Kids, If you feel like reading some terrifically original work, check out Fireblossom at Word’s Garden. Ever since I clicked on The Witch of Waxahachie By the Numbers, and read about someone hucking a squirrel skull through the open window of a passing pickup, I have had to keep going back, to see what amazing story she would come up with next!!!! One thing: Fireblossom never disappoints! So today, let’s walk on the wild side, see what life and writing are like when one imposes no limits! It will leave you breathless, I promise.
Poets United: Shay, at last we get to talk to you! When did you start blogging, and what led you to the world of on-line poetry?
Shay: I live in Michigan, with my dog Bosco. I grew up here and, except for my 20s, I have always lived here. Home is here. My heart is wherever the ones and the things I love are.
Poets United: When did you begin writing poetry? Did you always know you are a poet, or did it come to you slowly over time?
Shay: My father was a newspaperman, and when I was little, I made my own newspapers with crayons and stuff, and wrote little stories that my dad was always the hero of. I didn't write poetry until I discovered it in high school. So, no, I did not always know I was a poet. I considered myself a poet of some sort in my late teens and early twenties, then not again until 2006.
Poets United: Did you receive recognition in high school for your talent? Was there a teacher that encouraged your writing?
Shay: I don't remember what other kids thought, but my English teachers in high school thought I was talented. My 10th grade English teacher told me to forget what the class was doing and to finish a short story I had begun as part of a journal exercise. That story got an honorable mention in a scholastic writing competition. Even so, real confidence in my poetry writing was years away at that point. MANY years away, as in mid-life.
Poets United: Wow, it is amazing to think there were years in which you didn’t write. What style of poem do you write the most? Is there any kind of poetry you find annoying or unreadable?
Shay: As my regular readers know, I write an array of different styles of poetry. I can write using form, but mostly I use the Shay Golden Ear Method. I hate haiku, except when written by children. And I am not crazy about the sonnet form. I am not good with rules, generally.
Poets United: How do you know when a poem is 'good'? What are your personal criteria for good poetry?
Shay: Fantastic question. Sometimes I know as soon as I have finished a piece, that I have created something special. But oftentimes, it takes a couple weeks, or months to really get some perspective. And I go by the reactions of those I trust and respect, as well. To me, a good poem should say something worth saying, in a fresh way, using poetic images, and should grab the reader's attention, satisfy, and get out. Don't say things the same old way, and don't run on. A good poem should make a reader think, feel, or laugh. Maybe two or all of these.
Poets United: Many writers say that revising, and rewriting is the real work of writing. Do you revise, revisit old writings, or rework your poetry? Or does it come pretty much as we see it on your site? (This is where we all bash our heads against the wall :)!)
Shay: I very rarely revisit old poems, though I used to when I was young. I get the bones down in a rush, normally in less than an hour. Then I go back and make sure that every word is the best word, that says exactly what I mean, and that it flows and has punch. I do quite a bit of editing, all in longhand. I read and re-read the piece, over and over. I do all of this in a sitting. When I'm satisfied, I'm done. I very rarely ever go back to it again later to make changes. (With Coal Black, I am less painstaking. That's not who Coal Black is ...she is more a shoot from the hip kind of gal! And with my Night Blooms stories, I type them, and although I read them over once, and spell check, I do very little editing with those, except the editing I do AS I write them, which is something I do not do when writing poetry.)
Poets United: So interesting. Why do you write, and what keeps you at it?
Shay: I write because it is who I am and what I do. It is the thing I love most and am passionate about. Also, I write to sort out my life, mind, and emotions. I keep at it because the top of my head would blow off if I didn't create something on a regular basis. And because it is a gift that I take seriously.
Poets United: That is wonderful. It is a true gift. What, most often, triggers you to write? One burning question we all have: how do you do it? Where do your ideas come from? One of the poets, Lisa, said you told her something about imagining No Limits. Can you give us some insight into your process?
