WEB WEDNESDAY – PAMELA SMYK CLEARY

MORE OR LESS PAMELA SMYK CLEARY

Today it is our pleasure to spotlight P.S.C. in CT from R.L.B.’s P.A.D.

Seriously.

Or Pamela Smyk Cleary, if you prefer.

Per Pamela: “When I was a kid, “Pamela Marie” is the name my mother used when I was in trouble. (Yup – Marie really is my middle name!). When she wanted to call me inside after a day of playing in the neighborhood, it was just “Pamela,” although … when she was yelling it out the back door, it always sounded more like “PAAAAAA-MA-LAAAAAAA!” I used to hate that name. But as I’ve gotten older, it’s kind of grown on me (…yeah… like a mold). PSC is easier to type with minimal errors.”

“PSC” is fun and endearing to me, but I must admit that it isn’t a name. So then – “Pamela” it is. Pamela is such a pretty name, after all.

The fun side of her poetic heart made its way into this description of herself (from her “About” on Facebook).

 Pamela Smyk Cleary

Dreamer, daughter, woman, wife, (paused, at present, in midlife)
middle child, sister, friend (hopefully, nowhere near the end!)

Walker, ambler, stroller, hiker (keeps pace with a snail),
listener, reader, writer, biker (mostly on the rail trail);
greeting card and letter writer (yep, you guessed it: snail mail).

Dabbler in photography, nature, plants and flowers;
(has been known to sit, sometimes, and watch the birds for hours).
Low energy, low volume, low maintenance, easy care;
(sweatshirt, jeans & sneakers, hair that’s strictly wash & wear).

intermittent poet, sporadic – if you choose –
(frequently requiring a swift kick in the muse).
~~~

The first poem Pamela chose to share with us is Pink Lady Slipper Orchid. I’m glad she chose it, as it is representative of the style I’ve come to know as hers.

Pink Lady Slipper Orchid

She doesn’t like to be disturbed
So much relies on patience, persistence,
the perfect conditions

Seemingly rare, she’s
more common than you think
native and wild, hiding
in plain sight in the weak light
on the forest floor

Particular, but enduring
she knows what she lacks,
pursuing it with patience and diligence

Soaking up the timid rays
penetrating the canopy to where
she resides, she may wait years
for what she needs to flower

Offering no reward to pollinating bees,
she takes what they proffer, then
packs her bags lightly, setting her progeny
free in the breeze, hoping some
friendly fungus will fulfill their needs

Beautiful and lush, but also touchy and rash,
you should handle her with gloves
if you handle her at all.

* * *

PAMELA: I chose this poem, because I feel it does a good job of combining a couple of my favorite themes: nature and personal relationships. This “lady” is a combination of several people I know – both real and imaginary – yet she is also an actual flower, whose characteristics are accurately described in the poem.

MARIE ELENA: I enjoy your explanation nearly as much as the poem itself. Would you say this combination of nature and personal relationships is a source of inspiration for much of your poetry?

PAMELA: I am inspired by nature, news events, dreams, music, movies, people (friends, family, fictional), literature, conversations, song lyrics, pictures, other poems…. (I could go on and on, but you get the drift!) The results tend to be an odd mix of “fact” and “fiction, bringing to mind one of my favorite Jimmy Buffett songs. Many of my poems, I think, could be summed up by these lyrics “clipped” from “Semi-True Story” by Jimmy Buffett:

“It’s a semi-true story, believe it or not.
I made up a few things, and there’s some I forgot.
But the life and the tellin’ are both real to me,
and they all run together and turn out to be
a semi-true story.”

MARIE ELENA: I’m sure folks are curious as to the photo above. This amusing gal also graces your Facebook page as your profile picture. She makes me smile every time I see her.

PAMELA: Tee hee! She’s a beauty, isn’t she? (Did I say I hate having my picture taken?) Anyway, the puppet was my attempt to have an online presence, without being … present. Or without being photographed, at any rate. And, in fact, I guess you could say SHE is actually a HE… in drag.

MARIE ELENA: Do tell!

PAMELA: My husband, Timothy, retired in 2009 after 35 years as a high school math teacher. Two of his best friends retired at the same time. All three of them had worked together at the same high school – in the same department – for many years, so a single retirement party was planned for the three of them. As part of the party “entertainment,” a skit was created & performed for them, using puppets that had been designed and dressed to look like each of them. Timothy’s puppet was dressed in suspenders – which he wore all the time — and sporting a beard & mustache.

MORE OR LESS TIMOTHY CLEARY

The first Christmas after Tim retired, I used his puppet to create our Christmas card — posing & photographing him with Tim’s favorite things (pretzels & Pepsi, a golf club, a novel, the TV remote) to show our family & friends how he was spending his retirement. It was quite a giggle, and we got lots of comments on our Christmas card that year!

So, later, when I needed to come up with an image that I could use to represent “PSC, the poet” online, I zeroed in on the “Timothy puppet” as a starting point, and began playing “dress up” to make him more feminine. I covered the suspenders with a scarf and lace collar, overlaid the gray hair with a flowery hat and camouflaged the beard & mustache behind a pair of lips I created out of red felt. (The first version of my profile pic had very large lips. Later, as I acquired some [minor] photo editing skills, I was able to perform a bit of “digital surgery” to correct that).  And lastly, I added a feather – a poetic writing quill, if you will – to complete the transformation … and “she” has been my profile pic, ever since.

MARIE ELENA: I knew there had to be a fun story behind her, but who would have thought your little “PSC” stand in was a drag queen! Too funny!

Your home is in Connecticut. It is so beautiful there! Is that where you grew up?

PAMELA: After that last answer, I feel like I should be more succinct, so: Yup! Next question?

Just kidding! Yes, I was born & raised in CT – and yes, it IS beautiful, in my opinion. I met & married Timothy here, and have lived here all my life (so far). I am truly a homebody at heart. But, I also have a strong connection with Cape Cod, MA – thinking of it as my “second home.” We’ve spent a lot of time there over the years, vacationing with close friends & family, and it always welcomes me back with open arms — no matter how much time has passed since my last visit.

Also, while CT is home right now (and has been for a long time) I do think there are a lot of other places that I could call home and live just as happily. I would need to be able to connect with nature on a frequent basis, though, wherever I live. It keeps me grounded (no pun intended) … or as grounded as it’s possible for me to be, anyway. And, I also have a preference for a four season climate (though, that might be negotiable – especially if Timothy has anything to say about it). My dream is to live beside a quiet lake – where I can just drop my kayak in the water — and where there are also hiking & biking trails nearby.

Pamela Clear(l)y Kayaking

As a child, the neighborhood I grew up in was a small dead end street with a lot of kids. It was a bit like a large, extended family. You knew everybody, and they knew you. We spent a lot of time romping outdoors, and there was always someone around to play with. Everyone’s yard was your playground, and the street was also an available site for kickball, hit the bat, hopscotch, snake, jacks, tag – you name it. (There’s not a lot of traffic on a dead end street). Every summer evening we played Hide & Seek in “the circle” until the street light came on – or until my mother yelled “PAAAAAA-MA-LAAAAAAA” – whichever came first.

MARIE ELENA: Your childhood neighborhood sounds very much like my own, Pamela. Thanks for the warm memories!

Let’s talk about your passion for writing. When did you begin writing, and what prompted you to do so?

PAMELA: Hmmm … not sure exactly when I started or why, but it was a long (long) time ago. I do remember as far back as grade school I was writing poems & stories and making my own “greeting cards.” (I still enjoy doing that, too). I had some poetry “published” in high school newspapers & such. Wrote a lot of poetry, and took a creative writing class or two, in college. (Had a professor who intimidated the rhyme out of me. Over twenty years later, and I still feel awkward writing serious rhyming poetry – I’m only comfortable writing humorous rhymes). After graduating, I got a “real” job and fell into years of mostly “poetic disuse,” revisiting my muse only intermittently – on an “as needed” basis. I’ve just gotten back into writing the last four years or so, and my muse tends to be somewhat stubborn and recalcitrant (payback for my former neglect, I suspect), so writing remains a bit of a sporadic effort on my part.

MARIE ELENA: Was Robert’s site the first on which you had ever posted publicly?

PAMELA: Not the first, but … maybe the second? I know I was posting in the Writers’ Digest poetry forum before Poetic Asides. That’s where I first saw references made to Robert’s prompts on PA, but it took me a while to figure out what they were talking about, and longer still to find my way over there to participate. November 2008 was my first PAD, and while I’ve started every one since then, I fell out of two of them due to computer problems. I do most of my writing & editing on my pc, and it was just too hard to do that at the library when my computer died. Technology is a beautiful thing, when it works… and a real pain in the butt, when it doesn’t! And then, too, there was a stretch of time after one of the PADs, when I was so exhausted and drained, I don’t think I returned to PA until the next PAD – six months later! (Did I say my muse can be moody?)

MARIE ELENA: You just began blogging relatively recently ( “Wander Ponder Poems & Pix”).   I love the title, and how you creatively incorporate your passions.  What made you decide to begin a blog?

PAMELA: Wow! Thank you, Marie! So glad you like it! Took me a long time to get my act together and start blogging, but I’m always thrilled when someone actually enjoys something I put out there! I only just got it “kicked off” on March 6th of this year. (Was aiming to march forth on March fourth, but, was late… as usual).

I started blogging for a couple of reasons. Firstly, because I was hoping that by having a place to share my stuff (other than my facebook wall), and a “definitive deadline” (more like a line in the sand, really), I might be able to prompt my lazy muse to be a bit more productive. (Yeah, sure… a girl can dream, right?)

Another reason I started the blog is a bit of a story in itself: Last year, I was talked into performing a couple of my poems before a live audience. Some friends of ours (David & Douglas Bibbey) were starting up a TV production company. As a part of that effort, they organized “First Thursdays” – a variety show of live performances (all original material – music, stories and poetry). It was a new & exciting concept! The music talent was easy to come by: musicians are mostly performers, after all. But finding story tellers and poets who were crazy enough – I mean willing – to recite their work in public was a slightly tougher task. (My husband, of course, was crazy enough, so he jumped at the chance, and I… got dragged along, kicking and screaming.) When I expressed my discomfort over reading my poems aloud — saying I’d rather just WRITE poetry — David’s response was that poems shouldn’t just “sleep in a book.” They were meant to be read aloud (he said), shared and performed (he insisted), so … I got suckered in – I mean, convinced – to read a couple of my poems.

Well, needless to say, I survived the trauma (although, I’m still not fond of getting up in front of an audience!) And David did convince me that poetry really is meant to be shared (mostly), and shortly after my “performance experience,” I penned a poem for him, called “Poems Should Not Sleep,” which I posted on my blog. (Rolande Duprey — another multi-talented friend of mine — liked it so much that she turned it into a video. I’m including the poem here in the hope that you will enjoy it too — and also because it told me it wants to be shared!)

POEMS SHOULD NOT SLEEP (for David Bibbey)

Poems should not sleep in a book, nor slumber under a rock. They are meant to be
set free, read aloud, sung, shouted, performed on a stage, danced about – as a waltz
or tango or even the Can Can – except, of course, for those that you can’t… can’t….

Not every poem is an exhibitionist; not all are meant to be circus performers,
dogs and ponies, amusements for the masses. Some are more private and personal;
intended to be taken in small drams – like medicine, poison, or some fine wine:
inhaled, sipped, held on the tongue, swished about, perhaps, then … spit out.

Some poems should be kept in a jar on your nightstand, taken out each evening
to be touched and fondled, smoothed like velvet under your rough hands, then,
stripped naked and taken to bed, alone … or not alone.

Some are intended to be closely examined, under a microscope, maybe – or tacked
and pinned to a butterfly board, dissected, eviscerated, boiled down and distilled, or
taken apart, then re-assembled, like a jigsaw puzzle, while others are only ever meant
to be observed from a distance – via satellite or telescopic lens.

There are those you will want to avoid entirely. Go ahead. It’s okay to pass these on to a friend –
or perhaps an enemy. Not every poem is meant for you. But, some … there are bound to be some,
you must pluck, press and preserve forever between the pages of your scrapbook memory.

~~~

MARIE ELENA: … and THAT, PSC, is a “preserve forever” poem, and seems it was great fun to write. Thank you for sharing it! And speaking of sharing it, for those who agree with David Bibbey, here is Rolande Duprey’s youtube clip: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P6MXk3vqLxg.

Do you simply enjoy writing and freely sharing, or is it your goal to be a published writer?

PAMELA: Mostly, (right now at least), I think I’m just trying to enjoy the experiences of writing and sharing with friends, family & fellow writers. I have submitted a few pieces over the past four years — had several published, and another handful slated to be published over the next few months, too. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t thrilled over that, but I’m just not sure it’s really a “goal” of mine at this point. Honestly, a more logical goal for me would be to focus on just writing more poetry. After all, that’s really why I created my blog in the first place – to provide motivation – to prompt myself to write. Quite frankly, just keeping up with posting something on my blog several times a week – and increasing the quantity and quality of my work — is enough of a challenge for me, for right now. But, it’s possible that being published will become a goal of mine… sometime down the road … maybe …

MARIE ELENA: “Increasing the quantity and quality of my work” is a worthy goal for every poet, and an inspiration to me. Thank you! And congratulations on your acceptances!  So, do you consider yourself a “poet?”

PAMELA: I do.

MARIE ELENA: Wow. I must say that I love that quick and definite response!

PAMELA: Although, how good of a poet is an issue my muse & I have debated on numerous occasions!  Back when I was posting in the Writers’ Digest forum, there was some “discussion” over a piece that someone else had written – a disagreement as to whether or not it qualified as “a poem.” My stance was (and still is) this: If the writer claims it’s a poem, then it’s a poem. If the writer says he/she is a poet, then he/she is a poet. (Again, how good a poet or poem may be – that’s a debatable issue!)

Poetry, like all creative endeavors, I suppose, (music, art, dance…), is very subjective. Whether a particular poem and/or poet “speaks” to you is largely a matter of opinion, and opinions can change from day to day, or hour to hour. What affects one person deeply may not touch another individual at all, or vice versa. You may “feel” a certain poem immediately, another poem might require multiple reads before you connect with it, still others may never touch you at all. But I like to think that for every written piece, there exists someone somewhere who was meant to read it – wants to, needs to, read it – as much as the writer needed to write it.

Yes, I consider myself a poet. And, here’s a poem (because I say it is!):

JOHNNY APPLESEED (Originally published on Everyday Poets – June 11, 2009)

Slice open a vein.
Let the words flow out
unchecked, uncensored.
Bleed until you run dry, then

