WEB WEDNESDAY – RJ CLARKEN

Robert Lee Brewer (Writer’s Digest Poetic Asides) recently interviewed poet Terri Kirby Erickson, in which she said, “If I can make it funny, I can stand it.”  My head nodded in agreement, as I thought of the most consistently comical poet in our humble midst: today’s Web Wednesday guest, RJ Clarken.  RJ is another poet whose work Walt and I have had the good fortune to enjoy on a regular basis at Robert Lee Brewer’s Poetic Asides since 2009. 

Welcome, RJ! 

The title of your website is Lightverse – Just for Fun.  Fun lightverse is what absolutely DEFINES you as a poet.  Is your sense of humor cultivated, or natural?  Does it play a large role in your family life?

 Wow!  This is really cool!  Thanks, Marie – and Walt!  You guys are such talents and such nice folks!  I’m really lucky to have ‘met’ you at Poetic Asides!

 Okay…Now let’s see…yeah – I think my sense of humor is something that comes naturally.  Growing up in my house, humor was IT.  We were always joking around and goofing off on one another.  (It’s probably the main way we deal with the bumpy things in life.)

 But more than that, we all just love a good laugh.  My husband is a funny guy – and he says he married me because I laugh at his jokes.  I met him at a hiking event – and he really did make me laugh all day that day.  My kids are really funny too.  You can imagine dinner at our house.

 And after all, life’s too short to spend too much of it looking at the downside.  You need to find the humor.

Dinners at your place sound like great fun!  Just let us know what works for you, and we’ll show up fork-in-hand. 

 

 

 Your comic mind shines brilliantly in your book, “Mugging for the Camera” (VBW Publishing).  I have it. I love it. It gives me the giggles. 

 

 

 

 Here is a piece to wet the appetite:

 A Toast to Toast

 A whiff of sourdough perfume

aroused me from my reverie.

I bee-lined for the dining room

which seems to happen every

time I long to thus consume

what ovens brown so cleverly.

Here’s to my crusty buttered toast …

It’s all I need to live.  Almost.

 Having a book under your belt (hooboy … I shouldn’t give you and Walt that much fodder), perhaps you could share with us a bit about the process.  How did you go about choosing which poems to include, and organizing them for your book?

 Most of the poems in Mugging for the Camera were already published elsewhere, in other journals and such, so very little in the way of editing needed to be done.  I had the concept for the book in mind already, and so choosing poems was kind of easy.

 Originally, I thought I would submit the book to a few places to see if there was interest.  Interestingly, there was some interest, but unfortunately, as one publisher put it, it was funny, but she didn’t know how to market the book

 Apparently, when most publishers say they are looking for humor, they really mean some sort of irony that is really subtle.  My stuff is more like bull in a china shop, although one well-known poet (after hearing some of my work at a reading) did tell me I was far more literary than I gave myself credit for.

 So…I thought about it for a bit, and decided to self-publish it.  I had the graphics and photography background, and this way, I maintained all the controls, which was kinda fun. 

 How did you choose your publishing company? If you don’t mind answering this question, have you been happy with the sale of your book? What do you do to boost sales?

 I chose the publishing company I ended up using by doing my due diligence.  I did a lot of research online (consumer reports, talking to people who used different companies, looking at books, etc.) and weighed the pros and cons of establishing myself as the publisher and using Lightning Source and other printer options.  I thought about Create Space and Lulu too – since some of my writer friends had gone that route, but in the end, I decided this was the best option for me.  As it turned out, I was pleased with my dealings with Virtualbookworm.

 As for the sales, I’ve done reasonably well for a poetry book.  I do readings at local venues and talk about it on Facebook, Twitter, my blog, etc.  I’ve also done school and library visits where we do workshops about writing humorous poetry.

 It isn’t often one sees a humorous sonnet, yet you managed to pull it off brilliantly in the following:

 Sonnet CI – Lurking is the New Normal

 O truant Muse what shall be thy amends

For thy neglect of truth just ain’t normal!

Both truth and beauty on my love depends;

But I need your help to write poems formal.

Make answer Muse: can we not then return…

‘Truth needs no colour, and beauty’s not fixed;

Else, who could write Ode to a Grecian Urn;

But best is best, if never intermixed?

Because…what is normal and what is not?

Anymore, I can’t say with certainty.

Sounds to me like a ‘word’ Gordian knot,

which leaves me frustrated, I guarantee.

So, c’mon, Muse; let’s both get back to work:

In the background, kindly cease to just lurk.

 I have to say that it is hard for me to believe your muse would ever “just lurk.”  Do you occasionally deal with writer’s block?  How do you lasso your muse?

Funny you should say that, but my muse is a real show-off, so writers’ block has never really been the problem.  It’s editing and scaling back that is!

 I think I just heard Walt mumble something about kidnapping your muse.  Not if I beat him to it.  *sinister laugh*  Moving on …

 In addition to your wit, I appreciate your curiously cosmic vocabulary, and ability to rhyme uncommon words.   Is this part of your M.O.?  Or do you just naturally/unintentionally gravitate that direction?

