Wednesday, February 9, 2011

The Life of a Poet - signed......bkm

Written by Sherry Blue Sky

My candle burns at both ends; it will not last the night;
But ah, my foes, and oh, my friends -- it casts a lovely light.”

This quote from Edna St. Vincent Millay appears on bkm’s site under the word: Philosophy. I also note a marked physical resemblance between bkm and the latter-day poet, whose photo also appears on the site. Bkm’s poetry is tres romantic; her entire site is a trip of sighs, and I toy with the fantasy that perhaps she is the late poet, reincarnated! Yup, we are lucky today to be sitting down with Barbara of signed……bkm, one of Poets United’s original members. Bkm is very active in our community. You will find her supportive comments on blogs throughout our membership, and she is a regular contributor to Poets United as well.

Poets United: Barbara, so good of you to take the time for this interview. Your site name is rather self-evident. So I’m wondering if there is a story in how you joined Poets United, since you are one of the longest-term members, joining in June of 2010, when it began.

Barbara: Sherry, I started with another blog that I originally began to write more essay-type posts. I soon found myself posting past pieces and some new pieces of poetry. I started receiving positive comments on my work and, with that, I began posting mainly poetry. Then in June, right before Robb started Poets United, I started the blog signed……bkm, the title coming from the way I sign my poetry- bkmackenzie - and also from my love for handwriting analysis, which has fascinated me since I was a teenager, with signatures being of special interest to me. As far as Poets United, I had been reading Robb’s work for a few months prior, so when he started the blog, it was an easy decision to get involved.

Poets United: We’re so glad you did! Can you tell us a little about yourself, and the part of the world you live in? How many people and/or critters do you share space with?

Barbara: I have lived in Northern California for several years now, but was raised on a farm in the Midwest. I am married, and we share the house with three dogs and one cat, which we have had for years. I also have two grown children, but no grandchildren. I have come to love the Western United States, though the history of the whole country is another one of my weaknesses.

Poets United: Cool! Is there a particular era that especially sparks your interest?

Barbara: I love all eras of American history, but am particularly drawn to the era between WWI through the end of WWII, especially - The Great Depression, the Franklin Roosevelt era and the build-up and our involvement in WWII. Though I have taken some classes in this era, most of my study has been through reading and traveling, and crossing the country a few times visiting several historical sites and museums of history.

As a resident of Northern California for the past 35 years, the history of the Gold Rush and its influence in the migration West has become second nature. I was fortunate enough, as an employee of the U.S. Postal Service for 30 years, to have a term of service at the foothills post office of Coloma ,CA where the first pieces of gold were discovered by James Marshall in 1848, which set fire to the movement West.

But this is but a tip of my interests in history. I also love reading the biographies of inventors, authors, presidents, scientists etc. This material helps in writing, allowing me to pull from the resources and subjects I have studied.

Poets United: I imagine it does lend itself to your writing. When did you first know you are a writer? Do you remember writing your first poem?

Barbara: For me, poetry is a natural. As a child, I fell in love with rhyme, and the images it produced. I probably started writing about age 12, and have written off and on ever since. Somehow, even in high school, I knew I was meant to write, but life did not point me in that direction, though I always continued to write poetry.
bkm's children inspired writing page

Poets United: I knew it! A writer since childhood! What style of poem do you write the most? Are there forms that you favor?

Barbara: Style for me varies. I work at trying not to write in the same form or voice. I was never taught the true forms of poetry, so I mainly go by sound. I am a firm believer that poetry is meant to be read and listened to. So poetry that is filled with fancy color and shape really does not hold my interest. I love listening to the ebb and flow of a piece, so when I write, I have to read it several times and even out loud to get a feel for it. Most times I will post a piece, then go to view it and read it out loud to see if it looks and sounds right to my ear.

Poets United: That makes sense. Your poetry has a wonderful flow to it, and that can’t be taught, I don’t think. It is a gift. Where do you stand on the question of poetry and the internet? Has it hurt or helped poetry?

