As we celebrate older women poets with our special Crone Issue that was released on October first, we thought it important to ask one of our contributing poets to share her wisdom in an interview. We chose to interview Tricia Knoll because she has appeared in our pages in past issues and contributed three pieces for the current issue. We were delighted that she readily agreed and are proud to present her insights here.
GR: Tricia, you’ve been published a few times in Gyroscope Review. What made you decide to submit to our call for work by women poets over 50 that celebrated the idea of wise women?
TK: I’m 70. I’ve been very lucky to feel that I know many women my age who are wise, loving, kind – whose political fervor is balanced with a sense of how we are one with all parts of the universe. I’ve written many poems on this theme. I have an unpublished manuscript, “Gathering Marbles,” which I have recently revised heavily and am submitting once again. It highlights collecting marbles rather than losing them. And, I have a collection of marbles including some very old handmade German marbles. We can find treasures in our life at any age. I feel blessed to know other feminists who live in resiliency and love in the face of today’s sometimes overwhelming challenges.
GR: We love the idea of collecting marbles rather than losing them! Do you feel that older women poets are well-represented in poetry journals today? Do younger women poets have it any easier?
TK: I have a library of poetry books, probably 90 percent are written by women. In online journals I’m drawn to the work of women poets to read first. I sense that a great number of the poets I read are younger than I am. Some have MFA’s. From my perspective the only reason younger poets may “have it easier” is that they have longer than I do to practice this craft. Possibly they have a more contemporary voice for whatever that might mean. I love to do whatever I can to encourage young women I meet at workshops and events to stick with it. To keep writing!
GR: What are some of your favorite women poets and why?
TK: I enjoy the work of Ursula LeGuin, who I started reading as a fantasy/science fiction fan decades ago. I lived in her hometown of Portland, Oregon, for decades and heard her read frequently. I have her poetry books that have come out in the last couple of years and look forward to her collection coming out in Fall of 2018 from Copper Canyon. Grace Paley. Jane Hirshfield. Maxine Kumin. Lucille Clifton. Louise Gluck.
I read Naomi Shihab Nye’s work over and over again because it touches me deeply –I have had the privilege of studying with her. Just as I go back to Wislawa Szymborska over and over again.
The work of women poets in my community also matters to me. I wonder what are women writing who live where I do, those who are experiencing this changing world in the same timeframe and environment that I am. The upside of this is being able to hear their voices at poetry readings.
That said, I also have favorite male poets: W. S. Merwin and many others. I spent my high school years reading poems from anthologies, hearing predominantly the voices of male poets.
GR: As did all of us who studied literature. Male poets, male writers are the examples we were most often exposed to. It delights us to hear more women’s voices in poetry readings today, see more women being published in all kinds of places. Where is the most interesting poetry being shared today? Can you talk about that a little bit?
TK: What interests me is the popularity of hip hop. What I’m searching for bends toward the political and acknowledges the changes and impermanence we are experiencing due to climate crisis from the point of view of personal history and emotions. I love poetry that blends the traditional lyricism and emotional resonance of poetry with science. A poem that comes to my mind frequently as an example is Adrienne Rich’s poem “Power.” We all can welcome the news of poetry’s increasingly popularity among young readers and voices. I also admire the words of those who are aging.
GR: What advice would you give to a poet who is just starting out?
TK: That’s easy. Keep at it. Don’t stop. I did stop as I was enmeshed in a career writing press releases, scientific reports, newsletters, and annual reports, etc. Find time to write even if it pinches other parts of your life. Carry a tiny notebook with you always to write down stray impressions, dreams or words that spark your imagination. Write about those when you find time. Find other poets in your community that you can share with, who can provide feedback on your work. Send poems out. Don’t stop because of rejections. I’ve written a poem about rejected poems as homing pigeons that come back to you for more petting and feeding, ringing a little bell as they enter their loft. Read poetry every day…it is so easy with the large number of online journals available now.
GR: Rejected poems as homing pigeons that come back for more petting and feeding is one of the best ways to look at rejections we’ve ever heard of. That gets right to the need for revision to make the poem something better rather than giving in to rejection dejection. What are you working on right now?
TK: I finished a collection of poems I’m calling One Bent Twig during a two-week April residency at Playa. These poems focus on my vision of trees as sentient lifeforms with whom I share a world and who are experiencing climate crisis along with other creatures. It is perhaps more lyric and narrative than that may sound. It is out looking for a publisher.
Two months ago I moved 3,003 miles from Portland, Oregon, to rural Vermont. The poems I’m writing now are about my experience in moving to be nearer my daughter, to “renuclearize” a nuclear family, to respond to a new (to me) eco-system with love, curiosity (why ARE all those barns red?) and respect. I don’t have a title for this collection yet. It acknowledges that I continue to age. :>) That I am a crone or walking down that road.
GR: That’s a huge move to make and we look forward to the poetry that comes from that. Any links to your work you would like to share?
Find details about my four collections of poetry:
GR: Thank you so much for your time and your wisdom, Tricia!
This highly-anticipated issue surprised us by eliciting an intense response from poets who sent work for our consideration. We are so grateful to have opened our doors for a demographic that is too often pushed aside even as they have powerful words and visions to share. This issue offers 41 authors, some of whom are not over-50 women poets but whose poetry, which came in through our general submissions, nicely dovetails with the themed work. We hope you will not only enjoy this issue, but will find yourself moved to think about and discuss this work for a long time to come.
