The final part of my Genius Hour Project is this: interview an expert on their experience in your topic. Because my project has been revolving on writing poetry, I got in contact with a poet. Her name is Tina Richardson, and she has been nominated for, as well as won, a handful of awards. Most recently, she won the Sundress Academy for the Arts Writing Residency in July 2015. In 2016, she has been nominated for both the Pushcart Prize in Poetry and the Best of the Net for her poems Current and Insomnia. Both poems I will include at the bottom of this post. I got into contact with Tina through email, and received wonderfully detailed responses which I sadly must summarize due to assignment constraints. I thoroughly enjoyed getting into contact with her, as well as learning about what her inspiration, life, and impression of poetry has done for her.
The first question I asked was if there was a particular person or event that prompted her pursuit towards a poetry career. A repetitive corporate job that left her feeling unlike herself, in addition to the passing of her father, led Tina to quit her “well-paying job” and “start from scratch and look at the world with new eyes.” Tina enrolled in a community college and took a freshman comp II class. In this class, she read Li-Young Lee’s poem, “From Blossoms”, which allowed her to find a way to “voice” her grief. Besides finding parts of her that had once shone long ago, Tina also uncovered her interest in poetry through seeing Li-Young Lee read in person. The poem “Little Father” was read aloud and had her feeling impressive things. She wrote, “he was reading a poem about his dad and it was beautiful and quiet, but it was in that quietness that I felt like I was standing in the middle of a hurricane.”
by Li-Young Lee
I buried my father
in the sky.
Since then, the birds
clean and comb him every morning
and pull the blanket up to his chin
I buried my father underground.
Since then, my ladders
only climb down,
and all the earth has become a house
whose rooms are the hours, whose doors
stand open at evening, receiving
guest after guest.
Sometimes I see past them
to the tables spread for a wedding feast.
I buried my father in my heart.
Now he grows in me, my strange son.
my little root who won’t drink milk,
little pale foot sunk in the unheard-of night,
little clock spring newly wet
in the fire, little grape, parent to the future
wine, a son the fruit of his own son,
little father I ransom with my life.
The next question I asked Tina was what her writing schedule is like. Typically, she said that she tries to give at least three hours a day to writing. Besides allotting this much time, she also prefers 4:30 in the morning to begin writing. Tina wrote, “[a] long time ago I realized that I need to write before the noise of the world has its way with my thoughts.” This really stuck with me, because often times I feel most inspired in the morning, and when I attempt to write something before bed, I struggle to come up with anything. She also shared that the summer season was not helpful to writing, and rather when the cold weather arrives, she could “suddenly see poetry everywhere.”
The final question I asked Tina was about how else she expresses her creativity outside of writing. She shared her relatively newfound passion for gardening. Living on five acres of land with one acre being primarily garden, she enrolled herself into a master gardener program. Similar to her time writing, Tina spends three hours a day working in her garden. She wrote, “[t]he quiet time allows me to think about what I’m writing and I’m convinced that the act of pulling weeds somehow helps me when I’m feeling blocked.” In addition, she shared that she enjoys creating “things” such as abstract mosaics, and has a love for power washing.
In conclusion, I’ve learned that poetry can come from anything. The passion to write can stem from a single event, or it can continue to grow like the roots of a plant. And if you don’t like how the abstract mosaic of your life looks, then you can power wash it away and start anew! I’m very thankful for Tina taking the time to email back and forth with me, and also letting me get to know her more personally. This was the first time I’ve ever talked with a professional in this field, and it really opened my eyes up to what this life can be like. This project has been a great experience for me, and to top it off, I had the opportunity to learn about another’s experience to finish.
by Tina Richardson
Descartes believed that the soul
resided in the pineal gland, others held
that its seat was the spinal bulb, and others
posited it resided in the medulla oblongata. I hold the soul
is a little green thing
that does not know anything
of the inside nor the out, and it hasn’t always lived
in this selfsame body, I’m sure of it-
The soul exists in the body like the flame exists
in the candlewick.
And what of the children’s souls that wait
forever hiding in my other
body, feeling like the tongue
to missing teeth?
we never actually see and never, ever touch
But I will know-the soul
of the muskrat is far more coarse
than the human soul-the horse’s, far
more slick with sweat. And it carries
a current from being stored in all that metal-
At death the soul will be weighed
by a legion-each a deity, each
a holy shape.
by Tina Richardson
All the stars died last night and with them
my knowing of the sun, it’s sudden
Bantam-dwarfs of white and brown, a supernova, a black hole.
Like the winnowed darkness turns
dimmer inside. [That discreet object]
This flight of ideas in the stead
of dream proves that I am
powerless against this world. The gravity of it all.
Those worlds, some say
is God-hunger or God-haunt, afflicting
those that want for sleep. Or the sleeplessness
itself that makes me long
for different air, for Hildegard’s egg-shaped universe, for my own
saintly visions of the apocalypse. [simply darkness]
And what is meant by all of this? That is to say, it’s just
the day that’s wasted-the child
in the sun, her shadow long as if she were
twelve feet tall, a red giant.
Cover Photo Credit: ciderpressreview.com & Tina Richardson