Jane Butkin Roth

A native of Oklahoma City, Jane Butkin Roth lives and writes in Houston. She received her B.A. in anthropology from the University of Oklahoma. She is a member of Women in the Visual and Literary Arts, Houston, the National Association for Poetry Therapy, and The Writers' League of Texas. Roth is the mother of three.

More than 100 of her short fictions, essays, and poems have appeared in more than 70 journals worldwide, including the Houston Chronicle, Oklahoma Today, Windsor Review (Canada), Texas Writer, Rattle, Pearl, Jewish Women's Literary Annual, Sivullinen (Finland), Old Red Kimono, Red Wheelbarrow, Owen Wister Review, Cold Mountain Review, and Redoubt (Australia). Her poetry has appeared in several anthologies, including Haiku-Sine: 217 Tiny Food Poems for Texans Who Love To Eat and Feed Their Heads (Lazywood Press); Essential Love (Grayson Books); Mothers and Daughters (Random House), and Baby Blessings (Random House).

We Used To Be Wives:

Divorce Unveiled Through Poetry

Fithian Press, 2002

Things I Don't Want to Share with Him Anymore— And Other Reflections on DivorceIf you have divorced or know anyone who has, We Used To Be Wives—Divorce Unveiled Through Poetry will throw light—humorous, moving, angry, suspicious, forgiving, and transforming light—on this common yet life-altering experience. In the introduction to We Used To Be Wives, editor Jane Butkin Roth points out that now, with so many opportunities open to women, we don't have to define ourselves only as mother or wife. But with this new freedom comes a tendency to minimize the effects of divorce—marriage is no longer all we have, so what's the big deal? We Used To Be Wives reminds us that with a divorce come losses to mourn and changes to love and hate.

More than seventy women who have experienced divorce contribute to this new anthology of poetry. We Used To Be Wives is organized into sections to reflect the stages of divorce. The poems cover a wide range of emotions—not always pretty, not always decorous—that reveal the true feelings that many women live with before, during, and after a divorce.

But these passionate writings about divorce aren't whining or complaining. These are spunky accounts that shout out the realities of divorce. Keddy Ann Outlaw's "Things I Don't Want to Share With Him Anymore" is a true list of those things—practical and intimate—that couples share, and it reveals what was and what isn't anymore. Marge Piercy's "A story wet as tears" is about the frog who turned into a prince, but then, after years of marriage, turned back into a frog. Dina Ben-Lev's "Driving" sorts out the fact that love can change or disappear, how a marriage can fail, and what she misses from her marriage. Francine Witte's "Falling" catches a couple's bittersweet moment of honesty and tenderness, an acknowledgment of the end of their marriage. Joanne McCarthy's "The Vagina Poem" is a monologue celebrating retirement from sexual obligation.

With poems by famous and lesser-known poets, We Used To Be Wives is a handbook to survive divorce, and not because it's instructive or therapeutic—though it is—but because it's a companion along the road. The experiences and emotions found here purge and reveal, explore and heal.

Editor Jane Butkin Roth Discusses We Used To Be Wives

Question: Will I be depressed after reading these poems about divorce?

Editor Jane Butkin Roth: Reading about our collective experiences through divorce may give us courage. The depressing situation of loss of love and failure of marriage is already there, and I cannot promise the reader that she won't be moved, touched or even deeply saddened as she reads some poignant writings that express the depth of sorrow that comes with divorce. Though the subject of divorce is sad and serious, not every poem is gut-wrenchingly sorrowful. Many show tenderness, quiet reflection, faith, enthusiasm about change, even surprising humor. There's a balance and variety of emotion and content that help show the journey of divorce as more than a one-way ticket to hell.

Q: Why use poetry to discuss divorce?

JBR: Poetry is concise, brief, powerful. It's like high-octane fuel. Divorce manifests itself in so many ways, sometimes all at once, sometimes not. Sometimes it feels like a crazy ride, overpowering and overwhelming; at other times, the slowest, most stagnant kind of process; at other times a zig-zag kind of ride with gifts of promise and hope just beyond each unopened door. Poetry can be a mirror to this. These poems don't provide literal steps or "how-to-recover-from-divorce" methods, but suggest a dynamic and evolving process, one without strict guidelines or demarcations, one with phases we might travel through.

Q: Is there humor in We Used To Be Wives, and how is that helpful?