Barabara: There truly is a lot of poetry out there, but without the internet, some great writing would be missed, as many poets are not published or known. It also gives writers an opportunity to experience the feedback from other writers, that they may find difficult to get otherwise.

Poets United: Exactly! That is very true for me. I have come to the land of blogging late, but extremely happily :). When do you write the most? And what conditions do you prefer for writing?

Barbara: I can write anytime, though I prefer first thing in the morning, while I am drinking my coffee. I can write anywhere in the house, but I always write at home. I prefer to write when I am alone, though it is not always possible.

Poets United: How do you know if a poem is good?

Barbara: A poem has to hook me into it emotionally, and then take me somewhere, either through images defined or emotion felt. For instance in Millay's Renascence the first lines take you immediately to a vision, as if you were actually viewing the mountains yourself.........

All I could see from where I stood
Was three long mountains and a wood;
I turned and looked the other way,
And saw three islands in a bay.
So with my eyes I traced the line
Of the horizon, thin and fine,
Straight around till I was come
Back to where I’d started from;
And all I saw from where I stood
Was three long mountains and a wood.

I believe poetry should have minimal words. When I write, I will first draft a piece, read it, and start cutting and shifting lines or stanzas. The end result has to produce the original image or emotion I was originally seeking to express, when the piece first came to mind. My goal is to have the reader feel that emotion as well.

Poets United: Do you have a favorite poem among those written by you?

Barbara: I cannot say I have a favorite piece, because I can see a piece of myself in just about every poem, as I believe most poets do with their work. So to say this one or that one is a favorite, I do not really think I can say that anymore.

Poets United: How about a favorite poet?

Barbara: I love so many poets. Edna St. Vincent Millay became one of my favorites within the past 10 years, after reading her biography Savage Beauty. Biographies seem to draw me to people, and the beauty of her work came with it. My favorite of Edna’s is “Renascence”, the piece that launched her fame at such a young age.

But I have to say that the poet that has influenced me the most is Emily Dickinson. I love her ability to create an image.

Poets United: Do you write with hopes of being published one day? Do you dream of books with your name on them?

Barbara: I have never been published. I realize that there are so many good poets out there, that if I do publish, I will probably have to self-publish a collection or series. I have considered the possibility, but do not have anything in the works right now. A book with my name on it, yes, that would be a lovely dream come true, and maybe someday that will happen.

Poets United: I hope it does! Do you also do any prose writing?

Barbara: No, I stay mainly with poetry. I do not seem to have the patience for writing anything of great length. If I were to write a book other than poetry, it would probably be non-fiction.

Poets United: Do you have a secret dream you hope comes true?

Barbara: My secret dream would be to have Garrison Keillor read one of my poems as a closing piece on the Writers Almanac, which he does every day. I love the way he reads, and so enjoy listening to him.

Garrison Keillor reading a closing piece on Writers Almanac.

Garrison Keillor live footage Comical Bison Commercial reading.

Poets United: I’ll bet if you send him a poem, he’ll read it!! Have you lived a great adventure you’d like to share with us?

Barbara: The greatest adventure I ever had was the first time I drove cross country from Newport, Rhode Island to San Diego, California. I was in the US Navy at the time, received orders to San Diego, and off I went by myself. It was my first cross country trip, long before cell phones, and I never had, nor have I since, felt so free.

Poets United: Oh, Barbara! How long were you in the service?

Barbara: I was active in the US Navy during the late Viet Nam era, right before and during the Nixon resignation. I was a Hospital Corpsman, stationed at naval hospitals in Newport RI, North Chicago IL, San Diego CA and Oakland CA.

Poets United: It is wonderful you served your country. And what an important and interesting time to have done so. Do you have some causes dear to your heart?

Barbara: I have no specific causes, except maybe the belief in education, whether it be through an institution or self-education: reading, science, sociology, world religion, all aspects of educating oneself. In today’s world there is no need for ignorance, and we are not entitled to it. Education is the key to the world moving forward, promoting peace and tolerance in an ever-changing world, with mounting problems to address.

Poets United: I so agree! There is a wealth of information available at our fingertips.

