Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Life of a Poet ~ Hedgewitch!

by Sherry Blue Sky

Kids, such a treat for you today.  We are sitting down with Joy Jones, the renowned Hedgewitch of Verse Escape ! So set down your brooms and draw near to the cauldron. I intend to ask her what magic potion she drinks, in order to write her amazing poetry. If I can get the spell from her, I’ll share. Then we can all write as fabulously as she does.

Poets United: Joy, I am excited to be speaking with you at last. So much to talk about! But first, would you set the scene for us? What is life like for Hedgewitch?

[image from google -]

Joy: I live in the heart of Tornado Alley on an acre of red dirt and wind, with my third and final husband of almost twenty years. We share Castle Hedgewitch with a huge Giant Schnauzer/Husky mongrel named Chinook who thinks she is the Iditarod sled dog champ, and a twelve pound Jack Russell terrier who thinks he’s a 400 pound gorilla. My neighbors let me vicariously enjoy their horses, cats and cows, and I let them share my frequently overwhelming and over-ambitious but always much loved garden.

[Chinook, or "Schnooky"]


[The Keeper of Castle Hedgewitch]

Poets United: It sounds as delightful and witchy as one would expect! When and why did you turn to blogging, and how did you come by your very cool name?

Joy: My name comes from my computer role-playing gaming background, and my lifelong love of fairy tales, fantasy and myth. My game characters were always spellcasters and magic users, not warriors, and a hedgewitch is a variant of hedge-wizard or hedge knight, a medieval term  often used to distinguish a lower-born, self-taught member of those ‘professions.’  Later I was turned on to the pagan definition of village healer and herbalist, a sort of white witch, and that seemed to mesh well with my love of plants and poetry.

I began blogging to fill a void in my life after leaving a six year stint as board rat (forum poster) volunteer reviewer and gaming news reporter at a role-playing gaming site.  I’d recently retired, and begun reading over my forty years of old notebooks and writing,  finding that the poetry I’d written was continually popping up, asking me to do something with it. My friend (and also gifted photographer and tech help on the blog) Petteri Sulonen encouraged me to take it to the internet, and so I started Verse Escape as a means to archive my old poems. I never realized it would lead to writing again, or to the amazing online community of poets and readers I’ve encountered.

Poets United: We owe Petteri big-time, as we are all enjoying your work so much. Have you written since you were a child, as I suspect?

Joy: Yes, I’ve written since I was about twelve, but my first ‘poems’ were more little sagas I made up to act out with my two much younger sisters, not rhyming, but scrupulously scripted dramas for sure. We did them as play most days, and for Christmas, I would orchestrate whole pageants involving them and my cousins as well, complete with musical interludes of various carols, quite the infant terrible playwright and director.

Poets United: It sounds totally wonderful. What caused you to choose the poetic form as your means of expression?

Joy: My first real poems were written in high school at the encouragement of my creative writing teacher, Mrs. Marie Claire Davis of Evanston Township High School, in Evanston Illinois, who made a huge difference in my life. She made me feel what I had to say needed to be said, and that I should relentlessly say it, even if it was terrible, until I got it right. Writing prose was always cumbersome for me and just felt artificial and awkward—poetry on the other hand, I could write in my sleep and frequently still do. There’s an ongoing marching band in my head night and day that could speak in rhymed and gooey iambic tetrameter as easy as plain English. But I’ve learned to discipline it, or I’d probably be writing somewhere from a padded cell.

Poets United: You have such a gift!  Sigh. Who is the person in your life that you feel has had the greatest influence on your writing?

Joy:  I’ve already mentioned Mrs. Davis, who got me going. Since then I’ve mostly been on my own. I’ve always loved the old Norse and Greek myths, and have been influenced by a lot of writers, from Hans Christian Andersen to Hemingway to Mary Renault, perhaps most prominently by the poet Wallace Stevens, but it’s my own inner factory that dictates what goods I produce, and I don’t think anyone else has ever done anything but feed it, or run away screaming. ;_)  I get a lot of direction, critical assistance and/or inspiration from some of the poets I follow on the blogosphere as well, notably Fireblossom at the Word Garden, Ruth Mowry at syn-chro-ni-zing, and Brendan at Oran’s Well.

Poets United: I SO LOVE your saying it's your own inner harvest that dictates what you produce. Love it! And I might add that Fireblossom and I agree you are also the best blog commenter in Blogdom! How would you describe your personal approach to the creative writing process? Are there steps you follow from inspiration through completion of a poem?

