Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Life of a Poet - Fireblossom

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: A friend I knew from an on line forum had started a poetry blog, and when I saw it, I knew I had to start one, too! That was March of 2008, when I started Word Garden  for my poetry. It now contains occasional non-poetry posts as well. A year later I started my satire blog, Objets D'art, (the musings of the filthy rich--and fictional--grande dame Babs St. Argent), and then 11 months after that, my story blog, Night Blooms. Early this year I started an in-character blog called Coal Black's House Of Pain. Coal is a rocker chick from the wrong side of the tracks, who first appeared in a poem at Word Garden.
Poets United: Each of these sites has a distinctly original and different voice, all highly entertaining. Can you tell us a little about your life, Shay? 
 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: "The Dime Priest." It's me through and through, it has humanity, it has good images, it's unique, and I wrote it straight from the heart. It's my favorite.

I sat with the dime priest on the steps of Saint T's,
like a paper cup blown up against a holy statue in a garden.

I said,
"I am falling, falling. I am an ice chunk;
My mother the sky has farmed me out to her sister the earth,
Via express delivery."

The dime priest looks over, his huge hands dangling

over his knees as if waiting for some greater work.
"What's wrong, Pookie?" he asks me simply,

tilting his chin up.
He could have starred in movies.

"The tense has changed," I point out irrelevantly.
"It always does," he tells me with a shrug.

We watch the traffic in front of us, and the clouds above.

No stop lights there. No brakes, either.
I love the dime priest. He is so queer and kind.

"Maybe I should say confession."

He looks down and laughs, his broad shoulders shaking.

"I may as well take it from a cat. You don't know what 'no' is,
except for just an obstacle,
Something placed out of reach
Just to vex you."

Why can't I marry the dime priest?

I would make sure his vestments were always clean and mended.
He would make sure never to let me fall into the deep end of my heart.
We would fix our favorite coffee;
Always defend each other to strangers,
Never have sex,
And be smiled upon by some god somewhere,

Wouldn't we?

I am a spill, spreading.
He is the quicker picker upper.
"Who is she, Pookie?"

I falter, like a papier-mache bird caught in the rain.

"She is out of reach, like God.
She is funny and crazy, like the commandments.
She rides inside of something else, like Jonah.
Her faith wavers, like the heat over a fire.
She's just some woman I met," I add miserably.

He will look over at me, with those matinee idol eyes
And I will see that he's on to me,
Like everybody's on to me--
And he will know that I love this one,
Just like everybody knows I do--
And I will fall apart on the steps of Saint T's,
and he will pat me with his bear paws and say,
"Aw, Pookie, it's gonna be okay."

I will say, into his black shirt, "The tense has changed again."
He will say, "It always does,"

And then he will be
The dollar priest
And I will be
Scattered change.

Poets United: I absolutely love it. Do you have a favorite poet? Your favorite poem by them?
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. 

Poets United: Cooooool! And Emily knows what she’s talkin’ about! Do you write with hopes of being published one day? Is online feedback satisfying enough, if you don’t publish?


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! 
Poets United: Some great artists there! Some of my faves, too. So, if you could go anywhere and do anything, no limits, what would that look like?
Shay: I would buy a yellow VW bug and a house on the beach someplace. I would have nine dogs and a hundred book shelves. And, of course, someone to love.
Poets United: OMG, put me down for one of those dreams, too! The beach, and dogs! Perfection! What other poets in the blogosphere do you like to read or visit most?

Poets United: Great picks! Such talented women! So, Shay, when you are not writing, what other interests do you pursue?
Shay: Reading, watching baseball, being a single mom to my dog (lol) and cooking.
Poets United: Bosco is such a bright-hearted little guy! Look at that beautiful face! Have you ever lived a great adventure?
Shay: Yes.

Poets United: And you’re not going to tell???? Agh! Do you have a dream you hope to make come true?
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!


  1. Love this!!! Very cool. I especially love the italics at the bottom ;)

  2. Finally got the read the entire thing! Great to meet you Shay! We have much in common!

  3. She is a gem...always a great blog to visit.

  4. Shay, thanks for a glimpse into your life, and Sherry thanks for the interview.


  5. Shay is one of the most talented and creative writers I've ever come across on Blogger.

    I actually stopped commenting on her posts because I sounded like a broken record. It was always, "This is amazing!" or "Awesome stuff, Shay!" or "Great imagery, so original!"

    (Etc, etc... it felt so redundant!)

    So nice to see her featured here. There's certainly no one more deserving of it than she.

  6. P.S. - Always nice to see a fellow Michigander representing our state so well!

  7. Sherry, what a thrill to see what a BEAUTIFUL job you've done with this...and with such a difficult and contrary person to write about, too! ;-)

    THANK YOU for putting such care into it. And thank you to Poets United for wanting to interview me.

  8. Awewsome interview! So deserving of the recognition, Shay!

  9. So cool ... excellent interview of a truly talented writer!

  10. An excellent profile (with very interesting and worthwhile questions) of my favorite online poet, and one of the best writing today in my opinion. If only Shay could find a keeper to help her publish her truly amazing and original work, as you say, we'd all benefit.

    Oh, and many many thanks for the flattering shout out, Shay. I am nowhere in your class, but I'm so glad you read my stuff.

  11. Excellent choice of poet to profile! Shay is at the top of my list of most talented, unique, and interesting poets anywhere. She never fails to top her latest masterpiece, and has a truly honest and memorable voice that's uniquely hers. (Is that good enough, Shay? You can mail me the check now!) In all seriousness, if she did put out a book, I would buy it and give it as gifts. She is that good. And thanks for the shout-out too!

  12. I so loved shining the spotlight Fireblossom's way as her work has amazed me all year. I'm like Eric: "AWESOME! SO FREAKING GOOD!" etc etc. I agree - one of the best poets writing today. Shay, it was wonderful working with you on this, and you made it all so easy.

  13. Shay, even in an interview your words pack a poetic punch! LOL

  14. Sherry, excellent interview! Shay, I enjoyed learning more about you and have enjoyed your poetry every time I've visited your blog!

  15. Shay is my absolute favorite poet. She constantly inspires me and amazes. If there is any justice in this world, she will get the kind of recognition her talent deserves.

    Excellent, excellent profile!

  16. Great write up happy to see Shay here and learn more about her and her writing....She is truly unique bursting with talent....Congrat's Shay...Awesome!!!...bkm

  17. I just gobbled this interview down, it is so juicy and good! Both you ladies shine here...great questions, quirky answers. I love Shay's complete lack of pretense...she writes because she has to, with no attempt to impress anyone. Her advise to "just tell the damn truth" is probably the best writing tip I've come across!

    Great job, Sherry and Shay...I admire you both for the fearless approach to writing you share, along with an absolute honesty and complete lack of BS...everything one hopes to find in a writer!


  18. Shay is one of my very favourites! Her way with words delights me! And I am like Eric above, I always feel as though I am repeating myself (and gushing!) when I comment at her blog, so I don't always comment but I DO always read. Shay, I think you are an extraordinary writer! :-)

    Another great interview Sherry!

  19. Great profile on one of the hottest cometaries to arc across our cyberverse. Kudos to you both. Burn on, Blossom. (Yo Bosco.) - Brendan

  20. Shay I so enjoyed your words and insight into your view of the world! I love a lot of things you do!
    Beach, dogs, millions of books and similar taste in music! I look forward to reading more from you~x

  21. Thank you, everyone, for such amazing and kind comments!

  22. i would have sworn i commented on this before ~ i know i read it. my deepest apologies! a fabulous interview with the best poet i've read! ♥ dani


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