Monday, November 24, 2014


in Conversation with Susan Chast for PU

PU:  Dear Sherry, Let us begin!  I want to use your poem “My Inner Old One” for our talk.  It wasn’t easy to choose from so many poems I love.  I always fear autumn sentiments as “end of life” prayer, but this poem is bright.  It screams for doors and windows to fly open not only right now but right here.

Sherry: Yes, this one burst through with a strong message for me, and part of the urgency is that time ahead is finite. Time to do what my soul needs NOW!  

PU: Let’s start by re-reading:

My Inner Old One

Birds cross the sky in covens,
this golden autumn-of-my-life.
My eyes follow their flight,
my soul quickening to the sound
of their honking admonition:
follow the predestined route!
Find your way home!
The Voice of My Tribe croons a chant
that murmurs on the breeze.
I feel the winds of change blowing through
the drafty chambers of my
just-before-winter heart.
The Old Ones are telling me:
Time to open the door of the cage
and free the wild bird of your being,
the one you have been hushing
and placating with crumbs
for so long.
Free her with joy, and,
as her wide wings swoop and thrum
across the shimmering sky,
traveling between the worlds
in the space-where-there-is-no-space,
along the-way-where-there-is-no-way,
heed the call of those wild birds.
They are giving voice to
the longings of your soul.
Lift up that expectant, waiting life
with the urgency
of not-much-time,
and, if you're ever going to fly again
as, once, you flew,
do it soon,
do it completely.
Do it now.
PU: I Love this poem, Sherry!  Birds in flying covens, several of them, remind me of times like All Hollow’s Eve when witches are said to be out and the veil between life and death is supposed to be thin.  How did you see your covens of  birds?  How are they related to “the Voice of my Tribe” and “the Old Ones”?

Sherry: When I re-read this poem, sometime after writing it, I asked the question I often ask: “Who wrote this poem?”  So many times when I sit down to type, especially when I write about the Old Ones, it is like I am taking dictation. I simply type what comes. This is when I believe my Inner Old One, the One Who Knows, is speaking the deepest longings of my heart. I don’t think about it, I don’t work at making the words line up properly. I simply type and read what She is telling me. The message is pretty clear in this one. My eyes always follow the birds and, in this poem, I imagined many many black birds, crows or ravens, since they are common in my area. But there also must have been geese, doing the honking.  

PU: I love the contrast between honking and crooning in your poem.

Sherry: It is said that geese honk to encourage each other, to energize the lead geese up front, and lend strength to their wings and their spirits. When the leaders fall back, birds in the rear move up and take their turn at leading, while the others keep up their insistent honking. The Voice of My Tribe is the message of my friends on the West Coast, who understand Wild Woman and wait to welcome her home.  Wild Woman hears their voices crooning on the wind, encouraging her to return home like the wild geese, to return home from being long away.  Crooning, also, with sadness at her long absence, just as my voice croons within, at being gone. 

PU: Where is the protagonist returning to and from?   What is the predestined route?

Sherry: The predestined route is my journey back to the sea. In 1972, I discovered I was an ocean person, but I was landlocked for many years, pining for the West Coast where I knew the ocean was still wild. In 1989, I felt my soul was dying, that I could wait no longer, and so I gathered all my courage and trust and made a mighty leap – to Tofino, where I spent the ten most glorious years of my life. 

In 1999, I was forced inland again, by health and finances, an hour and a half away from the place where my soul belongs – it is too far. The time came, a year ago, when I tried once again to make that leap, and the universe supported me. But circumstances conspired; I temporarily lost trust, forgot to listen to that inner voice, and backed out. Immediately, my soul set up such a clamor, I knew I had been meant to go, so I tried again, but the opportunity had been lost.

PU: Yet in this poem you say:
. . . traveling between the worlds
in the space-where-there-is-no-space,
along the-way-where-there-is-no-way,
heed the call of those wild birds. . . .

Sherry: My inner voice has grown more insistent, as time grows more finite ahead of me. This poem spoke the words to me that make it clear. I need to align myself with the universe’s plan, set aside fear of age, finances, health, and get back to where I belong for whatever years are left to me.

PU: Many, many years, I suspect. What poems you will write there! 

Sherry: Mostly, my spirit will be joyful there, once again. The beauty, the wildness of nature, is spectacular in that power place, where the ley lines intersect in such a way it exerts a magnetic pull on those of us drawn to where they intersect.  If anyone might like to read more about it and see the photos of its spectacular beauty, see my Love Song to Clayoquot Sound .  

