Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Life of a Poet - Marian (runaway sentence.)

Kids, one of our most active members, and a Poets United staffer, is Marian of runaway sentence . Marian is our New Member/Blogroll Coordinator, and is an active presence throughout our community. She kindly agreed to let us have a peek into her busy life, and it’s a sweet peek, at a happy family, that does my old heart good!

Poets United: Marian, it is lovely to be sitting down with you at last. What led you to blogging, and the cool name of your site?

Marian: It was critical that my blog's name represented what it's about for me, which is described in the subtitle: observations of an opinionated mom, or the importance of using your words. The idea is that we should not dumb ourselves down or stuff away feelings: USE YOUR WORDS. It took a while to come up with the name, but it's perfect. runaway sentence  evokes wordiness, really letting the words come and fly, and also a fair amount of literary geekiness.
My husband designed the blog for me with my typewriter image and font, and the simple look that I love, and I wanted to have that all in place before I published a single word. I wrote an essay soon after I launched  runaway sentence, about why I did it and what I'm going for. It's here:    I owe it to novelist Michael Chabon , and also in no small part to my grandmother, whose words and spirit grace every word on my blog.

"Me and my Gram when I was nineteen"
"Me and my Gram today"
Poets United: I so relate to your bond with your grandmother, Marian, and enjoyed reading about her on your profile page. I had a similar strong connection with my Grandma. So tell us something about your life, kiddo.
Marian: I live in bucolic western Massachusetts with my husband and our two great kids. I am so lucky to have an old man with whom I'm mad in love, and the coolest kids around. We live in a small town at the foot of a gorgeous mountain amidst tremendous natural beauty. Sometimes I describe my marriage as Nature Girl meets The King of the Great Indoors.

("Here's a photo my family enjoying nature.")
I'm a lawyer by training, and used to practice law in the area of civil legal services and civil rights. Then I ran a couple of nonprofits, including the domestic violence shelter serving our community. Now I work as a fundraiser for a great private college. My husband is a musician; he homeschools our kids. We are geeks and are right now waiting impatiently to see the new Harry Potter movie. One time we saw Neil Young in a hotel lobby, just him and us, but we were too starstruck to speak to him.
Poets United: What a sweet, if temporarily distracted, family! And Neil Young! Wow. I would have been  starstruck, too. You have an impressive work history, Marian. It’s wonderful that you work for such good causes. So, what is it about poetry that makes you want to write? Have you always written?
Marian: I wrote poems from an early age and was a writing major in college. But like so many people, I mostly put away my writing for a number of years; it was relegated to an occasional journal. When I had kids, I felt most full of words and expression but the sleep deprivation kept me from writing anything. My blog started out as kind of a soapbox but has happily evolved into a poetry and creative writing blog.
Poets United: Yes! Happily for us, too!
Marian: I write because I must write. I often think in poems and lines. My notebook accompanies me and I just write it down as it comes. I don't text while driving, but I'm the crazy lady with a notebook and pen trying to scrawl down my latest thought on my morning commute. I'm drawn to expressing a big, universal thought in small, concise lines. I just can't help myself and I don't think I could stop if I tried.
Poets United: What style of poem do you write the most? Are there any forms you find difficult?
Marian: I write a lot of free verse but am also drawn to tight, short poetry forms like cinquain, haiku, and other tanka. Last November, a lot of my friends were participating in NaNoWriMo and I got all irritated and started acting out. Like: Pay attention to me, dammit!

After going through the fall and acting out bcause I felt no one was reading my blog, I started posting my poems to Poets United, Jingle, and OSP and that has made ALL the difference, as I probably do not have to explain to you!

I went through a transition in the fall to writing mostly poetry, and a lot of my earlier readers weren't so interested in poetry, but I had not yet found community. That was hard, but now just a distant memory! the runaway sentence was only one year old in april, and I feel like it's changed and evolved dramatically in its young life.  Hee!

Poets United: I SO know what you mean!

