Why are children the main focus in your poems?

Interestingly, children in the larger body of my work constitute a very minor focus in my poetry. I'm a full-time mother of two school-aged daughters. Usually I struggle to write about them because it's difficult to achieve the kind of distance I need to write about loved ones when I'm in the middle of the act of parenting. But moments persist and demand record,
so I use my poetry then. It's also nice to be able to bring a couple of "kid" poems to a reading when I know my girls will be in the audience (they call it "the poetry show") because they think it's neat that I've written poems about them!

 

How did your childhood help you as an author?

Big, big question. Let me keep this simple...I had, in my mind, an emotionally rough childhood for a number of reasons. I started writing when I was four. Thank God, it kept me alive, it helped me make sense of the world when there weren't reliable adults to do that for me. It also helped me work through the dark wishes of adolescence.


I don't write for these "therapeutic" reasons anymore, now it's about craft, and worldview, and raison d'etre. I am purposeful to the point of being logical and mathematical about it. And yet, the act is calming and exhilarating for me. Creativity, for me, has always been a drug. I am addicted. What would I do without it? I would go crazy. Ask my husband.

 

What significant experiences have influenced your poems?

None that are so specific as to list. Everything? All experience is, to me, significant, whether it's going through a C-section to avoid one's own death to preeclampsia, or picking the first radish out of the April garden with my three-year-old. In fact, Toni Morrison once said at an appearance in Chicago that you never know when the most important experience of your life will come. It may take you a decade to realize that stepping off the bus yesterday was the most important thing you ever did. Exactly.

 

What is your purpose for writing most of your poems in 3 stanzas?

3 is the magic number. It makes sense to me.

 

Your biography says you decide the way a poem needs to be told. What factors influence the way a poem needs to be told?

Did I say that? (grin) Eventually, I guess I do. First I have to let the work unfold, though, and then I decide. I've no formula for making that decision, though, I'm intuitive. I consider all manner of things: point of view, syllabics, the emotional purpose of a poem, its "arc" (if it has one), diction, line breaks, sensory images, and where my heart is at at the time.
It's a mixture of concrete and abstract considerations, and each poem is different.