POET INTERVIEW – MARIAN J. VEVERKA
What’s this I hear? I believe it is the collective “It’s about time!” from our Poetic Bloomings poets who popped in to see who is showcased this month in our Poet Interviews feature. Yes, we finally got around to interviewing our eldest Bloomer, the remarkably talented Marian J. Veverka.
MARIE ELENA: Welcome, Marian! We’ve looked forward to this interview for a long time. Let’s begin with the origination of your interest in poetry.
MARIAN: My Mother would read me Mother Goose Nursery rhymes, and the poetry of Robert Louis Stevenson. I could say many of the shorter poems by heart. I had a little cardboard-backed book of poems I carried everywhere.
MARIE ELENA: Mother Goose and Robert Louis Stevenson – such variety your mother introduced you to at a young age. And I love that you carried a little book of poems everywhere. Your love of poetry began early and held fast! Do you have a sample poem from your childhood that you would not mind sharing with us?
MARIAN: This is a poem I wrote when I was in High school. I always liked it because it said exactly what I was thinking about at the time. It was also one of those poems that seemed to flow just naturally, all by itself.
Days of Plenty (by Marian J. Veverka)Green rows of corn marching Into the haze of the horizon. The sky, bowl taut, Stretches down to meet them. Night whispers sounds Of young corn growing. Thunder mutters rain, Leaves uncurl to touch it. Morning sun Blasts open the sky. Shimmering heat Treads lightly over summer’s Yellowing wheat.
MARIE ELENA: Thank you, Marian! Such a lovely visual, and sense of gratitude. Beautifully done.
Your talent is obviously in-born. You actually managed to win a Cleveland Press contest for adults when you were only ten years old. Yet you didn’t let your natural talent go it alone forever. I see you received a BFA in Creative Writing at Bowling Green State University, which is only about fifteen minutes from where I live. Congratulations on graduating cum laude, and receiving the Ann Bachelder Poetry award! How has your BFA benefited you? Is it something you would recommend for those of us who enjoy writing?
MARIAN: If one had the time and the money to spend, it is certainly worthwhile. When I was at Bowling Green, I was introduced to various styles of poetry and poets; things I wouldn’t have found on my own. Also interacting with the other students and their work is valuable.
MARIE ELENA: I also see you have written novels. Are you taking steps toward publishing them? I, for one, would be very interested in reading anything from your pen.
MARIAN: Not any more. The novels I finished and tried to publish are dated now. Much better novels have been written.
MARIE ELENA: I wish you would reconsider. I bet your novels are smart and creative. You say they are “dated,” but perhaps that would be a good thing – set in a long-passed era, and written during that time. I bet they are wholly authentic.
Have you considered self publication?
MARIAN: What I have seen of self-publishing is that it is a lot of work and you need to know what you are doing. It is not for me, but I know people who have done great with it.
MARIE ELENA: Speaking of books, would I be correct in stating that you were once a librarian?
MARIAN: I worked in libraries part-time while I was in high school and during the summers. I love being around books. Later, after my children were older, I worked part time in our town’s library.
MARIE ELENA: It’s easy to picture you in that role, photo aside. 😉 It seems to suit you.
A great deal has changed in your lifetime, Marian. If you could “undo” one change (major or minor), what would it be?
MARIAN: The loss of public transportation. When we were in high school, we could ride to our friend’s home, or stop and do a little “window” shopping, or back to school for a basketball game, etc.
MARIE ELENA: In the reverse, what historical change are you most thankful for?
MARIAN: The civil rights movement that grew to include all minority peoples and also the women’s rights, and all the movements for equality in our society.
MARIE ELENA: Nice response. It makes me wonder about the first time you had the privilege of voting. Who was running for president? Do you remember what thought went into your decision, and how you felt?
MARIAN: When I voted, Adlai Stevenson, from Illinois, Democrat, was running against Dwight D. Eisenhower, the General and Republican. We are a working class family and I voted the straight ticket, which you could do in those days. I voted straight Democrat, though I admired General Eisenhower, everyone said he was going to win anyway. I didn’t believe my vote made that much difference. Later, as I grew older, I realized the error of this kind of thinking.
MARIE ELENA: How would you feel about having a woman as President of the USA?
MARIAN: A woman would make a good president. The German president, Angela Merkel is respected worldwide. More countries are electing women and the U.S. should examine our women leaders.
MARIE ELENA: In addition to the civil rights movement, you have lived through a number of important historical events. What event do you feel had the most impact on your life?
MARIAN: The assassination of President Kennedy. He gave us all so much to hope for. And in October 1963, he started to order our troops to withdraw from Vietnam. He, together with the Russian president, came to an agreement in the Cuban missile crisis that saved the world from a nuclear conflict.
MARIE ELENA: President Kennedy’s assassination is my earliest memory of “news” awareness, and the direct personal impact of events outside our home. I remember my mother’s reaction very well. She collapsed into a chair as though knocked down by the very words themselves.
Another enormous loss for you was the passing of your husband back in 2006. I’m so sorry, Marian. With your permission, I would like to share one of my favorite writings of yours: “Worth Dying For.” This eye-opening tribute to him was published in Verse Wisconsin.
Worth Dying For (by Marian J. Veverka)I
John V. turned 18 in 1943. The letter he had
Been waiting for arrived the next day. He
Grabbed the mail before his parents realized
What had arrived. The letter was addressed
To him and began with the word “Greetings.” Everybody talked about the war. Two of
His brothers were in the service. He prayed
He would pass his physical. He wanted – what?