PU: The “Love Song” reads like a prose poem.  It’s biography containing a song to which “My Inner Old One” is a refrain:

 “A song of the clean and pungent air, the salt spray, the sea foam, whitecaps lined up and galloping into shore like wild white horses, manes a-flying. A song of the wild waves, roiling and crashing over black volcanic rock, swirling the maelstrom of The Cauldron at the base of the cliffs on Frank's Island. . . .”

I love how you ask yourself “Who wrote this poem?” and see the voice as the ocean or the Inner Old One—a voice much larger than yourself.   How does that feel?   You speak for those of us who are called to something but don’t yet know the way.  What is it like to have another poem but not yet the journey?

Sherry: A great question. At first, I re-read the poem and went “Whoa! It could not have been said more clearly.” And then I felt chagrin, as I was THIS CLOSE to being there and got scared. I had it handed to me on a platter, and other influences caused me to lose my certainty: things like a lack of affordable year-round housing there, when I am skirting the edge of poverty and am too old to have insecure housing. 

PU: You felt chagrin???

Sherry: Yes, chagrin. The universe looked after me last time, and I have to trust that it will again. So, here’s another poem, saying what my soul has been saying forever....and not the journey.  Not yet. But it also stiffens my spine, to keep trying, to trust the universe will find another way to get me there.

PU: So the bird in the cage is you.  You have a unique and melodious way of making the bird-in-a-cage image your own.  

Sherry: I have been writing about birds in cages since my hard years in the 1970's, when I would find myself in a cage with door ajar, and still not know how to make my way out. Finally, I did, thank the Goddess and, having known that joyous freedom of the skies, I remember, and I want to share that vision with those who might still be in cages of their own making. So we can all fly free as we were always meant to do.

PU: That is what I was left with from reading “My Inner Old One,” encouraged to get on with my dreams.  I also identify with your image of a woman standing in the middle of a natural scene that speaks her longing.  You do that without anthropomorphizing natural things. It seems as if you become part of nature instead of giving nature human qualities.  Do you see yourself as a nature poet?

Sherry: My bond with nature runs so deep, that I think you may have hit on something.....becoming the tree, the bird, the wolf, rather than making them human.  I always tell people that my children taught me how to Be a Tree – during their ups and downs, I knew early on that I needed to grow a tree inside me: strong enough to support them when they needed support, but something strong and steady to hang onto myself, to withstand, so I didn’t roller coaster up and down with them. So, when I put my hand on a tree trunk, she is my sister. We both endure the storms. We both support life. I feel such affinity. Such gratitude.

I would be only too happy to be acknowledged as a nature writer, since my favourite poet, Mary Oliver, is the best one there is, and I adore her work. I do write about many topics. But nature has been, this lifetime, my lover, and that is the strongest thread in my tapestry.

PU: You have another poem in what you just said! Your loyal readers know nature is the strongest motif in your poems—even stronger than “journey” and “return.”  Many of your writings open up nature, and I can see it as a lover, with you finding your equal and symbol among the trees and birds. 

Nature outside and in—and poetry blogs!  I love what you do here at Poets United.  How do reading, commenting on poems and interviewing poets fit into your life?

Sherry: Oh goody, an easy question, LOL! It is the best part of my life, truly.  My writing had slowed to a trickle, in 2010, for lack of nurture, when a dear friend insisted that I start a blog on Blogger. I did, and went onto Blogger Forum and asked “where can I find other poets?” and Robb Lloyd, founder of Poets United, bless his heart, said “why don’t you try Poets United?” I did, and in a short time, was writing again and admiring the interviews Robb did. He asked for help and I said I’d be interested in doing interviews (feature writing and interviews were my forte when I was a cub reporter on daily newspapers back in the day), and soon I took them over.

I am absolutely fascinated with peoples’ stories: each one so unique. I always say real life is far more interesting – and often more unbelievable, mine being a case in point – than anything a person can make up. I love putting these interviews together, it never gets old, is always surprising. I struggle with chronic fatigue, this year more severely than ever before. So I tend to guard my energy by staying home. Being able to come online and connect with people all over the world  keeps my heart happy.

I feel badly at times, like now, when I am so flummoxed I can barely write at all, and can’t make it around to comment as widely as I prefer..........but the connections I make online are my real life. It is where my happiness and sense of contribution lie. What I need to do to survive in my actual life fades into the background the minute I start tapping the keys.

