Wombwell Rainbow Interviews
I am honoured and privileged that the following writers local, national and international have agreed to be interviewed by me. I gave the writers two options: an emailed list of questions or a more fluid interview via messenger.
The usual ground is covered about motivation, daily routines and work ethic, but some surprises too. Some of these poets you may know, others may be new to you. I hope you enjoy the experience as much as I do.
Tricia Marcella Cimera
is a Midwestern poet with a worldview. Look for her work in these diverse places: Anti-Heroin Chic, Buddhist Poetry Review, The Ekphrastic Review, Foliate Oak, Failed Haiku, I Am Not A Silent Poet, Mad Swirl, Silver Birch Press, Wild Plum and elsewhere. She has two micro collections, THE SEA AND A RIVER and BOXBOROUGH POEMS, on the Origami Poems Project website. Tricia believes there’s no place like her own backyard and has traveled the world. She lives with her husband and family of animals in Illinois, in a town called St. Charles, near a river named Fox, with a Poetry Box is in her front yard.
Link to THE FOX POETRY BOX, my public art installation:
1. When and why did you start writing poetry?
Before writing, there was reading. When I learned how to read (my mother told me that I was convinced it would be too hard to learn; I was a tiny defeatist), another life began for me. A life of imagination. I fell madly in love with reading. And through reading I found poetry. It entered into the portal of my child mind in various forms such as the great Dr. Seuss. When I was nine I wrote my first poem that came whooshing out spontaneously after a dinner with my parents and some business associates of my father. One of the wives told us about her grown daughter being killed in a car accident. This hit me so hard; after dinner, I sat down and wrote this little poem about grief. Everyone seemed kind of astounded; the woman who had lost her daughter just wept. My mother kept that poem for years but it was lost somewhere in time as we moved around. Poetry then lay dormant in me for a while but returned when I was in high school where I wrote and submitted things to the school literary journal. It went away yet again but returned full force when I was in my 30s and discovered a local writer’s class at the college. Along with the class came a professor who encouraged me in a way that every poet should be in their life. And that meant all the world to me – and my poems.
2. How aware are and were you of the dominating presence of older poets traditional and contemporary?
Aware and intimidated at first. But with poetry, there are many masters and many forms. I try and learn from older poets but it’s imperative I listen to my own voice.
2.1. Who were you intimidated by?
I would say that initially every great poet intimidated me. People like Ezra Pound, for example. What did it all mean? Poets like Emily Dickinson, Jane Kenyon, Leonard Cohen showed me that simple language coupled with deep ideas was something to strive for. That was poetry too! Again, there are many forms to choose from – that was freeing to me. MY voice is a form in and of itself.
3. What is your daily writing routine?
I have no daily routine of actual writing. Poems are always showing up and percolating throughout the day in my head, I let them gain form, which can take days. Once I begin putting a poem to paper (computer screen), it generally goes quickly. I’m a fast reviser. I’m a big proponent of revising; I think it’s necessary to advocate for the poem, not the ego. I know there’s a school of thought when it comes to organic outpouring of words to create a poem. I think a poem deserves to be worked on and lived with. It makes it no less gritty or tough if that’s what you’re going for.
4. What motivates you to write?
My imagination, my specific experiences, the world, every art form there is, history, living and dead human beings and animals, the act of remembering – all of it motivates my writing. Anything and everything can be a poem. Once I understood this, a door opened. You really can’t close that particular door once it flies open.
5. What is your work ethic?
I don’t make a living through my writing so my ‘work ethic’ is fluid and not terribly militant. Once a poem is begun, however, I feel committed to it and will revise/polish/finish quickly or revisit it as much as necessary until it feels right. There are those poems, however, that just don’t work. I don’t entirely abandon them but they are left to. . .sit there, waiting for a line to be used, an idea to be shaped . Getting back to revision, I suppose that speaks to a work ethic. As mentioned before, the poem should be served, not the initial delight in creating it.
6. How do the writers you read when you were young influence you today?
Great question! The books and stories of my childhood are forever of my beating heart. I still have one of the first books I received for my 6th birthday – “Hamish Meets Bumpy Mackenzie” by Frances Bowen. The Narnia Chronicles by C.S. Lewis truly saved my life when my mother was hospitalized for depression (when I was ten). I return to my childhood books again and again. “Half Magic” by Edward Eager still entrances me and makes me laugh. I can’t imagine abandoning any of these fantastic books and their writers. They are written so well and never talk down to anyone, except maybe those without an imagination. I believe in magic and hope and weirdness and underdogs because of the books of my youth. Of all the books I’ve read in my life, they mean the most to me.
7. Whom of today’s writers do you admire the most and why?
I have many favorite writers but I always cite Joyce Carol Oates and Larry McMurtry as two of my most favorite novelists because they both have such amazing bodies of work. Everyone calls JCO prolific – because she IS! She can do it all (gothic, current social mores, retellings of Marilyn Monroe or JonBenet Ramsey, young adult, short stories, etc.) and with such intelligence and depth. She has revisited certain themes in her work for years; dark and psycho-sexual are her trademarks. As for Larry McMurtry, no one can write a woman like he can. He has created the most marvelous woman characters. McMurtry is known for his westerns (Lonesome Dove), yet I haven’t read them! Because I love his other books so much; I’ve got time. He makes you fall in love with his people and suddenly, shockingly, someone will die. I’ve literally let out screams and then cried. Oh, McMurtry, how could you. I have to mention Donna Tartt as well – The Secret History is the most amazing book. I just reread it for the billionth time. It reminds me so much of Brideshead Revisited; the college students dreamily and beautifully moving through life in a particular time. Now I realize I haven’t even mentioned poets! So many – Mark Doty, Sharon Olds, Raymond Carver. . .and always, always, always Leonard Cohen. Poetry is alive and well. The social justice poetry in America right now is just sizzling. The times are right for it. It’s exciting to read poetry and to write poetry these days.
7.1. Why Leonard Cohen?
Leonard Cohen is the finest. His poems are so relatable and understandable, yet they are not simple in the least bit. He references a LOT. He tells us that we as humans encompass everything. And he says that with sadness and with hilarity. I know I’m speaking of Mr. Cohen in the present tense but he lives on, he’s the Master. I’ve written three poems that he appears in and two of them are especially dear to me; I’m grateful that he shows up. Anyone reading this – go read Leonard Cohen! And listen to him as well. The songs, the voice. . .
8. Why do you write, as opposed to doing anything else?
Writing is the thing I do best, creative-wise. I wish I could paint or play an instrument or sing (I sing with gusto but not well). So I write.
9. What would you say to someone who asked you “How do you become a writer?”
I would advise to Read, Write and Revise. How can you write if you don’t have a love of reading? And when you write, revise! Just a little revision goes a long way.
10. Tell me about the writing projects you have on at the moment.
Poems are always percolating in my mind but the writing projects I have in my life right now are really about other poets. I maintain and curate a poetry box in my front yard where I display the work of living guest poets, dead poets, as well as songs, art, etc. My poetry box is called The Fox Poetry Box. Passer-bys happen upon it during walks; it’s a concrete and organic small literary billboard. And it has an electronic life as well – the box has its own Facebook page. In conjunction with The Fox Poetry Box, I created The Tom Park Poetry Prize which was just announced. It’s named for a most marvelous cat that my husband and I had the privilege of knowing for a year and a half before he recently passed on. Tom Park was, as I wrote in the prize announcement, a profile in Courage, Character and Compassion. Entries are open until April 15th. Long live Tom Park! And poetry!