gather the gems
like precious seeds, and
toss them into the wind

never knowing
where they may
take root
and grow.

~~~

MARIE ELENA: Wow. If I had to take a guess, I would say De Jackson had written that poem, Pamela. As you know, I consider that the utmost compliment.

As mentioned previously, your blog incorporates your beautiful photographs. You consider yourself a poet — do you consider yourself a photographer?

PAMELA: Oh my, no! Nope. Don’t consider myself a photographer.

MARIE ELENA: Another quick, definitive response. You tickle me, Pamela! Why do you not consider yourself a photographer?

PAMELA: I just dabble (and every once in a while a photo will come out just as I intended – or even better!), but it’s usually more a matter of luck than anything else. I am not in the same league as the likes of Jane Penland Hoover, or your husband Keith! They are artists, and they have the equipment and skills – and the photographs — to prove it, while I am more like a … kindergartener finger-painting!

Sometimes my camera and I play nicely together; at other times we argue. (Well, I argue.) “Why can’t you see what I see?” I often say. (It hasn’t answered back yet, but you never know.) Really, I’ve only been taking photos with my cheap digital camera (don’t tell him I called him that!) for about two years, so maybe in time, I’ll come to think of myself as a photographer. Perhaps when I’ve been fighting with my camera for as long as I’ve been battling my muse.

MARIE ELENA: Keith was pleasantly surprised, yet embarrassed by your compliment, Pamela. He does not see himself as a  “photographer” any more than you do, but thanks you for the encouragement. In all the online interactions I see, encouraging others seems to come naturally to you.

PAMELA: Encouraging others? Me? Wow! That’s really quite a compliment coming from you, Marie! I think you are THE most encouraging, supportive person I know! Honestly! You have a gift for seeing the best in everyone! I hope I encourage others! But, truthfully, I don’t think I do it nearly often enough. I feel as if I am always running behind and arriving “late to the party.” It just seems like there are never enough hours in the day to do everything I want to do, and everything takes longer than I think it will. I’m often claiming I’ll return to read and comment – and rarely getting back to do so. (Everyone who is still reading at this point: Please accept my apologies for every time I’ve done that – and every time I’m bound to do it again in the future!)

Pamela Clear(l)y reads.

As for whether or not offering encouragement comes naturally to me, I couldn’t say. While I’d like to think it does, I’m not sure that’s true – or not always true, at any rate. There are times when I have to work at it. But I DO believe in the power of encouragement and positive reinforcement, so it is definitely a skill worth honing, in my opinion.

I read a book, some years ago: “If You Want To Write” by Brenda Ueland, in which she claims that “Everybody is talented, original and has something important to say.” I believe that’s true, but I also think that, sometimes, it takes a lot of encouragement and patience (and what she calls “noodling”) to bring that talent out into the light. Over the last few years I’ve seen some amazing talent develop at Poetic Asides and Poetic Bloomings, and I think that it’s largely due to the encouraging people and supportive environments at both sites. Kudos to you and Walt – and to Robert – for promoting and maintaining that kind of atmosphere on an ongoing basis!

MARIE ELENA: Thank you, Pamela. And see? Encouragement.

It seems most of your poetry is up-beat. Does this indicate that you are basically an optimist at heart?

PAMELA:  Really? Most of my poetry is upbeat? I don’t know if that’s true or not. I DO know that I prefer writing – and reading – from a “happy place” – so I’ll consider that a compliment. I also know that both the poet and the reader bring something of themselves into the reading of a poem. Ralph Waldo Emerson said “Though we travel the world over to find the beautiful, we must carry it with us or we find it not.” I think the same may be said for other qualities as well, such as happiness, and… upbeat. And Marie, you are such an upbeat person! Maybe that’s why you see much of my poetry that way too!

As for my being an optimist at heart… I think I can hear my sisters laughing hysterically over that one! I’d LIKE to be an optimist. I TRY to be an optimist. But, I am also very much of a “worry wart.” All three of us sisters are. We come by it naturally, having acquired the gene from our mother. I worry fluently, and am frequently expecting the worst to occur, and yet … I DO have a tendency to look at the bright side of things, and try to find the positive in everything too, so maybe I’m an optimistic pessimist… or a pessimistic optimist… or perhaps, a pessimoptimist… or an optipest!

MARIE ELENA: “I worry fluently.” You and I are cut from the same cloth, my friend. But I’ve never thought to word it that way. That, and “optipest” are two I’ll be borrowing!  And, by the way, see?  Encourgement again. 😉

I know you’ve been married a good long time to Timothy. What would you say is the secret to your longevity?

PAMELA: Wow! There’s a question for the sages! I’ve pondered this one a dozen times and I still don’t have a good answer. I mean, I could go on about how we are each other’s best friend (we are), and how important certain qualities are (like love, honesty, mutual respect…), but many marriages that end in failure could probably boast all of those things, as well. And, besides, in spite of all that, we still disagree about a lot of things. We probably disagree more often than we agree. About the best answer I can come up with is that… maybe… our “secret” is that we are pretty much “in sync” on what the really important things are, and we mostly agree on those things, and the rest… well, we don’t place too much importance on the rest. So, I guess then, that maybe you could say that the “secret” to our longevity might just be… hmmm… luck?

Timothy Cleary, book, beard, and stash

Oh! And a good sense of humor doesn’t hurt either! A natural born comic – that’s my husband!

LIttle Timothy Clear(l)y The Comic!

MARIE ELENA: What is the best period of time in your life, and what made (makes) it best?

PAMELA: Well, I have some pretty fond memories of my early childhood – up to about nine years old, but I think I’d have to say that the BEST time in my life (so far) is right now.

A while back I was working in a stressful job as an IT manager. I carried a beeper, ate lunch at my desk, had no time to exercise. In the winter months, I only saw the sun on the weekends, and I remember actually thinking (more than once), “this job is killing me – literally.” Then, our division was sold off. The buyers purchased the business, but decided they didn’t need the people, and our entire department was told that once the transition phase was completed, we would all be out of jobs. At the time, I was stunned, but, as it turns out, it was the best thing that could have happened to me!

Now, I have less money, but more free time. I’m eating better and exercising more. I’ve taken up yoga, I bike, hike and take photographs while I’m wandering the local trails. I’m writing more poetry than I have in years! Timothy & I have time to read or sit on the back deck and watch the birds & wildlife, and I’m enjoying myself in ways I never would have dreamed of ten years ago! I kayak – I even bought a pair of snow shoes this past December! (Folks in New England can thank me, because my new snow shoes are probably the reason we didn’t get much snow at all last winter)!
When things aren’t going quite the way I want them to, I only have to remind myself, it wasn’t so long ago that I was spending my days attending meetings or stuck in a tiny little cubicle, tied to a desk. Now, I am enjoying all those daylight hours that I used to miss!

MARIE ELENA: How wonderful to be able to think of this present moment as being the most wonderful time in your life!  Now, what is the hardest issue you have ever dealt with, and what measures did you take to get through it?

PAMELA: Wow! From the highs to the lows in one fell swoop! I’d have to say that there are actually two situations that qualify as the “hardest issues” in my life: the illnesses & deaths of my parents. Both suffered a long, painful period of decline that was hard on them and on the rest of the family, as well. My father died of cancer when I was in college. He was always the strong, silent type, and never a very big guy, but by the time he passed away, he weighed about 85 pounds. I don’t know how she did it, but Mom managed to work full time and hold it all together for my father and the rest of the family.

Over twenty years later, Mom suffered a series of strokes that left her wheelchair bound and unable to communicate in any way. This was particularly difficult, as she was always the strong, independent, “woman in charge” in our household (Dad used to call her “the War Department”), and to see her so completely helpless, and be able to do nothing to help was frustrating and painful for all of us.

In both instances, I wrote a lot of poetry, listened to a lot of music, and relied heavily on family and friends for emotional support.

MARIE ELENA: Your parents sound wonderful. “The War Department” is just so cute. Poetry, music, family, and friends … such healthy crutches on which to lean in times of need. Thank you for being such an inspiration, Pamela.

And now, if there was only one thing we could know about you, what would you choose to tell us?

PAMELA: Ouch! Another tough question. How about … I hate housework and cooking!? (Sorry! that just slipped out.) Honestly, I’m trying to focus less on the negatives (operative word: “trying”!) and more on the positives in my life – to criticize less, and encourage more (myself AND others) — because I believe that positive produces positive, love begets love — and the whole world benefits.

One of my favorite quotes is:  “We can do no great things, only small things with great love.” –Mother Teresa

Although I generally consider myself an agnostic, still I believe that there is more to life (the world, the universe…) than meets the eye; more than we are able to perceive through our own limited senses and/or technologies. Serendipity, synchronicity, quantum entanglements are all just a tip of the iceberg – indicating that we (people, plants, animals…) are all connected in amazing and wonderful ways – all part & parcel of a bigger whole. A (not so) old (very) dear friend of mine likes to tell me, “That’s God,” but I believe E.E. Cummings had it right when he said:  “love is the every only god.”

MARIE ELENA: Thank you so much for letting me pry, “PSC.” Getting to know and showcase our Poetic Bloomings poets is a definite perk to this position, and one that puts a smile on my face every single  time.  This has been great fun!

ANNOUNCING BIG AND EXCITING NEWS!!!!!!!!!!

Did he say BIG AND EXCITING? Yes, I believe he did!!!

INTERVIEW WITH IAIN DOUGLAS KEMP

Before I get into the details (and read through, because you’ll think it’s big too!) if you haven’t read Marie Elena’s amazing interview with the incredibly talented and multi-faceted man and poet, Iain Douglas Kemp, get there post haste. http://poeticbloomings.com/2012/06/06/web-wednesday-iain-douglas-kemp/

STATISTICALLY SPEAKING AT POETIC BLOOMINGS:

We had contributions from 125 poets during the past year. Marie Elena recently posted the International breakdown of our poetic community.

We’ve had 55,037 views during our first year, with 10,002 items (poems, comments and corrections) posted. Our most views in a day were 760 on 2/19/2012UPDATE:  Make that 776 on 6/7/12! Way to go, Bloomers!  😀

ANNOUNCING THE GREEN THUMB AWARDS – 2011/2012

Marie Elena and I would like to announce the establishment of the First Annual POETIC BLOOMINGS GREEN THUMB AWARD, which is given for contributing at least one poem to every prompt posted for our “Growing Season” (May 1 – April 30). The winners for the 2011-2012 “Growing Season” receive this special badge and a certificate denoting the honor.

The  POETIC BLOOMINGS GREEN THUMB AWARD recipients for the 2011-2012 season are: 

Connie L. Peters        Paula M. Wanken

WEB WEDNESDAY INTERVIEWS AND IN-FORM POET

Marie and I have decided to break up our Wednesday line up. Starting in July, Wednesday will continue with a weekly IN-FORM POET exercise. A new form will be highlighted each Wednesday.

Also beginning in July, the WEB POET INTERVIEW will move to Thursdays, to appear the second Thursday of each month.  As well as our contributing poets, Marie plans to present other poets and people who  promote poets and the poetic process.

 AND THE REALLY, REALLY, REALLY BIG NEWS…

Marie Elena and I would like to finally announce that we are in the process of readying for publication,

POETIC BLOOMINGS  – FIRST BLOOMS

This is a collection of the BEAUTIFUL BLOOM poems from the first year of the Sunday prompts, along with my and Marie’s examples. We ask all who had been selected for a BLOOM during the year to revisit the awarded poem(s) and revise as necessary. We are relying on you to self-edit your work. Please email the corrected pieces back to us (poeticbloomings@yahoo.com) by  July 1st. If we do not receive an updated version of your poetry, we will assume it is to your liking as posted on our site. 

Here at POETIC BLOOMINGS, we have always taken pride in opening the gates of this “Garden” to poets of all ages and skill levels; to make ourselves all-inclusive. So in that light, we invite poets who replied to at least 10% of the prompts (the reason I searched for the poets who at the very least had a 10% commitment to POETIC BLOOMINGS) to contribute to this publication with poems written for the POETIC BLOOMINGS prompts. Eligible poets will be notified shortly. We ask that you update your contact information for correspondence, and request that poets who post under a blog screen name supply their full name with their info.

A brief biography (no more than 6 lines, including your url)  will be required for all featured poets in this book.

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We really appreciate your talents and hard work during our first year at POETIC BLOOMINGS, and hope for continued success for you and this community we have amassed.

WEB WEDNESDAY – IAIN DOUGLAS KEMP

IAIN DOUGLAS KEMP

Poetic Bloomings is a mosaic of diverse personalities, backgrounds, and talents. Heck, today’s featured poet is a mosaic of diverse personalities, backgrounds, and talents –  all by himself!

Iain Douglas Kemp (that’s Iain with two eyes 😉 ) has been with Poetic Bloomings since “Day 1.”  Walt and I have admired his work since meeting up with him at Robert Lee Brewer’s Poetic Asides 2009 PAD Challenge.

 I remembered Iain’s poem “Sweet Hot Milk” from that challenge, and sought it out.  It’s as engaging, endearing, and emotive as I remember.

Sweet Hot Milk (by Iain Douglas Kemp)

We met as strangers often do
A night train rushing through Germany
Holland, on to the ferry port in Belgium
She was young and scared
Being harassed by deported football hooligans
I was young and full of mustard
(when it came to maidens in distress)
But my diminutive physique
Let alone the odds against me
Spoke more about my naivety
Than my courage
But stand up to them I did
And called the conductor
They were put off at the next station
Uschi and I soon became fast friends
After all I was her knight in shining Levis
Hours later we were to part at Victoria station
After a romantic breakfast, she went to meet her friends
I caught the train home
We wrote for a few months
But lost touch…
… she went to work with Mother Theresa
I went on with my life
I have often wondered where my ship in the night went to…
But the memory I keep and treasure
Occurred on the ferry across the channel
We’d found somewhere to sit
She said she’d go and buy us coffee
As she walked away I thought to tell her how I take it
I yelled across the crowded deck “No milk and two sugars!”
Of course when she returned her Germanic mind had inserted a comma
Into what should have been straight forward
So we laughed and I drank the hot sweet milk
Because it would have been rude not to and after all
In just a few hours we’d fallen in love
Like strangers in the night sometimes do.

MARIE ELENA:   Iain, I have to assume this was born of a true story.

IAIN: Well Marie Elena, to begin with I was quite surprised that you chose this poem. I don’t usually regard my “story telling poems” very highly as I think they are too much of a narrative … anyway I’m pleased you like it. Yes, it is based on a true story and the poem tells most of it. I had been working in Germany as a waiter in Rüdesheim am Rhein for six months as part of my college studies (more of that later). I’d had a terrific summer and had made some money, and was on the long train journey home to Blighty. I was in an old fashioned train with compartments and there was myself, a young German girl, Fraulein Ursula Klug (Uschi), and an unpleasant mob of football hooligans (English!) who had been deported from Norway after fighting at or near a football match. Somehow their route back to England had lead to them boarding my train and sharing my carriage.

They were drunk and became sexually abusive to Uschi, to whom up till then I hadn’t spoken (I was a very shy young man of 20). I really couldn’t sit back and let them get away with it, so I actually stood up to them. I was very skinny and a coward due to years of bullying at school, but it just seemed the right moment to find a backbone! I don’t remember every detail, but as I spoke German I called the conductor who ushered them away.  The train made an unscheduled stop, and they were handed over to the Polizei.

What followed is one of those “Brief Encounter” type stories. Uschi and I talked all through the night till we boarded the ferry to England, and we obviously formed a very close bond. The incident with the coffee, or should I say milk, was a typical misunderstanding and we laughed about it and I drank my milk! We parted at Victoria station in London after breakfast, and I remember the only kiss I gave her was that one of goodbye. We corresponded for a while but lost touch. I do sometimes wonder what became of her, and how her work as a nurse with Mother Theresa went – most of all it’s just one those lovely memories that stays with a person forever.

MARIE ELENA:  *sigh* Such a gentleman, and how perfectly romantic.  She worked with Mother Theresa? Personally, I think you should write a novel.

Walt and I have met two friends of yours, and feel like we know them personally. While he’s not here, let’s talk about Ringo the Howler.  Just remember, our site is for every age group, so there may very well be young’ns reading. *winkwink*

IAIN: Ah! My good friend and fellow Yankees fan, Mr. Ringo the Howler. First let me say that I have no idea why people like him. I certainly don’t consider it poetry when I write his snippy little notes, but somehow from humble beginnings, “Dear Moosehead” has taken on a life of its own. His first appearance was in 2008 in Robert’s first PA PAD – the prompt was to write an insult poem (I notice he doesn’t use that one anymore, hmmm…).

Anyway, I have always loved Bob Dylan’s early book “Tarantula,” which is full of prose poetry and crazy little letters from strange characters. So … I stole him from Dylan, well, not him, the character and name were mine, but the style. The name just seemed right for an insulting moaner. The first one got response from far better poets than me, so I did a couple more. The following PAD I did one a day, which is never easy. By then I had to flesh out the characters and create a backdrop so that there was more to say. I realised this April that if you don’t know the whole story they are hard to get into, but I carry on regardless. I am amazed that people (especially the company in which we write) like him so much, but I enjoy doing them – so it’s all to the good.

MARIE ELENA:  The other friend is good ‘ole Bartholomew Foggerty.  How are things going with him?  Is there a book in the works, complete with quirky illustrations?  Please share a favorite Foggerty poem, and tell us about this funky little weasel.

IAIN: Well now the first weasel poem was not as they appear now. It was in response to a prompt by Robert Lee Brewer to write a Skeltonic poem, and the second in response to the prompt “Hobby,” the rhyming couplets came later when I decided I liked the character. I have over 50 of his poems and a book would be nice. My friend Natalie who is a wonderful wildlife artist and lives and teaches primary in Australia, is working on illustrations and I don’t like to push her, but “Nat! Get on with it!” Haha! One day I’m sure we’ll see him in print. This April I was drawn to return to him when a fellow member of my writing group “The Baker’s Dozen,” Connie Peters, asked me where he was hiding. Lo and behold, Robert produced an animal prompt. I had to scour the archives to see where I’d left him as his story is a long and winding road, but eventually I found him in France and so wrote a new chapter for him. The hard part is coming up with new and unusual rhymes, and they are very hard to record because I always crack up. Strangely, whilst they are always popular amongst poets, they don’t always go down well at readings, which is disappointing. Still, you asked me for a favourite so here’s one of many, a shorter one, as they can be quite long – although I never know where they are going or will end till I get about ¾ of the way in:

 A lot of canvas for a little Monet (by Iain Douglas Kemp)

 Bartholomew Foggerty, the brilliant weasel

Had been forced to buy a bigger easel

His new commission was really quite strange

And of the old easel quite out of range

He daubed the canvas in battleship grey

And then he started to weasel away

(some would say badger but that’s just absurd

for by shape and by colour he’s a different bird)

He added wrinkles in a darker shade

And cursed for how little he had been paid

To work on a piece outlandishly large

He should have really upped the charge

The smell was off-putting to say the least

And he got little conversation from the beast

So having painted a glorious grey-scape

He decided it was time to make his escape

He hopped out the window with the aid of a broom

And left the elephant alone in his room

He’d wasted his time, it just wasn’t funny

So much canvas for so little money

MARIE ELENA:  Love it, Iain!  Just as with Ringo, all your Foggerty poems stay true to his personality, making him seem very real.

Now, tell me about your real family.

IAIN WITH SON, DOUGLAS PETER

IAIN: Yes, I have one son, Douglas Peter, who lives in England. He’s 23 now and I’m very, very proud of him. Despite coming from a “broken home” he has turned into a wonderful young man who leaves a lasting impression on everyone he meets. He’s in a dead-end job right now and I worry for him as he has the same tendency towards depression that I had, but he is coping much better these days and does his best to stay positive at a time and in a world were being young isn’t what it should be. I see him in summer, although he doesn’t get out to Spain as much since he finished studying.

My parents live in Almerimar near to my house and it is wonderful having them close.

We go out for dinner together every Saturday night and at the very least touch base by phone every day.

MARIE ELENA:  I can relate.  My folks are just a couple of doors down from us, and it is just the perfect situation.  Are they supportive of your writing?

IAIN:  They, my son and my family in Scotland, are all very supportive of my writing, both poetically and musically. My dad has my podcasts on his iPod and mum has her favourites too. I have been divorced and single for far too long now to ever change that. Partly because the trust in me was crushed too often, but mainly because I am happy this way. My life is full and busy and I don’t have time for a partner. If I did I would have to compromise, something I would do out of love, then resent. So, no, just me and the cats, Messrs. Pickle & Smudge.

MARIE ELENA:  You’ve written more than one poem about your dad’s health.  How is he doing?  I hope he is on the mend.  Iain, some write about pain, and find it to be healing.  Personally, I have difficulty tapping into deep pain and translating it to poetry, and I can’t say I particularly find it cathartic.  How do you feel about it?  Was writing about your dad’s illness helpful in some way?

IAIN: It was last year that my dad was diagnosed with prostate cancer – a battle he has, I’m happy to say, won. I have to be honest, I wrote about it because it was there. It was a natural subject for the right prompt because it was happening and it was real and it was scary. I don’t think writing about it was either therapeutic or cathartic – it was just something that had to be done. When it comes to emotion and pain I am incredibly lucky.

I can look back on horrible periods of my life or any given moment of crisis, recall all the emotion and detail, but then write about it in a totally detached, dry-eyed sort of way. It doesn’t take me back to it and I’ve done my healing in other ways, so it is actually quite easy to do. The only question to ask myself is “Is it worthy of sharing?” I normally click “post” just before that question pops into my head!

MARIE ELENA:  Happy to get good news about your dad!