 I love words and wordplay.  I do try to find unusual words so that I can force the rhyme.  Haha!  Really though, when I was a kid, my youngest sister and I were a bit competitive in the word department.  We would do this thing called ‘Word of the Week.’  How that worked is that we would each find a word that we didn’t know.  We’d look it up and then use it every chance we got for a solid week.  By the time the week was out, the word was fully ingrained as a part of our lexicon.

  You are also an expert in the use of poetic form.  Not surprisingly, you have caught the eye of Robert Lee Brewer, where you have made his Poetic Asides “Top 10” list in each of the following forms:  Rondeau, Monotetra, and Lune.  Do you have a favorite?  Is there a sestina form you shun? 😉

 No form should ever be shunned.  The trick is to learn the rules.  Then, if you know the rules – you can break ‘em!

 There is more to RJ Clarken than light verse.  You are also a photographer, graphic artist, and writer of middle grade and young adult fiction. 

Let’s *ahem* “focus” on photography a moment. Please tell us how interested you are, and how serious.  Do you ever pair your photos with your poetry?  

 I’m a very visual person.  I love taking photographs.  And yes, I do pair work.  My blog has some stuff on it, but often, I find usable images elsewhere and borrow them with credit.  I love having a camera in my hand.  It’s kind of an extension of myself.

 Do you have formal graphic arts training/education? 

 Actually, I do.  I have a graduate certificate from NYU in web graphic arts.  Plus lots of coursework in writing, graphics, photography and other stuff that has interested me along the way. 

 Mugging for the Camera was a project made completely by me.  I did the page layout, the graphics, photography, etc.  VBW just did the printing for me.  It was a labor of love.

  Do you get more enjoyment from penning poetry, or writing middle grade/Y.A. stories?

 You know, it’s funny (not the haha kind, but still…) I like to write both genres.  Most of my poetry is of the quirky, humorous kind, but I have written more serious pieces too on occasion.  On the other hand, my mg/ya stories may have some humor in them, but the point there is to try and tell an interesting story (if I can.)  I like to incorporate historical elements in them and sometimes fantasy/sci fi elements too. 

For the prose, I am a research fanatic.  I’ll start digging about some aspect of my story (in the pursuit of accuracy and NO anachronisms!) and it often leads me into areas where I never would have expected to find myself.  It’s fascinating.  And I often get to meet some very interesting people along the way.  It’s astonishing how nice people are and how helpful too.  You just ask them questions – and before you know it, you’ve learned some amazing things.  And made new friends, in the process.  But doing both kinds of writing (and the occasional non-fiction piece) give me the balance I really need.

 I also credit my writing group.  They’re a brilliant group of women who tell it to me straight and keep me from being too wordy.

 In fact, that’s why I write in poetic form – or rather, how I started.  It was an exercise to keep myself concise.  After all, if you’re writing a 5/7/5 haiku/senryu, you only have 17 syllables to say exactly what you need to say.

 Do you remember the first poem you ever wrote?  Please tell us what you remember about the experience.  Did you immediately know writing would take a prominent seat in your life?

 I cannot remember the first poem I ever wrote, but I do remember some of my early writings, way back in 1st grade.

 Here’s an example:

 Once, my teacher asked me about what my father did for a living.  He was an accountant at the time, which I heard had something to do with bookkeeping.  I’m not sure why.  I didn’t know what a bookkeeper was, however, but it didn’t stop me from creating my illustrated story.

 I drew a picture of a man standing on top of a pile of money and wrote:  My dad makes books – he writes numbers.

 My teacher had to call my mom to make sure my dad wasn’t really a bookie.

 Somehow, those kinds of things have followed me throughout my life!

 Anyway, thanks for the kind words and for highlighting me at Poetic Bloomings!  You guys rock!

 Thank YOU, RJ.  If it is true that laughter is the best medicine, you are immeasurably good for our health!

DEVELOPING STORY – PROMPT #22

Tarnished and dented; a bauble from a bygone day.

You were given a box of artifacts once belonging to your Great-Grandfather who you’ve never known. Contained within the box is an old pocket watch, a key, some assorted personal papers and an old Brownie camera. You notice there’s still film in the camera. Take the film to get developed and write a poem about a photo you find. Or write about something found in the personal papers…or the key…or the pocket watch. You can use all of these items to include in your poem. Just see what develops.

Marie’s Take:

The photograph depicts a kindly gentleman. Though he is not smiling, his mischievous eyes are bordered by tell-tale smile lines. He is flanked by my grandmother and grandfather, and holds my then-infant father in his arms. I dig deeper into my great grandfather’s musty chest, discovering several more photos, each portraying the family man I never met.

A picture of Grandma Netta and Grandpa Al’s wedding day surfaces. And then another, and another. Great-grandpa is noticeably missing. Selflessly playing photographer? I smile, and keep searching.

