Monday, September 24, 2018

LIFE OF A POET - CHRISSA SANDLIN

This week, my friends, we are  chatting with Chrissa Sandlin, a Texas poet who blogs at  MOON POOLS AND MERMAIDS , and one of our newer members. I am so looking forward to getting to know her better, so draw your chairs in close, and let's dive right in!







Sherry: Chrissa, tell us a bit about yourself and your life – and please introduce us to your dogs. (Many of us are  dog lovers! Smiles.)




Chrissa: I’d love to say that I wandered in from the excavation of a nearby fairyland amusement park…but there are pics to prove that I was pretty much born and raised in Texas. I grew up in a small town (Lake Jackson) not far from the Gulf Coast. I managed to make it to Houston (for college) and we (husband James, pup #1 Merlin, and pup #2 Varda) now live a little north of the city. 





Merlin is a Papillion/Eskie mix (peskies, for the win!)  




Varda is a retriever mix with rottweiler coloring. 


Sherry: They look wonderful...... and happy! You are lucky to have two. Dogs are the best!

Chrissa: They’re pretty much my personal nap gurus and definitely indoor, suburban dogs. Merlin ended up being the Muppet-y one, the one who likes to bark & bounce & pretend blankets of all kinds are monsters out to get him. Not saying he’s responsible for all the holes in the blankets…but he’s pretty much the face you see peering out, so draw your own conclusions.

As one of the people caught in the undertow of layoffs several years ago, during what I refer to as my Year of Living In a Country Song (lost my job, our first two dogs, and my husband’s car), I’ve moved through the detritus of temp jobs to a steady person-at-the-house-to-do-stuff position. Writing is part of that. I’m really fortunate to be able to go to a nearby park & ramble & write al fresco. When it’s not rocket hot, I’ll take a glass of iced coffee and sit at one of the picnic tables and handwrite rough drafts or edit existing ones. 

Sherry: It sounds ideal!  Is there something, looking back, that you think influenced your becoming a writer? 

Chrissa: Reading is what first put the idea of writing in my head. I was the kid who had the book in the car, at the dinner table, stuffed under my desk in class, etc. At some point, it just seemed that every book was about other places and I couldn’t believe that no one had written about all the amazing stuff that existed around me. (There weren’t any “local author” sections in the bookstores I encountered growing up). Looking at the Spanish moss on the oaks out the window during class in junior high cemented the idea that someone should write about the wonderful and the terrible there in that moment. And that the gym teacher was definitely a spy of some kind because really, who thinks aerobics is a GOOD idea? It was the 80s…

Sherry: Smiles. I share your sentiments on aerobics. When did you begin writing poetry? What do you love about it?

Chrissa: Junior high was when I began writing, separate from assignments. What I loved then and what I still love now about reading poetry is the compression of form that emphasizes rhythm and the snapshot quality of the subject matter. It can be like thumbing through an album of idea, emotion, and experience—sometimes more abstract than a photo but more immersive, at the same time.

Sherry: That is a good description. What came first, poetry or prose? Which is your favourite?

Chrissa: Prose probably came first. My grandmother had an old typewriter that I could set up on a small footstool and type out stories. I’m a mood reader—unless I have a specific goal in mind I’ll reach for either and my favorite would probably be a mixture of prose and poetry, something like The Lord of the Rings.

Sherry: Ha, I typed for many years on my grandpa's old Underwood. What is your writing process? Do you do a lot of revision of your poems?

Chrissa: Revision is my least favorite part of writing; my brain is ready to slip to the next shiny new project. I like to handwrite out rough drafts, using these as a form of journal/research/draft, including any notes from books I’m reading and brief indications of where I am when writing. These brief journal bits act as a warm up and are really the only kind of journaling I’ve ever been able to stick with. I like reading everything out loud to the dogs while revising. They like sleeping and cracking an eye when I stop talking. Snack time?




Sherry: This picture of your dogs cracks me up. This is why I love dogs so much! Would you share three poems with us, and tell us a bit about each one?

Chrissa: The first of these is a poem written for a non-image prompt (write a poem about something in the room) and while it didn’t come out in the form I was hoping for, it reads to me like a lyric and that just makes me smile. I am not musical. 

Incantation

Dream, slow line sliding
Power liner on a baffled lid
Wet edge of the rainbow mining
Shattered light of thunder’s skid.



The second is a poem that sprung from walking around a nearby mall until I was exhausted and then staring up at the skylights under a cloudy sky. I’d like to use it in a story at some point—it feels like the kernel of one. 

XII.

Nana does. Mommy does.
A toddler snuggled against the vinyl slats and floppy bags
On the mall bench near me. I looked up to see the underside of the rain.
I can’t walk the rain.
Fifteen minutes from opening, can lights off in the liquid morning
The woman smiled over the bags at the girl, then at me.
Just a few minutes.
If you look up at the right angle, their faces are cut
From the transition places, cloud edges, opening times
Hold my hand.
I keep my eyes on Sephora glowing like Paradise behind a gate
As the light above splatters into a glass-bottomed shower.