Marian: I started NoCinWriMo and wrote a billion cinquains. Maybe that's an exaggeration (I am prone to hyperbole) but I definitely wrote more than 60 cinquains in November and December.  I could count them, but I'm probably too lazy :)

Lately, I've been working on some forms that are more difficult for me, like sonnets, sestina, and other longer forms. It is challenging for me to write longer poems as I tend to be very efficient and sparse with my words. Sonnet! Ack!
Poets United: I admire poets who can say things succinctly, as you do. How do you decide if a poem is good? Do you revise your work?
Marian: I usually go through a few revisions before I publish a poem, although sometimes they come quickly and easily. I also go back to revise and edit sometimes. Lately I've come to appreciate that there is value in publishing poems every day (or nearly every day), even if each one is not a perfect work of art. I am prolific and have a writing routine that works for me.
Poets United: That is wonderful, especially for a busy mom. Do you ever get writer’s block?
Marian: If you see me posting recipes, it means I feel empty of words. I also post photos of my kids, artwork by my kids, music videos and other stuff. Usually writer's block doesn't last for more than a day or two for me. If I feel like I can't write, I usually ask someone to give me an assignment or find a prompt to write to. Lately I've also been writing short stories, and I can usually work on a story if I am feeling blocked about poetry.
Poets United: Where do you go for inspiration?

Marian: My love and my family inspire me to write. People have referred to my blog as a journal, and I don't really see it that way, but there is a fair amount of just plain living and loving that's reflected in my poems. I often get ideas for poems from listening to music.
Poets United: I love the artwork!! What is your take on poetry and the internet?
Marian: The internet has given me an audience for my writing and I am extraordinarily grateful for that. I love sharing my poems, getting and giving feedback, and discovering the writing of others—you all inspire and keep me going.
Poets United: Isn’t it a great community? I love it. When do you write the most? Do you have a special spot for writing?
Marian: Not really, but I spend quite a bit of time at my kitchen table at night with a cup of tea or a glass of wine, writing writing writing.
Poets United: I can just see you! Do you have a favorite, among your poems?
Marian: I have a hard time picking one poem. Does that make me arrogant? Hah. Here is one I wrote this spring that I particularly like. The images are strong and universal, and the feeling is intense. For me, this represents newness, goodness, love and comfort.

when steam blows off
and fog has lifted
leaving a million crystal drops
like goosebumps
announcing their readiness
let your drowsy feet touch the grass
drink them all up
your love is safe in my mouth.
Poets United: Just lovely. Do you have a favorite poet?
Marian: I like a great many poets, but one special favorite is the late Siv Cedering, a Swedish poet who was my mentor in college. Here is my favorite poem of hers.

 Ukiyo-E   (by Siv Cedering)

What explanation is given for the phosphorus light
That you, as boy, went out to catch
When summer dusk turned to night?
You caught the fireflies, put them in a jar,
Careful to let in some air,
Then you fed them dandelions, unsure
Of what such small and fleeting things
Need, and when
Their light grew dim, you
    Let them go.

There is no explanation for the fire
That burns in our bodies
Or the desire the grows, again and again,
So that we must move toward each other
In the dark.
We have no wings.
We are ordinary people, doing ordinary things.
The story can be told on rice paper.
There is a lantern, a mountain, whatever
    We can remember.

Hiroshige's landscape is so soft.
What child, woman, would not want to go out
Into that dark, and be caught,
And caught again, by you?
I want these pictures of the floating world
To go on, but when
The light begins to dim, catch me.
Give me whatever a child imagines
To keep me aglow, then
    Let me go.

Poets United: That is truly beautiful! Wonderful to have such a poet for a mentor. Do you write with hopes of being published one day?

Marian: I am ambivalent about publishing. No one yet has convinced me why I should want to have my poems published in a magazine or journal—please explain, I'd appreciate it! I find publishing to my blog very satisfying and, honestly, it's attractive to me that it's mine, all mine. I'm considering self-publishing a book of poetry. I also have the idea of publishing a book containing my grandmother's writing alongside my own writing about her, and inspired by her. And I'm working on a children's book.

Poets United:  I love the sound of the book of your grandmother’s writing and yours side by side. Fantastic scope there. I'd buy it! Are you a music afficionado?
Marian: Music is a huge part of my life and always has been. I like a great variety, and love to hear live music as often as possible. Earlier this summer, I experienced a major life event when my husband and I got to see The Cars live, for the first time ever. Let the good times roll! I used to sing and play guitar, but not so much anymore. When I was a teenager, my plan was to be the next Rickie Lee Jones. Now I am living out my music fantasies through my children, who are learning to play drums, piano and guitar.

Poets United: Isn’t it great to see our love for music reflected in our kids? And just look at those beautiful, happy faces! Do you have any personal heroes?