P.U.: Wow!  Thank you, Sherry.   We’ve been so engaged in conversation that we forgot to order tea and biscuits!  Let’s meet again sometime, friend, and add some actual food to this feast.

Sherry: Yes! "Next time, with goodies!" Thank you, Susan, for the idea of doing a chat about this poem. You are exceptionally good at doing interviews! (I am taking note!)  And thank you, dear readers, for joining us in this conversation, and for your participation through the weeks and months at Poets United.


Poets and readers, thank you for joining us.  Please feel free to ask your own questions in the comments.



  1. Another fabulous conversation - so happy to listen in while two poets share their words and wisdom. Sherry, your poetry speaks to me in such a deep way - I am always moved by your artistry. Thank you for drawing me into Poets United and for all the exceptional work you share with us.

    1. Thank you, Kathleen, for your kind words. I am so happy to have met you, and so many other incredible poets, through this site. Poets United changed my life, and I owe how my writing has grown entirely to all of you.

  2. What a remarkable conversation, Susan and Sherry! I found it fascinating, Sherry, that when you write the Inner Old One it is as if the words just flow...that you type what "She" is telling you. I have had some poems that I feel have written themselves, so I can empathize with what you mean. It is a wonderful experience when that happens.

    Susan, I like how you have pointed out a few of Sherry's main themes: 'nature,' 'journey,' and 'return.' So very perceptive, and so very true. I would add 'gratitude' or 'thankfulness' to the mix. And maybe 'universe.' (Smiles.)

    Sherry, I liked your comment that you sometimes ask yourself "Who wrote this poem?" in regard to some of your writings. Ha, I find myself sometime asking myself the same.

    Sherry, you do need to get yourself to where you are being called. It is obvious from yur poems that you miss your 'home.'

    Susan, you asked perceptive questions. Thank you for helping us all gain some insight into this poem!

    1. Thank you, Mary. Susan is so good at doing interviews, I would love to have her do more of them. But she tells me they are a lot of work. LOL. Dont I know it! But I so love doing them. I love peoples' stories. I am hooked.

      Susan, thank you for suggesting this Chat, for asking fantastic questions, and for putting it together so well.

    2. My pleasure, Sherry! I hope everyone adds insight into what we have said just as Mary does. (Thank you Mary.) I'm sure that everyone wants to talk to you, Sherry. SO thanks for all the thanks, but that's enough now. Just let me know when I am invited to do it again. I enjoy the personalities that bounce off each other at Poets United.

  3. Yay - we get a glimpse into Sherry's fascinating life. I will be back this evening with a cup of tea and some biscuits to really enjoy this! Thank you, Susan and Sherry.

    1. I am glad you will read it with tea and biscuits, Talon! I dont know how fascinating my life is, people must get tired of hearing from me, LOL! It is easier to be the interviewer !

  4. This is a fascinating conversation between two very interesting poets. Susan, I like the way you articulate what we can read and feel throughout Sherry's poetry: the themes, the voice and the connection with nature and a bigger whole. Sherry, I enjoyed reading about your inner self and your very special connection with Tofino.

    1. I'm happy you enjoyed it, Gabriella. Susan really impressed me with her ability to go deep, and pick up things in my work I had not even articulated to myself, thus forcing me to go a bit deeper in response,.These Chats start to take on a life of their own. I must say I enjoy them for the broader scope they afford, and the opportunity to dive a bit deeper.

  5. Your enjoyment of our chat and of Sherry's poem is making me very happy. I think we should have her talk about another poem very soon, yes?

  6. NO! People must get so tired of Sherry Blue Sky, LOL! Maybe we should chat about one of your poems, Ms Susan!!!!!!

  7. You have a big heart Sherry and I'm happy that your online life brings you so much joy. Your generous contribution to PU is a reason for its success. Best wishes and may your dreams of reaching the ocean come true

    1. Thank you, Rallentanda. Poets United gicves me so much more than I can ever repay - thanks to all of you. Believe me, if I get the chance to go back to Tofino, all of you will hear me proclaiming it from the rooftops. Smiles!

  8. I have poems that to come from outside of me. I like them the best. This is very prophetic and magical.

    1. Sometimes, doesnt it feel like the poems are coming THROUGH us, more than from us? I definitely feel that at times. Other times, I can stir the pot and not a thought pops up - like this week!