The last one plays around with the idea of the elements (fire, water, earth, etc.) and was sparked by a picture of an astronaut and hearing about the possible discovery of a body of water on Mars.

Go

Go to the shore on the planet of cold fire
Walk in the sand like air, crystallized
Until the stars spark between your toes.
Go to the shore on the planet of salt
We have wept an ocean blind
Say the comets as they fall sunward
Go to the shore by the humming sea
Write your name in neon dikes
So cold your face burns constellations
Go to the shore and fly yourself
Through ice, through grief, through thought
In the sea on the planet whose face you wear


Sherry: I find your writing very interesting, Chrissa. Your voice is unique. I especially love your third poem, and "We have wept an ocean blind." Very cool.

Recently, you posted a poem I would love to include here, if I may.


UNTITLED

On my back on the carpet, post-yoga, contemplating
That I should not have forgotten that my last use
Of that DVD was three months ago
Breathing as per the instructions and staring
Up into the limbs of the Norfolk pine
In a pot high enough on the shelves by the window
To almost reach the ceiling...it's like a real tree
My brain is happy to note...breathe...breathe...
Three months? Not that long ago, really
And I made it through the entire DVD
At least I held whatever poses I could manage
Throughout and I'm floating on a sheen
And that pine..is really dusty...and...

It's like a puppeteer from behind the curtain
Gives it lips, eyes, the shape of a dragon's head
And it speaks.

Go to the road and walk the road
Until you find a shop that sells my teeth
And buy them and bring them
And place them in my mouth that I may eat
For I tired of that squirrel on the fence

We're both tired of the squirrel
Which sets the dogs barking and they're...eh...
Hundreds of other squirrels (probably) in the trees
Where the houses give ways to a weedy forest...
I'm still breathing deep breaths per the DVD
Which is still playing music that might,
If one retrogrades it with a certain suburban tint
Be considered fay...if you imagine a bored elf
Telling her aesthetician how heritage is too quaint
But it's fun to shop Under the Hill in the summer
When all the festivals are put on for the tourists.

Then the Norfolk pine growls
Which is not a thing I thought dragons did.

And so I get up and put on socks and sneakers
Because I think (maybe) the squirrel's out there now
And the dogs don't notice because they're hiding
In the bedroom because there's a dragon in here
With me (thanks guys) and if I scare away the squirrel
I can just pretend yoga puts me to sleep.

The back door, though, opens onto a highway.
Right through our lawn and weeds and the neighbor's
Ill-kept crepe myrtles and lawn all the way
To a town that never existed on the other side
Of the neighborhood. So I go.

I walk down the road and it's cool and wide
And it never smells of asphalt because the weeds
Are lush and I find the shop in that town although
I didn't bring my wallet...instead, we barter
For sunflowers, bluebonnets, black-eyed Susans and mallows
Which I pick until my hands are green and sticky
And my shirt is a seedbed and I exchange them for teeth.

I walk back uphill with my bag, toward a fence
In the distance bordered by those mourning myrtles
When there's a buzz and a voice says "Hey, buddy"
And a giant yellow jacket comes up and tells me
He's heard of giants rampaging through the pollen fields
And he hates to ask but would that be me?
With my shirt full of seeds and my hands sticking to the bag...
Because he's willing--flipping up some kind of seed badge--
To let it go with a warning and I'm naive enough
To think he means verbal.

Which is why I'm standing here watching a dragon
Stare at me from the squirrel's favorite ledge
On the back fence while my left bicep
Throbs a venomous tattoo of a yellow-jacket
With biceps and a glare guarding a sunflower
While the dogs bark furiously at the dragon
From behind my calves.

Meanwhile, the DVD is telling us all
To breathe.




Sherry: I love this poem! I smiled all the way through your adventures with  the talking dragon, dogs and bee. This was so much fun to read!

When did you begin blogging, Chrissa, and what impact has blogging had on your writing?



Chrissa: I started blogging probably ten years ago, off and on, at the suggestion of a writer’s group to which I belonged at the time. I definitely blog more when I’m part of a group than not and find that having a regular schedule keeps me more aware of my writing schedule for other projects. 

Sherry: Blogging keeps me writing more, too. Do you have a favourite poet?

Chrissa: My favorite poets would have to be Emily Dickinson & Edna St. Vincent Millay, both of whom were introduced to me by my mom. 😊

Sherry: Favourite book ever?

Chrissa: I’m going to go with Susan Cooper’s Dark is Rising series—they are short and are like potato chips:  reading one means I’m reading the next and the next…

Sherry: What pursuits do you enjoy when you aren’t writing?





Chrissa: I’m a rambler. I enjoy walking around malls and through parks and around museums—Texas tends to reward indoor walking more than outdoor during much of the year. There’s also reading and scrapbooking for the indoor and holiday times and trying to grow pumpkins. So far, I’ve managed a half summer of vines but no pumpkins.