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To let us know your thoughts about this issue, contact us HERE.
Thank you to all the amazing poets who made this issue possible and thank you to all who choose to read and share this issue of Gyroscope Review.
One more thing – our submissions are open for our Winter 2019 issue. Please read our guidelines to fully understand what we look for in the poetry that is sent our way.
One of the hardest jobs an editor has to do is say no to the majority of submissions that cross their desk. Yes, that’s right: the majority.
There are a lot of reasons for this, many of which we include in our responses to hopeful poets whose work we decline: poem is not in a style we publish, it’s out of season, it’s already available all over the internet. But by far the biggest reason for declining work is that the poems aren’t ready.
For aspiring poets who have given us work that they feel is wonderful stuff, a result of their own passion and vision, this is a hard realization. But it is the most important realization that must be acknowledged if a poet is ever to graduate to the status of published poet. We are so disappointed when we read a piece that shows great promise, but the end feels slapped on or as if the poet just ran out of steam and the piece dwindles away. Or if a poet hasn’t found the right words, settling instead for vague descriptors: beautiful, lovely, awesome, big, small, dark, standard. You get the not-a-picture. Passive voice, too many adjectives or adverbs instead of specific verbs, exclamation points or ellipses in place of better word choice – these all kill poems. Too many words when just a few will do drag the reader down; distilling the poem to the only words necessary is a must.
You know what you have to do. Really. You may have even heard this before.
Share your work with people who have language skills and an ear for rhythm. Hear critiques as the helpful tools they are rather than as harsh criticism. Return to the work with a commitment to making it better and stifle any reactionary cry that this work is simply beyond the understanding of those who said no to it. People who offer critiques and people who serve as editors do their work out of love for language and a hope that they will help people be the best artist they can be. No one does this to kill dreams as far as we know.
Read poetry. Read more. And read more after that. Choose poetry that is published where you would like to be published. We can’t stress this idea enough. Here at Gyroscope Review, we are occasionally surprised by a submission that tries to use old English or has a Victorian tone, neither of which fit a contemporary journal. Acquire books of poetry by those who produce the kind of work that interests you. Are you hoping to be a contemporary poet? Then aside from reading Gyroscope Review, go read Mary Oliver, Billy Collins, Claudia Rankine, James Longenbach, Danez Smith, Ocean Vuong. Find the Button Poetry YouTube channel and hear what is being produced right now. Search for contemporary poets on the Poetry Foundation’s website. There are many options for finding published work that fits any interest.
Remember that poets do not live in a vacuum, that poetry is an art that poets work at and hone. Anyone can produce underdeveloped art that cannot connect with an audience. Not everyone is in love with poetry enough to break through to that accomplished space where the work is accepted for publication.
There is no shame in learning that poetry is not your calling. But if you choose to continue on the path of the poet, then enough humility to know that all of us on this path keep learning and improving, keep listening and observing, is essential. Think of this as your graduation speech in this month of graduations all over the country. Your education as a poet is only beginning. It is up to you to make use of it.
Gyroscope Review’s reading period for the 2018 summer issue closes on June 15.
The summer issue will be available on July 1.
The reading period for the fall issue opens on July 1.
The reading period for the special fall themed section, “The Crone”, also opens for women, and people who identify as women, who are over the age 50 on July 1.
Images courtesy of Pixabay.com
Today is the anniversary of the creation of Yellowstone National Park. Established on March 1, 1872, Yellowstone was the first national park in the world, a place set aside as a public park…for the benefit and enjoyment of the people (wording from The Yellowstone National Park Protection Act).
In thinking about this place, a place I visited both as child and adult, I remember the way Yellowstone grabbed me by both shoulders with its magnificence. Mountains. Gorges. Rivers. Elk. Bears. Moose. Geysers. Eagles. Bison. Lodgepole pines. I remember taking pictures, but found it difficult to capture what I saw. So much was missing from those photos – the smells, the sounds, the feel of the air. The best they could do was offer a nudge to go there in person, see what the place evoked, and let it reach a person’s heart.
Yellowstone, and other wild places I’ve visited, show up in my poetry. Experiences hiking and lingering along a stream, watching Old Faithful shoot out a violent column of steam, or coming upon a moose with her calf are all images ripe for use. And I’ve learned that, for me, the need to unplug and go where I intentionally disconnect from social media is an absolute necessity to keep my poetry skills sharp. That’s when I observe without making comment, and when I take things in without someone else’s comments popping up in front of me.
And I’ve learned from talking with my poetry colleagues that they, too, value the way time in a wild place informs their work, shifts their perspective, makes daily stresses fall away to make room for the creative process. Wild places are the antidote we all need when we can’t take in one more bit of news.
So today, Yellowstone’s birthday, is a perfect day to head out wearing your hiking shoes, try your hand at poetry that honors wild places. A national park is a great place to start, but if you don’t live near one, find another wild place. A state park, a wildlife reserve, a path along a river that cuts through your town. Any green space set aside for the people. Poetry, too, is there for the people. Bringing the wild and the poet together is a perfect match.
One more thing. If you’re interested in poetry specifically related to national parks, the Academy of American Poets commissioned 50 poets to write poems about national parks in all 50 states to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service in 2016. You can see the list of 50 poems HERE.