I’ve never been to Spain, and Almerimar sounds lovely.  Tell me a bit about it, if you would. I’d love to get a mental picture.  Of course, you are welcome to give a visual picture or two as well. 😉

IAIN: Almerimar is a seaside village near El Ejido in Almería, Andalusia, south-east Spain. There is a marina, a golf course, some shops, lots of bars and restaurants (not as many as there were, I have to say– the going is tough!). There is an excellent supermarket too. The main square is best seen after midnight on a Saturday in summer – the terraces all full and the kids all playing in the middle. Almería is a unique micro climate, the only European desert; we have mountains, beaches – many virtually untouched. The skiing is 2 ¼ hour’s drive away in Sierra Nevada which is excellent as is the diving off the Cabo de Gata in the marine reserve. This is the last province with free tapas with your drinks, and the worst spoken Spanish in all the Kingdoms of Spain! By the way, as I write this it’s 2:30p.m. and 35ºC outside on June 1st!! It will get very hot in July and August. My home has a view of the bay. My parents’ house sits on the golf course. This is a paradise and difficult to leave – I had never lived anywhere for more than 6 years before I came here – 14 years ago, mind you, I only came for a month!

ALMERIMAR

MARIE ELENA:  It is beautiful, and sounds so charming!  No wonder you decided to extend that month just a tad. 😉

We’ll get back to your writing talent in a moment, but you are actually multi-talented.  You, just like my dad, are a teacher and a drummer.   What led you to become a teacher, and of EFL (English as a Foreign Language) in particular?  What do you love most about teaching, and what (if anything) do you despise?

IAIN:  I fell into teaching more by luck than judgement. I spent most of my career in hotel management and restaurant ownership. I had done a lot of training in the hotel business,  so that was good grounding for teaching later. Finally the stress had become too much and I quit the trade and became of all things, an estate agent. It was the height of the boom in Spain and the sales were high, and so was the commission. It was still stressful, but better hours. Then came the crash. Everything stopped. Almost overnight there was no building, no re-sales, no loans to be had – to be honest the recession here is getting worse and worse and no-one sees an end to it, but that discussion is for somewhere else. I spent a few months kicking my heels applying for about every bi-lingual sales job I could find, but all to no avail. Then one day my love of the English language took over, and I decided to train as an EFL teacher. I went to live in Barcelona and did my month-long course, and then started work. I almost immediately went to England to a summer school, and then started at Rainbow Academy in Almería when I got back in the autumn. That was just three short years ago but it seems like much longer. In a good way, though.

Teaching is the best thing that has ever happened to me. People that know me say it’s as if someone threw a switch and I became a different person. Now no-one believes I was once cripplingly, painfully shy. I just threw that nonsense away. I killed and buried all my demons and set out on a grand new adventure with a spring in my step and a tune on my lips. Teaching has made me calm, confident, and altogether a better person. I have no stress, and most of all I am no longer afraid and now I really like Iain Douglas Kemp, who I had hated for far too long.

MARIE ELENA:  Wow.  That is just fascinating, Iain.  It’s wonderful to hear that it had such a profound effect on you. Is there a particular age group with which you prefer to work?

IAIN:  I suppose I prefer the older teenagers, simply because by that time you can have much more of a real conversation with them. However, my weekly joy is the two 1 ½ hour classes with my “Ten Clever Girls.” They are just thirteen and all amazingly bright. It is just pure bliss to teach them and know they get it all and mostly first time. I also enjoy teaching the young’uns – 7 or 8 year olds – it’s more challenging, but this time of year, preparing their year end presentations, I get to see how much they’ve achieved (and I have achieved) in the 9 months, and that is a real joy too. Teaching adults, which I do at the University of Almeria in the morning, is different and also very challenging, especially if they are lacking motivation or have picked up bad habits over the years, but still it is enjoyable nonetheless. The only thing I despise is laziness. Stupidity I can fix – sometimes it will take a while – but not trying at all is just annoying and really drives me nuts.

To sum up, there are really two things I love about teaching – what it has done for me, and seeing what I do for the students.

MARIE ELENA:  I wish all teachers had this outlook on their students.  Though I must say that there seems to be that common thread running through the teachers represented here at Poetic Bloomings.  Perhaps all teachers should be poets at heart, eh?

Now on to percussion and harmonica:  I know you’ve been writing for approximately 30 years, but how long have you been a musician?  I’d love to hear about your band!

IAIN ON DRUMS

IAIN:  Well, I’ve been playing drums for just as long – I got my first kit when I was 16 – a 1948 Premier jazz kit, which I still have, although I’ve made some additions to it recently. My main kit is a hybrid of old and new and lots of cymbals – I do mean lots!

The band is semi-unofficially (we think we’ll stick with it) called Junkyard Dogs. We are still really in the rehearsal stage, as we only get to practice on Sundays and there are lots of interruptions. For instance, I go away to the UK in summer to teach and last year our rhythm guitarist was back in Germany for 5 months. However, we now finally have a bass player, which is a huge improvement and a boon to all – especially me. In the last 12 months the lead guitarist and I have written about twenty songs (words by me of course!), and this time next year we hope to be ready to record them. We know we’ll never be more than a pub band, but some of the music is pretty good, if I do say so myself, and we think we could sell one or two -maybe more – and get some bucks and fame that way. We actually formed last year, as I wanted to put a band together to play at my 50th birthday party – which we did. I’m very happy that all my cajoling and nagging has lead to more commitment and the band continuing. As to style well, light rock & blues really, but we tend to label it pretentiously, “Prog-Folk Blues” which is probably fairly accurate when it comes to my songwriting.

IAIN BLUESIN’ IT UP!

MARIE ELENA:  What does being a musician fill in you?  Is it very different from the satisfaction writing poetry brings to you?

IAIN:  I find the songwriting process as fulfilling and as easy as writing poems – the guys are amazed how quickly I can produce a lyric that is half-decent! It’s the same process for me – I think, I get a title and I start typing and stop when I feel it’s done. I’ve even added a chorus to one of my poems so that that could be a song too.

The real enjoyment comes from playing. Even though it’s just rehearsing, it is so much fun,  and as we get better each time we feel as if we are achieving something. That makes me smile and feel warm inside. In September I’m hoping to spend my holiday doing an intensive hand-percussion course, as I have all the gear and no idea! It is very different to playing drums, and I need to be guided to get a basis in that style.

I enjoy the singing and playing blues-harp (which I’ve only been doing a couple of years) too. At the moment I step out from the drums to sing and play on acoustic blues numbers, but my singing while drumming is coming along, although it’s incredibly difficult.  It’s just so much fun to do and that’s why I look forward to my over-packed weekend with such relish.

MARIE ELENA:  So, is there music to “Shimmy?”   If so, is it out there where we can hear it?

 Don’t jump, shimmy! (A blues in A – by Iain Douglas Kemp)

Get outta the way baby
Daddy’s coming through
get outta my path
I’m a- coming true
my aim is steady
my mind is set
I’m placing me
a winning bet
pay the piper
pick a tune
let me see ya waddle
‘neath the moon
dance with the devil
swing with the saints
Sachmo’s blowin’
and it’s getting’ late
You know what I want
you know what a- gimme
when I say frog
don’t jump, shimmy!

IAIN: Not really, I read it as a sort of blues-rap and then play some harp at the end – I was thinking of doing that with the band though so you never know, it may grow wings and fly! I’ll let you know.

Our friend Dyson will love this one!

MARIE ELENA: You and I share a distaste (“hate” is such an ugly word) for the form Walt writes exceptionally well:  Sestina.  Is there a form to which you are partial?  Or do you tend to steer clear of poetry forms in general?

IAIN:  Short answer: I don’t do form!

MARIE ELENA:  But, tell us how you really feel! 😉

IAIN: To me it’s like maths, all that counting and measuring … maybe I have to do that with songs, but usually I change the scansion after Stuart has put a tune to the words, and that’s easy. I just don’t like rules in poetry. I like to rhyme and try and stick to a scheme,  so I suppose I do use some forms – even if they of my own making – but I prefer free verse and as I say my process is: think, get title, write till it’s done, spell check, post! Form slows that down and it feels contrived to me.

Listen, I really admire people who do it well and make it feel natural, but that just isn’t me.

MARIE ELENA:  Did you receive formal training and education in poetry?

IAIN: Well, no. I suppose we read some poetry at school (I went to a minor English public school) but I wasn’t streamed to do English Lit,  so my exposure was self inflicted. As a boy I just wrote what was in my head,  and as a man I do the same.

MARIE ELENA:  As I’d mentioned above, I believe you have been writing for 30+ years.  What drew you into it, and what has held you there?

IAIN:  Ah, well, 30 years. Yes, that’s what my bio says. True enough –  I started as a teenager and wrote very introspective or way-out psychedelic poetry for years. It was my escape route. I was a very troubled young boy,  and words seemed the only way to express myself, but in my twenties someone stole my collection – my, till then, life’s work – and it killed it for me for years. In my early thirties I was very troubled, ending in a breakdown,  and I turned to poetry again for escape. After that I wrote spasmodically but really started writing with new vigour and commitment in 2008. I friended J.P.Dancing Bear on Facebook and saw that Robert was about to start the first PAD.  Lliterally within a couple of days and I thought to myself “I’m gonna do that.” I got my first email of encouragement and praise from Nancy Posey on day three – that really spurred me on. After that came The Baker’s Dozen and a couple of years of writing daily, up to last year when it all got a bit hard and then dried up completely. I love to write though, and I’m glad I’m back in the swing, even if it’s only one or two a week since April.

MARIE ELENA:  We all seem to experience dry spells, or “writer’s block” at some point.  Tell me about how it “all got a bit hard and then dried up completely.”  I know you had even seriously considered never writing another poem.  Do you know what took you down that path in the first place?  What was it like?  What brought you out of it?

IAIN: This is difficult.  Marie Elena, you gave me the option to not answer a question – this could have been the one to refuse, but I will try the best I can and be as open as I am permitted. The first signs of trouble were in November 2010 – I pulled out of the PAD half way through, as I was too busy – or so I said. After that, I was very hit and miss in writing,  having been a poem-a-day man for some time. I knew what the problem was, and it was difficult to face up to. There had been some friction in my writing group, and some people left. (No names –no pack drill here). It left me very sad and unhappy for quite a time, and bit by bit I just became less inclined to write. Once again in November last year I pulled out half way through and then didn’t write or read poetry for 5 months.

Getting back in was hard, I was seriously regretting being involved in an anthology project to which I submitted some of my worst poems ever, I feel, and I was doing a lot of music and songwriting. Not writing poetry had become a habit.  In fact it just never ever occurred to me to sit down and try. Eventually I pulled up my boot straps and said: “Right! If you want to write again, April is the time to do it so c’mon Red, show some backbone!”  Well I managed it, and I’m very happy to be back in the swing of things.

MARIE ELENA:  We’re happy as well, Iain.  There are just some poetic voices that cannot go without being severely missed.  Yours is one.  So, what are your writing/publishing plans for the near future?

IAIN: Despite my new found courage,  I don’t take rejection well and I generally dislike the attitude of superiority that most editors have,  so I don’t submit much. However I have decided to publish a book this year myself, and I can reveal a secret project for a Baker’s Dozen book in the near future. I have had an acceptance recently, but the details are still unclear on publication so I’m playing that close to my chest for now. Under my other hat, I hope this time next year to be sending demos to music producers with a view to selling the songs rather than the band – that said, as my songwriting partner put it “I’d be a one-hit-wonder!” Quite right too!

MARIE ELENA:  Congratulations on your acceptance, and best wishes for your book and this “secret project.”  Please do keep us posted.

You mention “new found courage.”  Your dear friend Natalie beautifully penned “Scarred and Scared” about you.

Scarred & Scared (by Natalie Jones)

Youth misspent in self-loathing,
Ignored and emotionally dented.
Rejected, dejected,
Resenting and lamenting
The small boy hides inside his fragile shell,
Aged and wearied by thoughtless words and emotional deprivation.
Searching out warmth from any source
Seeking a cure for his terminal loneliness
Aching to be cherished and loved
He clasps at faint, feigned or temporary traces of humanity.
Giving unconditional, unguarded slices of his over- generous heart
Receiving just the soured milk of human unkindness.
Wounded once more he slips back into his delicate armour
Unappreciated
Unloved
Alone

MARIE ELENA:  Tell me about the young Iain Douglas Kemp, and how is he different today?

IAIN: Being a child was awful – I still find it hard to picture the good bits. There were lots of course, but the overall impression is a thick black cloud that blocks out any memory from my youth so effectively that I have to focus or be particularly reminded of the little tastes of joy. I am an only child and always found it hard to make friends, so much so that I didn’t object at all when my “friends” would decide to beat me up. I was mostly a loner, alone and lonely, looking in from the outside, rejected by my peers, frightened of trying to get involved because then would come the rejection and the fists.

That sense of being the outsider tortured me well into adulthood, and only at the age of 47 did I finally get rid of my fears and demons. I truly believe I was born sad. There was a sad-monster that lived inside me and ate away at everything good. I also know that I slew the monster and scattered his remains to the four winds. I am so different now to the young me, both physically and mentally that the two could barely be believed to be one and the same. I hid most of my suffering, especially from my family. It was only ever really Natalie who could scale the wall and see me for what I really was, the good and the bad.

Now, well, as I said earlier, now I am happy and content with no fears and no demons. No more social phobia, and people actually consider me an extrovert. All through the power of my mind and the change in me that came through becoming a teacher. The one thing that has remained constant is my dedication and loyalty to those few I know are true friends. Some people might be worth dying for; the really special ones are worth killing for!

MARIE ELENA:  I always ask (and we’ll get to it momentarily with you as well) if there was only one thing we could know about you, what would it be?  Well, I could say of the previous question, “If I could keep just one question for this interview, which one would I keep?”  That one would have been it.  It seems each highlighted poet has one response that screams “this is my core.”   Thank you for sharing you “core” with us, Iain.

IAIN:  Marie Elena, you asked me to chose a poem that typifies my work and personality, and I asked you if I could choose two. The reason for that is, what you asked for is easy, but I have one poem so special to me I really want to share it.

MARIE ELENA:  Share on, Sir.

IAIN:  The first is Peregrine, certainly one of my best, not just because it is published and recorded for podcast by the wonder actress and wildlife activist, Virginia McKenna, but because sometimes you just know when you have written a real stunner. I remember reading this back for the first time and I trembled. It was just so exciting. I like it because I like writing with a list of one or two word lines and this is that style at its best. I’ve never read it live nor do I have plans to record it, Virginia’s version is so definitive, I could never compete with her wonderful voice and phrasing. So here it is:

 Peregrine (by Iain Douglas Kemp)

 High above the fishing grounds

he wheels, turning slowly,

eyes focused on the sea far below.

Splash!

Splash!

Another and yet

another.

It’s a good day to hunt!

His wings start to beat,

he angles down picking up speed

with every beat,

the wings rake back:

the dive commences.

Faster

and faster

he plummets sea-wards,

the wind ruffling his plumage,

the air whistling in his ears.

Faster

and still

faster.

At maximum speed now,

the danger begins:

at more than two hundred miles an hour

even his keen vision blurs,

his head is fuzzy,

confused,

he shakes it,

yearning for clarity,

searching for focus.

Suddenly at one hundred feet

he stretches his wings,

arching them,

swinging his legs down,

the razor sharp talons out-stretched.

He hardly touches the water:

a glancing blow,

barely wetting his feathers,

the claws sink deep into the side of the fish;

the wings beat hard and he lifts,

clearing the still foaming surface,

he turns,

he swoops down to the beach

and lands.

The fish tastes divine

and as he sinks his sabre-like beak

into the soft flesh, he reflects:

Damn, I’m good at this!

The second poem I have chosen is very different. It’s not my usual style but I would love to be able to write like this all the time. This, for me, is the best I have ever produced, and I know many disagree with that point of view. This came about after a Saturday night dinner: beer, wine, liqueurs and good food, then a copious amount of rum and coke. By 5 a.m. that took me to a place of inspiration I have never seen since – this was my 10 minutes of being Jack Kerouac … reaching inside and saying it all… it’s now part of a trilogy ,but the second two don’t quite capture that which the first has –  although the title is only explained in the second. Love it or hate it, if I could be remembered for one poem and one poem alone, this would be it:

 Waitin’ fo’ Columbus   (Part 1 – by Iain Douglas Kemp)

 I danced on the roof

wid ya Mama and Lordy, Lordy

save me Bro, I felt the rain pouring down

on my head. I felt the pain that yo’ and your so

called friends been talkin’ about and then I,

I knew that strange thang that you bin feelin’

all this time and I knew well about that

thing that Kerouac talked about ‘til I got all

heated and sweaty then I took a walk down to

the corner of 8th and 42nd, took me a deep breath of

all that love and scary kinda livin’ that all be seepin’

through the cracks down there and I caught me a bus

goin’ up town, get outta that hell and make some tracks…

See, me I’m headin’ fo’ Jersey, let them take the rap and find me some peace…

Yo’ believe what yo’ will this boy is innocent but there be blame pouring down just like the Rain pouring down on the Eastside blaming the upper fifties for the poverty and lack of hope when up there they be livin’ it fine and full of hope and tomorrow….

Tomorrow for us is a cancelled promise waitin’ to

be redeemed in love, in truth, in life itself… waitin’ fo’

someone. Something to bring to an end this waitin’,

this agony, this pain and sorrow: never ending….

… I danced on the roof wid ya Mama and she

said she had planted all this green to make us all

feel good and so I never did understand why such a

place so beautiful could become a place to leave with

so much despair and as that garden still grows I am lost

and cannot know what took … what metaphysical knife twisted in the sad and lonely soul of ya Mama that made her leave her beautiful rooftop and meet the cruel sidewalk so decisively saying goodbye to all that refused to love her for the pure and so, so, so scarily influential beautiful person that she (who held us all tight in her dreams)

had come to be…

The Brooklyn Bridge will never look the same again…

MARIE ELENA:  Thank you, Iain!  Incredible pieces, both.

Now finally, if we could know only one thing about you, what would you tell us?

IAIN:  Well, it would have to be two things.

1. On a personal note, there is nothing I wouldn’t do for a true friend.

2. On a poetic note, I don’t just write comic verse, I do serious poetry too!

******

For more of Iain’s work, here is the link to his blog:    http://almerimarlife.com/iain-kemp-poetry-2 . Iain says, “It’s a bit different from normal blogs in as much as it is a blog within a blog (A Life in Spain). The owner gave me the domain as a present, and the poems are actually on his forum with links from my page.”

In addition, you may read and hear his poetry at http://www.iainkemppoetry.com/  (new podcasts every friday!).

WEB WEDNESDAY – VIVIENNE FRANCES BLAKE

VIVIENNE F. BLAKE

How many interviewers have you come across that unashamedly mention the “maturity” of their guest?  That “none” may now officially be changed to “one.”  Welcome to one of our senior Poetic Bloomers, Vivienne Frances Blake.  Viv is one of our most loyal, consistent contributors.  We appreciate her work, as well as her frank comments.  She is another excellent poet Walt and I first came to know and admire through Robert Lee Brewer’s Poetic Asides site.

MARIE ELENA:  Viv, your lifetime has been spent during an era of much change (technology and morals, to name two).  Which changes do you feel have been needed and beneficial?

VIV:   That’s a hard one. I think a beneficial impact has come from the development of communication technology.  My early computing days were one heck of a solitary struggle in the late 80’s, but I’m so glad I persevered.  The internet gave me the chance to earn a BA at 72, and blogging has brought an international bunch of ‘virtual’ friends, with more readers each day for my poetry than I could ever have hoped to attract with any publication.

MARIE ELENA:  Your cap and gown become you, Viv.  Congratulations!

At the other end of the spectrum, what changes have you found to be disturbing or detrimental?

VIV:  Morally, it seems to have been more regressive than progressive, with crime and not much punishment being more prevalent than ever.  The sexually liberated age led to a huge increase in family break-up (my own included) and the scourge of AIDS.  Politically we seem to be going to hell in a bucket, with self-serving and corrupt governments becoming the rule rather than the preserve of historically third world nations.  Media shenanigans are also to blame for much evil in the world.  And as for war – don’t get me started!

Debt

Our forebears preached that debt was bad.
We had to save for all we had.
Now it’s a feature of modern life
For businessman and suburban wife.
Students borrow to stay alive
and so they find they cannot thrive.
But bankers rub their hands in glee
requiring us to pay their fee
They take their bonuses and pay
And live to steal another day
while we poor suckers pay indeed
taxes to subsidize their sinful greed

MARIE ELENA:  Good points, Viv.  Include my own family in the increase in family break-ups due in large part to the sexually liberated age.  I’m so sorry to hear that yours had its casualties as well.

You used to be a physically active young woman.  Now that age has crept up a bit, you have taken to crawling out through the internet wires.  If the internet did not exist, what do you think you would be doing with your time … both for entertainment, and for furthering your writing?

VIV:  I would be doing what I do now:  quilting, cooking, enjoying friends and family.  Having been bitten by the writing bug, if there were no internet, I would probably write a good deal more – maybe finish turning a novella into a novel and continue with a boys’ adventure story that I started for my grandson, and really should finish, before he grows out of the genre!

MARIE ELENA:  So how many of your 70-plus years have you spent writing?

VIV:  Funny you should ask that, Marie:  not that many, considering my advanced age.  When I was very young, my sister and I used to write appalling boarding school stories, from the depths of our ignorance.  A little later, there was a joint family effort with Dad to write a Nativity play for school, followed by a stage adaptation of Little Lord Fauntleroy, in which I played the title role.

