Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Life of a Poet - Susie Clevenger


Kids, today we are heading to Texas, where the irrepressible and wonderful Susie Clevenger lives and writes her wonderful poems. Susie is the laundry guru of Confessions of a Laundry Goddess (love that name!), but we won’t be talking about detergents. (Though I have seen a photo of Susie’s laundry room in her interview by Fireblossom  at Real Toads , and it is to die for!) As always, Susie’s story contains surprises, some of her beautiful lamp art and photography, and a courageous and inspiring tale of recovering from a near-fatal car accident........my favorite kind of story!



Poets United: Susie, what would you like us to know about your life right now?


Susie: I am married to my husband of forty one years, Charlie, and have two daughters, Dawn and Carrie. We are an eclectic mix of musicians, singers, actors, woodcrafters, animal lovers, photographers, poets, and whatever else comes on our radar of interests.  


Charlie and I

Poets United:  That sounds like a lot of fun! Where were you born and raised? And where is Home to you?

Susie: I was born and raised in the state of Missouri. I currently live in Texas where it is bragged everything is bigger. I am not sure about that, but there is certainly an abundance of attitude here.


Dawn and Carrie

Poets United: Have you always known you were a writer? When did you begin writing, and do you remember what caused you to pick up your pen and write that first poem?

Susie: I have had a vivid imagination since early childhood, but didn’t really start writing until my freshman year in high school. Edgar Allan Poe was what first sparked my interest in writing. I identified with the darkness he wrote about. I had been hiding some dark secrets of my own, and through reading his works it gave me the courage to express my own pain. The first poem I wrote was Nightfall and it was published in Missouri Youth Writes.

Nightfall

As the curtain falls
on the world's idiocy
you will find me sitting
in the audience not asking
for nor wanting an encore.
I sit for a few moments
while the curtain of darkness
envelops me, then I run for
an exit that will take me
away from everything
that resembles reality.

The darkness extends
its soft beautiful hand
and leads me into a
world where I don't have
any questions and I seek no solutions.

The velvety curtain protects
me from evil until it has
to leave me and rise on the world again.
But with the first signs of the inevitable dawn
I cower in my corner and
try not to see the world
that's revolving around me.

I wait until it is time for
the curtain to fall and I know
the darkness will take me
once again into a world of unreality.

I wrote this when I was 15 under my maiden name, Carol Crouch.
I had suffered childhood sexual abuse and told no one until I was 19.
This poem was the beginning of my efforts to speak of my abuse
and the journey to healing.


Mary Badham and I. Mary played Scout in To Kill a Mockingbird
I had the opportunity to meet her. I so identified with Scout. 
She was just like me, a precocious tomboy.

Poets United:  This is a very advanced poem, for a fifteen year old. It is sad how many children suffer from sexual abuse. I admire you for speaking out, and beginning your healing journey, at nineteen.  So, tell us, Susie, what do you love about poetry? Why do you write?

Susie: I love the ability of poetry to say so much in such few words. Whether it is written in a particular form or free verse, there is a rhythm to it that captivates me. I read a variety of poets and with each one I am taken aback at their ability to paint such vivid pictures with words.

I write because there is that desire in me to create, to look at the world through the eye of my pen. I find the poetic in everything. It might be the song of a wind chime or the view from a broken window.


Gypsy Sun - an example of my lamp art

Poets United: Your answer is a poem in itself! And I LOVE your lamp art, especially the Gypsy Sun! You have a prose site as well, at Susie’s Sentences. Which is your favorite, poetry or prose?

Susie: My poetry site is my favorite. I enjoy writing prose, but find myself tongue-tied, so to speak, when trying to write it. With poetry, it flows from my muse to paper. I can write of the beauty of a rose in three lines of poetry where in prose I have written ten and still don’t feel I have adequately described it.

Poets United: Browsing through your sites, I came across a post entitled My New Life, and was riveted by your description of a terrible car accident. Would you like to tell us a bit about that?

Susie: On May 23, 2006 I was on the way to Wal-mart when I was struck by an eighteen year-old girl who was texting. She hit me on the driver’s side front fender and into the door. The police officer estimated she was going in excess of 50 miles an hour. I had numerous injuries, four broken ribs, a punctured/collapsed lung, severe trauma to the left leg,  (for a time it was feared the circulation was so damaged that it would require amputation), and brain damage. The brain damage occurred when the initial hit caused me to spin around to strike her car again. I broke out the window with the back of my head which resulted in the brain being battered against the front of the skull. It was the subsequent brain damage that reawakened the poet in me that had been sleeping most of my adult life.



Poets United: What a fantastic recovery you've made, Susie. You really are inspiring! Does coming that close to death make you appreciate life more?


 Sunset in Galveston-one of my favorite shots

Susie: Yes, it did. Each day is a precious gift. I don't take any of them for granted. I see life with a whole new perspective.  I used to say I was bored, but I never say that any more. How can I be bored when I am a living and breathing miracle. There are so many things that could have happened that day, and God in his wisdom decided to give poetry back to me. I literally woke up one day, decided to write a poem, picked up my pen and haven't stopped writing.

