POET INTERVIEW – EARL PARSONS
When we had to close the Poetic Bloomings garden gate, one of the things I missed most was interviewing our poets. Though we can learn a great deal about one another from the poems we share, there is something much more intimate about sitting down one-on-one with someone, focusing only on them for a bit. I get much satisfaction in presenting them to you.
Today, I’m pleased to present one of our original Bloomers and long-time poet friend, Earl Parsons.
MARIE ELENA: Welcome, Earl! If memory serves, we met back in 2009 for The Writer’s Digest April Poem-a-Day challenge with Robert Lee Brewer. Is that right?
EARL: Actually, I started in the PAD challenge in April of 2008. I may have been an unknown entity at that time, don’t you know. Still, I was there and made it for a few more PAD challenges. I actually made it through most of the ones I started, but it was a struggle due to my job as an Insurance Adjuster who covered a 44,000 square mile area, and never knew when and where I would be from day to day. But, that’s a subject for another book of poetry.
MARIE ELENA: 44,000 square miles? Yikes! It’s a wonder you were able to have any life outside of work, let alone a writing life! Well, I’m glad that isn’t an issue for you anymore, and we can reap the benefits here at Poetic Bloomings!
EARL: I will say that I was so happy when Poetic Bloomings sprang forth. I feel at home here, and the challenges spark my brain. I’m very happy y’all are back together.
MARIE ELENA: Thank you for your kind words, Earl. We love what we do here, and are thankful for poets like you. So, what was your first experience at writing poetry?
EARL: That came about ten minutes after I understood that words can rhyme from time to time and a rhyme with time is a timely rhyme. In other words, I started my poetry journey at a very young age. How young? I couldn’t say, but I was told that in kindergarten I could already put rhymes together, and often would, depending on what was happening around me.
MARIE ELENA: Kindergarten, eh? I can relate! My “ear for rhyme” was mentioned on my recently rediscovered Kindergarten grade card! Our mutual claim to fame, Earl!
Was Robert’s site the first on which you posted publicly?
EARL: Publicly and regularly, yes. I had, however, put writings on the Internet sporadically here and there, starting around the time of 9/11.
MARIE ELENA: Knowing your love of country, it doesn’t surprise me that 9/11 flooded you with thoughts for which you needed an outlet. Do you remember what (or who) sparked your original interest?
EARL: When I was very young, it was just plain fun. When I reached my teen years, it was still fun, but I found that girls really like it, too. The more I got into music, especially what we now call classic rock, I found that poetry was the basis for most every song that I liked. Poetry was one of the things that helped me win my true love’s heart. And as an adult, I find poetry to be a place to release all the passions in my soul.
As for someone that first sparked the interest, I can’t say who was the first spark, but now it is my family, my country, and my God that provides all the sparks I’ll ever need.
MARIE ELENA: What is your goal in writing? Is it simply to enjoy the experience, or is it to be a published author?
EARL: My actual goal is to arrange words that paint pictures, tell stories, capture memories, stimulate laughter, or produce tears. I strive to draw the reader into the poem and strum their emotional strings into a beautiful song. I want my writings, especially the ones I write for God, to touch those that need to be touched, because I believe that anything written for the glorification of God is intended to be read by someone in an effort to further His kingdom on this Earth.
MARIE ELENA: I couldn’t agree more.
EARL: That said, I would like to be published primarily for that purpose. Trouble is, I fear rejection, but know it’s a part of the submission process. Hopefully, I’ll get over that fear shortly.
MARIE ELENA: I suspect many (most?) of us struggle in the same way. I wonder if it helps if we see ourselves as writers/poets. Do you consider yourself a poet?
EARL: In the real sense of the word, no. I don’t know the forms very well. I couldn’t name but a few poets outside of Frost, Seuss, or Silverstein. In a discussion of poetry, I’m lost. So, no, I don’t consider myself a poet.
Now, when it comes to storytelling or entertaining, maybe there’s something there. I find it easy to write situational poetry, patriotic or political verse, or creative family historical pieces. In fact, I find it easier to put poems together than it is to actually write about things that interest me.
When it comes to writing poetry for children or God, I’m there. In fact, when I finally got serious about poetry about 20 years ago, many of the poems were spawned by the daily devotionals I was writing at that time. My target audience for the devotions, poetry, and dramas back then were teens and children, because I was headlong into the youth ministry at the church I attended. I have enough devotions and poems to fill a half dozen books, if only I’d get the nerve, or the faith, to submit them.
MARIE ELENA: I had no idea you wrote more than poetry, or that you wrote for children and teens. That’s fantastic! I must say I find it very interesting that, as a prolific writer of poetry, you don’t see yourself as a “poet,” simply because you are not (pardon the coming pun) well versed in poetry and poets. If anyone comments on this interview, I would love to hear their take on the subject. Perhaps we could have a discussion out here on that topic.