Of course, there was a lot of oral writing of doggerel batted across the table at Sunday lunch during my childhood.  Dad would come out with a scurrilous statement and we’d take it in turns to add a line, usually ending with a limerick or three.

A long ‘dry’ interval then until I found myself working in business-to-business public relations in my forties, and even then, my writing was confined to press releases, case histories, brochures and the like, though I did write a book called “Help Yourself” about support available for small businesses which is way out of date now, though it had wide circulation at the heart of the 1980s recession.   I’d forgotten all about it until your question, Marie!

Poetry didn’t come until about 5 years ago, as part of my Open University degree studies, undertaken originally to make my French more correct, and learn more about French culture, history and politics.  As soon as I had the French Diploma under my belt, I turned to Creative Writing courses, and bingo!  I found my passion.

MARIE ELENA:  Your family sounds like great fun, and you all must have the “quick wit” gene.

What advice would you give young writers?

VIV:  To read lots, which helps with vocabulary;  to keep a notebook and pen beside them at all times; to learn the ins and outs of formal poetry – even if they never write any – for the rhythm and for the discipline of sticking to rules, even if later they are thrown out of the window; to be careful of grammar, spelling and presentation of their work.  Here’s a rather sarky advice poem:

 To a poet

Never use one word where
three would work much better.
Examples of verbosity,
of words such generosity,
ignoring pure simplicity.

Fill the page, I dare you,
with words and words of wisdom,
beauty, sense, all  buried in
a mound of purple phrases.

Perpetrate absurdity,
assuage my curiosity
to see how far you’ll go
in creating a monstrosity.

To express yourself at length,
is that the right of writers?
No.  Stop.
Try  brevity.
the soul
of –

Or a more sensible one:

Inspiration

Some things it is not:
a divine wind
the great flatulence of God
something from outside us,
a poetic dictator
who forces us to write.

What is it, then?
It’s the thought that comes into your head
in the middle of the night
but is gone by morning;
the ability to see poetry
in mundane events.
It is the spark, the germ of an idea;
the determination to share
your spark, your idea
in a poem for everyone.

MARIE ELENA: You’ve shared such excellent points and poems, Viv.  Which poem of yours would you say particularly flaunts your style and passions?

VIV:  This week I have been looking through a large pile of my poems, trying to find a cohesive set for a submission of 20 poems for a pamphlet competition.  It struck me that there are three main themes to my output:  nature, weather and landscape being the largest group; memories; and lastly, political rants, with a thread of humor running through all three categories.  If it was hard to choose 20 poems, to select just one for you seemed almost impossible!  I decided to give you the first poem of mine to be published – accepted simultaneously by First Edition and also by the e-zine Long Story Short – while I was still studying,  smarting a little under the strictures of university tutors.

In Defense of Clichés

A cliché is a wonderful thing,
a means of encapsulating
a truth universally acknowledged.
Or is it?

At the end of the day,
to be perfectly honest,
safe as houses
makes much more sense
than safe as banks.

I hear what you’re saying
but I want to move the goalposts.
When push comes to shove,
the fact of the matter is that
we need to think outside the box.

In terms of ballpark figures,
a hundred and ten percent
of what I say
is pushing the envelope
of credibility.

Literally, in terms of
blue sky thinking,
the cliché is an awesome resource
for adding value.

Let’s face it,
the mind boggles
 at the crackpot idea
of doing without.
the comfort blanket
of received phrases.

The long and the short of it is,
we should all sing from the same hymn sheet:
and agree the bottom line:
a cliché is A Good Thing.

And one of my nature poems

Break Fast

Up through a heap of sugared beech leaves,
 I poke my nose, whiffle the air.
No.  It’s not yet time.

I woke to hungry rumbling
but no scent of mollusc greets me
and I cannot stand the cold.

Back to sleep until Spring.

*

It’s the end of a perfect dream
of moistened, creeping worms,
and willing females.

I snuffle again and honeyed air
meets my cautious nose.
Hmm. I think, that’s better.

Ah yes, the time has come
to leave my winter bed of fleas,
to feast and make love,

carefully.

MARIE ELENA:  Those poems are great!  I particularly like “In Defense of Clichés.”

Please tell me a bit about your career as a BBC production secretary.  That sounds fascinating.

VIV:  So long ago!  Not exactly a career, either, as I was only there for four years, from 17-21.  Initially I worked in the West Indian Service, moved to Music Division, where I worked on the linking announcements for concerts, using and updating an extensive reference library.  It was all a bit serious after the jollity of my first job, and I soon moved on to work as secretary to the Fashion and Beauty Editor on Woman’s Hour, meeting (albeit in a humble capacity) the great and the good of many different worlds.

But I have done so many different jobs – temping when needed to earn a crust, eventually finding my niche as Press and Public Relations Officer to the largest Chamber of Commerce in the UK.  I went freelance for a few years before we upped sticks and went to work in Seychelles for two years. Jock had reached total disillusionment with the British Health Service (he was a dentist) and we needed to fill in time before pensions became due.  That was when I found my vocation as a teacher – of business studies to Polytechnic students, and later here in France, of English to Baccalaureate students written off as “nul en anglais.”  Every one of my students has since passed.

 MARIE ELENA:  Such an interesting and eclectic work experience you’ve had!  As an aside, I must say that I’m getting a kick out of your presumably British’isms (“earn a crust,” “we upped sticks,” etc.).  Fun!

I know you enjoy music:  what type of music strikes your fancy?

VIV:  Here’s a sample (Fantasie Impromptu http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qa0Z6g1XJkU&feature=player_embedded)

MARIE ELENA:  Oh-so-beautiful.  I’m glad you shared the link.

Sunday Night at Gran’s

Give us a toon, Winnie, Grandma would say
as we settled down after our tea.
Ripples of liquid poetry flowed
from the fingers of my spinster  Aunt,
to enchant us and set the mood.

Give us a song, Joan, she’d say
 and the Eriskay Love Lilt would woo us
in silvery soprano notes
from my youngest Aunt
when shivers down spines would seduce us.

Now you, Bob, would elicit
a song far too explicit
for  young ears, Gran complained
as French Uncle Bob crooned
 Auprès de ma Blonde
 il faut bien , il faut bien dormir.

Bob set the tone for Grandpa,
deaf as a post but still game
to warble a rude one
we all knew by heart:
Johnny with his Cam-er-a.

How about Marion? And my Mum
would groan and play with aplomb
and much too fast, her party piece.
Hungarian Rhapsody Number two by Liszt.
Played like that, it was jolly.

Duets would follow from unwilling siblings
Sylvia and Vivienne.
London Pride we could do without squabbling
but my Grandfather’s Clock was a killer.
A veil will be drawn over vile din from fiddle.

Gran would contribute her best to the party –
the beautiful Alice Blue Gown.
Then the signal to wind up—
crashing chords from the piano
as we asked God to Bless This House,
before we all went to bed.

Music – a constant strand of gold throughout my life. – mainly classical, but also with a penchant for jazz and folk; actively playing piano, clarinet and singing until relatively recently, now passively listening.  Other instruments have been dabbled in as the opportunity arose.  For a brief time I ran a scratch orchestra at home and have been more or less permanently addicted to singing in choirs and amateur operatics.

 Tinnitus

These hands that once caressed the keys,
creating music with delight,
rippling notes with careless ease
producing  airs and harmonies;
unruly, they resist command.
How sad that time deforms my skill,
a victim of grey cells’ slow decay.
The treble slips, the bass is at odds
as wrong notes crash in jarring chords,
unwanted pauses pain the ear.
Where is the music of younger days?
Dumb machines can’t still this need.
Although the music is not dead,
it lives, an i-Pod,  in my head.

MARIE ELENA: Such a sad poem, Viv. It just doesn’t seem fair, does it?

You have a few publications under your belt.  Are there plans for more?  Do you have a writing/submission routine you follow?

Viv:  Not really.  I don’t submit as much as I used to –   as many major competitions as I can afford and to good free ones.  As I’ve said, blogging gives me a greater readership than any work I could publish could hope to attract.

I write most of the time, mainly poetry, late at night and early morning being at my most prolific, though I’ve also written a lot at times of crisis.

 MARIE ELENA:  I’ve seen photos of where you live, and they are absolutely stunning.  If you would please provide a few photos and tell me about your home, that would be just wonderful!

VIV: This house – hopefully our last  – is pictured at the end of my ‘House That Jock Built’ poem  here: http://vivinfrance.wordpress.com/2011/06/26/the-house-that-jock-built/ We bought the plot for the fabulous view  and designed the house ourselves, with a large sunny workroom for me, and a tool-filled workshop for Jock, landing library, guest bedrooms and bathroom upstairs and our suite downstairs. Most of the ground floor is taken up with the living/dining/kitchen space, which works brilliantly, with three lots of patio doors onto an open verandah shielding us from midsummer sun but allowing us to feel part of our lovely rural surroundings and to eat outdoors frequently.

MARIE ELENA:  Could it be any more breathtaking?

The Linden

My skeleton is

bared in purest form,

in slumber for a time through winter’s chill.

Equinoctial gales send my branches wantonly waving,

’til comes the rain, replenishing my strength for summer’s work.

I stir again. My nascent leaves begin to bud and burst out green.

Birds arrive in feathered phalanx. Calm, all is still.

I preen my regal form in fecund glory.

Summer’s heavy cloak bears down on me,

flower pennants brown to seed. My leaves are liquid gold,

now winter nears.

Inexorable cycle

as my robe

flutters

down.

Through

rain, through

frost and snow,

in solitary splendour, I reign.

 

MARIE ELENA:  Rather than my usual sharing of a poem that particularly struck my fancy or that I found particularly memorable, I’d like to share a few excerpts from the War Memoir section of Viv’s blog, “Vivinfrance.”  Written for her grandchildren, I cannot encourage her enough to find a publisher of children’s literature, and get these memoirs into the hands of a larger audience.  I also encourage you all to visit Viv’s blog to read them in full.  I’m hoping this little sampling will whet your appetite.  I simply cannot imagine that it wouldn’t.

WAR MEMOIRS

“I remember the buzzing of bees in the buddleia by the French windows. But no, it’s louder than that. Look up: the sky so far above me contains a whirling swarm of insects, chasing each other, swooping, curling upwards and away only to drop down to resume the senseless circus. I did not know it then, but those loud insects were Spitfires and Heinkels, Hurricanes and Junkers, their young pilots desperately trying to shoot each other out of the sky. It was the summer of 1940 in South-West London.”

“But at night the almost total darkness was broken by the beautiful patterns made by the searchlight beams, so-called because they swung about searching for enemy aircraft during the raids.”

“I learned to read there. I don’t remember any preamble, any ‘a’ for apple, ‘b’ for ball. I have no idea how I did it. It just arrived. It seemed as though one minute I could not read and the next I could read anything.”

“It was then that I lost my father, albeit temporarily. In 1941 he went into the RAF. I cried my eyes out when Mum said ‘He’s not Daddy any more. From now on he is AC2 Showell, 1866919′ – a number that is still engraved on my brain, a brain that can’t even remember its own car registration. A few days after he departed for a place called Castle Donnington I sat down to write him a letter. Barely literate at the time, I printed slowly and laboriously, with a chewed pencil, onto feint-lined paper:

‘DEAR A C 2

WE MISS YOU IT IS RANING THER WAS A RAID LAST NIGHT

I HOPE YOU ARE ALL RITE

WITH LOVE FROM VIVI

I addressed the envelope, with the title and number, and gave it to Mum. How she kept a straight face I’ll never know, but later I heard her roaring with laughter with Gran. My cheeks burned with resentment. How dare they laugh at my letter? I’d done exactly as I’d been told, proud of my ability to write. So that’s another thing I lost: my pride.”

“My father’s father – a mischievous punster, round and wicked (of which more later) used to take pity on us from time to time and send us a chicken for Sunday dinner. The smell coming from the kitchen drew us irresistibly and we’d sit round the table in the brown dining room, salivating until Mum brought in the miracle bird. All would go quiet for a while and then someone would bring out the inevitable ‘just like a rich family in peace-time.’”

MARIE ELENA:  Again, Viv, I encourage you to find a publisher.  Your experiences are valuable to our children, and your communication style is perfection.

Now, as I end all my interviews: If there was only one thing we could know about you, what would it be?

VIV:  I put all of myself into my poetry – and what you see is what you get, often clichéd, frequently rebellious:

The Significance of Meaning

 I try to find the meaning of a poem.
They tell me that it’s more than just the words.
I find that nothing’s really as it seems
when clarity of language is divorced
from reality, perverted to create
poetical effect with metaphor,
confusing images, zany punctuation.
Consonance and assonance should work
within a frame of rhythm, rhyme and meter
to weave a magic cloth of sensual beauty,

Who am I to question this tradition?
The meaning, should it be the raison d’être,
the be all and the end all of a poem?
Or is it something I don’t need to know?

What I would like to add is my appreciation for the nurturing and happy environment you and Walt provide for us poets to play in.  Poetic Bloomings is the gem of gems in the blogosphere.

MARIE ELENA:  Such a kind thing to say!  Thank you, Viv, and thank you for gracing our site with your poetic spirit.  Walt and I are thankful to count you as a “Bloomer.”

WEB WEDNESDAY – MICHAEL GROVE

MICHAEL GROVE

When it comes to positive attitude and uplifting poetry, it is hard to beat MICHAEL GROVE. It is our pleasure to feature this true gentleman, whose poetry first caught Walt’s and my eye during Robert Lee Brewer’s Poetic Asides 2011 April Poem-a-Day Challenge.

Mike chose two poems to share with us.

NEVER TOO BUSY

Never too busy to say I love you,
or reach out with an open hand.
Never too busy to rise above,
or to take a righteous stand.

I’m not talking self-righteous
if that is what you heard.
I’m talking about doing the right thing,
and speaking a peaceful word.

I’m talking about loving everyone,
every single day.
I’m saying don’t harbor resentments
or live to make someone pay.

Never too busy to hear the word
amidst the mindless chatter.
Forgiveness and love are the answers.
The questions don’t even matter.

BY THE HAND

You were given great gifts
now your mission is to share.
Open up your soul
and give to others all that’s there.

A blessed act of kindness
is the purest way to start
and the greatest gift that you can give
from deep within your heart.

Take them by The Hand
and you will surely see,
the Grace that you’ve been given
and all you were meant to be.
~ ~ ~

MARIE ELENA: As I read your selections, Mike, my head nodded in agreement. These pieces epitomize the “positive and uplifting” nature I mentioned above. Here is the first of two poems I selected. It is quite different from your own choices.

BROKEN GLASS

Much fresh air was sorely needed.
The good advice was never heeded
Too many walls were in the way.
Then windows came for light of day.

But panes of disappointment grew.
Grab the stone and throw it thru.
No time to open up the sash.
A bigger rock, the pane will smash.

Just leave the fragments on the floor,
to cut your feet forever more.
Your blood must shed for truth to find.
Your feet are farthest from your mind.

~ ~ ~

MIKE: Lots of poems have been written by many poets about healing. Looking at this older one, it utilizes windows, glass, walls, fresh air, rocks and blood to make a point. I am certain I have used each of these in other poems from time to time, but never all together in one piece. Perhaps because of the title, it reminds me quite a bit of a personal favorite poem of mine, “Trail of Broken Glass,” which will be published in the anthology collection, “Beyond The Dark Room.”

MARIE ELENA: Sharp observations from a caring soul. Not surprisingly, you feature a Maya Angelou quote on your Facebook page. “They will forget what you looked like or what you said, but they will not forget how you made them feel.”

MIKE: This is such an important quote to me because I believe that the human experience is all about our relationships with others. This quote is not so different than the philosophy of Poetic Bloomings … to nurture and support one another. People do remember how you make them feel and I want everyone in my life to feel good.

MARIE ELENA: This is one of my favorite quotes as well, and I like the parallel you draw. Thank you!

You recently became a host at Flashy Fiction. Congratulations! How did that come about?

MIKE: It was about three months ago that Walt asked me to take on hosting one day a week.

MARIE ELENA: How fun! We learned a bit about that from Hannah Gosselin, but I’d love to hear your own “take” on it.

MIKE: I enjoy coming up with a new prompt each week and try to get as creative as I can with the prompts. I have been working on a semi-fiction novel on and off for about eight months. I have titled it, “A Very Rude Awakening.” I started writing poetry in grade school at about the age of ten. I continued writing a little here and there until I turned thirty-seven, when I became very passionate about writing poetry on a consistent basis.

I still don’t write a lot of short fiction, but Flashy Fiction has had me writing a bit more prose poetry than I have in the past. I’d have to estimate that somewhere around 90 to 95 percent of my poems are either in-form or written with rhyme and meter. I’m just more comfortable writing that way, although I do realize the restrictions and limitations that strict syllable counts and rhyming put in place.

Both poetry and short fiction writing are emotional releases for me. Poetry just seems to come easier for me, and I enjoy creating something where I can also hear a melody in my head. It seems like I can sing a lot of my poems. I sure wish I had more musical talent.

MARIE ELENA: I can’t resist sharing one more poem of yours. I remember this one. It impressed me then, and still does.

A NUT

A nut
on a thread
of the post
holding a gear
in a clock
on a shelf
in a room
of a mansion
at the end of the road
on a hill far away
can be replaced
by a nut.

~ ~ ~

MIKE: We are all a very tiny piece of a much larger picture. This simple poem speaks to the relative insignificance of each of us.

You have selected two poems that I wrote during the April 2011 PAD Challenge at Poetic Asides. That was a very special time in my poetic growth. Fortunately for me I was semi-unemployed in April 2011 and was able to commit a great deal of my time to writing poetry during that challenge. At the present time, I am busier in my work as operations manager of HomeLoans, than I have been in the past three or four years. It is getting in the way of poeming. Funny how the things we must do seem to get in the way of the things we want to do.

MARIE ELENA: They certainly do. My best work is conceived of two parents: time and inspiration.

Mike, I’d like to steer this interview in a slightly different route than I have previous interviews. There are words that come to my mind when I think of you. Just for a moment, I’d like to toss those words your direction, and have you react to them.

MIKE: Great idea Marie. I like being a little different from everyone else.

MARIE ELENA: Excellent! Let’s start with POSITIVE.

MIKE: I have always felt that attitude is everything. Everyone faces difficult challenges from time to time in their lifetime. We all get knocked down. I am no different. Life is about how we get back up. I suppose it is a combination of a quality that I possess and something that I have had to work at. The glass is always full. Even if it is half water and half air.

MARIE ELENA: It looks like you just covered OPTIMISTIC. 😉

Another word that comes to mind when I think about you is:  HOPELESS ROMANTIC.  Okay, that’s two words –  but am I right?

MIKE: I prefer to think of myself as a hopeful romantic.

MARIE ELENA: Ah yes. You would think of it that way!

MIKE: I love love, and being in love. I have been both lucky and unlucky in love. I have only been married once. The crippling effects of a terrible disease, multiple sclerosis, caused my ex-wife to divorce me 14 years ago, as she puts it, to set me free. No one is to blame. We remain friends and both of us have the best interests of our children at heart.

MARIE ELENA: That’s amazing, Mike. I don’t believe I’ve ever heard of anything quite like it. How wonderful that you have been able to remain friends. MS is a horrible disease, and I wish her well.

I see you were able to find love again.  Tell me about the woman in the photo, if you will.

MIKE: That beautiful woman is my soul mate and life partner, Jana. I am her calming effect, and she really brightens up my life. She is one of the most optimistic and bubbliest people I have ever met. Jana is a very caring “people-person,” and always sees the positive in everything. She is a huge fan of my poetry. She is also my favorite and greatest muse. I am so in love with Jana.

MARIE ELENA: She sounds absolutely lovely.

MIKE: This past year has been great for us, although in years past we have been through some rocky times. We are working through the issues which have kept us from living together and getting married. We are headed in that direction. It is silly stuff related to real estate, her place/my place, children still living at home, pets, adequate space, etc. The economy has not helped us in these efforts, but we are getting there.

MARIE ELENA: You mentioned Jana is a “huge fan” of your poetry. I’m sure all of us here can appreciate what that means to you … which brings me to your next word: POETRY. Perhaps that seems a bit silly, but I have sensed from the start that poetry plays a little larger role in your life than it does even for the average poet. I feel this way about Walt, and I feel this way about you. Is that an accurate assessment?

MIKE: I’d have to say that writing poetry is not just something that I like to do, but something I feel that I am supposed to do. I believe that I have been blessed with a gift and I am very thankful for that. I have a pretty natural sense of rhyme and timing. Sometimes, I feel like I have an ability to see the world through other peoples’ eyes, and in a variety of perspectives.

I truly wish I could “just” be a poet, writer and lyricist. I’d love to be able to write and create non-stop, every single day. I really enjoy experimenting with many different poetic forms and writing styles. I look forward to every other Wednesday and the “In-Form Poet” posts. I have the strongest feelings about my works that carry a positive message.

MARIE ELENA: There’s that word “positive” again.  I have to wonder if that has at least some rooting in your next word: FAITH.

MIKE: Yes, I am a man of strong faith. I was raised a Christian and hold on tightly to strong Christian values. I believe in the golden rule, and always treating others with respect, kindness, compassion, and love. My faith has kept me going through the difficult times in my life. I must admit that I have struggled with a personal involvement in organized religion at times in the past, but never with my spirituality or beliefs. I joined a local church last year after several years away, and I try to attend as much as is possible at this time. I‘m big on forgiveness and am not fond of guilt. I really strive for inner peace through my belief that all things occur through destiny and grace, and that there is an eternal place in heaven waiting for me. I‘d like to think I have a fairly good understanding of the cross.

MARIE ELENA: Yes – POSITIVE, OPTIMISTIC, HOPEFUL ROMANTIC,  POETRY, AND FAITH. Those are words that definitely come to mind when I see your poetry and your interactions with others.  Thank you for expounding on these thoughts.

Thank you also for the photos of your children. They are just beautiful! You’ve earned bragging rights.

WITH COURTNEY AND JORDAN

