Monday, April 6, 2015

LIFE OF A POET - DEBI SWIM

Today, my fellow poets, I am happy to present to you the wonderful poet, Debi Swim, whom I am sure many of you have encountered in the blogosphere, at such places as dVerse, Real Toads and Poetic Bloomings. Debi writes at  George Place Blog, and I was happy when she agreed to be featured. This is one of those interviews that has a story hidden within it that totally blows my doors off, and Debi was trusting enough of our community to share it. I assured her she will be treated with the utmost respect in sharing it. Pour yourselves a cup of tea, my friends, and prepare to marvel at the journey this courageous poet has made. 








Sherry: Debi, tell us about yourself, if you will. Give us a glimpse of the poet at home. Do you live a rural or urban existence?

Debi: I live in Princeton, WV (Wild, Wonderful WV or, as most of us prefer, Almost Heaven, WV.)  My husband, Kyle, and I, raised three children here (on property that has been in his family since his great-grandfather). Angel, her husband and two boys live in Washington.  




Tommy and his wife live in Alabama.  Erin, her husband and four boys live in Ohio but will be moving to Nashville soon.  



We also have an eleven year old Yorkie named Rivers.





Sherry: What a wonderful family you have! And I love the name Rivers. Where did you grow up, Debi? 

Debi: I was born in Stuart, Virginia, but my brother and sister were born in Lawton, Oklahoma, where my dad was stationed at Fort Sill. When he was discharged, we were going to move to California – his family had recently moved there.  

We went on ahead to wait for daddy but he was killed in a car accident in Arizona. I was almost six. We moved back to Virginia to my mom’s parents', and soon after that grandpa retired, and we went to Tennessee until I was in 8th grade. Then my mom, sister, brother and I moved to Princeton, WV.

Sherry: I am so sorry you lost your father so young, Debi. How sad. Thank heavens for grandparents at such a time. 


Debi, in almost every instance, as I am researching and poking around sites to do an interview, I seem to uncover a story which is at the heart of a poet’s life. In this case, I was saddened to discover that after the loss of your father, you suffered another very traumatic loss. Would you feel up to sharing the story of your youthful first marriage with us? Only because your story is inspiring, in showing we can endure terrible losses, and still work our way through the grief and back to happiness again. I think this is a message that will help anyone who reads it. It will resonate with many, I am sure.

Debi: I’d be happy to, Sherry.  My first husband and I were married in August, the summer before our senior year of high school! We were 16 and 17, so had to elope to South Carolina to get married. The embarrassing thing was that even in SC, we had to call home and have his mom and dad come sign for him as he wouldn’t be 17 until September.  Amazingly, his mother and my parents did, with gritted teeth and misgivings (his dad was a doctor and couldn’t just leave his work).  

It lasted for six, mostly turbulent, years.  He was diagnosed with schizophrenia and committed suicide when Angel, our daughter, was a year and a half.  Jerry’s parents were so supportive, and still are a big part of my life.


When Angel was four, I met Kyle.  I think it takes a special man to take on a wife and ready made family, but he did.  We had two children of our own, Tommy and Erin.  God has certainly blessed me with this wonderful man.  We will be married 38 years in August!


Debi with Angel

Sherry: I love this photo. You look so brave. Debi, you blew me away with your story. I am so grateful that Kyle came along, and that you have experienced such a happy life since. Wow. God bless you, and thank you for being okay with telling your story. You are living proof  a person can go through so much pain and grief, and manage to work  through to happiness again.


Debi: Let’s just say life has been a mix of sorrow and blessing, as it is with us all. My faith is paramount, though I question a lot. Writing is therapy and pleasure. My six grandsons are my joy, and my husband, my best friend.   I am content and happy with my life.





Sherry: One can ask for nothing more. Did you begin writing as a child, Debi, or did you come to it later in life? And is there someone you feel had a significant influence on your becoming a writer?

Debi: Poetry, except for the little we had in school, was not important to me.  I thought poetry was beatniks and weird ramblings accompanied by bongos.  In my early thirties, I began to write a lot of spiritual poetry, then life got busy and I put it down.  

About five years ago, I learned about a writing group that met once a month at our library and very timidly showed up one evening.  They focused mainly on poetry.  The leader of that group was Sal Buttaci, (a familiar name to some of your poets). He is a retired English teacher, and wonderful poet and flash fiction writer. He has been published extensively, and has several flash fiction books and poetry on Amazon.

Anyway, I asked if he would mentor me and he graciously accepted.  He has taught me so much and introduced me to a world of poetry and poets I never knew existed.  He is my poetic hero, smile.
 
Sherry: It is wonderful when someone arrives at just the right moment on our journey. And judging by his reputation, you were fortunate in your choice of a mentor. What is it about poetry that caused you to choose it as your means of creative expression?  What do you love about it?

Debi: I think really it was the music of the 60’s and early 70’s and the prevailing discontent of the times; civil rights, Viet Nam, anti-establishment…  and teenage angst.  One of the first poems I remember writing ended “Life is death,” and I thought that was so profound.  Ha.




