Monday, May 26, 2014

LIFE OF A POET - SHERRI BRANNON

This week, my fellow travelers, we are heading to Virginia, to enjoy a visit with Sherri Brannon, poet, artist and photographer, who showcases her work at Softly Piqued Lens. Sherri has a close connection to nature, which is reflected in her wonderful photography. Get ready to enjoy some spectacular scenery!


P.U.: Sherri, I am so happy to be meeting with you! Give us a little peek at your life, will you? What does life look like at your house?




Sherri: Thank you so much for asking me to be a part of “Life of a Poet” – I am honored. My husband and I are empty nesters and we have a grown daughter who’s 22 years old. We currently live in Virginia, but are hoping to retire to Florida in several years – we are counting the days! Until recently, we also had a beloved corgi named Ruby…she passed away last September. She was my best friend and always at my feet throughout my creative pursuits! 


I’m not currently working and feel very lucky that I can devote my time to working at all things creative. My husband enjoys photography, too, so we like to go out on day trips looking for photo opportunities when we can.

P.U.: It sounds ideal! I am so sorry about Ruby. I know very well how much we miss our best friends! Where did you grow up? Is there something from your childhood that, looking back, you think led you to being the creative artist you are today?

Sherri: I’m an Army brat, so we moved a lot when I was growing up.  I’ve lived in lots of places: England, Turkey, Germany, Panama, and many U.S. states. I was a sensitive, shy introvert, and it was always traumatic to relocate and make new friends. I coped by escaping into the world of books. I was such a bookworm! I definitely think my love of reading and losing myself in stories created my desire to write. It fed my vivid imagination.

P.U.: My nose was always in a book too - still is, in fact! Of all the places you lived as a child, which is the one you loved the most? Or, is there a story from one of the places you might like to share?

Sherri: I'd have to say my most favorite place I lived growing up would have to be Panama (followed closely by  Germany). I was a young teen while in Panama, so I have many memories of my life there. I don't have a particular story about Panama - it was more just the magic of every day living in a tropical paradise. 




We had banana trees in our yard and could see the ocean (distantly) from our front door. I could pick mangos from a tree on my walk home from school, and see parrots and marmosets in that same tree on a daily basis. I became addicted to "ginnups", an exotic fruit that was popular there...I haven't seen it or eaten them since I left. They resembled a cluster of grapes, but bigger - you would peel off the outside skin of each "grape" and eat the insides. 

I walked with my friends through an exotic jungle path to get to our local Kobbe beach. There were occasional snakes hanging from our banana trees, and scorpions on our stucco walls outside. Every day the kudamundis (a raccoon-like animal) would come out of the jungle to our yard to be fed their daily snacks - like squirrels do here, the mama would  show up daily for some treats for her and her babies. I wish I had pictures! 

And I experienced what an earthquake felt like when we had one there - it lasted 90 seconds and scared us to death (no damage except for some books falling, etc.). Germany would be my second most favorite place - I was 19, and lived and worked in Heidelberg for a year while my Dad was stationed there. It's where I met my husband (he was military at the time), and I have nothing but good memories of that beautiful place! I dream of going back to visit. I do have one picture I found of myself at a German landmark - I'm with a family friend visiting Wurzburg. 

Sherri in Wurzburg, age 19


P.U.: What wonderful memories! Your blog name, Softly Piqued Lens, is so reflective of your lovely photographic  art. I always feel so peaceful, looking at all of your beautiful blooms. Which came first for you, poetry, photography or art?

Sherri: Thank you – I love my blog name and think it describes really well where I come from with my art, poetry and photography.  I had glimpses of my potential with both art and poetry as a kid/teen. When I was in the sixth grade, I saw a sketch of a raccoon and had a sudden, strong urge to draw it. I was stunned at how well of a job I did. I remember running to show it to my Mom. But the moment passed and I didn’t think about art again until my early twenties. 

In freshman English, I had to write a poem as an assignment. The poem had to be about a daily chore, and I wrote mine about how being in the shower is like being in the womb (lol). My professor liked it and encouraged me to submit it to the campus magazine…I was too shy to do that. I didn’t write poetry again until 2006, over 25 years later. I started photography in 2010 when I discovered Photoshop and realized what a creative outlet it could be.




P.U.: That was a long interval, but it sometimes happens. We enjoy it all the more, once we pick it up again. You write “these creative things help me express the beauty (and angst) of life”. Would you like to expand on that a little? 