MIKE: My daughter Courtney is 27. She is a neo-natal intensive care nurse and holds two bachelor of science degrees from Michigan State University. When she was at MSU she was a Spartan cheerleader. Courtney practices yoga and is working toward becoming a yoga instructor. She likes running and has competed in many 5k races. She recently competed in her 1st half marathon. She is in the process of buying a condo in Old Town Lansing.

My son Jordan is 23. He is a full time college student working toward a degree in business management. He wants to be self employed and is working at small landscaping and tree service jobs. His goal is to start a natural foods business where he supplies restaurants and small stores with organic produce and herbs. He would also like to raise tilapia. He likes electronic music, working out, and artistic welding. Jordan bought an old school bus and renovated it into a motor home which he takes out to “Burning Man” festival every year.

MARIE ELENA: They sound like great kids, and I’ll even forgive them for being Spartans. Now, with me being an avid Ohio State Buckeye and you being a staunch Michigan State Spartan, if we went to a game together, would we end up sitting on separate sides?  Just kidding … this isn’t a real question. That is, unless you WANT it to be a real question. 😉

MIKE: I’d be willing to sit along side you at a MSU vs. OSU game. I would actually look forward to that. I’ll be wearing green and white for sure and having a hot dog or two.

MARIE ELENA: And I’ll be in my Scarlet and Gray.  We’ll look a little like Christmas, Mike!  Sounds like great fun, doesn’t it?  Too bad they won’t let four-legged friends into the stadium. Your little Jake is so cute!  I’ll tell you something that made me grin: You didn’t simply let me know that the photo is of “Jake.” Oh no … as Poet Mike, you had to say, “Jake at the lake.”  I just had to laugh. How long have you had him?

JAKE

MIKE: Jake is my best buddy. I got him on the 4th of July, 1997. He was said to be 2 months old so I have always celebrated his birthday May 4th. He just turned 15. Jake is half dalmatian and half chocolate lab. He has never missed a boat ride and still enjoys playing keep away with a stick. He prefers people food over the bowl on the floor.

MARIE ELENA: Thanks for sharing your family with us.

Now for what could be a tough question.  What would you say was your grandest life experience?

MIKE:  That is a very tough question Marie.  I have had many experiences in my life that have been really awesome, made me proud and/or changed me.
In 1970, I was in a very bad snow mobile accident, which changed me and helped me to see the light.  I was ten years old when it happened.  I wasn’t wearing a helmet, and suffered serious head trauma.
In 1980, I was in a horrific motorcycle accident.   They were going to amputate my right leg, but my mom wouldn’t let them.  I had three surgeries, after which  I spent almost a year in a wheelchair, followed by months of rehab. I walked with a cane for a long time. I have an 8” steel plate, and seven screws holding my leg together. Now my right leg is 1-3/8″ shorter than my left.  When people ask me how tall I am, it is difficult to answer.
I learned so much from these two experiences that helped me grow as a person.
In 1990, I witnessed a terrible boating accident. I was fishing on our dock at the lake.  There was a speed boat circling the lake.  A boy was sitting up on the bow, and his dad was driving.  The throttle cable snapped, and the boat lunged.  The boy was thrown off, and then hit by the propeller.  It was right in front of me, a few hundred feet off the dock.  My dad was right there too. Both of us immediately jumped in our boat and raced out to where the boy was thrown.   When I saw him down about 12 feet under, in 60 feet of water, I dove off of our boat and pulled him up to the surface.  By that time, two or three other boats were right there, and someone pulled him into their boat and administered CPR.   I can remember how badly he had been cut by the propeller, but the cold water had kept him from bleeding too much.  I stayed with him until paramedics arrived.  They wrapped him in what seemed like saran wrap to seal up the gashes, and then transported him.  This happened 22 years ago this summer.  He and I have had a handful of contacts over the years.  The latest one was just last summer.  He is now 33 years old and is doing fine.
Saving that boy really has to be my grandest life experience. If not for that day it would most certainly be being present and witnessing the birth of both of my children.

MARIE ELENA: My goodness. It looks like the turn of each decade is not your friend.  But more importantly, it looks like I can add BIONIC HERO to my word  list.  It’s also good to see that your heavy metal and rehab obviously worked well, as evidenced by this:

HOOPING IT UP!

Go Mike!

Now, at last, if we could know only one thing about you, what would you want it to be?

MIKE: I consider myself an artist. From 1983 through 1997, architecture was my art. I was a home builder and designed and built around 150 custom, one-of-a-kind energy efficient homes. Since 1997, poetry has been my primary art. I also enjoy photography and keyboard creations.

MARIE ELENA:  Thank you for your time and generously open spirit, Mike.  We wish you all the best for your writing in every form, be it poetry, flash fiction, novel, or music.

*****

If you are interested in seeing more of Mike’s poetry, feel free to befriend him on Facebook.  He keeps a treasure trove there.  Check out our “Bookshelf” for a link to “Observations.”  (I recommend it!).   We also encourage you to join Mike and other Bloomers at Flashy Fiction.

WEB WEDNESDAY – MARK WINDHAM

MARK WINDHAM

Today we have the privilege of highlighting yet another impressive Poetic Asides poet, Mark Windham.  We met Mark during the November 2011 Chapbook Challenge, which also happened to be the first time he had ever posted poetry online.  He has since been published at Postcardshorts.com, has had a poem in the inaugural issue of the Misty Mountain Review, stories and poems in two issues of a local publication (The North Georgia Writer), and one of his poems was one of five winners chosen for the dVerse Poets / M:P MAG competition.  Phew!  It amused me that Mark prefaced all of that with “Publications are pretty limited thus far.”  I’d say this accomplished in approximately five months is something to brag about!

When asked to share a poem Mark feels best represents his style and spirit, here is what he disclosed to me: “My writing is evolving so much that I really cannot define a ‘style’ that fits me.”  He ended up providing three poems, each representing a different aspect of himself or his writing.  He said I could choose one, but I decided to share all three of these pieces of Mark with you.

Mark’s poems follow, each preceded by a short exposition.

MARK:  “[The first] is more about who I am, and an example of playing with form.”

Tip Toes

It

happens

whenever

my little girl

is kissing my cheek

up on tip toes to reach.

or my son stretching to prove

he is nearly as tall as me.

Both a bit taller than yesterday.

It happens again whenever we kiss,

up on your toes, arms around my neck,

putting us right at eye level,

and I know that I love you

more than I did before.

I watch them growing,

holding you close

and my heart

skips a

beat.

 

MARK:  “[The second] is representative of the kind of piece that I typically like the best; it blends fiction with poetry to tell a story, define a place, create a character and it usually has a ‘dark’ side to it. A lot of my work has a darker element to it; this one does not go too far that way. That would not be appropriate for a garden.  This also first appeared on Poetic Bloomings for the ‘old’ prompt. It has since been online at The Book Times as well.”

 Old Granddad

 I visit him when I am in town –

sometimes I think he knows me.

He is always in the basement pool room,

though to him it will always be ‘billiards’.

He doesn’t play anymore; arthritic hands

cannot hold cues, blurry eyes will not line

up a shot on the faded red felt of the table.

A tear by the side pocket marks his last shot:

table light broken, dust on waiting balls.

Old black and whites of him are on the wall,

from his heyday Grandma used to say.

Dark hair slicked back, wingtip shoes.

I remember watching him dance

around that table when I was small,

amazed at the shots he would make,

the depth of concentration, flash of his eyes.

I never placed significance on the highball

always in his hand, or on the edge of the table –

brown liquid and ice. Everyone of age had one.

Now the glass is the first thing I notice,

clenched in fingers that seem to have been

gnarled to the task. He drinks always, but not a lot.

He is usually watching TV – news, weather,

I don’t think it matters – but he pays attention,

just a little more, when I put on the Hustler,

smiles at every rack break and salutes Fast Eddie

with a raised glass when he orders J.T.S. Brown.

MARK:  “[And finally], because I love being able to say a lot with very few words; short, clear, concise and conveying bigger meaning.”

Black and White

White

butterfly on

black

man’s shoulder;

not nearly so

white

without him…

nor he as

black.

MARIE ELENA: Such diversity in style, feel, and content.  I’m happy you shared three poems, Mark.

Tell me about your writing aspirations.  I didn’t realize you write not only poetry, but short fiction (which I will share a sample of momentarily).

MARK:  Discovering the online poetry community has sparked a fascination with the craft and art of poetry. There is a world of talent, information and community that I was unaware of a few months ago. It is very motivating. I find myself wanting to learn more and try different forms and styles and ideas and, and, and … Write!

I think everyone that puts a blog out there has some aspiration to be published. I have started submitting some work and have the starting point for a chapbook in place. I don’t know if there is a longer manuscript in the future, but I like the idea of it.

I also enjoy fiction writing a great deal. I have posted several flash fiction pieces and have completed a couple of shorter (250-word range) stories. Walt’s introduction to Flashy Fiction has provided several fantastic prompts. I do have a full-length piece in the works that poetry has (pleasantly) distracted a bit from, and several story ideas waiting for time to devote to them. I am planning to have a first draft complete this year.

MARIE ELENA: You briefly alluded to your blog, which is entitled “Awakened Words.”  Such a poetic name!  I love to hear how people go about naming their blogs.  Will you please share your inspiration?

MARK:  I first started putting ‘words on a page’ my senior year in high school. I was blessed to have an English teacher that made the subject of reading and writing poetry interesting. I wrote quite a bit that year, and through my freshman year of college. After that it was very sporadic. I wrote a piece for my wife on our wedding day … and that was about it for a long time.

Several times since then my wife has asked why I did not write anymore. About a year ago she asked a couple of more times, then also suggested that I should write a book. Like any good husband, I started listening (yes, sometimes it does take a while). I put a few words down, which led to a few more. Suddenly, the words were ‘awakened.’

MARIE ELENA:  Now, see?  A lovely story behind the title!  I’m glad you listened to your wife.  What are you hoping to accomplish with your blog?

MARK:  My original thoughts were that it was going to become part of a ‘platform’ for the book I was working on. Then I became engrossed in the online poetry world and it has evolved into a predominantly poetry blog. I suppose there is still somewhat of a platform motive behind it on the poetry side, but it has really turned into a way to remain involved in this online community I have discovered.

MARIE ELENA:  As I ask of so many of my interviewees, do you consider yourself a poet?

MARK: I was discussing the ‘bio’ (the one you are supposed to provide to potential publishers) with someone recently that has provided me with a wealth of advice, inspiration and assistance (whom I met through one of your previous interviews 😉 ). She told me that you call yourself a ‘writer.’ Let others call you a poet if they feel it appropriate. I think that is good advice.

MARIE ELENA:  Don’t leave us hanging here … can you share who this mysterious “someone” is?

MARK:  I don’t think she would mind.  It’s Margo Roby.

MARIE ELENA:  I should have known.  (Excellent advice, Margo!)  And if someone were to call you a “poet,” would you consider it a compliment?

MARK:  Of the highest order.

MARIE ELENA:  Good answer, Mr. Poet.  Where would you say your greatest inspiration comes from, writing wise?

MARK: Like so much of my writing, that is an evolving concept for me. Inspiration comes from so many places. There is family, faith, a news story, morning fog, this online community and all the great writers (people) that participate, a picture, a word … So much. Lately, I have been very ‘prompt dependent’ for my writing. That is good in the sense that it keeps me writing, always tuning the ‘craft.’ I do think it takes away a bit from natural creativity, but I see that starting to flow the more I write and think about writing.

 MARIE ELENA: I can understand firsthand the draw from writing fiction to writing prompted poetry, and getting completely absorbed in the poetic community.

So, how much time do you spend writing?

MARK: Not nearly enough! Yet. I have been writing a lot over the last few months, but have not spent near the time I need to on revision and ‘craft.” I try and complete ‘form’ prompts as often as I can. It is good for discipline and increasing knowledge. I also like to experiment with the page; punctuation, spacing, flow, location, white space, etc. So, I guess it is more time than I think.

MARIE ELENA:  Actually, I find it can sap much of the day before I know it.  What does a typical day look like in the life of Mark Windham?

MARK:  Terribly mundane by some standards I’m sure; a full time job, two kids in school, three dogs, track, gymnastics, church, etc. Typical of most families these days, always busy. It mostly revolves around the family though, and we all usually end up on the couch together at the end of the day. Which makes it a good day!

MARIE ELENA:  A true family man!  Good for you, Mark! What can you tell me about your own upbringing?

MARK: I grew up throughout the southern U.S. Born in Mississippi, lived in Kentucky, Texas, Virginia, North Carolina, Florida and Georgia. Dad changed jobs a couple of times, was transferred a couple of others. ‘Upbringin’ was probably fairly typical, I imagine. Dad traveled so Mom was in charge at home and had to be somewhat strict, but not overly so. “Wait ‘till your dad gets home’ was not an option; that might be a week or more.

My sister still lives in Virginia, Dad is in Maryland now; Mom passed away a couple of years ago after a long fight with cancer. I ended up in Georgia (Atlanta area) in ’94, met my wife-to-be and have been here since.

MARIE ELENA:  I’m so sorry about your mother, Mark.  Having both my parents still around (two doors down), I can’t imagine … and don’t want to.

I knew from your beautiful poem Prayer for My Children that you are a dad.  Tell me about that.  How much influence do your wife and children have on your writing, and on whom you are as a person?

Prayer for my Children

Strap a balloon to your
back and sail across
the skies of your dreams,
then slash the strings
and fall into the abyss
of love.

Leave off the mask, show
the world who you are,
no pretenses or games.
Keep your finger on the
button of joy, make time
to enjoy silence.

BEAUTIFUL WINDHAM CHILDREN

MARK:   Family is everything; first middle and last. They drive actions and decisions, schedules … everything. I met my wife, Kathy, in ’95 after moving to Atlanta. We both worked in the restaurant industry at the time. I was a manager for a national chain and doing very well career wise. After we got married I examined the lifestyle and decided that a change in career was in order. The late nights, weekends and holidays was not going to be what we wanted for our family.

My wife and children are definite influences on my writing as well; whether it is inspiration and content, or as editors and filters. My children are at such different stages of life, and. they evoke different ideas and concepts and ‘words’ My oldest daughter is 20, lives out of state, and is going through the growing pains of becoming an adult and dealing with those decisions. My youngest is nine and still daddy’s little girl. My son is 13, growing rapidly into a teenager, and all ready to be a man.

You will find all four of them throughout my writing here and there.

 

MARK AND KATHY

MORE MARK AND KATHY

FOUR-LEGGED WINDHAMS

 

MARIE ELENA:  So would you say family motivates you more than anything else?

MARK: Family and faith are foremost. That is what gets you through the day, makes you want to be a better person, influences your decisions, provides motivation, etc.

MARIE ELENA: Absolutely, Mark.  Absolutely!

Another thing that influences decisions, provides motivation, and can make us better people is adversity. It seems everyone goes through difficult times. What would you say is the most difficult trial you’ve been through, and what did you learn from it?

MARK:  Most Difficult? Always a fun topic. 😉

Going through the death of my mom was obviously difficult, but I think the fact that she had been fighting for so long provided a modicum of preparedness. Prior to that, we had gone through the failure of a couple of businesses. That was brutal. My wife and I had been self- employed for several years, running a successful accounting/consulting practice. So, naturally, I made the decision, against my wife’s wishes, to start another business with family members. We then compounded the problem by opening an additional unrelated business. Both of these failed miserably and we were forced to close them. The emotional and financial strain that followed created the biggest stress that my family has ever been through. What did I learn? A few things. First, listen to your wife! Second, don’t take on more than is reasonable; some sacrifices are not worth it. Third, never, never, never (did I say ‘never’?) go into business with family. Money has the potential to ruin any relationship.

 MARIE ELENA:  Such a shame, isn’t it?  But so true.

Finally, Mark, if there was only one thing we could know about you, what would you want it to be?

MARK: I think I outlined that fairly well in the other questions. Family is first; a husband and father is who I am before anything else. As far as writing goes, what I put out is still evolving. I am probably more curious than anyone to see where it ends up.

MARIE ELENA:  Thank you so much for giving us a glimpse into the man behind the poetry, Mark, and for blessing us regularly with your words!

I’d like to end on a different note than I usually do on Web Wednesdays.  I’d like to share with you an engaging short fiction piece Mark wrote for Kellie Elmore’s Free Write Friday.

Enjoy!

Two Kinds of People

After Daddy went to work for the ‘lectric company we started having dinner a little bit later during the week. Momma always insisted we eat together, so we did not start until he got home. Sometimes that meant reheating everything but she never complained. At least not while I was around.

One night I heard them after I went to bed. Momma did not sound happy.

“I don’t understand why you are the one that always ends up staying late. Aren’t there other men that can do the work?”

“Sure there are,” Daddy answered. “But it is usually overtime and we could use the money.”

“I know that, it just seems to be happening a lot lately. I miss you being around during the day; coming in for lunch.”

“Well, I miss that too, but we both know that farming was not paying the bills anymore. It should pay off in the long run. The bosses notice. When it comes time for raises and promotions I am hoping to be at the top of the list.”

Momma did not sound convinced. “That is how it should work, but you are too humble to toot your own horn. You know what they say: there are two types of people in this world, those that do the work and those that take the credit. And the first group is less populated.* Just make sure you are getting the credit for the work.”

She was fond of that phrase; ‘two kinds of people.’ She used it a lot to teach lessons. I remember asking her one Sunday afternoon why we were giving our food away. I was confused because she was always telling me to clean my plate and not be wasteful and we did not have food to just throw away.

She stopped what she was doing and looked at me for a minute before answering. “Well, Bobby, there are two kinds of people in this world; those who put themselves first and those who put others first.** We always want to be part of the second group. The Miller’s are going through a tough patch and we can spare some of what we have. We will not go hungry.”

Momma always made sure you knew which group she thought you should be in. So far, she has always been right.

*Indira Ghandi (in some variation)
**Bill Purdin

WEB WEDNESDAY – HANNAH GOSSELIN

HANNAH GOSSELIN

This week I have the joy of featuring a natural talent (“nature” being key here), Hannah Gosselin.  Hannah is a young woman I’ve grown to know and love (yes, love) since meeting her at Robert Lee Brewer’s 2009 Poetic Asides April Poem-a-Day Challenge.  “Sweet Hannah” is possibly the first (if memory serves) poet for whom I wrote a poem.  Her amazing ability to express nature inspired the following.

Naturally Hannah (By Marie Elena)

She whispers scenery

onto the page,

and into my mind’s eye.

Visions of nature

so exquisitely expressed

that I see the play of

color and texture;

hear the song of

wind and water;

smell the scent of

earth, and all therein.

No flat black words

against white page.

She whispers scenery.

Pouring over three years of her exquisite poetic thoughts has been an absolute joy to me.   For me, a very recent piece of hers entitled Patience embodies the heart of Hannah’s poetic soul:

Patience (by Hannah Gosselin)

Even as their arms stretch to grow,

they know when to twist, to curl

to grab and pull themselves forward.

There’s something for the learning

for the receiving in the observing

Morning Glory’s very pattern.

Patient lengths reaching upward

understanding when to reject

the aching urge to curl,

accepting the ancient answer.

In persistence, pursuing

each leg of this tenuous journey,

joyfully, pushing toward the light.

Bud pods discard their dewy garments

not a mere moment too, soon

tasting the early air on first opening;

layers peeling, revealing soft sheets,

unfolding like inside out origami,

morning in all its glory, out pouring.

© Hannah Gosselin, 2012

 The above stunning piece was written for Poetic Asides April PAD.  The poem below, Hannah’s own choice to share, was written for the same challenge.

~LISTENING~

Words, like fresh krill,

crunch between teeth.

Water-rendered sound,

formless in one’s mouth;

heart-filled, briny, beating,

waves candid, thick with clue.

Wind dismisses reason,

directional tool presented

in poignant length, starfish arm;

reaching discretely,

allowing space to translate.

Sun, shadow of distant moon,

Earth, hearing heated core,

water, ever of the waves,

tree-line, of towering  timber;

deep calling unto its’ own.

Navigational prowess?

Heeding the hand of nature.

Lost to the cause of preparation,

willing of the written word.

Listening with wide heart,

mindful of each beat,

hesitating, as she implores.

© Hannah Gosselin and Metaphors and Smiles, 2012.

MARIE ELENA:  Both of the above are simply outstanding, Hannah, and represent you perfectly.  You just recently began blogging (yay you!).  The title you chose, “Metaphors and Smiles,” nods to the warm smiles for which you are known, and is a delightful play on “metaphors and similes.”  Tell me, please, where this clever title originated.

HANNAH:  So back in the beginning of November 2011, I began to get my gumption up to start a blog. I’d been noticing many in our writing community who have blogs, and it seemed to me to be a fulfilling avenue to connect with other writers. I had been speaking with Walt of our very own “Walt Woj,” and he graciously extended the offer to help if I had any questions in the process. He had been struck suddenly with Metaphors and Smiles. This is a snippet on what he had to say about it.

Walt says and makes my heart happy on Jan. 29th 2012, while discussing blogs with Pamela S. Cleary and I: “The more I see your blog title, the more I have to smile. But not for the reason you think. It just fits you and what you do. Metaphors and similes go together like Gump’s “Peas and Carrots.” But the smiles are purely Hannah. You get the credit for that. It made the suggestion just an after thought. Smile on, my Maine friend!”

MARIE ELENA:  Mega kudos to Walt! It really is perfect!  So, what made you decide to blog, and what do you hope to accomplish with it?

