Episode 33: Poems from a Heathen Mommy with Megan Rahm
In this episode our guest is poet Megan Rahm. We discuss her book of poetry ‘Free to Roam: Poems from a Heathen Mommy’ and her journey to freethought. She not only shares some selections from the book but also talks about her mental health struggles, her chosen artform, and her upcoming memoir.
Poet and blogger Megan Rahm is the quintessential Midwest mom but also is a very passionate atheist. From her childhood in rural Ohio to her present-day life in Toledo, she tells her story of struggles and triumphs through poetry.
Selections from Free to Roam: Poems from a Heathen Mommy copyright 2020 Megan Rahm used with permission
Megan also joined us in October at an in-person SHoWLE meeting. Here is a video of that presentation:
Voice Over 0:02
This is glass city humanist, a show about humanism, humanist values by a humanist. Here’s your host, Douglas Berger.
Doug Berger 0:11
In this episode, our guest is poet Megan Rahm, we discuss her book of poetry Free to Roam: Poems from a Heathen Mommy and her journey to freethought. She not only share some selections from the book, but also talks about her mental health struggles, her chosen art form. And her upcoming memoir
Voice Over 0:30
glass city humanist is an outreach project of the secular humanists of Western Lake Erie, building community through compassion and reason for a better tomorrow.
Doug Berger 0:58
With us today is Megan Rahm. She recently published a book of poetry titled poems and Tales from a heathen mommy. She is the quintes… man I knew I was gonna blow that Megan is a Midwest mom, but also is very passionate atheist. From her childhood in rural Ohio to her present day life at Toledo. She tells her story of struggles and triumphs through poetry. Welcome, and thank you for joining us today. Megan,
Megan Rahm 1:29
thank you so much. I have to do a little correction though. The title of the book is actually Free to Roam: Poems from a Heathen Mommy.
Doug Berger 1:38
Oh. That’s okay. I’ll make sure I have it right when I do the show notes and everything.
Megan Rahm 1:46
Doug Berger 1:51
All right. And like I said, Thank you for joining us. And basically, how did you become an atheist? Was it a long process? Or was there a single factor that tipped you over to free thought?
Megan Rahm 2:06
Well, growing up I was never religious. My family’s not that religious. I think my parents would probably call themselves Christian, but we weren’t churchgoers or anything. And I really, I kind of rebelled growing up against the more conservative people, you know, from back home. The one thing that really kind of set me off, I have a mental illness called schizoaffective disorder. And sometimes I experienced psychosis, where I have auditory and visual hallucinations. And when I had these hallucinations, I thought they were spirits or ghosts. So even though I wasn’t religious, I had this belief in spirits. So and then finally, when I was 21, I got treatment. And I started taking anti psychotic medication. And with the medications, the hallucinations and spirits, they went away. And so from that point on, I knew if the spirits weren’t real then, God wasn’t real, either. And I was an atheist from that day on.
Doug Berger 3:10
Did you grow up in a religious household and a religious community?
Megan Rahm 3:15
No, my family’s not very religious. But um, you know, people from the area pretty conservative. I grew up out in Henry County.
Doug Berger 3:24
Oh, yeah. Henry County. Yep. Very, very conservative. Religious. Yeah. Yeah. familiar with them. And how did you start writing? What, what gave you the start?
Megan Rahm 3:41
It’s kind of funny, because when I was younger, I had a teacher who kept trying to push me into writing. And I didn’t want to do it. I wanted to be an artist and a musician. And so it was actually just something more recently that I discovered that I really enjoy writing. I first started writing for a mental health website. I do an article every other week. And I really enjoyed it was like my first writing job. And from there, I started writing for freethoughtblogs.com. My blog there is called from the ashes of faith. And I love writing for them as well. And then the poetry actually, a couple years ago, I took a class at BGSU on poetry, and I just I loved it, and that’s when I started writing free to roam. So really writing for me is, you know, just in the past several years, it’s kind of recent for me.
Doug Berger 4:30
And was the the poetry your first medium for writing or did you start with short stories or,
Megan Rahm 4:38
um, mostly just articles and mental health articles?
Doug Berger 4:44
You know, you’ve been pretty public or pretty out there that you’ve had mental health struggles in the past. And does that does that play into what you write? Is that something that that helps to write, and, and get you going and how to when you’re doing it.
Megan Rahm 5:06
Um, you know, my mental health struggles are very, I mean, they’re a big part of my life. So I definitely write about them a lot. Sometimes writing about them can be difficult though it can be kind of triggering the memoir I’m working on. I did have a hard time with that. But yeah, it definitely. It definitely inspires me, you know, it gives me a lot of ideas.