I open what appears to be a photo album, yet it contains no photographs. Instead, the pages contain letters from Italy, written in Grandma Netta’s brother’s hand. There appears to be several month’s worth, at least. As I skim the pages, I see, “Netta and I were invited to perform at a private party last night. All eyes were on her. She looked great, Pop. Guys are flocking. Your plan might work. Give Ma hugs from both of us. We’re having the time of our lives, yet we can’t wait to get back home to the States. We miss you both.”

Confused, and intrigued, I read on. “Since last I wrote, Netta has received two proposals of marriage. She seems agitated. She wrote Al another letter today. She’s written him every day since we arrived. Pop, I think your plan may be backfiring on you. It seems absence is making the heart grow fonder.”

My pulse quickens. Further reading confirms my suspicion: Great-grandpa sent Grandma away to Italy for an extended time as a last-ditch effort to break up her pending marriage to Al. Her brother was sent as her escort, but also to spy and report.

Though I never learned his reasons for trying to block Netta and Al’s marriage, I saw with my own eyes that he did not hold a grudge forever, and neither did they. Perhaps photographs cannot always tell stories, but they are history-sated. I’m thankful for the outcome portrayed in the photos in Great-grandpa’s chest.

… and I’ve learned to be thankful for my very existence.

Walt’s vignette:

TIMEPIECE

Tarnished and dented; a bauble of a bygone day.
In a wooden cigar box; keepsakes both, with
little more function than that. The stem fused
to the casing, the workings have retired. But,

it has inspired me to find the link. The contents
of the box play like a road map; clues to unravel
the mystery that is my history. The key, worn and
encrusted with years of dirt and oils from feeble fingers.

It lingers in my hand for a moment, its uncertainty secured.
Papers, folded and bound with a frail rubber band
line the bottom of the box. A visa document,
possibly a first issue wrapped in a tissue to protect

what it meant to an old Polish immigrant determined
to become all that America had to offer. Naturalization
documents, meant to pronounce his acceptance
of a lifestyle long sought, and their acceptance of him

as one of the free and brave. The camera buried amongst
the treasures, bellows cracked and torn, a forlorn
instrument with which a part of his life had been preserved.
It all deserved a better fate, but it is too late to shed

a single tear from your eyes for its demise. The puzzle
is splayed before you, the detective of your past.
A torn swatch of a fabric, hues faded but shades
of blue and red and white pressed between pages.

Finally, one last piece remains. A photograph.
a dark and handsome young man; heavy jacket and
a fedora pulled down across the brow. Intermingled
with other similar folk unconcerned for their purpose.

But the subject stands tall. Proud. Posed to save
this moment in memory, and upon this daguerreotype
for long after. In the background, Lady Liberty stands strong.
In his hand an American flag clutched to his chest.

A chain from buttonhole to vest pockets and a key as a fob,
a cinch to keep his pride from bursting. It insinuates
the only part missing was the watch that sat tucked
close to his left hand. A trinket; a remembrance

of the father he had left behind in Igolomia, Poland
to claim his dream. It remains strong in your own heart
as the box that holds your Great-Grandfather’s declaration secure.
You are sure the timepiece marked his life as well as your own.

BEAUTIFUL BLOOMS – Week #21

Speaking of surprises this week, there is no surprise that our poets came up with their consistently great work. Marie and I appreciate the comfort you have all found in this special place, and hope we can continue this association and grow further in our poetic prowess. So without further blah, blah, blah…our BEAUTIFUL BLOOMS for this week.

MARIE’S MOST AMAZING MUSE:

Shannon Lockard’s “The Best Surprise” stole my heart this week. What other surprise in life is as momentous as the discovery that a new little life is developing inside you?

Shannon, I can’t read your fourth stanza without choking up. Thank you for this enriching piece.

The Best Surprise
By Shannon Lockard

It wasn’t a surprise
by the time I mustered
up enough courage
to wander through the
store and purchase not one,
but two tests to confirm
you were growing
inside me.

It wasn’t a surprise
when your dad and I
looked at each other
in shock, we were
too young to react in any
other way.

It wasn’t a surprise
when I saw your image
for the first time,
that the mesmerizing
gray and black fuzzy
screen filled my belly
with warmth,
my eyes with joyful
tears.

It isn’t a surprise
that each moment
we spend together
causes my heart
to quadruple in size
because you are
you, after all.

It isn’t a surprise
that each year of
your life is my favorite
because life with
you has been one
incredible,
surprise.

 

WALT’S BLOOMING SURPRISE:

As a chronic “snorer” I can appreciate Connie Peters’ “Don’t Be Surprised”. My youngest daughter was always afraid of the “lion” that slept in my room at night. I love the frivolity in this piece; a great one for the kids. Connie has captured all the wonder inherent in this sleep affliction. Nice one, Connie!

