Georgia Heard today

UPDATE ON OUR WOZA WOZA POEM: Thanks everyone for the excellent ideas for the 4th line. I went with Sandy Asher’s idea because it keeps the mystery alive and introduces a new element. Are they squirrels? Who knows? We need another line!

Today I saw something I’ve never seen before,
A sea of cinnamon swirls surfing the forest floor.
Leaves you say? And well you may, but more it seemed to me,
Tiny brown-clad creatures surfed that swirling sea.

We’ve settled into a poem told in couplets. Who wants to add the first line of the next couplet?

Hello Everyone,

Today my Featured Guest is Georgia Heard. Many of you have probably read her work and/or sat in an audience where she spoke. I first met Georgia when we were both on the same preconference institute at a conference many years ago. I’m delighted to welcome Georgia today as my guest.

Q
What originally attracted you to poetry?

A
Every year I wrote a poem for my father, mother and sisters on their birthdays, and read them aloud during birthday parties. I remember one birthday, my grandmother and mother started to cry. It was then that I realized that words had the gift to make people feel. It was a powerful moment for me –that my feelings could be translated into words, and other people could feel how I felt. I decided then that I wanted to keep writing poems.

Q
Do you keep a journal? If so, when did you start? What sort of material do you write in your journal?

A
When I was a teenager and my father went to Vietnam to fly helicopters in the war my diary became an essential place for me to write down what I felt. I still keep a journal. A journal for me is a way to gather the seeds of new ideas. Now, my journals are usually project based. In other words, whatever book or poem I’m working on it’s a place for me to write and revise, and it helps me think more clearly and deeply about whatever I’m working on at the moment.

Q
You are a highly respected poet, teacher, and speaker. How do these activities connect and support one another?

A
Thank you, for those kind words. I find writing poetry a solitary experience that takes a lot of intense focus. When I’m writing, I find that hours can go by without me noticing time. It’s like I’m in a kind of trance. Teaching keeps me connected to the world. It forces me to snap out of myself. Writing, teaching and speaking are all connected. I couldn’t teach or speak about writing if I weren’t a writer. I would feel like a fraud. But it is difficult sometimes to keep a balance between writing and teaching because that solitary writing life is always beckoning. I am so lucky to teach children because they are so open to life, and they remind me to keep my heart open too.

Q
Do you have a preference between verse and free verse?

A
Free verse is an oxymoron — despite what Robert Frost said about free verse that it’s like playing tennis with the net down. I find that free verse does have a structure, and when I write free verse I’m still using poetic tools. I also love writing verse but sometimes my poems feels stilted and forced if I try too hard to make them rhyme. I admire poets who write in poetic forms like Elizabeth Bishop and Robert Frost. They make it seem so easy.

Q
What do you see happening to children’s poetry in the United States?

A
There are many wonderful poets writing for children now. I just hope that teachers and parents keep buying poetry books. I’m intrigued how poetry has morphed into novels – yet I’m not sure that every novel in verse is really verse — but I like the way poetry is expanding its boundaries. I hope children’s poets write more poems for children that express their feelings.

Q
What makes poetry for children relevant?

A
Children love poetry naturally. They love the rhythm, the rhyme and the music of poetry. Children see the world in a new ways just like many poems do. Poetry is as relevant to children as it ever was.

Q
Do you have advice for emerging children’s poets?

A
Write about what you’re passionate about; what about you love in the world; write from your truest feelings – and children will love your poems.

Georgia, many thanks. It was a pleasure.
David