JBR: When life is unbearably tragic, humor comes to the rescue, like a lifeboat. We need to laugh—at ourselves and at the bizarre situations we find ourselves in. While I wouldn't characterize the book as comic, there is a lot of humor in it—some very sophisticated, some delightfully wicked, and some refreshingly silly.

We Used To Be Wives

This is a highly illuminating anthology of poems by over seventy writers, all women, on the theme of divorce. The poems are deeply felt, and each voice, no matter the style of writing, speaks from individual experience. There are poems of fragility, introspection, rage, discovery, and even humor. Editor Jane Roth has done a splendid job of organizing the book into sections which take the reader through the divorce journey.-- Small Press Review, Nov-Dec 2002

The roller coaster of divorce isn't easily organized, and a collection like this could have collapsed into scattered disarray. But Roth's able editing allows the book to achieve a poignant emotional timbre and a sensitive balance between the sophomoric and the overly intellectual. Whether it's humorous commentary--and there is some humor here--melancholy, anger or jubilation, the poetry in We Used To Be Wives transcends the trite and predictable and makes the first step of the journey to another place possible.

-- The Oklahoma Gazette, September, 2002

Odd as it sounds, it's a pleasure to read this extraordinary collection of poems about divorce. Like the best gossip, these gems are warm, personal, brutally honest, sometimes comic and imbued with a great deal of emotional intelligence. Even those of us who have never experienced divorce benefit here from the collective wisdom of those who have. These are the voices of rage, humiliation, and sorrow redeemed through art for heart-opening transformation. Brilliantly organized, We Used To Be Wives traverses the stages of love lost, grief endured, the self exquisitely regained.

-- Gail Donohue Storey, Author of The Lord's Motel andGod's Country Club

The poems in this anthology astonish, not only because of content—failed marriage, divorce and its aftermath—but also because of consistent quality. There is no whining in these pages, no trite sentiment or blatant confession, only the haunting experiences of women poets seeking reasons with compassion, fighting back out of necessity, writing with ability and grace. Read this book. Then read it again. And again.

-- Jane Candia Coleman, Author of Desperate Acts

Page after page, We Used To Be Wives is a finely written tome of evocative and enlightening wisdom, its many voices representing the multifarious phases of separation and divorce. A magnificent chorus of harmonious poetry vocals ranging from sorrow to triumph and ultimate epiphany—yet every poem within is unique and speaks for itself.

-- The Editors of Pearl

Reading just one poem from We Used To Be Wives could help you find your way through the experience of divorce—the healing power of that single poem lasting months. And then, along divorce's winding road, another poem could be a companion, feed a different hunger, act as balm for another wound, put another puzzle piece in place, even the one that gives you more peace. This anthology can give your sorrow, rage and loss "a song." Jane Roth's intelligent andheartful anthology offers both women and men who know divorce, or who are considering it, courage and insight. Poetry is likethat—writing and reading it is a way to speak about what matters, to discover who you are. [One contributor] Lyn Asch writes with profound simplicity about her divorce, "Now I know where the edges of my life are." What poetry reminds us is that the truth will set us free and this anthology is about speaking the truth.

-- John Fox, Author of Poetic Medicine: The Healing Art of Poem-Making and Finding What You Didn't Lose: Expressing Your Truth and Creativity Through Poem-Making

In a harmonious blend of evocative language and sharp-eyed observation, poet-editor Jane Butkin Roth demonstrates her ease in writing to connect with readers. In addition to expressing her life in poetry, Roth's prose has appeared in numerous publications. She delves deeply by way of poetry into the significance of divorce to the female human condition. The stages of love, marriage, divorce and grief are carefully plotted, with Roth's watchful pen combining the work of more than seventy poets to produce this wonderfulanthology. The reader can dip into its pages at random and be assured of finding a touching poem. We Used To Be Wives will stir your heart, your memory and your smiles. If you have loved and lost through divorce, and have not yet discovered your new path, here is the book with which to start your own personal journey. This collection is sure to be helpful to all women, be they wives, divorcees or singles, and to their therapists.

-- Linda Hutton, editor of Rhyme Time Poetry Journal

From the cry of one to the song of many, these women's voices join in a chorus of courage, strength, and inspiration. Thank you, Jane, for putting together a powerful and empowering book about a passage that affects half of all women.

-- June Cotner, Author of Mothers and Daughters andAnimal Blessings