HANNAH:  I hope to gather a body of work that represents me well, then perhaps move forward to publish a book of my poetry. I’ve also enjoyed writing some short fictional pieces. These works usually contain either a spiritual or moral “goody” that I plant with the hope that people will be uplifted or glean something. I thought I might make a separate book of short stories with those someday, too. The short fiction has been inspired as of late by the Flashy Fiction blog that I have been co-administrating, but the writing of short stories actually preceded even my poetry writing when I studied through ICL (Institute of Children’s Literature), back in 2009.

MARIE ELENA:  Hannah, you have over 400 followers! How on earth did you get so many in so short a time?  Got any secrets you can share?

HANNAH:  I’m not sure how I gained so many followers!! I have some blog followers that make up about thirty and some comment followers but the majority of the readership is coming from facebook. Unfortunately the details on those people are vague, and I’m not sure how they count it, it may be people that have only clicked and read one poem of mine but are not necessarily “following,” me per say. Either way it is a boost to the ol’ morale to see the readership number rising.  It makes one feel as if they’re being heard.  😉

So, you would like to know my secrets? I think one of the most important secrets has been to write every day and venture out into the world of blogs who prompt with the purpose of connecting and sharing with other poets. Back in February of this year, after a month of writing small stones with WOWH (Writing Our Way Home), I began stalking our very own De Jackson!! She had shared a link with me one day when I was in a place that I needed a bigger, poetic, fish bowl. Ever since then I’ve been tagging along and, while being blessed by her words immensely, I also have gained knowledge of a plethora of blog prompting places that she frequents.

MARIE ELENA:  If there is a better plan than stalking De Jackson, I sure don’t know it!

Hannah, you mentioned your writing course through The Institute of Children’s Literature.  Had this been a brick-and-mortar institution, you and I probably would have met!  How did you hear of them?  Can you share some of what you learned?

HANNAH:  I know, Marie!!! I often think about the fact that we very well could’ve met had this been a physical place that we’d attended. The fact that we both began writing at Poetic Asides for the first time at the same time always amazes me, too! I think it was inevitable. We were meant to meet each other. 🙂

I remember well the day that I received in the mail a brochure for ICL. I was sitting on my porch, while summer bursting forth all around me sung of growth and promise. My son, Caiden, was playing with his Tonka trucks in the sand box, while I sat reading an invitation to become the writer I’d always dreamed of becoming – I felt that it was surely a possibility.

I wrote the sampling after being inspired by one of those bubble machines that make huge iridescent bubbles:  I created a story of a boy who was able to step in to one of the magical spheres, and he went on an incredible journey to many different places. Well long-story-short, they accepted me! I felt so proud and excited! It was the first step I’d taken toward furthering my education after high school, and my heart and mind were hungry.

I learned that I write lots of run-on sentences, and that I don’t always put commas where I should!! Yes, I learned that technically I needed to learn a lot more to write properly, but at the same time I learned that I had what it takes to create stories in the creative aspect of it all. The Institute taught me a lot about how to create believable characters, natural dialogue, and conflict.  Grammatical teaching was provided, along with the means of learning how to research the market and submit by query letters to magazines. I bet this is really just the tip of the iceberg, but generally I feel this is some of what we touched on.

For me, this had been a huge step in the direction of just getting back to writing. I have not taken as much of the initiative as I probably should in submitting and getting my writing “out there,” but at least I’m writing again.

MARIE ELENA:  Your “bubble” story sounds like great fun for a child to read.  I hope you polish it up and submit it.

So, when and how did you begin writing poetry?

HANNAH: When I was a little girl and up through my teen years, I enjoyed making cards and writing poetry in them for family member’s Birthdays, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, etc. I began writing poetry in high school in 1995, my sophomore year, and wrote till I graduated. Then I got caught up in a whirlwind fury of life without boundaries and only wrote random scribblings that really made it no farther than a scrap of paper, napkin or a much neglected journal. This is one that I found recently that kind of surprised me.

May This Be Credence ~1995 Hannah Bowles

An old barn in a sea of snow,

a sunflower stretching upward to grow,

a sleepy willow stooping in shame,

and an innocent colt ready to tame.

An endless journey, the destination

is confidence.

A heartless ploy, the result

is diffidence.

I remembered upon reading this exactly how I’d felt after writing it and after sharing it. I did not getting the response I’d expected, and I felt let down. At seventeen, I really felt good about this poem.

I began to write poetry again in April of 2009 for my first Poem a Day Challenge, and I haven’t stopped since!

MARIE ELENA:  I understand your disappointment in a less-than-enthusiastic reaction to your poem, Hannah.  That poem is skillfully penned, and bares your heart. I’m glad you decided to give poetry a try again in 2009.

Given a choice, would you spend your time writing poetry, or children’s stories?

HANNAH:  Well, that is a hard question, Marie. I enjoy poetry because it is such a tangible way for me to write. Poems are buoyant little spheres of inspiration with an easy to attain beginning, middle and ending. Stories, on the other hand, can be sort of daunting and time consuming.  Yet the feeling I get after weaving a story successfully is a different fulfillment than that of writing poetry. Hmm…I’m leaning toward poetry, but that is because I could cheat and write many poems that tie together, and then I’d really be writing a story anyway. [Big smiles! 😉 ]

MARIE ELENA:  That’s downright sneaky, Hannah!   I do love “buoyant little spheres of inspiration .”  So Hannah-esque!

And here is a Hannah-esque  quote of yours:  “The best remedy for those who are afraid, lonely or unhappy is to go outside, somewhere where they can be quiet, alone with the heavens, nature and God. Because only then does one feel that all is as it should be and that God wishes to see people happy, amidst the simple beauty of nature.”  ~Anne Frank.  This is so YOU, Hannah!

This might be a silly question, but where does your intense connection with nature come from?

HANNAH:  This quote resonates with me deeply, Marie. I feel that from a young age I was encouraged to see the beauty in nature. Between my mother and grandmother, I was taught a lot about what is out there in the natural world.

When I was eight, I longed to be a veterinarian. I simply adored animals, and felt as though there was an unspoken understanding that breached the barriers of language between me and them. My parents nurtured this interest in one way by purchasing for me a gorgeous set of children’s books written by James Herriot with the most exquisite illustrations. The writing in these books is extremely earthy and utterly delectable, in my opinion. I treasure them still to this day.

I grew up mostly in a rural area: an island that my heart calls home, named Georgetown, in Maine. I spent eleven of my most formative years growing up there, and I believe my relationship with nature deepened then. I feel fed by the time that I spent and spend there –  images still held vividly in my mind from many different times while there.

The thing that amazes me is that in the beauty and wonder – the awe of it all – in this lays, I believe, hidden messages that can be learned. The poem [“Patience,” shared above] that I just wrote today, Easter, explains what I mean by messages or lessons.

MARIE ELENA:  Ah, those life lessons.   Hannah, you’ve shared with me the role alcohol has played in your life.  Is there anything about those dark days and what you learned from them that you can share?  How did you get away from that hold, and what effect has it had on who you are today?

HANNAH:  I believe that individuals are the product of their upbringing and environment, and that we all as beings have the choice to learn from our circumstances and either grow and gain, or wallow and succumb also to the same sorts of traps as previous generations.

Unfortunately, for a time during high school and off and on to varying degrees of heaviness, I fell into a very unhealthy pattern and diluted my person hood with an alcoholism that I loathed and longed to overcome. Until about four years ago (or maybe a little more, it feels like forever ago), coincidentally, or not so much of a coincidence really, this happens to also be when I began to be serious about writing again, and when I began to listen to my heart and ultimately the Source again. Once I got a taste of truth and the clarity that it brings, I could never go back to the way that I was. I will never allow myself to dwell in an ancient past of hurtful wrongs caused by generations of missteps. So, really what this means to me, is that I’m throwing a wrench in the chains of an inevitable repeating history (hopefully, considering free will and the poor direction of this nation’s morals, but that’s another topic, wholly).

MARIE ELENA:  Wow, Hannah, I love this:  “grow and gain, or wallow and succumb.”  That says it all, doesn’t it?  I’m so thankful you were able to grab hold of the reins that could help stop the cycle.

And speaking of “grow and gain,” something happened to you in the middle of the April 2009 Challenge.  A walk.  A name change.  Care to share?

HANNAH:  Oh, the BIG day!! Yes, I’d love to share! My high school sweetheart and I “tied the knot!” We have been together since 1997 and had been through it all including giving birth to and bringing into this world our first son, and we decided that we should probably make it official. My husband, Marcel (AKA Marco), is such a beautiful soul. He’s my best friend, and I was so happy to share, finally, his last name – bringing the three of us together in a oneness that was truly heart-bursting.

HANNAH AND MARCO'S WEDDING DAY
WITH LITTLE CAIDEN
(BEAUTIFUL!)

MARIE ELENA:  Then three became four.  Tell me about your sweet boys!

HANNAH:  Oh, those boys!!! We ALL know how much joy our babies bring to ourselves and the lives of others. I’m constantly getting “looks” from people in big-box-stores for making crazy baby faces at other people’s children! So fun!

So the five-er is Caiden, and he is a fire-cracker! He recently gave me quite a scare and needed to get a bump on his head glued shut, super scary to this mama heart. Also, a real eye-opener, in that I never want to take for granted these beautiful lives I’ve been gifted for our time together here on Earth. Just a simple slip on pin-needles while running, turned crazy quick. Caiden is a budding artist and has the sweetest heart!

The baby is Leland, I’ve always thought it was a neat coincidence that you have a Leland in your family, too, Marie. Not a very common name – we heard it on an antique program.  My husband and I perked up and looked at each other – we knew that was to be his name. Leland is eighteen months old and is learning so rapidly. He is such a mellow guy, has just learned to give kisses, and has whispered his first, “I love you,”  = melted puddle of heart!

Here are a couple of pictures that I think are wicked cute that I knew you’d enjoy, Marie, and that I thought the rest of our writing friends would like, also.

MARIE ELENA: “Melted puddle of heart” and “wicked cute,” in back-to-back sentences.  You know I love it!  And “… beautiful lives I’ve been gifted for our time together here on Earth” speaks volumes of how much your boys mean to you.

CAIDEN AND LELAND
(little pumpkins!)

CAIDEN AND LELAND

I believe the following poem describes the scare you mention above.  As is typical of your poetry, this piece is complete, well penned, and emotive.

One Ordinary Afternoon

 It really could’ve been any ordinary
sun-filled, fun-spilling late afternoon
at the local playground in our town.
We may have chosen to drive
rather than five-er ride scooter
and baby bounce in the backpack.
It just as easily may’ve happened
to be an uneventful trip, regular slips
on slides and swinging extra high,
brave souls trying fire-men poles and
newish babies bearing, wiggly-bridges.
The added element of glass-filled woods
from neighborhood kids-being-kids,
sets of steep ledge bordering the play place,
could just as easily not exist, but they do.
Five year-old boys could not enjoy
the challenge of grappling “mountain,” walls,
but this one does and he did it quite well, too.
But he knew his mama didn’t approve
of his whereabouts and the “look,”
brought him swiftly, running, tripping,
headlong falling into unforgiving rock.
My innards could’ve easily just flopped
right onto the ground at the sound,
my baby’s head meeting hard gray matter.
The resounding smack could’ve not imprinted
indelibly in my brain, but it certainly has.
My feet possibly never touched down
in covering the space to get to him,
(Still too long), my thoughts wouldn’t stop,
telling me repetitively what I already knew,
it was going to be bad; his sudden jolt,
pause of silence before the outburst.
Blood filled-in strands of bright-blonde hair,
pooling and spilling as I gathered him up,
searching my mind for the next steps.
In moments I could’ve easily lost track of
baby number two, sitting-eating woodchips.
My best friend, whose daughter happened
to be happily playing near-by, could easily
not be living a hop-skip-jump from there.
Anyone easily may’ve not noticed anything
as a woman ran wildly with flagging,
faded, dampened dish-cloth in hand,
with her neighbor who just happened to be an RN
both appearing next to me, breathing smoothly;
taking it all in and with looks of confidence,
melting the panic-stricken, fear inflicted feeling.
Swept up in the wave of compassion,
we could’ve not been gathered up so quickly,
sitting in a van, covering distance to the ER;
glue for wound and glove balloons
to divert his aching attention away .
I could’ve also never acknowledged
the rising-welling, the surprise
in the willingness of people who helped.
All of this was surely, purely an eye-opener,
a penetrating, unnerving reminder,
just how precious our very lives are.
This scar will be more than a pink dent
in the head of a sweet, smiling, beacon of a boy.

 © Hannah Gosselin and Metaphors and Smiles, 2012

MARIE ELENA:  You are one whose faith shines brilliantly!  What does it mean to you, and how does it affect who you are and how you write?

HANNAH:  Thank you, Marie, I don’t hear this all that often, and when I do it always surprises me. I suppose it means to me as a being that I place my faith in something much bigger than myself, and anything that my mind could conceive. It means that I will seek strength, peace and above all I will look to Love as the answer, the “cure-all,” in life situations.

As a writer this means that I try to heed the mighty compass and let my words be directed divinely, ultimately, though it doesn’t always go this way. But I step into the creative realm daily and, letting go, I trust that the words will be there. It is both comforting and invigorating to know that I needn’t always rely on myself, but can gain from the Source if I’m an open circuit.

MARIE ELENA:  My usual end question is this:  If we could know only one thing about you, what would you want it to be?

HANNAH:  If you could know only one thing about me I would want you to know that I’m just a shadow of who I’m meant to be. So to expound upon this a bit: I’m trying every day to become more like what was intended for me, before I got in my own way. I long to bring to the surface the essence of what was planted, preordained. I wish, with all my heart, to return to the state of unhindered and unchangeable Love.

Is that more than one thing!? Ha ha!

MARIE ELENA:  Thank you, Sweet Hannah.  As in everything in life, your joy comes across in this interview.

… and one last thing:  You are wicked cute! 😉

WEB WEDNESDAY – mike Maher.

mike Maher.

Our last Web Wednesday featured an impressively gifted and engaging, hitherto unpublished poet whose formal education ended with Grade Eight.  This week, the pendulum swings the other way. mike Maher, Editor of Sea Giraffe Magazine, has quite the notable bio.  Here is an excerpt:

[mike’s] poetry, fiction, and personal essays have appeared in several publications, including Contemporary American Voices, The Smoking Poet, Paper Darts, Hippocampus Magazine, The Subterranean Literary Journal, and The Copperfield Review, among others. He has a BA in English from East Stroudsburg University, where he served as the Vice President and Forum Editor of The Stroud Courier, won the Jim Barniak Award for journalism two times, and won the Martha E. Martin Award for poetry, before graduating cum laude.

QUITE impressive, eh?

In part for the sake of introduction, and in part because I find it enormously charming and entertaining, the poem I chose to share with you first is a self portrait.  So, here is mike Maher.

A PORTRAIT

Three parts self centeredness, a dash of not answering the phone.
You can add a little salt to almost anything.
If I were a cartoon I’d be an octopus bartender
or a duck playing the piano,
something awkwardly practical.
20% wearing pairs of socks until they disintegrate.
Five tablespoons of overdue haircuts.
A sprinkle of ego,
the self conscious kind.
Chocolate sprinkles if you have them.
.5% wolf howl.
One part floatation device.
Four and a half teaspoons of belief.
Bake on low for twenty five years.
Smother it in loneliness.

© mike Maher.

Marie Elena:  I remember this poem, so it must have been written for a Poetic Asides prompt, and impressed me enough to “stick.”  It certainly makes one curious to know more, doesn’t it?  And speaking of curious, are you curious as to why he uses a lowercase “m” for his first name, and a “.” following his last name?  Well, I had to ask! So, mike?  What say you?

mike:  I write my name as “mike Maher.” for a number of reasons. The first reason is the lowercase “m,” which I write to take the emphasis away from my first name, mike, since it is one of the most common names in the world. The “.” is placed at the end of my name because I want my name to be a statement, not just an abstract thought floating around. Putting a period at the end gives it closure, punch. Using the lowercase “m” and the “.” together also gives me a way to brand the name as my own.

Marie Elena:  That certainly explains it.  It fascinates me whenever someone thinks of something in a way that would never occur to me.  Very cool, mike.

I see you have at least two books of poetry in the works right now.  What can you tell us about them, and what steps you are taking toward publication?

mike:  I do have two books in the works. The first is Machine Wash Only Greyness, and it is my first full length book of poetry. Surprisingly enough, it is completely finished. It’s currently being considered by a small publisher in the UK who, after seeing some of my work in a magazine, requested to see a full length from me. Nothing is set in stone, but things are looking good on that front.

The other book is a chapbook, Sometimes in Distant Parts. A few of these poems overlap in MWOG, but this serves as a shortlist or quick peak of my work. I believe in having both full length and shorter versions of your work available, and I included some of my favorites in SIDP.

Marie Elena:  Excellent!  Please do keep us informed on their progress.

Now, tell me about Sea Giraffe.

mikeSea Giraffe is an online literary magazine I launched last year. I have had some help along the way, but it has mainly been the result of my desire to read and share enjoyable work by authors I have encountered. The idea just came to me one day last year, and SG took off almost immediately. The end of 2011/beginning of 2012 was a bit of a lull for SG, but that is 99% my fault. I got tied up by hurricanes, a new job, moving twice, and, well, life. Sea Giraffe will be hopping busy again soon, though. I’m excited about it.

Marie Elena:  Hurricanes?

mike:  The hurricane was the least of the issues, and it was mainly a major inconvenience because of its timing. Tens of thousands of people in the Poconos lost power for more than a week, and it was right when I was getting ready to move.

Marie Elena:  Wow.  No fun at all.  Yet, I’m glad to hear it was more of an inconvenience than something that harmed you. So, you live in Pennsylvania’s Poconos?  I’m envious!  Does the beauty around you affect you poetically?

mike:  False! Haha, I actually don’t live in the Poconos anymore. I live in Philadelphia now. Parts of the Poconos are very frustrating, but yes, there is definitely still beauty to be found up there. It’s easy to find inspiration up there. The images in this poem are all inspired by that area:

To be or not to be, what’s the big diff?

How strange it is to arrive somewhere
wearing the same body but feeling as if you had new armor
or were looking out from behind the eyes of an unrecognizable salamander,
our lives cursed and blessed with moments
of self awareness and self realization.

It took 25 years to learn to difference between be and will be,
between living and living.
For some it takes even longer
or never occurs at all.
Who wouldn’t want to be a hummingbird
humming and birding near the feeder on the back deck,
or any one of the 16 Eastern Goldfinches eyeing the ceramic monkey
unconcerned about their financial security
or how they would go about their sobriety today?
We’re all alone and not alone.
The storm was so small
you could see both ends of it in the backyard,
its roar bigger than its puppy nip,
but hey, someone has to bring the thunder.

You don’t need a clue
or don’t need to look for them
because you are not entrusted with the mystery.
The darkened clouds come and go
but they do not darken the world.

© mike Maher.

Marie Elena: Thank you for sharing this poem, mike.  It speaks of the beauty and simplicity of your surroundings there, but also addresses your own quandaries.  Nicely done.

mike, I’ll be honest with you: much of what you write is rather, what would be the word?  Perhaps abstract … a style I often can’t grasp. Yet, I’m attracted to yours, and find it absolutely draws me in.  Does it come easily to you?  Is it something you studied?

mike:  My style of writing is my own form of surrealism. I discovered it in college when a professor of mine introduced me to the works of Dean Young, Tony Hoagland, and others, and I continue to find myself and my own style of poetry. I immediately identified with surrealism, and I keep falling deeper and deeper in love with it. The style is a kind of mix of deeply rooted metaphors, stream of consciousness, and concrete images to connect the two. While some of it comes off as abstract, you can often put the puzzle together after multiple reads, especially as you learn more about the author. The style seemed difficult, almost alien, to me at first, but I have really embraced it and think I am starting to find my own niche. I write some poems – especially the prompt pieces for Poetic Bloomings and Poetic Asides – in one sitting, while others take days, weeks, months, and several reads and rewrites.

The best part of some forms of surrealism is how you can read a poem one day and not entirely grasp everything it is saying, but you can read it a few months later and find that everything makes perfect sense and seems to do so clearly. Sometimes you have learned more about the author or found clues in other things he/she has written, but other times you just happen to be in a different state of mind while reading the poem, maybe one similar to the one the author was in while writing it. That, I think, is my favorite part of surrealism.

Marie Elena: “Surrealism.”  Yes, that’s it.  “The best part of some forms of surrealism is how you can read a poem one day and not entirely grasp everything it is saying, but you can read it a few months later and find that everything makes perfect sense and seems to do so clearly.”  Again, yes!  Thank you for this “light bulb” explanation, mike!

Having never formally studied poetry in a university setting, I’m curious as to how your studies changed and challenged your own writing.

mike: Going to college and studying poetry – and really all forms of literature – completely changed how I write. One poetry class in particular completely changed how I felt (and how I feel) about poetry. That class changed the definition of poetry for me, and it was the class where I really began the process of playing with new forms of poetry. One of the first poems my professor showed us was “True/False” from Dean Young’s elegy on toy piano. At first glance, it seems like a list of 100 nonsensical statements. But, after reading it several times and talking about it in class, I discovered a lot about the poem and the art of poetry.

Marie Elena: There are classes offered at the University of Toledo (where I work).  You’ve given me the itch to take a class or two.

Now:  “Shakespeare: 154 mike Maher.: 0”  ‘splain, please?  😉

