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Marilyn Raff Biography

MarilynRaffPoetryReadingAfter a twenty-five year career in gardening, and teaching throughout Colorado, and writing garden columns, locally and nationally, as well as designing and installing gardens, Marilyn then authored three garden books: The Intuitive Gardener, Shrub Roses: Paradise in Bloom, and Ornamental Grasses for Western Gardens. Her garden became a laboratory, and a continuous-blossoming display of  eye-catching beauty, color and texture, as well as a showcase for rare and abundant collections of roses, grasses, and perennials. In all her books, with over three hundred photos (culled from thousands), she loved to generate photographic masterpieces that caught readers attention. With a sense of intuition, and after years and years of practice, for example, Marilyn mixed roses next to thin-leaved ornamental grasses, near a globular or odd-shaped perennial, perhaps tall or short, then juxtaposition all or some adjacent to a smooth rock or one with rough textured. These intuitive- creative snapshots, stirred pinwheels of pleasure, buoyancy for internal delights as readers read her books and sometimes browsed her garden. By viewing her garden through books or in person, visitors flirted with exciting ideas to try in their personal gardens.


Marilyn’s next turn in life’s ever-changing journey hit when she discovered poetry at a local community college. In her mid-fifties, poetry beckoned, and  with  studious work she began to write and rewrite poetry, and read volumes of poets from Walt Whitman, Hafiz to Billy Collins, Adrienne Rich, Mary Oliver, and others. Her passion for poetry attached itself to her like a barnacle on rock, indeed welcoming, an excellent fit. With the help of good critiquing from fellow poets, she steadily worked her craft, to polish the written word. Through her poems Marilyn explores memoir, garden images, experiences from life  and nature, as well as her earlier and later years with family. Like with all writing, the array of experiences and puzzles to unravel projects work the brain, and the writer toils. Images flash before her offering glimpses of better words, stronger verbs, phrases and paragraphs to truly add luster and the exact language that a particular poem calls for.

Simultaneously art, to paint, splash with colors on paper and wood, create abstract art, all caught her eye her for further passion. The beguiling charm to design collages from found articles, dirt-cheap sale items, magazines and other easily available material in her environment, like rags, toothpicks, cotton balls, wire, beads, napkins—but observed with fresh eyes— inspired and challenged her new artistic calling. These avenues of expression fulfilled  deep pleasure to her expanding  path.


As Marilyn wrote and gathered more poems, tweaked some verses, perfected titles, and slowly filed them away;  she soon realized that a solid poetry collection would soon reach fruition, ready for publication.  Her first collection, titled “In the Palm of the Land” combined personal recollections tied to family life, fused with plant and garden vignettes from  years of work in her garden.


Several years earlier, while taking literature classes at Metro State College in Denver and unearthing which avenue to venture down next, explore more deeply – similar to Robert Frost’s poem – The Road Not Taken— a teaching position opened.  Fortuitously, this vacancy occurred at the Community College of Denver, near where she was currently a student. She hopped on the job, thrilled to have the opportunity to teach, something she longed to do since childhood! Consequently, she spent three years teaching a class titled, Fundamentals of  Reading to urban students, international students, students from all over the country. Most were poor, most eager to learn. Furthermore, many students picked up the gauntlet to study English.


From her experiences in and out of the classroom, along with public transportation to and from the college, brought forth her latest poetry chapbook—Until Class Ends, which is set for publication by Finishing Line Press, in September 2013.