Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Life of a Poet - Judy Roney

by Sherry Blue Sky

Kids, I have such a treat for you today.  Judy Roney, of   I'd Like to Say ,  is one of our long-time members, from the early days of Poets United, and a very talented one, in both poetry and art, as you will see. For Judy, as she is a special lady, I have prepared a genteel tea cart on wheels, pulled up near the fire. We have a lovely tea service, and thin little sandwiches, which we will follow with petit-fours. Gather near, for I'm about to pour.

Poets United: Judy, would you tell us a little about your life, your family, your part of the world, your career - whatever you want to share so we can see “the person behind the poetry”?

Judy: I was born in Tennessee and that is where my southern accent hails from.  Now I spend half the year in Tampa, Florida and the other half in Maggie Valley, NC.  You can imagine what seasons I spend in each place. I have the best of both worlds.  Oceans and mountains both feel spiritual to me. 

I live with an incredible man, my  husband, Bill.  We have been married forty-one years,  and I look forward to the next forty or so with him. I have two daughters, Jeni and Angie . They are both following their dreams.   I have a dashing son-in-law, Tom . I have one son, Brian,  who died when he was twenty-three.  I have four granddaughters,  three great grandsons,  and one great granddaughter.   They are all such a joy for me.

With my incredible husband, Bill

Poets United: I’m so sorry to hear of the death of your son, Judy. Such a devastating loss. I'm happy to know you have a wonderful family around you.  Have you always written, or did you come to it slowly, over time?  Do you remember writing your first poem?

Judy: I suppose I have always written even if it was letters to friends and relatives or the sporadic journal entries.  I did not begin writing in earnest, first as a catharsis, until my son died.  My first poem was the night before his funeral.  I wrote about my son and read it at his funeral.  I haven’t stopped writing since his death.  It’s been a lifeline for me and now I just love the art and soul of poetry for poetry’s sake.  I can, after many years, write about other things besides Brian’s death and my grief. 

Poets United: Wow, Judy, your first poem was for Brian. You are very strong, to have been able to read it at his funeral.  I can well imagine writing has been a lifeline.  It is how we writers process, isn't it?  What made you choose the poetic form as a means of expression?

Judy: I’m not sure I chose poetry. I think it chose me.  That first poem about my son came naturally and flowed.  I do write short stories and have a novel in the works, but poetry is my first love.

Poets United: What is it about poetry that makes you want to write?  What keeps you at it? 

Judy: Poetry is how my thoughts and feelings come out on paper.  Editing is a whole different situation.  Rewrites and searching for just the right word for what I want to convey is hard work.  Getting it down on paper initially is my salvation.  It keeps me going, one thought leads to another.

Poets United: What style of poem do you write most?

Judy: I enjoy all forms of poetry, but most of mine are free form.  I do mix it up sometimes and have been known to attempt a sestina or some form outside the norm, for me.  My poems pretty much come to me as you see on my blog.  I haven’t done a lot of editing or second guessing on those.  I do polish them up if I really like them or want to submit them to a publication. 

I hit times when nothing comes and I stare at the page, hands poised over the keys of my computer.  It’s those time that I go to the tried and true pen and paper.  Changing my location helps, too.  I love coffee shops and the atmosphere in them.  I begin to write, stream of consciousness, and always come up with something. It may never see the light of day; but I always feel good when I am able to write.

Poets United: How do you know a poem is good?  How do you know when it is finished?

Judy: I don’t know when a poem is good.  I am often surprised when poetry I think doesn’t say much, speaks to many, and those that I thought were bomb shells, barely ruffle anyone.  A poem is finished when I stop writing. I generally get it all out on paper and then have to pare because I’ve written too much.  I am most happy when I have written a poem, made it as  tight and clean as  I can, and people respond to it. 

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

Judy: My favorite poem is Searching. It is one of my earliest poems.


I feel like an animal
Searching for its young
This instinct to find my child

I am ever vigilant
Calling, searching
For any sign of him

I see movement now
in the corner of my eye
A gesture just like his
But no
Then the telephone rings
and for a split second
I know it has to be him
It's not

I hear the front door
Awaken from my slumber
My heart pounds as I listen
To Silence

The night descends
It's still not over
I dream of him every night

Then sometimes he hugs me
I can feel his arms
 I hear "I love you, Mom"

Poets United: That is incredibly beautiful, and moving, Judy.  What about music? Is there a connection between music and poetry for you?  

Judy: I don’t use music as I write. I love the quiet; maybe the music of the birds outside or a bee buzzing around.  I wish I had the love of music that my husband, my children and so many of my friends have.  I lost out on that gene.  Don't get me wrong, I love to hear music, but not when I'm trying to think or do something that takes my attention.

Poets United: I need quiet when I write, too. If you could meet anyone in the world, living or dead, who would it be and what would you want to either ask or tell them?