mike:  It refers to the number of sonnets Shakespeare wrote (154) to the number I have written (0). I think sonnets, though I enjoy them for what they are, don’t really mesh well with the style of poetry I write. I often write in short spurts of stream of consciousness and gather instant inspiration, after quick brainstorming sessions. The end result is often, at least in my opinion, a somewhat choppy, high energy ride. I like to say my poems give the reader a feeling of falling down the stairs. As you might imagine, this style doesn’t necessarily mesh well with the careful rhyming schemes of sonnets. This is the poem I wrote soon after realizing the 154-0 score between Shakespeare and myself:

Little Sounds Americana

Shakespeare has me beat 154 to 0
and neither number is likely to change.
I’ve forgotten so much, even the parts I don’t remember.
I know when the squirrel is dangling
from the bird feeder because the chain clinks,
when it leaves because of the thud it makes jumping down to the deck,
but who am I to decide the feeder is for birds only,
no squirrels allowed?
Some neighborhoods make you
put up Christmas decorations.
Singers are given some artistic freedom
when reciting the national anthem
but it better end the same way
and be less than two minutes flat,
otherwise you get the hose.
It all seems so distinctive when it’s taken apart
the carbon footprints of city squirrels,
the 1,100 solar company employees laid off in one day,
the graffiti disguised as artwork on the steel indie film door
or is it art disguised as graffiti?
The forecast calls for rain
but rain doesn’t answer,
doesn’t even get out of bed that morning,
not wanting to be called or told what to do and when to do it.
It’s about time we started inventing new shapes,
almost isosceles trapezoid-rhombusgrams,
the mike Maher.-agon which has no ends
and is always on fire,
nothing equilateral.

© mike Maher.

Marie Elena: If I’ve ever seen that poem, I don’t recall it.  But it is typical of your style, which is vastly different from how my brain works, yet completely draws me in and enthralls me.

mike, you have referred to 2011 as a year of “deep valleys and high peaks.”  What can you tell us about that?

mike:  When it’s all over, 2011 may very well be the year I (or maybe others) look back on and identify as the turning point in my life. I hit a rock bottom that I didn’t know existed, but, much to my surprise and amazement, the people in my life picked me up and didn’t allow me to stay so low. While I dealt with some incredible adversity – the least of which not being an accident which would normally be reserved for a Die Hard movie – I also found out a ton about myself and the people in my life. There is the cliché about having to go where you went to get to where you are now, and 2011 is that place for me. It was an important year for me, but I was happy to say goodbye to it this past January.

Marie Elena:  You mention what sounds like it must have been a horrific accident, and hitting a rock bottom you didn’t even know exists.  I don’t want you to share details you’d rather not, but you sure do leave me wanting to know more.

mike: The accident was one that, if I hadn’t been there to witness it, I wouldn’t believe it happened. While driving home one night in January with a friend, I slid through an intersection while trying to stop at a stop sign, continued to slide up the driveway to a house across the street, and bumped into the garage. At first, there wasn’t a lot of damage (no damage to my car and only a dent in the garage panel). We got out of the car and spoke to a few people whose car had just slid into the curb while driving on the same icy street. As I turned to walk back to my car and knock on the person’s door, the house exploded. Literally. Luckily (and amazingly), no one was hurt, but it is not an experience I would wish on anyone.

That incident was certainly part of the rock bottom I experienced, but it wasn’t all of it. I struggled with depression, went through stretches when I would drink pretty much every day, and just became a person that I didn’t recognize anymore. I was at a personal, emotional, and spiritual low, and that accident was the grand finale of all of that.

Marie Elena: I’m so glad all of this became a sort of catalyst to channel you in a healthier direction.  It is also wonderful that you found you could count on the people in your life.  Along those lines, you write of loneliness rather often.  Do you consider yourself a lonely person?

mike:  You know, I don’t think I am really a lonely person, but I think sometimes I think I’m a lonely person (I promise if you read that sentence back it almost makes sense). However, I do go through periods where I experience deep feelings of loneliness. My mind tricks itself into thinking I am lonely, when in actuality I have some pretty incredible people in my life.

I also think loneliness is something which has been coming up in the works I have been reading lately, so that, combined with the natural seclusion process which usually occurs while writing, is leading to the appearance of loneliness in my recent work.

Marie Elena: Speaking of those in your life, tell me about Young Money.  Feel free to provide a picture or two, hint-hint!

mike: Young Money is my little firecracker of a puggle. He’s two years old and recently made the move with me to Philadelphia. His hobbies include sleeping under blankets, going to the park, sunning, and eating peanut butter. I couldn’t have asked for a better personality in a dog, and he’s very photogenic. The name is something that always raises people’s eyebrows. I call him ‘Money’ for short, and the name pretty much just came from me wanting to come up with something different. I wrote down about fifty names and slowly began crossing names off, before it came down to Young Money or The Great Gazoo. Young Money obviously made the final cut.

YOUNG MONEY. AWWWWW!!!

AT THE VET? 😦

SOMEbody's sleeping

Marie Elena: I am most definitely a dog person, and can relate to your love for Young Money.  Give him a pat on the head for me, will ya?  Tell him I’d much rather do it myself, but …

Now, you know what is coming … if we could know only one thing about you, what would you want it to be?

mike:  That I am not a typo, of course. Just kidding, but I stared at this question for a while without coming up with an answer I immediately felt comfortable with. Then, I came up with this: One of my favorite things about writing poetry is having people read your poetry and form their own opinions about it. With that said, here is a poem I wrote somewhat about myself using a fictional third person narrator:

mike Maher. is Not a Typo.

The modifier is dangling
from the last whisker of Keats
before his name was writ in water,
but what does mike Maher. need a modifier for, anyway?
mike Maher. is a modifier!
Hold him at an angle to authenticate the watermark.
Hold him to the light.
No, he is not a typo
but the unstoppable paroompahbah melody in his chest
is always out of tune with the irremovable crow squawks coming from his head
and so he is prone to dizziness, headaches.
See Joe Hallenbeck.
See Billy Bob Thornton in that movie where he’s bad at giving presents.
Refresh the page, please.
Just across the street, the latest matrix
for determining the human idea of happiness
has been sprayed on the side of the library.
Thanks, mike,
but we were all fine until you came long
and started talking about the parts of life
which are metaphors for other parts of life,
how every elevator represents trusting other humans,
every horse the crackpot half of Zeus,
the definition of things which are not.
No, mike,
the unstoppable force is within your own Pandoran ribs
and you had best keep it there!

© mike Maher.

Marie Elena: “mike Maher. is a modifier!”  Indeed!  Thanks again for letting me pry into the life and times, mike!  It has been great getting to know the man behind the words.  And in case we have never said it before, thanks also for gracing our site with your presence.  You bring a young, fresh, and (forgive me, but) hip voice that keeps me on my toes, and makes me smile.

WEB WEDNESDAY – JANET MARTIN

JANET MARTIN

Web Wednesdays are my favorite days of the month, because we can highlight the wonderful poets who grace our “garden.”  This week we feature a poet who writes mostly of love, faith, home, and all-things-lovely:  Janet Martin.  We discovered her talent not long ago at Robert Lee Brewer’s Poetic Asides. I connected with her on a personal level right away.

Welcome, Janet!  Let’s begin with a poem you feel best represents your writing style, and the essence of who you are.

JANET:  First off, Marie, I want to thank-you for the interest you show to me and all the poets here, and for your kind and encouraging words.

 When I told my daughter as she stood looking over my shoulder, that I am trying to find a poem that represents ‘me,’ she threw her head back and laughed! She understood that there are almost two-thousand pieces of me on my blog alone. My favorite topics to write about are faith, family and nature. Oh, I do so love to ‘paint’ the world in words, since putting a brush in my hand leads to … nothing intelligible. I also insist that not all my poems are autobiographical, but, in the words of Walt Whitman, “There is no trick or cunning, no art or recipe, by which you can have in your writing what you do not possess in yourself.”  I therefore concede that each poem does possess a tiny thread of me.

MARIE ELENA: “The Call of Life” is a lovely poem Janet finally chose to share as an example of her style and thought process.  It is followed by one of my own favorites, “My Apology to My Writer’s Group.”

The Call of Life

Solitary triumph
Monumental grief
Oceans of vain doubting
Swallowed in Belief
Deep unspoken sorrow
Disquieting fears
Hope for each tomorrow
As today disappears
Tear within the eye now
Aching in the chest
Letting our dreams die now
Because God knows best
Brave blue-collar heroes
Unnamed and unsung
Longing, as it sears through
Thirsting on our tongue
Rising and the falling
Ebbing and the flow
We answer the calling
Of living’s joy and woe
Life’s November weeping
Into the thin dark
Love and sorrow sleeping
In the self-same spark
Whispers of desire
Feathering the sod
Lifting our hope higher
And homeward to God

© Janet Martin

MY APOLOGY TO MY WRITER’S GROUP

I have discovered for the ump-teenth time
There is really no home for the poet of rhyme
And while I admit I have much to learn
There is a barred pasture for which I yearn
Where Tennyson, Long-fellow and Blake recline
Among all the great masters of rhythm and rhyme
My admiration runs deep for the artist of prose
The skill of their quill; the metaphorical rose
I strive to be brave enough to venture among
The haiku, cinquain, nonet, tanka song
But when I have wandered their courtyards sublime
I return once again to the pastures of rhyme
Beauty is in the eye of beholder, its true
I have understood as I beheld the senyru
And marveled at the tools of simplicity
Creating pure, breath-taking imagery
I bow my head, the truth now I know it
Dare I to call myself a poet?
Yet happily I gather words in my thought
Dither about for the elusive jot
I care not so much about status or title
The lure of words cannot keep my thought idle
Am I a poet or merely a shadow
Drifting in bliss through a wide open meadow?
So while some may gag at rhyme’s stringent plot
I have not learned how to un-rhyme my thought
Over and over I am lured by its dance
Yet drawn simultaneously by free-verse romance
So quietly I sit at the back of the room
Happy to observe poet’s in full bloom

© Janet Martin

MARIE ELENA:  Oh boy, can I relate to “Apology!”  It reminds me of something you have said of yourself: “I really am just someone who likes to play with words.” I wonder if you have any clue how often my response to your poetry is, “I wish I’d written that.”  I relate to your feelings, beliefs, words, style, faith … the whole package.

It is probably safe to say that you believe the folks who post responses to Walt’s Poetic Bloomings prompts are “poets.”  Do you consider yourself a poet?

JANET: I’m smiling as I consider this question because, as stated in the poem above I often wonder, ‘am I a poet?’ Or simply someone who likes to rhyme?  When my kids call me a poet, I reply that if I am a poet it would be of the homespun variety. I am so blown away by the beauty that graces the garden here, and am honored to plant a few humble blooms here and there. On my blog Another Porch, I have a number of poems of which I contemplate who or what makes a poet. In technical terms I am not a poet. Until last August when someone questioned the reason for a certain meter in a poem, I have to confess I did not even know what he was referring to.  🙂   I simply counted syllables.

After a visit to my trusty pal, Mr. Google, I was introduced to iambic, pentameter, and many other meter siblings. All kidding aside, this kind reader took a great interest in my writing, and by his repetitive encouragement to stretch and try some new forms and topics, I took a trembling step into the world of prompts. I cannot thank him (Mike Patrick from The Poet’s Quill) enough for introducing to me a whole new classroom of friends and challenges. This is also the step which brought to me the grand realization that perhaps I am not a poet … yet. Marie, every new form introduced here is a first for me. It really was/is terrifying for me to blog, and ten times more to venture beyond the shelter of it into other poetry communities. Poetic Asides was the first poetry pool I dipped my toes into, and oh, I am so thankful I took the plunge! Marie, we may never have met if I had not! Thank you again to Mike P. who, although very busy with sudden changes in his own life, stopped by to encourage me to try it! So, trying to still the heart-pounding ‘What if there is no one who really ‘gets my passion’? – this ‘thing’ that has burned in me for as long as I can remember and suddenly wants to fly? I posted … and met you 🙂  and other kindred spirits. Paper is a patient ear in a world where no one really has time to listen anymore. My blogs/graffiti walls are there as a way to share to any who care to read.  This quote has become a personal favorite:

“And the day came when the risk it took to remain tight inside the bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.” ~ Anais Nin

MARIE ELENA:  “Paper is a patient ear in a world where no one really has time to listen anymore.”  What a wonderful, quotable quote! I may have to keep that in mind for the next time we do a “Hey!  That’s My Line!” prompt.

Well, Janet, I’m convinced we owe Mike Patrick a handshake and our thanks for drawing you out of the shadows.

When did you first feel the pull of writing poetry? How long have you been writing on a regular basis?

JANET: I felt the pull when I was eight. I was enthralled with rhyme since the day I discovered it, and hunted for rhyming books as a small child. My mother loves poetry and books. Her old readers contain some of the very early favorite poems of mine. The Brook by Tennyson, The Wreck of the Hesperus by Longfellow, The Swing by Robert Louis Stevenson … I could go on and on. In January, on my Another Porch blog I posted the first poem I recall writing and keeping. The post is entitled In the Beginning and it includes a picture of the Precious Scribbler, purchased at our local general store for twenty-nine cents. This scribbler would hold the pieces of a young girl’s heart for approximately three years and then for the next thirty-something years I filled binders and journals with poetry.  I suppose I began writing on a regular basis from the age of eight. I was the third in a family of ten children. Somehow, in my mind, knowing I was ‘the child who wrote poetry’ gave me a personal identity.

Also, I fell in love with the poetry of Edgar A. Guest. He will forever be the poet that greatly stirred and influenced my writing style. I am in the process of collecting every volume of his poetry. His blend of family, faith, humor and home, love of God, country and fellow-man gained my deepest respect.

MARIE ELENA:  In conversation, you mentioned that you “had no formal education beyond Grade Eight.”  You write with such beauty, skill, and elegance, one would never guess.  Do you mind if I ask how this came about?

JANET: No, I do not have any formal education beyond Grade Eight. The Mennonite culture I grew up in did not pursue, rather, they discouraged ‘higher education.’ A child’s school years began in Kindergarten and ended in Grade Eight. The school I attended was a small parochial school in our community, and it is still being used today. They now include Grades Nine and Ten, but there are many students whose families choose to end their education at the end of Grade eight. When I was a girl, the school had two rooms: Grades One to Four in the ‘Junior’ room, and grades Five to Eight in the ‘Senior’ room. We employed two teachers, one for each room. They taught all subjects to all four grades. One of those teachers also held the title of principal. This sounds like a lot, but the grades were small, ranging from four to perhaps seven or eight students in one grade.

After Grade Eight, students helped on family or neighboring farms, as did I. Boys were trained in farming or another trade, and girls were trained in house-keeping and gardening and so forth. It never even crossed my mind at that point that I may wish for more education someday … At seventeen years of age I began working in an in-store bakery. I was employed there for eight years, until Emily, our eldest daughter was born. I have been a stay-at-home mom for almost twenty years.

MARIE ELENA:  Have you ever regretted your decision, or thought about furthering your education?

JANET:  Since the decision had not been mine to make, but was simply a way of life back then, I cannot say I regret the decision. Having said that, yes, I have thought about furthering my education, but that is all it is: a thought. The idea is extremely daunting as I look at my 11-year-old daughter’s workbooks and realize how much has changed since I went to school. I really would not know where to begin! I am on the brink of a stage where I wonder what life holds. Education would definitely be a bonus when considering options of employment outside of the home.

Also, I am extremely thankful for the computer and high-speed internet! We got our computer five years ago and high-speed internet approximately a year ago. ‘Windows’ has certainly broadened my horizons! 🙂  I realize there are many correspondent courses available and I might look into something like that for a start. Sometimes I fear I may have forgotten the art of learning and retaining what I learn.

For now, I am doing child-care out of my home. It allows me to be at home, and is a small supplement to the family budget.

MARIE ELENA:  There is much to be said about being a student of life, and a stay-at-home mom.  It seems you make the most of both.

Here is another poem I can particularly relate to, and wish I had written:

YOU ARE NOT ALONE

When midnight is lonesome and heavy and deep
When need in your bosom is stronger than sleep
When longing is clenching the hope from your soul
And life is a journey without a clear goal
You are not alone

When empty arms yearn for someone to embrace
When love’s loss has stolen the thrill from life’s race
When cold lonely hours bleed away, undefined
And night’s endless hollow expands in your mind
You are not alone

When tears of desire and helpless despair
Weep in every heart-beat and breathe on the air
When only the darkness responds to your plea
And nothing but silence keeps you company
You are not alone

Someone is waiting to be a true Friend
Arms full of mercy and grace without end
God so loved the world that He sent His dear Son
He is a true, faithful Friend to each one
You are not alone

What can we do His fellowship to receive?
All we can do is simply believe
His grace sufficient is love’s offering
Tender, omniscient are the words of a King
“You are not alone”

© Janet Martin

MARIE ELENA:  You are one whose faith shines brilliantly, as in this poem.  Please tell us about this important part of who you are, and how it shapes your life and this poem.

JANET: Marie, may I begin my answer with a few questions? Do you ever feel lonely in spite of loving arms around you? Do you ever feel alone in a crowd? Do you ever long for something, but you are not sure what? I do. This partially inspired the above poem.

Also, I noticed on my blog that the words lonely, longing, and alone are searched approximately ten times for every other word searched. To me, it is a sad reflection of the world we live in … and I understand it. But I am so thankful that I am not alone. This assurance was taught to me as a child, and shaped my faith even then. When I was a girl approximately six years old, I went through a phase where I was certain our house was burning. The fear was sparked (pun intended) after a chimney-fire in our home and as my WILD imagination took shape, I was certain that I smelled smoke in every room. I think I drove my mother nearly mad. I don’t clearly remember how long it lasted, but my mother reminded me over and over that God is watching over us, and nothing happens in life outside of his care. Slowly my own faith began taking shape and, though I battled the ‘fire-demons’ for years, I learned through it to pray, and to place my trust in God. I came to Christ with a child’s faith. I remember kneeling and asking him into my heart. It influenced that first poem I wrote as well as many to follow. (I believe that Jesus is the Son of God, that he died for our sins and that all who believe in him will have everlasting life. John 3:16, the first verse I memorized as a child.)

Eighteen years ago, we left the Mennonite culture. It is the hardest thing I have ever done in my life, and hard to explain to someone not raised in that type of setting where faith and tradition are completely intertwined. For approximately ten years I wrote very little poetry. Besides being in busy ‘mothering’ years, this change caused me to examine everything I believed in! Every relationship close to me was tested through this time. Again, it is difficult to explain it, the letting go of tradition and leaning solely on grace and in the process hurting intensely, those who have loved me the most (aka parents and siblings).  By God’s grace daily go I, scars included. Family scars are surely the deepest and most painful. The above poem was written one night as I battled regret and longing and clung to our Living Hope. When earthly arms are not enough, when longing has no name, God’s love never fails … and tears well in my eyes even now as I realize the awesomeness of this. I cannot explain it but to say, “To one who has faith no explanation is necessary, to one without faith no explanation is possible.” ~ St. Thomas Aquinas

MARIE ELENA:  Thank you for sharing so freely, Janet.  I’m thankful also for the sensitivity you exhibit, knowing that not everyone who graces our site is of the same Christian faith as you and I. Part of the joy of Poetic Bloomings is the freedom to express who we are in a manner that does not offend those who feel differently.

You describe yourself as “a lover of simple things, and the music of life.”   These are a few of my favorite things:  Go!  Describe these for me.

JANET: This is my favorite question by far! Every single one of my kids would testify that I am a sky-lover! I am completely mesmerized by the sun going down, or rising with colors of crazy grace dissolving the darkness. I’m in love with the wind moaning wildly outside my window. I am a lover of nature, the sun-etched leaf trembling in the late-day hush, or the snow spreading the color of grace over a muddy world. I am in love with the music in the eager rush of children’s feet, the bedtime tuck-in routine, of a boy-becoming-man awkwardness, the ‘wisdom’ of teenagers. I love the music of seasons, the wonder of a moment. I have never traveled outside of my honeymoon, but I have learned to enjoy a thousand gifts every day and marvel at life’s simple things.

Here is a little prayer I penned one morning when I needed to look a little harder…

Lord, give me eyes to see your simple gifts within each day
Open up my heart and help me see You in this way

A thousand, thousand whispers from You brush earth’s weary sod
Open up my ears so I may hear You thus, oh God

I have no need for riches that will tarnish, fade and rust
But help me Lord to gather treasures of the heart, not dust

Lord, open up my eyes to see the wonder of Your love
Flowing in moments within reach from portals up above

Contentment is life’s greatest gain, when joined with godliness
Lord, teach me daily how to live within its quietness

© Janet Martin

MARIE ELENA:  Your faith-based poetry truly speaks to my heart!  Here is a poem that is NOT faith-based that I absolutely adore. This is yet another of yours that I just want to scream: WISH I’D WRITTEN THAT!

THE OTHER GUY

Today I was the other guy
I watched myself as I walked by,
Today I got a chance to see
What others saw as I watched me,
Today truth opened up my eyes
As I stood with the other guys
I received the words today,
That thoughtlessly I toss away,
As I stood with the other guys
And truth stared back into my eyes
Beneath the candor of my touch
I wasn’t sure I liked me much
I got my own advice today,
I could not turn and walk away,
As I stood with the other guys
And watched me through a stranger’s eyes
I blush a little now in shame
As I hear me speak my name
I used to wish that I could see
Perhaps, what others thought of me,
But now as I am standing here
I wish that I could disappear
Today I opened up my eyes
