Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Life of a Poet - Kat Mortensen

Kids, this week we are zooming up and over the Rockies across to eastern Canada,  to meet another eclectic and interesting poet. Kat Mortensen can be found at Poetikat’s Keepsakes, where she tells us we can find everything but the kitchen sink.  (I’ve looked, and there might even be one of those in there in one of the photos!) So, since we’re in Canada, eh, draw up a chair and sit yourself doon. Kat has a pot of coffee on, and I picked up some Tim Hortons on the way over. We've knocked the icicles off my whiskers,  set my boots to warming by the fire, and I'm just in the mood for a good story!

Poets United: Kat, it is such a treat to come across another quirky Canadian to interview!  I see from your blog that you have recently made a move back to a small town after fifteen years. Was this a lifestyle decision? Did you move back from the city?

Kat: We're originally from the Toronto area, but lived here when we first married.  Jobs took us to a nearby city, but we always wanted to move back to the small town life we once had.  We are thrilled to be back. If anyone is keen to see it, please visit here:

Poets United: I poked around in there. You have posted such glorious photos!  Your little town looks adorable, and so quaint. What do you love most about it?

Kat: I love being just footsteps away from farm-country to the south, and the river to the north.  I love the fact that original buildings from the 1800s still stand, and I can imagine what life was like here at that time.  I love the little shops and restaurants, and the fact that I can find everything I need within a few miles of where I live.

Poets United: Small town living is wonderful! What does life look like at your house?

Kat: My husband and I and my senior mom live in our newly-built house. She has a suite of rooms on most of the main floor (apart from the kitchen and dining room). We have a loft bedroom upstairs and the basement is finished and functions as our t.v. room and my office.

We cater to three senior cats whom we adore.

Red, Gilbert and Daisy

Poets United: It is so lovely that your mom shares your life. Wow. Do you have a day job, Kat?

Kat: My "day job", as you put it, is keeping this house, and taking care of all of the occupants.  It keeps me busy.  I love housework.  (I know; I'm weird, but I honestly do!)  In all seriousness though, I consider my poetry-writing and my photography the job that I love best.  I am an artist and that's what I do.

Poets United:  Oh, that’s great, Kat. Lovely to have the time to devote to your art. I love housework, too! Always have. (Would have made someone a good wife, hee hee.) How long have you been writing? Do you remember the first poem you ever wrote?


Kat: I've been writing all my life.  As far as the first poem I ever wrote, it was something about snow and I was in about Grade Two or Three.  A much better one came along a few years later to do with horses.

Poets United: What led you to choose poetry as your means of creative expression? Do you also write prose?

Kat: I have always enjoyed the way that poetry can be expressed readily and without too much fuss.  Some might argue that, but I do not mean to say that it should not be done carefully. What I mean is that prose has so many concerns that poetry does not.  I absolutely hate the business of trying to write dialogue.  I took a stab at a mystery novel years ago and had some great ideas, and characters, but the bloody dialogue drove me mad!  I do not write prose.

On the other hand, I do like to write personal stories and anecdotes.  If you dig into my blog, you'll find lots of my "Blasts From the Past".

Poets United: I like memoir too. Tons of material in real life! When did you begin blogging? And how did you find Poets United?

Kat: I started blogging shortly after we moved my parents from their home in Toronto to live closer to us.  I left my job, and we undertook to take care of both of their needs.  My father was ill and he died not long after, and I started looking out for my mom's interests. 

Mom and Kevin, Christmas 2011

Poets United: You are a very good daughter, Kat. Your mom looks very well-loved and happy. In fact, all three of you do! I'm so sorry about your dad.

Kat: I had been online for quite a while and knew the ins and outs of it, and in fact, I had set up a blog on Blogger a little earlier, but let it go to waste.  A national news item in the paper caught my eye and inspired me to write a poem which got some recognition.  I also wrote a well-received "occasion" poem for my husband's parents' 50th Anniversary.  This gave me the bug to write poetry after not having done it for quite some time.  I set up a new blog and started posting poems, and kept writing "found" poetry from the news for a while.  If you go to the early pieces on my blog you'll see they are all news-inspired, and many of them feature animals. They're quite fun and they rhyme.

I am always on the lookout for good prompt-sites and I saw the Poets United  icon on another blog (I don't recall whose) and decided to check it out. Poets United has been, and continues to be, a great source of inspiration to me.

Poets United: And we’re so happy you found us!  What makes for good reading and writing  to you? What do you strive for in your work?

Kat: I am never without at least two books on the go.  I have read all my life, and I studied Literature at university (many moons ago).  I am currently going back to read many of the classics that I missed along the way.

In other people's work, I look for compelling language and imagery.  I tend to shy away from the more flowery or angst-ridden stuff. If I get bored, I move on.