Don’t Be Surprised by Connie Peters

Don’t be surprised to hear a monster roar
Sounding like it’s coming through the door
Growling, snarling like a grizzly bear
Catching you completely unaware
Or maybe more like a wild boar

An earthquake shaking you to the core
Or a rumbling train rattling roof to floor
Or a dragon coming from its lair
Don’t be surprised

Curtailing fear may be a chore
With a sound so great, you can’t ignore
I tell you this because I care
This is something I must share
It’s only Pops having his nightly snore
Don’t be surprised

IN-FORM POET: PUN-KU

This week our IN-FORM POET explores a new form devised by our own Salvatore Buttaci. The form is called PUN-KU. Instead of giving an interpretation of the form, we’ll let its creator’s words speak for themselves. From Salvatore’s blog SAL’S PLACE:

 

WHAT IS A PUN-KU ?

Poetry today continues to entertain readers, inspiring poets to write a greater number of poems according to the requirements of established poetic forms. The sonnet, for example, did not die with Shakespeare, Milton, Petrarch and the other masters. It is still being written according to the required iambic pentameter and rhyme patterns set down centuries ago. In most instances all that has changed is that poets write sonnets without the antiquated language of the past.

Because poetry is dynamic, because we are not restricted to reading only the works of famous poets, most of who are gone from the literary scene, modern-day poets are creating new forms.

I would like to add still another new poetic form, which I call the PUN-KU. Here are the requirements for writing one.

(1) Unlike the haiku that allows for a less than strict adherence to the 17-syllable rule, the pun-ku must be exactly 17 syllables long.

(2) It contains only four (4) lines arranged syllabically as follows:

Line 1: 4 syllables Line 2: 5 syllables Line 3: 4 syllables Line 4: 4 syllables

(3) As for the end-rhyme pattern, Lines 1 and 2 do not rhyme. Lines 3 and 4 do.

(4) The pun-ku must contain a pun on one or more of the words used in the poem. The subject matter deals with human nature, is light, humorous, or witty.

(5) The title of the pun-ku can only be one- or two-words long (or short).

Here are two of my pun-ku for examples.

LOVE’S MYSTERY

nothing is more

paradoxical

around these parts

than two cleaved hearts

#

TIMBER

strong lumberjacks

locate forest trees

then saw their bark

despite the dark

#

In the first example, the pun is on the word “cleaved,” which has two opposite meanings: “to cling together” and “to split apart.” In the second example, the pun is on the word “saw,” which can be defined as “a tool for cutting” and “the past tense of the verb ‘to see.’ ”

You might have fun writing a few pun-ku of your own!

Here are a few sites to visit if you’re looking to learn more about poetic forms. You can also do a search of “poetic forms” or type in a form and search for it.

http://www.poetrysoup.com/poetry_forms/index.aspx?Letter=D

http://www.freewebs.com/itllnever/poemstylesandterms.htm

http://www.poetrybase.info/forms/origin.shtml

 

 

Thanks Sal! Give Sal’s new form a try.

 

Marie’s PUN-KU:

MEN!

Keith’s vacuuming.
He flashes a grin.
And I think, “Yup.
He’s sucking up.”

Walt’s PUN-KU:

DELOUSED

She’s had her fill.
She’s sent him packing.
And now the house
has been de-loused.

1…2…3…SURPRISE! – PROMPT #21

The world is full of surprises. And how they effect our lives could make for some interesting situations. Write about a surprise you had gotten, how you had surprised someone, or something totally unexpected in your life. I wouldn’t be surprised what you come up with!

Marie’s Surprise:

BUT, WEIGHT!

Salty chips
Onion dips

Fish, deep-fried
Open wide

Creamy shakes
Dreamy cakes

Cookie batch
Down the hatch

Chocolate cherries
Ben & Jerry’s

Strudels (oodles!)
Home-made noodles

Fried tomatoes
Mashed potatoes

Mindless snacking
Pounds are packing

Tater tots
Lattes (lots!)

Home-made stew
Swiss fondue

Mac-n-cheese
(Seconds, please)

Up a size
Big surprise

 

 

Walt’s Unexpected Event:

SUNRISE, SUNSET

Little one, where have you gone?
Out the door in a hurry; late for school
you scurry for the bus. “Daddy, I have to go”
you call over your shoulder. You’re getting older
every time I look at you. “Learn something!” I tease,
Amidst the pleas to not grow up too fast, but alas,
over this we have no control. And I search my soul,
thinking of how I have gotten to here from there.
I arise every morning like the milkman. 5:30 A.M.
And our ships pass quickly, sickly tugging on my heart.
From the start, you have been a source of pride; a joy.
The day transpires and fires its afterburners. The afternoon
of life visits and I am certain you’ll be home from school shortly.
As I near evening, I sit cleaving to my memories
as we have made them. The door opens and you appear.
Older. More Mature. No longer that little girl.
How did you get from there to here? You smile.
“I learned something today!”, you beam.
And dreams of your successful life revisit my worn heart.

“I learned school is a joy“. You strive to mold each young girl and boy
in your charge, in mind and spirit.

“I realize you did the best you could” We fought our battles,
but they only served to make you a stronger person.

“I learned someone could actually love me as much
as you and mom have; as much as my sister does”.

