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Kat Lehmann says her children are her greatest teachers. (Photo courtesy of Kat Lehmann )
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The poet Kat Lehmann believes that “if someone wants to put something good in the world, they can just do it.”
Working from that premise, she has been leaving signed copies of her collection of 180 original short works of poetry and prose word-meditations, entitled Small Stones from the River, in public places since it was published in July of this year. She also has given away hundreds of ebook copies through free Amazon downloads. The next free ebook download will take place on Saturday, Nov. 4 and Sunday, Nov. 5, from the book’s Amazon page.
“We tend to think there needs to be group organization, official backing, or other such support to make an impact in our community, but we all have to power to create positive change simply by creating it,” she says. “With this in mind, I began putting ripples of kindness into the world by leaving signed copies of Small Stones of the River in public places where they can be found, kept, or given away as a way to keep the ripple rippling.”
She’s left copies on the Guilford Green, the New Haven Green, the boardwalk of Seaside Heights, New Jersey, and a bench in Old Town San Diego...”The times I have returned 10 minutes later, the book is gone. I think this speaks to the thirst we have for positive messages.”
She says the poems and prose word-meditations are meant to be provide inspiration regardless of whether someone typically reads poetry. It is her second published work.
“The idea is that the pieces are like small stones that one can put in their pocket for later. Both books were written during a time of personal healing and renewal. My hope and prayer has always been that my writing could support others on their healing journeys. The trick was to find a way to take myself out of the equation so that strangers could find the books even if they did not know about them or could afford to buy them,” she says.
When Lehmann is not working on her poetry, or sending it out in the world, she is a wife and mother of two children who also works as an associate research scientist in medicine at Yale University. Her undergraduate degree is in molecular biology and philosophy of science, and she has a doctorate in biochemistry. She’s worked at Harvard Medical School/Mass General, and as a senior regulatory analyst at Yale. She lived and worked for a time in California, where she worked on ribonucleoprotein assembly and ribonucleic acid localization.
Finding Time to Write
How does she have time to focus on that, and her family, and her poetry too?
“I think when we feel passionate about something, we often find time to do it. The time I find is the hour or two after my kids are asleep. My first book, Moon Full of Moons, was largely written during those sleepy hours over the course of four years,” she says. “During the day, I would carry the current draft of the manuscript in my satchel, editing sections here and there in the odd moments, sometimes when those moments were no longer than five minutes.”
At the center of her passion to write is a desire to help others, and herself, “cope with life’s tragedies and loss which I’ve found most of us have endured,” she says.
“In my narrative, growing up with a mentally ill mother sparked a need for deep, soul-healing work. In short, I had to process the perpetual loss of maternal guidance and the premature demand to be the family matriarch,” she says.
For a time, she found an outlet in creating clay pottery, but when her children were born, it was hard to make time for that, so she shifted from pottery to poetry.
“I drew on my long-standing love of poetry as an expressive medium. I wrote and wrote until I had over 100 poems that followed the arc of finding happiness after deep sadness,” she says.
While she’s a Ph.D. biochemist by training, she has always loved writing. And she says her own path of personal healing allows her to be present for others who are healing.
“I’m driven to do this because sharing with others gives meaning to the cycle of loss and renewal. One of the short ‘small stones’ that I might share with a nervous patient is ‘stress holds no special powers,’” she says.
In her spare time, she’s also a deacon at the First Baptist Church in Branford, “and so I try to shine the light I can when I’m there as well.” Some of her favorite topics include “forgiveness, setting down the weight of what we cannot control, and seeing the perfectly imperfect beauty that is everywhere.”
She’s long been fond of the joy that can be found in random acts of kindness. Before her book was published, she liked putting the occasional dollar bill under random cars in New Haven.
A Reminder of the Child Within
“My thought was that the dollar might not always buy a lot for me, but the joy of finding a dollar could outweigh its purchasing power for the finder. If it shifted someone’s day, they might be more likely to make other people happy, too. All of these things I do have the common thread of leaning on the see-saw toward kindness and love. Many days, all we need is to feel that the universe has our back,” she says.
She says her husband is wonderfully supportive and that her children are her greatest teachers.
“They remind me about the child within me and how to stay silly and light-hearted. The journey of having a shortened childhood to being a parent to rediscovering childhood is the topic of my third book, which I’m currently writing,” she says.
Her shortened childhood included being the only child of an only child, and the child of divorced parents. Her mother raised her, and she sensed something was wrong with her mother, but did not know until she was older that her mother suffered from mental illness.
“It wasn’t clear at the time why she was the way she was, but when my time came for college, I fled three states away to Hampshire College in Massachusetts,” she says. She traveled, went to grad school, ended up in California, and then eventually came back to Connecticut with her husband.
“I returned to my old love for poetry, and—when it was time to deeply and truly accept my mother’s illness—I stopped blogging about motherhood and began writing poetry about personal renewal. Now with two books on the topic, I am exploring the idea of childhood from the perspective of child and parent for my third (prose) book, called Seed and Flower,” she says.