With respect to my own work, I strive for rhythm above all and at least some element of rhyme.  I used to write mainly rhyming pieces, but have found the balance I can achieve with internal rhymes to be more satisfying.  I want vivid images in my poems, just as I do with my photographs.  I want people to remember what they read.  I am very hard on myself; I like perfection when it comes to spelling, punctuation and the like.  It pains me no end when I post something and find an error. Gah!

Poets United: I note you have a book out – would you like to tell us a little about it?

Kat: In 2010, I self-published a book of my poetry entitled, "Shadowstalking".  This was compiled not long after my father died, and it was, to use a well-worn phrase, "highly cathartic" for me.

Funnily enough, I don't feel the same way about this book as I did when I published it.  It feels very random to me, and there are many different styles and approaches.  It doesn't feel cohesive, but I would say it was a good first book, nonetheless.  Follow this link to read some reviews, or to order

My work is quite different these days, although, if you read my poems inspired by prompts, you will see that they can run the gamut of impressions and ideas.  I like to call it eclectic.

As an example, here's a limerick from the book:

The Puffin's a seabird fantastic 
His black and white plumage, monastic 
He dives in the drink 
Roosts high in rock-chink 
And his webbed feet of orange look plastic.

Kat Mortensen copyright 2009

puffin from

Poets United: I love it! Cute little Puffin. What does a perfect day look like to you?

Kat: It's Saturday!  My husband brings me black coffee and toast as I recline in bed with my book (currently, "The Woman in White" by Wilkie Collins).  The weather is sunny, but cool, and birds are twittering in the trees.  We drive into town and walk around, stopping in shops for necessities like, tattie scones, or dark chocolate.  I snap photos as we go.

My favourite photo of Kev, in town

We drop in to a local cafe for "second breakfast" and a natter over coffee.
Later, we hit a few thrift stores, and score some books, clothes and household items.

At the grocery store, I buy some things to make a rustic Italian supper and we hit the local LCBO for a bottle of wine.

Back home, Kev makes some popcorn which I toss with extra virgin olive oil, fresh grated parmesan and some herbs.

After a spinach pesto-pasta, we watch British home shows or "Who Do You Think You Are", through YouTube, in HDTV.  We are surrounded by our cats.

We have some toast and retire fairly early so I can read more of my book.
(Well, you asked!)

Poets United: Sigh. Sounds like heaven. When you are not writing, what other activities do you pursue?

Kat: I love to cook. I rarely use recipes, but have a good knowledge of technique and flavours.  I read cookbooks and watch loads of food shows.
I am obsessed with my family tree on both sides and am continuously doing research on it.  Often, I get so absorbed in it that everything falls by the wayside.  My husband has to drag me off the computer.

I enjoy exploring all angles of my creativity.  Currently, I have an adult-colouring book of French posters by Steinlen, Lautrec et al., and a new pack of Spanish-made pencil crayons.

I recently joined the choir at my church and am finding it to be such a rush! We're learning Latin pieces for the upcoming Easter Triduum and I am loving it!

Chalmers Church

Poets United: Sounds great! What are your hopes, creatively, for the next five years?

Kat: This community I live in is known for its contribution to the Arts.  There are artists of all description here, and I hope one day to be considered among them, for both my poetry and my photographs. 

I have been invited to take part in the upcoming Wordfest in April, and I'll be reading two poems.  I can't wait for that!

Poets United: Oh, that is so cool! That event will raise your profile in town, for sure. Do you have a favourite poem you'd like to share?

Kat: Yes, this is one of my favourites, and I'm sure to any new readers who have only read my recent stuff, they'll find it a bit of a surprise. You might yourself, actually.

[google image]


There was a famous treasure-ship in 1823;
Not bearing chests filled high with coins, nor loaded up with tea.
No! This bark bore the greatest lode, I’m here to tell the tale—
She carried in her hold, ten thousand-fold in casks of ale!

 She set sail on a sunny day from Sevilla, in Spain; 
 It wasn’t many days that passed before it poured with rain.
 The hurricane that hit her was the worst the hands had seen;
It flipped them stem to stern, and turned the sky a ghostly green.

The Captain cried out, Hang on tight!  The ship is going down!
 Full-knowing there were but a few survived  to watch him drown.
And as he sank beneath the waves, he charged them with their tasks:
No matter what, you’ve got to save the lot of those ale-casks!

Four men had managed, who-knows-how, to drop a raft of rubber;
And thankfully, a tin was found with jerky made from blubber.
So, it was passed from man-to-man and each began to chew,
And ruminate upon their fate—too late to save the brew?

The seas had calmed, and shockingly, the ship she did not sink;
Cloudy skies departed and the men began to think.
A plan they needed speedily to save those casks of ale;
Then, from the briny blue— it’s true! Arose a great big whale.

