|thick with conviction a poetry journal|
Questions with...Carol Lynn Grellas
Hey, Kristina here. Each month, it is my job to bring you a little Q&A with one of our current or former contributing poets to get inside their heads a little and see what makes them exactly who they are. This month, we have Carol Lynn Grellas, a first time contributor to TWC who is in the new issue. Carol Lynn's poems are emotional and very personal, so she fits in well here. So how will Carol Lynn answer my questions? See for yourself?
1. What or who gives you inspiration and perspiration?
My family inspires me. I often write about things that have happened in my life, yet I sometimes think itís taken this much of my life to allow many of my poems to be born. I have the advantage now of years of experiences and events that have affected me in both positive and negative ways. Iím always trying to glean the good out of everything. You know that silver lining idea, searching for the rainbow after the storm. But that storm gives me a lot to write about. I get perspiration whenever I do a reading. Iíve never been very good at public speaking. I guess youíre supposed to imagine that everyoneís naked in the room, but so far that hasnít helped much. Iím too worried that the crowd is imagining me naked and itís difficult not to sweat when that happens.
2. Have you always wanted to write, or did you have a secret desire for something else, like spelunking?
I never thought that I would write, though I was an English major in school. My interests were always in teaching, but that dream never came to fruition. I worked as a buyer for a raw materials company for many years and later as an executive assistant to the CEO of a Silicon Valley tech company. I do have a secret desire to be a handyman. I love repairing things. Iím fascinated with all things broken. I have this fetish about making something new again, I suppose. This works well with writing poetry, too. I might begin with an idea and work it through until it feels completed. But I have a file of broken poems that are just waiting for repair.
Itís only recently that Iíve had the good fortune to have any kind of awards or accolades. Being nominated twice last year for the Pushcart Prize was an absolute thrill. It was completely unexpected, so I suppose I was a tad bit swoon-y for a few days over it. Okay, maybe a few weeks. There have also been occasions when Iíve been asked to write a poem for a memorial service or an event paying tribute to someone very special. Those are the times that Iím very grateful that Iím able to write and do something for someone I love. Once I wrote a poem for my mother when I was around 15 and my brother found it the night she died. Sheíd saved it all those years in her nightstand drawer. Even though I had written poems throughout my life, I began writing seriously after that night. That was three years ago this last January.
I adore my birds. I have three parrots who love to talk. Theyíre hilarious and full of personality. Especially my bare-eyed cockatoo, Sugar Pie. When my older kids went off to college the house became too quiet, so I brought one bird home. As each child left I found a reason to adopt just one more bird. Now I have three birds and one 12 year old at home. I suppose when sheís off at school, it will be time to bring in the fourth parrot. Iím also a pretty decent cook. I spend hours with recipes trying this and that, hoping to make the best Aveeno Lemono Soup (Egg Lemon Soup) youíve ever tasted. My husband is Greek, I canít quite beat his motherís concoction yet, but Iím still trying. Iím thinking when Iím in my late eighties I might come close. It will take me that long, Iím certain of it.
5. Give me names. Who are the best new poets, in your opinion?
I adore Jeannine Hall Gailey and her book, Becoming the Villainess. She has this incredible ability to write persona poems that take my breath away. I can get lost in another world when I read her work, and I love that. Iím also a huge fan of Paul Hostovsky, Lana Ayers, Kim Addonizio and Brigit Peegan Kelly, whose writing is full of beautiful imagery and penetrates the soul.
6. Best of the Net or Pushcart? Which matters more and why?
I think they are both a wonderful way to honor a poetís work. Best of the Net focuses on the internet and has the ability to reach a very large audience, while Pushcart incorporates both magazines in print and online. Either one is an amazing way to have your work acknowledged. I canít imagine a greater
compliment than being chosen for one or both of these prestigious awards.
Itís both gratifying and humbling knowing that someone thinks enough of your work to nominate you. Writing is something that requires quite a bit of time alone. Itís a solitary experience. There are days when I sit in my daughterís old room, which we now call Ďthe writing roomí, for hours at a time. The sunlight streams through the old windows, and Iím typing frantically away on the keyboard writing this poem thatís coming fast into my head. The last thing on my mind is an award, but when a poem is noticed and loved by someone, it spurs me on to write more. I doubt I could ever stop writing, even if one day, itís just my parrots who listen to my poems.
The poem, Because I Could not Stop for Death, by Emily Dickinson I read then and now. That poem seemed magnificent to me the very first time I read it and it still seems that way today. These days I write mostly in free verse, but I have written sonnets and metered poetry as well. When I first started writing I read mostly formal verse and I couldnít get enough. Daffodils, by William Wordsworth, Sonnets from the Portuguese by Elizabeth Browning, If, by Rudyard Kipling, and then thereís TS Elliot, Dylan Thomas and Walt Whitman. They are all magnificent. But the poem I absolutely love this very moment would have to be, somewhere I have never traveled, by ee cummings. I can barely speak after I read that poem. The last line is spectacular. It does something to me that I canít explain. I guess thatís poetry.
8. Are online poetry 'zines a crushing blow to traditional print 'zines, or are they the meat and potatoes of the poetry world now? Also, which do you prefer?
Oh, I think online Ďzines are the wave of the future. I can sit for hours at the computer and google a poet and read hundreds of poems right there in my office. Itís such a luxury to be able to do that. I mean where else can you go in your slippers and old robe and drink a cup of coffee, sneak a few chocolate kisses and then read poems all day long? I will say that there is something very satisfying about holding the printed copy of something youíve written and it makes it very real to have a magazine in your hand as a souvenir. I have a drawer for this. A special place where I save the printed copies of my work. But honestly my kids would rather read my work online. So I suppose thereís room for both.
I hope to have a manuscript accepted for publication in five years time. Iíve been fortunate to have had two chapbooks published. Object of Desire from Finishing Line Press, and Litany of Finger Prayers, from Pudding House Press.
Iím working on two books of poems now called, A Thousand Tiny Sorrows and Note on a Windowsill. I hope at least one of them is published at some point in the near future.
Well, my poems have to pass what I call the Ďcry test.' This is a test I give each poem after itís written. I make my husband sit down in his easy chair and listen to me read the poem. The poem has to have several elements to keep his attention. It must have an interesting idea somewhere in the poem or he gets bored quickly. There must be a good flow and some music in it or I notice he gets kind of fidgety. And finally, if he doesnít cry at some point in the poem, I feel that I have failed. When he cries I know I have struck a chord with him emotionally and that is always the goal of my writing. It gives me purpose and incentive to write more.