CONFESSION: I have a wonderful picture of April and one of her delightful drawings. Sadly, I’m unable to get them on this post and must wait for Kathy to return from vacation to post them for me. Sorry, April!
BULLETIN: Maybe it’s the heat but I can’t seem to get all the information into this post that deserves to be there. For example, many of you have commented on April’s book but I failed to provide a link to help you get a copy. Here it is: http://www.indiebound.org/book/9780803732797
It is my privilege today to feature poet and author April Halprin Wayland from near Manhattan Beach, California. When I read some of her work ths past April as one of Tricia Stohr-Hunt’s Celebrate Poetry Month poets (http://missrumphiuseffect.blogspot.com/2010/04/poetry-makers-april-halprin-wayland.html ), I knew I wanted her a a guest on this blog. To see why, read on!
When did you start writing poetry?
In the womb. I was comfortable and the lighting was good.
I started seriously when I was about twelve on my father’s old portable typewriter, writing under the pen name W. Sancington.
So…how did you know you were a poet?
My 14-year-old sister had already taken the journalist spot. The obvious opposite spot was to write dreamy fiction and poetry. I typed pages and pages of poems on that old typewriter late at night about boys, war, my deepest fears and feelings…and more about those boys. I kept the poems in my bottom left desk drawer and never let anyone see them.
Then one day, my sister outted me. She found them, loved them, and was reading them aloud to my mother when I got home from school. I was mortified—as if she had gone into my underwear drawer. That’s when I first saw that the poems might be interesting to more than the dust mites in my bottom left desk drawer.
And the rest is history…
What was your first poem published?
My mentor, Myra Cohn Livingston, was looking for poems for an anthology about mothers. I submitted this poem about my mother, who had been the pianist of the Cleveland Orchestra. Mom was always practicing for one concert or another and often played four-hand piano music with a man named Sidney:
WHEN MOM PLAYS JUST FOR ME
by April Halprin Wayland
My mom is playing piano with Sidney,
I like making my bed to the music
that bubbles under my bedroom door.
Mom and Sidney are still playing piano.
I like pouring milk over my cornflakes
trying to match the tinklings that spill into the kitchen.
Now Sidney’s gone home. Mom plays just for me
and I run around in circles in the living room
and collapse on the lambskin under the piano.
I look up. I see the hardwood and pedals
of the moving hammers and strings —
the piano’s heart — when Mom plays just for me.
© by April Halprin Wayland—all rights reserved.
Originally published in Poems For Mothers
selected by Myra Cohn Livingston (Holiday House, 1988)
Which is easier to write, verse or free verse?
Both and neither! As much as I love the freedom of free verse, I love the order and challenge of creating scaffolding, too. (“The story is little more than scaffolding on which the poet hangs his music.” ~ Christopher Merrill)
Which people or events have influenced your poetry most strongly?
Not in order:
• Studying with my mentor, poet Myra Cohn Livingston for twelve years.
• Joni Mitchell’s poetry
• Listening to my father read Sherlock Holmes to us
• Listening to my mother read Mark Twain, Ogden Nash, and Dorothy Parker to us
• My thirteenth birthday present: Lawrence Ferlinghetti’s A Coney Island of the Mind
• Roget’s Thesaurus and the Capricorn Rhyming Dictionary –(these days I use http://www.rhymezone.com)
• My mother playing piano solos, sonatas, trios and quartets throughout my childhood
• Music gatherings of the Santa Monica Traditional Folk Music Club…and all the songs I’ve heard and sung with them over many, many years
• Cricket Magazine continuing to publish my work when no one else was interested. I’ve published dozens of poems with Cricket and was commissioned to write a poem for their twenty-fifth anniversary issue.
If we open your computer, what’s new?
I took the Poem-A-Day Challenge and wrote (and posted—ack!) a poem each day for the month of April. (http://www.aprilwayland.com/poetry/poetry-month/ )
That was so energizing that I have continued to write a poem a day since then. I didn’t want to post them, but unless I’m held accountable, my rock-solid-shiny-gold-absolutely-sure commitment would probably slowly sink into the mud. So I send a poem every day to one of my best friends, author Bruce Balan (http://www.brucebalan.com/ ), who sails around the world in his trimaran.
Three most amazing things have happened because of my poem-a-day commitment are:
1) Writing has become an absolute priority every single day, no days off for good behavior, no stockpiling poems, no excuses.
2) I am present…I notice more things during the day…as I search for the subject of that day’s poem, I am forced to be aware, to be conscious, to be present.
3) I have become cyber-friends with Kim Stafford, the son of poet William Stafford, who told me that his father wrote a poem a day all his life. Kim sent me his beautiful, award-winning memoir of his father, EARLY MORNING, which I highly recommend.
Tell us about your newest picture book!
It’s a picture book called NEW YEAR AT THE PIER—a Rosh Hashanah Story, beautifully illustrated by the most highly awarded illustrator in Canada, Stéphane Jorisch. Stéphane and I have been blown away by the response our book has gotten. It won the Association of Jewish Libraries’ Sydney Taylor Book Award Gold Medal, got a starred review in Publisher’s Weekly, was named Tablet Magazine Best Book of the Year and more.
It’s about a young boy named Izzy whose favorite part of Rosh Hashanah is Tashlich, a joyous waterside ceremony in which people apologize for their mistakes of the previous year, cleaning the slate for the new year. But there’s one mistake on Izzy’s “I’m sorry” list he’s finding especially hard to say out loud.
Tashlich (celebrated on September 9th this year) is one of my favorite traditions. We walk to a body of water, sing psalms, and toss pieces of stale bread into the water. Each piece of bread represents something we regret doing in the past year. Because I live near the sea, I get to toss my “mistakes” into the ocean. It’s a way of letting go, of creating a clean slate for the coming year.
The thing I love most about Tashlich is that I’m outside, where I feel especially spiritual. Though it involves community and singing, it’s also a very private time–just me and the end of the pier and the wind, thinking about what I’ve done wrong and how I can do better in the New Year, before I toss each piece of bread out to sea.
I’ve dragged numerous friends to our pier so they can taste the poetry of this ritual, to feel the wind, hear the gulls, experience moments of relief when they tossed each piece of bread. These moments changed me. How could I not share this in a picture book?
In writing this book, I wanted to say that Tashlich happens in the fall…without saying it directly. So this is how the book opens:
Izzy loves this changing time of year. Some days sunglasses, some days sweaters.
April, thank you very much for being my guest today. I loved having you with us.
I am thrilled to have been interviewed by you, David—thank you!