Monday, May 16, 2011

Poet, Renee Podunovich--Wheel of Fortune and Jumping Off a Cliff

I met poet, Renee Podunovich, when we both participated in a series of readings sponsored by Arts Perspective Magazine. Renee is a lovely person, and a beautiful poet. Here's one of her latest poems:

Behind the Wind
Seems like I've known him
forever. the years are stacked up like pancakes
and the stack has become so tall that the ones
on the bottom can't even be seen anymore.
are just vague, reconstructed or falsified memories.
but they are there at the bottom of the pile
holding the whole thing up.
that's how long I've known him.
but today at the beach. seeing him from behind.
the wind sifted through his graying hair.
it appears something magnificent is moving
and blowing him along the shore.
he leans over. gathering. looking.
paying attention to the world
and the moment before him
and I wonder, Who is this man?
the one running up smiling.
Look at these, he says of a handful of shells.
broken. fragments. remains. rubble mostly.
some are whole and a few are quite extraordinary.
but he is holding them like they are the most amazing
gift in the world. like someone would hold the fork
loaded with the first bite of pancakes
dripping with maple syrup and butter
before they know enough to care about the calories.
Aren't these amazing? and so I look again. more closely.
this is a man who cares about the bits and pieces.
the shards. the cast offs. the broken things of the world.
he spends the days visiting dying patients
and lately, he wonders if he's made any difference at all.
he sees first hand that people have nothing in the end.
except the time they spent doing what they loved
and loving the world the best they could.
all the rest of it. shells.
rubbed and eroded by the sea.
Yes, these are amazing, I say.
and into my cupped hands he places
this treasure.


If you'd like to read more of Renee's poetry, check out her chapbook, If There is No Center, No One Knows Where it Begins

I asked Renee to talk about the process of writing. Here's what she has to say:

Being a poet is like being Vanna White turning the letters on Wheel of Fortune— always chasing the mystery that exists behind those big black squares. Writing poetry is like big black squares of my inner process appearing all the time over the landscape of the outer world. Actually, this metaphor does not really work too well. The only good part of it is the Vanna White part and it is only because I would like to dress up as her sometime for a costume party and only because I want a fantastic blond wig to add to my collection.

The truth is, whenever someone asks me to describe my creative process, I cringe and think to myself, “I have no idea how I do it!” To me, writers write just like musicians play music or tennis players play tennis. It’s a natural proficiency and interest combined with discipline, practice and more practice.

Now being picked up by the outrageous tornado of the muse and spun out of your mind so that you are left in awe of the unbelievable power of creativity— that is a different story. I am currently in a writing group and we have several members that are brand new to creative writing. In my heart, they are the joy of the group. For the first few weeks, the writing prompts are like jumping off a cliff for them and they can’t quite make themselves leap. They stand near the edge and look over, put the pen to paper and tentatively make a few marks on the page. Asking them to share what they just wrote is like asking if they would like to be electrocuted. But they find the courage and they read and we all clap and reflect what moved us in the piece and maybe suggest this or that.

Around the fourth or fifth week, something shifts. When the writing prompt is given, they pick up the pen right away and instead of using it to gnaw on, they start frantically writing. You see, they have forgotten that they are on a precipice and that there is a jump involved. By the end of the prompt they look up, eyes a bit glazed-over as if something had overcome them. As they look back to the page their mouths drop open at the sheer quantity of words written there. They can’t believe that they jumped and something, some exquisite, numinous, fantastic thing carried them to the bottom. “Where did this come from?” they say, perplexed, disbelieving, enchanted. And that’s when I know they have fallen in love with the art of writing. They are hooked and their newfound delight at losing the self momentarily, of opening to the wide expanses of consciousness and connecting to a larger voice than they have known, is contagious. 

If they continue to write, someday someone will ask them, “How do you do that?” But the proper question to ask is, “Why?” The poet David Whyte says, “The poet lives and writes at the frontier between deep internal experience and the revelations of the outer world. There is no going back for the poet once this frontier has been reached; a new territory is visible and what has been said cannot be unsaid.” I’ve been writing for a long time and sometimes I find myself in a dark mood of jaded disdain that comes from interacting with the pomp and circumstance of the business of writing! The new writers enliven me and I find fresh eyes and an open heart as I jump off the cliff with them each week. I twirl and my skirt flows around my ankles as I spin letters around and around, smiling and smiling. 

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