Wombwell Rainbow Interviews: Helen Ruggieri

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.


Helen Ruggieri

has been writing and publishing her work for thirty years. She has a book of short prose pieces (haibun) from Foothills Publishing called The Character for Woman, about living in Japan and three books of poetry in print: from Kitsune Books, Butterflies Under a Japanese Moon; Aldrich Publishing/Kelsay Books, The Kingdom Where Everybody Sings Off Key; The Kingdom Where No One Keeps Time, Mayapple Press.

Other books are Glimmer Girls about growing up female in the 50s; Concrete Madonna about the pink collar experience; and Rock City Hill Exercises about hiking in the Alleghenies.

Her poetry has appeared recently in the following anthologies:

.Poems of Francis and Clare: St. Anthony Messenger Press

.Common Wealth: Contemporary Poets on Pennsylvania, Penn State UP

.20 Years of Uncommon Nature Writing, Wood Thrush Books

.Rough Places Plain: Poems of the Mountains, Salt Marsh Press

.Beloved on the Earth: Poems of Grief and Gratitude, Holy Cow! Press

.From the Other World: Poems in Memory of James Wright, Lost Hills Books

.The Widow’s Handbook, Kent State University Press

.The Sexuality Poems, Foothills Publishing

.Bird Song, Foothills Publishing

.St. Peter’s B- List, St. Anthony’s Messenger

.Nasty Women Poets, Lost Horse Press

Ruggieri taught in the Writing Program at the University of Pittsburgh, Bradford, PA. She spent several months in Japan at Yokohama College of Commerce and was awarded a Sasakawa Fellowship to study Japanese culture. She has worked as a visiting poet in area schools and taught a workshop at the African American Center for Cultural Development.

Current prose publications include:

.Home Is Where You Keep Your Stuff in How I learned to Cook, Putnam/Tarcher

.Fragmentary Writing (journal entries) from Impassio Press

.One for the Road: Stories for Teens Whose Families Suffer from the Disease of     Alcoholism, Split Oak Press

.The Ghost in the Machine (about Lewis Grassic Gibbon) in Ars Medica

.Divine Winds in The Journal of Ontological Studies

Japanese verse forms (haibun, haiku, senryu) have appeared in many American and international publications in Turkey, Belgium, England, Ireland, Russia, Slovakia and in Japan where her haiku have been published in Japanese/English newspapers and have won several international awards. She studied with William Stafford at the Atlantic Center for the Arts and with John Balaban at Penn State where she received an MFA.   Ruggieri, a Master Gardener, has a black sash in Tai Chi.

rabbit tracks/across the snowy field -/the long commute

The Interview

1. Who introduced you to poetry?

Mostly it was the old Prose and Poetry text books they used in grade school.

1.1 What writers caught your interest in the old prose and poetry text books?

Wow.  This goes back into grammar school.  I remember those poets from New England – Longfellow, Emerson, Thoreau, and later the WWI poets – McCrea’s In Flander’s Fields, Rupert Brooke, Wilfred Owen.  The way they captured their moments.

I had an opportunity to study in Japan for a semester and was fascinated by how the “moment” became so important in Japanese poetry (in the haiku and haibun) and became the image” of Pound and the early imagists.   It was there all along but no one had named it

2. How aware were you of the dominating presence of older poets?

As a literature major I was exposed to many and in the 50s when I was in college there were few female poets.  That left me with the search – and an anthology – No More Masks.  Here I found the new writers I was looking for.

2.1. What writers did you find in No More Masks that you were looking for?

This was an early feminist anthology with many unheard voices.  I don’t have a copy anymore but I was thrilled by their “nerve.:  They broke out.  They said what they really thought. Genieve Taggard,  Marge Piercy, Anne Sexton, Alicia Ostriker, etc.Wow.  what a grouping.

3. What is your daily writing routine?

I write in the morning for two or three hours

4. What motivates you to write?

I was always looking for something to do, something I was good at and poetry came easily and I could practice and get better and better.  You learn about yourself as well as how to write.

5. How do the writers you read when you were young influence you today?

Their influence hangs on. I am working on a series of poems that have a line from a famous poem in them.

6. Who of today’s writers do you admire the most and why?

I like many of the younger writers but no one in particular.

7. Why do you write, as opposed to doing anything else?

I do other things but writing satisfies. I do qi gung and tai chi, I’m a master gardener, and I read a great deal.

8. What would you say to someone who asked you “How do you become a writer?”

I would tell them to write, maybe start with a journal and fill them up, one after another.

9. Tell me about the writing projects you have on at the moment.

I’m working a book of poems about birds, and trying to complete a mystery novel.  I am also working on a book of haibun about nature.

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