Excuse me just a moment, Earl. Hey, Walt! What do you think? A topic discussion someplace in the garden, on occasion?
Okay, Earl, if there is one thing I know you would call yourself, it would be “devoted husband.” You’ve been happily married a good long time to your lovely wife, Kim. How did you meet?
EARL: Kim and I met at the NCO (Non-Commissioned Officers) Club at Scott Air Force Base in Illinois in the late 80s. We were both working part-time jobs; I as a bartender and she as a waitress. We worked in opposite ends of the club, but her bartender refused to make strawberry daiquiris, so she was instructed to come to my bar and have me make them. And that’s how the whole thing started.
As we became close friends, my feelings went a little deeper. I would take register tape and write poems on the back for her to read after her shift. She inspired me to write more and more and we became closer and closer, until, eventually, we fell in love.
MARIE ELENA: Oh, if that isn’t the sweetest thing! And how did you propose?
EARL: On one Saturday morning I went to the mall on the way to meet her for breakfast, and stopped by the jewelry counter. I put the engagement ring in a brown paper bag with what I bought from the store, and popped the question when she opened the bag. And, to my total amazement, she said “yes.” We just celebrated 29 years together, and are hoping for many, many more.
MARIE ELENA: How fun! Congratulations on your 29th Anniversary! What would you say is the secret to your relationship longevity?
EARL: The secret to our success is definitely our relationship with God. We were both Christians when we met and got married, but we were not living a life that was honorable or acceptable to Him. We eventually realized how much we needed to get back to God and brought Him into our lives. Since then, He has blessed us much more than we ever deserved.
Every day with my wife and family is the best time of my life. I never want to find out what life would be like without them.
MARIE ELENA: I’m happy for you and Kim, and of course, your children. A contented family life can’t be beat.
Now I’m going to turn the tables on you to ask, what is the hardest issue you have ever had to deal with, and what measures did you take to get through it?
EARL: I would have to say the nissen fundoplication in October of 2016. In simple terms, an NF is a Stomach Wrap, where the top portion of the stomach is wrapped around the esophagus and tied in place. This helps prevent heartburn and reflux, and can reduce or eliminate the need for medication. In my case it eliminated all the meds I was on for the problems I was having. But things just went wrong from the beginning. I spent 12 days in ICU and was transferred (life-flighted) to New Orleans for another 15 days. Kim was with me all the way, and my children were in and out as much as they could. I would write a book about the ordeal, but I don’t remember a whole lot of it. I do know, however, that a lot of people were praying for me, and God heard those prayers. As the prompts progress, you might read a poem or three that spawned from those 27 days and the time during the recovery.
MARIE ELENA: Many of us “Bloomers” were aware and praying. What a relief, when we finally saw you out-and-about on Facebook again. And speaking of prayer, I know you are a man of great faith … a believer in Jesus Christ. How did you come to know Him, and how has your relationship with Him affected your life?
EARL: As a young child, I threw a fit at the end of summer vacation with my grandparents, and ran off and hid in the woods because I wanted to stay in the country with them. Well, my mother signed me over to them and they raised me. My grandmother was a drug addict, in that every time the church doors were open, she drug me with her. And I’m thankful that she did.
In Vacation Bible School at the age of seven, I said the prayer of salvation, and again in the next VBS, and the next VBS, and the next VBS, and so on. Of course, at that age I understood the Bible stories, but didn’t really grasp what it meant to be saved. As I grew older and into my teens, our youth group would cross the border into New Brunswick for good old gospel concerts. I truly loved these concerts, but had problems when the invitation rolled around. I would sweat and jitter and cling to the back of the seat in front of me, but usually I would just walk out into the atrium and check out the records and other merchandise. That way, I could escape the conviction I was under.
And then came THE concert. It was so crowded that when the invitation started, there was nowhere to go. First the group sang, “The King is Coming,” and the sweat poured off of my brow. Then they followed up with, “I Wish We’d All Been Ready,” and that did me in. The conviction of the Holy Spirit broke me where I stood, and after squeezing through the others in the row, I went forward for real.
A few years ago, I wrote this about that night:
I Wish We’d All Been Ready (by Earl Parsons)
An evening quite some time ago
A concert in New Brunswick
Woodstock, if I’m not mistaken
On a cold Canadian night
The music played
And the crowd praised the Lord
Although not sure I belonged there
Until the end
When the invitation began
“The King is Coming’ started
And the pressure mounted
My hands began to sweat
Then my brow
And down my neck
My heart rate increased
As they made their case
For heaven or hell
If only I could make it through
This song, I could go home
It went on
Verse after verse
Word after word
Eating at my lost soul
Calling me to repent
And give in
To a Savior
That I needed to know
Then it ended
The song, that is
And several people bumped their way by me
On their way to the front
Answering the call
The call I was fighting
Could I go home now?
