“I grew up in a family where it was difficult to express feelings. Poetry felt like my only outlet,” confides bestselling author Cynthia Gustavson.
From constrictive roots, Cynthia has blossomed to make expression her life’s work. As an award-winning author, she’s penned over a dozen soul-enriching titles, spanning children’s literature, poetry, and therapy. She’s also an outspoken public policy advocate, innovative educator, an academic with many accreditations, and a devoted social worker and therapist. But in all her work, never has she put forth something as raw and bold as "Between Tahlequah and Tulsa" (Blooming Twig, 2014).
Cynthia is best known for a variety of award-winning titles, including her poetry collection, "Please Use This For Children and Not for War and Guns" (Blooming Twig, 2010), children’s books "Ballad of the Rag Man" (Blooming Twig, 2009) and "Bully! The Big Book for Bullies and the Bullied" (Blooming Twig, 2012), and her bestselling series of poetry therapy workbooks In-Versing Your Life (1ed Families International, 1995 / 2ed Blooming Twig, 2006). She’s contributed a chapter on the use of poetry in therapy for the textbook "Expressive Therapies for Sexual Issues" (Springer Press, 2012), and she’s an esteemed essayist who has written articles for numerous journals. Outside of her acclaimed writing career, she is a social worker and therapist with over 30 years experience; a public policy advocator whose work includes service on the boards of the American Red Cross, the American Heart Association, the Mental Health Association, the Sierra Club, and numerous church and school committees. Cynthia also currently serves on the editorial board of the acclaimed Nimrod International Journal in Tulsa. It’s a full life made all the more meaningful by strong family bonds with her husband of 40 years and her two grown children.
Cynthia’s love of poetry started in second grade when her teacher would read poems to her class after lunch to calm the children down. “I would memorize the poems my teacher read, and then come home and spout them off to friends and family,” Cynthia recalls. Another contributing factor to her fascination with poetry was the rhythm of the language. Cynthia grew up surrounded by music — she sang before she read, and her father was a jazz musician — the rhyme scheme and cadences in poetry appealed to familiar sensory surroundings.
A profound constant in Cynthia’s life has been nature. She grew up wandering the backwoods of rural Minnesota, seeking out wild berries and studying flowers, trees, and birds. These bucolic surroundings made an indelible impression on her life. Sometimes they took center stage as lead characters in her poetry, and, other times, this lush outdoor life provided comfort and catharsis when life became complex and trying.
The seeds of "Between Tahlequah and Tulsa" were sown many years ago when a respected colleague read an anthology of Cynthia’s early work and said: “These are lovely descriptions of nature, but where are you?” In line with the muted feelings of her childhood, Cynthia’s formative works were emotionally detached but vibrantly written impressionistic descriptions of nature.
The prose in "Between Tahlequah and Tulsa" combines her time-honored flair for evoking pastoral scenery with a newfound muscular emotionality and a brave declarative voice. Unapologetically, she addresses Native American rights, spirituality, blunt political discourse, and the new frontier dream of 1960s. Cynthia also digs deep and courageously revisits poignant childhood memories. A stunning example of this vigorous vulnerability is halfway through the long poem that makes up this book, where she comes to grips with her father’s passing. Here she writes: Dad said in his business voice / we’d meet misfortune head on / that we’d get stronger from this / that growing up was learning how to tough out the bad times / but three months later when he died, my thirteen year old mind didn’t feel tough and I could still smell the burned rafters of my home.
For Cynthia, "Between Tahlequah and Tulsa" represents a watershed moment in her professional career and her personal growth. “I wrote exactly what I felt, I held nothing back,” she says. “This a culmination where I am now.”
(Bio written by Lorne Behrman)