And it is then you catch the flash of the bauble on her hand.
You share her joy. You share her tears, You don’t remember growing older.

Little one, where have you gone?

BEAUTIFUL BLOOM – PROMPT #20

A photograph of a young couple sitting lakeside wishfully looking to an uncertain future. Life is splayed out before them. What faces them? Where will it take them? Our amazing poets have offered their visions of what dreams may come. These are the “BEAUTIFUL BLOOMS” for week #20.

Marie’s Favorite:

So many wonderful poems from which to choose, and I ended up choosing one of my favorite forms: the haiku. Paula Wanken nailed it. Beginning with “on the shore of dreams” sets the tone beautifully and romantically. Every young-and-in-love couple who has ever embraced on a shore with waves lapping in front of them dreams of what may come. Paula’s 7-syllable “Anticipating ripples” is the perfect prelude to “their lives will create.” Fabulous!

HAIKU by Paula Wanken

on the shore of dreams
anticipating ripples
their lives will create

Walt’s Selection:

The photograph was indeed from my daughter’s Senior Prom. The tentative innocence portrayed in this poem had a very familiar feel to it. These two young adults have held onto their friendship for quite some time and these lines tell their tale as closely to reality. A conversation such as this is within these two, and it touched me greatly. From that Delaware Park scene to Madison, Wisconsin, my Bloom goes to Amy Barlow Liberatore.

LAKESIDE CONVERSATION by Amy Barlow Liberatore

An autumn breeze caressed my cheek.
A moment with no words to speak
aloud, but softly, with great care:
“The end of this; we know it’s there.”

The carefree days, each careful kiss;
I know that life holds more than this
for me,” I sighed, and waited for
response from him. Then, this he swore:

“I’ll like you ‘til my dying day.
Please be my friend, although we’ll lay
apart, and in the arms of others.”
This is love time never smothers:

The gift of letting passion go
because true friendship deems it so.

WEB WEDNESDAY – MARIE ELENA GOOD

Back in April, I was privileged to be interviewed by Robert Lee Brewer over at POETIC ASIDES. The entire process was uplifting and very well received. It was that impromptu chat that gave me the idea for WEB WEDNESDAY here on POETIC BLOOMINGS. We have been introduced to many familiar names and their poetic processes. But one name would not make the process unless I invoked the seldom used (and might I add, unwritten) “Administrators Prerogative”. Let me present to you an exceptional poet, a delightful personality, a sometimes nag (a term of endearment), the “Best Friend I’ve Never Met” AND Sophie’s Nonna, Marie Elena Good.

Marie Elena's Good Eye

First things first. One of MY favorite M.E.G. poems:

SUMMER TAKES LEAVE (A SONNET)

As earlier the moon begins to rise,
and sun sets in the peached and purpled sky,
so even birds and animals surmise
that fall is in the air — though slightly shy.

Don’t let her cool appearance disconcert,
for she can be as warm as amber‘s core.
Her sun, no longer brass, will toy and flirt,
as dazzling colors soon come to the fore.

As summer takes her leave, she bids farewell.
Yet I, for one, cannot feign grand despair.
She failed to cast on me her storied spell.
I’ll welcome autumn’s palette, and brisk air.

As summertime releases sultry hold,
I watch for autumn’s magic to unfold.

An appropriate piece as we near the end of another endearing and sometimes tumultuous summer. Hello Marie!

Hey there, Pard! I can’t believe I’m the interviewEE this time! I have to admit it is a bit intimidating. Now I know how our featured poets feel.

But, seriously, thank you so much for suggesting this interview. It makes me feel like a real poet! (Just kidding. Don’t look at me like that.)

You asked for a piece that I feel best expresses my style. It’s hard for me to choose between my two favorite writing subjects: children, and faith. I finally settled on a faith-based piece, written in verse.

TO BE WITH HIM

To hold His face between my hands
To feel His hand take hold of mine
To lay my head against His chest
To share with Him the bread and wine

To sing His praise in heaven’s realm
To hide my face against His feet
To gaze into my Savior’s eyes
Eternally, my joy replete

1. A good choice. Please explain your entry into the POETIC ASIDES 2009 April Poem-a-Day Challenge. From your perspective, highlight our “introduction”.

Since I really can’t express this better than I did “Across The Lake, Eerily,” I hope it is acceptable to reiterate my own words here. If not, I’m invoking MY Administrator’s Prerogative. So, ha! 😉

It began with an internet post, declaring April as “Poetry Month,” and including an invitation to write and post poems to daily prompts. Write and post a poem each and every day. The entire month. Who does that? I shook in my shoes as, on April Fool’s Day (appropriately, I thought) I wrote and posted a poem for the first prompt. To say that I was intimidated by the number and quality of poems posted that day is a gross understatement. This was not only outside my comfort zone, it was way out of my league.