To be in on the action! To be part of history!
To impress everyone when they saw him in his
Uniform! Men (and that is what he called himself
Now) were not afraid to fight for their country.
It never occurred to him to ask Is it “Worth Dying For?” II
He is at Fort Bragg, NC. He can’t feel his hair. His
Uniform sags on him because he is a bit underweight.
Everywhere he looks, he sees men just like himself.
At night, in the barracks, he hears men crying in their
Sleep. Maybe they miss sleeping with their wives. No
One says anything about this. The sergeants all yell.
No one talks in a normal voice. He learns to lift his
Feet. Right face, about face. He is given a rifle. He
Takes it apart and puts it back together again. He goes
Home on a furlough. It is what he has always dreamed.
Everyone treats him like a hero. Then they go to a camp
In New Jersey. Camp Kilmer. It is named for a poet who
Was killed in the first war. They ship out on a ship called
The “Aquatainia”. They land in England, but they are not
Allowed to say where. III
Soon after their arrival, the Allies invade Normandy. Some
Of the men are mad and disappointed that they were not part
Of the invasion. The officers tell them that soon they can kill
All the Germans they want. No one says much about being
Killed. No one asks “Is it worth dying for.” Soon he feels the
Cold waters of the Channel seeping thru his combat boots. He
Can run easily through the water because he grew up on Lake
Erie. After everyone has debarked, they march to Chereburg.
They see their first dead. Civilians, Germans and animals. IV They are in a long line along a dusty road. Some of the men
Mutter about the smell. This is where he will fire his rifle
At a human target. The human target will also be firing his
Rifle at him. At the time. he does not think about this. He
Does not think about anything except staying out of the enemy’s
Fire. He looks for the enemy. An order comes to close, to get
Closer together, That is when he realizes he has been hearing
Bullets. He looks to see where they are coming from and fires
In that direction. The men kneel in the brush and fire. The
Brush is called “Hedgerows.” This is what they do. They clear
The enemy from the hedgerows of Normandy. He sees men shot
And killed. Maybe he has killed someone. He has tried, This
Is not a time for questions. It is a time for staying alive. V
The war has been over for almost ten years. John V is married
He has two children. His wife is expecting a third. He has a
Job on the Railroad and he and his brothers have built them a
House in the country. The first two children are girls. This is
Good, he thinks. But he might have a boy. He has joined the VFW.
They stay late at the bar, drink and talk. This is where the war
Stories come out. There has already been another war in Korea.
He has said to his buddies that he would not send a son to Korea
To fight. His buddies, some of whom are the fathers of sons, nod
And understand. The question has been a seed, growing inside them
No, he says. Some things are not worth dying for. Then he adds
“But how the hell do you know the difference?”
MARIE ELENA: Thank you for letting me share this amazing and thought-provoking tribute, as well as the lovely photo of the two of you.
When I discovered you had six children, but only five were living, my heart sank deeply for you.
MARIAN: All our children lived to be adults. Our 2nd daughter, Betsy, was an RN, living in Seattle when she passed. We had her brought back to Marblehead, and she is in our church cemetery.
MARIE ELENA: I simply cannot imagine losing a child; even a grown one. Did you write any poetry about it at the time? If so, was it at all therapeutic?
MARIAN: The book “Beyond the Dark Room,” which many members of “Poetic Bloomings” contributed to, has several poems I had written about losing Betsy. I wrote a lot of stuff which I threw away because it was not poetry, just my feelings and emotions at the time. I believe that writing out is good therapy, but not poetry.
MARIE ELENA: I’m glad your poems are being shared with others. That takes a certain level of courage, Marian. Hopefully they will benefit someone in a similar difficult situation.
You often write of Cleveland. To me, Cleveland seems like a city that has gotten a “bad rap.” If you could give us a tour, where would you take us?
MARIAN: Cleveland has changed so much since I left in the 1950’s. Euclid Beach Park, which was a short street-car ride from where we lived, is gone. I wish we all could visit it once again. Along with the beach, it had all these traditional amusement park rides, plus a ball room where big name bands used to play. The West Side Market is still there with its amazing variety of all kinds of ethnic foods.
MARIE ELENA: Your Euclid Beach Park sounds very much like Walt’s Crystal Beach, and my Idora Park – favorite amusement parks from our childhood.
Now let’s travel from Cleveland to Marblehead. If you could give us a tour, where would you take us?
MARIAN: The small village of fishermen and quarry workers has disappeared beneath an avalanche of “vacation homes” and “McMansions.” It is too touristy to be interesting.
MARIE ELENA: How disappointing. I’m with you, Marian: A small fisherman’s village is far more interesting to me than yet another cookie cutter community. Still, your photos are beautiful and charming, and give us a sense of where you belong. Thank you for sharing them with us.
MARIE ELENA: Finally, Marian, if you could share only one thing about yourself with us, what would you choose to say?
MARIAN: Probably that I have always been a lover of books and reading. Poets and writers are among the people I admire most.
A special note of thanks to Marian’s daughter Kathy for selecting and providing the photos. I must also add sincere gratitude for her service in the United States Army.
For more of Marian’s poetry, visit her blog at http://marianv.blog.co.uk/.