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.
Lee Ann Siebken
3/7/2014 02:03:21 am
Susan, I recognize those weak knees and threatening tears and I admire your determination to "read, conquer, collapse" at the open mic. Look forward to seeing you in Casper in April!
3/7/2014 02:11:12 am
As with Lee Ann, I recognize the weak knees and tears in reading some of my poetry. I've at times had to stop and ask someone else to read for me. And I've also come to poetry late in life, after having it spoiled in college and grad school. I love "Lost Door." Reminds me of my mother, just before her death at 95. Hope to see you in Casper in April.
3/7/2014 06:02:26 am
Hi, Susan: I'm quite a lot like your father. I, too, used the chainsaw too much. Hope to see you in Casper. I often write stuff inspired of nature--the out-of-doors.
5/18/2014 06:09:53 am
I loved your poem!
3/7/2014 09:39:32 am
Thanks for finding time to be the webmaster for WyoPoets. And thanks for letting us know a little more about you.
3/7/2014 12:30:01 pm
Susan, I remember long ago I was scheduled to read at an 8th Grade school meet. I shook, whispered the whole thing. Keep at it, you'll conquer. Looking forward to seeing you for a hug in Casper.
3/7/2014 11:05:12 pm
Loved the passion and love in this poem -- and the reality. It's sad, but tender. Thank you for sharing with us. I'm glad you went to see your dad. Many don't.
3/8/2014 04:37:41 am
Thanks for sharing. I, too, can barely look up when reading at the mic. I'm envious of slam poets, those who have the extra talent of performing their work. It's getting a tad bit easier, reading aloud, but it is definitely not my favorite thing. I'm a writer Jim, not a performer! plz excuse my star trek reference :-)
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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.