Colorado Mountain College Steamboat Springs professor Lindsey Royce turns to poetry to heal herself |

Colorado Mountain College Steamboat Springs professor Lindsey Royce turns to poetry to heal herself

Colorado Mountain College Steamboat Springs Professor of English Lindsey Royce reads from a new collection of poems at Off the Beaten Path Bookstore and Coffee House on Feb. 2.

— Steamboat Springs poet Lindsey Royce, reading from her new book, "Bare Hands," mesmerized an audience here Feb. 2, chronicling her childhood abuse at the hands of a sadistic father abetted by her mother.

However, abuse didn't end at her front door. Royce was also sexually molested by a member of the clergy.

A professor of English at Colorado Mountain College Steamboat Springs, Royce is a survivor and has moved beyond the abuse she suffered by employing free verse as a form of catharsis. But mostly, she credits therapists, one in Steamboat, who were able to make her emotionally whole again.

"I'm so happy now, I'm grateful for everything that's happened … I'm not grateful for the abuse, I'm grateful for what everything has taught has me," Royce said after her presentation at Off the Beaten Path. "Every day I wake up and say 'Yay,' because there isn't any pain, hasn't been for seven or nine years."

Evidence of the poet's emotional health can be found in the fact that two of the poems in the collection, "Last Things" and "A Photo of My Father at Twelve," demonstrate compassion for her parent/abuser who caused her to suffer broken bones and worse. In the case of "Last Things," Royce describes how she and her brother showed concern for their father's dignity during his dying days, when they would hoist him out of his recliner and patiently help him use the bathroom.

And in “A Photo of My Father at Twelve," Royce seeks to understand what her father must have endured in his own childhood to have grown up to become such a horrid father.

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Royce writes in an open form of poetry, or free verse, that doesn't adhere to the conventions of meter and rhyme.

Readers should know there are poems in the book that pull no punches, using explicit language.

Royce acknowledged that her editor strongly advised her not to include "Swallowing It" in the book, but she insisted, because of the liberating effect she hoped for.

"It's brutally honest," she said. "If I can put this book out, nothing can harm me, I'm fearless."

Royce required a very long time to write "Bare Hands."

"I was so ashamed by all the poems for so long. This book is my life, and it's dark," she said. "I started the book in 1993 and edited it for five years because it took that long to accept the material," and find the courage to publish it.

Now, the poet is turning her attention to fresh subject matter with two collections of poems — one dealing with environmental topics, and a second, in a political vein. Always a wordsmith who carefully considers every punctuation mark, she is continuing to choose words for their sonic qualities that merge with the meaning of the word.

To reach Tom Ross, call 970-871-4205, email or follow him on Twitter @ThomasSRoss1