Then the voice over the loudspeaker said
“Now is your time … your time to answer His call”
Then another song started
More powerful than the last
A song that hit me hard
A song that broke me down
A song that started my feet moving
Toward the front
To accept Him
Once and for all
“A man and wife alone in bed
She hears a noise
And turns her head
I wish we’d all been ready.”
“I wish we’d all been ready”
A sad song of truth
About those left behind
When the eye twinkles
And He returns for His own
To take us forever
That’s where I’ll be
Because thanks to that night
And that song
I am ready
And I pray you will be too
As for how my relationship with Christ has affected my life, He has touched every aspect of it, even in the times that I relied on myself instead of Him. He has blessed me beyond anything that I deserved, and continues to bless me in so many ways. I owe it all to Him, and one of these days, I’ll be able to thank Him face-to-face.
MARIE ELENA: Thank you for sharing that, Earl. I also want to thank you in this public forum for your service in the U.S. Air Force. Look how handsome! I’d like to hear how that came about.
EARL: Honestly, my time in the Air Force started out of desperation. I didn’t complete the proper courses in high school to qualify for college, and, honestly, I don’t think I would have been a good college student anyway. I wasn’t the keenest when it came to studying and all that, way back when.
It was nearing winter in Northern Maine, and I needed a job. Walking down Main Street in Presque Isle, I came upon the recruiters offices. As I looked at each recruiting poster, I eliminated one branch after the other. No Navy for me because I couldn’t swim. No Marines because I wasn’t tough enough. No Army because I didn’t want to be shipped directly to Viet Nam. But the Air Force … now that’s a branch I could handle. And I did for over 20 years, with most of that time spent overseas.
I served under Presidents Ford, Carter, Reagan, GHW Bush, and Clinton. Serving under President Reagan was a blast because he was the most respected and relatable CIC in modern history. President Carter gave us the largest pay raise. And GHW Bush was respected because of his history in uniform.
MARIE ELENA: Twenty years. Wow. Did you ever end up being shipped to Viet Nam? Where else did you serve?
EARL: I enlisted near the end of the war, and actually volunteered to go in country. But, being in communications in the Air Force, I was sent to Okinawa instead. While there, I participated in the setup of communication patches that were used during the evacuation process, which included the ill-fated “Baby Airlift.”
The next conflict came with Desert Storm in the early 90s. At that time I was stationed in Illinois and our unit provided weather data for troop movements. Other than that, most of my time in uniform was during peace time.
My last assignment, however, was working with a joint task force searching and recovering remains from Southeast Asia, Korea, and even China. I was the NCO in charge of the data automation section and never went in theatre, but did work with all of the files and data related to our missing in action and prisoners of war. During my two years in that division, I managed to read just about all of the files on the POWs and MIAs. There were some incredible stories about many incredible people.
MARIE ELENA: Goodness. I can only imagine these stories of absolute heroes in our midst. Please tell me what you struggled with the most. And can you now look back on it, and see a benefit?
EARL: Maybe I’m weird, but I loved every single day while in uniform. Each assignment brought new and interesting experiences, especially when overseas. My first assignment was in Okinawa, and it scared the living daylights out of this young guy from the country. But after a couple of days there, I loved it. Then came Missouri, Germany, mainland Japan, Illinois, and finally Hawaii. If someone would have told me when I was a young buck in high school that I would be traveling the world, I’d have told them they were crazy. Now, if only I could write that book.
MARIE ELENA: EARL! WRITE THAT BOOK! 🙂 And once again, thank you, sir, for your service to our country.
I end all my interviews with this: If there was only one thing we could know about you, what would you want it to be … and why?
EARL: I think that there is one thing that most people really don’t understand about me, and that is just how passionate I am, especially when it comes to God, family and country. Most mistake my passion for arrogance or even nastiness. Neither is anywhere close to the truth. My passion is heartfelt, researched, and honest.
Most of all, however, my passion is respectful of others and their passions. That is until things get nasty. I’m not perfect, and sometimes I come back with the same attitude that is pushed my way, but I do try and stay calm and rational. If the dialogue goes south, then I will usually step away.
Much of my passion is contained in my poetry. Some of my poems are direct and to the point, almost to the point of causing angst to the reader. Well, if that happens, then maybe it was meant to happen. The intent of many of my writings is to make people think by seeing the other side of the coin. All too often, however, the other side of the coin rocks the reader’s boat. Hopefully, seeing both sides will spur a conversation and educate at the same time.
In this PC world, I believe more passion is needed, along with more raw truth without the candy coating. And I’m here to write the words that express just that.
In closing, thank you Marie for the honor of being selected for an interview. And, as I’ve mentioned before, thanks to you and Walt for resurrecting Poetic Bloomings. Write on, everyone.