Barbara: As far as passions go, I will say reading (non-fiction), writing and racing. Yes racing, Indy car and Formula One racing topping the list. This year we will in fact be heading to Indianapolis for the 500.

Poets United: Oh my goodness! See? This is why I love doing these interviews! Who would have suspected?

Barbara: I have been interested in car racing since I was quite young, after watching the movie Grand Prix. My husband and I have been avid racing fans for years. I personally boast not missing the watching of the Indianapolis 500 since 1986. I have attended several races, loving both the rush of the crowd and the sounds of the engines.

Poets United: Well, that is really interesting! And I love the photo! Do you have any other pursuits or interests?

Barbara: Poetry is my main creative outlet, though in the past I belonged to various large choirs. There is a magic, singing with a large professional choir, that is so powerful. This is something I would love to do again.

Poets United: That is really cool! I hope you do. Do you have a favorite quote you live by?


“We must be willing to let go of the life we planned, so as to have the life that is waiting for us,”

Poets United: Great quote! Thanks so much, Barbara, for taking the time to let us get to know a little more about you.

There is much more to a poet than their poetry. The folks that live behind the pen can be some of the most interesting people around. We look forward to giving our readers an intimate and personal look at some of the other poets found here at Poets United, so be sure to come back and see who we chat with next. Who knows? It might be you!

(Yet again we are treated to another wonderful interview conducted by Sherry Blue Sky. If you would like to learn more about Sherry or read some her poetry you can do so by visiting her blog "Stardreaming With Sherry Blue Sky" you can also read other articles and posts by Sherry found here at Poets United by just simply searching Sherry Blue Sky.  Sherry is a regular contributor to Poets United and we would like to thank her for all of her hard work and look forward to future posts)


  1. It was really great to get to know BKM a little more. She often writes very well, such a varied life and wonderfully lived!

  2. I love Barb's work and I am happy to get to
    know more of her life. Thanks Barb and Sherry
    for giving us a glimpse at the artist behind
    the writing.


  3. Thank you for sharing this in-depth interview with us. A fascinating peep through a window of Barbara's life.

  4. How interesting to read all about one of my favorite bloggy poets, as interviewed by another!

  5. glad you are featured here at Poets United...I knew there was a fascinating person behind your amazing poetry! (Wonderful interview Sherry!) :-)

  6. I so love getting to know our poets better through these interviews....and Robb, you did a FANTASTIC job of setting this up and illustrating it. Yay!

  7. Nice Barbara..I refer as signed...bmk.I knew a lot about you here as a poetess,serving in the US army,the car racing you love and so much about poetry.Thanks for sharing this wonderful interview Sherry...really these interviews does magic

  8. bkm, you simply amaze me with your poetry and outlook. I enjoyed reading this and finding photos and links that did Sherry's interview of you justice. Know wonder I like your poetry we have a lot in common, well save for the race car bit, but taht I can forgive. I know of the cross country drives and military service and I am a prairie home conmanion junkie. NPR's Wait Wait Don't Tell Me, Click and Clack,This American Life and of course Mr Keillor. Sherry you did a great job and I cant wait to see who you have lined up next.

  9. BKM is beautiful inside and out, and her gift for writing is one we are fortunate to receive.

  10. Sherry and Bkm,
    What a lovely interview this was. So interesting and informative. A really nice way to share a little insight into the life of a poetry friend.

    Best wishes,

  11. Thank you all so very much....I have enjoy so much getting to meet and know other poets here at Poets has been a great adventure..and so pleased to know you all..many thanks to Sherry and Robb.....bkm

  12. I really admire bkm's work. Great interview.

  13. Wonderful interview Sherry, and thank you so much bkm for sharing a bit of your life with all of us. Knowing a bit about the individual adds depth and meaning to the poetry they produce. I love the race car enthusiasm and the cross country trip,


  14. I have been a signed...bkm fan since I started blogging last summer (I think I told her that she was going to be my role model on writing romantic poetry :) and that she has been!

    Awesome interview, as always, Sherry. Although, nothing here surprised me EXCEPT the race car tidbit - love it!


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