Sherry: There may still be pumpkins! Is there anything you’d like to say to Poets United?

Chrissa: This is a great community and getting the chance to spend a Sunday with poets & their poems in so many different places is amazing. Coffee and poetry and quiet are a little bit of grace & perfection at the end of the week.

I can tell that much time and effort and love goes into maintaining this site and providing us with weekly surprises & inspirations and for this, I am truly grateful.

Sherry: We are so happy you found us, Chrissa. We look forward to enjoying much more of your work.

Wasn't this a lovely visit, kids? Do come back and see who we talk to next. Who knows? It might be you!

17 comments:

  1. What a lovely visit. I so enjoy the opportunity to learn a bit of the 'backstory' behind the creative process of fellow poets. Thank you so much, for making that happen for all of us at Poets United, Sherry.

    I am a big fan of Chrissa's work. You take your pieces in the most intriguing and fascinating directions, Chrissa - as the untitled poem showcased, here, illustrates so wonderfully … as do the other pieces selected.

    Awesome writing! And a splendid share! Great job of this, Poets!

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  2. I love Chrissa's unique style, too. She writes such intriguing poems. Chrissa, you look like you have a real sense of humour. I do, too, and really enjoy your smiling photos....as well as your wonderful dogs.

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  3. I really enjoyed your visit with Chrissa, Sherry. I always enjoy getting to know the new poets, and Chrissa has been a regular at Poetry Pantry for a while now. Thank you for this introduction.

    Chrissa, I enjoyed learning a bit about your life, and seeing photos of your dogs. As Sherry said, many of us here are dog lovers. Smiles. First of all, I enjoyed your sense of humor which really came through in this interview. Very subtle humor, and it made me smile. I enjoyed reading about what inspired you to become a writer & also that you first wrote prose. Ha, my mother had an old typewriter too. And as for 'local authors,' perhaps you will become one of those 'local authors' you said there weren't many of. Smiles.

    Your poems are deep, Chrissa. I find when I read those above and when I read the one you share each week for the pantry that I cannot read it just once. Your poetry has depths and twists and turns that one has to read a few times and really savor.

    I smiled when you said that Texas rewards indoor walking more than outdoor walking much of the year. Ha, I understand that. It is so hot!!!! My grandson was in Houston at the end of June, and he definitely concurs.

    Thanks for being part of Poets United, Chrissa; and Sherry, once again, thanks for this interview!

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  4. What a delight to read! was thinking that Chrissa's poetry has a magical quality – and that was before I read the one about the dragon!

    I'm another who started on an old typewriter – my grandfather's Remington, which he left me in his will when I was nine.

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    1. (Well, actually I was scribbling in notebooks before I got the typewriter.)

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  5. Sherry, thanks for putting this together and letting me share pics of the dogs! I've been lucky to have found a place to learn from other poets and hear each distinct voice. :)

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    1. It was truly a pleasure, Chrissa! We are so happy you are among us. I love your poems - and your puppies! Smiles!

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  6. Chrissa... so good to read your poems.. I think you have such a different viewpoint that is so lovely - especially like the one in the mall. Thanks Sherry, always wonderful how you put these features together!

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  7. Oh Sherry and Chrissa, this one is such a wonderful treat. Absolutely delightful.

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  8. I'm so happy you enjoyed it, friends! Thanks, Chrissa. It has been a joy.

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  9. I still have my Underwood, though I haven't changed the ribbon in a couple of decades. (Haha!) I enjoyed both the snapshot poems and the stream of consciousness--the snapshots in the stream--especially the yellow Jacket and this: "Go to the shore and fly yourself
    Through ice, through grief, through thought
    In the sea on the planet whose face you wear"
    What an amazing surreal/spiritual image!
    Thank you for posting here so we can all enjoy your unique vision.

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  10. Thank you for introducing me to Chrissa and her dogs, Sherry. I particularly enjoyed 'Incantation' and 'Go'.

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  11. Chrissa's writing is both beautiful and unique. What a delight to see her featured here. Curiously I still fiddle with my older work to try to perfect it...even more!

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  12. Chrissa, a pleasure to know more about you and your works. you have a very unique poetic voice.
    your UNTITLED poem reminds me about the episodes in 'Grimm'. :)

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  13. Chrissa is one of those poets who visit my blog and I visit her and we comment. Nice meeting her up close. Thanks Sherry

    much love...

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  14. Oh lovely to meet you Chrissa.....I enjoyed your unique poems and voice. Looking forward to visiting your blog and reading more once I start back to my blog soon. Another great interview Sherry, thanks. Always fun to meet new poets here!

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  15. So glad i did not miss this wonderful interview with Chrissa! I so love her beautiful and creative voice and l am blessed to know her! Thank you Sherry for another awesome interview!!

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