As I stood with the other guys

© Janet Martin

MARIE ELENA:  First of all, if you haven’t tried to get this published, you really do need to find a home for it.  Perhaps a children’s/teen magazine.  Next, as with your “Apology” poem, does this speak to a personal experience?

JANET: Thank you Marie. It is nice to hear from others what might be ‘publish-worthy.’ I find it very difficult know what to submit anywhere for publication.

Yes, this poem was a painfully honest look in the mirror after being told ‘I wish you could hear yourself sometimes!’ This statement was like a gut-punch, but after tempers cooled I could not forget it. I began ‘hearing’ myself, and tried visualizing what it would be like to live beside me instead of inside me.  🙂  It is a startling reality-check and very humbling and sobering. This thought helps me to keep in check (sometimes) those words I would not like to have spoken to me.

MARIE ELENA:  Thank you for the honesty and refreshing transparency.  We need more of that in our society, in my opinion.

You and your husband of nearly 24 years have four children.  You are a stay-at-home mom in a society of “working” women.  (As though what you do is not work!  Hmmmph!)  How did you and your husband come to this decision?  Please tell us the pros and cons, and how you feel about it. And by the way, my own mother was a stay-at-home mom, and I appreciated it even when I was in high school.

JANET:  My husband and I will celebrate our twenty-fourth anniversary on June the 3rd, Lord willing. We have four children.  Emily is nineteen, Melissa is seventeen, Matthew is almost fourteen and Victoria just turned eleven on March the 9th.

MARTIN FAMILY

I love being a stay-at-home mom! Yes, we live in a society where this is no longer the norm due to ever-increasing living costs. My husband is a transport-truck driver. He is generally gone from Monday to Friday or Saturday, therefore I have never considered working out of the home. With his job taking him away much of the time, we feel I need to be here in the home to give our children the security and stability of knowing there is someone at home. This has been rewarded with the most wonderful music of all … it is a one-syllable word that greets me every afternoon if I happen not to be in the kitchen when they come in after school … “mom?”

I’ll admit it takes creativity on the budget end of things, but it can be done. In the summer we have a huge garden and, because I grew up doing a lot of canning, it is something I still do.

SUMMER FUN

GARDEN BOUNTY

My kids are wonderful and helpful. They make my life much easier because they are understanding and I think they actually like me  🙂 ! Jim (my husband) keeps saying he will drive truck until he figures out what he really wants to do in life. He is in the twenty-sixth year of trying to figure it out. This is another reason I am so thankful to have poetry as an outlet. It is someone to talk to when no one is here.

MARIE ELENA:  Yes, I think one thing we all have in common is the desire to crawl out through the internet wires!

Now, as I ask of all our featured guests, if there was only one thing we could know about you, what would you want it to be?

JANET:  Marie, I can answer this question the best by sharing a poem where I adapted the style of Edgar A. Guest to share the heart of who I am.

 My D’ruthers

I’druther you were painfully honest with me
And my feelings would sting for a while
Than to walk with you down a tree-lined street
As you lie to me through your smile
I’druther be a little homely
Than a cheap and painted fraud
Who wears a mask to fool people
Forgetting I can never fool God
I’druther be poor and happy
Learning to be content
Than rich with a pocket of fool’s gold
That brings no joy when it’s spent
I’druther have one friend who is honest
Than a hundred which seem to lack
The ability to be faithful
As they stab me in the back
I’druther have a house full of laughter
With furniture battered and scarred
Than live in a palace that’s silent
With every façade unmarred
I’druther have my arms full of children
Than trophies and accolades
And I like a ten-minute vacation
Beneath the willow’s shade
I’druther drive my sensible mini-van
With a happy family
Than be alone with a perfect tan
In a red Lamborghini
I’druther have a little trouble
Here on my acre of sod
Than live in a perfect bubble
Where I would never need God

© Janet Martin

Marie, this is the hardest question for me to answer, but all I can think of to say is that I love to love others for who they are and be loved for who I am … not who others think I ought to be. It is too hard to try and be someone other than yourself. I love to live fully in the moment I am in, for it is the only thing of any worth at all.  And I LOVE each of my cyber-poet friends dearly. Thank you so much, each and every one of you, for what you are teaching me.

MARIE ELENA:  Again, thank you for sharing yourself so honestly with us.

One last thing:  “… knowing I was ‘the child who wrote poetry’ gave me a personal identity” made me smile.  I suppose in a family of ten children, one needs to find their niche.  This statement says much about you, and I believe therein lies your answer to, “am I a poet?”

*****************************

JANET’S BLOGS:

http://itsjrm.blogspot.com/  are where I post Journal-type entries.

http://anotherporch.blogspot.com/ is my main blog

http://frontporchpoetry-janet.blogspot.com/ is inspirational poetry. This was my first blog, and with the encouragement of a few readers they persuaded me to stretch to other topics, so I moved to another porch.

WEB WEDNESDAY – S.E. INGRAHAM

S.E. INGRAHAM

S.E. Ingraham (Sharon) is yet another of the very fine poets Walt and I met during Robert Lee Brewer’s Poetic Asides 2009 April Poem-a-Day Challenge.  Months after the challenge ended, I wrote a poem about how I felt when I entered that site on April 1, and the days that followed.  I entitled it “This Grand Ballroom,” and wrote of how out-of-place I felt among the excellent poets there.  I was truly baffled and awed when any of them noticed my work.  Without naming names, I mentioned several in my poem. Here is an excerpt:

A young woman compliments

My faux pearls,

Herself, adorned with genuine pearls

Of the highest quality

That she has been gleaning and stringing herself

For many years.

Sharon is this woman.   Thank you, Sharon, for your encouragement to me back then.  You were instrumental in igniting my love for poetry.  Walt and I are grateful for your consistent presence here with us, and for giving of yourself so generously  in this interview.  Thank you!

Now, let’s begin with a poem of yours that really strikes me.

WHEN TREES WEEP

Out the south window she notes the weeping birch dying

Feels like sobbing herself but recognizes not for the tree

Everything will make her cry today she acknowledges with fresh grief

She wonders about the protocol for mothers of dead children

Then finds herself remembering her son’s face last seen

Alive, when he was in such pain, she barely knew him

She had to let him go, told him gently, “Hush…’’

“It’s alright sweetness,” she’d held his feverish hand in hers

Told him it would be okay, knowing death’s finality necessary

So now today, she gazes at trees weeping and dies

Inside a little more as she contemplates burying her son

A thought so alien as to be beyond her ken

She stares at the strange old woman in her mirror

Flicks invisible lint off her best black suit, wonders vaguely

If the hat’s too much, all big brim, widow’s netting

She smiles, knowing her fashion savvy boy would definitely approve

The bigger the hat the better, she remembers him saying

And remembering she finds herself wailing wildly in the moment

S.E.Ingraham©

(Originally published in online ‘zine Melisma)

MARIE ELENA:  “When Trees Weep” is so striking and emotive, I believe it surely must have welled up from your own experience.   But I have said that to you more than once at Poetic Asides, and have stood corrected.  Will you share with us how you so often seem to be able to tap both emotion and element so pointedly and poignantly in your work?  (I hope this is not a true incident in your life, Sharon.)

SHARON:  First of all, let me thank you for this opportunity … I consider it an honour to write for the site itself and even more of one to be interviewed by you!

The poem you picked is one of my personal favourites, so thank you.  Happily, it’s not a true incident in my life. I don’t know why I’m able to tap into that dark place so often but I seem to need to go there, and I do.

MARIE ELENA:  How impressively you’ve created story, setting, and emotion in such a short piece.  This is part of what I love about your poetry, Sharon.

My ever-in-tune Partner reminded me that you had commented on Dyson McIllwain’s trek to Canada, and your own “Northern Exposure” of the Aurora Borealis. How does your location influence your work?  What does location say to you?

SHARON: I think location influences writing enormously. There are entire university courses here devoted to just that thing since the Canadian landscape figures so prominently in all genres by Canadian authors. I know in some of my bios I write something like “…Ingraham likes to think it’s the latitude at which she writes and not her state-of-mind that informs most of her work but she rather doubts it …” Living in a country that has four seasons undoubtedly has an impact on my writing but I notice where-ever I happen to be influences my words.

MARIE ELENA:  I see that you are now focusing more on your writing, and specifically on becoming a well-published author/poet.                                 

 SHARONLast March I won a spot at the Colrain Poetry Manuscript Publishing Conference in Massachusetts,  and the feedback I got about the manuscript I took there was so encouraging I was certain I would have it revised and sent out at least once by now. Instead I’ve barely glanced at it.

I know what I need to do (at least I think I do) to become published, and I keep saying that’s what I want but I still seem to be in a bit of a stalled place.  I have at least two chapbooks partially assembled, both of which could be self-published or submitted for publication already, but they’ re both on hold also …  And then there are the contests.

During “blue pencil cafes” I’ve received encouragement and advice from established poets I respect, and I know that winning or placing in contests is one encouraged and acceptable route to publication, but it demands a rigorous system of submitting and resubmitting and for some reason, I am stalled there as well.

MARIE ELENA: Do you ever have to deal with “writer’s block?”  If so, what measures do you take to come out of it?

SHARON: For the first time in years I’ve been stalled, or blocked, for months. I wish I could say why, but I really don’t know.

The first thing that helped me, I’m thrilled to tell you, was this site. I was not a regular contributor, could not remember the last time I’d written to one of your prompts but something sent me here in late November and I wrote one of my “I Dreamed the Lake” poems. (I have a collection of these that I hope will make up a chapbook or a section of a book someday.) It felt great. Then Walt awarded me a bloom that week and I was over the moon. Truly.  (Pan to Marie Elena and Walt, beaming! 😉 )

From then on, I’ve tried to write to your prompts at least weekly and added in other sites as I was able, priming the pump so to speak. The block is by no means gone, but it’s going. I still haven’t sent anything out but I’m closer. A lot closer.

Something I’ve found incredibly helpful always. but especially when the muse has left the building, is good books about writing poetry. Robert Brewer has recommended some and I’ve discovered some on my own. For Christmas my husband bought me Sage Cohen’s Writing the Life Poetic (one of Robert’s recommendations) and it is certainly living up to its advanced billing. I also love The Poet’s Companion by Kim Addonizio and Dorianne Laux, and Natalie Goldberg’s Writing Down the Bones has never let me down either.

MARIE ELENA:  2010.  The trip of a lifetime.  Tell us about it.

SHARON: Ah the trip of a lifetime for our 40th wedding anniversary, the summer of 2010. Whenever I imagined this trip – and I confess, I never really thought we’d pull it off – it was always either a whirlwind thing: 12 cities in 14 days or some such, or two weeks at the most, in one place we both agreed was the place.

Instead we managed over a month – a week in Paris, just over a week in Provence, and about two weeks in Tuscany. It was a “pinch me – are we really here?” experience the whole time. We rented apartments everywhere we went and they were all exceptional, and exceptionally reasonably priced.  The renovated castle in Certaldo, Alto was the best deal of all and probably the most unbelievable – sleeping every night down the street from where Boccaccio wrote the DeCameron? Surreal. (The castle is actually the “tree-house” on my blog The Poet Treehouse,  for those interested.)

I should probably add that in a “feast or famine” type of situation – we went from not having traveled overseas ever to making it almost a regular thing. Last summer my husband was picked to be the surveyor on an ongoing archaeological project in southern Italy for six weeks in July and August. If you can imagine – because it’s an non-profit educational project that has profs and students and experts (Terry is one of the latter) – the deal is this: all expenses paid: airfare, transportation to and from Rome to Rionero, student-type housing, all meals (on-site chef actually) – and when they found out Terry would do it – they thought he’d balk at no pay, I’m sure – they made the deal for both of us! As long as the Italian government approves the project on a yearly basis, we’ll be invited back so as of now, we’re headed back July 2! We have every weekend to ourselves so have now also seen the Amalfi coast, Paestum, Sorrento and Rome … like I say – an embarrassment of riches …

Terry and Sharon, Rionero, Italy 2011

MARIE ELENA:  Wow!  That sounds dreamy, Sharon!  And what a great photo this is!

Back to the home front:  When Walt interviewed me, he afforded me the opportunity to brag about my little granddaughter, Sophie.  Get out your brag book:  here’s your opportunity to tell us what it’s like to be a grandmother.

SHARON:  The only downside to the lengthy time spent in Europe was missing our family, in particular our new grandson, Jack.

I know I’ve written about feeling this bond with Jack which is probably in my mind only but ever since he was born I’ve felt this closeness with him that I’ve never felt with anyone. When I found out we were both born under the same sign in the Chinese Horoscope – not just under the Ox but the Ox Inside the Gate (only those born in the years 1949 and 2009 share this distinction) – it felt like more pieces of some cosmic puzzle clicked into place for me, even though I’m not even sure I believe in such things. I know I’m biased but he is a delightful little boy.

In any case, Jack and his baby brother James (born in 2011) are two of the very best things in life. As are their parents.

JACK

JAMES

Both of our daughters bring us much joy and we couldn’t be happier with the men with whom they’ve chosen to spend their lives – I may have mentioned, they both married in the same year? 2008. Katy and Scott had a fairy-tale wedding here in Edmonton in August, and Julie and Jason (the boys’ parents) had an all-inclusive wedding in the Dominican that November. They all live here in Edmonton.

MARIE ELENA:  Such beautiful little boys!  And that “bond” you describe makes perfect sense to me.  Thank you for pulling out your brag book.

You have studied Psychology, English, Creative Writing, and Fashion.  Your career experience ranges from school bus driver to administrative assistant to fashion model to director of a modeling agency.  Two questions:  Of all these experiences, what did you enjoy most, and why?  How has your psychology background helped you in your various careers?

SHARON:  I studied psychology years ago when we still lived in the east (Brockville, Ontario) and I was considering becoming a psychiatric nurse. Ironically, I helped a psychiatrist run trials in a nine hundred bed psychiatric facility there – a really Gothic structure reminiscent of Britain’s Bedlam in some ways. The irony is, while I was discovering I really didn’t like being around physically ill people very much at all – weak stomach and all that and of course, there were some of those patients as well – and rapidly kissing my nursing aspirations goodbye – I had no idea that way down the road, I would be spending extensive amounts of time on the other side of the locked doors.

As for how psychology may have helped me over the years – I think subjects like this help to develop critical thinking skills… and in that respect a background in the subject is useful in almost everything else you do. So that’s a non-answer, I expect. Perhaps not. I’ve been fortunate enough to find myself in several leadership roles and have also done a fair amount of negotiating; I love things like non-violent conflict resolution, and decision-making by consensus etc., all of which seems part and parcel.

It’s hard for me to pick one thing I’ve done work-wise that I enjoyed the most – my work history, as you noticed is checkered to a ridiculous degree.

I guess if I had to choose, it would be the things that allowed me to be with my kids. I love to drive and the bigger the vehicle the better so when I found out I could drive a seventy-two passenger school bus and take my daughter on-board while I did, it was a no-brainer.

When the girls were a little older, I ran a day-home out of our house, mostly so I could stay home, another win-win situation.

 MARIE ELENA:  When asked to share a poem that best represents her style and spirit,  Sharon chose “Monstrous.”   I must agree, and feel as though I would recognize this piece as one of Sharon’s, even if her name was not attached.

 

Monstrous

usually in disguise

she steals

into daydreams

and haunts the back

of elementary

school gymnasiums

but if you look

for her, you will never

find her; you may see

what appears

to be feathers

fluttering out

of the corner

of your eye

but even turning

quickly will not

afford you a glimpse

it will be hard

to say when you

first realized she is

omni-present

and chameleon-like

and she makes the hair

on your scalp hurt

you know she is

dangerous but

she’s camouflaged

so skillfully

it’s difficult to put your

finger on just what

it is about her

that worries you so;

you want to hide

your children

whenever you sense

her nearness

and you sense

it more often

then you like

to admit

some evenings

she chases you

from your house

as far as the field

by the highway

and once,

she led you

to the bridge;

you suspect

it is she

that takes you

to the hospital

but no-one

believes you,

not even you

she is scarier

than the monster

under the bed

or in the closet,

she just is,

and sometimes

when you sit

in the garage

with the car

idling and

the door closed,

she comes there too.

S.E.Ingraham©

SHARON:  I really went back and forth about what poem to put in – thought maybe something a little more upbeat – but finally decided that since I do concentrate often on the sane and the insane and the seemingly thin veil separating both, I would stay true to the bulk of my work and put up something typical.

MARIE ELENA:  So haunting … that thin veil plainly evident.  Sharon, you mentioned “… spending extensive amounts of time on the other side of the locked doors.”  If it isn’t too intrusive, will you please tell us what you are referring to?

SHARON:  I have no problem talking about my mental health and, I am a huge advocate for removing the stigma surrounding the issue of mental illness. It’s funny, because I’ve written about my mental health history so often and at such length, I always assume everyone knows about it. Of course, that’s just simply not true. My major manuscript – the one I took to Colrain with the working title, “A Tear at the Edge of the Universe” is about as I’ve said elsewhere in this interview, my fascination with sanity and insanity, the thin veil that separates the two and what causes that veil to rip. The experience at Colrain showed me that an entire book of poems dealing with this topic is at least feasible as the two editors there – especially the one, Martha Rhodes – was very enthusiastic.

All my life, from my early teens on, I complained about being overly tired. I fell asleep in school and in public and just everywhere. I was told by doctors and everyone else I was just lazy. No matter how much sleep I got – I just wanted to sleep. This continued literally my whole life. Of course at some point I also got very depressed. Still extremely tired, I began seeing shrinks and began a long course of therapy and drugs. I functioned, got married, had kids etc., but was spiraling down the rabbit hole further and further until finally I guess, hit bottom and became suicidal and ended up in emergency. Thank heavens. The psychiatrist on call that night just also happened to be a sleep specialist.

For the first time in my life a doctor sat up when I said I was just so tired. Long story short – he knew at once I had a sleep disorder, ran me through his sleep lab to prove it, then set about helping me deal with the fall out.

And fall out there was – when a sleep order goes too long undiagnosed – I was in my early forty’s before my Periodic Limb Movement Disorder was discovered, unfailingly the patient is also clinically depressed. As my doctor put it, “No wonder you’re depressed woman – you haven’t slept since you were about eleven!” And, as one hears too often in the psychiatric world, “No one knows why this is but we can almost guarantee, within a year, you will almost certainly be Bipolar …”

Sure enough – almost a year to the day, I was hypo-manic. I’d lived in a state of depression for so long that both the doctor and I fooled ourselves into thinking that maybe this was just going to be my “up” side of normal; it was just so nice to see me with energy and reasonably high-functioning. I was somewhat lucky I know in that I only had hypo-manias for a couple of years … but still went way down when I did go down. However when I finally did blow full-blown manic, there was no mistaking that …

Anyhow – this was supposed to be the short version – suffice to say, it’s been a long haul of years of medication trials and therapy and numerous hospital stays and very hard times on my family. I finally came to a more balanced place about eight years ago and was doing not too badly especially, I believe, because of a spectacular doctor I was working with. We made a good team and I think would have remained so (my family agrees) had he not taken his life in 2005. I wasn’t willing to trace a spectacular mania to his death until long after the fact. A mania that almost cost me everything dear, and I do mean everything. It was followed – after many months – by a suicidal plunge that put me back into hospital for many more months.

At that point, when I’d almost lost everything and realized how badly I wanted it back, plus realized the doctor I counted on to keep me level for the rest of my life was gone – I guess I figured I better find a way to keep myself sane or I was done for. I couldn’t hurt those I loved again. Something must have taken hold in me. I haven’t been hospitalized since 2006 … that’s not to say I haven’t felt somewhat down … but I’m managing and that’s something.

Whew – and that’s the short version? I guess I don’t know a short version.

MARIE ELENA:  … and I suppose there is no such thing as a short version, when one is traveling the path of mental illness. Sharon, I can’t thank you enough for sharing this part of your life and what makes you, you.  Brave, wonderful people like you, Amy Barlow Liberatore, and my own beautiful daughter will surely help make a difference in how we view, treat, and care for the mentally ill among us.  I pray that is so.

One of your favorite quotes is, “Much unhappiness has come into the world by things left unsaid.” (Dostoevsky)  This plays right into my last question:  If we could know only one thing about you, what would it be?

SHARON:  I do love this quote!

I anticipated this question from other interviews I’ve read that you’ve done and while this fact could probably remain unsaid, I’m thinking it’s something most people don’t know about me.

Early days (very) – I sent something out for publication consideration with the usual hopes and aspirations. I received it back in very short order and so neatly folded and packaged, it was obvious to me it had not been read except maybe cursorily – just long enough for whomever to scribble across the first page in bold blue pencil –

“Too serious a topic for a female to attempt!” – no signature or anything else.

I don’t know how long it took for me to recover from the shock but I do know, I became determined to avoid any future knee-jerk, gender-based reactions to my work;  I would forevermore sign anything I sent anywhere – S.E. Ingraham.

~~~~~~~~

SHARIN’ SHARON’S SITES:

The Poet-Treehouse      (primary poetry site)

The Way Eye See It   (secondary poetry site)

In My Next Life  (third site used for poetry)

The Blogamist  (fourth site used for poetry)

S.E. Ingraham Says  (for book reviews)

The Leaping Elephants (for rants, musing etc.)

What Are the Odds (ponderings etc.)

The Poet Tree (older poetry site)