[Roses in Hedgewitch's garden]
Joy: The process varies for me. Sometimes I get an entire poem flashed directly into my head, usually via a dream. Others, a single phrase appears like a fiery icon in my brain, and in writing it down, a poem will form around it. Other times, I find myself sitting staring blankly at the computer screen, annoyed by feelings I have no clue whatsoever about, and my fingers will just write them out. In the first two cases, I usually let the poem sit a day or a week or a month and come back to it for a final polish, as I find that the exact words are not always there the first time around. This can be fairly lengthy, or not, but usually is more fun than work. In the other case, where I’m writing dry, I agonize, tweak, rewrite and torture myself until something finally works. This also happens when I sometimes decide to write a poem in form, and carve it out of a piece of free verse or a lot of fragments I’ve jotted down that didn’t fit well elsewhere.

Poets United: So interesting, Joy! Do you believe anyone can write a poem, or that a talent for poetry is inherently a gift?

Joy: The ability to create any art is a gift, in the true sense of the word, something given without being earned. For that gift, you have to give in return. If you don’t then you pay for it some other way, as the many gifted people who have lived short and unhappy lives attest. Anyone can pick up a brush and play with paint or a pen and play with words, but not everyone can give back with them. Without giving back, there is no poem or painting, just repetition of something already said or done. Not all gifts are equal, but everyone who’s been given one can give as much back as they have, and that makes it meaningful, and also provides the pleasure to balance the pain most such things bring.

Poets United: So well said! I completely agree. Is there a connection between poetry and music for you?

 Joy: Yes. I think they’re two faces of the same coin. In many ways, music is the poetry of our time, the only accessible poetry many people ever experience. Many times when I was out of touch with the writing process, music spoke to that part of me, and helped me get through one more day.

[South border]
Poets United: Where do you find inspiration for your amazing poems?

 Joy: I don’t find it, it finds me. Often it comes from pain and mistakes and regrets, more than victories, certainties or love. The real well is the spirit, and I think all of us who write reach into it as deeply as we can to quench a thirst, and to heal. I’m powerfully drawn to myths and archetypes, as well as the mysteries and beauties of physics, science, art, music and dance, and they pop up often in various guises in my work.

"The real well is the spirit."

Poets United: "The real well is the spirit" - so beautifully said! Are there ever times when you feel you can’t write? What do you do then?

Joy: I  think we all have those times. I stopped writing anything but journals for over ten years due to the pressures of life. But now, when I have those moments, I wait a day or two. Then if nothing changes, I write anyway even when I feel I have nothing to say, and always, words come. I may not use them, but there is a comfort and victory in just writing them. I was taught that when you fall off a horse, you get back on. It may not be pretty, and it may not be the way you want to ride, all sore and half out of the saddle, but you can’t ever let that stop you, because then you give in to fear and self-doubt, and you’ve beaten and silenced yourself. There are enough people and events out there to try to do that, without doing it on your own.

[Day lily, unknown red variety]

Poets United: I am so enjoying this conversation! Does your work require much revision, or does it come to you pretty much as we see it on your site? (Here is where I rend my garments in despairJ!)

Joy: And not without cause! ;_) As I mentioned above, I revise almost all my work exhaustively. Only one poem in a thousand is posted just the way I wrote it--in fact, I can’t think of a single one right now. Mostly this is an enjoyable process for me, the real reason I write, where the deepest pleasure comes. The feeling I get after tussling and wrassling a poem into submission is one of infinite gratitude and peace, of something important resolved. Almost all poems that give me fits end up being the ones I feel are the best. There are a few that never allow themselves to succumb to my ministrations, however, and I get heartily sick of them. Not every revision works out, and those that bring me no pleasure I figure will have the same effect on others, so I don’t inflict them on my readers.

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

 Joy: They tend to change, but yes, I do have some I favor. Currently at the top of the list is Spring and the Fool.  I also really am fond of my three sestinas that make up the series called Hedgerider’s Lament, and one called Liar’s Moon. My favorite poem by someone else is Farewell to Florida, by Wallace Stevens.

Poets United: Wonderful, all of them. What do you do for your day job?

[Employee of the Year 1982]
[Working girl, 1989]

Joy:  I now can gleefully say, “I write poetry,”--but for many years before retiring I was a horticulturist. I ran municipal landscape crews and then a small Parks Department, planting trees and flowers, laying sod and mowing grass for a living. When I got too old for the manual labor aspect of all that, I transitioned to bookkeeping, learned how to use a computer (this was the era when Windows 95 revolutionalized offices everywhere) and did municipal purchasing and payroll for about six years. I finished my working life (hopefully!) working part time at a big box home warehouse store in the garden center, helping people pick plants for their yards. I’ve always been a gypsy, and I’ve had no job that lasted longer than eight years, and only one marriage (the one I am in now) that did.