Several days into April, I read an endearing poem written by a proud Polish gentleman. To me, this stood tall among the outstanding. I went back to read his earlier posts, and I was hooked. From that moment, I daily searched for his name. I stuffed my heart with his laughter, wordplay, love, and loss. I let him know that he had become a must-read for me. His offerings never let me down. Several more days into the challenge, I discovered a post in which he praised my work. I couldn’t wait to share his encouraging words with my husband. What a thrill it was for me to receive affirmation from not only my own family, but from a truly gifted poet. It put me on a high, from which I haven’t wavered.

Obviously, that Polish gentleman is you. I remember the first time we ended up at Poetic Asides together in “real time.” What an amazing feeling! It was almost as though we were meeting in person. That actually ended up happening quite often, and developed into a time of fun banter.

I also remember thinking that when April came to an end, so would my budding online friendships … especially you, De Jackson, and Hannah Gosselin. Such a sad thought.

2. You saved me poetically through your support and encouragement, as you have supported and encouraged other poets. How has that outpouring of “Unconditional Poetic Love” been to your benefit?

That ship sails both directions, Walt. Your support and encouragement saved me poetically as well.

As for the “Unconditional Poetic Love” benefiting me, well, it most certainly has. The poetic community is by-and-large a charitable bunch. Timidly dipping my poetic feet (ha!) into the social pool of amazingly talented writers, I discovered that they are real people. The awe I exhibited in their work was accepted humbly, and returned with favorable feedback on my own efforts. This includes you, as well as De Jackson, Hannah Gosselin, Sharon Ingraham, Barbara Young, Patricia Hawkenson, Patricia McGoldrick, Pamela Cleary (PSC from CT), Salvatore Buttaci, Daniel Paicopulous, Daniel Ari, RJ Clarken, Amy Barlow Liberatore, Robert Lee Brewer himself, and others whose talent left me thunderstruck. This meant more to me than I can express.

3. You and I have established a relationship strictly through poetry that has caused us to both describe it as “the best friends we’ve never met.” And yet, we have come to know each other very well. We both know of many of our personal struggles and infirmities. And we still like each other anyway! What’s wrong with us? But seriously, how has that (has it?) inspired you in your writings?

As I mentioned, your support helped save me poetically. The fact that a poet of your caliber showed the least interest in my own attempts at the craft is motivation-o-plenty. You are the one who convinced me that I could look myself in the eye and call myself a “poet.” You never wavered in your confidence in my ability. But when you invited me to collaborate on a collection and website, it put me over the top. As we began posting “Across the Lake, Eerily,” I began to see a pattern of playing off each other’s work. It was as if we had begun to share a muse. Then I realized we had often done that at Poetic Asides as well. When we get in that “zone,” I feel like a kid playing chopsticks on Grandma’s piano with my cousin. Don’t laugh … that’s a good thing. And VERY inspirational.

4. As other poets interviewed here have alluded to, your writing has two very prominent influences: your faith, and a Good man by the name of Keith (an outstanding photographer in his own right). Touch on those two inspirations if you will.

I do not (will not, cannot) believe that the universe and all it contains happened merely by chance. I believe in a Creator of all that is, or was, or is to come. How could I not be inspired? I believe this Creator cares personally and intimately and infinitely. How could I not be inspired? I have experienced God’s love, mercy, forgiveness, and generosity. How could I not be inspired?

God blessed me with a husband who looks at me tenderly, treats me lovingly, gives of himself wholly, and whom I love deeply. How could I not be inspired?

5. As an extension of that is your family. Your heritage is strong and firmly based in that principle. Your parents are still vibrant and nurturing. Your children are a source of great pride, comfort and joy. You’ve written about your Godfather, Jim Powers, and your cousin Jim (Punk) on numerous occasions. What makes those connections so vivid in your expressions of love for these wonderful people?

GODFATHER

Generosity, personified
Outstanding uncle
Dedicated
Father-at-the-ready
Admirable
Trustworthy
Honest businessman
Enterprising
Respected by all

CROSSROADS (A sonnet for my cousin, with love)
Psalm 139:16. … all the days ordained for me were written in your book
before one of them came to be.
James E. Powers, Jr.
September 23, 1952 – November 19, 2010

He stands between the living and the dead,
as ailing lungs no longer understand
the expectations of a heart in dread,
not willing to let go of all it planned.
Though comatose, his mind exerts its will,
Not giving up, nor knowing how to cope;
As loved ones, keeping vigilant, instill
An ember of illuminating hope.
Sad we cannot return to days of old,
Of playing ‘til the streetlights called us home;
Now, heart-in-throat, we watch events unfold;
Our desperate pens add chapters to his tome.
Yet, God imparts His own life-giving breath,
to give eternal life that transcends death.

I was blessed to grow up under the nurture of loving and supportive parents, with cousins as close to my heart as they were in proximity (steps away), and with aunts and uncles who always welcomed me and treated me as their own. The cousin and uncle (father and son) described in the poetry above left us far too soon, and within ten weeks of each other. Anyone with a close-knit family such as ours can relate to the impact of such loss. Thankfully, strength of family bond is important to my own children as well. All three often express how fortunate they are to have so many quality years with their grandparents. That makes my heart smile.

