Carol Deering has shared a poem and a summary of her extensive poetry background with us this month. Poets discuss the “audience”, and sometimes write with the audience in mind. More often we write with the words and subject at the forefront and hope that the audience will broaden. As you will see, Carol has had diverse audiences and settings for her poetry. Even those things that stimulate her writing (nature – past and present) must serve as her audience. If only we could be a silent stone in her path silently waiting for her words.
Writing or reading poetry slows me down and lets me see the beauty and grace in the twister, and the twister in the beauty and grace. I scribble feelings to find words and images that help me understand humanity.
Shortly before my husband and I moved to Wyoming I interviewed poet Richard Hugo, who had impressed me greatly the night before when he walked out on stage, stood beside the lectern, and recited “Degrees of Gray in Philipsburg” to a devoted audience. In the interview, he was warm and genuine, and I’ve carried that feeling ever since. I’m also eternally grateful to Naomi Shihab Nye for reviving my journal writing.
I’m a founding member of West Thumb Poets, six of us who live scattered across western Wyoming (including one who’s crossed the line into Montana) and who’ve been meeting tri-quarterly for a dozen years. We critique each others’ poems, and recently we’ve begun an annual poetry reading at Yellowstone’s Lake Hotel sunroom. I also belong to the newly formed Westword Writers in Riverton. Friendship with writers is invaluable.
The summer of 2012 the Wyoming Department of Education asked me to put together a reading of writers in my community (at the Central Wyoming College Sinks Canyon Center) for teachers of writing. Everyone remembers that night as magical. I felt so empowered that this will be my second April of pulling together a county series of writing, reading, and diversity events (at libraries, schools, and colleges) under the heading “One County/Many Voices.” It has been slow-going, but I believe each year it will grow.
I was a Wyoming Arts Council Literature Fellowship winner in poetry, and my former chapbook (now bulging into a book) was a contest finalist. I was selected by the Bear Lodge Writers for a quiet writer’s residency at Devils Tower. I’ve attended a great many workshops, and rarely have I come away without something of value.
I’m inspired by listening to music (tone, rhythm, flute, and tenor sax); the awe of nature (animals, plants, the moon, sounds, and scents); staring at paintings (expressionism, impressionism, post-impressionism, primitive, surreal, Brazilian); the West, so open (clear view of mountains) that it stimulates powerful images (fire, horses, and ancient civilization); and people (especially children) who are true to themselves. Lately, I’ve returned to photography, with its possibilities of focus and cropping; somehow that informs my writing.
I’m a free-verse poet who plays with rhythm and oddball rhymes. That makes me a free-verse rhythmical rhyming oddball.
Last night, and before, the wind
wrapped a ribbon around and
around our house, a noisy
process, rapping and wrapping.
Tonight it’s silent, and sleeping
is truly a gift. But, look!
Now he’s polished the sky
obsidian. If you could run
your finger around the horizon,
it would sing like a bowl.
originally published in Riversongs, September 2012.
Susan Vittitow Mark
This month we feature Susan Vittitow Mark. She grew up in Ohio. Her father, from Kentucky, insisted that a Buckeye was nothing but a "worthless nut." In 1992, she went to Alaska for the summer and decided she wanted to make her life in the West with her now-husband. She is a librarian with the Wyoming State Library and has written for newspapers and for the Wyoming Library Roundup magazine. She is a past president of Wyoming Writers and is currently the WyoPoets’ webmaster. She lives in Cheyenne. Although she will confess to not posting often enough on her blogs, you can follow her at Bluegrass and Bindweed or Fat Chick in Lycra. She's more faithful about her Pinterest board. She posts many writing-related Pins and loves to connect with other writers there.
Susan interviewed me for a magazine article once upon a time. She and I run into each other at writers’ events. Her husband was one of my students in a hazardous materials class. I treasure every email from Susan no matter how short and no matter the subject. She must have a way with words that she shares with us below.
I write poetry when something occurs to me that I can't express any other way -- when it doesn't feel right as prose. It may be an image I want to capture or how I feel about someone I love.
As a child, I loved reading Lewis Carroll's poetry. My all-time favorite poem at the time (not by Carroll) was "God's Judgement on a Wicked Bishop," a cheery description of God sending 10,000 rats to eat an evil man. I'm not sure what that says about me. Now, I am a big fan of Ted Kooser and the proud owner of a "Ted Head" t-shirt. I enjoy reading poetry that I can relate to and that I find accessible but complex and meaningful. I agree with Kooser completely that poetry should not be a puzzle you have to figure out. I've greatly enjoyed the works of my fellow WyoPoets -- Pat Frolander and A. Rose Hill, in particular.
When I started writing poetry, I spent the longest time looking at what I had written and taking it to writing groups with the question, "Is this really poetry?" I hadn't studied poetry forms. In fact, I'd had poetry mostly ruined for me by high school and college instructors. It always seemed to be an endless stream of those puzzles to be solved. It sort of sucked the joy out of something that should have been joyful. On second thought, there was no "sort of" about it.
I tend to write in fits and stops, not consistently. I don't have a set ritual, although I am trying to carve out some morning time before I go to work. In addition to poetry, I dabble in memoir and fiction. I wrote for newspapers and magazines for quite a while. I learned a lot, but right now I am just going where the writing takes me and when it takes me.
I've been blessed to have a few poems published or that did well in contests, which is always heartening. My fellow WyoPoets and Wyoming Writers members have encouraged me through the years. They've been remarkably tolerant of my inability to read my own poetry without falling apart. I can be a crier and a shaker, but I'm working on it.
I often find inspiration to write poetry from the people I love. This poem I wrote toward the end of my father's life:
In the dark he searches,
Not finding his bedroom door.
Touching rosary beads, stumbles
Over the Hail Mary, the Glory Be.
I fly 1200 miles to see him.
“Who’s this?” he asks.
“I’m your favorite, Dad,”
I yell above his deafness,
Ears lost to power saws
And construction sites.
“It’s Susie,” my mother tells him,
then louder, “Susie!”
“Oh!” He smiles. “Susie!”
Maybe seeing a round baby,
Wide eyes, white-blonde ringlets,
Not this woman before him
Unable to tell him her hurts.
In an hour he will ask again.
Here, WyoPoets asks its members to summarize their writing lives, poetry backgrounds and inspirations. We hope that if you are not a member you will think about joining. If you are a member, this is a chance to learn how other WyoPoets’ members get their poetry onto paper. Submissions receive only minor edits. Each poet’s voice clearly shines through. If you would like to share your poetry experiences, email Myra L. Peak for details.