In her debut poetry collection, Terrain, self-taught poet and educator Gina Hietpas offers readers a way to return to the land with care and dignity. Drawing from a deep well of personal observation, connection and participation with the natural world, Hietpas’ poems explore themes of allyship, care, and ultimately, healing. On each page, Hietpas invites readers to experience the highs and lows of health and illness, bravery and anxiety, and aging and timelessness as she has throughout her life in the Pacific Northwest. These poems are meant to be a respite, a pause in our busy lives to appreciate who and what surrounds us.
PRAISE FOR TERRAIN
“Hietpas has crafted a remarkable collection – a life-narrative contained in 28 succinct, inventive, and moving poems. With language and perceptions that shift deftly between directness and delight, between foreboding and resolution, these poems pay homage to Hietpas’ home terrain on the Olympic Peninsula, to her family, and to the coyotes, ancient orchards, wrens, and eagles that share that land – and their lessons – with her.” — Bill Yake, author of This Old Riddle
“‘In solitude you learn your story,’ so begins this lovely narrative told in poems where nature’s seasons are juxtaposed with the seasons of two entwined lives. ‘What a delight to be trapped in each other’s arms,’ Hietpas writes, and what a delight to read through these pages. A fine and charming debut.” — Susan Rich, author of Cloud Pharmacy
“In Terrain, nature is a map that helps us navigate through life, illness, and healing with hopefulness as our compass. Throughout this collection, Hietpas continues to find the gifts in the natural world: ‘drenched in the Milky Way, /we warmed ourselves with possibilities and through a bear devouring apples—honey crisp, golden gems/ neglected abundance.’ With an attentiveness to nature and daily life, Terrain reminds us of how everything is a metaphor. It’s a beautiful debut of poems that while dealing with more complex subjects such as illness, love, and healing, remind you how much there is to learn from the blackberries, the coyotes, the blue jays.” — Kelli Russell Agodon, author of Dialogues with Rising Tides
“Heitpas’ poems are offerings, prayers, and elixirs. As calls to courage, they revel in the natural world, birds and elk, whales and wind, all the while acknowledging her husband’s failing health. Quickened by such urgency, Hietpas’ poems sharpen the moment between place and perception, the intersection of the physical world with her own emotional terrain. These are poems that articulate the precarious balance between action and inaction, between sleep and the calls of the flicker, between calm and her ‘unruly mind,’ as she tries to compose ‘comfort out of the air.’ … Complex, moving, sensuous in their images, and insightful in their vision, Hietpas’ poems deserve rereading again and again.” — James McKean, author of Headlong
“Hietpas’ poems blossom from the earth of our deepest human experience. She writes insightfully from the perspectives of mother and wife, gardener and gleaner, and her poems sing with a freshness that enchants. These are poems of a woman and artist rooted in family and place and nourished by the larger wild community that surrounds her. Poem by poem, Hietpas opens her world to us: in coyote choruses and surgical wards, in moments of moonlit solitude and in the tenderest of love poems. In many ways, Terrain is a lyric love poem to a place and a life: hard–lived, well–loved, and expressed with dazzling clarity.” — Tim McNulty, poet and author of Ascendance
“Words that come to mind when reading Terrain are curiosity, courage, resilience, and resolve. Hietpas brings these qualities to her daily tasks whether she is gathering eggs, sharing berries, or navigating an uncharted health crisis. The resulting poems are evocative and engaging. The depth and acuity Hietpas exhibits in depicting the natural world make her a reliable narrator when she ventures into less familiar settings and situations. The ongoing inspiration she derives from her home ground – orchard, pasture, woods – is reflected in the strength, grace, and hope that inform her response to the precarious journey she so elegantly describes and generously shares.” — Susan Blackaby, author of Nest, Nook & Cranny, winner of the 2011 Lion and the Unicorn Award for Excellence in North American Poetry
“Expressing yourself creatively is essential to thriving and surviving with a chronic illness, whether you’re the caregiver or the one who needs care. Terrain is filled with poems of persistence, courage and hope. I applaud Hietpas for sharing her insightful wisdom.” — Lori Hartwell, founder and president of Renal Support Network
“In quietly vibrant poems, Hietpas explores the complex terrain of love for her husband and the old homestead where they settle, drawing strength and solace from the land and its inhabitants as they negotiate unexpected health challenges together. In these subtle, powerful poems, we, too, learn to trust the voices of coyote and wren, to watch for messages from eagle and elk, as the poet’s husband endures surgeries that give them new life together. Quiet transformation, hard-earned wisdom, and deep love of place is on every page of this moving collection as love prevails, returning us to the homestead and the voices of all who inhabit it. Kudos to Hietpas, who knows the terrain, understands what it means to inhabit deeply and intimately the land and a marriage, and who offers us a great gift in these insightful poems.” — Holly J. Hughes, author of Hold Fast
“Hietpas’ poems make their pathway through continued observation, acknowledging the wide intimacy of the world just beyond a doorway and into the mystery of the inner landscape of relationship. This poet lives in tandem with the creatures, with the aching world, with the Beloved. Her observations are not just for herself, but for another who is anchored in another place. This work creates a vista that welcomes one who is shy to wonder. ‘… drenched in the Milky Way,’ I read and wondered, ‘Have I ever lived this aware, this awake?’ I hope to learn from this sure guide.” — Shannon O’Donnell, author of Finding Grace Within
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Gina Hietpas is a self-taught poet, born and raised in Tacoma, Washington state. Nowadays, she lives outside Sequim, WA, on a small farm with her husband, a few cows and a passel of chickens. Her land is a habitat for elk, deer, coyotes and an occasional bear. It is, for the most part, a peaceful coexistence.
The opportunity to be a back-country ranger for several seasons shaped her connection to wilderness. Professionally she was a middle school teacher for twenty five years. Now that she has retired, she focuses her efforts on writing. She has studied with Kelli Russell Agodon, Alice Derry, Holly Hughes, Susan Rich and Kim Stafford. Hietpas’ work has appeared in Minerva Rising, Tidepools, Spindrift and New Plains Review.
ABOUT THE COVER ART
“Terrain” by Heather Romano (2020). About the artwork, Romano says,
“Terrain” was my endeavor to create a work of art that not only recalls specific images from the text but also visually represents the underlying themes of the poems as well. The painting plays specifically off of the theme of the body as terrain, and how our experiences create and inform who we are. Each tattoo is a visual way of etching the landscape of the poetry into the skin of the figure. The open chest is meant to evoke the idea of caregiving, which is a unique experience that forces all involved to face fears and difficult truths.
Perhaps one of the ultimate gestures of love, caring for a loved one with a life-threatening condition leaves a mark on those who bear witness in addition to those who are unwell; the woman in the painting also wears her “heart” tattooed on the outside of her body to represent this. It was my hope to capture the beauty and fear of such an experience in a way that reinforces and complements the written work of the poet.”
ABOUT THE ARTIST: Born in Arizona and raised in New Mexico, Heather Romano is a teaching artist currently residing in North Carolina. Her personal work explores myth, spirituality, and femininity, often through the lens of southwestern culture. Although she works with a variety of traditional and digital mediums, she is a painter at heart.