Doug Berger 5:34
Alright, how about if, if you share some of your poems, the one the one that I liked and my fiancee liked was “Baptism”? Could you share that with us?
Megan Rahm 5:47
Absolutely. Every innocent baby is born painted new to the world, but on a direct path to hell. A cold splash and submission, followed by pictures and cake, saves their blank slate sold and fulfilled the family societal duty. The child has been marked for indoctrination, brainwashing, and conformity. A fresh young mind dawning chains and shackles. Water should just be water in a meaningless ceremony. But it becomes a deadly weapon recruiting for dangerous army. Lets the well dry up, let the children go free. Let’s defeat the army that has imprisoned us all.
Doug Berger 6:38
And how did that poem come about? What What were you trying to articulate in in writing that
Megan Rahm 6:47
this actually made me think of my own daughter, um, my daughter is five now. But when, um, when she was born, we did have a relative that kind of fought with us on you know, getting her baptized. And of course, you know, my husband, I weren’t going to do that. And I just I don’t like what it symbolizes. I feel like children should be free to just explore and make their own opinions about the world. And yes, I mean, baptism is just the start of indoctrination. And I just I think it’s dangerous.
Doug Berger 7:20
You said that you were you had debates or arguments with somebody that wanted your daughter baptize. I know, for some people who are not religious, they do have a lot of debates with family members concerning how the religious upbringing of children do you still get a lot of that today are they are they pretty much know that that’s not going to happen?
Megan Rahm 7:45
Not at all. Not at all today. That one family member and she’s she was older and she passed away a few years ago and no one else in our family seems to mind. So
Doug Berger 7:56
yeah, my. I was at Christmas one time and, and I had the Columbus group that I was in, I had their T shirt on and and she saw it she says, Are you a heathen? And I said, Well, I guess she says, does that mean you can’t celebrate Christmas. And I said I’m here. So yeah, yeah, it’s it. You know, people have their preconceived notions. And yeah, and they get they get involved with that. And it can cause problems. So yeah.
Voice Over 8:34
For more information about the topics in this episode, including links used, please visit the episode page at glasscityhumanist.show.
Doug Berger 8:49
The other one of the other poems that I liked was “Girl Mom”. And I was wondering if you’d be able to share some of that with us?
Megan Rahm 8:57
Absolutely. Now, this was my husband’s favorite poem, out of the book. And he really helped me out when I was writing this because I wrote all of this during the pandemic. And, you know, obviously, the writers groups that the library that I go through are all canceled. So he was the one reading all of my poems for this book. It was you know, my husband was reading it and his co workers were reading it too. But this was, this was his favorite. So, okay, this is girl mom. How do I protect my daughter from having the stories all women have from fearing the night and walking alone? How do I protect my daughter when rapists run for president? When boys will be boys? When accusation is too frequently overlooked? How do I protect my daughter when she doesn’t have a say when her body is property, and legislation dictates her Future? How do I protect my daughter from 78 cents to the dollar? From taxes that come and paint from old and rotten expectations? How do I protect my daughter from the shards of glass? When she destroys the glass ceiling and leads the way in a man’s world? How do I support my daughter when she no longer needs my protection?
Doug Berger 10:27
And so that was the the pandemic speaking? Is that how you came about with that poem? Or was there a specific incident?
Megan Rahm 10:38
You know, it wasn’t, anything specific but you know, just in the last few years with the metoo movement, you know, it was definitely on my mind, and, you know, just having a little girl like, oh, world’s kind of a dangerous place, you know, and I worry about her.
Doug Berger 10:56
And when you are coming up with these poems, do you ground them more in real situations? Or are you able to also talk about esoteric or abstract things, I mean, which, which works better for you to the concrete or the abstract.
Megan Rahm 11:19
I feel a little of both, honestly. And I think the poems in this book were a little more grounded. And a lot of them, especially the poems I write about being a mom, you know, those are all things that I’ve experienced firsthand, you know, and that, that’s what a lot of this book was. There’s a there’s a few poems in here that were just more artsy and abstract, but most of it more grounded.
Doug Berger 11:47
And then the other one that I was interested in, in particular, was the “No Public Displays of Atheism”. I’m sorry, if you could share that with us.
Megan Rahm 11:57
Yeah. You were across on your necklace. Hold in shiny, close to you, for everyone to see. Your beliefs lead you define you publicly. You assume I’m like you, but I’m not. I keep my thoughts to myself. During ridicule, and discrimination. My views aren’t on display. But I’m proud of who I am just sick of hiding in the shadows.