Sherri: Life is both beautiful and ugly at times. For me, creativity is such a wonderful outlet to express what’s going on in your life, whether you’re in a joyful or sad space. As I said earlier, I didn’t write poetry or create art when I was a teen…I hadn’t discovered that part of myself yet. I wish I had discovered my creativity during those years – it would’ve given me a voice I didn’t have at the time, and I probably would’ve coped better with the trauma of constant moving.

P.U.: I love that you say on your blog  you are “observing the world through a heart colored lens".  Me, too.  Your love for the natural world shines through your work. Tell us a bit about your connection to nature.

Sherri: It’s hard to find words for how much I love nature… it’s so peaceful and comforting. Both nature’s beauty and decay offer lessons about the cycle of our own human lives. It’s sacred, somehow. Being with nature is a very spiritual thing for me…writing poetry is, too. I think that’s why nature is always such a part of my writing. 

P.U.:  I so agree. Nature is sacred and has always been so to indigenous people. I am happy to see more and more of us rediscovering this truth. What do you love about poetry? What makes it sing for you?

Sherri: Poetry allows me take something that may be a conflict or struggle, and turn it into a thing of rhythm and beauty. I love that transformation. I find it very healing – the writing of a poem is a wonderful release for me. I also love the vivid imagination that poetry requires…there is always an exaggeration, an extra drama that must be added to make it interesting. It’s a wonderful challenge and I love the entire process, from start to finish. 

P.U.: Well said! Would you like to say something about each of your creative outlets and how each satisfies your creativity?



Sherri: Art is the outlet I tend to avoid more than the others, because it’s hard to overcome my fear of making bad art! Poetry is my feeling place…it’s internal and vulnerable, and expressing deep emotions this way is deeply satisfying because in “real life” it’s harder for me to do that. 


Crooked Eye Girl
My attempt to combine an original drawing in charcoal 
with one of my own painted backgrounds in photoshop


Jaime en pointe
The pointe shoes are special to me because that's my daughter
in the photo. She grew up dancing. I attempted to make
the photo look old and vintage by adding multiple textures

P.U.: Your art is extraordinary! It must be so satisfying to create something you can put on your wall and enjoy.


December Sunrise-Sherri Brannon

Sherri: Photography is my happy place – it’s external and helps me focus on details, which I truly love. It gets me outside of my head. And digital art is a wonderful combination that allows me to bring all of my creativity together – I can create art and merge it with a photo, or add words from a poem, etc.  It’s very exciting because of its endless possibilities!


Purple Moon - Sherri Brannon

P.U.: Your photos are so glorious, I could make this interview five times longer. It is so hard to pick and choose from the wealth of beautiful photographs on your site. (Do check them out, kids!) Do you have a regular routine for writing, or do you write when the spirit moves you? Do you tend to go on writing spurts, then art and photography spurts, or do you find your photos and poetry complement  each other?

Sherri: I definitely can only write when the spirit moves me. This is why I may go for weeks between poems. It always starts with a sudden feeling or emotion I’m dealing with. When my muse arrives, I tend to drop everything and write immediately. That’s when I get the bare bones of a poem started, and then I find that I’ll work on it for weeks afterwards until it evolves to a satisfying place. Sometimes the finished poem is completely different from where I first started. 

With art, I’m more scheduled…and photography is a daily thing! There’s never a time I don’t want to grab my camera and capture a moment. And I most definitely love how I can tie my photos together with a poem.


Beach View - Sherri Brannon

P.U.: I love your poem Spring is Just a Rumor, and would love to include it here. 




I wander with my winter heart,
inhaling the March tones,
the silence of things,
the showy sunset.
If the sky had a scent
it would smell of
tangerines and honey.
The birds speckle the air
with flecks of color:
rubied cardinal, rusted robin,
purpled finch. 


Tulip buds hide and ache 
beneath the snow, yearning 
for their colors.
I breathe in the smell
of a winter fire, the 
loneliness of chimney smoke. 
I fret about the looming hollow 
of moon shadows across 
midnight walls. Spring
is just a cruel rumor,
whispered bitingly 
among the oaks.

© Sherri Brannon 2014

P.U.: I love "I wander with my winter heart", and  the waiting for all the spring colors to arrive. Is there another poem you would like to include as well? 