6. Free Association: I’ll give you three words. Go on a rant! Sophia. Rose. Mavis.

Oh, Walt … this is a door you do NOT want to open, as I could easily write a response the size of War and Peace. I AM that obnoxious grandmother that compels people to roll their eyes and make excuses to part ways.

HOWEVER,

Sophia Rose Mavis

since you asked …

let me show you my granddaughter!  


My husband Keith (“Poppa Keith,” to Sophie) said it all. He told my poor son (Brandon) to hurry up and get married and make us another Sophie. Fortunately, Brandon has a good sense of humor. 😉

The magnitude of my love for this little one came as a surprise to me. A poem I wrote upon Sophie’s birth still best expresses how I feel. I’ll share that, and then I’ll promise to not continue rambling until you are down for the count. 😉

PRINTS (Sophie’s Sonnet)

A woman knows instinctively, it seems,
Which moments will leave prints upon her soul.
Her future life weaves fabric through her dreams
And writes upon her heart, as though a scroll.
A woman thinks she knows what to expect
From pioneering moments in her world –
Anticipation of events’ effects,
And how her heart will feel as they’re unfurled.
Yet, there was I, as wholly unprepared
As if I’d never given you a thought.
My heart and hub were all-at-once ensnared –
I would convey in words, yet I cannot.
Sophia Rose: a gift from God above –
New life. New breath. New gift. New print. New love.

7. You have a strong background in Children’s Literature. How is that faring? Any Sophie Sunshine books in the offing? Does Marie Elena aspire to Silverstein status?

Actually, I would not call it a “strong background.” I took one online course, through the Institute of Children’s Literature. I believe it was the best ~$600 I’ve ever invested in myself. When I can afford the advanced course, I will take it.

Sophie Sunshine books? I like it!

As to Silverstein status, I can’t think of a better goal. Out of reach? Undeniably. Worthy goal? Unquestionably. When I first began writing (in 2008), I had no aspirations for publication. Then my ICL instructor (“The Great” Jan Fields) boosted my confidence, and made me believe some level of publication success was within my reach. I’ve since had a few poems published (one print, and several online magazines). However, my greatest surprise and source of unexpected pride came with the publication of my “Jeep and the Real Me,” a short children’s story published in the August 2010 edition of Pockets for Children. I’ve since been inundated with rejection letters. *sigh*

8. We have been graced by your acumen with the poetic forms, Haiku and Sonnet. Do you have a preference between the two? Which form do you avoid or at the very least, struggle with (Be kind to Sestina Fair)?

Graced by my acumen? *blush*  You are too kind, my friend!

So, if Haiku and Sonnet were both about to drown and I could save only one, which one would it be. Hmmmm. For me, each of these forms comes as a challenge – each for different reasons. Pack a wallop in 17 syllables, or make a rhyme-loather say “aahhh.” I can’t really put my finger on why I get so much satisfaction from these particular forms, but I do.

Sorry, Sir Walt, but the sestina gives me hives. Reading a well-written sestina (such as yours) is a pleasure. Writing one? For my brain, it is torture, and ends up sounding contrived. Avoid writing sestina? You bet. It’s just so much work that I don’t get enjoyment from it. I am not proud of that fact.

9. One of your inspirations comes through your travels with Keith to the Hocking Hills. Some beautiful images have transpired through these writings. How important is location to your writing? What other places bring out the verse?

Actually, Walt, location isn’t important to me. The beauty of the Hocking Hills certainly wells praise in my heart for the awesome Creator. However, it’s the peace that stirs my muse. No phone. No internet. No television. No radio. No traffic. No responsibility. No distractions. Not that I’m easily distra

10. We have embarked on two rather successful collaborations: here with POETIC BLOOMINGS and our shared personal blog ACROSS THE LAKE, EERILY. Stretching our combined muse from Toledo to Buffalo has truly been an honor and a hoot! Are you ever going to be up for that chapbook we’ve discussed? What other projects are you developing? What would you like to do next?

You know I share your enthusiasm for our partnership! More than one poet has expressed a level of envy of our alliance, and how it has rooted and developed. If I was on the outside looking in, I would be a bit covetous myself. I do tend to pinch myself from time-to-time.

As for projects, I have several picture books and poetry collections I’m honing, and several for which I am searching for homes. Also in need of a home is a lullaby I wrote, and for which my father composed a melody. Marketing research is (to me) a necessary evil to endure if I am ever to publish my work. I would actually go so far as to say that I loathe it.

Next on my plate: I’m thinking once you and Cathy complete your current project**, we can start talking chapbook. Honest. 😉

11. Can you share one bit of advice for your poetic cohorts concerning the propagation of this process?

Hmmm … tough question. I guess what I would say is to use what you have available to you. We have an advantage that was unavailable and unthinkable decades ago: the internet. Social networking, blogging, online magazines, and resources beyond imagination are literally at our fingertips. Walt, you and I figured out a way to spread the love around via this very site. We get such enjoyment from giving poets of all ages and skill levels one more venue to get their work out there. We are small now, but one never knows when our humble site could mushroom. If so, wonderful! If not, we are no less “propagating the process.”