Now each man knew his bible and the Jonah-story well,
They longed for a harpoon, but having none began to yell,
Until a member of the crew, who had a PhD,
Said, happen we can use this chap; he suits us to a tee!

The plan was this, and it was oh-so-clever, you’ll agree:
 To load those casks of ale into the whale’s great cavity,
 Then sail it to their destined spot – the island of Key Largo,
 And once they hit dry land to disencumber of its cargo.

The whale agreed (you can’t ignore the smarts of the cetacean);
Negotiated for his share – this was no dumb crustacean!
So, each man handed over casks to end up in the mouth,
Then climbed into the cavern of the whale, who turned for south.
At Largo, as he promised, he disgorged them without fuss;
They took the precious cargo and then blew the whale a buss.
Then off they went to share, with fellow-tars, their shanty-tale,
Unknowing what they stowed would soon be blowing from the whale.

For out in the Atlantic, porpoises were getting plastered,
From the spouting stream of ale that the whale himself had mastered.
The seals were really sloshed, and the gulls were truly flying;
Sharks indeed were hammered; orcas, in their beer were crying.

Tortoises were tanked, and the walruses were wasted;
They were three-sheets-to-the-wind from the barley they had tasted.
Everyone was gleeful for the gift the whale brought home,
And took their turn indulging from the blow-hole on his dome

All’s well that ends well, so they said from Florida to Spain;
They lost some men—that happens when you sail the bounding main,
But never will they know the truth about the great blow-out,
That took place in the ocean when their beer went up the spout!

Kat Mortensen copyright 2009

Poets United: Now that is an original concept! This was a change of pace for you! So, if money were no object, what is the first thing you would do?

Kat: That is so tough because I'm just not what you would consider a "consumer". 

My husband would quit his job and we would probably buy a little historic stone cottage in town and turn part of it into a proper studio where we could explore creative pursuits with no space constraints.

We'd fly to the UK and Scandinavia to do some on-the-spot genealogical research on our family trees.

We would donate much to charities like Development and Peace and The Donkey Sanctuary of Canada

Poets United: Oh, lovely! I must check out the donkey sanctuary. How cool that there is one! What is your favourite place in the world?

Kat: Wherever my husband is, that is my favourite place to be, but I do love Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia, where my mother was born and raised.

Poets United: Oh, so sweet! What is your advice to other writers?

Kat: Forget about what everyone around you is thinking and just write! Listen to your gut and go for it!

listen to your gut and go for it!

Poets United: Do you have any causes that are close to your heart?

Kat: Anything to do with animals is a cause I will champion.  We have a foster child and support Christian charities to end poverty.  I do my utmost to conserve energy and recycle.  I support local businesses.

Poets United: A good global citizen. Way to be, Kat! Do you have any blogging pals you’d like give a shout out to?

Kat: Loads!  I'd be here all day if I mentioned them all, but there are four whom I consider good friends and whose blogs—though entirely different—I admire and enjoy endlessly:

Robert Frost's Banjo  by the brilliant and multi-talented poet-musician-writer, John Hayes; Frogs, Dogs and Ferns by the charming and witty, nature-lover, Dan Bentley; and Circles of Rain by the incomparably creative and prolific artist, Sarah Wallis. Oh, and the fantastic, erudite, charming and very funny Alan Burnett of the News From Nowhere blog.  I try not to miss any of these. 

Poets United: Awesome, Kat. Thanks for pointing us their way. Anything else you’d like to tell Poets United?

Kat: I think I'll shut up now.

Poets United: Hee hee. Thanks so much, Kat, for the look-see into your wonderful life. And for being part of Poets United.

Sigh. Is it just me, but does it seem like poets make very good marriages, as a whole? (Other than me and Sylvia Plath, of course.) It definitely is true that the people behind the pens are some of the most interesting folks around. Be sure to come back and see who we talk to next. Who knows? It might be you!


  1. Hello! I'd just like to make one correction to the above interview: much as I'd love to be living by the sea, in eastern Canada, where my mom hails from, we are in Central Canada, in Southern Ontario.

  2. An error! Gah! But, Kat, to us West Coasters, everything the other side of Manitoba is "East". Hee hee. So sorry. I stand corrected.

  3. No problem, Sherry! I thank you for taking the time to interview me for this, and I appreciate the work behind it. ~Kat

  4. A thoroughly enjoyable post, full of interest and refreshingly written. An outstanding tribute to an outstanding poet, in fact.

    1. Thanks, Dave! I thought it would only be Sherry and me to comment here. You're my hero!

  5. Kat, I love your photos and your magical view on the world~
    I am so happy you are putting more of yourself out there and hope the poetry reading goes well! I enjoyed getting to know you better~
    Great interview ladies :D

    1. Thanks, Ella! I appreciate that. I like being called, "magical" too. That's a very nice thing for you to say.



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