Doug Berger 12:31
And how did that poem come about? Any any particular incident or?
Megan Rahm 12:36
Yeah, it’s, um, it kind of made me think of my co workers. I do have a part time job. working for a nonprofit here in Toledo. And a lot of my coworkers are more religious, and they’re not afraid to express that. You know, I mean, anywhere you go, though, you see your people wearing cross necklaces. And, you know, it’s, it’s really common, it’s just, it kind of makes me mad that they’re so free and open to do that. No one’s gonna say anything, you know, but if I were to do something like that, or talk about my atheism, like, I fear losing my job, you know?
Doug Berger 13:14
Yeah, I had, I actually had that happen to me at a job I worked at this one woman was really into religion and and we had these cubicles set up that we worked at, and she had all this icon, iconic icon or fee on there. Jesus statues and pictures and bible quotes and just a whole mess of stuff. So I brought in a bunch of humanist stuff, and put it up on my cubicle. She complained about me to the manager, saying that I was making her feel uncomfortable with my religious display. Oh my God. So he had to explain to her that it was in the the employee handbook. That religion was supposed to stay at home anyway. So we both had to clean out our cubicles. Yeah, she had to put her stuff away and I had to put my stuff away. She was not happy about that at all. Because she did she was privileged she thought that her stuff was okay and and that she could get my stuff thrown out and it’s like, nope, nope. Yeah. And then the the other poem too that I wanted for wanted you to share was the the it seemed pretty personal. “My Scars My Story”.
Megan Rahm 14:42
My curls screen as they were straighten. My sons were stripped from my lungs. Fresh freedom was depleted when I guess shackles of indoctrination in prison, my peers. I was alone. Time was never on my side in that small, tired town. Even when I left school judgment branded a lasting impression, scars that are just part of my story, that I’ll finish in my own word.
Doug Berger 15:18
And so I’m assuming that that was autobiographical or, yeah. So there was a particular incident that led you to write that.
Megan Rahm 15:27
Um, I wouldn’t say one particular incident but just growing up in a conservative area. And the first couple lines, my curls screened as they were straighten. I mean, you can’t tell my hairs clearly today. But you know, as younger I remember, always trying to straighten my hair, I always want my hair to be straight. My hair’s not straight naturally. But you know, that’s how the other girls had their hair, and just, just little things like that. Just, I just didn’t feel like I could be myself there.
Doug Berger 15:58
And so you lived in a small town or near a small town
Megan Rahm 16:01
here a small town? Yeah.
Doug Berger 16:05
Yeah, and it always amazes me because my, my family’s from a small town, my grandparents and aunts and uncles, and it’s always amazing how much they know about other people’s businesses. Yeah. And so it’s like, if you’re a kid, and you get out of out of line, you’re pretty sure that your Grandma’s gonna hear about it, because Joe Schmo at the corner saw it happen, and told her about it. So
Megan Rahm 16:35
that’s, you know, I lived outside of Napoleon. And you know, that’s where that big Campbell Soup factory is. And my dad worked there along with everybody else’s parents, you know, so, I mean, everybody knew my dad. So I mean, I could walk down the street and they wouldn’t know my name, but they’d be like, Oh, your dad’s girl. I can’t get away with anything.
Doug Berger 16:57
No, not not those small towns you can’t
Voice Over 17:03
this is glass city humanist.
Doug Berger 17:12
One of the one of the things that you’re you’re doing now is you’re working on a memoir? Will it be the same or different than your your poetry? Is it is it going to be more narrative than poetry?
Megan Rahm 17:25
It is, it’s actually a little of both. It’s mostly narratives. When I first started writing it, it was kind of like a series of essays about different symptoms or experiences I had had. But I actually started including poetry in it, too. There’s about 20, some poetry, poetry, or poems in it right now. But, like now, like, we’ve gone through a couple rounds of edits, and it’s not really a series of essays anymore, it’s kind of grouped by illnesses, like, I struggle with an eating disorder as well as schizoaffective disorder. So everything on you know, the book starts out with the eating disorder. Um, but it’s also kind of in a chronological order as well.
Doug Berger 18:09
And are you worried about being that open about your, your personal issues? Are you worried about I mean, does it bother you that people are going to read it and maybe judge you for for what’s going on? Or?
