and soul of love. I don’t believe in coincidence. You were meant to be together, and you were meant to write these words of knowing/unknowing, to paint her in every glorious shade of love. To share the journey, however long it may be, is an honor and a privilege.
Wanda Lea Brayton
On a rough day one look at Kate’s kind, radiant face, the Zen like beauty of their garden, Bill ‘s simple yet poignant poems washes away all the negativity from within. That’s the therapeutic impact they have and then in their most adverse circumstances he found strength & courage to chronicle their journey through Kate’s Cancer diagnosis & treatment. Each poem is a beacon of love and light not just for those fighting this dreaded disease, but also for caregivers, partners coping and assisting their loved ones through it.
For those of us searching for solace, Bill’s words act as a soothing balm. The profound beauty in suffering, the fragility of everyday living, the reinventing of self despite all. It’s incredible how he’s woven it all in this delicate tapestry of words.
Bill’s word imagery is incredibly moving. A world emerges as one reads his words & for that moment everything else fades away.
The poems, luminous & deeply heartfelt, bring an order to the chaos.
I feel this compilation, deeply personal yet universal, will bring the warmth of love to those going through this illness alone and will become a companion they can reach out to at any given time. I’m glad these poems are being complied into a book. Like Kintsugi it will fill the cracks with hope, love and reassurance.
“There is brilliance and wisdom here. Lantry has embraced a difficult subject—one loaded with pain, wonderment, and moments of pure joy. They are deeply felt, inspired, and skillfully constructed. They will endure.”
I’ve found there’s no better antidote to pain than writing it. Writing through it. When the body betrays us and spins out of control, we need something to hold onto. Some turn to faith and let doctors decide their fate. Others (like me) obsessively research all options until they reach a point where they realize they know all they will ever be able to know, and then must make life or death decisions based on what is often incomplete knowledge. It’s nearly impossible to put aside all those emotions, kicking and screaming to be heard–including hope–in order to focus on living each day.
Writing did this for me. Writing does this for Bill Lantry. And what better vessel to express these feelings than in these controlled and beautiful 18-lined poems, all written in iambic pentameter, the rhythm of breath. No sentimentality lurks in these poems. Some of the most powerful emotions are expressed by not being stated, including the most important one of all–love. Bill and Kate’s love will survive, as long as there are words.
Nancy Naomi Carlson
Love makes itself known even (or especially) in hard times. It flows out from Bill Lantry’s Kate in the garden settings where he photographs her and gives a parallel verse text for the image. What better representation of love can there be when it is enacted on the knife blade of a grave diagnosis? Art cares and it cures.