Judy:  I would like to meet any of a long list of good writers and spend time with them as they write.  I would want to soak up all that energy and be surrounded by the same muse that serves them.  I’m a romantic and believer, and I know I could be energized and inspired by being around those great writers. This is the reason that I belong to my long time online writing group, the Skywriters, and love to be involved in the local writer’s gatherings. I am never disappointed, and I feel enlivened and inspired by these groups, whether they are online or in real life.  Poets United is one example of a good place for me to be.

Poets United: And we’re so glad you are here! What brought you to Poets United, Judy?

Judy: Another poet and friend, Mary Kling, discovered Poets United and introduced me to the site. I’m thankful to Mary and all that she does to help make the site the very best. I owe a debt of gratitude to Robb, you, Sherry, and all those who help and contribute poetry and time to the site. It’s amazing to me to be able to follow and hear from poets from all over the world. Robb has done an incredible job of starting and keeping the site going.

Poets United: It is a wonderful community, isn’t it? I so love it. Judy, your poems often touch on grief.  I especially note this in The Estate.  “Come sit at my table. I’ll tell you what I know.”  This line really speaks to me. Is there anything you would like to say about grief, your journey, loss? 

Judy: I thought I knew of loss and grief when my father, grandparents, and others I loved died.  I was innocent though.  I lost that innocence about life and love, faith and the way things work when my son, Brian, died by suicide at the age of twenty-three. I’ve had to remake a life that made sense to me.  There was no way to go back and reestablish the life that I knew. I had to move on; or not.  I chose to move on, and it’s been a painstaking journey.  I went from a grief that tore my heart out one tiny sliver at a time to a place of joy again.  I don’t know everything about how I got here from there. I do know that, when I could, I had a hand in the process, by making choices each day, (sometimes each moment).

Brian, my son, just before he passed away.  It’s crumpled and worn with tearstains.
I need to get it restored somewhere but it’s hard to part with still.

Now I am at a place where I can live my life to the fullest, enjoy family and friendships, travel and write, paint and knit.  I have a full, rich life.  Grief, down and dirty, tackles me still, though, and I imagine that is to be expected. I'm thinking how recently, when the song In the Arms of the Angels (may you find some comfort there) by Sarah McLachlan was played at my dentist's office. I was sobbing so hard and couldn't catch my breath enough to explain to him he wasn't hurting me. (

That deep sadness of this loss isn’t masked, it’s still there daily and likely always will be. I find it’s something I can live with though. 

The most amazing part is that once I accepted what had happened with my son and the grief that I had to get through, like some mighty project or job that I didn’t want, is that I began to find the gifts that Brian left me. One of those gifts is my writing, and that is huge.

Another huge gift is my painting, which I had never been able to do before.  I had a dream I could paint and paint I have. This is my painting of Kaylee, my great granddaughter.

Here is an example of my painting when I‘m in a fun mood.

My writing is the most important and surprising gift.

Poets United: Kaylee is SO beautiful, and you painted her wonderfully. So life-like, she looks like she is ready to speak! And that is truly the  happiest pumpkin, I have ever seen! You are very wise to have learned to find the gifts that came out of your heartbreak. It takes a brave and conscious soul, to get to that place. You inspire me, Judy. Thank you for speaking about your grief. I know it will help others who read of your journey. I understand you have been published, and that you are presently working on a book for publication.

Judy: I have been published in several anthologies, including Poetry Pantry: Thoughts That Breathe, Echoes Across the Blue Ridge, The Mirror Looks Back, On Wings of Words, and Imagining Heaven.

I am writing a book now about Brian’s death, my life after, and the gifts I’ve found when I was ready to search or just be aware.  I hope to have it published by next year.  I feel sure that, once this is written and published,  I can move on to other things; other writing goals and other life events that I can’t touch until it’s done.

Poets United: For certain, I want to read your book about Brian. As parents, we learn so much from hearing about others’ journeys through these devastating events.

I love these lines from your poem A New Friend :

To hear her story is to
feel her pain and spiral down
however, I have the tools to rise
again, and the hope that I can bring
her with me if only for a moment.

It is the “rising again” that I most admire in your story, and stories of others, who are able to rise up from great pain and help others in their grief.......a quality so wonderful in humans.

Judy: I think I have the tools now to rise again (like the phoenix) when I have to go to that pain for or with someone who is going through the same horrendous loss. I find I’m so much more empathetic of course, but also I wish I could make every one feel a little better as so many made me feel better with just a word or touch of understanding.

Poets United: You mentioned not knowing you could paint until you had that dream. Can you talk a bit more about that? The dream, and then how it felt when you first picked up the paintbrush and began painting, how you learned? Did you feel your son close by while you were painting? Did it bring you some peace?

Judy:  I don’t know much about that. I dreamed of the painting and the whole process of painting seems surreal, too. It became my mission to recreate my son on canvas and I did. It’s not a good painting artistically, but  it was a miracle for us at the time. It gave us some hope and peace

Poets United: So beautiful. Mary told me one of your paintings won prizes in Florida and that you have had shows there of your art.

 Judy: I have won several awards in Florida art shows since my first painting.  Here is my Strawberry Painting at the Strawberry Festival in Plant City that won first prize in the theme. 