Sherry: Smiles. Oh, how I relate! I have some of those gems as well. Favorite book you read as a child?

Debi: A book of Fairy Tales and Nancy Drew

Sherry: What type of poetry do you write the most? Are there any forms you find difficult, or tend to avoid?

Debi: I don’t like writing sestinas or palindromes.  My mind just doesn’t work that way. I do like centos and acrostics, though with acrostics I like to take a quote and use words rather than letters.  I like most of the forms I’ve been introduced to, but love to just write free form and let the thoughts take me where they want to go.

Sherry: Do you write prose as well?

Debi: I’ve been told I do, but I don’t very often.  I do like the challenge of flash fiction but usually concentrate on poetry.

Sherry: On your blog you mention you write to prompts. Always? Or do some poems  bubble up on their own?

Debi: There are a few that just bubble up on their own, but mostly I use prompts as a jumping off place, and try to apply some personal experience or feeling. 

Sherry: Would you like to include two poems of yours that you are especially pleased with?

(An acrostic)
                        Remember Me

One day we went into the woods where
lives the owl that hoots at night
in the great spreading oak,
the one with the limbs down low. I know you
hope to scramble to the top
of the highest branches
becoming just a speck against the azure sky.
A little boost I give and say, “Not too high” and know the
memory of this day will outlive me.

“One lives in the hope of becoming a memory.” Antonio Porchia

(A Cento)

           I's  Frustrated!

A Burdock—clawed my Gown—
Who went too near
The Burdock's Den—
Here I sit
With my shoes mismated.
I grow old . . . I grow old . . . 
I wear the bottoms of my trousers rolled. 
At times, indeed, almost ridiculous--   
Almost, at times, the Fool. 
Lawdy-mercy!
I's frustrated!

Bad Morning, Langston Hughes; The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock
by T. S. Eliot; A Burdock—clawed my Gown, Emily Dickinson
   
Sherry: I love these. I especially like that your acrostic uses the first word instead of the first letter of each line. The resulting sentence is profound. And I adore the Cento, especially "I wear the bottoms of my trousers rolled."

When did you begin blogging, Debi?

Debi: My first blog was not poetry but more of a journal of Christian/spiritual topics. It was read and commented on just by my daughters. It was more a ‘thinking out loud’ and questing blog.


My Georgeplace  blog is for a little of everything.



Debi’s Poems  ~ For different forms



Autumn of the Soul ~ My spiritual poems

Sherry: Wonderful, Debi. There is a lot of great reading in those three sites! What other interests do you enjoy pursuing when you aren't writing?

Debi: My little flower garden in the summer…....

Sherry: I found this poem on your site and I just love it! I need to include it.





My Canterbury Bells
sway in the breeze
yet never make a sound.
The Lilies of the Valley
sleep the night away
with heads drooping down.
My Ladies’ Slippers are arranged
along the edges of the bed,
their dainty feet all in a row.
Hens and Chicks run everywhere,
the rooster tall and grand,
so proud that if he could he’d crow.


*Rooster is the tall flower that blooms from the Hen and Chicks.
Debi: I mostly enjoy reading.  I really enjoy science fiction. I dislike romance, unless it is a very minor part of the story .  A friend is doing a six week workshop on Appalachian Literature that I’m enjoying very much, so I expect to be reading more of that genre now.

Sherry: Wonderful, Debbie. The workshop sounds intriguing. Is there anything you’d like to say to Poets United?

Debi: Thanks for all the wonderful prompts and encouragement from other poets. There is so much talent here!  Also, thanks to Rosemary Nissen-Wade for her “I Wish I'd Written This,” because it showcases poets I might not ever read otherwise; (also Kim Nelson’s Classic Poetry for the same reason).

Thank you, Sherry, for spotlighting Poets United poets and giving us a look at their lives and poetry. I know it takes a lot of time and work, but it is certainly helpful and appreciated.

Sherry: The pleasure is all mine, Debi. Thank you for trusting us in sharing your story. We look forward to enjoying much more of your work in the months ahead.

Well, kids, haven't I told you that every person has the most amazing story, beyond anything we might imagine? I never get tired of hearing these stories - the human journey our poets make, and the poetic journey we humans make. Do come back and see who we talk to next. Who knows? It might be you!


35 comments:

  1. Glad to meet you, a wonderful and sensitive talent, Debbi...
    Another special treat from you Sherry. :-)
    ZQ

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    1. Glad to meet you, too, RK. Thanks for your kind words.

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  2. Debi is what every poet should be: talented, productive, and willing to learn as much as possible about the craft of poetry. Sharon and I consider her a dearest friend. Reading with her at local venues is a highpoint for me. I am a huge fan of her poetry. She demonstrates an excellent command of language, sound, and underlying meanings. Debi is a gem!

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    1. Sal, you are always so free with your encouragement. I can't thank you enough for your teaching and support.

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    2. It is wonderful when a writer has a mentor such as this!!!! Yay!

