MaryLee Martin (1929-2014)

by Priscilla Long

MaryLee Martin started came into my writing classes beginning in 2006. What I appreciated most about her was her essential seriousness as a writer. I loved her turn to poetry, the intellect and passion she devoted to it. Her presence in class and in our community was ever-gracious and humorous, continuing through a couple years of terminal illness. Her enthusiasm and attention to the work were a gratifying component of every single class she was in. Also, she was a very good writer. 

In our community, because we are writers, we are inevitably and constantly revealing ourselves. So without much commotion or bother we end up knowing quite a lot about one another, since it’s part of the creative enterprise that our instrument—as they say in theater—is our selves and our lives even if we write about other selves and other lives. It was a great gift to learn of MaryLee’s childhood in Aberdeen, her struggles with Lewy-Body dementia as she cared for her husband, her love of plants and flowers and the garden, and her love of music. Another gift was her awareness of her own mortality, never shrinking from it but never losing her cheerful and loving way of relating to the community. 

When this year’s June Intensive (a seminar I teach) was coming up, MaryLee told me I’d better give her seat to someone else, since she probably wouldn’t be here. I told MaryLee that as long as she was breathing she would have a seat in the June Intensive. I wasn’t sure she’d make it. What a happy moment it was when she walked in with her little smile.

 I feel lucky to have known her. What follows is a piece by MaryLee titled “Why I Write.”

Why Do I Write

by MaryLee Martin

I, Mary Lee, write so that I will remember.
I write to resolve pain.
I write to change the past.
I write to cling to lost loved ones.
I write to save myself for posterity.
I write to notice what I may have missed.
I write to forgive. I write to let go. I write to clear my mind.
I write to clarify my thinking.

I write to frolic in my various delights.
I write to make myself laugh.
I write to see what the page asks of me.

I write to avoid the task at hand.
I write in hope of fame and fortune.
I write to amuse.
I write to share my experiences and my
I write to explore my foolishness.

I write to portray a woman of the twentieth century.
I write to find joy.
I write because I enjoy the lovely shape and sound of letters and

I write to greet my readers from this sunny day and from
beyond my long, happy life.
I write to join eternity.
I write to relinquish my thoughts and words as they fade and
become ash.
I write to summon my children and all who follow us
pleasure and appreciation of the present and hope for the

I write to become myself.

Priscilla Long is a Seattle-based writer and teacher of writing.