12th STREET: In terms of grief and dealing with grief, what is your understanding of belonging, humor, isolation, and the part they play in the process of healing?
SHADE: I love this question. I see something of poetry in the structure of the question. The juxtaposition of belonging, humor, and isolation—the togetherness of these three—resonates with me as a moving way of lifting ideas right up off the page about what makes us tick. Because for each of us there is belonging alongside isolation, and humor has a special bond between them. Humor can carry us from dark isolation to joyful belonging. Belonging is of joy, and isolation the opposite—isolation is manifest peril, very much so for those who suffer addiction. I grew up in small-town Alabama. We were a mom and four kids whose early years were interrupted by the deep trauma of loss—my dad was killed when I was two. To this day in my family, we hold each other close with the deepset fear that we might lose another of us. All of my childhood, I was laughing and entertaining the others. I longed to make them feel joy. At a very early age, instinctively I recognized that humor distanced the pain. On Christmas in 2017, the loss of my baby brother Matthew, a half brother many years younger, was a loss that unknown to me at the time gathered in its arms all the other losses I’ve experienced and the fear and dread of more. I made expressions of that deepfelt loss and pain in poetry, on monastic retreats, all of which came together in this book Shield the Joyous. And many times I reached for humor in the poems. I would like to say that this process has been one of healing, but I feel so far from healed that I wonder if healing is even possible. Sometimes I think healing is simply to have hope that it is possible to feel less pain, so that I may cope enough to do more work out in the world.