Megan Rahm 18:25
I you know, I don’t worry about it too much. I actually, I’m a Certified Peer supporter. I’m pretty open about my, my struggles anyway, at my job. And I kind of I feel like it needs to be said, Honestly, I think people need to be honest about mental illness. And know especially with me, having schizoaffective disorder, like having a schizophrenic disorder, like that comes with a lot of stigma. So I really, I really wanted to tell my story. I want people to know what it’s really like, I want them to know that I’m doing well, too. I can live with this illness and do all sorts of things, you know?
Doug Berger 19:03
And what would you say to people who don’t think atheist can create works of art? Because we don’t have a religion?
Megan Rahm 19:12
That’s kind of silly.
Doug Berger 19:15
Sounds silly. But there’s some people that believe that.
Megan Rahm 19:18
Well, I mean, I feel like I just get inspiration from just life itself. You know, I’m also an artist I love to draw. And a lot of the hallucinations I’ve passed because of schizoaffective disorder, I draw my hallucinations. And just, you know, I draw things related to motherhood, just I get inspiration just from life itself. You don’t need spirituality or religion, to draw inspiration for things.
Doug Berger 19:46
And what is in the future for you and your writing after you finish your memoirs? Have you thought that far ahead?
Megan Rahm 19:53
Yes, actually. more poetry more poetry I’m I’m actually working on an erotic book. What’s your book right now, which is an absolute blast to write. And, you know, I’m still, you know, kind of in? Well, I would say beginning stages, but, you know, I haven’t really found a publisher or you know, I’m not working with anybody on it. Right now. I’m just kind of still writing it. But it really has been a blast. It’s a lot of fun.
Doug Berger 20:22
And the interesting thing, too, that, you know, when when you talk to our group earlier, you say that you you write a lot of times at the library. Yeah, your rent your you schedule a study room and, and do that. And you said that, that helps a lot, right? Because it focuses you on on the writing?
Megan Rahm 20:42
Oh, yeah, absolutely. I still do that every week. I’m in a room there, sometimes twice a week. I just I love the libraries in Toledo. They’re amazing. I mean, because I not only, you know, reserve rooms to write in, but you know, I take my daughter to the library. I’ve gotten job training at the library. I mean, it’s just the the libraries are amazing in Toledo. But yeah, it definitely helps to just, you know, sit by yourself in that room and the quiet. I really, the days I go to the library, the days I get the most done.
Doug Berger 21:13
Okay, and as we kind of wind down the interview here, I like to give people opportunity to plug their stuff and tell us anything else that you might want us to know that you haven’t told us already. So go ahead. Oh, gosh. No pressure.
Megan Rahm 21:34
I’m not sure. I mean, we talked about free to roam, you know, free to roam is really special to me, because I feel like that really started something special for me. You know, it’s my first book, my first poetry book. And, you know, I’m just trying to grow from there, you know, with a memoir and the erotic poetry book and I, I have ideas for other books I want to get started on. And I want to continue writing about atheism and mental health. I don’t know, I just I feel like I have a lot going on. And I’m really excited about it.
Doug Berger 22:05
And people can pick up your book through the regular booksellers online. Can they order them at the brick and mortar bookstores? Or are they there?
Megan Rahm 22:18
I don’t know if you can get into an actual bookstore. It’s on Amazon, Barnes and Noble. And then you can also go to my publishers website, freethoughthouse.com. You can get it on there as well. If you go to my publishers website, you can get a signed copy.
Doug Berger 22:33
Okay. Okay. Well, again, thank you for your time, and I really appreciate you stopping by and talking with us and, and also I want to let people know that we do have a video of your talk at our group meeting. Back in October, was it? Yeah, it was October. I forget what month it is sometimes. So check that out too. If you want to hear more from Megan and, and again, I appreciate it.
Megan Rahm 22:58
Thank you. Thank you for having me.
Voice Over 23:00
Thank you for listening. For information about the topics in this episode, please visit the episode page at glasscityhumanist.show. Glass City Humanist is an outreach of the secular humanists of Western Lake Erie, and is supported in part by a grant by the American Humanist Association. The AHA can be reached at americanhumanist.org SHoWLE can be reached at humanistswle.org. Glass City Humanist is hosted, written and produced by Douglas Berger, and he is solely responsible for the content. Our theme music is “Glass City Jam” composed using the amplify studio See you next time.
[Transcript also available for offline reading HERE]
Written, produced, and edited by Douglas Berger and he is entirely responsible for the content. Incidental voice overs by Shawn Meagley
The GCH theme is “Glass City Jam” composed using Ampify Studio
This episode by Glass City Humanist is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 4.0.