Here I am at the Imagining Heaven publicity party in Charlotte, NC.

Poets United: I love the title, Imagining Heaven. When you are not writing or painting, what other activities do you enjoy?

Judy: I love to knit, travel, and spend time with my family and friends. I enjoy seeing new places and experiencing different cultures.  There’s not much about traveling I don’t like, with the exception of unpacking.

Poets United: Take me! I'll happily unpack for you! Your favorite place in the world?

Judy:  I have a home in Florida and in North Carolina.  My favorite place in the world is Florida in the winter and North Carolina in the summer. Perfection!

Poets United: What are your dreams for the years ahead?

Judy: My dreams for the years ahead are that my family will continue to be blessed, to finish that book about Brian and go on to other books,  meet more people, join more groups, and live most moments in joy. I hope my husband and I live a long, healthy life together.  After all these years with the man of my dreams, it’s hard to dream of more.

Poets United: Do you have any fur critters in your life?

Judy: I have a six-year-old toy poodle named Lexi.  She is a cutey patootie.  She is a great traveling companion and always listens to me when I need to talk. LOL She is a little red princess and she makes my life better.

Poets United: What a dear little face! Judy, your paintings are so vibrant and wonderful!

Anything else you'd like to say?

Judy: Just a thanks to Poets United , Robb, and all the hard workers behind the scenes.  What a service this is for poets and a great opportunity to meet people, like you, Sherry, who have the same love for the written word that I do.  Thank you for adding to my life. I wish for each poet that their writing dreams do come true.  Write on!

Poets United: Thank you so much, Judy, for sharing so much of your life and your brave heart with us. I look forward to reading much more of your work, especially your book about Brian.

Isn't Judy one special woman, kids? And isn't it true that the people behind the pen are some of the most interesting folks around? Don't forget to come back to see who we talk to next. Who knows? It might be you!


  1. Lovely great to know you a bit more, Judy!

  2. Judy is definitely one of those multi-talented people. So often this seems to be true of poets. She writes from her heart, which is as big a heart as one could imagine. Sherry, this interview captures the 'essence of Judy' very well! I too look forward to her book about Brian.

  3. Wow Judy!! What a great interview. You express yourself so beautifully and your paintings are amazing (and getting more so all the time.) You do inspire me. And Sherry this is done so well. You do an amazing job with these--it seems like you are indeed sitting across the tea table.

  4. This interview was lovely! I love reading about the people behind the poetry and gaining insight on others' writing process.

  5. This is an incredible interview, from the interviewer to the interviewee. Judy, I appreciate that you were completely open in this interview. I know your story, and I hoped you would share it, and you did. You are a woman of huge strength, huge talent that arose from the deepest pit of sorrow a person could realize, a gift from Brian. You are an artist supreme, from poetry to prose to painting to knitting, to decorating, to entertaining, to giving love and caring. Sherry, your interview brought out the creative talented, strong person Judy is. It is my privilege to know you Judy.

  6. It was my privilege to interview this very special person. Judy, you shine, and you inspire! I echo all of the above sentiments. Sorry I was late posting, the scheduling thingy didnt work. And thank you so much for telling your story. I just know it will help and give hope to other people in pain out there.

  7. Sherry, you sure are a good interviewer. I was amazed myself with what I said and revealed. LOL Prodding gently and caring deeply from Sherry, and she made me more? :). Thank you Sherry and for those that commented and this wonderful community of poets. I am blessed to know you.

  8. I did not mean the question mark after more. I meant more, period.

  9. Judy is probably the most inspirational person I've ever known through her poetry, painting, and love for life. Her radiance always shines through. I am so fortunate to know her work.

  10. Oh yes, this is a really wonderful interview! Judy you are so very talented. I am so sorry for your loss. You are wise to realize that Brian is indeed around you.

    I love this: "Judy: Poetry is how my thoughts and feelings come out on paper."

    I think poetry gives one the ability to be themselves, yet anonymous at the same time if necessary. What I mean is that if you need to become vulnerable, bare your soul (but do not wish this to be discovered), you can achieve this with poetry.

    Sherry, thank you for a fabulous interview.

  11. Judy you are so beautiful, so strong and talented. Strange is this place and the gift of creative art ... how we all feel for and relate to each other ... Thanks to Sherry for letting us know Judy.

  12. Aww... this made me cry... so very touching. I am a big fan of Judy's and have shared with her my pain and suffering following a dear friend's suicide. She's helped me tremendously. Wonderful interview of a wonderful and very talented lady!!

  13. Thank you, Sherry, for highlighting Judy in this interview. Judy, even though I already knew all this about you, seeing it all together in this interview was like reading it for the first time. You are one special and inspiring woman, and I'm glad to call you friend.

  14. This was so touching on many levels! I am so sorry for the loss of your son; I think it is amazing how you found a way to express your feelings through poetry and later art. Truly gifts you are very talented~
    You are inspiring, so many spiral into depression or worse, but you rose above. I think your son found a way to help you avoid that path~(((hugs)))


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