Morning Light - Sherri Brannon

Sherri: Thank you – I’m really happy you liked it! Another poem I’d love to share is one called “The Witness” – it’s one of my favorites:


Three Figures
by Sherri Brannon


The poignancy of life
Is a physical thing
As my lungs inflate
Filled to bursting at the ache
Of gold-tinged memories
Crumbling with a touch
Fleeting and fragile
Like a butterfly at sunset
Disappearing into twilight

My heart trips and stumbles
On the cracks of my past
Falling hard on the sidewalk
Its bittersweet chamber
Skinned raw with regrets
My anxieties lie draped
Atop my fickle faith
Like a barbed wire necklace
That pricks with its
Foolish agonies

But my soul stands
As a witness
To the joys and the strife, to
The angel and the devil
Behind my eyes
And we all three stare
With an intake of breath
At life's pincushion sky
Stuck sharply, sweetly
With brilliant stars

My lonely billows out, and
My soul falls to her knees
From the love.

©Sherri Brannon 

P.U.: This poem really takes my breath away. "Life's pincushion sky"! And your art accompanies it to perfection. How long have you been blogging, and how has blogging impacted your work?


Sunset Dogwood Bloom - Sherri Brannon


Sherri: I started blogging in 2006, purely for my poetry. I had just started writing poems and I had also discovered some writing circles and prompts in the blog world. I was eager to share my poetry, but also intimidated. It was wonderful getting supportive feedback from these writing circles, and posting poems on my blog gave me a lot of confidence with my writing. 


Lily of the Valley - Sherri Brannon

I turned that blog private in 2010 and began my current blog for photography (and a little art), thinking that’s all it would be. It wasn’t long, though, until the poetry crept back into my blog posts. That’s when I knew that this poetry thing was something permanent for me. 

I love that blogging lets me share my point of view in life, whether it’s with words or images, and I especially love when something I’ve shared publicly resonates deeply with another person. 


Cherry Blossoms - Tidal Basin, Washington, D.C.
Sherri Brannon


P.U.: Such a good feeling! What other interests do you have when you set aside the poems and photos?

Sherri: I love to read, listen to music, daydream, collect quotes, take walks, and dream of my next visit to the ocean. Not very exciting stuff, but for me it’s the simple things!

P.U.: Simple pleasures are the best. What would we be most surprised to learn about you? 

Sherri: I’m not a very surprising person…lol. There’s nothing that would shock people - everything about me fits who I am to a “T”!


Florida Pond by Sherri Brannon
(Do you see the fox?)

P.U.: Top item on your Bucket List? 

Sherri: Travel to Italy.

P.U.: Oh, that's a good one! Is there anything else you’d like to say to Poets United? 

Sherri: I’d like to say thanks for such a wonderful community of people. Sharing my work with such a supportive group has only helped my writing. It’s a very good thing! 

P.U.: Thank you, Sherri, for a lovely visit. We look forward to enjoying much more of your work in the months ahead.

Wasn't that an enjoyable visit, kids? Do come back to see who we talk to next. Who knows? It might be you! 

32 comments:

  1. ah, my Virginia neighbor....
    your fear of making bad art...ha...i hear you...but art is art and is what it is...
    i know i dont have the eye for photography but i have dipped
    the hand in art and words...
    you'll like florida as well...i lived there a few years...

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    1. Thank you, fellow Virginian...:) I'm trying harder to accept the learning curve of art - but you're so right, it's very subjective! As beautiful as Virginia is, I have to say I sure am loving Florida.

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  2. So many lovely photographs and the creativity is amazing:)

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  3. first of all, great artistry and career you have! and secondly, I loved your memories of Panama because they are similar to mine of my American Samoa minus the snakes. I am here in Silver Spring in nearby Maryland, and if you have time, stop on by my blog pls. www.jamztoma.blogspot.com :Your photos and artwork are your highlights!!! those are my faves too.

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    1. James, I could've done without the snakes, too...lol. And I will definitely stop by your blog soon (I'm on vacation this week, so if not this week, for sure next week when I get back!). Thanks for your kind words.

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  4. Happy to meet you here, Sherri! Your art and Photography reveal your uniqueness in their moods and detail. My favorite is the Lily of the Valley which makes me think of my grandmother. I laughed wildly at your love of winter and especially this ending: "Spring / is just a cruel rumor, / whispered bitingly / among the oaks." Body, heart and soul witness to how life fills your sails in "The Winess" and "Three Figures." I see I'm going to have to add your site to my rounds.