Poets United: With all you have said, this question is redundant, but I'll ask it anyway! Have you ever lived a great adventure?

Joy: I came of age in the Sixties and Seventies (Class of 67,) and much of that felt like a great adventure, though a lot of it has been commercialized and reduced to stereotype now. I found a lifetime’s worth of reality, wisdom, pain, healing and connection in my days as a hippy; lived in a very inefficient commune, hitchhiked across the country, camped for months in Glacier National Park, and loved and was loved by many fine men, and a few slimy ones. I’d do it all again in a heartbeat. I wish everyone could.

Poets United: Me, too. Oh those sixties!  When you are not writing, what other activities do you pursue?

[Chinook as a puppy]

Joy: I read and garden, mostly. I’m presently on the fourth volume of Game of Thrones, which is everything people say about it. I also still do some gaming, mostly older games, all on the pc and not online. When the heat isn’t up in the triple digits, I try to get outside and do something physical every day, often with my faithful sled-dog wannabe who treats me as the sled she wants to pull around the subdivision. A lot of my online time right now is taken up with dVerse Poet’s Pub,  the new site started by Brian Miller and Claudia Schoenfeld of One Stop Poetry, and helping out there has been a wonderful experience. I know I’ve seen many in this community sharing there, so many thanks to them for contributing.

[Pink Cannas]

Poets United: It sounds like a lovely life. Is there anything else you’d like to share with us, Joy?

Joy:  Just to thank you Sherry, for choosing me to interview, and all the people here at Poet’s United for having me.  Finally, I’d also like to thank everyone who takes the time to come by my blog and read, whether they feel like commenting or not. Know that your presence keeps me writing, and writing keeps me sane. A poet without readers is like the tree that falls in the forest that no one hears.

Poets United: That is so true. This wonderful community is what keeps me writing, too. Thank you so much, Joy, for this glimpse into your life and creativity.  Your work is both inspired and inspiring, and I feel lucky to have the privilege of reading it every day.


See, kids? Didn’t you just know Hedgewitch would be living the coolest life? Isn't it true that the “people behind the pen” are some of the most interesting folks around? I think we proved that definitively today. I didn’t get the magic potion. But I gather if we read her work enough, some of the extra magic dust might sprinkle our way….in our dreams, hey? Come back to see who we talk to next. Who knows, it might be you!!


  1. Thanks for a peek into the hedge. Joy, I absolutely love you poetry! And as mentioned your comments are so very insightful and helpful. Thanks for this Sherry and Joy!

  2. I just love the name Hedgewitch; it sounds so mystical! Thanks for the great interview.

  3. This has been a fascinating read about one of my very favourite on-line poets. Thanks to you both for presenting this interview.

  4. Thanks so much, Mary, Kerry and celticsea, and thanks to Poets United, and to Sherry, who did such a great job on this interview and asked all the most interesting questions. I appreciate it more than I can say, and please know you all are welcome at the digital version of Castle Hedgewitch any time!

    It is so Sherry that she posted my dogs' pictures first! (And they definitely deserve the limelight.) Thanks again to all, especially the hard working Ms. Blue Sky.

  5. Cackle! That is too funny about me posting the dogs' pictures first. I did the same thing when I started blogging - it was all about dogs the first month, then I went, "Wait a minute! Maybe I'd better introduce the Children!" Sorry, Hedge - even Keepers of the Castle struggle for top billing!

    I so loved doing this interview. And I love your writing, Joy.

  6. This is one of my favorite interviews, Sherry. I read Joy's work all the time, and am always impressed by her thoughtful, insightful commentary on the work of others. Learning more about her unique, full, happy life is a treat.

  7. thanks sherry for this excellent interview and good to get to know you a bit better..your garden looks, wild, lush, blossoming...just like your writing

  8. smiles. hedge is an incredible person behind the beautiful poetry...glad i got to glimpse a little more of that in the interview which is very well done Sherry...imagery and depth are what originally attracted my to Hedge's verse...she is an asset to our team at dVerse and to the poetry community...thanks Hedge!

  9. 'The real well is the spirit, and I think all of us who write reach into it as deeply as we can to quench a thirst, and to heal.' Thank you Joy for blazing trails and spreading magic and happiness around the blogosphere. From one RPG magic user to another I think you found the secret to bypassing the level cap, no wonder your druid mouse is level 65! Thanks to Sherry and Poet’s United for the wonderful interview and the dVerse crew for sharing you with us. Applause all around.

  10. Sherry, thanks for conducting this interview.

    Joy, it's fascinating that you find writing verse so natural, yet cite Hemingway as an influence. The best poets, I think, read all sorts of things. I love your answer on what to do when you feel you can't write. He who waits for inspiration will never get anywhere - although today, fortunately, he doesn't have to wait!