Poets United: And that makes us very happy! Do you have all the time you need for writing? Do you have a special place or time where you like to write?

Susie: Does one ever have enough time for writing? I find daily life too often intervenes between me and my pen. I think at times I could be that eccentric writer/recluse, but then I realize that wouldn’t work because I am a lover of life and people. I like to call myself a social recluse, a living oxymoron so to speak.  I am always prepared to jot down thoughts and poetry. I have journals in every room and in each vehicle, but it is finalized in my library at my laptop. For me the time I am my most creative is the late night to early hours of the morning. There are many days I don’t seek my bed until 3:00 a.m.


Painted With a Lens

Poets United: What keeps you writing, through busy and fallow times?

Susie: I think it is I have found my voice. Some of my poems are better than others, but I continue to write. It has become my passion. Writing is therapy for me also. Whatever I face, I can put it into poetry. I can celebrate, be joyful, be angry or work through any emotion by writing it into verse. There are moments when the dreaded writer’s block hits me, but I keep at it.

Poets United: Who would you say has been the biggest influence on your writing?

Susie: Well, as I stated before, Edgar Allan Poe was the reason for my desire to write. I have a book of his complete tales and poems that I read from frequently. It stirs the roots of my first writes and keeps me writing.


Knitted Light

Poets United: Have you had a writing mentor to encourage your writing? Who first believed in your gift?

Susie: I can’t say I have had a single writing mentor. It is more like a community. I have come across some amazing talent on Facebook and through my blogs that have helped me grow. The first person to believe in me as a writer was my freshman English teacher, Mrs. Kilgore. She would take me aside and tell me to keep learning and keep writing. I never dreamed how important her words would be to me. In more recent times my friend, Larry Cole has been my biggest cheerleader. When I got serious about writing in my blog, Confessions of a Laundry Goddess, he was the only one for a year or more who read what I wrote. He told me I had talent and to keep writing, to not let my pen rest in silence.

Poets United: Bless Larry for that, as now we all benefit, through reading your work.   Do you have a poem that you feel says who you are especially well?

Susie: Yes, I do.

My Mind Writes With Antique Pen

My mind writes
with an antique pen.
The poets long gone
are the muses
that whisper to me.
Dear Poe turned
the light on
with his dark verses.
He captured me
with his words
to birth my desire
 to write.

Miss Browning asked,
“How do I love thee?”
As she counted the ways
my heart dreamed
the stanzas of my own
love poem.

Emily Bronte wrote
of tears that only ceased
when others were looking.
This gave me the courage
to speak my own tears.

Inspiration comes to me
from poets long gone.
They are my teachers
speaking their lessons
through their verses.
I pray I am a student
worthy to continue
with my pen.

©Susie Clevenger 2012

Poets United: That is just so beautiful, Susie. I love it. Do you have a dream for your writing?

Susie: I had thought I was too old to dream, but discovered I have many dreams. One is to have my first book of poetry published. I am currently working on book which I hope to have published by late August. The working title is Dirt Road Dreams.

Poets United: Fantastic! We are never too old to dream! We will be lining up for our copies! When you aren’t writing, what other activities do you enjoy?


Old Car in lomo-ish, taken in Bastrop, Texas,
in the historical section of the city

Susie: I am an amateur photographer.  I always have some sort of camera with me, even if it is just my cell phone. I look at something and I see and hear the story in it. One of my favorite subjects to photograph is nature. I have a small wooded area behind my house that has given me many hours of joy and some amazing shots. I have begun an online presence for my photography through my photo blog, And There is More.

Poets United: I admire your photography very much, Susie. You have many talents!

More lamp art-"Alice's lamp"

Susie: I am also an avid music lover. I can’t play an instrument or sing, but I am a fan. One of my favorite genres is blues music. I have a friend, Mike Zito, who is a blues artist, and my husband and I have traveled across the country to see him at different venues. We have met some incredible friends and musicians through our journeys.

Poets United:  That sounds like fun! I love music, too. How has the blogging community impacted your work?

Susie: I think what I love the most is the support and encouragement. There is so much talent in my poetry acquaintances, and I feel honored to be accepted into such a marvelous community. Reading their work has caused me to improve in my own writing. I read some of my early blog work and see the progression of maturity in my writing.

And recently, I was happy to be the featured poet, with three of my poems in this online ezine: 


Poets United: That is great, Susie! Good for you! What advice would you give a beginning writer? Especially busy wives and mothers?

Susie: I would tell a beginning writer to write as often as possible. I think when you do that you keep your mind alert to the inspiration of your muse. Imagine having a best friend who you never take time to talk to or spend time with. Keep alert to your surroundings. There are stories/poems everywhere. You will miss them if you don’t look. 


My niece, Nickie. I took this photo over twenty years ago,
and it is still one of my favorites.

For busy wives, mothers, husbands, fathers, or an entire writing population, set aside time to write. It may only be a half hour, but it is moments you have set aside for your creativity. Keep a notebook or journal close at all times. Almost everyone has a cell phone these days. Use it to leave a brief message to yourself whenever inspiration strikes. With so much going on in life, we have to learn to be creative to keep our words flowing.

