Poet, dancer, activist and history-maker Louise Runyon is leaving Decatur for the mountains of North Carolina.
Her latest poetry collection, “The Passion of Older Women,” not only acts as goodbye letter to the city, but also arrives at the height of the social media-driven #MeToo movement as a frank testament and tool of empowerment for women “of a certain age.”
“I love Atlanta and Decatur. I will deeply miss the DeKalb Farmers Market, my many communities here, my friends and garden,” Runyon reflected. “But I’m looking forward to pursuing a more spiritual path, and part of that is being in the mountains. I want to rest, be quiet and appreciate the natural
world. I want to take better care of myself and get to know a new place and community. It’s an adventure.”
Runyon is not new to adventures and forging her own path. She made history in the 1970s by becoming the first woman to work at Atlantic Steel (where Atlantic Station now sits in Midtown) since World War II. She also made a name for herself in the dance world, touring the country as a performer and choreographer and creating the Louise Runyon Performance Company. Runyon said the strong women in her life were her inspiration, including now as she prepares to make another life-altering move.
“I’m 68, so it’s pretty daunting to make this move by myself,” Runyon said. “But the mountains are where my heart is.”
She was particularly inspired by her cousin, Francis, who moved to the North Carolina mountains at age 70 and lived happily there for another 26 years. “Those were the best years of her life,” Runyon said. “She found peace there and I hope to do the same.”
Before she makes the move to Sylva, North Carolina, Runyon remains steadfast in her role as an activist, including support of #MeToo.
“Sexual assault on women, viewing them as objects and commodities, leads to the stigmatization of older women,” she said. “When you become an older woman, you feel shame and stigmatized no matter how confident or powerful you’ve been. It’s not really talked about, but just part of the fabric of our culture. I think the Me Too movement is a huge step forward for women.”
While writing “The Passion of Older Women,” Runyon became aware of just how little writing there was for older women. She said most of the books come from a religious angle or “formulaic garbage” playing on the old trope of older women desperate for younger men.
“I hope that when women read this book they will gain solace, hope, comfort and direction,” Runyon said. “We’re looking at the last third of our lives and how we’re going to live it. It’s not an easy thing to face. Younger women may not think about it or want to think about it, but this is their future, too.”
As for her legacy, Runyon said she’s not one to reflect on it.
“My contribution is to write and talk about the power of the women of my generation,” she said. “We’re a formidable group. We’ve made a difference and will continue to do so and not just disappear.”
Louise Runyon will read from “The Passion of Older Women” on June 25, 7:15 p.m. at the Decatur Library as part of Poetry Atlanta Presents in conjunction with Georgia Center for the Book. For more information, visit georgiacenterforthebook.org or louiserunyonperformance.com.
Editor’s Note: This story is part of Head for the Hills, our annual special section about Georgia vacation spots and properties.