Use what you have, put your heart into it, and let the results (significant and/or humble) happen.

… and find your own Walt.

Thank you dear friend for allowing me to give our readers a glimpse at someone I consider one exceptional person and poet. You kept me in this game through your support and encouragement. I owe you one! 😉

_____________________________________________________________________________

**The collaboration of which Marie speaks is my collection of “I AM SANTA CLAUS” poems.

Based on that title, the poems describe the “every man” aspect of the Christmas spirit; the many faces of Santa Claus. I’ve been fortunate in developing another inspired connection to an old friend from High School, Cathy Milosevich Crepeau, who is a graphic artist and has agreed to illustrate this book.

‘Miss’Organization

Question:

How do you organize your poetry for future retrieval?

By form? (Where did I put that one haiku [read, out of 2,600]?)
By topic? (If so, what topic headings are in your cache?)
By date?
By prompt?

What if I file by form, but want to get together a collection of, say, only love haiku?

Have you found a method that works well for you?

WISHFUL, YOUNG DREAMERS – PROMPT #20

Photo by Walter J. Wojtanik

The prompt for Week 20 is based on this photograph. Could be a love poem, a dream sequence, a wishful moment, a memory. Whatever the photo says to you will paint this portrait in words.

Walt’s Vision:

UPON THE LAKE OF WISHFUL DREAMS

Stretched out like a future bright
and promising, young love  rapt
in wishful dreams. Hopes for a life
ripe for the picking hang seductively
within reach. She is headstrong
and determined, a beauty in style,
her demeanor reeks of compassion
and an eye for fashion that augments
nature’s handiwork. He, a young man
doubtful, but very giving and loving,
a handsome lout, dark and chiseled,
charged and ready for action.
A class act  in her eyes and heart.
Their vision focused,  futures joined in unison
adrift upon the lake of wishful dreams.

TIME FOR MARIE ELENA

We watch the sun set
Our love stealing away time
We watch the sun rise

As an “Aside,”  Robert Lee Brewer of The Writer’s Digest Poetic Asides has invited poetry in remembrance of 9/11.  We encourage you to visit to read, and perhaps write:  http://www.writersdigest.com/editor-blogs/poetic-asides/poetry-prompts/10-years-of-911-poetry#comment-90775 .

BEAUTIFUL BLOOMS – PROMPT #19

Walt’s prompt #19 brought out the clever, the prolific, the melancholy, the disturbing, the inspiring, the uplifting, the humorous, and the thought provoking. My choice for this week is simply well written, and its subject commands respect and admiration. This superb work could have been penned only by one who truly is not in it for the accolades, but for the betterment of our society. I admire her attitude. I admire her work. I admire her poetry. This week, I chose Nancy Posey’s “Nice Work if You Can Get It.”

Nice Work If You Can Get It by Nancy Posey

Another Labor Day passes without a thought
of childbirth, a quarter century since I retired.
Instead, the headlines bemoan employment gloom,
and morning show anchors chat with an expert
claiming that college may not be the way to go.
And I’m marking a first set of essays, narrative
that tell more about my students than I could
learn from hours of interview—fathers that left,
unplanned babies, unexpected birth defects,
leaving high school at sixteen—by choice
by necessity, by force—now back fourteen years
older, scared to death. Wielding a purple pen—
more benign than my usual red, I mark run-ons,
fragments, split infinitives, but at the end,
I can’t resist a note or two: Good for you!
I’m proud of what you’ve done. Well told.
And though I know I won’t be interviewed
on NBC or quoted in People; Fortune 500
has no place for me, but tomorrow, loading
my car for Tuesday of a short week, essays
in the back seat, ready to return, I hope I’ll say
a prayer of thanks for honest work, more than
hands on. Tomorrow, again, I’ll touch lives.

*title from the new issue of my favorite magazine, Oxford American (the Southern Magazine of Good Writing). This time it’s the Education Issue. If you aren’t familiar with it, check it out.

I’ve plucked my Bloom from the Wild-card Division of this week’s prompt. In it, our poet talks about the gift we all share. The gift to communicate our thoughts and ideas and emotions. Expression through our work as poets, or teachers, or public speakers goes a long way in promotion all we have to offer. My Beautiful Bloom for Prompt #19 is A GIFT by Linda Swenski

A GIFT by Linda Swenski

The ability to communicate:
It is so basic
It seems so simple.
But for some, its an impossibility.

To get your meanings and emotions across
To other people;
To get your needs met,
To simply make a connection to others.

How does one function without this simple skill?
So much frustration
And isolation.
Being so separate from others with no hope.

In my job I am able to teach some skills
To those who can’t speak
But have things to say
To find ways to communicate with the world.

It might seem that this is my gift to others,
It’s a gift to me
From those who can’t speak
For now I understand what they have to say.