    2. These moments - blessings! When we are aligned with our soul and passionate about our lives....Today late, but tomorrow will read the whole story of yours, Sherry. Thanks for chat! x

    3. You are most welcome, Humbird. Thanks for stopping by!

  9. How effective yearning is in creative writing. It is as though by writing about your needs you have already started the journey there. The use of covens in the poem intrigued me with the witch connotations presumably they were honking directions silhouetted dark above you telling you where to go. I must confess I laughed to see the boot on the other foot in this interview.

    1. LOL, yes, everyone loves seeing me squirm in the hotseat! Getting my just desserts! I like what you say about me having already started my journey there. We shall see if the universe agrees!

  10. What a great interview. Thanks Susan and Sherry!
    The poem is a revelation of your inner self Sherry and thank you for opening it to all of us. The poems so freely that it left the readers breathless. The sound of “space-where-there-is-no-space,
    along the-way-where-there-is-no-way” is that of a throbbing. Come what may, I will do it!!!!

    Hope to see more of your writings!

    I am always looking forward every Monday to see and learn about each one of you here in Poets United.

    1. Thanks so much, Totomai. And, kids, the good news is that in mid-December, we will be featuring this fine poet and photographer in our Life of a Poet series. Be sure not to miss it!

  11. Thanks Susan and Sherry for this interesting and engaging chat on a wonderful poem ...the words sing, tell us of a higher life and makes us ready for an eternal journey...

    1. Oh I love the idea of an "eternal journey". Beautiful, Sumana.

  12. Susan, thank you for interviewing Sherry. I love the depth of the questions you ask, how they help reveal Sherry's soul.
    Sherry, you're such a special and wonderful person. You are nature and naturally you expose the truth of your being - the pains, struggles, joys of your life. I am so grateful to know you.

    1. Myrna, I am touched by your kind words. I am grateful to know you, as well. We meet many kindred hearts in this journey and yours is one of them.

  13. Well there were no surprises just continued enlightenment of the wonderful writer/person Sherry truly is. Great interview Susan! You really pushed the old bird out of the "cage".
    Sherry I write this with respect and admiration... for a very beautiful person.

  14. Thanks for this engaging interview, Susan. I very much enjoyed reading this...:).
    Sherry is a terrific poet... her love of nature inspires all of us to take better care of the wild spaces and natural resources around us and also deepens my reading experience of poetry. I loved your 'Love song'. Stay motivated, Sherry!! Being a nature lover myself..I know, the magical intimacy with nature is possible in this quiet world. .Loved reading your 'Love song' Sherry. May the blessing of God be upon you ....Thanks Susan once again. God bless..

  15. Thank you, Susan, for turning the tables on Sherry to talk about this wonderful poem — and so perceptively. I'm very fond of Sherry's writings and this is a favourite. Sherry, it is as Old Egg says, above, the ongoing longing for your spiritual home creates wonderful poetry. Nevertheless I hope the time will come when wonderful poetry is created from your joy at being there again. I always find that the Universe does indeed support us in attaining what our souls desire and need. But it is hard not to be overwhelmed by practical considerations at times, and the leap of faith is often a huge leap of courage too. I hope you can find ways to make concrete plans for moving successfully. Meanwhile, your poetry is an ongoing delight!

  16. What a delight to find Susan and Sherry in conversation here!! I will admit that now is not the time for me to read this but I will say that the opening poem I did read and the wingedness of it speaks to my heart. I just love the organic approach to the inner seasons and the heart stirrings and call to act on emotive and beautiful poem, Susan. Thank you both so much and Happy Thanksgiving to you all! :)

  17. This interview made me feel much better, Thank you, Sherry.

    Pamela ox

  18. you and me and the sea
    one voice we share
    its where we have to be
    let my fingers caress
    the frothy salty air
    again one day we'll find
    comfort, soul solace there

    Sherry thanks for sharing about yourself, the journey and the place where you belong.

  19. I couldn't get on-line the other night as I'd planned...windstorm and power outages. But I'm so delighted and intrigued to read about Sherry's process of writing and connecting. Such a natural and beautiful melding of mind, body and spirit in Sherry's writing. Thank you so much and you, too, Susan, for an uplifting and interesting interview.

  20. I look forward to reading the conversation, I will be back. Congratulations!

  21. Being fairly new to PU, this was both informative and quite fascinating and gave me insight into the poetry and person that is I understand so much dear soul immediately connected to your poem and was given a voice...tears still spilling down my cheeks. I will be rereading it for years to come...and exploring more of your fabulous poetry!

  22. I loved this!!! Thank you both so much! Wonderful poem, wonderful chat!


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