Poets United: Good advice, Susie. Would you like to give a shout out to your best blogging pals?

Susie: I have so many blogging pals that if I began to name them I know I would forget someone. I am so grateful for their friendship and inspiration. My world has become so much bigger and blessed because of them.

Poets United: Any final thoughts for Poets United?

stay amazed and write with wonder

Susie: “Poetry is the language in which man explores his own amazement…says heaven and earth in one word...speaks of himself and his predicaments as though for the first time.”  Christopher Fry

So, my writing friends, stay amazed and write with wonder.
Poets United: I love that, Susie. You are a wonder, yourself!!! Thank you so much for allowing us this lovely visit.

So there we have it, kids, another interesting poet’s inspiring story. Isn’t it true that the people behind the pens are some of the most interesting folks around? Come back and see who we talk to next. Who knows? It might be you!




28 comments:

  1. I've admired Susie for some time — after reading this, even more so.

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  2. Wow that was a really inspiring story..........So happy to know about you Susie, and always a wonderful interview Sherry.

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  3. Well! If I didn't respect and enjoy Susie before this interview, I certainly do now!! Thank you so much.

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  4. Susie and I are interested in so many of the same things. I would not have known the degree of our similarities without this frank and revealing interview. Thank you, Sherry, for letting us become more familiar with her diverse talents and sweet spirit. Thank you, Susie, for sharing.

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  5. I've only recently discovered Susie's work, and have enjoyed and grown from reading her. From the high quality of her work, I knew there had to be a fascinating back story. Thank you so much for sharing it here.

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  6. Sherry, another wonderful interview! You keep turning them out, bringing out the most interesting things about the poets who 'walk the halls' here. Susie, though I have read much of your poetry and seen another interview of you, it was nice to learn more about you. You indeed are part of a creative family. And that auto accident, though horrific, certainly was a blessing in one way...in that it got you in touch with poetry again. Susie, glad to hear you are putting out a poetry book. I think, for those of us who write, our poetic words are a big part of our immortality. When, if not now?

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  7. Thank you Sherry for putting so much work and care into my interview. I truly appreciate it. You are such a talented writer yourself and it was an honor for you to take time to find out a little more about me and share it here.

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  8. Thanks Kim...we who write poetry seem to have much in common...

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  9. Yes, this is revealing and somehow makes the relationship with Susie's online friends and poets. It is good to know her and to understand the story of the challenges in her life, make her obviously generous spirit even more significant.

    It's good to know you, Susie.

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  10. That comment is about as bad, grammatically and editorially speaking, as I could make it! As an aspiring poet, I should be ashamed, but recognise that Susie is right; we should keep writing every day, or this happens :-/

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  11. I've always looked forward to reading Susie's poetry, and Sherry's interview makes her come alive as a writer and a person for me, making for a new fullness of appreciation for her writing.

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  12. Awesome interviewing once again Sherry!! It is such a blessing to learn more about each poet here. Susie has been such an inspiration, and learning more about her life, just inspires me more. Look forward to reading your poetry for years to come Susie!
    :-)

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    1. Thank you Carrie. I pray I will continue to have verses in me.

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  13. Another fabulous interview Sherry.
    Susie you have been so blessed, and, you know it. A happy marriage, two beautiful daughters. I cannot believe how lucky and blessed you were in that car crash. Texting while driving now is causing so many more accidents than drink/drugged driving has. It is lethal. Thank goodness God didn't want you for an angel right then.
    You've survived so much, and, your talents are amazing. Good luck with the book!~!
    Wonderful getting to know a bit more about the woman behind that pile of laundry ;)

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    1. Thank you...What ingratitude it would be to not be thankful for all I have been blessed with even through adversity.

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  14. What a wonderful interview~ Susie, you have endured so much...you are a true wonder and miracle! Thank you for sharing so much~ You have a beautiful family and so much talent~ I love all of your advice and your generous spirit~ I look forward to your book :D

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    1. Thank you so much Ella. My book will be a mixture of new work and some that has been on my blog. I worried whether to include online work, but some of the poems are such a part of my journey I feel I must include them.

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  15. A terrific interview Sherry. I enjoy your work Susie, and it's always great to get a glimpse of the person behind the poetry.

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  16. Thank you John...I understood what you were saying and I thank you for it. As I stated when I am out of my world of poetry I get thoroughly tongued tied at times in prose.

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  17. With each of Sherry's interviews I am introduced to another talent whose passions and interests overflow with inspiration for others. I am amazed at how many neighbors down the street are brimming with something to say. And, that we have found such a nice place to do it. Keep that pen moving Susie we like what you have to say.

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  18. Susie - I thought I had commented on this interview when I read it last week but I see I didn't ... I'm glad I popped back here to re-read and noticed no comment from me ... I just wanted to say what an incredible story yours is and how much I admire your determination to overcome some incredible odds plus how much I like your work. I find much of your poetry (as much of your photography) eclectic - in the best sense of the word and look forward to reading more in the future. It's an honour to share poetic space with you.

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