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  3. Dear Sherry and Debi,

    Thank you for a most interesting read! Debi, it's lovely to meet you. I enjoyed your poem, ''My Garden''', as well as learning a little bit about your life. How lovely that you can call your husband your best friend.

    Wishing you both a wonderful week!

    Poppy

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    1. Thank you Poppy, I have been blessed.

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  4. Its a pleasure to meet you Debi :D
    Thank you Sherry for introducing us to such a wonderful person.
    xoxo

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    1. Thank you, Sanaa, that was a lovely thing to hear.

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  5. What a wonderful heart wrenching and heart warming story about your life and poetry Debi...nicely done Sherry. I felt like we were all just sitting around in the garden drinking tea and seeing those Ladies' Slippers all in a row!

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    1. Sitting in the garden sipping tea sounds like my kind of activity : )

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  6. Good to see you here, Debi. So true of life, I think...that it is a mix of 'sorrow and blessing.' Your life definitely demonstrates that. Thank you for sharing some of your personal history. And as for your poetry......I love the acrostic "Remember Me" which is both beautiful and meaningful. Ha, Debi, I hope that I will see you over at the Poetry Pantry on Sunday. Smiles You can share either a new poem or one you wrote at another time. We have great spirit there....lots of fun and encouragement!

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    1. Thanks, Mary. I love doing this type of acrostic

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  7. A pleasant surprise to find this inspiring and hear-warming story here just now, as I have recently been reading quite a bit of Debi's poetry and am very impressed!

    Well, Debi, you have answered here a question I very recently asked on your blog, about whether it's still called an acrostic if you use words instead of just letters. Yes, obviously it is — and did you invent this technique? I love it and shall certainly be trying it myself some time!

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    1. I like the idea of a word instead of a letter, too, Rosemary, and will give it a whirl myself.

      Thanks, Debi, for such a lovely visit. I so enjoyed getting to know you better , and had a wonderful time working with you.

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    2. Thank you, Rosemary. I don't know who invented the form. Sal taught it to me. I guess I should ask him if he knows.

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  8. Thank you for the lovely interview Sherry ~ I have read Debi's poems and I am really taken by her courage and faith in her journey ~ Nice to know more about you Debi ~ And I love the family pictures ~

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    1. Thank you, Grace. It is wonderful to have made so many friends through sharing poetry.

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  9. What an intersting personal story. And what an interesting and talented person. Thank you for sharing Debi. Sherry how nice that you know what questions to ask to create such a good interview.

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  10. Kudos to your courage and patience to make such a meaningful and inspiring life Debi...love the poems shared here and specially that acrostic form using the first word instead of the first letter..and Sherry, a big 'thank you'....

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  11. That was another fabulous interview, Sherry. Thank you for introducing Debi. I read her poetry for the first time...and Debi, you have a fan here😊. Just loved reading her poems..esp, the garden! Thanks again, sherry.

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  12. That's such a wonderful interview! Thanks Sherry and Debi for sharing it with us! Been to visit you Debi a few times. You write very well!

    Hank

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  13. Thank you all so much. You make me smile.

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  14. Debi!!! So nice to hear you here...your story is rich and riveting and emotively moving. Thank you, for sharing your life with us...it's such a treat to learn more of one of my favorite poetical peeps!

    Thank you, Sherry, fro bringing this feature and asking all the right questions...honest and authentic 'talk' you two!!

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    1. You are so sweet, Hannah. I've met so many beautiful people through our poetry. I wish we all lived closer together so we could meet in person. Thank goodness for the internet though.

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  15. Wonderful post! Thank you both!

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  16. Sherry, thank you for introducing us to more of Debi's story....I always love Debi's poetry and to hear more about the person behind the words is so meaningful to me. I can see where the depth comes from now. And, Debi....SIX grandsons...wow!! Congratulations.

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  17. Thanks CC. Yep, six wonderful guys.

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  18. Debi thanks for sharing a bit of your highs and lows - thank goodness for writing as a vent. Many blessings as you continue your journey and write from your heart.

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  19. You are all most welcome. It is always my pleasure to share these wonderful poetic lives with you. Debi, thanks so much for sharing the journey you have made. It was so lovely working with you.

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  20. Thank YOU, Sherry and thanks for the kind words from a wonderful community.

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  21. Love! Another SciFi reader like me! And the poem "Remember Me" is a true delight. The little owl so like a self, so like a child, and so itself and wild. Thank you, Sherry, for inviting Debi to your pages. Thank you Debi for your bright presence.

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  22. Debi, your story is truly inspiring. It's not always easy to muster up the strength to move forward, but it seems you've done it and with such grace. Thank you for sharing your story with all of us and allowing us to know you better. Sherry, this has been a very lovely interview :)

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  23. Thank you, Sherry for a lovely interview with a poet I so admire. Debi, your poetry is diverse, and unique. I am familiar with Sal's poetry, and greatly admire his works. I enjoyed reading about you, and look forward to more of your work.

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