  11. Fascinating, that I've known you as long as I have (months, which in cyberspace surely equates to aeons), that I didn't know you went to Evanston Township (I'm a Dewey Elementary and Nichols Miiddle School alum from Evanston), that you were a dedicated gamer (not many Dungeons and Dragons in the eeries of your verse) or that horticulture figured so in the real life of the versewitch. My my my. Congrats on all the fine work you post every day, and thanks for the deep commitment to the art and its community. You make this place a charmed one indeed. Stay cool. Wally Stevens rocks! - Brendan

  12. Nice interview again, Sherry. You are amazing in the way that you bring out such interesting facets of people. Joy, it was nice to find out more about you, and I will make it a point to visit your blog.

  13. She sounds like some kind of nut to me! *smirk*

    Seriously, Hedgewitch is my favorite poet and not unimportantly, my dear friend besides. She has that love of words that is down deep in the bone. It is all of our good luck that her friend urged her to start her blog. I would be at sea without being able to click over to Verse Escape and feast on both her poetry and her pictures of her garden.

    I am LOVING that pic of puppy Chinook, and I, too, noticed that the dogs got top billing! Bosco definitely approves and says he loves his Auntie Joy.

    Lastly, Sherry, you are far and away the best profiler in blogdom. You leave all the rest in the dust, truly. Thanks for letting us get to know Joy a little better!

  14. Another interesting and fun to read interview Sherry. And Joy it is a pleasure to meet you too. It is fun to be interviewed by Sherry--I still am enjoying having been featured myself. I think a lot of us came out of the 60s and 70s and maybe some of that hippie freedom still lurks inside despite the years in various versions of adulthood. Thanks Sherry and Joy.

  15. a really wonderful interview, Sherry ~ you have a gift. and Joy, you are not only an amazing, amazing poet, but such a generous person in your support and encouragement of other poets. i love your words and appreciate your comments. {i agree with Sherry and Shay that you write the most fabulous comments!}
    thank you both! ♥ dani

  16. Sherry you're wrong, you did get the magic potion! Joy laid it out for all of us, from inspiration through completion of a poem, including the rewrites of some and the abandonments of others.

    I just recently followed on to Verse Escape and am delighted every time I visit.

    Good job Sherry.

  17. Joy, thanks for the glimpse into your life. You are one of my all time favourite poets in blogland. Sherry, thanks for the wonderful interview.


  18. so you grew up in evanston, or at least lived there when you went to high school. i lived in rogers park, and grew up in river forest, just next door to oak park.
    i really enjoyed this interview and learning about your background and interests. congratulations on all your success. very nice to get to know you.

  19. Thanks, everyone for all the kind words, and one more thanks for Sherry. It's really been a great experience doing this and meeting those of you I don't know.

    Ed, yes I grew up on and off in Evanston and also lived for a few years in Rogers Park. I had friends in Wilmette, but not Oak Park. I have no idea what it's like there now--haven't been back since 1977. I'm sure it's totally different, and probably a lot the same.

  20. This was yet another wonderful read Sherry. You never fail to capture the awesomeness of our friends. Hedge you have led an amazing and exciting life so far. I can't see what you do and write about over the next hundred years. I have become more and more of drive by reader lately but trust me although I may not comment as often as I should (Blames demand and all)I truly enjoy what you write and all the support you give the poetry blogging community as whole. I see you everywhere and its always so enjoyable. Thank you for sharing so much about the woman that is Hedgewitch

  21. Having read the interview and got impressed by Hedgewitch,I am sure my sojourn in her blog would be a beginning of a journey. Wonderful job, Sherry. Spell-binding interview, Joy.

  22. Joy's writing is an education. Her poems have an enviable quality in them; they are wise, have tons of information in them and emotional, a combination experienced rarely.

    I have rarely commented on her work, because quite honestly, I can't go beyond fantastic and I know if I start I might never stop. :) On the other hand Joy's comments is an art form on it own. A tough act to follow. I appreciate it so much when she comments on my writing. My dream is to have my writing critiqued by the Hedgewitch :)

    Thank you Sherry for a wonderful interview. And thank you Joy for giving back of your gift to fellow writers.


  23. I loved reading this. I'm fairly new to both Poets United and dVerse, but hedgewitch quickly became one of my favourites amongst the poets I've been discovering. Great to get more insight into the maker of the poems.

  24. Thanks for doing this terrific interview. I always look forward to Joy's poetry (and commentary) on d'Verse. It was a treat to learn more about this very gifted writer.


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