Shay: Lisa is right. I do the same old "what if...?" thing that most writers do, but I don't stop there. I might think, what if rocks could talk? What if they had interior lives, disappointments, foibles? What would a rock say, that would be surprising? Shocking? Funny? Then I often add the incongruous..."A rock is concerned about its dry skin and its unhealthy gray coloring. Is it ill? Will advertised products help?" Or something that's hopefully funny, like "Is it true what the rock's husband says, his voice dripping accusation and Skoal, that she is stone hearted?" Well, of course she is...she's a rock! Don't set limits. Don't say, well, rocks don't worry about their health or watch tv. They do if you say they do, and there is a pen in your hand. The trick is to make your reader believe in it, and to tuck a universal message in between the ridiculous lines.
When writing something very serious, I approach it this way: tell the damn truth. Don't worry what Aunt Agnes might think. Don't worry how it makes you look. Just tell it true, tell it deep, and you'll be amazed how many readers identify.
Poets United: Some of the best writing advice I have ever heard, Shay. Julia Cameron says that it is essential for a writer to regularly take herself out on an "Artist's Date", in order to refuel the source of inspiration. What do you do, where do you go, what activities do you engage in that replenish your sources?
Shay: I like Julia Cameron. I use reading poetry written by others, looking through photographs, or even flipping randomly through the dictionary for a word that stands up and says, "use me." I also sometimes start with an emotional intention..."I'm angry"...what does the anger want to say? Not what SHOULD it say. What DOES it say?
Poets United: Oh, that is a really good observation. Writing is a solitary occupation. Do you struggle with how much time you allow yourself to engage in the process?
Shay: I would allow myself endless time, but life has other ideas.
Poets United: I so hear you. I wish you had a wealthy patron, and could stay home and write all day long. We’d all benefit :)! What is your take on poetry and the internet?
Shay: Fantastic. No more stodgy editors giving thumbs up or thumbs down from their ivory towers. Write it. Post it. Get read. Read others. Hell yeah.
Poets United: Go, Bloggers! When do you most like to write?
Shay: Early morning and late at night are my best times for poetry.
Poets United: What poem, written by you, do you like the most and why?
Shay: Emily Dickinson. "I Cannot Live With You." I visited the Dickinson home in Amherst a few years ago. Emily was there. She told me I'm doin' good. No, I'm not kidding.
Shay: I have actually been published, about three dozen times, in my late teens and early twenties, in tiny, now-defunct journals. My interest in doing that again is pretty much nil, but I would love to publish a book. And I would like to see my stories published, but I am all about the creating and have no mind for the getting published. I need a keeper!
Poets United: It appears to be a universal dilemma: poets preferring to write poetry rather than try to flog it to editors. But you are SO publishable. I’m just sayin’...... Song writers are often poets. Do you have a favorite and what do you find in his or her music that moves you?
Shay: I love love love this question!!! I started out, in high school, by wanting to write songs like the ones I admired and which moved me. I would write down the words from memory, trying to see how they did it. I think this helped me understand structure and rhyme and how to express things. Often, I am told my poetry has a musical quality. I don't think it is accidental.
I loved--and still love--Gordon Lightfoot, Laura Nyro, Joni Mitchell, John Prine, Tom Rush, James Taylor and Leonard Cohen. I also loved and love the raw passion of Janis Joplin and Jimi Hendrix. And, um, Steve Perry and Journey. I'm SUCH a girl!
Shay: To publish books of my poetry and stories.
Poets United: Good dream. I want that for you, too, so I can add them to my shelf of best-loved writing! Do you have a favorite quote?
Shay: "A man (sic) lives by believing in something, not by arguing and debating about many things" --Thomas Carlyle
Poets United: So true. Shay, thank you so much for letting us take a peek into your life, and for sharing your thoughts on writing. I know everyone will be really interested in all you have to say. Keep knocking those poems out of the park, kiddo!
See kids? Isn’t it true that the people behind the pen are some of the most interesting people around? Be sure to come back in two weeks to see who we talk to next. Who knows? It might be you!