Sown in Tears, Reaped in Joy: Poems and Images by Bracha Leora Fenster

The origins of this collection are many. For much of my life I have written poetry and taken photographs. The greatest inspiration for compiling this body of work arose from my years of work with the late Julie Portman. I met Julie a decade ago.  I took one of her courses in using the method she developed to facilitate the writing of vignettes taken from life. She called it Life Stories Work.

It is a means of capturing, in prose form, events from different periods of the writer’s life.  It becomes a form of memoir written as creative nonfiction.  Julie’s enormous gifts in creative process and mentoring provide me with a context in which to explore the writing craft.  I determined to complete a Life Stories Project in consultation with her. After starting in prose, I kept returning to poetry to tell my stories.  As she often encouraged her students, to “follow your tangents”, I asked Julie if I might return to poetic form to complete this project. In her belief that much creative expression is life story, she encouraged me to pursue the poems which kept arising. She also suggested that I use my photography to complement the writing. The generosity of Julie Portman’s vision, friendship and support emboldened me to give my focus and commitment to completing this book.  Her untimely death after a struggle with cancer leaves a void for many of us.  She provided ballast and a sense of agency in our creative endeavors. This part of her legacy remains, as does my gratitude for her continued presence through the echoes of her laughter and spirit.