[image of Fred Rogers and Big Bird courtesy of]
Marian: Fred Rogers is a hero for me, for steadfastly believing in and standing by children, and helping parents to be kind and loving and the best for their children. Several musicians come to mind as personal heroes, like Patti Smith and John Hartford. Terry Tempest Williams, Michael Chabon, Gertrude Stein and Don Marquis are some of my writer heroes.
Poets United: What  poets in the blogosphere do you like to read or visit most?
Marian: I read a lot of poetry online—there are so many talented and interesting writers! But here are my favorite poets who are not part of the Poets United community. Check them out, you will be glad you did.
Grace O'Malley, Words Like Foam on the Waves:
Sarah Whiteley, Ebbtide:
Mike Cowan, Southern Musings:
Poets United: Interesting! Thanks, Marian, for the heads-up. It is always great to find new poets. When you are not writing, what other interests do you pursue?
Marian: I like to cook and eat, and talk about cooking and eating, healthy vegetarian food. And I've become a competitive birthday cake creator. Who knew I'd be that kind of mother? Hee.

Poets United: I'll bet your family is glad you are. What a cute cake! Have you ever lived a great adventure?
Marian: My whole life is a great adventure—I'm still living it.
Poets United: That is so awesome! If you could go anywhere and do anything, no limits, what would that be?
Marian: If I could do anything, I'd make a good living and support my family well by writing and just being my fabulous self.
Poets United: I love it! Do you have a favorite quote that you use often, or live by?
"I have come to believe over and over again that what is most important to me must be spoken, made verbal and shared, even at the risk of having it bruised or misunderstood."  (Audre Lorde)
Also, “What's so funny about peace, love and understanding?” (Nick Lowe/Elvis Costello)
Poets United: Thanks so much, Marian, for letting us get to know you better. I have so enjoyed this time with you. And thanks, on behalf of all of us, for the work you do at Poets United!
 See, kids? Isn't it true that the people behind the pen are some of the most interesting people around? Come back soon to see who we talk to next. Who knows? It might be you!


  1. Marian is an awesome blogger! Anyone who doesn't check out her blog is definitely missing out.

  2. Marian is such an inspiration and a truly supportive blogger. I'm so happy to have met her. Thanks for a great interview.

  3. wowee! holy hell, sherry, that is crazy seeing myself up there like that! whoosh! and thank you so much, so much, for this. and Poets United for so much support for writing!
    hey, i forgot to include the title for the beautiful poem by Siv Cedering: it's Ukiyo-E.

  4. Marian makes it an honor to turn on the computer and read.

    She's beyond adjectives with her writing.

  5. WOW!!! What a great interview and what an interesting woman! I like the part where she mentions her husband the best. I think I will start reading this blog TODAY! Thank you Poets United!!!

  6. Love her, love her blog, what an amazing woman, mother, poet! <3

  7. Sherry, thanks for this excellent interview. Marian is definitely a core member of this community and it was a joy reading her responses to your questions.

  8. Another wonderful interview. I enjoyed getting to know you better Marian, and Sherry, well done as always. :-) x

  9. What an interesting interview, I've been to her blog and love itWhat an interesting interview, I've been to her blog and love it

  10. I adore Marian! I learn from her, relate to her, and appreciate her respect for words. She is one of my faves, so thank you for highlighting her, Sherry.

  11. aw, Kim and friends (*blushing madly*) you are all too kind. i am so grateful for community, and for all of you! xoxo and use your words!

  12. Marian is truly a gifted, talented, wonderful writer--I hope more people in this community take the time to check out her work, both the poetic AND non-poetic--she's truly an inspiration!!

  13. I love this interview, Sherry.
    I also like to read Marian's posts...she is a poet after my own heart...always believing in the goodness & greatness of love.

    Great job ladies!

  14. wow... after reading this post i am thinking to become a poet...if that were possible :( .... best luck Marian...and long live Poets United :)

  15. So happy to see Marian get the attention she deserves, and utterly shocked to be one of her recommendations, especially on a week like this one. Love this woman and her work. Thanks for featuring her!

  16. Ooh, Marian deserves all this love! She truly is the best! Great interview!

  17. people, you can stop now.
    also: ALL YOU NEED IS LOVE. xoxo

  18. also? I said Grace wasn't a member of the Poets United community, but NOW SHE IS! so go read her fantastic Words Like Foam On The Waves.

  19. I really enjoyed getting to know Marian from this very personal interview (one of the very things I love about Poets United).

  20. Hey Marian!!!!! Thanks for the plug. You are the best. Obviously. And you are my favorite blogging poet/person.

  21. yes, everybody go read Mike's blog, Southern Musings. lovely, lovely words!

  22. I so enjoyed getting to know more about you, Marian! It was a wonderful interview by both parties~ I love the depth and how your creativity finds other ways to come forth~
    Great job by you both!


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