    Thanks again, PU, for showcasing a fine writer/artist.

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    1. Susan, aren't Lily of the Valley wonderful? They're my favorite, too. I'm so glad you enjoyed my poems and thank you for visiting my blog. :)

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  5. Sherri, it is nice to meet you here within Sherry's interview. I don't think I have ever interacted with you before (hope you will share with Poetry Pantry on Sundays), but I definitely will look for your work now. Interesting that you are a poet who also is artistic in other ways. So many seem to be. And I really like your poem "The Witness."

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    1. Mary, thanks so much. I have participated quite a bit in Poetry Pantry, but sometimes have weeks in between when my muse has taken a break. I'm working on a poem now and will hopefully post it soon! It doesn't quite feel finished yet. :)

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  6. I enjoyed this interview so nice of you to share your story. I am with Susan I adored the pic of the Lily of the Valley as I recently wrote a poem about that very flower in memory of my grandmother. You have some beautiful photos and it was a pleasure to read your poetry.

    Thanks Sherry for another great interview!

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    1. I will have to check out your poem about your grandmother, for sure! Thank you for your kind words - they're greatly appreciated.

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  7. Now it's morning here and what a treat to begin a day with...an amazing conversation with the gifts of exquisite photography, poems,art and a story of life...thank you Sherri for sharing these precious moments of your life...
    Thanks Sherry for this lovely interview...

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    1. I'm glad you enjoyed my work - thank you!

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  8. I am late to the party tonight, my friends. I just got in from babysitting, then had to put the horses and dogs to bed, all with their bedtime snacks...hee hee. Lovely to come in and find you all have been chatting.........good night, till the morrow!

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    1. Sherry, you are truly a sweetheart and thank you again for asking me to participate. It was a lot of fun to be interviewed - you brought back some wonderful memories and it was interesting to think about my creative process which I hadn't really thought about much before! xo :)

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    2. It was completely my pleasure, Sherri! All of your photos and your wonderful art add so much to the pleasure of putting it together. I love your women's faces - interestingly, the woman where I babysat last night had just bought a hand painted lamp with faces on the base that reminded me of your women. It looked TOTALLY cool!

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  9. Watch this video, share it with as many people as you can. this changed how I perceived gender issues.
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vp8tToFv-bA

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  10. Such a wonderful interview! I've followed Sherri's work for several years and each visit to her blog is filled with delight and wonder. It's very special to have her as a blogging friend.

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    1. Georgianna, I feel the exact same way when I visit your blog and see your breathtaking photos...the feeling is mutual! Thank you, my fellow blogging friend. :)

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  12. From Sherry to Sherri - amazing beautiful picturesque journey of life revealed -through experience and profound love of nature which shines through words and captured moments. A pleasure to meet. Thank you Sherry and PU once again

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    1. Thank you so much for your kind words!

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  14. Oh Sherri... how fortunate I am to call you a friend! A gentle blossom emerging from the warm comfort of shadows, this sunlight reveals your vivid inner colours. I am proud... but also newly inspired. Thank you lovely lady! xo

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    1. Fransi, I'm touched by your sweet comment - thank you, and I must say that your art work is inspiring, too! <3

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  15. I loved getting to know more about you Sherri, so much of what you talk about resonates so deeply with my own creative journey . . . the art, the writing, the photography. Great interview/feature.

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    1. Thank you, Kathryn - I'm glad you connect with my creative journey! :)

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  16. You are so talented! Oh, you should share more art-I too like you fear sharing art-at times. I tend to go more with poetry~ I think it is a process and we have to expose our heART-to see how people respond~ It is so nice to meet you! I am a new fan~

    Wonderful interview, Ladies!!

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    1. Ella, it's so nice to meet you, too. I'm trying to get better about painting more often. The poetry comes so much easier! Thank you for your kind comments. :)

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  17. Glad I stopped in to catch this interview Sherri. I wasn't familiar with your work but will be now and will seek it out. You're so talented -- in so many ways. As I see others have said and I reiterate, your artwork and photos are exceptional, and "The Witness" literally snatched my breath away...I look forward to seeing more of your art, in all its forms, and enjoyed getting to know you a little. Thanks to you also Sherry Blue Sky...as always, you've mined gold for us!

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